Summary: Sometimes scars tell more than you'd like to admit.
This story takes place during a scene-cut in the movie. There's a whole lot that could have gone on between the scene on the island which ends with Jack passing Elizabeth a bottle of rum and walking off shot, and the scene where they are dancing around a bonfire giggling. Here's one option, for those who like a little angst with their semi-naked pirates.
I know I've already written a story ("Three Days") about what happened during Jack's original trip to the island, and here I am already contradicting myself! Well - that's my prerogative, innit? Only Jack knows what really happened on that island and, until he comes and tells me himself (oh, please?) I'm just going to have to make up stories about it. So enjoy.
Disclaimer: They're not mine, but please, please, somebody give them to me....
This would all be so much simpler if he would just drink the rum, Elizabeth Swann thought with plaintive frustration as she followed the pirate's angry stomping across the tiny island. Captain Sparrow was muttering something, a running commentary of grumbled swearing, but she had long ago stopped paying attention to his words. She was more focused on the half-full rum bottle he carried, hoping he would take another swig.
They were marooned. Abandoned. Alone. Dead. Lost forever on an uncharted desert isle. Or they would be, if she hadn't had this fine idea just a few minutes ago. It involved rum. And fire. Lots of rum, and lots of fire. It was perfect; it was elegant; it was (she crossed her fingers) foolproof. She knew, however, that there would be no executing her grand plan in the presence of the rum-besotted, and none-too-stable, Captain Sparrow.
It was vital that she get him drunk enough to get him out of the way. This had proven to be dispiritingly difficult.
He had gone through the first bottle practically without noticing it, while he led her into the shade of the palm trees to sit down and organise themselves. Nearly a full litre of rum, by her admittedly uneducated estimate, had produced negligible effects, although the yarns he was spinning about the rum runners and their ship had gotten a little less believable. ("And they - they had a whale living below decks, and it, it played cards with them -")
Bottle number two had made his walk a little more suspicious, if that were possible, and had inspired this little jaunt through the trees, during which he had become more and more incensed and despondent. He could see no immediate solution to being stranded on the island, and, in lieu of problem-solving, was violently cursing the situation out in hopes it would become discouraged and go away. While this was not, in itself, helpful, Elizabeth's linguistic world was being rapidly expanded.
While she would normally have been quite interested in acquiring new swear words and learning (some of) their meanings, right now she was far more concerned with whether the pirate would ever, ever finish the third bottle of rum. It must be having some effect by now!
The Captain stopped suddenly, although nothing was in front of him, and Elizabeth crashed roughly into his back. She bit back a little shiver of distaste at the heavy smell of salt and sweat and pushed herself off of him, staggering backwards.
He sat down in the sand, and to her immense relief polished off the third bottle. He sat there for a moment, staring into space. His fingers, never still, danced around the neck of the bottle - was he suggestively caressing it, trying to work out what it was, or working out complex mathematical theorems in his head?
Sparrow's head came up abruptly, and he turned to her with a raised eyebrow, as though genuinely surprised to find her there. "You still here?"
She stammered for a moment, dumbstruck by the absurdity of the question. "Of course I'm still here! Where else would I go?"
"Good! Have some rum." He turned his head back to the sand, apparently examining something interesting, but extended the rum bottle toward her, either unaware of its emptiness or trying to make some sort of joke. She wasn't sure.
Either way, she'd been hoping for that sort of move, and took the bottle, deftly replacing it with the full one she'd been carrying for the last forty minutes. "Thanks. Have some rum."
"Don't mind if I do," Sparrow replied, and took a long draught. A thought occurred to him. He lowered the bottle and gave her another appraising stare. "Why are you following me?"
Elizabeth smirked and gestured at the empty island again. What else am I going to be doing, stranded on a desert island? "You're the most interesting conversation available."
This statement seemed to require some thought. He sat and pondered it for a while. Then: "It's hot."
She blinked at the non sequitur. "Yes. It is."
"I shall go for a swim," he announced, getting to his feet. His hands, rebellious at the best of times, fumbled with the pistol belt. He forced the buckle open at last, and swung the heavy leather belt off. He held it out to her. "Hold this."
"I will not!" she squawked indignantly, batting the weapon aside.
He gave her a wide-eyed look for a moment, then shrugged. "'S your call, love." He held the belt in his teeth and pulled his shirt off, causing her to blush, hand to her mouth, and look away. When she gave up and looked back again - what is propriety on a desert island, after all? - the pistol was carefully laid upon the outstretched shirt, and the pirate was wobbling barefoot down the beach, still carrying the fourth rum bottle.
She watched the little tan figure from afar. It tottered unsteadily up to the edge of the beach, and lingered there a moment, as though uncertain. It took another cautious swig of the rum, then stoppered the bottle again and stood, looking out over the ocean. Then, in a flash of graceful movement for which she could barely credit her own eyes, the tiny figure dropped the bottle in the sand and ran, moving like a greyhound, in a bright swift sprint, lunging into a smooth dive as it reached the water. The swaying, swishing thing she was so used to watching vanished as he played with the sea. He moved in it like a dolphin - like something which had always been meant to live amongst the waves.
Elizabeth forced herself to stop being fascinated by the way the water gilded the pirate's shirtless torso, making it shimmer like a fish's mail. She watched the Captain splash for a few moments - his movements were more businesslike than joyful - and then the little head vanished as he dove.
He was down there a hell of a long time.
She was seriously considering abandoning him for dead and going ahead with her plan when Sparrow surfaced in a small fountain of spray and waded ashore. Once his feet touched the sand the peculiar, swaying walk returned, as though the land were rejecting his feet no matter where he placed them. He retrieved the rum bottle and flounced back up the beach, carrying it.
"I've brought you a gift," he announced grandly as he approached. He held out his right hand - the one with the strange fabric pouch she assumed must be useful for something - and looked at her pointedly until she cautiously extended her hand. With a surprisingly delicate flourish he made a little move with his fingers and dropped something into her palm.
The thing was cold and wet and when she opened her fingers it was brown and grey and dripped sand. She shrieked and dropped it. With a growl of protest Sparrow knelt and grabbed it again.
"Woman," he grumbled, using the word as an epithet, as someone else might say Idiot. He brushed sand off the thing with a look of injured chivalry. "Never seen an oyster before?"
Despite herself, she was momentarily humbled. "No...."
Sparrow's expression softened a little, but not much. "City girl, eh?" He slid a small knife out of the band of his trousers and applied it vigorously to the mollusc. There was a gristly, snapping noise and the shell ripped open. The pirate fished around inside it with two fingers, eventually drawing them back and looking upon his prize with a small but satisfied sigh.
When Elizabeth leaned closer, Sparrow extended his fingers. Clasped between them was a tiny, glowing white object, gleaming in the sun. "'S a pearl," he explained unnecessarily, letting the orb fall into her outstretched hand.
It appeared to glow from within. It was a natural pearl, and thus was not a perfect sphere, but its irregular surface coruscated with tiny interlocking white shimmering bands, drawing her eyes into it. "It's beautiful," she whispered, enraptured.
"Beautiful," he echoed, and she looked up into reddened and weary kohl-rimmed eyes that were not quite focused on the object she held. He was clearly thinking about something else. The rum was finally kicking in, thank God - and her spirits rose sharply as the pirate, almost by reflex, uncorked the bottle he held and took another swig.
Elizabeth's eyes slipped downward a bit and her fingers suddenly snapped shut on the pearl, her mouth dropping open. "My God," she breathed sharply, amazed, disturbed, repelled, and fascinated all at once. All thoughts of rum, and pearls, were momentarily banished from her mind.
Sparrow caught her gaze, and glanced at himself with a puzzled frown. "Wha'?"
"Your scars...." His bare chest was muscular, chiseled, deeply tanned, and criss-crossed with a wide variety of tattoos and healed and half-healed wounds, giving him the appearance of a patchwork quilt in places. She should really not care, she should have no desire to see this man in less than full clothing, he was not handsome, he was dirty and awful and traitorous and terrible, but he was a pirate and there were stories in his skin. She could not help herself - she reached with a trembling hand toward one of the ridges of proud flesh on his bicep. "Where...."
Sparrow watched her with a drunken look of bemused confusion and pride. "Don' get out much, do you?" He flexed the muscle in question and a young lady with no clothes on gave a provocative wiggle. Elizabeth raised a peeved eyebrow and he sighed and desisted.
"Jealous husband," he explained, gesturing to the long-healed slash she had indicated. At her continued stare, he added, "Long story. I didn't deserve it."
"Of course not."
Elizabeth moved her gaze to another mark, a heavy puncture wound to the left shoulder. "That was the first man to try his luck murdering me in my sleep," the pirate muttered. Though he sounded vaguely proud of the thing he looked more sad than anything else, as though the story were really far more elaborate than that and someone involved had paid far more than was his due.
She pointed at another scar, a strange little twisted one along his belly. Sparrow shrugged. "Tangled with a shark. It was only a little one."
Another scar? "Brawling."
"During a storm...met a piece of the mast comin' the wrong way."
A tattoo - a skull and cross sabres, of course. "If you don't know what that is, love -"
"Jealous husband." He had the grace to look slightly, but not entirely, abashed.
Elizabeth's eyebrow seemed to have become fixed in a raised position. "You do get around, don't you?"
"Got nowhere to stop, love."
Her fingers, which had become more bold by now, continued wandering over the pirate's smooth and tanned chest, and slid down his strong and corded right arm, over the tattoo of his namesake, which she'd seen before, and arrived upon the tanless scar of the letter "P".
"That's my favourite one," he said as she reached the pirate brand. He grinned a blurry, metallic grin at her, and, before she could dodge, chucked her conspiratorially under the chin. "You got to earn that one," he announced with inebriated pride.
She reached his right hand, and for some reason was drawn to the little dark fabric pouch he'd carried the oyster in. "What's that?"
Sparrow's eyes didn't quite meet hers, and he took another drink, his expression darkening, and his face suddenly shutting down. "'S useful. Keep things in it," he mumbled dismissively.
The pouch was just a piece of fabric suspended against his palm by a lacing of thongs. Deft fingers could slide small objects between fabric and palm, almost without effort, in effect causing them to disappear. It was a handy device for a skillful pickpocket. One of the ends of the thong had begun to come undone, and, without thinking, Elizabeth fiddled with it. "It's coming off. Here, I'll -"
"No, you won't." He yanked his hand back as though reclaiming a stolen toy and fixed her with a petulant glare. He shivered, and said with great dignity, as though suddenly realising what had been going on for the previous ten minutes, "You are being awfully forward, young lady." His unsteady look held a hint of reproach.
"I just wanted -"
"Yes. Have some rum, love." Though it seemed to take him some effort, after three bottles of rum, he held her gaze with black-rimmed eyes, and coldly offered her the bottle, clearly changing the subject.
"Miss Swann," she corrected him, half amused at his childish behaviour, half wondering about its cause. She did not move to take the bottle.
"Have some fucking rum, Miss Swann." His voice was hoarse. His expression did not change.
She was seized with an irrational, irresistible desire to remove the little piece of fabric. Suddenly it occurred to her why. "There's something under there, isn't there?"
A quite interesting expression formed on his face: anger, denial, and fear. The emotions sloshed back and forth for a bit, making for entertaining viewing, but she did not decrease the intensity of her stare. His hands made motions which, had he been wearing his pistol belt, might have resulted in his coming up with a weapon. As it was, the fingers clutched helplessly at the air for a moment and then grew still.
Finally the emotions merged into anger, and with a furious shrug Sparrow snarled and thrust his hand into hers. "Fine. You're right. There is. Go ahead and take it off if you insist upon seeing it."
Like a child opening a gift, she tore at the thongs. They turned out to be long strips of the same fabric, wound in complicated patterns around his wrist and fingers. She tugged at the edges of the knots until they came free, and worked slowly on unwrapping the bindings around his wrist. The fabric had been there some time; salt had worked into the weave and the bindings were slowly congealing.
The filthy, ragged piece of fabric eventually came away, revealing a patch of very untanned skin. There was nothing on the outer surface of his wrist, so she slowly turned it over. He let her.
This time, Elizabeth's expression was the one displaying a mix of conflicting emotions. She settled on giving the pirate a wordless, searching stare.
Sparrow shrugged, and dark eyes met her own, denying everything. "It happens," he said flatly, daring her to make a comment.
She ran her thumb over the deep and savage scar. It was not merely a slash; someone had carved a cross on his wrist, slicing heavily, aiming for bone. She was surprised he still had use of his hand. "That happens?"
He sighed, and turned his head away, clearly not going to give her an inch.
"How did that just happen?" Elizabeth asked again, insisting on an answer.
"That one came from inside, love." Sparrow put his head to one side and added, in a fierce and artificially cocky voice, "Savvy?" He clearly wanted her to stop, but the rum, and possibly some diseased sense of honour, would not let him simply turn and walk away.
Elizabeth stared at him. Really, she was far too important to care what had happened to a stupid mad pirate long ago, and none of this really mattered - it was far more important that she get him unconscious so she could get her plan into action - but for the moment she simply could not prevent herself from asking, "When?"
"I spent three days on this island," he said carefully, "once before."
"I know that -" she began. He raised his hand and cut her off.
"I didn't find the cache the first second I was here, Miss Swann. I didn't find it for a long while. And in the meantime I thought -"
"You thought you were going to die."
He flashed her a hurt and disdainful look. Then something seemed to snap inside, and he leaned forward, looking bigger somehow, towering over her though they were the same height. "I knew I was going to die," he snarled, and grabbed the front of her dress, and hauled until she was face to face with him. His whole body seemed to change, going from relaxed to predatory, amiable to vicious. Muscles bunched on his arms as he held her fast. His visage clouded with anger, and she stared into furious dark eyes. The gold on his rear teeth was revealed by lips drawn back and taut with ire.
"I knew, with absolute certainty, that I was going to die. As I know now, with absolute certainty, that we are going to die." His breath was spiced with rum. His kohl-darkened eyes flamed. She froze under the brilliant wild searchlight of his stare, unable to look away. "And for some reason -" He paused, and the feral look began to fade, though he did not let her go.
"For some reason -"
He shuddered and sighed, more or less in control again, and dropped her as though he'd completely forgotten she existed. Elizabeth fell backwards onto the sand, but never took her eyes off him. It occurred to her again that perhaps she should stop treating pirates as interesting artefacts, as stories from a book. Sparrow might be "just" a pirate, but he was real and alive, and quite capable of killing her, if he felt she had gone too far.
Sparrow's eyes went in and out of focus. Then he shook himself and continued: "For some reason ... I thought I ought to get the hell on with it." His whole body was shivering and twitching, as though he were fighting an urge to do something, but though his eyes roamed her body with a look of animal loathing he made no move to grab her. His hands clenched and unclenched, and she saw that he had the little piece of fabric twined in his ever-dancing fingers.
"What happened?" she asked, dropping her voice to a whisper.
Sparrow's face twisted again at the memory, but with a great effort of will he caught himself. "Took too damn long," he said simply. "I got bored."
She stared at him.
He shrugged. "Bound it up and went around bangin' on trees until one knocked hollow."
She continued to stare at him.
"I was young and stupid," he growled defensively, the fire returning to his reddened eyes. "Forgive me for not bein' at my best, having just been betrayed and left for dead! I was a fool; I admit it. I tried it once; I won't do it again. I won't take a coward's path."
A sensible reply popped into her head, and with deep relief she said it: "I didn't imagine you would."
His tense shoulders dropped, and to her infinite joy he took another gulp of rum. The action seemed to calm him somewhat. "Anyway. You know." Another gulp; the bottle was nearly empty. "I'd be obliged if you kept it to yourself." Keeping his broad - and, yes, scarred - back to her, he reached down, took up his pistol belt and shirt, and shrugged them on. Elizabeth watched the marks and tattoos shift with the working of his muscles, but wisely chose not to comment.
He carefully rebound the sad little piece of fabric, reforming the secret pocket on his palm, and coincidentally concealing the evidence of an unfaded, unpleasant memory. He did not look at her.
"You must have been scared," she said tentatively, when he was done.
"No excuse." He waved a bejeweled hand dismissively.
"I would have been scared."
He turned, and, after two attempts, looked her square in the eye. "You," he said scathingly, "are not Captain Jack Sparrow."
"No," she agreed. "And I'm happy that I'm not."
"You -" Sparrow began, then blinked. The mad light in his eyes went out, and he looked down with an expression of innocent disappointment at the suddenly very light bottle he was holding. "I. I appear to be out of rum." He appeared puzzled that such a thing could happen.
"Let's go get you some more, then," Elizabeth said with sincere pleasure, relieved to be getting out of deep conversational waters and back into ordinary, everyday traitorous subterfuge. She took the Captain's unresisting hand, and began to lead him back down to the beach, and the cache of rum.
"You just don't know what it's like to be a pirate, love," Sparrow mumbled drunkenly as he teetered after her.
"I'll bet you don't know the first thing about being a pirate."
"What could a little slip of a girl like you know about being a pirate, anyway?"
"I know a song about pirates," she whispered conspiratorially.
He grinned joyously. "Do you now?"
Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!