Ms. Swann, we're calling to confirm that your interview with Driscoll, Anders, and-
Congratulations, Ms. Swann! You've been selected for an exclusive deal on -
Lizzie, it's Charles. Listen, I had a great time last week at dinner and was wondering if you'd-
Elizabeth, it's James, James Norrington. I don't know if you've gotten any of my messages, but your father wished to know if-
A loud flush filled the tiny space and Elizabeth Swann slipped her phone back into her clutch as her best friend exited the stall.
"Ugh," Bria moaned, washing her hands thoroughly at the sink Elizabeth was leaning on. "I understand drinking water to avoid the hangover, but for God's sake you can't even enjoy yourself if you're having to race off to the loo every forty minutes."
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. "You could try only one daiquiri at a time instead of three."
"But where's the fun in that?" The redhead patted Elizabeth's cheek with a wet hand, her eyes shining with the same mischievous glint they had had since they were little girls. "Besides, it's the last night of our Caribbean getaway. We've got to enjoy ourselves."
"You've been enjoying yourself in every bar in Arbor Bay since we landed. Including the one in the airport."
"Oh, shut it." The hypnotic rhythm of island drums mixed with electronic beats pounded into them as they went back into the packed bar area of the nightclub, gently pushing their way through the Saturday night crowd until they found two empty bar stools. Bria signaled to the grizzled bartender for more drinks. "I need Three Drink Lizzie here with me now. Two Drink Lizzie is no fun."
"Two Drink Lizzie is going to make sure we make our flight tomorrow morning."
Bria grinned. "Yet Three Drink Lizzie could find herself a man tonight to make the finale of her Caribbean getaway unforgettable."
"Two Drink Lizzie could do that, too!" Elizabeth huffed. Her cheeks flamed slightly as Bria raised an eyebrow. "I mean, if Two Drink Lizzie truly wanted to…"
"Well, my dear, since you turned eighteen that hypothesis has remained unprovable." The colorful fruit drinks were placed in front of them and Bria drained half of hers before Elizabeth even picked the other one up. Her rich Scottish brogue deepened the more the alcohol loosened her tongue. "You turn twenty-four next month and as your older and wiser best friend of twenty-seven -"
"-I deem it is high time for you to partake in that most sacred rite of passage into true womanhood: The Vacation One-Night Stand."
"Oh, good Lord." Elizabeth groaned into her hands, her long blonde hair creating a curtain to hide her grin.
"No, no! Not now! You shout that later tonight when the man you pick is-"
"Brianna McKendrick, you will be the death of me and my dignity."
"Trust me, dignity is highly overrated." Gently, she tipped Elizabeth's chin up so she could look straight at her, the music and raucous laughter of the Black Pearl fading away from them in the light of Bria's tone. "I'm serious. You're well on your way to becoming the solicitor your father has always wanted you to be. You have interviews all lined up next week and once you start practicing, it'll be utter madness: working sixteen hour days, eating three bites of salad at noon, and drinking nine cups of coffee before the sun rises. This vacation was maybe your last chance to be wild and free, yet you spent it either on the beach with your nose buried in Thomas Hardy and Shakespeare or wandering around pirate museums." Her tender smile became wistful. "You're going to blink soon and be twenty-nine, my darling. If you never believe me about anything else, believe me about this."
Elizabeth did believe her; then again, she'd believed in anything Bria had told her since they were girls, their friendship forged over countless shared smirks and eyes rolls at the gatherings of the elite British social circle they had both been born into. As they grew older, they became best friends, sisters, mothers, therapists, drinking companions, and occasionally nursemaids to one another. She knew Bria was telling her the absolute truth just as Bria knew why tonight Elizabeth would more than likely end up back in her room, alone: Elizabeth Swann had finally grown weary of being a disappointment.
Her father had never said the words to her. Weatherby Swann - one of the most distinguished financial figures in all of Europe and a key member of the European Union - adored his only child and should the need have ever arisen, would have reshaped the stars in the sky to make her happy. But adoration did not negate displeasure and over the years Elizabeth had developed a keen sense of where that gentle line lay. In her youth, she willfully jumped back and forth between it; whether it was running away from piano lessons with patch over her eye and a toy sword waving in the air, or wearing a pair of black army boots underneath her ballgown at her sixteenth birthday, or putting an alarming streak of pink through her hair right before a banquet in his honor. Her father endured all her rebellions with tact and grace, even as his frowns slowly became set a little deeper and his sighs a bit louder. But it wasn't until the night his security officers brought her home one night, reeking of booze with a silly grin on her face after she'd crashed her car into a marble fountain at the entrance of their manor house, that everything changed.
"Father, I can explain it all perfectly," she had begun, her words slurring as she swayed in his opulent study, stuffed animal heads and ancestral portraits staring down on her. "You see, what happened was-"
"Go, Elizabeth," he said, his voice steady, as if he were conducting a meeting.
"Away." She blinked, the smile on her face slipping slowly. He had never said anything like that to her before. "Go away from me right now because if I have to look at you in…in this state for another moment, I will lose what bit of my sanity you have left me imagining the shame your poor mother would feel at the sight of you right now. Just go."
Her focus was blurry thanks to the excess of rum she had drank, but finally she was able to make out the small welling of tears escaping from his eyes. He cried for her. She hadn't thought it was possible to upset him so. Even at her mother's funeral, she had the clearest memory of gazing up at him and seeing no tears. Deep pain, of course, but not a single tear until that moment. Shame like she had never thought possible seared through her stomach and up into her heart, pumping enough blood through her body to help ease the fog her drinking had provided. Gripping a side table as she slowly turned away from him, she mumbled meekly, "I'm s-s-sorry, Father."
He said nothing as she stumbled up the grand staircase and in the morning, she said nothing to him. Elizabeth simply met him downstairs for breakfast, where he was already engrossed in one of his newspapers, her hair pulled back and wearing a slight bit of makeup to cover the effects of the night before. When their food arrived, she pulled out a thick book and began reading as he glanced up at her.
"What are you reading?" he finally asked her from across the long table.
"A history of sixteenth century nobility," she replied demurely. "I have an exam soon." Chancing a glance over to him, she saw him eventually give a slight nod and an even slighter smile back to her. The world properly realigned, they both went back about their business as if to purge the previous night from their memories.
It stayed with Elizabeth, though. While she still socialized and went about enjoying life as any teenager and later twenty-something would, she constantly felt her father's eyes on her, like he was viewing her every action from a telescope she could never escape from. Nearly every opportunity for indecent or radical behavior (at least her father's rather broad definition of it) that came her way, she could almost taste his disapproval and it crippled her. She left parties early or often, didn't go at all. She put her efforts into her studies and was on the precipice of beginning her career in law, something he had hoped for since she was a child. To her own amazement, she had even begun helping her father host parties and political functions. Little by little, bit by bit, she found herself succumbing more into a world of respectability, devoid completely of the sense of wonder and light she had searched for as long as she could remember. What's more, she was succumbing without even putting up much of a flight. Bria was the only person in her life who still remembered that old Elizabeth and on occasions like this getaway, could still pull a part of her out. Not all of it, though. Never all of it.
For Elizabeth could never forget the agony of what it felt to almost lose her father's love and she'd never risk it again. For anything at all. There were so few, after all, that loved her in the first place that she couldn't afford to lose any.
And one of them looked as if she had been waiting for some time for Elizabeth to come back to Earth.
Ignoring Bria's quizzical stare, Elizabeth reached over with one hand to pat Bria's hand and with the other, she nudged her full glass further away from her. "Two Drink Lizzie hopes she'll look as wonderful as you do when she turns twenty-seven."
Bria could only shake her head and sigh. Someone who didn't want to be saved couldn't be saved. "Let's just split the difference and agree I'm twenty-eight."
"For at least three more years."
"Unless I have a chance for a night with Prince Harry. Then I'm definitely twenty-four."
Elizabeth giggles turned into full-throated laughter. "We have an accord, Ms. McKendrick."
"Lovely. Well, seeing as Two Drink Lizzie is here to stay, does she have any objection if I go engage in some debauchery for my own amusement?"
The pang of loneliness was dulled now, Elizabeth long since used to its presence whenever she let herself be left behind. "Two Drink Lizzie does not, so long as you understand that she is going to the airport tomorrow at 10:00 am with or without you."
"No promises. Love you." Sliding off the bar stool, Bria pressed a quick kiss to Elizabeth's cheek and-drink in hand-sauntered off into the sea of bodies, leaving her best friend behind while she went to go and live life just as she wanted to.
It must be nice, Elizabeth thought to herself, lightly circling the rim of her glass with her fingertip, considering it for answers she'd yet to find anywhere else. She might have sat there like that all night if not for a warm tickle of air against her exposed ear, sending a shiver straight down to her toes.
"Is this seat taken?"
"No, take it. I was just getting ready to…" Elizabeth glanced behind her and the mechanics of speech failed her. A pair of dark eyes deep enough to fall into met hers, shining brilliantly as the man behind them grinned, a pair of dimples emerging that she suddenly had the strongest urge to run her fingertips across.
"Just getting ready to…what exactly?"
Surgically attach my lips to yours? Bury my nose in those dark curls? Rip your jacket and shirt off at the same time? Completely forget every sense and sensibility I've ever had to get you alone somewhere?
Feeling the blush creep up her skin along with her own smile, she took in the smallest breath possible to calm the nerves not frayed this way since the first stirrings of adolescence. "Getting ready to keep sitting here for a bit longer," she finally replied.
"Well," he said, gliding his lean body down beside her to sit, "then you've just made my night." He held out his hand. "I'm Will."
For the first time in ages, for reasons she couldn't even fathom, she felt the hesitancy she had cloaked herself in begin to slip away in the gentle, almost adoring gaze of this stranger; her dear father could have been sitting on her other side and she wouldn't have noticed. Picking up her drink, she took a long drag from it as she put her other hand in his. Every part of her warmed the moment their skin made contact and she wondered if he could feel her slight tremble.
Will Turner had been getting ready to head home early. Though he had rather detailed and lewd instructions from Jack on what he was to do with his rare free evening, he had merely spent most of his time at the Black Pearl chatting up with some of the bartenders, like Gibbs and Marty, and nursing a bottle of beer. Occasionally, as the club filled up over the evening, he spared a glance or two for some of the women that filtered past him, but no one interested him enough to leave his perch at the end of the bar.
Until she had breezed through the door.
He had been reaching for his phone to text Jack, letting him now he was heading back home, when he spotted her out of the corner of his eye. Even amid the crowd, she stood out and it had nothing to do with the way her pale blue dress clung to her curves or how her honey-colored blonde hair lit up the darkness of the room: it was her smile. She smiled with every inch of her being at something her companion had whispered in her ear and Will felt himself staring helplessly at her beauty. Without hesitation, he pocketed his phone and drained the rest of his beer, motioning to Cotton for another as he bided his time.
She and her friend - the redhead - seemed content to stay sitting at the bar; the redhead laughing boisterously and downing her drinks as soon as they were placed in front of her, while the object of Will's attention giggled and took dainty sips, sometimes biting down on her lip and rolling her eyes at whatever audacious thing her friend had just said.
She was one of the most gorgeous sights he had ever seen. And as much as he wanted to, as much as he desired to be near here in a way that shocked his normally temperate system, he couldn't make his legs carry his body towards her.
Not until he was absolutely sure.
"Hey, boy!" Will glanced behind the bar to find Gibbs raising a scruffy eyebrow towards him. "Where your mind be?"
"Nowhere," Will answered quickly. "I mean…I'm right here. Just enjoying a night to myself." He took a long drink to fortify his courage. This was going to be painful. "Say, mate, the blonde down that way?" He nodded towards the mystery woman. "Have you heard her talk about…" He trailed off when Gibbs looked him straight up and down. Will's face reddened. "Never mind."
Gibbs chuckled to himself, his laugh graveled by years of booze and sea-salt air. It had been many years since he had seen the lad that taken by a young lady and Will had never had himself much of a gambler's face. Still, for him to ask for a little bit of help must have meant that his yearning for her company was growing more eager than he wanted to admit. Gibbs took pity on him.
"Nay, haven't been down that way much myself. But I've never seen her in here before and believe me, a female form as fine as that would linger in a man's memory."
Yes, it would, Will agreed silently. While he watched them, the redhead swiveled on her stool and started chatting up a pair of gentlemen groomed within an inch of their lives that had sidled up behind them. When she tried to get the other woman (his woman, Will couldn't stop himself from thinking) to join, Will felt his stomach sink. However, instead of allowing herself to bask in the attention of the willing blokes, she smiled politely and kept her back to them, letting her friend seemingly have all the fun of being desired.
It should have filled him with relief; she was still possibly available to him this evening yet he couldn't help but notice the shadow that ghosted over her brown eyes. She was sad and for some reason, it made Will feel like less of himself to see that.
"Say, Will," Gibbs pulled his focus away from the woman and the unsettling feeling her pensiveness had caused in him. "You never did mention how the meeting went this morning." Will simply took another drink as his reply. "Aye, sorry. Christophe be nothing but a fool for turning away your services."
"No, he's not."
"William Turner, you have more knowledge of ships and how to bring 'em back to life than any ten men together on this Godforsaken rock. Someone's gonna be smart enough someday to give you a chance."
Will smiled. "No, they won't."
"Hey, there's no cause to be so -"
"Gibbs, I have no proper training, no schooling, and no time to even begin a restoration project should I be given one. Anyone who did give me a chance would be more the fool for it." He shook his head. "I don't know why I keep letting Jack talk me into putting the thought out there."
"Because, young master Turner, you are a man of the sea, and true men of the sea keep their wits about them with hope stitched tight to their hearts," Gibbs smiled. He raised a shot glass in toast and Will clinked his bottle to it. "And the sea, she can be a kind goddess when it pleases Her. Why just tonight, she brought you in a bonny lass to…" Gibb's smile slipped and Will couldn't help but groan; he knew instantly what he would see when he turned his head. Defeat was never something he ran from, though, so he did turn and was unfortunately proven right:
The young woman who had captivated his concentration for most of the hour had disappeared in the few moments he hadn't been watching her. Will's shoulders slumped.
Gibbs reached over to clap him on the back. "Sorry, boy. Her kind nature is sometimes hard to distinguish from Her fickle nature.
"Amen to that," Will muttered.
Gibbs left him to attend to other patrons and he decided that all signs were pointing to his evening being over. Nodding his goodbye over to Gibbs, he stood up dejectedly and reached into his pocket for his car keys; instead he pulled out another, smaller set and cursed Jack Sparrow. Before he left Jack's earlier, he had somehow missed it when Jack slid the keys to one of the furnished private rooms a floor above the Black Pearl. When Jack had bought the building several years ago, he had specifically left the three small lofts in place for his own personal use. They were multi-purposeful: employees too drunk or tired after a long night at the club; a place to stick a rowdy, disgruntled customer until the cops inevitably showed up; a safe haven for when Jack was occasionally thrown out of his own house, by his better half, Anamaria; or, as Jack had intended for tonight, a place for one of his trusted friends to work out some tension with much-needed pleasurable and willing female company.
"Damn it," he huffed. Not wanting to deal with Jack's unsubtle brand of criticism if he saw the man tonight, he decided to pawn the keys off on someone else. "Gibbs! Can you run these back to the office?" Gibbs either ignored him or didn't hear him over the din of customers eager to be served and Will little more luck catching the eye of anyone else. Shaking his head, he slowly started making his way towards the office door near the entrance of the restrooms. He knew the pass code to the keypad and that way he could postpone his harassment for a bit longer. He just wished Jack hadn't slipped him the keys to begin with. It only added another layer of frustration to a day already overloaded with them.
What the hell? I'm bitter enough by now, might as well be honest: a damn near lifetime of nothing but frustrations. Just once, I'd like to –
A shoulder softly brushed past him, breaking his musings. The scent of lilies engulfed him and he couldn't help but turn towards it; the quickest glimpse of her profile, surrounded by cascading blonde hair, froze Will against the wall as she breezed past him with her friend heading back to the bar from the restroom. Relief so palpable he could taste it flooded his senses.
She was still here. Defeat be damned, she was still here.
It took every ounce of self-control to pin himself against the wall while the women sat at the bar again. Gibbs hurriedly prepared their cocktails and placed them down, only to Will's knowing eye lingering just a second too long to catch a snippet of their conversation. As he walked away, he caught Will's eye again and grinned in a most feral manner, flashing a thumb's up. Will smirked and nodded, practically giddy with appreciation of whatever god or goddess, fickle or otherwise, had answered his silent plea:
His girl was a tourist; here for a few days of possible companionship and then back off to her own life, leaving Will to his own complicated one with no worries or lingering commitments. Putting the keys away again, Will decided to cash in the chip that the mad universe owed him.
It took him a few moments to make his way back to her; as was typical on a Saturday, the Black Pearl was nearly beyond capacity, a sea of bodies either making their way to the dance floor or to the bar for their liquid escapism. Finally, Will found himself in earshot of his pursuit for the first time all night.
"…does she have any objection if I go engage in some debauchery for my own amusement?" he heard the redhead ask over the din.
A gal from Glasgow, he thought, remembering his mother's expression when he heard the accent.
"Two Drink Lizzie does not, so long as you understand that she is going to the airport tomorrow at 10:00 am with or without you," his girl replied simply, nodding her friend away after she was given a goodbye peck to the cheek and turning back to the bar.
And a lady from London. A very lovely one who's leaving shortly.
Lovely might be underselling it. Every feature – from her porcelain skin to her high cheekbones to the slight upturn of her nose – mixed and melded to create someone that Will could have only come up with in a dream, with one small exception: there wasn't any dream he could imagine in which he would want to see such a forlorn expression in her eyes.
His stomach twisting, he realized abruptly he wanted to help her ease whatever pain she was in more than he wanted to forget his own troubles. That thought stopped his feet from moving forward; good Lord, that thought scared him. He never wanted any type of emotional connection with these encounters. He simply wanted a good time with women who wanted the same; women who wanted a story to tell their friends about their vacation, or revenge against a cheating ex, or whatever reason one could come up with justifying a one-night stand. If both parties were sober and consenting, why bring something as bothersome as sentiment into the equation? Someone behaving like this Lizzie (a name that, in all honesty, he thought poorly suited her beauty) was usually someone he avoided: sadness lead to regret, which lead to guilt, which beget more sadness, and the cycle spun on. Her eyes, fetching as they were, warned his every rational instinct to stay away and he believed he was capable of it; his feet were even starting to back away when he noticed her long, elegant fingers play with her glass. Within an instance, a thousand images of what else her fingers could do bombarded his mind. He found himself instead moving closer until he was at last standing behind her, the fragrance of her perfume devastating him with its power over his body.
Will heaved a small sigh. He was a weak man. He had known that for years now. He only hoped now that his own failings could provide, at the very least, some physical comfort to her.
To his Lizzie...Elizabeth