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 userinfothalia_seawood. :)
Thank you to all of you who have waited so patiently. :)
Also, I now want to relocate to Jack's island. Need to find treasure to afford such a move. Perhaps I can barter passage with some passing ship…
Thanks: To Garnet/Copper_Rose for the phrase, 'Pass the rum, love.' ;-) I couldn't help myself; had to use it.
Summary: Sex, love, and rum on the beach. A few moments spent in Paradise can never be enough. Jack helps Norrington to learn how to make them last, and savor them well.


Part 8 - Paradise

By Webcrowmancer

James found himself blinking in the glare as he stepped out of the cabin doors.

The morning sun was a brilliant diamond of light casting a sheet of sparkling, smaller jewels glittering all over the sea as the cresting white-tops and aquamarine waves caught fire in it.

There was an almost ominous scent in the air, like that of fresh smoke, as the nearby curls of fog still carried the smell of the dawn. A farther haze from the sunlight obliterated the horizon in the east.

The sun lay on their portside, as they were traveling due South, and James glanced up to see the sails had caught a favorable wind.

The crew of the Pearl was quiet, but expectant. There was a sense of adventure overtaking them all, now.

James knew it was because they'd soon be arriving at Jack's island. It had taken on somewhat mythical proportions, even for himself. He wondered why such a choice little spot would have been ignored for so long by the British - and everyone else. Lying just a little ways North of 15 degrees, in the middle of the Caribbean, it was perfectly placed to at least offer a small headquarters for supply ships, and to hold equidistant advantage for a fleet of ships to reach anywhere along the coast of Central and South America, from the Yucatan to the Windward Islands.

A hand on the small of his back startled him, and he half-turned, guardedly.

Jack nodded towards the risen sun, coming to stand beside him. "Have you ever stood in one place, and known it for what it really was: something that couldn't be owned?"

James glanced down at him. "I'm not sure. What do you mean by 'a place that can't be owned'?"

"There're certain places that might seem innocuous and ordinary enough to fellows such as you and me," Jack replied. He lowered his voice. "But they can only belong to themselves."

James regarded him and then looked back out to the sea again. "Are you saying your island is one of those places?"

Jack clapped a hand on his shoulder with a smile and stepped away, saying, "I'll let you decide for yourself, when you see it."

He turned to watch Jack as the pirate captain made his way down to go below, in that familiar swaying gait, looking almost foolish and somehow gracefully sure-footed. Eye-catching, as always. And he wondered why, even after having spent the whole night through in the most licentious behavior possible for two men to engage in and getting to know Jack Sparrow more familiarly than anyone else he'd ever known in his life, Jack was still utterly mysterious and inscrutable.

With a frown, he stared out over the rippling, shiny waves. Maybe Jack was right; maybe places couldn't be owned, anymore than people could. One could plant flags on soil, build cities, defend waters with ships and guns, and even place chains around other people's necks, but in the end, the ocean and the sky and even the land itself could rise up and cover it all.

It was a little chastening to realize that the only things he could ever own were abstract concepts and high ideals. For his part, those had been the only things separating civilized and God-fearing folk from pirates and cutthroats, savages and beasts. It had been one of the attractions the Navy had held for him, in fact.

But maybe the magic and allure of a little piece of paradise on Earth, however Earthly a form it might take - island or pirate captain alike - could yet reveal some cosmic answer that had eluded him so far.

How to resolve the abstract and the concrete, in a way that was both real and ideal.

Could one build Earthly dreams made real in a paradise that threatened to always sweep them away? The ideal was always there, but so was the reality of storm and surf.

Then again, Jack Sparrow, said pirate captain, sought the same answers in rum and sin, so James was hard-pressed to answer for himself if he was truly exhausting a path looking for the key…or if he was simply seeking justification and escape from the path itself. He couldn't speak for Jack, because he knew Jack found more answers in sin that he'd ever found for himself in the Navy, or in saintliness.

Yet, standing there at the side of the ship, he couldn't help but feel himself becoming as caught up in the excitement as the rest of them.

Because the way Captain Jack Sparrow, pirate-sinner-drunkard-debaucher and thief, spoke of it, he made this island sound like Heaven itself.

There was a mystery in it, just as there was a mystery in Jack.

James came to this conclusion just as the monkey skittered past him, breaking his thread of thought. Hastily, he glanced around, and saw the parrot sitting on Mr. Cotton's shoulder, and he fancied he could see from where he stood that there was a leash around the bird's leg.

Anamaria came to stand beside him, grasping onto the nearby rope for support. She grinned at him. "'Fraid to sit down, are ye?"

James regarded her, and decided a wiser course of action would be to deflect her amusement at his presence aboard…and relationship with her captain. "That depends on how long it will be before we get there. How far are we from the island?"

Anamaria shrugged. "A couple of 'ours, maybe." She looked out to sea. "A word of warnin' to ye, Navy. 'E'll break your heart, 'e will."

"Oh, it's a little late for that one," James assured her. "He already has. Sometime ago." He gave her an innocuous smile. "It's on the mend though. But thank you for the warning."

She leaned forward. "Ere's another one then. Break 'is, an' I'll see you dead meself."

James gravely inclined his head. "You have my word, madam. I'll do no such thing. He's safe as houses with me."

She made a little noise of exasperation at his obvious lovesick idiocy and wandered from his side.

James smiled, feeling a little satisfaction from the exchange. She was obviously suffering from a waning remainder of a fancy for her captain, herself. James shook his head. Jealousy. It was everywhere.

He was just grateful that his sleep had been most noticeably devoid of any visitation from the Black Pearl's spirit form.

What sleep he'd *had*, he amended with another smile. There'd been very little, and only then in sporadic lulls. And he *was* rather afraid to sit down, particularly in front of any of this crew.

Mr. Cotton and the short sailor, Marty, walked by. As they did so, the parrot called out, "Rum over 'is bow."

James frowned. "Excuse me?" he asked, indignantly.

Cotton and Marty turned. Cotton shook his head. Marty sniggered up at him, and explained, "'E's not sayin' yer drunk, Navy. E's only commentin' upon yer dress." Marty gestured at James's head. "Yer missin' yer hat and wig and just about everythin' else. Makes ye rather unrecognizable," he chuckled.

James turned a keen eye upon Cotton who gave a helpless shrug and pointed at the parrot. "Indeed. Well, thank you for informing me," he addressed to the parrot. "I'm glad someone noticed, for I hadn't, I'm sure."

Marty continued sniggering as they walked away.

James turned away from them, with a sigh.

"Well, Ha. Bloody. Ha." Muttering under his breath, James wondered who, if any, was the sanest person aboard the ship if not himself.

Probably the Black Pearl herself was the most likely candidate…except as Jack had pointed out the day before, she'd let Captain Barbossa and the undead, cursed crew stay aboard her for ten long years. No, she was no better - why, this ship was more the Scourge of the Seven Seas than any pirate currently aboard.

And most *especially* Captain Jack Sparrow, he thought derisively and bitterly to himself. Just because the pirate captain was particularly adept at making sodomy as romantic as possible didn't exactly increase his notoriety as a holy terror. Or even an unholy one.

Gibbs was approaching quickly, and James let out a breath, put his hands behind his back, and stood with a straight spine, lifting his head. Now what, he thought.

"Good mornin', Commodore," Gibbs said, pleasantly enough. He appeared to be holding a mug of something hot.

Nonetheless, James eyed him warily. "Good morning."

"You'll be wantin' some breakfast, aye?"

"Oh, I couldn't possibly," James said, carefully. "I've had far too much already. First off, I was handed a particularly worrisome abstract conundrum regarding real estate, of an existential and philosophical nature, by Captain Sparrow. Then a death threat from Anamaria. Now, let's see, what else. Yes, the ship itself appears to consider me the worst kind of meddling Jezebel. And now I've just received a dressing-down from a dwarf, and some excellent fashion tips from a sarcastic parrot. Off to a fine start, I'd say."

"You'll be needin' this, then," Gibbs said, with just as wary a tone, proffering the mug towards him.

"What is it?" James asked, suspiciously.

"Fresh-brewed coffee," Gibbs said, meaningfully. "But if you don't want it, I'm sure-"

"No, wait," James quickly said, anxious that the life-giving stuff would be taken away. "I'll take it." He took the coffee mug and sipped it gratefully. God. That was better. Hot, bracing, restorative, and it hit the spot, helping to revive his flagging spirits. "Thank you."

"Jack's waitin' for you below in the galley, once you've finished," Gibbs informed him. "And don't pay no mind to the others. They're just a bit ticked off that you're takin' up all of the Cap'n's time these days."

"Jealousy," James replied, darkly. "It's everywhere."

Gibbs gave him a bit of a wider berth at this, and said, "Whatever you say, Commodore. But Jack and the cook are waitin' on you. Somethin' about the porridge."

"My thanks," James said, wondering if it was good fortune or bad that Mr. Gibbs hadn't seen fit to make it a Gaelic coffee, after all.

He began to see the necessity of rum aboard a pirate ship.

Between the boredom and the insanity taking their toll daily, no man stood a chance.

But as the coffee trickled down and mixed with the effects of the bright light of day and the sea breeze, James realized that for the first time in his life, he actually felt as though he was…enjoying himself. Jack had the right of it, he mused, to have actually offered him the opportunity of an involuntary holiday. Extended shore leave, with all the benefits of a romantic getaway.

Gulping down the last of the coffee, he headed below, with every intention of partaking of more of that excellent oatmeal. His head was still suffering from the aftereffects of a few too many helpings of ale the night before, and his digestion was out of kilter from the assortment of eclectic food from the supper. The meals on this ship were as cross-cultural and varied as the lineage of the crewmembers, but he was certain most of what they had consumed last night were never meant to occupy the same plate, let alone the same stomach.

In the galley, he found Jack leaning forward, talking with the cook while nursing a fresh bottle of rum. Both Jack and the cook swiveled their heads to look up at him as he approached.

"The man himself," Jack commented with a bit of a glint in his eye.

The cook offered him a gap-toothed grin and said, "Daresay ye've come for that recipe, then."

"I have," James agreed. "Although I wonder if I might trouble you for another cup of coffee." At the cook's shrug of assent, he handed him the empty mug.

Jack looked him up and down. As the cook placed the refilled coffee before James, Jack carefully tipped the rum bottle over it and filled the rest of the mug to the brim.

"What did you do that for?" James asked, although he did take the coffee.

"Have to ensure we've achieved the right level of lubricity for the occasion, 'ey?" Jack's smirk was twinkling a bit.

"Hm. I daresay I'd prefer not to arrive paralytic on your island."

Jack frowned at the coffee. "Hardly enough there to inebriate the parrot, let alone a tall gent such as yourself."

The cook leaned over and slapped a scrap of paper on the wooden counter between them.

James lit up. "Ah, thank you very much." He picked it up and examined the barely-legible scrawl. "Is this exactly as your mother used to make it?"

"For proper authenticity, ye'll have to pound it with the handle of a dirk, first," the cook winked at him with a chuckle and turned away to ladle porridge into a bowl.

"Indeed. I'm sure I can locate an appropriate substitute." James sipped the coffee, wondering how sacrilegious it was to have desecrated the brew for breakfast. "Now, if I'd at least been allowed to have my *sword*, I could have used the pommel of Turner's blade instead."

Jack shook a finger at him. "Imagine how that would look, Jamie. A fine Naval officer striding about on me ship, with one of Will's fine little swords. Very intimidating, indeed. But this way, you look more like yourself."

This sounded almost rehearsed, and James abruptly found himself reviewing Jack's curious meandering logic. Slowly, he accused, "That's not it at all, is it?"

Jack swiftly turned to look at him again, so quickly that the beads and silver ornament in his hair swung with the movement, jingling. "An' just *what* are you implying?"

James glared at him. "You would have been tempted to keep it! That's why you didn't want me bringing it on board."

Despite the furtive look that darted in Jack's dark-rimmed eyes at this, a slow smile crept over him. "Must say, Commodore; I wondered when you'd catch on."

"Look, if you want one that badly, why don't you just go and get one from him?" James asked.

"Been rather busy these past few weeks, in case you hadn't noticed," Jack said, with a thoughtful tip of the bottle. Swallowing, he added, "'Sides, he's no doubt had his hands full with that girl of his."

To James's edification, he realized that the mention of Elizabeth Swann didn't raise much pain within him. Hardly any, in fact. He'd been so distracted by his relationship with Jack, he hadn't even noticed that Jack Sparrow had completely replaced the young woman he'd once dreamed of marrying. Why, he hadn't entertained thoughts of Elizabeth in…days. Days and days. He blinked.

Absently, he helped himself to the porridge.

"Bring it with you," Jack urged. "Don't want to miss first glimpse of it, 'ey?" He gave a jaunty little salute to the cook and moved past James, out of the galley.

As he hastened after Jack, bearing the precious porridge and his rum-spiked coffee, James wondered if Jack had ever been given anything he'd ever valued, without having to steal it.

He followed Jack into the stateroom, where Jack had already brought out the map again and was peering down at it, while unrolling another with his other hand.

"Have you thought of a name for it yet?" James asked him, sitting gingerly at the table with his breakfast. Why, no, Anamaria - I'm not afraid to sit down at all, he thought. In private, at least.

"Isla del Amor?" Jack said with a grin, looking up at him briefly, and placing the bigger map atop the one of the island.

James sipped at his coffee. "I'm afraid I prefer Utopia to that one," he remarked. "And if I'm going to help you buy this island, I must insist on helping to choose the name as well."

Without looking up, Jack murmured, "Now who's being pissy?"

Lifting his brows, James pointed out, "I'm not. I'm being exacting, and you can hardly feign any amazement at it, Jack, seeing as I'm an officer of King George's Navy."

"Jus' don't forget who found it," Jack muttered.

"And don't you forget who you're sharing it with," James smiled at him.

Jack straightened at that, and thoughtfully swigged from the rum. "Isle de Sueños."

James paused, mulling this over. Island of Dreams reminded him too much of the fright he'd had with the Pearl's spirit. "Not all dreams are pleasant."

As difficult as this was proving to be, James wondered briefly if this was anything close to what parents went through when trying to decide on a name for their unborn child.

"Del Paraíso," Jack suggested cheerfully, stepping away from the desk with the bottle and sauntering towards him.

Cautiously, James nodded. "Possibly. Or Cielo: Heaven."

Jack stood over him now, with the rum, and was grinning down at him. Taking another mouthful of rum, he placed the bottle on the table and sat down in James's lap, between James and his breakfast, making it quite impossible for James to even try to continue eating.

He cleared his throat. " you mind?"

"Not in the least," Jack assured him with a sensual lilt to his voice, and then proceeded to administer a rum-burned kiss in an all-out assault upon his lips.

James found his eyes closing and he began to lose his mind in the taste of rum and gold.

Abruptly, Jack pulled away and suggested, "Buggery."

James winced. "You know, I rather think I'll have to pass on any more of that for now. At least for a few days."

"No," Jack corrected, impatiently gesturing with his fingers in what looked like some sort of indecipherable sign language. "Isla del Buggery. My Espanol is a bit sketchy, though. What's 'buggery' in Spanish?"

"Absolutely not," James said as firmly and soberly as he could under the circumstances, with a lapful of rum-swilling and amorous pirate smirking at him and causing interesting reactions in his already-exhausted and over-exercised nether regions. "I cannot imagine a less appropriate name for an island paradise than the Isle of Sodom, Jack. As Biblical as that is, it sounds more like Hell. And the way I'm feeling right now, after your attentions last night, even more so."

Jack appeared to consider this seriously, and settled more comfortably in his lap before draping an arm over his shoulder and around his neck. "Are you in some pain then, love?"

"I'm sure I'll manage," James informed him, unable to help putting both of his arms around Jack's middle and pulling him close against himself. And he chuckled. "How about...Cuddler's Island?"

Jack smirked at this. Then he held James's eye and said, solemnly, "All those and more."

James considered this doubtfully.

"We'll take turns naming the features," Jack suggested.

"I'm afraid not," James said, giving Jack an admonishing squeeze. "Or we'll end up with Lovers Lagoon on one side and Sodomy Cove on the other."

"That's the spirit," Jack said, enthusiastically. "Rimmer's Reef. Buggery Beach."

Dryly, James countered, "I hardly think so. We may as well cut to the chase and call it 'that Fucking Island'."

Jack grinned irrepressibly at him. "Now that *does* have quite the ring to it, 'ey? Isle of Fuckery. Tells it as it is, really."

"A cuddling, debauching fiend, as I said," James muttered, wondering when he'd ever felt so at ease with anyone before, or so cozy, to be sitting and holding Jack Sparrow over breakfast. "I shall never again underestimate the pirate fascination with sex and death."

"*And*... lest we forget," Jack reminded him, "the apparent Naval fascination with pirates."

James found his concentration was severely impaired at this point, what with Jack in his lap and the soreness of his raw backside... Not to mention the accompanying shifting and the intense odor of rum. Heat, affection and intimacy. James drew a breath, wondering if they had any time at all before they arrived...

Jack gave him an affectionate little shake with the arm slung around him, searching his face. "Still with me, Jamie?"

"Your own fascination with invading people's personal space has reached new heights," James managed.

Jack grinned back at him knowingly. With a winsome little duck of his head, he murmured, "Aye, an' it's growing on you." At James's enquiringly raised brow, he leaned in close to James's ear and whispered, "You're clutching me, love."

Not daunted in the least, James murmured back, "So I am."

The distinctive cry of 'Land, Ho!' from outside had both of them scrambling for the doors, with James only two steps behind Jack before he realized he'd abandoned his coffee. Going back for it, he brought it out with him.

Squinting, Jack took the glass Gibbs handed him, as James joined them at the bow.

It was only a hazy green splodge on the horizon, but the thrill of seeing it at long last was undeniable.

He glanced at Jack, who lowered the glass and grinned at him. "Paradise. Feast your eyes, Commodore." And he handed the glass to James.

Lush green hills and a stretch of white sand came into view across the sparkling blue. With every passing moment the Black Pearl advanced upon the island, it seemed to grow in length. Considerable length. It seemed to go on for... miles. Miles and miles.

James frowned, staring for a while, and lowered the glass. Handing it back to Gibbs, he said, "Jack, you do realize that's quite a large island? I mean, it's big. Well, abnormally long."

"What's your point?" Jack asked roughly, a note of defensiveness over his island entering his voice.

"There's no way an island that size would have been missed by the numerous surveyors and explorers that have passed this way throughout the years. It's too big not to have been marked down. By *someone*."

Gibbs raised his brows at this and turned to regard the island again through his telescope.

"I'm failing to see the problem," Jack commented. "It's no bigger nor smaller than it should be."

"It shouldn't *be* there," James insisted. He could feel it in his bones; every instinct he'd acquired from his geographical education cried out at it.

Nearby, Marty put in, "There's plenty of islands scattered all over the Caribbee. Jus' 'cause you haven't seen 'em don't mean they aren't there."

James glanced at him, and wondered. "I just wasn't expecting it to be so...extensive."

Jack swayed nearer to him and remarked, "An' how much more *expensive*? D'you think we've gold enough?"

Firmly, James replied, "That might be rather academic. You'd better pray that no one else comes across it, because it would make a most excellent Naval port. It's perfectly situated. I'm still stymied as to how anyone could have overlooked it thus far."

Jack stared at him and then back out to sea, to where the island was coming clearer...and bigger. "Some islands prefer not to be found."

"Yes, it would appear that you specialize in them," James observed, ignoring the defensive and dark glowering look Jack gave him as the pirate captain moved away.

As the Black Pearl's crew began to make ready to drop anchor, the closer they got to the island, Jack took the helm himself, obviously already having a spot in mind from his previous visit there.

James was content to watch the island grow...and grow. It was quite perplexing. Surely the traffic from Georgetown to Panama would have eventually come across it.

It was shocking that there wasn't anyone on it even now...and come to think of it, how did Jack know that there wasn't, after all?

Then again, there were admittedly strange islands, such as the Isle de Muerte, and then there was that troubling area between Bermuda Island and Florida, where several Navy vessels and merchant ships of different nationalities had gone missing over the years. Perhaps this was another instance where mystery and mischief went hand in hand.

The steep, mist-enshrouded hills farther inland disappeared from view as the Black Pearl sailed into a sandy bay, off to the eastern side of the island. There was a mass of gulls and terns screaming overhead, quite excited by the ship's arrival. No doubt they nested along the rockier cliffs overlooking the bay.

As the rest of the crew jubilantly made ready the boats to go ashore, James realized he was a little overwhelmed at the notion that Jack wanted *him* to arrange to buy this island...and own it for him...Well, for them. Their island. His and Jack's. Had it come down to this? Buying land and building homes together? He was certain Governor Weatherby Swann had *not* had sodomic trysting with pirates in mind when he gave that lovely piece of property to his lost son-in-law...

The pirates gathered on the pristine white beach, and when their captain ordered them to disperse and gather wood and food, they happily and enthusiastically melted away rather rapidly, leaving James standing alone on the beach with Jack.

Jack made his way up the beach to the shade of the palms, at the tree-line, and took off his boots. Sitting down in the sand, he wiggled his toes and looked up at James who followed, and stood over him. "Take a load off," Jack murmured up at him.

"What about your men?"

Jack smirked at him. "Shore leave is shore leave, Commodore. We won't see them again until well into the afternoon, most likely. But what do you think? Of the island?"

Sitting down beside him, James nodded a little. "It's really very lovely, Jack. You're to be congratulated, I think. A choice find, truly."

"My good fortune is yours," Jack reminded him. "We'll be here a while."

"How long?" James asked, acutely aware now that the news of his disappearance would probably have spread like wildfire throughout Port Royal and beyond. Then he flinched as he realized the coordinates of the island were still in his log book. Although it was unlikely anyone would go through it, and he'd written plenty of entries since, so even if anyone were to peruse it looking for clues, no one would be the wiser. Probably.

"A few days or more. There's a beach further along that's perfect for careening. She needs it," Jack said, lifting his chin towards the Pearl, where she sat moored; tall, black and magnificent against the bright water.

James lifted a handful of the white sand in one palm and let it sift through his fingers. "I highly doubt I'll be able to 'buy' this island for you, once it becomes known that it's here. The Navy will want to know why I'm purchasing it in the first place. It's...sizeable, and I won't be able to lie about that. Not for your sake, Jack. I can't."

Jack glanced dismissively at him. Looking over at his Pearl, he answered smoothly, "I've something to give you." He reached into the bag tied to his belt, loosening the cord, and drew something out. Something big.

James watched, curious. It was red, and very large, and looked very heavy. Jack held it between his fingers, balanced before him, resting his elbows on his knees, turning it so that red flashes dazzled James's eyes as the ruby caught the light. Cautiously, James asked, "Where did you get it?"

"Was in the cave at the Isle of Dead. It's a pretty bauble, innit?" Jack spoke quietly, his gaze flicking from the anchored Pearl to the ruby, and back again. He straightened, handing it out to James, and said, offhandedly, "Here. Take it. Use it against the price, on the bargaining table. It'll help."

James took it with a frown. "This is undoubtedly a royal jewel from some national treasury. I can't just plonk this onto the table and say, here, I found this buried in some pirate loot on a cursed isle. Not only will they not believe me, I'll be arrested for stealing it from whoever it belongs to."

Jack gave him a searching look, and with a bit of a smirk, replied, "You've a guilty conscience, you know that, mate?"

Stiffly, James held the over-sized ruby in his hand. "Jack, what you're asking me to do is-"

"What I'm asking you to do," Jack interrupted, "is see the ruby returned to its rightful owner, who is no doubt wondering where it is, and will probably shower you with gold for its safe return. There's bound to be a reward involved, 'specially if its from a royal treasury, as you said. And if not, then it falls under the auspices of 'liberated pirate treasure', just like all the swag you've already liberated from that blooming cave, James me lad."

Embarrassed that he had been too focused on the issue of piracy and robbery, James cleared his throat. "Alright, alright. I should have thought of that myself, except I missed breakfast and I'm starving. You said you wouldn't starve me, and here I am forgoing another meal," he grumbled.

Jack let out a breath and climbed to his feet.

James looked up at him. "Where are you going?"

"To get you breakfast." Jack held up a hand. "Don't get up. Won't be a moment." And he stalked away barefoot through the sand, murmuring, "Can't have commodores starvin' to death, and losing their tempers an' taking it out on other people, now can we?"

And so it was with a strange sense of dream-like surrealism that James found himself sitting alone on a beach, on a large, unexplored, uninhabited island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea surrounded by pirates who'd disappeared into the undergrowth, and holding a large stolen ruby.

It was without doubt the most bizarre situation he had ever been in. Barring the battle with the undead, cursed skeletal pirates, he added silently. And discovering he had fallen in love with a notorious, troublesome pirate captain. And then of course being helpfully captured by said pirate captain to relieve him of the burden of attempting to find a legitimate reason to go sailing off for this island paradise.

But it was incredibly quiet, with only the distant calls of the birds, the surf on the sand, and the whisper of the wind through the palm fronds above and through the leaves of the large bushes behind him.

It was idyllic. He could see why Jack had become so enchanted by this place.

Pondering the fiery depths of the ruby, he suddenly noticed it was rather shaped like a heart. Roughly so, as if whoever had cut the jewel had also seen the latent form and decided to bring it out in an artistic fashion. Certainly it was too large to have chopped and shaved into a small symmetrical piece, as that would have hewn the ruby too small, and it was admittedly much better as the original piece, but it had the appearance of worn glass.

In fact, upon closer scrutiny, James noticed that it didn't look very 'cut' at all... It was as if whoever had cut it had deliberately left the overall lump of the stone intact.

He noticed it, even apart from the interesting distraction of Jack handing him 'his heart'.

Which was symbolized by this stone, for James knew Jack was entrusting him with something near and dear where this jewel was concerned. No doubt whether James did anything with it or not, Jack fully intended for this ruby to help close the buying price of the island, in addition to the gold.

But it was true, it didn't appear to be cut, but rather finely polished all over; uniformly in places, while in others hard and clear as glass or crystal. It was hard to tell, but now he was certain it was...raw. Uncut.

He sat for a good while, contemplating what this could mean.

Jack appeared from behind him, returning from the trees and bushes, laden with various misshapen, large tropical fruits. He came to sit down beside James, and laid them out between them in the sand. "Are you familiar with the story of Persephone?"

"Of course," James replied. "Stolen away by Hades to the Underworld, to be his reluctant bride."

Jack grinned at him and picked up one of the fruits, offering it to him. "Pomegranate?"

James had to laugh at this, holding the ruby in his left hand, and the pomegranate in the other. "I see. If I eat six of these seeds, I have to spend six months out of the year here with you, is that it?"

Jack gave a little twitch of disappointment. "Would that be asking too much, d'you think? How 'bout we make it six weeks, instead?"

He handed the ruby back to Jack. "We'll have to see. But I think you should know that this ruby was most probably *not* stolen."

"It was in the cave. I very much doubt Barbossa and the others would have come by it through honest means," Jack pointed out.

"I think it was part of the island. It's a volcanic island, isn't it? It's probably formed out of the same cooled lava drops that make up the rocks themselves."

Jack gave him a sharp look, and inspected the ruby closer. "There'd better not be a curse attached to it," he growled.

"Hold onto it for now, until I return, will you? It'll be safer with you." Peeling the pomegranate, James murmured, "It looks like a heart."

With a knowing smile, Jack said, "I wondered if you'd noticed."

"Isla de Corazón." James said, looking at him, caught with the impulse to lean over and kiss him. But he didn't. He wasn't sure he'd be able to stop, once he started again. He satisfied himself with biting into the pithy pomegranate, wary of letting the red juice dribble onto his clothes and stain them bloody. Sweet, red, juicy and very ripe.

Jack replaced the ruby back in his little bag and picked up a pomegranate for himself. "M' still partial to Paradise. Isla del Paraíso."

"I'm looking forward to exploring it," James admitted, munching on the pomegranate. "It *is* a paradise. Golden grass, emerald trees and ruby fruit by a sapphire sea. You've found yourself a treasure island, Jack."

"Us," Jack corrected. "Found *us* an isle of treasure, love. Can't exactly call it a paradise if 'm sitting here all alone by me onesie, 'ey? No different than being marooned, really."

James considered Jack where he lay sprawled on one side, leaning on his elbow, taking apart his pomegranate in sections to get at the fruit seeds. "Six weeks out of the year does sound a little meager, doesn't it?"

Jack didn't look at him at this, though, feigning concentration on coaxing the seeds out of the pith.

"But then, you haven't asked me about my new house," James continued, secretively.

He did earn a glance at this. "Aye, you mentioned. What of it?"

"It's a fair prospect, overlooking the cliffs; some distance from the town and almost beyond my means to maintain. The estate used to belong to Lord Dewhurst, and before him, Sir Archibald Bruce of Galloway."

Jack's eyes narrowed. "Out of town, 'ey?"

James gave him slow, significant smile. "I'm sure the nearby cliffs wouldn't present much of a challenge for a motivated pirate armed with hook and tackle. There may even be spots where one could simply ascend on foot and be gone the same way by morning. A ship with black sails could probably venture right up to the shore and be gone by daylight without being spotted by any of the Navy's sentries."

"Are you *quite* sure you've no inclinations towards piracy, Jamie?" Jack asked earnestly.

"None. I've inclinations towards *you*, but that's as far as it goes. And don't try tempting me, because I've had my eye on the Rear-Admiral's post when he returns to England for his new commission. Apparently he's found it rather confining over here; doesn't feel it suits his ambitions adequately."

Jack snorted. "A yellow admiral, then."

"I rather suspect so," James smirked. "The silly bugger's going to end up sitting around playing cards and polo, waiting for someone to pick him out of all the others while I requisition more ships and strengthen the English presence in the Main."

Jack grinned at him, looking him over. "Admiral Norrington. Has a ring to it, I'll admit."

"Rear-Admiral of the Blue," James corrected. "The Blue Squadron is stationed in the Caribbean; the same one you've been eluding all these years."

"Rear-Admiral Norrington of the Caribbean Blue," Jack drawled. "And Captain Jack Sparrow of the Black Pearl, Viceroy of Isla del Paraíso."

"If I live long enough," James continued, flicking a glance at him, and ate the remainder of the pomegranate seeds. "If we both live long enough."

Jack was quiet and didn't look at him. James glanced at him again, wondering why Jack was less than pleased by this. After all, as an admiral, he'd have even more power - and more leeway to decide how to handle situations that Jack Sparrow ended up embroiling him in. Or the both of them. "Jack?" he inquired. "What is it?"

"Nothing," Jack replied, a little too innocently. "Come on," he said, climbing to his feet and pulling on his boots, before bending over to pick up the fruit he'd gathered. "Need to show you something."

James arose, and followed Jack into the trees and sparse underbrush. It thickened after a bit, but they made their way through easily enough, until they neared a stream. Jack led him up it, and James realized there must be a spring feeding it from somewhere up ahead.

The running water of the stream was soon joined by the sound of water cascading into a plunge pool, and as they neared a rocky hillside, James saw a glimpse of a waterfall, through the trees that were thickly laden with profusions of brightly-colored flowers. All about them were the cries of unseen birds, probably disturbed by their intrusion into their foliage.

Rounding a bend in the stream from behind a large, privacy-affording set of huge bushes, Jack led him directly to the side of the large pool, where he began removing his boots...and the rest of his clothing.

"Fresh water; savvy?" he grinned at James.

The waterfall wasn't very high, but was a great torrent, and plunged heavily off the edge of a rocky shelf nearly eight feet above.

"Fortunately, it's pike-free," Jack added.

James stared back at him, not knowing what to make of this statement. He wondered if he was supposed to be able to ascertain what Jack meant by that obscure statement, but was impaired by the sight of Jack stepping blithely into the water, naked as the day he was born except for the assortment of wild things in his hair, and that ubiquitous scarf.

The crystal-clear fresh water would have been alluring enough, but with a cavorting and unclad Jack Sparrow in it, it was irresistible. James found himself shucking his clothes without a second thought.

It was colder than he'd expected, and absolutely refreshing. Paradise, indeed, he thought. With the sun streaming down through the green canopy gently swaying in the warm breeze, while immersed in the clear, chill water, and surrounded with a protective arrangement of flowering trees, he wondered how much more dream-like this whole sojourn was likely to become.

He looked about for Jack and realized he couldn't see him anywhere. In the next moment, he found himself shoved downwards bodily into the water, submerged by a pair of strong hands on his shoulders from behind. As he bobbed back up to the surface, spluttering, he turned to see Jack quickly splashing out of reach with an insufferable grin on his face.

"This means war," he said aloud, treading water before slipping down into the water to follow after. But as he peered through the clear watery depth, there was no sign of him and he knew Jack had slipped away somewhere. Rising to the surface, he gave up his intention to ambush Jack in a like fashion. But there wasn't any sign of Jack in the pool at all.

In fact, the longer he waited, the more it began to dawn on him that Jack had literally vanished, because the pool itself wasn't very wide, only perhaps a hundred feet across, and the rocks surrounding the waterfall on both sides were vertical and slippery. There was no way Jack had left the pool yet, nor had he managed to get around him...

Then he looked at the waterfall itself, and smiled. Swimming towards the falling curtain of water, he passed through it.

Sure enough, there in the gloom, perched on a wet ledge inset into the rock-face, Jack was waiting for him. "What kept you?"

"A rather large pike, with an attitude," James replied over the noise of the falling water, enjoying the well-concealed flinch that Jack gave at this. "You were savaged by one, weren't you?"

"Been savaged by many creatures in my day," Jack replied obliquely. "Most notably and repeatedly by yourself, I might add."

Climbing up to heft himself onto the ledge beside Jack, he sluiced the water from his hair and breathed in the smell of the back-spray of the waterfall misting them where they sat.

"Rubbish," he replied. "I've been as gentle as a dove."

Jack gave a strangled squeak of protest. "The dungeon? The brig? The *chains*? Not to mention slicing me up in that duel you were so keen on."

"*I* was keen on?" James stared back at him in surprise. "You'd be well-advised not to keep mentioning the brig and the chains, Jack. Particularly with yourself in such a state of...undress."

But Jack only grinned at him. "Why d'you think I brought you here?" And he leaned closer to reach up with both hands and pull James to him. "An' I did notice you're not wearing much, yourself." And with that, Jack caught his mouth in a deep kiss.

Cool skin, chilled from the cold water, with warm lips on his, a tangle of wet, dark hair and Jack's tongue stroking against his... James found his eyes had drifted shut and Jack's hand was wandering over his chest.

A shiver ran over him, and he ignored it, returning the kiss with equal abandon, feeling as though they'd managed to somehow carve a niche right out of the hidden, dark heart of the world itself here in this place, and steal a few moments of freedom and delight that no one could deny them.

It went on, and on, and he felt his own heart would burst from it, lost in this place, and in this man, with all his fleeting wishes temporarily kept safe by the veil of water in front of them.

The pounding of his heart and the sound of his own breathing was lost in the din of the rushing water, and all there was in the world was Jack's arms around him, even as he pulled Jack tighter to himself, and although they broke for air, he continued to allow his lips to rove over Jack's face. He felt as though he still couldn't quite catch his breath though.

And he realized that yet again, he didn't want to relinquish him, and was in fact clutching him, perhaps more tightly than Jack's arms about him... Giving Jack a little shake, he muttered, "Why do you have to be so damned desirable and- and- irritatingly irresistible?"

Jack drew back a little and searched his eyes with surprise. "Ah. Still blaming *me*, are you?"

James couldn't help smiling, though he said, "Well, who else should I blame?"

Jack lifted a hand to James's face, and traced down his cheek. "As you've promised me, Jamie, I'll not hurt you. Word of honor."

Regarding him, James realized Jack's eyes were a deep black in the gloom they shared. Slowly, he surmised, "You're as much a pearl as that ship of yours."

Jack leaned in again to press a kiss to his lips, and then said, "As are you, Jamie lad. Do keep up the pretty speeches, as the romancing makes up for all the threats you keep makin' me about prison cells and irons."

With a snort, James said, "I may have to make do. I'll commission an artist to paint me a composition of you in the brig aboard the Dauntless. I can wank myself silly over it while waiting for our next tryst," he continued, dourly.

"I refuse to sit for it, 'specially if you insist on it being a nude one," Jack informed him. "Besides, why bother when you can have the real thing?" And with that, he slipped off the ledge out of James's grasp, and disappeared through the curtain of water.

James sat in indecision, not wanting to leave the ledge. He glanced about him, committing it to memory. No matter how many times he might be able to revisit this island with Jack, he realized it was the closest thing to a special place just for the two of them that he'd managed to enjoy. Even aboard Jack's ship in the Captain's cabin, there was the knowledge that at any time, anyone or anything might intrude upon their time together. Time just passed too quickly.

On the heels of this came the thought that he was losing precious seconds as they slipped by, while Jack was undoubtedly up to something out there. He left the ledge and went through the waterfall, the force of the water on him pushing him downwards, causing him to sink somewhat. Suddenly curious, he dove down further, wondering how deep the pool really was. Frightening a few large fish who darted away in flecks of golden green and brown, he noticed the turquoise depths of the pool seemed abruptly wide and inhospitable. The idea of lurking pike rose, absurdly. Then again, he was unfamiliar with the local fauna and who knew what might be living down there?

Making his way upwards back to the surface, he saw Jack leisurely swimming about, closer to the other end. The water was warmer to the side where they'd climbed in, where their clothes lay strewn about. He swam to Jack's side and pulled him into his arms, where they bobbed in the water.

Kissing him, James breathed, "I want the real thing."

"What, here?" Jack asked, his eyes dancing a little, and a smirk playing on his mouth.

"Why not?" James answered, pulling him closer so that their bodies were clasped together, and kissed him harder this time, not letting him draw back.

But it was like trying to hold onto a fish, for Jack chuckled and then stopped moving at that point, sinking and taking James with him, who ended up spluttering after the water closed over their heads and Jack slipped away to the bank of the pool.

Joining Jack at the poolside, he followed suit, climbing out and stretching out on the rock.

Jack tossed his head, flinging wet hair back, droplets flying onto James where he sprawled beside him. "Not just yet," he explained. "The others'll start straggling back, and I'd like to get the gold off the ship, 'ey?"

"Naturally," James said, a bit truculently. "And of course it couldn't wait for even a quarter of an hour."

"What -?" A bit peevishly in a mock-serious tone, Jack asked, "You can't keep your hands off, can you? It's been all of a morning's length since we've done anything and you're already straining at the bit. Are you a nymphomaniac, James me lad?"

James raised his brows at this and laughed quietly at him. "I thought you abhorred the, ah, 'abstemious' life. Besides, I'm only a 'nymphomaniac' if you're a nymph. You don't look like a nymph." He gave Jack an admiring once-over. "Then again," he mused. "A satyr."

Grinning back at him, Jack said, "P'rhaps you've a point. You've had to go without for so long, it's affected your mind. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Happens to the best of 'em."

Frowning, James asked, "Best of whom?"

"Sailors," Jack explained, smirking and obviously enjoying prodding him.

"Let us not forget where we are," James countered. "The Isle of Fuckery, after all. It's bound to have some effect." He drew a breath of the fragrant air and surveyed the pool and the waterfall. It was a beautiful day. Contemplatively, he said, "You would discover the two most enchanted islands in the Caribbean, Jack. And they would be the islands of Death, and Sex, respectively."

Jack was chuckling at this. "Now that *is* something to be proud of. Although they seem to be affecting you somewhat more strongly than meself."

James licked his lips and said lowly, staring at him, "Kiss me again and we'll see about that."

Not one to back down from a challenge, and giving him a look as if to say, 'oh?', Jack rose up over him where they lay, and proceeded to kiss him. It started off nicely enough but somehow the spark between them, as always got involved, setting off a rising passion that had James's lower belly filling with heat and his cock stirring between his legs. The sudden addition of Jack's insistent hand on his upper thigh, traveling higher, didn't help.

God, he thought... - Jack's...lips, and the unutterably delicious sensation of naked skin upon skin...

There was a sudden shriek that jarred through the warm, intimate fog in his mind, and Jack drew up quickly. The commotion continued with multiple shrieks, cutting through the peaceful tranquility of their pool. They sat up, looking about them as the noises grew closer.

"Up there," Jack pointed, above the waterfall.

James shaded his eyes, squinting against the bright light of the sun-filled sky above through the trees. Sure enough, the leaves were shaking and as they watched, two plump birds with remarkable plumage suddenly shot out from under the bushes overlooking the rocky drop below, to their right, and spread their wings easily off the edge, calling raucously as they flapped overhead to disappear into the trees. Chasing after them was a monkey.

No, not a monkey, *the* monkey, James realized, as he watched, stunned, to see Anamaria running after the monkey while shouting dire imprecations, and the monkey fell over the edge, taken by surprise, leash dangling in the air where it must have slipped from Anamaria's grip. The monkey tumbled over, falling.

Unfortunately, Anamaria followed it down with a shout of surprise, and with a larger splash beside the monkey's plunge into the water, was lost from sight.

Jack had already jumped up and begun dressing. James followed suit with a sigh, pulling on his breeches. A feeling of irritation at being interrupted was warring with the hilarity of the situation, as well as relief that the young pirate woman hadn't been killed. She could have just as easily fallen over the edge of a cliff that had no water waiting for her below.

As her head broke free and she gulped air, she followed the monkey, who was swimming towards them. "Ah'm gonna *kill* 'im!" she gasped. She reached out quickly and snagged her hat, which had come loose from her head in the fall and was threatening to go downstream instead.

"Ana!" Jack called. "You alright?"

She took the hand Jack offered her, and gratefully climbed back up to the bank. "Thought me life was over, there," she said.

"As did we," Jack commented.

The monkey reached the bank and promptly climbed up James's leg, taking him by surprise where he was attempting to button his shirt. "Ahh! Wet monkey! Down, down!" he exclaimed, trying to shake the creature loose. The wee thing was creeling piteously, its sodden tail wrapped around his neck.

Despite his best efforts, he couldn't get the blasted monkey to let go of him. And finally he sighed. "Alright, fine. Stay there." Annoyed, he leaned over to pick up his coat, and became aware that the deathly silence was broken now by the sounds of muted laughter, obviously stifled. He turned, and Jack was indeed moved by the humor of the situation, as was Anamaria.

"'E seems to have taken a fancy to ye," she grinned, shaking water from herself and pouring it out of her squelching boots.

"Aye, Jamie. It's a picture, the two of you. Really," Jack chortled, ignoring the filthy look James gave him. He turned to Anamaria. "What were you thinking? With the runnin', and over, and down?" he gestured accordingly, at the waterfall.

"We were huntin' them birds, and Jack flushed them out for me. But then 'e wouldn't *stop* chasin' 'em!" she said, aggravated.

"Hm. Shame. They looked fat enough," Jack mused. "But you're welcome to stay here. Plenty of fish."

"What about you?" she asked.

He put back on the belt, and picked up his sash, and his hat, and his coat, as well as his bag. As he refastened his sword and the small bag with the ruby in it, he said, "No worries. You were just in the nick of time, love. Any longer and we'd have been done for. Fortuitous, that." And he winked at James, insufferably.

Anamaria stared at him. "Jack Sparrow, what are ye natterin' about?"

"Pike," he said, gesticulating at the pool. "Big one. With a hard-on. It's always got to be the big ones, 'ey?"

Ignoring him, James asked her, "Are you alright? That must have been quite a shock."

"Aye, I'll recover." She considered the monkey still sitting upon his shoulder, dripping cold water down his back and front and on his neck, most probably rendering his shirt completely unusable to wear in polite society ever again. "If 'e's happy there wif you, you can keep 'im," she said then, with a note of finality.

She tidied her hair, shook out her hat and jammed it onto her head and stalked off, muttering about 'bloody Jack', and her pistol, as she drew it out to check its condition.

"No, wait!" James protested. "Really, I couldn't! You take him, he's better with you. He *likes* you."

But she didn't look back at him and disappeared off around the bushes.

He turned helplessly to Jack. "What should I do with him?"

Jack tilted his head to regard him and leaned back a little, saying thoughtfully, "He really doesn't look that bad, there. Let him stay for a bit. But let's get that leash off him. He can run free while he's here." Jack stepped up as if to remove the leash but the monkey tightened its stranglehold on James and quivered, screeching.

Wincing in pain, James said, "I don't think-"

"Fine, *you* take the bloody leash off him," Jack growled, turning away and stomping off after Anamaria.

Blinking after him, James realized that the situation had developed further now. Jack was jealous of him for being able to attract the monkey. And jealous of the monkey for choosing James and commandeering his...attention.

James began to wonder why it was that the monkey didn't like Jack. James muttered, "You're a nuisancy little bugger; you *do* know that, don't you?" The monkey chirruped at him helpfully. After all, Anamaria had nearly plunged to her death. He sighed.

And then he began to smile. Because he had finally divined exactly what was up with Jack. Jack expected everyone to fall for him eventually, including the monkey. But the monkey expected everyone to fall...for, well, the monkey. Thoughtfully, James stroked the little fellow, and his smile turned into a grin. No wonder they didn't get along: they were too much alike. Maybe Barbossa had named the monkey with more in mind than simply mocking Jack Sparrow...

Still grinning, he picked up his coat and slipped back on his stockings and shoes, and went after Jack and Anamaria.


Once the last of his straggling crew had been rounded up and accounted for, Jack had set them all to unloading the gold.

Tearlach and Duncan had helped the cook, Angus, to set up a fire pit for roasting, and Gibbs was overseeing the last of the boxes out of the longboat. Fish, fowl and turtles, as well as a plethora of various fruits and nuts had been gathered. Some of the provisions from aboard were brought ashore too: bread and rum mostly.

Rum. He had yet to see James Norrington properly soused. He wondered what sort of conversation might be had with the honorable Commodore in a lubricated state. And as everyone knew, mental lubrication led to more rum and lubrication of the legitimately sodomic variety. Not too much, of course, else his Jamie *would* end up paralytic, and that definitely ruled out the chance of christening this island properly.

But it would be worth the risk to give up one night of sexual abandon to get to *really* know how James's mind worked...and where he really stood with one Captain Jack Sparrow. Sex was all very well; as were declarations of love. But what of the future?

Jack glanced up to the tree-line where James sat with his back against a tree, idly watching them while the monkey sat in the tree above, keeping a lookout.

Jack grinned to himself. Was as it should be: James sitting on his bum in the sand, doing nothing whatsoever. For once. He wandered over to James and sat down beside him.

James was staring up at the monkey.

Jack nudged him with his elbow. "How're you getting on, then?"

James put a finger to his lips. "Shh," he hushed calmly, and pointed upwards. "The monkey..."

Jack felt an unreasonable shaft of pure jealousy go through him. "To hell with the bloody monkey," he began.

But James quickly grabbed his arm, and shushed him again. "We're not alone. Look."

Jack looked up swiftly, and peered up into the gently swaying fronds. There sat little Jack - with another monkey. He let out a breath. "Grand. Now there are two. And they'll make a nice little pair and she'll go off an' have an entire island's worth of the little buggers and we can call it Monkey Island, after the infestation's settled itself properly."

James stared at him and began to laugh. "Jack, can you *hear* yourself? 'Trouble in paradise'. Besides, I think you're forgetting: this is Buggery Island. You're assuming it's a female. If it isn't, then no baby monkeys, and voila, no infestation." James gave him a slight smile.

Jack met his stare, unwavering. "One can only hope. And now, if you *don't* mind, we'll skip the monkey business and return to the matter at hand. Which is shore leave. Leaving the shore, and moving inland. We'll spend the night here, and go exploring in the morning. What say you?"

"Anything that will make you happy, Jack," James declared pacifically.

"There you go, making me promises again. D'you really mean it this time?"

"Of course," James agreed, a little too easily.

Jack watched him, wondering how he would react to what he was about to suggest. "Then stay. There's no reason why you couldn't, really. The Pearl's warming to you; so's the crew. Is there anyone back there who's going to miss you?"

James was serious and he looked down, then away at the surf on the beach.

Placating, Jack continued, "Look, all I'm asking is, think about it. Is there any reason why, eventually, you an' I couldn't just... sail away somewhere, " he gestured to the sea, and then around them, "or maybe back here?"

Thoughtfully, James met his eye at last, at this. Slowly, he relied, "I'll give up the Navy when you give up piracy, Jack. When we both retire."

"Why do you love it?" he asked, pointedly.

James gave him a sharp look now, however. "Love *what*, exactly? The Navy? Or discouraging piracy?"

"Is there a difference, for you?" Jack wondered.

James sighed. "Try to understand. I enjoy order, law and order. You enjoy chaos and...freedom. Now whereas I can enjoy freedom too, within certain limits, you enjoy some order yourself. The end of the civilized world would mean nothing left to enjoy anyway, no more civilization, rendering your idea of paradise rather moot. So we do have to compromise to an extent, do we not?"

"You've really no idea who pirates are, have you?" Jack said in wonderment.

"I'm sure you're going to enlighten me," James said, acidly.

"Gentlemen of fortune," Jack smiled a little. "The Brethren aren't all simple sea-robbers. Most of 'em were, and are, simply trying to make their fortunes and escape the harsh tyranny of the larger nations. To get out from under rich masters lording it over the lesser and 'undeserving' poor. Free men, savvy? To be sure, some 'at sail *do* give pirates a bad name, but that's like saying all kings are good men and rule by divine right. Plenty of bloodshed, burnings and civil wars in Europe over that one, 'ey? But here," he indicated the island and the beach they were on, "here in the Caribbean, every king is just a man, and every pirate can be a king."

"Very pretty, but you're not convincing me," James said in a hollow voice. "Without any order at all, the Brethren, as you still refer to them, degenerate into bands of marauding, desperate thieves. Violent ones. Some settle down and make a living. Others become a menace to innocent people." James leaned back against the tree again, and added, "Jack, I'm not saying that you're not a good man. I'm merely saying that stealing from others is a crime, particularly if seized with violence, with force. And I'm the first to admit that there are plenty of supposed law makers and law enforcers who are corrupt, but that doesn't excuse the crimes."

"Crimes, or sins?" Jack asked, curiously. Maybe the rum wouldn't even prove necessary. James seemed quite happy to discuss it openly.

Uncomfortably, James responded, "Crimes. Injurious and grievous harm done to others."

"Of the two of us, I'd lay odds you've taken more lives than I have. That you're responsible for the deaths and injury of more men than I am. I've killed to defend myself and my own, and I've killed in revenge. But I've never murdered in cold blood. Yet your laws would see me hang for stealing - while your same laws would have you lose your career and perhaps your life for the barest infractions."

James swallowed and looked away, observing the pirates gathered around the fire pit and the food on the beach, some cheerfully swimming in the water, laughing together, while others lay and dozed in the white sand further along the cove.

"You have a point," he finally said, slowly. "It comes back to...national pride. A pirate is a nation of one. And wars are never pretty, nor are they prettier than pirate raids."

Jack was impressed that James had remembered his words from the dinner with the officers aboard the Dauntless. "Didn't think I'd made such an impression on you, Commodore."

"I *do* pay heed to what you say, Jack. Come on." James sounded a little put out. "Well, really, why do you think I let you go that day, and let you escape? Why do you think I'm willing to turn a blind eye, and even...willfully commit sins with you?" He heaved a petulant sigh now. "I consider the depredations of the Spanish and the French upon our ships and settlements as piracy, also. It's not like I'm singling you and yours out, you know."

"So why are you unwilling to stay aboard my ship, with me?" Jack quietly asked him outright.

"You can't keep me," James warned.

Jack cast his eyes to the sky momentarily. "'Course not, Jamie. But you're ducking my question. I haven't threatened to. I'm asking you why you won't stay."

"I can't," James said, pained. "I can't stay with you, and you know it."

"Why not? Why're you unwilling to?" Jack was careful to keep his voice devoid of inflection, calm and even.

"Am I craven for admitting that it's safer? For so many reasons, in so many ways?" But James looked stricken now, and Jack found himself regretting that he'd pursued this line of questioning again.

"So we continue to compromise, then," he murmured, in an undertone. "My apologies, James. Didn't mean to make it sound like you were havin' to choose one or the other. Safety or freedom."

"I do take pleasure in serving others," James stated, but his expression was distant and vague, as well as wounded. "In providing a measure of safety for them. Sometimes, men believe their freedom takes precedence over others' freedom, which is where the law comes in. Admit it, you're more law-abiding than Barbossa and your previous crew. I care about you, what happens to you, which is why I want to see you safe. Safe from evil men. Just as you wish for me to be free. You think my happiness is in freedom, because yours is. And maybe I still want your happiness to lie in safety. But you can't ask me to give up being who and what I am, anymore than I can ask you to give up your freedom, Jack."

Jack looked away. "I know. I won't ask you again. On my word, Jamie." He faced James once more, finding the pain and hurt in those green eyes to be unbearable. "Never again. But know that the invitation is always open."

His lids fluttered slightly, as James said helplessly, "Jack..." He stopped. And swallowed hard, before saying in a quavery voice, "I hope you know that if you gave up piracy, you are always welcome to stay with *me*. In my home. Wherever that home may be."

Something heavy that had been keeping Jack's chest bound inside with metal bands of worry suddenly loosened at this. And he smiled a little, considering. "A pirate by day, innkeeper by night?" he joked.

James nodded once and gave a little smile now, himself. "Our secret life."

The irony was considerable. That in affecting each other, he would have encouraged Commodore Norrington's inner pirate, while James encouraged his inner, safely law-abiding, caring, selfless 'good man'...

Jack blinked and wondered what value was freedom, and what price his heart. And why it was assumed that a free man and a pirate could not possibly be caring, self-sacrificing, or adhere to laws defined by a liberated conscience rather than the stricter morality of society's constrained Puritanism. And yet again, he thought, it comes down to trust.

He said to James, "A fish out of water soon dies. And birds on the wing can't stop flying, either."

James sighed. "So I'm the fish, and you're the bird. Where will we live?"

"Actually," Jack said, brightly, "I'm the fish, as I'm happier in water. I'd prefer to think of meself as a flying fish - the ones with fins that look like wings? An' you're much more the hunter, although you're pretending to be the protective mother hen now, looking after the other biddies. No, I'm not fooled. You're a sea-hawk, hunting the fishies, who's been temporarily led astray by a fish with bird-like properties. Don't let my name fool you, James. Captain Jack Sparrow I may be, but 'm no bird."

James was staring at him now. "Babbling. And moping about."

"'M not babbling, Jamie. Merely being exacting, following your excellent example. An' the example I was using is only good for the duration of the metaphor, which expires the moment we introduce a new set of animals."

James stirred abruptly. "You know, it's occurred to me that you and I would most probably kill each other, if we had to live with each other day in and day out. I'd probably strangle you first."

Dryly, Jack said, "I'm putting it down to a woeful lack of imagination, due to the Navy training it out of you the moment they got their little hooks in you."

Unaccountably, James grinned widely at him at this.

Jack frowned at him, questioningly.

"You're really lovely when you're angry," James explained. "Possibly, you're lovely all the time, but you're at your best when you're upset or you're trying to manipulate someone into doing something."

Jack wasn't sure whether to be flattered or indignant at this. He turned a gracious smile upon him. "Thanks, love. You're lovely too. Mostly when you've turned quite red, but especially when you're on your back with your legs up, begging me to do you harder."

As if on cue, James's cheeks pinkened. "Well, that's one thing we can be certain of, at least. We'll never grow bored with each other. I'm sure that you'll never be able to resist trying to have the last word."

Jack paused at this, and then smirked at him. Deciding to let him have the 'last word', Jack leaned over and kissed him full on the mouth, ignoring the Commodore's sudden stiffening of consternation at doing so in full view of everyone else.

Lingering long enough to make the point, encourage affection, *and* ensure that James would be properly unbalanced by it, he let the kiss go on for a while, then drew back to search his face.

Aha, was that a sparkle of determined defiance there in those turbulent green eyes? Jack grinned back at him, but didn't say anything.

James narrowed his eyes and a craftiness entered his expression. Mildly, he said, "I may have to call your bluff, Captain."

Jack leaned back a little, regarding him warily. "Let's have it then."

Without the hint of a blush or any kind of a warning, James suddenly pushed him over onto the sand on his back, and then pounced on him, holding him down, trapping him neatly with two hands on his shoulders, with a very...interesting...kiss. One that seemed to say 'witnesses be damned', and 'how far are *you* willing to take it, *Captain*, and 'wantyou-needyou-so-I'll-bloody-well-takeyou'. Warm, demanding lips, this kiss, and open-mouthed, and stealing his breath. Fit to drown in.

Lifting his head after a time, James looked back at him, measuring, and said in a tone of surprise, "Why, Jack, I do believe this is the first time I've seen you in actual shock." With a slight smile, he got to his feet, dusted sand from his hands and his breeches, and offered his hand.

Jack took it after a moment's hesitation, feeling tricked somehow. As James pulled him to his feet, he considered his options.

And found anything he might have done or said abruptly stolen from him as James walked away towards the others, beside the fire. The sound of James whistling reached his ears. He was *whistling*.

Jack leaned against the tree for a moment, and took stock. Well, well, well. It seemed that James Norrington, stiffly-proper Commodore and law-abiding law-enforcer, was human. And Jack chuckled, realizing he'd finally found his match.

At last, someone he could really *play* with. On equal terms.

And he watched fondly, as James blithely ignored him and chatted with his crew of scurvy, motley pirates as if he'd spent his entire commodorial life chumming with them.

So Norrington wanted to play, 'ey?


James sat in the sand in what had become their accustomed spot up on the beach beneath the trees. It was dark, and there was an unseen choir of singing frogs and insects rising out of the thicker underbrush behind the tree-line. There was a cool sea breeze blowing ashore from the sea, joining to mingle with the rather heady fragrances of the various flowers sequestered with the frogs.

He breathed deeply of the blended salt-spray, cooling sand, smoke from the fire beyond, the cooking meat, and the flowers. And contentedly gazed at the pirates lounging around the fire and the food. Most especially at one particular pirate, naturally.

Jack Sparrow always appeared to be in motion.

James realized that when they were aboard a ship it seemed natural somehow, but watching Jack move about on land was enough to make him feel seasick. The pirate swayed from one crewman to another, baubles and beads flashing in the firelight occasionally, often obscured by that long, dark hair.

And he wouldn't stop moving; pausing here or there to lean one of those elegant, bronzed hands on someone's shoulder or wrist, swaying a little too closely to them, or flashing them that gilt grin in ways that caused a possessive urge to run through James. It made him want to seize Jack and…

Well, that was it, wasn't it. As it had been for quite some time. He sighed and considered Anamaria's well-chosen words: lovesick idiocy. He was completely smitten. Charm, indeed, he thought in a moment of amused self-ridicule.

James was enlightened to discover that he found it so completely maddening to notice the way Jack leaned into everyone's personal space in the same way. He couldn't bear seeing Jack displaying familiarity towards anyone or anything. He wondered if he was reading too much into it. Jack couldn't possibly be doing it to arouse his jealousy, surely? The occasional familiar, knowing glance Jack would shoot his way every now and again didn't help, even as he was glad for each and every one.

It didn't help that the desire was vibrating in him like a plucked string, or that the bottle of rum that Jack had helpfully thrust into his hand was gradually diminishing over the course of the past hour. He'd accepted it wryly but graciously enough. However, he'd refused to down any on an empty stomach, and he didn't fancy getting completely wasted on kill-devil after having spent the entire afternoon and early evening lusting after Jack and unable to slake himself.

The sun had set and left all sorts of red glints shimmering on the sea, matched only by the sparks that leapt up from the fire. There was an eldritch pink glow on the white sand of the beach and the accompanying fiddles and drunken singing of the feasting pirates seemed quaintly endearing to James's jaded senses, as it was about as piratical as one could expect. Even down to the great, hulking dark silhouette of the Pearl where she sat offshore, like a broody raven overseeing the revelry of her crew.

The monkey had disappeared into the trees with the native, island-dwelling monkey, probably to join in some interesting carousing amongst its own kind.

The rum cleared a fiery trail down his gullet and burned the afterimage of the fire into his eyes harder, making him wish they could douse it to burn lower. He sat a little apart from the others; having already feasted with the best of them and proven that he could eat and drink like an ordinary man despite his being a captive officer and guest of Jack Sparrow…not to mention his 'whore' - and his non-pirate status. The rest seemed to accept him as Jack's, and therefore to be tolerated civilly…but he couldn't ignore the way some of the eyes of the pirates watched him surreptitiously and warily when he thought he wasn't looking their way.

Dourly, he resigned himself to being very, very fortunate indeed that one of them didn't take it into their heads that he was a threat. He even began to see the wisdom in Jack's decision to ensure he'd not present such a military appearance. The more casual, the better. Of course, he hadn't considered the implications of being captured aboard a pirate ship - he'd always assumed such a possibility would occur under fire, in the thick of action at sea, and certainly not as a latently voluntary wish of his own.

There was a shadow moving beyond the others closer to the fire, and it caught his eye. He could see it from where he sat up by the tree-line, a dark figure walking silently in the darkness past the sailors and the roasting spit, obscured occasionally by the men as they stumbled into view on the other side of the fire.

With a frown, he watched as the shadow continued from left to right, along the sand near the wet beach where the tide was beginning to creep back out.

Perhaps it was the rum, but it looked like…a woman.

And then she turned, and looked straight at him, her large dark eyes and haunting, pale visage too familiar to be mistaken, framed by the long dark hair. A young face but far too sharp and fierce not to take seriously.

It was her.

James found himself frozen in simultaneous fear and curiosity. He didn't dare to move or call out, let alone take his eyes from her for even a moment, out of fear she'd disappear.

But she only smiled a little, a mysterious and understated expression, before turning away once more to the surf, and walked out into the water.

No, he realized a few heartbeats later, not into the water - but *onto* it. Good Lord above- she was making her way directly over the waves to the ship. He watched her silent progress as she gradually faded into the night between the Pearl's silhouette and the leaping fire.

Punctual as ever, Jack wandered up to his side and sank down beside him, stretching out and leaning back propped on both elbows. Eyeing his rum thoughtfully, Jack slurred, "Would've thought you'd've made more of a dent in it by now, James laddie."

Gratefully, James put the bottle to his lips and gulped it down in large, hot swallows, wondering if his sanity was affected by the island surrounds, the pirate company, or the rum itself. Probably all of it, he glowered. Pulling a face at the strength of the rum, he swallowed, and managed, "Jack, we've company. She's out there, somewhere." He waved a hand in the general direction of the ship.

Jack raised himself up a touch to gaze where James was indicating and then relaxed. "The Pearl? Aye, naturally."

"No," James returned, more strongly, "I mean, she's really *there*. I just saw her, walking by."

Jack's face was devoid of any reaction at this, and James frowned. "You don't believe me. I tell you, I saw her. She was there," he repeated adamantly. Holding up the bottle, he said, "You said it yourself, I haven't had nearly enough to be hallucinating something like that."

Jack regarded him quietly. "I do believe you, mate."

"And then she goes, carefree as you please, walking on the water - *out onto the water*. No doubts; it really was her," James continued, shaken. Then the recognition of what Jack must be going through, to hear this from him, filtered through his mind. To have missed yet another sighting of her…and he, Commodore and *not* a pirate, blessed with sight of her again… He looked down at the bottle. "I'm sorry."

Jack stirred a little and he said dryly, "No worries. It's hardly *your* fault she's a heartless witch and a teasing strumpet."

"It's not like I've any intention of seeking out these visitations," James said defensively. "I don't know why she keeps showing herself to me. At least she didn't threaten me this time."

Jack gave him a bit of a smile. "Aye. I know that, James. I'm not going to gut you over it. She's a pirate ship, after all."

"I don't mind telling you that I find it more than a little disturbing," James admitted. "I wasn't asleep this time; it wasn't a dream." He considered the bottle and tipped it back again, glad to avail himself of the rum. He didn't like causing Jack pain with this. Maybe it would be better if he didn't keep telling Jack every time he saw her.

"Did she frighten you?" Jack asked him, and James found a shaft of answering tenderness go through him at Jack's solicitous tone, at the concern in it.

"She smiled, which is somewhat better than what she did last time," James remarked.

"Then it's working," Jack said with a satisfied nod.

James frowned at him. "What is?"

Jack's eyes narrowed and he gave him a knowing leer. "Your charm," he drawled.

James turned an interested glance over Jack's body, down to his bare feet and back up again to meet Jack's dark eyes. "Well, as long as it's still working with you."

Jack smirked dismissively at this, but he did look him straight in the eye. "Pass the rum, love."

With a lift of his brows, James did so, and then watched the long, smooth throat bobbing as Jack knocked it back easily, as if it were water. "I thought you wanted me to down it."

Wiping his mouth, Jack replied, "Missed your chance, I'm afraid. I've a private party planned for you, Jamie. Back on board. 'Sides, I can't sleep on the beach. It's better in me own bed, savvy?"

James regarded him cautiously. "What are you up to?"

"Anything you are, 'an more besides, James darling," Jack grinned at him.

A shivery thrill of want abruptly ran through James at this. "We'll be alone, won't we?"

"Mostly. I'm of the mind to hear what you sound like when you *really* let loose for once, 'ey?" Jack sounded as though he'd been considering this for a while.

"I'd have said the same about you," James agreed. "We have a rendezvous, then?"

"Unless you'd rather we conduct this right here an' now," Jack suggested, his grin taking on wicked proportions in the half-light.

"Why not both?" James suggested lightly, successfully concealing the fact that if they did start something up here under the trees, he'd most likely end up keeping Jack there for some while. He'd had no opportunity for dalliance with Jack all day; and he couldn't really count their interlude in the pool because he'd been frustrated from his prematurely halted intentions with the arrival of Anamaria and the monkey.

"Some things are worth waiting for." Jack laughed quietly under his breath at this, and swigged another swallow of rum. "As I said, love, I've plans for you."

He experienced a momentary seizure of self-consciousness at the realization that he was really quite willing to do it right here with Jack, as the pirate had suggested…Perhaps it was the combination of the rum and the darkness, and the hunger coursing through him - and that heady, sharp ache to press his lips to Jack's and grind himself to completion on his body. He sucked in a breath.

With a knowing glance, Jack handed the bottle back to him. "Your need's greater than mine, I take it."

The amusement James heard in Jack's voice, however, was enough to make him retort, "Speak for yourself, Jack. By the time I'm through with you…" He purposefully let his words trail away. "…I'll have you begging, see if I don't."

Jack did pause at this, and tilted his head to regard him thoughtfully. Amused, he asked, "Are you threatening me?"

"No, Captain Sparrow, I'm not. I'm promising you, unlike your simpering tease of a ship, and yourself."

Jack climbed to his feet. "Well, Commodore, *sir*…if you'd be so kind as to accompany me back to m' ship, we'll jus' have a go at seein' that you're not left wanting." He extended a hand.

James took it, and as Jack pulled him to his feet, he caught Jack and brought him in closer to steal a kiss. Wet, lingering, gold and rum and heated…sharing breath and devouring those full lips under his, feeling the trails of pleasure singing through his blood.

As Jack pulled back, grinning insufferably at his insatiability and obvious need, James held fast, not willing to let him go just yet. "Don't ever doubt that I want you, that I want this," James said, lowly, intently.

"You've made it very inescapable," Jack pointed out, but he leaned into James, putting his arms about him, and stood there, holding him tight.

James felt a lightening sensation within, with his arms around Jack, embracing him closely there under the trees and the stars beyond, in the dark edges of the beach by the fire and the others. A lifting feeling, as though they'd finally reached some boundary and crossed it together.

For some reason, he no longer feared that Jack might…doubt him. He'd blurted it out with an almost habitual tension, in the familiar fear of letting go of him, of losing him…even despite the incredible risks they'd both taken to arrive at this island destination, far from the reach of the world.

And feeling Jack's heart beating so close, in this warm, clasped hold, James finally knew the taste of freedom. It was the essence of safety. Safety from fear, from either of their opposing sides. He wondered if Jack knew it. That the safety and the freedom were the same thing, when they were together like this.

He relaxed, even as Jack's arms tightened about him. His entire life had led to this, and he'd never had a single inkling that it was what he'd wanted. Just - to hold him. This wily, bewitching, gypsy bird with his stylish, scarecrow affectations and dangerous, flamboyant drunken act.

James tried to grasp onto the bright, warm and beautiful sensation inside and was astounded to discover he'd had it all along. Had been seeing it all along, even when it had only just sprouted within him and he'd tried to ignore it. Ever since he'd met this pirate in a bedraggled and disreputable state on his dock at Port Royal, by the side of the ship Jack had intended to commandeer, leaning over the rescued form of the girl James had just proposed to.

That safe freedom. It was love.

There was undeniably desire, passion, need, oh yes. But beyond it all: love. That flash of excitement at having cornered him, caught him… the chase had begun then and he'd been running after ever since. To be able to simply - touch.

Jack reluctantly let go and stepped back, pulling away from him, not letting go of his hand. "Now see, love, if we don't stop we'll end up finishing this here. And I do have bigger plans for you."

"Bigger?" James enquired.

"Better plans. Excellent plans." Jack turned away, chuckling under his breath, and tossing casually over his shoulder, "Come along, Commodore. I *can't* do this without you." And he still had James's hand, forcing James to acknowledge the tug and follow after him.

"May I have my hand back?" he asked, as they made their way back towards the fire, amused at this seemingly innocuous but altogether affectionate gesture of Jack's. "I may have need of it."

Almost absently, Jack glanced back at him and let go. "Well, if you really insist." And then he emitted the most unreassuringly wicked chuckle.

Back at the fire, Jack began going around to some of the men, speaking to them in soft-spoken words that no one else could hear. Several of them grinned back at him with nods and conspiratorially hushed, "Aye, Cap'n," and "Good one, Cap'n."

He couldn't imagine that it bode well. James began to wonder if he should be eager or dreading to discover what Jack had in mind. There were times that the impious imp had a softer look about him, but it was usually only present when Jack had some craftily sharp angle he was playing up. And he did smile, as he knew Jack was calling his bluff again.

The water between the beach and the ship was absent of any shadowy figures, fortunately.

Several of the pirates Jack had spoken to were preparing the longboat to return to the Black Pearl as Jack came back to his side, carrying his boots. Pulling them on, Jack informed him, "They'll drop us off and relieve those on watch who're missin' all the feasting. And then you and I can shout all we want to." Jack looked pleased with himself at this arrangement.

James shrugged. "Fine. We'll return ashore in the morning then, for our incursion inland?"

"Aye, if either of us are up to walking." Jack eyed him. "And you could do with seeing more sun. I can't very well take you back looking as you are."

"I may be fairer-skinned, Captain Jack, but I can assure you my liver is not," James replied quietly. "Your reputation will hardly suffer if I'm not sun-blackened to a crisp. And if I may point out, I survived walking about today well enough, despite the fact you had your way with me last night. I rather think it's my turn."

Jack turned back to face him squarely at this and perused him a little too close and in-his-face. "I believe you've forgotten again. How this works."

James raised his brows at him, looking down into Jack's now-inscrutable eyes, an expression that looked as though he was pleased with himself for something, as would a cat that'd caught a mouse.

"We're not aboard your Dauntless, now. You've been taken prisoner by *pirates*. I'm the captain," Jack said, with his fingertips resting on himself, then he placed them against James's chest, "and you're my prisoner. Therefore *I'll* be deciding who's turn it is and when, and how often."

The four men in the longboat were waiting for them now, and James answered reasonably, "Of course. Silly of me, I'm sure. Lead on, Captain."

Jack turned to go, then swung back again, searching his face suspiciously; no doubt looking for some sign of dissent or sarcasm. James managed to stifle his amusement at this until Jack had turned away again, and he smiled behind him as Jack stepped into the boat.

Jack wore his enigmatic face during their short row out to the Pearl, and by the gleam of the lantern, James could tell that Jack was up to something.

It didn't dawn on him until they had climbed aboard the ship, and the four men suddenly surrounded him and held him fast, that he'd walked directly into Jack's little plan, whatever it might entail. It wasn't even very hard for them to bind his hands before him, as he wasn't sure he ought to bother struggling.

Jack wore a self-satisfied smirk. "Take him below, chaps. And see that he has a little light."

"Jack," James said, lifting his voice in warning. "What are you-?"

"That's *Captain* Jack," the pirate smiled back at him. "I'll thank you to remember that sometimes, particularly when we're standing aboard me ship. Until later then, Commodore." And he gave a little bow that seemed almost effete, and pivoted on his heel, sashaying across the deck towards his cabin, the sound of his boots echoing across the ship in its rather empty state. The canvas was down and there were only two other men aboard.

As the four men escorted him below, he realized he was being taken to the brig and he suffered a momentary glimpse of panic.

"So it's to be the brig then?" he sighed.

The pirate on his right who had him in a firm grip chortled, "Aye, Navy. Ye'll sleep sound, bein' in such familiar surroundin's."

"I fail to see why this is at all necessary," he grumbled.

The pirate carrying the lantern before them laughed over his shoulder, "'Bout time you 'ad a taste of what you put the Cap'n through, before, 'ey?"

The others chuckled.

James wondered. Was this a game of Jack's? Part of the plan-?…To teach him a lesson about not knowing what to expect, or perhaps a bit of revenge for what he had indeed put Jack through? It came slamming home quite hard now, even as the fresh surge of panic reached through the rum-fog in his brain, although he'd not hit the rum that hard himself.

He was still technically Jack's prisoner. And he'd imagined Jack had forgiven him for his treatment of him before.

As they hustled him to the cell and pushed him into it, he was glad when the first pirate lit the lantern hanging nearby, beyond the cell. At least they wouldn't leave him in the dark. And then two of them who'd come in the cell with him loosened the rope around his wrists.

Then to his alarm, they dragged him to the side of the cell and he found himself backed against the bars as they lifted his arms up on either side.

"Hey," he protested, struggling in earnest against them now. "Now - see here… wait just a moment, this is going too far!"

"Sorry, Commodore, sir," one of them said, as they quickly restrained him and fastened his hands back against the bars with two ropes, leaving him standing with his arms up and unable to even sit down. "Cap'n's orders, Norrington," said the other with a leer.

Incensed at this, James pulled at the ropes, exclaiming angrily, "You can't just leave me like this."

"Sleep tight, Navy," was the only reply, and a guffaw as they left him in the cell, locked it behind them, and he watched them depart in rising dismay.

All right, he thought. Remain calm. It wouldn't do to panic now. Just…wait. Patiently.

Jack wouldn't just *leave* him down here all night. Not even to teach him a lesson - about being a helpless prisoner, at the whim of someone who's motives could not easily be discerned. Would he?

James tried to control his breathing, and the rising alarm he felt at the acute awareness that he was very, very far from help, indeed.

But it wasn't easy while standing in a locked cell in the brig of a pirate ship, put there at the orders of a man who had every reason to see him repaid for his own treatment of him before, when their roles had been reversed. And he knew, he just *knew*, that Jack was making a point.

Jack had spent an entire night in the brig of the Dauntless, before, and it hadn't been until early morning that James had deigned to go below and inform him that he did not, in fact, intend to see Jack hung upon their arrival back in Port Royal.

He'd also left Jack to wait in the Fort's prison upon his decision on what to do with him once he'd captured the pirate he'd grown so obsessed with capturing. He swallowed hard, wondering if he'd made a grave miscalculation somewhere along the line. Jack had every reason to bear a grudge against him for that. All of it. The entire journey, in fact, back to the Isle de Muerte had been tense for Jack, he knew.

And then to have to deal with his sudden declaration of desire -

James flushed in the still, unmoving air. A trickle of sweat ran down his side beneath his shirt. The recollection of that time aboard the Dauntless wasn't exactly flattering when it came to his own actions, and his conscience suffered anew as he remembered that Jack had not even had any real assurance that James wouldn't change his mind, and reconsider the whole affair, on the basis of his own desire for him being unnatural and shameful to him.

He leaned his head back against the bar behind, and closed his eyes. God, he hadn't even left any option open for Jack during that particular voyage, except to go along with it and hope that he'd let him go once they'd arrived, to return to his ship.

So, here he was. Locked up, awaiting the whim of a pirate who had more personal reasons than most to want to see him sweat it out a little.

But Jack had said that he loved him. More than once. Surely he hadn't been playing him the entire time?

Then again, maybe it was all a game to Jack, anyway. The man really wasn't a very successful pirate, for all the times he got captured by his enemies and by the law. He didn't seem to take much of anything that seriously, in fact, except where his ship was concerned.

Blast, maybe that was it, James thought abruptly. Maybe Jack was so upset about the Black Pearl appearing to him, James Norrington, British officer, and not to her captain, who'd suffered for ten long years in hankering after her and dreaming of reclaiming her, that it had taken its toll on Jack's temper. And his mind.

That actually made more sense than anything else, considering Jack's obsession with his beloved ship.

But he couldn't just pretend that everything Jack had said and done with him, all the ways he'd shared himself with James, had been a ruse, or purely manipulation. It dishonored Jack's character to doubt him. For Jack Sparrow was a good man, he knew.

It came down to trust again, James realized. And he shifted in position, wondering how long, how long. How long before Jack would come down.

The creak of the ship and the slap of the occasional wave against the hull were very loud in the silence of the brig.

James felt a growing apprehension at being alone down here in the bowels of the very ship that had herself kept taking a forbidding shape to appear before him. The knowledge that he was completely alone and very vulnerable there was unnerving, and enough to make the hairs on the back of his neck and along his arms stand up.

She could appear here, and there would be nothing he could do, nowhere he could run.

Thank God for the lantern hung from the hook outside his cell, which was swaying a little with the ship and casting a slowly roving gleam back and forth with the motion.

And his own words came back to haunt him now, from a little while ago, back on the beach. About his liver being not very pale at all, and his bravery being up to the challenge. Indeed, he thought with some self-mockery.

It was truly the first time he'd been held aboard an enemy vessel, in a compromised situation. He found himself filled with fresh respect at Jack Sparrow's aplomb in facing it with such regularity.

No, no. He straightened, and took several deep, calm breaths of the overly-still air. He wouldn't allow himself to lose dignity now. He'd allowed himself to become caught up in this situation, and he had to keep calm and not embarrass himself. Control. It was all about control. And discipline. And really, if Jack Sparrow could behave so calmly during his own incarceration before, surely he could at least show the equal of such mettle, if not more, considering he was a British officer of the King's Navy, by God.

A sound from above caused him to stiffen and suck in a quick breath of alarm, thinking of - *her* - while also experiencing a tiny bit of hope that it was Jack.

The sound of those boots coming down the ladder was familiar enough that he allowed himself to breathe easier.

Jack came into view through the gloom, and made his way over, to stand outside the cell under the lantern. He looked sufficiently calm enough that James found his little ray of hope brightening a tad.

Jack regarded him, before taking out the key and opening the door to the cell, to come and stand in it with him. "You look whiter than ever, love. Has she been pestering you again?"

"No, but I did wonder if she would show up, considering," James admitted.

Jack gave him a knowing gaze, his eyes roving over him, up and down. "I'll warrant you've been wondering if she'd be the only one tonight, 'ey?" He gave a little smile.

It wasn't very well received, on James's part. He found it far too calculating; too obviously aware of what he was putting him through.

"Is all this for my benefit, or yours?" James asked him, heartened that he managed to keep his tone steady and composed.

Appearing to think on this, Jack put a finger to his lips. "Both, actually. But then, by very dint of your asking, I can only guess that you're not enjoying yourself much, are you, Jamie?" He stepped closer to James, close enough that James could feel the body heat emanating from him. Admiringly, he said, "Now, love, you look very pretty indeed, all tied up here, unable to move. You must forgive my tardiness; I had business above to attend to. Let's see if we can't get you a little more comfortable, 'ey?"

He reached out and began to undo the buttons of James's shirt. James licked his lips once and took a breath, wondering how much of this was seduction, and how much simply toying with him. Or a game. Or making a point. Or even…teaching him a lesson, in as much as giving him a gift.

Jack's eyes were focused on each successive button as it was undone, and didn't look back up at him until he'd freed them all, leaving James's shirt open.

Jack gave a little nod. "Very fetching."

With a salacious grin, he stepped even closer and reached up with both hands to grasp the bar behind James's head, on either side of his neck, leaning against him and pressing himself full-length against James's front.

As he gasped at the feel of Jack's body upon his, James was aware of the gradually hardening member against his right thigh; it was a burning brand along his leg. The air was cloying enough to try to breathe in without the added breathlessness of Jack's mesmerizing proximity, and he felt two new trickles of sweat run down either side of his body, as well as one down his back that was lost in the fabric of the shirt where his back was pressed against the next bar down.

Jack arched against him shamelessly. "You thought I was going to leave you down here all by yourself, didn't you, mate?"

"The-The thought did occur to me," James admitted, breathing harder.

Jack grinned up into his face, and said with a slight chuckle, "You've a guilty conscience about that too, don't you? As well you should. I *do* remember your hospitality… as well as your brig, Commodore."

Despite the heat, a rippling little shiver overtook James. He wasn't sure yet if Jack was intending this just to be love-play, or was still making a point, particularly given what he'd just said. "And let's not forget the dungeon in the Fort," he managed, in a mild enough tone that he hoped didn't betray his trepidation.

But something of the worry in him must have shown in his face, visible to Jack's shrewd eyes. "Aye, but I was referring more to your little habit of ravishing your captives, 'ey?" And Jack stepped back away from him a few inches, laughing now. "My, my, Jamie Norrington. Your conscience really is suffering most distressingly, to imagine I'd want the same treatment handed to you."

He lifted his hands again, this time to place them on James's bare chest, running his palms lightly upwards, then down again, one of them slipping back up to tweak his right nipple.

James held in a gasp at this, and replied, "I believe I was quite eloquent about it, before."

"To be sure," Jack agreed, continuing his wandering over his skin. "An' your apologies were very pretty, and very contrite. So what is it that you're so afraid of, I'm wondering?" And he placed both hands on James's waist, beneath his shirt. "Not me, I hope?"

Despite his words, Jack sounded positively hopeful. James stared back at him, wondering what Jack had in mind. He couldn't think properly, and was painfully aware of how aroused he had become at some point in the past few minutes, and he couldn't gauge fast enough what would be the appropriate responses. He had the awkward suspicion that he was exposing far too much of himself somehow.

With a swallow, he answered, "Well, to be honest, I was considering it might be my comeuppance, and your revenge, after all."

Jack bent towards him, and licked at James's left nipple at this, and then closed his mouth over it, sucking it into his mouth. Which naturally enough sent a shock of wet heat through James, reaching directly to his cock and causing it to stiffen nearly beyond pleasure. And he couldn't stop the choked whimper that issued from his mouth.

Jack didn't relent until he left it throbbing, the nub hard, and moved to give the same attention to the other. James had to bite his lower lip, completely astonished at the sensitivity of them, as he'd been completely unaware up until now just *how* sensitive they really were. It was a little overwhelming. His own body - how little he knew his own responses. Or maybe it was the combination of the sensitivity with the attention being lavished on them by this man, who abruptly stopped and stood up straight once more, with an errant leer.

"Revenge? You've got it all turned 'round, darling. If I'd wanted revenge, I'd have left the Caribbee and you'd never have seen my handsome self again, savvy?"

Despite his playful tone, James caught the sincerity in what Jack had just said to him. "Yes. I mean, I do. Savvy."

Jack took another little step back, surveying him as if to examine his work, and James's waist burned coldly where Jack's warm hands no longer lay against his skin. "I must say, Commodore, this look is very good on you." And before James could reply, he stepped close against him and murmured, "Have *you* ever been tied up during the act of love before, sweeting?"

"No," James admitted, breathlessly, "I've m-"

He was interrupted by Jack's mouth colliding against his, both of Jack's hands reaching up to hold his head, as Jack possessed his mouth in a rather urgent kiss, open and wet and hot.

James could feel himself growing lightheaded from it, and from the feel of Jack all up against him again, and the arousal that was growing to a near intolerable level now, for his stiff member and aching balls. And while drowning, being pulled under by Jack's mouth on his, he pulled absently against the ropes holding his wrists in place on either side, only to find that sense of being properly held back at last…and he groaned into Jack's kiss, unable to help the pure spike of need that tumbled through him at it.

As Jack finally released him, James panted, "Please, I- I-" and he stopped, not certain at all what he was asking for. Jack's gaze was too hot and too direct, as he stared back at him, and then looked down, flaying a path all the way down his bare chest and to the obvious state of his desperate and yearning cock where it was trapped in his breeches.

"I've not kept you waiting *too* long, have I?" Jack asked.

"No," James gasped. "Just-"

"Because I'm really sorry if I have, mate. Never intended to take so long above, really." Jack's eyes were alight as he watched James.

"No, it's alright. I just- if you could-"

Jack swiftly interrupted again, "I'd even go so far as to say that torture isn't in me nature. Far from it," he stated quickly with a slow shake of his head. "Teasing, perhaps. And maybe even a little bit of playful tormenting, but never torture."

"*Please*. Jack, please," James managed. "It's becoming torture. It is."

Jack glanced downwards and stepped closer to rub a hand in a sweetly painful and light caress over James's organ through the breeches, and James bit out, "God, oh God, Jack, please. Touch me. You want me to beg? I'm begging. Please?"

"I *am* touching you," Jack pointed out quietly. "Although I must say, you're a little too pretty this way. With the begging and all."

Control. He could control himself. He could. James licked his lips again and said, carefully, "Jack, this is getting very close to torture now. Please suck me. Please." He felt his cheeks flame from the act of speaking the words aloud. It was one thing to hear them spoken crudely by another, or in jest. It was another to beg for it, and in such a situation. With another man. With this man. In the brig of a pirate ship. While bound. And captive. By the one man he wanted to see bound.

Jack's brows arose at this, however. "Ah. You said you wanted me to touch you. Sucking you is different. But all you had to do was ask, 'ey?"

And before James could indignantly retort to this that Jack *was* in fact torturing him most cruelly, and he would have revenge of his own if it was the last thing he ever accomplished, Jack dropped into a crouch before him in that slowly liquid movement, just like the first time after dinner that night. Aboard the Dauntless.

James couldn't help a wordless exclamation as Jack's fingers swiftly undid his breeches and freed his throbbing, desperately stiff length. Jack's hand closed around the base of it and James bit back a yelp as Jack's thumb pressed…just *so* there, and James felt the shock of it like a reversal of the lust slowly flowing backwards momentarily.

Abruptly, James was assailed with the memory of that first fantasy he'd had in the brig of his own ship, where secluded in safe and solitary darkness he'd brought himself to completion with the thought of Jack doing exactly this to him. He looked down, just in time to see Jack raise his other hand to slide up along the inside of his right thigh, and up to cup his testicles, which felt heavy and tight. With a slight, wordlessly appreciative murmur, Jack leaned in to mouth at them, rolling them lightly against his tongue.

James emitted a gasped cry at it, nearly feeling himself succumb to the sensation, almost reaching his peak from sheer ecstasy not quite reached, but glimpsed, oh so closely. Jack's mouth began to nibble upwards along the stem of his cock, his evilly lovely hot tongue silkily dragging wetly up along each fraction of a torturous inch.

Breathing on the flared, over-sensitive head, Jack then enveloped it. The immediate sensation of the cavern of wet heat finally covering him, taking him in, nearly undid James at once.

The sight of those full, beautiful, sensual lips parting to take him between them so perfectly added to the overwhelming rush of pleasure that screamed through his body. He thrust forward, helplessly spasming into the heavenly hot sucking that relentlessly pulled the bliss out of him with agonizing spurts.

Caught against the ropes that bound his hands up on the unyielding bars, he realized he was straining against them with all his strength and they held yet; he was held safe and he felt something give within him, along with the pleasure shooting out of him. He heard his own shout in his ears, chastened to realize it had all the pitch of a wounded animal, and the abrupt release he felt in it was…marvelous. To let go.

Still caught in erratic pulses, he couldn't help shoving forward still in little bursts even as they began to tail away, into Jack's mouth, who had drunk him down and was kneeling at his feet with eyes closed and a look of rapt concentration on his face, holding his hip steady and still holding James's cock in his curled palm, and the rest of him in his mouth.

Feeling drained and completely raw inside, even though there was that delicious glow spreading all over his body and through his limbs, James breathed easier, leaning his head back to rest it against the bar, closing his eyes.

Finally, Jack relinquished his spent member from between his lips, and slowly rose to his feet.

James looked back at him. "Thank you," he whispered.

Leaning against him once more, Jack put his arms about James's middle, and kissed him, then said, "A little fear can go a long way. But a little trust wouldn't go amiss either, my James."

He didn't say it with even a hint of admonishment, but James couldn't help the arrow of guilt that lanced him at this.

Jack's hands were busy at his breeches, redoing them, and with a look from beneath his lashes, Jack asked, "Was it anything like what you had in mind, then?"

James let out a laugh, composed entirely of relief and interest that it had been so close to what he'd wanted that he wasn't sure he could ever explain how much. "Exactly. Since from the beginning, in fact."

Jack began to undo the knots in the rope at his left wrist. "Must say, I rather suspected that." He paused, and raised his brows, considering him. "Maybe I should just leave you here, an' come back later to do i'tall over again."

James's comfort fled instantly. "I'd rather you didn't."

Jack shrugged a little. "I'm sure we could always come back down, if you need to."

"Or we could simply bring the ropes back up with us," James pointed out, dryly.

"But down here lends it a touch more authenticity, 'ey?" Jack grinned at him and freed his left hand, moving to undo the knots at his right.

James asked, "What would *you* prefer? I mean, that was wonderful, it was. But we've not taken care of you yet. Would you have me return the favor before we go up?"

Jack shook his head, the silver and the baubles jingling. "Let the rum settle first."

James gave him a sharp look as he collected the two short ropes and wrapped them into a coil. "How much have you had?"

"Plenty," Jack said. "It's plentiful, like you, down here," and he gestured loosely at the bars behind James.

James wasn't sure what he meant. "Like me?"

Jack gave him a significant smile. "You taste like rum tonight."

"I've been tippling," James reminded him dryly. "You wanted me to tipple. I've tippled." He let Jack precede him from the cell. He paused as Jack blew out the lamp.

Plunged into darkness, James observed, "Ah. I hope you know your way around your own ship, Jack."

"Not to worry, mate; we'll find our way out of the belly of this beast." As James followed the sound of his voice, Jack added, "If you do get lost, I'm sure Pearl'll help. She seems to have taken a fancy to you."

"Hardly, Jack. She threatened me, remember?"

As they found the ladder and began to go up, Jack scoffed, "That? That were nothing, compared to some. I saw her flick a crewman overboard once, like a dog ridding itself of a flea. She likes you. Now she's all smiles, and giving you the eye, mate."

James let out a breath of exasperation. "Jack, I don't mean for it to hurt you, I hope you know that. I'd much rather *not* be seeing her at all."

As they made their way back up through the ship, Jack murmured, "'S'alright, Jamie. I'll not hold it against you."

Catching a hold of Jack ahead of him, and pulling him back, James gave him an insistent hug. "I know. But don't lose heart. You may see her yet. Maybe she's only been biding her time?"

Jack leaned into his embrace, and smiled. "Maybe. And maybe she's chosen to show herself now because I've chosen you. Savvy?"

James tightened his hold, and then let him go. "Savvy." Although it stung once more, the fact that below, he'd doubted Jack. He knew it was natural, considering the circumstances, and the fact that they were still only at the outset of this relationship of theirs, unlikely as it was, but he couldn't shake the guilt he felt at having believed that Jack had only been playing him. Manipulating him.

As they went up on deck, and towards Jack's cabin, James noticed the sky was black and deep, with the barest sliver of a crescent moon rising over the horizon, like a sickle. The faint silvery traces it shone onto the sea beneath made the water beckon to him. He was still sticky from the stagnant, unmoving air below, and he considered swimming in the water…and the more he thought of it, the better it appealed to him.

Before they reached the doors, he put out a hand on Jack's shoulder. "I'm going to take a swim. I won't be very long."

Jack nodded. "Alright then." He opened the doors and went inside.

James remained outside, and looked about him. There was only one man up above, and he had slumped on the steps, dozing. James peeled off his shirt, and undid his breeches, then removed his shoes and stockings, and slipped the breeches off. Making a neat pile of his clothing, he went to the side of the ship and managed to climb his way down into the water.

It was warmer than he expected, and deeper. It was absolutely refreshing. The fire still blazed back on the beach, and it looked lost against the long sandy shore with the trees beyond, stretching in either direction. As he swam a little ways out from the Black Pearl and began to make a circuit around her, he pondered the strangeness of such a large island remaining unknown for so long.

The sharp, distinctively triangular shape of a fin crested the water a few yards from him, coming in from the sea, and his heart jumped into his mouth. A shark.

Moments later, two more fins appeared and a long snout lifted up, chittering at him with squeals and greetings. Dolphins, he realized, even as he felt his heart still racing from the abrupt fright. Thank God.

They swam in a circle about him one time, calling playfully, and then began to imitate his circle around the Pearl. Well, that was good fortune, in any case, and it also meant he was free of any sharks for the moment. He continued his swim, making it halfway around the ship before he remembered the Pearl's shadow walking along the surface of the water.

He wondered why she'd appeared to him the second time, earlier. And realized Jack may have had a point. Perhaps she was letting him know that she was accepting him there amongst them. She had known the others couldn't see her, for she hadn't looked at them, only turning to look most meaningfully at him before returning across the water.

The dolphins had already circled around and now overtook him, skimming past him in the water with ease, excited to be able to beat him once around the ship, and promptly started around again. He shook his head at their antics; it wasn't like he was trying to race around the Pearl - and he floated on his back for a while, giving up the circuit for the restfulness of drifting.

A momentary ripple of guilt returned, over the scene in the brig. He wondered if he and Jack would ever truly be able to completely trust one another without reservation. It was unlikely, considering the wholly unlikely nature of their different lives. But he also knew now that he had never desired or loved anyone else so completely, and equally without reservation. Perhaps the trust was there, in that willingness to take the chance. To lay oneself bare to possible heartbreak and indeed allow the possibility of betrayal. Perhaps it wasn't so much a lack of trust, as it was…fear of losing what he'd managed to grasp hold of.

This made more sense than anything so far. Because he did love him. And he knew Jack loved him in return. Nothing would change that if they didn't want it to.

The sound of splashing oars reached him. And he realized he'd drifted quite a ways out from the ship and the beach. He began to swim towards the sound, and sure enough, there was Jack in a boat, rowing towards him.

As he neared the boat, James smiled, and reached out to grab hold. Pulling himself along, he edged closer to where Jack sat. "What are you doing out here?"

Jack looked down at him, thoughtfully, with an indulgent expression. "Well, I was thinking, James; it's very easy to jump off a ship without your clothes on, but it's not so easy getting back on again." And he gave him a grin that flashed silver in the faint moonlight reflecting off the waves. Or maybe it was starlight. Or a little light all of Jack's own.

In any case, James found himself laughing as he saw that Jack had brought his clothes out to him in the boat. "I could have dressed aboard, Jack. You didn't have to save my modesty. But it's a kind thought."

"Who said anything about modesty?" Jack smirked at him. "This way, I get to watch."

James pulled himself into the boat, and sat in front of Jack with a flash of pleasure at the admiring way Jack was considering his dripping, naked form. "The water's not at all bad. Why don't you take a turn?"

"And miss the view?" Jack grinned back.

James found himself smiling back rather foolishly. "Jack," he began.

"Jamie," Jack said roughly, with a note of approval. Actually, it sounded more like an invitation. A lewd one.

Sluicing the water droplets from himself, James continued, "It is your turn next. What would you prefer? Haven't you anything in mind?"

Jack stared back at him rather blankly for a moment. "Aye, I do. You'll be takin' those off the moment we get back on board, so why not just leave off with them?"

"So why did you *bother* bringing them out here to me?" James asked, amused at Jack's reaction to his sitting nude in the boat. "Jack," he said, waving a hand before him. "If this is what you'd like, me sitting completely starkers in your jolly-boat, just say so. Does it hoist your 'jolly-roger' then?"

Jack licked his lips. "There'll be some jolly rogering aboard this boat if you don't put them back on, that I promise."

James cleared his throat. "Ah. Indeed. I must say, considering last night and the fact that it's actually still painful simply to sit here in this boat with you, the thought of sitting upon your 'mast' or being hoisted upon it in any sense is even more painful. I'm sorry." At Jack's look of slight surprise, he said, "No, Jack, in all honesty. I am sorry to disappoint you, and I have no doubt that I can find an excellent alternative to make it up to you. Why don't you start rowing us back?" He glanced over his shoulder, seeing they'd by now drifted even further away from the ship. "It'll keep your hands occupied so I'll be able to dress properly."

Jack began to row with a contented expression. "Never mind then. Never had me mind set on the mast hoisting anyway. Although I'm partial to it."

Then he nearly dropped the oars at the sight of the three fins keeping pace with the boat.

"No, it's alright; they're dolphins," James hurriedly told him.

"I know they are," Jack said. "Startled me, is all."

James glanced at him, sharply.

"Have you ever seen a sea monster, James?" Jack asked.

"I'll show you mine, if you'll show me yours," he muttered.

"Ah. Then we'll make our own, of the two-humped variety," Jack grinned. "But seriously, have you never?"

"Never what?" James asked, pulling on his breeches, and deciding not to bother with anything else but his shirt.

"Seen one."

James gave him a wry smile. "One hump or two?"

"Three, actually," Jack said gamely, not giving in. At James's look, he said, "Honestly, it had three. Plus the tail. And I never saw the head."

James gave him a look, and pulled on his shirt. "Then how do you know it was a sea monster?"

"By virtue of its length and sinuosity. S'truth, on me honor," Jack said calmly, still rowing. "Bloody huge beast; scared me to death. 'Twas in the middle of the Atlantic, seven years ago. An' before you say it, I'd not been at the rum."

James stared back at him. Slowly, he said, "I believe you."

Yet, he couldn't tell if Jack had decided to share this tale with him just because, or if it was an attempt to distract him from the fact that Jack *had* been startled into believing the three fins were sharks at first. He glanced at the dolphins that had overtaken them and raced them back to the Pearl, and had already turned around and headed for the beach, no doubt attracted by the fire.

Jack glanced after them, himself, and shook his head. "I knew they were dolphins. If they were sharks, they'd be pointed in different directions, doin' that circling thing. They don't swim in fleets like that, all pointing the same way. It's like the difference between Navy ships and pirate ships." And now he did turn an amused smile on James.

He decided to let it drop. "I see."

"Well, it *is*," Jack said.

"That still leaves us with the question of how I shall repay you, for it is your turn now." Then he sat up, as the answer surged to the fore. "I've got it. Cuddling."

Jack gave him a dirty look. "Takin' that one a bit far, aren't you, love?"

"Not at all. You said you were a fish. And so you are," James said, triumphantly. "A cuddlefish."

Dryly, Jack replied, "At least I'm not a cold fish, and now if you don't mind, I think we've spent enough time out in this tiny boat, Jamie. So be a dear and get your Navy arse, precious as it is, *sore* as it is, back on me Pearl before I'm tempted to set to it with an oar."

James examined the oars, and nodded. "You're right. They'd make excellent paddles. I wonder that I didn't think of it before."

"Nautical imagination," Jack grinned. "I'll see yours increased, yet."

But as they called to the sailor above who was on harbor watch, and who'd been instructed by Jack to look out for their return, James began to think over what he'd suggested.

As they managed to get back aboard, James realized that it was true nevertheless; Jack's weakness was cuddling. It wasn't so much the sex, for that was par for the course where he, a pirate, had been concerned… for a long time. Part of the 'pirate lifestyle', James mused. But sex with loving, and lengthy, affectionate, intimate, cuddling loving…now that was it. Come to think of it, their last night together aboard the Dauntless had been emotionally trying for Jack, as he recalled.

Not sex, nor buggery, nor shagging…but lovemaking. James smiled fondly to himself as he followed Jack back through the doors and they went directly to Jack's cabin.

Slowly, he said, "Shall I tell you why I don't mind following you everywhere, Captain Jack?"

Jack waited for him to shut the door. "Aye?" He began pulling off his boots.

James allowed himself a wide, slow smile. "Because then I get to watch your pirate posterior, as much as I want."

"Been gazing your fill, then?" Jack tutted at him and shook a finger, then pulled off his other boot. "You *are* a pirate by night, Jamie lad."

"So I am," James agreed, quietly. "Lend me that razor again. I'm raspy, and for what I have in mind, I don't want to mar your skin." He smiled. "Especially in certain places."

Jack shrugged a little. "Either way."

He stepped close to Jack in the dark of the cabin. "Let me undress you. Alright? I won't be long."

He left him to light a candle and remove the day's growth. Quickly, he worked at getting out the razor and applying the lather. Scraping it away, carefully despite his urgency so as not to cut himself and start bleeding everywhere, he considered the best way to give to Jack something new, a truly new experience. Something he'd never had before. To be certain, Jack had been made love to by others before…but not with the kind of fixed and concentrated attention that he had in mind. Smooth-shaven once more, James felt more himself. The swim had invigorated him, but he felt better suited to the task at hand, now. And he chuckled silently to himself.

Returning to Jack's side, he noticed Jack yawning.

"Thank you, for these few days. And for bringing me here to this island," James said, sincerely. "I can honestly say that it has been one of the happiest times of my life. If not *the* happiest."

"'Tis a pleasure for both of us, an' the ship," Jack said. "The crew as well. And probably the island, too. Poor thing must get lonely."

"Lonely no longer. Like the two of us. Let me give you some of that pleasure now," James suggested, firmly. "Allow me."

As Jack stood still, James removed the pistol and undid the sash around Jack's waist, and undid the bag. Laying them all down, he turned to Jack's shirt, and lifted it over his head, and then moved to undo his breeches, and before long, he'd bared him completely.

He was still wearing too much himself. Impatiently, he stripped his shirt off and hurriedly shucked his own breeches.

Jack had already crept into the bed, beneath the coverlet. James joined him, slipping into the bed with the premeditated intention of loving him until it became too much.

As he moved into Jack's arms, and his mouth met Jack's, it was a harmony and symmetry of joining that James was willing to believe was a most tender trap. Because the more Jack received, the more he would need it. It wasn't a question of positions, or frequency, or circumstance, but of simple touch. And he so desperately wanted to be the one to give it to him.

To touch his body, his heart and his mind at one time, and perhaps give the pirate the one thing he could never steal from anyone.

The kiss deepened, and got rougher, wilder, and abruptly, James pulled back. "Not like that, not this time."

And in the dark, he placed a trail of the softest kisses he could manage, all the way down Jack's chest, pushing him slowly onto his back and pausing over the flat stomach, to follow the treasure trail down - and then took a detour, going past the sharp hip and down his thigh, only to go up the other.

Keeping the pace slow and unhurried, he used his lips and tongue in the gentlest possible way, leaving light tracings everywhere and moving back up the smooth skin to Jack's nipples, laving them with his tongue and leaving them pebbled. Rising up, he caught at Jack's mouth again, gently, so gently. Tenderly, upon those lush lips he loved so much, that were as equally enchanting if Jack was pouting or upturned in one of his devilish smirks.

He realized Jack was shivering. No, trembling. He wondered if he'd taken too long. And kiss-marched his way back down the way he'd gone before. And then lower, encountering the very hard, dripping organ that stood up in proud attention. He deliberately kept the licks at it that he made very light, as he didn't want any premature closings to this procedure. Feather-light; and he knew it had to be driving Jack mad, as he'd be in his place. Jack was tense now, trembling only on occasion, and it was interspersed with breathing hard as Jack was obviously finding it harder to catch his breath.

Then, he reached for the oil he'd left in the far corner of the bed earlier that day and opened it, to slather first his hand with it, and then his cock. He reached for another amount and brought it to Jack's member, slowly and lightly anointing him, yet again not giving enough of anything that might bring him off.

He sat up farther and said, "Lift your legs for me, my love."

The endearment had the expected effect; he both felt and heard Jack tighten at it, and he knew, he *knew*, that Jack had to be reacting inwardly. Such a little thing, and so easy to mistake as flippant or too easily meant, and yet he knew Jack knew he'd said it deliberately, making a bigger deal of it tacitly than he could possibly admit aloud in any other way. And Jack couldn't even say anything at this point without further turning it into an issue and betraying how it made him feel; even as he did as James asked, and James settled between his parted legs, and began to slowly brush long fingers against his buttocks, before sliding deeper.

He smiled in the dark, over him. And knew that he'd got him. He'd finally caught Jack, here in his own bed no less, on his own ship, on his island. There wasn't anywhere else to run. Jack had let him in so far, now they would see how far in that went, James thought to himself.

And he slid two fingers inside of him, slowly, feeling the tremor in response at it crawl over Jack's body.

"God's *teeth*," Jack gritted out, "James, I swear, if you don't get *on* with it…"

He'd been awaiting this; some sign from Jack that it was reaching a point of no return. He didn't want to make Jack plead and beg, but he did want to take him a little higher than he'd been able to before. At this point, it was a matter of meeting the challenge at hand, for James. And he slowly moved them in and out, for a little while, before pulling out his fingers and moving over the man panting and laid out under him.

He fumbled slightly to aim the head of his cock in the right place, sliding once or twice against the cleft between Jack's cheeks, and then slid home a good inch or more. The husky moan this garnered was musical to hear at last.

He slid in further yet, deeper, and almost winced at the strength in which Jack grabbed at his forearm, probably not even really aware how hard he'd tried to catch hold.

He began to move now, back and forth, in the ages-old rhythm; that familiar pattern repeated through the millennia between lovers since before love had been named. And as he slowly repeated his careful shafting of Jack's body, allowing the stoking to continue to build, he let himself do it a little harder, jerking forward every so often, and other times pulling back a little faster, only to go back to the even, measured pace of his thrusts.

Dancing? Maybe, but this felt more like something with even more precision than dancing.

In fact, the only thing he could compare it to was swordplay. And he almost chuckled, almost broke rhythm, as he realized that it was very true: on the Isle de Muerte, it had been all about the duel, the swordfighting…and death.

Here on the island paradise however, it was all about the sex, and the senses, and love. It was remarkably apt.

Finally, he heard it, what he'd been waiting for: a forced, involuntary moan. With every thrust into him, Jack made a helpless little sound. The fire that raced through James at this was almost too much.

God, how much he'd wanted this, to stoke him like this, and run him through. To make him cry out loudly with each slide into him, to the hilt, again and again. To keep it going, to not let it peak too quickly.

Jack's moans with each hard, shafted and timed push into him were making James quite lightheaded. He sounded too beautiful like this, and James could feel that hot bubble of pleasurable explosive energy building and rising within him, barely containable. Control, oh yes; *this* control, to make it last and draw it out.

To make love to Jack until they both screamed from it…he surged forward harder, without meaning to, and Jack's cry at it was immediately joined with a babbled, "OhfuckJamieplease, hard-harder, please, doitharder *please*!"

Letting his hips buck forward with more intensity, he said, hoarsely, "God, Jack, love you, I love you; love making love to you, giving it to you, just like this. Doing this to you. Come on, Jack, take it, love," he gasped, feeling the muscles in his upper arms quivering slightly from the strain, but not relenting in the driving into him again and again. But he didn't care, because surely this was heaven, this hot and hard and beautiful dream finally touched in life.

He had to pause momentarily to shift on his knees, but settling into it once more, he was able to reach down and palm Jack's weeping cock once again, and began to knead it mercilessly in time with each thrust, until Jack's moans were nothing but open-mouthed, wordless entreaties.

The fevered pounding he was treating Jack's ass to was taking its toll on himself now. He wished he could lean down without breaking the rhythm and their position, and kiss him, capture those lips and punish them for being so bewitching and irresistible, and realized he could channel that desire through the way he slid his cock into him with each push. Driving deep, deeper, harder, just a little bit faster and enough to drive them both to completion and madness.

The need to lose himself in Jack, and make him take it all; all the need and desire and pain and pleasure and love and fear and hope…"Ohhhh, Jack," he managed, just as a rough cry was torn from Jack and the wet fluid was abruptly flying up in spasms and flecks over his hand, his skin, between both their bodies. Jack was shaking under him, around him, jerking in sweetly timed faster rhythm.

With a sense of breaking calm before the storm, James allowed himself the luxury of letting go now too, with a volley of quick spearing thrusts. The pleasure ripped through him, forcing a guttural moan from him as he spent himself in perfect liquid, clenching heat inside of the only man he'd ever loved. Would ever love.

The dark flashes of it, as it shot out of him and poured in unseen waves through his blood, were a soundlessly silent white fire, starting somewhere in his balls and lower belly and ending up in his melted brain and gasping heart.

To touch divine fire together, came the thought into his starkly bare mind. Touching heaven, having reached it.

He panted, feeling shuddery breaths coming from Jack under him, and he reached blindly for the cloth that he'd taken to keeping up above their heads near the wall.

Gently, he wiped up most of what was there on their skin, and felt a momentary lapse of emotional resolve. The resolve not to feel any guilt for losing control.

"Sorry," he muttered. "I didn't mean for it get like that."

"'Ey?" The honest confusion in Jack's voice continued. "You're *sorry*?" Jack laughed a little, and added, "That's how it *should* be. Haven't had it given to me quite like that in, well, let's see…" He trailed off, appearing to be lost in memories. "Actually," he admitted, "that was - aye. Exactly."

The cover had long since slipped away to parts unknown and now James went hunting for it, pulling it over them and sliding down beside Jack, nestling into his right side. "I love you, Jack Sparrow," he murmured firmly. "And I'm not going to let you forget it."

"Are you not?" Jack asked, as if reflecting.

"Upon my honor," James stated.

"Then we can keep this going forever, if we've a mind to," Jack observed, with a kiss on his cheek.

James put his arm around him and shifted into him, settling against Jack with the dreamy lassitude grabbing hold of his senses. He could sleep here. But there was a niggling thought in the back of his head that told him something had gone wrong. What was it? Ah, yes. In thinking he'd catch hold of Jack this way, he'd ended up letting Jack catch hold of him instead.

And then he realized that it was one and the same, and he knew Anamaria was right. He grinned. "Lovesick idiocy."

"James," came the slurred reply. "Pray explain to me why'd I'd be moping about in your absence and clutching you, if I *didn't* love you?"

James tried to think this over. "You're right, that's an excellent point. It's acceptable."

"It's what?" Jack smiled, sounding surprised. "'Acceptable'?"

"Yes. I'll accept it." James found his eyes closing, and he didn't really want to have to open them. There it was, he'd wanted to penetrate to the heart of the mystery, and discovered Jack was already there, within him. He couldn't imagine his world without him now. He wondered at the lack of fear he finally felt at this terrifying thought.


James let out a little sigh of contentment and sleep. "What is it, Jack?" He could feel sleep gripping him, even now.

"Will you marry me?" Jack asked it lightly, but James opened his eyes anyway. "Make an 'honest' man of me?"

There was something of the absolutely surreal and sublimely absurd in it, like it was a joke…but somehow there was a complete lack of seriousness in Jack's voice, and James had the impression he was afraid to make it sound as serious as he actually was.

James tightened his arm around him and murmured, "Yes. If you want. This is forever, after all."

Jack didn't say anything, just exhaled in the stillness, as though he'd been holding his breath.

James smiled to himself in the dark. For a 'dangerous pirate', Jack was revealing a very soft center, indeed. He wondered how much of it was the rum talking, or revealing, and how much of it Jack would remember, or pretend to forget. He had the sustained feeling that Jack was actually the one who had done all the catching between them, however.

And for the first time, he really didn't mind. He belonged to Jack, after all.

As James slipped into sleep, the final thought wandered across the surface of his mind: the island was the key, to their own little paradise. This place made any dream possible. A place of dreams that shouldn't exist.

If they could continue to share this island, and an island that couldn't be owned and belonged to itself, no less…

They could then continue to make their relationship work despite the obstacles, the risks and the numerous differences they faced. They would be facing them together.

Maybe the island didn't hold curses, but wishes.

And James slept, holding the one thing in the world he wanted to keep for himself.


Jack was dreaming. He knew he was dreaming because he was swimming through the sea just offshore of his little island, and he was underwater. And one can only breathe underwater when one is dreaming.

There was someone else in the water beside him, who stepped out of the waves and went to wait for him in the sand. He emerged out of the water, and looked back.

There sat his lovely, beautiful ship, with her clean dark lines and powerful curves.

As he turned to go onto the sand, himself, he saw her.

As he'd always imagined her: young, dark and bright, with a beauty that was so terrible, her eyes burned with the light of it. Her dress was black and although like a widow, she was a bride. His bride.

Oh, beloved, he thought. And he calmly made his way up the wet sand into the white dry beachfront of the island, to sit by her side.

She drew her knees up and rested her arms about them, curled slightly. She turned her head, to look at him.

Beloved, best friend, and the only partner he'd ever wanted.

"Why now?" he asked her. For why had she chosen to reveal herself now, at this time? And after all these years?

"You sought your heart, my captain," she said, and her voice was as fey and terrible as bright sea bells and dreams no mortal could hope to achieve. "You found him instead. And now your heart is your own."

But Jack began to understand what she was saying to him, this secret she was telling him: in giving love, one gets it. And that is freedom, freedom to be. To no longer seek one's heart in an ideal such as freedom, or in another person or ship or island, is to gain it, and have all things granted in that instant.

To move from running away from death, and to embrace it instead, in spirit. She smiled at him. And he grinned at her, knowing her to be his at last.

~ Finis ~


(for now)

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