WHAT HURTS THE MOST

SUMMARY: Post AWE, oneshot. Jack is in Tortuga, without a ship and without a plan. After a night of drinking, he wakes up in an unfamiliar cabin on an unfamiliar ship, unarmed and quite possibly in danger…

DISCLAIMER: Jack'n'Lizzie etc. do not belong to me. I make no money from the writing of this fan-fiction.

SHIP: 100 percent Sparrabeth. Willabethers are welcome, but ye have been warned!

RATING: T (for suggestive language)

A/N: The idea for this randomly came to me when I was driving my car (of course, when I couldn't do anything about it). While it is not a song-fic, it is inspired (as the title suggests) by "What Hurts the Most," by Rascal Flatts.

Enjoy!


What hurts the most

Was being so close

And having so much to say

And watching you walk away

And never knowing

What could have been

And not seeing that loving you

Is what I was trying to do


On any other occasion, Jack Sparrow would have been long gone by now. A plan would have been hatched in a matter of, oh, about three and a half seconds. He should have been halfway to Florida by now, lost in a swamp and being eaten to death by mosquitoes in search of that bloody fountain… or in valiant pursuit of his precious Pearl, ready to (once and for all) knock Barbossa down a peg or two.

But he wasn't doing either of those things.

He was alone.

In Tortuga.

From a man who knew better than just about anyone, being alone in Tortuga was a very difficult thing to accomplish. Between the rowdy drunks and the women of a questionable nature parading themselves about like they'd never been screwed before, downtime was not easy to come by. And yet there he sat, at the smallest table the Faithful Bride could offer, in the very corner of the tavern, his back to the door.

With so many people looking for him for one reason or another, sitting with his back to a crowded room was not necessarily the smartest thing he could have done. But on this, his third night in Tortuga without a ship, a plan, or much else for that matter, he was having a bit of difficulty caring. The only time he turned around was when he wanted to get the barmaid's attention for another drink.

In any event, despite his inability to formulate a clever-enough plan of action (for anything it seemed), he had plenty to think about. He found himself dwelling in self-pity, something he frequently berated others for doing. He gulped down the last sip of his drink, leaving not even a solitary, lonely drop to keep him company.

Gibbs had disappeared with Liv, a crass, sharp-tongued wench who the older man had been visiting consistently for so many years, Jack often wondered why he hadn't up-and-married her already.

Ah, marriage. Marr-i-age. He let out a dramatic sigh of disdain and leaned forward into the palm of his hand, ignoring the strict rules his mother had enforced on him so many years ago and resting his elbow against the table's surface. Marriage. What a bloody, ridiculous institution, he thought. Why anyone would ever want to tie themselves to one unfortunate soul for the rest of their miserable lives is beyond me.

Beyond you, indeed, a distant voice called to him. It wasn't so long ago he was not-so-subtly proposing to a one Elizabeth Swann. Scratch that. Elizabeth Turner.

Jack grunted.

The name did not suit her, not one bit. Swann was so beautiful and elegant, yet somehow fierce and independent, in direct defiance of tradition right down to the extra "n" at the end of her name. Turner was so… so… boring. So dreadfully and painfully dull was the whelp's name that he thought it a downright pity to be coupled with Elizabeth, his Lizzie.

His Lizzie. Was he right to call her that? One moment, he was reflecting on her fierce independence and the next he was thinking of her as his. It wasn't that he thought he deserved her. Many men thought of women as possessions and some feeble minded females also seemed to believe in the notion of ownership, but Lizzie knew better. And Jack knew it.

That was why he was left so utterly baffled and frustrated at her decision to bind herself to Will, surrendering to a lifetime of solitude on some pathetic little island in the middle of the Caribbean. She'd taken on the role of Pirate King, brazenly fought Davy Jones and the East India Company in the same battle, and used her womanly wiles to send a man to his death. She had such a brilliant career in piracy ahead of her and she gave it all up for what? One day every ten years?

Jack let out a snort, for despite his disdain, he knew the decision was hers and hers alone to make. In a way, he was a bit envious of the lad. Elizabeth loved him so much that she was willing to throw her life away for him. What he wouldn't give for her to feel that way about him… not that he was ready to admit to anyone, but still.

And that wasn't even the worst part.

He could deal with the fact that Elizabeth didn't love him, let alone probably wanted nothing to do with him ever again. She likely blamed him for Will's curse, and Jack couldn't blame her for blaming him. The worst part was that she had absolutely no idea what governed his motives… why he did the things he did. The worst pain he'd ever felt in his entire, miserable life was when he stood there, quite helpless, watching her walk away. And that he had to endure twice.

The first time was rather obvious and the more painful of the two.

With a single kiss, she'd left him shackled to the mast and disappeared into the longboat, ready to sail away towards safety. The thing that made that experience so gut-wrenchingly awful was that he didn't get the chance to be the hero. At that point, he'd already fallen in love with her, much as he tried to hide it, and he knew that if it came down to it, he would stop running. He would face the beast head on if it meant letting her escape.

And his dear Lizzie beat him to the punch. The lines that he had rehearsed in his head over and over again, the lines that he had used to convince himself that he was doing the right thing, she never got to hear. I have to do this, Elizabeth. I have to do this because I love you. And so she left him behind, thinking him a coward. She would never know what he truly was capable of. She would never know everything he wanted to say, needed to say. She would never know how he felt.

Until, that is, she turned up in the locker to rescue him. After that, just a few short weeks later, he was forced to watch her walk away. Again.

In some ways, the second time was just as bad as the first. Again, she walked away. Again, she had no idea that the sacrifice he'd made was for her. Again, he was left alone with his miserable feelings and she left him with no idea as to how deep they ran. Again, he was left wondering what could have been, the life they might have had together if he had only been able to forget about Captain Jack Sparrow and just let himself be Jack for once.

But, he supposed, none of it really mattered. For even if he had been able to tell her that he was a hopeless, lovesick fool ready to follow her around just as well as any whelp named William Turner, she would not have loved him back.

But what if she had loved him back? Not knowing what could have been was almost worse than thinking about the pangs of rejection. Thinking about the incredible adventures he might have shared with Elizabeth made something deep inside him ache with the worst curiosity he had ever known. Allowing himself to drift into a hapless fantasy in which his Lizzie-beth wanted him as much as he wanted her (which was not something he allowed himself to do frequently) made him feel a fool, but quite a happy fool indeed.

Jack scowled. It had grown far beyond simple want and desire at this point. He felt like such a cliché, for he had never felt this way about anyone or anything ever before. And that was what amazed him, how she made him feel. Feelings were not something he had ever been particularly in touch with in the past. Whenever women were concerned, it was typically get in, have fun, get out. Period.

Once again, Elizabeth muddled things. At first, he was able to quell the stirrings she left him with and dismiss them as lust. Maybe at first that's all it was. But when he saw her again after almost a year of separation, something in him snapped and he felt something… electric. He'd never felt that before and it terrified him.

Ironically, it wasn't until he saw her reunited with Will that he truly wanted her, and not just in a sexual way. He found himself wondering what it would feel like for her to look at him the way she looked at Will, to want him the way she wanted Will… to love him the way she loved Will.

Only now, sitting at his sad little table with his empty mug did he realize it would never happen.

He turned around and motioned to the barmaid for another drink.


Jack woke early the next morning (or what he supposed was the next morning… he wasn't entirely sure) to the sensation of a throbbing headache. He kept his eyes squeezed shut, knowing how sensitive they would be to the daylight, as he fumbled around for the "borrowed" watch he kept on his belt. When he couldn't find it or anything else, for that matter, he groaned and opened his eyes.

He immediately frowned.

This was not his room at the inn. This was not his cabin aboard the Pearl. This was most decidedly an unfamiliar cabin on an unfamiliar ship. And they were at sea. His belt and all of his effects had been removed, along with just about everything, save for his shirt and breeches. He reached up to rub away some of the pain in his temples only to discover that his bandana was missing as well.

"Not good," he muttered. "Not good, not good."

Someone laughed just then, a female someone, from somewhere in the near darkness of the cabin. He held his breath and widened his eyes, trying to force them to adjust to the lack of light without much success.

"Relax, Captain Sparrow," the female someone continued. It was then that he realized this wasn't just any female someone. It was his female someone. "You're not in any danger." His eyes adjusted just in time for her to make her presence fully known as she stepped forward from the corner where she had been observing him. She sat beside him on the bed, tucking one leg up under the other as she faced him.

He sat there silently, studying her, almost unable to believe that he was in her presence… or she was in his… which way was it, again?

She was dressed in a loose fitting red blouse and a pair of jet black breeches, her golden blonde tresses falling freely over her shoulders and down her back. Her cheeks were perfectly sun-kissed. She was absolutely beautiful.

"You have a habit of popping up when least expected, Elizabeth," he finally said, feigning a yawn and rubbing his eyes with the back of his wrist. "First I find you at the bottom of the ocean. Then you show up in Tortuga dressed as a lad. Now I find you here… wherever here is."

"Well, you're welcome, then," her tone soured and she crossed her arms, narrowing her eyes into slits. "I'll have you know that if it weren't for me, you'd be passed out in the mud where I found you."

Jack frowned again. He quickly studied his hands and clothes. Not a spot of dirt on him, anywhere. That meant someone had taken the time to clean him up in his drunken stupor… he didn't even remember leaving the pub, let alone passing out somewhere.

Continuing his act of indifference, he let out a groan and rolled his eyes. "I beg your forgiveness, Mrs. Turner, but I thought as Pirate King you'd have more important things to attend to." He quickly stepped out of the bunk and padded across the room, taking in his surroundings with more careful observation than before. The décor was of an oriental nature. This was clearly Lizzie's ship. With his back turned to her, he let a small smile creep onto his lips. He was proud of his swan.

"Please," Elizabeth said wryly. "Since when do you not think of yourself as important?"

"Where are we?" he asked, ignoring her as he stepped up to a globe besides her desk. He gave it a hefty spin before turning back to look at her.

"We've a bearing to Shipwreck Cove," she said. "I've a meeting with Barbossa."

"Barbossa?" Jack's brow furrowed, though he was secretly elated that she chose not to refer to his adversary as Captain Barbossa. "What for?"

"He's made me a lucrative offer," he admitted, crossing her legs and shifting her position on the bed. "One I thought I'd share with you."

"Oh?" Jack smirked. "I take it he doesn't know I'm in your company, then."

"He does not."

"What's the nature of this offer, then, Lizzie?" he asked, leaning against the edge of her desk.

"He wants the title of Pirate King in exchange for the Black Pearl."

Jack's jaw dropped slightly and he frowned. Realizing he was staring at her with his mouth hanging open, he stood upright. "And you're willing to give up your position for a ship?"

"Pirate King?" Her eyebrow arched. "Jack, the answer is in the question. Such a position would never be secure, anyhow. The Brethren Court is more than unwilling to follow the code and I could get much more out of the Pearl than a silly title with no real meaning." She smirked at him and uncrossed her legs. "Wouldn't you agree?"

He smirked back. "So what need have you for me, then?"

The fierce look in Elizabeth's eyes softened and she just stared at him until she looked as though she might cry. He watched her, quite perplexed by her (and perhaps all women in general) as she rose to her feet and slowly walked to where he stood. She leaned on the desk beside him and loosely crossed her arms.

"The Pearl has only one rightful captain," she said quietly.

"Oh?"

"Yes. And it's not me and it's not Barbossa so… figure it out," she replied.

"Let me make sure I'm understanding you, Lizzie, dear," he said. The sudden proximity to her made him slightly uncomfortable, for at any moment he knew he would lose all resolve, throw her against the desk and ravage her senseless. He whirled around and plopped himself down in the desk's chair before placing his feet up on the surface. He watched her as she turned to face him. "You're willing to give up your title as king so I can have me ship back?"

"It's the least I can do," she said softly, her eyes not meeting his. "After what you did for me… for Will."

"And why should you feel badly about that, eh?" he asked, prodding her. "You got what you wanted, did you not? William as your dearly beloved for all eternity?"

Elizabeth didn't answer. She sighed sadly and turned her back to him, leaning on the desk again.

"Lizzie?"

Still, no answer. Jack let out an audible sigh and grunted as he rose to his feet, walking back to her. When he stood beside her, she turned from him further still, hiding her face from him.

"Elizabeth." He placed a hand over hers, prompting her to finally turn to face him. When she did, he was rather disheartened to see tears rolling down her cheeks, staining her perfectly rosy flesh. Jack sighed again. "Now, now, luv. The honeymoon can't be over so soon, can it?"

"It was a mistake," she croaked. "I was so caught up in the heat of the moment… I so thought that marrying Will was what I wanted… I thought I was in love with him," she admitted, her voice breaking with almost every syllable.

"And you're not?" Jack asked, expertly hiding every trace of glee from his tone.

"No," she shook her head. "Not as I once was, not anymore." She turned to look up at him with wide, tear-filled eyes. "How could I have let this happen?" she asked.

He was silent for several moments before placing an arm around her shoulders. "You're human, Lizzie. Pirate King or not, you're only human. Mistakes like this fall upon the best of us. And love is a complicated thing. It's very possible to love someone without being in love with someone. You just got the two confused, is all."

"That doesn't make it alright!" she cried, covering her face with her hands. "How do you think Will's going to feel when he comes home, expecting a patient and loving wife, and all he gets is an apology and a pathetic vow of friendship?"

Jack shrugged, trying to answer as truthfully as he could. If there was ever a time when honesty was truly important, now was it. "It's not your responsibility to protect William's feelings. It's not your responsibility to lie to yerself just so someone else can be happy, darlin'." He paused, completely unable to believe that he was going to say what he was preparing to say. "And that goes for other things as well. Don't be givin' up yer most deserved title so I can get me Pearl back. There will be other ways, luv. Do what you want to do. Not what you think you should do."

He watched her eyes widen still as she gulped, possibly choking back more tears. She turned in to him, staring at her hands as she placed on his hip and allowed the other to come up to his hair. He was about to ask her what she was doing when suddenly her lips were upon his. Awkward and tense at first, she very quickly relaxed when she realized he was kissing her back. When the need for air became imminent, she pulled away, leaving him, for perhaps the first time ever, speechless. She took the opportunity to speak first.

"I am doing what I want to do," her voice was a throaty whisper, half from the tears she had previously shed and half from lust. "The Black Pearl means more to you than any title could ever mean to me."

Jack looked at her, his eyes locked on hers, when an inescapable smile formed around the corners of his mouth. His eyes fell from hers and he looked at their feet, his hands finding a comfortable place on her waist.

"Ye know, Lizzie…" Again, he couldn't believe he was going to admit what he was about to admit. "There are more important things to me than the Black Pearl."

"Oh, Jack…" It wasn't the "I love you," she might have gotten from Will, but it meant more to her than any three words ever could. She took a step closer and let her body form against hers, allowing her head to rest comfortably and safely against his chest. She let out a contented, satisfied smile as his arms wrapped around her, holding her to him.

Jack responded by kissing the top of her forehead. An unfamiliar feeling washed over him.

For the first time perhaps ever, perfect happiness had been achieved from something other than a chest of jewels or a bottle of rum or a ship with black sails. Elizabeth was peace and happiness personified, and hurt no longer had a meaning.


A/N: Thanks for reading, now go review! I hope y'all liked it!