Author's Notes: This is the epilogue to the very long story I am writing on, but that one is so big that although I am writing almost daily, it will take ages to complete. If you'd like to wait for it, for whatever reason, then don't read this piece. It can stand alone, and belongs in the same universe as the earlier part in the series 'The Ocean, the Pearl, and.'.
The old man stood on top of the cliffs, as he had done almost every evening for more years than he cared to remember. Overlooking the bay, he was watching the splendour of a Caribbean sunset, rich colours of flaming red, orange and burning amber turning into turquoise, azure and midnight blue. The tall man's short white hair was ruffled by the constant breeze coming from the ocean and he smiled at the scent of salt and sun, which would forever remind him of another. He leant on a silver topped cane, but while his joints ached with every movement, age had not bent his body, nor had it filled his figure, and he would not stoop, but stand as straight as he had always done.
The world of his youth, he mused while observing seagulls that dipped low and soared back up into the skies again, had changed beyond recognition. There was no pirate threat any more in these waters, the world was moving towards different ways of life and as he had heard, it was highwaymen these days faraway in his home country, who pried on the wealthy and the unsuspecting.
Brilliant rays of fading sunlight caught the black stone of the ring he wore on his left hand and made the onyx sparkle, set as it was in intricate silver skulls, a ring most unusual for a man of his rank. Nevertheless, for twenty-five years he had been wearing it and not taken it off his finger for even a single day. When the glowing blood red ball of the sun had half sunk into the glittering ocean the man turned to sit down on the bench that had been installed for him several years ago. He groaned a little, knowing he was alone still and no one would hear as the aches in his aged body caught up with him, and yet when he sat and looked out over the darkening sky towards the horizon he smiled and his dark green eyes, which had never dimmed and always retained their sharp intelligence, squinted with his failing eyesight when for a brief instance he believed he saw a dark shape at the horizon. He shook his head slightly and cradled the elegant silver top in his long fingered hands, the joints gnarled nowadays from the malady all men of the sea suffered from. Just like another had suffered quietly and stoically all those years ago, while he himself, the old man mused, had been luckier. His mostly comfortable life of duty had sheltered him from the worst effects of age for a long time. Much longer than for the other, who had been one with the sea and the sun throughout all of his life.
Leaning back into the bench he closed his eyes a moment, savouring the cooling breeze on his wrinkled but nevertheless still handsome face, and smiled slightly. She would be here any moment now, he did not even need to look at his pocket watch to know when to expect her step, still light, and her voice, still sweet, and probably joined after a while by her husband. She would smell of violets and roses, but her spirit would still be as fiery as it had once been. Age did not wear down everyone, and the years had not stolen any of his or his friends' fire away. Neither hers, nor her husbands, nor had it mellowed himself, and least of all had it ever been quenched in another.
Before the white haired man had come here tonight he had passed the small cemetery up on the hill, as he had done every evening for quite a while. Captain Theodore Groves had passed away two years previously, mourned by all, and most of all his friends, though not by a widow, because he had never married. Instead it had been his life long friend, Groves' senior in age and rank, who had spoken heartfelt words at the open grave and buried the man who had shared the past forty odd years with him, and the last twenty-five of those almost exclusively. They had been friends, great and true friends, and had occasionally shared a bed, but never lived together. Not out of fear for gossip and maliciousness, but because this would not have been their kind of relationship. It was friendship, and occasional passion until age had turned the flame of lust into the warmth of comforting, but not romantic love. The old man's heart had always belonged to another throughout all those four scores of years, and the other man's heart had never sought for a lover, but an honest, deeply trusted friend.
The old gentleman on the bench sighed softly and opened his eyes again towards the enveloping darkness. The last rays of the sinking sun were merely touching the bay and lights had come on in the houses, like strings of golden glowing pearls. He had been so tired lately, as if all his energy had been sapped away, and he shivered slightly and pulled the lapels of his dark tail coat closer together and crossed his long legs, which were clad in the customary black riding boots. He found those more comfortable these days, they provided subtle support and were warmer than the silk stockings and dainty shoes he used to wear previous to his retirement.
Before he could continue his musings and reminiscences he heard her steps, knowing that nowadays she was closer before he was able to hear her than she used to be, because as everything, his hearing had deteriorated, yet by no means was he anything but still a very impressive man. Nevertheless an old man, and he felt it and knew it deep inside, when he had grown more and more tired. He turned his head and smiled at the lady who waved an elegantly gloved hand at him. Her grey hair was even now luscious and swept up on her head, crowned with a small white linen cap, while her slender figure had never gained more than a little in girth with the birth of her children, only serving to fill out her lovely form and rendering her even more beautiful.
"James, my dear." She smiled as she approached and he stood up, though slowly, for his bones were protesting at every movement of this sort. "How are you tonight?" She tilted her graciously aged and beautiful head upwards and he gently kissed her cheek with a smile and waited for her to sit down beside him before he seated himself again. "I am as well as any of these days, Elizabeth." He answered fondly, but knew even before he looked into her face that she would frown, ever concerned for him in these last two years, and so he reached with his hand to cover her delicate own with tenderness. "Do not worry about me, my dear, I am fine. I truly am. I am just a little tired." His voice was still like dark velvet and smooth cocoa, it had never become brittle, like so many other old men's. Perhaps the reason was that he had a life long of giving orders, of having grown naturally into the knowledge of being in command and holding power, while having learned, before he ever became Admiral, that he was a man too underneath the uniform, and this man had a warm smile, beating heart and very physical desires and passions. Love and lust, it had only ever been truly for one, whose face he could still see before his inner eye, whose gold and silver glittering smirk he could recall without trying, and whose black eyes lived as vividly in his memory as when they had sparkled wickedly at him all that time ago. Even after these long years he would never forget, not a single day since Tom, back then the young captain of the Swallow, had brought Jack's ring to him with the heart shattering message that Captain Jack Sparrow had gone down with his Black Pearl. Twenty-five years ago it was, and the Retired Admiral James Norrington was musing on this with a small, melancholy smile. He did not notice at first when Elizabeth spoke again, until she gently squeezed his hand.
"James?" She smiled warmly and teased him a little. "You were miles away, what were you thinking?" Norrington looked at her with a guilty expression, but she chuckled at his look which still reminded her more of a puppy than anything else and which still made her feel this tender fondness in her heat for their great and loyal, steadfast friend. "I am sorry Elizabeth, it is just that I have been so tired lately." He took a breath and made a slow, sweeping gesture towards the bay and the darkening ocean. The first stars were already starting to twinkle in the sky, whose colours had turned from blue to flaming red, to purple and now midnight. "I was thinking of Jack," his apologetic smile was soft, "I have been thinking a lot about him lately." She nodded but remained silent, her smile though spoke more than words, she knew that especially since Theodore's death there was nothing her family could do to take the melancholy away from their friend, although he had never been without loving company who truly cared.
"Did you know, Elizabeth, that it was to this day that I received the news of Jack's death?" She looked at him and the expression on her face made it obvious she had not realised. "Oh, I am sorry James, I." but he lifted his hand and brushed a stray lock of grey hair out of her face, with which the breeze had played. "No my dear, no apologies needed, but yes, it has been twenty-five years since the Black Pearl sunk. So typical of Jack that he would have died saving his crew and that of the Swallow, but being crushed by the main mast of his own beloved ship. Twenty-five years to this day it was that Tom brought me Jack's ring." As if to emphasise his words he lifted his left hand and let the dark stone gleam dully in the increasing moonlight. "I have been thinking, my dear, and realised that what I used to say was very wrong."
The elegant elderly lady beside him, dressed in the latest fashions of the outgoing century they were living in, tilted her head in a most becoming manner and frowned at him in confusion. "I don't understand, my friend, what do you mean?" Norrington indulged in a mild chuckle, he knew he had been cryptic, and ventured to explain. "I used to say to you that I loved Jack for eighteen years, but that is not true. It was not only while he was alive. I have been loving him just as much for all those years since his death." He smiled a little at her and leaned forward, gazing into Elizabeth's eyes. "I miss knowing that he was out there on the ocean and would eventually come back to me or I to him. Missing Jack has not become any less, not even after all these long years." He shrugged slightly and played once again with the silver top of his cane. The long but gnarled fingers twirled slowly around it, smoothly and in an unconscious caress, as he turned his face towards the sea again and smiled wistfully.
"Of all of us, Elizabeth, he was the smartest. He left us, and remained with his Pearl, while we carried on with the burden of living without him." There was no bitterness at all in his voice, instead she could hear the smile in the soft tone and the longing, as well as the heartbreak. She had suspected that much, since that fateful day and throughout those twenty-five years, that their friend and godfather to all their children had never been fully whole again, despite the unwavering and deep friendship and more with Captain Groves. "I had a good life." Norrington said quietly and glanced with warmth in his deep green eyes at his dear friend. "I had a truly unique lover for many years," his lips were tugged into a grin at the emphasise on Jack's unquestionable uniqueness, "I have true, longstanding friends, a large and lively family I had the privilege of being invited into as an uncle and was allowed to see children being born, grow into fine young girls and boys who turned into spirited women and men, only to have their own children in return and this made me part of the circle of life." Now it was his turn to squeeze Elizabeth's hand gently and she fought tears of deep emotions that wanted to steal into her eyes while she smiled at their friend. "I had the most loyal and interesting best friend a man could wish for, for almost all of my life." He glanced wistfully into the darkness to where the cemetery lay and gave a mental salute of affection and respect to the late Captain Theodore Groves. "I had my duties and I did them gladly and to my best abilities. Here I am Elizabeth, a retired Admiral of the British Royal Navy, respected by all and sundry. My greatest achievement is, however, that I managed to stay away from having to get married." The grin was back on his face and it crinkled the lines around his seaman's eyes, which loved nothing more than being fixed on the horizon. The graceful woman beside him let out a noise that sounded suspiciously like a very unladylike giggle, and Norrington felt warmth spread inside his chest, to see proof once again that the years truly did not bend and break everyone, but some remained their lively selves.
"I miss him." He suddenly murmured into the darkness and lowered his gaze onto his own hand that was curled around the silver topped cane. Elizabeth covered his other hand that was still holding her own with her second one, to warm the cool fingers and the fine parchment skin of his blue veined hand. "I know." She whispered with all the fondness in her heart. "He was freedom, eccentric insanity, and everything we could not have nor be. No regard for our morals, no respect for our laws, and least of all for any inhibitions." This made Norrington chuckle and his eyes had their old sparkle back when he turned his head towards her and grinned.
"You knew Captain Sparrow well, my dearest." On a more serious note but nevertheless tenderly he added, "this new world of ours would not have had a place for him. I am glad in a way that he left us when he did, and that he remained with his beloved Pearl in his beloved Ocean, but my selfish self wanted to keep him as long as possible, and it would never have been enough, no matter how many more years we had had." He turned his head towards the sound of male voices appearing from the same direction Elizabeth had come from and added quietly, "never enough, not for me. Never enough of Jack."
She rubbed the back of his hand and turned her head into the same direction, she knew those voices well, and greeted her husband and her two sons who had taken over the renowned sword smithy. "Good to see you my love." She smiled into the moonlit darkness. "We have just been talking about Jack." Will chuckled softly when he approached and waved at Norrington to please not stand and instead he inclined his head with esteem and affection to the man who had become his friend and gave the older man a squeeze of his hand on the shoulder. The two young, their twin sons, were standing a step away after a respectful bow to the retired Admiral who was their godfather, and smiled at him.
"I know he would just love to know we are talking about him and somehow I think he does. All those years since he parted and Captain Jack Sparrow is still vividly in our minds." Will smiled and then held his hand out for his wife. It was time they headed back home, dinner was waiting. "James, you will come to little Elizabeth Anne's christening on Sunday, won't you? We made sure the dinner incorporates some of your favourites, and I have heard there will even be some rum available for those of us who are adventurous enough." Norrington nodded and let go of Elizabeth's hands, sitting up straighter, although his back protested in pain, but it would not do that age ever conquered him. "Of course Will, if I can, I will be there. How could I miss one of your large families' famous dinners." Both Elizabeth and Will laughed, they had indeed a very large family and on these occasions an overcrowded house. First Commodore and when promoted, Admiral James Norrington had always been an integral part of their family, more so in the last twenty odd years, and even Captain Theodore Groves had partaken often enough in food, drink and merry company.
"I shall see you then," Elizabeth said and bent down to place a kiss on Norrington's cheek, noting with sadness and concern how pale his usually lightly tanned skin was and how cool he felt. The man himself had not changed, but she was forced to realise that he looked tired, and his movements had become economic and slow, like a man who was in more pain than he'd ever admit. "Goodbye James, my friend." She whispered into his ear and smiled with deepest tenderness when she straightened back up and took her husband's offered hand. "Will we see you later for a drink?" Will asked and held out his other hand to the Retired Admiral, who did stand up now, slowly but when he stood it was as straight and tall as ever, though some of his weight was supported on his cane. Norrington took Will Turner's hand and shook it as firmly as his arthritic fingers allowed. "Not tonight, Will, I feel like taking a short walk along the beach. It is a beautiful night, just look at the stars and the moon." He smiled and glanced at Elizabeth who understood, because he had told her that on this day it had been twenty-five years. He saw her take her husband's hand firmer and knew she would tell Will why their friend wanted to be alone.
"Tomorrow then." Will said and nodded at Norrington. Before they left, their two twin sons, now in their late twenties themselves, bowed again and with fondness said their own farewells to their godfather and so-called uncle, who watched them all leave. He stood in silence for a moment until they were swallowed by the darkness and then he gazed once again over the dark bay, listening to the faint sounds of waves breaking at the cliffs down below. After a long while he lifted his eyes towards the horizon, right where the ocean met the night sky and whispered into the sea breeze that smelled so much of Jack, of salt and freedom, only the ever present taste of rum was missing. "I love you Jack and I am certain that you scoundrel always knew, although I never told you." He smiled, because it seemed to him as if he heard the wind answering in a murmur back to him 'and so did I, luv, but I knew ye always understood I loved ye. After all, I'm Captain Jack Sparrow, savvy?' With a chuckle Norrington turned away from the bench and made his slow and careful way down to the secluded beach where many years ago he had been told without so many words that he was loved as much as the Ocean and the Pearl.
After dinner, Elizabeth sat reading in the drawing room with the flickering flames in the fireplace beside her and her husband working on a technical drawing for another type of ceremonial sword their sons were labouring on. She looked up when a particularly strong gust of wind rattled the windows. "It's odd, isn't it Will? There was hardly a breeze earlier and now there is a storm out there." Her husband lifted his head from being crouched over the table that stood across the room and let out a small sound of agreement. Although he had listened with half an ear, he was preoccupied with the drawing and soon returned his attention to it. Elizabeth continued, "I hope James has returned home by now, but I can't imagine he would have been so foolish to stay by the water, even though it is the day of the twenty-fifth anniversary." This did make Will look up again with an enquiring sound. "Anniversary?" He asked his wife who answered readily, her book open on her lap. "James told me it was the day that the Captain of the Swallow had come to Port Royal. You remember the young captain, Tom, Jack's former cabin boy, and told him that the Black Pearl had sunk with their Captain." Will nodded and now she did have his full attention, the only distraction was when another, even stronger wind made the fire sputter precariously and a blast of air roared loudly through the chimney.
Elizabeth frowned at the storm that worsened with every moment, "He told me earlier." She turned her head towards the window and placed the book onto the small side table as she stood up, smoothing down the thick silk of her gown. "I think we should close the shutters, don't you, Will?" She looked back at him and her husband was already standing as well. Taking the few steps to the window she suddenly mused, "It reminds me of that night all those many years ago, when the cursed Black Pearl came into the harbour and attacked Port Royal under Barbossa." The moment she had finished this thought she shuddered and stopped in mid movement, turning her head to look at Will who had come up beside her and frowned deeply at the feeling he shared with her. "You are right." Her husband agreed and frowned at the memory, even though it was over forty five years ago it still made him shiver. "Let us close the shutters."
They stepped to the windows and were about to brace themselves to open it, to be able to reach the sturdy wooden shutters, when Elizabeth suddenly cried out, pointing towards the bay, "Will! Look, just look!!!" In shock and disbelief she gestured in the direction of the harbour, where at the horizon and far too close to Port Royal, they could clearly make out the all too familiar shape of a ship in the bright moonlight, unobstructed, for there were no clouds in the dark night sky despite the storm. A ship as black as the night, with sails that swallowed the starlight, but lanterns were hung on the main deck and the windows of the captain's cabin in the gallery were awash with light. "This can't be true love, this is... no Elizabeth, it cannot be!" Will exclaimed, but it was real, and they both knew it, they could feel it deep inside that their eyes did not betray them. "Come!" was all Elizabeth gasped out and she was already turning to flee towards the door, followed by her husband who called out to their sons who were working in the forge that had been built beside the main house. "Jack! James! Hurry up, we need to get to the beach!" The two elderly gentlefolk grabbed shawl and coat on their way, and hastened as fast their aging bodies would allow into the storm, followed closely by their two twin sons who overtook them easily. Elizabeth gestured into the general direction of the secluded beach. "Hurry up, we must get down, quick! We will follow." Neither Will nor Elizabeth could be certain why they had to run down to the bay, but they did know why there of all places. If anywhere, it would be there where James Norrington would have gone. They had no idea however, why and how the Black Pearl could be back, a ship that had been resting in peace at the bottom of the ocean, together with her eccentric captain, for the last twenty-five years.
They hurried through the storm and fought their way along the dangerously narrow path that led towards the secluded beach, with the cliffs to the right and the fort's walls to the left. Nonetheless, the blustery high winds never seemed to battle against them, unlike that fateful night of Barbossa's attack, instead it seemed to spur them on. When they finally reached the sandy beach that overlooked the ocean out into the bay they saw their sons waving to them, holding an object that glinted a dull silver at one end in the moonlight. "No!" Elizabeth cried out, her fine shoes were sinking into the sand when she tried to hurry towards her sons. Supported by Will's arm on her elbow, both parents were out of breath, the years had indeed caught up with them as well. "Oh no." She forced out when she reached the two handsome identical men who held Admiral Norrington's silver topped cane. Tears sprang to her eyes as Elizabeth clutched the cane to her heart and she turned to bury her face and cry at her husband's chest, who had gathered her into his arms. They knew, they needed no proof, to believe without a shadow of a doubt that their lifelong friend James Norrington had left them. They believed he had died in the storm, swept out into the bay and out into the sea, because he was an old man, still straight and upright, but nevertheless frail and aching with age. She sobbed in Will's arms while his own tears were running down his face, but suddenly their sons got their attention, who were pointing out to the bay at a large, black shape. There she was, so close that the sharp eyes of the younger men could make out shapes of pirates on board in the golden glow of the lanterns, while the Black Pearl majestically rode the rough waves in the storm that blew straight from the sea into the bay, only broken by the outcrops of rocks.
Elizabeth stopped weeping and looked out towards the ocean with another gasp, and so did Will, who stood silent and immobile. It could not be, it was impossible, but when the ship sailed closer, as if flying towards the onlookers, they believed they could see the quite familiar shapes of a man with a parrot on his shoulder, a woman in a large hat, a stout man who had once been a merchant sailor drinking from a flask, and all the others of Jack's old crew, in wild carousing, with loud laughter and merriment. "Look!" Will managed to breathe out, holding his wife close in the safe embrace, with the winds whipping about them, and indicated to the ship. Distinctive shapes of two men close to each other, right there on the forecastle, a little apart from the others. One man's wild mane of hair was whipping in the wind while he made flamboyantly sweeping gestures with his arms and the other one stood quite a bit taller in what appeared from the moonlit distance like a uniform. Will and Elizabeth knew what they saw and they smiled despite their tears when they heard an all too familiar voice singing, the sound carried across the water by the wind, "Yo ho, Yo ho, A Pirate's life for me." and then Elizabeth laughed and wiped furiously at her wet eyes, witnessing so clearly over the high winds a laughter their family had heard many times over the long years. "Not this song again, Jack!" When the taller man stooped a little to embrace the smaller one, there was neither stiffness nor slowness in his movements. Instead the motions were smooth and strong like those of a man in his best years.
Both of the Turner sons stood gaping in silence, but Will kissed the forehead of his wife of many years with a tear choked soft chuckle, and with wet faces and smiles they watched the dark shape of the regal Black Pearl, the Queen of the Caribbean, sail away from them, taking the wild winds with her. The last echo of sounds they heard was the sorely missed voice that sung again accompanied by the other man's laughter, which they would also deeply miss from now on, "and really bad eggs!"
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