Rum and Persuasion
Author's note: This story is meant to take place somewhere in the gap between CotBP and DMC. Just my Sparrabeth excuse to give Lizzie and Jack a little "face time" alone together.
If you think that Jack's behaviour in the early chapters are a little out of character, please stick with it ... all will be explained in the Epilogue.
Please note this story was originally titled "Curiosity." However, I've since discovered that there are a slew of PotC stories by that name already on this site, so to avoid confusion, I've given this tale a somewhat more unique title ...
Again, Disney owns all things POTC. Not mine. Nope. Not in any way, shape, or form. I'm only borrowing the characters for a little fun. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!
'Ta, and (hopefully) enjoy ...
What Do You Do With a Drunken Pirate?
"Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me ..."
Elizabeth Swann was unceremoniously roused from her night-time slumber by the sound of off-key singing. She had been blissfully lost in an especially pleasant and somewhat sinful dream about her beloved fiancé, Will. Their impending nuptials were a few scant months away, and she could hardly wait to be a bride – to be Will's bride. She eagerly looked forward to their wedding day ... and even more so to their wedding night.
She had just convinced herself that she had imagined the singing, and closed her eyes with the hope of resuming her wonderful dream, when once again, the midnight peace was abruptly shattered.
"We pillage and plunder, we rifle and loot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don't give an 'oot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho ..."
Her eyes snapped open, widening in horror as she realised that she recognised that raucous voice raised practically outside her bedroom window. "Oh, no ... it can't be!" she whispered to herself as she threw back the counterpane. She bolted from her bed and rushed to the window, which overlooked the courtyard of the Governor's mansion.
A full moon hung overhead, casting an eerie silver glow like a rime of winter frost over the world outside her window. Its cold lustre seemed to leach the colour from all it touched -- a ravenous vampire bleeding its victim, leaving everything drained and ghostly in its ashen light.
Elizabeth couldn't suppress a little shiver as she glanced up at that glistening orb. Once, she had been able to behold the moon with unabashed wonder and delight, revelling in the imagined feel of its gentle light caressing her body, whisper-soft, like the sigh of a lover's breath upon her pale skin.
In the years since she and her father had arrived in Port Royal, she had grown to love the night, and the freedom it represented. In the cool velvet of the Caribbean night, she could at last escape the day's cloying tropical heat, loose herself from the torturous prison of her constricting stays, cast away all pretences along with her damned corset, and finally be herself. She could set aside the charade of being the oh-so-proper daughter of Governor Weatherby Swann, forget for the moment the commitments, burdens and responsibilities that came with that role, and be alone with her thoughts. During those blessed hours of night, the moon, her only confidante and truest friend, had listened silently as she poured forth the deepest secrets of her soul ... sharing all her fondest dreams, wishes, and desires.
However, that had regretfully changed that one terrifying night on the Black Pearl when the moon had been exposed for the sorceress she truly was, her eldritch light transforming Hector Barbossa and his cursed pirate crew into ghastly undead creatures, their flesh and clothing magically melting away to bleached bone and rags before Elizabeth's horrified eyes. Now, she could no longer look upon the moon as the benign, beautiful, and wondrous thing she had once thought it to be. Ever since that night, there came upon her, unwelcome and unbidden, a touch of apprehension as each full moon approached, despite Elizabeth's best efforts to deflect it with logic and reason.
Now, as she gazed down at the terrace, the betraying moon revealed to her eyes a familiar figure, tottering into view ... not a skeletal apparition, thankfully, but one that filled her with a feeling of dread nonetheless ...
"We're rascals and scoundrels, we're villains and knaves.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We're devils and black sheep, we're really bad eggs.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho ..."
"Good lord!" she whispered to herself, "The man must be utterly mad!" Spurred by panic, she hastily flew around the room, flinging open wardrobe doors and bureau drawers, tugging on garments willy-nilly ... whatever readily came to hand. She made a half-hearted attempt at doing up her own corset without the accustomed assistance of her lady's-maid Estrella, then gave up in frustration, leaving the lacings to dangle half-strung down her back as she carelessly threw a loose-fitting frock over it. She flung a shawl around her shoulders, slid her feet into her bed slippers, and hastened from the bedroom.
Furtively, she crept down the stairs, as quickly and as silently as she could go, not wanting to rouse the household. As luck would have it, she saw nary a servant as she made her way through the house and out the French doors leading to the courtyard.
"We're beggars and blighters and ne'er do-well cads,
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Aye, but we're loved by our mommies and dads,
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!"
There he was, large as life and twice as loud, in shirtsleeves and waistcoat, hat and coat nowhere to be found. "Captain Sparrow!" she hissed sotto voce, not daring to raise her voice above a hoarse whisper, despite the fact that, with his infernal caterwauling, he had already been making noise enough to wake the dead. "What are you doing here? Don't you know there is still a sentence of death on your head!"
But he seemed oblivious to her warnings ... indeed, to her very presence. He was plainly drunk ... very much so! Clutching a mostly-empty rum bottle in one fist, he tried to execute a jaunty jig-step, staggered, and very nearly ended up flat on his backside. Only an uncanny sense of balance, no doubt borne of endless hours spent on swaying ship decks, saved him from tumbling into the hedge.
She saw a light out of the corner of her eye, and noticed that a lamp had come up in the servants' quarters. Oh no ... just what I need! she thought in dismay.
Since verbal admonishments were having no effect, clearly a more direct, hands-on approach was called for. She moved quickly to the wobbly pirate and clamped her small hand over his mouth. His watery gaze slid over her with not even a glimmer of recognition.
This close, she practically choked at the smell of him. He simply reeked of a miasma of unpleasant odours ... cheap rum, old sweat, a hint of wet dog, and the overwhelming stench of dead fish.
Her first instinct was to bundle him into the house, before his antics attracted unwanted attention, but she quickly realised what a mistake that would be. A fugitive pirate – and a loudly drunken one at that! – in the Governor's mansion? Her father would die of apoplexy, once he heard! He had been willing enough to turn a blind eye when she and Will had conspired to rescue the condemned captain of the Black Pearl from the gallows, partly due to the fact that the pirate had, after all, once saved his daughter's life. However, there were limits even to her father's generosity, and his willingness to bend the law for his daughter's sake.
"Captain Sparrow!" she hissed again, more urgently. "You must be quiet! Please! For pity's sake!"
At last, her plea appeared to penetrate his drink-muddled brain, and his unfocused gaze finally came to rest (after a fashion) on her. His kohl-smudged eyes widened slightly as he took in her state of dishabille – the results of her hasty, and not very effective, attempts at dressing in the dark – and a slow smile spread across his face, the moonlight sparking brightly off his gold teeth even as a fire of a more earthy nature lit his deep brown, nearly-black eyes. "Well, aren't you a pretty picture, luv. Why don't you come here, and give us a kiss ..."
She sidestepped his touch -- a manoeuvre she had learned from their past encounters. "Oh, no you don't! If you will pardon my directness, Captain Sparrow ... you stink to high heavens! Whatever have you fallen into? And when was the last time you had a proper bath?" Her nose wrinkled in distaste, and she had to fight a wave of nausea.
He swayed again, his eyes narrowing as he peered once more at her. "Do I know you from somewhere, luv?" His eyes lost their focus again, drifting right and left. "And your two lovely sisters as well? All three of you look somewhat familiar ..."
Elizabeth realised that he did not recognise her – not surprising, given the massive amounts of rum he must have imbibed this night, and his current advanced state of inebriation.
His eyes widened in carnal delight. "Triplets, eh? I've never had triplets before! Twins, yes, but ... well, let's just say this could prove to be a rather unique, and quite educational, experience." He jangled a leather pouch dangling from his belt, the clink of coins within unmistakable, and smiled lasciviously. "What say the three of you and I make a little business arrangement ... to our mutual -- er, collective -- benefit and pleasure?"
As the implication of his words sank in, Elizabeth's face flushed bright red and she very nearly slapped him. How dare he take her for some cheap wharf doxy -- or, worse yet, three cheap wharf doxies! Though she – only just – restrained the urge to knock some sense into his addled brain by way of a well-propelled hand against his cheek, she did give him a vigorous shove that sent him back-pedalling toward the hedge ...
He juggled the bottle and clutched it protectively to his breast. "Save the rum!" he slurred as he toppled arse-over-kettle over the shrubbery.
At that moment, one of the housemaids, lamp in hand, appeared at the terrace door. "Miss Elizabeth?" she called out tentatively, "Is that you out there?"
Glad that Jack was, for the moment, out of sight, and blessedly silent for once, she hastened back to the door. "Yes ... I'm here. What is it, Lily?"
"Oh, thank goodness ... when I didn't find you in your room, I feared something 'ad 'appened to you." She paused when a rustling in the bushes caught her attention. "'Ere," she said, "Is there someone out there with you?"
"No, of course not ..."
"Well, Miss, there's someone at the door askin' to see you, and 'e seems quite insistent. I wouldn't let 'im in, bein' it's so late and your father is away, but I said I would fetch you down. He says it's rather urgent ..." Her nose wrinkled as she sniffed the air. "Beg pardon, Miss ... but do you smell somethin' ... odd?"
Elizabeth played innocent. "Odd? Whatever do you mean?"
"Phew! It smells a bit like the fishmonger's dustbin out 'ere!" she declared, then shrugging, turned back to the house.
Glancing back over her shoulder to make sure Jack was still safely invisible, Elizabeth followed the maid back inside. Pulling her shawl more closely around her, she made her way to the front door, drew a deep breath to calm her jangling nerves, and opened it a crack. A young man, in naval attire, stood just outside.
"Yes?" she questioned, as the young sailor turned to her. "What is the matter? What did you have to tell me that could not wait until morning?" she said with an abruptness bordering on rudeness.
"Miss Swann ..." he began, then paused as he noticed her mismatched clothing and slightly dishevelled state. Even in the wan moonlight, she could see him blush as scarlet as his uniform coat. "Beg pardon for disturbing your rest so late at night, Miss, but the Commodore sent me. He wanted me to let you know ... the Black Pearl was sighted tonight a few miles off the coast. Naturally, the Commodore and his crew have taken the Dauntless and gone in pursuit, but, to ensure your safekeeping, he's taken the liberty of posting a dozen of his best men around the house ... in case any of the pirate crew have come to shore."
Given that the Pearl's drunken captain was now on her terrace, happily passed out in the hedgerow, the news came as no great surprise to Elizabeth. "I see," she said tersely, wanting nothing more than to get rid of the messenger, not to mention the extra guards. "I am very grateful for his concern, however I hardly think it's necessary ..."
"Oh, but those are his orders, Miss Swann. The Commodore said he promised your father that he'd look out for you while the Governor was away, and he was quite firm that we were to stay until morning ..."
Her heart sank. This complicated the situation no end. How could she hope to sneak Jack out now, with all those extra guards present? "Very well. You must do as commanded, I suppose. Thank you, and the Commodore, for the kind consideration," she ground out through clenched teeth. Before the man could speak further, she shut the door in his face, with a bit more force than necessary.
The maid, who had clearly been close by, listening, once again appeared. "Miss?" she asked.
Elizabeth sighed. "It would appear we are under protective house arrest for the remainder of the night, courtesy of Commodore Norrington. Apparently, pirates have been spotted nearby, and he's taking no chance of me being kidnapped again."
She thought of James, and the changes the past several months had wrought in him. Hunting the Black Pearl – and its captain – had become an obsession with her former fiancé. For five months straight after the aborted hanging, he had been at sea, chasing the black-sailed ship from place to place, intent on capturing her and her eccentric master. Each time he returned to Port Royal, after having had the Pearl elude him once again, he sank into a deeper and deeper despair.
Elizabeth realised it was all a matter of pride with James. He saw himself as the scourge of piracy, determined to wipe it from the face of the earth. "Vile and dissolute creatures, the lot of them," he had told her, all those years ago on the deck of the Dauntless, when he was a young naval Captain, and she only twelve years old. "I intend to see to it that any man who sails under a pirate flag, or wears a pirate brand, gets what he deserves: a short drop and a sudden stop." That was the creed by which James lived, and the reason he pursued Jack Sparrow with a single-minded determination bordering on the maniacal. Each thwarted attempt at capturing the elusive pirate and his ship eroded the image he had of himself as the saviour of the seas.
On top of that, Jack Sparrow had, time and again, outwitted and humiliated James in front of his men – escaping him, albeit briefly, on the docks that first day by using her as a hostage; and, later, stealing the Interceptor practically from under his nose. Not a man to take slights lightly, the vendetta had become deeply personal to James, to the point where he had vowed that, should he continue to fail in apprehending Jack Sparrow, he would resign his commission in defeat and disgrace. She hoped against hope that it wouldn't come to that. The Royal Navy was James' life, and to lose that, she felt, would utterly destroy the proud man that he was.
After making sure that the maid had returned to her room and bed, Elizabeth grabbed an oil lamp and returned to the terrace. To her great relief, Jack was still where she had left him, sprawled on his back, snoring softly behind the hedge, rum bottle clutched to his bosom.
But that left her in a quandary. Just what was she to do with him? She couldn't bring him into the house, or her father was certain to find out. There were also the servants to consider; she could hardly conceal Jack's presence from them, and how could she be certain one of them wouldn't run and alert the authorities? After all, it had been less than a year since the house was invaded by Hector Barbossa's men, who had proceeded to murder their manservant in cold blood and abduct Elizabeth. That disturbing event was still fresh in everyone's memories, and the servants were sure to be skittish about the presence of a pirate in the house.
However, trying to sneak him off the grounds was definitely out of the question as well, given the fact that James had posted guards around the house to "protect" her from the pirates.
Typical James, always just one step behind, she thought, a bit unkindly. Once again, he's barred the harbour after the invaders have already slipped in.
She couldn't risk them capturing Jack and taking him to his postponed appointment with the hangman. Despite the strange adventure they had shared the previous year, the duplicitous Jack had, in the end, proven himself a good friend to Will, and to herself -- in his own way. Not that she entirely trusted him -- he was a pirate, after all, and she wasn't that naïve! -- but she couldn't in good conscience let him hang ...
Sighing, she stooped beside the dozing pirate, the circle of lamplight casting a warm glow upon rugged features now slack in alcohol-soaked slumber. "Captain Sparrow!" she called quietly, reaching out to shake him by the shoulder. "Captain Sparrow ... please, you must wake up and come with me ..."
When he failed to respond, an idea occurred to Elizabeth. Carefully, she pried the rum bottle out of his hands -- a daunting task, since even in his sleep he seemed loath to relinquish possession of it. Uncorking it, she tilted the bottle until she could dip her fingers into the amber liquid. Bringing her dripping fingers to his mouth, she wet his lips with the rum, then waved her fingers under his nose. Better than sal volatile! she thought as his nostrils flared, and his tongue eased out to lap at his rum-moistened lips.
Using the rum as a lure, she was at last able to rouse him sufficiently to get him to his feet ... more or less. But what now? Where could she put him until the troops left at dawn?
As she drew closer and put one arm around his waist to help steady him, her senses were again overwhelmed by the grossly unpleasant smell rising from him, causing her stomach to roil.
Wherever it was, she had to get him out of there, soon. She couldn't very well keep his presence a secret, not with him reeking like a rubbish tip, only a stone's throw from the house ...
A sudden inspiration struck her. She recalled that the groundskeeper was away for a few days to attend to his sick mother. His cottage would be the perfect place to hide Jack for a few hours! It was far enough from the main house to be away from prying eyes, sufficiently isolated to squirrel away one inebriated pirate captain for the night.
With his arm slung around her shoulders, the rum bottle tucked securely inside Jack's loose shirt, and her right arm firmly braced around his waist, she raised the lamp in her left hand and started coaxing the semi-conscious pirate toward the cottage ...
AN: Sal volatile is the 1600's name for smelling salts, a term which didn't come into usage until roughly the 1830's, several decades after this story takes place.