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At Loose Ends

by The Stowaway


Fandom: PoTC    Rating: PG    Pairing: Will/Elizabeth and implications    Full Header


For months after Commodore Norrington sailed on a year's leave home to England, the Turners saw nothing of Jack Sparrow.

"Do you suppose," Elizabeth asked one morning over breakfast, "That he made good his threat to follow James?"

Will laughed. "Bite your tongue, woman" he replied in mock horror and Elizabeth giggled. "Only think of the mischief he'd get up to!"

"Terrible," she replied. "James is staying with his cousins the Wrenthams, you know. I am certain Jack would somehow gain an invitation to the house." She thought a moment. "Wrentham's third son is a gamester and a wastrel, I hear - Jack would find it easy enough to become his new best friend. Oh, Will! Can you imagine the Earl's face on being introduced to Jack Sparrow?"

"Never mind the Earl," Will cried. "Think of poor James!"

Will and Elizabeth found this idea so funny that they amused themselves for some weeks with ever more improbable tales of Jack's adventures in England. Will was of the opinion that Jack would visit the Admiralty and nick the First Lord's snuff box. Elizabeth suggested he might lay claim to a vacant peerage - imagining his address to the House of Lords convulsed them for an entire evening. But his presentation at Court was their pièce de résistance. They took great and detailed glee in speculating on Jack's conversations with Royalty and the probable consequences. By degrees, as Jack's absence lengthened, they almost came to believe that he had indeed gone to England.

One afternoon as Elizabeth was returning from a day spent visiting friends, she found herself met at the front door by her tearful and agitated maid.

"Oh madam," Estrella cried, wringing her hands. "He would come in and I've not been able to budge him."

"Good heavens, what can you mean?" Elizabeth exclaimed, alarmed. "What has happened? Who would come in?"

"It's that Jack Sparrow," Estrella said, sniffling into her apron. "He's been in the parlour for hours and he will not leave, no matter what I say. And he's drinking - he's been at the master's rum."

"Has he?" Elizabeth replied, raising one eyebrow.

"Indeed he has, madam," the maid nodded. "And there's worse." She lowered her voice. "He pinched me."

"Did he?"

Seeing that Estrella was truly shocked by Jack's misbehavior, Elizabeth managed - just barely - to keep her face straight as she tried to soothe the maid's ruffled sensibilities.

"Well, that was very bad of Captain Sparrow," she said, "and I shall make him understand that he is never to it again. Do you wish him to apologize to you? Or would you rather put the incident, um, behind you, so to speak?" Elizabeth bit her lip and struggled not burst out laughing at Estrella's horrified expression.

"Miss Elizabeth!" When Estrella reverted to her nursery name, Elizabeth knew she was in her maid's black books. "I declare, Miss Elizabeth, you are as wicked as he is. And him a pirate and all. It's a scandal, that's what it is. And no, I do not want that… that scoundrel to apologize to me. If he never speaks to me again, it will be too soon."

"Then he will not," Elizabeth said. "You have my word. Come, Estrella, calm yourself. Now that I am come home, you need not fear that Captain Sparrow will offer you any further insult. I will go to him now and see what's to be done. Please send to the smithy to let Mister Turner know we have a guest. And bring the tea tray as soon as may be."

The maid went back to the kitchen and Elizabeth hurried to the parlour. She paused outside the door and listened. There was a tuneless drone emanating from the room and she heard the squeak of a drawn cork. Lifting the latch she eased the door open and peered in.

Jack lay on the sofa with his back to the door, his booted heels propped on one arm and his head upon the other. He was drinking from a bottle of rum and attempting to sing between sips. Neither tune nor words were distinguishable. He was very drunk.

Elizabeth stepped into the parlour and the rustle of her skirts stopped the "song" in mid-note.

"Begone, wench," Jack growled blurrily, without looking around. "I'm stayin' right here until I see the Turners and there ain't a thing you can do about it. So, if you don't want to be goosed again, then best leave me the hell alone, eh?"

"Pirate manners, Jack?" Elizabeth said, dryly.

Jack's head whipped around so quickly that he overbalanced and fell off the sofa, landing with a thud and a muffled oath.

"Elizabeth," he said, trying unsuccessfully to get to his feet. "About bloody time you got home." He gave up the attempt to stand and took another drink. "Thought you was that whey-faced, whinging, pain in the arse, come to preach at me."

Elizabeth shook her head. "That's no way to speak of my maid, Jack," she replied. "You've been beastly to her, haven't you?"

"Buggeration." Jack scowled and swigged more rum. "Not you, too, Bess. Prosing on like some damned Methodist. Makes a man feel unwelcome."

"Oh, for heaven's sake." Elizabeth went over and took him by the arm. "Get up, you idiot."

Jack surged to his feet, surprising both himself and Elizabeth, who lost her grip on his arm, tripped and half-fell onto the sofa. Jack flailed both arms for a second, lost his balance and sprawled backwards across her lap.

"Isn't this cozy, then?" he said, grinning up at her. "Drink?" He offered her the bottle.

"Let me up," Elizabeth exclaimed, pushing ineffectually at his shoulder. "Jack, you fool, get off of me!"

He ignored her, wriggling round until his backside rested on the sofa, his feet were once again on its arm, and his head and shoulders rested on Elizabeth.

"Better?" he asked, drinking yet again.

"Not much," she grumbled. "Must you be so difficult?"

"Yes," he replied simply.

Elizabeth gave up the struggle and began to laugh.

"That's the spirit, love," Jack grinned. "Have some rum."

She paid no attention to the bottle once again waving before her face. "Where have you been all these months, Jack? We thought you must have gone to England."

Suddenly morose, Jack frowned. "As I should have done, curse it," he said. There was silence for a few moments, then he added, "Damn it to hell, I should have."

Elizabeth felt a stab of pity; he looked almost lost. "We miss him, too," she said softly.

Jack looked out the window. "I have no idea who you're talking about," he replied.

"Of course you don't," she smiled and Jack scowled. "It's not so very long until he's back, you know," she ventured, after another silence.

"Seven months and thirteen days. Not," Jack said, glaring at her, "that I'm counting. Are you sure you won't have some of this rum? It's quite good, really. Will's taste in rum is improving."

"How gratifying," Will said, from the doorway.

"At last," Jack cried. "C'mere, whelp, where I can see you. M'not sitting up again - too dangerous."

As he crossed the room, Will exchanged a look with his wife that told her he had overheard their conversation. They smiled over Jack's head.

"Well, you old pirate," Will said, shaking the hand that Jack held out. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Besides lyin' with my head in Bess's lap and drinking your rum?" Jack replied, grinning.

"Yes, besides the obvious," Will laughed, sitting on the floor next to the sofa and accepting the bottle.

"Oh, just the usual," Jack said. "Raid, pillage, plunder - nothing remarkable, really."

"I find that hard to believe," Will replied, passing the bottle back to the pirate. "Nothing happened out of the ordinary? That's not like you, Jack."

Jack considered this for a moment, lubricating his memory with still more rum. "Now that you mention it," he said at last, "there was that time in Cartagena, when Gibbs thought he saw…"

As he lost himself in the telling of his tale, Jack's expression lightened and his gestures became broader and more flamboyant. Toward the end, the story became somewhat hard to follow, due to excessive application of rum.

Will and Elizabeth listened, with exclamations of astonishment or encouragement at appropriate intervals, until he reached his peroration.

"And so it was that we all got safe aboard the Pearl. We cut the cables and were well down the harbour by the time…." Jack's voice trailed off. Silence fell, broken presently by a soft snore. Will took the nearly empty bottle from Jack and corked it, winking at Elizabeth as he did so.

They sat awhile longer, until they were sure Jack was soundly asleep. Then Elizabeth eased herself off the sofa, lowering his head to the cushions. He did not stir.

"I'll go get him a blanket," she whispered. Will nodded.

She returned with the blanket and a feather pillow. Will pulled off Jack's boots and put the pillow beneath his head as Elizabeth covered him up.

"Should we wake him when dinner is ready?" she asked Will as they closed the parlour door behind them.

"He wouldn't thank us for it," Will chuckled. "I'll leave a jug of water next to the sofa if he's not awake by the time we go to bed. Food would be wasted on him, but he'll be thirsty."

"I suppose you're right," she nodded. "Poor Jack."

"He'll be fine."

In the morning, they found the blanket folded atop the pillow, the water jug empty, and the rum (and Jack) long gone. And that - so they thought - was that.

Three days later, as Will worked on a pair of large and elaborate strap hinges, Jack appeared at his elbow.

"What're those?" he asked.

"Grape vines," Will replied, continuing to ply his hammer.

"On hinges?"

"Commissioned for a wine cellar," Will explained. "And they must be finished by noon."

"Ah," Jack said. "Well, then, don't let me stop you. I'll just sit over here and watch, shall I?"

Will nodded and smiled and went on working. Or tried to.

During the course of the morning Jack pestered the donkey until the normally placid creature attempted to kick him, offered rum to the apprentices (Will caught him before they'd had more than a mouthful), put a hole in the smaller hand-bellows, misplaced Will's favorite swage, moved all the chisels and punches out of their accustomed order, tipped over a quenching barrel (the water and not - Will thanked his lucky stars - the oil), and burnt the handles off two hammers by dropping them into the forge.

"I tell you, Elizabeth," Will fumed, over supper, "it was like having an over-sized toddler running loose in the smithy. In the end, I bribed him to be still by promising to go down to the Pearl with him for the afternoon, if only he'd stay quiet long enough for me to finish those hinges for old man Winslow."

"Did it work?" she asked.

"Yes, thank heaven," Will replied. "If it had not, I swear, I would have shackled him to the wall. I told him so, too."

"Poor Jack," Elizabeth said.

"Ha!" said Will

The next week passed quietly, but then, late one evening, as the Turners sat in the parlour after dinner - Will reading aloud to Elizabeth as she sewed - there came a tap at the window. Before they could do more than look up, Jack had undone the catch with his knife and opened the sash.

"Good evening, youngsters," Jack said, as he climbed into the room.

"The door…?" Will asked.

"Was locked," Jack grinned. "Why knock and put you to the trouble of going out in the hall to open up, eh? Much easier this way, if you ask me." He sat on the sofa next to Elizabeth and crossed his ankles. "So, what are we reading tonight?"

"It's not that we are not pleased to see you Jack," Elizabeth said, "but it is rather late and I was wondering why…"

"No room at the inn," Jack replied.

"I beg your pardon?"

"When I tried to bespeak a room at the inn, they didn't have a single one unoccupied," Jack said. "Naturally, I came here next."

"Naturally," said Will, trying not to laugh.

"But what about the Pearl?" Elizabeth asked.

"Sent her off to Black River on an errand," Jack said. He took up her hand and kissed it. "Surely, dear Mrs. Turner - sweet, kind, lovely Mrs. Turner - you don't mean to turn me out to sleep in a ditch." This was accompanied such a look of cajolery that Elizabeth began to snicker.

"As if you would. Oh, very well, you rogue," she said, rising. "I will go make up the bed in the spare room and get one of Will's nightshirts for you."

A short time later, the Turners climbed into their own bed and Will blew out the candle. They lay for a moment in the silent house, listening to the breeze rustling the bushes in the garden below their window. Will rolled over and put his arm around Elizabeth's waist and she wound hers about his neck. He grinned down at her in the moonlight.

"Well, dear Mrs. Turner - sweet, kind, lovely Mrs. Turner," he said, between kisses, "what do you say to a little…"

"Jack!" Elizabeth cried.

"Huh?" Startled, Will raised his head to look at her. Elizabeth's eyes were opened wide. Will followed her gaze and jumped as he caught sight of Jack standing beside the bed, his borrowed nightshirt glowing like a ghost in the moonlight. "Jack! What the devil…?"

"There's a mouse," Jack said.

"A what?"

"A mouse. He's gnawing in the wall next to my bed," Jack explained. "I can't sleep in there."

"A mouse?"

Jack drooped. "Making a dreadful racket, he is." He sighed. "You can't hear him from in here, can you?"

Elizabeth shook her head. "Jack, you mustn't…" she began.

"Nice, big bed, this," Jack said, wistfully. "Lots of room."

Elizabeth's eyes flew to Will's face.

"Looks soft, too," Jack went on.

"And no mice," he added.

Will had begun to grin and Elizabeth's eyes were dancing. She nodded. Will turned back the covers and Elizabeth held out her hand. Jack's face lit up as he scrambled up to lie between them.

"But only for tonight, mind," Will said, sternly.

"Of course, love," Jack nodded vigorously. "Just for tonight."

Seven months and some days later, the Turners ordered a larger bed, their old one - large enough for three as it undoubtedly was - having suddenly become somewhat overcrowded.


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