Chapter 1—Crown of Thorns

SUMMARY: Will has sailed away on the Flying Dutchman, Jack has sailed away on the Black Pearl, and her father is dead. When Elizabeth is at her lowest low and needs someone to raise her up again, who will be there?

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

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

RATING: T (for Teen)

A/N: This idea came to me when I was feeling particularly moody, so be warned that this story is a little darker than some of my others (but fear not, you all know by now that I can't stand depressing endings). This is a song-fic to Johnny Cash's rendition of "Hurt," as the title suggests—the song's lyrics will appear in a later chapter.

I would also like to extend a huge thank you to my friend sweetness328 for her feedback and comments! If you haven't already, you should check out some of her stories… she is supremely talented!

The rain was hard and harsh and it stung Elizabeth's skin like pebbles pouring from the sky as she made her way along the dirt road towards her home. The wind howled as she trudged along, her fingers tightly grasping the handles of her woven burlap sacks to the point that they hurt, her delicate skin a pour match for the rough fabric. Somewhere in the distance, thunder rumbled.

She kept her head down to avoid the rain blurring her vision. Her thin cloak did very little to shield her from the elements and she fought the urge to tremble from the cold. Her golden hair darkened from the rain was flattened against her forehead and hung around her face. It was getting harder to walk with her soaking clothes adding on extra weight and every few steps or so her ankles would roll as small rocks met the soles of her boots.

She finally reached the fork in the road, where going to the left narrowed down into an overgrown path that meandered towards the beach. Going up to the right led to the one-room cottage on the cliff that she had single-handedly salvaged upon reaching this island.

The narrow path that led up the hill and to her cottage was uneven and overgrown with pampas grass. She would have to do something about that once the weather improved. It had rained more than she expected it to in the long month she'd been living there. She had hoped the time would pass more quickly and put herself to work at restoring the abandoned bungalow, figuring that hard work would help take her mind off of things. It had, for the time being, but after two weeks of constant work and little sleep, and she found herself feeling more alone than ever.

She finally reached the front door and plunged her chilled hand into the oversized pocket of her apron. The wet fabric clung to her skin and she felt as though she had to pry the key loose from its woven confines. She half-wondered why she bothered to lock the door in the first place—it wasn't as if anyone paid attention to her enough to know that she lived alone, outside of town, where she was vulnerable. And it wasn't as if she couldn't take care of herself should someone actually try. Will had taught her well how to use a sword and she'd taught herself how to shoot. She wasn't in danger.

When the door was open, she was instantly met with the sound of dripping water. She hastily set her groceries on the ground and pulled her hood over her head to see water leaking from the ceiling in not one, not two, but three places. One leak was not more than three inches from hitting the wood burning stove, so she used the smaller of her two wooden pales to catch the water. The remaining two leaks were dripping in the corner, near her night stand, and she was able to use the larger of the two pales to catch them both. She sighed as she peeled her wet cloak off her shoulders. Apparently her hard work hadn't been hard enough.

Once she had removed all of her wet clothing and replace them with her only spare outfit—the underdress she had from her one time with Will—she knelt down to inspect the state of her provisions. The bread had soaked through its paper packaging and was effectively ruined. The produce fared better and she was relieved she didn't have to worry about the humidity making it mold so quickly. The cold storm prevented it.

Not all was lost… being Pirate King, whether she embraced the roll or not, entitled her to a salary just big enough to sustain herself without having to learn other means of employment. She'd gotten a visit from Captain Teague Sparrow not more than three days after settling into her new environment—how he knew where to find her was still a mystery to her, but she supposed it didn't matter now. He had tried to convince her to return with him to Shipwreck Cove, where she could "rule" from the pirate fortress, but the idea didn't feel right. So he left her with a year's supply of money and told her he would return or send another in another year. She hid it under the floorboards beside the chest the housed Will's beating heart, determined to use it as sparingly as possible.

His visit was oddly comforting. Jack was so like his father that spending time with the elder Sparrow was indeed like spending time with the infamous captain, without their uncomfortable history. He amused her very much with his stories of adventure and Jack's younger days… it was easy to see where Jack's gift for language and storytelling came from. Teague left her with the smallest glimmer of hope that the next morning she might wake up and not feel so completely alone in a world where everyone else had forgotten about her.

It didn't, though, for he sailed away like everyone else had in less than 24 hours. She supposed she would get used to her solitude and even come to appreciate the quiet, but when that time would come, she wasn't sure. She knew she could have gone back with him, but her title and crown really wouldn't do her any good—she knew it wouldn't fill the void or solve her problems. Her crown was nothing more than a crown of thorns.

She went to the wooden trunk next to the door and carefully lifted the lid. Luckily, none of the three leaks had decided to spring over her dwindling supply of firewood and she lifted out just a few logs, the minimum amount to get a decent fire going in the stove. She wasn't hungry, but she felt tense and depressed, and so decided to brew some tea. It was a local blend of chamomile and mint and more often than not it helped her sleep, which she was thankful for, since her mind was so often flooded with thoughts that decent rest was a fleeting luxury.

Once the kettle was on, she crossed several feet across the cottage to the worn yet inescapable comfortable arm chair in the center of the room. She tucked her legs up and underneath her, wrapping her arms around herself as she waited for the heat of the stove to transcend the boundaries of the cottage's walls.

"I'm lonely," she said plainly, as if saying it aloud would elicit a trigger in anyone she knew to remind them that she was still alive. The felt forgotten abandoned, remembering how she felt when the flash of green engulfed the Flying Dutchman, only to look to the west and see the Black Pearl shrinking on the horizon. Warm, salty tears stung her eyes and she suddenly felt embarrassed and angry at her rapidly increasing flair for the dramatic.

She leaned her head into the high back of the chair and closed her eyes, feeling as though she could fall asleep then and there. She'd been so tired lately, a symptom, she supposed, of her increasing sense of melancholy. She inhaled deeply through her nose as another wave of nausea hit her—another recent development that she blamed on her lack of sleep and transitory appetite.

Her mind began to drift, quite involuntarily, and somewhere through her haze of thoughts was a pair of dark, intoxicating, kohl-rimmed eyes staring at her, accompanied by an ever-present smirk that said a million different things and yet said nothing.

Her eyes snapped open. She'd been thinking of Jack quite a bit lately, yet it still came as a surprise to her whenever she did. Why him? Why weren't her thoughts more focused on Will, the husband who loved her so much he'd risked life and limb over and over again to save her? Whenever she did managed to sleep for more than a few hours at a time, and whenever she was visited by dreams, Jack always seemed to appear, in one form or another. It was as if her subconscious was trying to tell her something that she was in no way willing to accept.

As she sat there, effervescent thoughts of the two captains in her mind swirling through her head, the same familiar question popped into her head. Why did he leave me? She'd thought of this question countless times, though she never really knew which "he" she was talking about.

She knew that in Will's case, he really didn't have a choice. He had a job to do now, a new life that for the first time since they were children, did not involve her. In Jack's case, however, she felt forsaken, like he'd been waiting all along for an opportunity to sever ties with her. She sighed. If that was the smallest fraction of what he had felt when she left him on the Pearl, wrist shackled to the mast, she knew she deserved it. The circumstances might have been different, and perhaps more of a metaphor, but she'd marooned him, making her no better than Barbossa.

"Pirate." His voice echoed through her mind, haunting her. No truer statement had ever passed his lips. His lips… her kiss had been one of betrayal and deception, but it nevertheless seared her to the core, the memory of what it felt like to be kissing him forever engrained upon her soul.

"Stop," she muttered, ignoring another wave of nausea. "You should not be thinking of Jack Sparrow's lips." Her thoughts, she knew, were supposed to be reserved to thoughts of Will's lips. Will was her husband, her beloved. Not Jack. She told herself this time and time again, sometimes several times a day, but try as she might it never seemed to stick.

The whistle of the tea kettle broke her from her reverie about Jack and Will and all things concerning piracy. She rose to her feet and yet another wave of nausea hit her—hard. Before she made it to the stove, the whistle of the kettle growing louder and more persistent, she fell to her knees and threw up in one of the buckets gathering water from her leaky ceiling.

A/N: Another chapter will follow soon!

In the meantime, go review! Reviews make me update faster... ;)