"Only a man such as Jack Sparrow would be so arrogant as to assume he held some power over death."
Notes: Pre-established Lick. Works with the 'original' idea behind the curse; that is, each person who removes a coin from a chest at a different time creates his/her own curse, assuming that the mutinous crew all grabbed for the coins simultaneously. [Yeah, I know; just use your imagination.] A world of thanks goes to Seralis for being kind enough to beta, even though she isn't a J/E fan.
Warning: There is Character Death in this story. There isn't a warning selection for that on the site, so I'm adding it here for your protection. Because I love you. On to the fic...
So I'm sailing for tomorrow;
My dreams are a-dyin',
And my love is an anchor tied to you.
- "Southern Cross" by Crosby Stills & Nash [sometimes as Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young]
Fever has set in, so she knows it can't last much longer, the suffering: hers and his alike. He is not one to give up, accept loss easily, so that is why he keeps himself from their cabin. He, who carried a pistol with a shot meant for one man alone, will not let her go like this.
She remembers hearing the shot--the one meant for her, but she did not feel the bullet pass into her belly. Realization only came when her body lurched backward, a cry of disbelief (had that been hers?) becoming lost in the billowing white sails of the merchant vessel they'd chosen to raid. Then a fire erupted in her abdomen, and one of their crew found her lying on the deck, waves of nausea sending vomit and blood onto the planks before she fell into unconsciousness.
Three days so far. Awakening to pain, eating, retching, fighting for coherent thought, sleeping. Too deep to retrieve, the shot stays buried, and any parts of the wound capable of healing wrap over it, sealing it in. It is responsible for the stench in the room.
He enters quietly, sits by the bed, rather than on it, so as not to cause her to move. He calls her name.
"Cold," she says in a voice that can't be her own.
"You are not to give up, darling."
He spins the endearment on it, trying to hide the nakedness in his tone, but she hears it, would know it's there, even so. Still commanding her, even though she can hardly filter through the images in the room and the ones in her mind, even though she can barely grip the shards of her own life. Only a man such as Jack Sparrow would be so arrogant as to assume he held some power over death.
"If you could have me forever, you would not want me," and she knows she's managed the words due to the look on his face.
Â· Â§ Â·
She's floating, and the musk of death hangs heavily over her. She knows this smell, for she has witnessed death twice already. Only the memory of pain--a threat--lords over the sensations her mind can still process. She won't last much longer and hopes he isn't here with her now. She does not want an audience for this.
She wonders if her mother felt the same when she died in a hostel fire in Abingdon, and thoughts of her mother lead her to recall her soft footfalls about her father's grass-covered grave. The ship could not risk returning to Port Royal after they received news of his death, and many months passed before Jack deemed it safe.
"Not much longer now, Elizabeth," she hears from somewhere above her, and recognizing his voice immediately, she wants to scream or maybe cry. It's an injustice for her to not receive her dying wish, but she cannot muster the strength to ask him to go, and even if she could, she knows she would not.
She thinks it might serve her well to see his face once again, but she finds her eyes will not open, and she lost feeling in her arms and legs some time ago. Her scope of time is gone. But she feels her chest, still floats along; she must be off the bed by now.
"Stay with me."
There's a jingle, a familiar sound. One that reminds her of men opening chests purged from a Spanish galleon and merrily tossing the insides of them into the air.
Later, she stands. She is on her own feet atop a pile of gold, watching him weave his coin into his hair: a new trinket.
She holds hers in her palm, fingertips lighting over the rough-textured gold; he was the one who guided her dying hand to take the coin from the chest. She thinks the coin should be heavy, but she cannot feel its weight.
Â· Â§ Â·
Her limbs still seem detached from her body, though they function well enough. Her mind was quite keen in reacquiring its lost senses, at least for a short time. She thought she would die from the pain initially, the searing and swollen flesh, the smell of blood as her new mobility reopened the wound time and again not letting her forget that she should not be here. Realization that nothing, least of all pain, can kill her did not take long to set in and plagued her early on, throbbed along with the torn flesh. She found she could tolerate the suffering, though; weeks of fevered skin and tremors, months of sharp jolts and winces. A year and a half of the dull ache, then nothing more.
He still touches her, still kisses and caresses, murmurs those words that make her tremble. But he feels cool like empty air beneath her fingers, and she must also, even though he tells her otherwise in breaths that should be hot, breaths that she can no longer feel as they puff against her neck.
She has looked at herself, her skeleton and dying grey flesh, only once in a mirror. Now, the thick curtains hung over the elaborate windows in the captain's cabin help them hide from it.
Save the quartermaster, they keep no one on crew overly long, and when Gibbs dies, she wonders how much longer Jack will have them keep this up.
Mostly, he stays at the helm, loving the sea, his freedom. A day comes when she realizes they have traveled all the places they once desired to go, but it is not until she sees him stare at an apple orchard they pass in a western port town for a few moments too long that she knows he finally understands that they're trapped, that he's lost what is most important to him for her sake.
The lead shot rings heavily in her ears as it tugs at her rotting flesh.
Â· Â§ Â·
She doesn't fear the bite of the blade this time, as she did when Barbossa first held her over the chest of gold. She knows there is no reason for her to fear it, no reason for her to fear at all. When she has drenched the coin, she sighs, drops it down to join its other 886 identical pieces, and waits.
She doesn't feel anything at first, worries she has done it wrong. But then the pain comes again, blossoming low in her belly, and she reaches down to coat her fingers in the sticky blood, the red harsh against her pale fingers.
Peas in a pod, he once told her, and the words were true. She called him selfish when she opened her eyes to find him kneeling beside her on a bed of treasure, holding her hand fisted with his, knowing instantly what he had done. He asked her to take the curse then, for him, for them both, and she agreed. But she was selfish too, a pirate at heart, and sinking down on the mountain of treasure now, she lets her eyes drift shut: as they should be.
He may be angry when he finds her, may grieve and suffer. She thinks he'll understand, though, thinks he won't be confused. And even though she doesn't try to open her eyes to see if he is there, to see his face again, to see if she is right about him knowing, she can rest.
It won't be long before he joins her.