I was going to wait and post in a week when I got back from a trip, but I decided I've kept you all waiting too long already. It's time to say "khalas."
Two and half years after beginning this story, I am finally drawing it to its conclusion with this final chapter. I can't help but wrap things up this way—since Sparrabeth did not get its happy ending in cinemas, I feel it is only fair to give them lots of happy endings in other stories. Anyways, thank you immensely for reading! I hope very much you enjoyed this story, and found it entertaining and a little bit thought-provoking. Thank you for all the reviews and encouragement, and for sharing the adventure. I have had so much fun writing it, and I am glad I found it again and can complete it properly at last. I'd never have gotten this far without your wonderful support, and I hope we all meet again over fanfics soon! Lots of love!
**Note: The bit in italics near the end was inspired by Stevie Smith's brilliant poem, "Not Waving But Drowning," which I highly recommend, in addition to that fateful scene in the first film when Jack and Elizabeth meet. I find that scene to be a perfect metaphor for their relationship. Enjoy!
Elizabeth stood transfixed, gazing on Calypso. Bargain? What sort of bargain had Jack made with the sea goddess, after all that had happened before Davy Jones was killed? Calypso had been freed, released to take up the mastery of the seas that had once been hers. Yet in this new world of imperialism—this world of ships and guns and flags— how could she maintain her power? Elizabeth could not fathom what it meant to be a goddess. She had barely managed to be king.
"Aye, witty Jack," Calypso said smoothly, melting onto the deck of the ship, her fragrance wild as the purest foam off the ocean. How long had it been since Elizabeth had sat in her tumble-down hut, clutching a mug of something bitter, locked in grief so profound it seemed a kind of death? How long had it been since this woman had been a mere prophetess, grown into the swamps upriver, forgotten?
Jack's hand found Elizabeth's arm, and he guided her closer, deeper into the circle of divinity. "Lizzie, love, I never thought my future would matter to another…" Elizabeth looked up, into his shadowed eyes so black they might not be real. What was he trying to tell her? His face was closed. "I watched ye row away to the shore, darlin', after our last battle," he continued, his voice strained. "I watched ye sail to yer husband. And when I found myself in a dinghy, alone, with nothing but the horizon out before me, I was glad. I can't explain it. I thought I was free."
"Free of me?" Elizabeth asked.
Jack shook his head, remembering. "Free of everything. Free of death. Free of commitments. Free to do whatever I liked, for as long as I liked."
"I understand," Elizabeth whispered, but she did not.
"When the rum wore off, I realized what I had lost." Jack seemed to be having difficulty finding the right words to say, a rare happening for him. "When the rum wore off, I cursed the name of William Turner." Feeling the weight of his words press against them, Jack managed a smirk. "Course I didn't quite call him that. I used other words. But ye understand what I mean. Thought I had won, Lizzie. I was wrong."
Calypso stood looking over them impassively. Elizabeth shivered, remembering how, after Will sailed away on the Dutchman, she had fought against herself for days, trying to decide whether she should find Jack again. That had prompted her mad quest after the Black Pearl, and it was only after she had caught it that she realized Barbossa, and not Jack, had retained Captainage.
Jack's eyes flickered. "I went after the Fountain. I found it. But by that time, I didn't want immortality for anything. What a sight that would be, me living for all eternity, endlessly mourning you, love! I didn't drink. After that, I took me dinghy back to try and find ye, for old times sake. A storm came up one night, the boat overturned, and that would have been the end of me."
"Had I not intervened," Calypso interrupted at last, a cat-like smile stretching her skin. "I offered him reprieve: that I would protect him for all his natural life, let him die of old age, and then, he would come to me and do my bidding for eternity."
Elizabeth caught her breath. What was it about mortality that frightened humans so? Why did they always find themselves making bargains with the divine to forestall the final rest?
"I agreed, love, with the promise to Calypso that I would never seek immortality, because me natural life was as much as I could have before she'd claim me." Jack's voice sounded soothing after the ruthless strength of Calypso's.
"Why are you telling me this, Jack?"
Jack shifted his weight forward, meeting her eyes. "Because ye just bargained away your eternity. And I wanted you to understand that once, I did the same. We're remarkably similar, ye see."
Elizabeth could feel Kit's rum reaching her head, and without thinking, she chuckled. "Peas in a pod, after all."
"Aye," Jack murmured. "And I had to tell ye because… at that moment before death (my second death, as it were) I was willin' to bargain away eternity on the chance that I'd see you again in life. Just once more."
Nearby, Kit guffawed at Jack's flagrant honesty. Elizabeth, on the other hand, found herself close to tears. Was it the rum, or Jack's words that were having such a strong effect on her? "You gave up eternity to see me again, Jack?"
"Something like that," he muttered, his eyes on the ground. He had always been uncomfortable with his honest streak.
Elizabeth wanted to throw her arms around him. She wanted to cover his dark face with kisses. She wanted to swear her undying love to him there on the deck of the ship. But Jack wasn't like other men, he didn't burn for security, didn't require smothering displays of devotion. She could not prevent the smile that appeared on her face, threatening to burrow wrinkles into her cheeks. "And was it worth it, Captain Sparrow?"
He caught her humorous tone. "Haven't made up me mind yet, love."
Calypso had drifted toward the rail, her body tugged by the wind, her hair a cloud over the moon. "Fare ye well, Jack Sparrow. Until we meet again, dat is."
Jack nodded to her, a steady nod of understanding. "Aye, goddess. Aye."
Calypso spread her arms as if to wave. "And I'll enjoy watching the two of you trying to learn to raise a child. Though now dat ye aren't king and ye aren't lord, it will be a mite easier to escape dese Royal Navy dat come after ye."
"Perhaps we'll take on new names, as Jack once did," Elizabeth put in.
"Our son's name is a mighty fine ploy to keep him safe from said Royal Navy," Jack added. "After all, who could suspect a child named for the King of England of being a pirate's bastard?"
"Who indeed?" Calypso replied with a mysterious wink. "Though George seems a bit plain for the son of Jack Sparrow."
"In the succession of Kingly names, William and James were already vetoed."
"Den George it must be," Calypso laughed. "And good luck to ye both, because raising a child requires plenty of it."
They sat on the bed in their cabin, quiet at last. There was the noise of the sea outside, those waves that they loved, that wind that they lived for. There was the soft breathing of a child—their child— in the next cabin over, sleeping.
"No stars tonight," Jack said after a long silence. "Maybe a storm comin'."
"I don't think so," Elizabeth retorted softly. "I think the storms have all passed for this season."
"All storms?" his eyes glinted. "A pirate knows not to depend on things like the weather, love."
"What do they depend on, Jack?"
His fingers slid abstractly through his tangled braids, the slight creases around his forehead easing as his eyes closed. He leaned back gingerly until he was stretched across the bed, almost as though he were easing into a new life. "Were a time when a pirate depended on no one but himself. Aye, there were a time it was dangerous to trust anyone. Even the one ye loved."
Elizabeth shivered, feeling the sting of old betrayals, feeling the bitter torment of those days after the kraken, when her existence had been eclipsed entirely by the driving need to bring Jack back, cost what it may. And after that, so many days and nights learning to live with what she had done— trying to undo it in Jack's arms at Shipwreck Cove, bracing herself to lose him in the curse of the Dutchman, and then finding herself widowed and alone, Pirate King of a ragged, untrustworthy kingdom, still haunted by longing, yet bound irreversibly to her childhood love… ah, how strange life was! Jack seemed ancient to her now. He had lived this life for so many years—this life that she had struggled to believe, to survive, for just over a year. He had danced on the edges of a thousand knives; he had loved and lost, women, ships, ideals; he had stared into the face of death enough times to smile at it. How did he do it?
"Do you trust me now, Jack?" she whispered. She was unsure whether it was wise to ask such a question now, at the outset of this new life, which must be called a reprieve.
"That's a silly question, love." He smiled gently to the ceiling.
"Is it?" she pressed, laying down beside him, curling her body towards him. His eyes remained closed.
"Aye, it is. We've both of us lost our souls to trust. And we'll spend eternity fulfilling those debts, however honorable they seem."
Elizabeth could almost hear the snick of a shackle closing around his slender brown wrist. "I suppose we should both say we aren't sorry."
"I, for one, am certainly not sorry, love. Got nothing to be sorry about in the whole course of my spotless existence."
She chuckled wearily. "Indeed, Captain Sparrow?"
"Aye, until-formerly-King Lizzie."
She traced his face gently with one hand, the sun darkened skin, the smoky hollows beneath his eyes. He shivered at her touch—her touch that meant the smell of burning palm trees, the taste of the oily black boardwalk of Tortuga, the sight of unavoidable death, the whispered assurance of a fresh life. And for her, touching him, feeling the astonishing freedom to touch him without guilt or worry or rush, seemed to paint his skin with a thousand new shades of desire. "Jack, be serious. After all our planning and struggling, is this how things will end? Both of us tied to the mast of former promises?"
He sat up, a deep frown written across his face. "End? What do ye mean, end? Why Lizzie, haven't ye noticed that we won? We've got a lifetime—fancy that, love, an entire lifetime!—to ourselves. Goddesses and legends and husbands and enemies: we've slipped through their fingers, every one." He gripped her shoulders, pulling him against the solid warmth of his body, whispering into her hair roughly, "We've made it. Ye're here on me ship love, in me bed, all mine."
"Yours? Am I?" she returned. His grip around her merely tightened. "I thought you said you wouldn't keep me here by force."
His hands strayed to the small of her back, forcing their bodies closer together until she could feel his heart beating steadily against her. "Do ye want me to let go?" he taunted blackly.
"Never," she breathed.
There is a girl upon the ramparts, shod in glossy gold, part nymph. A pirate glances to the cliff, he glances through her. Drowning. She is drowning, much too far out. The breath in his lungs soars out to her, and he can see her tiny hand clutch the stone as she bends, desperate for air.
Oh god, is she waving or drowning? The unspoiled china curls belie her desperation. There is a statue sort of man beside her, burning bright for her, standing still for her. She needs wild flailing limbs and a jolt from the sun, not statues. Waving? Is she really just waving at him, so far out?
She plunges downward to heaven, a little golden bird, falling, drowning in mid-air. He can see her days and her nights, her fragile evening torment, her stifled morning stretches. Oh, what a pirate she'd be! He should let her drown. There in the sea, deep in the sea, she would find wintry solace, she would find his heart down there somewhere, a sacrifice to freedom.
No one swims anymore. He is the only one. He is always the only one able to dive into the cold blue depths, for that waving maiden who might be drowning. She is part mermaid, drenched in weighty figments of hypocrisy. He grasps her, she eludes him, he tears toward her skin, she is becoming the water. They will drown together here in this ocean, much too far out. They will drown together.
He breaks the surface and he is waving. There is no one to come for him, there is only her. In all that murk and that salt he found her. He is breathing, she is empty of all air. He has taken it from her. They reach the dock and the wood darkens with their water. He opens her lungs suddenly, she changes her mind and does not drown. The pirate reaches for the gold at her throat, and she reaches for the gold in him, smoldering deep within his mask of wintry solace.
Elizabeth woke in Jack's arms. The untidy cabin around them was perfect. He was perfect. The bed they laid on was perfect. And a perfect, brisk sunrise flooded through the window. Her days as the Pirate King were over… but a pirate she'd be for the remainder of her days.
She closed her eyes and for the briefest instant, she was enveloped in the knowledge of what an endless paradise felt like, looked like. The sun brightened, the noise of paradise grew louder, and Elizabeth tucked her face against Jack's brown neck. A lifetime of nights and mornings spread out before them, a treasure chest of coins and gems, each more exquisite and precious than the last. One lifetime. Far more than most people would ever get… far more than she had ever dreamed of.
"I think I love a pirate," she whispered, her smile making her face ache. One lifetime was enough to wear out and wrinkle her face smiling with happiness.
"Mmm," Jack murmured.
"Are you awake, Jack?" she asked.
"Aye. Thinkin' I've had more than my fair share of perfect mornings. This will be number three, to my count. Wakin' beside ye in me very own ship. Who could ask for more, love?"
"They will number many more before long, Captain Sparrow," she whispered. "How many mornings in a lifetime?"
"Enough." His sinful mouth bent into a sweet smile, remaking his pirate's face. He rolled over and pinned her to the bed with one hand, laying an irreverent kiss on her mouth. "I'd say just enough to undo all yer notions of honor and decency."
Elizabeth giggled. "And perhaps instill some manners in you, Jack."
"Whatever would ya want to do that for, love?" The kohl around his eyes had smudged in the night, as though he had just come up from the sea. "After all, it's the rough old pirate in me ye always wanted."
"And what did you want in me, Jack?"
He rolled back over, reaching to grab one of her little toes. "I wanted this toe." He moved up, kissing her knee, then her thigh. "Aye, maybe the whole leg." He ventured to her other leg, bare and unevenly colored by the sunlight. "Perhaps both legs." With a cheeky grin, he pressed his lips against her stomach, where the scars had begun to fade at last. "And this naval. I wanted this too." Up, up he went, Elizabeth laughing at the way his tongue tickled her skin. He traced her collarbone with one finger. "This bony chest. And this neck, which I'm inclined to remark, matches yer former name quite well." He kissed her mouth then, wound his fingers through her hair. "All of ye, Lizzie. The whole thing. Here to there, charming to perilous, lady to pirate. I wanted all of ye."
"I wonder if one lifetime will be enough for me," Elizabeth exhaled.
"If it's not, darlin', we'll just have to find a way to bend our fates after death."
"And how exactly will we accomplish such a thing, Captain Jack Sparrow?"
As if to wipe such thoughts from her mind, Jack ran the back of his hand down her arm, devious intentions clear in his blistering eyes. "Well love, we'll have all eternity to figure that out."