Summary: A love story. Elizabeth Swann and the sea.
Rating/Warnings: PG-13, none.
Categorization: Pirates of the Caribbean (1-3), AU, Elizabeth/Will, Elizabeth/Jack
A/N: How it should have gone. (Part of my 'Five New Fandoms in 2011' pledge. This is number 4 for those counting. :) Special thanks to anr.
Looking down at Will on that smoky, terrible afternoon, 12-year-old Elizabeth understands that he is meant for her. It's why she steals the necklace, why she slips it into the folds of her skirt without a twinge of conscience. She knows without question just how well they will fit, she and Will, the practicalities of station and futures ignored with all of the impetuousness of youth. Or perhaps stubbornness.
The youth changes, bleeding away under rituals and tightly laced dresses.
The stubbornness does not.
It is not until years later, as Elizabeth stands upon the deck of a pirate ship—swells rolling through her hips, salt drying on her lips, her heart pounding away—that she first suspects that first love and true love may not always be the same.
She tells the pirates her name is Elizabeth Turner, just to feel the possibility upon her tongue.
Little does she realize just how far that course will take her.
On a ledge high above the sea, Elizabeth stands next to Will, Jack Sparrow's close escape from the noose still thrumming in her blood. This is love, she thinks, Will's body steady and solid next to hers.
"So this is the path you've chosen, is it?" her father asks, half-exasperated, half-unsurprised. "After all, he is a blacksmith."
"No," Elizabeth corrects, the sea air lifting her hair like a caress. "He is a pirate."
Will kisses her, and it is like steam upon the forge, the quick flash of hot metal slaked in brine.
She doesn't realize her error until much later. Not until Jack's lips, layered with the tang of sea and regret and betrayal, taste like home against hers.
Not a quick flash, but a slow burn.
"Pirate," Jack calls her, lips curving with the knowing, with the seeing of her.
She wants to protest, to deny, but understands in that moment that she'd mistaken it, that feeling firing her blood on a ledge up in the sky. It had nothing to do with Will, or even with this man about to die under her direction.
It came from her.
She stole more than a trinket the day she relieved Will of the medallion—her first theft. She took a fate from him as well. A destiny. Took a kernel of blood and spirit and let it take up residence in her flesh, let it grow and expand and soak into her bones while she paid it no attention.
Her father had been right. Will is a blacksmith.
She is the pirate.
Elizabeth chooses again—her own decision, her own—setting off after Jack and settling a wrong that she does not regret, but neither fears correcting. It is here on the edge of all things that she gets her first taste of what before she had only suspected.
First love is not true love. Not for her.
When the moment comes, it is a simple enough thing to do: she gives Will the earth and takes for herself the sea. Her borrowed blade cuts into Jones' heart, her own beating in its place.
Will promised to take his father's place in the locker. Elizabeth promised to pledge her troth to Will. A promise for a promise.
A fair trade.
She spends her one day on land with Will, their perfect, pure love, all the more for its fleetingness. Whole and complete in its impermanence.
She says farewell on the shores and tells him she will not come to him again. There will be no more days for them. He must move on.
She knows at first he will not. This is the stubbornness of first love. But in time he will see first love is best as a memory. He will find the warmth of another's flesh, a steady foundation to build upon, and he will forget guilt in the shine of another's eye, the salt of another's earth.
He will plant deep roots and forget the feel of the sea under his feet.
Ten years from this day, neither of them will stand on this shore.
They call her Eurybia.
As the captain of the Flying Dutchman, she has learned cruelty. There are many who would resent a woman at the helm, and so she learns the feel of a knife sliding across a man's throat, a life taken in close quarters and not regretted. It does not break her, does not destroy her, but rather builds her up. She learns the necessity of cruelty for survival, but does not become it.
Eurybia, the sea goddess with a heart of flint.
Or so they say—they who would own it, but will never find it.
The sea offers up souls to her. She cares for them and moves them across as always intended, and barnacles do not set themselves upon her flesh. She learns to taste the difference between people scared of death, and those who would walk into her hull with eyes wide open, who would submit to any service just for the chance to stay on the sea.
Picking among the cowering men, Elizabeth's eyes begin to linger on the quiet forms of women among the male crews. Whores and mistresses and slaves and convicts. Wide-eyed daughters and mothers and wives dragged off of their predictable shores. These women who did not take to the sea by free will, but were bent and chained to it. They are the ones who have never tasted choice.
It is the one thing Elizabeth can give them.
Quiet passage. Or rebirth.
For many, death is a relief, a reward, but for a select few that are brave enough to test the unknown.
Elizabeth takes them in, but does not teach them despair. One year of service, of backbreaking, difficult labor. One year to roughen their hands on rope and sail and plank, and learn when to bow and when to stand. To learn their own power. Those who leave do so on their own two feet, to face a world less frightful than before.
Many chose to stay, the flash of red petticoats growing common among the weathered planks.
The decades slip past, the mortal world falling away. Will is but a memory, fond and precious and held close to her chest.
It is the sea who is her every breath.
First love. True love.
Jack Sparrow is neither of these. He is freedom, and she is the sea. They cannot be separated, nor will they be bound. Instead they come together time and again like currents and swells, the moon working upon the tide. He comes to her and she spits him back out into the world, a man whose era should never end.
"Pirate," he whispers against her throat, his hands callused and warm on her flesh, the most human she ever feels.
She makes him gasp under her touch and leave long before he wishes, drawing him back as she pleases. He thanks her for it and pays in the way he looks at her, as if knowing exactly who and what she is, long before she even understood herself.
More like worship. His prayers upon the sea.
She always answers.
Elizabeth's heart does not lie buried at the end of a map. No compass can find it. It will not be owned by any man. No cage, no box to hold it.
Instead, she places it at the bottom of the ocean, ten-thousand fathoms below, bare and vulnerable to the waters to be buffeted and absorbed and remade of coral and sand and life.
She is no one's but the sea's.