Disclaimer: I don't own Pirates of the Caribbean or Alice in Wonderland. The former belongs to Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, the latter belongs to Disney, Tim Burton, and Lewis Carroll. I don't own any characters, places, things, or ideas in the aforementioned fandoms, either. I am making no monetary gain from this story in any way, shape, or form.
Summary: Mirana discovers that Jack's past is darker than she ever could have imagined, and some scars run deeper than he had dared let on. Jack/Mirana, Alice/Hatter
Pairings: Jack/Mirana, Alice/Hatter
Series: Pirates and Hatters
Sequel to: Pirates and Hatters; A Spot of Rum and Tea; Lovely, Dark and Deep; The Courtship Rituals
Author's Note: I am so incredibly excited about this installment in the ongoing Pirates and Hatters series! Besides A Spot of Rum and Tea, this has definitely been my favorite and the most fun to write. I've gotten to explore Jack's past, as well as throw in a little fun with Underland's most Unusual Couple. I want to offer a huge thanks to the wonderful animekittynya on DA (aknya here), whose Jack/Mirana fanart Broken Compass inspired the latter part of this fic. I owe her big time for letting me take the idea of her art and run with it. Check out the artwork here (remove spaces after copying and pasting it into your browser): browse . deviantart ? qh = & section = & global = 1&q = Jack % 2FMirana ?# / d2p0aev - she's amazing! And thank all of you for checking out this fic, and I most sincerely hope you enjoy it!
Tea time was often a source of amusement for all in Marmoreal. The White Queen Mirana, however, only occasionally found Brillig genuinely fun. When she got to spend the time with her dearest friends, it was great fun. But when she was obliged to arrange a tea party for her Court, it was barely any fun at all. She loved her Court dearly, they were all great friends and very loyal subjects. But they just didn't have the senses of humor her preferred tea companions did.
Mirana sat stiffly at the head of the tea table on one such occasion, a smile firmly fixed in place on her face as her mind wandered. She had invited Jack Sparrow, the man she was courting, to attend as well, but he had thought it best if he didn't. It was true - while her Court did at least tolerate his presence now, they still didn't like him. And while he was, sadly, used to not being liked, it didn't mean he enjoyed the stares, whispers, and cool receptions.
The only person who could bring even a touch of liveliness to the party sat to Mirana's right. As Underland's Champion, Alice Hightopp was almost as obliged to attend the royal tea parties as the queen. Her pretty new blue tea dress just hid the slight bump that was her and Tarrant Hightopp's growing baby. Her usually bright blue eyes were looking a tad dull as she stared somewhere into the distance beyond Lady Rahnine's shoulder, no doubt wishing she were at a different tea party. One where her husband was in attendance, no doubt.
Fortunately, Mirana and Alice's silent torture soon ended. Everyone drifted their separate ways, and the queen and champion, close friends that were more like sisters to each other, found their steps headed in the same direction - to a less organized but far more fun tea table.
"Do you think there will be any tea left by the time we get there?" Alice asked conversationally.
Mirana smiled. "Doubtful. But perhaps Thackery will have saved us some scones."
Alice chuckled ruefully and rested her hand on her barely-swollen stomach. "I've actually been eating every sweet in sight," she said, her cheeks brushed rose pink. "Poor Tarrant hardly ever gets any because I've eaten them all. I think our baby has a sweet tooth, one that is quite nicely catering to my own."
"You, Tarrant, and the baby can have all the sweets in Underland, as far as I'm concerned," Mirana said fondly. "It's been too long since a baby was born in Marmoreal. And for that child to belong to my two closest friends…" She lowered her hands from their positions floating at shoulder-height to clasp them before her in delight. "And you know how honored I am that you and Tarrant asked me to be the baby's godmother."
"Thank you for agreeing," Alice said fervently. "I cannot imagine a better godmother for the future little Hightopp than you."
Mirana had just opened her mouth to reply when a familiar bellowing shout echoed down the hall toward them. Exchanging a worried look, the two women genteelly hitched up their respective skirts and ran the rest of the way to the tea room.
Tarrant Hightopp and Jack Sparrow were on opposite ends of the table. Each was out of his seat, hands planted firmly on the table top, glowering in a way that would make even the fiercest beastie in Underland cower. The hatter's eyes were glowing the orangey-red that overtook their usual green when he was angry, and the pirate's were as dark as two pieces of flint.
"What's going on here?" Mirana demanded, looking back and forth between them. The two men looked remarkably alike on the best of days, but in their fury they almost could have passed as twins.
Both heads snapped towards her, and almost immediately their furies cooled. Both men sketched bows in her direction, Tarrant's eyes green now, Jack's looking a little less like cold stone.
The lid of one of the teapots clinked, and a little white Dormouse, Mallymkun, appeared. Her ears twitched a couple of times, as did her pink nose, before she spoke. "They was arguin', they was," she said, stating the obvious. "Tarran' go' tae talkin' about' th' bes' kinds o' tea, an' then Jack 'ere said nothin' could bes' a goo' rum. An' then they started shoutin' an' th' like."
Mirana scanned the table swiftly. "Where are Thackery and Chessur?" she said, inquiring after the other two usual tea-takers.
"Chess vanished not long into our disagreement, and Thackery's hiding under the table," Tarrant said succinctly.
"Bloody mad, the lo' o' ya!" the Hare bellowed from his mostly safe hiding place.
"You're nae much be'er, Thackery!" Mally screeched back.
"Dare I ask who won?" Alice said dryly.
"I did!" Jack and Tarrant exclaimed at the same time, then proceeded to glare at each other again.
Coughing discreetly to hide her laugh, Mirana stepped forward and wound her arm through Jack's. "I think tea time's over," she said, pulling gently to get him to follow her. Alice had gone to her husband and was speaking quietly in his ear, a smile on her face.
As they left the mayhem of the less grand (but still quite opulent) of Marmoreal's two tea rooms behind, Mirana glanced up at Jack out of the corner of her eye. "Once more I am struck by how similar you and Hatta' are," she said.
Jack shrugged. "I don't see it."
"Neither does he."
In silent agreement they left the castle and went down to the beach. Mirana had never gone there before Jack came, but now it seemed like she couldn't get enough of the sand, the water, the fresh breeze - and Jack.
They found a rocky little ledge that formed a sort of bench and sat down. Mirana adjusted her long skirts around her legs, freeing her bare feet so she could wiggle them down into the sand. Rarely did she get to feel such freedom, since she always wore boots or slippers in the castle.
Jack propped his back against the side of the cliff and stretched out his legs, crossing them at the ankles. Leaning his head back, he squinted up at the sun. "Warmer than usual today."
"Why don't you roll your sleeves up?" Mirana suggested. "You must be warm in that long-sleeve shirt."
She knew the moment the words were out of her mouth that it had been the wrong thing to say. Jack stiffened, his jaw flexing as he glowered out over the water in the opposite direction of where the Pearl was moored just off shore. "What's wrong?" she whispered. "Did I - insult you?"
Jack's lips tilted upwards, seemingly in spite of himself. "No, luv," he said. "You didn't insult me."
Glancing down, she nervously smoothed her hands across her skirt. "Then what did I say wrong?"
"The real reason why I wear long shirts all the time, and why I don't roll the sleeves up when we go outside is - is because I didn't want you to know." Jack's tone was bitter. "Though I suppose it's pointless to keep it from you, because I knew one day you would find out."
"If you don't want to tell me-"
"No. You should know. You technically should have known before, but it's too late now." Turning to face her, Jack rolled up his right sleeve and presented his forearm to her.
Cradling his wrist in her hands, Mirana gently turned his arm a bit more toward the sunlight. When she saw what he had been hiding from her, she felt as if someone had punched her right in the ribs. "Jack, what-?"
His muscles tensed beneath her hands, but he didn't try to pull away. Reaching out his other hand, he touched the black pattern tattooed on his skin - waves of the sea backed by the setting sun and a bird swooping down over the image. "That's my name - Jack Sparrow," he said. Then his fingers trailed a little lower, to the raised scar that stood out glaring white against his otherwise tanned skin, shaped like a P. "That's a brand," he said.
"Brand?" The term was completely unfamiliar.
"The end of an iron, twisted into a certain shape, is placed in a fire until it's red hot. When it is, the patterned end is applied to the skin, making a permanent imprint. In this case, 'P' for 'pirate.' Once applied, it can't be taken away."
Mirana felt fury boil up inside her. "How barbaric! Who would do such a cruel thing to someone else?"
"The East India Trading Company," Jack said tersely. "When they encounter a pirate, the first thing they do is brand them. Then, typically, they hang them. I was lucky - I got away."
Mirana carefully touched the raised scar, wincing at the difference between it and the rest of Jack's skin. "Does it hurt now?" she asked.
"No." His free hand slid over hers comfortingly. "It hasn't hurt in a long time. I just prefer to hide it and - the others."
"The others? You mean someone else branded you?" Mirana's fury rekindled.
"No!" Jack hastened to reassure. "No, no other brands. But…" He gently pulled away, leaving the first sleeve as it was while he rolled up the other. This one he tugged higher, and he didn't look when he presented the underside of his forearm to her.
From his wrist to just above his elbow stretched a twisted web of scars, angry red outlining a white shape that closely resembled a jagged lightning bolt captured on the canvas of his skin. When she touched the scar, she realized it wasn't raised as high as the pirate brand, but there would be no mistaking it. The red had an almost mottled appearance to it, as if it were still in the process of healing. But Mirana knew just looking at it that it would not fade any more than it already had. Before she could stop the words, an Outlandish curse spewed from her lips with as much poison as she could muster.
Jack didn't question its meaning. "A burn. The East India Trading Company was particularly fond of that torturing technique. It had brought them particular success in the past."
She swallowed back the lump impeding her throat and tried to blink away the burning at the backs of her eyes. "Why were they torturing you?"
He refused to meet her eyes. "They don't need a reason," he said bitterly. "If you wear the title of 'pirate,' that's more than sufficient cause for them. Sometimes, if they think you're important enough, they'll ask you questions. But to them, typically it's all about bringing down the worst pain imaginable before they finally put their broken prisoners out of their misery."
Brushing her fingers over the scars once again, she lifted her gaze back to Jack's face. "That's not all, is it?" she whispered.
"No." Jack lifted his hand to where the front of his shirt gapped open slightly and tugged at the right panel, baring more of his chest to her.
There were two scars there, one slightly higher on his right shoulder than the other. Reaching out, Mirana touched one, then the other, surprised to feel that, at the center of the brownish-red circles, his skin was slightly hollowed out, making two black pits. This time she couldn't stop her tears from overflowing and trailing down her cheeks.
"Had these been on the left, I would have died," Jack said. His fingers gently wrapped around her hand and guided it away. "Those are bullet holes. I got them while I was escaping the Trading Company." His other hand dropped to his waist, where he pulled out a strangely shaped thing and held it up. "This is a gun. A strong force born from a spark igniting gunpowder within it releases a bullet when the trigger is pulled, and two of those embedded themselves inside me, making these scars."
Mirana shivered and pushed his hand holding the gun away. He immediately tossed it aside into the sand and pulled her forward into his arms, fingers tangling into her hair. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "But that's the truth of what I am. My life's not been pretty, not at all. I'm a pirate, and I've lived a pirate's life. I can't change it - any of it - and I know that even if I could, I wouldn't. I regret a few things, but…" He trailed off.
She hoped the but meant he didn't regret coming to Underland. "It's who you are."
"Aye." The word almost seemed to weigh down the air between them. "But it's not all bad, luv. Do you know why I became a pirate in the first place?"
Gently pushing away from him, she lifted her now-dry face and shook her head. "Why did you become a pirate, then, Captain?"
Jack grinned, his gold teeth flashing in the sunlight. "The sea. Aye, there's the treasure, and the satisfaction after a looting, and defeating your enemies, and outsmarting the authorities, but - for me, it's always been about the sea. There's something about the water - so wild, and free." His face took on an almost thoughtful expression. "But even at that, the sea hasn't always been enough, and now I understand why." Reaching up, he brushed a finger down the side of her face. "I always thought there was something better out there, but now I've found the best."
Her cheeks warmed at the flattery. "A lot of pretty words," she said. "What do you want?"
His eyebrows nearly disappeared beneath his red head cloth. "What makes you think I want anything, luv? I'm not an idle flatterer, you know."
"All right then, Captain Sparrow." Reaching up, she gently tapped the beaded cord hanging from the cloth around his head. "Tell me, what is this?"
Immediately his fingers went up to touch it, brushing against hers as she withdrew her hand. "This is the last of the Nine Pieces of Eight."
"'Nine Pieces of Eight'?" Mirana repeated with some credulity. "What does that mean?"
Jack leaned forward so she could get a better look at the silver thing hanging at the end of the beads. "There used to be nine of these. Each belonged to one of the Nine Pirate Lords, and they, as a group, made up the Brethren Court."
"Brethren Court - a Court comprised of pirates?"
"You're catching on, luv. The original Court came up with the Code, the set of guidelines - or law, if you ask some - that we follow. There have been several Brethren Courts since the first, but each have been comprised of the nine most fearsome and important pirates in the world."
Mirana ran her fingers across the Piece of Eight hanging from Jack's head cloth. "So this means you're a Pirate Lord?"
"One of several, yes." His lips drew down slightly in a frown. "Though our last meeting at Shipwreck Cove did not go very well at all. None of us can get along, and there's a lot of shouting and shooting and hardly anything gets decided. There have been two Pirate Kings in our history, which sometimes serves to clear things up a bit, but that's something I'd rather not get into. Kings also tend to complicate things in horribly indescribable ways."
"What does the Brethren Court do?" she asked interestedly.
Jack shrugged. "Not really sure how to describe it. We make important decisions for our kind - set down the rules, and the like. We decide whether it's time to go to war, or time to run from war and just do what we do best - be pirates. We're quite the slippery lot, you know. Very difficult to pin us down." His eyelid fluttered in a wink. "If nothing else, I would hope my status as a Pirate Lord would be enough to make me worthy of courting a Royal, at least in the eyes of your court. I can just imagine what the Brethren would say to me, but I think I shan't tell them, now or ever." He grinned again. "I'll just let them wonder about where I've disappeared off to. The lot of them were salivating to get rid of me, anyway. Best for me to vanish on my own terms than theirs."
"I'm working on my court," Mirana said. "And as far as yours, I don't think they quite understand what a good thing they've lost," she said loyally.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, luv," Jack replied. "But for one thing, they're not technically my court. I was not voted King in the last meeting - I was actually one of the two who voted for the current one, a decision I now slightly regret - which is just as well for I probably would not be suited for the position. For another, I'm not sure they'd agree with you, darling, but I appreciate the sentiments."
Several things about Jack Sparrow fascinated Mirana. Not the least of which was how devastatingly clever he was - she had not known him for long, but his stories and the intelligent gleam in his dark eyes was more than enough proof of that. Another was how easily endearments for her slipped off his tongue; though she knew he was bound to have called any number of other women the same things, she liked to think he meant them when he said them to her. She'd also heard a lot about pirates and how they were supposed to talk and behave, and Jack put the rest of them to shame. He was really quite a gentleman under his rough exterior, and his words were cultured, even if his delivery was a tad slurred, as if he'd imbibed a little too much. Which, Mirana thought wryly, was probably true in his case. She knew of his fondness for rum, which she had still not had the opportunity to taste.
Reaching to the faded sash around his waist, he pulled off something and opened it, gazing intently at its interior for a long moment with an expression of utmost concentration on his face.
"Is that a compass?" Mirana asked interestedly.
"Hmm," Jack said. He scowled, snapped the compass shut, and shook it heartily before opening it again. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Is that a compass?" she repeated.
"Yes, unfortunately. 'Scuse me a moment, luv." Standing abruptly, he strode toward the water and stopped so close the waves washed over his feet and ankles, his entire focus still on the compass cradled in his hand. He shook it several more times, grimaced each, then threw it over his shoulder with a huff. It plopped down in the sand less than a foot from Mirana.
Being the Queen, Mirana knew a lot about the location of every town and providence in Underland. She had used compasses before, but none that looked like this. Shooting Jack a quick look, she leaned over and cradled his compass, lifting the lid as she'd seen him do.
It was so handy! The size made it fit right in her palm, and it was amazing to see the somewhat awkward equipment she used miniaturized into something so - portable. Smiling, she held it up and watched as the needle swung frenetically for a moment before settling on a position.
Then Mirana frowned. That's not north! No wonder Jack was so frustrated with it. Carefully closing the lid, she studied it for a moment before shrugging and daintily shaking it. Perhaps if she took a page out of Jack's book, but performed the action gently… Smiling anticipatorily, she opened the compass again and peeked at the needle.
It was still, infuriatingly, pointed in a distinct eastern direction, toward the water. Frustrated, Mirana stood and went to stand by Jack, holding out his opened and malfunctioning compass. "Jack, I think your compass is broken. It doesn't point north."
"Aye, I know it doesn't-" Jack's words ended in a choking sound as he looked at it. Uttering words that Mirana didn't understand but thought was a curse, he snatched the thing from her hands and watched as the needle spun crazily before settling on a vague southeastern direction. "What d'ye know," he muttered.
"What does it mean?" Mirana asked. She had been peering around his arm to see if it behaved better for him.
Snapping the cover closed, Jack thrust it into his pocket and shook his head. "The blasted thing has an enchantment on it," he said. "It was given to me by a very powerful - ah - person. It, ah - well-" he mumbled the rest, very carefully not looking at her.
"Pardon?" Mirana leaned a little closer, tilting her head to try to hear him better.
He stared at her with the expression of a trapped animal, then sighed, his shoulders sagging. "It points toward what a person desires most in the world," he grumbled.
Earlier, when it was pointing to the east… She lifted her eyes to Jack's face. It wasn't pointing to the east. It was pointing at him!
"Aye, I see you've got it, luv." He stared gloomily back out across the water, his shoulders still hunched, this time as if to protect himself instead of in resignation. "When I was holding it, it kept pointing at you." One corner of his mouth furled upwards slightly. "You know, I've never gotten it to settle on one thing so many times in a row," he mused aloud. "I'm a pirate, the flighty sort, you know. But all those times…" He shook his head.
"You were expecting the needle to point toward the water, and the Pearl." Mirana knew better than to make it a question.
"I was." The two words were so quiet she would have missed them for the sound of the sea had she not been standing so close. Turning to face her, he sighed and held up his hands slightly. "Like I said, darling, I'm a pirate. I take fancies to this or that, and while my loyalties are - usually - stationary, I can't guarantee much of anything. In an hour or a day or a week or a year, I might decide to leave."
"I see." Mirana clenched her hands together so tightly it hurt, hiding behind her monarch's mask to hide the hurt she was feeling inside her. Her loyalties were to Underland and her subjects. She had to remember that.
Jack started to reach out, hesitated, almost withdrew, then shook his head and grasped her shoulders tightly. "Mira, luv, I'm not saying I don't feel anything for you. That is a complete untruth. And while usually I make my living with untruths, I promise I couldn't lie to you, not about this. I'm not sure if what I feel is love yet - maybe someday, right now it's more like a strong attraction, I think. But I do know I feel something for you, and at the moment - that something is much stronger than what I feel for the sea, which is usually the biggest thing in my life. Both metaphorically and physically," he said, winding up with a hopeful grin.
She took a moment to ponder this before allowing herself a small smile. "'Mira,' hmm?"
Jack shrugged. "An endearment, darling."
"I like it." Lifting her hands to his elbows, she shook her head slightly. "I suppose I know what you're feeling. Before you came sailing into my life, the most important thing I had was Marmoreal and my subjects. But now, with you…" She trailed off with a smile, hoping he understood what she didn't say.
He seemed to, because his eyes were shining. "Aye." Leaning forward, he placed a lingering kiss on her forehead.
Mirana smiled, her eyes sliding closed. "You're a good man, Jack Sparrow."
"'One good deed is not enough to redeem a man,'" he murmured, seemingly to himself. "It is, however, enough to condemn him."
"What was that?"
His familiarly cocky grin was back, as if he'd said nothing at all. "Something I was told once, a long time ago. It doesn't matter, luv."
At that moment she was sure she'd give up almost anything in the world to know what was going on behind those craftily intelligent dark eyes of his. She sensed right then wasn't the time to ask. Simply stepping forward, she hesitantly rested her head against his chest, listening to the quickening throb of his heartbeat at her touch.
For now, his solid warmth and that reassuring beat was more than enough for her.
Important Author's Note: This note is for those of you who have read the Pirates and Hatters series stories before, and those who just discovered the series. I know I've mentioned a multi-chapter story in the past, but I'm afraid this is the last piece in the series. I'm sorry to disappoint you all, but the muse for this series has been silent too long, and I've grown and changed too much as a writer to be able to pick it up again. I am so, so sorry to disappoint all of you who were looking forward to reading the multi-chapter story, plus future oneshots in this collection. As for loose strings I left dangling, most particularly the gender of Hatter and Alice's baby, I leave it up to your imagination as to whether it's a boy or girl. Again, I apologize for ending the series here, but I think this just might be a good ending place, anyway. Thank you all so much to everyone who has read and left me reviews or sent me PMs saying you enjoyed this story. I will forever cherish each and every one. Thank you all, and fairfarren.