Title: But We Got Rum
Fandom: Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland
Characters: Alice and... a special guest appearance ;)
Genre: General, Humor, Romance(?), Crossover
Summary: The seven seas can be a very small place.
But We Got Rum
In retrospect, it was obvious that letting Lord Ascot choose the replacement skipper had been a dreadful mistake. Someone who believed it was bad luck to have a woman on board couldn't possibly have very much sense. No more proof on the matter was needed than the fact that, not two days since their departure from Port Royal, the foolish man had managed to steer the Wonder so wildly off-course that they'd emerged from a storm without the faintest clue as to where they had sunk anchor.
Alice supposed they were lucky to have brought the ship into port at all in that foul wind, though it was clear the accommodations in this particular port left much to be desired.
"What did you say the name of this port was?" she asked. All around her, loud men reeled and capered drunkenly to and fro. The tavern was busy—and dingy and bawdy and dank. Certainly not the kind of establishment she would have chosen at the best of times, but beggars couldn't be choosers.
The man sitting across the table from her smiled, and lay down his glass. "Tortuga, love," he said. "I take it you're not a regular here."
"No," she said, and frowned as another inebriated patron knocked into her chair on his way to the bar. "I've never been here before."
She had, in fact, stumbled into the very first public house she'd spied earlier in search of a hearth and a hot, bracing drink, having spent upwards of three hours in the cold dark negotiating the terms for docking the Wonder with the harbormaster. If you wanted something done right, you had to do it yourself—even if it meant risking hypothermia in the sea-damp.
The moment Alice opened her mouth to ask for a cup of tea, the barkeep and every other patron in the place all but laughed in her face.
"We don't got no tea, honey, but we got rum," the barman told her jovially. "Now if you want sum'a that, we got it in spades."
What rum was, she hadn't a clue, but figured it couldn't be any worse than the White Queen's pishsalver. As it stood, rum was no worse than Mirana's potion, even if the taste did require some getting used to. One thing was for sure: it could fire you up faster than even Thackery's too-peppery soup.
Of course, that was three drinks ago, and by now she was very much acquainted with the taste of rum, as well as plenty warmed up. Around drink number two, a man had sidled into the empty chair across from her, proclaiming that it was against all that was good and decent for such a lovely woman to drink alone, therefore the matter must be speedily rectified and it just so happened that he would be the one to do it.
Whether this was the real reason or simply that hers was the only table in the entire bar with an empty seat, Alice couldn't be certain, but she wasn't averse to having some company for the night. The man swayed as he walked, and his speech was slurred, but he had rather interesting diction. She had always been partial to people with interesting diction.
"This is a terrible state of affairs," Alice said fretfully, feeling a touch of petulance enter her voice. "Because of that man, I fear we won't make good enough time to deliver our cargos to the client. And we'd just signed a contract with Mr. Xiu's agency, too. This could ruin the company's reputation."
Her companion gave her a measuring look. He had removed his leather tricorne, and every time the dim light from the candles tilted at the right angle, the many trinkets in his dreads would twinkle dully. Alice couldn't seem to stop staring at them. They were just one of the many peculiar aspects of his appearance—but then she had seen her share of odd-looking people, and not just since arriving in Tortuga.
"You're a woman of business, I take it?" the man asked, pouring several fingers of rum into his glass from a bottle he had carried to the table. "Which company are you with?" A strange look flashed across his dark eyes. "Not the East India Trading Co., I hope?"
Alice blinked. "No, I'm employed in Lord Ascot's China Trading Co."
For some reason, her companion seemed to relax visibly. "Ah, China," he said, with a fond smirk. "Brings back quite a few saucy memories, it does. And where were you and your crew headed on this particular voyage, if you don't mind me askin'?"
"Singapore," Alice said, tilting her head in thought. The room did a little pirouette before her blurring eyes. "No, it might have been Sumatra. Yes, I believe it was definitely, most positively Sumatra."
The man raised a dark eyebrow at her. "You're very far off-course, if that be the case." He leaned across the table, and lowered his voice to say, "Should be careful when you put to sea again. I hear there're pirates in these waters."
"I've never met a pirate proper," Alice said thoughtfully. "I should like to, someday." She tipped another finger of rum into her mouth. The liquor burned its way down her throat, leaving a sharp, sweet bite lingering on the tongue. Yes, rum was definitely sweet. That was one for the book.
"Maybe you will," the man said, grinning around the rim of his own glass. "Maybe you will, poppet, though I wonder if you'll even realize it when you do see your first pirate."
"It's very curious," Alice remarked. "You look a great deal like someone I once knew."
"Do I now?" The corner of his mouth tugged into a crooked smile. Yes, definitely similar. "I certainly hope this man whom I so resemble is someone that you look upon with a favorable eye."
"Oh, very favorable," she assured him. "In fact, time was I thought… well, that's neither here nor there. But you don't look exactly like him. You look like—well, you look the way he might look if he were dunked in a vat of black oil and left out in the sun to dry."
The man made an exaggerated show of wincing in horror. "Doesn't sound very pleasant, eh?"
"No, not at all," Alice agreed. "Which is why I am glad that you are not him. Or that he is not you. Or that—you wouldn't happen to think a raven is like a writing desk, would you?"
"Can't say I do," the man said, brushing his lips with one brown thumb. "You know, lassie, now that I look at you, I see that you also bear a certain, how might I say, likeness to a girl I used to know."
"You don't say," said Alice. Something about the movement of his thumb was strangely hypnotic.
"Aye, lass. Aye. She's got that same tangled dishwater hair that you've got there. Something about the eyes, too. Yes, yes, very similar. Only, not as all filled out as you. More… jaunty."
Alice frowned. "That isn't a very nice thing to say."
"She wasn't a very nice girl," said the man, shrugging. "A real piece of work, through and through. Went off and got hitched, y'see? Left poor ole me all heartbroken."
Alice drew herself up straight, and picked up her glass. Her face felt rather warm. Perhaps it was the rum. "Well, I myself don't put a lot of stock in the idea of marriage."
Her companion regarded her with amusement. The glint in his smile was like… like… like the refraction of the cold, brilliant light of Marmoreal off the edge of the Vorpal Sword. Something inside Alice gave a sharp, sudden twist at the thought.
"I'll drink to that," the man said finally, lifting his glass. Alice followed suit.
"It was my friends, you know, that helped me make up my mind. If not for them, I would still be in England right now, stuck in a loveless union," she said. "I haven't told you about my friends, have I?"
"No," her companion said. "But 'tis a fine, blustery night, and still yet young. I wouldn't say no to a tale or two, especially not when faced with such a lovely Scheherazade."
Alice tapped the side of her chin with one finger. "Well, let's see. There is the one that looks like you. There is a rabbit that wears a waistcoat, a hare that makes soup, a mouse that fences, and a smile without a cat—that is, a cat that leaves its smile behind when it goes away. Have you ever seen anything like that?"
"Can't say I have," the man said, quirking his brow. "Some tales you do tell, poppet."
"It's all true! You must think I'm mad." Alice buried her face in her hands. "Everyone thinks me mad for telling my stories."
"Don't let that get you down, love," said her companion. "Had my fair share of madness accusations meself."
"Really?" Alice asked, lifting her head. "I don't see why. You seem perfectly sane to me." She gave him a smile. "But you know, all the best people in the world are mad."
"They'd have to be, to be so premium," the man said, nodding.
"Oh, I so dearly miss my friends," Alice said, a wistful note softening the edge of her voice. "But they live underground, and I have been sailing the sea for an awful long time."
"Have you now?"
"Yes. So long that sometimes I forget what land smells like. Have you ever been underground?"
"Nay, love. Not very well acquainted with land, y'see? But I did fall off the edge of the world once."
"You don't say. That sounds terribly exciting."
"Not as much as you'd think."
"Do you think I could get there?"
"Not with a regular compass," the man said mysteriously. He pulled himself up in his chair, and cocked his head in her direction. "What did you say your name was, crumpet? Elsie? Lizzie? Elisa?"
"Alice. Alice Kingsleigh."
"Ah, yes. Knew it had to be something like that." He leaned across the narrow table, and brushed the curve of her cheek with his forefinger, calluses scratchy against her skin. "Well, Miss Kingsleigh, I hope it's not too forward of me to ask if you'd like to stay for another drink, even after your tales be finished, that is."
"Now hold on just a minute," Alice said, affronted—only she wasn't really affronted, she didn't think. "I don't know if you should be so familiar with me, seeing as how you haven't even told me your name."
His grin widened, a sickle in the sky. "They call me Captain Jack Sparrow." His finger dipped, and then rose again, twirling a lock of her hair around itself, like a golden band. "Would you like to see my ship?" His skin is dark against her bright hair, his finger still flipping the strands over and under the digit, a whimsy in motion. "She is a very fine… vessel."
"Thank you for your kind invitation," Alice said, tugging her hair out of his hand. "But I have my own ship to see to. I will, however, stay and have another drink with you, because it's still blowing awfully hard out there, and this fire is warm."
"What a grand idea," Jack said. He picked up the empty bottle. "Unfortunately, it appears the rum is all gone." The moue of his mouth tipped into a rueful smile. "Why is the rum always gone?"
"I haven't the faintest idea," Alice said. "Well, how's this, Captain Jack? I'll buy your next drink if you can name six impossible things that you believe in."
"Only six?" Jack's laughter rang out above the din of the tavern, like a ship's bell. It glanced off the dancing candle lights, collided with the empty glasses on the table. The dark, throaty sound wound its way into Alice, drawing another smile out of her.
"Tell me, lovely, lovely Alice," Jack began, flopping back in his chair. "Have you ever met a man without a heart?"