A/N: Thank you for the reviews, thank you for waiting and being here to read this after so long!!
Disclaimer: PotC belongs to Disney.
"So what must be done is to trick bloody Barbossa onto this ship, shut him in the brig, slip onto the Pearl and be off to visit the Fountain of Youth!" Jack grinned expectantly at Gibbs, arms wide open dramatically, waiting for a reaction.
Master Gibbs's jaw dropped for a moment, then he shut his mouth and stared.
"Oi," said Jack, gesturing vaguely, "I'm captain. I talk, you listen, you respond. Savvy?"
"Aye, captain!" said Gibbs hastily. "We'll get the Pearl back."
"He has the key," said Elizabeth suddenly, leaning on the railing and speaking for the first time. Jack and Gibbs turned to her.
"What?" asked Jack, knowing exactly what she meant. She remembered it.
"The key, to the Chest."
Jack pretended to look surprised. "Ah! Yes, that's very important, dearie."
"I have to get it back," said Elizabeth quietly. "I have to keep it safe for him. I… I don't want to break too many promises."
Jack saw her close her eyes for a moment, and her expression changed to an image of sharp clear pain at this betrayal. He wanted to reach out and hold her, stroke the line of her always-defiantly-set jaw, but he resisted, knowing his touch only brought back more doubt, more hurt. Will Barbossa tell her…? The question rang in his mind, taunting him.
All of a sudden he felt a terribly wave of guilt for having lied to her. She'd been crushed, and he had lied, and then told her what she wanted to hear...
Elizabeth continued, voice lower, "And I have the charts."
Jack frowned, thinking, as Elizabeth ran a hand through her hair in confusion about all the events that had passed through her life since the last day she saw Will. Already she had begun to question her decision to run. How had it all lead to this, when all she wanted was to come see Will? It had happened so fast--she could still remember standing desperately before Jack in a Tortuga tavern, pleading him to help her. She could remember what she had felt--loneliness, cold, longing... And he had been right there...! Every time she turned from her troubles he was there and she had crashed into his arms, seeking company, seeking something warm to hold on to... And now she was in love with him, not as she had loved Will--she loved Jack with all the fire and passion in the world, and they were running away, to be together... forever...? What if it's not the right choice...?
But nevertheless she had to make one, and by the looks of it had taken her first step already. Elizabeth suggested haltingly, "We could just leave, if--if you want to. I don't have to..."
Jack looked at her in surprise. She was willing to sacrifice a little more of what she had left of feeling like she had kept some of her promise? Elizabeth had her eyes fixed on him, not bother to hide anything this time as emotions flashed across her face—excitement, hesitation, guilt, desire, confusion… And he knew—they did love each other, but she had to have one or the other. Every day she was dying inside—every day that she didn't see Will and couldn't have Jack, another part of her faded away, another part that was tired of fighting, exhausted from waiting, another part that gave up—and she wanted to live; she would give anything to live, and he could save her.
He felt a sudden rush of affection and said quickly, "Master Gibbs, I believe it would be wise to now bring our stolen excuse of a ship closer to the Pearl and see if Barbossa decides to come aboard."
"Aye, captain!" Gibbs ran off and shouted some orders.
"Lizzie, dearie," said Jack, leading her to his cabin, where he held her face in his hands and let her hair out from behind her ears so that it fell over his hands in waves of honey brown.
"Jack," whispered Elizabeth, bringing her face up to his, closing her eyes, and sinking into a deep intoxicating kiss. She fell onto the bed, their lips still sealed together, and when she sat up, gasping for breath, her eyes shone with exhilaration.
"Lizzie," said Jack, staring at her eyes, two brown and gold jewels, "We shall get what you want, whatever you want, before we leave. I promise."
Elizabeth smiled softly, heart fluttering.
"I already have what I want," she said into his ear, and kissed him again. It was like flying, a rush, a thrill, a dream. There was no past or future as they stood there, arms entwined around each other, lips together.
Elizabeth broke away, grinning, and said, "We should be ready for him when he comes aboard."
"Aye," said Jack, smirking, "Time for a bit of pirating, Lizzie."
They went on deck and found that indeed, Barbossa had come aboard. The two ships' sides nearly touched.
"Well," said Jack, "We have a visitor. What are ye doing here, Hector?"
"I thought I might investigate the meaning of ye nearly scraping the side of your ship," replied Barbossa with a sneer, before seeing Elizabeth. "Ah, Mrs. Turner."
Elizabeth regarded him with a cool nod, showing him the roll of charts that had traveled the world. "I have the charts. I expect that you've honored your side of the bargain?"
"I have," said Barbossa, pulling out the key and holding it before Elizabeth, who stared at it in amazement. He really did have it--the dark metal swung before her eyes.
"Give it to me," said Elizabeth commandingly.
"The charts?" prompted Barbossa.
"Give the key to me first," demanded Elizabeth, glaring at him as she started to panic. Bloody Barbossa, of course he'd want the charts first. She tried to think of a way to hand over the key, but there were no other choices.
"Technically those are my charts," said Barbossa. "And this is your key."
Elizabeth hesitated, made a lunge for the key unsuccessfully, and finally dropped the charts in Barbossa's hand. Barbossa grinned and handed her the key. She closed her hand around the cold metal with relief and slipped it into her pocket. It was safe now, the Chest and the key, and she would keep it from any more harm.
Jack had watched the exchange with some wild thoughts of how to get the charts back, and finally said loudly, "Take 'im to the brig."
Barbossa turned to Jack in furious surprise and cocked his pistol at him.
"So, it will be betrayal, eh?"
Jack shrugged. "Pirate." Two crew members had already grabbed Barbossa, knocking the pistol from his hand, and proceeded to drag him below.
"The charts," said Elizabeth frantically. She tore after them and descended the last step into the brig just as the lock clicked on Barbossa's cell. The crew members were walking towards the stairs. Elizabeth snatched the keys from one of them and stood in front of Barbossa, thinking quickly.
"Give me the charts now," she ordered.
"So ye're to betray me as well?" asked Barbossa, smirking.
"I'm offering help," said Elizabeth with the slightest hint of derision in her voice. "You can give me the charts, and I can release you." She shook the keys in her hand. "What do you say?"
Barbossa rolled his eyes and stood up.
"All right, then, but I will be gettin' these back one day."
Elizabeth smirked lightly and unlocked the door. She opened it, and Barbossa stepped out and gave her the charts, holding on to the other end. Elizabeth pulled it out of his grasp and ran up the stairs. She passed Gibbs on her way to her cabin and shoved the keys into his hand.
"Jack's on the Pearl!" he called.
Elizabeth paused. "What?"
"He said to make sure you get there as well before I go aboard."
"Right," said Elizabeth. "I've got to get the Chest first."
Her cabin was cool and dim, and she suddenly realized that she hadn't been in it for days. She had been sleeping in Jack's bed, although he had never lain on it with her…
She grabbed the trunk that she had brought with her and placed the Chest safely inside. She slit her knife down the seam of one of the extra pieces of clothing she had brought and slipped the long strip of fabric through key ring, and tied it around her neck. It was heavy, but she forced herself to keep it there, and with the trunk in her hand she rushed out on deck.
Gibbs had found a rope for her already, and Jack was shouting her name from the deck of the Pearl. He had already managed to move it so that it wasn't as close to the Queen anymore. Elizabeth took the rope in her right hand, holding tightly to her trunk with her left. She climbed unsteadily onto the railing, and for a moment she wanted to look back at the deck behind her, at what she would be leaving, but instead she looked ahead, at the Pearl, at Jack, at freedom. She took a deep breath.
This is the choice, then.
And she slid off the railing.
A rush of wind hit her face. It seemed to be happening slower than it should. She swung forward, her body instinctively closing in on the rope to make up for the hand carrying the trunk.
No turning back now.
The main mast of the Pearl was appearing larger, black sails billowing. She let go of the rope and looked down, just a fraction of a second too late.
The waves looked like small rolling hills, rushing up to meet her. The water was cold against her skin, and the trunk was heavy, dragging her down.