Author: Sally R
Pairing: J/E post AWE
Disclaimer: For fun, not profit.
Author’s note: The other night fried_flamingo and I came up with a mini fic challenge – 500 words, half an hour, and a random word – ‘privilege’. An hour and a half and about 1500 words later, we’d both written something! ;)
You can find fried_flamingo’s poignant Fall from Grace over on her journal. My own ramblings are below... Enjoy!
He watched her from across the deck, never directly and always when he knew she wasn’t paying attention. He watched her work, taking secret delight in the play of her slender muscles beneath the rough spun clothes that belied her rank. He watched with brazen fascination as the sweat beaded on her brow and she swiped it away with a casual flick of her hand. He watched and he wondered… How was it that she was so oblivious to the privileges of rank that he guarded so carefully? She, who had been born into Society and raised upon milk and propriety.
Captain Swann, he thought, ought not to be coiling a line like a common deckhand. It set a bad example to the company; for all the Code spoke of an equal share for an equal day’s labour, discipline required that the distinction of rank be preserved. So he’d learned, to his cost, at the end of Barbossa’s treacherous pistol. But Jack Sparrow was increasingly unsure whose dignity he was keen to preserve; the captain of the ship pressed into service, or the Pirate King who was doing said pressing?
Elizabeth seemed heedless of either, working beneath the sun with an uncomplaining smile upon her lips. Ever since she’d tripped along the gangplank from the ramshackle docks of the Cove, her sunny hair floating in the breeze, she’d insisted on labouring alongside the rest of his crew – insisted on eating and sleeping alongside the likes of Ragetti and Pintel, Cotton and Gibbs. She’d refused, in short, any of the privileges Jack Sparrow insisted upon as captain of the Black Pearl.
It made him nervous, made him itchy. What did she want? What was she scheming? She was up to something, that much was clear, but what it might be he couldn’t fathom. And so he watched her, studying her work with an increasing and grudging respect; the years had taught her something, if not of rank then at least of sea craft. She could make good the lines, reef the sails, and hold the helm as steady as the next man. He had no doubt she could navigate too, from the hours he’d watched her at night when she thought she was alone.
In those quiet hours she’d stroll the deck toward the prow, make herself comfortable upon the bowsprit – in the very spot where he had a want to sit! – and gaze up at the stars. Sometimes he saw her lips move and at first he’d assumed she muttered prayers, or perhaps silent words of love for William Turner. Then, one night, he’d seen those lips form words – Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Pegasus – and he knew she was cataloguing the skies, as he’d been taught to do as a boy. He’d seen his father’s hand in that, and felt a twist of unnatural jealousy; ’twas wrong on many counts to feel any kind of sibling envy for the girl who’d grown to womanhood in the years he’d been absent.
She was a sailor then, it seemed, but lacking the taste for the privileges her station endowed; by all rights, the Pirate King should have commandeered the Pearl’s Great Cabin, not bunked down with the crew. She’d not asked, however, and he’d refused to offer; he would play her game, whatever it may be, and he would win. Was he not still Captain Jack Sparrow, after all?
“Do you think I plot mutiny?” Her question came from the darkness, from the bowsprit where she lounged, gazing at the stars.
Jack made no immediate response. Instead, he moved from the shadows to stand by the rail, leaning against it and staring out over the crow-black sea. “I wonder why you’re here at all, love. Plenty of other ships at your command.”
She smiled, he could hear the soft sigh of it drifting through the balmy Caribbean air. “And is the Pearl at my command?”
“I’m at your service, Majesty.”
“You care nothing for such things, Jack. No more than I.”
He turned, wishing he could see her face but it was lost in the darkness. “You play the part well enough. Live the life of the Pirate King, do you not?”
“For want of any other.” She leaned forward, into the light of the ship’s lamps, and he saw that her face was pale and still – like the moon reflected in a calm sea. “It seems I was born to be a victim of rank.”
He smiled, genuinely confused and disliking the sensation. Talking to Elizabeth Swann was akin to coming ashore after a twelve month at sea; it made him unsteady upon his feet. “Me self, I’m accustomed to considering the privilege of rank to be—” he fluttered his fingers in search of the word “—a privilege.”
“A wall,” she countered, “a barrier. An impregnable fortress that keeps you from the life beyond.”
“Ah…” He cut her a sly look and, perhaps for the first time since the voyage began, a smile. “Impregnable fortress? I’ve never encountered one of those; every prison has it’s weakness, Lizzie – if you know where to look.”
She smiled too, almost as if it were against her will. Staring out into the night, she said, “Do you know where to look, Jack?”
He was silent, watching her; watching the strength in her fingers as they curled around the forestay and kept her secure upon her perch; watching the lines etched into a face marked by time and tide, and made more beautiful for all its imperfection. He heard himself sigh. “I thought another held the keys, love, and that there was no need for a clandestine escape.” After a pause, he added, “Was I wrong?”
“No,” she said softly. “No, not at first. But eternity is a long time to play the Virgin Queen and wait upon the shore for a husband who can never be a husband.”
Again he was silent, for it seemed that the deck of the Pearl had begun to cant and he thought, perhaps, some maelstrom had opened beneath them. No such luck, however, for the racing of his heart had no cause beyond the words whispered like the soft click of shackles closing. “Never seen you as a damsel in need of saving, love,” he said in a voice like dust. “If you don’t like your fortress, I suggest you leave of your own accord.”
She smiled, her eyes meeting his. They glittered, he thought, like rum in firelight and he could almost taste the burn of it upon his lips. “Why do you think I’m here, Jack Sparrow? I have other ships at my command. Better ships. Cleaner ships.”
“In Shipwreck Cove I sleep alone in a bed the size of a sloop. No man dare approach me for fear of the ten others lurking in the shadows, prepared to do murder to prevent one Lord from rising above another in my favour. You, Jack…” With an easy twist of her lithe body, she swung down from the bowsprit to stand before him. “You are the only pirate who wants nothing to do with me.”
“I’m the only pirate what’s had something to do with you, love, and paid the price.”
“Yes,” she agreed with strange enthusiasm. “To you I am Elizabeth Swann, not the King of the Pirates. Not wife to the Captain of the Dutchman. To you I am mortal, fallible – human. You didn’t care that I was the Governor’s daughter, and you don’t care that I’m the Pirate King.”
“I made you the Pirate King,” he pointed out.
“Precisely!” She said it with a beam and took a disturbing step closer. “Don’t you see, Jack? You’re the only one who’s ever really known—” She looked down, suddenly awkward – a child again. “In Port Royal I cared nothing for the privilege of rank – I hated it, in fact, because it kept me from…from…”
“From William?” He loathed the resentful edge to his voice, yet seemed unable to smooth it away.
She looked at him again. “From the freedom I thought he offered, yes.”
“You made me King, Jack. You marooned me in the Cove as surely as Barbossa marooned us on that little spit of land, and I’ve spent too long watching you sail away.”
His turn to look down. “I’ve been otherwise occupied. Had me bloody ship to reclaim didn’t I?”
“And in the two years since you recovered the Pearl?”
He shrugged and said nothing, but they both knew the truth.
With a sigh, Elizabeth made as if to leave. “The Pearl will always be yours, Jack. I would never commandeer her, not for an hour. I only wished to leave the fortress for a little, and I thought that here, at least, I might live free a while.”
He caught her hand before she left, slender and strong – enough to send his heart hammering against his ribs. “You are free here,” he said in a voice that seemed too harsh. “No need to commandeer the Pearl or her captain, we’re always at your service.”
“Don’t you see?” she sighed. “I don’t want your service.”
“Your friendship,” she said. “If that is all that’s to be had, then at least grant me your friendship.” Yet, as she spoke, her fingers tightened about his and he could see her pulse fluttering at the base of her throat. “Your friendship and your respect, as equals.”
“Equals?” Somehow they were moving closer, their fingers engaged in an intimate, sensual dance that left them gloriously entwined.
“To the Locker with privilege, Jack. To the Locker with rank.”
He was close enough to see her clearly now, to see how her eyes were turning liquid and dark, to see the heated rise and fall of her chest. He felt his heart beat in time with hers as he quietly said, “Not all privileges of rank should be so wantonly cast aside…”
“Should they not?”
“Have you never heard of the Captain’s privilege?”
Far from shocked, Elizabeth smiled as if she’d just pinched the Crown Jewels from the White Tower itself. “Why don’t you enlighten me, Captain Sparrow?”
And in that moment he knew that this had been the object of her scheme from the start; he had been the prize. It was enough to make him dizzy with delight and his breath caught as her lips brushed brazenly along his jaw. “Pirate…”
Elizabeth shook her head, breathing soft triumph against his ear. “King!”
With a smile that wanted to be a kiss, he murmured, “Majesty, then, allow me to introduce you to the greatest privilege the rank of Captain has to bestow…” Her sculpted brow rose in a question and he grinned as he traced the contours of her lips with one, tar-stained finger. “An enormous, quite magnificent… cabin.” His eyes met hers, dark and expectant as the night. “Savvy?”
Her only reply was the butterfly softness of her lips against his, her hand curling behind his neck to draw him closer.
When morning dawned, it found Captain and King as one, hearts and limbs irretrievably tangled and the rank of both cast forever to the wind.
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it. :)