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Taking sides

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“This is ridiculous.”

“Elizabeth, please be reasonable.”

A startled, incredulous laugh escapes her. “I’m not being reasonable? James, you want to lock me up during what is only a friendly negotiation with Captain Villanueva—”

“That could easily turn hostile.”

Elizabeth can think of another negotiation that’s about to turn hostile. Luckily for James’ current state of health, in that moment Jack enters the cabin. 

“Finally,” she exclaims, feeling some tension ease off her shoulders. “Jack, can you please tell James here that he’s exaggerating?”

Jack only heaves a sigh, looking like he’s about to enter a lion’s cage. “Lizzie, I think it might be for the best if you sit this one out.”

It takes Elizabeth a moment to collect her hanging jaw before she can reply.

“You’re taking his side on this?”

“Darling—”

“Don’t you ‘darling’ me, Jack Sparrow. Even if it comes to a battle, I’ve fought my fair share of them before. I will not be left out of this.”

“You know under normal circumstances I wouldn’t dream of stopping you, love, but in your condition—”

She rolls her eyes so hard it hurts. “What about my condition?” She can’t believe they are having this conversation. Jack only gives her a look, one so patronizing it makes her feel like she’s 12 again, getting lectured for climbing trees in her new dress. She knows James is giving her a similar look, so she doesn’t bother turning to him for help. “I’m not even showing yet! You’re acting like I can barely stand on my own feet!”

Jack’s face softens, his hands coming up rest on her shoulders. “Well, as far as I’m concerned, you should not be standing up at all. You should be in bed, being lavished upon like a queen, not a single worry in your pretty little head, savvy?”

And despite her unshakable resolve, she can’t help relaxing a little, under Jack’s touch and the sincerity in his voice. “But I’m not a queen, Jack. I’m the Pirate King, remember? If I wanted to sit around all day doing nothing, I would’ve stayed in Port Royal and married James!” Then, remembering the man’s presence, she takes a peak over Jack’s shoulder and adds “No offense, of course!”

But James only laughs, that rough pirate sound that suits him so much better than his proper smiles, and if their long ago encounter with Davy Jones hadn’t thoroughly convinced Elizabeth of her inability to live without Jack, she thinks maybe, maybe this James is one she wouldn’t have minded having her way with… Still smirking like the very devil, James does a shallow bow, and says “If her majesty allows, I’ll now return to my post.” 

Out of the corner of her eye, she can see Jack frowning, but wisely he keeps his mouth shut. She knows theirs hasn’t been the easiest friendship (and she knows they are friends by now, loath as both of them are to admit it), and that Jack only allows James’ blatant disrespect to his person because James would lay down his life for her without a second thought, and Jack seems to think she needs all the knights in shining armour he can get her.

‘A king is naught without an army ready to defend him or her, savvy?’  he’d told her once, and to this day she’s sure he has secretly appointed himself the general of said unofficial army.

Shaking herself out of her thoughts, Elizabeth nods at James, trying not to smile the way the use of her title always provokes. She’s still very displeased with them ganging up on her (and who would’ve thought she’d live to see this day!) but at least she has a better chance of changing Jack’s mind than she has James’s. Specially if they are in private. 

Once the door closes behind him, Elizabeth swallows her indignation and slips her arms around Jack’s neck, sweet and non-threatening. If she’s learned anything over the last couple of years by his side, it’s that her femininity is the best weapon she has against him. “Come now, Jack. You’re always going off about freedom, would you really lock me up down here against my will?” she whispers in her silkiest voice.

She delights in the bobbing motion of his Adam’s apple as he gulps, obviously not as unaffected by her as he wants her to believe. “Lizzie, love,” he begins, reaching behind himself to take her hands into his, then holding them securely to his chest. “You know guilt won’t work on me. I made up my mind, and I really do think it best if you stay.”

He’s barely finished before she rips her hands out of his, crossing her arms and giving him the most powerful glare she can summon. For a brief moment, he shuts his eyes tightly, hands opening and closing around empty air, and she’s left a little breathless by the naked hurt on his face. The need to apologize increases when he opens his eyes and looks at her with poorly veiled sadness.

It’s a look she remembers a little too vividly, from that terrible day, almost lifetime ago, when his ship was sinking and there was nothing anyone could do to avoid it.

She’s still angry, and she knows she’s in the right, so she won’t apologize. Still, she’s not willing to throw their entire life together overboard because of some silly argument, and if they can just have a civilized conversation and solve this, she’ll gladly start on the path towards reconciliation. Funny, how being thrown into a life of dubious morals has finally made her grow up.

“I just never thought you, of all people, would do this to me,” she explains, trying not to sound as accusatory as she feels. “Everyone always expects me to move aside, stay out of the way, but you never did”

For a moment he looks like she slapped him across the face — so much for guilt not working on him — and this is not what she intended at all, but before she can open her mouth and make it worse, he starts nodding as if to himself, working his jaw sideways in that funny way of his that never fails to make her smile (she bites down on said smile, now, knowing it’s not the moment for reconciliation yet). Once he’s recovered enough he simply says, “You’re right.”

And she knows what a victory this is, she knows how hard it was for him to admit that, but she still feels no satisfaction. “Jack…” she pleads, vaguely realizing that now she is the one being guilt-tripped.

“I understand, love, I truly do.” He approaches her again, tentatively. “And you make a very compelling argument, but may I now give you my reasons for wanting you safe down here?” She nods for hims to continue, then catches him glancing longingly at her hands but not daring to take them again.

It makes her heart ache so pleasantly that she can’t help giving in, extending the desired limbs to him, palms up, a peace offering even though she was the one who needed to be appeased a moment ago. The small breath of relief that escapes him as their fingers intertwine again is more than worth losing this battle.

“First of, you should know I don’t, in any way, doubt your ability to defend yourself.” Elizabeth only raises an eyebrow, as if to ask ‘Really?’ but she doesn’t interrupt him. “Second of, even if worst came to worst, half the men on this ship would give their lives defending their king. The other half would gladly avenge her, too.”

“So what’s the problem, then?”

He presses his lips into a fine line, eyebrows scrunched together, looking terribly worried (which, in turn, makes Elizabeth worry). He opens and closes his mouth a couple of times, but he can’t seem to find the word for what he’s trying to say.

“You said before it was about my 'condition’?” She prompts, not quite able to keep the annoyance out of her voice.

“Yes, and you have to admit it’s a perfectly logical reason.”

“Jack,” she whines, already tired of this argument. “I’m pregnant, not ill. There’s nothing hindering me from fighting just yet.”

“You really don’t understand it, 'lizbeth, do you?” is all he can say, his voice a rough whisper. He drops her hands, this time, and she panics for a moment, feeling cold all over until he brings his hand up to cradle her cheeks, holding her gaze like he’s about to impart some invaluable knowledge.

“You are the woman of my life, Lizziebeth. And if that wasn’t enough, you are now carrying my child. You are the most precious of silver and gold to me, more precious than the sea or the wind on my sails or this very ship, or my own life.”

She parts her lips to hush him, to tell him his life is far too precious to her for him to be speaking like that, but he stops her with a thumb over her lips. He seems to be distracted by this, staring intently at the motion, back and forth, of his thumb stroking her lips. She takes this moment to try to absorb what he’s just said.

He’d once told her that his one and only love was the Sea, and she’s witnessed the reverence with which he treats The Pearl, hell, the man sold his soul for this ship they’re in right now. But to have him say that she, a mere human girl made of flesh and bone, and one that has brought him so much misfortune at that, is the woman of his life… 

“If anything were to happen to you, or our child…” he falters, gulping forcefully like there’s something stuck in his throat. “Having to live with that would be worse than an eternity in the locker itself.”

“Jack,” she whispers, feeling guilt wash over her, as always when the locker is mentioned, but also overwhelmed with the extent of love his words — both their tone and their meaning — reveal.

“Anyway,” he continues, shaking his head to clear away somber thoughts (or rather memories, she guesses, swallowing against the lump in her throat). “As I was saying, you’re my silver and gold, and I wouldn’t be a very good pirate if I didn’t protect me treasure, now would I?” He tries to come off more casual now, more like his usual charming self, but she can sense the embarrassment rolling off him in waves, and she tries not to burst out laughing with joy at how much she loves this man.

“Oh, Jack,” she says again, still too overwhelmed to try and find the words to say that the feeling is absolutely mutual. That he is just as important to her, that she’s already seen what the world looks like without him and she never wants to repeat the experience. She settles for a kiss, slow and open-mouthed, as if she were trying to exhale her love into his mouth.

When they break away for air she doesn’t let him go far, holding him by the neck to keep his forehead pressed against hers. He looks positively wrecked, she thinks, with a frankly ridiculous amount of pride. She still can’t quite repress the burning feeling in the pit of her stomach at the thought that she does this to him, that she has this power over a man she once thought untouchable.

She tightens her grip on him. Mine, she thinks, and swallows back the possessive growl rising in her throat. Years of piracy have effectively stripped away most of her ladylike sensibilities, but sometimes she still shocks herself with how animalistic her desires have become.

Fortunately, Jack doesn’t seem to mind. He’s nosing the side of her face, from her jaw to her temple, still trying to catch his breath. She lets out a contented sigh, throwing her other arm around him and securing her hold on his neck.

“So,” he breathes against her hair, “will you stay down here? For me?”

“No,” she laughs, playfully hitting his shoulder. “But I’m willing to make a compromise.”

“Hmm, I’m listening,” he sounds more like he could fall asleep any moment now, but she can’t really begrudge him. Holding each other like this, no hungry kisses or desperate hands, brings her such peach that she’s feeling quite drowsy too.

“I promise I will stay out of the way of dangerous activities when I actually start having trouble handling myself. And I promise I won’t even fuss and rage about it.” He has to pull away, then, to give her a knowing look. “Well, I won’t fuss and rage too much.”

“And when will this laying in start?”

“I never said anything about laying in.”

“'Lizbeth…”

“Alright, we’ll negotiate the terms when we get there, in… say, five months.”

“Five months? I know I’m no expert on the art of child bearing, but I would bet half the rum in this ship that that’s too much time for you to be gallivanting around the way you do.”

“Half the rum?” Now that’s an interesting proposal. “So what’s your deadline, then? What am I betting against?”

Jack stops to consider (though she’d bet the other half of the rum that he’s regretting not keeping his mouth shut). “Three months,” he half asks, as if expecting a cue from her.

“Perfect,” is all she says, because she has seen women over six months along, waddling around, yes, but still able to go about their business like nothing. This is going to be so easy, she almost feels bad for letting him make such a stupid bet. Almost.

She gives him her most winning smile, untangling herself from him to offer a handshake. “We’ll see in three months whether I’m unfit for working. And when you discover that I’m still perfectly capable of carrying myself, you’ll have to give me half of your rum.”

Not that all the rum in this ship isn’t already theirs, but she knows Jack has yet to forgive her for her heretic desecration of said liquor during their time on the rum runner’s island.

“And what do I get if I win? What if by then you find yourself unable to even get out of bed and I have to bring you your every meal, like the queen you won’t let me make of you?”

“That definitely won’t happen, but for fairness sake, name your desired prize, Captain Sparrow.”

She waits with her eyebrows raised, barely holding in her amusement (she loves that their banter hasn’t really altered) but after a moment she realizes he’s gone too serious, that his gaze is too intense, and she considers reassuring him that it’s not a serious bet and she won’t actually take away his rum.

“If I win…” he trails off, seemingly unsure, eyes roving over her face to measure her reactions. He must find something that gives him courage, for he finally speaks. “If I win, darling, you will marry me.”

She catches herself before she can stupidly ask 'what?’ but that still leaves her staring, wide-eyed and gaping like a complete idiot.

She wants to ask him, aren’t we as good as married as it is? She wants to ask, what value has marriage to a pirate anyway? She wants to ask, do you truly love me this much? She wants to slap him and tell him not to toy with her feelings. She wants to kiss him senseless.

But his gaze is steady, his eyes serious (and if she looks closer, he’s shifting his jaw nervously, but he’s very adept at hiding it), and she decides it would be an insult to ask, to even doubt his intentions, after all this time, with everything they’ve been through, with his child growing inside her.

“Deal,” she answers, and by some miracle her voice doesn’t tremble. They shake hands on it, and that’s when his composure falters, a bit of a smirk breaking through his strictly-business façade. She holds onto his hand longer than needed, and reaches for his face with her free arm. He catches her wrist, softly, and lays a kiss on her pulse.

“As much as I would like to stay and celebrate our engagement—”

“Potential engagement. You may yet loose half your rum instead.”

Jack rolls his eyes with enough determination to let Elizabeth know that this is happening, regardless of the outcome of some stupid bet, and Elizabeth finds she can no longer contain her smile.

“We do have business to attend to on deck, if we want to live to see the day said potential debts will be settled.”

“You are right, Captain Sparrow, please lead the way.” Then, leaning up to reach his ear. “Though please remember I will hold you to the fulfillment of said celebrations, as soon as our business on deck is finished.”

She can feel his smirk against her cheek. “Your wish is my command, Your Highness.”