Ten years was a long time. She stood upon the shore, hands on her son's shoulders. He started singing and she smiled. A pirate's life for me...she joined in, kohl-lined eyes keeping an eye on the horizon.
The green flash...
The Flying Dutchman appeared, rising from the depths of the ocean like a great beast gasping for air. "He comes," Elizabeth said quietly.
Her son stopped singing, his light voice tapering off in anticipation. He hadn't known of his real father right away but when he was old enough, when his mind had already been so full of pirate stories and he had spent so much time on ships that his gait was that of a seasoned sailor...only then did she tell him the truth of his parentage.
She bent down to pick up the chest they had carried down to the shoreline, feeling a heaviness in her own heart.
Will rushed onto shore. In the moments before he enveloped her into his arms, Elizabeth noted he hadn't changed. He was alive, yet not alive. He was an immortal now and the years, which had added lines to Elizabeth's delicate brow, had not altered his appearance.
"Elizabeth," he murmured, stepping back from her slightly and finally taking note of the child standing slightly behind her. The boy stood confidently, his eyes dark and piercing, seeming to take everything in. Arms crossed over his chest, he was obviously examining everything Will did.
Will noted the tricorn hat that was perched on his head, the loose dark hair that fell around his face in a wind-blown mess, the dark eyes, the steady glance. Will's eyes shot to Elizabeth's.
"He's yours." She answered the question she knew he couldn't quite ask. "His name is James Weatherby."
"James," Will said quietly.
Jack wouldn't let me name him William…The words almost slipped from her mouth before she could stop them. Jack...She had to tell Will all soon, but not right now...later...when her son had gone to bed.
Will knelt down in front of his son and his eyes softened. He reached out a hand and the boy took it, shaking it firmly. "It's nice to meet you, James."
James nodded, still quiet.
"Are you going to take me home?" Will suddenly asked. And Elizabeth realized Will wouldn't want to go to her real home. He had no doubt spent enough time on sea, not having been able to set foot on land all these years. Ten long years...
"There is a small hut further up on the island," Elizabeth began with.
"But that's not your home." Will's voice was flat.
Elizabeth shook her head.
"Then where is your home?" One of his eyebrows shot up and he ran a hand through hair that was quickly drying. His hair was the only change, Elizabeth suddenly noted. All those years at sea had turned it a slightly greenish tint. It was subtle, not something someone would notice unless they truly took the time to scrutinize him.
She took a deep breath. "My home is on the Pearl."
"Jack?" he quickly shot back.
"James, run on ahead and bring us some wood for a fire," she said instead to her son. James nodded and did as his mother bade him. He was such a good child.
"He came for me." She shrugged. It wasn't quite as simple as that. She had been at Shipwreck Cove, land bound for some three months before Jack had reappeared. His eyes had been dark and quiet, his gaze the look of a man who had fought devils and won. When he had asked her to join his crew, she had quickly agreed. Her duties as King were light. It was a position the pirates were used to being unoccupied. She left most to Teague, Jack's father, without a backward glance. They all knew where to find her if they needed her.
"Jack?" Will's held a note of incredulity. "He came for you? What did he want?"
Elizabeth smiled, the smile of a woman who knows. "Me." She didn't dare meet his eyes. "Come quickly. We're almost to the hut." She sped up, moving swiftly past Will.
Will reached out and caught her arm, stopping her flight away from him. "I want to go to your real home." The words were quiet and Elizabeth flinched.
"You don't want to go there, Will." Her voice sounded tired.
Will didn't know if she meant going on the ship or going to someplace where Jack was. Despite their marriage, despite everything that had happened, despite her being here waiting for him, he still could not get the image of those two kissing out of his mind. It was a topic that had never been broached between them. Will had been hesitant to bring it up, afraid he would lose her for good to the older pirate. Elizabeth had refused to bring it up with him as well, afraid that she didn't quite know her own mind.
But they were married now…
And she was here…
Jack should be unimportant. And yet she had traveled on his ship these many years and Will, finally taking note of how she looked, realized she bore evidence of his influence. Kohl-lined eyes, clothes that were utilitarian and comfortable. She had donned a dress for the occasion, but it was one that was loose around her, flowed in the wind as the breeze brushed across her. No more corsets for her apparently. Not that he had expected her to return to her life on Port Royal. Not his Elizabeth…
Was she his anymore? Had she ever been? Harsh and untamable as the sea…She had been mistaken for Calypso once. He understood why.
"Is there a reason I shouldn't go aboard the Pearl, Elizabeth?" His voice was quiet and undemanding.
She winced. The truth…it must come out sometime. She could hear Calypso's heavily-accented voice in her head. Was it the proximity to Will, one of Calypso's minions, that brought that out inside her mind? Or was it for some other reason?
"Come, Will. I will take you on board." She turned back toward the shore, back toward the Pearl, back toward home. Calling for her son, she was glad to see him show himself almost immediately, arms burdened with various sizes of wood.
"We return to thePearl." Her words were quiet, but the boy needed no other encouragement and dropped his wood with glee, rushing far ahead of them.
Will started to call to him, but Elizabeth put a gentle hand on his arm. "Leave him be. He knows the way." With astonishment, Will suddenly realized that James, his son, was very much not his own. The boy was over nine years old, a child so sure of himself he almost seemed like a young man.
The pair made their way back to the Pearl in silence. Will was afraid to ask the questions he knew needed to be asked, the questions he likely didn't want an answer to yet again. Elizabeth wasn't sure what to say, how to prepare Will for what he might find on the ship.
She climbed quickly up the rope ladder, leaving a surprised Will in her wake. As she climbed up and over the rail and dropped lightly to the deck, Jack's hand came out to meet her. "And how is the whelp, dear Lizzie?" She gave him a look and he drew back slightly. "I thought that was awfully quick." His voice dropped in volume and he stepped back from her.
"Jack. I couldn't stop him."
"It's my funeral, love."
"I know." Her voice was tight, her eyes hard.
"Ah, young William! 'Tis so good to see you!" Jack called, suddenly the ever-jovial captain. Elizabeth turned to face Will…my husband. It was a strange thing to think of, standing on the deck of the Pearl, knowing she was closer to Jack than to her own husband. Will was a stranger to her after all these years.
"Jack." He didn't need to say anything else. The word was reproachful at best, contemptuous at worst.
"Will." Jack clasped his hands together like he was praying, bowed slightly. She understood his obsequiousness, but nonetheless, Elizabeth really didn't care for it.
"Jack!" she admonished sharply.
He turned to her. "Yes my liege." And his eyes turned humorous, the amusement barely hidden within their dark depths.
"Elizabeth." The crew tried to follow the voices, now turning to look at Will. It was an uncertain moment and she turned to look at him. "I need to know the truth."
And there it was. The words no one wanted to hear. The question no one needed raised. This was supposed to go so easily. Elizabeth met Will on land, introduced his son to him, spent the day and night with him. They parted ways and another ten years on the Pearl with Jack were hers to enjoy.
No one had considered the possibility that Will would pick up on her nervousness and realize that something was wrong.
She had not waited for him. She had not spent the years pining for him, desperate for his touch, alone and lonely. She had, instead, been at Jack's side, a terror on the high seas. Captain Jack Sparrow and his pirate lady, Lizzie. Their names had become the bane of many merchant's existence. Elizabeth ran her hand across her lower arm, feeling the brand that matched the much older one on Jack's forearm, a mark of one of the few times they had been caught.
She was proud of that brand, proud of who she had become.
She tilted her chin up, pulled herself up straight, looked Will in the eye. She would not back down. He needed to know. "This is where my heart lies, Will."
His eyes grew cold, dead. "Here? On the Pearl?"
"With Jack." The simple truth. She had left with Jack out of a desperate need to belong somewhere. She had stayed with Jack because her heart tripped every time her eyes met his. Will had not been forgotten, but in the intervening years, the layers of her heart that had belonged to Will had been peeled away, while the layers that belonged to Jack had been allowed to shine through and grow.
Will turned away and both Elizabeth and Jack watched as his hand went down to his waist. Jack breathed a sigh of relief. If Will had had his sword on him, he had no doubt he would be currently engaged in some fight to the death…his death, since Will could indeed not die.
Elizabeth cringed as Will's eyes came back up to meet hers. As he moved closer to her, she backed away, head tilting slightly to the side. She uttered his name, quietly, desperately.
He ignored it, stepped close to her, raised a hand up to brush the hair away from her face. When he spoke, the words were soft and heart-broken. "I told you once, long ago, that I had made my choice. It appears that you have now made yours."
Will's eyes fell briefly on Elizabeth before turning to look at Jack, the look hard. "Treat her poorly and I will come for you." He looked around the ship. "Bring me my son."
Elizabeth's eyes widened and she looked to Jack. "I'll go get him," he muttered. Neither wanted to leave Jack alone with Will. Even without his sword, there was a danger there that both knew was better off avoided.
As soon as Jack had disappeared into the belly of the ship, Elizabeth spoke, taking a step toward the man who suddenly seemed so alone. "Will…"
"No…Elizabeth…don't. The pain of your betrayal is enough. There are no more words to be spoken."
She nodded, eyes wide, mute.
Jack returned with her son, presented him to Will, and backed off. He reached a hand up without thinking to brush the tear off Elizabeth's face, a gesture of familiarity she was glad Will did not see.
Will knelt down in front of the boy and James, confused, looked to Elizabeth and Jack for some sort of reassurance. Elizabeth nodded. Jack stood, frozen. James turned back to his father and waited.
"Take care of your mother." The words were sincere, quiet, so quiet Elizabeth had to strain to hear them. The ship hushed around them. "Especially beware of pirates."
"I thought you were a pirate." Elizabeth smiled at Will's surprised reaction.
"I'm something a bit different than a pirate, lad. Maybe someday your mother can explain everything to you."
"You have to leave already." It was a statement, not a question.
"I do, lad…James." Will unwound the bandanna from around his head, slowly removing the fabric from where it clung to his still-damp hair. He handed it solemnly to James and the boy took it, seeming to recognize the meaning behind the gesture. "Another ten years James…we'll meet again then."
The boy nodded. Will ruffled his hair and stood.
With one last pained look backward at Elizabeth and Jack, he swung his legs over the sides of the Pearl and disappeared into the long boat. Elizabeth knew without looking where he was headed. The chest was still on the beach, left where Elizabeth and James had put it down.
Elizabeth stilled her body, stopped herself from rushing to the rail to watch Will disappear. She stopped herself from apologizing. There was nothing to be sorry for. She had followed her heart and it had led her away from her childhood love. That's not quite right…it had actually led her to her childhood love. She had read the stories of Jack Sparrow, had fallen in love with the colourful and amazing pirate, long before she had even met Will Turner. All that had happened was her heart leading her back to where it always belonged.
"He's going after the chest." Jack's voice came from close behind her.
"Yes." Their voices were hushed. "I'm free now."
"How does it feel?" He clasped her shoulders in his hands and pulled her back slightly, her back coming to rest against his chest.
She had no real answer to that. How did it feel? Strange…amazing…like a burden had just been lifted from shoulders that didn't know they were carrying such weight? "It feels different…a little strange."
Jack nodded against the top of her head and then released her. He stepped away to call to the crew and almost before she could blink, they were on their way. She watched off the stern of the ship until the island disappeared into the distance and was finally swallowed up by the horizon. Each incremental distance away from it lightened her heart a bit more and finally, almost bursting at the seams, she went to join Jack at the helm of their ship.
Silently the pair awaited their next adventure's beginning.
A/N: Please review if you get a chance!