Doctor Who: So Much for Deserted Beaches
By Leslie McMurtry
It was so small it didn’t even have a name . . . they just called it “the island.”
Jack, not quite convinced that the TARDIS had landed on a deserted beach, announced his intentions to the Doctor and Rose. “I’m just going to look around.”
Rose had set up a lawn chair on the beach and had her eyes closed, presumably in bliss. She waved dreamily in Jack’s direction. The Doctor managed not to look nearly as comfortable as she did on his lawn chair-it was the leather jacket, Jack decided. He had to get the Doctor to loosen up one of these days. Jack smirked at the idea of the Doctor in a Hawaiian-print shirt. “Jack, I don’t know if you noticed, but this island isn’t very big. You’re not going to find anyone.”
“Just a quick walk,” Jack insisted, gazing at the small clump of palm trees obscuring the north end of the island. After a particularly nasty adventure involving carnivorous plants, the Doctor had seen no harm in stopping off for some relaxation. Rose had chosen the Western Caribbean, Earth, CE 1700, or thereabouts. The Doctor had chosen a deserted beach at random, after failing to convince Rose or Jack to visit the Eye of Orion, lauding its peacefulness. Knowing the Doctor, that peace would have soon turned to tense, life-threatening situations.
Jack began to walk along the edge of the shore. It had been a long time since Jack had walked an Earth beach. He’d dressed for the occasion-sandals, button-down shirt, shorts-making a light-hearted attempt to get Rose in a bathing suit. He hadn’t even tried with the Doctor. The air was cool, smelling of salt and . . . was that alcohol? Jack stopped and sniffed. He thought for a moment about shedding his shoes and going barefoot in the white, crystalline sand. “Bad idea.” There could be all kinds of sharp, pointy objects or poisonous jelly fish or who knew what.
“What the-?” Jack looked down as his shoe touched a glass bottle. He picked it up. “The proverbial message in a bottle?” He peered inside. “Empty.” But the smell was unmistakable: dark Caribbean contraband rum.
It was only a few steps later he crested the curve of the shore and saw the fire. So much for deserted beaches, he thought wryly. The footprints appeared. Two sets of them, both barefoot. One was smaller, more slender. Jack looked around. Where was the ship, then? The island was in the middle of open water, for miles. There had to be a ship if there were footprints. Jack proceeded with caution, finding so many empty rum bottles strewn about that he had to smile. “Someone’s been having a party,” he noted, seeing both pairs of footprints becoming wildly erratic. As if someone had been prancing about giddily-or more probably, drunkenly.
In the light of the dying fire, Jack at last saw the owners of the footprints. One was a girl, who was sitting in the sand, a rum bottle in her hand, and the other was a man, passed out several feet away from her. They didn’t seem dangerous, and Jack had to confess to some curiosity. He decided against sneaking up on the girl and, instead, flashing his brightest smile, walked toward her with his hand outstretched. “Hey, there.”
The girl jumped practically ten feet in the air, flinging the bottle and diving into a crouching position several feet away. She screamed at the same time, but her companion did not stir. “Hey, hey,” said Jack, still holding out his hand, “calm down there . . . er . . . young lady.”
Now she was staring at him, eyes wide as teacups, no doubt inspecting his foreign outfit. Denim wouldn’t be invented for another, what, century and a half, at least. Flip-flops weren’t really de rigeur either. He hoped she liked what she saw. She was a looker herself, thin, nicely-proportioned, light brown hair, big brown eyes, an imperious but beautiful face. And she was in her underwear, he noticed. “It’s all right,” he said. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
She rose slowly from her crouching position, still eyeing him warily. Then she shook her head and sank back down in the sand, fingering the rum bottle at her feet.
Jack was nonplussed. “Aren’t you going to ask me who I am?”
The girl favored him with a look. “Don’t need to.”
Jack raised an eyebrow. “How’s that?”
“You’re obviously a drunken delusion.” She sniffed. “I always knew rum was a vile drink.” She hiccupped and drew her knees against her chest.
Jack laughed. “I’ve had enough drunken delusions myself to know that I’m not one of them.” She didn’t reply. He tried not to stare at her thin, white, dress-underwear-thing. “Okay-do I get to find out your name?”
“You’re my delusion-shouldn’t you know my name?” Jack gave her a pained look. The girl sighed. “Elizabeth Swann, daughter of the Governor of Port Royal.”
Jack tried to look impressed. A regular blue-blood, this one. Still, there was something about her . . . Besides, what was a Governor’s daughter doing on a deserted island at night in her underwear with lots of rum and some . . . guy? “Lizzie-”
“It’s Miss Swann,” the girl said coldly.
“I’m your delusion. Don’t you think we could cut the formalities and be on a first-name basis?” He flashed her a smile and, despite herself, she warmed. Jack took a few steps toward her. “Miss Swann, would you mind handing me that bottle if you’re not going to drink it?”
He didn’t think she was going to do it, but sure enough, she handed him the half-empty bottle. Nah, he was an optimist. It was half-full. It smarted as it slid down his throat. He smacked his lips. He looked at the girl. She was staring in the direction of the passed-out man. “So, who’s your companion?” Jack asked. (He found himself using that word a lot these days.)
She looked over her shoulder at him, grinning. “My companion?” Jack shrugged. “Well, he was supposed to be the most fearsome pirate in the Western Caribbean.” Jack detected a note of bitterness. More like a concerto’s worth. “He was supposed to be this mythic figure, who did all these things I could only ever dream about. Things that weren’t proper for a lady to dream about in the first place.” Jack grinned. That got his attention. She gave him a skeptical stare. “All he turned out to be was a rather big disappointment.” She sighed, throwing her legs out and leaning back on her hands.
“Well, I’m sorry to hear he’s so rotten in bed,” Jack said. No harm in getting a rise out of her.
“In bed?” She laughed, though she turned away in embarrassment. “That’s not what I meant. Aren’t you a little impertinent for a delusion?”
“Hey,” said Jack, grinning at her, “I’m your delusion, after all.” Elizabeth pouted-but he could see her heart wasn’t in it. She swiped absent-mindedly for the bottle. Jack handed it to her, and she took a swig, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand. Jack inched a little closer. “So . . . what’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?”
She handed him back the rum. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Jack indicated himself with a sardonic lift of his eyebrow. Elizabeth smiled. “We were on a ship . . .” she tilted her chin toward the prone figure, “us, and someone I care about deeply, Will Turner. There was an enormous fire-fight-”
“Elizabeth, who are you talking to?” Jack was charmed to hear the voice of the third member of their little beach party. He didn’t sound drunk. Jack liked a man who could hold his liquor.
“Nobody, go back to sleep,” Elizabeth said without conviction.
Jack got to his feet just as the pirate sat up. He was dressed, Jack saw at last, in an open-throated shirt, knee breeches, belted with a sash, a pistol stuck in it. His hair was an improbable tangle, full of all kinds of weird trinkets. And he was wearing eyeliner. Nice. “Tha’s not nobody,” said the pirate. Jack had to admit the pirate dressed flamboyantly-but he was kind of cute, regardless. Elizabeth wasn’t banging him? Maybe the buccaneer type wasn’t to everyone’s taste.
“You can see him?” Elizabeth exclaimed, obviously surprised.
Jack moved toward the somewhat befuddled pirate. “Hi, I’m Captain Jack-”
“No, I’m Captain Jack.” The pirate frowned. His eyes looked a little reckless. Oooh.
Jack laughed uncertainly. “I’m Captain Jack-”
“No, I’m Captain Jack!” Pirate Captain Jack was on his feet suddenly, a little wobbly.
Jack looked at Elizabeth tentatively. “I’m Captain Jack . . .”
Pirate Jack brought out his gun. “For the last time, I’m Captain Jack Sparrow!”
Jack raised his hands in surrender. “Okay, that’s good, because I’m Captain Jack Harkness.”
Sparrow frowned. “There can’t be two Captain Jacks.”
“Because it’s against the laws of nature. It’s against the laws of physics. It’s against . . . the laws of grammar.”
Elizabeth darted between them. “Mr. Sparrow, I think you’d better put that gun down. We’ve only got one shot left, remember.” She eyed Jack.
“I see, marooned,” Jack said.
“Captain Sparrow,” the pirate said as Elizabeth tried to take the gun away from him. He was starting to slur his words a little. Jack didn’t dig the gold teeth.
“Bloody strange of your delusion to have my name,” the pirate grumbled. Elizabeth had gotten him to sit back down. She handed him a bottle, and he brought it to his lips, more or less automatically. He had barely finished swallowing when he passed out again on the sand. A moment passed in silence. Jack watched the pirate, then Elizabeth. Elizabeth was more interesting.
Jack stood in front of the fire. “So . . . you were saying, about Will Turner?”
Was it the fire or did she blush? “Ah . . . yes. There was a fire-fight, between His Majesty’s fastest ship and the Black Pearl.” She paused as if expecting him to be impressed. “Will was taken captive by the pirates, and Jack and I were-”
“Marooned. I get it.”
“No, but you don’t,” said Elizabeth, rather sadly, thought Jack, who had a personal prohibition against pretty faces looking sad. “They’re going to murder Will.” She kicked the sand. “And there’s nothing I can do to stop them while I’m on this island!”
“You must really like this guy, huh?”
She seemed to get shy all of a sudden, playing with the lip of the empty bottle. Jack took two steps closer.
“Monkey! Monkey!” The pirate was sitting up again, shouting, pointing his gun in the air and shaking his arm wildly. Just as suddenly, he fell back down and was silent.
Elizabeth turned to Jack. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s all right,” said Jack. “But is he . . . usually like that?”
She giggled. “Always, from what I’ve seen of him.”
Jack scrutinized her. “He hasn’t been bothering you, has he?”
She hesitated. “No, not really.”
“Well, then, whose idea was it to get him drunk? Yours or his?”
“Both, actually.” She looked at the dying fire, then across the waves. “He thought there was nothing better to do, and I was . . .” She grinned conspiratorially. “I was going to enact my plan.”
Jack grinned back. Charming girl. “What’s your plan?”
“Burn the rum,” she said. “The signal fire from that couldn’t be missed by anyone.” She shrugged. “My father is looking for me, and he’s got the cream of the Royal Navy with him.”
Jack tsk-tsked. “Burn the rum? You’ll break Captain Sparrow’s heart.”
Elizabeth didn’t smile. “I’m saving his life.”
“Are you sure he wouldn’t prefer a pistol shot to the brain?”
She glared. “Jack was marooned on this island before. He spent the entire time drinking rum. He got off of the island, not from any effort on his part, but by pure chance.” Ouch, her censure burned. “The rum runners picked him up.” She seemed to consider. “He never said what he used to barter passage off.” She tossed the empty bottle into the sea.
Jack shook his head. He’d half-hoped Elizabeth was desperate and afraid, rather than confident and determined, so that he could bring her on board the TARDIS. Smart girl like her, she’d fit right in. Hell, he’d even take Captain What’s-his-face if the Doctor would agree. Knowing the Doctor, he wouldn’t-but it was the thought that counted. He covertly checked his watch as Elizabeth picked up another empty bottle and chucked it. “Do you need help?” She turned. “You know, getting your fire going?”
“Are you corporeal?” she asked. “Can you be made to carry bottles and build a fire? Or are you just capable of cracking jokes?”
He sidled up to her, arms outstretched. “Honey, I’m as corporeal as they come.” She frowned at his open arms and walked away. She picked up another bottle, this time with some rum in it. She slid it across the sand to him.
“Come on, then, I’ll show you where the cache is.”
For one panic-stricken moment, Jack was worried the cache was on the other side of the island-the side where the TARDIS was parked, where the Doctor and Rose were drinking mai-tais and making out, for all he knew. But the cache was close to the fire. Jack helped Elizabeth carry boxes and boxes of rum out onto the beach.
Then Elizabeth stared fixedly at the pirate, who was snoring in the sand. “I don’t know if he’ll sleep through this.”
“Come on, he slept through you screaming.”
She turned away. “Evidently, I’m less important than the rum.”
She sounded hurt! What about this Will guy? Wasn’t she in love with him? “You think he’ll really try to use the pistol?”
“Difficult to say. He is . . . mostly crazy.”
“Can’t you use your feminine wiles or something to lead him away?” Jack showed all his teeth in a wolfish grin.
She disapproved. “Can’t you carry him away or something?”
Jack looked at the pirate, who had rolled over onto his face and was now choking on sand. He looked a little closer. A nice bum, even so. “Okay, fine.” He walked over and grabbed Jack Sparrow’s arm, hoisting it over his shoulder. The man was sufficiently awake to plod along as Jack led him over the dunes, though apparently not awake enough to see the entire rum cache spread out in front of the fire.
Jack had just gotten him over the dunes when the pirate began to struggle. “Geroff me. Where do you think you’re taking my rum-saturated corpus, hmm?”
“Miss Swann wishes to be alone,” Jack said, walking faster.
“She does?” the pirate asked, glancing over his shoulder. “Did my mustachio-twirling frighten her, then?”
“Must have,” Jack grunted, pulling the pirate away from the beach.
“For a delusion belonging to Miss Swann, you are preternaturally forceful,” Sparrow said, releasing Jack’s grip on him and landing on a lump of sand. Jack hoped he would stay there. No such luck. “Where’s the rum gone?” The pirate got to his feet and was about to turn toward the fire. Jack barred his way.
“Why don’t we, uh, just stay here? Look at the stars, you know. Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Orion . . . I was first in my class in old Earth astronomy.”
Sparrow looked a little confused. “Are you trying to . . . seduce me?”
“So what if I am?” Jack took several big steps forward, and Sparrow backed up accordingly.
Now Sparrow was looking worried. “You’re not a eunuch, are you?”
Jack bit back an extremely lewd response. He leaned in closer. “Come on, Captain Sparrow. You know you want to.”
The pirate was continuing to backpedal. “Well, you see . . . I actually don’t believe that I do.” He put his arms, almost in fists but not quite. “Now with Eliz’beth, it was different matter . . . however, in the case of a delusion . . . who’s not even my delusion . . . and who is, decidedly, male . . .”
Jack then decided that nothing in the world would be quite as funny right then as kissing this very drunk, now slightly prudish pirate. So he did: grabbed him by the shirt and kissed him. His verdict: frankly, the man was losing the battle with halitosis, and his mustache tickled.
When Jack let him go, Sparrow looked neither pleased nor disgusted, simply very confused. He was about to say something, but he collapsed again on the beach. Elizabeth came running over. “What did you do to him?”
“Oh . . . nothing. Let’s see that fire.” Elizabeth looked at him strangely. Jack considered for a second telling her. Well . . . maybe not.
He followed her back to the beach. The fire was going to reach a thousand feet visibililty. After Jack had inspected it, Elizabeth seemed to finally feel the effects of the rum herself. “I’m just going to lie here . . . for a moment,” she told him, collapsing on the sand. Jack sat down next to her. He looked at his watch. Almost five in the morning. He looked down at Elizabeth. Time to say goodbye.
“You know, you’re appallingly good-looking for a delusion.” She giggled. Jack accepted the compliment with a grain of salt-that is, all the rum that Elizabeth had been covertly drinking. Sparrow hadn’t managed to drunkenly seduce her, and he wasn’t going to, either. “Will I remember any of this in the morning? I mean, will I remember you?”
“I don’t know,” said Jack honestly.
She sobered up quickly. “You’re not just a delusion, are you?”
“And you didn’t come here on a ship like ours, did you?”
“And you won’t be here in the morning, will you?”
Jack shook his head. “No.”
She blindly let her hand seek out his and gave his palm a squeeze. “Thank you for your help, whoever you are.”
“The pleasure was all mine.”
He waited until her grip had slackened. He looked down at her face, brushed sand from her hair. He got up and dusted himself off. Giving one more glance in the direction of Pirate Jack, he walked silently to the other end of the island. The sun was rising.
“Where you been?” Rose asked, cuddling up in her hoodie on the lawn chair, feet tucked beneath her. “You’ve been gone ages.”
Jack considered telling the truth. He shrugged. “Just enjoying the stars.”
Rose sat up. “You smell like alcohol.”
“I found a bottle of rum,” Jack admitted.
“And you didn’t save any for us?” Rose teased. The Doctor gave him an inquisitive look, then nodded to the third lawn chair. Jack got into it wearily and sat back to watch the sun rise.
With the Dauntless less than a mile away on the horizon, Jack Sparrow approached Elizabeth Swann. He’d gotten over his rash desire to shoot her for burning up all the rum. He watched the ship drawing closer and closer. “Eliz’beth,” he said and was heartened when she didn’t snap “Miss Swann.” “You’re not going to tell anyone about what happened last night, are you?”
She smiled. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Author’s Notes: Steven Moffat, you’re only kidding yourself if Captain Jack Harkness wasn’t influenced, even if unconsciously, by Captain Jack Sparrow. I thought it only appropriate to bring the two Jacks together, with surprising consequences (even if the universe grammatically goes to pot). Since Jack H. is attracted to nearly everybody, it was natural enough for him to find affection for Elizabeth-though I was myself surprised at how their relationship moved beyond the farcical and became almost tender. I’m almost tempted to bring the crew of the TARDIS and Sparrow and Swann back together.