Here Be Monsters

This chapter: What's going on with Elizabeth? Can Jack save her in time?

A/N: Here's the fourth and final chapter. I apologise for the delay in getting this up. The majority of it was written for quite some time, but the Muses ran off before I could actually finish it. Inspiration struck, however, so here it is.

I'm sorry there's not more, but this was only meant to be a one-shot in the first place. I write less often than I used to, so when the opportunity arises I find there are too many words to express.

Anyway, without further ado…

Part IV

It's the smell which hits first. That stink of rotting flesh and stale, rancid brine, the unmistakable odour of long-dead fish. The slime from the creature's belch is nothing compared to the horror of its breath. From deep within echo distant ghostly voices, screaming and howling in agony and terror, begging mercy from the unending torture.

Marching into the belly of the Beast, sword drawn (for all the good it'll do), and the smell grows ever stronger. A sticky, humid warmth emanates from deep down in the creature's throat, a deep tunnel with no light at the end.

But the smell, the fetid stench of death, pales in comparison to the pain. Row after row of razor-sharp teeth come biting down, rending flesh from bone, crunching and chewing and ripping and crushing, and the darkness at the bottom of that awful pit draws ever nearer…

--

He found her easily enough. She hadn't managed to get very far on the deck and was huddled at the helm, her arms about her knees, shaking violently. If she was crying, it was silent; Jack didn't need to hear it.

The bottle of potion was still clasped in his hand, and he tucked it into his belt for the time being, securing it from her potentially flailing arms. She'd already caused enough harm that way for one night.

For a moment, he wasn't certain how to proceed, and half-considered fetching the boy. If Elizabeth was inconsolable, Jack was hardly the one to attempt the consoling in question. But then there was the other difficulty of explaining to Will why she was in such a state, when he himself didn't rightly know either.

Jack heaved a long sigh, and crouched to her level.

"Elizabeth…"

He reached for her trembling shoulder, but at the barest touch, she flinched and scuttled backwards, away from him, until she collided with something solid and unyielding. She hit the base of the wheel, and the sting of physical discomfort at her spine broke through her haze of insanity, just enough that she was able to focus on Jack and remember what had happened.

"Don't touch me," she said in a hushed and reverent tone. "Not again. Oh, God…"

Her head bowed again, trying to avoid his questioning gaze, but Jack was not having it.

"Oi. Lizzie. Stop that now. Come on." His cajoling did not work, so he tried a more direct approach. "At least tell me what just happened."

At first, he thought she wouldn't answer, but then she began to speak, slowly and quietly.

"I saw his death," she told him. "My father's. In the water, when I took his hand… I saw it through his own eyes, as if I were right there. It was Beckett. Beckett and Jones… But he wasn't afraid…" She stopped for a moment, and swallowed, fighting back the demons which had come to haunt her once again. Just as quickly, fresher agony replaced them.

Then she looked at Jack, and said: "I didn't realise. The Kraken. That terrible smell… and the pain. Dear Lord above, the pain…"

"I'm not sorry…" Those words again, echoing through her brain mockingly. It sounded heartless to her ears now, although she knew at one time it had been the truth. Her heart was overflowing with ugly guilt as she stared at him – he was exactly as he should have been, with no more scars to speak of except those she knew were imprisoned behind those dark, impenetrable eyes…

She choked on the lump in her throat.

"I'm sorry."

As Jack looked at her, he knew she meant it. He'd realised now what had happened to her, what the Sea of Souls had done to her. Somehow, her swim in that foreboding ocean had granted her the unenviable ability to see the death of those around her; she had fled at the touch of his palm, tightly to hers, in that unintentional gesture, which her father must surely also have done. The death of Governor Swann must have been a bitter enough shock; his own fate at the jaws of the Kraken was an experience he would rather have spared her.

Those two heartfelt words were almost his undoing. He had been expecting – hopefully, perhaps – an apology, but was fully prepared not to believe it. Elizabeth was wily and clever and could wrap him around her little finger if he would let her, and he most certainly was not going to let her… Except he had not anticipated her seeing his death, and he knew her words were sincere from the glassy darkness of her eyes.

She needed to drink the medicine, before it was too late. His crew had all died at one point or another – all those years as the walking dead, shot at and run through and all manner of other misfortunes – and he felt sure another vision would break her, no matter how accidentally. He had to draw closer in order to give her the bottle, without frightening her.

He tried to make light of the situation, for her sake.

"I've been through worse scrapes in me time than the bowels of some giant Beastie," he assured her. "I've come through it unscathed – you didn't find me all chewed to bits, now, did you?"

"I… I suppose not."

She was more alert. Good. He cautiously plucked the medicine from his belt and offered it to her.

"You need to drink it," he said, in answer to her silent question.

She turned it over in her hands, watching the contents slosh around. "Rum?"

"Unfortunately not. If there were rum on board this ship, d'you really think I'd give it up?" For the first time, there was the barest flicker of light in her eyes, the slightest hint of a smile. "Tia Dalma made it for you. She says it should help."

Elizabeth eyed the concoction warily. Anything had to be better than the overwhelming sense of weary, listless nothingness, even if the strange brew poisoned her. Uncorking the bottle, she sniffed it, recoiled, then bravely downed it in one.

Nothing immediately obvious seemed to happen.

"Well?" he asked. "Feel any better?"

"I'm not sure. I feel…"

She stopped, eyes wide. One hand came up to clamp over her mouth, and she leapt to her feet and bent over the side.

"Lizzie?" Jack scrabbled to stand in panicked haste; he'd been here once already. What good was the potion if she was just going to throw herself…

She vomited: a black, viscous liquid the colour and consistency of ink. The urge hit again, wracking her body, but nothing more came. She breathed deeply, then stood back. Jack's intention was to give her some space, but then her knees buckled beneath her and she fell on him ungracefully. He caught her and held her upright, as she clung to his shirt with white-knuckled fists, and it took more strength than he thought he possessed not to take her in his arms and hold her tight to him. Somehow, he resisted; after a while, her legs supported her own weight once more and she released her iron grip.

A memory struck; a conversation.

"I love those moments… I like to wave at them as they pass by."

He considered this was a moment he should not have let pass by.

"I think I'm all right now," she said, flexing muscles which felt stiff and tired. Her memory of the past few minutes was starting to blur at the edges. She could only remember darkness and misery, and a few vague images which made no sense any more. She knew how her father had met his demise – and Jack his – but the picture was not so vivid in her mind's eye any more.

She stared at the Captain, searching his expression. Beneath the façade of bravado, she saw relief. There were a million things he wanted to say to her, but not one of them would take precedence over the other in his brain. In the end, he settled on something safe.

"It's still a couple of hours until daybreak. You should get some rest."

Elizabeth searched his face for a moment, but gave a nod and began to descend the steps again. Jack followed, but halted at the top, watching her. Elizabeth turned when she reached the bottom, looking thoughtful and vaguely troubled. She opened her mouth to speak, then decided against whatever it was she intended to say.

"Thank you."

He brushed it off with a nonchalant wave of his hand and a grin. "'Twas nothing."

"You didn't have to stay."

"Perhaps not. But I did."

"Yes."

A chasm seemed to be opening up between them, an awkwardness which neither had anticipated. Elizabeth nodded her thanks again, before heading back towards Jack's cabin, back to her sleeping fiancé. She stopped again, halfway across the deck, but did not turn to face him this time.

"I know I don't deserve your forgiveness, Jack," she said, "and I won't presume to ask for it." Her eyes prickled, but Elizabeth knew they were selfish, childish tears, not any lingering effect of the Sea. "I hope you can accept my apology."

Jack heard the slight hitch to her voice, despite her best efforts to hide it, and he moved as quickly and silently as a cat.

"Elizabeth…"

She jumped out of her skin at his sudden appearance behind her, and span to face him. Words seemed to fail him once they were before each other, the sight of the tears glistening in her eyes silencing Jack instantly. Somehow, her desolation had been easier to deal with – at least there was a cure for that. It was better to see the life back in her eyes, but when the grief was real, from deep within her, he was at a loss as to how to continue.

Jack raised a hand as though to touch her face, hesitated, and pulled it away again. Elizabeth found herself leaning in to his imminent caress, only to feel bitter disappointment when there was only air in its place. Instead, Jack toyed with the tendrils of hair at her shoulder, glad to discover that she hadn't chopped it off as part of her disguise. The boys' clothes were quite bad enough.

"I do," he said eventually. Elizabeth did not push for an explanation to that cryptic answer, but after a moment he clarified: "Accept your apology."

She smiled a little, his acceptance granting a small comfort to her. Then she moved forward, her hands on his chest and her head resting against his shoulder. She did not expect any reciprocation of the gesture, and was not surprised when Jack merely froze, his arms just far enough apart so as not to make contact. After her earlier experience, she craved some form of human warmth and realness, some kind of grounding in reality.

"I want to earn your forgiveness, Jack," she whispered. "No matter what it takes. Just tell me what I can do."

A small thrill ran through her as his arms rested around her, though it was only for a matter of seconds. Just as soon, he was holding her away from him, his expression serious.

He wanted to tell her the things she could do, but they would all become her downfall. She was not a pirate's moll, as much as she fooled him into thinking as much. She had a life of high society to return to when all was said and done, and she had a boy not ten feet away who was fully prepared to marry her.

Stay with me, he wanted to say. Stay with me and all is forgiven. The words refused to form. Perhaps it was for the best.

However, Elizabeth's imploring eyes demanded an answer. He was even a little afraid of her reply, if he should say what he was thinking. Her refusal would only be right and proper, but if she were to accept… the thought actually made him slightly giddy. Steeling himself, Jack said the only thing which seemed remotely sensible.

"There's nothing you can do, Lizzie. Nothing at all. You needn't worry yourself."

Elizabeth seemed to understand that he was trying to offer his forgiveness without having to say the words.

"That's good, then."

They shared a smile, the atmosphere on the deck now lighter.

"Now," he said, pulling himself up and standing straight, "as the Captain of this fine vessel, I'm afraid I must order you to your cabin."

"It's your cabin, Jack."

"For the moment, it's yours."

Elizabeth gave a small shrug and a half-hearted salute – "Aye, Captain," – and took the final few steps to the cabin door. She stopped for a moment before opening it, gazing at their surroundings once more, remembering with some reluctance the events of only minutes ago.

She shuddered a little.

"I want to get out of this place," she told him. "We found what we came for. We rescued you. I thought that would be it… I thought…" She trailed off with a small sigh, looking at him imploringly. "I need to get out of here, Jack."

"I'll find a way, Lizzie."

Her expression was grateful and relieved; there were only so many thanks she could say before the words became meaningless, so she said nothing. When she turned for the last time, she pushed open the cabin door and disappeared into its dim interior.

Jack watched the closed door for a moment. He breathed in deeply, the crushing pressure around his heart beginning to loosen its vice-like grip, and let the gentle rocking of the Pearl bring him back to something resembling sanity. The madness of the Locker was fresh in his memory, and would probably always remain. For now, he had something else to focus on: getting everyone back to the real world before anyone else succumbed to the Sea of Souls. He had promised her, in his own way, and Jack was nothing if not a man of his word.

He took a few steps forward, and placed his palm to the cabin door. It was silent from within.

"Sleep well, Elizabeth."

-FIN-

A/N: Please let me know what you thought of the fic. I've tried to end it so it fits vaguely back into the film, so even though the scene plays out differently at the start, it can be a 'missing scene' type story.

Dunno if that worked, to be honest. :P In any case, Your Opinions Matter...

I don't know if I'll be inspired to write in the Pirates-verse again, but feel free to check out my profile for other fandoms.

Farewell for now, me hearties…