I had to split it up, into two separate chapters, as the voyage TO the island takes up over 50 pages. ;-) Makes sense for their arrival & sojourn at the island to be a whole chapter unto itself, yes?

Am still writing, but thought I'd go ahead and post this complete and betaed section for those who've been waiting so patiently and eagerly. I hope you enjoy it, and that it meets expectations.

Pairing: Jack Sparrow/James Norrington, Jack/Black Pearl implied
Rating: NC-17 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
Author's Note: This story is altogether dedicated to thalia_seawood. :) Thank you to all of you who have waited so patiently. :) And thank you to KJjailbird, (firesignwriter)for rekindling my absent smut-muse and enabling the writer's block to lift and the smut to flow!!!!
Summary: Norrington learns to enjoy life aboard the Black Pearl, en route to Jack's island.


Part 7 - Voyage

By Webcrowmancer

James sat bolt upright in bed, feeling the clammy chill of the dream plastered against his skin like cobwebs. It took several heaving breaths before he managed to blink away the nightmare vision and realize that he was, in fact, awake.

Beside him, Jack stirred and yawned, stretched, and then frowned at him. A careful hand on his elbow brought James back to himself, and to where he was. In the bed. Jack's bed. The cabin was dark, and dawn had not yet begun to light the sky through the window.

James took more deep, measured breaths. The dream had been strange at first, and then unpleasantly real. Vivid. It had been so real he'd feared he'd not been dreaming.

"You alright?" Jack's gentle enquiry helped to settle him, merely from hearing his voice.

James lay back down, swallowing, considering the nature of the dream. "A dream. It was," he explained slowly, "very real. Too real."

Jack's eyes wandered down his blanket-covered form that still trembled involuntarily on occasion. "Must've been, to be causing a man of your fortitude such distress," he admitted. Curling closer to James, he murmured, "Tell me. Sometimes it helps, in the telling of it."

James closed his eyes. Too real, by far. "I found myself outside. Out there, on the deck, standing and looking out over the sea. It was quite black, and there was a strong wind. The ship appeared to be deserted. I felt this growing sense of apprehension, however, as though I was not alone. I was about to raise the alarm; I thought something was wrong. And then I- I saw her," James faltered, still confused at the memory that was so fresh, yet even now threatened to fade entirely in his wakefulness.

"Her?" Jack prompted him, letting himself move in closer to James, turning them both with a hand on his shoulder so that James lay on his left side, with Jack threatening to distract him with the feel of that warm, strong body against his. That hand, slipping around his middle to pull him tight. The press of Jack's lips to his shoulder blade.

Feeling admittedly safer, James said, "It was only a dream. Unsettling, certainly, but hardly anything to worry about."

Jack chuckled quietly behind him. "Aye, an' you have the sound of someone trying overly hard to convince himself. So, who was she?"

James let out a breath. "I don't know. She looked…" he trailed off, trying to find a comparative example. "Like a widow. She was dressed in a black gown. But she was a young woman. She couldn't have been more than one and twenty, and she had long hair that was flying in the wind. I called to her, and told her that this was no place for a lady to be, especially at night with that strong wind; that she was in danger. She looked up at me with these big eyes and said in this haunting voice, 'He's mine.'" James shivered again. "The look in her eyes - it was demonic. It was so possessive. Perhaps she was a ghost. A shade; a wife of one of your former crew, maybe."

Jack said, softly, "Pirates are known to be superstitious, but I must ask you, James…Are you a religious man?"

"Of course," James replied, a little stiffly, wondering why Jack would think him otherwise.

"Just checking," Jack replied, soothingly. He rubbed his hand up James's arm, to his shoulder, and pressed his thigh up along the back of James's leg. "Go on; what'd she do?"

James took a breath. "Well, I asked her pardon, as I hadn't a clue what she was talking about. She gave me this determined look and said, 'You're a very pretty toy. But never forget that he's mine.' It- was rather shocking. She meant it. I know that look; I've seen it in men's eyes before, in battle or with their backs against the wall. A strength and resolve to not give way without a fight."

Behind him, Jack was very quiet. James frowned, and turned his head upwards, to the right, wondering why Jack wasn't saying anything.

But in a moment, Jack continued, with a friendly squeeze of the arm about him, "That was no ghost."

The firmness of his statement was not entirely convincing. James asked, "How would you know?"

He could hear the little smile in Jack's reply. "Believe me, mate. I know. Never 'ad the joy of seeing her meself, but I do believe that was no ghost, nor was it a dream you had just now."

This chilled James and did not make him feel better at all. "I don't believe in ghost stories, nor do I believe that dreams are real."

Jack's answer was drier, sharper. "I see. And the curse? My former mutinous crew, currently rotting in Hell where they belong? I suppose all of that wasn't real?"

James exhaled peevishly, trying to ignore the lovely warmth of Jack's body all up against him. It was more than distracting. "Of course, but this was a dream; it wasn't the same. I was asleep."

"Asleep or awake; makes no difference. It felt real, because it *was* real. Real enough." Jack punctuated this with a kiss, and then trailed the tip of his tongue in a lick of wet fire across his back, moving downwards, the brush of that wicked mustache not helping, and causing a slight tickling sensation that added to the pleasure that distracted him.

But the need to understand the dream was plaguing him now. He didn't want it lost or dispelled. It had been too unsettling by far. James squirmed a little and said darkly, "If it was real, even though it was a dream, then what you're suggesting is that it was a - a visitation… a spirit. Hence, a ghost."

"No ghost," Jack mumbled against his skin, letting his mouth move over James's skin in ways James would never have imagined could be so light and yet simultaneously exciting. There was something delicious about the warmth of those lips on him, the occasional brush of teeth and then that wet tongue again. He knew what havoc that tongue could engender. His cock lifted at the recollection, despite the fact they'd both fallen asleep totally spent, upon his arrival on Jack's ship and in his bed.

But he licked his own dry lips and said, "Then what was it? A vision?" He didn't want to say the word 'succubus'. Or even 'she-devil'. But she'd been so dark, in black; so forbiddingly intense.

And he didn't much like being called a pretty toy, either. A vague notion was starting to form in his mind and he liked it even less.

An idea about possessive spirits, and ships, and this one ship in particular. His mind shied away from it though, not wanting to give that one idea much credence.

Jack muttered against his skin, the reply slightly muffled, "You could say that."

"Has-" He cleared his throat. "Has anyone else ever had such dreams here? Aboard your ship?"

Jack paused behind him. "Never," Jack said, and kissed him. "Well, not that I've heard, anyway."

Stiffening in Jack's grasp, he demanded, "Tell me what you believe it was?"

Jack stopped and then asked, quizzically, "I thought you said it was a 'she'? Now you're calling her 'it'?"

James blinked. "So?"

Jack gave a little shrug. "Just don't think she'll be too pleased about that, is all."

"Damn it, Jack. What do you believe she was?" James was getting tired of Jack's dodging out of giving him an honest answer. Or even any answer.

"Can't say as I know for sure, but I'd lay odds on you seeing her again if you don't speak more respectfully about her," Jack informed him with a note of amusement.

With a sigh, James gave up. "Very well, Jack. You win. You're simply enjoying this at my expense, aren't you?"

Still amused, Jack smiled behind him. "You have to admit, Jamie, it makes a change. The proud, dignified Commodore Norrington, who strikes fear into the hearts of all who might oppose the King's Navy or dare to suggest anything as taboo as a little buggery after midnight upon his fair self, shaking in terror at sight of a ghost."

Suspiciously, James said, "You said it wasn't a ghost."

"No, that was you who said it," Jack agreed. "I'm merely saying that you *thought* it was a ghost, and now you're all frightened and distressed, and it makes you really quite fetching." He leaned the side of his face into James's back, with a contented sigh.

James had to admit silently that it felt...very good indeed. Edging upwards along him, moving over his back, Jack mouthed kisses against him again.

God, that was too good; it made his skin prickle with heat and want. James felt himself shift involuntarily into the sensation, and reached up a hand to cover Jack's where it lay against his chest. Dryly, he asked, "Ever the opportunist, then?"

Jack smiled behind him. "What would *you* do, in my position?"

James abruptly realized how they were lying, in that bed. Where, in that very same bed not hours before, they had broken that Eleventh Commandment that didn't quite exist. Or at least, he had. Obviously, from the state of that considerably aroused member poking against his backside now, Jack felt it was his turn. Amused, James said, "In your position, I daresay I'd take the chance to offer some comfort to a bedfellow in need of a little."

"A little?" Jack sounded offended and indignant at the imagined slight to his manhood.

Chuckling, James said, "Alright, I will concede you're not little."

Mollified, Jack murmured against him, "You realize you're mine now, James? As you promised me. Just as we agreed."

James tensed at this however. "That's what she said, about you."

Jack was grinning; James could tell from his answer. "She'll have to learn how to share, then, won't she?"

Dryly, James remarked, "We still don't know who 'she' is. And she seems to take offense at my being aboard. I can only assume she was referring to you. Flesh and blood she may not be, but she seems proprietary where you're concerned."

"Ah, but can she do this?" Jack asked in a satisfied tone, bringing his stiff member into more direct contact with James's backside, nestling it in between the valley there.

James swallowed at the bolt of heat this caused. The gratitude at finding himself in this position, both here in Jack's bed aboard his ship as well as having been taken 'prisoner', granted him a strange luxury that he had never allowed himself before. He felt relaxed, and it admittedly *was* rather more than simply being a captive. It was a holiday. A brief respite from duty, and obligation, and scheming admiralty and their wives.

He relished the sensation of Jack pressed up against him, and could hear the pirate's heart beating; a thudding warm sound that nearly vibrated into him through his back, where Jack's chest was full upon him, even as Jack's hips began a very familiar motion, sliding his cock back and forth between James's buttocks.

The movement brought a flare of heat to James's cheeks, and he felt himself gasp involuntarily. The lust that rocked through him accompanied the feeling of abandon. Jack's hand was at his waist, then trailing down, moving over his belly, traveling downwards. When it encountered his rising organ, Jack gave a quiet chuckle of delight behind him, which was followed by a lick of his neck.

Jack's mouth was open on him now, biting at the back of his neck with his teeth, sucking. No doubt he'd have a red mark there in the morning, just behind the healing scar of his neck-wound that Jack had also put there. And James abruptly wondered at it, for the mark would be too high to cover, and he realized he had no coat, nor cravat, or even his wig and hat. He had nothing to cover up his neck, apart from the bandage…and it wouldn't be enough.

Maybe that was the point, he thought, knowing Jack *had* to be aware of this.

Marking him, for all to see. For the crew to remark upon. Somehow, he couldn't even bring himself to be upset at the thought of it. Distantly, he realized he was glad.

Jack's voice was hoarse in his ears. "I want you. Now."

"God, yes," James agreed, fervently, leaning back into him almost unconsciously at hearing it.

Jack's hand was gone abruptly from him, and as Jack reached back behind them for… presumably something to ease the way, James felt the loss of contact between their bodies as Jack pulled away a little. It was revealing to him how utterly devastating it was to simply have lost that touch, the sensation of him against his own skin. A bare, few inches apart, and he already felt cold.

And even more of a revelation, however, to know what it meant to be made love to by Jack Sparrow, for following on this swiftly was the touch of slick fingers against him, and the return of Jack's knee pressing to his thigh.

"James…" Jack's whispered breath was close and hot against him, loud in his ear.

And then there was nothing but the crystalline white shards of freedom and pleasure sweeping through him along with Jack entering him easily from behind, renewing the happiness tasted not so long before. To be wrapped in it, along with the dark, intimate warmth of this embrace.

It was more than making love; it was safety and abundance, and entirely quiet satisfaction, a silent song of resolution at last achieved. He never would have imagined he could have this much, from anyone, least of all this man, a pirate…someone he had believed was forbidden by law or moral conscience.

James could not help but notice the difference in this experience, to give himself over to Jack…to let Jack take him and for it to be acquiescence…and yet even more; for it to be desired. It was magic, again, but more certain and safe and yet somehow all the more engulfing - as it was to be expected between them now. It wasn't a discovery or a mutual, tentative exploration of each other any longer, but a retreat to familiarity and something greedily required, desired and entirely necessary. To finally have each other in the silence and peace of a place all their own.

The novelty of it was still lovely, however. To be desired this way, in the secret rhythm of Jack's body against his, owning him; the sharp ecstasy of it was exactly what he'd needed to soothe the loneliest corner of his heart, that same part that had feared without words throughout the past week or so, that Jack might…have changed his mind about this. About him…about the two of them.

Every heated thrust and helpless gasp of Jack's against him sent flicks of possessive satisfaction through him, gradually replacing the solitude, and transforming it into satiated longing. The slow, bucking cadence of Jack's body was forcing groans of his own to mingle with Jack's, and each slick, burning push into him careened through him a little too wildly, a silent shriek of pleasure in his blood.

The energy flowing through him was almost too much now, like a burst of fire or light inside his veins. He wasn't shaking, but somehow it really wasn't enough. Nothing could be enough to express this shivery, heated lightening that threatened to crawl inside and out of him, making his toes curl and clench his teeth against a loud whimper. It wasn't enough to have Jack's cock driving into him.

"J-Jack," he gasped. "I need- your hand on me -"

Abruptly, Jack's hand left his hip where it had been clutching him in place, and grasped his organ roughly, and James yelped in surprise and renewed pleasure at the sensation.

The build-up, the flaring heat running throughout him, the need, that damnably pounding need that continued despite the nearly wicked shafting he was receiving, now joined with Jack's firm hand pulling at him and it all merged together into a single blaze of glory as he jolted, stiffened and was seized by the climax pulling him down and under and around and out at last…

Jack's softly panted chuckle was broken by the pirate's own strangled moan and suddenly renewed, quickened pace stabbing into him, to be followed by the exquisite feeling of Jack coming inside of him, against him, lost in him. James still thought it a mite strange to be on the receiving end, but the resultant feeling of being claimed, owned, cared for, wanted…It was very, very nice. Even despite the teeth against the nape of his neck as Jack bit him. It sent a glowing, happy little wave of contentment all through his limbs, and he breathed out with a sigh.

"James," Jack murmured against him with a contented noise and a squeeze of the arm about him.

He wanted to fall asleep with Jack's member still inside of him, and with Jack like this, pressed all up against the back of him, making him feel cozier than he could ever remember being in any previous tryst with anyone. "I told you," he murmured, lazily, in a sleep-rough voice.

"Tol' me what?" Jack asked, with a kiss against his neck.

"You cuddle. You're a cuddler," James insisted.

"Aye, and a great many other things, besides," Jack pointed out. "Get some sleep, 'ey? I promise I've got your back. No more ghosties." And he kissed James's neck again, even as James smiled wryly in the dark.

He obediently closed his eyes, allowing sleep to claim him with blessed soporific blankets.


Jack stood leaning against the main mast, his arms folded before him, absently watching the antics between the monkey and Cotton's parrot.

They apparently had formed an uneasy partnership, broken only by the occasional nip of a beak when a paw got too close to the tail feathers, or when a paw was nipped too hard and seemed to require retaliation. They were currently chasing each other amongst the rigging, and it looked as though the monkey was gaining the advantage, even despite the parrot's wing-ed benefit. Hard to tell if they were playing, or if this was a mock battle that was a prelude to something more serious.

Mr. Cotton was at the helm, seemingly unconcerned at his bird's absence from his shoulder.

Gibbs came to stand beside him, swigging from his whisky and putting it away as he greeted him. "Mornin', Jack."

Jack regarded him with a half-smile. "A good mornin' to you, mate. How's the mood aboard?"

Gibbs heaved a sigh. "Just chipper, apart from Anamaria."

Jack rolled his eyes. "What's up with her now?"

"She's on the rag," Gibbs muttered. "Bad luck to be having the Commodore aboard with her in that particular way, if you get my meanin'. Don't look much forward to seein' them tangle, what with her in that condition."

Jack lifted his brows in enlightenment. "Wondered why she was griping so fierce, last night." He shook his head. "No worries. The Commodore can hold his own."

Gibbs nodded. "Aye. But with all the gold aboard, making for your island…Well, let's just say we'll all be breathin' a sigh of relief if we make it there in one piece."

A loud squawk from above tore through the peaceful murmur of the morning and the brisk wind that aided the Pearl's ploughing through the waves. A bright blue feather floated down between them, and Jack and Gibbs both watched it silently flutter to the deck between their feet.

Jack looked up and met Gibbs's eye. He muttered, "Good point. The sooner we get there, the better. Let's keep 'em separated, at least until we arrive. No need for bloodshed to pass the time, when rum and a well-strung fiddle will do just as nicely. But we'll need to drop the gold off before we make for Tortuga again, and we'll return Norrington on the way back. He'll only be with us for a few days. Maybe a week."

"Aye, sir," Gibbs agreed, worriedly looking up at the parrot above them, who appeared to have grown disgusted with the monkey's attempts to garner a few feathers and had flapped up to the crow's nest, out of reach.

Jack looked around them and leaned closer. "'Ey, you ever had any nightly visitations with a girl in black, aboard?"

Gibbs stared back at him. "No, sir, I haven't, and if you have, I daresay it's a bad omen, Jack."

"Not me," Jack explained. "The Commodore. Seems there's a certain lady aboard in spirit, who's pestering 'im in 'is dreams." He nudged Gibbs. "But be sure to keep that one to yourself, 'ey? No sense in worrying the others."

Gibbs looked scared. "A lady in black, Cap'n?"

"That's what he said. First time I've heard of her, mind, but it's got me thinking; maybe she's…" Jack stopped, and smiled fondly at the possibility that again seemed too obvious to dismiss. He grinned up at the billowing black sails, full like the skirts of a lady's dress.

Gibbs wasn't happy at all. "Jack, that's serious, that is. Sounds like a banshee."

Jack shook his head firmly. "Not a chance, mate. No screaming. Did threaten 'im though. Warned him. She was all possessive, like."

With a nervous movement, Gibbs drew out his flask and quickly took a drink. Swallowing, he managed, "I *told* you it was bad luck havin' him aboard, Jack! And with all the gold aboard too…"

Jack grabbed him by the shoulder and chuckled at him. "Get a grip, man. There's nought to fear from a disembodied spirit." He leaned in again, a little more furtively. "But be sure to mention if anyone else says anything of the kind, you hear?"

Gibbs grimaced at his flask and took another drink. "Aye, Jack. I will, you can count on that. Though I daresay we're going to regret having 'im 'ere."

The doors opened and Commodore Norrington came out on deck, looking disgruntled. His brown hair was tied back and without his wig, his hat, or proper uniform, he looked…approachable. Certainly more appealing than his usual Naval persona. Slowly, he made his way directly towards them, where Jack and Gibbs were standing by the mast.

"He doesn't look very happy, does he?" Jack wondered.

Gibbs regarded the Commodore. "No, 'e doesn't, at that. Probably feeling the loss of his wig and uniform, if you ask me."

"And his weapons," Jack added.

"And his officers, and his ship," Gibbs went on.

"I did remember his coat, though," Jack said, as if defending himself, although he knew very well that he'd failed to bring any of the Commodore's things simply to ensure that Norrington wouldn't present much of a commodorial picture aboard the Pearl. It wouldn't do to have Norrington - captive or not - striding about in full regalia and putting even more fear of the Royal British Navy into the hearts of his crew.

And he couldn't help a smile to see Norrington coming to stand in front of them with a dour expression on his face.

"A good morning to you, Commodore," Jack grinned, enjoying the way his Jamie's eyes betrayed the dilemma between his response to Jack and the fact that he was standing aboard the Black Pearl as a mostly involuntary guest, notably without any arms of any kind. Amongst pirates.

"You're looking none the worse for wear," Jack continued as Norrington gave Gibbs a perusing glance.

Gibbs lifted his chin. "If you're lookin' for breakfast, Commodore, it'll be below. Just help yourself."

"Thank you, Mr. Gibbs, I believe I'll manage," Norrington stated. His eyes returned accusingly to Jack. "You could have at least remembered my hat and pistol."

Jack raised a finger. "I did, at the very last moment I remembered how detrimental an effect it would have upon me crew, to be having a commodore of the fleet prancing about my fine ship in his fancy togs. One of 'em aboard would probably run you through to put you out of your misery, if I had."

"Nevertheless," Norrington insisted, "it would have been proper to ensure I'd be decently attired. But then, what else should I have expected from a motley collection of pirates, I suppose."

"But you *are* amongst pirates, mate," Jack pointed out, reasonably enough. "This way, you're more informal and not all trussed up and looking stiff and forbidding." He let his eyes linger upon the mark that was visible on James's neck, and realized he'd put it there. Gleefully, he grinned widely, feeling proud that he'd managed it.

Norrington flushed, obviously catching on to what he was looking at, and returned, defiantly, "If it was your intention to have me paraded about half-dressed, yes. But in this case your theft was considerably thoughtless."

"An' whose fault was that?" Jack shot back, remembering how Norrington had jumped him immediately upon his revealing his presence to him in the man's bedroom.

"No one asked you to kidnap me."

"I didn't hear you protesting my being there," Jack retorted, still smiling.

"You could have at least stolen a proper set of clothes, and a razor. I could have *packed*, myself, with a little more time or warning."

Jack was torn with indecision. Staring back into Norrington's eyes, he couldn't decide if that was a coldness that burned there, or a fiery heat. They both were the same, really; and his Jamie's eyes were an ocean emerald green that rivaled the Caribbean on her finest afternoons. Probably it was both, he finally realized. An icy fire that was entirely too alluring. A desire as mysterious as the cold ocean, and as lovely. He couldn't tell, however, if James was going to make this difficult out of a sense of mischief and a need to rattle him for his own amusement, or because of any feelings of authentic ire. Again, probably both.

He stood there, staring back at James, and abruptly he heard Gibbs clearing his throat and nudging him.

Norrington sighed through his nose and cast a glance upwards, obviously waiting for Jack to respond.

"Ah," Jack started. "Well, naturally. Pirates, indeed, as you're wont to say. Wasn't much time, really. All things considered. What with needing to get you aboard quickly, and all the gold to transport. Would you really have packed, if I'd given you fair warning?" He grinned at James, remembering how James had thrown him down against that bed of his, and attempted to have his way with him in greeting, even as Anamaria had been making angry gestures behind them to get on with it and depart before any might discover something was amiss.

Something of an answering flicker of interest and desire in Norrington's eyes met his, even as Norrington dryly observed, "Despite my allowing you the opportunity to avail yourself of more of that illegal cache, Jack, I shouldn't have to point out that it is still tantamount to stealing and you didn't have to return to the Isle of Dead. Groves and Gillette will be most put out, I'm sure, to find it all gone. Their efforts will have been in vain and it's a wasted trip for the Dauntless."

"Most kind of you to leave us the chance to slip into Port Royal, I'm sure," Jack smiled, and licked his lips once, enjoying the way Norrington inadvertently dropped his gaze to watch and then straightened himself up in an effort to pretend he was unaffected. Jack grinned. Too late, love- bit too obvious, there. "Couldn't help myself, mate. It's in my nature."

"Ah. Yes. As a pirate, you love to steal. More to the point, you love to steal gold things. 'The Commodore wears gold braid. Ergo, must steal Commodore?'" James delivered caustically, and gave Jack a pointed look. "Your logic leaves something to be desired."

"'E's right, Jack," Gibbs put in, shaking his head. "Kidnapping one the King's Men will only 'ave 'em chasin' us down quicker."

Seeing Norrington had joined them on deck now, several of the crew had begun to gather around them.

Jack looked askance at James. "You'd do well to remember that inciting mutiny amongst my crew would have rather disastrous results for your well-being, Commodore. Not only would they most likely kill you, I'd have to kill you too, for encouraging mutiny. It's happened to me before, and I don't much appreciate the thought of it happening again. However, if you'd be so kind, perhaps you could do the honors and explain to these…" He gave James a fond grin, "…these fine gents why you're aboard, James."

Norrington surveyed the pirates, who stared back at him with a mixture of fear and amusement. Jack bit his tongue to stop himself from laughing and feigned a serious look; it wouldn't do to reassure Norrington just yet. But it was very unlikely his current crew would bother; they were a very different sort to Barbossa and the undead crew that had terrorized the Pearl and the Caribbee for so long.

Jack waved both hands at him negligently. "Go on," he urged. "Tell 'em you'll behave yourself."

"However involuntary my presence is aboard your ship, Captain Sparrow, I can assure you that I will conduct myself in a civil manner. I don't eat pirates, nor do I conjure the undead to haunt sailors in their sleep. That's more your line of expertise, I think," he said, with a double-laden glance at Jack. "Skeletons, ghosts…Whatever will it be next?"

"Angels," Jack said, squinting at him. "Angels of the female, Earthly variety." He spread his arms widely and then smirked. "A mite tarnished perhaps, but then we're not complaining…Are we, mates?"

The grins on the faces of Jack's crew failed to enlighten Norrington. Jack gave him an appraising look. "Skirts, mate. We're not going to settle on my little island paradise all by ourselves. Have to bring some girls along. And rum. Do *not* forget the rum," he held up a finger to emphasize this point. "We'll drop off the treasure, and head for Tortuga for proper supplies. That will be a pleasure you'll have to forego, as we can't take a Navy man in there without endangering your reputation," Jack pronounced carefully, to some laughter from the pirates surrounding them. "But you haven't told them why you're *here*," he grinned at Norrington, wondering how the man would explain his presence there amongst them.

Norrington regarded them, his eyes narrowing. "Considering our destination, I'm surprised you haven't apprised them of it yourself, *Captain*," Norrington emphasized slightly. "Technically, the island is in English waters, is it not? Therefore, as a representative of the British interests and estate in the Caribbean, I will oversee the purchase of said island."

Jack sharply reminded him, "'M a pirate, mate. Not a buyer, nor a seller."

"I don't recall saying anything of the kind," Norrington said stiffly, all-too-aware of the fact that many eyes were trained on him now. "But if this little piece of paradise is anywhere near as special as you've led me to believe, I daresay I'll be tempted to purchase it myself."

A little dart of misgiving went through Jack at this. What was Norrington up to? "Over my dead body," he growled, noticing that all the sailors aboard swiveled their heads to look at him, at this.

Then swiveled back to Norrington, as the Commodore insufferably said in a casual and somehow remarkably condescending tone, with a tight smile to match, "Now, then, Captain; no need for things to get ugly. You wanted me along on this venture of yours. Regardless of this little 'holiday' you've decided to grant me, you don't imagine for an instant, I hope, that I am no longer acting in an official capacity?"

So this is how it was going to be. Jack sighed, expansively. "It's not yours."

"Neither is it yours," Norrington gave him a wider smile, looking entirely too pleased with himself. "Just because you have decided to stash all of your stolen goods there. You've taken it into your head to capture a British officer, right enough. I am your prisoner. Therefore I won't have to pay you the fee for the voyage there, nor my return. But we said nothing of what I would do upon our arrival," he pointed out. "If I decide to ensure British interests are established, and that island belongs to the Crown, I see no rights by which you can claim it, especially if you take me ashore. The moment I set foot on it, it is by rights *my* island, in the name of the King and the Empire."

Jack regarded him thoughtfully. Norrington was merely playing with him, he decided. "Mine, mine, mine," he said, shaking a finger at him. "An' I see none of *your* marines close enough to call upon. You still haven't illuminated my crew as to what you're doing aboard in the first place, mate." He gave Norrington a humorless, toothy grin.

He wondered if Norrington was man enough to admit it to them, regardless of the fact that most of them already knew in the first place. It wasn't that hard to savvy, especially given the intensity of their exchanges and the way Norrington looked at him, even surrounded as they were. It was hard enough not to crack a smile at that alone; his James was far too obvious.

Besides, it had to be apparent to Norrington that if he didn't give some explanation that made some sense in a personal light, the only other conclusion was that Norrington's presence aboard would compromise their intention of using the island as their stash for their treasure they were bearing there.

Which would compromise Norrington's safety. Some jittery fellow might take it into his head to ignore the fact that his rightful captain had brought the Commodore aboard in the first place, and stick a knife in him.

Which left only a personal understanding between Norrington and himself as any explanation that might make any sense…and what with Anamaria having witnessed their little interlude last night in Norrington's own bedroom, the word would spread fairly rapidly anyhow, if it hadn't already. Jack suddenly grimaced to himself, realizing that since Ana was, as Gibbs had relayed to him, in her time of month, she'd probably have done so moments after getting aboard last night. Her mood was most foul right now.

He wondered how loud he and James had been the night before. And frowned, wondering where Anamaria *was*. She was conspicuous in her current absence.

But Norrington merely smiled suavely back at him, and replied coolly, "Really, Jack. It's a little late for you to be playing coy, wouldn't you agree? I should think it's fairly obvious to all, by now."

By refusing to state it aloud, but choosing to leave it to innuendo that needed no explanation, Norrington was making it out to be more sordid than it was. There was a muted round of chuckles from the gathered sailors and Jack gave him a sickly smile. "Very funny."

Norrington sniffed and drew himself up, lifting his chin proudly. "Shoulder it yourself, Captain Sparrow. Kidnapping an officer of the Crown is an offense punishable by death. I don't know what you were thinking."

"As I recall," Jack drawled, "neither of us were doin' much thinking last night. In fact, I most distinctly remember being detained in your bedchamber by the force of your affections, Commodore. Was damnably difficult trying to get you out the door, as Anamaria will no doubt testify."

The stain of red on Norrington's cheeks, at last, gave Jack a small amount of satisfaction. But to his credit, and in spite of the laughter, Norrington rallied himself. "True, but then it's no secret that you keep finding opportunities to find your way into my brig. It must hold a particular attraction for you, along with being held in shackles and chains. But there's no accounting for taste, I suppose."

The expression of aggressive enjoyment of their little public sparring match was fair leaping in Norrington's eyes, Jack saw. Fine, he grumbled to himself. If this was the way it was going to be…

With his hand on his hip and leaning casually against the mast, Jack retorted calmly, with a lift of his head, "The way *I* see it is, you started this. Can't keep your hands off; always fixing to see me to that brig of yours. I'm only returning the favor, mate. Long overdue, really; you've caught me how many times, now?" He made of show of counting on his fingers.

With a raised brow, he said, "No less than *four* times, love. How's a fellow to ignore that, 'ey? Although," he grinned amiably at him, "have to admit I admire your persistence, Commodore. I've never been pursued with such alacrity and determination before. It's enough to make a man feel right special."

Norrington turned an indulgent smile upon him. "I still say you're the worst pirate I've ever met. You can't help getting caught. It's as if you want to. I've only let you go out of pity, because it's painful to see such ineptitude in a fellow with a reputation as infamous as yours was purported to be." He looked at his nails briefly. "I keep hoping you'll improve with practice, but no such luck, so far."

There were a couple of indrawn hisses of alarm mixed with the chuckles at this. And Jack began to wonder how upset Norrington really was at being taken aboard against his will, now, to be calling him out so blatantly.

But Norrington continued, "You'd also do well to remember that there will be any number of ships out looking for me once they've ascertained my disappearance. I wonder if your crew are willing to take the same chances that you are."

"Perhaps you've forgotten where you are, Commodore," he said sharply, reminding Norrington that he was, after all, aboard a pirate vessel, amongst pirates.

It wouldn't do to start parading that Navy attitude too openly, or Norrington might endanger himself. But then, maybe Norrington was counting on the fact that it was Jack himself who'd taken it into his head to bring him aboard to save him from any repercussions…

"Oh, I've not forgotten for an instant," Norrington said, nonchalantly. "It's passing understanding why you'd decide to repay me for my hospitality on a run to an illegal treasure cache on one of His Majesty's islands. And with an officer of the fleet aboard your *pirate* ship, no less. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to go below to the galley, unless it is your intention for me to starve to death before we arrive."

Jack bowed, making a show of it, and with a flourish of his hands, said, "You're our guest, Norrington. Help yourself. You might even find an orange or two aboard. I remember how much you enjoyed them, before." He gave Norrington a twinkling smile.

Despite the fresh color that leapt into Norrington's face at this, the Commodore merely snorted and walked casually past him to go below, his hands behind his back calmly, ignoring the pirates who parted for him.

Gibbs was shaking his head. "It's no good, sir. No good at all."

Jack scowled at him. "What isn't?"

"He's no match for Anamaria, Cap'n. He's as good as fish bait when she's in the mood she's in now."

There were some muttered assents.

"Who isn't?" Jack muttered, knowing full well that Gibbs was right. She'd flay Norrington alive. Her tongue was sharper than the cat. "Just tell him to stay out of her way."

But he couldn't help sulking, for Norrington had really had the last word. He obviously intended to give as good as he got, and was not content to provide any gormless sport for the crew, or for Jack either…

Whatever the status of their relationship, it didn't entirely reassure him that Norrington had wanted to see his island, especially in light of what the Commodore had said. It came down to balancing one's assets, and one's weaknesses. The Black Pearl was both a vulnerability and a strength.

But the island was as much a weakness as James was, really. He was a little too overly fond of both. Maybe it was only fair that the two things he loved most beyond his ship would belong to Britain first. He wondered if there was any way to woo James from the Navy, or keep the island for himself. Maybe both at the same time? He liked that idea, and began to mull over what would be necessary to achieve it. How to ensure that both of his little pieces of paradise would remain his?

But everything now hinged on whether or not Norrington was playing him, and considered this a dalliance still. No, he couldn't believe that; not the gamely fashion in which Norrington had played it before them all just now. Jack knew that Norrington was very aware he'd had it coming since that dinner that night aboard the Dauntless when he'd placed Jack in such a tight spot before his own officers.

Still, there was the issue of what Norrington wanted, also. He didn't seem to be very happy about having been taken aboard, after all. Enjoying the opportunity to share the captain's bunk was one thing; being a captive officer on board the Pearl was another.

Norrington would have to play along, and Jack would have to hope that Norrington wasn't playing him. He began to wonder if it really was advisable to show him that island after all…

Yet again, it came down to a matter of trust.


In the galley, James found himself facing a humming sailor who was peeling potatoes and putting them in a large pot.

"Excuse me," he said, cautiously. "I was told I could find breakfast down here."

"That's right enough," the cook squinted at him. "You're the Captain's commodore, aren't you?"

"I suppose that's one way of putting it," James admitted, dryly.

The cook was putting out porridge in a bowl and some fruit on a tray. "Gibbs said you'd be down here," he stated. "An' there's no better way of puttin' it 'at won't offend any ears," the cook grinned at him, showing a series of gaps and assuring Norrington that the man's dental history was less than cheerful.

"I'm a sailor, and have been a member of His Majesty's Navy for longer than you've been at sea, man," James informed him with a twist of his lip. "I seriously doubt there is anything you could say that could shock or offend."

The cook regarded him with narrowed eyes. "No need to throw down any challenges here, mate. I be only the cook."

But James was curious. "Let's have it then," he said, letting the invitation for the man to talk color his reply, as he stood over the porridge and fruit.

The cook looked back at him and then said, conspiratorially, "Well, scuttlebutt has it that the Cap'n's taken a fancy to you, 'ey?"

"Is that all?" James lifted his brows. "So the rumor mill is still chewing on it. I would have thought it was common knowledge by now. It's been weeks." He picked up the spoon and took a bite of the porridge. He shot a look back at the cook, who appeared to be awaiting his verdict. Swallowing, he said, "Excellent. It's hard to find a man who can make a decent bowl of proper oats. They always forget the salt."

The cook awarded him a pleased, happy grin as he placed a teapot - and a fine cup and saucer that looked suspiciously out of place - on the tray. Stolen, no doubt. "Aye, they do, don't they? Me own mother taught me how to make 'em. A true Scot, she were. Aberdeen, and it's a pleasure to know a man who can tell the difference."

"It makes all the difference," he assured him. James picked up the tray and said, "By the way, I wondered if you might have something for this neck wound? It's frightfully stiff. Some oil, perhaps?"

The cook clucked his tongue and bustled about in a cupboard before bringing a large jar up with him. He placed it on James's tray with a wink. "That'll do ye, I'm sure. For a great many other uses, too."

"What is it?" James wondered, hoping it wasn't animal fat of some kind.

The cook chuckled at him. "From the tree of heaven, sir."

"Ah," James said, still not understanding but glad to know of its vegetable origin. "My thanks."

Bearing his breakfast back up on deck, he ignored the looks from the pirates cast in his direction and made his way to Jack's cabin, entering the double doors to find Jack sitting at the table with his boots up on it.

Setting his tray down on the table, James said, "It would appear that my reputation amongst your crew is already well established, Jack."

Jack gave him a thoughtful look. But he didn't say anything.

James wondered. And decided not to make an issue of it. He didn't much fancy discussing it any further, himself. He curiously opened the jar of oil and saw a caked white mass. He smelt it cautiously. "What is the tree of heaven?" he asked Jack.

Absently, Jack said, "Coconut. Did you mean what you inferred out there? About my island?"

James gave him a smile. "Is that what's bothering you?" he asked, affectionately. "Dear, dear. You really do require far too much reassurance, Jack. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that you've been alone too long."

"It's no joking matter to me," Jack said sharply. "It's mine, and I will have it. I'm taking you to see it as a favor, not so you can steal it from me."

James let out a frustrated breath. "For God's sake, man; you don't think I meant it?" He allowed himself a wounded tone, despite the fact that he was finding it rather endearing that Jack was so upset over it. In an attempt to mollify him, he added, "I know what it means to you, Jack. I wouldn't do that to you. Besides, I know full well what you've been through after being separated from your ship for so long. I'm hardly one to attempt to make you suffer over anything else in the same manner." Implicit in this was his relationship with Jack, included…and he hoped Jack managed to ascertain that.

From the withdrawal of the anger from Jack's expression, he rather hoped so. Jack still said nothing however.

Sitting up, he began to eat the oatmeal, which despite growing cool, was still one of the most admittedly delicious porridges he'd tasted. He'd have to remember to ask the cook how he made it, so he could pass it on to his own back home.

Which reminded him, he'd be moving out of his smaller townhouse in Port Royal to that lovely, sumptuous prospect that the Governor had given him. Clearing his throat, he said, into the rather awkwardly full silence, "At any rate, I don't need the island, because I've recently come into new lodgings, myself. I'm hardly one to begrudge another's good fortune when I've been blessed with the same."

"Congratulations are in order, I take it?" Jack said, amiably enough, showing his teeth in a way that James almost took as sarcastic.

He put down his spoon. "Are you always this pissy in the morning? If this is how you're going to be while I'm your guest, I'll spend the time on deck with the others. They seem a much more friendly lot."

"You don't seem very happy to be aboard in the first place, 'ey?" Jack said in a knowing tone.

James stared back at him. "What -?" A thought came to him and he drew a breath. "It's one thing to steal me away aboard your ship for an impromptu holiday excursion. It's quite another to not make any provisions for me in the way of clothing or belongings. That was all. It had nothing to do with what I'm doing here. Which I thought I'd made quite clear last night, what my feelings were on this matter."

Jack shrugged. "Whatever you say, mate."

James raised his brows. "You don't believe me?"

"Surely," Jack agreed.

James wasn't assured in the least now. He regarded Jack and asked, puzzling, "Look, what are you upset about?"

"Nothing whatever," Jack said, with a little moue that was undoubtedly supposed to be informative and only appeared completely vague.

James poured himself a cup of tea. "Well, that's alright, then."

Silence reigned.

"It *is* in English waters," Jack admitted.

James regarded him, confounded to understand exactly what Jack was worried about.

Jack's dark gaze slid to his, holding his eyes. "Technically," he added.

James suddenly had the feeling he was being toyed with, somehow. With a frown he sipped his tea, and wondered if Jack was being deliberately difficult as some of the women in his life had already been. The strangely familiar sensation of it brought to mind Elizabeth, and he suspiciously identified it as emotional manipulation. And Jack would only do this if he were still feeling insecure about…their relationship. He breathed easier.

James put down his cup firmly on the saucer. "Now see here, Jack," he said firmly. "I've no intention of taking your island from you. It will hardly be a chore for me to keep the bearings of your island paradise secret from the rest of the world. For all anyone else knows, you never allowed me to know where it was I've been taken. I assumed your dangerous and rather risqué game out there was to pay me back in kind, for that abysmal experience at the dinner with my officers aboard the Dauntless. Surely you'll allow me to amuse myself a little in your style. Just as you played the pirate, I will play the commodore." He gave Jack a sharp look at this. "Just as you trusted me aboard my ship, so I am trusting you aboard yours."

The expression Jack wore now was almost - grateful.

"That's alright, then," Jack said, graciously.

James continued to watch Jack even as he picked up his cup of tea and sipped it cautiously, noting Jack's face as he peered over the rim at him.

Jack made a little gesture. "Must admit, I didn't expect you to take it as far as you did, though."

"It wasn't for their benefit, actually," James let drop casually enough. "Nor mine." At Jack's sudden glare, James smiled at him. "But yours."

"Ha ha. It is to laugh," Jack said unpleasantly.

James was unfazed, and merely turned an affectionate smile on him. "I rather thought so." At Jack's continued ill-humor, he scoffed, "Oh, come on, Jack. Do lighten up a little. It's hardly shocking news at this late date. Your entire crew knows, and probably more besides. This isn't the Dauntless; and besides, they're *pirates*."

Jack gave him a thoughtful look. "Aye. I'll confess I've been wondering if you'd forgotten that little point."

"As if I could," James said, sipping from his tea again before replacing the cup in the saucer and moving back to the oatmeal. "No, I'm much more distressed by that haunting female that appeared to me last night."

Jack made a dismissive noise. "Needn't worry about her, mate. She won't hurt you."

James gave him a sharp look. "I really must insist you tell me who she is, Jack."

Jack looked askance at him. "You won't believe me."

"Nevertheless," James insisted.

Jack cast a glance about the interior of the room. "It's *her*," he said, letting his voice fall reverently, "my Pearl."

James swallowed his mouthful of porridge, which had abruptly turned into a congealed lump in his throat as his mouth went dry at Jack's words. "I knew it," he muttered, hastily washing it down with another sip of tea.

Jack sat up and leaned forward. "Have you seen the woman on the prow?" He was idly caressing the hard wood of the table upon which his arm was resting.

Something about the way he was doing it made James feel overly possessive, himself. He cleared his throat. "I have. The lady I saw looked nothing like your figurehead."

Jack gave him a grin with more of his customary good humor. "Nevertheless."

Lifting a brow at him, James said, "I still fail to see why I should believe she means me no harm. If anything, I'm in more immediate danger than I would be from any ordinary mortal's ghost. A vengeful ship is another matter. She is obviously very possessive about you."

"Understandable, considering," Jack pointed out. "We were parted for a good, long while. Barbossa took her from me; it's hardly surprising she'd be a little insecure yet. Give it a couple more months and she'll be right as rain," Jack smiled, patting the table.

Understanding did dawn, at that. James regarded him with some trepidation. "She- she doesn't believe I want to… part you from her, does she?"

It was Jack's turn to lift his brows at him. "Well, must say, James, you *have* gone out of your way to see me captured, plenty of times now. Methinks you'll have to prove yourself to her."

"But- she's a… a *ship*," James continued, feeling dismayed. "They're like women. And you *know* what women are like. And this one's worse; she's both, if that is possible. What can I do?"

Jack gave him a smile at this, and chuckled. "Well, you'll have to charm her, won't you, Jamie lad?"

Worried, James asked, "Will she let me? Will *you*?"

Jack gave him a little frown. "She's not a woman, Commodore. You're also a captain…I'm sure you can manage. Let me put it this way, she's one of the loves of me life, but she's not my wife. Would be different if she were."

"But you're her rightful captain," James pointed out.

Impatiently, Jack said, "You're a sailor yourself, aren't you? So you're married to ocean first, before your ship or the Navy or any other. A ship's a good mistress, but that doesn't stop her from giving her heart to anyone else. Just because I covet her and will kill any man who dares to take her from me doesn't mean *she* will. And she let Barbossa stay aboard, curse or no, so I'd say she owes me one, 'ey?"

"You've given this a lot of thought," James observed. "I thought you were nearly obsessed with your ship, before. Now I know it to be true."

"Can you blame me?" Jack asked. "She's the grandest, most magnificent ship that ever was or ever will be." He quickly lifted a finger. "An' if you don't agree with me, I guarantee she'll be none too pleased with you."

Feeling totally out of his depth and a return of that chill of apprehension from the previous night during his dream, James swiftly said, "Oh, to be sure, Jack. I do agree. She is the best, the *greatest* pirate ship that any captain could hope to- to captain." He swallowed another hasty sip of tea in his dry throat, wondering why he, of all people, had to be involved with a pirate captain with an unnaturally jealous and overly supernatural ship.

Jack paused, holding his head at an angle as if listening. Then he nodded. "Very good, then. I think you've a chance."

"Of what?"

Jack flashed a golden, glittering smile at him. "Of surviving the night."

"Oh, ha ha," James said, deliberately borrowing from Jack, just as Jack had borrowed his phrase from earlier.

Jack turned a furtive gaze upon him now. "To be sure, just so long as you don't try to take my ship from me. Or my island. Or anything else that belongs to me."

"I wouldn't dream of it," James murmured, selecting the small orange and beginning to peel it.

Jack was watching him with interest. "Such as yourself."

Rather endearing, that Jack felt it necessary to remind him that he 'belonged to him.' "Again, the thought hadn't crossed my mind," James reassured him, stifling a fond smile at the reminder. He threw a look at Jack. "Just as long as you remember the same goes for you. In fact, it goes double for you because you're a pirate, and it's in your nature, after all, to take things that belong to others."

Jack grinned at him. "Do you accuse me of stealing then, from England? For having made off with one of her islands, and one of her officers?"

James chuckled at him. "If it pleases you to believe so, then yes," he said, indulgently. He flicked a knowing glance at him at this, however. "Though I believe you haven't managed to take the island yet. Just because you intend to bury gold on it doesn't quite make it yours."

Ruefully, Jack's face fell. "To be sure. That one's been worrying me a bit, 'ey? I may have to find a way to buy it, yet."

James let out a breath. Insufferable and exasperating, this pirate. "Jack," he asked, carefully, "exactly what is stopping you from taking that gold and buying the island through a third party, such as a broker?"

Jack gave him a horrified look at this suggestion. "I've told you, over and over again, Jamie. I'm a *pirate*. It's the principle of the thing."

"Ah, but this is different. It's land," James pointed out. "And you would be buying a piece of heaven, remember? Isn't that worth it?"

"Some things can't be bought, anymore than they can be stolen." Jack said. "Heaven is one of 'em."

"Loyalty is another," James said, sharply. "As is love."

"Now that's where you're wrong," Jack grinned at him. "I've stolen you, easy enough."

James hesitated. "Perhaps," he admitted, then quickly added, "but land is still another matter. You can buy it, with the right connections and the right amount of gold." He gave Jack a look. "Which you have."

Jack pulled a face. "Will it buy a viceroy's rights, though?"

"Ah, but that lies in the realm of politics, in which it's all about the buying, as long as you have even more gold and better connections. And a more shark-infested, dangerous sea you'll never find. As you well know."

"I do, seein' as you're one of their sharks, yourself," Jack countered, amused.

"I resent that," James said mildly, holding up his peeled orange and removing a segment from it with a slight sense of nostalgia at the recollection of that first kiss. How many lifetimes ago that afternoon now seemed. "I'm nowhere near as detestable as a politician. I'm a man of honor. As an officer of the Navy, doubly so."

Jack sat up. "No, no, this is promising. I have the gold, and then there's you. With the right…shall we say… 'leverage'," Jack smiled, unaccountably, "we could acquire the governorship of that particular island and locale. It's well beyond the jurisdiction of any nearby settlements, and may lie close enough to the Spanish coast that we could claim it against the Dutch or the Spanish."

"Perhaps." James chewed on his segment of orange. "Although, you'd have to tolerate a certain amount of traffic from time to time, of Naval ships coming and going to visit one of the outlying island staging bases."

"Which is not a bad idea, 'ey?" Jack agreed with a knowing look.

James smiled and gave a nod. It would be ideal, in fact, and would ensure he'd have the opportunity to go down and visit Jack - whenever it suited him. Sobriety returned, however. "It would depend, I think, on whether or not you'd be retiring to that island to enjoy the fruits of your governorship. Or if you'd continue plundering the Caribbean. There are some things I wouldn't be able to turn a blind eye to."

"Now, now; you promised you wouldn't do that," Jack remonstrated, indignantly. "You said you wouldn't start harping on at me to give it up. Being a pirate." He sat up straighter. "Tell you what, James. I'll give up piracy if you'll give up being a commodore. Fair enough?"

James sighed around a mouthful of orange. "Very well. Which leaves us at an impasse."

"Or maybe not," Jack said, slouching back once more and drumming his fingers on the tabletop. "Leave it to me. I'm getting a glimmering of an idea, here."

"As am I," James informed him quietly, popping another orange slice thoughtfully into his mouth. "You're apparently suffering second thoughts at having kidnapped me and bodily hauling me off to your island. What can I do to assure you that, in spite of your faux pas regarding my lack of travel clothes and arrangements, I'm feeling quite agreeable about the situation?"

Jack threw him a look. "That might take some doing," he confessed. "The better part of an hour, even."

James glanced at the window, noting the angle of the sunlight on the water, beyond, even through the panes of glass. "Which would take us well towards noon."

"Even so," Jack grinned, his eyes lighting up considerably.

Seeing Jack so happy, all of a sudden, caused a twinge of warmth to dart through him. He wondered how Jack could doubt, at this late date, that his feelings were sincere, as well as his intentions.

Abruptly, he regretted mentioning the notion of Jack giving up piracy. He hadn't meant to hurt him. Nor had he meant to fall to the point that all of Jack's previous lovers had, in making him feel as though he would have to choose between them and continuing as he was.

Somehow, it didn't help that the irony was most blinding where he, a commodore of His Majesty's Navy, was concerned. Of all the people who stood to lose the most, it was himself, to be with a pirate in this manner. And of all the people Jack could have chosen to become involved with, he was the most inadvisable. "I might be the worst decision you could have made," he murmured, feeling a little heartsick at it.

Jack was watching him though, and said slowly, "As you're the most unlikely decision I could possibly make, I rather suspect you're the last anyone would suspect. Savvy?"

James looked down at the floor at this, and had to laugh. "Very true."

There was a sudden shriek outside, and a commotion began. Voices were raised, and the parrot began calling in distress.

James was startled. "What on Earth…"

"Ah," Jack said, unsurprised. "The banshee awakes." He stood, took a deep breath, and said, "You might want to stay here, mate. It won't be a pretty sight. She'll have you for breakfast, an' me for lunch."

"Nonsense," James said, eating the last orange slice and draining the remainder of his cup of tea before rising to join Jack as they made their way to the door. "I'm far more daunted by your ship. This will be an excellent opportunity to practice my, ah, 'charm'."

"Don't say I didn't warn you," Jack muttered, as he threw open the doors and revealed the dark-skinned woman shrieking angrily at the old man who'd been at the helm before, as the monkey sat upon her shoulder, joining her with shrill calls.

The parrot was swinging precariously from one of the ropes above, and piteously calling out, "Dead men tell no tales."

Gibbs and the others looked positively relieved to see them as they approached.

Jack tentatively went to stand near them. "Anamaria," he sighed, carefully. "What's happened?"

Angrily, she brandished a pointed fist at the parrot above. "That devil-bird and spawn of Satan bit Jack 'ere on the arm! And look! Now 'e's bleedin' everywhere, and I'm goin' to 'ave to give 'im stitches!" The monkey was clasping at her with legs and tail, pathetically, and uttered a few half-hearted shrieks to punctuate her speech.

Jack looked pointedly down at the planks strewn with blue and yellow and green feathers. "I see. Self-defense, was it?" He looked up at the old man. "Mr. Cotton?"

The old sailor gave a helpless shrug and then stared sadly up at the parrot.

"That damned bird's been bullyin' 'im from the start!" Anamaria exclaimed. "If 'e doesn't behave 'imself, we'll be 'avin' parrot stew, come evenin'!"

Mr. Cotton looked horrified.

Jack made a considering face at this. "We could make a festive occasion of it, and have monkey in it as well. I'm sure they'd get along much better in the same pot. It would certainly be much quieter."

Anamaria punched him in the arm. The left one, James realized with a sympathetic wince as Jack hissed.

James stepped forward. "I'm sure that's not necessary," he said. "The standard provision for more than one animal aboard a vessel is to keep them leashed. Surely you could both keep them to yourselves?"

Jack stared at him, as did everyone else, obviously wondering why he was stepping out of line.

But Anamaria merely groused at him, "Aye? And what good would come of that, with them bein' cooped up? It won't be 'ealthy."

"So let them take turns. Don't let them have the run of the ship at the same time," James suggested.

Mr. Cotton and Anamaria exchanged wary glances.

"That sounds reasonable enough, 'ey?" Jack asked them.

Mr. Cotton quickly nodded. Anamaria merely scowled at Jack and then turned to James. "Right then. But if anything 'appens to 'im again, we'll be having Navy stew, come suppertime," she said, and stomped away to go below, to see to the monkey's wound.

The parrot fluttered down to Mr. Cotton's shoulder, who sadly bore the parrot away to see to his ruffled feathers.

"Glad you could make yourself useful, Commodore," Jack said, looking after them.

"Glad I could be of assistance, Captain," James replied.

One of the shortest sailors James had ever clapped eyes on came up to them. "Jack, it was both of 'em."

"Aye," Jack sighed. "I know. It's been building up to this for a while now. Was only a matter of time."

"I *said* bringin' that monkey aboard was bad luck," Gibbs muttered.

"Why is it aboard?" James asked, puzzled.

"It was living here aboard this ship for over ten years," the short sailor said. "Doesn't know any other home."

"But she called him 'Jack'," James pressed. He looked over at Jack who had a sick expression on his face.

"Barbossa's little joke," Jack said, and pulled a face as he rubbed at his left shoulder.

James found himself grinning in spite of himself. "You're kidding. Really?"

"Ha bloody ha," Jack growled at him and moved away, returning to the cabin.

James was unable to help a chuckle at this. Gibbs regarded him with some humor. "You might want to go easy on remindin' Jack about that."

"Well, if you'd be so kind as to explain it to me, then I'll be sure to avoid bringing it up," James said.

"Many years ago, it was," Gibbs said. "See, they were sailing just beyond Shri Lanka and found a little island inhabited only by monkeys. There was this baby monkey who'd been orphaned. Jack wanted to adopt it, but Barbossa insisted that because 'e'd seen the monkey first, he should have it by rights. Well, the years go by and then a few weeks ago when they met up again, Barbossa told 'im 'e'd named the monkey after 'im, after Jack had been marooned and left to die. After Barbossa and the crew had mutinied on that fateful day. So the monkey's an eternal reminder of the unpleasant past. You'd do well not to open old wounds by speakin' of it to 'im," Gibbs warned him.

"That's a dreadful story," James protested, feeling nauseated by Barbossa's obvious conflict where Jack was concerned. Naming the monkey 'Jack', indeed.

Gibbs nodded. "Aye, poor Jack was heart-broken. Barbossa stole everything from 'im. So you can imagine he was most motivated, aye?"

James stifled a sigh at this. It was absurd. Over a *monkey*, for heaven's sake. He'd be wary of bringing it up to Jack, to be sure…As no doubt the entire issue of Jack's First Mate Barbossa was a painful subject for many reasons. He doubted the monkey figured very highly at all, in point of fact. "Thank you, Mr. Gibbs," he said, and turned away. "I'll be sure not to raise the subject in the future."

Returning to the doors, he saw no sign of Jack within. Frowning, he went in, closed the doors behind him and glanced about. He saw the door to Jack's private cabin was slightly ajar. Going to it, he knocked. "Jack?"

Jack's voice came to him, slightly muffled.

Opening it, James peered in. Jack was shuffling items about in a cupboard, muttering to himself.

He straightened when he saw James, and complained, "She didn't have to hit me so bloody hard. She *knows* exactly where your sword went through me, 'ey? Just had those stitches out, on your account, and with us going to the island. An' she always aims right for it. An' then you go and step in where I'm meant to be, and start acting like you're in charge. Next time, I'll send you in to deal with her. You're welcome to it. So's she. Bloody ungrateful hellion. Bloody nuisance, that monkey. And the damned parrot as well. Though he pulls his weight. And now you're charmin' your way aboard *my* ship-"

James pulled Jack to him, roughly, and kissed him, fiercely, trapping Jack's mouth under his, ignoring the way Jack stiffened.

After a few sweet moments of enjoying kissing furious, sulky pirate captain, James moved back without relinquishing him, and looked down into dangerous black eyes that flashed back at him.

"I won't be molly-coddled," Jack informed him.

"No," James agreed, "that's your department. Coddling. Cuddling. Whatever." He pressed another kiss to those lush lips again. Far too tempting, far too infuriatingly enchanting. Warm and indignant beneath his. Although Jack's breathing had sped up noticeably, despite his continued dark scowling. Not wanting to stop kissing him, James reluctantly raised his head again, and said, breathlessly, "You're beautiful when you're angry."

"Absolute bilge, that," Jack stated with certainty. "You haven't seen me angry."

"Petulant, then," James grinned down at him.

"Extremely annoyed," Jack corrected him.

James just smiled back down at him.

Jack's eyes narrowed. "Won't be placated, either."

"Then I suggest you stop acting like you need it," James chuckled. And he pressed another kiss to that pout, and felt Jack relax in his hold, against him. The sudden, swift shove that forced James to lurch backwards and sit down on the bunk rather hard was matched with the quickness in which Jack pushed him onto his back, following him down.

It was a bit startling to find himself suddenly being held down and kissed by a most passionate pirate, but James felt he met the challenge with renewed vigor.

There was a desperate urgency to strip the clothes from both of them, and feel heated skin upon skin; a sentiment that Jack apparently shared, to an extent.

Buttons, laces, breeches and open shirts sufficed, and James found himself wriggling back upon the bed properly to make room for both of them, enjoying the way Jack was feverishly possessing his mouth and adopting an entirely scintillating rhythm atop him. The previous night had disappeared and there was only that moment, containing a bright flare of longing and need.

The comforting, liquid heat of Jack's mouth and answering desire was enough to start that drowning sensation, the one that tended to make him feel as though he was being burned from the inside-out. Consumed.

The hunger arose within him, that desperation to feel that sharp pleasure, achingly absent and only barely reached a few times in his life, yet recently enough that he knew he would be willing to sacrifice too much simply to grasp it for a few more moments again. Even just an hour.

Their cocks slid together in agonizingly fleeting friction, and he heard himself whimper at the lack of sustained contact. Jack shifted upon him intently, getting a better position atop him, and then began thrusting against him in earnest. It was an improvement, with both their cocks trapped against their stomachs, and Jack's weight holding him to the bed beneath.

James abruptly realized that one of the reasons he felt aggravated was because he had too much excitement to hold in check, and he longed to strain against him; it was almost an irritant to not be able to let go, to be able to flex and push…It wasn't enough to have Jack on top of him; either he wanted to be atop Jack, or to be restrained to have at least something to hold onto, to push against or pull from. His eyes widened as this lewd thought whirled through his mind.

But Jack's mouth crashed into his again and began stripping rational ability from him yet once more. Their combined groans and the pounding need to feel their bodies together were undoing him.

Jack's warm, hard body and entirely delightful beauty, like that wild cat he'd imagined him as before, un-caged at last, was writhing upon him with a helplessness that was both a balm and a delight.

The sweet intimacy of their members rubbing together, and the ripples of gratification overtaking him, were abruptly overwhelmed by the spikes of pleasure that sank deeply into his lower belly, and caused him to shiver.

Then there was nothing else. Nothing but lust; pounding, wonderful, delicious lust, peaking behind his lids with that lovely lightning and pouring over and out of him in ecstasy. His cry was wrenched from him along with his issue, joined in the next moment between their sweat-slickened bodies by Jack's, who shuddered atop him in release.

Blinking, panting, James wondered at the violence and urgency of it. Even as the waves began to recede, he still felt the strangeness of it echo through him…He'd never felt anything quite this overcoming. Quite this debilitating. It leached him of any ability to think, or question. It was so…pure.

He grinned, still panting, starting to catch his breath but feeling as though he'd just run a race.

He opened his eyes, and saw Jack staring back down at him, regarding him with an expression that matched his.

"It would appear you're adjusting to life aboard a pirate ship," Jack observed, humorously.

"It would, indeed," James agreed. "I can't account for it."

"I can." Jack grinned, and leaned down to catch him in an open-mouthed and lingering kiss, before drawing back to explain, "You're an honorable man. Most good pirates are."

And Jack kissed him again, before he could retort to the contrary. Concerned, he wondered at this, even as Jack's tongue stroked away what shreds of sanity had begun to creep back to him.

Shifting a little, he urged Jack to the right, and ended up rolling them so that he was atop Jack and they were nearly against the wall. Looking down at Jack, he said, "I'm *not* pirate material," he informed Jack, sternly.

Jack just gave him one of his glinting smirks and pulled him back down. "A good man," Jack mouthed against him quietly, into their kiss.

Angrily, and with a thrust against Jack, he retorted, "Not all good men are pirates, any more than all pirates are good men."

"Whatever you say, love," Jack said, in a most irritating tone of voice.

Turning the subject in a way James hoped would push him off balance, he asked, "Have you ever been tied up? During the act of love, I mean?"

A wary light entered Jack's eyes at this, though. "I knew it," he muttered, accusingly. "The brig, the dungeon, the irons…you actually *like* it."

"God, yes," James gasped, feeling a renewed surge go through him at the words.

"And they say pirates are depraved," Jack complained.

James allowed his lips to curl into a smile above him, and said, "Well, you are rather fetching like that, I must admit."

"Not my taste, I'm afraid," Jack said, his eyes narrowing. "An' seeing as you're my 'guest', it would be your turn for a taste of it, 'ey?"

"I thought you'd never suggest it," James grinned, enjoying the way Jack frowned worriedly up at him.

"I should have guessed," Jack sighed. "Why can't things be nice and simple? Rum, a nice fire, and a beach all to ourselves?"

"That too," James assured him. "But it would never do to forget that you're a pirate," he said, with another thrust against Jack under him, causing their cocks to slide together in the sticky mess between them, still too hot and wet to ignore, "and I'm a Naval officer. Some things will not change, regardless."

"So it would seem," Jack threw back at this, with a little mockery, "Commodore."

Sobering a little, James realized that it was Jack's turn, after all, this trip and this time around. Port Royal was very far away, as was the Navy. Gently, he replied, "I'd never hurt you." He leaned down to kiss the sharp cheekbone, trailing his mouth to the curve of Jack's lips, slowly. "Never," he promised.

The light of the climbing sun was intermittently rolling onto them in shafts as the Pearl bucked in the larger waves, and as one of them shone onto the bed and illuminated Jack's face, James found himself distracted by the color of the dark brown, caramel color, even as the light made Jack's eyes shine like lustrously polished gems. The light seemed to catch that curiously vulnerable but aching wisdom borne of bitter life experience. A curious combination of very old and still too young.

"I do love you," he murmured, half-afraid to say it but not wanting to waste the moment as it suggested itself to his mind.

He suspected it had never been said enough to this man, and Lord knew it certainly hadn't been something he'd ever have expected to say to him either. But how could he not, as it was true? And he could see the answer in Jack's eyes - even as that little moment of panic washed over Jack at his words, although to his credit it was well-hidden.

"Being here, with you…" James continued. "It's like…it feels like -" he stopped, not knowing how to describe it.

"Dancing," Jack said.

"Exactly," James exclaimed quietly. "This act, with you. So necessary. To be repeated as often as possible. And yet, it's still not enough. And I think for you it will always be too much."

Jack looked away at this, to the window - and James fancied, to the sea and the horizon beyond although they weren't visible to them from where they lay on the bed. "That's only the chase."

James considered this. To always be pursuing, and with Jack always running…Regardless of who might capture whom. "True enough," James admitted. "But I won't hurt you. You have my word."

Implicit in his words was the additional promise to never see him hung, killed, captured, abused…Any host of innumerable possibilities that still overshadowed their entire affair, as yet again they had re-emphasized the fact that Jack was a pirate, as ever, and he, a soldier.

"We'll see," Jack said. But his smirk softened and smoothed the fatalism from the words.

"Trust," James reminded him, with a light kiss.

"Trust," Jack agreed, in a husky tone and a flicker of his eyes that made James groan to see it and possess his mouth demandingly.

God, to stoke himself to completion, to drive both of them to that edge again, with the rise and fall of the waves and the insanity of pursuing this yet further until they fell over the edge of the world and of reason, into some unknown and uncharted territory where there were only the rules they agreed upon together and no one else existed.

To have this sweetness again and again, to have him. To never lose him, James realized, contentedly. To touch paradise one more time.

To hold it and never let go, and feel it quiver in his embrace, against his body, tightly.

Something wild and untamable, yet so desired it made his teeth ache, even as he relinquished himself to the near-unbearable sensation of that keen edge again. Pleasure too swift and sharp, desire too painful to not hurtle into willingly and seize over and over and over…

Sliding down to Jack's side, he grasped Jack's cock, and was glad to feel Jack's hand grip his in turn. He hadn't ever done this before, stared so unbrokenly and unflinching into another's eyes in daylight, in sunlight before. It was almost frightening, to meet Jack's dark eyes and be held in that hypnotizing gaze, unable to look away because he couldn't bear to.

It was slower this time, unfrenzied; climbing on a steep, leisurely pace to a known ascent of shared pleasure, all the more so because of the precision of it as the intimacy of their united gaze continued. It finally reached a point where James found himself unable to help breathing faster, harder, feeling all the blood leaving his body and rushing to his organ, as his balls contracted, tight up against him. He followed the strength and slow build of it, matching Jack's slow rhythm.

The feeling was one of momentousness. A quiet magnificence of simplicity in this act, this union. And he felt his heart expand in him as he realized it never needed to be anything more. The desperation he'd felt before was dispelled as quickly in memory as the need, as he realized he'd been craving it like a younger man would, a rutting stag too eager to dash into the fray and missing this opportunity. He wouldn't miss it this time, he thought, even as Jack's lips were graced with a knowing smile that for once was at ease and curiously free of anything but…happiness.

Slow grace, and they reached it together, and James felt a momentary sadness as they reached that cliff-edge and then fell over it, felt himself spasm, and felt Jack falling over it also. But he didn't look away, and somehow it made it cleaner and brighter. And it lasted longer, even as Jack's eyes held his.

"Just like that. Like dancing," Jack murmured.

James nodded a little, not trusting himself to speak, feeling a little too laid bare in the wake of it, even as the surging pleasure and glow still danced along his blood.

"Love you, too, James," Jack said, solemnly.

Heat pricked behind his lids at this, and James blinked, feeling his breath catch in his throat. Too close, this. To be able to touch…love. Another's heart.

He was afraid to say anything at all. It would dispel the moment. He contented himself with leaning in to kiss him instead. But in that moment, the words were so loud he almost feared Jack could hear them.

You own me.


There is everything in life but hope.

And yet, hope was the only thing Jack had ever found himself able to believe in. It was the only thing that had ever kept him going, through the long years he'd been separated from his beloved Black Pearl. The only thing that had kept him alive at times. Desperate, to be sure, but still there, even in his darkest hours.

To have arrived at this brief interlude on this afternoon, aboard his own ship under the bluest of Caribbean skies and in the briskest ocean wind, with a hoard of gold and another man's heart, bearing them both to a little island of dreams far from the reach of most other people, whatever colors they might fly.

Now that he had it, he wondered, however. To have found it. To be holding it. Hope. Actually, he wasn't holding it yet. Sitting on the edge of the forecastle overlooking the ship below, enjoying the way the black sails were filled and the quietude of a day at sea was joined only by the call of a few gulls above, he searched in his small bag tied to his belt that he'd taken to keeping there at all times, despite its weight.

Drawing out the ruby he'd uncovered in the cave at Isle de Muerte, he held it up to turn it slowly, watching as it caught the sun on its stark facets, yet in other places the sunlight sank deep into its interior and made it glow red like a fire.

It looked like a Crown jewel, undoubtedly liberated from some far off palace in some distant land. Asia, perhaps. It looked flawless. Which was rather remarkable considering its size. Whoever had cut it had done an excellent job.

He'd left his Jamie dozing on his bunk in the roving sunlight. The Commodore had given him his heart; that much was true. Perhaps he could return the favor, and entrust this ruby heart to him; entrust his dreams to his care. Ah, well. Time would tell.

Besides, his pretty Commodore gave it up so prettily. Every time.

Pearly ribbons of opalescent cream, fresh in the sunlight, sea-bitter and sweet.


James was sitting alone at the table as the afternoon sun drifted a little lower.

There was a delightful lassitude of peace that had settled upon him, and he wondered if this was the result of getting regular sex, or it was something to do with being in love, or maybe the consequences of being on an impromptu vacation from his usual routine, or simply the fact that he was at sea. It was probably all of them combined, he mused. But admittedly it was in the wake of enjoying moments with Jack that this quietude had descended upon him, so it was probably more to do with being in love.

The regular sex helped, of course. As did being at sea, as always. And the closer they voyaged to Jack's island, the more the anticipation thrummed in him.

He smiled to himself.

The doors burst open, startling him.

The darkly forbidding young woman came striding in, the doors closing loudly behind her. "Where is 'e?" she demanded, glaring at him.

At that moment, James found he was hard-pressed to decide which was more terrifying: Anamaria, or the shade of the Black Pearl.

She turned her glower upon the closed door to Jack's cabin.

Calmly, he said, "He's not in there. He's outside…on deck, perhaps."

"Something's got to be done about that blasted bird," she exclaimed. "I'm not goin' on any more trips to this island if that bird's aboard. 'E's goin' to have to choose between Cotton and 'is parrot, or me and wee Jack. And the monkey goes with me."

"Where's the monkey now?" James frowned at her.

"In me bunk, sleepin' due to 'is wound," she said, curtly.

"I daresay Captain Sparrow doesn't want to take the monkey from you," James pointed out.

"Course not," she scoffed. "'E 'as you, doesn't 'e?"

James frowned back at her, at this. That was rather uncalled for, really. Mildly, he asked, "Must be intolerable for you, at times, being the only woman aboard."

Shaking a finger at him, she said, "Don't try that tack with me, Navy. You've sweet-talked your way into *'is* britches; don't be thinkin' you'll try the same with me."

James said with a lift of his brows, "Certainly not, madam. I wouldn't dare. Although you do have my sympathy. It's trial enough, trying to compete with this ship of his, after all."

Her glare diminished somewhat into a scowl. It appeared to be dawning on her that she was addressing a gentleman. "Aye. Although you seem to 'ave the right of it, where most everyone afore you 'ave failed. An' you aren't changin' me mind. 'E's still got to choose."

"He'll probably choose the parrot," James mused. "But didn't the idea of the leashes work out?"

She stared back at him. "'Aven't tried it yet, 'ave I? We'll see. An' the monkey has seniority."

"He hates that monkey," James observed.

Anamaria laughed. "Are you kiddin', mate? Jack was madder than I've ever seen 'im when the monkey took a likin' to me over 'im. First Barbossa, then me." She chuckled.

James smiled in spite of himself, at the thought. "I can well imagine."

She was shaking her head at him.

He stopped. "What?"

"You," she said, with an indicating lift of her chin. "Last night, the way you were carryin' on wif 'im. You've not got a leg to stand on, to be drivin' 'im to distraction like you 'ave been. 'E 'asn't been the same since you took 'im last time."

James blinked, wondering how much vicarious pleasure he might garner from this unexpected source of information about what Jack Sparrow was like when he wasn't around… "What, was he much changed?"

She snorted, expansively. "A bleedin' lovesick idiot, mopin' about, clutchin' isself, no good to anyone a'tall." She gave him wry look. "But you already guessed 'at much." She straightened, and said, "Babblin' constantly 'bout you. Bringin' you aboard was the only thing 'at would shut 'im up."

James was grinning helplessly. "Well, that's…lovely. Really. Lovesick, you say? Babbling. And what was it…'Moping About'." He chuckled. "That's wonderful. Thank you for informing me. I'd no idea."

Anamaria's eyes narrowed and she glared at him once more. "You're as bad as 'e is," she accused. "Bloody useless idiots," she declared, moving to the doors and flinging them open, striding off again, blithely ignoring Jack who nimbly moved out of her way.

Glancing worriedly over his shoulder, Jack came in, and asked as he shut the doors once more, "What was that all about?"

James was grinning at him. "She came to deliver her ultimatum. Either the parrot goes, or she does. With the monkey."

A fresh look entered Jack's face at this. "Excellent." Then he looked worried again. "She didn't threaten you, Jamie?"

James was chortling to himself though. "No, not at all. She was most…helpful, in fact."

"'Ey?" Jack cast a suspicious eye on him as he slid into the seat across from him at the table. "Go on."

James cleared his throat and tried to stop grinning. And failed. "She said that you've been talking of me these past weeks. That you've spoken of nothing else. 'Babbling constantly' was what she said, I believe."

Jack let out an indignant chuff of breath at this. "Wouldn't set much store by what she says right now, mate. She's on the rag."

"She also said you were 'moping about'. 'A lovesick idiot'." James smiled at him.

Silence. Jack frowned at the doors Anamaria had departed through.

"Is that true, Jack? Were you moping? And babbling about me?"

Jack looked pained. "'Idiot' is right," he muttered. "That's the last time I take a woman as me confidant. That gossiping little tart."

"Oh come, Jack. You can tell me. 'Babbling'? Really? She led to me to believe it was the only reason she participated in my kidnapping. To shut you up." James was enjoying this too much to end it.

"She was exaggerating over-much, Commodore, I can assure you," Jack replied, dryly.

"But you moped?" James asked hopefully, his smile unfortunately spoiling the effect. "You *did* mope, didn't you?"

Jack looked away, uncomfortably. "Alright, I may have moped a little." He held up a hand. "But only a little, mind."

"Ah. And the constant babbling? You must have babbled to her. At least enough to upset her," James grinned. "And a constant stream of it, no less."

"Enjoy it while you can, Jamie," Jack answered. "Because for the duration of your stay aboard me ship, you're the Captain's whore. Which isn't really a title you're used to, I'll warrant."

"I've been called worse," James said, calmly. "But you *were* a lovesick idiot, were you not? Even just a little?" It was just too much to resist. Especially the way that Jack was trying so hard not to squirm. "A smidgeon of lovesickness? A dollop?"

"You sure you've not any piratical inclinations there, James?" Jack muttered.

"That would depend on whether you have any inclinations towards lovesick idiocy, Jack." James gave him a winsome smile.

"To be sure," Jack replied, coldly. "There's nothing more idiotic than spiriting away a commodore of the Royal Navy, aboard a ship loaded with pirate gold, bound for an island, with romantic buggery in mind."

"With a woman on board," added James.

"And a monkey," Jack frowned.

"And a parrot," James pointed out. "And a lovesick pirate captain."

There was an indignant silence.

"It does stretch the bounds of common sense," James agreed, humorously.

Jack looked grim. "That it does."

Silence continued for a little while.

James cleared his throat and quietly said, "Babbling. And clutching yourself."

"I did not!" Jack exploded, clambering to his feet. "There was no…clutching. Of myself or anyone else. That's - that's quite enough. Bloody females. No more women aboard me ship. I swear it. No more. Never. No exceptions. 'M Pearl will be happier that way, anyway."

"As will I," James put in. "I really couldn't stand that sort of competition. But I rather think I'm quite safe. Considering the moping about in my absence. You won't be able to see anything or anyone else when I'm not aboard. She might have simply been jealous, you know. Did you turn her down?" At Jack's scandalized and outraged expression he turned on him, James mouthed, quietly, "Lovesick. And babbling."

Curiously, Jack sat back down and smiled back at him. "This is a new experience for you, innit, my James?"

James paused. "What is? The moping and babbling, or the kidnapping?"

Jack laughed. "The lovesickness. You're suffering from it as well, you know. You moped continuously aboard your Dauntless, when I was aboard. And your idiocy was noted and remarked upon by your men. Then there was the babbling in your little hammock - not to mention in the dungeon - and if you're honest, you'll admit there was undoubtedly some moping about, on your part, waiting for the two weeks to pass. 'Ey?" Jack's smile was a glittery, teasing thing, and James had to wryly admit it was true.

"Very well. But I didn't stand about clutching myself." And he sniggered.

Jack stood with a sigh, disgusted. "I can promise you I wasn't clutching meself." He paused. "Well, maybe a little clutching. But probably no more than you were yourself, mate."

James shook his head more seriously. "I swear I never clutched myself."

Jack raised a brow at him. "Not once?" He frowned a little. "Even at night?"

"No," James said. "Wanked myself silly, perhaps, but I didn't clutch at myself as she described you were doing."

"I'll make you an offer," Jack smiled, coming to stand before him. "If you'll let me clutch you instead, I'll wank you silly. That way we'll both be happy."

There was a knock on the doors.

"Agreed," James said, lowly.

"Come in," Jack called, moving a little away from him and standing by the table.

The doors opened, and Gibbs and Mr. Cotton came in, with the parrot on the old sailor's shoulder looking quite weather-beaten.

"Cap'n, beggin' your pardon, Mr. Cotton here's got a bit of a problem. Anamaria's sayin' she'll leave if the parrot doesn't."

Jack sighed at the ceiling beams. "Give her a few days and she'll change her tune, mates. Just ride it out with the rest of us. 'Sides, her mood'll improve once we're ashore. And Cotton," he said, catching the old man's eye, "we'll keep the monkey leashed for a while."

Cotton looked relieved, and the parrot squawked, "Cabin fever."

Gibbs and Jack exchanged a look. Jack stated, "Well, she'll just have to make do. At least until we get to the island."

Cotton nodded and turned to leave.

Gibbs stayed behind, and then shut the doors. "There's…one other thing, Cap'n." He glanced at James.

Jack gave a curious look to James at this, then back to Gibbs. "It's not a sensitive matter, is it?"

"Concerning the Commodore here," he nodded at James. "The crew's wonderin' if it be at all wise to be bringin' him along to the island where the gold's to be kept."

"Mm, indeed," Jack said. "Well, you can inform the crew, and yourself, that the Commodore here is the one we'll all be thanking for providing the security of our little island, keeping it safe from the depredations of the English, pirates, and other marauding navies, savvy?"

"Him?" Gibbs asked in surprise.

"What?" James asked, just as startled. "Isn't that like asking the fox to guard the chicken coop, Jack?"

"You're forgetting something very important, mate. You're not the fox." Jack grinned at him. "I am."

"And what's he?" Gibbs asked.

"The hound," Jack replied.

James let out a breath. "Hounds hunt foxes, Jack."

"So they do, Jamie. An' here you are, an' here I am. If you an' I can do it, surely a bleeding monkey and a birdbrain can learn to get along."

"Whatever will be next?" James muttered. "Men learning to get along with women, I suppose?"

"Not women," Jack said. "A woman. She's cut off from the rest of 'em, which makes her a little less dangerous. There's nothing quite as terrifying as a fleet of women. The Code specifically forbids havin' 'em aboard on the weight of that undeniable fact alone."

James pointed out, "But you just got through announcing earlier that you were going to transport a fleet of Earthly angels to your island paradise, Jack. Do you *want* it to go up in flames?"

Jack stopped and blinked at this, seemingly caught in some nightmarish memory.

Gibbs shook his head. "That's different. Can't make an island paradise without 'em."

Jack sank down in his chair. "No, he has a point, Gibbs. They'll burn the rum, and a fleet of women and gold don't mix well. Could be volatile, that. Maybe we should stick to leavin' 'em in Tortuga and keep the island pure. And the gold. Takes even less to encourage a woman to turn pirate than it does fer a man. It's a bloody shame, though. Can one even have a paradise without angels?"

James wondered if he meant it rhetorically. "More to the point, Jack, would be: can one have an island paradise with women, gold and rum? If the women don't kill you and take the gold, the men will kill each other over the gold, and the women, and the rum."

Gibbs frowned on him. "You've a dim view on pirates, don't you, sir?"

Jack sighed and waved a hand at him. "No, he's right, damn it. Pirates, after all. Not ordinary men."

"Given those sorts of conditions, I daresay any man would turn pirate," James remarked.

"Aye," Gibbs agreed. "It's a bleedin' shame, though, says I, not to be havin' any wenches. You're right enough about that, Jack. Won't be much of a paradise without 'em."

"Well, the Commodore here is doubling as Captain's cabin boy and whore. As well as prisoner. I'm sure he'll keep the crew happy. Won't you, Jamie?" Jack asked him.

Thunderstruck at the suggestion as it rang in his ears, and in some shock and indignation at this, James spluttered, sitting upright, "You- You can't possibly- that's- that's-" He half-rose from his chair.

Gibbs and Jack burst out laughing, glancing at each other and then back at him in uncontrollable mirth.

James sat back down, and scowled at them, realizing he'd fallen for Jack's baiting.

They were both still laughing, and James found it growing old very quickly.

"Oh, ha bloody ha," James growled, folding his arms over his chest and slumping back in his seat.

"You're not a bad sort, Commodore," Gibbs gasped, still laughing.

Jack grinned at James. "I think you'd make a lovely ship's whore, James."

James stood up angrily, towering over them. "Very funny. Just…get your jollies while you can, because you know I'm right. About the women. And paradise. It'll never work. You'll be thanking me later for saving your precious island for you. Mark my words."

"Right you are, sir," Gibbs chortled, backing away to the doors. "I'll let you two sort it out then." And he lurched out, still chuckling.

Jack grinned up at James. "Alright, then?"

"Fine," James said, sitting back down.

Jack was still grinning too smugly by far. "You turned the loveliest shade of red I've yet seen on you, Jamie lad."

"Yes, very funny. Hilarious. You've had your fun," James sulked.

There was a little silent pause. Jack said quietly, "Well, you had it coming, mate. For all the remarks about the clutching and babbling."

"The story of our romance, Jack. The lovesick pirate idiot and the Navy whore. It has *quite* the ring, doesn't it?" James said, brusquely.

Jack was chuckling again. "You're right. Not very flattering."

"No. I didn't think so," James said, still sulking.

Silence reigned a little longer.

Jack sat up straighter and piped cautiously, "Wanked yourself silly, 'ey?"

James sighed loudly. "I may have… over-exaggerated a little."

He glanced over at Jack, who was wearing a helpless smirk at this.

There was a knock on the doors.

"Come in, one and all," Jack called, still grinning fatuously.

Anamaria strode in and stood with balled fists on either hip, glaring at him afresh. "You're confinin' the monkey to my quarters?"

"I've no other choice, Ana, darling," Jack said, cajolingly.

"I thought my idea of taking turns was better, really, not to mention more fair," James remarked to no one in particular.

Jack gave him a sharp look. "Prisoners, cabin boys, whores and commodores don't have any place to be speaking out of turn on ship's matters," Jack said. "So if you'd kindly refrain from interrupting…" He turned back to Anamaria.

"'E outranks you," Anamaria said, with a solid lift of her chin and raised brow. "An' 'is idea was more fair."

"And the leashes," Jack said, pointed out. "Bloody good idea, that one. No more fur, blood or feathers on my deck, or the whole lot of you will be tossed overboard. Is that clear?"

"Clear as day, an' the shine of my share of gold in the hold," Anamaria said, glibly. "It'll be staying where it is, and I'll be takin' it and wee Jack and meself ashore on our return to Tortue, Jack Sparrow."

"Is that a promise, this time?" Jack squinted at her. "You're not just threatening me again?"

"Every word," she stated.

"I think she means it, Jack," James observed.

"Do you have enough, lass?" Jack asked her, with a frown.

James shot him a look at the concern in his voice. There was something different about it, serious and almost…caring.

"Aye, 'tis enough this time," Anamaria agreed, looking straight back at Jack.

Jack gave her a little smile. "Well, if you're sure, love."

"One more trip, we said," Anamaria reminded him.

"So we did," Jack nodded. "Very well. But I meant what I said, about the leashes." He gave her a dangerous expression.

She snorted. "Are you goin' to put a leash on *'im*?" she asked, with a toss of her head in James's direction, before she strode back out through the doors.

Jack winced as they shut hard behind her.

James had the feeling an agreement had just been…agreed upon. Jack was a little quiet, also, and more subdued.

"She's going to be leaving your crew, then?" James asked, guessing that in spite of the fuss that afternoon, there were some fond feelings involved, on more than one side.

"As was agreed, before now," Jack asserted. "We've an accord, Anamaria and I."

"Does she really want to leave? Do you want her to?" James asked, curious. It seemed such a serious affair somehow, now. Beyond the feathers and the games…and loud words. It seemed to be covering something deeper. "Why is she leaving, after all?"

Jack gave him a studying look. "Partly because she has enough now to buy her own ship, and partly because of you." He gave James a little smile. "I wonder who's more jealous about your bein' aboard, mate: Anamaria, or my Pearl. I'm wagering on Ana."

James wasn't sure, recollecting those frightful eyes that had stared back at him in his dream, and her sibilant, terrifying words…'You're a pretty toy but never forget that he's mine.'

He shivered as a little chill crept up his spine.


Despite the levity and sniping, Jack noticed his Commodore was a touch deflated and jumpy as the sun sank below the waves and the evening crept in.

Two fiddles, the occasional call from Mr. Cotton's parrot, and some rough Irish chanteys provided an interesting and authentic enough ambience for the Pearl, but Jack was growing concerned. James seemed to grow ever more twitchy as darkness fell.

It wasn't like his Jamie to be so nervous. Why, he'd faced off undead skeletal pirates and hordes of brigands in his day. And he wasn't a very old man by any means; he had years left in him - who knew what challenges he'd overcome? Standing about and chatting amiably with his crew, quaffing with the best of them, James appeared to take a cheerful enough stance, but Jack could tell from the darting glances about them that he expected the shadowy spirit of the Black Pearl to throw herself upon him from a corner or leap down upon him from one of the billowed sails above.

Jack finally went to his side and pulled him away to stand portside and have a little talk. James allowed him to draw him along, still carrying his tankard of ale. Jack said in a low voice, "She won't harm you, Commodore. Not while I'm on board."

Dryly, James replied, "Ah. Not hiding it well enough, am I?"

"No, no; you're a paragon of bravery, Jamie lad," Jack quickly reassured him. "But I can tell it's wearing on you. You're quite safe," he murmured, leaning closer and giving him a smile.

James didn't look amused. "Bravery in the face of danger is one thing; the spirit world is another, entirely."

"You stood up to me undead crew well enough. How's a disincarnate ship's ghost any different? It's not like she can actually *do* anything to you, mate." Jack drew himself up a bit. "'Course, she knows I'd never forgive her if she did."

"You said it, not I. Perhaps that's the very reason she's angry," James suggested.

"Good point," Jack agreed. "But have you even *tried* winning her over yet?"

James looked blank. "What do you mean? How would I- that is…how-"

"Think of it," Jack urged, leaning his right arm upon the Commodore's shoulder and gesturing with his other hand to indicate the ship about them. "It's my home, and as such, you're welcome here. She'll see the light. You just have to get into her good graces. As I said. Charm her," he grinned. "Jus' like a lady."

James turned to peer up at the helm. "Perhaps you're right," he muttered, slowly.

Jack turned to gaze also. "Excellent," he said, approvingly. "Go to it, man."

"How long should I…Well, take her in hand, so to speak?" James asked.

Jack shrugged. ""Til she lets you know, 'ey?"

A little smile floated onto James's face. "With your permission then, Captain." He gave a slight bow with a nod, and strode off to make his way up to the wheel to relieve Mr. Cotton.

Jack grinned after him, wondering why his Pearl had chosen to reveal herself to Norrington rather than himself.

But it was probably for the best, really. If he'd ever seen the Black Pearl in a nightly visitation, he'd never have recovered and would probably have been ruined for any other mortal lover for the rest of his days. It was a mercy, in fact, that she'd not shown herself. But still, there was an admittedly sharp little prick of jealousy within him at it, that his Jamie had been granted such a vision and not him. To be deprived of sight of such a love.

With a sigh, he cast a glance up at the sails. "Ah, my lady, you are a cruel one."

He looked back over at the crew, and saw Duncan and Quartetto regaling the others with some tale that sounded like they were embellishing their encounter with the pike upriver, last time they'd gone ashore. The pike had got the best of them, but in true pirate style, they were trimming it up as a proper fish story. The pike got bigger with each telling. Jack grimaced at the memory; he'd been in the water at the time. The blasted pike had certainly been a lot bigger up close.

Aha. Jamie had finally settled himself behind the wheel and Cotton appeared to have stepped back a little for him.

The splash of the spray against the hull, and the black canvas flogging a bit, served to lull him into a reverie. He couldn't help wondering what she looked like. Beautiful, no doubt, but with a hint of danger and mystery, such as only a pirate wench could have. Young, James had said, and with big eyes. Jack drew a deep breath. A young widow in black. Fierce. He smiled in spite of himself. Possessive. An errant shudder went through him, almost like desire. Bewitching, to be sure.

He shook his head. Maybe James was right; this was sorcery. A haunting.

Of course, she would be young, having only been commissioned and built not sixteen years ago. And it was no fault of hers that Barbossa and his former crew had been mutinous bastards; but his. He should have chosen wiser, but had lacked the ability of being a better judge of character, and, filled with audacious ambition, far too blinded by his pride in his lovely ship, he'd failed to see the depth of the tarnish upon their souls. No, the blame was his, entire.

"M" sorry, milady," he murmured, and looked over at James again. He resisted the urge to go to the Commodore's side; they needed this time alone together, really. To let her get to know him, and vice versa.

As the hours drifted by and night came in, the stars came out. The passage of time held a sacred sort of wave, moving through it was as easy as the Pearl's slipping through the water, and their voyage towards the island seemed synonymous with their finding a little joy in each other while anticipating their arrival. Hope, indeed. It was as if hope had descended upon him and caught up with him at last. Or had he caught up with it? He wondered.

He touched the ruby through the bag that held it at his side.

As invigorating as the night air was, he found himself seized with the need to check his maps again. He hadn't studied the surrounding waters near his island. Now he began to wonder, about the real possibility that it could be his. As much as chance seemed to favor him in the end, every time, he didn't relish leaving it all up to Fate and Luck, as both mistresses were far more fickle than most could imagine.

He made his way back to his cabin, noting that his sailors appeared as quietened and gentled by the sea as his ship was, now. With an amused little snort at the Pearl and his ship's crew for falling for the Commodore's 'charm', he shut the doors behind him and went to the desk to the side. Opening the drawer, he pulled out the map of his island and unrolled it. It was far too dark, and he went around the room, lighting the candles.

Then he lit the lamp on the desk.

Sitting down, he traced a finger all along the coastline, recalling the journey. They had not actually had much time to spend on venturing too far inland, even despite the relatively small size of the island, and their marching about on land had actually been confined mostly to beaches and sandy coves, as well as the streams of fresh water that led up to springs and slightly higher ground.

It was a lush little place, well-suited as a stopover or a hideaway. But Jack experienced a momentary shaft of misgiving at the notion that he was actually contemplating *buying* land…Was he getting old?

Then again, wasn't it only natural to want to have a spot of his own somewhere, far from the strictures and haphazard laws of other nations, designed to curtail freedoms?

That was what made the ocean so wonderful; it was too big for any one man, let alone any country, to contain. It embraced all the lands in the world, and threatened the greatest cities. Why, even in the Flood, there had been that Divine reminder that the ocean was stronger. Wilder. Bigger.

And her moods made even a fleet of Anamarias on the rag look as downright pitiful as a raft of bedraggled squirrels in a hurricane.

Which reminded him further of why he'd chosen the Pearl and the ocean over any long-term female commitment.

Then again, with Jamie there, he had the desired warmth and companionship most men really sought from women, as well as a kindred spirit and a friend, for all that his Commodore was, well, a navy commander of a squadron of the Royal Fleet.

And as he regarded the as-yet-incomplete map of his island paradise, Jack had to laugh quietly to himself, at the folly of contemplating the yoke of fidelity when he'd never considered anything less than freedom for his lifetime bedfellow, and yet here he was, brooding over where he might set up that inn for his James to keep. Pirates aren't homemakers. Are they? A ship is all a man needs. Isn't it?

James walked in through the doors, and began stripping off his coat. Salt-sea and night air. A great combination. It prickled his nose. Jack glanced up at him, and asked, curious, "What do you think, Commodore? Is it an oxymoron: an inn-keeping pirate?"

James came to stand over his desk, peering down at the map. "I was only speaking in jest, you realize. It would be worse than a contradiction, it would be hypocrisy."

"Well, just hold on that one," Jack said. "Not so hasty, 'ey? Don't go throwing the towel out with the bath."

James glanced back up at him sharply. "That's throwing *in* the towel and the baby *out* with the bath."

"Exactly. First throw the towel 'round the baby, then scupper the lot. Much less hassle. And quieter at night, to sleep by." Jack tapped a finger on the map. "Do try to concentrate, James. Focus, focus." He paused. "Where was I?"

"Inn-keeping, again," James said in an amused tone. "Revisiting my jest with my officers about piracy."

"Aye," Jack agreed, brightly. "The real question here is not 'can a pirate be an inn-keeper', but can *you* keep a pirate?"

James's lips twitched. "I daresay I can keep a pirate in an inn just as well as in the brig."

Jack waved a hand at him. "Don't go doin' that again, if you please. Focus, James! Imagine it: an inn-keeping pirate - or a pirate who's a commodore, for that matter - is hypocrisy, and an oxymoron. But a pirate *with* a commodore isn't, as we've managed to prove most spectacularly, savvy?" Jack grinned up at him.

James frowned, his interest aroused but obviously not following him. "What are you saying?"

Jack sat back, feeling more satisfied with where they were going, now. "I'm saying I've changed me mind. You've changed it. You can have the island, James. As long as *you* remain the sole owner, and privately, in your name. No Navy interest. And as owner, you then have the right to keep or dispense with the governorship and stewardship of that island. You can be…an island-keeper. Or I could keep it for you, when you're away."

"You're saying you *want* me to purchase it?" James asked in surprise.

"I'm saying we could *share* it," Jack explained, earnestly looking up at James, hoping he could see the sense this made.

James looked down and away, uncomfortably. "Jack…" he started. "I'm not sure I could. I mean, well, you are a pirate, and you've already made it abundantly clear that you intend to hoard stolen goods on that island."

"Aye," Jack agreed, "the gold intended to buy it. Or whatever else it is I end up doing with it, settling somewhere. I was thinking of you an' me, actually. But," he shrugged, "if you don't *like* the thought of me settling in the Caribbean, so close to your Port Royal, then…" He let his voice trail off, expectantly.

Wryly, James remarked, "There are other islands in other seas, is that what you're saying?"

"That's what I'm saying," Jack smiled at him.

James let out an impatient breath. "I'm as committed to this as you are. And as much to you as you are to that island…or this ship. All right, you have a point; I'm as committed to the Navy as you are to piracy. And we can still find a way to make this work. But settling upon your island to resolve it is very risky indeed. It could far too easily place me in a hazardous position."

Jack's brows lifted. "You think you're the only one endangered in such an alliance, mate?"

At his tone, James drew himself back up straighter. "No, that's not what I'm saying. But, Jack," he stopped. In a quieter, more placating voice, he said, "I told you, there's only so far I can turn a blind eye without placing myself in as much danger as you are, for remaining a pirate. It goes way beyond the bounds of moral or legal consideration."

Impatiently, Jack tapped the map before him again. "You're not paying close enough attention, darling. And I probably only have meself to blame for that. What with the distraction of my ship and my pirate crew and the parrot and the promise to wank you silly and all."

James let slip a chuckle. "Quite right."

"But I wouldn't need to keep the gold there; not if I've already used it in the buying of the island."

James caught his eye. "Ah. Indeed." He smiled indulgently down at him. Jack found it a trifle too patronizing, reminiscent from before his Commodore had softened a bit. "Captain Jack. Are you suggesting you're going to give me…your gold?" The amusement in James's voice was almost offensive now.

"Given you just about everything else, haven't I?" Jack muttered.

James was staring down at him.

Jack scowled. "What is it? Why're you staring, mate?"

"It's as I said," James observed, quietly and with a touch of solemnity. "You're beautiful when you're angry."

Jack sighed expansively. "I get no respect anymore, not from anyone," he complained. "It's a bloomin' good idea, to have you buy the island. And I'm thanking you for thinking of it. Saves me a great deal of hassle and possible legal entanglements, what with my being unable to buy anything in the first place. Being a pirate, and all," he added caustically. Grumbling, he continued, "Time was pirates were adored wherever they went and much sought after, you know. We didn't all used to be treated so poorly. We weren't always as unwanted as we are now."

"Rubbish, as you well know, Jack. I do want you. Stop sulking. And you're right," James nodded. "There would be too many questions. But if I buy it, and then give it to you -" he paused, and turned an inquiring frown on Jack. "You would accept a gift, wouldn't you?"

"'Course, love," Jack agreed, good-naturedly.

James shrugged, straightened again and walked over to the other side of the oval table and sat down at it.

"So give me your gold, and I'll use it to buy your island."

"An' how will you explain where you got the gold from?" Jack asked.

"Family inheritance," James said. But he didn't sound certain.

"May have to think on that one further," Jack admitted. "Let's sleep on it; wait until you've had a look at the place, tomorrow. You'll fall in love with it, and end up begging me to let you buy it." He rolled up the map and put it away. "Now. How'd you get on with the Pearl, then?"

"It may be too early to tell, but I fancy I'll win her over in the end," James observed.

Jack felt an unaccustomed pang of jealousy stir in him at this. And strangely enough, it was over his Commodore, too, this time…rather than his Pearl. In a low voice, he said, "Charming your way, as I said. It's a bizarre little trio we make, is it not?"

James gave him a slightly surprised glance at this. With an ironic smile, James asked, "Ships, men, islands, women…Exactly where do you draw the line, Captain Sparrow?"

"Only where they already lie," Jack said, shiftily. "I wouldn't place a coastline where there wasn't one. But to watch your Navy carrying on, putting imaginary lines and borders all over the Caribbee - now *that's* the real crime, 'ey? Your maps have got far too many invisible markers through the free ocean, as if a man's supposed to be able to tell one wave from another out there." Jack stood up and held out his hands over the desk, widely. "This one here's French, but this one over *here* belongs to the English - and if your ship just *happens* to move into it, we'll blast you to smithereens. Oh, very civilized, I'm sure," Jack said, testily.

He glanced back up at James who was grinning at him. Jack quickly held up a finger. "Don't say it," he warned, sure that James was about to hurl that little remark at him again, about anger and beauty. He was quite sure his Jamie had never truly seen him angry yet. As it was, James merely smirked.

Jack turned out the lamp on his desk and moved to sit in the other chair beyond, on the other side of the table. Glancing over at James, he said, "It's dark."

James looked back him, and blinked. "You're powers of observation are remarkable, for a pirate."

"I'd be at the helm myself, but I've company to entertain," Jack grinned back at him. "I don't much like the idea of sharing you with me crew, after all."

"Quite right," James agreed. "They've more sense than you do, than to dally with a British officer. They think you're quite mad, I believe."

"So, why are we not yet adjourned to my bed?" Jack asked, as if it were a philosophical question.

"Don't ask me," James drawled. "I'm only the cabin boy, remember? You're the captain; you decide."

"Captain's whore," Jack corrected him. "You'd have to be a pirate to be my cabin boy. Whereas a prisoner, Naval or not, *can* belong to the Captain. And in fact they frequently do," Jack grinned unpleasantly at him. "First dibs, always."

"Yes," James agreed, slowly. "I seem to remember coming across that before. It's in the Code, isn't it? Captain's privilege, to see to all prisoners and ensure they're not mistreated."

"Aye, only that one's been historically interpreted however each captain has decided, really." At James's look of distaste at this, Jack added gamely, "As you said, love: not all pirates are good men." He stood up and went to James, holding out his hand with a smile. "Come along then."

As James took his hand and began to stand up, a particularly strong wave rocked the ship and Jack abruptly found himself with an armful of Commodore, who luckily found his footing.

"Excuse me," James began, but Jack cut him off.

"It's a sign," he declared. "She's warming to you, just as I said. She doesn't mind you being here."

James frowned. "I fail to see what one has to do with the other."

Jack rolled his eyes. "You will. She'll see to that."

As he led James into the smaller cabin, his own sleeping quarters, Jack said, even as he began removing his clothing, "You're a lucky man, really. No one else's ever seen her before. She's never deigned to show herself to anyone. Not even me."

This didn't escape James, who pounced on it a bit too intently. He stood still and said, accusingly, "You're jealous." When Jack chose to let this slide, James began to grin at him. "Admit it, Jack! You're envious. Of me. And your ship. And she's envious of me, and you. And I've been rather worried about you and this ship. You're right, it's a downright ludicrous triangle we've made."

Jack regarded him unflinching, and serious. "Look at it this way: you're competing with just the one ship, whereas I've got to handle your entire bleeding fleet, 'ey?"

In a rather obvious attempt to mollify him, James said, "As pirate ships go, your Black Pearl is famous the world over for having an undead crew of the Damned, and a captain from Hell itself, and now a ship that appears in spirit before those she chooses to show herself to. I'd say there's no chance the British fleet can stand up to a reputation of that nature."

He showed James his teeth. "Flattery will get you everywhere. Charmer."

"You're not so very short on charm yourself," James smirked down at him.

"If that were the case, you wouldn't still be dressed," Jack pointed out.

"I've less to take off, seeing as you neglected to bring the rest of my attire," James countered in good humor.

"Really? I thought it was because you wanted to watch," Jack said lazily, stepping out of his breeches.

"As you pointed out earlier, it's dark…Far too dark to watch properly," James commented, although he did begin undressing.

Jack considered the darkness of the cabin and decided to take off his shirt as well. He didn't usually like sleeping undressed, with or without anyone, particularly aboard a ship, as it was easier to meet whatever crises might arise when one wasn't struggling to pull one's boots back on…

But the admiring and amorous way that James stepped up to him to place strong arms about him, encircling him in naked heat, pushed any concerns away. There was very little chance of them coming across any trouble, now that they had nearly reached that island.

"My island, and my commodore," Jack murmured.

"Yours," James agreed, quietly.

There was something different in the way his Jamie kissed him this time. Jack noticed it as James bent to press those hot, perpetually rosy, kiss-bruised lips to his. Something languorous, and yet held back, as if James was holding himself in check.

Jack didn't have time to wonder at it for long. While James continued the admittedly very sweet kiss, Jack reached around to firmly grab hold of James's bare ass, and squeezed, while bringing the front of both their bodies into firm contact. Most illuminating, for it not only revealed Commodore Norrington's weapon was fully unsheathed and ready for action, it had the effect of striking a match to tinder, luckily, as James gasped and pulled up, and abruptly moved to the bed, ripping back the cover and pulling Jack with him.

With a chortle, Jack collapsed beside him and moved in close, saying, "Now that's more like my impetuous little officer, 'ey?"

"Not so little as all that," James reminded him, mildly. And then proceeded to show him by demonstration.

Not so very much sleep would be had either, it seemed.

And the world…halted. James sat up. The cover fell away from him as he did so, and Jack groaned. "What now?"

"I forgot the jar," James said, getting up quickly and going to the door, opening it to ensure it was dark and empty beyond. His pale skin was rather visible even in the gloom, especially that ass, and Jack couldn't help a grin at seeing that tight handful disappear around the corner.

After a few moments, James reappeared, saying triumphantly, "There, you see? All prepared."

Jack scooted farther back to make room as James rejoined him beneath the covers bearing his coconut oil. "We'll need that," Jack assured him. "Because you have the tightest, loveliest arse in the British Navy. An' that's no exaggeration, lad."

After the briefest pause, James said, "Why, thank you, Jack. Allow me to return the compliment. Yours is the most coveted backside of any pirate I've ever chased down."

"On second thought," Jack said, musingly, "you may be able to dispense with the charm altogether and just flash her those cheeks - she'll forgive you anything after a look at 'em."

"Now on that score I must disagree. Most women are more excited by the frontal view, or the profile, for obvious reasons. And so if she *were* in fact to be involved in any way, I'd have to be in the middle, so you could have my backside, and she could have my front."

Jack wasn't entirely certain as he couldn't make out James's expression in the gloom very well, but he suspected he was being teased. "Then *give* her your front and lie down on your face so's I can cover your back, Jamie."

James handed him the jar. "What's this for?" Jack asked, knowing very well.

"Just get on with it," James urged.

"You're right; we'll need that later on. Now lie down," he ordered, more impatiently.

"What…are you going to do?" James asked, suspicious now.

"Nothing but good things, you have my word," Jack grinned.

"Jack," James warned.

Jack's answer was to rise up and settle between James's legs, shifting them to part them wider for him. He ran both hands down James's smooth, trim back and over the pert buttocks, cupping them and happily massaging both handfuls. "Trust me," Jack smiled. "Lovely. Really lovely. And now…" He leaned down to trail the tip of his tongue over the tender skin of that ripe cleft.

James emitted a hollow gasp.

Unable to stop his hair from falling down on either side of his head due to the angle, Jack irritatedly brushed it back a bit from his face, and paused. "Anyone ever done this to you before?" he asked. "Tasted you?"

"N-Never," James managed, sounding a little tense.

With some measure of satisfaction at being the first to introduce James to this illicit act, he parted the buttocks that had grown quite taut from the tension. Allowing his tongue to trail lightly along the sensitive valley, he delved farther inwards on each approach. Then he went in for the kill, running the flat of his tongue up along the nervous crack.

James gave a muffled, wordless exclamation and Jack lifted his head.

"Not bad, then?" he grinned.

James was trembling a little. And said, through gritted teeth, "As always, Jack, you talk too much. Get *on* with it." But the desperation and entreaty was a little too pleading and obvious, and Jack chuckled silently.

Worming his tongue along to find that furled, tiny opening, he slipped the tip of his tongue within, darting it easily in and out, discovering musky, earthy essence of Jamie. A flash of memory suggested itself, of when he'd been introduced to this particular pastime by a mistress in a Paris brothel, years and years ago. He'd not expected to encounter floral musk, and had been somewhat chastened to realize that sin, delicious and luxurious sin, could quite literally be found in every nook and cranny of a beautiful body.

James's moans were nearly squeaked out, so he could only assume that his ministrations were welcome so far. He wondered if James realized how fortunate he was, as it wasn't something Jack was willing to try with just anyone. Despite the rising, urgent, pleading note in James's stifled cries, he kept the pace slow, savoring.

With his face already buried there, he continued to plunder that tight anxious hole, and moved a hand down to handle the exposed scrotum, trailing a light finger along the sensitive thigh nearest to hand.

Tremors were running throughout James, now. And he was making involuntary thrusting motions against the bed beneath him, nearly squirming.

Quickening now, he stabbed at that arsehole that had been tempting him, mouth-wateringly, all day long; aware that when someone's tongue was this relentless, it was sometimes enough to make the recipient believe it might…just…be enough… to bring one off.

And then he stopped, raising himself up quickly, even as James gasped in some distress and outrage and then made a most mournful exclamation. Ignoring him with a grin, Jack grabbed up the jar, and scooped a good portion of the white oil onto his fingers, slathering it quickly onto his own achingly neglected cock so that it wouldn't melt everywhere but where it was supposed to be.

Ensuring he was well-covered, he quickly moved to hover over James's back, leaning over him, and nestled himself between the recently tended arsecheeks, finding that fluttering little hole easily. It was easier this time, in fact, to glide into that tight silky depth, and the combined delight of having the taste of him pungently lingering while sheathing himself slowly, inch by precious inch, into that oh-so-hot velvet place, was undoing his composure.

James's groan this time was deep, resonating loudly even despite being muffled against the bed.

It was a silent song in his head, the rhythm of sliding inwards into this heaven, bit by bit. Taking them both there, again. And then he recalled what James had said earlier, about being tied up. He smiled unseen behind him, and leaned forward to let his weight rest on him, pressing his shoulders down too, catching James's wrists in either hand and holding them to the bed.

But that neck was also a little too beckoning and he mouthed it, enjoying the way it caused a shiver to go tracing over James's skin, even as he began to slide back and forth, in and out, harder…faster…waiting a momentary fraction too long before sliding in again just this side of too hard, and every thrust caused a jolt in the quivering man beneath him, as well as an answering moan.

"James," he said against the back of his neck, breathing the name in a sort of wonderment.

"Please," James gasped out. "Harder."

As if he could do anything but comply. Jack happily adopted a more rigorous pace, glad that he'd waited for James to beg for it.

Pleasure, nothing but hottest, tightest, slickest pleasure, holding him in the sweetest grip, and coming nearly undone with every precise slam into the achingly desirable body under his.

He felt like he could do this forever. And a rather wicked impulse curved his lips. He'd fuck his Jamie until he begged for it. For an end to it. To hold that power over another man, and to actually use it. Especially one like this, who actually enjoyed seeing him restrained…To be the one to do it to him, to give him a taste of what he too anxiously sought to hand out. And to give to him exactly what James had wanted to give him.

Deliberately keeping his thrusts measured and even, not speeding up, but hard and deep, he waited for it. Sure enough, the gradual strain began to crack through; little staccato jerks, out of place and out of pace, began to show. James was starting to writhe under him. It was a little like riding out a storm, really, he realized.

Jack found he was nearing that edge a little too close, himself. It was a serene excitement, the same as steering a ship as grand as this one through interesting weather, that same dangerous teetering between loss of control and wondering what it would be like to finally let go and tumble over. To let the ocean pull him down and claim him at last. A sweet death wish that would have to find release in lesser and safer joys until the end.

"God, please, oh please," James managed hoarsely, and Jack had the impression that James really didn't know what he was begging for in that moment.

"That's it, Jamie, give it up," he said, his own breathlessness making his voice harsh, intently refusing to speed up just yet, not letting up his tight hold on him, holding him pinned under him, James's legs spread apart beneath him just a little too wide for comfort. "Give it up to me. You want to. You've been wanting to, haven't you?"

"Jack- oh God-" James shuddered under him and stiffened, then cried out as spasms ran over him.

Thank fucking Lord at last. He let loose himself, finally, quickly and helplessly punishing that far too delectable bum, feeling the surge of heat and bliss go spiraling down and out and emptying himself again and again and again…Feeling the sweat droplets errantly etching out tiny paths on his skin to fall onto the smooth, pale skin beneath his.

That cascading dark storm that he'd been riding, the one that had been building, turned around and grabbed him now, holding him prisoner in the very act of giving himself into James's body, over and over. Quiet, echoing ecstasy with perfect, perfect grace, just like before, in the morning light.


He loosened his hold around James, and allowed himself to lay against him, unmoving, feeling both of them heaving for breath out of time with each other.

It seemed enough, to have this one joy. One journey. One moment.

To take it all, and let the rest of Time and the world live with the consequences. And he breathed a final, quiet sigh atop James, loving the way James just lay there under him and didn't try to move.

He could feel both their hearts beating from where he lay against James's back. It was as much part of the lullaby of night as the pitch and yaw of the Pearl, as she inexorably bore them nearer to that hidden corner of heaven.

Little pieces of heaven lay secreted in all manner of places, if one knew where to look. And he smiled to himself as the night moved closer, before taking him down with it into the safety of the dark.

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