Genre: AU, Gen (Chapter 1), Romance (Chapter 2)
Rating: PG-15 for sexually suggestive themes.
Summary: What if Jack and Elizabeth had met before? Before Port Royal, before the Wench became the Pearl…
At twenty-three years old, Captain Elizabeth Swann had sailed the world. She had crossed oceans, braved storms, and faced the undead – living skeletons and Davy Jones. She had betrayed and been betrayed. She'd been loved by three men; and like Calypso, she had ripped out their hearts.
But she had sailed to World's End to retrieve the one that meant the most.
James and Will, gone now from this earth with forgiveness and understanding. Both of them having a job to do, and dying to do it. Though for Will, it became eternity.
She'd been engaged twice, broken them twice. She had been married and widowed both in a single day.
If it hadn't been for Will setting her free and telling her what was truly in her heart, she'd have lived but half a life, even less, waiting for a single day each decade; a life that would have left her hollow.
But afterwards, here and now, Shipwreck Cove had become a second home. The capital city of her kingdom as Pirate King.
How had she come to this?
Where she'd been before Jack Sparrow was entirely different after Jack Sparrow. And in its own end he had given her one of the things she had always truly craved: Freedom.
And Will had let her keep it.
Widowed from her marriage, free to make her way in a world she had dreamed of since childhood. She was Pirate King, and lover to a Pirate Lord.
The future was laid out before her.
Shedding her dark clothes, Elizabeth climbed between the cool sheets of her bed. The softness of it always surprised her, but she quickly let it soothe, as did the waves heard from the open window as she fell into a state of half-dreams; safe in this fortress and unafraid.
At forty-four years old, Jack Sparrow stood where he had once sworn never to return. And he stood there as something he swore he would never become.
Just like his father. The spitting image, almost.
The world was a cruel and harsh place that took good men and twisted them into bitter self-loathing replicas of who they had once been. All hope, all optimism for a life that could have been his was gone with the first flames that scorched the Wench's hull so many years ago.
Her sinking, his desperation, his idiocy.
Did a good deed, and it all came back to haunt him. It would be a trait that would get him time and time again; something that he never learned from; no matter what. The honest streak that just wouldn't let him commit to being a pirate through and through. Even if it meant being chained to a mast to face the Kraken, to go down with a ship that had sunk beneath the waves thirteen years before.
But the decisions that had led him here, he couldn't come to regret. Well, except that one with Jones, but really, what choice had he had?
He would never regret freeing the slaves Beckett had him transporting. Men and women were born free, there would be no shackles binding them in servitude.
Some of Jack's crew hadn't agreed though apparently. So when Beckett found out, Jack faced it alone. The pain that laced through his whole body at the first touch of the brand he would never forget. Nor the stench of burnt human flesh. The scuffle that had later ensued and the jagged wound cut deep into his left forearm, revenge for his lasting mark on Beckett, one that the latter would never forget nor ever speak of.
He had ordered Jack, bloodied and half-conscious, dragged aboard the Wench as it was set aflame and sunk. What else could he have done but call on Davy Jones? He didn't honestly think he would come.
Nor that it would finally be over. Jones and Beckett, gone both at once, reminders of one of the darkest moments in his past.
He really was free now; completely this time. Chained to nothing and no one.
Trailing a ringed hand over a rail that now served as a balcony, Jack watched the hall below.
He couldn't wait to be back on the open water, to show Elizabeth the wonders of the horizon, the things he'd seen. And this time, they had no deadline. There was no rush. And it was just as well since the Pearl was still in need of repairs, and Elizabeth had a few more duties to learn as King before they could sail. And he had duties to her.
A match struck behind him.
Making a face, Jack knew this was coming. From their brief talk at the Brethren Court, he knew there would be another sooner or later.
"Only you could get into so much trouble Jackie."
"You make it sound like 'm incapable."
"Hardly," said Teague. Pushing off from the wall he had leaned against, he moved until he stood next to his wayward son. "Plenty capable. Just too trusting when you shouldn't."
"I believe Barbossa cured me of that…somewhat anyway. Completely now for sure anyhow."
"Too young to know better. Out of piracy for too long."
Jack breathed deeply and let it out. There it was.
"I didn't want it."
"You used to."
Jack turned towards his father to find the older man already looking at him; the smoke from his pipe trailing in the air between them.
"You're my son, Jackie."
"You have plenty o' spawn litterin' up the place," Jack waved a hand around. "What makes me so special?"
"You were first."
"That doesn' make a lick of difference."
"I loved your mother. Married her, even. You were the only child we had. The difficulty of your birth should have foreshadowed the trouble you'd cause."
"Your brothers and sisters," continued Teague, "their mothers, I'm fond of them yes, but love? No. Not after your mother."
Jack opened his mouth to respond but Teague beat him to it.
"Could you see another woman after Elizabeth?"
Jack's mouth closed. He refused to imagine it; and after they found the Fountain of Youth, he would never have to worry about it. Now that he'd finally managed to win her, he'd be damned back to the Locker if he ever lost her. Literally, if young, immortal William was so in the mood…
"When you left…" continued his father, "it was like losing your mother all over again."
"Couldn't have been that traumatic..." Jack muttered soberly. Her death was not something he liked to dwell on, even some twenty-nine years later.
"You're all I have left of her."
"And what a fine disappointment I am." Jack turned to leave, his false drunken swagger fully in place; a shield against the world around him.
"Not a disappointment. Never that."
Jack stopped but didn't turn. "Seemed like it enough."
"Disappointed in meself for pushing you away," said Teague. "Not all is as it appears. You know that more than anyone."
"Pirating is a bit easier when everyone thinks you're a joke."
"Successful, isn't it?"
Jack turned enough to look at his father.
"Go back to your girl, lad. A new reason for piracy."
Jack smiled lightly.
"That she is."
Talks with his father left him exhausted. He could barely remember a time when they had last seen eye to eye on a matter. He was older, he'd lived longer, he knew better, and Jack was always too young. Far, far too young.
Walking the labyrinthine corridors of the Cove, it was amazing how easily the route to his old room came back to him. Even after all these years away, it was second nature still.
Pushing the wooden door open, Jack entered and took in the surroundings. Nothing had been changed. Nothing had been moved. It was all as he remembered.
Well except one thing.
Slipping off his jacket, he hung it on the hook near the wall. His belts came next, placed on the desk still cluttered with shells and maps. He took hardly any care where the rest of his clothing went; he'd find them in the morning with first light. He slipped beneath the light blanket.
Reaching across Elizabeth's waist, Jack pulled her naked back against his chest and slept.
The day was clear when the Pearl was finally seaworthy. She was still a beauty of a ship, just as beautiful as the day Jack first saw her in Calcutta.
He stood at the helm watching the ship cut sharply through the waves. She was where she belonged. He was where he belonged. The open air, the open ocean - there was nothing like it in the world. If he hadn't been so angry in his youth, he might not have ever left it.
But then, who knew what kind of a man he would have become?
Teague, of course, had an opinion on the matter, but then what did he not have an opinion on? He had sought Jack out a few more times during his son's stay at Shipwreck Cove, as he had Elizabeth. The girl had taken to him easily, eagerly taking in whatever wisdom he had to impart, which made successfully pawning her off on the old man and making his escape all the more simple for Jack.
Speaking of the girl.
Elizabeth had come onto deck and was making her way to the portside of the ship. Still wearing the Chinese style clothing she was a vision. Handing the helm to Gibbs, Jack headed down the stairs towards her.
Elizabeth watched the hull cut through the waves. Water crashed against dark wood, and she could very well feel the spray from the water, taste the salt in the air.
She smiled as a strong arm came to wrap around her waist and pull her back against a surprisingly strong chest. The wiry play of muscle beneath his shirts fascinated her to no end, as did discovering the foray of tattoos decorating his arms and chest. Symbols and scrolls; words written in Sanskrit above his heart.
His cheekbones and fine bone structure gave him away as exotic but she'd never known how much until her talks with Teague. If he wasn't instructing her in the ways of the Pirate King and the Code, his favourite subject had been Jack, though his son would never know it, but there was a very subtle sadness when he talked that confused her.
She liked Jack's father. He'd accepted her without hesitation and treated her like his own. In some ways he reminded her of her own father, now passed on, reunited with her mother in death. It was a pain that would take time to heal; there had been so much loss. But those who surrounded her helped her to bear it.
Smiling bittersweetly, she wondered how her father would have gotten on with Teague; the man who had fathered Jack Sparrow.
"You're thinking hard."
The deep voice behind her brought her out of her reverie and to the present. Jack was solid behind her, grounding her.
"I am. Distract me?"
"Well now darling, that is certainly something…" his hand splayed out seductively across her belly, "…that I am very capable of doing."
She nudged him with her elbow. "That is not what I meant."
"Then the lady should be more clear in her intentions."
"What did your father want to talk to you about so much?"
Jack wrinkled his nose. "Besides me wayward youth?"
Elizabeth smiled. Exactly what she needed to get her mind off of sad topics – trying to picture Jack Sparrow at her age. She knew he had to be at least twice as old as she was, having captained the Pearl long before she had set out from England.
"What possibly could you have done to make you 'wayward' from a pirate's standpoint? You're a bit unorthodox but still the most wanted out of all the Pirate Lords. I imagine you were out there with the best of them, looting and pillaging your whole life."
"You'd be surprised, luv."
She scoffed. "Try me. There isn't anything the great Jack Sparrow could say that could surprise me. Not anymore."
"The great Captain Jack Sparrow, if you please darling. And you wouldn't believe me if I told you," he insisted.
"As I said. Try me."
Jack breathed deeply. The scent of her hair mixed with the ocean; reaching up he grasped the thong that kept her hair bound and pulled it free. Blonde strands fell over Elizabeth's shoulders, free in the wind. He preferred it loose; wild and bright as the woman herself.
"There was a time…" he started. "…a time when I ran from it all."
She was going to comment on how very like him it was, but something in his tone stopped her.
"Jack?" Her hand rested on his, where he had reset it below her breasts.
"I had no idea where I was going after certain…events…and Teague…well, let's jus' say it was near to when I first met Beckett."
"Not all that interesting anyway. You one the other hand, m'dear, I'm sure have many a story."
Elizabeth smiled. "I went through so many governesses as a child. I was a right terror. Ripping my dresses, coming home caked in mud, keeping spiders in my pockets."
Jack grinned. "I don't doubt it."
"I still remember one incident. I had gotten lost, and my governess had very nearly had a heart attack."
"And where'd she lose you darling? Playing hide and seek without the poor lass knowing?"
"No, of course not. Though…that's another story."
"Oh hush! I got lost in London…"
"London? Exactly how old are we talking Elizabeth?"
"I wasn't hurt, or alone for very long! My governess checked me over quite thoroughly when she finally found me."
"The Port. My father took me down there as a surprise and I was maybe a bit too excited."
A memory triggered and Jack's brow furrowed. A lost little girl nearly run over by a horse and cart flashed through his mind…he blinked. How long ago had that been now?
"You were what? Ten, eleven?"
"More likely nine, but around that age, yes," she said obliviously.
Jack stared at the woman in his arms. There was no way…surely there were many young, expensively dressed (as he recalled) girls with panicked women running after them at the port…
"I met a man, a merchant I think. Called his ship the silliest thing…"
Jack swallowed. "And what would that be?"
"Called it the Wench."
Elizabeth's brow furrowed as she felt the pirate go tense and still behind her.
"The Wicked Wench?"
She turned in his arms to face him. "You know that ship?"
"I also suppose that an…" he cleared his throat. "…extremely handsome yet impressionable young Captain of the East India Company pulled you out of the way of a cart as well."
"I – yes…but, how did you –"
She glared as Jack held up a finger to silence her. She remembered that horse and cart, she remembered being lifted up off her feet and out of the way, she remembered…
"And in regards to the Wench, love." He stepped back away from her, arms sweeping out grandly. "You're standing on it."
"What? But it belonged to…"
"It belonged to me."
His? How could it have been his? She…she remembered the man. Young, handsome, well-kept, he was…dark-eyed…and…
A sudden thought darted into her head as she made a grab for his hand. They were marred with dirt and grime but she knew what she was looking for. Spitting on her own hand she worked the dirt clear from Jack's searching for a tattoo she had spotted over a decade ago.
There. Inked permanently between thumb and forefinger. Running her thumb over the familiar '3' dumbfoundedly, she looked up at Jack.
Her mouth opened and closed. It was…it couldn't, it…it…
"It was you."
Memories from far away came rushing back at her. Being pulled out of harm's way in the safety of his arms, feeling the beginnings of a girlhood crush, the man who wouldn't leave her side until she'd been reunited with her governess. How he'd just seemed to disappear into thin air…
Squinting her eyes, she tried hard to reconcile the young merchant in her mind with the dread-locked pirate in front of her. He'd been so…clean. Respectable. When the hell had Jack Sparrow been a merchant? Or had he been parading as one?
A new thought hit her.
Dropping his hand, she balled hers in a fist and hit him square in the shoulder.
"You told me you'd never met a pirate!" snapped Elizabeth crossly.
"Bloody hell, it was you." He rubbed his shoulder.
"What was I supposed to say?"
"I can't believe you!"
"You weren't one then!"
"I was…" he protested. "I'd just quit for a little while, savvy?"
"What? No. Were you or weren't you? What do you mean quit? And where are you going?"
His retreating back halted and he turned to face her. "Tis not the sort of conversation to have on deck, luv."
Elizabeth looked around at a few milling crew members who were pretending not to listen to her raised voice. Huffing, she followed Jack into the Pearl's interior to his cabin.
Jack dropped his coat and hat onto the table that took up the center of the room. The rum on the shelf was quickly in his hand.
"I can't believe any of this," Elizabeth muttered behind him, shutting the door with a half-hearted snap.
He watched Elizabeth drop herself into a chair and play with a seam on his abandoned coat.
"I would've recognized you sooner Lizzie, but…" his hand motioned at her up and down.
How time had changed her. What had it done to turn her from that imp-y little creature to the woman sitting before him? But that spirit…that curious, inquisitive, spark that he had seen then was still shining just as brightly.
"You told me you'd never met a pirate."
"Again, what was I supposed to say? At the time all I thought about in that context was Teague. An' we weren't exactly on speakin' terms."
"That's another story."
"Were you honestly a merchant?"
"Honestly." He took a swig from the bottle. "Surprising isn't it? That I once had an honest life, nothing to do with piracy?"
"But you're father…"
"Is a pirate," he finished for her. "I was born into it, lived it, loved it, lost it, left it."
"That's another story."
"Like the last one?" she asked, raising a brow.
"More like the same," he said soberly.
She watched him carefully. Elizabeth had always known that there was more than one side to Jack Sparrow. She had seen him cowardly, she had seen him brave. She'd seen the drunken swagger, and she'd seen him shed it all for an uncharacteristic seriousness. The first time when they were stuck on that island, she'd asked him if there was any truth to the stories about him. She suspected the scars she had seen that day were only a few of many. And she'd been right; since then she'd seen them all. All the physical ones anyway.
"What happened to you Jack?"
"Couldn't resist that damn honest streak," he said, self-depreciating smile in place.
Elizabeth's fingers had left the coat seam and circled around a button.
She heard him sigh. "I was young, and extremely stupid."
"Is that…is that how you met Beckett?"
Jack wandered over to her and sat in the chair next to hers, placing the bottle of rum on the table between them.
"In my younger years, after I left Shipwreck Cove, I wanted to start over, for reasons that are…"
"Very good," he said. "I signed up with the East India Company, transported spices and silks for the most part between India and Britain, I'd been to the Caribbean a few times and would have preferred to work from there. Be careful what you wish for Lizzie-love, I learned that the hard way."
"How?" she prompted.
"Slaves." His eyes met hers. "'Bout a year after I met you, Beckett had me transport slaves. They were to be dropped in the Caribbean and instead I freed them back in Africa. Beckett found out, braded me a pirate, and sunk the Wench. That's when I made my deal with Jones. When he raised her back from the depths I re-christened her."
"The Black Pearl."
"Only seemed right. And that my dear, is how an honest young merchant was once again thrown into a life of piracy."
He picked up the rum bottle and took a good drink.
"And here I was hoping to get my mind off of sad times," she said, watching him. There'd been too many of them, she should have known the past would bring more and all the more tragic.
But it did prove what she had known all along: Jack Sparrow was a good man. The pirate brand undeserved, yet marking him everyday after for doing the right thing. He believed in freedom above all else. No one had the right to own a fellow human being.
Burned for doing the right thing. It hurt her to see the start of that pattern, and her own part in continuing it when the Kraken…
A hand on her cheek brought her out of her thoughts.
"Well darling, it would seem that our very first meeting was much like our other first meeting in Port Royal."
She laughed. "Was there ever a time when you were not saving me?"
"Course not, though my greatest achievement was saving you from that damned corset."
"It was rather tight that day."
"S'not right to trap you in one of those things."
"Not like I wear them anymore."
Jack grinned. "Ah yes."
"Ah yes, yes, right. Serious conversation." He dropped his grin and stared at her until she laughed, Jack joining her soon after.
"I just…I can't…I can't believe I met you then."
"Funny place, the world."
"Jack. Where did you go? It was like you'd just disappeared, I turned and you were gone."
"You forget darling…"
"That you're Captain Jack Sparrow, I know. But honestly?"
"Blended in with the crowd, kept moving. Believe I saw you running away from your governess again though, something about treasure."
Elizabeth laughed. "Some jewelry being sold if I remember."
"The woman was panicked. Thought it best I not stay around."
She sighed, easily imagining the things Hannah must have thought. Finding her young charge accompanied by a strange man. As innocent as it was, she might not have thought so.
"I thought…it's going to sound silly, but when you were gone so quickly, I thought you might have been a ghost of somesort, guiding the lost."
"And then…then I thought that maybe you were my guardian angel."
"Who says I'm not?"
"And. I thought that a pirate guardian angel would be so much better."
"Well here I am darling, now what are you going to do with this angel?"
"You are no angel Jack Sparrow."
"Captain. And you just said I was."
"I said I thought you were. Obviously I didn't know you very well, I was just a small girl."
"With impeccable taste."
He saluted her with the rum and took another drink.
She watched him, the trinkets in his knotted hair jingled faintly against each other and she tried to imagine him as he once was. The image in her mind wasn't as crystal clear as it had been. But his hair had once been smooth and tied back entirely out of his face. No jewels woven in, no bandana draped across his forehead. No kohl had lined his eyes. No beads or braids.
Pirate to merchant, and back to pirate.
What had happened to drive him from piracy to begin with she'd get out of him sooner or later. But for now, like he'd said, that was another story.
"Do you miss it?" she asked.
Jack shook his head and set the rum down. "It was honest, but it was still living under another's rule. I can sail where ever I want. And all the reasons I can think of for piracy now, you're the best one."
"Flatterer," she accused lightly. "You've always been there though. Every single time."
An arm found its way around her shoulders. "Then I think you should thank me for being there, every single time."
Elizabeth smiled and stood tugging on his arm until he followed. "Should I?"
Turning, she pressed against him until the back of his legs hit the bed. With one good push she had him sprawled over the mattress.
"This isn't the way I meant love," he said moving up towards the pillows.
"It's entirely what you meant."
He grinned. "Imp."
"King," she corrected.
"My apologies, King Imp."
"I ought to leave you there."
"I'm being thanked."
Climbing up onto the bed, Elizabeth brought her lips to his and kissed the stupid grin off his face quite effectively.
Her lips, soft and smooth. The spirit behind them, strong and fierce like the woman she had become. No longer the little girl he had met so briefly all those years ago. This woman was a pirate, his King, and he her ever faithful servant and consort.
A brief thought bubbled up, words from so long ago burning in recollection.
When she grows up, God help the man who falls in love with her...
And he'd been right.
God help him, he'd been right.
A/N: And it is finished! You guys are amazing. Thank you.