Wrong Decision, Right Reasons.
Five years after AWE, Elizabeth returns home from a ball in London to find an unexpected guest waiting for her. Risking everything, she embarks on a journey across the East to find the last treasure of the Pirate Age, rediscovering herself and a man she once loved in the process. JE, different take on both characters. Please review!
Elizabeth pushed open the door of her room and let out a deep sigh of weariness. Another night of dancing, of polite flirtation and not-so-polite insinuations from her aunt that it was time to accept one of the many proposals awaiting her. Another night of stilted formality and grace, of saying anything but what you meant, of pretending. Elizabeth sank onto the floor and laid her head on her knees. I ought to check on William, she thought briefly, but made no move to rise. He was sure to be asleep in his nursery just yards away; peacefully asleep, perhaps dreaming of the wild tales she sometimes told him. It was unwise to do so, unwise to dwell on a life that was no longer hers, but aching for it became so sharp sometimes she couldn't help herself. William looked so much like his father.
She remembered first learning of her pregnancy, a few months after Will had left. She was living back in Port Royal at the time, walking a dangerous line between respectable citizen and Pirate King while the Royal Navy continued their sometimes-brutal crackdown on criminals and the less-than-savory of society. Engaged in almost-weekly break-ins to the jail in an attempt to free various friends and acquaintances, and periodically hired as an assassin or crew-mate, Elizabeth's life had taken a sudden lurch back into reality with the realization that she was with child. Alone, with no family and no husband, she became frantic. She couldn't raise a child on the run, and she didn't want to bring one into the mess she was living in.
In those dark days, her one idea was to find Jack. She hated to admit it, but she needed him. Desperately. In her worst moments he had been there (and more than usually with a plan). She began searching every town and port in the Caribbean, chasing every rumour of him, but always the trail remained cold. He had gone--- gone to find the fountain of youth, some said, but no one had seen or heard from him since. Not a trace of him was left anywhere. And eventually, Elizabeth herself came to accept that he was gone for good-- dead, perhaps, or sailed away past the ends of the earth. And those were the bleakest moments Elizabeth had known. She was truly alone. Thinking of Will's curse, and the near widow-hood she found herself in, she thought of ending the pregnancy. Will would never know. She had been strong through too much tragedy already. Elizabeth smiled wryly, for fate had intervened again, cutting her off from making that dreadful choice. Gibbs had found her, somewhere in the Pacific, and had persuaded her to return to England to whatever family she had left there. England hardly seemed real to Elizabeth at the time-- a faraway memory, nothing more. At first she had flatly refused, declaring she would rather be dead than return to that awful place, to a family she didn't know and a society she hated. But Gibbs was clever, much more clever than most gave him credit for, and he could rouse her loyalty to Will, the promises she had made him, and her duty to carry on her father's name. In the end, she had consented. But something had died in her heart on that lonely journey back across the Atlantic, and the Elizabeth that arrived penniless, ragged, heavy with child and apparently husband-less on the doorstep of her Aunt and Uncle in London was a broken woman, certainly not the proud Pirate King who had parried swords and words with the most feared legends of the seven seas. Her child was born in a dim room less than a month later, and she overheard her aunt wondering aloud who's bastard it was. Never mind, she would tell the sleeping infant.You're heir to the pirate throne.
Strangely, Will was the person Elizabeth thought least about. Whether this was part of the curse or her own mind's affectation, she didn't know. She had feverishly watched his heart at the beginning; now, it remained neatly stored in a cupboard, gathering dust perhaps. How many years had it been? Five? Five years. No wonder that brief day with Will felt like a dream, some story made up to amuse herself as she tossed and turned at night. The dream of a pale, restrained English virgin.
Movement by the window snapped her out of her reverie. Instantly, she was on her feet, her hand flexing for a weapon. She couldn't help the still-sharp reflex to danger as a painful surge of adrenaline whipped through her body. Forcing her breathing to remain steady, she inched towards the window. She had stolen a sword at some point and hidden it in her room in a foolish fit of anger at English society, and now she snatched the hilt with trembling fingers, almost gleeful at the chance she might get to use it. There was definite movement behind the curtains.
A muffled voice caused sweat to break out on her forehead. "Good evening, Miss Elizabeth." The voice was deep and calm, and a hooded figure emerged to match it. Inexplicably, Elizabeth felt herself relax. She forced herself to raise the sword to the concealed visitor's neck. "I trust you won't scream if I defend myself," the voice chuckled.
"Not at all. I've no wish to alarm the household."
"Ah, yes. Ever considerate, I see."
Irked by the sarcasm, Elizabeth dealt the first blow. Mocking laughter met her further attempts as the figure easily blocked her attacks and casually moved to block the door. Undaunted, Elizabeth carried the duel into her parlor next door. Neither she nor the intruder were battling in earnest; both seemed intent on testing out their partner's skills rather than drawing blood. "You're better than I remember," the man remarked. "Not quite as impulsive, perhaps."
"Who are you?" Elizabeth finally demanded, breathless and smiling in spite of herself. It had been a long time since she had enjoyed the swift mental exercise of a good swordfight. The man attacked again, and Elizabeth forgot her question as she tried to outwit his cunning play. Her days as Pirate King were coming back to her, the thrill of the fight, the danger, the risk. He was very good, perhaps as good as Will had been. Except Will had always let her win.
They were back in her bedroom now, backed up against the window, when Elizabeth snatched a chance to knock against the wall with her foot. The intruder, responding to what sounded like a knock at the door, lost his focus for a moment, but a moment was all Elizabeth needed. Before he could stop her, she had his weapon in her other hand.
"You cheated!" The figure cried in astonishment.
"Pirate," Elizabeth acknowledged before she could stop herself. She bit her lip and sighed. "Remove your hood. I'll at least have a look at you before I decide whether or not to deal a death blow."
With a bow, the figure did remove his hood, and it was Jack. The infamous Jack Sparrow, standing in her bedroom, years after she had thought never to see him again, years after she had hardened her heart to his death or banishment. I shouldn't be surprised, she thought to herself, though she was shaking and speechless.
"I'll give a moment to recover yourself," he said dryly, with a look that infuriated her.
She moistened her lips. Part of her nearly settled to kill him and have done with it—throw the body out the window, forget him and the life he represented to her.
"If you're going to kill me, please be my guest. I have no plans to fight. I've been killed by you before, and I suppose I could stand it again."
He was so different. That was why she couldn't speak. If it weren't for the voice, she wouldn't have recognized him. He seemed ancient, aged greatly in worldly wisdom, and weary of everything. His garments were exceedingly rich, his skin darker than she remembered, his hair in a single braid. Rings gleamed from his fingers, a diamond encrusted brooch adorned his cloak. And his eyes were dim, sardonic, almost dead. She set down both swords and stepped closer.
"Jack… Where have you been?"
"Does it matter?"
"Mother of God, Jack" she exploded, "I searched to the ends of the earth for you! People swore you were dead! I needed you, and where were you? Where have you been?"
"Everywhere," he said tiredly, as if it had been quite troublesome.
"And what's happened to you?"
"Everything." His smile was haunted.
"Jack, you mustn't play games with me, I'll simply die. I've been pretending for five wretched miserable years and if you insist on parrying I'll kill you!"
"Your impulsive side is coming back, I see," he remarked casually.
"How did you find me?"
"An old friend of yours. Gibbs."
"He brought me here," Elizabeth stammered, "years ago."
"So he did."
Instead of rage, she felt nothing but the sharp sting of abandonment. She swallowed and tried not to burst into tears. "Why didn't you come for me?"
"Come and rescue the Pirate King? The wife of the Captain of the Flying Dutchman? The proud Governor's daughter who tricked me and plagued me and killed me? Why indeed?"
"You knew I needed you. I searched for you everywhere. I had messages sent." Her gaze was sharp with accusations.
"Let's not fight now," he said, surprising her yet again. He seemed suddenly overcome with exhaustion, and he stumbled to the bed and sat. Tentatively, she joined him. "I'm not the man I was then."
"I never knew you that well anyway," she grinned. "You never let me."
"You knew more than most," he said, matching her smile. He studied her face. "It would seem you had found the fountain of youth, and not me."
"Have you found it, Jack?" Her eyes sparkled with excitement and envy.
"Oh yes, years ago. I've found everything there is to find, my dear. Every treasure, every mystery discovered. Every enemy cowed—for good. Every lust satisfied."
Except one, Elizabeth was tempted to say. But she held her tongue. No use talking of lusts satisfied when she sweated and writhed through the nights, unsatisfied. His voice was so cultured, his movements so calculated. How old he seemed! She remembered the springy walk that had once amused her, the rough words, the tangle of dark braids, the smell of salt and sweat that used to travel with him. Now he smelled of cigar smoke and cologne. She wondered, were she to look beneath his embroidered jacket, whether the tell-tale scars would still be there or whether the years had removed them as well. "And you?" He asked softly. "What strange adventures have you had since last I saw you?"
"Only one adventure. My son…" She stammered. "I have a son."
"William," Jack said brusquely. "I know. Asleep in the next room." They both looked at the floor. "I would never have pictured you as a mother."
"I would never have pictured you as the wealthy, cultured man you seem to have become."
He looked at her sideways out of his long dark eyes. "A perfect English lady you are now. Quite proper in every way. You were so ready to be married, but I fear this isn't quite what you had in mind."
Elizabeth bit her lip and did not give him the satisfaction of replying.
"It's a pity. You have beauty and passion. You might have made some man exceedingly happy. But your bed is empty, isn't it?"
Elizabeth blushed. Could Jack read her frustration and loneliness so easily? Would he exploit them, would he tempt her as he once had? Another glance at him assured Elizabeth he wouldn't. He seemed leagues away from her. Of course, he still thought her beautiful. But from his implications, Elizabeth assumed he wouldn't be taken in by a pretty face so easily anymore. It seemed he had had his fill of women, some perhaps much more beautiful than she.
A moment passed. Jack seemed to choose his words carefully when he said, "Are you disappointed with life?"
Yes, beyond all else, yes, Elizabeth thought. "I don't regret the choices I have made," she said steadily. "But every day I wake up and wish I was dead."
He smiled briefly. "I thought as much." He pulled out a pocket watch and studied it. "Time presses. The ship is in the harbour, ready to sail. We leave tonight. Are you coming along?"
Her heart surged with disappointment when Jack said he was leaving, and then swooped back up at the question he posed. She tried to force herself to think clearly. "What do you mean?"
"There's one last adventure to be had," he said, and spark of life came into his eyes. That spark was seductive beyond belief— he knew the word adventure was her greatest weakness. "I've obtained a map to the counterpart to my old compass. If found, it will not only show you your heart's desire, but bring it to you instantly, make you the sole possessor of it forever. Whatever your heart desires, yours."
She drew a sharp breath. He knew too well how to maneuver and manipulate her. She could hardly breath. "I can't Jack… my son is here, my family."
"Yes, your family," he sneered. "Listen to me, Elizabeth Turner. You'll never see me again if you don't come now. I'll never come back to this country. You must decide now what you want. Leave the boy; he'll be well taken care of, given a good education. In five years you can come back for him, take him to meet his father, take him to hell if you like. I'll not waste another minute here. Take off that ridiculous corset, put on a cloak and follow me out this window or you'll spend the rest of your life clinking tea cups with the dukes of all boredom. Savvy?"
His words were proud and harsher than steel, but a hint of the old Jack came through. Elizabeth stopped thinking. There was nothing else to be done. She met his eyes for a moment, and that was all she needed. With a quick movement, she unbuttoned the bodice of the heavy gown she wore, stepping out of it to reveal the too-tightly laced corset. Jack tilted his head to admire her body, and then pulled out a jeweled dagger. He stepped closer. Elizabeth's heart pounded. With a smooth motion, he reached out and slit the strings of her corset from top to bottom, dropping it on the floor beside her.
"Much better," he said, replacing the dagger. He stepped onto the window ledge, swung it open, and then held out his hand to her. "My lady," was his dark invitation. Elizabeth glanced back towards the hallway, towards the room where her son slept. And then she turned back, her face set, and took his hand.