Words of the heart
Jack had left her at Shipwreck taking the Pearl back to Tortuga. Barbossa had sailed with him, monkey on his shoulder and a strange look in his eyes.
Throughout the days of pirate celebration, while the rum ran free to all who had put to sea on that day of battle, Jack had remained sober. He had forsaken the riotous halls, left his crew to their ease, turned aside from the ladies,who were only too eager and willing to show their appreciation of his prowess at war, with a flick of his hand and a depreciating smile. He had done all this for no better reason than to walk with her, to talk with her and listen to her as she told him of her grief and pain, and of her plans for a future.
Three days they spent together, and in those days she had been granted a glimpse of the man behind the legend, a more sober man than she would have believed, well read and thoughtful. Yet this was a man more terrifying than the one she had thought she knew, a pirate lord indeed, of wide understanding and hard earned wisdom, clear sighted with a real and tolerant understanding of the foibles of others. A man who knew the world and the price that sometimes must be paid for what had to be done. One able to steer a steadfast course, to do what it took and pay the price.
She had felt privileged that she had been allowed behind the mask, and had taken it as a sign that she was truly forgiven. That was her one consolation in those dark days after Will first left. For those three days she had consoled herself with the fact that Jack, at least, would always be there. As she made plans for her new life in the city of pirates she had counted on his presence, relying upon him to stand between her and Teague, who terrified more than she could explain.
Jack's interest in Will's heart had not surprised her, for he had made the Dutchman's captain, surrendered a lot to give them the scant days that were so much more than might have been. Yet she would not trust it even to him. She had givenWill her word just as she had given him her vow, and she would not retreat from that. Could he not understand that?
But Jack had shaken his head,
"You must luv, it can't stay here."
"I'm the pirate king Jack, this is my place and Will's heart belongs with me."
He'd looked at her earnestly and with serious eyes,
"Doesn't work that way 'lizabeth. King of the Brethren Court is not the same as pirate king. There's never been one of those, not even at the time of Morgan. Only law is the Code and Teague is keeper of that."
"Well there will be one now." She had told him. "I've nowhere else to go Jack, this is my place now."
She put all the certainty she was capable of into her voice.
"We can make it work between us if we try, I know it. It's what I want, it's what Will would want. Your father will understand, I'm sure, if you explain to him."
He had shaken his head again and caught her hands in his, eyes shadowed with something she could not read, his voice was low and urgent,
"Elizabeth listen to me, you don't know what you are sayin' and it would be more than foolish to say it to anyone else. Just because you want it to be so doesn't mean that it can be so. Don't matter what your heart tells you, it's what your head knows that matters, and you know you can't stay here. They are pirates luv, free men and women without country and without king."
His fingers tightened around hers,
"They do not want it to be otherwise and none will stand beside you if you try to impose on them what they do not want. Nor could I, for you'd be no better than Beckett, would you? What would you do if they oppose you? Threaten them with the Dutchman? The code will not protect you if you do. Nor will Teague. No more can William's heart remain here, take it and go. Tell me where and I'll see you safely there, bury the chest as Jones did and make what shift you can until he returns."
She had pulled her hand away in anger,
"I'm pirate king Jack, you made me so and pirate king I will be."
He shook his head with a rattle of beads,
"No, I did not." He stepped back and looked at her before sweeping a deep bow, "But I'll say no more, your nibs, for I can see that you are fixed on it."
She saw defeat in his face and something deep within her gloried that she could overbear Captain Jack Sparrow. Reaching out she caught his wrist as he turned away,
"Stay with me Jack. You and Teague and I, we can make it work, I know we can."
But he had smiled sadly and told her that he was leaving.
The day he sailed he asked her again to leave Shipwreck and go with him, and again she had refused. She would be pirate king, she had told him, and she would build a legend to rival his, just wait and see. He had caught her hands in his one more time and kissed them but said nothing more until he was boarding, then he looked back at her, sadness and something else darkening his eyes,
"Give William my regards," he said softly.
She had wondered why, suddenly, his eyes reminded her of the locker. Then the look was gone, and his gaze was drifting to where his father stood behind her, Jack inclined his head just the once before turning away, perhaps forever. Her heart quailed as the Pearl sailed away but she kept her head high, she was pirate king after all.
But Jack had been right, there could be no pirate king and the code did not protect her. No more did Teague. Jack had tried to warn her but she had not heard. He had offered her a way out and she had not heard. As she fell from the prow of Teague's ship into the killing currents of Devil's Throat all she could wish was that at sometime in her short life she had learned to listen to something other than her own heart.
So many ways to kill, so many ways to die, and so many places to do it in.
The blade in the back in the alley by the chandlers, a skull cracked by a pistol butt in the shadow of the grain store, or the cord around the throat in the hot and heavy dark by the pisspost behind the tavern. Then again maybe it would be a hard hand on the shoulder at the top of the treacherous west wharf stairs or a pinch or two of rat bane with the morning tea. They've no reason for hatred, yet, so it might even come as a wafer of opium in the pie.
Like I told Jackie, so many ways to die, so many places to do it in. Too many who might be willing to see it done.
He'd looked at me straight, and something twisted that mouth that reminds me so much of her,
"Aye," he'd said, "I know."
Then he frowned, narrowing his eyes in a gesture that's all me, and dropped his voice almost to a whisper.
"If it comes to it, if you can't turn the knife away, then let it be quick and unexpected."
I lowered my eyes to my hands as they moved across the strings,
"Will it come to that? Code's clear enough."
He was quiet as he thought about that for a moment, then he let his breath out in a long sigh,
"Hope not, I'll have words but....." his voice trailed away and I looked up at him, seeing his eyes darken as his mouth twisted again. Then he shrugged,
"But it might at that, no way of making sure. None I'd chose to walk anyways. She's her father's daughter after all, and he was a king's man. Bound to count for something."
He stared back at me without expression,
"So, if it does, then make it the sea. Send her off to the Dutchman in one piece and let her take her choice with the ferryman."
I heard the note of command in his voice and looked down again to hide my smile.
Never asked nothing of me has my boy Jackie, and I've given him precious little. But Jackie, well he's not a boy now, he's a man and a legend. I've seen that when I never thought to, and he's askin', for all that's gone before, and I'll not say no. I'd like to think it's for his mother's sake but I know that for the lie it is. I lost my boy to those I despised by my own hand, but the man is mine again and that's a boon not to be tossed away lightly. I'll pay the price, for us both if need be.
A plucky lass she was I'll own, but she was also grievous spoiled and had not learned caution, nor yet when to hold her light and wayward tongue. No doubt she didn't mean it, but that was of no matter, for it was said and I felt the air freeze on her words and saw the steel appear in familiar eyes. I knew then that her days were numbered in less than tens.
She seemed to know it too, for I saw her sudden stillness, the tightened set of her jaw and her widening eyes. I watched the fear bloom in her and grieved, knowing it to be already too late. Not for her though, never that, for she'd stripped my son of his dignity and left him, her captain, to die chained like a chattel on a sinking slaver to gain her ends. A mutineer of the worst kind she was for all her pluck, and I'd not hold my hand for one such as that when so much was at stake. No, I never wished it different for her. But I wished it for the Code and for a world that is passing.
She thought her pretty smiles would turn the danger away, undo what had been said and done, as no doubt they always had when she was the apple of her daddy's eye and courted by every officer on the station. Or so it seemed. I confess that I led her to think that they might, and not just for Jackie's sake. I could see that her rudder chain was snapped and that she was a vessel adrift for all her prickly parade. Mutineer or no, her losses were great and her grief deep, and though some may call me harsh I've never had the taste for torture.
But the Code allowed it and that could not be altered. Without that we are the ravening wolves that Beckett and his kind would have the world believe that we are.
It was followed to the letter though, and more kindly than the law Jackie had faced, or that we would if wind or sea should fail us; two spoke for her, one against, and the seven decided. I never doubted the outcome though, for we had forsaken kings and their demands and we guarded that choice with our blood. When it was over I let it be known that as Keeper the deed was mine to do and then I waited my time.
I saw to her distractions and set events in motion without her knowing and she stepped aboard my ship without any hint of fear. The day was good and the seas were kind, only at Devils Throat did they seethe with something close to anger. I took her to the rail to show her how the currents mate there, put my hands upon her shoulders to steady her as she leaned out to watch the waters.
For sake of the code, and for Jackie, I would not let her go unknowing; so, as my finger tightened their grip, I leaned forward and whispered,
" We are the kingless and The Code is the law."
Then she was gone.
Most bets were on a lynching, though some favoured the fatted calf, but all of Shipwreck knew that the keeper had sent out a summons to a Pirate Lord, an event unknown in recent times, and that Lord was Jack Sparrow.
There had been talk of little else since and everyone agreed matters were serious, most believing that that Sparrow was to be held to account for his voting in the usurper but some holding that he would be named the keeper's successor. The speculation provided much amusement and idle chatter, and more than a few brawls, for it was nigh on five months before the Black Pearl stormed through the Throat with a strong following wind and the seas foaming fury around her bow.
Jack Sparrow seemed no less dangerous than the weather as he strode ashore, leaving the ship in the hands of Gibbs and a stern eyed woman he called Anamaria. Sparrow had a reputation of being an easygoing captain but none would have though so that day, for this crew had a subdued look about them and most scuttled to the closest tavern as soon as they were released. But then Jack was also known to be crazy, some said a fool, yet there was little of the fool about him that day and a lot of the Pirate Lord. The whores who stepped towards him, simpering and curling pomaded hair around grubby fingers, saw his expression and suddenly changed their minds, stepping back into the shadows as he passed.
The chamber was assembled, each one a legend of the sea in their time, all of them men he had grown up with. As he entered the hall they rose one by one and left, tipping him a salute, until only the keeper was left in his high, carved chair, the ever present guitar on his knees. Jack stood and waited, eyes scanning the room for the sign that he both expected and dreaded.
Melancholy notes began to drift across the dusty air, as light and serious as canon smoke, causing the timbers to sigh as if at the memory of the wind they had long left behind them. In desperation Jack looked back to meet eyes nearly as dark as his own, watchful eyes, the ones he had first learned to hide from.
"It's not here Jackie."
For a moment faint hope stirred only to be stifled by the shake of the keeper's head, those all seeing eyes dropping,
"Nor's she. It came to it, as you feared it might, and I couldn't turn it away, not and protect what little order that remains."
The hands moved, clever fingers as steady as ever and for a moment the mournful notes were all that passed between them.
"And?" Jack's demand finally cut across the sound.
The keeper looked up at the man who was no longer his boy, met a steady gaze, cool and collected, took a second to wonder if Beckett had realised what it was he had created before he died, then replied with the faintest of smiles,
"Was as you commanded, " he ignored the raised brows, "kind enough, she went into the sea, saw to it myself."
"Why?" Jack asked abruptly.
The keeper shrugged,
"She made more enemies than friends and neither wisely, I could no more change it than you could. She didn't stop to think on who she was dealing with."
Jack shook his head,
"She thought she knew pirates." He said wearily, "She and William treated the world as their playground but they knew little enough, for all the death and destruction."
The music faded as the keeper's hand fell away,
"It was quick, never seen it so quick before, as if the seas were waitin' for her."
He stared at Jack,
"Hope you drove a hard bargain, Jackie?"
Jack stiffened then smiled faintly, flipping a hand at the chamber,
"Hard enough. It's all still here isn't it? Not found yet."
The keeper's frown deepened,
Jack said nothing, just went on smiling that faint and meaningless smile. The keeper shifted uneasily in his chair,
"What was the price this time Jackie? Sold your soul to Jones for the Pearl, what's all this costing?" he looked back down to the strings, for once afraid to read the other's face, suddenly not sure that he could.
"She sent you unarmed to hell, and her lad would have left you there and stolen your ship. What price are they worth?"
Jack's smile became wry,
"Should have kept Gibbs away from the rum shouldn't I? No doubt you had the whole sorry tale out of him while I collected Elizabeth from her wedding bed. But you'd have found out anyway, that was always a talent of yours as I recall."
He caught the angry look and shrugged,
"But don't fret, the price is for the seas. The rest was but a part of the package. However the chest can't stay here." He frowned, "Where is it?"
"Safe enough, only the chamber know of it and they want it gone too. It's on the dock, being loaded with some of your mum's effects, none will think much strange about that. I'm not asking what you plan to do with it, better no one knows that, better no one knows that you know."
He shot Jack a thoughtful look,
"What of Barbossa?"
Jack's eyes darkened in a way that stilled the keepers hand,
"No call to be worrin' about Barbossa. He stole me ship again, foolishly risked the Pearl, but he'll not be doin' that another time."
"I'll take me leave of you, must find Gibbs tell him that I need the Pearl provisioned quickly, an' to send the crew ashore for the evenin' while the loadin's done." He cast another look around the chamber, "I've business to be about. There is a price that must be paid."
With that he left the keeper to his thoughts and music.
On the morning tide Jack Sparrow was gone.
He had resisted the temptation so far, leaving it locked in his sea chest, but they were drawing near and time was running out.
In truth it was probably better not said, all things considered. However anger had been building in him throughout the journey and it would stay bottled no longer; not given what it had, and might still, cost. So as they closed on their destination he hauled it out and set it upon the table in the great cabin beside the rum bottle.
The chest of Davy Jones, looking the same as before, no outward sign that the content was changed.
Above him he could hear Gibbs bellowing final orders, occasionally his words reinforced by the higher, sharper, tones of Anamaria. Jack wondered what she made of this business, for though she had seen the chest stowed she had made no comment. A good pirate, good man, or rather woman, though he was carefully avoiding that thought, given the nature of what remained to be done.
His hesitant fingers brushed the chest,
"Tia Dalma said you'd hear, hope she keeps her word, or I'd better not die at sea, eh?" His grin was humourless, "Maybe better not do that any way."
Snatching up the bottle he drank deeply,
"But things that must be said William, can't leave without sayin' them."
The smile faded as he leant forward, irritation and anger vibrating in him like an over tightened string beneath he keeper's finger.
"What were you thinking of?" he hissed, "Eh? Did you not realise the danger? That sooner or later they would know? Did you not think of the consequences of your romantic gesture? Even if she had not chosen the Cove the threat would have hung over you while she had this. Pirates or the king, all the same when it comes down to it mate; shackles are still shackles whoever holds the key."
He leant back, waving the bottle at the chest in exasperation,
"Learnt nothing from your experience of Barbossa and Beckett then? Think that the tentacles could never claim you? But they would William, had the circumstances been opportune, had they gained the right hostage. Or would you have left her to die in torment, rather than do their bidding?"
His words faded into the silence and he frowned, rising to pace the cabin in an agitated rattle of beads.
"Did you think that I'd make it good, protect her even though she sent me to hell? Eh? Couldn't do it mate, not even Captain Jack Sparrow can fight the whole world. Not alone, and for such stakes."
He spun around and pointed, narrowed eyed, at the chest,
"Did what I could for her and don't let anyone tell you that I didn't. Rowed out to that bloody island on me own and in the dark because I thought you might do something stupid."
He resumed his pacing.
"Didn't move from her side while they were all carousing at Shipwreck, took not a single drop of rum. Earned me some black looks and few scores to be settled that did, and not only from the women."
He halted suddenly and stared blankly at the wall,
"If she had trusted me..... But she didn't. I tried to warn her but she didn't listen, no more than you ever did."
He snatched up the rum bottle and took another pull.
"Could have carried her away by force o'course," he mused, "hidden her somewhere, but god knows what she's have done at that, and it would have raised suspicion all the sooner. If Norrington had lived then maybe we could have done it between us, but with him gone...
He shrugged sadly,
"Was no one left to trust and when it came to it I had no words to move her. I did all there remained to do though, even made me peace with Teague for the sake of it."
In the silence his voice was suddenly harsh and bitter,
"Told you once afore, all that matters is what a man can do and what a man can't do, and I couldn't protect the pair o' you on me onesie, savvy?"
With a sigh he sank down into the chair again,
"No o'course you don't, or it wouldn't to have come to this. Just listened to your heart at the expense o' your head again. Did something stupid, just as I feared you might. Or was this what you wanted all along? Eh? Her on the Dutchman? Let others do the dispatching and keep yerself pure and free from the guilt?"
He took another swig of rum, his mouth twisting as if swallowing lemon juice as he looked at the chest, his voice becoming soft,
"Or was it just me that you wanted dead? But I'm forgetting, aren't I? I'm the wicked pirate who can't be trusted, you're the noble one."
Suddenly he was tired, too tired for anger any more, for there was no point in berating the ferryman. If all went well ...
"No matter. 'Tis done with. You'll just have to trust me on this, it's the best I could do for you, and her. Though why I should care.."
His voice faded away as he heard the splash of the anchors falling.
Reaching forward he placed a hand on the chest,
"Rest easy William. I'd not stand by and see a man enslaved for being foolish, even if he would have left me in hell. You risked all once for what you believed right, I've not forgotten." He straightened with a smile, "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow, I'll close the circle, mate, do what it takes, keep the seas free and you with them. She's safe with you now. Bootstrap can teach the pair of you to sail together, he'll enjoy that," He smiled and tapped the chest, "He's a good man, good pirate. Remember that, the pair o' you!"
A knock silenced him, and he stood and reached for his hat.
Now it came to it there was a moment of doubt. He had driven the hardest bargain of his life, but here, at the point of no return, he wondered again if there was a better way. But he couldn't think of one, nothing that came near to it. It was likely this was how it would always have ended anyways, just with more damage incurred for eveyone, at least this way the worst of the danger was avoided.
He sighed, hands tightening around the chest for a moment, there really was nothing else for it and he had looked at it every possible way.
'It's the best I can do William.' He said silently, 'Tis the safest way. '
The eyes watching him, dark as his own, seemed to smile as if hearing the thought. That expression was fleeting though, and the familiar face resumed a serious, even sombre expression, as she stood, arms patiently reaching out, in the place of so many past meetings.
Hesitantly, uncertainly, but with due ceremony, he placed the chest into her hands.
For a moment there was silence as she scanned his face, then she dipped her head in regal acceptance,
"The payment is fair."
Her voice, like her person, seemed the same as before, only the hint of the wind blowing through her words and the shifting depths of her eyes reminded him that she was, in actuality, somewhat different. A free spirit now, or whatever... Either way no longer bound in shackled impotence and servitude to the fear and greed of man. He pushed away the thought of what she might have done, might yet do, and stared back with a smile, just as he had when he had known her as a witch of some power.
"Our accord?" he prompted.
"Will be honoured." She replied with another equally regal inclination of her head. "Yet ya have ya doubts?"
Her voice was calm, so easy to forget the storm that she could be, if you were not a sailor and a pirate. William and his beloved had forgotten, if indeed they had ever realised.
Jack's smile faded; he nodded, flicking a hand as if dismissing such unworthy thoughts.
"Works for me luv. You keep the seas, and Shipwreck, free, and Will is safe. No one better to guard him, and his purpose, than you. Eh? No one better fitted neither, none will wring the secret from sea. We all get what we want."
He looked down at the ground, shoulders sagging in an unspoken defeat.
"Well, all of us that can speak on the matter."
Tia Dalma nodded, something close to sadness in her face,
"T'was nat your doin' tat the price was high, tat she would nat give it ya freely, nor leave wid ya. Some tings must follow and cannot be overcome, nat even by Jack Sparrow."
He nodded, and looked up again, this time with a frown.
"What would you have done? You'd not have left it in the hands of those who bound you?"
Her look was like a distant horizon, both promise and threat.
"Ya know that I would nat, and that I could have took it even before then. Know too what it would have meant if I had, for all that sail. Ya and Teague have spared them that."
She beckoned imperiously and a woman came to stand beside her, taking the chest with care, but with her eyes fixed on Jack. He watched it passed over with some unease but Tia Dalma just smiled,
"She nat care for me now, but she care for you. Twill be safe enough wit her until we leave."
"For me?" astonishment vibrated in his voice, "Why would she care for me?"
"Do ya nat know?"
He looked uneasy, casting an uncertain look around to where others watched from the shadows, humming in pleasure, smiles in their eyes. Jack darted a nervous look at his wrist, something in his throat tightening for a reason he couldn't explain.
"Well maybe, some of them, but it were a long time ago, why should they care now? Half of them don't know who I am anyway."
"They know, they all know and always will."
Jack stared around in open astonishment.
"Oh. Will they?"
Tia Dalma came close, her hand rising to touch his face, her smile kinder than usual,
"Deeds can cast long shadows. De sea could not hold the tears they shed for ya dyin, nor the skies their joy at ya return. If a man's value be judged by the grief and sorrow at his death then you have little to regret Jack Sparrow." She looked towards the chest. "T'was why she came after you, her guilt she might have borne for the sake of her love, but their grief, the seein' of it, tat was beyond bearin'."
His sigh was resigned,
"As you knew it would be."
Now she smiled at him in amusement, the dark eyes sparkling with the mischief he remembered so well, and she reached out to catch at his beard braids just as she had on the shores of the Locker.
"As I knew it would be," she purred
Jack cast a weary look at the chest,
"Did right by yerself, I suppose. After centuries in yer own locker, none could rightly ask more than that." His smile faded, "speaking of lockers."
"You'll do it then?"
"Aye. Seems someone has to, who better than Captain Jack Sparrow."
Her smile was like the moon on the water as she turned away, casting an encouraging look over her shoulder.
"Come. We have time and not all of this flesh is unwelcome."
Jack smiled widely and followed her,
"That we do. Just make sure you cover that chest, wouldn't want to be shocking young mister Turner, though now that he's a married man he might be in need of a little instruction, for the lady's sake."
Her laugh echoed down to the sea.