Rum and Persuasion
- Epilogue -
- Epilogue -
Jack Sparrow stood on the deck of the Black Pearl, watching the morning sun rise higher in the sky. He leaned on the rail, lost in thought.
His first mate, Joshamee Gibbs, joined him at the rail. "That was a close one, that was," he said. "T'weren't easy to shake the Dauntless long enough to circle back to get ye. I thought Commodore Norrington had us this time, fer sure."
Jack waved a ring-encrusted hand – now one ring lighter – dismissively. "You needn't have worried, Gibbs. We'll always be able to stay ahead of Norrington. The man does things much too much 'by the book' to be able to get the drop on us. Not very creative, is ol' Norrie. I've never met a man so singularly lacking in imagination. Little wonder Lizzie refused to marry the poor sod."
Gibbs smiled to himself, thinking back to his days when he had been a deckhand on the Dauntless, under the command of then-Captain Norrington. "Aye. The feller always was a bit of a stick, make no mistake." He slanted a glance toward Jack, his bewhiskered face softening slightly. "Ye didn't talk much when I was fetchin' you back at daybreak – how did things go, anyway?"
"Everything went exactly accordin' to my plan." His eyes lost focus for a moment as his thoughts strayed to the previous night. "Well, almost everything." He frowned.
Gibbs chuckled good-naturedly. "Of course, ye bein' so clean and all, I near didn't recognise ye when I saw yer. Don't think I've ever seen you lookin' so bright an' shiny ..."
Jack grimaced. "Yes, well … whilst I was in me cups last night, I had a bit of a fallin'-out with the dustbin behind the fishmonger's. Or, rather, more like a fallin'-in." He gave a rueful smile. "It seems our Miss Swann's delicate sensibilities were offended by the scent of eau de Poisson, so whilst I was otherwise indisposed …"
"Passed out drunk, eh?" Gibbs translated.
"… she removed me clothes and Shanghaied me into a hot bath."
Gibbs crooked an eyebrow. "Did she, now?" He chuckled to himself. "Well, dress me in a frilly frock and call me Mary! Good fer her! Now, that must've been a sight to see … Though I'm a mite surprised at ye, Jack -- you don't usually let yourself overindulge, particularly when yer placin' yerself in a risky situation ..."
"Yes, well -- I intended to have only enough rum to lend a certain air of verisimilitude to my little performance. After all, I didn't really need to be drunk, I only needed to convince Her Nibs that I was not in full command of my faculties ... to lull her into a false sense of superiority, y'see ... get her to lower her defences. If there's one thing I've learned about our Miss Swann, it's that she likes to feel she has the upper hand in any situation ... even if that advantage is merely an illusion." His voice trailed off.
"Then how did ye end up gettin' so ...?" Gibbs asked.
"Three sheets to the wind?"
Jack smiled ruefully. "Because I had the misfortune to be recognised right off, almost as soon as I hit port ... by the bloody hangman, no less!"
Gibbs' jaw dropped and his eyes went wide in his grizzled face. "No!"
"Aye! An' the only thing I could think to do -- me not bein' in the mood to off the poor bugger in cold blood ... after all he was only doin' his job by tryin' to hang me; you can't begrudge a man for that -- was take him to a private room at the closest inn, ply him with sufficient amounts of rum and spirits to fuddle his wits, and try to convince him that he had not in actuality seen who he had thought he'd seen."
Gibbs looked confused. "An' couldn't ya do that without gettin' drunk yerself?"
"Well, it occurred to me that it would arouse his already jostled suspicions if he were the only one doin' the drinkin' -- an', him bein' such a massive specimen, and quite well-acquainted with splicin' the main brace himself, it took a prodigious amount to get him well and truly soaked ..."
"Couldn't you ... well, just pretend to drink, and dump the rum on the sly?" As Jack fixed him with a penetrating gaze, Gibbs realised what he had just said, and his eyes widened in horror. "Good Lord, did I just advocate the wastage of perfectly good rum?"
"I'm sorry, Jack ... I don't know what got into me."
Jack waved a dismissive hand. "Don't trouble yourself, Gibbs. It's already forgotten."
Gibbs looked at him, confused. "Eh? What is?"
Jack frowned. "I don't know. I've forgotten!"
Both men looked at each other, then shrugged.
"An' how did it go with Miss Elizabeth? What happened between you an' her ...?"
Jack sighed. "More than I was expectin', but less than I was hopin' for ..." he said cryptically.
"Meanin'...?" Gibbs pushed.
Jack looked at him quizzically. "Meanin', more than I was expectin', but less than I was hopin' for," he repeated, as if Gibbs hadn't heard him the first time. "Honestly, Gibbs, you need to pay attention ..."
"Oh." Gibbs didn't press the issue further. "Well, if nothin' happened between you and she, how did you pass the time until I fetched ye this mornin'?"
"Well ... said bath, for one. A whole lot of talkin' ... a bit of good-natured arguin' ... a goodly amount of rum-drinkin' -- on both our parts ... and some rather ... ahem ... intimate moments I would prefer not to elaborate on ..."
Gibbs' eyes widened again. "Jack ... you didn't go and get the poor girl drunk, did ye?"
"Mister Gibbs!" Jack exclaimed, his face a mask of outrage. "I'm offended in the extreme that you would even begin to have the slightest inkling of the notion that I would entertain the merest idea of plying our dear Miss Swann with strong spirits for the purpose of gettin' her drunk so I could have me way with her!"
Gibbs' expression was suitably contrite. "Sorry, Jack ... I don't know what I was thinkin' ..."
"I only offered her the rum ... she got herself drunk!" Jack finished, a bit defensively.
"So, the -- ah -- 'intimate moments' ... Did you ... did she ...?" Gibbs fished, with a waggle of his bushy eyebrows.
Jack waved an admonishing finger. "Ah-ah! A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell, Mister Gibbs!"
Gibbs crooked an eyebrow, knowingly. "Ah! So there was kissin', was there ...?"
"Gibbs, I would really prefer not to answer that question when the honour of a lady's reputation hangs in the balance."
"What about Will? Is she still plannin' on tyin' the knot with him?"
When Jack failed to respond, Gibbs turned to find him gazing out to sea, his eyes somewhat unfocused. "Cap'n?" Gibbs asked him with mild concern. "Are ye all right?"
Jack came out of his reverie. "Hmm? What did you say, Gibbs?"
Gibbs was silent for a moment, then went on tentatively. "I only asked, were you able to convince Elizabeth not to marry young Will?"
Jack frowned, and strove to keep his tone flippant. "No. The poor doomed lass is besotted with the whelp. Not much I could do there, I'm afraid. It appears she is determined to surrender herself to the shackles of holy matrimony ..."
Gibbs' mutton-chopped face softened with remembrance. "Aye, Miss Elizabeth always was a headstrong young lady, even as a wee girl. No one could ever tell 'er what to do, or persuade 'er from a course of action once she'd set 'er mind to it." Gibbs sighed and shrugged. "Too bad. I was hopin' this would work out fer ye, Jack. After all, I haven't seen you so vexed by a woman in quite a long time."
Jack shot him a hard look. "I'm not vexed, Gibbs ... I'm just ... interested."
Gibbs gave him a look rife with scepticism, then shook his head. "Funny, that … she's not the type of gal you usually get a hankerin' for."
Jack turned and fixed him with narrowed eyes. "And just what do you mean by that, Gibbs? That she's too good for me? That she's out of my class?"
"Now, I never said that …"
"Good thing, too, or I'd have to take the cat-o'-nine-tails to you for your impertinence …"
Gibbs merely smiled, knowing that Jack didn't mean it. In all the years he'd known Jack, the worst he'd gotten from him was the occasional slap in the face or a cuff across the head. Jack, unlike many a pirate captain, did not reward loyalty with abuse. "It still begs the question, though … why did ye run the risks ye did last night, put yerself in danger, just to go an' see her?"
"That, Gibbs, is a question I've been askin' meself. I'll let you know when I deign to give meself an answer ..."
"Perhaps I'm oversteppin' here, Jack -- but mebbe it's that she's the first female you've set your sights on who hasn't fallen into the sack with ye at the first flash of yer smile or a wink of yer eye."
Jack sighed and frowned, his expression darkening. "You're right, Gibbs."
Gibbs seemed surprised at Jack's admission. "I am?"
"Yes ... you are oversteppin'," Jack said, "... and you're wrong!" Jack strode away.
"But ... well, if she went an' kissed you, Jack, surely she feels somethin' for you, eh?"
"Well, I s'pose I got me answer when I woke up in the mornin' and found her gone, without so much as a poke on the arm or a 'goodbye, Jack' …" he sulked. "And that, after promisin' I wouldn't go an' run off on her."
Gibbs shook his head wonderingly. "A touch of irony in that, innit? It's usually you be the one slippin' away from a lady's bed before the crack of dawn …" At Jack's stormy expression, Gibbs went on, encouragingly, "Mebbe she just went to see if the coast was clear …"
"Or maybe I failed to live up to her expectations," Jack sulked on. "I am a legend, you know, and sometimes it's hard to live up to bein' a legend …"
Gibbs eyed him dubiously, with an almost imperceptible roll of his eyes. "Yes ... that must be it, Jack." He clapped a hand companionably on Jack's shoulder, and sighed. "Oh, well ... Ye gave it yer best shot, Jack. At least ye know where ye both stand now, and can move on."
"True enough," Jack said, and Gibbs, who knew him better than just about any man, thought he detected the merest trace of sadness in his voice.
"Speakin' of movin' on ... have ye a new course plotted for us, Cap'n?"
Jack stood up straight, his dark eyes fixed on the distant horizon. "It's long past time we did a bit of good, honest piratin', Gibbs. I hear the merchant trade is especially lucrative down Tripoli way ... quite ripe for the pickin'."
Gibbs looked at him with mild alarm. "But Cap'n, ye know it's comin' on to hurricane season there ... and the Dauntless can't be that far behind us ..."
With a deep sigh, Jack raised himself to full height, and turned to face his first mate, his eyes darkening like twin pieces of flint. "Mister Gibbs, you have me orders! Rouse the crew, and set a course for Tripoli!"
He snapped to attention, and even gave Jack a brisk salute. "Aye-aye, Cap'n ..."
As Gibbs hastened away to obey his captain's orders, Jack climbed the steps up to the wheel deck, and gazed back in the direction of Port Royal, home of one Miss Elizabeth Swann, soon-to-be Mrs. William Turner, Jr.
"Well, Lizzie," he whispered to himself, "I've given you an out, if you choose to take it, by sayin' I don't remember last night -- may God forgive me for that vile falsehood, 'cuz I'll never forget it. The sight, feel and taste of you will always be burnt into me memory, until the day I die.
"But the next step is yours, luv. If you deny what happened between us last night, and go through with your marriage to Will ... then that's all fine an' good, and I'll get on with me life, same as always. Far be it for the likes of Captain Jack Sparrow to lose his head over some slip of a spoiled Governor's daughter! I won't go chasin' after you like some bloody heartsick young pup, luv. As I told you, there are willin' women a-plenty in the world, and Jack won't deny himself the pleasure of their company.
"But if you decide that you want me after all ... if you come after me, and kiss me of your own accord, and offer yourself to me, body, heart, and soul ... then I'll know the fates meant for us to be together, and I'll welcome you to me ship and me bed with open arms." He smiled darkly, "And we'll finish that little dalliance we began last night ... and this time, you won't be tellin' me 'no' ...
"The choice is yours, luv. As it always has been.
"Choose well, my love," he murmured, his face softening, and the moisture in his eyes might have only been from the wind and the salt spray of the sea.
"Choose well ..."
Author's Note: Just a few end notes, for those who have stuck with this story to the end ... (if so, thank you so much, and I hope you enjoyed it. And many, many thanks to those who took the time to post reviews! Every single one of them is highly appreciated, even, believe it or not, the negative ones)!
I know there has been some disappointment expressed by at least one reviewer that I didn't let Elizabeth surrender her virginity to Jack (though, heaven knows, they got to do just about everything else short of that!), and that the story has a pro-Will leaning.
This story is meant to be, essentially, a "missing chapter" between CotBP and DMC, and not an "alternate universe" story. As such, it was never my intent to alter any of the basic story as presented in the three feature films (except for choosing to believe that the events in the deleted scenes of CotBP really did take place, mostly because of the depth I think those scenes add to Jack's character). I felt, if the events of DMC are to unfold as they do, with Elizabeth's (interrupted) wedding to Will, I couldn't see how Elizabeth (at least at this point in her character development) would be able to "go all the way" with Jack, and still go through with her wedding to Will, knowing full well that she was no longer a virgin. (The more morally ambiguous Elizabeth at the end of DMC -- the one who could sacrifice Jack to the Kraken -- might have done, and definitely the harder Elizabeth of AWE, but not this version.) By refusing Jack that final step, she could still (in a truly Bill Clintonesque lapse of logic) delude herself into believing that she had NOT, technically, been unfaithful to Will, in the true physical sense. Thus, the wedding goes on (until Beckett forces it to be cancelled).
At this point, I feel Elizabeth is still conflicted. She is loath to risk her long-standing relationship with Will, but still clearly is attracted to Jack (which comes more to the forefront in DMC, with the subtle -- and, at times, not so subtle -- flirtation between her and Jack). This is the aspect I wished to more deeply explore in this story.
Anyway, I hope (at least) some of you enjoyed it! Love it or hate, please feel free to review!
Thank you most kindly!