Disclaimer: All shows/ books/ video games/ songs that are mentioned in this chapter are all © to their respective owners, I don't own them.
Note: Yes. I'm alive. This story is too, it was just…under a very long, unannounced hiatus. It's been a while since the spark of inspiration to write for Up is Down came to me. I feel awful, considering how close to the end this story is. I know, it should be easy, considering I'm following a movie plot's guidelines, but gathering enough for original scenes and plopping them into the movie's plot is harder than it should be, for me, anyways. At least, that's how it feels.
So, I apologize for the wait, and I also thank you, from the bottom of my little heart, for waiting so patiently while I got it together on my end. Also, I love my beta, Bishquet. She is so awesome. Give her some love by checking her stories out! :D
There is a thin line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.
The desert stared back at them with unblinking, unrelenting mercy. The heat beat down upon them and most of the crew, if not all, was glad to have just taken a dip in the waters beforehand, even if through an unconventional manner. They stared off at the dunes, at the wreckage from the Hai Peng at their feet, to the barren ocean that lay just behind them. A barren wasteland lay before them, in the form of a sea of sand. Another was behind them, a desolate wilderness of water, which could not quench the thirst, no matter how much there was of it. The sand and the surf, indeed. It was an irony, that.
Alphonse wiped at his brow, pushing back the sopping mess that was his hair, already feeling heat building up, even as the sun dried his clothes and skin, and soon his hair. It was dry heat, so different from the humid, stickiness that accompanied the Caribbean's tropical climate. He wiped at his brow, worried about the lack of sweat on his dried brow. He'd become too complacent, hadn't drank enough water while harbored on the Hai Peng. He already felt his throat feeling dry and parched.
"This truly is a godforsaken place," Gibbs spat a few feet away from him, still dripping wet from having pulled himself out of the sea.
"I don't see Jack," Elizabeth remarked, staring off towards the glaring golden dunes. "I don't see anyone."
Alphonse frowned, taking another look at the dunes. Another voice spoke up, aggravated and annoyed. "This…is Davy Jones' Locker? This place…freakin' sucks."
He turned to see Bish panting as she hauled herself to her feet and he moved closer to help her. Barbossa said as he did so, "He's here. Davy Jones never once gave up that what he took."
"We're in a barren wasteland; this can't be the place, can it?" He asked, and Barbossa merely shrugged, giving him an irksome little smile.
"And does it matter? We're trapped here, by your doing. No different than Jack." Will remarked with a slight sneer on his face as he regarded Barbossa. Barbossa cast him a glance.
"Witty Jack is closer den you tink." Tia Dalma called cryptically, cradling something in her hands. A wry smile accompanied her words.
"What does she mean by that?" Bish whispered hoarsely before she locked her gaze onto the dunes, eyes widening in shock. Alphonse watched her face for a moment, taken aback, before he turned his head to see what exactly she was staring at. He froze, the same as her, one arm locked across her shoulders, hers around his middle for support as they stared at the strangest sight they'd seen.
It was the Black Pearl sailing up and over a great golden dune. There was no wind, but it wasn't as though it mattered. The sails were reefed, but it was still an impressive, if odd, sight. By then, everyone's attention had locked onto the sight of the Black Pearl coming towards them, towards the beach, mouths agape, eyes round and focused.
"Impossible," one member of the Hai Peng breathed in bewilderment. Bishquet shook her head.
"It isn't…it's not impossible. I don't think anything is impossible anymore." Her words were too quiet for the man to hear, but Alphonse heard her well enough. And he had to agree. He didn't think anything was impossible anymore, not with the things he and the others have seen. Not even with the things he's seen, he couldn't quite come to terms that the word 'impossible' was in his vocabulary anymore. As the ship came closer, kicking up the sand, they could spot a lone figure atop the fore mast.
The figure was none other than Jack.
Naturally, Gibbs was the first to react.
"Slap me thrice an' hand me to me mama. It's Jack!"
That seemed to stir a few people into flocking closer towards the surf as the Black Pearl hit the water. Whatever had borne the Pearl to the water was quickly sinking deep into the surf as the ship pushed further out. Elizabeth smiled briefly, relief welling inside her, before she stopped after only a few steps, the smile gone from her face. Lupin pushed past her and she stared after the ship and the younger woman's retreating backside all the same. Edward was not far behind her, while Alphonse and Bish joined the two of them.
She turned away from the sight of those loyal to Jack, and shot a glance back at Will, who still stood beside Barbossa. He turned to greet her eyes, but she had already looked away. The pain she felt for her actions that had led Jack here in the first place swelled in her, realizing that this, in part, was her fault. She also knew the growing rift between herself and Will was her fault as well. So much she had to fix.
She just didn't know where to start.
"Cutler Beckett has the heart of Davy Jones. He controls the Flying Dutchman."
"He's taking over the seas."
"De song has already been sung. De Brethren Court is called."
The world really has gone to parts. And in all the time that he's been perpetually trapped in the Locker, for…how long has it been since the Kraken sank him and his beloved Pearl? Weeks? Months?
"The world needs you back somethin' fierce."
So they say. To be truthful, he missed the company of others. Perhaps. Maybe. Just a smidgeon.
It would've been lonely with only himself as company.
Not that Jack would admit that much to anyone, much less himself. Although he may have already done that, who could tell?
He stared across his cabin, for once taking in the damage that had been done in by the Kraken and the Flying Dutchman. The broken door. The ruined woodwork. The blood from the creature painted across the walls and the splintered table. His table, amazingly, remained intact, which was all fine and dandy. He'd need that later. Other personable things were in remarkable condition, not that he could remember. His days spent in the Locker, on that damnable flat surface of sand and no wind, he couldn't remember a thing. It was all a haze, like a dream quickly disappearing from his mind, even if he'd just woken and should remember some details of it.
He sighed, and crossed the cabin, glancing at the occasional broken trinket or bauble he collected from one place or another, picking up something that had once been beautiful and is now sullied with Kraken blood, shattered beyond recognition before dumping it back onto the floor. He was thoroughly glad his bed remained intact and proceeded to shove aside the sheets and lifted the latch underneath, pulling a spare curtain out from underneath.
He set to work in fixing up things inside, for once feeling a purpose in him. He didn't realize how empty things have felt up until now, up until Gibbs had told him he was in the Locker.
How could he not realize?
He pressed through the fog of his mind, and could find…nothing. Nothing at all, except for that same haze surrounding everything. It was if the dream faded when the former crew of the Black Pearl and some Singaporeans accompanying them were waiting for him on the beach.
Jack paused, surveying the cabin. Well, it was cleaner now. Somewhat. It was less hither and thither with items strewn about, but the damage from the Kraken and its long-dried blood still remained. This was going to cost a pretty doubloon and many a gold trinket to repair, no doubt about it.
He listened to the sound of the surf carrying his beloved Pearl farther across uncharted waters, and he reveled in the sea's briny scent, the gentle rocking motions the waves made, the telltale sound of wood creaking. Whatever dream he'd been trapped in felt more like a nightmare. There was none of this. He was sure of it, there had been none of this whatsoever. Not even a miniature lick of wind to put into the sails and now he could feel it through the wrecked glass window behind him.
Above, he could hear the scurrying of men's feet running amok, getting his ship in working order. Then he heard Barbossa's voice cut sharply in the air, muffled, but still distinguishable as that man's. Jack felt a bristle go up and down his back. That thrice-damned man was not the captain of the Black Pearl, no matter how he had swindled and kept the Pearl under his command for nigh ten years.
The Pearl was Jack's and nobody else's. His botched deal with Davy Jones was proof of that. Then he briefly pondered if anyone would be surprised if Barbossa was "accidentally" knocked overboard. In that brief moment of respite, he realized he was rubbing at one of the baubles he kept in his hair and dropped his hand.
The Brethren Court, they had said. The song had been sung, and the Pirate Lords would need to be gathering at Shipwreck Cove.
That was perhaps the only reason why they even bothered coming after him. He never passed on his trinket to some other fool to take care of it and declared them the new Pirate Lord of his region. Not that he wanted to. Not if he could find some way of waylaying that fate.
But disregarding all manner of thinking of that road, he returned to the subject that had been brought up on the beach while the surf licked away at the sand mere feet away from his backside earlier. The Brethren Court: They were summoned by the song, and would be making their way to Shipwreck Cove. Cutler Beckett had somehow gotten ahold of the heart of Davy Jones, and now he was in control of that beastly man. The seas were no longer going to be a safe haven for every pirate captain and his sorry ilk, if they were even remotely safe at the moment.
How many would be slayed before…before what? He somehow got back from the Locker and became the last pirate to roam the seas?
…Jack actually liked the sound of that.
The last pirate.
He'd be feared and be the most talked about subject on the high seas in the Spanish Main, even more so than his sacking of Port Nassau, his escape from his marooned little island and his other stories to boot. Possibly the whole world. But there was that problem of Beckett and Davy Jones' heart being in the equation as well…
The clanging of the bell yanked him from these thoughts at once, alongside a man shouting an announcement that evening was underway. Jack gave his cabin one last sweep before realizing how dark it had gotten. He quickly set to work in finding all his lanterns and lighting them. He still had work to get done.
The Black Pearl was underway, with the Singaporeans of the Hai Peng and the original crew of the Pearl working in tandem. Barbossa and Jack had just finished their little showdown with one another. Jack had retreated to his cabin for the time being, while Barbossa surveyed the seas beyond, the charts never too far from him, as always. Lupin was the first below decks, to check the stock of food and water. Elizabeth watched at the girl scampered away before following at a slower, less purposeful stride.
She found she couldn't go beyond the stairs. She could hear the ship creaking more plainly where she sat, the sun at her back. Lupin clattered about in the galley far beyond, curses shouted every once in a while. Elizabeth listened, but didn't really focus on it all, her thoughts and feelings twisting with turmoil. The younger woman fell silent after a while, but Elizabeth didn't notice.
She didn't hear him coming up on her until he was until he was beside her. She hadn't even seen him slip below deck, but there was Will, coming out of the shadows, eyes on her. She glanced at him momentarily, and after she turned to look back at the wall she'd stared at it, he said, "You left Jack to the Kraken."
She avoided his gaze as she replied, "He's rescued now, it's done with."
That didn't seem to be the answer he was looking for. He looked away towards the cells they used to hold unruly crewmates and prisoners. Elizabeth stood, heart pounding. Now it was all coming out, months later after letting it fester inside her. "Will, I had no choice."
"You chose not to tell me."
"I couldn't," she sounded almost as desperate as she felt, to try and make him understand. How could she tell him what she'd done, what a horrible decision she had to come to in order to save them all? If they had stayed with Jack and the Pearl any longer, the Kraken would have overtaken them. If Jack had come with them, the same results would have happened. There was little to no crew to fight it off, and what cannons they had left had been utterly destroyed or ripped out of the hull. She had to make a choice that no one else could. "It wasn't your burden to bear."
"But I did bear it, didn't I? I just didn't know what it was. I thought…"
When he'd turned to look at her, she could see the truth on his face, that he had seen her kiss Jack to distract him, chain him to a mast. Lupin hadn't been the only one to see that day. "You thought I loved him."
She wanted to leave, feeling sick with shame, but Will wouldn't let her. He grasped her upper arms and had her against a support beam, trying to see more. "If you make your choices alone, how can I trust you?"
Elizabeth swallowed, and said, "You can't."
It was the truth. She wouldn't trust her either if she were in Will's place. He let her go then and she quickly retreated topside, hands trembling at her sides as she did so. Will leaned against the support beam, a mixed feeling of relief and disappointment welling inside him. She never loved Jack. It had all been just a ruse. But she had kept her intentions from him, kept them secret for all these months. It was why she avoided him. She had been too ashamed to face him properly, to even think of telling him the truth.
His thoughts were quickly distracted at a hoarse, "Ow, shit!"
He turned at the sound and found Lupin there, leaning on one of the cells, a leg raised so she could massage whatever she had hit. She lifted her gaze almost as quickly as he'd turned, frozen when she saw him watching her. A look of guilt crossed her face. How much had she heard? Or better yet…how much did she know? She had been up on the deck that day as well. He started towards her, but stopped.
"You saw that day, didn't you?"
She seemed to shrink on herself, slowly lowering her leg and staring at the ground.
There it was: The look of shame.
"And you kept it from me as well."
She chanced a look at his face and almost seemed to regret it. "She…she asked me not to say anything. I promised I wouldn't. Not until she spoke to you about it. I told her she needed to…I didn't hate her for what she did, but I couldn't forgive her. She hurt someone I cared about."
Will watched this young woman, who suddenly looked as small and fragile as her tiny frame often suggested. He saw none of the confident, angry and downright impertinent nature of the girl he had come to be used to. There was none of her fiery exuberance or witty remarks. Only silence and shame.
"I'm sorry. I did tell her to talk to you, but…" She was looking at him now, and she truly was looking sorry. But he felt no ounce of forgiveness for her. She had allowed the guilt to eat away at her as well, to fester and rot, just as it had with Elizabeth. Had this girl wanted to tell him, but had backed down at the last minute to dole out insults towards him instead? He could never know. The damage was done, though. He studied her for a moment longer, allowing his eyes to flit from her for only a second.
"Perhaps you should follow your own advice for your problems, then."
He turned away and followed the same steps Elizabeth had taken topside, leaving Lupin looking rather bewildered.
"He's right, you know."
The voice startled her, and instinct had her groping for the sword at her side. It was halfway out when she finally saw who it was. She relaxed, but only slightly. When had he come down, she wondered? She didn't remember seeing him down there.
Edward was standing there, watching her, leaning on a support beam not far from her, arms crossed over his chest. His face was a neutral mask. It was hard to get a read on him. She hated it when he did that. She could never do the same, not normally. Then his words hit her and she let her hands drop at her side, unable to conjure up a response.
"You've been avoiding me just like Elizabeth's been avoiding Will."
"I haven't, I've just—,"
"Yes, you have." He didn't raise his voice, didn't even bother to yell or scream. It was a just above a whisper and that made it worse, because it was true. She had been avoiding him. The last true moments of relative affection they'd actually shared was in the iceberg-ridden seas Barbossa had sailed them through. After that, she kept away from him, trying to follow through with her resolve. But those nagging questions always came back to her: would it be so bad to just give in, to risk asking him to come back with her and Bish back to their own time? To ask Alphonse to come as well? Would it have been so bad to do that?
She was tired of leading him on or pushing him away. She needed to do and say one thing, instead of splitting them apart like she'd been doing. And it all came dwindling back to what he'd said: she had been avoiding him for the better part of the past few weeks. There wasn't any excuse for it.
They studied one another for a long time. The tightness in her chest wasn't lessening. She finally dropped her gaze and nodded. "You're right. I…I've been avoiding you. Because I'm…too much of a coward to…" she paused, almost afraid to continue. She swallowed thickly and decided it was too late to turn back now. "To…to talk to you. About what we've both been thinking, but…won't talk about."
"And that would be…?"
She lifted her head up enough to give him a mild glare. "Quit playing dumb."
"Quit being a coward."
The mild glare was turned up a few notches, but she couldn't hold it for long. He wasn't smirking or gloating. It would've been easier to stay mad if he were. At the same time, he was right…again. She gritted her teeth, hating that he was right, hating that she was a coward, hating this whole situation she'd let it get to. Because, in truth, she was the one who'd let it continue on like this. Not him. And she really couldn't blame him for feeling…fed up? Angry? Disappointed? She couldn't tell. He was back to hiding his emotions behind that mask of his. He was really good at it when he wanted to be.
"We've been beating around the bush about this for months," she said slowly, trying to choose her words carefully. "And I guess…you're probably tired of it."
"Something like that."
They paused when someone began scuffling about on deck, then a multitude of footsteps joined in. It died down soon enough. No one shouted for all hands, so it was safe to assume that they could continue.
"I have been a coward," she finally said, her voice barely above a whisper. "I'm sorry. I have been avoiding you…I've been afraid of just…I don't know. Of actually letting anything get beyond the…relationship we have? Whatever it…it is. I don't even know anymore."
She waited. He studied her back, eyes searching her face, and it made her nervous, apprehensive for him to say something. Anything. She was tired of this calculating silence he was dousing her in. It was like he knew it was unnerving her. And he most likely did. Prick.
She was about to open her mouth, whether to beg or to snap him to say something. She wasn't sure which yet. But he finally broke the silence.
"At least we're getting somewhere." He seemed to visibly relax, and there was even a small smile tipping his lips, if a bit of a melancholy one and he sighed. "I didn't want to push you. That's why I haven't said anything lately about it. I was kind of hoping you'd have come around sooner, but…it's better late than never."
He paused for a few moments at a few cries topside. Lupin listened as well. The bell clanged a second later, signaling the time. It was almost evening. Everything fell back into relative silence again. She met Ed's gaze again and was almost taken aback by the disappointed look on his face, one that made him look older than he was.
"Look, I'm not going to breath down your neck anymore about this. It's…obvious you don't have any interest. Sorry for wasting your time."
He made for the staircase that led topside. A beat passed and he was almost to the first step when Lupin latched onto his arm. Thankfully he stopped.
"I'm sorry…I really am a coward. I was scared to…let it get any further than what it already has because if…if I did, then I was afraid of watching it fall apart in the end. I didn't want to get hurt, or-or to see you hurt. I just…kept telling myself that you'd be going home and then I'd be going home but now I…"
Just say it, she kept telling herself. Get it out. Get it over with. Stop hiding like a scared little girl.
She looked up at Edward and felt her breath hitch. He was waiting, an expectant look on his face. The disappointment was gone, replaced by curiosity and perhaps even hope. She hadn't even realized she'd dropped her hand back at her side until then. Her throat tightened and she bit the inside of her cheek.
"Come back with me."
The words were out before she could stop them, filter them, do whatever with them. Now that they were out, all she could do was wait. For almost a minute, he looked surprised. Then it slowly began to melt away, his eyes getting a distant look, the one she was used to seeing on his face when he was in deep thought. It was funny how he could find complete and utter focus on something and block out the world like that. At other times, it was annoying. He pulled himself from whatever depths he'd been mucking through in his head and focused on her face. They stared at one another for a long while before he pulled her closer, pulling her into a tight embrace. She froze for only a second, surprise overwhelming her before she pulled her arms up to return the hug.
"Please say something…" She said after a while.
"You stubborn idiot."
"Not what I was expecting." She grouched.
He chuckled quietly, the vibrations rumbling through her. A few beats passed before she growled out, "You bastard. You were playing me this whole time."
"Not the whole time…just part of it. Had to get you talking one way or another. You were driving me nuts. And a few others I could name."
She pondered over his words before snorting. "Bastard," she repeated.
"You're the stubborn idiot here."
She finally lifted her head to mildly glare at him. "Right, and I'm the only one," she remarked with a hint of sarcasm. He laughed again, putting her at arms' length. A wry smile was on her face now, even if she was trying to fight it. She wanted to be mad, but she was finding it hard to be.
"I won't deny it."
"Better not." She paused, feeling the humor finally dying down again and the smile she had was fading. "Now what?"
He pursed his lips, considering the question before answering. "I…I'll talk with Alphonse. But I think…maybe he's already been talking with Bish about this." Lupin nodded at his answer. She knew he'd want to talk to his brother. It should've been the first thing she thought of. They both snapped their attention to the half hour bell, the usual time she'd start with meals for the crew. Reluctantly, Edward pulled his hands back to his side.
"Guess you should get started with whatever's left in stock, then. Do you need any help?"
Lupin hesitated before shaking her head. "Not much left in stock that I'll need help with. I'll make due, though."
She turned to leave for the galley. Ed stopped her briefly, and she looked at him questioningly.
"We'll get out of here, you've got my word on that one." He finally said. A few seconds passed and she smiled, relaxation finally settling between them for the first time in weeks. It was a relief.