The Deepest Circle (Chapter 15)

Author's Notes: Wow, it's been a long time. I'm so sorry. Real life's been happening and I'm starting to work a lot as an actress so it's sort of been getting in the way, but there are worse reasons to write infrequently! I hope you enjoy this chapter, and to those of you who have been reading from the beginning, I thank you for the bottom of my heart. This story will always be updated until it is finished, so don't fret no matter how long it takes between updates. This story is my baby and it will be complete. Thank you so much!

x x x x x

Will stared out on his balcony for a few moments, watching the ocean. It was incredibly clear that night, the water practically looked to be filled with silver dusted stars, and the sky loomed above it like some giant ink tarp. He hummed contentedly to himself, allowing himself to finally be at peace with whatever demons had been spat up at him the last few weeks.

Will Turner was someone that firmly believed everything happened for a reason, and now all of this would be put behind them. He had seen a vast improvement in Jack. He admired the way he had handled Will's hysteria when finding out the news of his wife's infertility, and was even more impressed with the pirate's treatment of Elizabeth. He was always gentle with her, always kind. He made efforts never to make her upset, and he protected her with every ounce of strength in him. Jack Sparrow was a man of fine character and of even brighter spirit, and Will now was immensely content with the fact that he believed Jack from the beginning; that he'd had nothing to do with the death of his daughter and furthermore, that Jack was, and had always been, a good man.

Elizabeth's sudden noise of turning down the bed sheets had startled him. She'd just come from the powder room to change into her nightgown, and when he turned she was seated upright, her hands folded in front of her. She watched him with a peculiar expression that he could not quite identify: it was longing and calm; tired but wanting to speak. He immediately felt desire tug at his senses. She looked practically luminous, with her hair casually spilling on her shoulders. Her nightgown's neckline hung just above her bosom, and her collarbones rose up gently from her silken skin. He watched a vein in her neck tighten as she swallowed.

"What is it?" she asked after a moment. He could swear he sensed a flicker of panic in her voice, which he was quick to extinguish with his calm reply.

"Nothing," he answered. He walked slowly to the edge of the bed, stepped onto the mattress and leaned over on his knees to plant a deep kiss on her lips. When he receded, she gazed at him with that same strange expression, but he didn't pay it much heed. She looked all the more beautiful. His eyes caught a glimpse of something dirty on her pillow that looked a bit like a faint smear of charcoal, and he licked his finger and rubbed at it furiously. "Damned things," he muttered, "they were just cleaned, weren't they?"

"I was drawing," she blurted quickly, "with the charcoal in bed yesterday. I must have dropped it or grazed it on the pillow, clumsy of me..."

He laughed at her fervent explanation and stroked her cheek. "There's nothing to be upset about."

She shrugged, a nervous smile snagged her full lips. "I didn't mean to dirty our sheets."

"It isn't important." He kissed her again. He felt his veins coursing with thick, hot blood as he stroked her waist. "Come with me," he said.

"What?"

"Just come."

"Oh, Will, not now, I'm tired..."

"Elizabeth."

She gave a loud sigh as he took her hand and led her quickly into the bath room. A large porcelain tub sat in the middle of the room, and the windows were open wide, giving it an airy cleanliness. It was pitch black, save for the moonlight, which would have normally sufficed as enough to see, but Will went to the candles and began to light them. They rested atop the mantle of the fireplace, with a giant mirror hanging above them. It reflected the small amber pools of the flames to every corner of the room, and Will began running the bath.

"Undress," he said, his voice hovering above a rough whisper.

"Honestly, Will, I already told you I'm too tired to--"

"Yes, but you look stressed. Just do as I say, come on."

She reluctantly lifted her nightgown over her head, tied her hair back, and when the tub was filled, he took her hand and helped her step into it. Elizabeth hissed at the heat but got used to it rather quickly, and she curled up in the tub. The water cut off at her neckline. A few stray locks of hair ran down her neck and floated lifelessly on the surface of the water. He took a sponge, soaked it, and began rubbing her back. The look of caution still hadn't left her face.

"There are no ulterior motives to this, Elizabeth, I promise you," he said with a grin. She acknowledged the comment with a brief smile, then silence resumed.

"You're awfully quiet," Will said.

"As I've said, I'm tired." She paused. "But you were so kind to do this, Will. I could use a bath."

"Yes, you need to relax."

"No, I need a wash..."

"You feel dirty?"

"Oily, like something's crawling on me," she muttered.

He waited a moment to speak. "What's troubling you?"

"Nothing."

"You're acting very strange tonight. You hardly left the powder room at the restaurant."

"I'm tired, is all. I've said."

"You don't sound yourself."

"Don't be silly," she said. She took his hand and forced him to rub her neck with the sponge. "Massage it hard," she said, "it's quite tense there."

"Drink some hot milk and honey tonight, get a good sleep. I don't like seeing you upset."

"I'm not upset." She took his hand again and squeezed it. Will retracted both his hands and took thirty seconds to look out the window to the shore.

"I wonder where Jack is," he stated. "He should have been home by now."

"It doesn't really matter, does it?" she asked. She propped her feet up and over the end rim of the tub and let them dangle over the floor.

"Well, yes it does," he answered. "Whenever he goes on his own like that, he's usually done... done something."

"He always comes back," said Elizabeth.

Will had nothing to say to that, and Elizabeth was quick to kill the silence. She didn't want it hanging between them. "Thank you, Will," she said after a minute. "That was quite wonderful of you." She kissed him, and he helped her out of the bath and wrapped a towel around her.

x x x x x

Elizabeth heard a gentle rustling and then a small crash, and they stirred her out of a deep and blank sleep. Frightened, but not enough to wake her husband, she fiddled with her nightgown sash and tied it securely around her waist before cracking the bedroom door open to peer into the hallway. Jack's bedroom door was open and the light on, pooling into the otherwise blackened hallway. She could see a shapeless form of a shadow hurriedly pacing back and forth, and she cautiously made her way to the doorway.

Jack was cramming his belongings into a large trunk that had previously belonged to her father, and it looked like he was attempting to make haste. It took him a full minute to realize Elizabeth standing there, staring at him blankly.

"Oh," he breathed with a note of gaiety in his voice, "hello, Elizabeth! Hello."

"What are you doing?"

"You reek, my dear, you reek of the stench of just making fervent love with your adoring husband. Correct me if I'm wrong."

She must have made a visible sign of disgust at the question because Jack laughed quietly before he resumed packing his things.

"Fascinating," he murmured, "having a gentleman and a rogue in the same day, I can't imagine what it will be next. An officer, perhaps? Is Commodore Norrington due for a fuck within the next--"

Jack was met by the sudden, violent sting of Elizabeth's palm against his jaw. Her eyes were wet with cold tears and she attempted not to look fazed, and Jack knew it. He just smiled.

"Well. I'm off."

"What?"

"I'm leaving, dearest."

"What do you mean 'leaving,' where are you going?"

"Don't trouble yourself." He turned his back to her and began shoving items that now did not necessarily belong to him into the trunk. Elizabeth's fingers absentmindedly twitched at her sides and she could feel her mouth hanging open, her heart pounding tightly.

"Where are you going?" she repeatedly steadily.

No response.

"Jack."

All she could hear was his rushed breathing, the light and barely audible sounds of his tongue wetly flicking in his mouth.

"Jack, for god's sake--!"

"What?" he snarled. As he spun around to face her, his long hair shuddered and was trapped behind his shoulders. Elizabeth helplessly felt her teeth cling to her bottom lip, her eyes beginning to sting.

"Don't do this," she whimpered at last.

She could see the rage burning angrily, madly in his eyes slightly subside. His chin trembled and his lips pushed up into a pursed scowl and he brought his hands up as if to grasp her shoulders but they quickly went back down to his sides. "I have--"

"Who was she?" The question escaped Elizabeth's throat in a thick, guttural noise and Jack took a step backwards. She could see he didn't like this; he wanted to leave, to get out of there...

"Who was who," he muttered dumbly.

"That woman," hissed Elizabeth through clenched teeth.

"What--"

"In the fucking prison, Jack!" she hollered. "The one who shot me, the one who shot you! You knew her!"

"Don't do this, Elizabeth," Jack slurred in a sudden, brutal tone. His hands resumed their original course of direction and held her shoulders tightly, shook her violently. "Don't."

"Do what?" she cried. "Who was she, who the hell was that woman?"

Jack let go of her and paced to the opposite side of the room, his head in his hands.

"I'm not letting you go anywhere until you tell me--"

"Shut up!"

"Jack, you listen to me," she growled. She marched up to him and clasped her hands around his waist, held on so tight she thought her fingers might burst open. "She's done something, hasn't she."

"Let go of me," he whispered coldly. "Let go--"

"She's done something to you? To Anamaria? The crew?"

"I'm warning you--"

Elizabeth's lips twitched around her next words: "Peony?"

Jack had a sharp intake of breath and stared at her, suddenly paralyzed. He shuddered beneath her hands.

"Did she do something to Peony, Jack?"

He gave her an aggressive shove and attempted to spin away from her, but she held on tightly and wrestled him to the floor, her legs straddled around his waist and her hands pressing his stitched wrists to the carpeting. His breaths were long and deep, his chest was rising and falling as quickly as a dog's. A soft whimper came out of him that Elizabeth did not expect, and he was barely fighting her to regain control -- something he easily could have done.

Elizabeth lowered her head so that her mouth was by his ear, and she took his head in her arms. "Please tell me," she said gently. "Please, Jack..."

Jack's arms slowly went up and wrapped around Elizabeth's bony torso, pulled her to him, let her cry in his ear.

"What did she do," she whispered.

What did you do, Jack?

He felt a lump in his throat, felt closer to tears than anything he'd ever felt before, but he had no choice now. The end was coming, and for better or for worse, he couldn't be afraid of it. He knew if he'd kept completely silent any longer, the insanity would drive him to the very gates of hell and he would drag everyone along with him. Reality and fiction would blur again. He couldn't have it like that, not like that...

"She killed her," said Jack. As the words slid from his mouth it was like exhaling black smoke he'd ingested years ago. His eyes closed as he felt Elizabeth's weight on him grow heavier. "I led Peony to her."

Elizabeth began to rise, Jack presumed to engage in some kind of negative act towards him, so he held her tighter to him. "Listen," he whispered. "She seduced me, many times... and I left her. And over the course of three days when I was not aboard, she came to the ship, killed four of my crew and took it over."

"How?" choked Elizabeth. "How could she have...?"

"She offered them something I couldn't," he muttered. "Money. When I returned it seems mutiny had been committed again, albeit a reluctant one. But she gave half a crown to each man aboard, and greed will win a pirate's heart much quicker than conscience."

"And Peony..."

"She knew of your family, your wealth. She told me at knifepoint if I brought her the girl she would simply demand a random and when it was paid, Peony would be returned. If I didn't comply she would have killed me and you, Will, Peony..."

"You had no choice," she said numbly after a moment, but Jack detected a hint of skepticism in her voice.

"I didn't, Elizabeth," he stated gently. "She would have killed you."

"But why did she kill Peony? If she just wanted the money, why...?"

"She didn't want money," he said quietly.

"Then what did she want?"

"She wanted to see me suffer," he murmured. "And I have suffered."

"All this because you left her?"

"I don't know," said Jack. "I don't... I have no idea."

By this time, Elizabeth's body had slumped beside Jack's, and they lay holding on to each other on the bedroom floor.

"And now," he began, "she's..."

He couldn't finish the sentence, but Elizabeth was staring up at him with wide, damp eyes.

"She's what?"

"She's carrying my child," he breathed. He felt something click inside his chest and he broke down, crying, his hands masking his face. Elizabeth was utterly silent, moving only to wipe a stray lock of hair from his face. She took one of his hands with hers and kissed it, then let him cry for a few moments. He needed it. He sniffled and cleared his throat. "I don't know what I shall do," he said wearily with a cracking voice.

"I'm sorry," said Elizabeth. "For what she's done. For what... for what I've done."

"What you did," repeated Jack. Then to her surprise, he chuckled softly, then gazed down at her with a sort of affectionate smile. He pulled her closer to him. "I believe I've discovered something, Elizabeth."

She was quiet, waiting for him to continue.

"I confused my feelings today," he said. "I confused love with something else."

"And what's that?"

"Love," he stated again, this time using the word within the gentle context of a parent saying it to their child. "You understand, I think."

She managed to smile. "I do."

"You're Will's girl. Always will be. I wouldn't have it any other way."

"Oh, Jack," she breathed heavily against his chest. "Thank you."

He kissed the top of her forehead, and a thought immediately crashed into his skull:

She saw you.

His mouth still pressed against her skin, he opened it to speak, to tell Elizabeth that Luciana had seen them, caught them. But in this rare, silent and strangely calm moment he decided against it. Jack had fed Elizabeth so much so quickly. He had barely begun to scrape the surface and even what he'd revealed to her she probably hadn't even begun to digest. He let it go, just for now. Except for one last thing:

"You mustn't tell Will," he muttered. "Not yet."

Elizabeth began to sit up, to stare at him. "What?"

"I am putting you at great risk telling you this, Elizabeth. You mustn't tell a soul. Not Will, not Norrington... no one. Otherwise she'll find a way."

"To do what? She's pregnant, for god's sake, she can't wage any kind of war in the state she's in."

"I want her rested," he said. "I want her fit as a fucking fiddle; recovered, healthy, beautiful... then I'll go to her. Alone."

"What of the child?"

Jack took a moment to respond, as if he'd forgotten that the baby was his in the first place. "We'll see."

With that, Jack stood up on his feet and helped Elizabeth up off the floor.

"Unpack your things," she said with a slight smile. "Please."

"Of course," he replied. He stroked her cheek before patting it, then said, "Now off to sleep."

She obeyed and started for the door, and she watched the pirate turn away and began taking clothes out of the trunk.

"Jack," she began timidly. He faced her again. "It's going to be okay soon. I can feel it."

He gave her a smile, his gold teeth glinting in the lamplight. "Off to sleep," he repeated, then made a shooing motion with his hand.

Elizabeth closed the door and tiptoed back to her room, lay down next to her sleeping husband. She drew up close to him, put his arm around his waist and he stirred briefly in his sleep to take it.

x x x x x

More coming very soon, reviews are so appreciated! Thank you!