Date: August 12th, 2003
Summary: The legend of Jack Sparrow ends after a pitched battle with the British Navy . . . but that's hardly the end of his life.
Disclaimer: Disney owns these characters and the setting in which they live.
Notes: suckeriove has tempted me with the greatest return-offer for a challenge yet--a little alcove of the internet to call my own. And how can I but accept a challenge featuring Norrington telling a story of his exploits with Jack as the pirate insists on his captaincy and attempts to frighten small children? +grin+ Unfortunately, the next bit of "A Midsummer Night's Scheme" is going very slowly, so I decided to take this on now rather than later as it will have me writing at least a bit. The "besieged by rowboat" is credited to my mishearing exactly who besieged Liberia--as it transpired, it was Morovia.
A Funny Old World
The legend of Captain Jack Sparrow ends, in typical sensational style, when the Black Pearl sinks beneath the waves after a pitched battle with the British Navy embodied in Commodore Norrington. If Jack could have chosen an end to his piratical career, that would have been his third choice (the first two would have been a long, successful career curtailed by old age or death by storm).
The third choice, though, had one advantage over the first two. This advantage was that, while his pirating days were over, Jack Sparrow remained alive and well.
It was a funny old world.
John Norrington had once thought that there was no greater pleasure than shedding his brown lieutenant's wig and donning a white. He had once called that the happiest day of his life--the day when he had been raised to captaincy.
Now, though, with his brown hair streaked white at the temples, he ruefully reflected that there had been nothing really happy about that day. It had just been the sort of solemn occasion where the event was not nearly as important as what the event symbolized. In fact, there had been scores of happier days scattered throughout his life. Even an intensely happy few years, almost a decade and a half ago . . . when he had been young enough to really enjoy being happy.
A very funny world indeed, when his best few years had been spent in bewildered company with a former pirate who had lost none of his madness or his charm. There had been adventures--off the record for both of them, of course--and hatred and love and a kind of growing easiness in each other's presence. He had gotten to be comfortable with Jack Sparrow, and he still had no idea how it had come about.
These days, Norrington found himself looking more for that comfort. He wore boots because a man isn't a man without his boots, but if asked he'd admit a fondness for knit slippers. He'd even indulged a passing fancy and purchased a feather mattress, though straw had always been good enough for him before. Whereas once his relationship was a bad novel's worth of swashbuckling and hurried sex, now he found that what he enjoyed most were the rambling conversations that would keep them on the dock for hours after other men had gone home.
Jack's hair was still as black as pitch, and still beaded and braided and matted, but his beard went to a neat, trim point in the middle of his chin and was faintly streaked with grey. He wore thicker kohl around his eyes because the sun seemed brighter than it had before, and his rings were loose on his elegant, expressive fingers. He was almost the same old Jack . . .
. . . but he had gotten fond of the feather mattress as well.
Sometimes, children crowded 'round to hear these two former terrors tell of their adventures in the Red Sea or the courts of the King of Japan. They were always good stories, though no one really believed them.
When Norrington felt especially like entertaining, he'd tell of the way he had pursued the wily pirate Jack Sparrow across the seven seas.
". . . and that was how Jack Sparrow and I almost began a war between France and England," he finished. The man on the barrel beside his cleared his throat and straightened his shirt.
"I think you're referring to Captain Jack Sparrow, love," he muttered. The children gathered around them gazed up in awe.
"Did you know Mister Sparrow, sir?" asked one little girl, who by her wide eyes could have been no more than eight years old. She twisted her fingers in her hair, twirling little elf-locks of the long, blond mess.
Jack smiled hugely. "Captain Sparrow. He always insisted on his proper name and title. I knew him better than any man alive, lass." The girl put her hands on his knee and looked up at his smiling face, and he hoisted her onto his lap. "I remember his greatest adventures as if they were my own."
"How did you know him?" asked a slightly older girl. The lass would soon be dressing as fashionably as she could afford, but for now she was enamored by tales of adventure on the high seas.
This, the former pirate gave a bit of thought. "We're sort of related," he said finally. "Fourth cousins by marriage, six times removed."
"What was Jack Sparrow's greatest adventure?" asked a little boy, climbing onto Norrington's lap without even an imploring look, and soon the other children were chorusing for the tale.
"Captain, captain," Jack growled. Norrington, though, just shifted the young boy onto one knee and smiled. The only way to conquer that man is through his pride, and they're doing a fine job of it.
"I think," said John, "that his greatest adventure was the time he besieged Whydah by rowboat."
"It wasn't!" Jack cried indignantly. "That was just trickery! His greatest adventure was in stealing the Crown Jewels--briefly, mind, but he stole them."
"You never told me that you'd . . . er, heard that story," Norrington trailed off. But it wouldn't have mattered if he'd said what he'd meant, as the crowd clamoured to hear about Jack Sparrow's greatest adventure.
Jack was in his element. His eyes had new wrinkles at their corners from laughing too hard and too often, but they were still deep and intense and drew listeners like magnets drew iron filings. He shifted the little girl from his lap (as she'd started to play with his hair) and stood.
"Captain Jack Sparrow." He surveyed his audience and took a deep breath, as though breathing in the scent of their anticipation. "The captain was a fright'ning figure in those days, tall an' dark an' shaggy. He carried a pistol in is belt with one shot, an' wore kohl 'round his eyes just as I do--it made him look like a skull starin' down at ye." A coarse accent was coming into Jack's voice as he loomed over the children with a menacing glare. "He had a cutlass at his side an' rum in his belly an' he swayed like a drunkard when he walked." Jack took a few steps closer to the young folk, and they laughed at his sea-born sashay.
"'T'wasn't funny," he muttered, sitting back on his barrel.
But, Norrington decided, it was. It was funny, because Jack had captured himself in those words and drawn a picture of the young adventurer who had stolen far too many things for his own good--ships, merchants' stock, possibly the Crown Jewels (briefly? How could anyone steal something briefly?) . . . and Norrington's heart.
Jack Sparrow's legend had ended when the tip of the Black Pearl's mizzenmast had vanished from view. But neither his life nor his exploits had ended there. It had been the end to a chapter, perhaps, but a new one had begun when he'd been discovered stowed in the hold of Norrington's flagship.
". . . and what they tell you about the guards is not true, lads--they do move if you give them a sharp prod . . ."
And what of Norrington's life? His military career had been over at the same moment that Jack's piratical career had ended. But it had become a new chapter for him as well, and no less exciting or rewarding.
"And what did the king have to say about Jack's petty theft?" he inquired; invoking a king always got a great reaction from the little ones.
"The king?" Jack scratched his head. "I don't think they ever told him."
These days, there was nothing more comfortable than being a dockside theatre to the children of Herne Island until sunset, then retiring to home with a still-mad former pirate and resting their aching backs together on the soft feather mattress.
It really was a funny old world. But John Norrington was glad to live in it.
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