Summary: Ten years later, Jack Sparrow returns with a startling proposition for Elizabeth and Will. Can they trust him? Will they? Drama/Angst. Jack Sparrow; Elizabeth Turner; Will Turner; Bootstrap Bill Turner. Warning: Spoilers

Disclaimer: I own none of this. The elements in this story are created and owned by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, Jerry Bruckheimer, Gore Verbinski, and the Disney Corporation. I am making no money from the forthcoming endeavor. Beta reader for this story is Ignoble Bard, with special thanks to the good people at Lizard Council.

Nothing Ventured

Chapter One: The Plunge

'There pass the careless people
That call their souls their own
Here by the road I loiter,
How idle and alone.

Here by the labouring highway
With empty hands I stroll:
Sea-deep, till doomsday morning,
Lie lost my heart and soul.'

A.E. Houseman

The knock at the door caught Elizabeth Turner at her bookkeeping. Business had been good, and she supposed she could count herself a rich woman. That is, if one considered only the monetary side of life.

For some odd reason, pirates never troubled her ships. And ships they were, for the reliability of untroubled trade had allowed her to augment the Empress with two other vessels, the Odysseus and the Penelope, within the past three years. Cargo flowed from the Orient and from all other parts of the world where goods might decently be had, making her a woman of means. A woman of power, by anyone's reckoning.

And yet, she had no maid to open her door for her should a visitor come to knock. Maids asked too many awkward questions about Mister Turner, away at sea for an indefinite length of time. Maids, no matter how humble they appeared at the start, looked a woman in the eye with an unspoken challenge that said, "You're no better than the rest of us, are you, girl? That fine boy of yours, he's a bastard, isn't he?" And maids were curious, looking into secret places and deep closets to find oddly noisy chests that might require more explanation than she could comfortably give.

And so, Elizabeth Turner, once a great lady, the daughter of the Governor of Port Royal, still nominally the Pirate King of the Brethren Court, set aside her quill, rose from her desk, brushed down her skirts, and went to answer her own door.

The door swung open, wafting in the moist air of the tropical afternoon, the salt tang from the harbor, and the scent of unwashed men. "Hello, poppet."

"Oh no," she groaned. "What do you want with me?"

The taller one, the sandy-haired fellow, winked at her. Elizabeth noticed that he had acquired a glass eye to replace the wooden one. It was hardly an improvement. His shorter friend, the one who had greeted her, sniggered, making it all too clear what they would have wanted of her. Elizabeth gave them a glare. Pintel and Ragetti - how could she forget? Many were the pirates who had tried, and failed, to ravish Elizabeth Swann Turner in the past decade, but this pair deserved special recognition.

"It isn't them, luv," said a familiar voice, as the two of them stepped aside to let the speaker through. "I have a proposition for you."

"Jack Sparrow," she said, barely noticing the winks and nudges of the other two at his use of the word 'proposition.' "I suppose this visit was inevitable. I'm frankly surprised you didn't turn up sooner."

He smiled, the sunlight glinting off one of his gold front teeth. "It's been a while. You'll grant me that."

"Ten years. Ten very long years." She smiled sweetly, but her voice had the bitter note of a woman who has finally had her wedding night, only to be robbed of her marriage.

"Not quite. Not quite ten, and that's why I'm here, Elizabeth."

"That would be Mrs. Turner to you, Captain Sparrow," she said, pausing to fan herself in the heat. "Why did you bring those two with you?"

"Capt'n Sparrow's gone a little . . ." The shorter one - Pintel - paused and made a circling motion around his ear with his forefinger.

"It's for his own protection," Ragetti chimed in. "Captain Barbossa thought you might do him an injury if-"

"Never mind about that," Sparrow interrupted. "Elizab- Mrs. Turner, are you going to leave me standing in the street?"

"Give me one good reason not to," she spat back.

"Mama, Mama . . ." Elizabeth felt a small whirlwind at her back as her son raced to the door and skidded to a stop. "Are these pirates?" he said in wonderment.

"Hush, Billy," she said quickly. Talk of piracy still made her nervous, and for good reason. "These gentlemen are honest seamen."

She turned back to the men in the street, expecting to see smirks. Instead, Jack had the oddest expression on his face. Through all their adventures, and those had been considerable, Elizabeth could not recall a time when Jack Sparrow had turned a hair, not even when faced with the Kraken. Yet now he looked positively flabbergasted.

"That," he said, staring at her boy. "If ever you had a reason to let me in, luv, that would be it."

"Very well," she said, with a quick shake of her chin. "I take it this matter is private?"

"We'll watch the youngster for you, Missus, while you and Capt'n Sparrow conduct your business," said Ragetti. Beside him, Pintel nodded and flashed his craven smile.

Elizabeth raised a delicate eyebrow in the pair's direction. 'Not bloody likely,' was simply not in the vocabulary of a gentlewoman. "Billy, go play out back in the garden," she said gently. "Jack, come with me. And you two - you can wait out in the street."

As Billy scampered off, Elizabeth led Sparrow into her parlor. "Don't start, Jack."

"I won't," he said. "There's no question - he's the spit image of Will. I didn't know."

"How could you? I haven't seen you since the deck of the Black Pearl. So, tell me, what have you been doing all this time?"

"Oh, been here, seen this, done that - you know how it is."

"Ten years, Jack. Ten long years." And long years they were if a frank eying-up by the likes of Ragetti managed to put a warmth into her cheeks. Not to mention the presence of Jack Sparrow across a room. But soon Will would be home, if only for that one promised day . . .

"What finally brings you here?"

"I've had ample time to do some thinking," he replied, taking the fire out of her anger. "He was right, Teague - my father. The trick isn't living forever. It's living with yourself.

"This is my fault, Elizabeth," he said. "I might as well still be wearing that black spot for all my soul isn't at peace. But I've had ten years to ponder it, and here's my plan . . ."


When Jack finished his speech, the sharp lines of shadow and sunlight coming in through the louvered shutters had moved a good twelve inches across the floor.

Elizabeth stopped biting her lip and took a deep breath. "Tell me again, Jack, exactly why should I trust you enough to do as you are asking?"

"No reason to trust me, luv. None at all. But that curse won't break; not for your love or your faithfulness, or God's own mercy. I'm your only chance at a real life for you and that boy."

Again, she shook her head. It seemed a slim hope at best. And the awful thought came - what if Jack was lying to her?

"I'm sure Will told you," Jack said quietly, "how he risked everything on one roll of the dice. Can you do anything less for him now that it's your turn?"

"I promised," she said. Will had always kept his promises, no matter what the cost. And she could not forget that it was Sparrow himself, by giving Will to Davy Jones, who had set this whole tragic sequence of events in motion, robbing her of her husband and Billy of his father.

"I know what you're thinking, Elizabeth. But I've done a lot of soul-searching in the past ten years. I'm a changed man and I want to make this right. What do you have to lose?"

What did she have to lose? Nothing. Everything. Often, in the lonely nights, she had told herself she ought to be grateful for what she had. Will was alive, somewhere, rather than dead. She'd had one perfect day with him to enjoy his body rather than burying it. And she had her son. She could look forward to four or five such days before age and death finally took her. Sparrow's plan risked even this small comfort. But a handful of days paled when balanced against the life she had dreamed of with Will. "Not enough," she whispered.

"Not enough!" She rose from her chair, her voice taking on the strong tenor of that day she had called the Brethren to battle. "Jack, come with me."

"Into the bedroom?" he asked, sounding a bit like the old Jack, as she led him to the rear of the house.

"Where else?" she said, stooping down beneath her heavy wooden bedstead to shove aside the chamber pot and retrieve the chest from its spot on the floor directly below her pillow. Each night she lay, listening to the soothing cadence of her husband's heart. Cold comfort, but now there was a chance for more. "Here you are, Jack, and I hope to heaven you're right."

She put the chest into his outstretched arms. "You'll be needing this too," she continued, pulling a chain from her neck and giving him a key, still warm from resting between her breasts.

"He gave you the key as well?" Jack said, looping the chain over his own head. "That boy really trusted you."

She nodded. "Yes. And perhaps he should not have done."

"No less than you should have trusted me," he said, showing gold in his smile. "We're like two peas in a pod, luv."

They went to the door, interrupting a game out in the street between Pintel and Ragetti over who could spit the farthest.

"I'll be on my way, then. There's no time to lose." Jack stopped and gave her a hopeful look. "Will you at least give me a kiss good-bye?"

Elizabeth cocked her head and raised a warning eyebrow. "Are you sure about that, Jack? You know what happens to men I kiss."

"I know it well, and at this moment it's the least of my worries."

"All right," she said and turned her chin up to him.

He claimed her lips, hungrily as a man who knows he will not soon dine again. Here at last, while her husband's heart beat its steady rhythm between the two of them, she sensed the real man beneath all the bravado and the act. "Go to the appointed place," he whispered, "and wait for the sign. You'll know if I've been successful."

He pulled away and stowed the chest under his arm. Ragetti and Pintel made as if to follow. At the last moment, he paused. "It would never have worked out between the two of us, Elizabeth. But never, ever, think that I didn't love you."

He turned on his heel and strode off down the street, the setting sun glinting through his braids. He was not a tall man, Elizabeth realized as she saw him walk away, but he was one of the biggest she had ever known.

"Good-bye, Jack Sparrow," she murmured, as Billy came up beside her and laid his head against her arm. "May God go with you . . ."