Grudgingly, Jack raised the little girl, but all the while he could think only of ways to be rid of her. He tolerated her, but he did not care for her. He watched out for her, but he did not love her. Hopefully a different twist from the 'Jack has a daughter' storyline…
Disclaimer: The standard rules apply—I don't own anything canon that you might recognize from Pirates of the Caribbean. Now then, a bit of a note—the first three chapters (and two pages of the fourth chapter) of this story were written by me, Jinxeh, but the rest will be written by halleyjo, who decided to take the story over when I lost inspiration, hence the reason it's on halleyjo's account instead of my own. Go halleyjo! NOTE: I'd like to thank the amazingly awesome obliviongates for beta-reading the first four chapters of this fic for me. She rocks!
Note: The woman in the first chapter is based loosely on Arabella, from the Jack Sparrow children's book series—I actually was going to have it be Arabella, but I've only read the first two books, and didn't want to abuse canon in terms of her future. Also, I didn't want anyone who hasn't read the Jack Sparrow books to be deterred from reading this story for fear of missing something—you don't have to have read those books in order to understand this, I assure you. Enjoy!
The normally dusty streets of Tortuga had been transformed into mucky pathways of mud and grime by the recent rainstorms that had so viciously assaulted the island, and yet it did nothing to impede the drunken nighttime excitement that the pirating town was most known for. Although a steady drizzle of rain continued to fall from above, everyone went along with their business as they normally would; the wenches prostituted with as much fervor as ever, the drunks chased after the wenches with sluggish cheer, and the men and women working themselves ragged at the taverns sold rum to all those that had the gold for it.
In the midst of the usual chaotic mess that was a night in Tortuga, it was all-too-easy for anyone to overlook one or two strange people that walked the muddy streets. A man with a sorrowful expression, dressed in rags and holding his hands out for spare coins was something that anyone who had lived in Tortuga for a small while instinctively ignored; it was commonplace, really. Another man, perhaps dressed in less raggedly clothing but with a bottle of rum gripped tightly in his hand as he shouted obscenities to the sky was never much of a surprise, either.
But a young woman dressed in clothing that gave even rags a bad name, clutching at the hand of a much younger girl as she pulled her through the muddy streets and the rain? Well, it was fair to say that such an occurrence was a bit rarer in nature. Anyone who had the audacity to attempt to raise children in a place like Tortuga at least had the common sense to keep them tucked away safely in their homes at night, when the mess and the turmoil was at its peak.
But this woman, with her emaciated features and threadbare clothing, was dragging her own child along in the middle of the night, and right past—and sometimes through—the crowds of people laughing and drinking outside of the various buildings as though she had not a care in the world. Her expression, written so firmly upon her pale face, was determined; her eyes, dark and sunken, gave not even the slightest indication that the goings-on all around were of concern to her. When drunken men leered at her and snatched for her skirts when she went by them, she had nothing but an impatient huff and a glare in their direction in which to respond to them, and then she would be off again, still pulling her child along at a breakneck speed.
The only signal this strange woman gave in which to imply that she was concerned about the ruffians she was fighting her way through as she struggled through the mud was the way that she held her child—she had the girl's hand in a grip so tight that her knuckles had almost turned white, and she didn't dare to let go. The child, on her part, was doing little or nothing to stop this; she seemed content to allow her mother to steer her wherever she pleased, and said not a word about it.
Of course, perhaps when eyes went to this strange pair of people, it was the girl that drew the most attention, though not for reasons that would suggest attraction. She was young, looking to barely be ten, if even that, and her own state of being was more deplorable than that of her mother. Whereas her mother seemed emaciated, the girl was absolutely withered; her cheekbones stuck out sharply, throwing her light-colored eyes into even more of a sunken shadow than was normal for one in poor health. Dark rings and circles adorned the skin under her eyes, and her thin lips blended in almost completely with her pale skin, being almost white in color.
Of course, at times it took people a double glance in order to see that the child was even a girl. Her stick-like figure, even at her young age, would suggest otherwise, in accordance to her noticeably short hair. From the look of things, and as far as anyone could possibly guess, her mother had grown impatient and had chopped her hair off with a knife or sword; it hung in extremely uneven strands around her ears and in front of her eyes, the longest strands of which didn't even manage to reach her chin. This was quite a dissimilarity from her mother, who had long brown hair, though it was greasy and unkempt from her apparent lack of washing it.
Whereas the woman dragging her child along had such an air of urgency and determination—something that made most of the men a little hesitant to leer at her as they once did when they finally noticed it—the child's expression was blank, as though it was a plain white canvas waiting for someone to decorate it with something of their own design. Her light eyes showed nothing; not even a speck of sentiment. If she heard what it was that her mother was saying to her as she was pulled along, she made no attempt to respond to her.
"Almost there, love," her mother whispered in a weak, wheezing voice, her grip on her child's hand tightening as she ducked around a corner and skirted a dirty old man that stuck a hand out for the edge of her ratty old brown cloak. "He'll take care a' you, I know he will…"
Her voice did not hold the conviction that would have otherwise been required in order to make her statement seem entirely true, but if the girl took notice of this she didn't have a reaction to show for it. She settled for blinking her eyes bemusedly as she nearly stumbled in the mud, almost losing her shoe—which wasn't difficult, since her shoes were nothing but strips of leather for the bottom, sewn to thinner pieces of worn brown fabric to form the tops and sides. It matched well with her tattered brown and black dress, which, by now, was smudged with mud all over the long bottom skirt.
"'Ey!" A man called out to the woman warningly, stepping in front of her with a bit of a sluggish grin on his unshaven face. "'Ow much?"
"Get away!" the woman snarled, brushing him aside with such force that he stumbled back a few steps, scowling. "Come now, Ellie, mustn't dawdle…" she continued as though her brief encounter with the man had never happened, pulling the girl along and making her duck around another corner. By now, the woman was coughing slightly and under her breath, her free hand raised so that the edge of her torn and muddy sleeve covered her mouth.
"Momma…" The girl's voice was so light that the woman didn't even hear it at first. "Momma, you're still coughin'…"
It was as though the little girl's mouth moved of its own accord; her expression did not change and her emotionless eyes stayed the same, but the words came from between her lips nevertheless.
"I know, dearest…" the woman coughed again, but tried to sound stronger than before. "Don't worry…everything's gonna be fine, you hear me? Ellie? You hear me?"
"Yes, momma…" the girl whispered, hanging her head and choosing not to speak again. When her mother saw that her gaze was directed down to the ground as she was pulled along, she lowered her sleeve, wiping the blood that had been splattered upon it from her cough on the side of her dress so that it mixed with the mud, and disappeared from sight. That was the last thing that she needed her daughter to see, that blood…
"There!" the mother croaked, pulling her daughter to her side and stopping her in the street, putting her arms around her so that she could not move. "I told you we'd find it…I told you, everything's going to be all right…" she sighed, and began walking again, this time at a much slower pace, and with her child right beside her. She could breathe now that she had found her destination; she could calm down now that she was about to enter the tavern known as The Faithful Bride.
The Faithful Bride was not, by far, a very pleasant place for anyone to be, and it most certainly was no place for a child, especially when it was as rowdy and unruly as it was on this rainy night. And yet…as soon as this determined mother fought past the group of laughing and stumbling people that had been blocking the doors, she seemed to relax, in a way, and was soon leaning back against the far wall with her small child, breathing heavily and almost gasping for air as her dark eyes raked the scene.
She squinted her eyes, wondering if it was just the dim lighting of the tavern that was preventing her from seeing things properly. But no…dim lighting wouldn't have accounted for her seeing double, now would it? When a tall, skinny woman in a maroon dress stumbled past her, she had to shake her head and force herself to concentrate just to prove to herself that the woman did not have a twin.
Soon, she knew, she was going to be too late to go on with her plans, and then what would happen? She shuddered at the thought, and instinctively her free hand reached into the deep pocket of her worn brown cloak and patted the folded-over piece of parchment that resided there, reassuring herself that it was still there, and safe. She took a deep breath, ignoring the stinging pain assaulting her lungs and the darkness that was beginning to cloud her vision, steadying herself.
"He has to be here…" she muttered after a moment, then shaking her head and pulling Ellie along as she strode towards the bar. If anyone had cared to pay them much notice, despite their muddy and exhausted-seeming exteriors, they might have noticed how the woman had a hand placed lightly on her heaving chest or how the girl, as fast as she was being forced along, walked with a very noticeable limp in her right leg; she was almost dragging it, at any rate.
"Excuse me," she managed to croak, resisting the urge to cough once more as she reached the front counter and pushed her way past several short and stout men in the process. A rather portly woman stood behind the counter, her dress vibrant and yellow in color, and with a neckline that was so low it almost made the mother cringe just to have to look at her. "Miss, does Nathaniel Brodruck still own this establishment? Is he still here?"
The way that this woman spoke made the barmaid look at her in interest for a moment, and no one could have blamed her. Her dialect was strange; it was as though she had been raised in a way that was prim and proper, and then dumped in a place where they barely used real English. Her voice was clipped and sure, and yet so primitive, in its own way…
"Yes, he still owns it," the portly woman replied with a shrug, taking some of the empty glasses and tin mugs off of the counter—and wrenching one out of the hand of a man who had simply fallen asleep there—before facing her again. "Why you askin'?" This time, there was more suspicion in her voice. "Spots are filled, ma'am. We don't need more girls here, I know that fer a fact."
"I'm not lookin' for a job," said the mother in a weak sort of exasperation. "I just need to speak with Nathaniel. Please, could you tell him I'm here? It's most urgent; please, I beg of you…"
Perhaps it was the woman's downright grungy and pathetic appearance that made the barmaid sigh and nod her head, for she did so and was gone a moment later, disappearing through a small door in the wall behind the counter and calling the name of her boss. The other woman sighed in relief, drawing her child closer to her and almost covering her with the front of her cloak, shielding her from view of the others crowding in the tavern.
"It'll be all right…" she whispered again, her voice low and hoarse, but also sure and determined. She'd made her way by land, then ship, then land again to Tortuga just for this and now, as she felt her last breath leaving her, she felt a little more at ease to know that she had finally made it. She wouldn't allow herself to fall to the ground and succumb to the darkness just yet; not until she saw him…
Alas; it seemed that her will was not as strong as her mind would have led her to believe, for even as she thought this, her knees felt weak and her chest became tight; she could barely breathe for the constricted feeling creeping up from her lungs and spreading to the rest of her chest. She wanted to cough—oh, how she wanted to cough—but she couldn't manage even that. It did nothing to stop the blood, however, and so had to force herself to ignore the steady streams of the thick red substance that had crept up her throat and were attempting to fight past her lips.
Surprisingly, it was mere moments later that the portly barmaid in the yellow dress appeared again, this time with a man right at her heels, who was struggling to put a threadbare, but still rather respectable jacket on over his clothing.
He was a tall man; massive, even, but lean, and even in his rather old age he was fit. His hair was gray, true enough, matching with his short and scraggly beard and mustache, and his eyes had the crinkles in the corners, just as she remembered. His clothing, a white shirt and dark breeches, had not diverged much from the style that she remembered, either. When he saw her, however, the look of annoyance that had been on his face increased, though the suspicion in his eyes suggested that he did not recognize her.
"What d'you want?" he asked gruffly, looking her up and down and taking in her downright squalid appearance. His eyes lingered over the little girl whose face was just barely visible, peering out at him from behind her mother's cloak, but a moment later his attention returned to the woman, and his frown increased threefold. "We ain't hirin', y'know. Sides…you don't really got the…attributes…required for the job, sorry to tell you…"
This almost made the woman smile, even though she fully realized that he was insulting her. It was rather sad to think about, but she had almost missed the constant insults that had once flown out of his mouth only to find their ways to her ears. She had been only sixteen years old when she left him, but even then he'd been quick to judge her; as her boss, as her elder…and always, as her father.
"Father…" She couldn't help what happened; she tried to step forward even as her last ounce of strength left her, and when her lips parted a fair amount of blood came issuing forth from between her teeth, staining the front of her dress. Her father, when he saw this, gasped in disgust and stepped back, a hand clamped over his mouth as though to protect himself. He may not have recognized his daughter, as covered in mud and grime as she was now when compared to the immaculate girl she once was, but he recognized a sickness when he saw it.
And then, when his mind finally wrapped around the single word that had been uttered from her thin-lipped mouth, his eyes went wide and he inhaled sharply—and then his eyes only went wider when she stumbled forward and shuddered, pitching forward as she lost consciousness, and slamming the side of her head against the front of the counter with a sickening crack.
Sometimes, Nathaniel Brodruck wondered why he had been dealt such a strange hand at life. He lost his wife to a pirate raid when his daughter, Celia, was only a young child…and then, when Celia had been just barely sixteen years old, she had run away from him and his tavern, The Faithful Bride, and all for that dirty street-rat urchin that went by the name of Jack Sparrow…
And now, he was left to stare down at the patch of recently disturbed dirt that made the surface of his daughter's grave long after the hired gravediggers had left. Celia's daughter—and his granddaughter, he now supposed—stood beside him, as silent and brooding as she had been since her mother had died barely a day beforehand. He didn't dare to take her hand, or offer her any sort of consolation; he couldn't bring himself to. He couldn't even bring himself to look at her anymore. Whenever he did, he only saw Celia looking back at him.
He thought, at first, that the young girl named Ellie was so silent and grim because the death of her mother had traumatized her, but then he found out differently. In the short and to-the-point letter Celia had written him, which now settled itself in a slightly crumpled way in his hand, he found that she had been sick for a long while—she had come to him because she knew she was dying. The consumption had taken over her body. She came to him in the hopes that her daughter would be taken care of.
As he sighed again, and looked down upon the freshly-dug and refilled grave, his grip on the letter in his hand loosened, and soon it was only a slight gust of wind that was able to remove it from his hand, and send it fluttering amongst the dry bushes and such that lined the small clearing nestled between the low cliffs surrounding the pirating town. He didn't try to go after it; it didn't matter. He had it committed to memory, by now, and had relished in its writings. Celia, even as a young child, had loved the written word and had immersed herself in learning to speak and write like a proper young lady, even if that was never what she really was…
I realize that the circumstance in which this letter has reached you was most likely unconventional, and I apologize for it. As I write this, I am unsure if I shall even be alive when you read it. My only hope is that Ellie manages to find you safely, even if it is not by my own hand that she does. I haven't long, but she has a full life ahead of her—I fear what will happen if she is left to her own devices now, when she is so young.
Please take care of her, Father, and try to understand her behavior. It won't be easy, and I cannot lie to you about this. I've yet to meet a girl quite like her; so serious and unspeaking, and with a brooding sort of sullenness about her. Please don't treat her harshly as you did me. It isn't her fault that she's different, and it's nothing to do with her injury that she is. I have no will to explain to you what happened to her; perhaps with time, she'll tell you herself, should you gain her trust.
I realize that by now, there is no way to tell you that I am sorry to have left you like I did…but at the time, I felt as though I had no other choice. I cannot pretend that I was happy here. I was a young girl being forced to work in the same tavern that, when I was young, I watched my mother being taken away from me in. Jack Sparrow offered me a chance to leave Tortuga and embark on an adventure, and with the possibility of a better life. He presented to me the opportune moment, and I took it. I can't say I'm sorry, and I won't.
You're an intelligent man, Father. Look at the shape of your granddaughter's eyes, and try convincing yourself that Jack Sparrow is not her father. Look at her hair. Look at those tricky, thieving little hands of hers. I know you despise pirates, but you're going to have to come to terms with the fact that her father is one. Jack doesn't know. At least, I don't think he does. At the time I realized I was with child, he was already gone again—off to find his ship on which his crew mutinied against him on. Even after those years passed since it happened, he was still adamant in reclaiming his boat. Recently, I've heard rumors that he's managed to get it back, though I cannot confirm this for myself since I have not spoken to him since before Ellie was born.
Then again, with the rumors flying about, about the sea-turtles, a Kraken, and even the legendary Davy Jones that also seem to revolve around Jack, who knows what about him is true anymore?
I know that, like any pirate, he will be soon to show his face in Tortuga once more. If he does and you should happen upon him…I beg of you to tell him about Ellie. If not, then keep a sharp eye out for him. He deserves to know, if he does not already.
I hope to goodness that I can be the one to tell you these things myself, but chances are if you're reading this letter, then I am quite unable to. I love you, Father, even if you might think otherwise. I thought I should say that now, before I run out of room on the parchment.
Take care of Ellie. She's your flesh and blood too, and I know that if you try, you can love her just as much as I do.
Your loving daughter,
"Lovin' daughter…" he mumbled under his breath, shaking his head and bowing it against the slight wind coming at him. "A lovin' daughter wouldn't abandon her father for a no-good street-rat."
If Ellie had any sort of reaction to hearing her father being referred to as a no-good street-rat, she didn't have a word to say about it.
The screech of the tiny monkey reverberated throughout the ship following the sound of gunfire, causing those crewmembers who were still awake enough to hear it to wince and cover their ears. Those who actually had managed to fall asleep were awake again in an instant anyway, left to sit up in their hammocks and look around with bleary eyes as they searched for the source of the sound.
"Gibbs! Gibbs, get yer sorry rear up 'ere an' help me kill this thing!"
Upon hearing this obviously agitated call from their captain directed to their first mate, those who had been awakened by the sounds of gunfire and monkey screeches were then left to roll their eyes and fall back into slumber once more. Their captain's quarrels with the undead monkey were something commonplace, by now, and there was nothing surprising about it. It was good for drunken entertainment on a slow night, sure, but after a while, it did manage to get old…
"Jack!" called Mr. Gibbs warningly, stumbling up the steps due to his own haste, and finding himself up on the main deck, looking around wildly for his no-doubt inebriated pirate captain. "Jack, I already told yeh—it's no use tryin' to kill it if it's already dead!"
It was dark upon the deck of the great black ship known as the Black Pearl; the lamps seemed to have been extinguished, leaving him in almost complete darkness but for the weak light of the half-moon that shone down from above. This left Joshamee Gibbs having to stumble around as though drunk—which was frustrating since, for once, he wasn't— his hands stretched out before himself as he tried to feel his way around the ship.
Gibbs shouted and instinctively jumped back when a gun went off only a few feet in front of him, and only a moment later something small and fuzzy ran right past him and towards the mizzenmast—which was quickly followed by a wildly flailing Jack, who had his gun aimed high and was doing his best to keep up with the furry little creature.
"Jack!" Gibbs called again, spinning around on his heels and running after his captain. "Jack, it's no use!"
"If I can shoot his 'ead off, we can catch it!" Jack panted, stopping short of the mizzenmast and squinting upwards. "If we can catch it, we can tie it to a cannonball and throw it into the sea! Voila—no more undead monkey!"
"Jack…" this time Gibbs was groaning in pure frustration, burying his face in his grubby hands and shaking it sadly. "Just let it go, already…"
It was apparent that after all that had happened to Jack after the 'incident' with the Kraken, there were only a few things that he was left to be disappointed with. The loss of Elizabeth to Will was one—though it was nothing a visit with the whores hadn't managed to fix up, in the end—but the main disappointment that just refused to let him be was that no matter if he had managed to be rid of Barbossa courtesy of some nasty tricks given to him by Tia Dalma…the undead monkey remained, immortal and all. Tia Dalma hadn't even seemed to mind that the monkey had left her home and remained with him on the ship, instead. The primate was of a constant source of irritation to Jack, and it was all that Mr. Gibbs could do to make sure that his captain didn't get himself killed as he incessantly attempted to destroy it.
"Never!" Jack spat, cocking his gun and closing one eye, aiming haphazardly upwards, perhaps hoping that he would hit the creature by pure chance. "'Old still, you stupid little—"
Gibbs looked up as the strong voice proclaiming the promise of land sounded from above, and in the darkness he barely saw an unshaven and incredibly nervous-looking face peering down at them from the crow's nest. At first, of course, he assumed that the middle-aged man had spouted those words out of fear and to distract Jack from his vendetta against the monkey—there was a rather good chance that Jack would have accidentally shot him, since he was aiming his gun that way—but when he returned his gaze to the deck and then to the open waters before him, he saw that was not to be true. It was 'land ho', indeed.
He could barely see it, but it was there all the same; the glimmer of lights coming from the pirating community, visible even from the small number of miles that they were from shore, especially in the darkness. Most captains knew better than to sail at night, especially on one so calm—it made the spotting of coral and sandbars more difficult to spot without breaking water at their bases—but, to be fair, Jack Sparrow didn't exactly fit into the mold that sculpted most captains…
"Oh?" asked Jack, blinking his eyes in bemusement and whirling around on his feet, peering into the distance and squinting his kohl-outlined eyes. A moment later he smiled, fitting his gun back into his belt and sauntering away from the mizzenmast as though the monkey had never even existed, never mind been his target less than a minute ago. "Excellent! Wake the crew, and prepare them to make berth! Mr. Gibbs!"
"Prepare the cargo hold! We need more room for rum!"
"…of course, cap'n…" was Mr. Gibbs's tired reply, and after a wary glance upward in effort to spot the monkey, he eventually shrugged and walked away, headed for the stairwell that would take him below deck. Jack chose to ignore the inane mumblings that Gibbs had to offer under his breath, and instead kept smiling as he made his way up the steps leading to the main platform, where his wheel stood waiting for him, along with Cotton and his parrot, who he had directed to steer it while he chased the monkey around.
A quick and dismissing wave of his hand was all Jack needed to shoo Cotton away from the wheel, and the older man was gone an instant later, and with the squawk of "Wind in the sails! Wind in the sails!" coming from his accursed bird. Jack stuck his tongue out at Cotton's retreating back, and although this gesture was aimed mostly for the bird, he could have sworn that the man himself stiffened, perhaps having been able to catch this sight from the corner of his eye as he turned and went down the steps.
"All right, then…" Jack grinned, putting his hands upon the wheel almost delicately, and showing off a multitude of gold-capped teeth in the process. "Let's take 'er in…"