When Violet resurfaced, she was on a familiar deck, wrapped in a pair of warm arms. Jack's arms. All around them, the crew was running across the ship, bouncing from cannon to mast to sails and back again.
"What's happened?" She didn't bother focusing on the throbbing pain in her head, and she pushed herself to her feet so that she could look into Jack's eyes, and he followed, not letting go of her hands. "Where is he?"
"I don't know, love." Jack's tone was so mournful that Violet drew in a sharp breath, willing herself not to go over the edge. Not again. They had a war to finish, after all. Grief was going to have to wait. "The Dutchman went under and hasn't yet come up to breathe."
"But he's captain, now, isn't he? Jones is dead," Violet repeated, squeezing her eyes shut to remember the events of the last few... hours? Minutes? She didn't even know how long it had been. You have to hold on, Norrington.
"There's no way of knowing, love. I've told the crew to stow until they return. If they return," Jack added, shaking his head. "I didn't know he was so important to you, love, and for that I am truly sorry."
"Thank you." Violet sighed, stepping closer to Jack and letting him pull her closer, breathing in the familiar scent of rum and salt and, now, gunpowder and rain. "Thank you for giving up the heart."
"A heart's a heavy burden," Jack said, his voice a low rumble next to Violet's ear. "One can only hope the good Commodore can carry it as well as you carry mine."
"Jack! Is she-" Violet quickly turned to see Elizabeth hurrying to her side, Will close behind her, and suddenly Elizabeth was hugging her tightly, Jack looking slightly annoyed to be pushed aside so soon. "Oh, Violet, I can't believe James- I don't know what to say."
"I do." Elizabeth released Violet and she turned, surprised, to see Will looking utterly and completely remorseful. "I'm sorry, Violet. For- for everything. The betrayal, the harsh words, for Norrington…"
"No, Will." Violet shook her head, a weak smile crossing her face. To think, here they were standing in the middle of a warzone, and the first thing they decided to do was trade apologies. "You had every right to do what you did, and as for James, well… It seems there was good in him after all."
"I owe him a life-debt," Will said, shaking his head. "He's a good man."
"As are you," Violet said, and she held out her hand tentatively, her mind circling over memories of Will, every clash and every apology, every loyalty and every betrayal. Funny how much can change on the same sea. "We've come a long way, Turner."
"That we have." Will held out his hand, then, and shook Violet's, a hint of a smile on his face. "To think, I once thought you were a-"
Suddenly, Elizabeth gasped, pointing a shaky finger to the sea, and all five pirates whirled around to follow her gaze just as a loud splash echoed through the sky. Violet clapped a hand over her mouth, running to the railing to get a better look. Could it be-
It was. Crashing out of the depths of the maelstrom and onto the open sea was the great Flying Dutchman, spraying water in every direction and captained by- captained by- Violet grinned against her will, leaning over the railing as far as she could. It was still storming and rainy, but there was no mistaking the man behind the steering wheel. It was James Norrington, no longer dressed as a British officer but instead, the ruthless pirate captain of the Dutchman.
"Full canvas!" Jack shouted, coming to stand next to her and planting a kiss on her cheek. "We're winning this war, love, once and for all."
Suddenly, Violet's thoughts were flooded with a face: one that had been driven from her mind in the chaos of the past few hours, and she froze, realization sweeping over her. There was something she had to do.
"Jack-" Violet began, but Jack was already nodding, a grim smile on his face.
"I know, love. I know." Jack reached out a hand, and as she looked down, she realized it was shaking. His palm brushed her cheek, his fingers sliding into her wet hair. "End it. Savvy?"
"Savvy," she breathed, unable to keep the laugh from her voice. "I love you."
"You're everything, love. Always have been." Jack stepped forward and kissed her forehead, the gesture so gentle that it shook something inside her, or maybe set it back into place. This was something she had to do.
Quickly, Violet turned in the direction of the great yellow ship on the stern of the Pearl, its great white sails billowing in the sharp wind. The Endeavour. And on that deck, the final loose end waited for her. She was going to end it.
"Hold your fire, lads!" She could hear Jack's call as she ran across the deck toward the ocean. It would be dangerous, but she was going to have to swim. It was too risky to take a lifeboat. She'd be too easily shot down. "We wait until Coldblood is finished!"
With one last look at the Pearl and her captain, Violet ran to the railing of the ship and stepped over it, the wind tossing her hair in circles and singing in her ears. You and I are so alike, aren't we, Violet? We know the value of good business.
With a deep breath, Violet dove off the side of the Pearl and into the depths below, Beckett's voice still ringing in her ears. It was Beckett or her. There would be no reconciliation.
By the time Violet reached the Endeavour, both the Pearl and the Dutchman were moving into position on opposite sides of Beckett's ship, slowly enough so that he wouldn't notice. She had crawled up the back wall of the ship, doing her best to duck from view, and had thankfully come upon an open window below deck. Quickly, she crawled through the open frame and ducked inside the room.
It was a storage room for gunpowder, she realized. Convenient. Quickly, she found a spare pistol and funneled some powder into it before hooking it onto her belt. She would need more than a sword to defeat Beckett.
As quietly as she could, she exited the room and moved down the hallway, keeping her head down and her hand on her pistol. Surprisingly, the belowdecks were empty. She supposed all the soldiers were preparing to fight on deck. She ducked into another room, and lo and behold, there sat a stack of British uniforms, freshly cleaned and obviously being used as spares supplied by the navy. Violet picked up one of the red coats and slipped it over her soaking blouse, wondering if maybe she'd turned as crazy as Jack. Wearing some outlandish disguise? That had to be a sign of madness.
Violet tucked her hair up into a black tricorne hat and placed her own, that twin of Jack's into her belt, wincing as she crumpled it in an unseemly fold. Two of her most prized possessions, ruined in the same day. Luckily, the tricorne hat was too big, and cast a dark shadow over her face. All the better for what she had to do. End it, Violet. End it and you will truly know peace.
Disguised, Violet made her way up to the main deck, drawing in sharp breaths that hurt her lungs. She'd killed so many people in her life. Why should this be any different? Still, it felt like ending a part of her story that had defined her for so long, closing a chapter that was so integral in who she was.
The deck was full of British soldiers, and she couldn't help but think of Norrington. No. Save him for another time, Violet. She willed herself to move forward, and her eyes were drawn immediately to where Cutler Beckett stood, his eyes on the Black Pearl and a smirk on his face. This was it. This was really, finally, it. No one even gave her a passing glance as she walked past, jostling into her as they ran as if she was one of their own. It felt almost too easy. Maybe something up in the heavens was finally going to make things go her way.
Cautiously, she unhooked the pistol from her belt and tucked it into her coat. She was going to have to jump overboard the second she shot him. That was the only way she'd be able to get away, and maybe not even then, not when the barrels of a hundred British guns were trained on her retreating form.
"What is he waiting for?" The officer opposite Beckett stared uncomprehendingly at the Pearl, eliciting another smirk from Beckett. Violet stepped closer.
"He actually expects us to honor our agreement. Nothing personal, Jack... it's just good business." Beckett's cold drawl set her blood aflame, and she tightened her hand on the pistol. Violet stepped closer.
"Your agreement?" asked the officer, and Beckett shook his head. Violet stepped closer.
"Just a pointless deal with an equally pointless adversary." Beckett laughed dryly, and now Violet was at his side, and every little remark, every sickening leer, every hiss of the pirate brand on her skin played over and over again in her ears.
"What is it, soldier?" The officer had noticed her, now, and she kept her eyes down, the metal of the pistol cool against her skin. "Man your post!"
"I've come to end it," Violet said, her voice cold, and the officer looked at her as if she was crazy. "It's over, Beckett."
"I know that voice." Beckett whirled around, his features confused, and Violet slowly lifted her chin. "What are you doing here? I thought you were aboard the Dutchman."
"Oh, stop it. Just stop it." Violet could hear the click of pistols as the soldiers noticed her presence, and she dropped her hat onto the ground, letting her hair spill over her shoulders. "Don't you see? It's over now. Everything you are is over."
"I don't have time for this, Charles." Beckett laughed, as if he didn't quite believe she'd do it. "You are far from worthy of my time."
"It is either me or you, Beckett. Who shall it be?" Violet set her jaw, her finger on the trigger of the pistol she concealed beneath her coat. "You burned your mark into me, you coward. Now it's my turn."
"Kill her." Beckett's face paled, slightly, but his cold smirk remained. "You are nothing."
"I am everything." Violet pulled the pistol from her jacket with one quick sweep of her arm, the world shifting into focus, and she could hear the soldiers running behind her, the click of pistols setting, the shift of gunpowder. "Don't worry, Beckett. It's just. Good. Business."
Everything in the world froze for just one moment, and Violet could hear herself breathe. In. Out. The gun seemed to raise itself to Beckett's temple, the trigger seemed to pull itself, and just before her shot rang out, Violet could see fear, real fear, enter Beckett's eyes.
"Goodbye, you monster."
Beckett's body slumped like a rag doll against the railing, his eyes wide with fear, and suddenly, many things happened all at once. Shots rang out from behind Violet, shouts erupted from the soldiers, pain tore through her left side, and then cannons- cannonballs ripping into the sides of the ship, splintering the wood and rocking the soldiers, diverting their attention away from Violet and towards the attacking ships.
"You killed me." Beckett's whisper of a voice escaped through the clamor, and Violet pulled her leg over the railing, giving him one last look. "You really did end it."
"An eye for an eye, Beckett." She didn't smile, didn't gloat, didn't even shake her head sadly, but instead, turned away from him like he was nothing. And he was. Swiftly, she jumped off the railing and toward the sea.
As she plummeted, she finally felt the gunshot wound in her side, and as she made contact with the sea, the only image in her mind was the cold white fear in her enemy's eyes as her bullet lodged itself into his skull.
It was, quite frankly, a miracle that Violet made it back to the Pearl without drowning, but there she was, slumped against the railing in her navy attire and coughing up both blood and seawater.
"Shit, love, what have you done?" Jack was at her side before she could blink, his hand on her side. When his fingers once again entered her vision, they were covered in blood. "I'm a bloody idiot, I knew… I should've…"
"It's done. It's over." Violet felt tired, heavy, like she was completely numb and made of nothing but bones. "You've destroyed the ship, haven't you?"
"Don't speak, Violet." Elizabeth was at her side, now, and Violet felt her wrap a scrap of white fabric around her side, under the red coat, the pressure making her wince. "She'll be alright, Jack. The bullet passed through her side."
"It's really done?" Will's voice, now, full of a hope she hadn't heard in a long time. "My father-"
"Norrington- Norrington will free him." Violet pushed herself up to stand despite Elizabeth's words of protest, leaning against the railing for support. "I need- I need to see him."
"I know, love. I know." Jack pointed to where the Dutchman lingered on the shores of a small sandy island. Who knows what part of the sea they now resided in. "But, love, you must know the rules of his-"
"I know, Jack." Violet drew in a deep breath and shut her eyes, letting everything wash over her. Jones dead. Beckett dead. The war finally, finally over. All debts paid, all grudges put to rest. And what now? She didn't even know what to do with herself. Finally, she turned to face the three people whose lives had helped shape her own. "I'm glad I joined your crew, Jack. I'm glad I followed you off Tortuga and into this insanity. I'm glad I met you, Elizabeth, and I'm glad I saved you from that awful marriage to dear old Norrington and Will, I'm glad we fought all those times, and... I'm glad for all of it."
"Oh, Violet." Elizabeth drew Violet into a hug, and Violet didn't know why she felt so much like crying. "This is the end, isn't it?"
"Elizabeth." Violet laughed quietly, shaking her head. "You can't seriously expect me to believe you intend to stay onboard the Pearl with this motley crew. Congratulations on your wedding, by the way." She grinned at Elizabeth, and her friend smiled shyly back at her.
"We will see each other again," Elizabeth said determinedly, pulling back from Violet so that she could see the resolve in her gaze. "I promise."
"I would like nothing more." Violet smiled, and then turned to Will, who was folding his hands awkwardly as if he didn't know what to do with them. "And you, William. Well, I will definitely not miss you."
"Neither will I," Will said, and the two of them tried to ignore the tears that were rapidly blurring their gazes. Violet felt like she'd cried more in the past few hours than she had in her whole life. "It has been a pleasure, Captain. You are- a better person than you know."
"Well, I'm not sure about that, but I do know that the two of you will always have a little pirate in you, however far away from the sea you may go." Violet held out a hand and shook Will's, unable to keep the smile off her face. "I will miss you. Both of you."
"Violet," Jack said, interrupting her declaration, and she followed his gaze to see a small figure descending onto the sandy beach, clad in gray and black and looking unrepentantly like a pirate. "It's time, love."
Reluctantly, she tore her gaze away from Elizabeth and Will, trying not to think of coming back to a ship without them in it. It felt like there were too many memories to remember them all, memories of cannibals and jumping off planks and being knocked out by oars and all of them, all of them, were tangled up with the images of Elizabeth and Will. They'd be a part of her forever, she knew. She only hoped it wouldn't always hurt as much as it did now.
"I'll be back." Violet kissed Jack's cheek and looked into his tumultuous eyes, wondering what would have happened if she'd never met him again. If she'd lived with that hate in her heart for years and years until her life ended, never knowing what could have been. It was a cold thought, and she quickly brushed it away. "How far we've come from that jail cell, hm?"
"Wherever we go, we'll go." Jack grinned at her, the sight of it making her heart thrum, and she grinned back. "It's you and me, love. Told you we were bound to each other."
The sun was setting over the horizon of the ocean as Violet reached the shore of the small island, her little rowboat bobbing peacefully in the lapping waves next to the sand. She dismounted carefully, not wanting to get her precious boots, her last undamaged pirate possession left. She didn't even want to think about how she must look: her red coat soaked, her white blouse bloodied, her hair a tangled, sandy mess.
Violet's head jolted upwards, and there he was, dressed in an open black shirt with a thick-buckled belt slung over his shoulder. His brown hair flew loose and tousled, and she couldn't help but grin. There he was. James Norrington, a pirate through and through.
"It's you," she breathed, not knowing what else to say, and Norrington simply laughed, pulling her into a hug, and she laughed against his shoulder. "I guess I wasted my tears on you."
"I suppose you did." Norrington pulled away from her, a lazy grin on his face. "Like the new look? I see our roles seemed to have switched." He gestured to her navy uniform and she shrugged off the red coat, tossing it to the side.
"This jacket was merely for... disguise purposes. And you're a full-fledged pirate now. You owe it all to me, don't forget." Violet grinned back at him.
"To think, I became a Captain of the institution I most hated. I am to ferry the lost souls to the Locker, you know." Norrington shook his head, as if he could barely believe it himself. "Perhaps they should call it Norrington's Locker now."
"The power's already gone to your head, I see." Violet's grin faded slightly, remembering what exactly Norrington was now bound to. "So you are to do the job Jones never did? To come ashore only once every ten years?"
"Ten years at World's End, one onshore. Hardly seems fair, does it?" Norrington's gaze wandered over to the horizon, to the sea which was now bathed in a pearly orange, the tips of the waves glistening a brilliant gold. "And yet, I think it is."
"How?" Violet shook her head, his words not registering.
"I've never had a purpose, Violet. I've chased duty, and when that failed me, I chased you and Jack, and when that, too, was hopeless, I chased the bottle and the sea, and none of it meant anything. And then you saved my life, and suddenly... I was free, and it all seemed so much clearer." The sun cast Norrington's face in a golden light, and he looked almost… happy. "I meant what I said. Elizabeth needs Turner. Jack needs you. I don't have anyone to need me, not like that. When my ten years are up, no one will be waiting for me on that shore."
"Norrington…" Violet shook her head, his words twisting her heart. "I'll be there."
"Violet." Norrington turned back to her, and to Violet's surprise, he was smiling. "You don't need to worry. I think… I think I've found my purpose."
"I'll be there, James. I'll be waiting on that shore, and the two of us will loot and steal and drink our hearts out for that one day, and you'll never say that nobody needs you ever again." Violet grabbed his wrist. "You're a good man, James Norrington, and an even better pirate."
"I thought you hated me," Norrington said with a dry laugh, his eyes shining with tears, and Violet shook her head, smiling against her will.
"I do. Don't ever forget it." Violet hugged him again, not wanting to let him get on that ship and leave her for good. "And of Bootsrap Bill?"
"He is free to be with his son. And- and with Elizabeth. His daughter-in-law." Norrington said the words without wincing, without an ounce of pain in his eyes, and it made Violet smile. He really had moved on.
"You'll make a brilliant captain, my friend." Violet sighed, staring at the Dutchman behind him. This was it. This was goodbye. "I'll see you in ten years, James."
"I'll be waiting." Norrington smiled, the two friends staring at each other, two sides of the same coin, their entwined path finally diverging once and for all. "Goodbye, Violet."
Epilogue - Three Years Later
Violet stood on the deck of the Black Pearl, her eyes on the horizon. The sun had set an hour ago, and the ship was bathed in cool moonlight, the stars twinkling like little pinpricks overhead. She loved the ship at night. By now she was so familiar with it that she could navigate it blindly, but before she retreated to the Captain's Quarters she now shared with Jack, she'd count the constellations, one for every person she'd lost and one for every person she'd found.
"Out here again, love? I swear to you, one of these days you're going to topple right over the side and I'll be too busy snoring to gallantly save you." A pair of strong arms wrapped around her waist and Violet laughed, the sound met with only the silence of the stars.
"I think I'm perfectly capable of saving myself, Jack, thanks very much." Violet tangled her hand in the hair of her captain as he tucked his chin over her shoulder, the two of them facing the quiet waves. "By the way, I heard Barbossa's looking for us. Seems even fighting a war together can't settle all disputes."
"Let him look," Jack said, groaning at the mention of his rival's name. "I have done my time with that man."
"I suppose you have." Violet fingered the necklace that hung around her neck: a piece of eight with a hole drilled through the hang off of a leather string. Jack's piece of eight, the very same that he'd given her all those years before. "Should I be calling you husband, now, do you think?"
"Ugh." Jack mimed retching at the term and Violet threw back her head laughing, the memory of that drunken night resurfacing in her mind. They had docked in a merchant port that specialized in shipping rum, and the two of them had drunk so much that they'd decided it would be a good idea to go and get hitched. Apparently, according to an old sea code, the first mate can officiate the wedding of a captain, so there Gibbs had stood, marrying the two of them in a dusty bar with the crew laughing all the while. Marriage had never been Violet's idea of fun, but here they were. It didn't really mean anything, anyway. She wouldn't have left his side for anything, married or not. "You sound like some gentlewoman of a manor, strutting about with a fancy skirt and all."
"A lady? Now that's the worst insult you've ever come up with." Violet tilts her chin to kiss Jack's jawline, his stubble scratching her skin. These three years had been everything, had given her everything, and yet sometimes her mind still wandered back to the days not just of piracy but of adventure, of escaping death and falling in love. "Do you ever wonder how they're doing, Jack?"
"Knowing the two of them, they're probably filthy rich and disgustingly happy." Jack didn't even need to ask which 'they' she was talking about. "But, yes, I suppose I do think about them from time to time."
"Look at us, Sparrow. Reminiscing as if we're just two old emotional saps." Violet laughed, and Jack's arms tightened around her waist. "From hatred to death, from death to life, from life to love. Quite a journey we've had, hm?"
"Mm." Jack kissed Violet's neck, the silence of the night more peaceful than pressing. "What say you to another?"
"What do you mean?" Violet swiveled around in Jack's embrace to face him, looking up into his smirking face. "Jack Sparrow, what have you got planned?"
"Another adventure, of course. Don't think I don't see how much you hate all this idle sailing, love." Jack winked at her, and she felt her heart flutter. Damn, six years knowing the man and he could still make her heart twinge like that.
"You mean it?" Violet's face lit up, the familiar thrum of the promise of adventure beginning to hum through her veins. "Well, you know I'd follow you anywhere, Sparrow, adventure of not."
"Didn't I tell you we were bound to each other?" Jack said in a low voice, and Violet grinned, her eyes sparkling in the moonlight.
"Till death do us part, and all," Violet said with a laugh, and Jack smiled lazily, pulling her closer.
"Did I ever get around to thanking you for dying with me, love? Because I must say, it makes the living part so much easier, knowing even death can't steal you away from me." Jack's words were barely a whisper, but they were enough, and Violet wondered how on earth she got so lucky as to find this terrible, perfect, bedraggled pirate.
"Anytime, Sparrow. Anytime."
On the deck of the famous Black Pearl, Captain Violet 'Coldblood' Charles and Captain Jack Sparrow kissed in the starlight, the ever-expanding ocean surrounding them below and the open sky above. Below the deck, First Mate Joshamee Gibbs lay in his hammock, thinking fondly of the Captain and his love, these two good people whom he had thrown in his lot with. Miles across the ocean, Elizabeth Swann and William Turner sat around a fireplace with their two-year-old son, Henry Turner, telling him stories of pirates and swordfights and captains with cold blood and cold souls. At the End of the World, Captain James Norrington, Captain of the Flying Dutchman, guided lost souls through the dark of the night, his steady hand firmly on the wheel as he served the purpose he'd searched so long to find.
As this night slipped into dawn, these stories which had once been part of a single book continued to diverge, their own paths splitting off into new journeys, new adventures, these pirates who owed so much of who they were to each other.
And Violet Charles, as the man whom she loved more than anything else in this world, perhaps even more than the sea itself, held her in his arms, wondered if, perhaps, the stars really had been smiling down on them all this time, guiding them from World's End and all the way back to each other. If that was the case, well, then she was forever indebted to them, and she wondered what proper compensation was for bringing one the love of one's life.
You're everything, love. Always have been.
As her story drew to a close, Violet looked up at those stars, her captain by her side, and smiled. If there was anything she'd learned over these years, it was that where Jack Sparrow went, there was adventure to be had. And she would forever be grateful for that.
A/N: Wow. Just... wow. Marking this story as complete literally made me burst into tears and I can't believe it's actually over. This story has been two years in the making and I've changed so much since the start of it. Nothing has ever made me as happy to write as this story has, and every single chapter has been something I'm proud of.
To all of you who have favorited, followed, reviewed, and supported this story- I can't thank you enough. I am not exaggerating when I say that every single email I get saying that someone has followed this story brings a smile to my face. Pieces of Eight was my first fanfiction ever, and while finishing it is definitely bittersweet, knowing that so many of you went on this journey with Violet, Jack, and I brings me so much joy.
I hope that this story brought you a little bit of happiness during such dark times and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to write it. Thank you again for all of your support. It really means the world.
As always, sending you all my love.