Warning: Spoilers for Dead Man's Chest (but who doesn't know the spoilers by now?); and Jack x Elizabeth x Will.
A/N: Sonnet 116 is copyright Shakespeare, being extensively quoted here. I also made up quite a bit of the backstory; and yes, standard disclaimers apply.
To the Marriage of True Minds
She knows he is a thief, but somehow that doesn't bother her. His teeth are gold and his eyes are sparkling and his dirty hair is full of unbidden treasures and every inch of him swaggers to the song of the sea – and he is a pirate. "A rascal, a vandal," she mutters to herself, knees up on the cabin stairs and her own dirty hair trailing unkempt over her shoulders because, well, she hasn't had a proper bath since what should have been her wedding day. The thought makes her grind her teeth in fury, but all of a sudden her thoughts are cut off by his cocky tone.
"Lizzie, how fares thee," with a mock sweep of his captain's hat. She shoots him a withering look, lips pursed and eyebrows arching as high as she can make them, but it's difficult to be disdainful when her face is dirt-streaked, her boy's clothes are reeking of salt and sweat, and the whiff of pig manure is still not completely gone from her boots. She spies Norrington out of the corner of her eye, lurking over the side where the plank is, smug despite the dung lingering on his clothing (more heavily than hers, at least, certainly a relief). Elizabeth glares first at him, then at the man still flamboyantly gesticulating a hand in her direction.
"I'm homesick, seasick, and lovesick," she answers shortly. "For Will, of course," – because his eyes are growing wider and his forehead wrinkling deeply – "I miss him, and I worry about him. I want him back."
He sticks a finger an inch away from her nose and waves it from side to side. "Ah, but we can fix all that," his hands do a manic little cha-cha in midair. "Make this ship your home, make the sea the land that you tread, and we can cure your wee aching heart if you let this captain give you a kiss."
His smile is a mix of gold and pearls and rotten wood and it is looking upon her in a way that is not at all enticing, not at all - and she can't think. She stands up, looming all of two steps over him. "Jack Sparrow, would you leave me alone? Get over there and sail your ship. We might lose our destination if you keep straying from the wheel, and I want to find Will already. Please. If you say one more word to me I will scream."
His lips part, as if he might reply just to spite her – but he catches the unrelenting look in her eyes, and eases them closed instead. He raises both hands. "Aye aye, captain." His boots seem to drum out the ferocity of her pulse as he walks away. She sits back down, miserable and wondering, head against her knees – it's as if her heart is a battered vessel in a storm-tossed ocean, and she can't grab the wheel.
He's a pirate. Steer away. Steer far, far away.
She had watched Jack leave Port Royale, gathering up her skirts after her expert mock faint, staring out at the horizon as his sails billowed jauntily out to sea. She knew Will wouldn't have allowed him to die, not after all he had done for them. She also knew that there was no chance of the pirate staying, and that it was all for the better and all for the best, although something had felt a bit wrong inside her as his ship disappeared and Norrington cursed the gods.
In the end she chalked it up to the good citizen within her, just guilt for allowing a lawbreaker to run free. A tiny voice within her told her that was stuff and nonsense. Then again, it was the same voice that urged her continuously to ask Will for fencing lessons, something she had not yet gotten around to. It was a silly notion, she decided, and not worth listening to. Even Will had seemed downhearted that afternoon, though, and she thought for a moment, just a moment, that perhaps he would rather be a pirate than a blacksmith. It was in his blood, after all.
Then he had taken her hand and asked her if she didn't want to go out for dinner, now that their adventures were over, and she knew that sweet, perfect Will could never last in a life of swindling and treachery. There was too much good in his bones, too much sugar in his smile. The crewmen would laugh at him and the wenches on Tortuga would abuse him, and he'd be cheated out of any treasure he could find.
She kissed him and said she'd love some steak, and that was that.
The pirate came back three weeks after his fantastic escape from the gallows, dirty boots against her balcony and his hands against his hips in an infuriatingly imperious way, as if he were the man of the house and not an unwelcome intruder. She was walking around her room, unable to sleep, unable to sit still at all, because Will had promised to speak to her father the next day about their plans – she knew her father did not doubt Will's sincerity, but as for their official matching, well, her lover wasn't the most persuasive of fellows. She almost wished she could break the news instead.
Running out of places to pace, she sat at the edge of her dresser, staring at the flickering candle weighing down a stack of her favorite books – adventure stories, pirate chronicles, tales of heroes, sea voyages, all aptly covered with book jackets on cookery and crocheting, because true ladies weren't supposed to read such violent tales. She had Shakespeare, at least, a necessity for any respectable woman. Lifting up the relatively new copy, she opened the book at random.
"Let me not, to the marriage of true minds, admit impediments. Love is not love which alters, when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove." And such was a love that she held for Will (and he the same for her, she was certain), but it was severely tested at times. Marriage would at least seal their hands together permanently. She looked up at her mirror, ready to sigh, but the air got stuck in her throat instead as she saw the outline of a man against her curtains.
"O no, it is an ever fixed mark, that looks upon tempests and is never shaken," and here he pulled the curtains to her room aside and strode forward. For a moment she thought she might scream, and then the moonlight fell upon his face and proved him to be harmless – or as harmless as one could be, considering he had a pistol strapped to his belt and the intoxicating stench of rum hanging on him like a second coat. She closed her mouth, crossed her arms, and stood, glowering. "It is the star to every wandering bark," there he ended his recitation and saluted her. "And apparently I have steered en route to you again, my dear Miss Swann. How has life been without me?"
"Coming back here is suicide, Captain Sparrow," she addressed him coolly, although her heart was still pounding like mad. She had thought she would never see him again, and surprisingly enough, the idea had been a sad one. Never again would she be soaking wet and half-starved, she decided. Never again would she be shuttled around on someone's shoulders like a sack of vegetables. She was through with adventure, done with action, divorced from the frenzy of the battlefield and the careless sea. And yet here was Jack, all those things personified, as real as the wood beneath her feet, quoting Shakespeare as if to mock her. (She had wit enough to wonder, at least, where he could have possibly learned that.) "If the navy catches you, you'll be hanged tomorrow."
"And rightfully so," he assured her. They scrutinized each other for a moment.
She stared hard at him, willing him to be a dream, to leave her room, anything but to stay there. Not only did it go against all kinds of propriety, his very presence felt like a threat to her. A threat to what? – order, peace, a stable state of mind, she wasn't sure. She just knew that he was dangerous, and that his danger had rubbed off on her in the time she spent with him. It had not seemed much of a problem to her then, but now, whenever she laughed and forgot to cover her mouth, or happened to spit her food out of disgust; whenever she loosed her corset or felt like a bit of rum, she knew it was his influence, and that it was not right.
"Why did you come back?" She asked, at last.
"Why do you think?" He replied. "I had to. Don't get me wrong," because she was starting to frown, "I felt out of sorts with the sea. I wanted to come here and prove myself in error. It's like your lovely sonnet. Something has altered." He takes a step towards her, hands up in what might be surrender and what might be persuasion. "I came to visit Will as well, inquire after his father, stroll around town, give Norrington a good kick – ah, pardon, kiss."
"For your information, Norrington has been deprived of his titles in the navy, and Will and I will be married soon," her tone was harsh as she said the words, more harsh than she meant them to be. She found herself lifting her chin up in defiance (although she wasn't sure why, she was never sure why she had to beat him like this, be proud like this, as if she had something to prove). "You can come if you like, but you'll have to be in disguise."
For a moment his surprise might have been genuine, and then he laughed: a lazy, easy laugh.
"That proves me right completely, then," his eyes grew soft and piteous as he brought his palms together, like a merchant bringing up a price. "The pair of you, cheating behind my back when I so liked you both." He paused. "Just kidding. I wish you lovers the best of luck. You do know I'd love to join the ceremony, don't you? But I'm all out of disguises now. My true nature," and he pointed out the window, out at the sky and the dark, secret sea, "Is that."
She watched him turn and leave without another word, and woke up to find herself in a cold sweat. When she met William later that day, his face elated as he told her of her father's consent, he caught her troubled look and asked her what the matter was.
"I had a nightmare," she answered, but did not say what about.
Jail had been awful. Perhaps she wouldn't have minded the damp so much if she hadn't been wearing her bridal gown – the expense had almost broken her father's heart, not to mention his purse – but the stink really was pretty awful, and she ached painfully with the unfairness of it all. All this discomfort, and the storm outside, and Will being gone; it spoiled all of their preparations, all of it ruined, and at what cost?
Jack's freedom, something told her, and she clenched her teeth to stop from cursing in annoyance.
"Did we have to?" She asked herself, grumpily, but even as she spoke the words she imagined the pirate's feet swinging limply as he ran out of breath, his head lolling. They couldn't have let him be executed. She wouldn't have been able to live with that guilt, and neither would Will – because Jack was not an evil man, and there were worse scumbags in the navy, enough to make hanging him hypocrisy. In some ways he had saved them both, so it was only fair that they had returned the favor.
Sighing, she leaned a head against the slimy walls, arms laced over her knees as she worried about Will and traced a tongue over her lips, remembering their parting kiss – it should have been their wedding kiss, it should have been their lifelong vow – but it hadn't been, and only the rats had been true witness to their love. But her husband-to-be would make it all right, he would fix things, he would find Jack and get her out of there, and she...
...she hated waiting around like this.
Stealing the lad's clothes had been tricky, although she had actually enjoyed the challenge. It had been difficult, crouching in the middle of a group of barrels (she guessed wine, from all the sloshing, although gunpowder would have been much more useful), hoping that no one would look in. She tucked her head down and made her breathing scarce, although her legs kept cramping up. Every moment she would peek out from a crack between the barrels and search for anyone passing by who seemed new and easy enough – her target had been a fresh cabin boy with fair hair and a city accent – he was probably a shop apprentice who had fled his job, desperately seeking some adventure.
She ought to have had some sympathy for him – their predicaments weren't too different.
Some time near the evening the older pirates had retired to the captain's cabin to guzzle some wine and exchange tall tales. The boy was left out, pacing around with a scowl. Occasionally he would creep close to the steering wheel, although he seemed too wary to spin it. After a while he turned to the ship's hull and leant on the railing, staring out at the ocean. She slipped out of her position quietly, pulling her skirts up. Then, as quickly as she could, she picked up a bucket that had been rolling about on the floor, ran up behind him (she had discarded her shoes long ago, so that her feet wouldn't sound on the hardwood), and hit him hard on the head.
He slumped forward with a little moan. She pulled him backwards from the railing and gagged him with a handkerchief, then dragged his body behind her barrel hideout and started to pull of his breeches. She couldn't help blushing as she did the job, because it was pretty dirty business - Elizabeth Swann stripping a man. Will would have been horrified, and her father would have probably shot himself in shame.
And Jack would have laughed and said she was a frisky little minx, and that he would love to be in the poor boy's place but this was all his fault, and she didn't feel like cheek.
She took his shirt, too, and the boots and hat, then she bound him tightly with some rope and lowered him into her hiding place. She changed, giving the boy another knock on the head with the bucket when he started to wriggle. The sounds from the captain's cabin was escalating in volume and incoherence – they'd be drunk asleep till noon, morning at best. They wouldn't remember the boy's face from the early voyage at all. She just hoped he wouldn't starve to death.
She crammed her dress in the nook on the side of the captain's cabin, deciding that it might be useful later on, and practiced her boy's tone until the sun came up.
"Fancy a wager?"
She stares Norrington down like he is lower than the filth clinging to the sides of the deck, but he merely raises his eyebrows at her. Perhaps there are compensations to losing all of one's pride after all. She looks over the man that nearly became her husband – he has lost the wig and the pompous clothing, and the naval captain's official hat, although none of his awful attitude. Still, the scruffiness brings out the sharpness of his face, and the danger of his eyes – he might almost be attractive, if not for the smell.
"I sincerely hope this isn't about Will," she answers acidly.
"Why? Starting to doubt him?" He smirks, and she is more intimidated than she wants to be.
"Oh please, it isn't like either of us has any money to spare."
"A bet's still a bet," he says. "I see how you look at Jack Sparrow, and everyone knows how his eyes go when they fix on you. You're a woman of many charms, Miss Swann, and you know how to use those charms well. Rather sly, I must say." He tilts his head. "I wanted your hand once before, but now I don't envy Turner a bit. I'd bet five golden pieces you fall for the captain before our journey's through."
She slaps him hard across the face.
"You're talking nonsense," she seethes, and then she stomps away.
It's the compass that makes her worry, if it works as Jack says it's supposed to work.
"Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks, within his bending sickle's compass come." She clutches the blasted thing to her chest and hopes that its needle stops spinning. It shouldn't be off-mark like that. It shouldn't be double-sided.
She thinks on Jack, on his dark eyes and devilish features. How could a man like that confuse her this way? His words were all flattery and fallacy, his smile made her want to destroy things, he didn't know a toothbrush from a scrubbing brush, and his arrogance was worse than even Norrington's. He had secrets that ran a mile under the ocean, and she knew she could never, ever trust him the way she could rely on Will.
"Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out, even to the edge of doom." She flips the compass open, and the needle is still, pointing North. She feels her heart leap up in relief.
Until she sees the captain stalking towards her yet again. From that direction.
"Quoting the bard?" He asks, leaning next to her.
She shuts the lid of the compass briskly, face flushed. "How would you know?"
"I've read my texts," he answers. "And I do know how to court a lady."
"Very funny," she intones dryly. They stand together in silence for a moment.
"Did you come back to Port Royale, after your escape?" She asks at last, stopping herself before she can add, did you come and stand at my window?
Jack looks her up and down, very slowly, in a way that makes her shiver (out of disgust, she tells herself), until he settles on her face. "I'm a sparrow, Miss Swann. I fly, I flit, I dash from tree branch to rooftop to ship-sail, and nothing would make me turn back from adventure –" she opens her mouth, but he puts his finger to it and silences her. " – no, nothing can compete with the sea, except perhaps your loveliness. You might have been dreaming, you might have not, but either way it looks like our paths have crossed again, so destiny has dealt her cards. I'm glad you're on this voyage." His hand tiptoes across the railing behind her.
"We could make it last forever."
She looks into his eyes and sees the sky and the sea, adventure and mystery, riches and riots and none of the expectations that everyone else heaps on her. Only fun. Only freedom. Only danger. She likes that.
But he's a pirate.
They aren't to be trusted. Besides, there's none of Will's love in those eyes – none of her fiancée's compassion and trust, nothing genuine. Jack's a rogue. He'd as fast turn a blade on her as he would kiss her, and she knows it.
Well, two could play at that game.
"Swans aren't meant for flying," she says. "And I'm betrothed already, in case you've forgotten."
"Don't forget, Elizabeth, that aside of being graceful and beautiful, swans are best at ease in water."
"I have a sense of loyalty, unlike yourself," her words are tombstone cold; she's had enough of these charades. Elizabeth Swann has honor, and she won't bend it for the promise of fun. Not when everlasting love is the other option.
Jack smiles at her, carefully. She can't tell if he is laughing, or offended, or marveling at her dedication. He claps his hands together. "Brava, my dear. Love alters not when it alteration finds." He pauses, then tips his hat. "Still, Shakespeare drove a hard bargain. The offer's always there, in case you'd like to take it up." He gives her a jaunty wink before stepping away to the ship's wheel.
Elizabeth puts her head between her hands and grinds her teeth. "If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved." She needs Will back to hold her and make her feel all right. Now. Let the compass point me the right way.
Otherwise the tide might drown her completely.
A/N: That turned out a lot longer than I wanted it to, and not as smooth - but I still wanted to try something with Jack and Elizabeth. Also, I really doubt that Shakespeare reached popularity within the movie's timeframe, but let's just say I took liberties. I hope you enjoyed reading it, anyhow. Any and all comments would be greatly appreciated. :D