by She's a Star
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Note: This was ideally supposed to be a little thousand word vignette. It somehow turned into this beastly near-4,000 word epic that has me up at 5:30 in the morning writing author's notes. (Although admittedly, sleeping in 'till 1:30 in the afternoon and having a whole bunch of caffeine might also have something to do with that.)
I'm not exactly sure how to feel about this piece. Although its most prominent focus is probably the Will/Elizabeth relationship, it's kinda got an overlying anti-W/E message – essentially because, quite frankly, I think although they do love each other, Will really couldn't make her happy.
So that is essentially what I was aiming to explore here.
Also, I don't know why Neruda keeps popping up, but I'm not going to complain. He's an excellent source for titles. :-D
So, anyway, this is set through the end of Curse of the Black Pearl to the very beginning of Dead Man's Chest, and is basically Lizzie getting her inner Edna Pontellier on.
freedom and the sea
will call in answer to the shrouded heart.
-Pablo Neruda, 'The Poet's Obligation'
Jack Sparrow leaves a taste for adventure in her blood.
Even after she's gotten her fairytale ending, it lingers: she kisses Will Turner, again and again – after all, she has five years of wanting to do so to account for. The wind is in her hair just like his wonderful rough blacksmith's hands and she has seldom felt so spectacularly alive. He is so dashing, she can't help thinking with a girlish kind of glee; he's a pirate, and it stays in her mind like a melody, like the most lovely of hauntings. To think that Will – her dear, tentative Will – has just been so bold, and is now kissing her where everyone might see, murmuring her first name deliciously against her lips—
Everything has changed, she decides; utterly and beautifully.
And yet that night she finds herself tucked into her bed, just as she always is, warm and comfortable and quite disappointed. Surely some great shift in her life wouldn't bring her back here again; she harbors silly imaginings of Will throwing pebbles at her window, waiting in shadows on the balcony so that he might pull her close in the moonlight. She imagines his strong hands at her waist, her nightdress so impossibly light under his fingers, a most untrustworthy guardian of skin.
She finds she can't sleep until morning tinges the sky with grey. Will doesn't come – but of course, she hadn't really expected him to. She's just being whimsical; everything can't be the wind and Will's fingers tangled in her hair. Freedom is lovely, in small doses, but it's hardly realistic to expect to build a whole life out of it. It simply wouldn't fit.
For a fleeting instant, she wonders where Jack is now: happily ever after in his own right, perhaps. He's been granted the two things he will ever bother to love (besides himself), and she hopes they will all be very happy together, Jack and his ship and the sea.
Sleep finally catches up with her at dawn.
And of course, Will isn't really a pirate. She feels foolish for having ever been so intoxicated with the notion, for ever having believed it in the first place, because she knows Will well enough to know that he would never give everything up for something so uncertain. Will isn't the sort who could stand the sea life for long; his feet would be hungry for land the whole time. She loves that about him, and always has; he is so set in his ways; so fiercely, unyieldingly good. No matter what might happen, he will always be her Will. He'll die for her, and almost has; she is so lucky.
He is still a blacksmith's apprentice; despite the scandalized whispers that follow them, the foul old blacksmith is far too lazy to bother with finding a new one. Will tells her he is pleased by this – much as he can't stand the disgusting old man, he does love the work, even if the proper credit doesn't go to him.
"You should tell everyone that it's your work," she urges indignantly. "It isn't fair in the slightest!"
"It's only temporary," he responds gently. "And besides, we've drawn more than enough attention lately."
"I don't care about attention," she snaps. "They can say whatever they like."
"One day you might care," he reminds her.
Her blood blazes, but she doesn't press the matter. He doesn't like quarrelling with her, she's realized, and she doesn't want to make him uncomfortable. Besides, he does have a point – she's become something of an outcast in society (consorting with pirates! How unseemly!) and she supposes one day, when she yearns for a more peaceful life, this fact will sting far worse than it does now. Will is only looking out for her, as he always does.
One humid afternoon, he shows her the swords he's crafted.
As he explains the technique, she studies his latest creation – she knows nothing of weaponry, of course, but there is something enticing about the way the sunlight glints off the polished silver of the blade. An odd beauty that is savage and precise, and not the sort of thing she would expect to be of Will's creation.
His low, lovely voice gets lost in the heat, and her mind is oddly hazy as her fingers drift closer to the blade. Can it really be so sharp? she wonders. In the dreadful, muggy warmth, she almost longs for the cool touch of metal.
Will's hand reaches out, quick as lightning, and encircles her wrist, pulling it back. She looks away from the sword and into his eyes; he stares back, in some silent question. But of course, it must be bewildering; what sort of lady offers her hands so willingly to pain and blood? For a moment, she is overcome with a strange guilt, as though he is seeing her for who she really is, and it is something appalling and wild, some savage creature that doesn't care to be tamed. He will not look away and, though she should drop her gaze demurely, neither does she.
The donkey brays, shattering the awful silence; Elizabeth laughs, and Will does the same after a moment, and pulls her hand to his mouth to be kissed.
In the library, Elizabeth unearths a long-lost treasure: her hands close around a dusty copy of Legendary and Most Fearsome Acts of Piracy and she lets out a quiet cry of delight.
She spends the afternoon turning the once-revered pages, feeling twelve as she rediscovers the distantly familiar escapades of the dozens of detestable, amoral men who had served as her most beloved childhood heroes.
Page sixty-two bears the heading Captain Jack Sparrow.
Despite herself, she grins. Perhaps she is biased, but his notorious activities seem spelled out in even more lurid description than all the others – she reconciles the words with the man she knows (maddeningly smug, undeniably strange, oddly brilliant, and at times – though she will never admit it – obscurely charming). She can see Jack doing all of these things. How funny, that she should know a pirate; that she has practically befriended one.
For she and Jack had been something beyond acquaintances, she cannot help suspecting, and 'friends' is the most easily applicable term. Never mind that he had disgusted her during their first meeting and nearly driven her mad during their time on that island. She wrinkles her nose, recalling their mutual exasperation and the taste of rum.
And yet it hadn't been all bad, exactly. She remembers the dull roar of the fire, their voices mingling in graceless delight; linking arms in some absurd camaraderie. What an absurd match they must have made, Elizabeth reflects with a smile – for notorious pirates, as a rule, aren't meant to consort with impressionable young ladies, and vice versa.
And then there are the memories that she still doesn't precisely know how to understand. There is something to Jack Sparrow, she is quite sure, beyond the swaggering and the cockiness and the devout, unwavering selfishness: she suspects he is not quite as wretched as he pretends to be, and will go to great lengths to hide it. It's strange, really, that he had chosen to show her his old wounds. She recalls the grotesque scar that has claimed the length of his left arm, the bullet holes in his chest, and wonders what had made him deem her privy to the secret that he, too, holds a capacity for weakness. "No truth at all," he'd told her, like a man who knew something of sacrifice, and she'd felt like such a fool for having read what seemed a thousand chronicles of his exploits without once stopping to consider that glory could scar.
It's strange, to sit here curled up in a chair with a book, quite comfortable and quite safe, and to know that she'd once been stranded on an island with Captain Jack Sparrow, swigging rum like the most detestable of men and talking with such aching earnestness of things like freedom.
She closes the book, which suddenly seems a disappointment. It knows everything about the pirate and nothing of the man.
Although it is an unquestionable fact that they will be married, Will hasn't properly asked her yet. It begins to hang in the air around them like smoke; she nearly chokes on it.
One night, she sneaks out of the house to enjoy the stars by the water, and with some persuasion succeeds in bringing Will along. The night is peaceful, and she takes his hand in hers as she stares up into the sky.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" she murmurs.
"Very," he says, and she doesn't need to glance his way to know he is looking at her as he replies.
A smile curves her mouth upward; she squeezes his fingers. "You're wonderful, Will Turner. Do you know that?"
He laughs quietly. "I've never really given it a thought."
She opens her mouth to begin a teasing protest.
"But don't worry," he adds quickly, amusement underlying his words. "I won't argue with you."
She smiles, satisfied. "Good." She casts one last glance at the stars before her gaze drifts down to the endless, peaceful sea. "Do you want to know why?"
"If you'd like to tell me," he allows, and she can tell that he's smiling.
"You're sweet," she announces, turning to face him. "And gallant." She takes his other hand, guiding it lightly to rest on her waist. "And terribly patient – you'd have to be, to put up with me." He laughs as she slings her arms over his shoulders. "And you make me feel like the loveliest woman in the world."
"You are," he returns simply, as though there is no truth more basic.
She kisses him, and the pressure of his mouth is sweet and light and utterly welcome. When they pull apart, she allows her mouth to stray errantly across his cheek, to linger on his temple (his hands press harder against her waist); against his ear, she whispers, "Marry me."
He gently pushes her away, and lets out a laugh that is short and incredulous. "What?"
She forces an answering laugh, ignoring the slight sinking in her stomach. "Well, one of us has got to get around to doing it."
"But it falls to me to do the actual asking, doesn't it?" He's smiling, but there is something empty in his words.
"If I wait around for you to do the actual asking," she responds sharply, "I somehow suspect I'll wind up an old maid."
Will stares at her as though he's been slapped.
She feels quite the same way. For a moment, she is drenched in cold, biting horror – that she had spoken that way to Will, who has never been anything but sweet to her, who had nearly died to save her. She owes him so much, more than she can ever hope to repay. His only crimes against her have been patience and propriety; what a monster she is, to lash out at him for being a gentleman.
"I just want it to be perfect," he finally says, earnest and hopeless and so very handsome in the moonlight.
She doesn't deserve him, and the realization is swift and sharp and it's all she can do to force a smile before fleeing back to her home, her quickened steps morphing into an all-out run as soon as she's sure he can't see her anymore. It is a terrible, unwanted truth, and she will not let it catch up to her. She would run to the ends of the earth.
She sleeps fitfully, dreaming of monstrous half-shapes and indistinguishable shadows before everything goes still. Will sits at the side of her bed, silent and expressionless; she tries to apologize but finds that her voice has been stolen. She can only look at him, pleading without words, and his face remains indifferent and cold. At last, desperately, she kisses him. His lips are stone against her hungry mouth. She refuses to surrender, snagging at his bottom lip with her teeth, digging her fingernails into the skin at the back of his neck, waiting for pain to blossom like passion and return him to her. He is still and she has lost him, and yet she persists, fueled by something as white-hot and dizzying as hatred. He's a pirate she'd said once but now he is nothing more than a shell and she is the reason, she's done this.
And then, all at once, he is kissing her; his calloused hands seem a stranger's as they press against her face and throat; his tongue brushes past her lips, unapologetically claims her mouth and she is overcome with relief and something darker and more sweet – yes, she thinks, dim, dizzy, fight back. It's the only thing she wants of him now: the knowledge that he can withstand her. He kisses her until she can't breathe and the world is a flurry of curious mouths and hands that stumble like parched travelers and perhaps she will die here in this strange violent ecstasy; perhaps she wouldn't mind—
He pulls away, and it is Jack who is staring at her, whose hands still willingly linger.
The world tumbles around her. Outside her window, the stars fall.
'You're not supposed to be here,' she admonishes him, finding her voice.
'Aren't I?' he inquires lightly. 'Correct me if I'm wrong, luv, but you don't exactly appear to be pushing me away.'
'Not you,' she argues, and her words tremble just like the rest of her. 'Will.'
'Ah. Will.' He pulls away from her properly, and all of a sudden he is at her other side, leaning back onto the bed as though preparing himself for a bit of contemplation, as though he has every right to be there. 'I suppose you never taught him the song, did you?'
She frowns. 'He wouldn't care to know.'
Jack lets out a quiet snort of laughter, and shifts slightly on the bed. She pulls herself nearer to its edge, to prevent their arms from brushing.
'You ever dance with him, then?' he asks, after a moment of silence.
'That was hardly dancing,' she retorts, and it is just like him, to think that stumbling drunkenly around a bonfire means anything at all. Her hands fly up to pull her dressing gown closed only to find she isn't wearing it; she only wears her nightdress now. It seems hardly adequate, and she wonders why every time they are together she is in her undergarments.
He chuckles, recognizing her predicament and enjoying it thoroughly. She glares at him and pulls the blankets to her chin like a child.
'Get the hang of that corset yet?' he asks with maddening nonchalance.
'You ruined it,' she reminds him irritably.
He grins, rather pleased with himself. 'That I did. So. What are you to do now, then, young missie?'
She glares at him. 'I'll get another one.'
'Is that what you want?' he asks loftily.
She hates him. Her mouth still tastes like his; she doesn't know how she'd managed to miss the traces of rum while she'd been kissing him. 'What do you mean, is that what I want?' she demands. 'Of course that's what I want. You ask ridiculous questions.'
He holds up his hands in mock surrender, then tips his hat down over his eyes and sinks down lower onto the bed.
'You can't sleep here,' she informs him, annoyed.
'I'm not sleeping,' he retorts, eyes still hidden beneath the hat. 'I think it's safe to say that I am very much awake.' He tips up the brim of the hat to consider her. 'Not sure I can say the same for you, though.'
She crosses her arms in front of her chest. 'Of course I'm awake. I'm talking to you, aren't I?'
He smiles at the comment, almost fondly; his hand drifts up and tucks a stray lock of hair behind her ear. She tries to reach up to swat his hand away, but finds her own has gone heavy and useless. His hand lingers against her cheek.
'You're pretending,' she says, and her voice is much softer than she'd meant for it to be. 'There's so much more to you than you ever let anyone see.' She sits up straighter. 'But I can see it plain as day.'
He smirks and runs his thumb lightly over her cheek. 'Peas in a pod, darling.'
He leans in to kiss her goodbye, or perhaps she is the one drawn forward; the second their lips brush, Elizabeth wakes up.
The next day, Will goes down on bended knee, and delivers the most beautiful of proposals. She smiles, teary-eyed, and says "of course" instead of "yes." It's perfect, just as he'd wanted.
Her father doesn't approve of Will, but he dotes upon Elizabeth so diligently that he tries his best to hide it. He is still horribly disappointed that she hadn't chosen to marry James Norrington, but refrains from saying as much to spare her feelings. The hot weather wears on her father – Elizabeth suspects he misses the English climate nearly as much as her mother – and one particularly sultry day is enough to rid him of his merciful silence.
"Father, I never would have been happy with him," Elizabeth informs him, as patiently as she can.
"And you'll be happy with a blacksmith?" her father demands, his tone taking on an unfamiliar edge. She looks away, afraid of whatever truths her eyes might reveal. She isn't in any position to be certain.
Her father thinks her upset, and comes forward in some attempt to mollify her. More softly, he insists, "He doesn't deserve you, Elizabeth."
She doesn't reply, and refuses to meet his eyes. The irony is as stifling as the heat.
Barbossa had told her in great detail what it was like to be cursed; the agonies of insatiable desires.
She strolls to the docks and swallows the sea air, yearning for the feel of a ship beneath her feet, wanting nothing more than to have endless ocean on her every side. Her mouth burns with false memories and she wakes up every morning pretending she hadn't dreamed the night before. There is a scar on her palm, remnants of when she'd been Miss Turner, with her holy blood, a pretty little sacrifice indeed. She studies her hand and can almost taste the terror of it, if she concentrates hard enough. The sea calls to her in Jack Sparrow's voice and she turns her nose up at it, refusing to listen.
She gives Legendary and Most Fearsome Acts of Piracy to one of the maids, instructing that she dispose of it.
"Oh, but Miss," the maid protests, "you used to love it so when you were young!"
"Well, I'm quite grown up now," Elizabeth returns archly.
She visits the blacksmith's one day to find Will wielding one of the swords at an imaginary opponent, his movements so deliberate and swift that she can practically see his adversary.
Silently, she steps inside; he turns abruptly and the blade is nearly at her throat.
"Elizabeth!" he gasps in surprise; the sword falls from his hand to the dirt floor with a dull thud.
She smiles. "Trying to kill your fiancée is hardly admirable behaviour, Mr. Turner."
He grins. "I'll try to keep that in mind."
He kisses her hello, then; it is a very prim kiss, quick and light, and she revels in it.
"What are you doing here?" he asks. "I wasn't expecting you."
"I can go if you like," she teases, turning and taking a few steps toward the door.
He catches her waist and turns her back to face him. "I didn't say that."
She smiles, her gaze flicking idly back and forth between his mouth and eyes. "No, you didn't."
He kisses her again, with a slow and certain reverence. She does love him, she decides. There can be no questioning that.
When they pull apart, her gaze falls to the abandoned sword on the floor.
"Can you teach me?" she asks, the words not fully registering in her mind until after she's said them.
"What?" His gaze follows hers to the sword, then returns to her face.
"Why would you want to learn?" he inquires, a slight smile playing at his mouth at the notion. "Planning on anymore adventures with undead pirates?"
"Not planning," she returns, as primly as she can. "But you never know, do you?"
He studies her for a moment, and she doesn't look away.
"You're serious," he finally concludes.
"I am," she confirms, and feels strangely bold.
He seems to deliberate the matter for a moment, bewildered, before nodding.
She smiles, pleased.
Elizabeth can tell that Will is surprised how easily she picks up what he teaches her. In truth, she's a bit surprised herself – she'd always idly harbored fantasies of imitating swashbuckling pirates, of course, but that hardly made it an acceptable pursuit for a young lady. The air takes on something wonderfully forbidden whenever she holds a sword in her hand: there is something thrilling in that instant, that split-second transition in which she becomes deathly.
As the wedding draws closer, she vows to fix things.
"Dance with me?" It's not that she sets stock by conversations in dreams, of course; it's only that it seems like the right thing to do. To dance properly, for once, and realize what she's been missing out on all along.
He smiles slightly. "There's no music."
"It doesn't matter," she gently insists.
There are traces of bemusement in his smile, but regardless he cups her waist with one hand and takes her hand in the other. She leans into him closer than she ought to, resting her head against his shoulder. His lips brush her hair.
Unbidden, the melody comes, and she hums it faintly under her breath – a far cry from shouting it out between sips of rum, thank you very much.
"What's that?" Will asks quietly, his lips against the top of her head.
Despite herself, she really does contemplate it for a moment: she recalls teaching the words to Jack, speaking them rather reluctantly at first but being slowly driven into song by the sheer reverent delight in his eyes.
It's only that it's not the same with Will.
"Nothing," she murmurs, and closes her eyes.
On the day of the wedding, a storm erupts.
Elizabeth looks beautiful and can scarcely breathe; the dress is heavy and cumbersome, the corset threatening to drain the life from her altogether. She sits by herself in the downpour and watches as the rain destroys everything with a fierce steadfastness that she almost admires. She tells herself she is here waiting for Will, who will come for her in spite of everything, she knows. Still, her gaze drifts out to sea.