Disclaimer: I don't own Alice in Wonderland or Pirates of the Caribbean. The former belongs to Tim Burton, Disney, and Lewis Carroll; the latter belongs to Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer. I don't lay claim to any characters, places, things, or ideas within either series. I am making no monetary gain from this fic in any way, shape, or form. I also do not own the poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Robert Frost owns it.
Summary: Jack's back in Underland at last, with his ship intact, but learning to live in a world of people even madder than him wasn't as easy as he thought it'd be, especially since he's learning how to court a Royal… Jack/Mirana, Alice/Hatter
Warnings: A bit of violence and some rum…
Pairings: Jack/Mirana, Alice/Hatter
Series: Pirates and Hatters
Sequel to: Pirates and Hatters and A Spot of Rum and Tea
Author's Note: Now that Jack and Mirana have a foothold in my mind, they won't leave. In fact, they've demanded Sequels. Lots and lots of Sequels. Not to mention vids and graphic art. We're in negotiations for all three. But I felt badly leaving A Spot of Rum and Tea where I did, not knowing what happened on the beach, so this story was born. Plus, I like playing with Jack and Mirana and their very new but very promising relationship. Thanks for checking out my story, and I hope you enjoy!
-Lovely, Dark and Deep-
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
-Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,But I have promises to keep.
Once more Captain Jack Sparrow found himself in a dinghy rowing himself toward the shores of Marmoreal. Only this time it was dark, he'd arrived in the Pearl, and he'd come to Underland deliberately.
As he got closer to the beach, he saw a vision of white hovering on the sand like a specter. The grin he'd been smothering for the past few minutes finally burst to life on his lips, and he rowed just a little bit faster. It seemed an eternity before he finally felt the bottom of his boat scrape the sand, but once it did, he was out of the dinghy and into the water in a flash. He dragged it up the shore only a little before dropping everything and awkwardly dashing across the sand toward the figure that was equally awkwardly running toward him, each bogged down by the deep sand.
Jack and Mirana paused less than a foot away from each other. For a moment each studied the other with equal parts excitement and trepidation, desperately trying to make sure everything was unchanged since last they'd met.
At last Jack managed to get past the lump stuck in his throat. He slightly lifted his hands and managed a small smile. "I'm back," he whispered.
That seemed to break the frail bubble surrounding them. Mirana's lips parted in a grin, her dark eyes lighting up with pleasure in the glow of the full moon far above them. "So you are," she said. Her gaze drifted past him, back toward the water, and she slightly tilted her head. "Is that your Pearl?"
Only then did he remember that she had never seen his ship before. Turning to follow her line of sight, he gestured grandly and nodded, though she wasn't even looking at him. "Aye, that's her," he said. "The grandest ship in the Caribbean."
This time Mirana did look at him. "And in Underland, now, I should think," she said. For a moment her smile faltered, and he saw her shoulders tighten and her hands drift a bit higher as she hid behind her royal mask. "How long are you planning to visit, Captain?" she asked.
Jack wished he'd thought to nip a bit more rum before he'd left the Pearl as his hands unconsciously flexed and relaxed into fists at his sides. "I - well - I-I was planning to stay?" He hated how it came out as a question instead of a statement. But he couldn't very well stay somewhere he wasn't welcome, especially if the one whose approval he most wanted did not wish him to stay.
The way Mirana's eyes and expression lit up as if someone had kindled a flame inside her warmed him in a way he couldn't quite explain. "Forever?" she whispered.
He shrugged anxiously. "Well - you said Underland was like the Fountain of Youth, so…"
The flash in her eyes made him wonder if she had enjoyed his slight tease. "You know what I mean - Jack." She stumbled over his name slightly, seeming relieved when she finally got it out.
The sound was as beautiful to his ears as sails snapping in a perfect wind. "Aye, I do." He realized just then that he'd failed to take off his hat. It was a bit late, but he reached up and snatched it off, bowing deeply in hopes of rectifying the situation. "Sorry, Your Highness," he whispered. "I meant - I mean, I never meant not to show you the respect you're due-"
Her small, white, unblemished hands folded over his shoulders and tugged gently to pull him back up. Jack swallowed hard, nervously rolling his hat round and round in his hands as he gazed down into her eyes, trying very hard not to allow his own to drift down to her mouth, which was much closer to his than was strictly proper. Especially considering the difference in their stations. (Though could he be entirely sure that that sort of thing worked the same down here as it did where he came from?)
"How long are you planning to stay, Jack?" Her voice was a whispered thread of sound, and at that moment he realized that she smelled like vanilla and strawberries.
Jack felt unbelievably grimy next to her - which, on an ordinary day, wouldn't bother him in the least, but this was not an ordinary day in any way, and he had a feeling he would not be having another ordinary day in a long time. "For however many days I have left to live," he told her honestly.
He'd never been a poetic man, really. Oh, he appreciated a good sonnet now and then, and there was a certain poetry in even the pirate songs he enjoyed. And, despite everything, he liked to think he had good diction when he spoke, at least around "cultured" people. Usually the thought of any sort of flowery romantic drivel sent him running for the nearest rum bottle or barrel, whichever was closer, so he could wash the memory right out of his mind. (Not that he hadn't employed the occasional fancy phrase to woo a girl or two now and again.) But here he was, reciting something that sounded as horridly mushy as he'd ever heard - and, even more than that, he actually meant it!
Though he felt like he wanted to impale himself on his own sword for resorting to such clichéd nonsense, it seemed Mirana had liked his choice of words. Her smile was back, fixed so firmly in place he wondered if she would never be sad again. (He hoped she wouldn't.)
"You shall always have a place at Marmoreal," Mirana said, recapturing his attention. "And any shore or dock in my realm will always welcome you and your Black Pearl."
Turning back to the water, he gazed out to where his ship rested on the calm water, looking like the most beautiful ship in two worlds in the moonlight. "Is this place all right? It's closest to Marmoreal, and the water's calm here."
"Of course." Mirana's right hand swung out and around, hovering just before him invitingly. "Walk with me?"
Jack hesitated for another long moment, wondering at the wisdom of taking her hand. He'd just thrown everything he'd ever known away to follow a half-remembered dream, to return to a strange land and even stranger woman. Some would call him mad, and perhaps he was. But he was there now, having left his crew behind Up There, and there was definitely no going back. "Of course, milady." He hesitantly reached out to place his palm on hers, once more shocked by the heat that rushed across the surface of his skin. He'd nearly forgotten what this strange fairy-queen could do to him with just a simple touch.
They made their way across the beach side-by-side, their boots leaving tracks in the loosely-packed sand. The night was warm, but not uncomfortably so, and he was relieved not to have to climb the trail up the cliff with the sun blazing down on him. As they walked, the queen's hand slipped lower and lower until their joined hands hung between their bodies almost casually.
Every hard-fought-for pirate instinct he possessed was screaming at him to cut bait and run, swim, or row as fast as he could back to his ship, and then leave Underland for good. What had he been thinking? He belonged on the water, in his ship, living a pirate's life. Hadn't that been what he'd been singing about and thinking about and just plain living about all these years?
By then they'd reached the trail going up the cliff. Now was his chance - if he wanted to, he could still turn and go back to the Pearl and leave. But the truth was, standing there next to Mirana, his hand in hers, didn't feel that wrong. He had no idea what was ahead of him, if he'd be able to at least keep exploring the seas in Underland, but he knew for sure if he did, he'd always find himself coming back to Marmoreal. This was only the second time in his life he'd seen the queen, but he knew she was everything he hadn't even realized he'd been looking for. She was everything he wasn't, and more than that, everything he wanted.
For a moment he glanced back, seeing their side-by-side footprints leading all the way up to where he and Mirana currently stood. It would be so easy to turn and follow his own set back to the dinghy… But he didn't want to. For the first time in his life he didn't want to cut and run from a difficult situation.
Turning back, he silently stepped forward, helping Mirana as they ascended the trail. The place already felt familiar to him, as much home as the Pearl had been. He still felt the call of the sea deep inside him and knew he probably always would, but it wasn't as undeniable as it used to be. There was something more important in his life, even if he had no idea what he was really doing with it. He'd never courted before and didn't know where to start. (Though surely coming back from the other world to Mirana was as good a place as any?)
They completed the ascension without saying a word to each other. As they reached the top, Jack remembered the rather steep step that led from the path to solid ground. Without thinking he dropped Mirana's hand, secured her around the waist, and lifted her to safety, not wanting her to trip on her long skirts and hurt herself.
It wasn't until he'd completed the movement that he really realized what he'd done. He froze, hands still folded around her slender waist, muscles taught with the expectation that one of three things would happen: a sword would lob his head off, lightning would strike him dead on the spot, or the queen herself would somehow kill him for doing something that was completely inappropriate on the best of days, let alone in context to a Royal.
Only a second later he realized that the queen was standing frozen as well, her hands on his shoulders, her mouth slightly rounded in surprise, her eyes staring into his with the same blank shock he knew had to be in his own. She didn't look wrathful in the least. In fact, she looked almost - pleased?
Standing on the ledge like that, she was a little taller than him. Her hair fell over her shoulders, framing her face. He briefly considered touching it, just to see if it felt as soft as it looked. His hand lifted from her waist of its own accord, reaching up to do what his thoughts were commanding.
"Jack," she whispered. Her hand mirrored his, catching it before he could touch her hair. (Or was his traitorous hand really going for her face? He had to wonder.) For a moment she studied the contrasts between their hands: His was larger, tanned, dirty from work and scarred from various things, with short, jagged fingernails. Hers were much smaller, pale, immaculately clean and unmarred, and perfectly manicured.
They were as different as night and day. What had he been thinking? Had he even been thinking?
It took great effort for him to tear his gaze from hers and remove his hands from her waist and the grasp of her fingers. He stepped up next to her, once more regaining his height over her. She had already turned away, her hands folded in front of her, gaze turned downwards as she began walking back towards the castle.
Had he offended her?
"Highness?" he whispered, unsure if he should follow her or not.
She paused and turned, and the smile on her face was bright but quite obviously false. "How many times must I tell you? In private, you may call me Mirana."
Jack wasn't sure whether to feel scolded or complimented as he hastened his steps to catch up to her. He remembered the path between the shore and Marmoreal fairly well from his last visit, but everything looked different in the dark. He was glad Mirana was there to make sure he didn't stray off the path and get lost. The trees looked especially spooky in the darkness.
A pair of well-remembered turquoise eyes blinked at them from a high branch, and Jack warily watched the familiar orbs as he drew Mirana's attention. She barely glanced upwards. "Chess, you can go home now." There was the weight of an order in her tone.
After a wispy sigh floated down, the big eyes blinked out. Jack still had the distinct feeling he was being watched. "He didn't leave, did he?"
Mirana glanced at him in amusement. "He hardly ever does. The only thing that will draw that Cat away is something more interesting elsewhere. And since it is the middle of the night, he's likely not to find something more entertaining."
He wasn't sure he liked the idea of his private conversation with Mirana being witnessed by the Cat. He remembered the creature from his previous visit, with nothing but distaste the overwhelming emotion attached to that memory. As untrustworthy as a pirate, that one.
Marmoreal was even grander than he'd remembered it. Its whiteness had taken on a pearly sheen in the moonlight, and the carpet of cherry blossoms that had fallen from the trees looked like strawberry snow. Mirana floated along the path soundlessly in her soft slippers, making Jack feel a bit like a lumbering elephant in his heavy boots, which crunched the gravel underfoot with each step he took.
Jack expected they'd go straight into the castle, but Mirana took his arm and guided him into the gardens where he'd first seen her. There was no sign of the tea table, but the trees and flowers and shrubs were all in full bloom, and the scents of flowers, strawberries, and vanilla hung in the still night air.
"I've expanded the gardens since last you visited," Mirana said softly.
"How - long was I gone?" He knew it had been less than a month, but if he remembered correctly, time (who was actually Time, a real living person) moved differently in Underland.
Reaching out, the Queen slid her fingers over the petals of a white rose. "A long time," she said very softly. "Half an eternity, or so it felt."
It was all a bit vexing, really. His thoughts had been consumed with Mirana even while he'd been obsessively working toward getting his Pearl back. But now that he had returned to Underland and was once more in the presence of the woman who had bewitched his dreams and stolen his heart, he wasn't sure what to do. He couldn't exactly fall to his knees and declare his undying passion, for not only was that a completely un-pirate thing to do, it wasn't entirely true. Yes, he cared for her deeply, and yes, he was pretty sure that warm feeling spilling through his stomach and crawling up into his chest was love, or something like it. But how could he possibly put all of that into words when he wasn't sure what he was feeling himself?
As if she'd read his mind, Mirana tugged him to a stop and turned to face him. "I know what you are," she said softly.
He swallowed hard. And there it was again, the thing that had held him back from Underland for almost a whole month. He was a pirate, a scallywag, a thief and a liar that pillaged and plundered and left nothing but destitution in his wake. She was a Queen, a restorer, a vision of perfection that worked hard to undo or even prevent everything he stood for. They were complete opposites, never meant to exist in each other's presence, let alone as peaceably as they seemed to be able to achieve.
"I'm not asking you to leave, Jack. Or even to change."
At first he thought he'd imagined the words. Surely she hadn't just said that? Didn't she realize? Or were pirates different in Underland? "Your High- I mean, Mirana, I'm - I'm a pirate. Your kind is supposed to be working to eradicate mine. We're supposed to hate each other."
Mirana's darkly stained lips tilted upwards in a smile as her dark eyes glinted with - was that mischief? "Then why, Captain Jack, did you return to Underland and me?"
Why indeed? Was it possible that, somehow, there was a place where two enemies could co-exist peacefully, and perhaps even develop a closer bond that would be impossible in any other location or situation? Jack had never believed in fairytales or magic, though he'd been witness to plenty of the latter. But there was a definite essence in Underland that made it clear the latter, if not the former, existed there.
"If I did not know better, I would say you were a sorceress," he said. "That you'd bewitched me."
She tilted her head to the side, that same playful smile lingering. "How do you know I'm not?"
"You're too honest for that," he said bluntly. "You're good and kind, and I don't think there's a dishonest bone anywhere in your body. To have bewitched me, you would have had to have been dishonest, and as I said before, I don't think that's possible."
Mirana seemed to be satisfied with that answer. Turning back to the roses, she fingered them delicately as she spoke. "There is a history of dishonesty in my family," she said. Her voice was heavy with sadness, and her straight shoulders had curled in upon themselves ever-so-slightly. "The temptation is always there, whispering at the back of my mind, despite everything… Ouch!"
Her sudden exclamation startled him. He darted forward, cradling the hand she'd jerked back from the roses. A bright spot of peach (peach?) welled up and dripped from her finger into his palm.
"Thorns," Mirana stated matter-of-factly.
"Your blood is pink," was all Jack could think to say.
"Peach," she instantly corrected. But then she laughed, the sound like a gentle wave lapping against the shore on a still night. "There are several things different here than where you come from, Jack." Suddenly she was serious again, her eyes studying his face solemnly. "I hope not too different, though."
"Time will tell," he said vaguely. The sudden urge to lift Mirana's hand and kiss her pricked finger had him carefully stepping back and dropping her hand. That didn't seem like the right way to go about courting a Royal, definitely. It seemed too - forward.
A flash of something dark briefly shadowed Mirana's eyes before she looked down and away. "You must be tired," she said softly. "I'll show you a room where you can stay while in Marmoreal, unless you'd prefer to sleep aboard your ship?"
Now that he knew he didn't have to worry about the Pearl being stolen in the middle of the night, he had no problem with leaving it alone for a while. "I'll stay here, if you want me." He didn't realize his words' double meaning until the sentence was already finished.
The queen, who had already been turning away, whipped back around. Her eyes were wide, her mouth rounded in shock, her hands halfway out as if to push him away.
Jack repressed the urge to slap his hands over his mouth, since that would be rather pointless now that the words had already escaped. He did, however, withdraw a step, making sure she realized he wasn't a threat to her. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I never meant any offense." And, for once in his life, he really hadn't. Usually he liked to irritate and insult people and get under their skins, but with Mirana - it was different. He wanted to keep himself from doing that. There was just something about her…
Mirana's mouth snapped shut with an audible clack of her teeth. Her eyes narrowed slightly, intently, and he found himself taking another step back, almost afraid of that look. He wasn't sure what it meant, but experience had taught him that usually a look like that, particularly following a look like she'd just had, did not bode well. Usually for him.
She marched forward the three steps that separated them, planted her hands on his shoulders, and firmly said, "Captain Sparrow, I am going to kiss you," before promptly following through on her promise.
At first Jack was too startled to do anything in return other than flail slightly and stand with his eyes wide open. He was wondering if he'd missed something else very important in the conversation (or perhaps a year or two of courting) while at the same time trying to pull all his disorganized mental and physical parts back into alignment and do something.
By the time he was finally halfway back to himself, Mirana was pulling away. Her cheeks, normally as pale as her hair, were flushed an attractive peach, and her eyes were quite a few shades darker than they had been only a few minutes ago.
Wow, they take courtship seriously in Underland. Jack cleared his throat, his hands once more nervously flexing and relaxing at his sides. "I - uh - oh." What could he honestly say to that?
Mirana's eyes dropped slightly. "This time it is I who must apologize for being forward," she said. "Usually there's a proper way to do these things - a Courtship Ritual. It - would seem I've just completely skipped that part." Her hands were shaking as she reached up to smooth down a stray lock of her hair, he noticed.
Then again, he wasn't feeling rock-steady himself. For a moment he debated the merits of following her train of thought and actually asking what the Courtship Ritual was and what it detailed. But then he decided that since she had already (apparently) blown away the rules, he'd might as well follow her example. She was, after all, the Queen, and the Queen's example was supposed to be followed…
Before he could change his mind, he mirrored her movements from only a moment before and kissed her. This time he was a little more in charge of himself and his emotions, and was able to experience and enjoy every little sensation that sparked between them during that (wonderful, fantastic, and a thousand other words his fuzzy mind couldn't remember) kiss.
When Jack finally pulled back, he couldn't decide whether to be extraordinarily happy, or to slap himself for being equally stupid. He'd known Mirana for less than a day, all time put together. What was he thinking?
That was just the thing. He didn't want to think and see this logically. He wanted to be caught by whatever spell (intentional or not) Mirana had him under and be lost to her for whatever rest of eternity Underland's Fountain-of-Youth aspects granted him.
And, from the look on Mirana's face, she was thinking the exact same thing.
"What does this whole Courtship Ritual entail, anyway?" Jack finally asked, just to break the silence.
Mirana blinked a few times, as if needing to draw her mind back from wherever it had wandered off. "I - think perhaps that is a conversation best kept until a more appropriate hour of the day. Perhaps over tea, tomorrow afternoon."
At that moment, Jack was so happy he didn't even care that he was, technically, being put off. He had gotten his Pearl back, was back in Underland, back in Marmoreal, and more than any of that, back in the White Queen Mirana's presence.
What more could he ask for than that, really? "Over tea tomorrow afternoon. I'll be there."
And just before Mirana left him at his room, they stole one last kiss before they had to conform to the Courtship Rituals.
Though, Jack mused as he was almost asleep, he had a feeling this relationship was going to be far outside the norm of any world's.
He grinned as he looked forward to what promised to be the greatest Adventure of his life.
Yes, this is the end of this fic, but I promise this isn't the end of Jack and Mirana's story! They're just getting going now, after all… I'm debating whether or not to do a one-shot detailing the Courtship Rituals. I already have a multi-chapter story for them planned out, so depending on what direction it takes me, I might weave the Rituals into it. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this fic, and thanks for reading it!