Word Count: 2,136
Summary: They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm. Elizabeth, just after At World's End.
Author's Note: I was flippin' through the super cool Dorothy Parker anthology I checked out from the library, and I came across the poem "Fair Weather," which immediately started shouting ELIZABETH SWANN, ELIZABETH SWANN! at me. Who was I to resist that kind of pressure?
Untroubled sands, spread glittering and warm.
I have a need of wilder, crueler waves;
They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.
-Dorothy Parker, ‘Fair Weather’
These days, the whole world turns her stomach. Her enemies, once upon a time, were pirates made out of illusion and wanting and bone. Now, they are smells. It does not seem to matter which: tea, grass, sweat, meat roasting, wet dogs, even the salt of the sea. Everything sends her rushing out the back door with a hand at her mouth; she topples over, heaves up what little she’s forced herself to eat. She remembers drifting lazily into consciousness, soft bedcovers and pillows like clouds, the maids coming in and pushing the windows open to reveal clean air and the bright blue morning sky. She does not mean to miss being a governor’s daughter, a life that never fit her. But oh, hunched over and vomiting like a no-good scalawag in some tavern’s dark alleyway, she thinks she would take it all back, the shoes to pinch her toes and corset to stifle and shape her right and James Norrington’s arm to cling to. (She does not, cannot think of James Norrington. She is so tired, heavy with sorrow and empty with loss, and so she tries to remember him as he once was – stammering, impeccable, hardly worth understanding or desiring. How young she was.) For whole stretches of gray mean weeks, she misses Will. Then, quite abruptly, she stops missing Will; she hates the uselessness of the feeling. The brightest, keenest yearning could not bring him back to her, so what’s the point? Men and their destinies. Women aren’t often woven into fate itself; they are the prize, the ending light. Here, now, with the taste of bile singeing her throat, with all her mornings turned ugly, with nothing to her name at all, Elizabeth does not feel much like a prize.
There is a nice old woman from the village who has seen fit to take Elizabeth under her wing. She’s ugly as sin, warts and all, but Elizabeth appreciates her kindness. Makes sure to establish, in her own mind, that she is thankful. She knows what everyone in the village must think of her, the curve of her belly beginning to show and no man in sight.
“He’s away,” Elizabeth says, and even though nothing could be truer, the defiance in her tone makes it sound like a lie. “Out at sea. He’ll return to me in time.”
The old woman clucks her tongue in sympathy. Clears out her spare room and turns it into living quarters. Elizabeth feels like a stray hound gobbling up scraps. She hates this charity, and herself for needing it. She can find her way across the sea by stars, she can fire a rifle without flinching, prove a formidable opponent to any sword-wielding adversary, but she cannot sew her own clothes, cannot cook. I was a pirate king, she wants to say aloud, standing in her borrowed shift with her arms stretched out so the old woman can fit the dress she’s made her.
But of course, that might as well be nothing to the people here. The sea isn’t much to them at all: a cage, a song in the background.
She does not think much about the child: to her, it’s nothing besides the slow depressing expanse of her stomach. She thinks of her perfect waist, the envy of all the girls in Port Royal. Of course, she will love the baby soon. It is Will’s, it is what she has of him. And she looks forward to the company. She so wants someone to tell her stories to.
One day, inconveniently reminiscent of an answered prayer, Jack Sparrow shows up on her doorstep. They look at each other in silence for a long time. She thinks he must be a hoax, a dream. She cannot even trust the spicy, unkempt smell of him, the only scent that hasn’t sickened her in ages.
“Lizzie, darling,” he says at last, and it is the same loose drawl, his hands swaying along with his words, “You’ve certainly filled out.”
It is the exact right, wrong thing to say, and this is what finally makes her believe that he is real.
“I’m pregnant, you dolt.”
His eyes widen. “Ah. Is that so? Well done to Master William. Didn’t know he had it in him.”
“Have you come here simply to annoy me, or does this visit hold some higher purpose?” Her words are terribly arch; inside, she’s dancing. She could throw her arms around him, kiss him a thousand times, just for being here, being Jack, solid swaggering proof that the life she lived and loved was not just dreaming.
He pretends to contemplate this for a very long time. There’s a great deal of brow-furrowing and mouth-twitching; he puts a pensive finger to his chin.
“Annoy you,” is the verdict he reaches at last.
“Lucky me,” Elizabeth scowls, but she swings the door open wide and lets him in.
“Are you immortal yet?” she asks that night, the two of them sitting in the kitchen.
His voice is low, teasing her. “Can’t you tell?”
She looks at him, trying to decide. He is inscrutable as ever. She likes the look of him in shadows: it turns him so easily into the legend of himself, glinting gold, smudged with kohl, streaked by scars. She’s killed him herself, and still she can’t fathom him dying when she looks at him. Jack Sparrow is unbearable, ingenious, eternal as the sea.
Lacking an answer, she says instead, “How did you find me?”
“In case it’s slipped your memory, luv,” he replies, after a moment’s pause, “me ‘n the Pearl were the ones to drop you off on this bewitching island paradise, mind. I suspect you were too enamoured of your whelpish paramour to notice.”
“Of course I noticed,” Elizabeth says impatiently. She has yet to grow tired of his sarcasm. It sets her prickling, but in a way she’s fond of. “But I mean here, right here. You came to the exact right door, for God’s sake.”
“Small village,” he says, topping it off with a nonchalant shrug. One of his hands, though, goes to his pocket for a split-second, an accidental action.
Later, when he’s taken off his coat and hat and fallen asleep sitting up, Elizabeth does some investigating. She puts the hat on, a little joke with herself, a childish silly thing. It feels fantastic doing it. The brim slips down over her eyes. She pushes it back up, feeling ten, feigning piracy. Jack snores loud: big, broad sounds that are hilarious in their ugliness. She reaches for his coat, and then hesitates, just for a moment. She thinks of standing close to Jack on the deck, ship rocking in time with the sea, her breasts pressed to his back as she murmured in his ear. She thinks of Will with his earnest eyes.
She decides abruptly, and reaches her hand into the pocket. As soon as her fingers touch the cold metal, she knows what it is. Still, for a reason she cannot quite discern, she pulls it out, looks at it in the candlelight: the compass.
Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth has known, is chasing the Fountain of Youth – a fitting quest, for what could he want more than his very own forever of sailing and whoring and drinking and narrow escapes?
What could he want more.
She looks at him, her heart a harried beat against her ribcage. His eyes are shut, and his mouth is open. He lets out an especially deafening snore. There’s a lock of dark ratty hair draped over his right eye. She feels the brief aching urge to go over, brush his hair back, kiss his forehead. She fights it. She killed him with a kiss once; she is quite sure the consequence of that is that he’s no longer hers to touch.
And she is married, too. That comes as an afterthought. For the ten thousandth time, she wonders how it is possible to be a woman, a wife, and still so bad at this.
She looks down at the compass, wondering in spite of herself what her north might be. The needle spins, ceaseless, frantic, a flurry of indecision. She snaps the compass shut. It makes Jack start, let out a snort, a blurred “’Lizabeth,” but he doesn’t wake.
The next morning is hell. The old woman has returned from visiting and can’t quite fathom what a strange man is doing in her kitchen. She refuses to be convinced that he isn’t Elizabeth’s long lost love, either. It’s terrible, positively terrible. Jack grins his way through the whole thing and has a very merry breakfast of sausages and tea. The smell of the sausages drives Elizabeth outside right away. It’s raining, of bloody course.
There’s the sound of the door swinging open. She looks over to see Jack watching her with an expression of profound revulsion, his eyes quite near bugging out with horror, his hand at his mouth.
“Oh, don’t be such a woman,” Elizabeth snarls, wiping her own mouth with the back of her hand. “As if you haven’t done worse after a hundred nights of drowning yourself in rum at some foul tavern. And at least this can’t be blamed on debauchery and indulgence.”
“Well,” Jack says, “depends on what manner of debauchery and indulgence—”
“Ohhhh, you!” She would like very much to storm over and slap him, but another wave of sickness overtakes her, so she can’t do much more than heave with extra indignation.
“Giving his mum a hard time. I like the little monster already,” Jack observes. Behind the sly sparkle to his words, he seems a little chastened. “Tell you what. I, dear lady, am hereby willing to take the little rascal under my wing. Teach him a thing or two. Or seven.”
“I’d rather send him off to live with wolves. And who’s to say it’s a he, besides?”
“King Elizabeth the Second,” Jack suggests grandly.
Though it shouldn’t, this softens her. She looks at him: this foolish mess of a man, flecks of sausage in his teeth. He is the one standing with her now, the one who followed his heart right back to her. (It kills something inside her to think it. Revives something inside her to think it.) And once she stood close to Jack, the two of them a pair of pirates in a ship on the sea, their sentences twining into one another’s with so much ease and mischief and grace, their hands and mouths and limbs wanting so badly to follow suit. She has never felt better matched with anyone on earth. But she is a governor’s daughter, a lady, a coward where it truly counts, and Will had always seemed so safe.
To think that now he is the one that’s left her for the sea while Jack, untamable Jack, is at her side, at least for this moment.
She is Will’s, of course. She will always be Will’s. But she’s Elizabeth’s, too.
And so she plays this game with Jack.
“You’re not teaching her to handle a sword.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, luv. Not ‘til she’s seventeen, at least.”
“I’m disgusting? Interesting notion, Miss Swann, compelling indeed, gets a man’s brain all tingly, after all, I’m not the one who just turned a perfectly innocent mention of the fine art of fencing into some manner of dastardly code for—”
“You’ll come back,” she says, the words all a rush.
“I know you’re going to leave. Nothing in the world could keep you in one place for long. You couldn’t even stay imprisoned, or dead. But – you’ll come back, won’t you? Once in awhile?”
He’s quiet a long time. He looks a little pathetic, getting steadily rainsoaked.
“Sure, luv,” he says at last, in the kind way he has spoken to her a few times before. His eyes always seem to darken when he does it, turning him less the trickster and more the man. “I’ll come back.”
The first time they met, he saved her. She is no blasted damsel, not even here and now, but it seems he is always around to save her when it counts.
“Good.” She stands up tall again; the sickness seems to have passed, for today. She is soaked already with rain, and the wind whips her hair. He is still looking at her, his eyes still dark like that. Behind him, she can make out the coastline, and the exact point where bold gray sea meets sky.