Try Not to Breathe
By Clarity Scifiroots
Pairings: pre-Will/Jack, implied Will/Elizabeth, implied Jack/Elizabeth, implied Norrington/AnaMaria, implied Norrington/Elizabeth
Word Count: 5,252
Rating: Teen – strong sexual language in parts
Summary: The beginning of an important journey.
Disclaimers apply, it’s fanfiction afterall. Title comes from an R.E.M. song that I saw on my playlist while seeking out a title.
Spoilers: Crazy amounts for all of DMC, set post-movie.
Warnings: Crazy implications of all sorts of pairings. But seriously, nothing much.
Notes: My first participation in piratechallenge! Blink and you'll miss the required required mention of whipping. And please be aware that I was falling asleep by the last scene so I apologize for any incoherency.
“Tia, if we’re to sail, where can we find a ship? It’s too far to row to the nearest port.”
Tia Dalma turned to Will with a black-toothed grin that he was coming to recognize as one of enjoyment as she drew out the process of revealing her vast knowledge piece by piece. In a way she toyed with her visitors, although in the end she seemed amazingly willing to offer what they sought—for a trade, of course. He had yet to discern what payment she would extract for this exchange.
“Mas’da Turner,” she greeted, slowly moving towards him, her hips sashaying seductively. With a touch to his elbow, she guided him further into the back room where she had disappeared to hours ago.
“Young William, you be much distracted. Such madders be not yer concern. De mornin’ brings yer answers.”
Will shook his head slowly, in confusion or denial, he wasn’t sure which.
“Dere are other madders den, aye?” Tia cackled softly and something seemed to spark in her yellowed eyes. “Sid wit’ me, Young Mas’da. I ken cure what ails you.”
Although he wasn’t sure he believed her, Will did want to talk; and he doubted he could sleep tonight. He sat in the blanket-covered wicker armchair she indicated. The chair creaked as he sat but held his weight. He didn’t lean back, not quite trusting that the lumps covered by the blankets weren’t something that crawled or slithered. As per usual, Tia seemed to have read his mind; she chuckled as she watched him uncomfortably settle.
“Somet’ing to drink?” she asked, already moving to a cracked cupboard door to retrieve a flask filled with dark, unfamiliar liquid. She poured two full mugs and handed one to him. Will eyed the funny-smelling stuff hesitantly. “Drink up or we gid nowhere, Young Mas’da.”
Wrinkling his nose, Will threw back a mouthful and gasped at the blaze burning down his throat and into his gut. He coughed until his vision blurred. When he regained his composure, Tia was sitting in a chair across from him, sipping her drink with a little smirk on her lips. She arched an eyebrow at him and indicated that he should follow her example. Warily Will lifted his mug and sipped his next swallow. The fire still burned its way through his body, but it failed to incapacitate him.
“You be willin’ to learn. Good,” she said with a pleased expression. “No man ken know all.”
“And women?” Will prompted, more curious than teasing.
Tia Dalma smiled tolerantly. “Woman,” she said, “is a different madder, Young Mas’da.”
“The fairer sex... heart over mind, patient and tolerant.”
Annoyance flashed over her face momentarily. “De madders of man and woman is not so easily explained, Young William.” She set aside her drink and leaned forward. “People are much de same, moreso’n dey realize. De passion of woman is just as passionate as dat of man. De wit of one does not outdo de other.”
“So I’ve seen,” Will said quietly.
“Tia, will we succeed?”
“Ahh, me boy...” She leaned back in her chair with the patient smile of a wizened grandmother. “How ken you succeed if you don’t know de journey?” At his confused reaction, she continued, “Jack is not de only one unable to make up ‘is mind. Whad do you want, William Turner?”
Her gaze locked him within the confines of some strong web he couldn’t tear. “Return home with
Tia shook her head slowly, her eyes dancing, silently taunting him. Will clenched his hands into fists and demanded, “What do you expect me to answer?”
“I expect not’ing more dan whad you be willin’ to admit,” she said gently, humor lingering in her gaze. “Whad de truth is, you do not expect.”
Will closed his eyes and ran a hand over his tangled hair in exasperation. “I wish I’d just finished it on the damn beach,” he muttered. He was at a loss, stuck in the eye of a storm of emotions. Too many decisions and unclear paths lay before him. “I wish Jack were here,” he breathed, hardly realizing he’d said anything.
Tia Dalma’s chuckle this time was by far the most gentle he’d heard. He looked to her in surprise. “De madders of de heart. Traps both man ‘n woman. Whad is anyone’s desires, Young Mas’da? Jack Sparrow, de Lord Beckett, de Commodore,
“You mean... Jones’ heart?”
“No. Yer heart. Jack’s heart.
He stared up into her depthless gaze and held his breath. What answer could he give when he couldn’t yet understand? Her expression softened and she stroked his cheek tenderly with her fingertips. “How I ache for dee, Young Mas’da. Yer heart is strong, do not ignore it.”
Will stepped out of the hut after Tia Dalma bid him goodnight and ascended the spiral stairs to her loft. Sleep still eluded him, and the drink had enhanced the surreal nature of his surroundings. The bayou would have been pitch black were it not for all the candles lining railings outside every hut. Will closed his eyes and shuddered. The memory of the Kraken attacks he’d witnessed were still disturbingly fresh in his memory.
The night air was heavy and damp with a surprising heat. Will loosened his shirt cuffs and pushed them up to his elbows, then started unbuttoning his shirt. He felt the blaze of Tia’s drink flood his body once again and he wondered if he should worry about its contents. As he pulled the fabric of his shirt away from his sweaty chest he heard the creak of burdened wood. He turned his head to find very unwelcome company pulling himself up the ladder. Will let go of his shirt, resisting the urge to wince as it stuck immediately to his skin.
“If it isn’t the young Turner.”
Will turned fully to face Barbossa’s condescending smirk. He stared defiantly but said nothing.
“Thar be no comfort tonight fer yer woman, then?” Barbossa said; his grin widened when Will bristled. “What’s in yer mind, Mister Turner? Could it be yeh lost ‘er ter Sparrow an’ yeh fancy yerself the gentleman—bowing out? Or was it you Sparrow wooed t’bed?”
Face suffused in a wave of hot embarrassment, Will started angrily, “You don’t know us—!”
Barbossa’s eyes widened in a jeering manner. “Or did yeh both allow Jack to fuck yeh?”
Will took a step back in shock. Barbossa laughed at him and leered suggestively. “’E always did enjoy mountin’ the spirit’d ones.”
Barbossa moved forward and Will took another step back—quickly finding himself trapped against the wooden rail. The pirate’s hand stroked the air near Will’s face as he taunted, “An’ yeh would be the perfect catch. Tell me, boy, was yer father’s lover really lookin’ at you as yeh let ‘im bugger yeh?”
Will discovered he couldn’t breathe. The world shifted violently away from any sense of familiarity. Logical thought escaped him. A myriad of memories threw him further off-balance; they assaulted his senses—echoed voices, exchanges reiterated in surprising detail and clarity, even the stenches of Davy Jones, his ship, and his crew.
He didn’t know how long it took to regain his equilibrium (albeit shaky); meanwhile Barbossa had vanished. Will stared blindly at the flickering candle flames with nausea curling in his belly. A trickle of horrified resentment raised a bitter taste in his mouth as his head provided him with the image of Elizabeth and Jack kissing on board the
It was a surprise to realize that the pain he felt was not a result of
Whad de truth is, you do not expect.
Will closed his eyes against the reminders of Jack’s passing. The pain eating away at his soul originated in the empty space he hadn’t realized Jack once filled.
It would never be enough. Leaning against the quarterdeck rail, James wondered how he could have thought for even a moment that he could ever regain his old life or that one delivery, however priceless the item, would satisfy Cutler Beckett. For his trouble he did indeed have the letters of Marque, but he knew from experience that the title of “privateer” made little difference for most sea-faring men. In addition, Beckett had granted him a ship and a small crew under his command—with the proviso that both ship and crew were to be used in retrieving three particularly clever renegades.
Beckett’s cool words rattled in the back of James’ thoughts as he stared blindly at the distant horizon. “Sparrow’s capture is of great import, Mister Norrington.” Beckett’s voice was smooth as silk but with an underlying sting of ice. “But there is the additional matter of a William Turner and his former bride. I expect Miss Swann’s father would see her safe from harm. Upon your return with these... fugitives from justice, we shall see about resuming your military standing.”
James hadn’t seen the governor during his brief stay, nor did he need to in order to recognize that Davy Jones was not the only one who bartered with other people’s souls and lives.
With a day’s journey behind him, James now took into consideration all possible avenues open to him. He suffered no guilt for what he had done, yet he felt an urgent need to find the eccentric pirate captain and his questionable crew. For the moment he could fool himself into thinking it was merely a logistical move; they shared a common enemy after all.
The problem, of course, was his lack of heading and inability to trust anyone on his crew. James clenched his jaw at the memory of faithful friends that had found watery graves because of his obsessive quest to capture one infamous pirate. He had been blind before and lost more than he realized he’d possessed. Now there was nothing left to lose. He turned to eye the helmsman and felt an unexpected wave of calm flow through his limbs, down to his fingertips and toes.
The wind picked up suddenly and James turned his eyes to the East Indian Company flag flapping noisily high above. He knew better than to ignore the instinct that told him the wind was an unnatural one. Undead pirates... literally heartless men... soul debts... Strange that the supernatural suddenly seemed completely normal. James realized that he probably had little choice in the coming events; he was certain this wind would carry him where he needed to be.
“I’ll take the wheel,” James said, his tone cutting off the argument he could see forming on the younger crewman’s face. “I will call when I care to be relieved.”
The fog had fallen in a thick blanket shortly before sunset. The crew was clearly unsettled as they weighed anchor. James found himself impossibly calm; in fact, he slept fitfully that night for the first time in months. In the morning pale sunlight filtered through the cloak of fog that still surrounded them as he came up on deck. He slowly walked the outer edges of the ship, listening carefully and keeping a keen eye on the play of light.
It was midday that the wind picked up and the fog cleared. James watched the large shadow off the starboard side materialize into the obvious curves of a ship. With a small, slightly amused smile, he noted the lack of flag. Of course it would be pirates, he thought. He heard his crew scrambling to make preparations as it sunk in who their company was. James didn’t move, simply stood facing the pirate ship with his hands clasped behind his back. On the other ship’s deck he could now make out the details of the taunt bodies of all shapes and sizes readied for battle. The variety of characters he saw him made him think of Sparrow’s crew; as a matter fact, he thought he recognized some of them...?
“Where’s the capt’n?” a commanding voice turned every man’s head in surprise to the quarterdeck where a trio of heavily-armed pirates stood prepared to attack. The smallest of the three, a narrow-shouldered pirate with long, black hair in multiple thick braids seemed to be in charge. With some surprise, James realized it was a woman when she spoke again. “Ye’re outnumbered an’ unprepared, spare us the heroics,” she snapped at a pair of foolhardy men who had tried to subtly fill their pistols.
James unclasped his hands and held them out from his sides as he stepped forward. “I am the captain. We have nothing of value; what do you want with us?”
The woman eyed him disdainfully. “I ‘ear yer luck took a bad turn, Commodore,” she said with a hint of disgust. “Be so good as to surrender yer armaments to my mate an’ join us on the Circe. We’ll leave yer crew none the worse but defenseless.”
James snorted softly, arching an eyebrow as he glanced at the hapless lot he’d had little more than two days to call “crew.” “I don’t know how I’ll manage,” he said dryly, unbuckling his sword belt and handing both that and his pistol to the tall, round man that approached.
Once across, he straightened up and met the gazes of the grave, scarred men surrounding him on the deck of the Circe. He turned when he heard the order for the plank to be withdrawn and anchor raised.
“Ma’am,” James started.
“That be Capt’n.” The woman glared up at him with dark, fiery eyes. “An’ what should I call you now? No commission, no ship...”
Irritated, James said through clenched teeth, “Mister Norrington will do.”
The woman’s bright white smile was a surprise though it was hardly welcoming; shark-like would be more appropriate. “No, I think it’s James, ain’t it? Well then, now that’s settled—” With a flick of her wrist she walked towards the captain’s cabin. Before he had a chance to follow voluntarily, James found himself flanked by two men with insistent daggers prodding the small of his back.
He wasn’t spoken to until after he’d been pressed into a chair and his ankles shackled together with the chain wound about a fastened-down table leg. At long last he was left alone with the unusual woman. She stared at him silently for a long while, her eyes giving him glimpses of anger and exhaustion.
“You know me,” James finally said when he could bear the silence no longer. “I am afraid I cannot recall your name or place your face.”
She snorted inelegantly and pulled out a chair. She sat back in the chair like a man would—lounging, limbs sprawled; although she was slightly built, her body language made her seem much more imposing.
“I doubt you ever learned my name,” she said, her tone lightening with momentary amusement. “Yer lady and Jack’s boy get almost as much attention as Jack hisself.” James searched her face, recalling a memory of the rich, cameral color of her skin and the determined set of her mouth. “My name is AnaMaria, ‘tho ye’re to stick wit’ Capt’n.”
Resisting the urge to smile, James nodded. “Captain it is. Would you mind enlightening me as to what exactly my current situation is?”
AnaMaria’s expression turned abruptly cool and blank. “I know what you did, James Norrington,” she said without preamble. “Many sea-faring folk will ‘ave a bone to pick wit’ you if the story of ‘ow the EITC came to control these waters.” She smiled bitterly at his wince. “Oh don’t worry, these are the tales that quickly spin into legend.”
“And this is why you have me chained in your room?”
She snarled at his innuendo and looked ready to punch him. (He wasn’t too sure she’d slap him, she struck him as the type to hold nothing back.)
“As a matter of fact, no, James. For some as yet nameless purpose, you ‘ave been requested on a voyage. Perhaps you can even atone for yer sins.”
“I find that a strange thing for a pirate to say.” James watched Ana’s lips purse in annoyance. Her eyes narrowed and he could almost feel the burning trail of her stare.
“Did you know what yer actions meant for the Black Pearl an’ ‘er crew?”
Her voice was low. The words’ import sent a shudder through his body. His gut twisted and he swallowed thickly, suddenly dreading the story this woman was about to tell him. AnaMaria watched him with an unreadable expression, and he knew she was testing him; for what reason, he couldn’t yet fathom.
“Nigh seven score of men ‘ave been claimed by the Kraken this past fortnight,” AnaMaria said harshly. “More’n a hundred of them were aboard the
With a sigh, James closed his eyes and bowed his head. “Sparrow,” he muttered. Unexpectedly he felt a small surge of emotion when he said it.
“Aye. Jack,” AnaMaria whispered, her voice raw.
James opened his eyes and took in her change of body language. She’d curled in on herself, crossed arms resting on her knees. “I can hardly be blamed for those deaths,” James defended. AnaMaria canted her head to one side and regarded him silently. “What do you expect me to do?” he asked. “I won’t be held accountable for the actions of others.”
AnaMaria uncrossed her arms and propped an elbow on the table. “Ye’re right,” she said softly. “But yer path is crossed with that of Jack Sparrow’s, which means you ‘ave a decision to make.”
“And what might that be?”
“Bring dem crates down to de boats,” Tia directed Pintel and Ragetti. She stood off to the side, stroking the smooth head of her yellow python as the men followed her orders, moving supplies onto the veranda and then passing them down to be placed in the handful of boats that were tied to the short dock.
Will sat in a chair nearby, sipping carefully at a strong, spicy tea Tia had pressed into his hands when he woke up from a restless few hours of sleep. Her knowing gaze in addition to a painful reminder of his healing lash marks had stopped any protests; what aide she could offer for recovery was appreciated.
“You’re coming with us?” he asked. Tia narrowed her eyes at him, suggesting the answer should be blindingly obvious. Chuckling softly, Will said, “You could have been sending provisions along for us.”
“Dese are me t’ings, Young Mas’da. No one knows dem like I do.”
“Have you ever sailed from here?”
Tia Dalma’s cast him an enigmatic smile. “Not for a long, long time. But me Jack...”
Quietly Will murmured, “He’s special; isn’t he?”
“Ahhh... so you have listened, den.” She tapped two fingers against her chest; “De heart be a powerful t’ing.”
Being careful to avoid bumping into the two pirates hauling a crate full of glass jars,
“What is it,
“We... I mean, are we...” She trailed off, her slender fingers tugging nervously at the fabric of her wrinkled coat. “Do we have a ship?”
Will looked to Tia Dalma, certain that she had made the arrangements. Tia grinned at Elizabeth, who shivered almost imperceptively, before replying. “We’ve a fine ship. She’s not as fine as de Pearl, but she be strong an’ ready to brave de weyrd.”
“Aye,” Will said with mild irritation that she had addressed him, not that Tia seemed to mind.
“Is there anythin’ else, Milady?” Ragetti inquired, moving cautiously around the hut, his wooden eye rolling wildly.
“Dat be all. Get to de boats yerself.” Tia returned her attention to Will and Elizabeth. “Mas’da Turner, get de Cap’tan. An’ I have somet’ing for you, Miz Swann.”
He found Barbossa in the loft, stretched out on the bed without hat or boots. The monkey sat on his chest, nibbling happily on a piece of winkled fruit.
Will shifted uncomfortably and cleared his throat. Barbossa turned his head lazily, Will had the feeling that the man had already been aware of his presence. “It’s time to leave.”
“Is it now?” The monkey scrambled over to a nearby chest of drawers as Barbossa sat up. “Fetch my hat, Whelp.”
Gritting his teeth, Will ascended the final stair and grabbed the large, garish hat from a peg on the wall. Behind him he heard Barbossa pulling on his boots and the monkey’s annoyed chattering.
“Here.” Will stood more than an arm’s length away as he shoved the hat towards Barbossa.
The older man grinned at Will predatorily. “Yeh goin’ ter be this surly the whole voyage, Mister Turner?” Barbossa taunted. “Ye’re takin’ orders from me, Whelp, think yeh can ‘andle that?”
“I won’t let you undermine our mission.”
Barbossa’s eyes widened theatrically and his grin turned into a knowing leer. “Ahh, so Sparrow did bugger yeh. Ye’re foolish ter think it’d be more’n that.”
“That’s not—” Will cut himself off. He glared angrily at Barbossa, frustrated and admittedly a little frightened by how easily the man could get under his skin. “Get up. Tia Dalma says we’re going.”
“Don’t worry, Mister Turner; mayhaps ol’ Jack will give yeh a ride in thanks fer savin’ ‘is sorry arse from the likes of Davy Jones.”
Will had moved to the stairs but he turned around quickly at the man’s words. “The Kraken took him before Jones...?” he started in confusion.
Barbossa’s expression hardened. “Ol’ Jack caused a lot’a trouble fer Davy Jones, yeh think the Dutchman wouldn’t go after ‘im to dispense ‘is punishment? A lifetime of servitude or a quick, painless death?” A cruel smile curled Barbossa’s lips. “No, Jones would see ‘im suffer.”
Will shuddered. Dear God, he hoped Tia Dalma had some magick to hasten their journey; they had to find Jack before Jones did.
Will rowed the boat he, Tia Dalma, and Elizabeth sat in. Gibbs, Pintel, and Ragetti rowed the other boats. It didn’t escape his notice that since Tia had taken her aside,
Upon reaching the mouth of the river,
“Dere she be,” Tia Dalma announced proudly.
Will looked over his shoulder to take a look at the ship backlit by the late afternoon sun. “We sail at dawn?”
“Aye,” Tia agreed. “De Circe need a night to prepare, as do we.”
Will mulled over her words silently. As he turned back around he met
The Circe’s crew had been reduced to six after a brief stop at port. AnaMaria had unlocked the shackles after their talk, but she hadn’t spoken to James since then except to give orders. He would have liked more of an explanation though he appreciated the silence while going over what he did know.
It was late afternoon by the time the long boats were spotted. AnaMaria kept a sharp eye on their approach. She told James to stand back while her crew took care of things. He watched in annoyed silence as the crew caught and tied the ropes to secure the boats and drop down a rope ladder. James tensed as a crewman leaned over the rail to offer a hand to the person climbing up; he was convinced it would be Turner or Elizabeth, both of whom he was sure would be happy to run him through once getting over their surprise.
Instead it was a strange-looking woman who stepped onto the deck. The whites of her eyes were yellowed and slightly bloodshot; the color of her skin was darker than AnaMaria’s and tinted an unusual clay-red; her dreadlocked hair was decorated with bits of bone and feather. AnaMaria stepped forward and took the woman’s hands and proceeded to kiss the woman’s decorated cheeks. James watched in stunned silence.
The stranger’s eyes wandered over the ship and met his stare. He felt breathless in the face of such a depthless, wizened gaze. She withdrew from AnaMaria and approached him, never breaking eye contact.
“You have decided to join us, den,” she spoke with the heavy accent he recognized as being from the more heavily French-influenced islands.
After a time he realized she expected an answer; he provided her with the truth. “I felt I hadn’t much choice.”
Her knowing smile revealed darkly stained teeth, and he was pleasantly surprised to find her breath didn’t reek—although it did have a distinctly spicy, earthy smell. “You already made de choice,” she said. “De paths we choose reveal demselves in time, Commodore.”
“Who are you?” he whispered.
She leaned in closer and rapped her knuckles against his chest. “You know me already.” As she stepped away James felt the rest of the world fade back into focus.
“Norrington?” The harsh exclamation tore through the remaining vestiges of his daze. He shifted his gaze in time to see a furious, pale-faced William Turner striding toward him. “You damn bastard!” Turner shouted, withdrawing his sword in one smooth motion.
James reached for his belt, realizing almost too late that AnaMaria had yet to return his weapons. He backed away quickly from the advancing sword. He was silently grateful when the strange woman stepped forward and wrapped her hand around Turner’s wrist.
“William,” her tone was sharp and James could see her grip tighten painfully on the man’s wrist. “Him heart bring him here. On dis journey he be needed.”
Turner’s sword fell from trembling fingers, only then did the woman release him. Turner cast her a sidelong glare as he cradled the hand to his chest.
“Damn you, Norrington.” Turner’s eyes blazed with rage. “We could have ended it! Was it worth it?” he snapped. “You bloody coward.”
James cut off his retort as he caught sight of a tall, ominous-looking man who confidently walked across the deck, eyeing the ship hungrily. “I should... know him,” he muttered, narrowing his eyes in frustration.
James glanced questioningly at the strange woman—Tia Dalma. Ends of the World? To bring back Sparrow, AnaMaria had said. “Raising the dead?” he questioned softly.
Tia offered a muted smile. “Dere is a place between life an’ death, if de heart be stubborn an’ de soul strong.”
Turner’s shoulders drooped in apparent relief; hope flickered brightly in his eyes.
“Gents, have we a problem?” Barbossa’s chilly voice made James’ skin crawl; he watched Turner’s face pinch in discomfort. “Ye’re free ter kill each other if yeh think that’d settle things,” he offered with a wide smirk.
Tia Dalma scowled, though James had the sense that there was amusement in the expression, too. “We need to keep de peace, ‘else dere be nothin’ to help.”
Turner stared icily at Barbossa for long moments. Then abruptly he faced James and stuck out his hand. “An accord, then,” he said briskly.
Glancing sidelong at Barbossa, James saw amusement cross the man’s face. He looked back at Turner and nodded, offering his hand in return. “Agreed.”
James looked at her, puzzling over her grim, withdrawn mood. Surprisingly Turner turned his back on her and walked away to help bring up the supplies from the longboats.
Tia Dalma touched his elbow gently to catch his attention. Her perceptive gaze pierced him, momentarily allowing him to understand what he had been struggling to acknowledge within himself. She spoke to him in a low tone, for his ears only. “Yer heart will know de way. You’ve a powerful spirit, Commodore.” She smiled as she stepped back and took Barbossa’s arm, leading him away.
Too stunned to speak, he stared at her searchingly. Her eyes opened and she offered him a weak smile. He raised a hand to touch her shoulder—perhaps comfort her—but she retreated and hurried to aid the other crewmembers. He watched her for a long time, letting the words sink in. Until she’d said it, he hadn’t recognized how much he’d longed to hear it.
For a moment he hesitated before murmuring, “I forgive you; no matter what it was.”
~ Fin (for now) ~