A/N: Hi! :) This is a very short story that I've written for potcfest challenge on LiveJournal for the prompt: Jack/Elizabeth - Elizabeth has to rescue Jack from Mistress Ching. It will have 3 chapters in total:)
Disclaimer: PotC belong to Disney.
"Captain Swann, should we wait here?"
There was no answer, and he did not really expect there to be one. He had already asked the captain several questions, and she had answered none; her eyes fixed on the horizon, hands gripping the rail until her knuckles went white, and he was not sure if she was angry or nervous or... both.
Tai Huang jumped at the sharp tone of Elizabeth's voice, when she suddenly spun around to face him.
"On the ship," he said cautiously. "If we're not stopping for long, and we're to set sail again soon..." he trailed off, studying the Pirate King's face intently.
During the last six months under her command he had learned a few things about the woman's temper, one of them being that she did not appreciate being asked obvious questions, was not likely to give obvious answers, and did not consider anything obvious – apart from following her orders, of course. And whatever doubts any of the crew members could have had concerning her being their captain was gone as soon as she had come aboard the Empress a week after having been voted the King, and with a frown and lightnings in her eyes had told them that if she would ever hear them think the word mutiny, they would not see the next breaking of the day, because their necks would have been already broken. With that, she had gone below deck, leaving the crew with rather stunned looks on their faces.
"Be prepared to set sail tonight," said Elizabeth after a moment of consideration, watching the gangplank being lowered, connecting the deck of her ship with the docks of Shipwreck Cove. She had not been there since the dawn before the war...
So many places she had ever been only once to...
She clenched the rumpled piece of paper in her hand, heading for the darkened town, and thinking that perhaps she should not have come here at all.
She had just recently started to feel truly better, started remembering how it had felt to wake up every morning with hope in her heart, with joy that there was a new day to be lived... And then, exactly on the first day when she had told herself that it was the time to leave the past behind, take a deep breath, move on and not waste the next nine years and six months only on waiting... exactly on that day, thanks to some devilish irony that always managed to slide into her life somehow – that letter had reached her:
"Your Dearest Majesty,"
Of course he had to mock her, even though her title was the result of his own duplicitous schemes!...
Elizabeth walked across the dark streets, one hand on her pistol, the other still gripping the letter. She had memorized it involuntarily, and she was not even sure how could she memorize it so well? It must have been that infuriating style of his that stuck in her mind, for no reason whatsoever.
"I hope this letter finds you well, or at least well enough to read it."
Oh, how thoughtful, indeed!
"I wouldn't dare to intercede with your royal duties if it was not for the absolutely unfair coincidence of circumstances which led me to the highly unenviable and rather lethal..."
He knew 'lethal' would get to her!...
"...position I'm currently in, with little hope of changing it without your almighty assistance."
Now. That was suspicious. In the second sentence he was already asking for her help. And quite straightforwardly too, which could only mean a trick behind every word, and she just wished she could read his words - read him better.
"If you could maneuver your bonnie boat..."
He did not really think she would find his choice of words flattering, did he?
"...toward Shipwreck Cove, it would be certainly appreciated..."
And he could at least have the decency to stop there.
"...and the rewards would definitely follow."
Elizabeth gritted her teeth, turning into a small alleyway. She followed the directions provided by him in his letter, even though she did not really know where she was going and what was the exact nature of the predicament he was in.
"The sooner, the better, although I have every intention of being patient if you need to pillage or plunder..."
Yo ho, she muttered irritatedly.
"...this or that on your way here."
The word 'here' was written over another word (or two words), that he had apparently decided to replace.
"Fair winds and all that."
"Don't lose the map."
As if she was the one losing things all the time!...
"It took me half a night to draw."
As if she bloody cared!...
"Obviously!" she muttered under her breath, huffing in annoyance, her hand still holding the letter... subconsciously holding... on to it.
Jack sat on the floor in a small room, his head resting against the wall, his hat sliding over his closed eyes.
Another dusk, another evening, and there was still no sight of her. Perhaps she decided to ignore his letter, ignore him, or perhaps she never got the letter in the first place...
Not that it was the best letter he had ever written, he smirked to himself. Initially, he had wanted to write something entirely different, something that would make her eyes look like two pieces of Aztec gold – round and shining. But then he had thought better of it, and ended up writing a simple note. It was better to keep everything simple, at least as long as it was possible...
But the more he waited the more he was not sure whether it was a good idea to write to her at all.
He did not know whether his entire idea was a good idea.
Why should she come, after all? Maybe she was busy learning how to steer her exotic boat. Maybe she was busy searching for treasures, attacking other ships... He had heard at least one story of the Empress plundering a much bigger ship and sinking it after sending its crew floating away in a dinghy.
He wondered what the captain of that vessel had the misfortune to say to anger the King so much.
A soft knocking caught his attention, and he pushed his hat off his eyes, and listened. The series of sounds was repeated twice, and Jack grinned to himself, staggering to his feet, and noiselessly making his way to the window. He sat beside it, catching a glimpse of the street, and a glimpse of the moon, pale against the dark grey sky. The sill was almost on the level of his head when he sat down on the floor, and from his barred window he could see several paper lanterns surrounding the house like colorful birds, glowing in the darkness and casting shadows on the ground.
He leaned his head against the wall, tilting it slightly to the side, for a moment letting her voice wash over him like a wave of fresh, rejuvenating water. The room grew darker with every moment, and so did the world outside, and it mildly surprised him that her voice brightened his thoughts a bit more than he had expected it to.
"Who's there?" he forced his tone to sound both disinterested and suspicious.
Elizabeth stood under the small window in the secluded street looking up at the bars glittering in the faint moonlight. She smiled involuntarily at the sound of his voice, but quickly turned her smile into a frown, trying to focus on finding something that could help her climb up toward him.
"And who do you think it is?" she snapped in a low voice, looking around in search of something to step on and lift herself, but apart from the nearby tree that looked rather fragile, and several wooden boxes, most of them broken, there was nothing she could find useful."Who do you think would be stupid enough to come to your rescue after receiving such a vainglorious letter?"
"You're not talking about my humble note, are you, Lizzie?"
Jack's voice flew to her from above, and Elizabeth bit her lip, taken aback by the strange sensation caused by hearing that version of her name spoken by him again.
"No, I'm talking about your pathetic letter arrogantly requiring my help," she answered through her gritted teeth, dragging one of the boxes closer to the wall.
Jack lifted his head, catching the sight of her head, her gold hair tied with a black ribbon, falling over one of her shoulders. He quickly lowered himself before she noticed that he was able to see her from where he was.
"If I knew you'd exhibit such a blatant lack of appreciation for my epistolary skills, I'd have rather sent it to somebody else," he said back, in a hurt tone of voice.
Elizabeth looked up, almost seeing him pout in her mind's eyes, and allowing herself a small smile at the image.
"Speaking of that," Elizabeth bent down and picked the second box, putting it over the first one with a sigh. The boxes were empty, and cracked in many places, but they were heavy nonetheless. "Where is Mr. Gibbs? Why can't he help you?"
Jack wrinkled his forehead. He had forgotten to think about that. "He is..." he started, squinting into the dark room, "he stayed in one of the ports we stopped to get supplies a couple of months ago. He met a lass that actually believes all the stories he tells," he said, relaxing a bit, content with his explanation.
"Mr. Gibbs got married?" asked Elizabeth curiously, stopping what she was doing and staring up at the window for a moment.
Jack looked right and left, taking his hat of his head, and spinning it around his finger. "You're not paying attention, 'Lizbeth. I said he met a lass, not he decided to ruin his life."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "Oh, I'm sorry for assuming something so dreadfully honest," she whispered irritatedly, going back to the task of making a small platform from the boxes.
"Honest? How is it honest to-" Jack trailed off and Elizabeth stilled her movements, hands on the third box, eyes fixed on the wooden surface. She waited for him to continue, but he did not. "What is this noise you're making, luv?" he asked after a pause even though she was perfectly still at the moment.
"Well, I'm sorry for not rescuing you in perfect silence!" Elizabeth pressed the third box to the wall with a rather loud thud.
"First of all, the only reason for my concern is your safety, luv. Secondly..." he lingered at the word, and Elizabeth glanced up suspiciously. "I do appreciate you learning new words, new... phrases."
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at the dark window, trying to understand what he had meant.
She closed her eyes and bit her lip.
"Lizzie?" He decided to call after a strangely long moment of silence that followed his last sentence. Carefully, he pulled himself upwards keeping near to the wall, and looking down through the bars in the window.
Elizabeth stood with her hands resting on the top of the clumsy staircase she had built, her eyes fixed on the ground, hair fluttering in the mild, evening wind. He could not see her face, only her silhouette and her hair gold against the night. And suddenly he stopped wondering whether it was a good idea to write to her. She had come.
She listened to his voice absent-mindedly, her thoughts miles away, the events from the past replaying themselves in her mind, rain and tears, broken teacups, broken promises, broken future...
"What about your crew?" she asked, all of a sudden, looking up, and Jack drew back from the window abruptly, hitting his head against a nearby chair.
"Oi," he rubbed the back of his head with a grimace.
"Jack?" Elizabeth raised her eyebrows, looking between the wooden boxes and the window, measuring the distance.
"Gone," he called in a pained voice.
"Dead?" asked Elizabeth uncertainly, trying to imagine what could have possibly-
"Luv, you must stop interpreting me every word in such a dramatic way," Jack's voice returned to normal, as he resumed his position by the window. "I said gone, not-"
"Gone where?" Elizabeth gripped one of the tree branches, and cautiously stepped on first of the three wooden boxes.
"To the Fountain of Youth," answered Jack with the nonchalance that could only indicate that there was something more behind his words. "Although their chances for finding it are rather slim, seeing that they don't have-"
"And the Black Pearl?" Elizabeth interrupted him, remembering that she had not seen the Black Pearl docked when she had arrived.
Jack smiled faintly to himself at the hint of trepidation in her voice. Worrying about the Black Pearl was as good as worrying about him. Or even better. "Barbossa," he replied gloomily after a pause, and he half-expected to hear her laugh, or at least snort.
But the world outside his room was silent.
"He stole the Pearl again?" Elizabeth asked incredulously, and it struck Jack that her voice seemed to be so very close to him...
"Aye," muttered Jack, putting his hat back on his head, and staring out into the murky room. "But I'm getting her back. As soon as I-"
"As soon as I, you mean", said Elizabeth, and Jack's eyes flew wide open when his hat was suddenly taken off his head. "As soon as I will get you out of here."
He turned his head abruptly, widening his eyes at Elizabeth who somehow appeared on the other side of the window, one hand holding on to the bars, the other waving his hat in front of his face.
He had not seen her in six months, and yet it felt as if it was only yesterday that she had disappeared into the longboat, and he had stormed off to his cabin, the kiss he had refused her burning his lips for the next several days... weeks... months...
"Now. If you could tell me what you're doing here," she said, with a small, playful smile, sliding his hat through the bars, and putting it on her head. "What did you get yourself into? Whose house is this?"
She could not really understand why and how he could be kept locked up in some place in Shipwreck Cove. Why had he written to her? Surely he had known enough people here to ask somebody else to help him, and yet he had written to her...
Jack scooted in front of the window, and sat in front of her, extending his hand to grab his hat, but Elizabeth caught his hand. Their eyes locked, and her smile faded at the intensity of his gaze. Hurriedly, she looked away, trying to draw back her hand, but this time he had caught it, and pulled it through the bars until her hand rested in his on the cool window sill.
"So many questions. I think I'd need some encouragement to answer them all," he said with a trace of a mischievous smile flickering across his lips, his thumb brushing across her palm.
Elizabeth stared at him, thinking about looking away, and at the same time wishing that the time would stop for a moment, and she could just stay like that, one foot on the wooden platform made out of boxes, the other on the tree branch, her hand in his, and his eyes looking through her, reminding her of the times when she had not even known him yet, about the times when everything was clearly divided into light and darkness, when she had not hesitated what to do, because there was only one path to follow – follow, not even choose.
"If anybody, it is you who should... encourage me to help you," she said, not averting her eyes, and returning his gaze unblinkingly, wondering if he was not using that certain word that belonged to their past on purpose, or whether he was merely challenging her to use it first. If he was, she was not going to let him win that easily.
He flashed her a small, roguish smile, and she regretted what she had said immediately.
"As the King commands," he said tightening his hold on her hand, his other hand sliding through the bars and into her hair, pushing her head toward his...
There was a strange, creaking sound that Jack ignored, by then Elizabeth screamed and his eyes instead of closing, flew wide open, and he caught her other hand on an impulse, a moment before she lost her footing, the branch breaking under one of her feet, and the boxes which she had accidentally kicked with her foot while trying to keep herself from falling, shattered to the ground.
"I got you," whispered Jack reassuringly, keeping her hands in his through the bars, while she was hanging rather grotesquely above the ground. "No matter how it starts, in the end it's always me rescuing you, eh?" he smiled at her, but Elizabeth did not return his smile.
"I don't feel very rescued at the moment," she said through her clenched teeth, glancing over her shoulder to see if she was not too high to risk letting go of Jack's hands, and simply fall down.
Jack was about to answer when a sudden movement at the end of the road caught his attention and his brows furrowed at the sight of several people approaching, talking and singing in loud, drunken voices.
"You didn't come alone, did you?" he asked in a low voice, and Elizabeth shifted her eyes to him.
"No, of course not. I dragged my entire crew along. They're hiding behind that tree, watching me hanging here," she hissed irritatedly.
"Thought as much," muttered Jack with a frown, wrinkling his forehead.