Elizabeth turned away, directing her eyes out to the ocean. It was calm. For the moment, anyway. She had learned quickly that it was unpredictable. Or, in the words of the great Captain Jack Sparrow, "The ocean is like a woman. One moment she loves you, and the next she's slapping you every time to come into her port."
She was ignoring him. She was making a point to ignore him. She was lovesick, she kept reminding herself. The man she loved, her fiancé, he was on some supernatural boat somewhere serving time under the pirate to rob all pirates. She simply could not have some filthy thief sidling up to her side in his absence. She might do something she'd regret later. Out of lovesickness, of course.
"Lizzie Swann, you can either turn your pretty little head around now, or I can hoist you by the ankles up the main mast until your blouse falls open, but either way you are going to look at me when I'm talking to you. Now myself, I prefer the later, but being the gentleman that I am, I am willing to sacrifice my own preferences and do what you'd like. It's your call, love."
It wasn't funny. It wasn't funny at all. A pirate talking about wishing to see her without a blouse on. Honestly. It was degrading and insulting. "I fail to see the humour in that, you know."
"Then why, my dear Lizzie, are you smiling?"
She tried to keep the grin from her face, but failed. She turned to face him, who was beaming like the simpleton he was, several gold teeth clearly visible.
"There you go! That wasn't so hard, now, was it? I must say, though, I'm rather disappointed about the whole attendance of the blouse matter, and I'm sure the crew will be equally disenchanted. Perhaps even more so, who can truly say?"
"Stop it!" she protested, stamping her foot and turning away from him, keeping her ankles together although she was in breeches rather than a dress. She was sitting on the steps to the platform where the steering wheel resided (she had yet to learn its proper name), and although she was on a pirate ship, she was attempting to salvage any shards of ladylikeness that remained within her.
"Stop what?" he inquired, resting his head on her shoulder and sticking out his bottom lip.
"Stop… that!" emoted the woman, pushing his head away. "Stop acting like Captain Jack Sparrow!"
"Fraid I can't do that, love," he sighed, ruffling her blonde hair playfully, much to her distaste. "I'd sail to the ends of the earth and die there for you, I'd wrestle the Kraken for you, but I just can't act like anyone but the pirate captain Jack Sparrow. Not even for little old you."
Elizabeth gave an angry huff. "What do you want, Jack?"
"Just a moment of your time, love. To talk like the two sensible adults that we are."
"Oh, really? And what do you want to talk about?"
"Life," he said airily, twirling one of his black dreadlocks with a ragged-nailed finger. "Death. Trivial social topics such as that."
She frowned. Something was wrong. Something had changed. His face. He was trying to be happy and sarcastic, but there was something else there. "Jack…? Jack, what is it?"
"What's what, love? If you want, we can talk about which corsets are in style."
She scowled, smacking his arm. "You're mean!"
"You should start wearing corsets again, love. They suit me."
Elizabeth was suddenly very self-conscious about the size of her waist. "Why?"
He smirked, wrapping a hand around the aforementioned waist. "Because, love, the last time you wore a corset, I got to take your clothes off."
She pushed him away, unthreading herself from his grasp with no struggle, standing and walking to the railing. A small part of her, a part she was trying desperately to shut off, was disappointed at this. She crossed her arms, resting her head on them.
"On a more serious note, I really do have to talk to you."
There it was again. That something else. It was darker than his usual voice. She turned around to face the pirate. He wasn't smiling. In fact, he looked grim. "Jack…"
"Look, Lizzie, I'm a marked man. Quite literally." He unwrapped the white cloth that was entwined around his palm, displaying the mark to her. "Look. The black dot."
"Oh… Oh, Jack…" She took his much larger hand into both of hers, gently touching the spot. "Does it hurt?"
"Nay, but the thought of it does. Davy Jones is hunting me, and he's not going to stop until he gets me or I kill him. Now what I need from you, Lizzie, is a promise."
She wanted to ask what it was for. It was the smart thing to do. Knowing Captain Jack Sparrow, it could be anything from a vow of silence about the mark to one night of pleasure before he was dragged down to the depths. Instead, she simply spoke one word.
He placed a hand on her shoulders, firmly but with a gentle touch. She could almost feel his calloused palm through her shirt, and for some odd reason, it made her tingle. "Lizzie, when Jones comes a-knocking, chances are he's going to be after me. Just me. Not you, not Will, not the Pearl, just me. And all I want him to get, in such an event, is me. Not you. Because quite honestly, Lizzie, I don't think I could sleep at night if my shenanigans got you killed."
"You'd be dead, too," she said softly, not quite grasping what he was asking of her. "If something like that happened."
"That's hardly the point, now, is it? But, if something happens where Jones or his goonies or his beasties are after me, let me go. Stop me from coming with you. I'm not as brave as you'd like to think. Just… Don't let me sink you by bringing me along."
"Alright…" she whispered. "Alright, I'll do it. But Jack, nothing like that is going to…"
"You know what Davy Jones said?" Jack interrupted her. "He said my soul's worth a hundred other souls. A hundred."
"Aye. And that's why you've got to let me go, should the time come, and get yourself out of harm's way. Because if a dirty pirate captain like me with bones in his hair is worth a hundred souls, a lass like you has got to be worth at least a thousand." He paused, looking down. "Lizzie?"
"I'm going to be needing that hand back, love."
She followed his gaze and her face flushed when she realized she was still holding his hand in hers. She quickly released him. "Sorry…"
"No need to be sorry, it's just a mite hard to steer with only one hand." Jack drew a pair of shackles from his pocket, clapping them into her hand. "Keep these right handy, okay? Just in case." He turned, presumably to go take the wheel from Mr. Cotton.
Elizabeth was tempted to simply let him go. Her promise was weighing heavily on her shoulders, and the chains were weighing heavily in her hand. She needed time to take it in. Could she, when, if the time came, simply let him die? Even restrain him? But then, what the was big deal? He was a pirate. He should have been hanged long ago. What difference was it whether he swung from the gallows or was doomed to a watery grave?
"Jack!" Her own voice startled her. She realized that she was trembling slightly. Her mind was no longer in control of her mouth.
The captain turned his head in her direction. "Yes?"
"I think I'm falling in love with you."
He turned back, sighing and shaking his head. "That's a wicked bad thing to do, Lizzie. Best stop now before it goes any further. It'll only end in tears."
"Why? Why does it have to?"
Jack sighed, shaking his head as he ascended the steps to his rightful place at the wheel. "Pirate…"