The Pirate's Web

Some people don't seem to be fit for the life they're born into. I suppose that's where taking hold of your own destiny comes in; we're supposed to grab the bull by the horns, wrestle it down. Make life work for us, find success. It's not so easy, when an indomitable soul is born into a woman's body. I know, I'm not supposed to believe such things. Father would be appalled. Souls, flying free about the world, waiting to come back into the flesh at the right moment. I read about such things in a book about the East in our library. How unladylike of me.

I yearn to see such places at times. I long for undiscovered lands, new adventures; a ring on my finger weighs me down. Though who can say now? After tonight, maybe I pitched everything I thought I ever wanted into the dark ocean waters. Maybe I never really wanted it. Answers are fleeting these days, it seems.

Even as a little girl, I can remember this sensation of exhaustion. Most would scold me, say I'm too young to feel so tired of life. Those who do not realize or care that they are pawns feel as such. I sit now on the back of the Pearl, staring down at my feet and the black water beyond; the abyss, or so it seems at this very moment. In a way that darkness feels inviting; calling me to fall away, to give up and no longer care.

As a girl, this empty feeling would make the kitchen knives or my letter opener seem hauntingly appealing. But now, the back of this beautiful ship would do perfectly well. It would be a fitting end, to be left behind by those I seemed to crush so easily. Neither would believe I never meant them harm, I'm sure.

Jack would be a bit more justified, I suppose; I did chain him to the mast of the Pearl. I might as well have given him to the Kraken with my own two hands. Not that Will didn't deserve the right to hate me; I think I broke him tonight. Heart and whole, snapped in two.

Why can't you open up to me? he'd asked, intense eyes fixed full upon me. The stare unnerved me, chilled me to the core; it was an expression I'd never seen before upon that perfect face.

I couldn't tell him a truth I didn't know myself. I don't know.

Are you in love with him? He cut to the chase, right to the quick. There was no lying to the boy; he'd seen me kiss the pirate captain with his own two eyes. I'm sure it ate away at his soul the whole voyage to World's End. I had no assurance to offer him; my soul didn't seem to be answering questions. What exactly did I feel sure of? No doubt, the voyage scarred me, left me a changed woman.

Looking into those pained eyes, I couldn't find the courage to tell Will that a quiet life as a housewife would never satisfy me. He won't even look at me, Will, I'd defended.

I'm not asking about how he feels about you.

I shook my head, feeling lost. I have no answer to give you.

Looking back now, I know a storm brewed within Will. The clouds began to gather the day he witnessed my infidelity, and the foreboding thunder began to rumble as he confronted me. He'd trembled like a leaf, the lightning strikes within shaking him to the core. Are we ever going to be happy together? he'd asked, voice strained, on the brink of breaking.

I don't know I'd answered honestly, turning away.

Desperate fingers locked around my arm, turning me back roughly to face him. There would be bruises come morning. Don't you dare turn away from me now, Elizabeth Swann. For the first time in my life, I felt a twinge of fear of Will, deep in my gut. A man driven by jealousy and grief could no longer be considered predictable. Everything I've done on this cursed voyage, I did for you. I tracked down that bloody pirate, was nearly eaten by cannibals, was nearly drowned by a kraken, sailed aboard the Flying Dutchman…all so someday we could have a respectable life together! His voice raised with his tirade, until he shouted loud enough to wake the entire ship.

I jerked free from Will's talon-like grip, taking a step back. Don't you dare blame this disaster on me, Will Turner! No doubt, everyone listened in on us. It was impossible not to.

I'm not¾augh! He clenched his hands into fists with frustration, unable to articulate his fears at that moment.

We didn't have to play it Beckett's way, I said. You could have broken me out of jail, we could have run, and avoided the whole game! I would have been happy with that.

Will sneered at my suggestion. You would have liked that, wouldn't you? To run away and live like savages on boats and in foreign lands, dodging authorities for the rest of our lives. It would be a grand adventure, wouldn't it? Just the kind you and your friend Jack love.

The bitter in his voice seared my soul, released my demons. Fear and hate and my own bitter feelings of being trapped in a life I did not choose. What if I would? I shouted back, now fighting with a malicious intent. He'd cut deep, and at that unbridled moment I intended to do the same. What if I don't want to live a stuffy boring life of a blacksmith's wife? What if I dare to want more? You desire this shell but you haven't the courage to see the true colors of my soul!

You're being a fool, Elizabeth! You never wanted such things, before him. He's poisoned your mind, poisoned us!

I advanced upon Will, seething. Say his name, Will, I dared him. Say it. Say that Jack Sparrow knows my heart better than you ever cared to!

Trembling with pain and anger, Will lifted his hand as though he meant to strike me. I closed me eyes, waiting for the blow, almost wanting the punishment. But it did not come; I opened my eyes to find Jack Sparrow gripping Will's wrist, meeting my fiance's burning eyes with a harsh gaze of his own. A rush of adrenaline coursed through my veins at the unexpected sight; it was the most interest Jack took in me since rescuing him from his watery grave at World's End.

Don't bother, mate, had said Jack in a voice that demanded compliance. Those eyes turned to me, dark fathomless orbs meeting my own. It was the first time he'd looked me in the eye this entire voyage home; but instead of feeling a thrill of triumph, a cold chill shook me from head to toe. She's not worth it.

Jack's eyes never left mine, and as he stared me down I wanted to sink into the planks of the deck. I wanted to become the most insignificant creature on the boat, where those penetrating eyes couldn't find me, couldn't fill me with his utter disdain. Released from the captain's grip, Will brushed past me, retreating to the depths of the ship. Jack said nothing more, and I too fled, wanting to escape that fierce gaze.

James. Will. Jack. I'd caught them all in my web, unwittingly. And unwittingly, I'd broken them all. Would it be so horrible to suggest that they shared in the blame, just as much as I? That Norrington and Will expected me to live a lie, and Jack…Jack was just Jack. That was the best explanation I had to offer. I know I did not break Jack in the way I did Will and James; no, he was far too strong for that. But all the same, I could see the pain in his eyes, just below the surface. I suppose you can't kill a man and hope they will forgive you.

Had I expected him to? Perhaps. It's hard to say anything about the pirate really; to this day I still cannot definitively say what the man ever wanted from me, or I him. A sad state of affairs, for a man I might be in love with it. Once upon a time, he may have even loved me. She's not worth it echoed over in my mind. There was no mystery any longer, of what the captain thought of Elizabeth Swann.

I felt his presence behind me, long before I spoke. "Do you ever feel tired of life, Jack?"

The silence lasted long enough that I didn't think he would answer. "Sometimes. Sometimes that darkness seems right inviting, doesn't it?"

I wondered then if Jack had ever sat in this same spot, thinking similar thoughts.

"I'll give you a chance for revenge," I offered. "Just give me a push, and I'll never bother any of you again. I've been trying for an hour now; it doesn't seem I can do it myself."

As Jack's long fingers slid over my hunched shoulders, I couldn't suppress a shudder. I closed my eyes, waiting to feel the tension in his muscles that would precede my release. Jack's hand traveled to my neck, fingers trailing tauntingly over my skin. The illusion of tenderness broke as he gripped my chin in one strong hand, wrenching my head up to look at him. "It wouldn't be any sort of revenge at all, love," he said coldly. "Jumping would be the easy way out. It's life that hurts the most."

"I suppose you would know the difference between the two," I speculated.

With his other hand, Jack wiped away a tear from my cheek, feeling it between his fingers like an alien substance. "Thanks to you." The stab stung home.

Then angle he held my head at was a painful one, but I endured without protest, feeling it was the least the pirate owed me for my betrayal. It was Jack's stare I couldn't endure; as I closed my eyes to escape his, he released my chin. "You an Will 'ad quite a row, eh?" he said, sitting down next to me unceremoniously. True to form, Jack's behavior left me confused.

"I doubt anyone aboard missed it."

"Recon' not. You don't want the eunuch anymore?" Jack stared straight ahead, fixated on some unknowable point in the distance.

"I don't know what I want," I answered honestly.

Jack nodded. "Know the feeling." The pirate paused, pursing his lips. "It must be awful, to be you right now. With a whelp pulling you towards the domestic life on land, and the sea breeze whispering in your ears all the while. Come to me she says. I know that feeling too."

I glanced over at Jack; still, he stared off to the darkness beyond. "Perhaps it would be fitting, to give myself to the sea. I only seem to bring the humans who dare love me to ruin."

This brought an unexpected reaction from Jack; he quirked his eyebrow, smirking amusedly. "So you do." My stomach clenched, holding back a sob that fought to free itself from my body. Shoulders shaking with the effort, I dug fingers into the railing we sat upon. "We can't exactly say its your fault though, can we?"

This was a concession I did not expect to hear from the embittered pirate. It caused me to look to him, studying him carefully, searching for the slightest hint of insincerity. "Norrington and Turner 'ad no idea what they were getting themselves into," he went on. "Over their heads, with a spirited girl like you. And I…" My heart thundered, waiting for his words. "I just couldn't help myself, it seems. Fact is, love, you shouldn't feel so bad. No matter what they try to tell you, life isn't a straight line. It's a web; people come to you from all sorts of directions, and you reach out in all directions. It's human."

"And I thought I wasn't worth anything," I said bitterly, biting back tears.

Jack turned his eyes to me; once he caught me in his dark gaze, I found it impossible to look away. "And what else could I have said, to get the whelp to retreat so easily?"

"You never struck me as such a peacemaker, Jack."

He shrugged it off. "The lad's in enough pain as it is."

"I know I said I wasn't sorry, that day," I said quietly. "I lied."

"I know." Of course he knew. "I'd be a liar if I said it didn't break something inside, to be chained to the mast by you. I'd also be a liar if I said losing you to the briny deep wouldn't pain me greatly. So, can I convince you to come away from the edge?"

I sat dumbfounded, unable to believe my ears. "Only if you answer me one question honestly, Jack."

This caused a dark eyebrow to quirk. "Honesty isn't one of my strengths, but while we're at it…"

I took a deep breath, resolving myself to whatever answer he may give. "What do you want from me?"

Jack laughed, and at that moment I wanted to slap him out of frustration. "I want you to do exactly what will make you happy," he finally answered, standing up. "And if that includes domestic bliss with the eunuch, well, be my guest. But if on the off chance it includes sailing on a pirate ship, there's a place here for you, if you want it." He offered his hand as a gesture, and although I didn't need his assistance to maneuver myself away from the edge, I took it. His long fingers wrapped around my hand, rough from years at sea pulling ropes wielding a cutlass, but sturdy.

I stumbled as Jack pulled me towards him, pulling me away from the edge in more ways than one, drawing me into his circle of warmth. Those dark eyes bored into me, just as unyielding as before, leaving me utterly confused. Nothing new, I suppose.

"Even though I fed him to a kraken?"

"Life's strange, isn't it?" Jack pressed a gentle kiss to my forehead, and disappeared down the stairs. I stared after the place where he'd stood only moments before, confusion and relief mixing in my system. I accepted them gladly; they beat the pain. The nothingness threatening me inside. Perhaps Jack's not so daft after all I thought to myself, retreating down to my hammock.

So what do you want to be when you grow up, Ms. Swann? A housewife, or a pirate. Gently swinging in my berth I drifted into the easiest sleep I'd encountered the entire voyage.

Will's not going to like the answer. No, not at all.

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