A Dangerous Proposal

What was she doing again on his ship? What cruel turn of fate was this? A man finally gets to a point where he's happy by his onesies again, and then her damned eunuch comes sauntering onto his ship with the intent to take his compass to save his bonny lass, a very bonny lass indeed…and now she's here and the eunuch's not, but they are engaged…the complexity of the situation gave Jack a headache, particularly the part where he fit in. He didn't want to be the loser in the end, the lovesick pirate pining over a swan he could never really have. It was like fencing in the dark with her; she caught him off guard, jarring his emotions without even meaning to.

Jack sat at his desk, attempting to charter a course, but instead began drawing pictures of Elizabeth in his journal. Those eyes, those lovely eyes he could lose himself in so easily…Damn love, and damn the compass for pointing to her, and¾

"Your dinner, Captain Sparrow."

A voice he knew too well, heard in his head all too often, startled him out of his brood. The captain slammed his journal closed, and turned a kohl-lined gaze up to Elizabeth. "You should always knock before entering a Captain's quarters, you know."

She stood before him, holding a steaming bowl of gruel and a quarter of biscuit, his dinner for the night. He'd been avoiding her since she first boarded the Pearl; offering to take him his supper was the only way she could find to see him.

"Did I startle the great Captain Jack Sparrow?"

Jack couldn't help but pick up on the mocking note in her tone. He narrowed her eyes at her. With a sweep of his arm, he cleared a space for his gruel. "Well, chop chop, cabin girl. Captain's hungry," he taunted, gesturing at the space with heavily ringed fingers.

Haughtily, Elizabeth set down his meal, dropping the hard biscuit next to the bowl. It landed with a solid thunk against the table, much as a rock would. She then proceeded to take a seat at the adjacent chair next to him, crossing her legs as though she meant to stay for a while. Jack wasn't sure what alarmed him more: that gesture, her unyielding expression, or the fact that he wanted to drag her to his berth and take the rest of the night to finish that which they'd started a year ago on the island.

"Would you like some?" he asked, holding out the hard tack to her with a smirk. He threw up his walls, albeit hastily, intent on keeping the lass on the side of which the she belonged: the outside.

Elizabeth peered critically at the weevils crawling over the biscuit, before declining. "No thank you."

He shrugged, and took a bite. It really wasn't so bad, once one got used to the flavorless, tooth breaking texture.

"Your loss."

Speaking of losses, thought Elizabeth. Butterflies danced in her stomach at what she was about to say, though she showed no sign of it on her stony exterior. "You've been avoiding me, Jack," she stated outright.

"Have I?"

She fought not to glare daggers at the infuriating captain. "You very well know you have. I can't help but think it's because of what happened between us on that god forsaken island."

It wasn't so god-forsaken, thought Jack, flashing back on the sensation of her young lithe body beneath his.

"Don't you mean what didn't happen?" he asked with a smirk, leaning back in his chair.

Looking away, she blushed slightly, feeling the heat under her skin. "Ah…yes. I never would have suspected you to be such a gentleman."

"Maybe I should take that as an insult, seeing as gentlemen bore you so very much. Funny thing, seeing as you're engaged to quite a fine one."

Elizabeth's stomach flipped sickly with the thought of Will. "So I am."

Jack waved a hand in the air dismissively, rings glinting in the candlelight. "I'm no gentleman, love. I was only looking out for me own skin; I don't much like being on the business end of the eunuch's sword. Not to mention the rum we'd so happily consumed; you would have only regretted it come morning, is all."

Elizabeth bit her lip, fighting not to roll her eyes at his poor attempt to mask his intentions. He didn't give a fig about Will, and she knew it. Jack found himself fascinated by the motion, watching her mouth. Realizing where his eyes were drawn, he quickly looked away.

"No matter what you may like to think, or try to convince the rest of us, Jack, you're a good man. I don't think I would have regretted anything at all."

Jack raised his eyebrows at hearing this. It was cruel, to say such things to a man who may never come so close to an angel again.

"And what of young William, love? I'm sure he would regret it, if he knew his Bonny lass gave her…flower to a rotten pirate."

Elizabeth laughed. "Flower? Is that what the rotten pirate calls it?"

"I'm trying to not be so uncouth, love, and you don't make it easy. Just one look at you here on my ship, those golden locks blowing in the wind makes me want to take back my former decision to preserve your innocence." Elizabeth licked her lips, contemplating his words. "Especially when you do things like that," he added, under his breath.

"Does it, Jack?" she asked, staring off at some unknown point in the distance. Hang innocence. She didn't want it anymore, she wanted to shove it all in a bottle, and hurl it out to sea. What Elizabeth wanted was to start her life, exactly the way she wanted to live.

"What is this really about, Lizzy?" sighed Jack. "Are you having second thoughts about marrying the whelp?'

"Perhaps." Well, she almost admitted it.

"With such a strapping young lad as Will all too eagerly wanting to put a ring on your finger, why are you wasting your time with me?"

For a moment, she wanted to scream with frustration. Stop trying to push me away, I already know I mean something to you! After their first adventure, she'd gone back to her normal stale life, playing a doting daughter and bride-to-be. But every night, a pair of dark eyes she knew all too well haunted her dreams. Despite of it, she'd managed to convince herself that she would never see Jack again, and that marrying Will was what she really wanted. About the time this numb finally set in, Jack Sparrow and high adventure fell into her life again; and God, she'd never felt more alive.

"I tried to forget you," she snapped, "But you don't make it easy for me."

Eyes wide, Jack held his hands up in a mock surrender. "Easy, love. It's not my fault I'm irresistible." At that moment, she would have liked to slap him. Instead, she said wistfully, looking everywhere but Jack's black eyes. "It's futile, though. I've tasted a freedom most delicious, but of a man who can never be tamed. A man I would never want to tame, though convincing him of that would prove difficult. I don't think I could ever have him, not really, and yet the prospect of life with another to whom I'm engaged will ne'er seem quite so sweet again after experiencing him."

"You're just afraid of being bored, love," said Jack, trying not to let the unlikely words he'd just heard sink in too deep. He might do something foolish. Why did his heart suddenly begin to pound in his chest, like a caged bird frantic to escape? Feeling trapped by the chair suddenly, he stood, going to look out the window. He turned his back on Elizabeth, afraid she would read his face like an open book.

"Rightly so," she said bitterly. "It's not Will's fault," she sighed. "And really, what more is a governor's daughter to hope for, than marrying a kind honest man? How unladylike of me to think anything else," she hissed skeptically. "I don't feel honest, Jack," she said in a quieter voice. "Sometimes, I feel absolutely wicked."

He turned to face her at hearing those words, eyebrows raised. Slowly, he walked towards her. "And it feels good, doesn't it love?" He leaned on the arms of her chair, leaning down towards her. "To act on impulse, answering to no one but¾"

"Myself" she finished for him, voice no higher than a breathy whisper. Having him so close again, she found herself fascinated by his lips, unable to draw her attention from them. "Is it so wrong for a woman to desire her own freedom?"

At that moment, Jack's heart ached along with hers; he recognized one of his own. A soul unwilling to be tamed by the constraints of proper society. Tormented by her body so near, he pushed away from the chair, standing once again. "It's not wrong, Lizzy. It's a perfectly human compulsion, especially for people like us."

"Like us, Jack?"

He gave a heavy sigh, feeling a slight tremor in his limbs. "Peas in a pod, love. You know its true."

Out of habit, he expected some sort of protest for comparing her to himself, for declaring such similarities of temperament. But instead, she simply nodded her head. "Yes, I know," she answered, voice quiet and mournful.

An idea began to take form in Jack's head, more than a whim. He would admit to himself that it had crossed his mind before, as a fancy on the island, but now, the need to ask felt heavy on his chest. "It's an unfortunate situation you find yourself in, love," he said. "A soul as free as yours, meant to fly on the breeze, trapped in the cage of society's constraints." He turned back to the window, unable to look at her, not able to bring himself to watch her when she said no.

"You're so beautiful, love. And they'll take that beauty from you, if you let them. Marriage and children will clip your pretty wings, use you until your womb is dry and no longer of any use to your great society any longer. Maybe Will doesn't think that's what he'll do to you when he puts a ring on your finger, but he will and not even know it."

Elizabeth pressed her lips together, fighting back the welling of distress within her as she leaned into Jack's hand. She knew that was exactly what lay ahead for her, for all girls, who had not the courage to do something about it.

"So," he continued, "If a certain pirate were to suggest that instead of meeting said grisly fate, you sail away with him on his beloved ship, able to pursue your compulsions of personal freedom to any degree you see fit, what would you say?"

Silently, Elizabeth rose from her chair, going to stand before him. Her heart pounded in her chest, barely able to believe what she'd just heard the pirate propose. She looked up into his dark eyes, searching for that mischievous glint that signaled his insincerity. However, she found no such thing, only those kohl-lined black orbs staring back at her, boring into her. "I would plead with said pirate not to offer such a sweet fruit, if he did not truly wish to deliver it."

Jack smiled, a wicked curl of lips that made her heart ache. "Is that a yes, then?" He reached out to touch her face, caressing her cheek, his gentle touch sending a thrill down her spine.

"That's a maybe, Jack Sparrow." She reached up to catch his hand, which he'd begun to trace over her neck in a most distracting fashion. She reveled in the feeling of his rough hands, the sea dog calluses earned by climbing rigging and brandishing swords. "I can't think while you do that," she sighed under her breath.

"Good," he murmured, leaning down so his mouth hovered temptingly close to hers, "Because I want you to say yes,. If you think too much that bloody conscience will remind you of the eunuch's puppy dog eyes, and you wont do what's best for you."

"You know what's best for me?"

"I know what you want, love, because you're the same as me. Freedom is the siren's song we follow on the breeze, to our very ends."

Elizabeth released Jack's hand, reaching up to fondle a trinket in his hair. "I won't be your pirate wench," she said, voice quiet but firm.

With cat-like speed, Jack pressed Elizabeth against the wall of his cabin. At the feeling of his strong body pressing against hers once again her knees trembled. "I don't want you to be my wench," he said quietly into her ear. "I want you to be my pirate queen. Savvy?"

She closed her eyes at the feeling of his fingers sliding into her hair, holding her head at the base of her skull. "Savvy," she murmured above his lips, barely able to get the word out before he crashed against her, lips and tongue exploring her hungrily. Jack kissed her as though he would devour her, a starving man finally allowed to feast. Pressed between the boards of the ship and Jack's body, she loved the sensation of his weight leaning into her, taking her over. She was a treasure after all, and all too willing to be pilfered, by the right pirate.

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