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: This story is altogether dedicated to Thalia Seawood. :) Thank you for being my Muse!!
Additional Note: Special thanks to Amethyst, for without whom this chapter wouldn't have been written. Thank you for the keen, perceptive observations! :-)
Also, thanks to firesignwriter, for the Articles and naval ship materials/links, & for being a continuous and constant lighthouse when I falter on the rocks of doubt (& for being my Smut Muse!).
Thank you to marquesate for the incredibly inspiring images, and the invaluable naval ranks & flag information!
And thanks to gileonnen for the harpoon quip. LOL!
And thanks to teardrop69 for inspiring whole scenes with just her name.
You all saved my chapter, and in fact future chapters. Thank you. ::bows::

Summary: Between compromise and betrayal lies transformation. Between the mind and the heart lies freedom. Can a naval commander and a pirate reach a synergetic relationship despite their opposing sides?


Part 6 - Alchemy

By Webcrowmancer

Jack took a much-needed swig of rum from the bottle AnaMaria had thoughtfully pressed into his hand soon after his arrival.

Breakfast aboard the Black Pearl. It was better than any morning he could recall, although it was probably due to the combination of relief and happiness at simply being back on her planks than the rum. To have both at once was a benediction.

The monkey had proven itself a useful crewmember for once in its misbegotten existence. Even now it sat upon AnaMaria's shoulders, its tail curled around her neck, pleased with itself for having guided Jack in the stolen boat to where the Black Pearl sat hidden in the fog.

Many of his men looked as relieved as he felt. There was a quiet hush that all of them observed this morn, however, awaiting the return of Cotton's parrot to let them know when the Dauntless finally departed.

They'd been worried for their captain's welfare, but somehow, they also seemed unsurprised at his latest narrow escape. Wryly, Jack knew his reputation was still intact - even more so, after this last round of captivity. Dining in the Commodore's cabin, no less…With a smirk, Jack shifted his weight from one foot to the other, realizing he was indeed going to be feeling the considerable lingering presence of the Commodore's hospitality for a long week or more in his backside - and other places. His shoulder ached, also.

The Pearl had arrived in the night and had been chafing to return to the cave, but the Dauntless anchored beyond it had been a worrisome deterrent. Jack's message via the parrot had been more than clear, however. None of them had been surprised to actually see him rowing up before dawn. Gibbs had merely grinned at him and assured him he'd missed some grand tippling parties ashore at Tortuga, where they'd picked up more crew to help load treasure upon the return to the Isle de Muerte. The word of uncursed treasure had spread like wildfire along powder lines.

Jack preferred to let Gibbs do the recruiting, as some of them tended to want to journey with the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow, for himself rather than for any stated adventure, and he really didn't need to have to be turning down any number of propositions right now.

He wasn't entirely happy about having men aboard he hadn't met though, on this occasion. The treasure was far too tempting, and considering the trouble he'd already undergone on its behalf over the past fortnight, let alone the past decade...

They'd need to be ready to sail and so far, the crew appeared sharp. He frowned up at the rigging where one of them was pulling the slack in the bowline nearest him. Didn't seem like too disreputable a fellow…capable sailor, but the man's clothing was appallingly mediocre. He'd have to see to their ensemble and ensure it struck the right note of jaunty fear, as befitted a member of the Pearl's company. But then, the Pearl's company would probably lose half their number again once they went ashore with more of the gold.

Gibbs assured him upon his arrival though that most of what they'd taken had been stashed properly in one of Gibbs's secret caches: a barn with an ample warehouse beneath the floorboards, a holdover from their smuggling days. No one bothered to disturb pigs, any more than sleeping dogs.

Cotton came to stand beside him, and Jack lifted a brow, frowning. But it was to greet the parrot that even now was winging towards them, a blue and yellow smudge in the white wreaths of fog.

"Fair winds to ye," it squawked, raucously.

Jack and Cotton exchanged a glance at the parrot's words of departure, a knowing understanding between them that caused a leap in his blood. With a grin, Jack stepped away towards the helm, calling, "Look lively, lads. She's left us to help ourselves."

"Aye, Capn!" was the jubilant reply from many of his mates, quickly scurrying to prepare for sail.

The Pearl had been carefully stripped of everything but the barest essentials for this voyage; room in every berth and hold had been left for the treasure from the Isle. It was clear that they had to take whatever they could on each trip, and it made no sense not to load the Pearl ridiculously heavy this time around. Indeed, they couldn't even be sure the Dauntless wouldn't return yet again and remove all too much of the grand fortune.

It had made him sick at heart to see all that gold and plunder uselessly taken aboard Norrington's ship, knowing only a fraction would be redistributed amongst those who deserved it, with the bulk of the treasure going to the Crown.

It was enough to make him itch to raid Port Royal on principle. But to do that now would be a direct attack upon the Commodore.

And there was the dilemma. It quite literally came down to a matter of simple trust. And as much as he trusted James Norrington had been in earnest when it came to feelings and longing for his own fair self, it was quite another thing entirely to trust Commodore Norrington, Captain of the Royal Navy.

He steered the Pearl in the direction of the cave entrance, wondering how many days he had before Norrington decided to return to the Isle.

Fourteen nights more until their little clandestine rendezvous at his island. At least two days for the return to Port Royal and unloading the Dauntless gave him two days grace to return to Tortuga himself; he reckoned Norrington would give him the chance to take what he could this one time more. In spite of what they'd agreed, he couldn't see Norrington believing that he'd be able to resist helping himself, nor could he believe Norrington simply allowing him to take it. It had become a tacit game, with more love-words spoken in truth than any in the actual accordance of their gentlemen's agreement.

A flash of burning lips on his skin, the memory of the close, heated embraces in his Commodore's arms…Sexual comfort and release after long denial was one thing; the affection and care was real, however, and he knew James had not been dissembling.

More worrying was the fact that he hadn't been, either.

It was no shameful admission to acknowledge the Commodore's impassioned advances had moved his heart. Terrifying at first, to be sure, considering Norrington's inner debate about whether to hang him or not, but the man was the exemplar debonair military commander. Little wonder Norrington acquired the loyalty of the men serving under him.

The man was generous and possessed an able intellect, as well as the attributes that defined him as a noble and dashing figure.

When Jack had first encountered him on that dock in Port Royal, fresh from his promotion ceremony, he'd considered Norrington must have an entire harpoon lodged firmly up his arse. Still, it had been satisfying on a personal as well as an entertaining level to replace that rigid suppression of healthy desire with something a little more friendly. Jack grinned in memory of doing just that, the night before. Norrington had indeed taken to sodomy as if waiting for it unbeknownst to himself all his lifelong days.

At first, he'd derisively regarded Norrington's uniformed self as an uptight prick wrapped in a confection designed to prettify the uglier reality of a harsh justice system. Now he had to admit that the Commodore actually redeemed the brocade in ways that his lesser officers no doubt dreamed of imitating some day themselves. Hell, if he'd been in the service himself, Jack knew he'd probably have fancied the Commodore rotten. Like that little Officer Groves, there. And Lieutenant Gillette.

He realized though that he knew next to nothing of Norrington's past. He wondered if Norrington's peerage contained members of nobility or if he were of the lesser gentry, a second or third son…Considering Norrington's ambitious pursuit of a military career, the latter was more likely. Mind, Norrington knew nothing of his past, either. Which was probably for the best, considering some of the unsavory details of his true history. Those grim years in the South Seas sprang to mind. And the searing pain of his brand below his sparrow flared briefly in his thoughts. Prison ships and work camps. Imprisonment, deprivation and enforced labor, both on land and at sea…Jack shook himself and regarded the rocks ahead, smoothly clearing them with plenty to spare.

It felt too good to have the wheel of the Pearl beneath his hands again. To gain her back after so long, and then lose her for the fourth time; it had nearly broken his heart. Strange that he should have won his freedom, his Pearl, the treasure and the love of the Commodore in one swoop. It did indeed seem as though his luck had turned for the better.

And it was far better to seize the day while it was his.

Besides, Jack mused, there was the matter of that choice little island. It was a far cry indeed from that miserable stretch of desolate sand Barbossa had left him on. Twice. It was a veritable paradise, with fresh water, plenty of local flora and wildlife for game hunting. Too small to catch the eye of anyone wanting to plant territorial flags, or for designated forts to mark off boundaries in the Caribbean.

As far as he could tell, it was unclaimed, yet.

And he wondered if Norrington would reconsider their agreement to meet. He could very well be entrusting himself and the safety of his ship and company to the whim of a naval officer who could very realistically and pragmatically decide the risk wasn't worth the cost to his military life or obligations in the service of the King. Intuition was one thing; blind trust was another. The thought of entrapment and ambushes crept into view. But then so did Norrington's mouth, with that freshly-kissed look, lips slightly swollen from too much attention, and the way his James had appeared so stricken at simply being allowed to have the use of his body - 'one last time'…

With a half-smile, Jack regarded the spot where the Dauntless had been, not a half an hour before.

And the sheer anticipation of the sensation of gold between his fingers gradually replaced everything else in his mind. There was a giddy attitude the entire crew shared at the moment, smiles on their faces as they all anticipated the treasure that awaited them in the cave.

It was glorious and good, and everything he'd wanted, for years now. To have the pickings sitting there waiting for him to help himself, piles of gold just waiting to be plucked off the dirt and the purchase of freedoms, luxuries and liberation from poverty or struggle. There was a slightly unhinged and manic delight in him that was reflected in the faces of all his crew, in fact, even as they busily made ready to go ashore.

He glanced at AnaMaria with a frown - she was grinning, and seeing her so cheerful was abruptly distracting. The remembrance of her soft skin, the way her breasts felt beneath his hands, was almost enough to scour any thought of gold or jewels.

And then it hit him. Fidelity.

With a silent curse, he realized that before he'd given his heart to his Commodore, he'd felt free enough to withhold affections or bestow the sharing of simple fleshly indulgences with others. The play had often sufficed, and paying for the services of a lady of the night had more often than not been enough to soothe that itch.

Now that his heart was no longer his, and there was the commitment of his feelings for Norrington, he felt the bonds slip tighter about him. One didn't know what one had until it was gone. He'd never before felt the struggle to remain faithful to anyone, and thus it had never been an issue, but now, oh now. The temptation of having something he shouldn't want was more to the point, rather than any true desire to have a toss and a tumble with the young woman who was quite unaware that her captain was eyeing her a little too closely.

Jack grimaced and looked away, not wanting to incur further ire from a lass who was far more useful aboard as a member of his crew than as a bedmate, for looking as though he was leering when he really wasn't. Well, maybe a little. She *was* still bonny, after all.

And he wondered if Norrington would feel betrayed if he were to bed anyone. Not for love certainly, but simply for relief. Not that he wanted to. But if the opportunity should arrive, would he be damned for wanting to? There had been a dearth of real caring love in his life; would he be more the fool to not stay true and constant?

It was the idea of being…married, bonded, paired off like a bloody goose for life. The reality of fleeting, desperate and empty encounters wasn't the issue at all. Sexual relief for a night's pleasure, followed by the loss of simply enjoying being held in someone's arms, someone to hold. It was the thought of being *tied* to another. And it was one thing to carry on a secret affair that could mean the ruination of Norrington - who he now respected. A little. Only a little.

Jack sighed to himself. All right, so he loved him more than a little, also. It was very new, to love something or someone other than his Pearl. She'd had his heart for so long, even in absence. And now that he was back with her, he couldn't help counting the time until he'd meet Norrington on that island. It seemed that Fate, like Luck, was fickle. It had never occurred to him before to strive not to be fickle, himself.

As they dropped anchor and prepared to lower the longboats, some of the crewmen bringing buckets and crates for the transporting of the gold and loot, Jack wondered if he'd embarked on a venture far more dangerous and terrible than any he'd ever undertaken, in all his years of leading the life of a pirate in the Caribbee.

Falling in love.


James regarded the unopened letter on his desk with a pensive eye.

The journey back to Port Royal had been uneventful and carried such a dreamlike quality, borrowed no doubt from the Isle de Muerte as well as the recent presence of the flamboyant Jack Sparrow. He'd spent it in a fairly good humor, and even despite the ravages upon his own person that his body now wore, he had felt…good. The neck wound still hurt, and his backside too, as well as a number of little places where he'd found bruises he hadn't even known he'd incurred.

But now, upon returning, he sat in his office while his officers oversaw the unloading of the treasure from the Dauntless, and considered this letter he'd been sent from the Colonies. Reality had a cruel way of intruding upon one's happier moments.

The entire voyage had been an eerie reliving of his men's fears, while for himself it had been somewhat of a holiday.

Now he had to pay the piper for having debauched himself in true pirate style, with a true pirate who possessed fine style indeed. Particularly where debauchery was concerned. He'd handed his heart as well as his body over to Jack, and promptly found his notions of his honor, his views on social morality, and even unnatural sin, being scuppered as easily as if they were mere frippery, rather than the foundation of his life.

That Jack Sparrow had escaped was hardly a surprise to any aboard the Dauntless, and although the sentries on guard had been concerned he would have it out of their hides, it was clear that the pirate captain had merely proven yet again to be most slippery indeed.

And the loss of the rowboat was irritating enough without adding the complication of searching uselessly for a pirate who by the time they caught up with him would have already sequestered himself somewhere on the Isle to await his ship. It would have meant yet more delay in returning home, and the gold was somewhat more important at the time than lying in wait for the Black Pearl to possibly, hopefully, return.

As it was, he'd simply ordered the Dauntless to set sail, and ignored the worried looks on the faces of his men. If he said nothing, they wouldn't either, and the silence was far more eloquent than any recriminations would have been. And of course, he wryly considered, there was the little matter of it being his own decision to let Sparrow go. He could hardly take the loyal men serving under him to task for it.

Now, he wondered if he'd done the right thing at any turn.

He knew it did not reflect well upon him for the successful raid of the Black Pearl upon Port Royal to have resulted in the loss of two ships in his squadron, as well as the loss of a merchant ship in the harbor, the damage to the town and Fort Charles, and the loss of the civilians' as well as servicemen's lives; the very night of his being awarded his new title and command, no less.

To have merely beaten back foes and held the Dauntless from the undead pirates while allowing the Black Pearl to slip off unharmed had also not reflected well upon him. To have now allowed the pirate Jack Sparrow to escape twice in less than a fortnight along with the Black Pearl - again - began to discourage what hopes he'd had for being seen in a favorable light in the return of the confiscated treasure hoard to Port Royal and the Royal Navy. To take all the events in one glance, it was hard even for him to see them as beneficial or accomplishing anything beyond holding a position in defense, and not even very well, at that.

It was one thing to retain the town, the Fort and regain the treasure - it was another entirely to be seen as 'buying' political favor with his new title and command, and with the seized pirate gold. The entire fleet would despise any naval officer who attempted to put comfort or career ahead of military service, and there were those who would perceive the seizing of the gold as an attempt on his part to make recompense for his losses. To…'buy back his honor', or the like. To some it mattered not, what their reputation was; but to him, it was a matter of personal pride as well as accomplishment.

Most damning of all was that it wasn't even an issue of the fundamentals, individual actions or events involved; as commander, he was responsible for the outcome of the circumstances and the actions of his men or loss of prisoners and leverage, in whole and in part for the entire debacle. It wasn't blame at all, but responsibility that was the issue here.

And now he'd somehow allowed all his principles and loyalty to be compromised by his feelings, as well as the supernatural menace of the now-dead, cursed pirate crew of the Black Pearl. Somehow he couldn't quite see anyone who hadn't been involved actually grasping the magnitude of the unearthly forces he'd had to contend with.

It was pointless to lay the blame upon Jack Sparrow, regardless of the pirate's original plan to take the cursed Cortez gold on the Isle de Muerte and the resultant cursed ship of his, or even the Turner boy's freeing of Jack that resulted in the loss of the Interceptor.

It was also pointless to indulge in guilt or self-pity, for the situation had progressed far past the allowance of such personal grievances. The least he could hope for was that he'd be seen as ineffectual, if not outright incompetent. The most could mean disgrace, retirement of his commission or perhaps a more stringent punishment.

To be set back in the ranks at this point would cause him to have to reconsider his continuing in the Navy altogether. Regardless of how strapped the Navy was right now for good officers, he knew that his superiors also would not look favorably upon the losses of ships and would scrutinize his own part in this.

To receive this letter instead of any acknowledgment of the ships he'd requested, or even of his situation, was the cause of his worry. There was no one specific admiral of the fleet here in the Caribbean who could really be considered in command, but Vice-Admiral Richardson was of late in New York, in the Colonies, having been there for just under the last two years. It was highly unlikely that Richardson would overlook a chance to put a lesser ranking officer in his place, should he wish to seize an advantage for his own career back here in the Caribbean.

Glowering at the letter from Richardson, he picked it up, turning it over in his hands. He'd only met the man twice, and neither in circumstances where he could have socialized with him to get a better measure of the man's outlook or temper.

Despite his hard line against piracy, and his impressive notoriety as a captain who'd never tolerated piracy in his territory, James knew that it was most unlikely that any flag officer would be assured of his reliability after repeatedly 'allowing' the Black Pearl to continue sailing Caribbean waters.

The only possible way he could see himself purchasing any respectability with the pirate gold at this point was by replenishing the rather desperate coffers of the Royal Navy, which wouldn't question the origin of the gold in the first place, all too happy to have the lucre to refit ships, train marines, and in fact increase maritime power anywhere, but most especially in the Caribbean. For the protection of trade ships and British sugar, for a start. Holding the current British settlements, for a further matter. And Richardson was more likely to see it as a ploy on his part to gain personal glory rather than serving the Navy's interests…which would be seen as dangerously ambitious at this point, marking him as a target and a threat to be watched.

He wondered at Richardson's reputation. The man was renowned and respected for his seamanship as well as his command. And then there was Richardson's new young wife, from amongst the nobility of London aristocracy, and famed for her beauty, the Lady Sharon Lennox.

It was the particulars of the events of late that he had to reconsider. This letter he held could hold his future glory, or equally, his downfall. Rising to an admiralty was only a matter of time…but unlikely if he remained in the Caribbean and if his career should suffer the ignominy of scandal - of a personal or public nature - he could very well see himself returning to England in a number of years.

The personal complication of having lost his bride-to-be, to whom he'd proposed the very day of his promotion, and then losing his heart to a pirate captain (and a man, at that!) assured him that he was treading a very fine edge along the razor, indeed.

He scowled at the letter and broke the seal.

Upon perusing its contents, his mood darkened. He was even disappointed, for it contained nothing truly threatening or enlightening. Vice-Admiral Richardson was sending his wife to Jamaica for, as he put it, 'her health' for the rest of the winter. He would join her in Port Royal in five months' time, and appreciated Commodore Norrington's aide if the Commodore would be so kind as to look out for her safety and well-being. She was already en route, according to the letter, which stated she'd have departed New York a week after the letter had been sent. She would be staying with her cousin, a Mrs. Stafford.

James glowered afresh. Mrs. Stafford was a busy-body and quite the tedious gossip.

God, only six more days, if he was unlucky enough that her ship had been making good time.

James wondered if Lady Lennox-Richardson was currently engaged in some scandal in the Colonies, hence her retiring for a while to Jamaica. He then wondered at the perception Richardson had of the Caribbean, to be sending his wife down here whilst they were suffering the winter raids of pirates and the weakening of Naval ship protection in Port Royal. But perhaps the Vice-Admiral was uninformed of recent news. He doubted it, having sent dispatches himself in the last week, before returning to the Isle.

Just what he needed: nursemaid detail atop his current balancing act he was having to perform.

James sighed, and wondered at the cause of his worry and stress. Perhaps he was overwrought and paranoid concerning his career and the eventualities of his situation.

He stood and went to the window, regarding the view of the town, the harbor beyond, and finally the edge of the sea and the sky. The sight gave a measure of comfort in its familiarity. He was home.

A quiet voice in his mind, also familiar now as he'd made its acquaintance all too often during his interlude at the Isle de Muerte with Jack, whispered that the only reason he had to fret was in having to care for the Vice-Admiral's wife…as it would possibly cause him to have to reschedule his rendezvous with Jack Sparrow at that island of the pirate's designation, with the coordinates Jack had left him in his log.

The view reminded him of the enticing glimpse Jack had left him, of that island. A paradisiacal pirate utopia? It sounded too good to be true, but considering also that he'd left Jack with more than enough gold to set himself up as a virtual pirate king on any island of his choosing, perhaps it would be better than he hoped.

It…admittedly was a more urgent and pressing issue for him than anything else, and not just because of the stiffening of his member at the recollection of delicious sin, and the thought of repeating the pleasure again. The delight also in giving his heart into someone's hands to hold in safekeeping, and being allowed to hold theirs in return.

Selfishly, he feared now anything that might delay or even cancel his appointment with Jack. And he didn't feel that it was wrong, at all. Not in the slightest. It could hardly be wrong to have this one thing for himself, this love. This light in his heart. It made him happy, and was far more exciting and appealing to him somehow than the simple affair of seeing a young woman who represented a socially acceptable match. This was on the level of adventure. He couldn't even accuse himself of over-romanticizing it, because it already *was* a romance.

James blinked, realizing that Jack Sparrow had indeed opened his eyes to a different side of life, one that wasn't focused completely on self-sacrifice, duty and negating of his own needs. There was such a thing as going too far down the road of personal denial; he knew that now. It could all too easily result in the hardening of himself to coldness, a shell of himself. Maybe in allowing himself to feel, to experience…to love, he'd actually progressed farther than he'd thought. Perhaps the knife-edge was a balance rather than a risk.

Perhaps it really was the difference between holding his heart and his mind in equal value and refusing to compromise either, rather than having to choose between them.

A secret affair. A friend and a lover, as well as a pirate; fascinating, yet more than just a devil's allure. And then there was Jack's interestingly reticent but heartfelt admission in his arms, in the dark, in the last few hours before lost to sleep…Love. Jack did love him. Had murmured words of love, too sleepy for it to be anything but true, and it had not the ring of placation, but of warmth and comfort. Of feeling safe with him, the same man who'd captured and imprisoned him.

An affair with Jack Sparrow. A pirate, and a witch obviously, for having ensorcelled him, but a good man. A beautiful man. Something of a secret romantic. Whoever would have thought?

Thirteen nights more.

James smiled.


Rum, sweet rum, like a river of amber gold inside his bloodstream, coloring the world with really *nice* thoughts, of doubloons and crowns and perfect islands where no one dared to burn casks of rum without his permission, signal flares be damned.

Sweet thoughts of fiery green eyes that could smile or rain, and gave only the hottest invitation, regardless of whether his Jamie spoke in anger or in sarcasm, passion or cool disdain.

The roar of the brawl nearby had dimmed magically to tolerable levels, broken only by the occasional piercing shriek of laughter of Big Jessie nearby. Blessed rum was enchanted stuff, if it could even dull that.

He opened one lid and saw AnaMaria was glaring at a sailor who shrank under her gaze, slinking away as her hand went to the knife at her belt, as the monkey on her shoulder hissed and bared his teeth, equaling her hostility and adding incentive to leave the wench alone.

Jack grinned, and leaned back, tipping his hat over his eyes, carefully leaving enough of a view so he could keep a watch for whoever might suddenly crash into his table. Had to protect the rum, after all. This was the good stuff. The tavern's owner was suddenly Captain Sparrow's best mate, even disregarding the somewhat hefty tab of his, prior to the arrival of all the gold doubloons.

Rum, gold, and dark hair; lips that were too red, even before being kissed. Sensual lips that belied the cold demeanor his Jamie usually affected.

They'd stowed all the takings from the Isle de Muerte in Gibbs's smuggling store, and now most of his crew had lost themselves in dreams and whores and good rum.

For the first time in his life, Jack felt…complete. There wasn't anything missing. Was there? He had his Pearl. The rum. The gold. The island. Well, technically he didn't have it yet, but he would. Little matter of persuasion, as the island did belong to the English for being technically in English waters. He had his freedom. He even had someone else's heart, which was grand because he'd lost his.

Well, now, that *was* new, and he wasn't sure it was as bad as he'd feared. In fact, he only had enough time for two more trips to the Isle before he'd be making his way to the little island - as yet unnamed - for his tryst with the Commodore.

Of course, he'd be taking his whole ship and crew; he'd be a fool not to expect another change of mind on the part of his Jamie, who had only recently been introduced to the joys of getting to know Captain Jack Sparrow more intimately than most.

He mulled it over; his island. Needed a name. Something appropriate. Something as would befit a paradise hideaway. So far, it was still a bit of a dream. He'd come across it nearly two years ago, and discovered it had been the best sort of place for a shore leave that didn't require taverns or wenches, or restocking with supplies. Of course, they'd always brought the drink and the wenches back with them when revisiting the last couple of times.

But there hadn't really been the time or opportunity for a good while now, and he found that the idea of the island had been growing steadily in the back of his mind. More than he'd thought. The thought of meeting his Commodore there was a fairly pleasant prospect. Whatever the outcome.

Just to see those green eyes again would be enough, really.

Now that was a lie, and he knew it, even as the thought curled around the inside of him and tried to make itself a home in his head.

He knew it was very probably as mad as most people feared he was, to be falling for an officer of the Royal Navy of the Fleet of His Majesty's bloody British Empire. He'd be lucky if he didn't earn a place on his own private gibbet for it.

And he wondered through the pleasant rummy haze, how was he supposed to wait until the appointed time for their meeting on that island? What was to stop him from simply sailing back to Port Royal and slipping ashore for a quick one? Now that one *was* madness, and he had to admit he was starting to sound like a lovesick idiot. Or maybe a desperately perverse one, who took far too much enjoyment from debauching innocent soldiers. Officers. A particularly lovely officer, who even made all that silly brocade look good. Those legs. In those stockings. Made for debauching, that one was. His James.

The initial fear of commitment suddenly didn't seem so sharp as before. But then, rum was very obliging, and could even shield one from particularly harsh realities, even emotional ones.

How was he supposed to wait?

Twelve nights more; eleven days.

Jack grinned.


It was simply intolerable. James turned restlessly in his bed, beneath the covers. Sleep was being quite obstinate in refusing to join him this night.

The problem lay solely in a pair of wicked dark eyes that were simply too appealing, particularly when wordlessly asking him - no, *pleading* him - to take hold of the slighter man and pull him into his embrace.

The fact that his bed was empty, and he knew what he was missing now, was enough to cause a restlessness that he'd never known before. His arms ached from it. The lack of…him. That absence.

He longed. He *yearned.* And his body was burning from it. This perhaps was the hell he deserved, for permitting himself to be drawn into that first kiss of oranges and Jack and desire. He desperately wanted to know what it would be like to fuck Jack into his own mattress here. To hold him in his own bed…right here, in this close darkness.

This empty room.

He swallowed suddenly against the pain, because it wasn't simply desire; it was the need to have Jack there, at hand. To be able to pull him into his arms, to find that comfort. The warm, wrapping luxuriousness of feeling Jack's hot skin all up against him, for hours.

To simply have the little indulgence of kissing those sharp cheeks, those incredible hot lips, always surprising in their softness, despite the presence of facial hair. Which was interesting to him in that he still couldn't find anything unnatural about it since the initial strangeness of kissing a man had fled in the wake of his feelings for Jack.

He didn't want to have to resort to pleasuring himself; the act seemed empty and pointless now. After knowing what he could have, and how good it could be, how far they could go, it wasn't enough. Glumly, he regarded the hardness of his length and realized he was not going to be able to sleep until he took care of it.

It was all too easy suddenly, to imagine Jack's hand slipping beneath the covers to help him find release. Jack holding him, touching him deftly and surely, with that slow smile of contented gratification in both his own desire and James's at one and the same time.

The remembered scent of their combined bodies, and how Jack had sank down onto him, taking him into that hot, tight lusciousness.

Oh God, yes…Too good, it had been. Too necessary, too astonishing and more than he'd ever dreamed it could be. Dark, beautiful, tender, fucking *Jack* and coming inside of him, spending deep and hard and too long until his member was practically raw, over-sensitive from too much, and to still keep shafting him - holding him down and doing it to him over and over and over again, until they both screamed from it…he wanted that. He wanted to make Jack cry out…no fears of discovery or being heard. He wanted to take Jack to that place where abandoned cries were forced from him - and now James heard his own voice even as his prick spurted in his own grasp, imagining that beauty. For it would be beautiful. Jack's gasps and sighs and suppressed moans had been lovely enough; but he hungered for something more.

To hear a cry with every thrust into him. *That* would be beauty. James lay panting, feeling the heat in his face almost detachedly, as the aftermath of his climax took him, the receding edge of the helpless wave finally abating and letting him blink in the dark with surprise that it had actually worked. He hadn't thought that merely fantasizing would help him take the edge off.

Still, it was enough for now. And now to try to find sleep…alone.

With a groan, he grabbed in the dark for the towel he kept in the drawer of the small table at his bedside to clean himself. This was more than obsession, or romance, or love. It was more than sex or an affair. It was a damned all-consuming nightmare of perfection and too much paradise already, even before they could make it to that bloody island.

Eleven days.

James sighed.


Jack leaned against the bulwark, watching as AnaMaria stood at the helm with her fierce calm, so proud and possessive as always in her hold on the Pearl's wheel.

A black pearl, indeed, Jack thought idly. He wondered if AnaMaria let any man come to her, some nights. Any night. The one time he'd had the pleasure had been all too brief and rum had figured far too highly for him to recall properly, for which he cursed himself now. Because he suspected if he tried advances at the present time, considering the sinking of her boat, she'd castrate him. Or try. The monkey would probably help.

The thought of her knifeblade against his privates was enough to cause him to swallow and look away with a grimace.

Gibbs came up to his left side and grabbed up his flask, taking a draught. He followed Jack's line of sight and nodded. "Aye, she be a fine one, Jack," Gibbs commented. "Although I still say the monkey's bad luck to be keepin' aboard."

Jack shrugged. "Pearl doesn't seem to mind either of 'em, and 'sides, it's only for two more goes, 'ey?" He took the flask Gibbs offered and had a sip himself.

Gibbs nodded. "True, but she's also got that blade of hers, Jack. I'm not so sure we'll be avoidin' any unpleasantness with this lot, if you take my meanin'." He jerked his head in the direction of several of the new crewmen who were also glancing back at AnaMaria with recognizable interest and fear. Having a woman on board was undoubtedly encouraging any number of interesting rumors about Captain Jack Sparrow's reputation, and his ship.

He chuckled. "Never fear, mate. She can hold her own."

"Don't mind me saying so," Gibbs muttered, "but this be the last time, aye? She's goin' to end up sticking some poor swab, and we'll have a bloody mess on our 'ands."

Jack shook his head briefly. "Better hope it's sooner rather than later. Could do with a bit of a demonstration. Keep the others off. Them that should know better, but don't, soon will."

Gibbs shuddered and squinted at AnaMaria, who caught his expression and gave him a frown, obviously wondering why she was being discussed.

Jack carefully kept from staring.

Gibbs said in an undertone, "Mind you, Capn, if you wanted to have a go, I don't think she'd turn ye down. If you've a mind to."

"Me mind is presently occupied with conjurin' all sorts of interestin' outcomes for that bit of fun, mate," Jack muttered. "And that blade of hers figures mostly highly in all of 'em."

Gibbs coughed and quickly took another drink. "Aye, indeed." He regarded the flat horizon, the deep sky, and the few puffs of clouds overhead. They were sailing full and bye, making good time, having left Tortuga that morning. It was already late afternoon and Gibbs commented, "Only two more goes? I daresay there be plenty more than that."

Jack lifted his chin, considering. "Can't take the chance the Dauntless won't have returned by then, 'ey? We've got to leave a bit. Your barn's already bursting. We'll need to stake out another place."

Gibbs scowled. "Where we goin' to find an appropriate spot to stash it all, where it won't be attractin' all the wrong sorts of attention?"

Jack gave him a little smile and narrowed his eyes. "Leave that one to me, mate. I've a contingency plan."

Gibbs grinned back him. "What's on yer mind?"

Jack glanced at AnaMaria with a smile. "Let's just say it's a little piece of paradise all our own."

Gibbs followed his gaze, looking over at AnaMaria with a bit of a frown. She was steadfastly ignoring them now. Jack was sure he was going to have some sort of a reckoning with her over this. Too many glances in her direction. He sighed.

But Gibbs said, "A word of caution, Capn; the Commodore has it in for you, right enough. Maybe lyin' low wouldn't be such a bad idea for a bit."

"Leave that one to me," Jack said. "'Sides, he's not such a bad sort, once one gets to know 'im. I'd love to see him take *her* on though," he grinned, with a lift of his chin in AnaMaria's direction.

Which promptly earned him a hard stare from the lass. He winced, and looked away.

Bloody hell. Well, what did she expect? Being a woman on board a pirate vessel? Especially one as trim and grand and magnificent as his? And with him being the captain and all?

Glumly, he counted silently.

Ten more days of this constant…reminder of what he wasn't supposed to want. Not that she'd have him. But with the right persuasion and the right amount of rum…

Ten bloody days and nights.

Jack sighed.


James regarded the chart before him, and took out his log. Flipping it open to the page where Jack had inked the location of that island, he abruptly found himself staring a little too long at the fine scrawled letters. Jack's handwriting. And the initials, 'C.J.S.'.

He sighed to himself, and drew in a deep breath, straightening and returning to look at the chart. He'd been delaying this particular pleasure.

There was a rap on his office door. "Come in," he called, absently.

He didn't look up, tracing down the longitude. Too far south? Maybe he'd need another map.

"Sir, we're wondering if we might have a word." Gillette stood there, his spine stiff, accompanied by Mr. Groves.

Too far south, indeed, he mused. He glanced up, removing the chart and rolling it up. "What is it?"

"Well, Sir, it's about the treasure," Gillette said. "Aren't we going back to collect more? There were still loads left, even after we filled the Dauntless rather recklessly, Sir."

Dryly, James replied, "I doubt that even Sparrow's ship can find the capacity to carry off all of it in less than a week. Even if his greed does overcome the shreds of his good sense and he decides to return to the same place that resulted in his capture the last time."

Gillette nodded. "Yes, Sir. It's just…we're wondering when we will be returning, ourselves."

Groves put in, "Not everyone is as eager to return to that dire place. It's just - all that gold, sitting there…with the pirates helping themselves to it…"

James let out a breath and regarded them, looking between them. "Gentlemen, the gold will continue to sit there, as it has over the last ten years. Even if Sparrow returned three times in as many days, he still wouldn't be able to clear it. Well," he added, "perhaps that is overestimating the remainder. But still. I hardly think it's going to make that much of a dent. He cannot afford to let anyone else know of the location of the treasure, or men will descend upon it from every corner of the Spanish Main and he will have lost his chance of taking it for himself, hence the reason why he must keep making return trips. As must we. Except we are unfortunately driven by necessity, as we've lost all our ships but one," he glowered, angrily. He was still very put out by the loss of the Interceptor and the Valiant. "We will need that gold to finance ourselves here, and continue to rebuild from the damage of that raid. As well as have more to justify the sending of more ships to replace our losses."

Although he was sure now, having thought it through, that the command in London would no doubt consider Jamaica important enough to keep hold of properly, with a proper amount of Naval presence. It was only a matter of time.

He went to his stack and riffled through it, finding the map he suspected would afford him a better chance of locating that island. He wondered how complete Jack's maps were. Or if the pirate simply kept all the locations in his head. He wouldn't put it past him. Jack was just mad enough to do it, and besides, he'd be safer that way, being surrounded by criminal minds who'd like nothing better than to avail themselves of his knowledge.

Gillette said, "Then it's only a question of when, Sir?"

He glanced back up at Gillette as he unrolled the map. "There's something more urgent that has come up," he said, leaning down to follow the longitude down…down…

Groves waited, then said, "Sir?"

Aha. Yes, far south. Beyond 15 degrees North, actually. Well-out in the middle of the Caribbean…Absently, he said, "The wife of Vice-Admiral Richardson, lately of New York in the Colonies, is currently sailing down to join us here in Port Royal for the winter. I received a private letter from the Vice-Admiral a couple of days ago. I've apparently been earmarked personally by Richardson as the best choice for chaperone and guardian for her ladyship." He gave them a tight smile, with no amusement whatsoever.

"Lady Lennox?" Groves asked, in a bit of a gasp. "She's reputed to be quite the beauty, from what I've heard."

"And a socialite," Gillette put in. Then he said, in a crestfallen voice laced with disappointment, "I don't suppose we could leave before she arrives, and make like we didn't know? After all, it's not like it's an order. If he's only asking you to, as a favor."

"And who would you entrust her with, Mr. Gillette?" James asked.

Gillette and Groves exchanged a look. Gillette replied, "Well, Governor Swann might be persuaded. He's far more in a likely position to see to the needs of a lady of her station? And there's always his daughter. She could help."

Groves cleared his throat.

Gillette colored. "I beg your pardon, Sir," he managed.

James gave them both a sardonic look. "The subject of Miss Swann is undoubtedly going to arise again in the future. I can hardly forbid you to mention her name, especially as her official engagement party looms ever nearer. No, Governor Swann will have his hands full. I'm not going to palm Lady Lennox off on him."

He glanced back down at the map.

Interesting; the island would appear to be somewhere in the middle of nowhere, exactly. Jack must have found it by accident at some point in his no-doubt illustriously criminal career here in the Caribbean. He wondered just how long Jack had been here. The stories had been circulating for a while. Although he'd never really paid much heed to them, to be honest. One pirate was as useful as another, and only after being hung, serving as a warning to others. Until now. He wondered if his own judgment and good sense had grown completely disproportionate somehow to his continued career and welfare, leaning in the direction of piracy so far now that no one would ever be able to bail him out, least of all himself, should his trysting with Jack be discovered.

Gillette was still disappointed. "Very good, Sir. I don't suppose we will be going after the pirates then, until the replacements come, from home?"

James gave him a look. "We'll be lucky to get any ships at all, at this rate. The only assurance I have of receiving any ships lies in the gold we've been liberating from that accursed island, and I highly doubt that the gold is going anywhere, even if Sparrow helps himself to it in some sort of piratical glut. Considering that he might retire once he's had enough of it, perhaps we should pray that he does. That would nullify his presence here for good," he commented, wondering if he dared to travel all the way to this lonely little island 'paradise' on his own.

With a bit of a sigh, Gillette said, "Yes, Sir. Although we know the way, and you surely would be able to trust us to make our way there, Commodore? Even if you had to stay behind to see to Lady Lennox? I'm sure that we could accomplish it with little fuss. And we would be sure to observe your orders, in the event we should happen across the pirates, not to engage them carelessly."

James looked up at him, regarding him thoughtfully. "That is not a bad idea, Lieutenant. In fact, it's exactly the sort of initiative I've come to expect from you. Very well. We'll set a date for the next voyage to the Isle de Muerte - let us say, in three days' time? So that I'll not be tempted to join you before she arrives," he muttered. "I'll send you, Mr. Groves here, and Mr. Thompson. I'm sure you can, all of you, be trusted not to sink yourselves in some imprudent charge into the fray, should Sparrow be kind enough to show himself?"

Gillette said, his countenance brightening and taking on the predatory look of a cat catching sight of his prey. "We'll be the souls of discretion and prudence, Sir."

"No doubt," James murmured. He didn't dare risk anyone else knowing of the reason for his visiting Jack's island. And as dangerous as it was to trust Jack's motives were purely romantic, he couldn't see any possible way to make the journey except by hiring a private vessel. He wondered how he was supposed to do so, at such short notice. Hm. Perhaps he had dithered a bit too long on this matter. Days were passing, however slowly enough for his preference. Although the nights were still too long.

Gillette said, "Thank you, Sir," and left.

But Groves was hovering. James looked up. "What is it?"

"Commodore, I wonder if I might speak plainly?" Groves looked troubled.

James straightened and gave him his full attention, frowning. Groves didn't sound happy. "You disagree that Gillette can handle captaining the Dauntless for this mission? I daresay he'll do well enough. And there's likely to be the opportunity to repeat the trip."

"No, Sir, it's not that. It's…the Lady Lennox, Sir." Groves caught his eye. "I'm not saying that we should set store by gossip, but have you considered the possibility that the Vice-Admiral might be, how can I put this delicately…"

"Setting me up?" James supplied, wryly. "It had occurred to me. Mr. Groves, I'm curious as to when I've ever given you reason to doubt my ability to conduct myself as a gentleman should? I highly doubt that for all her purported beauty, the Vice-Admiral's wife is likely to sway me with her scandal-incurring charms." In fact, Groves had no idea how safe he really was, considering that Jack Sparrow had already swayed him to the point of complete and utter decadence of the most sinful nature.

"It's not that, Sir," Groves reassured him. "Your future conduct is not in question. I'm merely concerned for your reputation, if she should, shall we say, make the attempt to cause a disgraceful scene, and thus have you implicated in some way. Rumors like that are far more damaging than outright affairs. People talk. And the rumors grow."

James regarded him with a cold smile. "Your concern is touching, Mr. Groves. But I assure you I can deal with the Lady Lennox, should she turn out to be the minx everyone claims she is. Unless you fear I've lost my nerve? Perhaps I've been dulled, by indulging the company and foibles of Sparrow for too long? I daresay it says more that he escaped from me…again, than any harridan seeking to embroil me in a messy adulterous attempt to slander my good name."

Groves cleared his throat. He looked rather…guilty. "Yes, Sir. Of course."

James watched him sharply at this, not missing the expression. "Although I have to admit I'm still not certain he's the worst sort of pirate, despite his unfortunate taste for stolen goods. I daresay I'd even be glad that he escaped, for he doesn't deserve to hang, after proving himself a good man."

Groves was very still. "Well. Yes." He looked too guilty, by half.

James blinked, wondering if…by some chance, somehow, Jack had…simply charmed his way off the Dauntless that morning. He wondered if he dared to ask outright. "Off the record," he said, slowly, "I would even venture to say that I'd be willing to overlook the matter if anyone should have actually aided him in his escape. He wasn't exactly our prisoner, but a guest aboard my ship, under my command," James added carefully. "A guide en route to the Isle, so to speak. Under temporary pardon from immediate execution, due to his leading us to the Isle and his ship - and the gold?" He raised his brows.

With a look of humor, Groves managed with a straight face, "Thank you, Sir."

"Let us be sure it never comes to that," James said, dryly.

"Naturally, Sir," Groves replied, and then helpfully added, "There's also the matter of his being a particularly elusive fellow. He has a reputation for narrow escapes and vanishing into thin air. It certainly wouldn't reflect only upon us, that he escaped on our watch. He's done it many times before. So, naturally, it's hardly unexpected or even surprising."

"Naturally," James said, wondering at the fact that two of the King's finest could so easily collude in such an illegal fashion. Well, the sparing of a life was worthy enough a reason, he supposed. Mercy, indeed. He sniffed. "That will be all, Mr. Groves."

Groves tried to suppress a smile, failing a little miserably. "Yes, Sir." He turned and left James's office.

James went to sit down, and took off his wig, running his hands over his hair and wondering why, in the name of all that was sacred, had he allowed himself to fall into this remarkably tenuous position.

Groves was undoubtedly right. The Lady Lennox represented a grave danger to him, if the rumors of scandal were true. But there was also the possibility that the rumors were simply that, and unfounded. She might be the victim of unwarranted jealousy, due to her station in life and her luck with finding a good husband.

But there was the unsettled feeling in the pit of his stomach that told him there could be no good reason for Richardson sending his wife all the way to Jamaica for Christmas, here to reside for months on end only to be joined by her husband later, when he, James himself, would be held personally accountable for her 'well-being' and might have to be dealing with whatever fallout would be visited upon him in the meantime.

Oh, to escape this absurd pantomime of social intrigue and nonsensical paranoia over political machinations of possibly dangerous Vice-Admirals…and to adjourn to Jack's little island that was beginning to sound more and more appealing with every passing day.

God, how many more days?

Nine? And he had yet to book passage. How would he even get away, with the Lady Lennox hanging like a lemon around his neck? He just thanked his lucky stars that it was unlikely in the extreme that the Dauntless would catch the Black Pearl at any point. He knew Jack was craftier and thrice as wary now. The pirate would not tempt fate again.

James regarded the map thoughtfully, staring at the location of the island.

Nine days, possibly, until he could see Jack again.

James frowned.


Jack stood in the cave, watching as his loyal crew continued to pick up the remaining pieces of gold. They were beginning to scour places, having to look harder for the glint of coin and jewel.

This last trip had filled the Black Pearl very well, but now that her capacity had proven great indeed, he worried that they'd emptied it all rather quickly. The great morass of the shine that had been accumulated had dwindled swiftly with both the Dauntless and the Black Pearl removing it. They'd all been so motivated and worked so hard to remove it all… Now, he suspected Norrington and he had both overestimated the remainder on their last trip here together. He was feeling rather despondent about it.

He was all too aware, also, of the danger of the Dauntless returning again, and he really wanted to avoid any unpleasantness this time around. He'd make back for Tortuga, and let off what crew wanted off, then make for his little island, to sit back and just…enjoy the satisfaction of victory. And freedom. And wealth. Then he could think about the future, and how Norrington featured in that future. Those long-term plans.

AnaMaria came stalking towards him and he flinched. She came to stand right beside him and nodded. "Jack."

"Yes, love?" he asked, tentatively.

She turned, pulling a face at him, lifting a brow. "What's up with ye?"

He smiled. "Nothing whatever. What can I do for you, my little lump of brown sugar?"

She scowled at him angrily and he pulled back a little, wondering if she was going to have a go at him. "Ye've been actin' like a fool for days now, Jack. Stop it." She turned back to frown at the cave where the rest of the crew were searching for swag in the wet rocks. "There's far less than we were expectin'."

"Aye," Jack sighed. "Can't be helped, though. Thanks to the bloody Navy."

AnaMaria snorted derisively. "Them greedy, henhearted whoresons aren't no different than anyone else in 'ere. We're goin' to be comin' up short though, an' that's no good."

Jack gave her a quizzical eye. "Darlin', you've got more gold than you can carry. You're sleeping with it. You can get your own ship. A fleet of ships. Why the concern?"

She gave him a glance. "So we part ways then, after this?"

"Ah," Jack said knowingly, starting to grasp what she was getting at. What would they be doing once they left here this final time? "Might be nice to get my helm back, I suppose," he mused, thinking of AnaMaria's departure.

She shot him a glance. "And what of you?"

Carefully, he said, "A ship without a crew is a ghost ship, love. But a ship without a captain is no ship at all. The Pearl's mine, and I'll not be deserting her."

"Jack," she said, sharply. "I'm talkin' about the crew. This is the last trip, aye? What will you do now?"

He gave a little shrug and surveyed the cave. "Sit on a beach somewhere and enjoy meself, I expect." He grinned at her. "Too bland for your tastes, 'ey?"

She gave a toss of her head. "You still owe me a ship," she reminded him.

Jack peered at her. "You can buy one of your own, now. You can be a- a Commodoress."

She met his gaze. "Not the same, is it now, Captain?"

Jack sighed. "So it's come to this. You want my Pearl, is that it?"

AnaMaria began to chuckle softly, a wicked sound in the back of her throat. "Was thinkin' more that it was you wantin' mine."

Oh, no, no, no. Why now, Jack thought mournfully. Why did the fickle bitch, Fate, decide to deliver this into his hands…*right* when he was supposed to be avoiding temptation?

Wryly, he said, carefully, aware she had her knife with her and wanting to also avoid angering her by seemingly turning her down, while not taking it *too* seriously, "It would never work, love. We'd end up murdering each other, and probably over nothing more than who got to steer." And grumbling, he added under his breath, "You've already commandeered my helm."

"Ha!" she exclaimed, accusatorily. ""Tis you who keeps leavin' the helm untended! Gettin' yourself captured all the time. An' who's fault is it that you keep gettin' captured by the Commodore?"

Dryly, Jack replied, "The Commodore's, darlin'. One must admire his persistence."

She snorted at him. "Ye got no business bein' modest, Jack."

Wait, was that a note of accusation in her voice? She didn't want his ship, or his captaincy. Maybe she was jealous of his reputation? He *was* Captain Jack Sparrow, after all, and she was just a young 'un, still a young lass for all that she was a pirate…and being a lass, she would have to work twice as hard as a man would amongst other men to earn their loyalty. She had yet to prove herself, and no doubt she was feeling the pressure to not only command her own ship, sail it, pursue new ventures…but to simply make a name for herself.

"AnaMaria, love," he said, slowly, with a smile creeping over him, "am I to believe you're competing with me? Tha's a dangerous one, lass."

She turned and whacked him on the arm. The left one. As he hissed and flinched away from her, she said, "Don't be daft, ye squiffy bastard. You're the one who plays hard to get. So why you been watchin' me, 'ey?"

"Can't a man admire the view?" he asked, plaintively. "God's teeth, lass; I'd have to be blind."

This seemed to mollify her though, as oblique as the compliment was. She straightened, lifting her head proudly. "Aye, well, I guess that'll do. So what's the next venture?"

He sighed. "When I find out, you can be *sure* you'll be the *first* to know. If you're still with us."

She gave him a glance that was a tad warmer. "Guess I'll have to wait then, won't I?"

Jack grinned, suddenly. "One more adventure, 'ey?" She was letting him know that she wouldn't be leaving, at least for now. She probably *was* having a hard time deciding between staying with him and the Pearl, or getting her own ship. He'd been right about her.

It was certainly no little thing to be one of the Pearl's company, with the famed Captain Jack Sparrow. And despite the Black Pearl's reputation for being a ship of the damned, she was still the best pirate ship in the Caribbean. There was no competing with her, really.

Without looking at him, AnaMaria nodded. "One more, then."

He stood, wondering at the pirate lass's decision. "Well," he said, brighter, "there's still too much swag to know what to do with it all. We've yet to divide it out."

It was true; they were richer than they knew. More than they could imagine. Kings, all. It was admittedly overwhelming to see all of it at once, in one glance.

The parrot flew into the cave, landing near Gibbs, who frowned from where he stood a short distance from where AnaMaria and Jack were standing.

"Red sky at night," the parrot called.

Gibbs looked up. "Cotton says there's a storm movin' in tonight, Capn. We'll have to sail if we want to avoid gettin' caught in it."

Jack clapped his hands. "Well, that settles it. Let's move, you lot! We're leaving."

A few of the pirates stood and looked melancholy. One of the men said, "We can't leave all this shine, Capn!"

Jack squinted down at him. "Fishing it out of nooks and crannies, aye. We're down to bare rock and stream. We can always come back for the dregs. The Pearl's heavy and we need to sail. Now," he added, in a firmer voice.

Muttering, they began to pick up coins out of water and sand quicker. "Aye, Capn," sighed a few.

Jack shook his head. The Commodore was right. It defied belief. They already had more gold than any one of them could hope to lose in a year spent in taverns hungry to rob them of their swag, yet here they were grumbling over a few coins in the dark.

As he stepped down from the rock to make his way to the boat nearest, the glint of red caught his eye. Leaning down, he saw it was a jewel, partially covered in wet sand in the shallow pool of water, almost invisibly encrusted with dirt. Digging it out, he found himself holding a ruby large enough to equal the Crown jewels of any nation in the world. If not all of them put together. An emperor's jewel, enough to buy a throne. A small country. An island, perhaps, complete with clemency and a viceroy's rights. Hm.

He pocketed it carefully and continued to the boat.

By the time all the boats had cleared the mouth of the cave to return to the Pearl, Jack saw the sky was darkening. It was only late afternoon but Cotton had been right; there was a squall line to run, no doubt. He wondered how long they had to keep clear of it.

As fast as she was, he wondered if the Pearl would do as well trying to outrun a storm front while weighed down with all the treasure.

They needed to make for Tortuga, and see all the crates offloaded into Gibbs's barn. Then they would have to divide the spoils. And then, at last, he could see to preparing to retire to his island for a while, with the treasure that needed a safer place to be stowed where it wouldn't be taking up Gibbs's valuable smuggling space.

He had to get them through the passage and away from this fog-bound Isle, out into the open sea, before he could tell where the storm would be driving. If it was a big one, they'd fare better if he kept a course ahead of the front and then edged around it before finally making for Tortue.

It might cost them a few days. He had just over a week before needing to be at the island to meet Norrington. Then there was the problem of getting Norrington there in the first place.

He wondered if Norrington would actually go through with it. Both of them were taking a serious chance on each other. Norrington might yet decide that it wasn't worth it, giving up his life to such a risk. Delivering himself directly into Jack's hands. Entrusting him with more than his heart; his life and reputation. And Norrington had already proven that he'd been all too torn with indecision about what to *do* with him when he'd caught him previously.

He wouldn't blame his Jamie if he decided to reconsider at this point. Hell, he was entertaining second thoughts himself. But then he remembered the way James had looked down at him when he'd dropped to his knees before him that night after the supper. The way James had appeared so stunned at his actions - and his skill, he thought with a smile. The way James flushed with high color so easily, even when simply looking at him. James wanted him, had pursued him with the intent of catching him, specifically. Jack considered this. Perhaps…it was time to give the Commodore a taste of what that felt like. Being pursued. It was exciting, nerve-wracking and entirely flattering to be so desired.

Perhaps it was time to return the favor, Jack thought. And he wondered how Norrington was intending to even reach that little island lying halfway across the sea to Panama. He didn't have long to try to make the appropriate arrangements. Stow the treasure, divide it all out, get the Pearl restocked with the right supplies for the trip, capture the Commodore and make for the island. All in eight days' time.

Time enough to ponder the rather comforting notion that Norrington was in love with him, and would probably be grateful for the reprieve to his conscience if Jack took the responsibility for going to meet a pirate on a pirate's island out of Norrington's hands.

Eight days more.

Jack smirked to himself.


Walking along the high wall, James regarded the view of the ocean that the Fort afforded, situated so high up on the hill above the town. It was just past noon, and he had wandered up to have a few moments quiet grace to himself, to think over the future.

To see the Dauntless sitting in the harbor below made him sigh, however. Her blue pennant still flew proudly, yet it was but one ship for this important Naval base. The loss of the Interceptor still stung.

At the sound of the scrape of someone's shoes on the stone behind him, he turned quickly. "Ah. Governor," he said.

Governor Swann smiled amiably. "Commodore," he nodded. "A glorious day, isn't it?"

"Very," James agreed, turning back to look at the Dauntless.

Coming to stand beside him, looking contentedly out over the sea, Swann said, "I haven't had the opportunity to speak with you after the rather distressing events upon our return a fortnight ago. Those undead pirates," he shuddered. "Very disagreeable business. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to sleep well, after that unfortunate incident."

James nodded. "Indeed. I've suffered my share of bad nights after that. I daresay none of us will recover quickly enough from it."

Swann was quiet. "Concerning my daughter…" he began. "I'm sure we can agree that her happiness is paramount, even if she seems to have misguidedly decided that a blacksmith with pirate's blood is the wisest choice for a husband."

James tensed, realizing he'd been waiting for this little chat. "Of course. Her happiness is important. I wish both of them well, to be honest."

"There is something of a more troubling nature I've been meaning to discuss with you," Swann ventured, uncertainly.

"Please, say no more," James interrupted, firmly. "Elizabeth has made her choice, and I accept that. It is hardly surprising to me that she should choose a young man nearer her own age, and one that fulfills the fancies of her childhood fascination with pirates. I will be as a friend to her, as before."

Governor Swann regarded him compassionately. "I'm glad to hear it, Commodore. I did fear that you would be overly injured by her offhanded dismissal and rather public rejection. Especially after making such a spectacle of accepting your suit." He sighed. "No, this is another matter. Something that has nothing to do with my daughter, for once, except perhaps in the most practical sense."

James frowned. Stiffly, he said, "How can I be of assistance?"

Swann put his hands behind his back and said, almost too casually, "Well, you know that we were both expecting you to propose to her, and for her to accept. I'd already begun making arrangements. Now, I fully admit I'm guilty of counting chickens before they were hatched, but it does leave me with somewhat of a conundrum."

James was mystified. "A conundrum, Governor?"

"With your recent promotion and increase of pay per annum, I had obtained the estate and house of the late Lord Dewhurst. You remember his townhouse burned to the ground?" At Norrington's nod, Swann continued, "He purchased it in the last year from the previous plantation owner, a wealthy merchant. Perhaps you remember him? Sir Archibald Bruce, who returned to the Highlands? Well, Lord Dewhurst died, as you know, a few months ago. The house is a fine piece of architecture, and the grounds are impressive. I had wanted to set Elizabeth up with something that would appropriately befit both the wife of a commodore of the fleet, as well as yourself. And I daresay with your impressive record, you'll make Rear-Admiral soon enough. The problem is, Elizabeth and Mr. Turner both insist that the house is far too grand for them. They want something a little more modest. And now I'm stuck with a house and estate that was meant for you in the first place." Swann's eyes were twinkling.

Stiffly however, James swallowed. In a hollow voice, he said, "I need no consolation prize, Governor. I can assure you that I'm recovering from the loss of your daughter quite well." Hastily, not wanting to be seen as recovering bitterly, he added, "Not too well, naturally. But well enough."

"Ah, yes, I thought you might say that," Swann agreed. "But you see, this is a slightly different situation. My circumstances being what they are, I now have a house I don't know what to do with. My own home is going to be far emptier next year when they are married and move out. They both seem to have some odd desire to be living closer to the harbor. For what reason I cannot fathom; the wharf is hardly the best-smelling place to raise children," he grumbled under his breath. "No, Commodore. I insist that you accept the house and grounds. You will find a wife of your own in due course. And you'll need a suitable place to raise your own family. You'd be doing me a favor."

Not a little astonished at the Governor's offer, he said, "But- but you can't simply bestow a property on me, just like that."

"Why ever not?" Swann asked mildly, obviously amused at his bewilderment.

"It's far above my means to keep. The grounds…Lord Dewhurst's grounds were extensive," James managed. "You're being far too generous."

"Oh, come now, Norrington," Swann said, with a chuckle. "You can afford a better estate. I have no need for it, and had intended it for you in the first place. I simply hadn't signed the deed over to you yet. It's in my study, awaiting your signature."

Swann had a point. And he'd be doing him a favor to accept. Why look this gift horse in the mouth? Besides, he'd lost a wife… James looked down with a smile. "Very well. You've talked me into it."

"There's a good man," Swann said, beaming. Then he said, "I hear the Lady Lennox-Richardson is on her way? Mrs. Stafford has been creating quite a stir with talk of her, lately."

With a sigh, James scanned the horizon, with a fresh sour sensation in his stomach at the reminder. "So it would seem," he muttered, darkly.

"Apparently, Mrs. Stafford is entertained that you will be caring for her houseguest. A young woman, by all accounts. Quite the follower of fashion, and a beauty also." Clearing his throat, Governor Swann said, "I'm certain that Elizabeth could take the lady in hand, if you have business elsewhere?"

James gave him a grateful, sidelong glance. "I would appreciate the offer, actually. There will be matters I'll need to attend to, and she is due to arrive within the next few days. Vice-Admiral Richardson himself has asked me to look after her well-being, however."

"Well," Swann pointed out, "it is kind of you to do so, I'm sure. But hardly the duty of a military commander, to be watching after another man's wife. Although, I daresay Mrs. Stafford is hardly the best choice for a hostess for such a woman. The notion has 'scandal' written all over it. And I will need something to keep Elizabeth occupied until the engagement party."

"When will that be? Have you set a date?" James asked him.

"I thought after the New Year," Swann mused. "In the second week of January." He took a deep breath. "I do love the climate here, the sea air and the heat. But sometimes, I miss winter in London. The snow."

It had been eight years since they'd departed England and arrived in Port Royal. "Hm. I, also," James agreed. Quietly, he added, "Very well, Governor. I'll accept the house and estate. You're right after all: I will need a home for my future family." Wryly, he realized that he hadn't even really considered such things in the silent deliberations he'd been having over his relationship with Jack Sparrow.

Swann looked out to sea. "You would have made a fine son-in-law," he observed.

Touched, James said, "Never mind, Governor. As you say, Elizabeth's happiness is important. We could ask for nothing more. As for the blacksmith…Mr. Turner is a good man. Honorable, hardworking, and skilled with the blade as well as in the crafting of those swords of his. He'll do right by your daughter, I'm sure."

"Well, thank you for the reassurance," Swann commented a little dryly. "Imagine it, becoming the grandfather of a brood of half-pirate children."

James smiled grimly. "Congratulations, Governor." And he chuckled.

Swann sighed. "You have the gratitude of all of Port Royal, you realize, for bringing all that treasure back here and restoring the fortunes of the families deprived in that pirate raid?"

James's mouth twisted wryly, not a smile, and he said, "Indeed. Enough to make up for the loss of two ships of the line, perhaps?"

Swann raised a brow at him, frowning. "Oh come now," he scoffed. "Surely you're not going to try to shoulder the blame for that? These waters are hardly known for their safety, even after all the sterling work you've done in clearing them of pirate robbers."

"That doesn't explain why Richardson is trying to implicate me in an adulterous scandal with his supposedly loose wife," James commented, bitterly.

Swann chuckled at him. "Commodore, I think you're forgetting something very important. It's because you're making a name for yourself that he is going to such a desperate measure. Besides, it might not be an attack at all, but a test. Perhaps he is testing you, to see what mettle you possess. You've gained his interest - he might be attempting to find out what you're made of. If you're suitable for a higher command, perhaps."

James blinked. "I hadn't considered that," he admitted. It was all too possible, in fact. The temptation of Lady Lennox-Richardson would be one he'd pass with flying colors, if that were the case. He almost smiled. If what the Governor was suggesting was why the man's wife was coming down here, they would find him very poor sport indeed.

His only concern right now was how to decide if it was suicidal to risk everything he had, including his life, to travel to meet a pirate captain who held his heart in his grasp.

And then wondered how he was to find a ship that would take him to Jack's island…that was not a Naval vessel. He would have to hire someone. His days were running short to accomplish it.

Seven days to find a means to reach Jack's island.

James considered the horizon.


In the barn, Jack stood, stretching, feeling his spine crack and several other joints too. It was backbreaking and thirsty work, having to apportion the treasure. Two of his crew sat outside in the street to guard the barn, keeping watch, and ensuring no one would disturb them. They'd worked carefully, keeping the crates hidden from most eyes and unloading under cover of night.

Some of the newer recruits had already happily accepted a moderate amount of gold and had disappeared into the inns and taverns in Tortuga. Most were staying aboard, however, agreeing to remain as crewmembers aboard the Pearl for the trip to the island - although he refused to let anyone know where it was, having learned his lesson well with Barbossa and that lot.

And all of his original motley crew from the first visit to the Isle de Muerte were steadfastly staying, just as AnaMaria had. Apparently they had grown overly attached to his Pearl. He smiled smugly at this thought. She had a way of winning hearts, she did.

It was so good to have her back again. And she'd outshone all expectations of late, outrunning the squalls of that dark storm at sea that had encroached upon the Isle. Even loaded down with gold, she'd slipped away across the waves like a magnificent dark angel, carrying them to safety and around the leading fringe of the storm to sail effortlessly across the ocean and arrive that afternoon in the bay of Tortue.

But it would be a long night. They had too much gold to count. As quartermaster, Gibbs was actually doing a fine job of seeing to it, but Jack was also well-aware that some of the crew had their hearts set on specific items and he found he was more often than not having to arbitrate disagreements over who got what.

Even too much was not enough, it seemed. Naturally, he was taking a large amount of it for himself, as he'd been the one suffering over it for the last decade. A full eight hundred and eighty-two gold coins had been agreed would be his, regardless. Not one of his crew had questioned it.

"Where ye be off to, Capn?" Gibbs asked him.

Stepping away, Jack muttered, "Need some air, aye?"

It was getting late and the night was dark outside, nearly earning him a stab from one of the men standing outside the barn.

"It's a little early for killing me just yet. I've nothing on me," Jack informed him with a hand on his wrist, barely gaining his hold before the dagger could reach its target.

"Beg your pardon, Capn," the sailor grinned, putting up his blade. "Didn't recognize you in this gloom."

"Aye, mate," Jack agreed. "Your enthusiasm is…commendable," he said, dryly. "But aren't you supposed to be watching for those going in, rather than coming out?"

"It's a lot of swag, Capn. Can't be too sure, 'ey?" the man chuckled.

"Ah. Well, I'll be coming back this way after a drink or two, so be sure we don't have to go through this again, mate." Jack regarded him. "It would be a shame to have to come to blows over me own gold I'm so generously sharin' with you, aye?"

"Certainly, Sir," the sailor agreed, amiably enough. "Sorry about that, Capn." He touched his hat, a little salute.

With a grimace, Jack left the barn behind, making his way down the littered street, intending to throw himself into the nearest tavern. He'd been abstaining all day, not wanting to dull his wits where the counting of gold was concerned. Rum was long overdue.

He was being far too generous as it was, never mind that the bloody lot of it was more than he could hope to spend in a lifetime. He couldn't even feel much of a twinge in his conscience for all the ships and lives that had been lost to gather it over the past ten years, seeing as all the gold was going straight back into circulation amidst civilization again, once it was shared out equally to the crew. Pirates were notorious for taking treasure…and then losing it promptly afterwards.

Very few of them had the necessary savvy when it came to practical economics.

But he was starting to feel the pressure of having to wait. It was disturbing his concentration.

Would James Norrington have changed his mind about him? A pirate? Being sequestered back in his home, surrounded by all that was familiar, his previous morality firmly reinforced by his ordinary and decidedly military life, the Commodore might very well have reassessed the discretion of meeting him again. For any reason, let alone dalliance of a sinful nature.

Jack wondered how much persuasion would be necessary, if that were the case. Considering it had only taken a single kiss to break him the first time, Jack was relatively sure that he could do it even without the aid of oranges.

Six days; less than a week to endure before he could see James again.

Jack decided it was too long; it would be necessary to get to that island sooner. He was sure that he could persuade James to accompany him. There was nothing more persuasive than kidnapping, when one didn't have the ability to say yea or nay around the gag in their mouth. And he'd be saving the Commodore a great deal of trouble to simply take him with them, and return him home afterwards.

Six days more, his James imagined he had.

Jack grinned.


James stood surveying the admittedly magnificent prospect that the late Lord Dewhurst's estate afforded of the countryside. Situated nearly half an hour down the coast from Port Royal, the estate was actually to his liking. The house sat on a slight rise overlooking the sea, and the grounds up to it were beautifully tended.

The irony of his taking this property from the father of the same woman he'd intended to marry, now that she was lost to him, was considerable, but he accepted Governor Swann's insistence that the house had been chosen with him in mind. Although he knew they were both remaining silent on the matter of it having actually been chosen for Elizabeth. To gain it by default seemed almost…consolation, indeed.

A quieter, furtive part of him recognized also that he had more privacy this way. He could even see how it would offer less chance of being discovered, should Jack Sparrow ever want to meet him here.

It was perfect, actually. And not too huge as to be overwhelming so that he'd feel lost in the house - it was really of a moderate size, boasting only twelve bedrooms upstairs. A grand home, and yet somehow discerningly compact. He had to admire the taste of the architect. It had been designed with the surrounds of Jamaican countryside in mind, but with more taste than would be expected of a plantation owner.

Sir Archibald Bruce had been a kind master too, for the various servants and slaves that had been on this estate previously had remained through Lord Dewhurst's brief residence here, and had sworn to stay for his now, also.

The Dauntless had left earlier that morning and he had decided to come out here to oversee Governor Swann's generous gift to him. He was glad to, for the Lady Lennox-Richardson's ship had not shown up. They were probably delayed by bad weather. Or no weather at all.

He was a little put out, because he'd been hoping that the ship's captain might be willing to allow him to hire it for the voyage. Things were not looking beneficial for his embarking on this mad attempt to meet with Jack Sparrow.

Five days; less than a week to endure before he could see Jack again, if he managed to find a way.

James sighed.


Jack sat under the careful hand of the surgeon, fully tippled on rum, still feeling the stitches as they were pulled out of the healing wound of his left shoulder.

He'd insisted the surgeon here in Port Royal remove them, even though it was early for it to be done. He wanted it taken care of now, before he made for the island. He'd paid the man in gold sovereigns, buying both his silence and his services.

He had Gibbs and AnaMaria and the others ready to move at nightfall. But he'd wanted to scope out Norrington's residence beforehand. Everything was in place, and now it was simply a matter of waiting for dark. The Pearl was waiting out of sight, and they'd made their way into town earlier in the day, leaving their boats at the dock.

They still believed he was insane for wanting to abduct Norrington right from the man's bedchamber, but he had insisted it was the only way he was going to repay the Commodore for his hospitality…and Norrington's rather insistent decision to come after him the last time. The whole business with capturing and imprisoning him would seem to require at least a little payback in kind. At least the indignity would be softened by the Commodore's stay on the island.

AnaMaria had given him a scathing, knowing look and he'd merely grinned at her.

Gibbs had looked deeply worried, informing him it was bad luck indeed to be taking prisoner a man such as the Commodore, much less bringing a Naval officer to the island with all the gold aboard.

Jack had finally resorted to threatening them with leaving them behind and forfeiting their own claim of the treasure, until they'd accepted his decision to kidnap Norrington.

With himself, however, Jack was honest. It *was* mad, and very likely to upset Norrington greatly. At least, he hoped so. There was something appealing about seeing the man all indignant, green eyes flashing and his body taut…

Jack let out a breath.

Then he flinched in pain, brought back to the moment as the surgeon pulled out another stitch, and he hastily took another gulp of rum.

In less than four days he would be back at that island of his, with James. The doctor leaned in again.

Jack winced.


James went up the stairs to his bedroom, pulling the cravat away from the bandage around his neck. It was close to midnight, and all he wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep. Setting the candle down upon the dresser, he let the cravat drop to the chair against the wall, behind the door, and let his wig follow, as well as shrugging out of his coat.

As he went to close the curtains, he noticed they were blowing inwards with the night breeze. With a frown, he inspected the window. It was ajar.

"A pleasant evenin' to you, Commodore," came a familiar, amused drawl from the corner of the room.

Whirling quickly, James beheld Jack Sparrow, sitting - no, slouching - in the chair beyond the bed. He glanced to the side and saw the pirate had divested himself of his hat, coat and his sword. Even his pistol. Those sharp, dark eyes were watching him with a rather intent gaze.

"You're days early," James commented, wondering if this was some dream or bizarre late night delusion from working too hard and worrying too much. Any vestige of sleepiness he'd felt had fled the moment he'd heard Jack's voice. His heart leapt as he realized Jack was…right here, in his bedroom. Exactly as he'd been longing, for the last week or more.

Jack tilted his head back a little and gave him a sly look. "Was thinkin' that's a good thing, 'ey?"

His heart was beating hard, and the sound was too loud in his own ears. James considered how empty his house was. The housekeeper and her husband were asleep in the downstairs rooms, mostly likely too far away to hear anything.

And it was most gratifying indeed to hear the unspoken, covered query behind Jack's reply. The one that betrayed he wasn't sure if he'd be welcome. James wanted to soothe his doubt but found he couldn't speak, in a mouth that was abruptly too dry.

Jack was watching him warily now, obviously wondering at his reception.

Thickly, James said, "What took you so long?" He even managed to inject it with the right amount of wounded petulance.

Jack's eyes widened at this and a flash of amusement danced over his face. "Do forgive me, Commodore James. There was the last of the treasure to collect, and then there was that storm; enormous, dark broody thing it was. And of course, I had to tarry for a proper length of time to ensure we'd both be driven mad with the wait."

Slowly edging around the bed, James advanced upon him. "Allow me to show you how mad I've become, waiting," he informed him, enjoying the way Jack got to his feet in a mixture of surprise and alarm.

"Now, love, just hold on, I'm here with-" He was interrupted as James pulled him into a tight hold and silenced him with a swift, hard kiss. Any further words Jack might have attempted were lost under the assault James immediately wreaked upon those wicked, pretty lips he'd been craving so painfully for too long.

Jack let out a deep moan against him, as James forced his tongue between his lips, stroking hard against Jack's, losing what sense he had left in the wet heat of the maddening man's mouth. He was shaking, and his arousal was swiftly hardening, almost painful. He walked Jack backwards, and as Jack's legs met the edge of the bed, James pushed him over, following him down, not releasing his mouth, unrelentingly holding Jack captive beneath his kiss.

Just having him here was nearly enough to drive James over the edge. He'd been too long denied this, and it was all he could do not to simply rub against him and seek his release against Jack's body beneath him. Finally, he raised his head a little, staring down into wide, hot eyes that seemed very astonished indeed.

"Well, now," Jack said, in a low, breathless voice. "I suppose you *have* missed me, then."

Breathing hard, James said tightly, "More than you will ever know. I need you. Now."

"Watch the shoulder, 'ey?" Jack winced a little. "Just had those stitches removed today. I hope you're amenable to a little night sailing, James."

James paused, staring down at Jack, wondering at the disassociate nature of the pirate's last two sentences. "What?"

Jack smirked up at him, lifting his hand and running the back of his fingers up over James's cheek. "'M takin' you with me. A little earlier than we agreed, certainly. But it's better this way. I do owe you some hospitality, after all."

"It can wait," James informed him in a voice harsh with need. Lowering his mouth to Jack's once more, he took his time to properly map the contours of Jack's lips, enjoying the dark sinfulness of the feel of Jack's mustache brushing against his skin. Reaching up, he caught Jack's face between both his hands and moved against him bodily, unable to help the motion. Jack's answering hardness was plain against his own, beneath their clothing.

Finally, he felt Jack's hands pulling at the buttons, working them and managing to undo the first few despite their awkward position. James was unwilling to relinquish him but he realized he was going to have to get up if he wanted to strip them both.

As he got up, releasing Jack, Jack promptly scooted upwards onto the bed and then back onto the floor on the other side, standing with a merry glint of the gold in his mouth as he grinned at him. "We've really no time for this, Commodore, darling. You and I have a wind to catch."

The sudden arms behind him holding him fast and the gag over his mouth were as shocking as the dark hood pulled abruptly over his head. He found himself with his hands tied behind him, being hustled, presumably, out of the bedroom door.

They were strong, whoever they were, and in spite of his helpless struggles they managed to get him down the stairs between the two of them.

With a muffled curse, he realized Jack Sparrow had decided to take him to the island personally. Well, bloody hell.

It was easier than having to worry about booking passage or hiring a ship, at this point. James allowed himself to be force-marched along, out of his house and into the dark. At which he completely lost his bearings and could no longer tell where they were. It took some time before he realized from the whispers and the sibilant remarks that they were nearing the dock. And then he was being helped somewhat pushily into a boat.

With a sigh, he resigned himself to this desperately stupid idea. He was somewhat disgruntled that he hadn't had the chance to properly bed Jack in his own room.

It was a quite a long row to wherever Jack's ship was waiting for them.

He feared though that Jack had absolutely no conception of what this would mean for his reputation. To be captured by pirates, after all that had already transpired. It would not look good.

He should just as soon start planning to reside on that island of Jack's for an indefinite period of time. He glowered to himself in the stifling hood.

But there was also something else…something darker and secretly pleasurable about knowing that he had no choice. He didn't exactly fear being taken prisoner this way, not by Jack Sparrow, after all that had happened between them. And Jack didn't do anything without good reason - at least for himself. Which meant that this served some necessary purpose in the pirate's agenda.

He knew Jack was smart, far too clever to be dismissed as a fool by any stretch of the imagination. Jack had to have thought of what this would mean for his career and his good name.

He was being pulled to his feet, and helped up, his hands freed so that he could climb. And then standing unsteadily upon the deck of what was presumably the Black Pearl, the hood was lifted free and his gag removed. He glanced down over his right shoulder and saw a dark woman behind him, her eyes glaring back at him.

Turning to face his captor, he saw Jack had already moved astern, as the crew hastily made ready to take advantage of the stiff night breeze that tore at the black sails. He realized no one would even know he was gone.

The dark woman gave him a nudge and he stepped forward, wondering what he was doing there in the first place. They didn't appear to be moving him to the brig…

And standing before him was a somewhat familiar looking fellow. "Welcome aboard, Sir," he said with a slight grin.

James frowned. "I know you," he started, then paused, trying to remember his name.

"Aye, that ye do. Joshamee Gibbs," said the fellow, offering a hand.

Feeling utterly disoriented as the wind tossed his hair and the ship moved away from the coast, James took his hand and shook it, blinking. Then his face set, hardening as he remembered the man's face. He dropped his hand. "A deserter."

Gibbs flinched a little and said, "Nay, Sir, 'twas the drink. Somethin' yer bound to be needin' yerself once you find out what Jack has in mind for ye."

A bolt of fear went through him at this, but he kept his nerve…and rather well, he thought. "Where are we going?" he demanded.

The dark woman snorted behind him and muttered as she pushed past him, "This be the last time I take part in one of Jack's damn fool schemes."

Gibbs shrugged apologetically at James's frown as she moved away from them. "She's not too pleased to be having ye aboard, Sir. Don't take it personal, like."

James let out a frustrated exhalation. "And where is Jack Sparrow?"

Gibbs raised his brows innocently. "In the stateroom, I imagine," he replied, with a nod of his head in the direction of the captain's cabin.

James angrily turned on his heel and stalked towards the double doors, throwing them open to find Jack sitting in the seat behind the long oval table in the admittedly impressive and large room. The Black Pearl was a large ship; he had to admire it for its grand style. The dark, carved wood along the walls definitely added a touch of unique craftsmanship and elegance to what otherwise might have been rather too gloomy an interior.

"What in the name of God do you think are you doing?" he demanded. "You can't simply abduct me when the idea occurs to you."

Jack regarded him, not smiling, his eyes narrowing, giving the pirate a decidedly wicked expression. "Would be most remiss of me not to offer you free passage to my island, mate. You were heading that direction, were you not?"

James let out a breath of utter exasperation. "Does anyone even know that I'm gone? When I'll return? Did you stop to think that letting them *know* you've taken me prisoner will have them rallying ships to give chase?"

Jack idly stroked the end of his mustache. With a bit of a smirk, he asked, "I spent a good part of me day ensuring the right rumors would get around, 'ey? You captured me, so now it's my turn. I doubt it will come as a surprise to your little officers. Especially your Mr. Groves. Although," he lifted a finger, expectantly, "they left a short while ago themselves, and won't be hearing about your bein' captured until they return. I daresay they'll be disappointed in finding the treasure's gone."

James frowned. "You cleared the entire cave? How is that possible? There was a substantial amount when we left that Isle behind."

Jack gave a slight shrug. "What can I say, mate? Me crew were overcome with the lust for treasure and I couldn't stop 'em from cleaning out the rest of what you left us. Which was considerably generous of you; so I'm thanking you for that," Jack grinned. Then he gave James a knowing look. "Exactly how were you planning on getting to my little island, 'ey? Seems to me I've saved you the trouble. An' this way, you'll not have to worry about creating some farfetched explanation about your business away, Commodore." Jack sat up, looking almost earnestly at him. "Can you really say you're disappointed? You seemed happy enough to see me in your private chambers not long ago."

James regarded him, weighing his words against the fear of being compromised or even mistreated. Trust, indeed. He still could not be sure he *really* trusted Jack, especially for pulling a stunt like this.

It was in this moment of feeling his vulnerability in the hands of this man, on this night, that he realized what he had put Jack through, all those days and nights aboard the Dauntless and then in the Fort's dungeon. Worse, even, for Jack had believed he'd be imprisoned indefinitely, permanently, perhaps to hang after all.

"For myself, I'm not," he admitted, lowly. "But I have commitments; obligations that I must fulfill, and in taking from me the ability to create my own arrangements, you've removed any aspect of partnership from this…agreement of ours. I agreed to meet you; I did not agree to allow myself to be removed from my home without a word to anyone of my whereabouts, for God knows how long, to be gone God knows where, until such time as you deign to return me."

Jack met his eyes thoughtfully at this. "As a Commodore, perhaps, but then as a pirate, I'm behaving well within anyone's expectations. Reprisal, for your taking me captive before, 'ey? The question here is if you and I are still equal on common ground within the confines of our accord. My feelings haven't changed. Have yours?" Jack asked him, blatantly. "If you'd responded differently at sight of me in your home, Jamie, I'd have reconsidered."

James thought this over. Slowly, he asked, "If I'd not…greeted you thus, you'd have let me stay, and not conducted this- this affront?"

Jack looked up momentarily, seeming to give this thought. Then he chuckled. "No, but then, you'd be locked up below, rather than enjoying me company so pleasantly here, aye?"

"Mm. Granted," James admitted. "Very well, Jack. I suppose your terms then, for my being aboard, are the same as the ones I offered you aboard my ship?"

Jack answered shiftily, "I'd say yes, mate, but you haven't answered my question. Do you still wish to visit my island? Or am I bearing an unwilling prisoner to a little piece of paradise, who'll fuss at my crew and prob'ly get himself killed along the way?"

James gave him a tight smile. Regarding Jack affectionately now, with a twinkle of his own creeping over him, he asked, "Tell me, Jack; are you planning on keeping the nature of our relationship secret from the rest of your ship? Because if you are, I daresay it will be necessary for you to wear that gag at night."

He enjoyed the way the amusement trickled away from Jack and the pirate sat back in his seat. Jack asked, mildly, "Would it bother you greatly for them to know of it?"

"Now, you know I'm hardly likely to answer that one truthfully," James said acidly with a smile. "If it did, I wouldn't tell you. Although I suspect you should be the one to be concerned over your crew's opinion of your conduct."

Jack gave him a little grin. "You're not even half as angry as I thought you'd be, over this."

James went to one of the chairs on the other side of the table, in a strange echo of their previous stance aboard his Dauntless, before. Sitting back, he stretched his legs out before him, and answered nonchalantly, "Honestly, Jack, I'm rather more worried I'll be knifed by some jealous member of your crew for having earned your attention."

Jack shot him a dark look. "They're here for the gold, mate. Not me."

"So sure, are you?" James asked. And he gave a shrug. "You *are* Captain Jack Sparrow, after all."

Jack rolled his eyes. "Are you going to be like this *all* the way there?" he complained, testily.

"Turnabout is fair play," James reminded him. "You came very close to the edge during that dinner with me and my officers."

Spluttering, Jack said indignantly, "You wanted me to! An' besides, *they* wanted me to."

"Keep telling yourself that, pirate," James threw back, coolly. Oh, it was too easy. Jack was obviously still unsure about how he was likely to take being captured like this.

"Of all the ungrateful…" Jack fell quiet, then said, "It's not too late, mate. If you want off, say the word. If you jump now, you could probably swim back to shore before dawn."

James contented himself by smiling at him. "Oh, I wouldn't miss this for the world. I'm looking forward to seeing how you handle explaining to them what I'm doing here. Especially that woman. The dark one."

"AnaMaria?" Jack frowned. "She knows why you're here, better than anyone."

"That's hardly reassuring," James informed him. "She looked as though she'd be happier if I were swinging from the yardarm."

Dryly, Jack said, "The fact you've had so many pirates swinging from yardarms in your time might have something to do with it, ey?"

"Precisely my point. What possessed you to imagine this was a good idea?"

Jack regarded him. "I'm a pirate. You're a commander of the British fleet. We're neither of us goin' to be changing at this late date. This offers you the opportunity of not having to compromise your high and fancy reputation, mate." Jack stared accusingly back at him, as if he should already have apprehended this pointed fact.

James smiled back at him with a chuckle. "I have missed you."

Jack stared, obviously not expecting him to turn so suddenly from serious to amused. Which was most amusing, considering he was still rather concerned for his safety aboard a…pirate ship. James continued to smile, amused now at the fact that he, in fact, was amused despite his plight.

Recovering, Jack smiled back at him. "Well. Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

"It's remarkably reassuring to know your ego has also remained at a flatteringly high level of buoyancy," James commented. "Where your ingenuity and capacity for mischief is concerned. You're so impressed with yourself, I don't see the need for me to be."

"Careful, James," Jack warned him. "I might start getting the idea that you're really quite pleased with the way this night has turned out."

Meeting his gaze directly, James answered, "I've spent every waking hour of each day and night, since we parted, wanting to be where you are. Pray tell why I wouldn't be pleased?"

For the second time in their acquaintance, James found himself treated to the sight of Jack looking truly speechless. Jack recovered well though, leaning back in his seat. "So you really *have* missed me, then."

"I just said as much," James said. "It's alright, Jack. You can admit it. You've missed me, as well."

That endearing expression that James had come to love so much stole onto Jack, that delightful, tender, wistful look. The one that told him Jack was feeling too much. Even as his heart gave a little tug inside him, he felt an accompanying lustful pull in his lower belly, which was joined immediately by anticipation. Jack didn't say anything, but his eyes held more depth than James was used to seeing in them. It made him swallow, wanting to get up and go to him, and kiss that wistfulness away.

James eyed the closed door beyond Jack. "Is that your cabin?"

Jack seemed to shake himself a little. "Aye. But I'll tell you, Commodore, don't be going in there unless you're prepared to not come out for a good, long while. The night through, perhaps."

"I was rather counting on it," James said, raising his brows at him.

Jack's swift smile was enough to allay any doubts he might have had about Jack's returning his feelings. Captive or not. "I'm curious, Jamie…Did you enjoy having me held aboard your Dauntless this much? Because I'm finding it powerfully inspiring."

James grimaced a little. "Without privacy, spending every stolen moment fearing one of my men might intrude and discover us, with the addition of having to remain utterly silent? I'd have to say no."

Jack laughed softly. "And there you have it: the difference between being aboard a ship of the fleet…and a pirate ship, 'ey?"

James turned a brow up at him. "Now, though, there is that dark pirate woman to consider."

Jack let out a noise of derision. "She's just upset she can't watch."

James found himself abruptly experiencing a momentary sensation of what felt like embarrassment. Surely he was joking? James thought in the next moment though that Jack was being quite candid.

Sharply, Jack smiled at him, "Now that *is* an interesting shade of red, Commodore."

"No doubt there will be ample opportunities for you to appreciate it," James said, grimly.

"Very becoming, truly," Jack added, still smiling.

"You let a woman serve aboard your ship? What position does she hold?"

"Usually she takes the helm," Jack explained, casually. "But she makes a most fetching bo'sun." Jack stood up, saying cheerfully, "Well, I suppose you're curious." At the door to his cabin, Jack opened it and turned, saying, "In here, love."

James arose, wondering why he felt as though time itself had decided to fall away, leaving them in this quiet space where nothing else existed. Or maybe it was the hope of the rest of the world leaving them in peace for a little while. Enough to have one more night. To have spent literally the past eleven days in a state of anxious expectation, awaiting the chance to see Jack Sparrow again, believing he had yet more restless nights until having this pleasure…it was more than relief. More than happiness.

James picked up one of the candles, and went to the open door that Jack had disappeared through. There, he took in the sight of Jack undressing, unhurriedly.

There was no hammock, although there were two iron hoops for one. Instead, Jack had what appeared to be an actual…bed; not just a bunk, but a very nice one, looking very sumptuous indeed. He knew that no admiral aboard any ship of the line had anything so fine. He stepped inside and shut the door. Frowning, he asked, "A bit extravagant, isn't it? You've got no rail…How do you stop yourself from getting spilled onto the deck?"

Jack regarded him thoughtfully. "If m'Pearl's riding anything that monstrous, I'm more likely to be at the helm meself, savvy?" And then he chuckled, pulling down his breeches. "'Sides, Commodore, if the morning's creeping on, at times it can be useful to get spilled, as a reminder that one isn't meant to be abed."

James found himself grinning helplessly at the thought of a sluggardly Jack being tossed naked as the day he was born onto the deck in the morning. Not hard to imagine, with Jack standing as nakedly before him now.

"You're a sybarite," he accused Jack, cheerfully, and blew out the candle he held, putting it down on the ledge below the window.

"Now, now, love," Jack muttered. "No need to start casting stones. Remember that glass house and all." And then James found himself pulled in for a good, lingering kiss, nimble fingers joining his own to fumble at undoing the buttons of his shirt.

To have the luxury of Jack's mouth on his again, so soon, was enough to cause a return of his earlier desperation that had swept like a flashflood through him. The kiss was gaining speed and even as he somehow managed to remove his clothing, he kept as much of his exposed skin pressed to Jack as he could manage. He felt drunken and euphoric to finally have him once more.

Panting, he tore himself from those impossibly hot lips, saying, "Too long, Jack. It was too long."

"Aye," Jack muttered, pulling him back with him towards the bed, where both of them ended up entangling themselves upon it, until Jack rose up, decisively pushing him backwards. With his head lying just below the pillows, James gazed up at Jack in the dark.

"I promised meself that I'd have you, James," Jack whispered down at him, "fine gentleman that you are, aboard my pirate ship, in a pirate's bed."

With Jack's dark, barbaric hair surrounding Jack's face, and that pair of too-dark eyes gleaming at him, James could not help but think of witchcraft again. It was only for a moment, however, for Jack's lips came crashing down on his; a wet, open-mouthed kiss that started a shiver traveling up James's back.

Not so hurried this time, but with deliberate intent, Jack's tongue moved against his, slowly taking him apart; leaving only the consciousness of the quivering, throbbing length of his maleness between his legs that begged for release.

And Jack had started that nibbling thing he did, tasting him, moving over his lips, and across his jaw, skipping the bandage on his neck and trailing downwards to catch a nipple between his teeth. A bolt of lust tore through him at it, but Jack had already moved to the other one, licking and biting, leaving that one burning, and then moving down over the planes of his chest, down to his belly, and crouching between his legs.

James held his breath, and then let it out as Jack looked up at him from there, in the dark. With a smile he could hear in Jack's question, Jack asked, "I'll do you while you do me, savvy?"

He turned around and lay on his right side, scooting up a little so that James could pull him closer. God…to have this: hot skin pressing up against him, in this intimate manner; James felt a flush of heat stain his cheeks at this position. It was lewd and accessible and afforded him a most delightful angle to suckle the end of Jack's cock into his mouth, enjoying the gasp this elicited from Jack.

And then the tip of his own manhood was abruptly enveloped in that barely-recalled hot, wet, sweet cavern of Jack's mouth. He couldn't help the strangled groan he issued even as he took more of Jack's organ between his own lips, letting it slide into his mouth deeper.

This felt so sinful, so completely obscene, and yet wonderfully carefree. Remarkably practical, really. They could take care of each other, while enjoying the sensation of being taken care of. He'd never had the opportunity to do it before, with any previous female lover.

Jack was making slow, helpless undulating motions with his hips, rocking slightly against him, and James felt a dart of tenderness swim through him at it. The scent of Jack filled his nostrils, and the familiarity of it renewed in the moment was somehow comforting. As well as maddening, for he wanted to bury himself in him. The taste of Jack's fluid on his tongue was making him salivate.

He would never, ever be able to get enough of this.

His mind felt confused, not certain whether to focus on the pleasure being so attentively given him between his legs, along with the sensation of Jack's hair against his thighs, or the delicious act of thoroughly sucking Jack's cock.

He realized he'd never experienced anything quite as erotic as this. It wasn't just the position, or the man, or the place…or his circumstances. It was everything combined.

The sure, deft touch of Jack's hand on his balls suddenly brought him centering down solely upon his impending orgasm. He realized this was a very good idea. Holding Jack's leg with one arm around his thigh, he reached up with his other hand to fondle him in kind. Sure enough, a shuddery little quiver ran through Jack at it, and James redoubled his pace, sucking harder upon the sweet prick in his mouth, against his tongue, sometimes letting it slip nearly free and using his lips to pleasure the head before swallowing it in again.

And then there was the thought of that lovely, svelte arse just inches from him, and his fingers trailed upwards to caress over Jack's buttocks, enjoying the sensation of palming them in his hand. At a thought, he brought his hand to his mouth, relinquishing Jack's organ for the moment, to wet his fingers. And he smiled, as he felt Jack do the same.

Licking lightly at the member that bumped against his lower lip, he took it into his mouth once more, this time enjoying the sweetness of caressing that tight, puckered entrance. Slipping his fingertip into it, he reveled in the silky-hot sensation of it, and felt the mirror of his intrusion as Jack's finger entered him at the next moment.

Sliding deeper, he worked Jack open, finally adding a second finger, as Jack brushed up inside of him, causing stars to flare brightly behind his eyelids, that intense magical pleasure repeated with every brush up against that *place*…Oh God…

Reaching deeper, he felt for it, and was rewarded with Jack suddenly tensing against him and jerking. James wondered at his presence of mind that he hadn't bitten accidentally with that first touch inside of him, and was grateful Jack had remembered also. The slight sway of the ship beneath them was rocking them towards a gentle completion and he took the opportunity to probe deeper, while adopting a bobbing motion on Jack's member.

But Jack's fingers inside of him and the overwhelming, dark, beautiful sucking on his own organ was undoing him, the pleasure grabbing at him in clutching waves, pulling him in. He was stiffening, feeling the flickers of his climax begin in his balls, climbing with little flashes up from his toes, rising up to overpower him in frightening intensity, and he barely realized the distant, helpless moaning was his own.

His own ministrations upon Jack were abruptly awarded with a series of uncontrolled jerking thrusts of Jack into his mouth, followed by the rich taste of his cream spurting against his tongue, threatening to spill from between his lips. He swallowed it hastily, wondering how he had ever wanted anything but this, as he spent his own pleasure deep into Jack's mouth, nearly choking him but for Jack's hand firm on his hip, steadying him as he thrust against him.

As that devilish tongue continued to lave upon him, lifting almost clear of his cock now to take the remainder of what drops spilled forth, James felt a near-sadness at it being over so soon. And he enjoyed the slow plunge downwards as he suckled at Jack one last time, drawing his lips tight over him as he lifted back off, and savored the final traces of his seed. Too rich, too good.

Too much sin and delight. He wanted to keep this. This lovely dark intimacy, and even as he finally let go of the slightly softening prick beneath his mouth, he leaned his head against Jack's thigh, and didn't remove his fingers. He wanted to enjoy this touch, the joy of having that tight, hot feeling of Jack's body clenched around them, even as Jack's hand was still upon him. Filling him, resting there. It was as if they owned each other. Which they did, really. James knew that now. There was no going back. He was very glad, indeed.

And he let go a sigh of satiated contentment, loving the way Jack's leg was draped over him, and he could nuzzle against the spent member so close to his face. There was a nearly inaudible, knowing chuckle from between his legs and he grinned in answer, kissing the organ before him.

Jack's hand on his hip traveled back down his leg and began a slow, up and down rubbing caress, in place. Jack's seemingly disembodied voice reached him from down below. "Ready for the second round, Jamie?"

James frowned. "Already?"

There was an answering laugh against the tender flesh of the inside of his thigh, and then a swift bite that almost made him flinch too hard, followed lightning-quick by the swipe of a hot tongue against it. Jack's fingers wriggled inside of him, and James sucked in a suddenly ragged breath as the renewal of impossible pleasure swept over him at it. That really *was* too much. Unexpected. Well, he could give as good as he got. He slowly but firmly stroked inside of Jack, moving his hand admiringly into him, and was very gratified indeed at the whimper this caused, as well as the helpless little thrust against him, that wilted shaft already thickening anew.

But he wanted more. He wanted to feel this tight arse around his cock, taking him deeper in with every push into it. He began to gently pull his fingers out of him, and extricate his limbs from Jack. The mournful complaint this caused was almost too adorable.

Sitting up, he announced, "I want you. I want to have you. I've been thinking of nothing else for days on end."

Dryly, Jack answered, "Aye, Jamie, love. I rather suspected as much." Jack rose and put both hands on his shoulders, leaning in to press a rather interesting kiss to his lips. Then he drew back, to shuffle around beneath the pillows, only to return with a familiar jar he placed in James's hand.

James began to laugh silently. "You kept it."

"Figured it would come in handy," Jack commented. He lay back against the bed, alongside him.

Unable to keep the grin off his face, James observed, "I suppose I owe you a debt of gratitude."

"For saving you from yourself?"

"Actually, for saving me from the possible scandal of an unfounded rumor of an adulterous affair with the wife of a Vice-Admiral," James corrected him.

Jack was silent momentarily and then burst out, "Bloody hell, mate. You certainly don't waste any time, do you? I corrupt you in true pirate form, and you start running around breaking all the rules in Christendom."

"Oh, come now. Surely not all of them?" James asked, wryly.

"One can only hope," Jack said. "A Vice-Admiral? Really?"

James sank down on his side next to him. "Really. But I'm certain you're holding out on me. Aren't there a few more rules in Christendom we've yet to break?" He ran a hand admiringly over the smooth skin, along the ribs, and the trim waist, resting on Jack's hip.

With a grin, Jack said, "They're more guidelines, I suspect. Besides, I recollect no commandment that states, 'thou shalt not sodomize thy fellow man.'"

"Amen," James muttered. "Although the Good Book does go into some detail about such matters."

Jack wryly observed, "I've yet to see lightning strike me down for anything I've been up to. And I've seen Hell, and lived to tell about it. As have you."

James frowned at the memory of undead skeletal men, animated purely by greed and the desperation to commit murder. "Indeed."

He sighed, abruptly needing more, more touch, more skin. More Jack. Leaning down, he kissed that long neck, enjoying the way Jack almost unconsciously arched into him at it. "How can I ever do without you?" James muttered against him.

"You won't have to," Jack pointed out. "We'll be finding interesting ways to keep this up, remember?"

But Jack said it a little too lightly, and James was reminded of the way their union tended to undo Jack's composure; instead of healing or reassuring him, it seemed to serve to take him apart inside. James frowned a bit, wondering what he could do to…prove to him that it wasn't merely a means of conquering him or claiming him. Or maybe it was that he already knew it wasn't, and Jack was afraid of what it meant, that it was more than that.

He swallowed, aware suddenly that he had unresolved matters with this man. This pirate captain who swaggered and swayed and affected to be unaffected by anything but drink and gold. And kisses. He was already so far down this road with Jack, however, that he knew he could not afford to pretend they were anything other than what they were. Lovers. In love. "Are you afraid of this? Of loving me? Or letting me love you?"

There was a pause of a few tense heartbeats, and then a slow sigh. "And there you go again, ruining what was a perfectly wonderful moment. I'm not afraid of it. But now you have me wondering if I shouldn't be asking you the same."

Slowly, honestly, James answered, "The only thing I'm afraid of is losing you."

"You're not going to lose me. You haven't lost me. I told you already; if you let me go, I'd come back. And I did." Jack sounded reasonable.

But James knew, somehow, maybe instinctively, that Jack had come back earlier than planned, had been unable to wait the full fourteen days, and had even been unable to trust that he might be able to meet him at the island for their agreed rendezvous. Jack was perhaps more afraid of losing him, James realized.

He slid closer to Jack, pulling him into him, gathering against him in the dark, enjoying the way Jack allowed him to.

He pressed a kiss to Jack's face, encountering the top of his cheek just beneath his eye, and murmured, "And you'll not be losing me, either."

Jack was quiet, then finally said, in a note of admission, "When I left that morning, I wanted to run."

Just as quietly, not wanting to make him feel pressured, James said, "I know." He leaned his face to Jack's, resting his forehead against him, feeling the curious sensation of those outlandish beads against his jaw. "That's why I'm going to forgive you for kidnapping me."

"Quite right. You should be thanking me."

"Thank you…for trusting me." James held his breath.

Jack's hand crept up, and those long, lovely fingers were stroking the side of his face. "This, here, is more the miracle than anything else, you realize."

James closed his eyes, soaking in the perfection of this pure moment. Jack's lazy fingers against him, the feel of Jack's body nestled into his. "Let me make love to you," he murmured.

"'M hardly stopping you," Jack answered, but James heard that small note in his voice, the one that bespoke of that lovely expression he loved so well. The nearly childlike wonder at finding himself…loved. Wanted. For himself. Without reservation or demand.

It made the desire course freshly through him, just to hear it, to know that Jack wore that wistful hope. Lifting up a little, James allowed himself the decadence of enjoying the act of settling himself between Jack's legs, lifting them. Jack reached up for one of the pillows and settled it beneath himself. James helped him to position it better, affording him a better angle.

He reached for the salve again, noting that they'd need something else soon, having nearly used it up. He slowly pressed a dollop of it against Jack's tight hole, feeling the exquisite sensation of his finger sinking into him, working it in and around, preparing him. He managed, breathing harder, "For nights now, all I could do was dream of this. Of having you."

But Jack was lost to the havoc he was stimulating inside of him, as he added his other finger, and slowly began to open him.

He wanted to avoid hurting him this time around. More careful preparation was necessary. It didn't take long for Jack to hiss between clenched teeth, "What in hell are you waiting for?"

James smiled down at him. "Now, Jack, you know very well." He began to add a third finger, slowly. The open-mouthed groan this caused, however, sent fire through him, making his cock stiffen impossibly. Finally. To make him cry out. His fantasy come to life, right here in vulgar, loving, stark reality.

But the slow burn of his fingers into Jack was obviously undoing him, for Jack said, in a voice frayed around the edges, "Please."

The fact that he'd reduced him to begging was enough to make James pause and wonder at the marvel of it, of actually having this man beg him to pummel his ass. God. The ever-so-slightly deranging, light-headed feeling of euphoria and desire was beginning to unravel his own composure, and he pulled his fingers out, to scrape the remainder of the salve from the jar and rub it onto his throbbing prick.

He was a little chastened to discover that he wanted this so badly, the head of his member was actually vibrating slightly, and a shudder overtook him. He wanted to sink into him, up to his balls.

Slowly, he angled himself against that tight orifice, and let himself go just…an inch. Hell, and yet heaven also. Just one damned inch. He helped Jack's legs up higher, enjoying the way he was bent under him now as he leaned over the smaller man, feeling the press of his calves against him on either side of his neck.

Sliding in further, he gave himself over to it, letting his body find that natural rhythm that, yet again, seemed to synchronize superbly with the heave and yaw of the ship that carried them. Sending him deeper, right up inside this hot beauty clasping him almost too tightly.

And then, he heard…music to his ears, at last…with a surge against him, as James shafted Jack deeper, a heartfelt moan of helpless pleasure… To hear that from Jack, so wanted and so longed for all this past week or more; it was so good. So he did it again.

The intoxicating thrill of the power it gave him, to literally fuck each of these groans out of him, from the man under him that took each and every penetrating stab of his cock into him, was revealing. It reminded James that there had never been any other possible outcome between them than this. He wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

To finally give themselves over to this act, without fear, without shame, without having to care that any might hear. To drive themselves into a stupor, if they wished.

This was the battlefield, right here between them, in the places whether their bodies joined. Right in the very sensation of flesh upon flesh, hot skin against sweat-damp skin. In the sheer torture of *not* leaning down to catch that lush, pretty mouth under his but instead enjoying every gasp and moan, every helpless quiver of the body beneath his driving thrusts as he owned him, took him, claimed him. Made him *his*.

Oh, God, "…Jack," he said, the ecstasy brimming upwards and he was coming like a fountain, sliding too fast and too hard into him, even as he heard Jack's helpless cry and felt the warm flecks fly up wetly on his skin. To do this to him, make him touch that peak. To send him there, and he did recall what that felt like, and even as the memory graced over his mind and the overload of stimulation to his own senses was joined with it, it was humbling. Thrilling.

And knowing he had done that to Jack just now, even now as Jack continued to shake under him - it was shooting through him with a finality he couldn't stave away, the last few thrusts lacking the same need or strength, almost a faint recollection of dream-like pleasure he'd touched just moments before.

Utterly spent, he realized it was far, far too late to regret anything, and he had no strength left to care what the repercussions of anything might be. Taking a few breaths, he pulled out of him, letting Jack's legs slip back down. He sank to his side next to Jack, and closed his eyes. After a moment, he asked, "Are you alright?"

Jack was quiet for a moment and then he piped up, almost mockingly cheerful, "You know, I've noticed something about you, Jamie. You always, *always*, ask me that after its far too late to do anything about it."

There was the metallic jingle of that ornament as Jack turned, moving against him, catching his leg with a playful gesture, adding, in a lower and more threatening voice, "Don't worry, love. If I'm not alright, I'll be letting you know in kind."

James grinned in the dark. "I should hope so."

Jack mused, "I've corrupted you, haven't I? I've ruined you for polite society."

Sleepily, James countered, "To be sure. Most wickedly. Most assuredly. You should be proud, Jack."

Jack sidled closer into him, one arm going around his middle.

James breathed a sigh of satisfaction. "And I've noticed something about you, Jack." He waited, cruelly, smiling at knowing he was keeping him waiting for it…"You snuggle. You're a cuddler."

"Debaucher," was the mild reply. "Don't be forgetting that one, either."

James thought this over. "A lustful, perverse, wanton, cuddling debaucher."

"Says the man who just finished ravishing me in me own bed," Jack pointed out. "You keep throwing those stones, your little glass walls are going to come down very quickly."

James started. "Or - wait. Should that be: a lustful, perverse, wanton, debauching cuddler?"

"Sticks and stones, Jamie. We'll see how amused you are later, when I return the favor."

Later. Indeed. Curious, he asked, "How long is this voyage then, to your island?"

Jack's answering murmur was sleepier. "'Bout another day and a half, I expect."

"Good," he replied, quietly. He wondered at the sense of peace that descended on him at the thought of finally journeying towards that island. And found himself strangely comforted to be returning the rather warm embrace of a cuddlesome pirate.

Wonders will never cease, he thought.

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