"Charlotte," the man's voice said softly from behind her. "I have done all I can. There is nothing left now but to make him comfortable."
She didn't respond, continuing to stare out at the ocean. But he waited, as the summer night fell like a cloak all 'round. Waited for her acceptance that her husband was dying. And for acceptance, finally, of what she was. Of what they were.
The crickets and the frogs had started their night song, blending with the music of the surf below, the warm scents of the Carolina evening caressing the evening air. Still, she was silent, and that silence became something akin to an ache as it stretched out in the dark. Death warring with life, night with dawn.
Finally she turned to him, reaching out a hand, a hand he took in a reassuring grip. There was no mystery to what she was feeling. How many times had he, helpless, watched a mortal wife or lover die? He remembered each and every one. Their smiles, their laughter, and the sheen of their hair; Methos carried their memories through all the ages.
"How long?" she asked, her voice catching.
"He will be gone by the dawn. I am sorry, Charlotte."
She nodded. "As am I, dearest Benjamin. After all, he was your friend before I had ever met him." Squeezing his hand, she took a deep breath. "I should go to him."
"I will stay."
"You needn't," she protested, but only half-heartedly.
"Yes, I do."
"Thank you. For everything." Forcing a small smile, she gave his hand one last squeeze before going back to the house.
"Everything is what I will always give you," he said softly into the night as she disappeared from view.
Sitting gently on the edge of her husband's bed, she unconsciously held her breath as she looked for evidence that he breathed still. She choked back a sob at the barely visible rise and fall of his chest.
"I will not have you weep for me, Lady Sparrow," he told her in a voice that wasn't much more than a whisper, his brown eyes opening. They had lost none of their depth or power, even with age and illness. Charlotte found herself held by his gaze just as she had that first time more than forty years before.
Shaking her head, she caressed his cheek. "I have not been that since we cast our lot with the Revolution."
"Aye, but it suits you nonetheless. You have always been my lady, my love." He fixed his eyes on hers. "Are you going to argue with a dying man?" his voice strengthened, sounding more like his younger self than he had in some months.
"No, Jack." Smoothing back his hair, she kissed him softly.
"That be something, I suppose. Seeing as you've been a vexing and contrary woman from the first day we met."
"Might I remind you that you seized my ship! I believe I had more than some small reason to be vexing given the circumstances," she said primly.
He took her hand in his. "That I'll warrant, my love. That I'll warrant." Sighing softly, he seemed to drift off into sleep. Charlotte placed her free hand over his heart, devastated by the weakness of its beat. A tear slipped down her cheek as she closed her eyes, fighting back the grief that threatened to overwhelm her.
"And disobedient," she heard him say softly as his fingers brushed the tears from her face. "We have had a good life, lass. We've lived every moment to its fullest -- loved every moment. No one could ask for more; no man could ask for more. Aye?"
Taking a shaky breath, she couldn't immediately answer. "Aye," she finally said. "I love you, Jack Sparrow. I will always love you."
"Always is a very long time, love; especially for you."
"I am so sorry!" she cried out, heart breaking.
"We were supposed to grow old together; till death us do part. It was not supposed to be like this!" she exclaimed angrily.
"No!" That one word was barked like an order from the captain on deck. "No," he said more gently. "That day when you took the shot that was meant for me, when you died in my arms. That day, my heart died with you. And then, beyond all hope, you were given back to me. Knowing you will live on, that you will carry with you the memory of our love and life, that, Charlotte, m'dearest one, that gives me peace."
Taking a deep breath that rattled in his chest, he coughed weakly. Charlotte pressed a goblet of wine that Benjamin had mixed with medicine against his lips. Jack grimaced a little at the taste. "Remind me to protest to Doc Adams. Wine instead of rum! The man has no soul!"
Laughing softly, she settled him back against the pillows. "I shall make sure to, husband."
Once more, he seemed to drift away. But this time, he didn't immediately reawaken. Charlotte didn't know how long she sat at his side, his hand in hers. Time no longer seemed to hold any meaning. Time, the enemy. Time, the trickster. She wanted to rage and scream against this fate. She was timeless, immortal, but totally powerless to stop the inevitable march of Death this night.
She'd fallen asleep, head on his chest, arms wrapped around his frail shoulders. The feel of his fingers brushing through her hair woke her, as it had countless times before in their years together. Swallowing hard, the realization that this would be the last time struck home.
Then the hand tightened and she heard his gasp of pain. Sitting up with alacrity, Charlotte gripped his hand as the spasm of pain tore at him. Reaching for the drugged wine, she held it to his lips, and he drank weakly. Sighing he sank back into the pillows.
"I shall fetch Benjamin," she told him, setting the wine back on the bedside table. He was slipping away, away from her, into the void.
"No, milady. There is naught that the good Doctor can do for me now. We both know that." Shaking her head in denial, she looked away, even though she knew he spoke the truth. "And I have said all to him that is needed, and he to me. We have an accord," he said with some satisfaction.
"An accord?" Charlotte looked at her husband sharply. "In regards to what, might I ask?"
He had closed his eyes, a smile settling across his lips. "Benjamin will look out for your welfare when I am gone." There was a squeak of outrage at his pronouncement, but he ignored it. "It has all been arranged."
"He will do no such thing, Jack Sparrow! You cannot hand me off to another man like… plunder!" she sputtered.
One eye cracked open and the slight smile of before was now fully formed and smug. "Are you not?" This time it was a shriek of outrage. "Calm yourself, lass. I'd not like you to be killing me before my time." He laughed weakly, obviously very pleased with himself. "A temper like Calypso herself."
She shook her head in long-suffering exasperation. "Very amusing, I am sure!" Charlotte knew he'd wound her up because it was one of his favourite things to do, and because it he knew it would distract her. He never changed.
He just nodded, drifting away once more. And once more, she sat at his bedside, waiting.
The next time he opened his eyes, they were serious. "I do not want you to set your heart away after I am gone, Charlotte. I have walked the lands of Death before, and what is to come holds no fear for me. But Charlotte, my love, what I do fear is that you will stop living your life out of grief. I need to know you won't be doing that. Remember our years together with joy, and take that joy into the life you will lead after I am gone. Do that for me, my bonnie lass, the one last thing I will ever ask of you."
Tears burned behind her eyelids, and she blinked furiously, trying to hold them back. "I will try, Jack. I will try."
Then he said something she never expected. "Benjamin loves you." She looked at him in shock. "Did you think I knew it not all these years?" And then came the second shock. "And you love him."
What was between her and Benjamin had never been spoken of by either of them. They both loved Jack, and what the two immortals felt for each other didn't require words. But she'd never realized that Jack had seen what lay between them.
Shaking her head in vehement denial, she took his hands in hers. "He… We… I never, Jack, I swear to God…"
Cutting off her panicked rambling, he said, "I know that too. You have been ever faithful to me, even when I became an old man and you were frozen in that moment of your first death. And Benjamin would never betray either himself or us in such a manner. But after I am gone, do not cut him from your life out of some sense of guilt. Do not lock your heart away in a chest, Charlotte. Live your life and be happy."
This time, he didn't scold her as she started to cry.
It was nearly dawn, the sky beginning to lighten, the first early birds chirping sleepily outside the window. "Help me outside, dear heart. I want to die with ocean air in my lungs, and the wind in my face."
Nodding, Charlotte helped him to the chair on the small balcony outside their bedroom. He waved away the blanket she would have placed over him. "I will not die like a withered old man," he told her. "Now fetch the rum from where you hid it in the wardrobe and drink with me." At her raised eyebrow, he added, "I think you will find the bottle a little less full than when you placed it there."
Laughing, she did as she was bid, bringing back the bottle and one goblet. She took the goblet, giving him the bottle, and he smiled his approval. Taking a deep swig from the bottle, he sighed, sinking deeper into the chair. Charlotte pretended not to notice as his lips tightened in pain once again.
Then Jack said, "A toast to my Lady Fair, whose love is as vast and enduring as the sea."
Charlotte responded, "To my husband and most beloved pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow. Long may you be remembered in story and song."
"I'll drink to that." She could barely hear the words, and she snatched the bottle of rum as it slipped from his hand.
"Jack?" she whispered, feeling for a pulse and finding one, though it was barely there. Pressing her lips against his, she kissed him gently, but with all the love she had in her heart. "My pirate," she whispered against his lips.
"Always, milady," the words coming out like a breath.
Charlotte ran her fingers across the faded 'P' brand scar on his lower arm, then kissed the inside of his palm. "Do you remember that last voyage to China?" she asked softly, not really expecting a reply.
"Aye. We should go again, you and I."
"Yes, we should."
"If you promise not to get yourself shot this time."
The sky continued to lighten. Soon, it would be dawn.
"Tell Mr. Gibbs to lay in a course for Tierra del Fuego; I feel like taking a real journey. What say you to that?"
She took a steadying breath before replying, "Aye, Captain. I would like nothing better than to take another journey by your side." The pulse under her fingers grew weaker. "Nothing better," she whispered.
"Ahhhh… sweet freedom. The Pearl and the open sea, with you at my side." He took a deep breath and he smiled, then his spirit slipped away on the dawn.
Charlotte stared out at the dawning day, tears running unnoticed down her face. As the sun broke across the horizon a flash of brilliant emerald green light suffused the morning sky then was gone in the blaze of a new day.
Pushing away the black veil from across her face, Charlotte knelt down next to Jack's grave, rearranging the flowers that lay on the fresh sod. Finally, after some unmeasured amount of time, a hand reached down to her.
"It will be dark soon."
"Yes." Taking the hand, she let him pull her to her feet.
Methos reached out a finger, wiping away the tears on her face. "Let me take you home, Charlotte."
She shook her head. "I won't be going back there, Benjamin. It isn't home anymore, not without Jack."
"Then let me take you wherever it is you want to go." His hand was now cupping her face and for just a moment, she allowed herself to lean into his touch. "Charlotte, I…"
"No, Benjamin, please don't say anything!" Pulling away from him, she reached into her pocket. "I'm going away tonight, by myself. I cannot be with you. Not now… not yet." She could hear Jack's voice floating on the wind Don't lock your heart in a chest. Briefly, she closed her eyes. I'm sorry Jack, but I cannot do as you asked.
"That is not what he would have wanted for you, Charlotte. To be alone in the world; removed from all that you love." He raised a hand, as if he would touch her, then stopped. "From those that love you."
"I know," she whispered, looking down at the small box she now held in her hand.
Methos followed her gaze. "Jack's compass."
"Did you know he told me that after we met, it never worked for him again?" Then her eyes met his. "I looked at the compass today, Benjamin." She pushed it back into her pocket.
He let out a snort of disbelief. "This is madness! Do you mean to tell me that you are leaving because of some superstitious twaddle?"
"If it makes you feel better to believe that, then yes," she replied coolly. Then her voice softened. "Benjamin, please. You always tell me that there is time for everything; that this unnatural life of ours is worth living. Prove that to me now. Let me leave here tonight, by myself. Give me the time to find my heart's desire again."
Taking her face in his hands, he searched her eyes. "You do not know what you ask," he said fiercely.
"Do I not?" Reaching up, she kissed him then; passion mixed with grief. Then she whispered, "One day, Benjamin, one day."
Briefly, he closed his eyes as if in pain, then he nodded, stepping away from her.
Methos watched her walk away, a figure in black soon swallowed by the darkening sky. "One day, my dearest Charlotte."
charlotte sparrow, fic, fic: highlander, fic: pirates of the caribbean, fic: xover/au, jack sparrow, series: 'echoes the sea'