A/N: Originally written for the Past Imperfect Future Unknown exchange on AO3 for CorinaLannister.
Back on my lowkey Sparrabeth kick with this oneshot :3 The requirements of this exchange were time travel as a plot point, which was really interesting to try and conceive for the POTC universe. I also did not have the time to commit to an entire longfic for this, so this general exploration of the idea was born.
Escape from Perdition
The gentle sway of the floorboards under Jack's boots was nothing when they were at port, but the motion was enough when mixed with the spirits that had been in the empty bottle on his desk that he did more than sway upon them. Disappearing below deck to retrieve a fresh supply was tricky. The captain took some measure of pride that he did not lose his footing even on the cracked rung at the bottom of the cargo hold's ladder. If he didn't know the Pearl well enough for that, what did that say about him?
The trek back to his cabin - his cabin, not Hector's any longer - went equally as smoothly as Jack slipped past the sleeping crew. Yes, there was the watch up top in the crow's nest and the mostly-vigilant Gibbs had nodded to him when he passed by the stair to the top deck, but overall the Pearl's crew was at rest. They had earned it with their most recent escape from a particularly vicious merchant ship.
Jack kicked the cabin door behind him, hoisting his newly retrieved bottles ahead of him. One was freshwater to belay the headache that would come in the morning. The other was, of course, more rum to remain on hand.
"Still the same Jack, eh?" The voice that came from the corner of the room gave Jack pause. His brow furrowed and he blinked several times as he processed it all. Then he spun on his heel. The cabin moved with him, righting itself as he inclined his head to peer at the pile of Hector's nonsense he hadn't yet gotten the crew to haul out and sell.
The visitor was perched on the arm of a sufficiently stuffy armchair yet tucked carefully out of view of the door. Jack pulled himself to his full height. "Elizabeth?" He blurted out her name as a question.
Her lip quirked in a grin. She lifted her chin and met his eyes with a confidence that he hadn't quite recalled being there when he'd last seen her in Port Royal. At least, it certainly hadn't been directed at him. She had stepped in to save Turner from the hangman's noose after he had foolishly rushed in to save Jack. "I was worried that you might not be happy to see me," she admitted.
She moved from the chair in a motion that could only be described as leonine. Jack blinked several times and it finally clicked why she didn't quite look the same. Her hair was pulled back under a hat, and she was in breeches and a jacket that were threaded in faded gold. It was easy to see how Hector had ever thought she was Bootstrap's kid. She looked the part of a pirate.
"Well I would have had an easier time if you'd been properly dressed. Does William know that you're stealing from his drawers?" he joked. "I tell you, if it's a dress you need, I'm sure we can find something more suitable. Or no dress at all. That's a more suitable option I think."
Elizabeth laughed, shaking her head as she did. "You don't know why that's funnier to me than to you," she said. Jack gestured to the table in the center of the room. That he had decided to keep from Hector's decor. At least until he found something a bit less ostentatious. Elizabeth slid into the chair he kicked out for her and snatched one of the bottles when he placed them down.
"Ah-!" Jack tried to stop her before she pulled the cork out with her teeth. She sniffed the rum and took a long draught. Jack tipped his head. That certainly wasn't like Elizabeth.
"Thirsty from the trip," she grunted. She took another sip before offering Jack the bottle once more. He took it with another strange feeling of role reversal.
"How is it that you came to travel so far from Port Royal? And to what do I owe the pleasure? I should ask how you've come aboard, but I suspect that's a problem I can address later with Mister Gibbs," Jack wondered.
That same wry smile from before flashed on Elizabeth's lips before fading once more. "It's been a longer journey than that," she muttered ruefully. Then she let out a sigh and kicked up her feet to rest on his knee. The move was familiar, like they were old friends. Which, yes they certainly had been through much together but that wasn't quite the same.
Jack found himself trying very much to ignore the lithe legs crossed there and instead pay attention to what Elizabeth was saying. "Jack, I'm not here for a social call," she said. "Much as that would be a more enjoyable way to spend this time."
"I could think of a few things that would be quite enjoyable," Jack offered reflexively. He waited for the snappy retort that the governor's daughter would parry with. He didn't get one.
Elizabeth chewed on her lip, another distracting motion. Jack took a swig of the rum that she had opened, the freshwater forgotten for now. This felt like a conversation that needed some liquid courage to keep the wheels greased. He extended the bottle towards her once more and she took it.
"Why are you here, Elizabeth?" Jack asked. Elizabeth finished her draught. Without answering yet, she rolled the bottle between the palms of her hands. Her brow furrowed and her eyes disappeared from clear view as she tipped her head down.
"Have you ever made a mistake so horrible that it haunts you?" Her voice was hushed, barely discernible over the distant sounds of port and the soft creaks and groans of the ship.
The instinct to pivot into a joke, a distraction, anything, was strong. Jack held back as Elizabeth took a slow, shaky breath. "Jack…" she trailed off briefly. "There's a storm coming."
Jack frowned. "Storms come and go, love," he murmured.
She laughed, this time a bitter sound. "Not a storm of wind or rain or tempest. There is danger and death on the horizon."
The quiet in the room turned to suffocating. The humid air suddenly pressed in from all around. Jack could feel cold sweat slip down his back. He had felt the slow crawl of the ticking clock in the back of his thoughts for the past month or so, but that was his own paranoia to bear. "C'mon. Don't believe in nonsense," Jack said quietly. He patted her leg gently on his lap.
Elizabeth's head snapped back up and her gaze locked him in place. "It isn't nonsense. It's the truth. It's inevitable. If I don't do enough, it will come to pass," she whispered fervently. Suddenly she was standing and he had been pulled to his feet by her hands bundled in his shirt.
"I can't do it again, Jack," Elizabeth insisted. "I can't let it happen again. Not this time."
"Do what?" She wasn't making any sense. It wasn't just the drink, either.
Elizabeth's mouth opened and shut as she clearly fought to find her words. She was looking so intently at him, looking for something that Jack did not know. Slowly her fingers unfurled from his shirt, and Elizabeth smoothed the fabric down with small motions. Jack reached up to take her hands in his. He was surprised to feel them trembling.
She broke, her facade crumbling as two shining tears broke free from welling eyes. "I can't be the one who kills you, Jack. I just can't."
Now maybe this was all from drink or from some delusion left over from the Aztec curse or just a good, old fashioned night terror. Jack swallowed. Everything felt too real though. The haze from the rum had lifted with the shock.
Elizabeth sniffed and shook her head. "So much went wrong. Beckett, Jones, the Locker, that damn beast. And after it all, you wouldn't so much as look at me. I deserved it - I still do - but I just can't live with that any more," she rambled on. It hardly meant anything to Jack. Well, the names sort of did. But not in any connection with one another and certainly not in relation to Jack dying. He would definitely have remembered that.
"Hang on," Jack insisted. It was like fighting against the tide. Elizabeth continued on regardless of Jack's attempts to interrupt.
"I did what I had to, but it just isn't fair. It should never have come to that. I can't abide by it," she said. She cast her arms around Jack's shoulders, her hat knocked askew with the motion.
Her voice was muffled as she buried her face into the crook of his neck. "I had to come back. To save you."
A/N: Blanket statement for my oneshots - Please do not ask if I am continuing these. They are single "chapter" fics which I am considering complete. Thank you. - DragonMaster65