Pairing: Jack/Norrington
Rating: NC-17 overall, for language, & slash m/m sexual content.
Archive:  Yes, help yourself. Just include ALL parts/chapters, please.
Disclaimer: The Mouse/Bruckheimer Productions owns them, except for Jack Sparrow who belongs to J.Depp. ;-)
Beta: Moonsalt
Warning: Angst, canonical plot, violent graphic description, but still major slash.
Author's Note: Thanks to Firesignwriter (KJ, dearling, thanks- for as always, you provide plenty of ZenGoo and perfervious inspiration!) Many special thanks to Thalia Seawood for her invaluable research and character studies on Jack Sparrow and Commodore Norrington. Also, particular thanks to the members of the SparrowandNorrington yahoogroup list, for the inspiration and discussion of finer points of the J/N dynamic.

Summary: Norrington finds out what to do with Jack Sparrow when he catches him.


Part 4 - Intimacy

By Webcrowmancer

The dark blue bowl of the velvet sky was scattered with tiny diamonds, brilliant against the night. It was very clear, and promised to remain so.

The pitch and yaw of the Dauntless provided a wonderfully soothing rhythm. As he perused the horizon, Jack wondered at the nearly aquamarine hue of the faded light still glowing along it, as if the Caribbean had somehow lent its waters to the setting sun for cover.

The murmur of several of the soldiers nearby was too indistinct for him to hear what was said, but he was certain they discussed the upcoming rendezvous with his Pearl, for occasionally he made out the words 'gold' and 'pirates'.

It never ceased to amaze him how so many decent, upstanding, law-abiding citizens and soldiers were obsessed with pirates and treasure. Of course, it really didn't take much to make a man turn pirate, for all that. Slavery, desperation, poverty, the Royal Navy… They all turned men out as pirates in double-quick time.

Regarding the black, leaping waves below, Jack wondered if Norrington realized that the next move was his; Jack could only provide the opportunity, and it was up to Norrington to take it. The ice had been broken, and literally melted between them. He'd found himself astonished at it. He hadn't expected to find his heart pulled so greatly by the Commodore's impassioned response to that simple kiss.

He had the strongest impression that the repercussions would be reverberating through his entire body for the rest of the night through, if Norrington's hungrily predatory stare all throughout their supper were anything to go on. Judging from the intensity of it, Norrington was starving.

He did have to wonder, however, if Norrington's aching in all the right places had affected the man's sense. '*Anything you want*'; it still echoed in his ears. Anything? Anyone? Jack smiled to himself. Did Norrington have any conception of what the consequences of being *wanted* would entail, either personally for himself and his position, or between the two of them? Particularly in being wanted by a pirate?

So far, he'd been making it up as he went along. Spontaneity was a wonderful thing, as was flexibility, especially where seduction was concerned. Of course, the lonely Commodore in there had been all too ripe for it.

Jack glanced back towards the captain's cabin. Norrington's heart was already engaged; he'd merely had to help him bring it towards a more outward expression. Considering the strength of the reaction so far, he was willing to bet that Norrington was going to be a right handful.

Which was fine, just so long as he didn't forget that Jack was more than a handful. And was still captive aboard the Dauntless. It would be quite a different story once he was free. He really didn't think Norrington knew what to do with him even while he had him here. It stood to reason then that Norrington had even less of an idea of what to do with him afterwards. Which allowed Jack ample opportunity to decide exactly what he would do with Norrington.

He chuckled, wondering which was more apt: that the dauntless Commodore had a ship named after the man's finest quality, or that his own Black Pearl reflected the most valuable, sinful treasure.

If they were careful, they could both keep this up forever, if they wanted. He was fairly sure even now that his Commodore was committed to him, no matter how much the fellow was struggling with the concept. And for his own part, to be assured of a warm welcome anytime he happened to make port at Jamaica, however surreptitiously, was not something to pass up.

And admittedly, it felt good to be wanted. Rather than hunted. Or hated, even. He watched the black waves beneath, considering. He'd been pursued before, but it had never been accomplished with such all-out despair and longing. It felt…good.

Of course, desire was always good. It was wonderful, to be sure. Norrington's desire was convincing him the next few nights would be very wonderful, indeed.

He did have to wonder though what would happen when Norrington's regard for him ran its course, as it was bound to. And how soon. He hadn't lied when he'd alluded to people's nightly illusions not quite matching the morning's reality. The really strange thing about that phenomenon was that rum, or in fact any strong drink, was never to blame, but was always touted as the excuse. Well, that he could remember, at any rate.

Most people were very good at giving their heart away - especially if it sounded noble or somehow generous - and yet equally proficient at taking it back once they decided that he somehow failed to meet some hastily cobbled expectation. Like giving up piracy. Or his Pearl. Or his freedom.

As if his heart was not enough.

Which was why he'd stopped offering it up, after a while. And here was Norrington, offering his. It was sobering, and yet…tempting. Too tempting.

Norrington hadn't emerged from the cabin yet. Jack had wanted to give them both some space, especially to give the man a chance to compose himself. It couldn't have been easy for him to find himself breaking down like that.

And with a pirate, no less. Jack snorted under his breath. That had to be difficult, yet.

But he hadn't thought, as it had been the one kiss that caused it, that any further affection would have been very helpful. Probably his Commodore hadn't had any affection or companionship in far too long.

Mind, he'd not been courted quite this strongly in far too long, himself. It was a welcome change… If briefly dismaying, terrifying, imprisoning, boring, starving, painful - he grimaced at the soreness of his shoulder - and finally downright inconvenient, seeing as he wasn't aboard his Pearl. Again.

If he could just survive Norrington's romantic attentions until he was free, then he'd be able to have some idea of whether or not Norrington was serious. It would all come down to Norrington's decision after he'd departed. He wasn't going to pin hopes on Norrington remaining at his current level of desire.

A hot horizontal turn, and pounding each other raw without caution for hours on end, could very well end up like it usually did: two ships passing in the night. And with a Navy commander…well. It *was* feverishly driven, but the fire could all too easily burn down, consuming itself all too quickly. The passion could leave, even if the fond regard did not.

And the reason for Norrington's change of heart at first… It had been guilt; he knew that much was true.

But there was no denying the genuine suffering of a broken heart. And Norrington's eyes hadn't lied. Those tears had said too much. He'd wanted to kiss them away, but realized at the last instant it would have indeed been too much. It would have very quickly ended up in something they wouldn't have been able to stop.

A little while longer, he thought. Another hour, maybe, before they could get settled into the education of Commodore James Norrington. And the man *was* a quick study. A little lightning flash of interest thrilled through him at the recognition that his Commodore was probably more capable than Norrington even gave himself credit for. Something worth anticipating, indeed. Without the wig and the uniform, Norrington's dark, green-eyed intensity was a force to be reckoned with.

The act of surrender with him, insisted upon, would most probably be completely overwhelming. Like going under. Like the waves when they greedily snatch and pull one in and down and hold one there, trapped to the bed. And he really couldn't see Norrington giving it up to him, not with the way Norrington kept all that pent-up desire leashed the way he did. Not yet, anyway, not at first. Norrington would probably take charge, as usual - it seemed to be something he really wanted, where Jack was concerned. Not that he minded. It was nice to be wanted so fiercely. It was delectable, like those kisses.

Aye, the Commodore was probably even more a commodore when he wasn't being one. And a commodore in love. With him.

He liked the thought of that. Being wanted… Loved, even.

James… He was dark, and hot, and really very sweet.

It was enough to warm him inside and out. The novelty of being wanted for more than a shag, or a quick run of desire that slackened after a mere week's fancy. He could even rather suspect Norrington wouldn't run dry at all, and would most likely want to keep this up indefinitely. Permanently… Regardless of whether Jamie Norrington, Commodore, ended it or not. Didn't mean Jack would agree to end it. Jack grinned to himself.

He was looking forward to it more than he'd thought, in fact. The funny thing about people, they always imagined that pirates did all the plundering, but never considered that pirates sometimes needed it themselves. Having to pay for it didn't count, and making those plundered pay for it didn't, either.

Exchanges of hearts were all too rare. They often ended up being one-sided for one unfortunate party. That was the nice thing about ships: unlike hearts, they could always be stolen back again.

He could only hope that Norrington wasn't confusing love with desire. It was still worth the risk, though. Those tears…had been too sweet, and the kisses were too real, too heartfelt. Too welcoming. It was different, to be really wanted. Not as a pirate, or as a passing fancy. But for himself.

Norrington had only hated him because he loved him. Cute, really. He would have found it unbelievable, but for the tears, earlier. A tiny voice whispered in the back of his mind, about lost wishes and broken hearts. But there was more to the Commodore than met the eye; he knew that, even as the Swann lass hadn't.

The proprietary way Norrington looked at him, the man's eyes consuming every move he made… It was more than flattering. It was becoming damned frustrating, in fact, and made him want to stop playing the game and just take him down to the floor of the cabin, regardless of their tenuous position aboard this suddenly confining and irritating ship.

The Commodore couldn't have forgotten that he *was* still a pirate, after all, and generally helped himself to what he wanted, when he wanted it.

If Norrington hadn't taken the hint yet, he was going to take matters into his own hands. Literally. Playing with lust was like playing with fire; it was all too eager to join in the game, and once joined, there was no stopping it.

A thought struck him. And once again, he looked away from the evening sea towards the cabin where the glow still shone through the windows of the doors.

Deflowering the Commodore. It was a lovely thought; a wonderful thought. And there were so many *ways* to deflower him.

He grinned. And went below to search out the doctor for that salve. Salve, and a little something else to smooth the way, and Norrington's conscience, and... other places. He'd need it anyway for his shoulder, later. Much later. Days. But the doctor hardly needed to know that.


Commodore James Norrington found himself wondering for the fiftieth time if he was going to have to go retrieve Jack Sparrow from somewhere aboard the Dauntless - probably the brig again, he thought with a sigh - or if the pirate would return of his own accord.

It had been horrifyingly embarrassing to find himself losing control. It had been too much like a spark on dry tinder. Or the storm breaking over land, with the violence of a deluge. Just one touch of Jack's lips to his and his heart had broken again, this time in such a disgraceful show of humiliating emotional pain - the only thing he'd wanted to beg for was pity, and yet wanting more. More of the very thing that had cut him open and left him raw and bleeding.

He'd found himself actually glad Jack had left him to himself for a time. A chance to scrabble together a little dignity somehow. Make sense of what the hell had happened, that he was so defenseless that even just one kiss could tear his heart open and leave its contents spilling all over the table like that meal Jack had consumed so eloquently and artfully. So obviously enjoying it.

Luckily, he'd managed to compose himself in plenty of time so that when Mr. Stephens knocked upon his cabin doors, accompanied by Gillette, Thompson and Groves, he was able to set their minds at ease about the fact that the pirate captain's status aboard had moved from captured prisoner, to hostage, to involuntary guest in light of the leery Black Pearl. Sparrow was going to provide evidence as to the Pearl's whereabouts.

He left them with the clear understanding that the plan of action remained the same: capture of the pirates if possible, but mostly to seize yet another shipload of the stolen loot. He gave specific instructions for personal heirlooms and household items to be reclaimed; gold was all very well but the former could be returned to their owners - if they still lived.

But he didn't want a reenactment of the loss of the Interceptor. Although more powerful than her vanished sister ship, the Dauntless was still matched by the Black Pearl. Also, though the pirate vessel was no longer crewed by the undead, she was outfitted very well and he didn't care for the odds. If he was to actually hunt down the Pearl, he was aware he'd probably need to create a trap and drive the pirate ship into a net of other waiting ships, and at the moment, he was woefully lacking in those.

He knew his decision-making process was suffering from his concern for Jack's welfare, but at this point he was in for a penny, so in for the pound.

The rest of the men were amply distracted by the idea of both pirates and treasure and so he really didn't think there would be too much explaining to do either way. Still, it was with a rather dire sinking feeling somewhere in the region of his conscience that he regarded the continuing erosion of his obligation to the interests of the Crown.

He still had no idea how to encompass the problem of letting Jack go again, and being able to explain it, nor how he would ensure that Jack got to return to his ship in safety without having to fire on the Pearl at all, nor even how to let Jack get any of the gold that he seemed so set on having. Although he didn't really want Jack having more gold at this point, or else he might decide to leave the Caribbean after all. Yet more personal reasoning to erode his duty and commitment.

Mr. Stephens had cleared the remnants of supper and the dishes and trays, and had thoughtfully left him an extra bottle of claret. No doubt to lubricate the indignation their Commodore must be feeling at having to dine with a pirate, and having to tolerate Jack's presence in his own cabin, no less.

Interesting that they believed he was allowing Jack such latitude out of the brig for the simple excuse of cooperating in exchange for leniency. They believed he'd broken him in the cell in Port Royal. As if he would have believed Jack's word under any conditions whatsoever, had he not personal reasons of his own. He sighed at their naiveté, where pirates were concerned. And himself. Gillette was supplying enough suspicion at this point to fulfill Jack's earlier sentiment that his officer would be catching on. It was true that his indulgence where Jack was concerned, from the very start when he'd let Jack go that day he escaped the gallows, had troubled Gillette. The man probably thought his Commodore had lost his nerve.

He sighed. If only they had any inkling. Although the glint in Officer Groves's eye reminded him again of that day they'd watched the Interceptor sail off never to be seen again. He'd been smarting from the humiliation of being outwitted by Jack - and Groves had been all too full of ebullient praise for the pirate's maneuver.

Bloody pirates. While he, Commodore and Captain of His Majesty's Navy, suffered the reputation of being a disciplinarian bore, Jack Sparrow was lauded as a heroic figure by his then-fiance, the impressionable blacksmith, and his own men.

Although considering the considerable charms of said pirate captain, he now understood why. The man was a walking sensuality magnet, radiating charisma and clownish entertainment in his walk, his gestures, his speech… James personally thought the black under the eyes was a bit overdone. It caused a stir of mingled irritation and desire that was entirely too unnerving for anyone to have to cope with.

Or maybe that response was just in himself, he wondered in a sudden moment of doubt. He poured himself another glass of claret, allowing it to the rim this time so that he might drink deeper. It was bound to be hours before he'd be able to discover just how far he could take things with Jack.

Or just take Jack. Yes, he mused. He'd already placed his heart on the line, betrayed so much of himself. Surely Jack wouldn't… deny him further progression now? But perhaps he had misread the pirate. Jack was a shameless flirt; it didn't necessarily follow that he would give himself over to anything.

James knew he'd allowed all his self-control to vanish in the space of a few moments, under a kiss that hadn't even really been much more than the sensation of Jack's lips against his.

But then, Jack too was not unmoved. Despite the vulgar nature of their dinner conversation, he'd been surprised at the vulnerability Jack had evinced behind it.

He wondered just how deep the hurt went, and how much of the flamboyant nature was a mask. A shield, much as he retreated behind his own by covering wounds with dutiful conscientiousness.

The swift realization of it took him by surprise, and he wondered that he had been so caught up in his own fears and doubts that he hadn't seen it before. Jack was as wary of this as he was. Wary of love, wary of giving in to it. Wary of trusting it. Or trusting him.

Even if Jack acquiesced to James in carnal pleasure, it didn't mean Jack was entrusting his heart to him. Jack might be merely using the sensual aspect of their relationship to allow himself the advantage, by appearing to give James what he wanted. But that sword could so easily cut both ways, and he knew Jack knew this too.

Jack was broken also.

It made sense; how else would Jack have the sensitivity and care to recognize his broken state?

Good God; it was outlandish. He sipped more of the claret, struck by the absurdity of it. It was almost comedic, except they were both too wary for it to be anything but serious - and too painful for them to be anything but cautious.

He was being seduced by Jack… while wooing him in turn. He wondered if Jack consciously realized this. It put Jack on very decidedly shaky ground, for once one accepted the invitation of physical union, it was all too easy to become ensnared in what followed: affection, attachment… need. If Jack was exploiting him, he could very well end up falling for James, caught in the same game. That swinging sword…

It cleared the last of his own doubts where his feelings lay. And it strengthened his resolve to prove to Jack that the pirate could trust him.

Oh, he wasn't so foolish as to assume he could convince Jack to give up piracy, as he knew Jack wouldn't attempt to get him to give up his obligations to the Navy and his professional life. But for both of them to remain true to their hearts in the midst of it, and allow for a little relaxation of the barriers between them… as men, as allies, as friends. As lovers.

It was a very comforting and yet exciting thought.

As the doors opened suddenly, the night air blowing in again and carrying with it the scent of the turbulent sea, he regarded Jack as the pirate stood in the doorway looking at him, momentarily.

Jack looked thoughtful, holding the doors open as though he had something on his mind. "I've had a change in plans," he announced. He came in, shutting the doors behind him.

James sipped from the glass he held. After a pause, during which he wondered if Jack had forgiven him for being in love with him, he asked mildly, "Am I to know of this change, or are you going to spring it on me?"

Jack grinned at him slowly, with that fond look in his eye. "I've decided to let you off the hook." He sauntered to his chair and sat down, and with both hands on the table before him, continued cheerfully, "I've worked it out. How to save you. You said I could have anything I wanted. Anything at all." He stared expectantly at James, smirking.

"And?" James asked, dryly, wondering if this was a prelude to some major announcement regarding gold and clemency and inappropriately lewd agreements.

"I do see your problem, Jamie," Jack slowly replied.

James started at the informal address, and frowned. It caused a dart of warmth somewhere in his chest but at the same time he could swear Jack was playing with him.

"You can't let me go, and you can't let me ship go, and you can't let the gold go, either. Not without losing face. Or control. So I've decided to have mercy on you. As a pirate. Give quarter, as it were." Jack's eyes were positively sparkling with the assumed genius of whatever he had in mind.

James was unmoved. "I fail to see where this is leading."

"I want the ship."

James frowned. "The ship?"

"*This* ship," Jack explained.

James regarded him. The man was mad. "You can't have this ship."

Jack gave him a reproachful look. "Of course I can. And when I'm through with her, I'll give her back to you. I know how much she means to you, after all. Believe me, I know better than anyone how hard it is to have to make do without one's ship. I wouldn't wish that on you, mate."

James sighed through his nose. "I can't give you this ship."

Jack gave him a little smile. "Seeing as you're already ferrying me wherever I wish to go, I rather think you already have, until such time as I disembark, 'ey?"

In frustration, James stated, "I cannot simply 'give' you the Dauntless. She isn't mine to dispose of."

"Ah," Jack said, holding up a finger, "but I can take her from you. Borrow, rather," he quickly added. "Just for a little while."

James was shaking his head. "And how will you do that? Or have you forgotten all of my men aboard, most of whom would like nothing better than to be the heroes who foiled a pirate's attempt to commandeer a ship of the fleet while manned by a full crew complement of marines?"

"If I'd wanted to do it that way, I could," Jack admonished him. "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow. Don't be forgetting that."

"As if I could," James muttered.

Jack carried on. "And you've overlooked an important thing, I think."

James sighed. "I'm still waiting for this incredible revelation. Shock me, Jack. What have I forgotten?"

"You," Jack said, simply but meaningfully, giving him a knowing little leer that, for all that it seemed a flirtatious gesture, abruptly carried too much… savvy, for James's peace of mind.

James narrowed his eyes. He wasn't sure he liked what this was starting to sound like.

"You're assuming, naturally enough, being the good little Naval officer that you are," Jack smirked at him, "that you'll be utterly ruined if anyone finds out just how compromised you are, with regards to myself. But no one else knows. Only me, 'ey?"

James winced. This was starting to sound like blackmail. Why was he not surprised?

But Jack wasn't finished. "So who would be the wiser if they were to discover that I'd convinced you I was cooperating - under duress, no less, led you astray, overpowered you and then escaped? It's really very close to the truth anyway, mate. No harm done to your reputation, or mine. With this fine ship, with all its officers aboard and meself in the brig after that duel you won so victoriously? And then there's the matter of the Pearl and the treasure - you're assuming I'd've told you the truth of her whereabouts and what she's been up to."

James was immediately ashamed for having thought Jack would use his feelings for him as blackmail, but the entire conversation had such an unsettling tone that he wasn't happy at all. "You must have made a contingent plan for your crew to follow, in the event that anything happened," he mused, catching on now to what Jack was saying. "Where is your ship?" he demanded.

"Logistically speaking," Jack said, slowly, "it's probably better than you don't know. In fact, the less you know the better, so you won't have to worry about which story you've told to whom."

James was growing exasperated at Jack's convoluted mental path. "I fail utterly to see how this entails giving you the Dauntless, and what you need her for. And *how* I'm supposed to give her to you."

"By trusting me, and cooperating with me in this little plan, 'ere. When we arrive," Jack said, lowering his voice conspiratorially, "I'll stay aboard, and you order most of the men off the ship to go for the treasure. Hurrying, and all, what with pirates soon to arrive. Can't have all that treasure unguarded, can you now?" He smirked at James. "My Pearl will already be there, and I'll take the Dauntless - with you as my hostage - for a short spell, while my crew comes aboard and overpowers what's left of your soldiers. I'll turn command of her back over to you once I've ensured the Dauntless won't fire on the Pearl, drop you and your men off on the island, leave the Dauntless here, and then I simply return to my ship, having arranged a nice exit for meself that doesn't leave you with the embarrassment of having to explain why you let me, the gold and the Black Pearl all leave, cheerful as can be."

There were so many things that could go wrong with this plan that James almost let what Jack had said about the Black Pearl slip by him. He gave a start. "The Pearl is still there?"

"Technically, she would have left, dropped the plunder elsewhere, and then returned. If all went as planned. Of course, they might have taken it into their heads to mutiny amongst themselves, but knowing that crew, it's more likely they're hiding out in one of the coves, waiting a few days. They know you'll be returning, 'ey?"

James was a bit chagrined that he had even believed Jack in the outset. "When we arrive at the Isle in the morning, the Black Pearl will already be there? And how am I supposed to believe that when you drop me and my crew off on the island, that you won't just leave us there?"

Giving him a frown, Jack sounded disappointed. "I may be a pirate, mate, but I wouldn't leave you to die. Not like that. And certainly not on the cursed Isle of Dead, without any access to anything, even fresh water or food. You honestly think I'd maroon you?"

James glowered. He could hardly state that he didn't trust Jack now, but it was damned difficult to pretend that he did. He stood, and pulled off his wig, and his vest, leaving his bandage alone although it chafed a little.

Jack sat back in his seat. "Alright then, we'll leave you and your men aboard, with the most of 'em in the cave. Just thought it would look better for you, the other way."

James considered him, beginning to grasp Jack's manipulative logic. Slowly, he said, "Rubbish."

Jack stared back at him, not moving. Waiting.

James gave him a smile. "You only suggested it because you knew I would raise an objection to being moved off my ship and stranded on the Isle, leaving you to possibly sail off in the Dauntless. You knew I would insist on remaining aboard, because you want me to be aboard, and you are ensuring that I'll want to stay here."

Jack gave a shrug, still favoring his shoulder, and raised his brows. "As you like. Makes no difference to me, really."

James smiled back at him. "Now why don't I believe you."

Jack cast his eyes upwards. "Because I'm a pirate, and you don't trust me. I must say, Jamie Norrington, I'm disappointed. And after all this on your behalf."

"It is a good plan, Jack. But I must say, it wouldn't have worked without my cooperation. I hope you know that. If you hadn't told me what you intended, things might have become very messy indeed," James stated. "As it is, I do believe it can work. Although I don't appreciate your lulling me into a false sense of security regarding when your ship would be expected."

"Don't take it personally," Jack suggested.

"Oh, it's far too late for that, Jack. I've already taken it quite personally. You see, I thought that I would be enjoying your company for three days and nights more. I'm disappointed to be losing you so soon. One night doesn't really seem enough, does it." James looked back at him, sincerely.

Jack leaned forward a little, earnestly. "If you understood me better, you'd trust me more."

"Well, naturally," James replied wryly, sitting back down.

"No, hear me out," Jack said quietly, wearing that solemn and wistful expression that James always found reaching into his heart and… squeezing it a little. "If you really believe I'm a good man, a good pirate, then you wouldn't doubt my honor or my word. You'd *know* that I wouldn't betray you, and then you'd trust me, because you'd start figuring it out for yourself, rather than demand I explain why things are a good idea. Because you'd be thinking the same way. Savvy?"

James dropped his eyes to his glass, then to the dwindling candles beyond. It was a subtle point, but he could tell it meant a lot to Jack. Especially because it meant believing that Jack actually cared for him, and was scheming accordingly, not leaving that out of his plans.

Jack added, "You've already started." At James's inquiring look, he explained, "When you said that I'd only suggested leaving you on the Isle in order to get you to stay aboard?" Jack grinned at him, the gold an interesting glint of luster by candle and lamplight.

James regarded him a little more warily now. It was true; Jack had manipulated him to believe it was a better idea to stay aboard, just so that he could demonstrate to James how his methods of planning and devious execution of them could be followed? He was hardly unversed in strategy, himself, however. And he knew now that Jack had yet a deeper ulterior motive. A simple one. "Why do you *need* me aboard when you take the ship and make your escape?"

"I don't," Jack explained. "I want you aboard, which is different. Could do it without you, that part's true enough. And it's all because it makes it so much easier to have me threatening you bodily before your men." He turned a considering face on James. "To make it look very convincing when I order them to run up the white flag and lower their weapons, allowing me to depart. It's only for your benefit, really. If I'm threatening you so nicely, it means no one will believe we colluded on my escape."

James looked down again. "Then I do take your point. About… trust." He glanced up, meeting Jack's gaze. He continued, quietly, "Barring an emergency, it's unlikely we shall be disturbed again, this night."

The flare of understanding in Jack's dark eyes at this was welcome, indeed. But Jack said, "Then you know I'm trusting you, aye?"

James stared at him across the table. Jack had no idea, what that lowering of his defenses did to him, when Jack allowed it to shine through. Or he'd do it more often. It melted James inside, to see it, and rendered him incapable of thinking clearly. "I do."

The shift in the air between them was almost palpable. James abruptly felt the temperature was too high, the room was so still. The tension caught in his throat along with his breath, and he couldn't look away from Jack's eyes, or his mouth. The flash of knowing how warm those lips were.

The waiting, all these hours, all day long; not even really knowing for sure if he'd have him… And with the added disappointment of losing him so quickly, on the morrow, he felt a twinge of sadness mixed in with the desire.

His heartbeat skipped as Jack's slow, knowing smile grew.

"I want you," James said to him, hoarsely.

Jack tilted his head and gave him that fond little look. The one that always seemed too damn appealing to not be sincere. "Think that's been clear from the start, really. You've always seemed preoccupied with catching me, Jamie. You do know that, 'ey?"

"And then letting you go," James reminded him, with a tinge of self-mockery. "Yes, I'm well-aware of it."

"Seems you've a bit of a pirate in you after all, then," Jack said, smirking at him insufferably.

James blinked. "What do you-"

"Collecting beautiful things," Jack drawled, helpfully. "Taking them regardless of whether they belong to you or not."

He smiled, knowing it was quite true. "Granted. Although I daresay it could be debated, whether you belong to me or not."

Jack's brows rose. "That's a dangerous one, Commodore Jamie. Could go either way."

"Much like yourself," James commented, enjoying being able to meet Jack on the level rather than being on the defensive. "Although I did suspect at the first, that you had an eye for the lads."

"And those living in glass houses shouldn't throw stones," Jack said, his eyes narrowing and a feral expression coming over him.

"Ah, yes. 'Let he who is without sin'," James said, with a half-smile. "Do let me know when you tire of playing coy, Jack. We can string up the hammocks and you can demonstrate your educated learnedness directly."

"Can I," Jack said, considering him as though debating how to catch him out.

"The duchess," James reminded him, "and a host of other willing participants that no doubt stretch into the hundreds."

"No call to be jealous, mate," Jack remarked. "I doubt the list is that long."

"It's a little late for modesty, I think," James smiled.

"Is that why you're still dressed?" Jack asked, point-blank.

James made a show of leaning back and regarding the ceiling thoughtfully. "Well, now, I do believe I mentioned that was your job." He looked back down to Jack.

"I see," Jack said, reflectively. "So it's your job to give me the dressing down, and mine to simply go down."

"Speaking in tongues is your forte, not mine. I never did enjoy Latin." James felt a banking heat roll over him, and settle in his member at the thought of Jack performing fellatio on him. The image he'd conjured the previous night flickered briefly, reminding him of the result it had led to. Tongues, indeed. He swallowed.

Jack heaved a little sigh and looked down. "Being held captive is never easy. I've a mind to give you a taste of it, yourself."

"I rather fancy it's a bit late for that, Jack," James reminded him. "I've already told you I want you. That I need you."

James found himself rewarded with that appealing expression stealing over Jack's face again. He liked it on Jack. He liked it a lot. He wanted to do everything in his power to ensure Jack wore it frequently. Which was a pleasant thought.

Jack stood up, with deliberation, and walked over to where James sat, saying, "Well, you know what they say, Commodore: be careful what you wish for." He gave him a knowing smile, looking down at him. "You might get it."

James turned in his chair to face him… and instead found Jack going to his knees in front of him, a liquid grace that quite robbed him of speech for the moment, particularly as he grasped what Jack had in mind. Jack's smile intensified, as did its shrewdness, and he placed his hands on James's knees, urging them apart so he could move in closer.

James looked down at him, quite unable to breathe.

And then had to suck in a breath as Jack palmed the stiff bulge his breeches contained.

As Jack undid his breeches, he said with glance up at him, conversationally, "You might want to pay close attention. Being such a quick study, 'ey?"

As if James could do anything else, while Jack's sure hand deftly drew his hard organ from its confines and grasped it firmly. Jack's eyes held his, and he couldn't look away even if he'd wanted to. They seemed to burn into the depths of him, seeing straight into him. Knowing what he wanted. And he knew he was the one who was owned.

And whether it was pity or mercy, James didn't give a tinker's damn, as in the next moment Jack's hot breath was on his cock even as he bent forward to slide his tongue up the length of it, with a flick of the tip of his tongue just on the underside. James gasped, the fire of it blazing tightly through him. He found himself gripping the edge of the table with his right hand, and the edge of his chair with the other.

A miracle. To see that long dark hair falling forward, brushing against him with the strange tinkle of that silver cool metal ornament against the top of his exposed thigh, and that wet, warm tongue upon him, just as he'd imagined.

"Oh God," he whispered, wondering if he'd even last long enough.

His cock was weeping, and Jack was moving up along the flared head with intent, swirling over it, letting his tongue lap up the pearly drops.

Exquisite torture. Too much. To be owned like this. This was what he'd been unable to stop seeing during the entire time Jack had consumed that banana in the morning, and in his fantasy in the brig the previous night. It was an overload to his already stimulated and feverish state. He wanted to babble with gratitude.

And then Jack did take pity on him, enveloping him entirely and slowly sucking him down, those beautiful lips wrapped around him.

Hot, liquid heaven, silky and smooth and pulling his pleasure from him…

He began a moan and abruptly cut it off, suddenly and acutely aware of just how dangerous, how illicit and *forbidden* this was.

That knowledge alone was almost enough to make him lose control. The fear and excitement of discovery. To know just how much was at stake and to crave it anyway. If Jack stopped now, he honestly did not know what he would do. Beg, or threaten him. He was shaking, and the pleasure shuddered wickedly in his belly as Jack began a slick up and down motion on his erect, desperate penis.

Jack's other hand began to shove slowly against his thigh, and as James opened his legs yet wider, proceeded to massage his balls. The combination of Jack's mouth on him, that tongue against his aching organ, and that warm hand upon him, all served to melt him down into a continuous stream of wild sparks in his bloodstream, making his skin feel too tight. He wanted to burst, to finally let go and just greedily seize that lofty peak for himself, with Jack sending him there.

A pulsing shiver overtook him and Jack must have known what it meant, for he increased the vigor of his efforts and to James, there was no sweeter, more elegantly perfect sight than that of Jack between his legs.

It rushed over him like a storm, and broke gently, piercingly, sweeping through him and out of him and up, up, so far and high. It left him giddy and delirious and he wasn't sure what he might have said because he couldn't hear anything but the distant beating of his heart.

He was shooting into that hot, wet, suckling furnace, with too much beauty all around the edges, making him moan and whimper at the folly and terror of having Jack's lips taking him in, to completion.

Oh, to have this, at last. To have this given to him. To be wanted. He remembered too late that he was supposed to be taking notes, learning from it, but all he could think was that he'd never seen anything so glorious; never felt it before. Only dreamed. Only to know it was because it was Jack.

He felt as though he'd been given permission to feel, to sense, to desire. To touch. And as the last final shivers abated, Jack gave a last loving slide upwards, and down again, taking all of him, every drop, catching them.

James felt his heart racing and his hearing returned, and in stages, realized that Jack had leaned back and was regarding him with a tender, waiting smile.

"How's that, then?"

He gaped down at him, wondering what words could possibly do justice, or even come close to describing the delicious, insane beauty of it, or of simply having him there at all.

And Jack was chuckling silently, and saying quietly, "Aye. It's like that."

Jack arose, startling him slightly with how swiftly, and kissed him on the mouth. "Very fine, as I said." And with a smirk, he stepped away, leaving James sitting with his spent cock and his open breeches.

James tasted that faint trace of himself from Jack's lips. He wondered what one was supposed to say after something like this. Thank you? Please do that again, later? Or even, sooner? Shall I return the favor?

James found himself imagining that one, and was a little shocked at himself that it didn't inspire the squeamishness that he'd once supposed it might. But then, that probably had something to do with the fact that there wasn't really anything about Jack that he couldn't imagine being sinfully attractive somehow. That curious combination of iniquitous and endearing.

Jack was rummaging about in the far corner of the cabin, and James wondered what the hell he was doing. Then he saw the hammock.

He hastily redid his breeches, and then managed to stand, going to the candles to blow some of them out. Smoke promptly began filling the air from the wicks. His knees felt slightly weak, but he joined Jack in the fixing of the hammocks to the hoops.

He noticed that they worked well together, and it wasn't just a shared motivation to get to the point of exploring more of this mutual consummation.

But as he saw Jack begin to pull at his clothing, he stepped closer to him. "Let me," he murmured, enjoying the way Jack's eyes widened slightly. But Jack allowed him to remove the clothes from him. It started slowly, as an unwrapping. It began to gain speed, as he found himself impatient to see more skin. And his own clothing grew confining.

Jack's hands busily undid his breeches again, and before too long, their clothes were dropping away to the floor, untidily. He was standing in just his open shirt, his bandage still around his neck. And then the last of Jack's clothing fell, his own breeches, and Jack stepped out of them.

James almost found himself holding his breath at it. Jack's nakedness. His own caused a twinge of self-consciousness, but he rationalized with whatever shreds of practical sense he had left that in the event they should be disturbed, he could very easily put on his robe, and Jack had his spare shirt, if he wanted it. But what he wanted in this moment was to touch. To hold and caress, to know every line and plane, every inch of skin.

He made the mistake of glancing into Jack's eyes then, and found his breath did catch at what he found there.

An almost resigned tenderness, not pity - but wanting it, hoping to receive it, only too afraid to ask for it. Wondering, obviously, if his captor would take now, and not give even later. Punishment, perhaps, for being a pirate still, even in the act of encouraging such wanton explorations.

And the bandage around Jack's shoulder made him wince, and think of broken wings. After having cornered him and causing them both to claw each other, to now see the full extent of the real pain, striking deep into the core of both of them, James abruptly realized that he'd found that missing companion, that missing part of himself. His brother, his friend, his beloved.

It wasn't idealistic or fanciful. It was beautiful, like the strange, exotic allure of Jack's darkly fascinating mien and that carefully-cultivated wild streak, a plumage of freedom and pride that Jack wore on his face the way he wore that barbaric hair, too long and free to really call feminine.

And the smile… although Jack's lips were perhaps too lovely and sinful to call them 'decent', they still had the light of innocent joy to them, as he reached out his hands and ran both down James's body, admiringly.

It felt momentous to him somehow, to step closer to Jack and pull him against him, feeling the warm thrill that rushed through him to feel the closeness of it, the safety and the affection in it. Naked skin to warm naked skin. It had been too long perhaps since he'd felt the touch of someone else, but this had the additional power of being longed for, to the extent of madness, and then being so unexpectedly handed to him.

"For just this once," he whispered, holding him too closely and speaking over his shoulder, into the tangle of locks and beads of Jack's hair, careful not to set his chin upon the wound.

Jack's arms tightened around him, the embrace having brought them into such close contact that he could feel all of Jack against his body, the tanned skin, the supple form, and his arousal. "Well, we will see about *that*, won't we?" Jack murmured against him.

James wondered at the tone of it; Jack didn't sound wistful at all. In fact, it had almost sounded like a decisive plan. He smiled.

And realized he was happier in this moment, to have what he'd wanted, than in many, many years. It had nothing to do with pride, or accomplishment. Or acquisition. It was merely comfort and touch and warmth.

Jack pulled away a bit, saying, "I do prefer you without the wig. You're a proper gentleman with it, but like this, love, you seem more yourself."

"Well, of course," James agreed. "That's the whole point." And he went to his knees, his hands going down to Jack's hips, as Jack started.

"You sure it's not too soon for you?" Jack asked, a little taken aback.

James absently shook his head. "No. I want to. I want to have you. Have this."

Jack's hands were on his head, lightly in his hair. A stroking finger around his ear was so gentle it was almost maddening. He hadn't expected it to be this way, this slow act of worship and sharing. He'd imagined being with a man…even this man, to be searing, fast, dirty and furious. But it felt more like finding safe shelter from a storm. Someplace somehow familiar and yet excitingly new. New lands.

He ran his hands over Jack's waist, upwards, then down to his thighs, causing a slight shiver in this pirate captain he'd finally caught. And then he realized what he meant to do, and now he was brought back to himself with a lurch, Jack's member standing upright, patiently. And it was very familiar indeed to reach around it, taking him in hand, for all the familiarity he had with handling himself. And he knew what Jack wanted.

Slowly, he leaned in to mouth at the smooth skin of Jack's belly, wandering downwards to usually hidden flesh, sensitive and strangely beautiful. A trail of dark hair led from Jack's navel, all the way down, enticingly, and as James moved along it to nuzzle against the thicker curls there, the quiet breathy gasp that Jack emitted was too musical, and somehow precious.

God, the smell of him wasn't anything as he'd expected. To be honest, he'd expected quite literally a dirty pirate, even for all the times Jack was diving or falling into water, and even washing himself that very morning in his own cabin here. But certainly not this rather animal, salty musk, with some indescribable scent beneath, that made his own cock stir to complete hardness and also made him want to crush their bodies together. It filled his nose and made him bury his face there, ending up mouthing the balls that drew tighter under his attentions. He certainly never would have known Jack was…delicious.

The tug in his hair was hard but quite involuntary, as Jack's hands tightened; for he began to nibble his way up the stem of Jack's cock, and then tentatively tasted the head, and the fluid there. To his shock, he found that the salty taste was wonderful, and he blinked at the complete irony that what he'd always imagined was awful, for being frowned upon by society as entirely perverse and sinful, was in fact one of the most pleasurably sensuous and delightful acts. In fact, with this one brief exposure to it, he suspected glumly that he may have just acquired a taste for it. Or at least a taste for Jack.

He recalled how Jack hadn't kept him hanging for too long on the edge when he'd done this same favor for him, and opened his mouth to take Jack between his parted lips. Jack's strangled groan was accompanied by the shaky loosening and then tightening again of the hands in his hair, on his head.

As he allowed more of it within, going down further until the head of Jack's organ bumped against the back of his throat, he couldn't help but feel the most gorgeous tenderness at the trust inherent in this, that Jack was letting him do this, allowing himself to be vulnerable in it to the same man who'd incarcerated him and seen him captured several times, to the gallows even. His heart ached a little at it, and he put himself to the task of pleasuring Jack by taking his own pleasure from him.

Jack gave a helpless moan and said, "I'm too close, here, just - "

But James was curious now, and he'd not be cheated out of experiencing all of this. He redoubled his efforts, sucking now with relish, and loving the way Jack was making unconscious bucking motions with his hips. He had to hold onto Jack's body to stop him from choking him.

He tried to glance up and saw Jack throw his head back, that long graceful neck arching, as Jack tensed, open-mouthed, and made this low-pitched purring noise that resonated with husky need. And James found his curiosity gifted with the sudden flood of salty cream, a slight bitter, but sweet and tangy like sea-foam, rum and pure Jack.

Some of it spilled over his lips and he attempted to catch it. It was a little messy, but not terribly so. Finally, he let Jack's cock slip from his mouth, and gave a last final lick. Jack stood quivering slightly, his hands relaxing in his hair now. And then suddenly was on his knees before James with a smile in the dim light of the remaining candles that seemed completely beatific.

The sudden sensation of Jack's mouth on his, helping him to clean the taste of it from his lips, seemed all at once decadent and yet natural. And the affection in it; he caught at Jack and pulled him in closer, both on their knees and with James bending Jack's head back with the intensity of it suddenly, wanting to devour him now as he had just done moments ago.

It was so easy, his mind whispered in shock and wonder. So good.

And as he lifted his head to stare down into Jack's eyes with a suddenly possessive thrill lancing through him, Jack met his gaze, muttering, "Very fine gentleman, but not so very proper after all, 'ey?"

James allowed himself a nasty grin at this, and enjoyed the effect it had on Jack who, for all the world, looked like he'd found himself teasing someone he hadn't expected to turn on him. Which, really, was exactly the case, wasn't it? All this time, the constant dancing around, fluttering his eyes and his hands, too much. He was still grinning, but he gave Jack a little shake. "Do you have *any* idea what you've been doing to me?" he demanded.

"Suppose I do now," Jack admitted. "A bit overdone, was it? So now I guess you'll take it out of my hide. My comeuppance, your revenge, 'ey, mate?"

"Yes, but only for being so very shameless," James explained. He pulled Jack in for another kiss, letting himself linger this time, taking control with a certain fervor that seemed to affect Jack strangely. He pulled back, searching those dark eyes. "Too much for you, Jack?" he asked, keeping his voice quiet, for all the challenge in his words.

"Actually, I was thinking more about that hammock," Jack said, his eyes betraying the slight panic at James suddenly taking too much, and too soon.

James knew evasion when it was facing him. But he did agree the floor was hard. He rose to his feet, helping Jack up as well. And found Jack backing him towards the nearest hammock, nearly losing his balance with the roll of the ship as Jack pushed him against it. Jack froze, holding up a finger. "Get in, I've brought something for this very occasion."

His interest piqued, he climbed into the swinging hammock and settled back into it, watching as Jack went to his clothing and searched about for something. It didn't take long, and a small jar accompanied Jack back to him.

Climbing into the hammock with him, Jack straddled him, and James was treated to the amazing rush of simultaneous lust at having Jack atop him so, and the fear that the hammock would give way and both of them would collapse to the ground loudly, causing enough commotion to stir alarm.

But it seemed to hold, and even Jack glanced up at the hoop, then back down at him with a very evil expression. "I've decided to be very generous with you, Commodore. Now don't do anything rash, and we might have a good time. Savvy?"

"Not really," James admitted. "What are you-" A hand on his half-erect cock as Jack moved up a little on him quieted him instantly. Abruptly, Jack's query at dinner returned to him, asking if any of his female lovers had let him bugger them. The thought of being inside of Jack was enough to cause a flood of fire to lick at his face and then rush down the rest of him.

Jack chuckled quietly at him. "Don't move, if you please." Staring at him, Jack took out a measure of the ointment from the jar and then reached behind him to slather James's eager prick, now rising very stiffly. Then he brought his fingers to himself, and James swallowed at the erotic, nearly obscene sight of it.

He found his hands gripping Jack's legs, tightly.

With a quick, dry grin down at him, Jack asked, "I guess you've never had a hammock-boy, then?"

"Certainly not," James intoned fervently. "I think I would have remembered, if I had."

Jack gave him a smirk. "You're very lovely when you're desperate for it."

James opened his mouth to make a comeback but Jack hastily held up a hand. "Don't. Don't move. Be really still."

James rolled his eyes at this. But as Jack scooted down slightly now and angled himself so that James's cock was slipping between his cleft, James found he gulped at the sensation. Dear God in Heaven… How was he expected to ever let go of this?

Jack was staring into his eyes with the utmost concentration, and agonizingly slowly, with tiny movements, James felt the head of his cock nudged into that rosebud entrance. James felt his own eyes widen at it, and wondered if perhaps Jack had been very right to be extolling the hidden benefits of this act.

And little by little, even as Jack bit his lip, James felt his hard organ sliding into the tightest, sweetest, silkiest place he'd never imagined in his guiltiest fantasies.

The pleasured anguish that was beginning to show in Jack's face was a delightfulness all its own. Jack squirmed back so slow, taking even more of him inside, deeper. Impaling himself on it, with little rocking motions, and the strangest euphoria began rising in James to see it. He wanted to have Jack ride himself to completion on him. To see him achieve that few seconds of grace all too fleeting, writhing upon his member as he speared him. And Jack obliged, sinking down more now, growing accustomed to it.

It seemed Jack was as driven as he was, to see this through. Jack waited, his breaths coming in little lovely gasps that made James want to shove it into him harder, and yet pulled at his heart. It was beautiful. Jack was beautiful like this.

He'd never felt anything so wonderfully hot and clutching around him; it felt like a perfect fit, the snuggest and most delightful place he could possibly hope for.

But he wasn't prepared for the added sensation of when Jack began to move atop him. Slow but sure, controlling the movement of advancing and retreating with such concentration, all the while looking into his eyes. James realized he'd never allowed himself to really know what pleasure could be. Not in all its possible permutations. Suddenly he realized what the allure of positions was, and all that those promised was beckoning in a wave of discovery. Even as the smirk on Jack's face joined the look of unadulterated enjoyment written there.

It seemed impossible that such a sensitive, tight spot could afford a man as much pleasure as all that, and he briefly wondered that it was so frowned upon.

The sin…of happiness.

It was like a ray of hope in the dark, offering a light to see by. All the moral dictates according to which he'd lived his life, thinking he was doing the right thing, gave way in the face of this pleasure, this beautiful man, the joy of it all.

Jack was moving steadily, watching him, as he tensed and tried not to take control from him, not wanting to break the rhythm. But Jack was breathing harder, quicker, shallower. He managed, "You want to."

James bit out, "Not if you don't."

Jack gave him a slightly exasperated desperate look. "Look, just do it!" he urged.

The act of giving in to the temptation to seize Jack's hips, near his flanks, and begin a shorter, stabbing pace which soon gave way to avid thrusting, and quite suddenly he found the pleasure cresting, building, crashing through him. Over and over, as Jack's groans, even as he tried to contain them, were pushed out of him. It had become something urgent, and hard, and very necessary. So much so, in fact, that James wanted nothing more than to watch him come, to hear Jack make that sound again, however furtively in this cabin with enforced secrecy and silence.

To wrench it from him, force it out of him. Driving himself into Jack so hard that he forgot his name, his rank and what ship it was. And to fill him up as he did so, adding his contribution to this race to the finish.

Yet it still went on and on, and abruptly, James realized what they needed. "Touch yourself," he ordered Jack, who was brought back to himself at the tone in James's voice.

Jack's hand moved to grab himself, pulling at it with the same frequency that James was using to push into him. Jack moved, angling himself slightly differently on him, and was quite suddenly shuddering over him, around him, above him. That sound of abandon and loss in it, losing his way and so terrifyingly beautiful in it, that James found himself saying, "So beautiful. Like this." Even as the sensations gripped him and tore over him. It was too much, not to say it. "You are, Jack. I love you like this. I love you."

Jack was coming, caught in it, even as James felt his heart tear with the burden of far and away this pleasure too great to have all at once, the pain and joy and sharp ecstasy of having him, taking him, claiming him. And wanting it to go on forever; to keep him.

As he jerked, spilling himself into Jack, straining to keep every part of himself inside of the other man's body, he knew he'd been right to want this. For it was beautiful. Too beautiful.

As Jack began to slow above him, James wondered if it mattered. Who won or lost, or admitted or kept silent. It was all the same, in the end. With this final, quiet cataclysm of wonder and shared pleasure that wasn't a sexual release so much as a gift to each other. Jack was looking into his eyes with more clarity once again, looking a bit astonished and rather smug. But he didn't say anything.

James knew that he'd surprised him. Hell, he'd surprised himself. He hadn't meant to just say it like that. Declarations of love… Although merely because he'd blurted it out at the moment of climax didn't make it any less true, for all that it had been dramatic. But now he wondered if Jack even believed him.

A bright, unwanted shaft of pain speared him at this, and he faltered, wondering at the reason why Jack would even give this to him, here, tonight. After all that had transpired before. Did Jack believe his impassioned declaration? Or did he just dismiss it as something to be dismissed as hasty words in the act of passion?

Something in his face must have transmitted itself though, for Jack was all of a sudden leaned down over him, the muted jingle and the hair all wild and reminding of the pirate's predilections, to press his mouth to James's in a savage kiss. No quarter, indeed, James thought, startled. It was deep, complete and went a long way in soothing the ache that had never left his heart before.

All too soon, Jack lifted his head, still laying atop him, and murmured, "I've changed my mind, Commodore. I don't want your ship; I'll keep you instead."

James smiled at him, at this, "That's acceptable, considering I'm already yours."

Jack gave him a wide, self-satisfied grin. "I can have everything, then?"

"Whatever I might try to not give you, you'd take anyway," James pointed out, reasonably.

"True enough," Jack admitted. "But only because you make the effort. Just as I only run because you chase after."

"Now, really, that's bollocks," James protested dryly. "You know very well that you make such a sport of it that it's impossible not to respond."

But Jack settled down atop him, crouched on him looking for all the world like a large cat, indeed, and said carefully, "Well, now, who's caught whom here though, really?"

"At the moment, you've caught me. But only because I caught you first."

Jack appeared to think this over. "Alright," he agreed. "But things may change come the morning."

As Jack settled down against him, and James silently relished the weight of Jack on him, in this stolen night in his hammock, he wondered what Jack had in mind.

But it didn't seem to matter, or require worried deliberation, especially since Jack was already falling asleep on top of him and it appeared as though they were going to stick together. James frowned at this, but didn't want to rouse them. He was too comfortable. And found his own eyelids falling victim to the lassitude in the aftermath of their union.


James was awoken by Jack climbing off of him and then spitting curses as sensitive hairs in delicate places on both of them were suddenly pulled out. James was sniggering as Jack said mournfully, "'Ts'not funny. Bloody hurts."

The candles had burned down, but for one in the corner, and it was hours before dawn, yet.

Jack was rubbing at himself with a wet cloth. After rinsing it, and fussing with it a bit longer, he brought it back to James, who took it gladly.

Jack commented quietly, "The sea's calmed a bit. We're getting closer. Won't be long now. I'd say one of us should probably take us through the passage."

James found Jack's reminder of their voyage's destination, and conclusion in the few hours they had left, distressing in that he couldn't help wondering when he'd see Jack again. If ever.

Not wanting to push him, and thus push him away, he cleared his throat. "If all goes well, and you depart here a free man, what are the chances that I'll see you at some later date?"

Jack looked over at him, and took the cloth from him. "Very high, I'd say," he replied. Padding away, he looked as nonchalant as he sounded.

James sighed. "I don't suppose you could be more specific?" He'd thought that they had a growing rapport. But maybe for Jack, repeated encounters was as romantic as he could allow himself to be just yet.

Jack seemed to absorb this, and then went to the cabinet, where he lifted up James's long white shirt and pulled it on, rolling up the sleeves. Coming back to where James still reclined, he climbed onto the hammock beside him, nearly causing them to capsize.

"Sounds to me like you still don't trust me very much," he said, knowingly.

"Perhaps not. I love you, however. I'm hoping that counts for something." James wondered how this would be taken.

Jack reached out and took his hand. "And if I told you that I love you? What would that be worth to you? Would you even believe me? The word of a pirate?"

James considered this. "So we love each other, but we don't trust each other. Is that what you're saying?"

"No," Jack said, reasonably, with a lilt to his voice. "I'm saying: I love you."

Jack's dark eyes were peering into his own, and James wondered why it wasn't enough, to hear it.

Jack edged closer, managed to move atop him so that he was looking James directly in the face. Far too intimate to avoid or ignore. With a brief kiss, he murmured, "You wanted to catch me. You caught me. You've won. And now it's my turn. Alright?"

"To…to win?" James asked. He wasn't certain he liked Jack's obscurity. 'I don't want your turn at winning to end up with me losing. Losing you."

"If you love me, you can't lose me, 'ey?" Jack smiled at him. "Stop worrying and fussing. You caught me, fair and square."

James pulled him closer, keeping his arms about him. Jack actually relaxed against him. Slowly, with frustration, he asked, "Why, in the name of all that is holy, did I have to fall for a pirate?"

Jack tightened his arms, returning the embrace. "For the same reason I fell for a commodore of His Majesty's bloody fleet, that's why."

"And that is -?" James waited. He waited until he thought Jack wouldn't answer.

"Two broken hearts can mend each other." Jack's answer was spoken so quietly, James almost didn't make it out.

But he realized with a lump in his throat that he'd been right; this had been just as difficult for Jack to accept as it had been for him. And trust didn't come easy; it *couldn't* come easy for either of them regarding each other.

Inexplicably, Jack murmured against him, "If you let me go, Commodore, I won't leave. But if you try to keep me, you lose me. It's that simple."

"I'd already figured as much," James replied, calmly. After all, words of love spoken on this first time, this first night, had already been spoken to others, even to those who'd inflicted the damage of those aforementioned broken hearts.

"Well, just as I won't ask you to turn pirate, you won't be asking me to leave it behind, 'ey? Or is it going to trouble your soul overmuch to be involved with the likes of me?"

It was spoken rather dryly, but James could hear that little undertone that he was growing familiar with, picking up on; the one that bespoke of vulnerability and not wanting to be wrong because it hurt too much. He tightened his arms about Jack again, firmly, and whispered, "My soul would only be troubled with the loss of you. I know you are honorable, and I trust you. I know you won't cost me my integrity. If anything, I nearly destroyed it myself, where you had not even threatened it."

And Jack relaxed in his embrace. "You really do love me, then," he stated.

But James smiled to hear it, because there was that lovely little wistful note to Jack's voice now. The one that always made him smile inside and want to hold him. Every time.

He gently fingered the twin braids of Jack's beard, wondering at the marvelous style of a debauched dandy, a remarkably decadent, yet strangely decent pirate.

And he smiled still, leaning down to capture Jack's mouth, keeping those lips for himself for a while.


Mercy 5: Conquest

Arrival at the Isle de Muerte leads to discoveries, plots and twists of fate.

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