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Persephone

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Elizabeth waits on the beach long past the time the green light fades from the horizon, but eventually, she has to turn away.

Will won’t come back for another ten years, and she has a heart to care for.

She looks around the island the Pearl left her at. Small, and seemingly abandoned, with a higher perch, but mostly sandy beaches.

She walks over the place where she and Will had made love just an hour ago—sandy, and barely covered by the dunes, the two of them so desperate to get their hands on each other—and walks to the top of the cliff.

The horizon seems to stretch forever. 

She digs, then, using hand and sword and oar, making a small hole on top of the cliff, where she can hide her husband’s heart for now.

She’s going back amongst pirates, after all. 

 

Shipwreck Cove isn’t too far, even as it grows darker after sunset, even in a longboat. 

The Pearl has left her. She shouldn’t be surprised, but a hot flash of anger fills her anyway. First Will, now Jack and Barbossa.

They’re pirates, and the sea calls to them like nothing else. Adventure and open air is in all their bloods, and those who fall behind get left behind. Elizabeth knows this.

But she cannot help but feel that it isn’t that she so much fell behind as was purposefully left behind.

“Captain Turner,” Teague says as she walks back into the meeting room, trailing a hand over the large globe.

“Captain Teague.” She studies him. “How fare our brethren, after the battle?”

“Well. Many have left, ready to return to the open ocean, free from the scourge of the East India Company.”

“Yes, and no thanks to them!” She steps forward, and she’s only somewhat mollified to find that, even wearing a ripped dress, with her hair loose and her feet bare, Teague steps back. She’s only somewhat settled, because she does not forgive or forget slights against her and hers. “You all protected your own skins when the fight got difficult.”

Teague gives her a smile that’s so painfully familiar. “Pirates, love.”

“No. No, that is not an excuse. This is the Brethren Court . We are supposed to fight together.” She takes a steadying breath. “Beckett will never plague our way of life again, perhaps, but the Company still stands. We need to be prepared.”

“Can’t change nature, love. And pirates are just as they are.”

She takes a deep breath. “Am I still King, Captain Teague?”

He blinks at her. “Aye.”

“Then I believe I can change anything I’d like.”

 

Teague teaches her the Code, and Elizabeth reads the entire book, cover to cover. She studies the ships of the pirates remaining in Shipwreck Cove, learning how they differ from the ships she’s been on.

And, once a month has passed, she retreats to her little island—to their little island—and sits atop the cliff, her husband’s living heart beating steadily in the ground beneath her.

It’s been one month. One hundred and nineteen to go.

She waits for dawn, but doesn’t see the flash.

She then stands up and digs, having brought a shovel this time. When she gets the chest open, she removes the heart, her body thrumming with a feeling she can’t quite name, holding her husband’s heart in her hands.

It’s always belonged to you . She closes her eyes, feels it thrum, feels the proof that Will is, by some measure, alive despite everything. 

Alive and hers. Always hers.

She opens her eyes once more, and deposits the heart in a small sack, carefully sewn by her to cradle the beating organ, to rest beneath her dress, between her breasts, leaving her and Will pressed heart-to-heart, always.

She reburies the chest, in case some enterprising pirate comes looking, and heads down to the beach.

 

The Empress has waited for her.

Whatever they think of her—and she’s not naive enough to think it’s especially positive—Sao Feng named her Captain, and they are leery of committing mutiny against the Pirate King, wife of the Captain of the Dutchman . They wait.

Tomorrow, she will leave Shipwreck Cove behind, and be at sea once more. The East India Company is getting above itself once more, and she must lead by example in how she expects such a situation to be handled.

Tai Huang has spent the day getting the ship ready to sail. Part of her thinks Tai Huang should be Captain, but then she remembers that she’s a pirate and a king, beside. She is Captain, and there’s no sense apologizing for it.

As the sun sets on her last night in Shipwreck cove, she wanders out into the water, bottle in hand, safely sealed with wax. Her skirt floats around her, her bare toes sink into the sand.

She kisses the bottle. “For you, my love,” she whispers, then holds it to her chest, where two hearts beat, like such an act can lead the bottle to its destination, before tossing it into the sea, letting the slow tide lead it away.

“Sending notes for pretty Will?”

Elizabeth jumps, not just because there is a voice in the dark but because she knows that voice . And Tia Dalma—Calypso, whatever—cannot be here.

“Where are you?”

“Look down.”

Sure enough, where the moonlight  should cast Elizabeth’s reflection into the water, Tia Dalma smiles back, wide and secretive. “Captain.” Her smile, if anything, grows wider.

“What do I call you?” The reflection, clearer than any Elizabeth has seen, clearer than the slow tide would ever allow, grins back at her.

“You know my name, Captain.”

“Calypso. What do you want with me?”

“You are chasing your husband. You cannot have him. One day on land, ten years at sea. That was the deal. You cannot break it.”

“I am hunting down the East India Company like the scourge on our seas they are,” Elizabeth corrects. She knows the deal, and she won’t be discussing it with Calypso.

Our seas?”

Elizabeth doesn’t back down. She is the Pirate King, and even a sea goddess can see the saltwater in her blood.

Calypso relents with softening eyes. “Perhaps so, perhaps so. You will do it?”

“Do what?”

“Protect the sea? Protect it from those who wish to own it, control it?”

Elizabeth suddenly feels a thrum in the air, the sticky, humid air buzzing in a way that has nothing to do with the insects. She swallows. “I will.”

Calypso’s smile widens, truly delighted. “A promise sealed, a promise kept. Good luck, Pirate King. I will be watching.”

And Elizabeth is left, watching her own muddied reflection once more.

 

The Empress sails the next day, and Elizabeth stands on the quarterdeck, eyes on the horizon, Calypso’s words ringing in her ears, and Will’s heart beating next to hers.

“Where to, Captain?”

She smiles.

 

Every night, Elizabeth throws a bottle the crew has emptied overboard, sealed with wax and with a letter pressed inside.

She never gets one back, but the way the sea bobs and the soft wind caresses her face, she thinks perhaps Calypso is showing her favor.

 

Her crew lands in Tortuga, looking for supplies and information. Elizabeth sets her crew to procure food and bottles, then strides into the taverns for information.

Gone are the days where she disguised herself as a man to be here. Elizabeth Swann Turner is the Pirate King, and any man here who wants to cross blades with her is welcome to try.

The tavern quiets as she enters, just for a brief moment, and the crowd parts for her. Her boots echo throughout the silent tavern, as they all wait with baited breath for her to find her target.

“Captain Barbossa.”

He smiles at her, that wicked smile that had once scared her out of her wits. “Mistress Turner.”

“Captain Turner, actually,” she corrects, with some amount of forcefulness.

“That’s a mite confusing, seeing as there’s two of ya, now.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out. If you’re really confused, Lord Turner or King Turner will settle just fine.”

He laughs, loud and disruptive, and once again the tavern goes quiet for a moment.

“Why’re you here, then, Captain Turner? Did we not leave you on a nice spot of land?”

“Aye, you did. It’s not the first time you’ve marooned me, Barbossa.”

“T’not a marroonin’ if we leave you with a boat, missy.”

Elizabeth settles deeper into her seat, and props her hat on the table. “I see you kept the Pearl .”

“Aye.”

“And Jack?”

“What of him?”

“Where did you leave him?”

“Here,” he says, taking a drink of his wine. “If he left Tortuga, it was of his own accord, and I care not why or when.”

Jack is… Jack is someone she can track down, later, she supposes. If he’s off in the world, it’s really no business of hers.

“I’m after the East India Company.”

“Why’s that, missy? We have ended their control.”

“They’re after our last free ports, Barbossa. They’re taking what we have left.”

“Then we’ll make new ports. We’re pirates, Captain Turner . We adapt.”

“There won’t be new ports left. Not if we don’t push back.”

 Barbossa studies her for a minute. Elizabeth keeps her head high, her eyes staring into his. Below the table, her fist curls. 

At long last, he nods. “What do you need?”

“Information. And a second ship.”

My ship—”

“I think you’ll find that, as King , they are all my ship .”

The air is heavy between them. “I didn’t vote for ye.”

“You’ll find that that doesn’t make much of a difference, with Kings.”

“Mayhap I should have, though. Just think, that fine lady from the governor’s mansion, a snarling, demanding pirate, beneath it all.”

The air is heavy again, the silence oppressive. Barbossa blinks first. “Alright, Captain. You’ll have your information, and the Black Pearl is yours to command.”

 

So they set sail for a free port the Company has been making moves towards, the Empress and the Black Pearl side by side.

“You trust them?” Tai Huang asks her one evening.

She smiles. “No. But I don’t trust you much, either. We’ll be alright.”

 

When they close in on the East India ship, full of spoils stolen from pirates, Elizabeth tightens her sword belt, grabs her pistol and hat, and holds Will’s heart closer to her chest, just for a moment.

“Come to me,” she whispers, then goes on deck, eyes focused on the ship approaching.

“Hold steady!” She calls, sparing a quick look for the Pearl . She needn’t have bothered. She doesn’t trust Barbossa, not a whit, but she does know he can handle a ship at war.

She has the cannons ready, but she’s ordered them not to fire, not if it can be helped. She wants what’s on that ship. She wants their charts, their ledger, their Captain, and it does no good to her if it’s all left to her husband’s care.

“Now!”

They board, with her in the lead. Tai Huang stays back to keep the ship steady, and to take her command, should she fall to her husband’s embrace early.

She has no plans to fall, though, as she cuts through sailors and soldiers alike, pushing bodies overboard to the sea.

Come to me, my love

The Captain, coward that he is, hides in his cabin, so when she flings the doors open, he has nowhere left to run.

“Give me every scrap of information you have on the Company’s plans, every letter, every chart, every heading, every ledger and order, and you may survive today.” To make sure he fully understands her point, she aims her pistol at his head.

His eyes drift to his desk, and Elizabeth keeps her pistol leveled at his head as she walks over. “What’s in your hold?”

“Gold. A fair bit. Spices. Rum.”

“And where are you sailing for, Captain?” She glances over his maps. “No, I see where. What business does the Company have here?”

“We’re establishing a new port. For—”

“For trading slaves,” Elizabeth follows, horror bubbling in her gut, clogging her throat. It’s there in front of her, as she leafs through his papers, all in black and white. “You monster.”

“It’s good business.”

She can’t help it; she shoots him, clean through the center of his head. 

Some of her men burst in when they hear the pistol shot. By the sounds of things, the fighting outside is over. “You, take every piece of paper, journal, ledger, and map back to the Empress ,” she commands, gathering herself. Her hands shake as she stows her pistol, so she takes a deep breath to steady herself before pointing to the next sailor. “You, lead our crew to raid the hold. Share equally with the crew of the Pearl. And you…this body needs to go overboard.”

Together, they drag the Captain’s body to the edge, and pitch him over the side. “For the Dutchman ,” she whispers, intently watching the sea.

She’s not disappointed. The ship rises from the sea, and, perhaps it’s her imagination, but she rather thinks the heart against her breast beats faster in time with her own.

“Will! Will!”

He’s hanging over the side, holding a rope and leaning towards her, despite the gulf of sea between them. “Elizabeth?”

“Will!”

He swings over, landing on his feet before her. He looks good, whole and healthy, windswept and alive , so alive no one who didn’t know the story would ever guess. 

He pulls her into his arms, kisses her breathless. He must feel his heart against his empty breastbone, because he pulls away, eyebrow raised and mouth open to ask, but she gives him a look to quell the thought. Not here. Not in front of pirates.

“What are you doing here?”

“The East India Company is setting up ports, to aid their reaching of the colonies with slaves,” she says heavily. “I… they must be stopped.”

“Elizabeth, this isn’t your fight,” he says, gripping her arms a hair too tight, pleading in his eyes.

She remembers who she was, once. The girl who would have given in to that, very likely. But she has seen too much, done too much. There has been too much back-stabbing and betrayal—a not insignificant amount of it her own—for her to go back.

So she holds her head high, her chin tilted up, and her lips set. “Then what is? I’m still their King, Will.”

He exhales sharply. “I…”

She rests her hand over his empty chest. “You didn’t marry me thinking I was anything else.” 

They could have gotten married in Port Royal, with fine china and a beautiful gown, and music and dancing. But Fate had always had a different plan for them. Pirates, through and through, the Captains Turner, and Will should know that as well as her.

He hesitates a second, but then smiles and ducks his head, nose running along her neck. “My King,” he murmurs.

“Mm, yes.”

Just when his lips ghost over her skin, a whisper, a shiver down her spine, Bootstrap cuts them off from the Dutchman . “Captain.”

Will flinches away. “I’ve already spent too long. I… Elizabeth, I need to do my job.”

She gives him the best smile she can muster, under the circumstances. “I know. Crew,” she says louder, “Check the bodies. Make sure they’re all dead. Wouldn’t want Captain Turner to have to make two trips today.”

Will smiles at her, and she turns away to do just what she commanded.

She nudges the closest body onto its back, sees the guts spilling forth, and promptly vomits.

Will’s with her in second, rubbing her back as she makes a mess of the deck. “You’re fine, you’re fine,” he mutters, and she’s sure he speaks the truth, but it doesn’t much feel like it. “What set you off?”

“Many a sturdy lass see the sight of blood and lose her lunch when she’s expectin’.”

Elizabeth whirls. She hadn’t even heard Barbossa come on deck, although she supposes she wouldn’t. “What?”

“Are you… Elizabeth, could we be…”

She does the math. Two months and some days have passed now, and, yes, no sign of her courses in that time.

“Will…” She breathes, hands going to her stomach, both hearts beating rapidly against her breast. “Will, I think… I think we’re having a baby.”

Will picks her up and spins her, once, before setting her down and pulling her close, two heartbeats pressed between them as he kisses her breathless once more.

“Captain!”

Will moans but pulls away, hands lingering. “If I stay too much longer, Calypso might consider me to be deserting my duty,” he murmurs. “Elizabeth. Stay safe. Go back to Shipwreck Cove. Please.”

She hesitates, but apparently the look in his eyes can still soften her heart sometimes. She nods. “I will.”

He kisses her again. “Tell them… tell them their father loves them and their mother to no end.”

She smiles tremulously. “I’ll keep an eye on the horizon.”

Will nods, and turns away to the bodies.

“Best be going, Captain Turner,” Barbossa murmurs. “You seem to have places to be.”

Out of Will’s direct line of sight, her heart resolves itself once again. “How can I, Barbossa? The East India Company—”

“Is this not why King’s have armies?” He interrupts, already ushering her to where the Empress has pulled up alongside.

She raises an eyebrow even as she crosses over. “You wouldn’t fight if I didn’t make you.”

“Aye, but you are making me.”

“I won’t be there.”

He gives a look back at Will. “No pirate is foolish enough to disobey their King. Not when they know what waits on the other side if they do.”

Will is compelled to be fair and take all souls to their final destination, lest he suffer the same fate as Jones. She doesn’t mention this to Barbossa.

“Very well, Captain,” she says. “You’ll report to me in Shipwreck Cove.”

He smiles. “Aye, Captain.” With that, he turns away, crossing the ship back to the Pearl .

 

Elizabeth directs the Empress back to Shipwreck Cove. Under the stars, sitting up top, she lets her hands rest on her stomach and her eyes drift closed, feeling the two hearts beat in unison. She’s not able to feel the third beat yet, but she knows it’s in there. “I don’t know anything about being a mother.”

The baby, of course, doesn’t respond. The baby doesn’t do anything yet, has yet to do a single thing to announce their presence other than make her vomit.

“I can’t imagine pirates make good parents, least of all Pirate Kings,” she murmurs, stroking her hand over her stomach. “But at least I know no one will ever dare harm you.”

 

The next day, she approaches Tai Huang. “When we get back to Shipwreck Cove, I’ll be staying behind,” she tells him. “And at that point, the Empress is yours until I call on her again.”

He stares at her a moment. “Yes, Captain.”

“Tai Huang?” 

“Yes?”

“Treat her well for me, will you?”

“Yes, Captain.”

 

True to her word, Elizabeth lets Tai Huang depart with her ship and her crew, leaving her naught but her sword and her stolen information.

And her kingship, she reminds herself. Ship or no ship, she will always be King.

“Captain Turner,” Teague says, welcoming her back to the meeting chamber. “Welcome home.”

She deposits her armfuls of stolen information on the table, and then walks around, taking a look at the relics of a thousand years of the sea.

“What’s our first task?”

She considers the information in front of her, but then considers the babe in her belly, only slightly more obvious now.

“I need a home,” she says, and ignores how the words taste like ash in her mouth.