These Last Moments
"Put the prisoners in the brig." He commands, and his voice is back to that of steel, providing much contrast to when he had declared her name moments before, sensitive and disbelieving.
She briefly wonders how he can change himself so quick.
He looks back at her, and the look in his eyes is almost that of a warning not to object.
"The captain shall have my quarters."
She's suddenly angry at how he still aims to treat her like a doll; something that constantly needs to be kept safe and comfortable, but she's also wary of him from the possibility that he might've had a hand in her father's death.
"Thank you, sir." She replies stiffly, her gaze on him harshly unwavering. "But I would prefer to remain with my crew."
She turns away from him, toward her crew, when she feels his hand lightly grasp her arm.
She meets his eyes reluctantly, and in them is honesty, regret, and something else she can't really decipher.
"Elizabeth, I swear. I did not know."
He says his words with a newfound urgency, and his eyes will not let her go. It's what she sees in them that makes her decision.
Almost hesitantly, she nods.
She wanders soundlessly in his quarters, taking in the dust and the solemn emptiness the room seems to bring with it. Her eyes rest upon a large wooden desk beside the neatly made bed. The desk is vacant of any belongings piled on it except for a wig; those ridiculous wigs that made men look older than they actually were. Attached to the bottom right of the desk is a slightly ajar drawer, where she assumes the rest of his belongings must reside. Even though she is vaguely curious about the items that are in there, her respect for James's privacy refrains her from opening it.
She sits down on the bed, a heavy sigh emitting from her lips.
A creaking sound to her left enters her ears, and she looks upon James standing in the doorway, his hand resting on the door handle, and his manner tentative.
She places an inquiring eye upon him, her mouth drawing itself together in a thin line. Even though she should believe his claim that he had no idea about her father's death, he's still nonetheless participating against her, on Beckett's side. Technically, at this point, they are supposed to be enemies.
His voice is soft, a voice she is surprised to find comforting to her, in a way, at this particular moment.
"I just wanted to know if you were all right." There is a pause from him, as if he is contemplating something. "If you needed anything."
"No," She answers, her eyes boring into his. "no, I'm fine."
He nods, his shoulders ever so stiff, but she sees that he is disappointed. She does not know why exactly, perhaps for the fact that they speak so reserved to each other, that she seems unable to tolerate him, to even want his company at all.
She continues to watch him, but can't help but soften her relentless gaze on him a little.
This was James, the man who she has known ever since she was a very young girl; who she had initially believed to be boring and too proper, yet couldn't deny this complexity to him, to who he was.
She knows, now, that he couldn't have had a hand in killing her father. Her father had made him who he was, years ago, and she remembers the strong respect James had for him. To kill her father would require a lack of mercy, with no morals or a conscience to tie you down. His mind, and his heart most of all, is simply not built for that coldness.
He turns to leave, to let her sit alone and collect her thoughts.
A sigh escapes her lips again, this time of resignation. "James."
He turns back again to face her, attentive.
She lets forth a small smile, and pats lightly on the empty space next to her on the bed. "Come sit with me."
He looks a little taken aback, but he complies to her wish, and after shutting the door behind him with a soft snap, he walks over to her. He sits down beside her, and her clasped hands on her lap suddenly become interesting.
They just sit there alongside each other, silent for a few moments.
She breaks the silence.
" I'm very relieved you're alive, James."
She is surprised that she has said those words, but they're still the truth, whatsoever.
When she brings herself to turn and look at him, he is smiling slightly. "As am I for you."
She smiles back, but senses that he is troubled.
His gaze is still upon her, but it is regretful. "I never meant to put you in harm, Elizabeth."
She looks down, understanding what exactly he means, and her mouth forms that thin line once again.
" I just wanted my life back, and surrendering the heart was the only way I knew how to make that happen." His voice is calm, but his mouth is a grimace. " I did not know who Beckett really was--"
" I understand." Her heart is heavy for him. "You're a man of order, James. You need stable ground. If I was like you, I probably would've done the same thing."
He continues to be silent, and when she resorts to looking back at him, his eyes are grateful, his face considerably more relaxed.
"I'm sorry, James." She says suddenly, and his eyebrows furrow in confusion.
"There is nothing to be sorry for."
"Yes, there is." She replies, and she looks hard into his eyes. He gets her message, and even though she knows it had to be said, she wishes it didn't, for his face tightens once more and he looks away, towards the closed door.
"I'm sorry too." He declares then, and the way he says it summons tears to her eyes.
"You and Mr. Turner will be happy, I'm sure of it." He adds, and she is so taken aback that he's mentioned her relationship with Will that her hands fall from her lap to the bed.
But this mention is not welcomed by her, and now it is her turn to look away from him, her face tightening to match his.
The truth is, sometimes she's not really sure if she does indeed love Will. She thought she was sure before, sure enough to reject James and go to Will, but now, she doesn't know what to think. She finds as time goes by that they have no trust; they are constantly wary of each other's intentions. She has found herself on many occasions to ponder what life would be like with Will after they were married (if they ever were), but she is unable to imagine it, and she's not quite sure why. She knows she desires something more; she remembers the whole thing between her and Jack, and is embarrassed by it.
She has gazed off into the sea enough to come to the possible conclusion that her only love may be just that, the sea.
When she was younger, and enveloped in fine silk dresses, she had always longed for something more. Then Will came along, and provided for her a way out, with adventure and no rules. She went with him, believing she was in love with him, when the real truth was that she was not in love with him, but the life that he led.
Because of that, she is trapped. She does care deeply for Will, and it's that reason, and that reason only, that she can't bring herself to tell him the secret she has been carrying, the harsh truth. She may not love him. And it's from knowing this, that she doesn't know what to do, which direction to take.
She swallows. "That may not be true."
She can feel his shock, can feel his eyes boring into her downcast face, but she just can't bring herself to look at him.
"You do love him, don't you?" He asks, and his question is so direct, that it feels like they are no longer the people that they are, but merely friends having a conversation.
She plays idly with the blanket covering the bed, pulling out frayed strands with her fingers. "I'm not sure I know what love is."
It is the most truthful thing she has probably ever said.
It's now that she chances to look at him, and so much care and concern that she doesn't deserve is etched on his face, and she's suddenly consumed with shame at the fact that she had believed, even for a second, that he would've had a part in her father's death.
She stills when he reaches out to tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear, but it not an unwelcomed comfort, and she smiles softly at him.
She doesn't remember making the move to lean in, doesn't even know how she could possibly be so bold, but all she knows is that her lips are on his and she never wants to move away. His lips are warm, inviting even, but she's barely dwelled on it when he's turned sharply away from her, their lips parted, and he refuses to meet her eyes.
It is a plea to her, and it's now that she's truly realized the extent to which she has broken him. He does not want to be hurt again; does not want to be the dog jumping to take hold of the treat only to have it snatched away from him at the last second.
She looks down at her lap, suddenly hating herself, for being so blatantly unaware and uncaring of his pain.
"I would've made you happy."
His voice is something to that of a whisper, but yet, it still rings around the quiet room, overpouring with sadness, but underlined with bitterness.
She reaches out and encloses her hand with his, and she is relieved that he does not pull away, even though she knows he has every right in the world to.
"I know." She says, and it is not a lie. It is one hundred percent sincere, and she feels that she knew that from the very beginning, when he had shyly proposed to her on that brightly sunlit day.
This time, when her lips meet his once more, he does not resist it.
They dress in silence, careful to keep their eyes averted from each other's. She leaves her hair down; she sees no point in putting it back up.
She hears the creak of weight being added to the bed behind her, and she looks around to see James fully clothed, but without the wig, leaning down against the hand that is splayed across his forehead, hiding his eyes.
She knows that he has finally realized what they have previously engaged in.
She walks slowly to him and sits down beside him for the second time in the past hour. She gently pulls his hand away from his face, and he peers up at her with those green distressed eyes.
She cannot stand to see him this way.
" I don't regret this, James. And neither should you."
Her words are truth, and after a moment, his face relaxes, and his fingers entwine with hers.
He lets her prisoners out of the brig, and tells them and her to hurry, for they don't have much time.
She knows that he is doing this because he feels he owes her for what she had freely given him in his quarters.
There is no need. She owes him everything and he owes her absolutely nothing.
That is one of the things she has known from the very beginning.
"Come with us." She says softly, staring off across the endless stretch of sea before them. She cannot meet his eyes, and she's not quite sure why.
There is no reply from him; she forces her eyes to meet his.
His deep green eyes are widened; a tinge of surprise and wonder canvassed across them like a splash of paint across blank paper. He looks as if he is seeing her for the first time in his life.
She realizes that he believes that she had already given him enough, when they were in his quarters. He doesn't expect her to want to have him with her anymore.
That realization is almost too much for her to bear.
" James, come with me." She says, and there's a hint of urgency in her voice now. She does not want to leave him behind, but all she knows now, at this moment, is that it's deeper than that. She wants, better yet, needs to know that he will be safe.
Their eyes lock for what feels like a suspended moment in time, brown gazing upon green, when there's a yell from somewhere above them, and they jump, the hovering spell between them broken.
The voice is booming, demanding. " Who goes there?"
Before she can look to see who it is, he's grabbed her arm, swiftly pulling her behind him, shielding her protectively as he brandishes his sword.
She peers over his shoulder just in time to see a figure whipping out of sight on the upper deck of the ship.
"Go! I will follow." James tells her, his breathing in frenzied gasps.
He is afraid, she can see this, yet he stands stockstill and firm, so brave and ready to fight.
But she catches it: the twitch in his left cheek. It's a dead giveaway; he's not telling the truth.
It was something she had taken notice of years ago, when she was a young girl enveloped in the finest silk dresses, and when her golden hair was curled in ringlets that rested against her collarbone; a time when she would laugh heartily if anyone had told her that years from then she would find herself in the company of pirates, and even, on certain occasions, assisting them. During that time, she had studied James intently, all due to her father's incessant subtle hints that James was to be a likely candidate as a suitor for her. It was more like a game actually; she would search and try to discover James's flaws, if indeed he had any. It eased her a little when she had first noticed the twitch. She was secretly satisfied to find at least one apparent fault in his carefully constructed exterior; the possibility that, despite his clean-cut (and sometimes intimidating, she had to admit) uniform and his orders delivered with a voice of steel, he was not as perfect as he appeared to be.
"You're lying." She declares boldly, staring hard at the side of his face she can see.
He turns at her accusation, and there's a softness in his eyes, along with resignation, understanding, uncertainty... a range of emotions as infinite as the sea surrounding them.
It makes her voice dull in the back of her throat.
"Our destinies have been entwined, Elizabeth," He begins, and this time his voice is stronger, more certain, but colored with regret. "but never joined."
Silence encircles them; she cannot speak.
He kisses her one last time, and she closes her eyes instinctively. It's different this time; he kisses her as if he cherishes her, not like when his lips collided with hers hours before, filled with overpowering desperation as he hastily unbuttoned her dress.
She falls into this, but then he releases her, and it's a sharp snap back to reality, the warmth of his lips lost.
He turns away from her once more, his eyes flickering apprehensively for the figure, a kind of disturbance they both know will inevitably come.
He is now desperate. "Go. Now."
It's now that she knows he will not follow her to the other boat. He has chosen to stay behind, and once he is determined, there's no swaying him.
They're a lot alike, in a way.
She follows a pattern: drape one leg around the rope, then shift the other leg over. The rope is rough, yet slick against her hands and legs, and James's steady voice, the fear underlining it that only she seems to be able to detect, rings in her ears, in the air.
"Stand down. That's an order."
She is a considerable distance across the rope when James's yell shatters the still atmosphere around her. She is almost too afraid to look back.
His sword is pointed directly at Bootstrap Bill's heart, but now, clutched in his other hand, also upon Bootstrap, is his pistol.
She can't do this.
"James!" She screams, and he looks back at her in response.
Before she can even realize what she's doing, she's begun to swing her way back towards him.
She cannot leave him. She won't. She would never forgive herself if she did.
She will stand by him, whether he likes it or not.
She's barely made headway across the rope when a gunshot disrupts the otherwise silent night, and the rope she's clinging to suddenly gives way, and she's falling.
Before she even hits the water she knows what James has done.
She rises to the surface, sputtering and coughing up water, her hair sticking to the sides of her face. She blinks numerously and peers avidly up for James, but her vision is too fuzzy from the water.
Oh, God, please let me see him, please--
And she does. But what she sees freezes her heart and she cannot breathe.
He is run right through, impaled through the chest by Bootstrap Bill.
"James!" She shrieks wildly. "No!"
She watches him fall to the floor of the boat, and he disappears from her sight.
She is lost in her pain; if the water overpowered her and pulled her under, deep into its depths, she does not think she'd have the heart nor the will to fight against it.
She does not remember getting safely onto the boat at all. But she is there, the dress Sao Feng had her dressed in only hours before heavy and lapping against her legs.
She blindly walks out of the midst of her crew to the railing, stumbling slightly, and rests her shaking hands on it. The wind of the night is light, and the air humid, but all she can feel is cold.
James is dead. He has died for me.
That startling truth plunges into her like a sword, and as she stares blankly across the sea, the tears blur her vision and slip down her face, one by one.
She didn't remember too many things about when she was a young girl; most of the memories she had put out of her mind because they were a reminder of the way of living in which she hated: smothered in fine dresses and sitting around idly, sewing most of the day and being forced to remain on her best behavior... but if there was one thing she remembered strongly, it was him.
It all comes back in a rush: the first time he had truly smiled in front of her, revealing his straight teeth... his enthusiasm bringing color to his face when he indulged her with stories about the pirates he had captured... his hand strong and warm against her waist as they danced at balls... the corners of his mouth fighting to lift itself into a smile when she declared something much too bold, and inappropriate, at times... the shock and heartbreak on his face when she took Will's side and not his... his lips searing against hers... his thin fingers unclasping the barette in her hair, and caressing her face as he laid her down on the bed...
His voice is all she hears in her head, so loud that she is drowning in it.
"You are a fine woman, Elizabeth."
"But is it so wrong that I should want it given unconditionally?"
"So this is where your heart truly lies, then?"
"It's a curious thing. There was a time when I would have given anything for you to look like that while thinking about me."
"I would've made you happy."
And then, lastly...
"Our destinies have been entwined, Elizabeth, but never joined."
She shuts her eyes as she weeps, her heart tearing into tiny pieces, never to truly be put back together.
Her hands shake as she hangs her head, and there is nothing more that she has ever wanted in the world than to see James standing beside her, his emerald eyes alight and a true smile plastered across his face.
He had never been happy, and in truth, she has never been either, but never, until now, did she think they could have shared happiness together. But she's also aware, more than anything, that he deserved it more than her.
If she could do anything to bring him back, if only she could turn back time... If it meant sacrificing herself, her own life, to bring him back, she would do it in a heartbeat.
But she cannot.
She opens her eyes, and they are greeted by the tiniest glimmer of light on the horizon; it is early morning, and the sun is beginning to rise.
She curses it, repelled by the idea that something that pure and beautiful can still come when James was dead. Without him, there is no sun at all.
Her heart aches, and her heavy eyes stare upon the ever rising sun, and as it reflects on the ocean below her and turns it a tinge of green, she sees his eyes all over again.
Perhaps she did know what love was, after all.