Disclaimer: Legally, my friend Laurie says this does nothing, but you can't blame me for trying. I don't own any of the characters in Disney's Pirates, but if I did, ohboy, would it be a pirate's life for Wren. Or a Naval one. Whichever would get me closest to the sexiest men in breeches.

Pairing(s): Jack/Norrington, Elizabeth/Will implied, m/m, f/f implied

Rating: NC-17. (All for you, fangirlies. Aaaalll foooor yoooou.)

Author's Notes; 1.)I would like to give special thinks to George W. Bush for 'Rooting'. If he hadn't endevoured to piss me off regularly, I never would have written so well the story of two MEN in LOVE.

2.)anachronism: (as defined by Websters)Mistake of time, where something is put in the wrong historical period.

In this story, I admit to flagrantly using a song from the 1980's in the 17th century, because it was pretty and fit the scene perfectly. Please do not hunt me down and murder me.

3.) My new friend Dea brought up an interesting point to me while I was in the midst of writing 'Rooting', that people never give credit to the inspirations which help them write fanfiction, or just regular fiction. In response to that, I attribute these sources to helping me write this epic, insofar as I remember;

Buffy - The Vampire Slayer(I love you, Joss!), The Indiana Jones Trilogy, Matrix - Revolutions, Coupling - The British Version! (Yay JavDavSexySteve!), The Blood Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Swordpoint by Kathleen Kushner, the berth of the work by William Shakespeare, Rent - the Musical, Les Miserables - the Musical, Cyndi Lauper, Coyote Ugly - the soundtrack, Labrynith - the soundtrack, Supernatural - Santana, Michelle Branch.

And on a personal inspirational level; My Slyness - first beta constant muse, Laurie, who taught me law jokes could be funny in a pirate fic, Figgy - for she is the wittiest Gryffindor that ever witted, Monnie and Dea - who actually taught me that I could do slash and not have to steal, Thalia - who said that James Norrington could wear kohl, and I believed her; and of course to the other writers in this genre - Webcrowmancer, Firesignwriter, Garnet, Marquesate, MistressOfHappyEndings, and so many more.

Finally, to the movie Lost and Delirious, which told me a story about love that had nothing to do with what people were.

Thank you for inspiring me, through and through.

4.)Yeeeees. Wren wrote smut! However, you have to go through a lot of plot to get to that. Remember what I said at the beginning, kids. This is a love story.

Dedicated To: The Fans. Because I love you guys, no lie. Your letters and notes and everything else made me happy. You rock my socks, and this one goes out to all of you.

Furthermore, this dedicated to James Norrington - the James Bond of the 17th century, and Jack Sparrow, the Keith Richards of Pirates. Never have two characters inspired SO much madness.

Now on with our tale...

Rooting For You

Part 1

By L.M. Griffin

The composing of one's thoughts after any traumatic or life changing event, I find, is always important. It gives one perspective. 'Am I satisfied with my actions on this occasion? If not, what could I have done differently? If this is a major life change, how can I affect the outcome in a positive way for myself?' So. Allow me to recap the last few minutes.

This is where matters stand. I am on the Black Pearl, having commandeered it from Captain Jack Sparrow in hopes that he will give me what I need to capture the dread leader of the Ebony Sharks, one Captain Lark. However, instead of discussing my terms of surrender, and his terms for the information, we instead ran around a table - him chasing after me - and he manhandled me. Pleasantly so. Ahem.

After I quite loudly and vocally showed my displeasure in his actions insofar as to throw me down and have me any which way without so much as my say-so, he and I reached an agreement where he would court me in a timely fashion.

The sound in which is now echoing in my ears is the sound of my head meeting the presently closed door of his office of sorts, in nice, solid thuds. Stupid. Stupid. STUPID.

What was I thinking? I stop hitting my head against the solid oak, and rest my forehead against the stained wood. Ah - yes. I wasn't thinking, I was reacting. My actions were provoked by the simple fact that he was nibbling at my neck in an entirely enticing way and his hands were warm against my bare skin...

Thud. Thud. Thud. Must. Stop. Thinking. About. Seductive. Pirate. Must. Remember. Mission. Must. Stop. Seductive. Pirate's. Seduction. From. Waylaying. Mission. Must. Stop. Thumping. Head. Fear. Serious. Concussion.

I finally lift my brow and brace both arms on either side of the doorframe. Right. Clearly, my problem is letting Sparrow get his hooks in me, metaphorically speaking. I have to remain in control of the situation, no matter what insanity he throws at me next time. I must not lose my composure, or my temper. Hopefully, Sparrow will agree to the easy terms, I can get the information I require, and I will not have to worry about any more assaults.

My lips quirk, as I straighten to my feet, and brush my fingers across my neck. Despite the, ah, inappropriateness - it certainly was the most enjoyable assault I've ever had on my person. Never, of course, am I forgetting the impropriety of it all. Certainly not. Sparrow went far beyond moral constraints.

Not that he seems to have many to begin with, and I dare say it has a great deal to do with how open he is with his emotions. He has so much... passion. He radiates it, like a beacon. I felt it thrumming off his skin, like a fire on a grate, close enough to burn but doing nothing more than heating me up considerably...

I heave out a heavy sigh, moving to sit on the edge of the table. Time to face some facts squarely, Norrington. Like a man, like a logical thinking person. Sparrow is after me, in the romantic sense of the word. As long as we are stuck on this ship together, I will have to endure his advances. Clearly, I will reject them in turn. It is morally wrong to allow myself to be wooed by a man, and then won by turn. I am also an officer and a gentleman - it would be unseemly to lead Sparrow on.

Yet ... and I must admit to the yet, the man is...tempting. He is willing to agree to my terms of courtship, despite the fact that he hates any terms that he himself does not set. The apples were a generous and well thought out gift. It showed he took the time to learn something about me, and then went through the arduous ordeal to bring them to my home, risking life and freedom. As for the taunting and the teasing, obviously he is looking for reactions and by God, I am giving them to him by the cartload. I simply cannot resist. He wiggles the bait at me with those laughing dark eyes and I rise to chomp at it every time.

A thought. Possibly he is lifting the bait so high to see if I will? Gauging interest, so to speak. My eyes widen at the revelation. Calculating little bastard, is Sparrow, for he sets the bar to see if I'll jump it before proceeding to the next step in his chase for me. Yet at the same time as he is plotting out his war of seduction, he also doesn't want to move a step forward without me following. Hence the agreement. He... is wary. Wary of me. I remember that look on his face back in the 'Farthest Point' clearly - the open, aching, longing look, quickly hid behind the mask again.

I wonder if I looked the same way to him...

Sigh. Again. Point made.

Sparrow is chasing me, but I am following. I am following while denying I am, which is worse. He may lead us both in a circle of desire and temptation, but I go where he goes. I... want him to come after me, and God help me, I think I want to do a little chasing myself.

That is the crux of the matter, really. I am not a man who can delude himself. Denial is apparently my forte, but delusion I have never been strong in. I want his touches, his kisses. I want that rum-soaked voice whispering that horrible, hacked-off version of my name. I want that dark pair of glorious eyes fixated on me.

I want Jack Sparrow.

I wait a long moment to see if the lightening will strike me down, for the Voice of God to smite me for such wicked thoughts. Another moment, and two more after that. Nothing. Apparently God has larger concerns than the possible carnal sins of an English Commodore.

Right. Back to my line of reasoning. Now, why do I want Jack Sparrow? We will get to the depressing matter of why he would want me later on, for the moment I will keep to dissecting my own emotions. Logically. None of this nonsense about Cupid's Grove and tracts of lyrical soppiness. Simply the facts of the matter.

It's not because he is a man. No. I've assessed my feelings towards others of my gender very closely in the past few weeks and months, and can find nothing but simple kinship with my fellow man. Although Jack Sparrow is most assuredly a man - no one could possibly think of him as anything but. Wild his gestures, sashaying his walk, but he is a man. There is far too much steel to that body for him to be considered soft. He can be warm and humorous, but I saw him in motion that day he escaped on the docks, a man fighting for his freedom with every last breath. Decadent, but with sheathed claws. Like a tiger on the prowl.

Perhaps ... that is it. He is more than just a simple man, he is something almost mystical and damned near mythical, if Jonathan is to be believed. I am a man who lives to fulfill his duties, to serve others. I am steadfast, dedicated... and I live in a cold little house alone, a dull officer of the Navy, with few friends. Jack is the complete opposite. He captivates, he entices, he makes people like him even against their better judgment. Like myself, for example. Perhaps I am simply caught up in the Jack Sparrow spectacle. A momentary loss of my senses, and I am merely bedazzled as the others have been. Quite a simple matter to get past, really.

Perhaps, a little voice in my brain whispers to me, you are using your forte once again. I snarl internally, but the little voice is right. I am not easily taken in by dramatics, or flair, as the case may be. That was proven the first day I met Jack Sparrow, and felt little more than contempt for the pirate before me. In fact, Sparrow was equally unimpressed with me, if memory serves. So how did we get here? When did things suddenly change?

Wait. My own words are coming back to haunt me. By remembering I serve others, Mister Sparrow, and not only myself...

Did it start for him there, the change in regard? It must have been, for it was so distinctive in his memory the day on the cliff. He admired the fact I stuck to my principles, but admired even more that I was willing to put them aside for love. To Sparrow, that is a matter of the utmost importance. My dignity and his ship are all well and good, but the most vital thing to him, in the end, is people.

But what of myself? I knew he was a good man when he stood at the gallows, and I lamented the laws that forced me to hang the very same man who saved the woman I loved, the Governor, my crew and myself. However, I also knew my duty. Lord knows when he and William made their bid for escape I was just as determined to see him hang as the moment before. Right up through William's heroic stand between myself and Jack. I wasn't feeling too kindly towards him when Elizabeth made her choice to stand with them, when I lost her forever...


Oh my. Could it be that moment? Yes, I feel it must be. After Elizabeth looked me in the eyes, pained and yet firm, telling me her heart was with William, and as my head dropped I could see Jack's head peering between them, his eyes a sorrowful realization. He pranced around Governor Swann, who backed away from him with no little disgust. Sparrow headed to me afterwards, making me wonder if he had used the Governor as a means to propel himself in my direction, moving right into my personal space. I refused, as I do now, to move back, even as he leaned in close. Those eyes caught me again, for he looked at me not as pirate to Commodore, but a man to another man, his gaze alight with feeling as he pressed his hand down on my shoulder. In an attempt at empathetic comfort, a sensation I hadn't felt since I was a mere boy. I found myself watching his mouth as he whispered, "I want you t'know that I was rootin' for you, mate." A pause, that finger gently raised, pushing home the point, "Know that."

The open sympathy that curved his generous mouth. The understanding in those words, a man who knew the pain of losing something precious. When he fell off that cliff, it felt like I was falling with him. He hit the water, and I waited for a breathless moment to see if he surfaced. Above us, the sentry called 'Sails ahoy!', jerking my gaze, and that of everyone on the fort wall, to the bay. The Black Pearl waited, black sails taut in the breeze, for her Captain.

Torn, I stood there, wondering quite simply what the hell should I do now. It was -then- that my heart changed towards that pirate, and all the claims to duty in the world would have never made it right if I had given Gillette the order to drag Sparrow back to the gallows at whatever cost. Governor Swann must have known, or why else would he say those words that released me almost magically from my responsibility? Acts of piracy, indeed.

Putting my heart before my uniform...

From then on, I was compromised where Jack Sparrow was concerned, I realize that now. How could I, when he showed up not a month later in the Governor's study, hang the one person who was likened to my own heart? We agreed to that ridiculous 'accord', and we both knew it was just palsy play at one true game between us. He finding ways to make me chase him, for me, the chase itself. We needed it. We needed something to keep fighting, to keep going.

We need each other.

Yes, James Norrington. Very good. You've realized there is more to this than just the chase. You should have realized that the day on the cliff, where you and Sparrow spoke of what was truly in your hearts, and what you both wanted more than anything. It is, after all, the same damned thing.

Someone warm, to wake up to.

In that open moment of truth, we became allies, he and I. Perhaps... even friends. We were all each other had while we watched our dreams reduced to ashes at our feet on that sunlit meadow.

I think... I know that we still are. We have loved, and lost, and we know each other's scars continue to be tender to the touch. Yet you don't show any other person those scars, do you Jack? I know I don't. I sigh. Only we know. Only we understand.

My thoughts are scattered by a knock on the door, and I lift my gaze to it. "Enter."

Gillette peers around the door, looking at me with some concern. "Sir? Are you all right?"

I look at him blankly for a moment, as a little litany runs through my head, Well, I was just chased around the table, thrown down unto the table, passionately nibbled on the table, and I am going to be courted by Jack Sparrow, while I find myself not minding at all. Clearly a sin and a hanging offense, and part of me doesn't care a whit. Otherwise, feeling absolutely marvelous. Yourself? I choke down a hysterical laugh, then clear my throat. "I am perfectly all right, Gillette. What brings you down here?"

"Sparrow, sir," Gillette answers dryly, and at my startled look he shrugs sheepishly. "He's on deck now and he told me to go check on you - as he was giving you a few minutes to... compose yourself? He heard a lot of thumping, then quiet. I came down immediately."

"Aaah." I drum my fingers against the wood of the table for a moment, brooding. Allowing my thoughts to wander through memories of Sparrow is not going to get me anywhere - I have to have something real pinned down to work my mind around. "I am perfectly well; however, I require some parchment paper and a quill pen. Be so kind as to ask Captain Sparrow where they are located, and tell him I'll see him at his earliest convenience. What of the other pirates?"

"They are currently scouring the ship for their weapons, sir. Apparently they didn't believe us when we said they were locked securely away." Gillette smirks broadly.

"And you still have the key to the galley?" I ask, going to sit on one side of the table again, in my original seat.

"Yes, Commodore. Tucked away safe in my pocket. The last place they'll look for it, and even if they do, we have it locked up good and proper." I nod my head with approval, and he straightens a little more. "I'll go see about your paper and quill, sir."

"Thank you, Gillette. Most kind." I exhale slowly as he leaves the room, letting myself deflate into the chair a little. Confusion takes quite a bit out of a body, I am finding. I let my eyes wander about the room, noting the stark furnishings and otherwise empty elegance of the room, and finally the map that rests so near to me. Absentmindedly I reach over, plucking it up. It's one of the finer renditions I've seen of the coast of the Colonies. The attention to details and to the coastlines is superb, the calculations precise to the measure. It makes me wonder who Sparrow swiped it from, and if he would be willing to give up the name. The fellow could probably use some honest employment.

A moment or two later, Gillette returns, looking a tad disgruntled, a statement which I find understated as he stomps over to a cupboard to the left, yanks open the door, and scrabbles angrily through the contents. Putting the map back where I found it, I speak up, eying the tense way his shoulders are hunched. "Is there a problem, Lieutenant?"

Gillette tenses again as he starts to fussily arrange writing utensils before me, and I wonder if he is going to burst out in frustrated French before he takes a deep breath and speaks in a short, clipped tone. "Captain Sparrow is amusing his crew with the tale of his escape from Port Royal. The first one."

"Aaaah.." The painful and humiliating loss of the Interceptor. We were fortunate, Gillette and I, not to be brought up on charges for her loss, but Governor Swann was magnanimous with the safe return of his daughter. It is a wound to the pride, however, that Gillette has never truly recovered from.

I take the quill from Gillette's fingers, and remark casually as I dip its nubbed end into the inkpot. "You might care to ask Captain Sparrow about his 'miraculous' escape from that desert island with Miss Swann."

Gillette's lips thin. "But sir, he didn't escape. We-" I look at him, one eyebrow raising, and a look of sharp comprehension comes over his features. With a smirk, he salutes and heads jauntily back above deck.

Leaving me with my paper, my quill, and my thoughts. After a long moment of staring at the paper blankly, I put my quill down on the paper, and write out Jack Sparrow.

Then I write in my clear hand, Shortcomings. Satisfied, I keep writing.

Pirate. Annoying. Arrogant. Always seems half drunk. Pirate. A Man. An Overly Lustful One. Sinful. Clearly Insane. PIRATE. Manipulative. Underhanded on more than one occasion. Clumsy. Pirate, Pirate, PIRATE.

I underline the last, then stare at the list. Well, that seems fairly well thought out, I believe. I dip my quill back into the inkpot, and write out, Attributes. I hold the quill poised for a moment, then start to scribble out whatever comes to mind when Sparrow does.

Intelligent. Charming, with or without him trying. Alluring. Amusing. Gentle. Honorable. A Good Man. Wise. Desirable - in ways which defy my comprehension. Determined. Witty. Loyal to friends. An excellent friend in turn. Compassionate. Brave, when the mood strikes him. Hah, Dauntless. Challenging. Considerate, also when the mood strikes him. An excellent kisser. I frown at that, half tempted to etch it out, but instead keep it in. After all, I am considering all of his attributes. I keep writing, A good swordsman. Kind. A Good Captain, and an even Better Sailor. Attractive, in ways that also defy my comprehension, Lovely...?

I put down the quill, and re-read the parchment before me, then sigh up at the broad wooden beams above my head. It -would- stand to reason that I cannot even escape my own desires when attempting to be practical, much less the pirate's. Yet escape them, I must. I cannot give into Jack - it simply isn't proper. Morally correct. Sane.

All the things, the little voice informs me, that have made you a lonely bachelor at thirty with naught but a sword for company in the middle of the night. Although it is a beautiful sword, Commodore, wouldn't it be much more satisfying to share your bed with a beautiful person instead?

My mind shifts through varying memories once more. Jack - unabashedly breechless and smiling wickedly at me in Governor Swann's study. The long golden line of skin that I had seen that night in my bedroom, peeking out from the 'V' of Jack's shirt, distractingly... sensual. The sight of Jack naked... god, had it only been hours ago? The silky stretch of muscle on that bare back, glimmering in the candlelight. Again I am struck with the image of something utterly feline in Jack - coiled predator, with claws and teeth to match - ah, but the softer side of him. Welcoming seduction wafts from his body to mine, and I know it is a rare opening being offered to me.

What would it be like, to touch that sun-kissed skin? To run my hands up those strong wiry arms, just lightly brushing fingertips? Would he be as warm as I imagine? Does the smell of rum and the sea herself cling to his bare skin, the expanse of chest and stomach? I felt him above me fully clothed ... what would he feel like without?

Between my legs, my body very firmly tells me how much it likes my line of thoughts on this matter, and encourages me to find Jack and experiment as soon as possible. I let out a heavy sort of sigh, moving to rub my eyes. Much better than any other aching part of my body.

"Wouldn't do that if I were you, love." Jack's smokey voice jerks my hand away from my face, and makes other parts of my body salute him appropriately. I pray for a clear expression as our eyes meet. He's dressed up a bit more, with his coat but sans his hat. How he can make such a wretched set of clothes seem so damned captivating is beyond me. He flashes me a slow smile as he moves the rest of the way into the office, closing the door behind him once more, "Wouldn't want t'smudge those pretty eyes of yours, would you?"

"My what... oh, the kohl." I clear my throat, and sit up, pulling my coat a little more firmly shut, as I fold the parchment before me and stick it hastily into a pocket. "Well, that will be removed as soon as we finish our business here." I pause, then add sternly. "Which means we are going to take care of business."

"Natur'lly. We have so very many things t'discuss. Like the return of MY ship to her rightful owner. Which would be me." Jack's smile is almost feral, as he gracefully glides towards the table. He eyes the bowl of apples, plucks up a green one with those clever fingers, and then eases himself back into one of the chairs, propping his boots atop the table.

My gaze narrows on his slouching form - clearly he is acting blasé to annoy me. Clearly, it is working. So I shall take the other extreme. Something that would be eased greatly if I, one, was wearing my uniform; two, did not feel distinctively lacking in my usual authority without it; and three ... if Jack Sparrow wasn't taking slow, savory bites of his apple.

"Y'know, the last time I enjoyed an apple this good, Barbossa was on the other side o' this table." Jack says cheerfully... since when did I start referring to him mentally as Jack? Oh yes, when he started swaggering nude across my mind's eye. At any rate, Jack continues, glancing back at me, smiling his faintly amused yet affectionate smile. "O'course, the scenery and the gener'l company have vastly improved."

"Is that so?" I reply calmly, extremely pleased that my voice neither rises nor deepens in tone. I can't fuss with my shirt or jacket - that would make me look unnerved. As does straightening my posture. I really need to avoid any sharp movements, especially dealing with any body part south of my stomach.

"Aye, for one, Barbossa never looked half as ... appealin' in black. Suits you fine." Another slow bite. It is an extremely juicy apple, because the juice trickles, just around the corners of his mouth. Those gleaming eyes meet mine and the roughened velvet voice murmurs. "Don't mean t'be rude, James, but aren't we meant t'be talkin' about my ship?" The pink whisper of his tongue slips out and cleans up the droplets of juice.

I am openly staring. I know that I am, and yet, I am helpless against it. My mind is filled with the flashing images of Jack without clothing and Jack eating that apple. For some reason, they are interposing in my head in the most delightful way.

He's leaning forward. No. Do not put those lips any closer to me, Sparrow. I mean it. He props up one arm on the table, and tilts his bearded, beaded chin into his open be-ringed hand, his smile now whimsical and innocent, which has, might I note, a severe lack of innocence at the moment. "...Unless, of course, y'wanted to speak of our other agreement?"

Then he takes another slow, taunting bite of apple with those pretty golden teeth.

I must not lick my lips.

I Must Not Lick My Lips.

...Damn Blasted Bloody HELL.

He smirks, and my heart leaps in my chest. He knows what he's doing, although I doubt seriously he realizes just how effective his teasing is. Therefore, if I can keep from dribbling spittle from my mouth like an infant, I will not look like a complete fool. I have to remember that he is playing his 'Game of Love' with me and I...

I can play it right back.

Fixing my eyes steadily on him, I remove my hat with slow and careful grace, flipping it over neatly to rest on the table. Then I rake my fingers through my chin-length hair, taking some of the tangle out of it. "Captain Sparrow, as much as I am sure you would like to delay the inevitable, there are matters that need to be taken care of, here and now."

He's paused in his apple assault, watching me with a slightly tilted head, eyes bright with interest. "Couldn't agree more, mate..."

I run my fingers through the dark strands more slowly, then let it tumble around my face lightly. "I'm glad you think so. Other discussions can wait, you realize."

"Can they?" His eyes move along with my fingers movements, to the falling of my hair across my cheek, and his voice goes a bit more husky.

I dip into my pocket carefully, drawing out a length of black ribbon I kept while I was climbing the rigging of the Pearl. With slow deliberation, I smooth it between my fingers, and then carefully tuck it under my hair. Jack's hand is paused in the air, his eyes watching as my fingers twist the ribbon, pulling my hair away from my face firmly. I leave a bit of leeway, and one lock of hair falls loose, curving slightly over one of my eyes. My gaze never leaving his face, I gently lick the tip of my finger, and then smooth back the errant hairs back into place, dropping my voice low as I speak, "The moment, as you would say, is not opportune for such a conversation."

"..What?" Jack blinks, distraction clear on his face and in his tone. This time, I am the one who smirks knowingly. His dark eyes narrow on mine, and suddenly he laughs. I've never heard Jack Sparrow laugh before. It rolls out of him, like a slow wave, dark and deep. You could wrap yourself in that laugh, like a blanket. He sits up a little, grinning at me. "James Norrington, you are good."

"Jack Sparrow, you have no idea." I say, letting my smirk soften. It shouldn't be this comfortable, to tease him. It shouldn't feel so good to hear that laugh, to want to make him laugh again. It shouldn't feel so tender and so close to meet his eyes and not want to look away.

The silence between us lengthens. Not tense with friction or heat, but rather quiet and filled with things that want to be said, movements that want to be made. Jack suddenly puts the apple down on the table, his expression serious and earnest. "James ..."

The way he says my name ... The matters at hand, Commodore. Remember the Haven, and the Intrepid, when your longing gets the better of you. I clear my throat, now straightening as varying physical problems are slowly coming undone, as it is. "No, Jack. Not now. Our business, if you recall?"

Disappointment lines that face, disappointment followed by a weary sort of patience. He settles back into his chair, raising an eyebrow at me. "Aye. Our business. So what have you 'commandeered' the Pearl and her Captain for, Commodore?"

I manage not to flinch at the hard infliction of my title, but it does bring me back to earth, so to speak. "As I have said, once I have the information I require, the Black Pearl will be returned to your command. I have little use for your ship outside a bargaining tool."

"Oh? Then what information would you need from a simple sailor like me, then?" His eyebrow arches, amusement trailing over his face once more.

My lips twitch. "You are far more than simple, and you know it."

I am attempting, much to my personal chagrin, to make him smile. He doesn't disappoint me, flashing those gold teeth broadly as he twirls his hand in a decorous bow. "Many thanks, Commodore. Always glad t'know I have m'self an admirer in the Navy."

I bite back a further comment - suppressing urges to laugh, to flush like a maiden, or to go around that table and show him how much of an admirer I could be. "You would make me your devoted servant, Captain, if you could tell me the whereabouts of Captain Lark and her fleet of pirates."

...Oh, you don't like hearing that name, now do you Jack? I can see the lines of your body tensing up. The darker feeling behind those eyes - where have I seen it before? Ah yes. The first day we met on the docks. Fierce, like a trapped animal. Now you're easing around the edges, not to give too much away. "That's big prey, Norrington."

"I am the Pirate Hunter." I respond, watching his every movement with sharp interest.

"Yes, but even pirate hunters bite off more than they can chew, mate." Jack's eyes flash emotions like ripples on the water - concern and fear being the most prevalent as he frowns.

"So I take smaller bites. One at a time, or all at once." I nod at the apple on the table, my own features in a mask of hard seriousness. "Either way, she has earned herself a dawn appointment with the gallows."

A moment of startled amazement, followed swiftly by a darkly bemused smile. "You still have this thing with hangin' pirates, do you? Even if they wear dresses?"

"Not all of them are good men." I say with a meaningful tilt of my head. "And none of them are you."

He looks rather taken aback by my compliment, and I wonder how many Jack gets that he does not give himself. Not many, I think. We are interrupted by a fierce rapping on the door that pulls our attention away from another, both of us speaking at once, "Come!"

The woman Anamaria stomps in, a righteous storm of indignation. Her dark eyes flash, moving from Jack to me in a moment, and her lovely face curves into one of the most frightening scowls I have ever seen upon a woman's face. She marches up to me, sticking one caramel-colored finger in my face as she snarls. "Where. Are. My. Weapons!?"

I raise both eyebrows, and repeat back to her in the same staccato rhythm. "Locked. Up. For. The. Safety. Of. All."

She glares even more fiercely at me, waving that finger right before my nose. "I had bettah get those weapons back."

"Indubitably, madam. I wouldn't want you to feel -unprotected- without them. Heaven knows you can frighten any man's knees to jelly just with that glower." I answer dryly. Jack covers his mouth with his hand, dark eyes sparkling amusement.

Anamaria lifts her chin a little, putting her hands on her hips. "You makin' fun of me, Navy Man?" She takes a step forward, leaning one booted leg up on the chair nearest to me. " B'cause if you are, there are more den one way to skin a cat, and more den one way a man can b'come a eunuch."

...She has rather pointy boots, doesn't she? Hm. "You'll have your weapons back once your Captain and I reach an agreement on the information I require. In fact, as soon as I have it I will be out of your boots ... hair, completely."

At those words, she grunts at me dismissively, before turning to Jack, her foot coming down to tap on the wooden floor. "Well, get on with it, Capt'n! Tell dees fluffed up parrot what he wants so we can get d'Hell outta here."

I watch as the lines of Jack's body tense again. He rests his fingertips together quietly, thrumming them lightly against one another, before looking at Anamaria and speaking in a carefully level tone. "The Commodore wishes t'know where he can find Captain Lark, Anamaria."

Anamaria's dark and lovely skin pales notably at Jack's words, and she jerks a look towards me, and then back to her Captain. Her fingers fidget around her waist, looking for the blade that isn't there. My eyes narrow a little. What is it about this Captain Lark that brings about this level of fear in normally fearless people? She looks away from her waist helplessly, then to Jack, trembling questions in her onyx eyes. Jack meets her look without flinching, then speaks to me. "..'M afraid, Commodore, that we can't be grantin' your request for information."

The young woman's shoulders unhunch, even as I sit up straighter and stare at the both of them. My lips clamp together for a moment, before I speak in clear, sharp tones. "Until you give me what I need to find Captain Lark, Captain Sparrow, I am keeping your ship."

Jack's eyes flash anger, and then something crafty curls beneath their depths. "So, what you're sayin' is, Commodore Norrington, that as long as I withhold what I know, you're going t'keep me, and m'ship, under your personal watch, is that it?"

I frown a little, but nod my head once. "Quite so, Sparrow. I'm not leaving the Pearl until I know what you know about Captain Lark, and not a moment before."

I really dislike the sudden smile that curves over Jack's face, right then. It bodes nothing but trouble. He looks up to Anamaria, his voice coming out in an almost purr. "Anamaria, be my fierce dove and tell the crew we're about t'do a bit of a parley? They might want t'add things to the list of agreements, eh?"

"...Parley? List of agreements?" I say, definitely not liking the sudden flash of amusement in Anamaria's eyes as she moves from the room.

"Aye, Jamie. Agreements. The terms of my surrender, as it were, and your prolonged stay on the Pearl. You haf' t'admit that we need some sort of cessation of hostilities, and you also have t'admit that y'owe something t'me for the inconvenience you're causin'. Lost wages, and the like." Jack's eyebrows arch upwards with a complacent little leer.

I snort. "Oh yes. I really should compensate you for your loss of plunder. How thoughtless of me to forget that." I roll my eyes, leaning back in my chair as I observe him with no little sardonic disbelief.

"Well, glad t'know you agree, James." Jack leans forward on the table, now broadly smirking at me. "Now, shall we parley? I've got a few provisions of my own that need t'be met..."

-- // --

When the French came up with their vocabulary, I do not think they realized that on the occasion that it was to be 'buggered' with, it was to be 'buggered' with by a pirate. Or perhaps knowing Jack, they would approve. However, I doubt sincerely they thought 'parler' was going to turn into the meaning of 'twist around the undergarments of the British Royal Navy in every possible, irritating, and overly confining way'.

Then again, they would probably still approve. Heartily, no doubt.

Hours after we began our 'discussion', Jack and I are back on the deck of the Pearl, and I am reading before all assembled the terms of 'surrender' and the continued 'holding' of the ship by myself and my subordinates. I thought it was near intolerable when the pirates kept coming up with the most ridiculous requests imaginable, making me wrangle over every single point with Jack, and those I lost went down on paper in meticulous detail.

I had forgotten, unfortunately, how irritated Gillette and indeed all my own crew can be when set upon by the vicious tongues of pirates. I pause, once again, and rub my temple tiredly. "...Clause 31; Therefore stating that if any pirate refers to any marine by the following names, the marine in question has the right to ..." Another sigh. "...'Knock him OR her about the ruddy ears'. Case in point - Lobster. Moving Target. Tall, crimson beanpole. A barrel with a redcoat on."

The marines grunt from the port side of the ship, glaring over at the pirates. The pirates sneer back at them from the starboard side. I glance back at Jack, who is complacently looking at his nails as he leans against one of the stairwells. He flashes me a bemused smile, then waves me on. I turn back to the paper with a noise of annoyance, and keep reading. "Clause 32; Therefore stating that if any marine OR officer of the British Royal Navy refers to any pirate by the following names, the pirate in question has the right to 'introduce him to the deck face-first'. Case in point - filthy bastards of the sea, a misnomer as pirates bathe quite regularly, mother killing reprobates, as they would never intentionally hurt someone's mother. Put bluntly - any insult in which any pirate needs to have simplified to them, or is longer than three sentences."

The pirates nod their heads firmly, while Gillette and the marines smirk in turn. In any other occasion, I would have noted their placement was rather like two sides of a chessboard. Slightly lopsided chessboard, for without weapons the pirates are seriously at a disadvantage. On the other hand, they have Jack Sparrow. A male Queen of the board, who moves every which way regardless of what is happening. In that respect I am glad for the legal documentation of our agreement - it means that we are both bound to uphold it to the letter. Therefore, Jack's pirates won't murder my men in their sleep, and my marines won't open fire for every little dirty look Jack's men give them. It is an uneasy truce, but a truce nevertheless. I have enough to worry about with trying to peel the information on Captain Lark out of Jack without having to stop firefights and duels.

Finally. The last clause. "Clause 42; I, James L. Norrington - no, Sparrow you will not have my middle name - hereby solemnly declare that I will return the Black Pearl to her rightful Captain, Jack Sparrow, after he provides me with all possible information on one Captain Lark of the Ebony Sharks... " The pirates in turn grimace, and Gibbs goes so far as to sip from his flask. I frown, again struck how the mere name of Lark throws unease into them, where strangely I myself have never heard of her. Perhaps because she is a woman pirate captain? "...Until the information is released to me, I will retain control over the Pearl, and shall stay with her and her Captain to HOPEFULLY conclude this agreement as soon as possible."

I pause, then look around firmly, "Are there any other complaints, additions, or anything else that someone wants to add purely to see me pull out my own hair by the roots?"

There is a long moment of distinctive embarrassment as the pirates and my own men look at me, then back at each other warily, before coughing and shuffling their feet into the deck. Yes gentlemen, some of the points are rather moot, aren't they? Especially since the marines are still in the plainclothes and wouldn't know a complicated insult if it literally slapped them in the face. I arch an eyebrow, a thin twist of lips my only expression, "Thank you kindly. Bush, the ...barrel, if you will."

Bush steps forward, moving the barrel in front of me, with the quill, ink bottle and blotter resting on the flat wooden slats. I dip my quill into the ink, and sign my name, before stepping back and offering the quill to Jack. He rises to his feet, and glides over effortlessly, slipping the quill from my hand so lightly I barely feel the press of his fingers against mine. With a little waggle of his eyebrows, he leans over and much to my surprise, writes out 'Captain Jack Sparrow' in a flourish of fine calligraphy. Off of my astonished expression, he smiles jauntily, "Amazin' what you pick up in an Anglican abbey, eh?"

"Apparently so... Our business is concluded." I pause, and add with a bit of force. "For now." Yes, Jack. Just because we have a truce does not mean I am simply going to wait around on your ship while you twist away from the truth.

"Oh good! Means we can get to other discussions... in a bit. If you'll excuse me, Commodore. I'll be right over there." Jack flashes me a smile that is more smug than apologetic, and then saunters off to his crew, gesturing them into a small group. I frown, slightly confused. Surely the man doesn't think I care where he is at all times. It's a large ship, but not that large. I do trust him - to an extent - to uphold his word.

"Sir?" Bush's voice brings my attention towards my Lieutenant. He nods towards the marines. "We should have one of the men bring our things below, and stake out our living quarters for the time being. As it seems our friend Captain Sparrow isn't too eager to lose our company."

"Or rather, the Commodore's." Gillette says from my other side, scowling a little over his shoulder. "He seems terribly eager to keep us around, sir, especially you.."

"Not as much eager to keep me around, but unnerved by what I might find out. Sparrow is hiding something. We have what appears to be a bit of a mystery on our hands, gentlemen." I fold my hands behind me, and look to my lieutenants. "Two of us will stay on deck while the other takes one of the men and scouts out cabins for us all."

"Permission to do just that, sir?" Gillette asks, standing a little straighter.

"Permission granted." I respond formally, nodding my head curtly.

A small smirk crosses Gillette's face. "Permission to change out of this ridiculous outfit before I succumb to the strange urge to drink obscene amounts of liquor and completely forget how to speak in proper grammatical terms?"

Bush and I exchange a little suppressed look of humor, before I say blandly. "Permission, again, granted."

Gillette nods, and turns to the three marines, eying the lot of them. "Studson! With me. We are going to find living quarters for the duration of our stay. We'll take the Commodore's and Lieutenant Bush's things down first, then your own things."

"Aye sir!" Studson salutes, moving to gather up my own bag, and Bush's. As I watch him heft my things over his shoulder, I am glad we decided to pack the bare essentials - another set of clothes better suited for high sailing than high tea, our shaving kits, a bare trimming of personal items, and of course the basic accoutrements of our uniforms. Obviously we could not pack the wigs and the hats, which was more of a relief to the three of us than I think we would admit aloud. However, we would need the uniforms if we ran across any of our own ships. Identification papers are all well and proper, but nothing says 'Commodore' like the ranking buttons on one's frock coat.

"Headin' below, then?" Jack's voice calls out keenly, as he slides over to Gillette's side. He glances momentarily at me, before a smile quirked on his face. "Gibbs can show you where you can stow your partic'lars. Gibbs!" Gibbs steps away from the other pirates, an interesting mix of emotions crossing his ruddy face. Jack leans towards him, resting his arm lightly on his bo'sun's shoulder. "If you would be so kind as to show the fine Lieutenant here where he and his mates will be gatherin' their sleep and privy time?"

"Aye, sir." Gibbs offers Gillette a broad smile, which Gillette frowns upon. He looks over to me, the question in his eyes if not on his lips.

I glance between Gillette and Jack, then back to my Lieutenant with a light shrug. "Follow the man, Gillette."

Gillette makes a little disgruntled noise, but then nods over to Studson to follow. Studson clomps behind, the constantly bemused expression of his on his lean face. One of these days, I shall have to ask him what he finds so damned funny. Bush has reclaimed the helm, and is issuing orders to Murtogg and Mullroy on the state of the sails and the like, with a patient tone. "..No, Mr. Murtogg. Not THAT rope. The other rope. Very good. Now pull it TAUT. Excellent!"

I hide a smile, moving to join him, when a hand takes me by the shoulder. I half turn, finding Jack leaning in close to me. "A word or three, Commodore? We've got particulars to discuss."

"...Very well. Bush, the helm is yours." I answer, before trailing the pirate captain down the steps. The other pirates, I note, are huddling near the mainmast, looking at the two hapless marines running about with a mix of disgust and smugness.

Jack glances towards them as well, as he gestures for me to follow him below deck. "Come along, Commodore. I've got t'do a quick tour of m'Wife. Make sure you Navy lot haven't mussed her too much."

"Under the circumstances I think we've been quite good to her." I answer slowly, as our steps clomp on the heavy wooden stairs.

"Yes, well, jest make sure y'lot keep at it." Jack admonishes, as he runs his fingers along the wooden planks, his touch loving and gentle. Almost adoring, really. Brief musing; would he touch me in the same gentle way? Then I chide myself for the very thought itself. Really, I must have a touch of personal mental restraint...

His fingers continue to dance across the dark wood, making me wonder if this is a habit of old, or a show Jack is putting on just for me. Look at those clever fingers, the movement suggests. They are rough, and a bit callused and dirty, but watch how they curve and dip. Graceful as the man himself. They touch what he worships with reverence beyond measure.

Dear God. I am composing mental rhapsodies for the man's hand. What shall happen next, sonnets for his eyebrows?

He's said something. What was it? Drat. I was lost in my contemplations of his fingertips. I clear my throat, glad for the dim lighting to cover my coloring neck. "Pardon, Sparrow?"

He pauses in his steps, bringing us to a halt in a dark, yet broad hallway in what must be the heart of the ship itself, lit only with one distant lantern. He glances over his shoulder at me, laughter hinting in those whirlpool eyes of his. "Gettin' distracted again, love?"

"The ship is enthralling." I say quickly and firmly. Hrm. Perhaps a bit -too- firmly.

"...The ship." Jack turns to regard me, cocking one eyebrow. "Are you sure it's my ship you're so intent on?"

A flare of heat floods me from head to toe, and I am suddenly aware of just how alone we are. How close he is. That the smell of rum and saltwater is wafting in the air. I clear my throat again, opening my mouth to reply.

"Commodore! Commodore!" Studson's voice and footfalls come thundering up behind me, and I turn to face the marine, feeling relief at the distraction.

"What is it, Studson?" I ask briskly, as the tall and rather gangly marine skids to a halt before me and shoots off a salute.

"Sir, it's about the ..er... big sail in the middle, sir!" Studson stumbles verbally.

"What about the main topsail, Studson?" I ignore the soft snicker from the pirate behind me.

"Er, well. Lieutenant Bush says we need to ..er... make it go up higher to get the winds, sir." Studson clears his throat, a flush of pink to his ears.

"I see. The sails need to be hoisted again. Very well - why can't Mr. Murtogg and Mr. Mullroy do it?" I ask, folding my hands behind me.

"Well sir, Murtogg's scared of heights, he is, and Mullroy can't get his fat ars -- I mean, he can't get up there safely, sir." Studson's lips flex in that bemused look.

"Hmm. And what of our pirate friends?" I tilt my head curiously.

"They won't do it, sir. They refuse to help." Studson said, and as I turn to Jack for confirmation, I can hear the low mutter. "...lousy pirate blighters..."

Jack has his arms crossed over his lithe chest, grinning like a fox as he tilts his head at me, "Like I was tellin' you, Commodore, not a moment ago. M'crew doesn't like being hijacked by the British Navy, instead of the other way about. So they'll jest be sittin' this tour out, savvy?" A pause, and a deepening of the devilish twinkle in his eyes. "Y'were followin' that the second time, aye?"

"Succinctly." I say, giving him my flattest voice and sternest gaze, before turning back to Studson thoughtfully. "Are you afraid of heights, Mr. Studson?"

"No sir! Always been too high to begin with, sir!" Studson says, chin up and that bemused look in his eyes.

My lips quirk. "And I take it by your presence that Lieutenant Gillette doesn't have need of you for the moment, so would you be so kind as to hoist the sail?"

Studson's expression twitches for a moment. "...Aye, sir. Don't know why we didn't figure that to begin with, sir."

"Sailing is busy work, Mr. Studson. The little details often pass us by." I note with a quiet nod. "On your way."

Jack manages to stay quiet until Studson hits the stairs, heading deckside again, but when he does speak it is with all the contempt a man of the sea can have for a landlubber. "...Sail in the middle. Fine lot you have sailin' my ship, Commodore. I'm overjoyed they know their arses from their heads."

I turn to him, jaw tightening as I take a step forward. "What that man lacks in nautical know-how, Captain Sparrow, he more than makes up for in loyalty and bravery. He has been wounded in the line of duty more than once, and earned particular distinction at the Isla de Muerta, where he was one of the first men off the boats and into the hellish battle routed by your former crew. He isn't a sailor, he's a soldier, and considering the lack of assistance from your men now, he is doing an exemplary job. Be very grateful to that man, Captain Sparrow, because he is one of the few at the moment who is going to try his damnedest to keep your Pearl from meeting the wrong end of a sandbar."

A look of honest surprise passes his face, then a quiet little smile. His arms cross over his chest. "Well, well. Look at the protectiveness. Quite the wolfish leader, aren't we?" His head tilts, and the tinkle of beads clinking fills my ears, "So does that fine gentleman have the pleasure of knowing the Commodore personally for all his grand high t'do deeds?"

"...I do not fraternize with my men in the degree in which you are no doubt imagining." I lift my chin up slightly. "I know it must be a shock to your deviant mind, Sparrow, but the British Royal Navy doesn't exactly hold highly with the Pirate's Code. We show a little more concern over our brother soldiers than 'doing right by ourselves'."

"You might, Commodore, and those who serve under you, b'cause you're the sort of man who believes in such. But I can well assure you not half your fine Navy is any better with moral distinctions than me and mine." He slides in close, arching an eyebrow.

"Bringing us to the point that not all pirates are bad men, and not all Naval officers are good ones?" I say, holding my ground. I might have 'avoided' him before, but now it is a matter of mind over matter. My mind, his alluring matter... "As it stands, perhaps we should just agree, Captain Sparrow, that there are distinctions to be made about your men and mine - and different ways in how we deal with them."

"...Sounds fair enough, Commodore Norrington, as you aren't a man to back down from a valid point of honor. I offer m'apologies if I offended." Another step, and as the ship shifts on the water, he shifts with it, first away, then into my personal space.

"Accepted." I pause, very aware how he is leaning into me again. How close he is, as the spicy scent of him assaults my nose. I give him what I hope is a stern look. "...I am not willing to back down to anything, Sparrow."

"Ah, so you have no intention of runnin' off again then, eh?" His lowered voice makes my body twang in perfect harmony. His fingers raise up to gently touch my ear, then trail down slowly.

I will not shiver. I will not. Instead my eyes meet his, and my hand moves to grab his and hold it firmly as it slides down to my chest, holding it away from my skin. My own voice lowers, "In no way conceivable, Sparrow, am I simply going to let you have your way with me."

"Permission first, I rememb'r." Jack wriggles his fingers a little in my grip, then entwines our fingers together. "'Sides, I think hand-holdin's right proper in the ways of courtship, don't you?"

I blink, looking down at our clasped hands, then into that innocuous expression of his. My lips twist into a faint smile without meaning to. "...Damn it, Jack. Why do you make things so bloody difficult? Why do you always have to twirl things around to get what you want?"

"I think the real question here, Jamie-love, is why do you fight so hard from givin' yourself what you want t'begin with." His fingers grip mine lightly, as he flashes those gold teeth up at me. He's so very close, and that smell is almost as intoxicating as drinking down the liquor itself, isn't it...

"CAPTAIN SPARROW!" Anamaria's voice pierces the silence, making me jerk away from Jack as if I were shot, and regain my composure as quickly as I can.

Besides me, Jack lets out a low curse, then steps in front of me. "YES, Anamaria? Is there something very important that you needed t'tell me that couldn't have waited another minute ... or perhaps twenty?" Twenty minutes? What in the world could he hope to accomplish in twenty min ... Never Mind.

Anamaria charges up the dark hallway, a one-woman army in her own right. She stabs one finger at Jack as she comes to a halt. "You..." and her finger shifts towards me with another stab, "...tell him.."

"Who is standing right here." I remark calmly.

She glowers at me as she continues speaking, "...You tell him if we don' get somethin' to eat from OUR galley right quick, we're gonna use one of dem pasty-faced pretty soldiers for FISH bait."

Jack stares at her for a long, long moment. He turns to me, then glances back quickly at her. She gestures impatiently at me. He drags his gaze towards me, folding his hands together with a clearly baffled sort of smile on his face. "Well, Commodore? Fish bait or food?"

"We will open the galley once we have secured ourselves rooms for the night and settled our bearings." I pause, then add meaningfully, "However, if your crew wishes to hurry along the process, they are more than welcome to assist with the ship's duties as they see fit."

I truly disbelieved the possibility of her looking any more disgruntled than she already was. Apparently, I find myself in grave error. She grinds out her words, dark eyes infuriated. "I'd Rathah STARVE."

With that, she stomps off once more, leaving Jack and me to the stillness of the hall and the soft creaking of the Pearl herself. Finally, I find my voice for speaking. "As per our previous conversation on the matter of our crews and their differences, I shall not say a word about the utter insanity of yours."

"Gibbs is always talkin' about how it's bad luck to have a woman aboard. I'm wonderin' if that's b'cause they're so right scary when they get riled." Jack murmurs. He shifts towards me, and then that slow smile appears again. " ... Now, where were we?"

"CAPTAIN!" Anamaria bellows again.

Right on the heels of that? Gillette's highly tense, "COMMODORE!"

"...Getting interrupted?" I answer smoothly, moving back towards the stairs that lead up to the deck - ignoring the feelings of disappointment, and clinging to the ones of relief. "Come along, Sparrow."

"...it's just not fair. It's not Bloody Fair!" I hear him muttering behind me, as I suppress a small smile.

The scene that greets us when we come up on deck is one of mass confusion. Anamaria and Gillette are yelling at one another, so close their noses are nearly brushing as they spit verbal fury. Gibbs and Bush are attempting to keep them from going at one another's throats, with mixed results.

By the mainmast, Murtogg and Mullroy are simultaneously shouting while attempting to extract Studson from a tangle of ropes. The old man with the parrot and the dwarf are pulling on the other sides of the ropes, meaning that Studson is getting no less loose and all the more like a trussed up holiday goose. The parrot is fluttering between both pairs of men, squawking fiercely and intelligibly.

Jack and I exchange a startled look, and then turn back to the pandemonium. I take a long, deep breath, set my shoulders and back straight, bellowing out. "OFFICERS AND MARINES, AT ATTENTION!"

The reaction is gratefully instantaneous, as Gillette and Bush jerk upright, facing straight forward without a peep coming from either one of them. Murtogg and Mullroy drop the ropes and stand stock-still. The only unfortunate side-effect is that as they drop the ropes, Studson also attempts to stand at attention and only succeeds to tumbling face-first into the deck.

"Well, children, are we finished playing?" Mock pleasantness curls from my tone as I move slowly across the deck, pausing in front of Gillette and Bush, one eyebrow raising. "I expected this sort of outburst from the marines, Lieutenants, but I expect a little more decorum from both of you."

"Our apologies, sir." Bush says quietly, keeping his eyes straight ahead. "Things, ah, simply got out of hand."

I stop in front of Gillette, waiting for a moment. Gillette lets out a long breath, looking at the deck first, before finally replying. "My actions were .. are, with much reproach. My apologies, sir."

"Hah!" I don't turn towards the noise of Anamaria's sharp laugh, as she is not my concern, but instead fix my eyes on Gillette. He doesn't move an inch, however, and I make sure he can see the approving tilt of my head. He begins to untense slightly at that.

"Do y'find somethin' funny, First Mate?" Jack's voice is low and deceptively mild. I find myself looking away from Gillette to him with some surprise. Surely he isn't angry? His focus, however, is on Anamaria as he makes his way across the deck, to the fallen Studson. "Y'know, I realize none of you are that pleased t'have the Navy aboard - God knows I'm not too happy with the circumstances m'self. How'ver, you're lettin' your ire affect the way the ship's handled, and I won't abide by that ... easy lad, I've got you. Hold still and let me get these ropes here loose."

The pirates all look at each other askance, as they struggle for an answer. Studson's voice, muffled by the deck, echoes with relief. "Holding still, sir. Thank you, sir."

A warm note of amusement fills Jack's voice, and something tense in me loosens at the lack of mockery to it this time around. "Think nothin' of it. Commodore Norrington says I owe you and your mates a bit of thanks for the Isla de Muerta, after all." He throws another pointed look at Anamaria and the others, who again squirm.

Jack continues as if he didn't see them. "Fair amount o' your mates died, gettin' my ship back for me. Pointless sorts of death, but they saved m'life. Saved the life of m'crew, if they would be so kind t'recall. Had the Navy not been engaged in its pricey bit of battlin' with the undead bastards, they never would have gotten away in the first place."

"Er, you're welcome, sir?" Studson says, a trifle bit confused, but gratitude to being freed from the ropes is prevalent over that. He sits up, and rubs his wrists for a moment, before glancing over at me and shooting to his feet to stand at attention with the others.

"At ease." I say, relenting under the rather weary look of Studson. My crew relaxes on their heels, looking at me expectantly. While I look at Captain Jack. Who is, strangely enough, looking at the sky.

Or rather, at the mast. "Mr. Gibbs ... would you be so kind as t'get that sail hoisted? Mr. Cotton and Mr. Rudolph, could you be assistin' with that? And Anamaria..." Jack rose to his feet, and fixes his darkening gaze on her, "Would you be a darlin', and clean up this mess, here?" A pause. "None of those were requests, mates."

"Aye, Capt'n.." "Awwk, wind in your sails.." Comes the muted replies. Without looking at each other, the pirates began scrabbling up the rigging, moving about the deck with renewed purpose. Anamaria grunts Mullroy and Murtogg out of the way, but says naught else as she starts to untangle the ropes that have fallen on deck.

Jack catches my incredulous look, and one side of his golden mouth lifts up. "They lost face in front o' their Captain. Nothing more humiliatin' than that to a pirate."

"Discipline through disapproval?" I raise an eyebrow, bemused despite of myself.

"Can't say I have the fine bellowin' voice you've got, Commodore. So I'll jest make do with charm." Then the scallywag has the nerve to wink at me, turning immediately to clap Studson on the shoulder. "Now, Studson m'lad ... and you two lads there, Murtogg and Mullroy, if I'm not mistaken?" At their open-mouthed bobs of agreement, Jack throws his arms wide, "Excellent! Now that you are all on the Legendary Black Pearl, let me give you a few fine tips on handlin' her, for she's a temperamental Lady.."

"Amazing." Bush says lowly, drawing both Gillette's and my eyes to him. He smiles faintly in response. "A living, breathing Pirate Charmer, who has effortlessly moved to his Majesty's marines."

We all turn back to the sight of Jack Sparrow kneeling on the deck with Murtogg, Mullroy, and Studson grouped around him in a half circle. They look both oddly in place, and oddly out, as they watch with no little amount of wonder as Jack sweeps his fingers across the deck, whispering something low that I cannot catch. All three marines eyes widen noticeably.

"Well, one must give Sparrow credit." Gillette says, and his voice has that edge of sarcasm I have come to note when he is truly upset about something. "First the marines," He flashes a flat look over to Bush, "Then the officers. Of course, moving right unto the Commodore himself, something I am sure he thinks he can accomplish by keeping you in his quarters.."

"Pardon me, Lieutenant, what was that?" I ask, suddenly startled by his words.

Gillette suddenly looks somewhere between sheepish and angry, an interesting combination. "My apologies, again, sir - but that was the matter that had me so upset. Mr. Gibbs was quite insistent that you are to be staying in the Captain's cabin with that... that pirate."

My gaze jerks towards Sparrow again, who has moved his little school lesson closer to the fore of the ship, moving his hands broadly, while he quite clearly avoids me. After a moment, I let out a sigh, and look to the sky, before fixing my gaze back on Gillette. "Let it be, Lieutenant. I shall endure the pirate's snores for a quick resolution to our situation."

Gillette's eyebrows raise, alarmed sputters coming from his lips, "But ... sir! What ...?"

"Gillette..." I pause, and add quietly. "Andrew. Sparrow wants to keep an eye on me - and I can hardly blame him. I would be doing the exact same if our positions were reversed. Beyond that, it gives me the opportunity to badger him, if necessary, into answering our questions on the whereabouts of the Ebony Sharks."

"Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." Bush nods his head, giving Sparrow an approving glance. "Very smart of him. Besides, I'm sure Sparrow thinks of this as a way to try and sway you on certain ideas of hanging him." He pauses, then smiles that little devilish smile of his. "I might have to add, 'best pirate AND manipulator I've ever seen'. He's very compelling."

Gillette looks between us, his face nearly purple with repressed anger, as he hisses out at Bush. "Well why don't you just build the man a bloody statue, Jonathan? I, for one, refuse to be swayed by Pretty Pirates." He straightens, jerking his head back to me. "Pardon me, sir. I need to change into clothing that is a little more suitable."

Head high, and dark eyes flashing a blazing look at Bush, he marches below, his steps reverberating loudly. I let out a sigh, and give Bush a long and aggrieved look. "You did that on purpose."

Bush's lips quirk, and he holds his fingers a scan inch a part. "Just a little."

"Jonathan, behave. Or you are going to end up fishing Sparrow or yourself out of the ocean when Andrew finally loses his composure all together and tosses you both overboard in a fit of French pique." I note pointedly. "I, myself, am going to see to my own attire. The helm is still yours, but I will return momentarily to relieve you so you can change."

"Aye, Commodore." Bush's smile becomes a little more teasing. "Although ...since I'm not the one that's going to be in Captain Sparrow's cabin, shouldn't I be telling you to behave?"

"Bush. Helm. Now." I glower at him, making him clear his throat, salute quickly, and dart up the steps to the quarterdeck. I watch him, shaking my head a little as I head below. I swear to God, sometimes Jonathan takes an almost demonic pleasure in seeing how far he can taunt Andrew. He knows very well that Andrew doesn't like Jack, that being on the same ship is going to be torture for our redheaded friend. So what does Jonathan do? Flaunts his odd fondness for Jack in our faces and ...and ... Dear God, am I jealous?

I stop in front of the door of what I believe to be Jack's private cabin, pressing my fingers to my temple. No. I am not. Because I do not have jealous feelings over a pirate where one of my oldest and dearest friends are concerned. It is silly. Absurd. Ridiculous.

Sigh. I unlatch the door, and step inside Jack Sparrow's cabin.

Which surprises me, to say the least. First of all, it is clean. Not as neat as my own cabin on the Falcon, perhaps, but things are generally put away in built-in cupboards. There is a soft carpet of orient origin on the floor, and varying knickknacks here and there. Nothing delicate or easily breakable, but all of it interesting. I spend a moment contemplating a strange tribal mask set on Jack's wall, before going to hunt down my satchel.

It's by the bed - and when I say 'the bed' I feel the need to capitalize the letters appropriately. For it is The Bed - a large, decadent affair of black oak with hangings and bedsheets to match, set into one side of the ship's wall. Soft cushions of dark colours and foreign patterns line it, and it has, if one can believe it, padded insets to keep one from falling out of bed in the middle of a rough night at sea. I stare at it for a long moment, amazed. I've never seen its ilk, and I doubt I ever will again. Backing away slowly, I murmur to myself as I drag my bag across the room, "I should have known he's a bloody hedonist."

I search the cabin until I find, hanging parallel to the bed, two iron rings set opposite into a small alcove. Relief fills me - room for a hammock. I would not fancy trying to get a good night's sleep in Jack's bed. Too many .. ah, distractions. What with the rolling of two bodies - not at ALL in a way that would be breaking any biblical tract! Or law. Or composure. Or anything.

Another sigh. It is past time to change my clothing. I think Andrew might be right, and these pirate garments somehow have the ability to make normally sane, law-abiding citizens contemplate the most wicked deeds.

It doesn't take me long to change into a clean white shirt, along with a plain pair of dark green breeches and matching vest. I exchange my boots for simpler shoes, then neatly fold up my pirate clothes. No reason not to be tidy. Picking through my bag, I find my handkerchief and what I will assume is Jack's shaving mirror, fancy gilded affair that it is, and remove all the kohl from around my eyes.

There, now I just need one thing more to make me feel like I am simply James Norrington again. I take out my sword from amongst my things, gladly clasping it to my waist again. I hadn't wanted to lose it while climbing the rigging, earlier on. Now it rests by my hip, where it belongs. Ruefully, I slide the blade out of its scabbard, taking in the fine gold gilt. Had I had it with me early, then perhaps Jack wouldn't have been so eager to toss me down on that table.

Or then again, it probably would have just encouraged him more. He likes it when I openly resist. Probably because it's a prelude to interest. I must be interested, or why would I make such an effort to not be? I pause, startled by that revelation. Jack knows me better than I thought..

The Pearl shifts a little, and behind me there is the sound of something falling out of one of the cupboards. I turn, startled, sliding my blade back home before I walk over. It's one of the cupboards at the foot of The Bed, and tilting my gaze downward I note the item that's fallen is a ... well. It's a book.

Not just any book, however. Shakespeare's sonnets. My lips curl up in private pleasure, as I thumb through the pages lightly. Then I glance up at the cupboard, my frank curiosity getting the better of me. Sonnets in hand, I stand up straight and open the cupboard fully.

Two long shelves, filled with books. My finger runs along the spines as I read - Milton, further volumes of the Bard, Dante, More, Chaucer, Plato? Dear Lord. The man has his own personal Renaissance collection. There are poets, playwrights, philosophers and tracts on political theory. Several books on the work of Leonardo Da Vinci. My eyebrows go up and stay up. Well, well, Captain Sparrow. Not all the buffoon we claim to be, hm? I always knew he was more clever than he let on.

The ship shifts again, and from the shelf above the miniature library, a piece of paper slides loose and drifts down. I snag it out of midair, frown as I turn the parchment around, but my eyes widen at what the paper contains.

It's a sketch of William and Elizabeth - two different perspectives. He is on the deck of the Interceptor, one foot leaning against a bulkhead, looking out to sea, his gaze preoccupied and worried. Dark hair is pulled away from his youthful face, his jaw and eyes tight as he grips the sword at his side. He seems to be straining against ... what? Time. Fate. The world itself.

Elizabeth, in turn, is also looking out to the ocean. It is, I realize with a start, a portrait of her on that island where I rescued her and Jack from. She is seated on the sand, a bottle of ..rum? in her grip. She seems despondent, staring out to the water almost accusingly. If she could, she would battle it like any Amazon, fierce and beautiful, yet she is trapped on that shore, in that moment.

In a small, suddenly recognizable hand on the bottom, there is the simple title, 'Longing - by CJS'.

I look up from the drawing, wonderingly, and in utter amazement. First, he was just a raving pirate lunatic, soon to become a clever raving pirate lunatic. Then, a good man who is also a clever raving pirate lunatic. Now, he's a good man with the soul of a poet and the hands of an artist, not to mention a raving pirate lunatic who is, in fact, far more clever than previously believed.

I sincerely wish Jack would stop turning my view of him every which way whenever we meet. I can feel the boundaries of reality itself unraveling every time he does.

The sound of rambling steps jerks my attention towards the cabin door, and I quickly shove the drawing back in place on the top shelf before closing the cabinet doors firmly. Just as the door opens, I realize that the book of sonnets is still in my grip, and I quickly shove it behind my back, tilting up my chin slightly as Jack ambles in, humming happily. He tosses me a broad smile, as he moves across the room to another cupboard, opening it to reveal a dearth of rum bottles. He plucks the one to the furthest right, and works on the cork as he speaks to me. "Well someone looks like he made h'mself right at home, then. Nice togs, Commodore ... although I prefer the more, heh, rascallious look on you."

"It is not the uniform, but it will suffice." I say, raising an eyebrow, before moving back to the original comment. "Yes, well, I did not want to start another brawl by protesting. Nor did I want it getting around to my men that your interest is anything more than professional caution."

"Mmh.. I can see that. Don't want them gettin' all jealous, eh?" Jack arches a wicked smirk in my direction.

I frown at him. "Nothing like that in the slightest. It is merely ... disquieting to certain social practices for a man to openly court another man. Especially in front of his crew."

"Aah, so you remembered that bit, did you?" Dark eyes gleam at me with interest.

"Quite so. Therefore, I will retire to another cabin. It would be unseemly for you to make advances on me if we are in the same room. So if you wish to court me properly, you will just have to do so at a distance." Logic, triumphant at last. If there is space between us, I can fend him off easily. Or at least put walls and people enough between us to buffer.

"Hm. That sounds like a right proper idea." Jack says slowly, looking off thoughtfully as he takes a long swig of rum, then swallows. "Seems a pity we can't do it all that way. What with breakin' the contract, and all."

"...What do you mean, 'breaking the contract'?" A frown creases my brow, for I am not liking where this conversation is suddenly going.

"Clause Forty Two states that you, Commodore James L. Norrington, swear that until I give you the information which your little naval heart so fondly desires, you are t'stay with the Pearl, and her captain." Jack's smirk widens. "Which by a funny coincidence, would be yours truly, love."

"That doesn't mean all the time!" I growl out in angry disbelief, my gut twisting.

Jack takes another swig of rum. "Act'lly, it does. Under the consensus o'contract law, the written word of the contract is t'be upheld. To the letter."

I gape at him for a long, long moment. "...what in the name of the Devil do you know about contract law?"

"Jamie-love!" Jack looks at me, head tilted back in offense. "How am I t'-break- all the laws if I don't -know- them?" He holds up one finger. " 'N I know what you're thinkin' ... that now you'll just call off the courtin'. Might I remind you in that circumstance, we have ourselves an accord - verbal legal agreement? Therefore, violatin' one means violatin' the other."

"Damned if I do, and damned if I don't." I mutter, moving towards him with precise, angry steps.

"One way of puttin' it, I suppose. However, if you look at it in an optimistic sort of shade, sooner or later you'll get exactly what you want. From all quarters." Is there anything more annoying than a smug pirate? Yes. A smug pirate with the law on his side.

"Sparrow, this is intolerable. You cannot possibly court me when we're sleeping in the same room. It's out and out manipulation of the situation, and perhaps you are comfortable with that sort of thing, but it is my heart and I am not! You cannot just steal whatever isn't nailed down, literal objects or affections!" My words come out clipped and riding the edge of anger, as I make a jerky movement with my hand in his general direction.

Which, ah, unfortunately is the one with volume of Shakespeare's sonnets in it.

We both stare at the little red leather-bound book for a lengthy, silent minute, before Jack finally clears his throat, choking down some amusement, "...Nice book."

"It fell. It fell, and I picked it up." I say, automatically heading for the defensive.

"Anythin' like how you just 'happened' t'commandeer m'ship? I didn't ask you to come here, love, but you came here all the same. I'm not the only person here takin' without askin'." Jack crosses his arms over his chest, meeting my gaze with a dark-eyed seriousness and intensity I have only seen him use when at his most persuasive. "I want you, James Norrington, and by God I am not going t'let a golden opportunity like this slip me by. You want me t'court you proper, and I will. But that's where your terms end, and mine begin."

I swallow, quietly. "..Your terms?"

He smiles, an easy lifting of those full lips, but he doesn't move towards me. Instead he gently stuffs the cork back into his rum, and puts the half-empty bottle back in the cupboard, moving towards the door. "Best be gettin' back up on deck, Commodore. I'm sure your man Bush wants t'have some time to groom himself proper." He stops at the door, glancing back at me. "Oh, yes ... feel free to borrow old Willy, if you have a mind to. Y'might find him enlightening."

I stare at him for another moment, and press the red volume into my breeches pocket without a word, before following him out of his cabin. I have just realized that in the Game of Love, I am remarkably low on ammunition, and Jack Sparrow plays to win, with no holds barred.

Oh God.

-- // --

Sunlight burns into my eyelids, and I force my eyes open to meet it, grunting a little. After a moment, I lean over, and tilt my hammock precariously as I look out to the window, momentarily disturbed before I realize this is not the Falcon but the Pearl and therefore it is perfectly all right to have Jack Sparrow sleeping in The Bed across from me.

Or rather, where Jack Sparrow was sleeping. The Bed is conspicuously empty.

I let my gaze drift warily around the cabin, not believing I have a respite from Jack. However, there is no sign of the pirate captain, which strangely makes me more unnerved than less. He could be anywhere.

...Which would be acceptable, as this is his ship and he may lurk where he wishes.

I roll out of my hammock, rubbing my bristled face tiredly as I move barefooted and stockingless to my satchel. I reach in for my shaving kit, then take my hand back quickly, blinking. There is a tiny paper ... bird atop it, decoratively and intently folded. After another moment of hesitation, I pick it up.

Jack's sweeping cursive edges one delicate wing, the simple invitation of 'Open Me' in black curling letters. My mouth twitches, as I do just that.

Commodore Jamie-love,

Thought I'd be kindly your first morning and let you do your grooming in peace. However, I'm out on deck when you're done, so I suggest hurrying after you read this or I'll take a gander to see what's taking you so long.


P.S. This little bird is known as an origami crane - one of the many forms of the Japanese art of paper folding. I knew you'd be wondering, inquisitive fellow that you are.

P.S.S. Shaving water's by the mirror. Cold, but you'll make do, I'm sure.

P.P.S.S. Do you know how adorable you are asleep? You're fortunate to be courted by such a gentleman, or I would have snuck a kiss. Or... perhaps I did. I'm sure you're dying to find out now. Bwhahaha... ~ Jack

I close my mouth tight, but a snort of laughter escapes all the same. I cannot believe he wrote out his evil cackling. How strangely endearing and ... Completely Inappropriate. Really. Sending me little love notes -- or any note of any kind. It shall not be accepted. I move to crumple it, then pause. Seems a shame to waste the paper. Beyond that, I rather want to know how he folded it, and where he learned to. So I carefully fold it as best I can and leave it atop the edge of The Bed while I get out my shaving things.

I wince a little as the muscles in my shoulders tense, then ease as I straighten again. I had forgotten how much work goes into keeping a ship moving, especially considering how few hands we have on deck. Dropping the anchor and making berth right after sunset was a considerably interesting experience, especially with a half crew of pirates and Naval officers of all creeds. Everyone was attempting to get the job done without getting too close to the other side. I must admit to some private bemusement to the thought that the pirates somehow think that respectability is a disease on the levels of the Plague.

Of course, I am sure Jack was entertaining the same thoughts about corruption and the British Royal Navy. No wonder he kept looking so amused during the whole process.

It appears Jack is keeping a great many things to himself, which makes me wonder what's going on behind those kohl-marked eyes. He's up to something. I know it.

I smirk at myself as I smooth cool soapy lather over my face, shaking my head a little. Jack Sparrow is always up to something. Why should romantic interludes be any different? At any rate, I have other things to worry about.

For one, I think I'll keep at least two of the marines in the galley area during mealtimes. If anything else they proved last night that 'backcountry boys' know how to take a mishmash of food supplies and turn it into a delicious meal. The pirates, Anamaria especially, grumbled up to the point they ate that first mouthful of savory stew crafted by Murtogg and Studson. They were blissfully silent afterwards.

For another, the rather unappealing agreement allowing the pirates have their weapons back. Scratch that, to allowing Anamaria have her weapons back. For the entire two hours that Jack Sparrow had me lounging about on deck with him after I had sent Bush and Gillette to bed, chatting with his crew and completely ignoring me, she had one hand on her trusty blade as she looked intently and unwaveringly at me. Which of course, had me staring right back at her, one hand at my sword at all times. We have heightened the term 'staring contest' to new and stubborn levels, because even after Jack nudged Anamaria and called out to me, we still didn't pull our gaze from one another.

It took Jack whispering something in Anamaria's ear to make her jerk her glare away from me to him, smacking him soundly in the arm before heading below with a growl. He grinned after her, his dark eyes watching the subtle shift of her breeches-clad hips, the only thing that marked her as a woman, before he turned to me and lifted his eyebrows expressively...

I rest the razor lightly against my throat, my green eyes darkening a touch. Watching them together - watching him react to her ... it makes me wonder why I didn't see the obvious before. They were lovers, at least for a brief time. Whatever happened between them, I have enough reason to believe that Jack began it, and Jack probably ended it. There would be no need for her to be this hostile if Jack was the rejected one. Unresolved issues aplenty, and I frankly have no need to be on the wrong side of her blade if she is jealous of what she -must- know is the reason that Jack wants me around.

Equally grating are the sharp stabs in my chest when I look at her. When I wonder if he's been pleasuring her lately. If he has been using Sweetheart to release tension .. well, that's one thing. Quite another to have a lover aboard and then chase after another potential one... which I am not. Still. He spends all this time aggravating me beyond reason, taunting me with his upcoming courtship, and he does nothing. Yet he ogles her openly, right where I can see him. If he is attempting to make me jealous .... he is doing a damned fine job.

I start to shave, sighing a little. Thinking on unresolved issues ... I had best speak to Gillette when I have a chance. He spent the entirety of last night glowering at Jack, then glowering at Bush, finally upping glower to an outright glare at Jack speaking to Bush, which happened -once-, when they left to retire for the night. That I could understand - after all Jonathan's known admiration of Jack makes him a target for possible trouble - but that really doesn't excuse Gillette coming to question me about varying niggling orders at timed intervals when Jack finally decided it was time to be abed himself. Trying to relax with a book of poetry when the man in the bed across from you is drinking rum and eying you speculatively while your lieutenant keeps knocking on the door every twenty minutes or so is rather detrimental when all you are trying to accomplish is to make yourself exhausted enough to fall asleep.

Perhaps a few words on patience and temperance? I know he is worried about my 'virtue', and more about Bush's, which... isn't such an insane leap of fretting, actually. However, Bush knows the consequences of his actions, as do I. Besides, Jonathan would never bed down with Jack, and Jack would never openly seduce another man after laying his feelings so honestly before me.

Well, somewhat honestly. He never really got around to telling me how he felt. He wants me - he said that. However, that can mean just about anything, and for God's Sake, it's Jack Sparrow. He might have women and men in every damned port city from here to China ...

I am NOT thinking about this. I am shaving. Making a valiant attempt not to slice open my own damned throat. I am not contemplating this any more.

After making it through shaving amazingly without bloodshed, I dress myself promptly and take only a moment to push the bird back into my vest pocket. On a second thought, I take the red volume of Shakespeare's sonnets, and head out and up to the deck.

The sun is bright, the sky is a shade of blue so deep it's like it was dipped in vibrant oil paint, the water calm, and there's a strong wind to the northeast. Perfect for sailing in English waters until Jack breaks down from annoyance or untold pirate greed to be a'plundering and tells me what I want to know. Or he drives me insane. One will probably occur right on the tail of the other.

I breath in the salty air deeply, one hand going to fold behind me as I look around. Down the way, Gibbs is chattering happily to Murtogg and Mullroy, as he shows them how to tie knots. The man must be dying for a fresh audience for all his stories and tales. Anamaria is checking some of the rigging on the foredeck - excellent. Then I shall head to the quarterdeck, to neatly avoid any and all confrontations. I turn briskly, pleased to see Gillette there and alone, dressed in his equivalent of normal clothing, an outfit not unlike mine, but in a dark sable brown, and he has boots to match. With Jonathan still below, it means we can finally have that talk. Andrew needs only to hold his temper until we get off this ship, then he can take all his frustrations about Sparrow out on the Ebony Sharks.

"Good morning, Lieutenant." I greet him politely. Oddly enough, he is frowning at the sky. Hm. Perhaps a heavier wind than we would desire? It is gusting a bit.

He jerks his eyes downward, then offers me a curt nod, his expression dark but controlled. "Good morning, sir."

"Status report?" I ask, moving to his side, fixing my gaze on the horizon before us. We must be heading north - the breezes seem cooler than the normal balmy heat of the Caribbees.

"We were underway in goodly time, sir, about an hour ago. I thought it best to get the northeastern winds in our sails." Gillette's tones ease. "I hope I wasn't too presumptuous, sir."

"Absolutely not, Lieutenant. In fact I am pleased to find this ship, of all ships, running in such a smooth manner." I say, glancing over at him.

Gillette's stance straightens a little, and he looks over at me with the barest hint of a smile in his dark eyes. "Thank you, sir." He glances upward again, and his body tenses a little more.

"Is there a problem, Gillette?" I remark, frowning.

"It's ...nothing, sir. I just find myself a little perturbed over the easy acceptance of the 'pirate way of life' from our crew and junior officers." Gillette's voice breathes sarcasm. "Especially from our junior officers. I was being snotty when I suggested a statue in Sparrow's honor, but apparently Lieutenant Bush plans on taking me seriously."

"I think you are a little more than perturbed, Andrew. I think you are out and out enraged." I say, bracing myself for his fierce look. I am not amiss in my caution, because his glare could cook eggs readily enough. "I am not that upset. Bush can worship any pirate he likes, even ones that have so handily humiliated his senior officers... apparently."

"You are that upset. You never use the word 'apparently' unless you are, and you've said it twice in the past minute." I lift one eyebrow, waiting for his sputtering protests to taper off.

It doesn't take long, and finally he begrudgingly says, "...Well, perhaps I am. But just watching Jonathan fawn over that bedraggled criminal, after all he's done to you, James. It makes me want to throttle Jonathan for being that pirate's sycophant."

"You realize he is just saying those things to get a rise out of you, correct?" I ask, my lips lifting in momentary wryness. "Besides, I hardly think a polite 'good evening' is worthy of such ire."

"Over that? No. However, it has gone well into the morning." He tilts his head upwards, and this time I follow his gaze to the mizzen mast, where on one of the broad yardarms I see two figures speaking cheerily to one another. My entire body stiffens when I realize who those two figures are. Jack Sparrow in his normal raggedy wear, and Jonathan in his neat grey breeches, white shirt and no vest, with a sturdy pair of black boots on his feet. Chatting away like old schoolmates.

"..And just how long have they been up there?" I ask quietly, taking a step closer. I have no idea what Jack just said to Jonathan, but apparently it was hilarious. "The better part of an hour." Gillette grumbles behind me. "They've become quite chummy."

"So it would seem." I can hear the iciness in my voice, and do not bother to correct it, as I continue to watch the pair high above us both.

"..Glad to know I'm not the only one perturbed." Gillette comments dryly. I turn to give him a look, and he returns it with a bitterly amused smile, "You only say, 'So it would seem', James, when you are close to contemplating homicide."

My lips compress together, and I do not bother to answer as I turn to gaze upwards again. Perhaps they can feel the weight of my and Gillette's glares, because Jack and Jonathan both look down to the helm at the same time. Jack gently hits Jonathan's arm, says something with a waggle of his eyebrows, and Jonathan leans in close ... what is that noise? Oh. That would be me, grinding my teeth together.

A moment later, Jonathan is scaling down to the deck lightly, greeting Murtogg and Mullroy with a brilliant salute. He ambles up towards us, and I can hear him humming under his breath. He shoots off another salute, jaunty and filled with animation, "Good day, Commodore! Gorgeous morning, if I say so myself."

I glance over at Gillette, as he looks over at me. Then we turn and look off at the horizon together.

"Apparently." Is his crisp reply.

"So it would seem." Is my own deathly still one.

"...Oh now what could you two possibly be upset over? It's a beautiful morning!" Bush protests, as his gaze darts from me to Gillette in surprised bafflement.

"I suppose one could say that," Gillette drawls out flatly, "Captain Sparrow seems to be enjoying it well enough."

"Is this about me chatting with Captain Sparrow?" Bush looks between our two stoic faces, and heaves out a sigh, "Yes, I suppose it must be. We are on his ship, sirs. I will occasionally have to have words with him."

'Yes, but do you have to look like you're enjoying it so much? Does he?' I bite back the words through sheer will, raising my chin a little as I look at Bush. "Your point is taken, Bush. However, considering your past ... interest in Captain Sparrow's career, you'll note our concern is valid."

Bush's eyes flash, and his stance straightens a little, "Commodore Norrington, Lieutenant Gillette - if my behavior has been anything less than proper, and I have given you enough reason to doubt my loyalty to you or the Navy, then I suggest that you put me in irons and throw me in the brig immediately. However, I will not have rank accusations thrown at me without proof. So I suppose I should be asking you both, respectfully, if you are impugning my honor, sirs?"

I pause, a feeling of shame stabbing me directly in the chest. Here I am, worried about Gillette's emotions getting the better of him, not to mention Bush's interest in Jack compromising his judgment. So what in God's name am I doing? I clear my throat before speaking, "My apologies, Lieutenant Bush, if you believed I doubted your honor in this situation."

Behind me, Gillette sounds almost completely contrite, "My own apologies, Lieutenant. I didn't mean to imply you were in any way untrustworthy."

Bush's ire melts away like frost in the sun, and he gives us both an amused smirk, "Gentlemen, I realize we are aboard a pirate ship where we might meet our ends at any moment, and we are no closer to finding the Ebony Sharks than we were when we left Port Royal, not to mention that we are stuck with the one pirate who drives you both to complete and total madness. However," He steps between us, resting a hand apiece on our shoulders, "You really need to lighten up."

Gillette snorts a laugh, and I just shake my head ruefully. Bush grins at us both, then nudges me with one hand, "And speaking of madness and our 'hostage', Captain Sparrow would like the pleasure of your company aloft, sir."

I let out an a long breath, muttering, "And so it begins... Bush, if you would take my sword?" Bush complies with a quiet smile, as I let my eyes move up to the mizzen mast, where Sparrow is moving back and forth between the yardarms with a fluid grace that surprises me. On land, he seems so completely hapless, almost always falling over his own feet. Or off of loading arms. Or fort walls. Yet here, on this ship, it is like he is completely in control of every minute movement of his body. The way his arms pull the rigging to him in a sharp, practical elegance. The way he walks, muscled calves and limber legs moving not unlike a dancer, always sure of the steps being in time with the music of the ocean...

I really must stop waxing poetic.

I eye the rigging, and my shoes. It's been quite awhile since I've tested out the hand carved notches in these. Might as well see if they are up to Mr. Weston's, Port Royal's cobbler, skill and reputation. I grasp the side of the rope ladder leading up, my gaze moving momentarily across the deck, and catching Anamaria's eye from across the desk. Wordlessly, she lifts her chin at me, and I silently lift my own in turn. After another moment, she snorts, and returned to her work. I smile thinly, and began to ascend upwards.

I find Jack holding the mast as I climb up to join him, an amused smile on his golden face. "Well, well ... don't we look all fine and riled this mornin'. Bit of a trouble with Johnny?"

It takes me a moment to understand just who Jack is speaking of, and I frown as I pull myself up to sit on the yardarm. "Lieutenant Bush is in no trouble whatsoever - as long as he can keep himself from being lured into a criminal life by yourself."

"Me? Try t'convince a member of his King's Service to join mine? James, would I do such a thing?" Jack sits on the other side, peering over around the mast at me, grinning broadly.

Wordlessly, I glance down to Gibbs, and then back up to Jack, one eyebrow raised in sardonic question. Jack follows my gaze, then snorts. "Oh now, you can't be blamin' me for Gibbs. He was run out by you Naval lads long a'fore I got my hooks in him."

"True enough. However, I would be ever so grateful to you, Captain Sparrow, if you managed to keep your hooks out of the rest of my men?" I ask dryly, resting one hand on my knee as I lean over to look at him meaningfully.

"Don't think it'll be that hard, love." Jack's dark gaze bears into mine. "I'm only after the one."

Do not look away, Norrington. Control the thumping in your chest. "Is that why we're up here?"

"Well, I did want to discuss our other arrangement last night ..." Jack leans backwards, and glances down to where Gillette is at the helm. "But your l'il guard dog seemed rather insistent that I behave m'self."

"He is not my 'guard dog'. He is my subordinate and concerned for my safety in the company of a known pirate." I intone sternly.

"Another close friend then, eh? Seems a mite bit possessive to me." Jack tilts his head at me, smirking. "How'ver, I'm glad t'know he's not considered competition."

"Now that is just crude, Sparrow. Andrew Gillette has been my close friend for over eight years. His conduct has been above reproach, and frankly, I doubt he has the moral laxness to contemplate what you are ... currently contemplating." I straighten a little, looking out to the ocean.

There was a thoughtful noise from Jack, before he speaks slowly, "You'd be surprised what happens when moral men find somethin' beyond personal conduct, Commodore. Or perh'ps you simply don't know your mate as well as you think." I look sharply at him, and he raises an eyebrow at me in return, his expression calm and perhaps a little sad. Then he smiles, "I'm jest miffed he kept interruptin' your reading. I would have liked for you to get more into old Willy."

"I have sufficient experience with the Bard that the interruptions weren't that calamitous. He is as good while being distracted as any other time." I note, making myself a little more comfortable on the yardarm. Looking back to Sparrow, I notice his expression seems to be treading on shocked, "...What?"

"You- read Shakespeare" he asks, one eyebrow raised in what can only be disbelief.

A faint flicker of irritation runs through me, "I'm familiar with his work, yes."

"...Amazin'. I'd never figured you for it. I mean, lookit you. All proper decorum and straight-laced down to yer boots." Jack grins, looking off to the horizon. "I thought you'd have your nose stuck in some tome of military history, half the time."

My glare narrows a little, before I grab one of the lines running down, leaning closer to Jack as I begin to recite from memory,

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

Jack's kohl-lined eyes widen, as a slow look of pleasure crosses his face. It is tempered, however, with a mark of caustic humor as he drawls slowly. "Well isn't that all fine and pretty. But every schoolboy knows that one, love."

"Aaah, a challenge then? Very well. Name a sonnet. Any sonnet, and I will recite it." I reach into my breeches pocket, and hand over the volume.

The expression of pleasure goes from sardonic to purely bemused as Jack takes up the book, and starts flipping through it. Halfway through he stops, and eyes me. "Sonnet 25."

A smile dusts my face momentarily, before I speak in slow, metered tones, putting as much feeling as I am able into the words,

"Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars
Unlook'd for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun's eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foiled,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toiled:
Then happy I, that love and am beloved,
Where I may not remove nor be removed."

Jack shifts his head to the side, bemusement warring with enchantment. "Well, well. I am impressed, Jamie. Didn't know the heart of a warrior poet dwelt in that Navy breast of yours."

I lean back, inclining my head just so, before asking curiously, "I impress you?"

"Consistently so, love. Every time I meet you, James Norrington, y'surprise me again. At first I thought you were this stiff-necked tosh with nothin' on your mind than a quick promotion and bloodthirsty t'boot." Jack smiles wryly, before moving to stand.

My eyebrows arch, from surprise and a silent ironic understanding, for was I not thinking that myself in different directions about Jack yesterday past? "Indeed ... and what is your considered opinion now?"

Jack looks down at me, a quietly wry smile on his face. "Don't know how a fine man like you ever got into the Navy, m'self. Now, up with you." Off of my dubious expression, he grins, "C'mon, then. I won't bite unless you ask nicely. I want t'head up higher, check the skyline for storms."

"Hm.. " I balance myself, pulling up to my feet by means of one of the ropes. "Of course you realize, Sparrow, the same question applies. I wonder how a man of self-education to your degree can possibly be a pirate."

".. Make a bet with you, love. First one to the top gets to hear the answer of the loser, right off." Jack's smile flits to mischievous. "B'sides, are y'not the one who told me y'could still get to the top of the riggin' before me?"

"So I did .." I smirk in return, as we swing over to the two ladders hanging along the mast. With a count of 'three, two, one', we are climbing, hand over foot, as quickly as we can. Trust me, there has never been a moment where I have been so glad of being as tall as I am than now. I reach the topmost yardarm, slightly breathless, fighting a grin as I wait for Sparrow to climb up on the other side. "Well, Captain Sparrow, I believe you owe me a story?"

"..Long legs. What I wouldn't give for a pair o' longer legs." Sparrow grumbles, as he hoists himself up. He throws me a mock fierce look, before his faces crumbles into a merry laugh. He holds unto the top of the mast, gesturing out to the broad bowl of emerald water and cerulean sky beyond, sparkling in the sunlight, "There. All that. The pure freedom of bein' able to spend every bless'd day of my life out here, answerin' to no one but m'self." The laugh has faded, but the open warmth remains, making him look like a boy, "I grew up in London, y'see. One of the 'respectable poor', no chance of a better education than what I could pick up from books at corner booths and m'stepfather. He's the one who taught me how to read, make m'letters, and mathematics."

"Mathematics?" My eyebrows tilt upwards.

"He was a cartographer, y'see. Sort of necessary in his line of work t'know how to use bigger numbers beyond ten. He used t'sit me down with him, because I could sit quiet and listen unlike the rest of the noisy brood of children in our house, and show me about all the different places in the world - Africa, the Far East, and o'course the Colonies. I was set and determined t'go to those places, when I was old enough."

"You could have joined the merchant marines, however, and gotten to do the same." I observe, leaning against the mast.

"What makes you think I didn't? I found the whip and the measly rum rations were not to m'liking, however. So I decided robbing those who could afford it was much more along the lines of an independent entrepreneur such as myself, so I became a pirate. O'course, I couldn't get behind the rapin' and the killin' - m'mother would box my ears silly, but the pillagin' suits me just fine." Jack's dark eyes dance brightly at the startlement that must be clear on my features, before he looks to the water again. " 'Sides, pirate is in m'blood, and I had to square with that, same as Will."

I frown for a moment, before comprehension comes to me. "Your real father?"

"Aye, but I don't know if you could call him that. Leavin' a woman to fend for herself and three lil' ones don't much strike me as much of a paternal influence." Jack's voice is low, and I can hear the anger ebbing around the edges.

"As you are generally the same line of work ... did you ever get to meet him again?" I ask, before adding, "Of course, you don't need to answer that."

"Don't you worry about me, James. I'm stronger than I look." Jack says with a hint of a smirk to his full lips, "And yes, I did meet 'im once more. But that is another story for another time. Your turn, Commodore."

"It isn't nearly as interesting. I am the second son of a gentleman magistrate, and my choices were the clergy, or the Navy. I decided I would rather hold a sword than a bible." I shrug, a faint smile touching my lips. "Besides, I was never happier when I was near water. I grew up outside of Portsmouth, and I used to look upon the times I could go down to the harbor with my father with greater anticipation than Christmas. We used to take walks along the docks, while he talked about what was usually on his mind, the upholding of the law. Although I am afraid my mind was half on the ships and half on the lessons."

"Hmm, that explains the Navy, and the barrister father explains the interest in justice ... now explain the pirate huntin'." Jack's keen gaze is hard to escape from.

My jaw tenses, as I look out to the water once again, "I am not only the second son, but also the middle child in my family. I have one sister, Anne, who seven years older than myself. When we were growing up, my mother was always busy with the younger children, so it was to Anne that I ran with the newest toy ship I had built, or my scraped knees. She was always there, no matter the small problem, and we grew closer because of it. I thought of her quite possessively as mine, and when I was five I was silly enough to tell her I was going to marry her when we were older. She smiled, and never laughed, which I always remember fondly of her. However, as time passed, and as young ladies often do, she found herself a sweetheart."

Here I pause, and I force the pain out of my voice as I keep speaking. "His name was Jonas, and he was a first lieutenant on a fine ship of the line. I wanted to hate him with all my nine-year-old heart for taking Anne away from me, but instead of pushing me off as any other suitor would have, he drew me into their conversations. He used to sit me next to him, talking to me about the Navy - what sorts of ships he had seen, and all the wonderful new places he had visited. He even helped me build a few scale models - just he, Anne and myself. I came to love him as dearly as I did Anne, and began to look forward to the day when he became my brother by law, if not by blood. He was one of the few who saw early on I was destined to be a sailor, and with that in mind he presented me with my first sword on my tenth birthday, just before he left for sea again. It was a toy sword - but made to look just like the one he wore at his own hip. I promised him that I would polish it every day, just to show him how well cared for it was when he came home again. He was .. well, he was my hero, and I wanted him to be proud of me."

There is a moment of silence, before Jack asks quietly, "When did he die?"

I take in another deep breath, "On the voyage back from Nassau. He had just gotten his first commission as Captain and his own ship, and he was coming home to formally ask my father for Anne's hand. His ship ran afoul pirates, and the blackgards slaughtered all aboard. When Anne found out, she wouldn't leave her room for weeks, and I ... I took up my little toy sword and hacked my mother's rosebushes to pieces in my fury, pretending they were the pirates that had taken Jonas away from the both of us." My voice drops low, the rage still fresh, after all these years, "I swore that I would never let another pirate take something precious away from me, or from anyone else, ever again."

I look out to the water, my entire body straight and tense, like an oak tree facing the storm. Immovable in my silent anguish. It takes me a moment to realize, in my stillness, the hand curving around my own on the mast. Warm, rough, and callused fingertips rub the back of my hand, soothing in their small circular movements. I glance over at Jack, as he quietly looks at me in turn, and I am struck anew by that look that says, 'Yes, I understand.' Like the day of his escape, like the day on the cliff. The look that tells me if he could, he would take all the pain away. I swallow, lost in those eyes, lost in Jack's openness and heartfelt grief for me.

Lost in Jack.

When he finally speaks, it startles me enough that I nearly jerk away, then remember I am a good one hundred and more feet above the deck itself. Jerking away could mean falling, and I want to do little of that. One way, or the other.

Again there is that note of tired patience in Jack's voice, of a man who has long become accustomed to waiting, "It's going t'take quite a bit to get you to trust me with your heart, isn't it Jamie? I being a pirate, gettin' ahold of something that precious."

I open my mouth slightly, then close it, and my expression also closes. There is no way I can answer that question honestly, so best not to answer it at all. A tart smile touches Jack's generous mouth, before he leans forward a bit, whispering, "Don't worry love, I've got trust in you, 'n that's half the battle. Here, let me show you."

And then..


He's starting to fall! NO! My heart jerks in my chest, as I lurch around the mast to grab him, yanking him to me with one arm as my other hand tightens its grip on the ropes, holding us upright. His arms come around my waist, making balancing and pulling us to safety a little bit easier. My shaking him fiercely, however, must be detrimental, but frankly at the moment I don't give a damn. "What the HELL did you think you were DOING?! Are you trying to get yourself KILLED?!"

...The bastard is laughing! Laughing his insane head off, making all the beads and trinkets jingle. I give him another shake, growling, and he looks up at me, grinning that knowing golden smile as he speaks in that slow, sensual way of his, "O'course not, love. I jest thought you needed a bit of an example. See, I know that if I ever start t'fall - you'll be there to t'catch me."

"...You are completely out of your mind. And I want to get down, right this instant." I say stiffly, rather aware that Jack has his arms around me snugly and I have one arm around him in a manner just as comfortable.

"Hmm. Alright, Jamie. I'll just let go then.." I feel his arms start to loosen around my waist.

"Don't you DARE!" I hiss, clinging to him ever the more tightly. He's laughing again. The sound tickles right next to my ear as I haul us both closer to the relative safety of the mast. "I swear to GOD, Jack Sparrow, you are but a moment away from the thrashing of your life."

"Ye-es, my fine Navy-love. What-ever you sa-ay." Jack singsongs softly into my ear, but finally he releases me, and balances himself on the yardarm, one arm around the mast.

I flash him a stony look, as I move for the rope ladder, "I am heading down to the lower yardarm. I HOPE that meets with your approval, because I don't care and shall be going regardless." Well, that doesn't make me sound like a petulant child at all.

"Aye, Jamie." Jack grins down at me, before he lifts his chin. "I think I'll stay up here and savor your warmth a moment longer, seein' as you don't mind."

I pause, staring up at him, but he is already looking out to the ocean, a peaceful expression coming over his face as he closes his eyes, letting the wind whip his hair away from his elegant features, the sharp slope of his golden cheekbones. I hold unto the ladder, silent and marveling as I gaze at him. Hating myself for it, until I finally force myself to climb down.

I stop every few rungs, however, and look up again. To Jack, beautiful and free, letting the wind and his ship take him to wherever his heart tells him. To a desire that seems just out of my reach.

-- // --

"..So this is where your heart truly lies, then?" I ask, not believing this. Not believing that Elizabeth is about to walk away from me, and go with Turner, of all people. Where there is nothing left for him but a hangman's noose.

She lifts those brown eyes to me, a heartbeat of regret flickering across her lovely face, before she responds firmly, "It is."

I feel it in me, the sinking of my heart, the ground crumbling away from my feet, and my gaze moves down with it. Catching momentarily the flicker of Jack Sparrow's face, the pain mirrored there, before I am looking at the flagstones. There is nothing left, is there? My heart's fondest wish - gone. Gone forever.

"Oh really, James. All this melodrama?" A warm and friendly voice sounds in my ear, and I jerk my head up, to find Jonathan standing off to the side, his arms crossed over his ridiculous pirate outfit.

I glare at him, dimly aware that the scene around me is still moving, despite his interruption. Jack is swaying around, cavorting his little speech, "Well! I'm actually feeling rather good about this..."

"Look at him. He enjoys playing the fool - because that's what's expected of him. The foppy pirate, drunk on rum, and on life. But he knows you know better." Jonathan's wry comment draws my gaze back to him momentarily. His dark eyes meet mine, "You both know better."

I can feel the scowl curving over my lips, but I'm startled back to the scene by Jack's voice, the press of him so close to me. "I want you to know that I was rooting for you, mate." So close - those lips, those eyes, the scent that has been driving me to near madness..."Know that."

Then he is moving, and it takes all my resolve not to grab him and pull him towards me, to feel the comforting press of his body against mine again.

"You want him, James." Jonathan is right beside me, as Jack pulls away, his voice a sibilant whisper, "You know you do."

"It's not right, Jonathan. You and I both know that..." I murmur, watching Jack as he looks to Elizabeth almost wistfully. As I must be looking at him now.

"All I know, James, is that since Jonas died you've closed yourself off to even the possibility of real love and passionate emotion. You are afraid of letting anyone in again, of -losing- them. That's why you love Elizabeth but could never open your heart to her like William did. Now, look at you. You're falling in love and you won't even admit it. Morals and laws have become your excuse not to feel." Jonathan looks me dead in the eye, before moving up the steps, behind Jack, to Jack's side. "You're so damned repressed, by the time you're forty you'll -probably- explode."

"I am being faithful to my duty, my position and my reputation!" I answer fiercely, moving towards him and Jack, eyes flashing.

"You are being nothing more than a liar, James Norrington!" Jonathan looks at me, no little contempt in his gaze, "So take this warning in hand, my friend. The love you let slip away, will be the love you lose forever," He touches Jack's arm, making the pirate turn towards him, "There are others, after all, who will be more than glad to take Jack Sparrow's heart from you..."

Jack looks at him, a mix of wonder and tenderness, a look once thrown in my direction, lips parting slightly as he shifts towards Jonathan's own mouth.

"...STOP!" And I am moving forward, my heart screaming in agony. I will not lose again, I will not, and I will keep yelling to keep those two apart I will I will don't you touch him he's mine he's mine no no no no no...

"NO!" I jerk awake, sweat dripping down my face as I shoot upright in the hammock, nearly capsizing myself over. Gasping, breathless - confusion reigns in the darkness of the cabin. I press my hands over my face, trying to think, but nothing but panic and fear are clear in my head.

"...J'ms?" A sleepy, muffled call from across the way, from the reason of my torment and my savior, all in one, for his voice brings me to myself abruptly. "Y'alright?"

"...I'm fine, Sparrow." Glad for the darkness, glad for the ability to lie with my voice so I do not have to force myself to lie with my face and my body. "Just a ... a bad dream."

"Sounds l'ka doozy.." Again comes the muffled voice, and I turn towards the figure, small, slight and sprawled haphazardly across The Bed. "Y'need to talk?"

"No." I say sternly, then amend with a little more courtesy, "I .. just want a little quiet. I'll fall back to sleep soon."

"A'right, then." Minutes pass, as I lay back down, trying to breath, trying to force the panic from my veins. Try not to think of what that dream heralds about my state of mind on the matter of Jack Sparrow. My silent remonstrations are cut off by Jack's voice once more, "You're not asleep yet, mate."

I lift my head slightly, trying for a disgruntled sniff. "How would you know?"

"Your breathin' gets heavier when you're sleepin'. Not t'mention you curl up on one side." Jack's voice sounds strangely echoing, yet close.

"...How do you know I wasn't about do that?" I return, frowning at the dark head across the way.

"B'cause you're still breathin' hard, and I know I haven't done anythin' to you to warrant that sort o' reaction." Comes the amused reply.

Oh, Sparrow, if you only had an inkling ... "It was a dream that startled me more that it should have."

"'Bout what?" Shadowed form sitting up, and ... he sleeps without a shirt. I didn't know that. Of course, for the past two nights I've been fast asleep before him. The dark eyes look remarkably inquisitive, even in the dead of night.

I look over at him, speaking slowly. "I was dreaming of a pirate that I couldn't catch. A ... metaphorical pirate." He has rather interesting scars and tattoos marking his golden skin. I didn't notice them before. Well, mostly because I was distracted with how naked he was - Concentrate, Norrington.

There's a long pause, before Jack says with a carefully quiet tone. "You're havin' nightmares about pirates that you can't catch. Metaphorical pirates, no less."

"Yes. Precisely." I state quite emphatically. There is no way in Hell I am giving away any more than that.

"Mate, y'need yourself a girl." A pause, and then a wicked metal smile in the dark, "Or a man. Or a man who is a pirate so y'don't need t'go chasing metaphorical ones in your dreamings..."

"Good Night, Jack." I declare loudly, dropping back into my hammock, trying not to feel strangely comforted by the soft laughter that accompanies my statement. Beautiful, rich laughter from that beautiful, rich man. I close my eyes, briefly allowing myself to imagine myself hearing it against my bare skin - and am a moment later drifting away.

-- // --

The day is a little more overcast than I would like. I frown grimly as I pull the laces of my shirt firmly closed at the slight chill to the morning air, scanning the horizon as I step up to the weatherdeck. The Pearl makes excellent time, I must say. I can see the dim outline of land off in the distance - what must be the Spanish-held colony of Florida.

I turn my head, noting that we are only under the power of two sails this morning, which doesn't surprise me. Considering it takes all of us to get the damned things into place, the less sails the better, in my opinion. I am in no hurry.

...Yes, I am. I am very much in a hurry, actually. The Ebony Sharks must be found, must be brought to justice. I need to be back on the -Falcon-, Captain and Commander of my -own- ship, and not this pirate vessel, fine thing she might be. I need to put a great many miles between myself and the captain of this vessel, before temptation and sin get the better of me.

I sigh, turning towards the helm, then stop dead, staring. Bush is there, standing close to Sparrow, who is leaning in to him ... My God, it's a horrible, real life re-enactment of my own nightmare. Here. Topside. I move towards them quickly, willing Jack mentally to step away from Jonathan.

Which ... he does, surprisingly enough.

Revealing a concerned looking Gillette behind them both, as all three stand in a circle, speaking in low tones. I pause, frowning, just now noting that everyone is on deck, and everyone is casting somewhat worried glances at me. The frown deepens as I move up to the quarterdeck, my voice cutting through their conversation. "...What the hell is going on?"

"Ah! Good morning, sir." Bush says, his brown eyes moving over me with outright worry. "How are you feeling?"

"Perturbed." I cross my arms over my chest, looking from each one of them with a suspicious glance. "Shall I repeat the question?"

"It's really not anything, sir. Captain Sparrow was just sharing his concerns." Gillette phrases carefully, looking from me to Sparrow, then back to me.

I press my lips together tightly, looking at Jack with no little anger. "And just what exactly has he been expressing concern over?"

"Metaphorical pirates." Jack says immediately, and off my glower, he shrugs, "Listen mate, I don't want anyone steering my ship who sees pirates that aren't really there."

"Oh for the love of - it was a nightmare. I know very well it wasn't real!" I say sharply, glaring fiercely.

"...Is that what meta-pho-ri-cal is? Not really there?" Murtogg says aloud, making my gaze turn towards him. He is standing by the mainmast, an equally stumped looking Mullroy and Studson at his side. He gulps, a little, at whatever dark expression must be on my face now. "Er, just wonderin', sir."

"Well, I was thinkin' it was the sort of where he was in a boat, y'see young Murtogg.." Gibbs says thoughtfully, leaning against one of the bulkheads. "Y'know. A ship stuck in this big meadow. Where the meadowforikal pirates would be, see? And since it's bad luck t'get off your ship in the middle of a voyage, of course he couldn't jest hop down and go chasin' after the blighter meadowforikal pirates.."

There is a long, long pause, as all of us slowly turn to stare at Gibbs.

"..What in the name of God is he talking about?" Gillette mutters behind me.

"Er, Gibbs, I think y'might be a bit off there, mate." Jack drawls slowly beside me, one eyebrow raised. "There aren't no meadows."

"...Then where do the meadowforikal pirates come from, Jack?" Gibbs asks, tilting his head in confusion.

"Metaphor. META-phor." My words come out flat and dry as a plain in the Dark Continent. "It means something that could mean something else entirely, NOT ..." I trail off, my gaze moving to the horizon. "...pirates that aren't there. Gillette, spyglass, if you would, please?" Gillette quickly put the spyglass into my grip, and I open it with a snap as I put it on the horizon.

Streaming across the water towards us is a sloop, single mast. It is obviously built for sleek speed, so why the owner chose to slow it down with gunnery allows only one conclusion. Pirate. I frown a little, adjusting the spyglass on the masthead, which looks a little odd. "Do you know of any pirate, Sparrow, that has a headless lady for a masthead?"

"Nathaniel Griger. He put that up after his wife left him for his brother." Jack says slowly, from close to my right. I look up sharply to him, and he frowns at me in return, "He doesn't have enough gunnery t'make a threat to the Pearl, even when we're this lightly manned."

"Perhaps he thinks the prize is worthy of the risk." I say bluntly, "Seeing as he is one of Lark's."

"Griger!?" Anamaria's startlement is clear on the face of all of Jack's crew, "Dat old bastard's too stubborn t'ever take orders from a woman."

"His was one of the three ships that sank the HMS Intrepid and the Haven, a passenger vessel bound for the colonies." I say, my voice quiet steel, "Captain Hobbs, late of this world and the one Lark had Griger scuttle to take the full brunt of retribution from the Navy, confirmed the name himself."

The pirate woman falls silent, her eyes tracking over the wood, her jaw tight. Then she explodes forward with a snarl, her blade out and at my throat. "You bloody bast'rd!"

I hold my ground, neither retreating nor moving forward, as around us people move in shocked silence. Gillette has drawn his pistol; I can hear the hammer pulling back, while out of the corner of my eye I see a tight-faced Rudolph, small and unobtrusive as always, moving behind Anamaria carefully. To my right, close enough that I can feel his breath ghosting across my skin, Jack speaks, voice wrought with tight anger, "Anamaria .. put it away, love."

"No, Jack! It's 'is fault we're here, and it's he who should pay the Devil's Dowry!" Her black eyes flare into mine. "B'sides, no Navy Man is afraid of dyin' for his crew, eh Commodore?"

My spine straightens slightly. "No, Anamaria, we are not. I would gladly put myself to the sword to save any soul on this ship, but it is not me your friend Griger wants. He, after all, doesn't even know I'm aboard."

The determination on her beautiful face falters, then bolsters under fresh anger. "Oh, and jest who d'you think he wants, Navy Man?" Her blade presses against my skin a bit harder.

I lean in, not allowing my expression to show pain as I whisper harshly, "You know as well as I, Anamaria. The Lark chases the Sparrow."

Her hand drops away just as quickly as it appeared, as she looks over to Jack, fear warring over all the other emotions. It takes me by surprise, frankly, for it is a look shared by every member of his crew. Most of mine, as well. Jack moves forward, a still expression on his face as he touches her arm, running his fingers up it in a gesture of comfort, while his gaze raises to meet mine in a silent plea not to punish her. Not looking away from him, I murmur softly, "Holster your pistol, Gillette."

There is the sound of the hammer being dropped, and Gillette's subdued voice. "They're coming up fast, sir. What's our plan of action?"

Suddenly, all those eyes that were once on Jack move to me, as I keep looking at Jack. I let out a deep breath, looking off to the ship, while I murmur, "... what would the crazy pirate do?" A heartbeat. Two..

Inspiration strikes, and strikes hard. I turn my head swiftly back to Jack, speaking sharply, "Yes. That's it, exactly. Captain Sparrow, I return the Black Pearl .. momentarily, to your command."

Gillette exhales in a curse, while Bush puts a restraining hand on his shoulder, looking at me questioningly. Anamaria stares at me as if I have just grown several more heads, and it is a look shared by the rest of the crew. Jack's eyebrows shoot upwards as he looks warily at me, "... I think I speak for the majority of us, Commodore, when I say -- Eeeeh?"

"Sparrow, the Black Pearl is YOUR vessel, and no one knows better what she is capable of than yourself. I've seen you move this ship through straits that no other captain would be insane or clever enough to even make the attempt. Even undermanned ... I believe you're our only hope." Locking our eyes together, I wait.

Jack breathes out, fingers tapping against his side as he looks around the surrounding area about us, before giving me a sardonic, knowing smirk, "Y'sure you trust me, Commodore?"

"Never." I pause, then add with a wry tone, "But if you get us out of here alive ... I'll say you'll have earned it regardless."

That smirk becomes a full wicked Sparrow-smile. "I'll be holdin' you to your word, Commodore." His eyes dart to the ship coming towards us, then off to the coast of the Spanish colonial territory. A thoughtful gleam passes his face, and he moves towards the helm. "All hands, drop sails and get us to the coast. Commodore, if you and yours would be so kind as t'help? Anamaria, get below with Gibbs and start movin' our cannons to the starboard side, if you will? I've .. heh, got me a plan."

Gillette, Bush and I exchange a surprised look, but then I nod my head, "Follow his lead, gentlemen. It might be our only chance out of this." They return the nod, moving about the deck with all haste.

It shall never fail to surprise me how fast you can drop sail, even when you are being chased by heavily armed pirates in which you are outnumbered at least three to one.

By this time, the deck is starting to slant starboard. As soon as the sails are dropped and secured, Jack orders for the rest of his crew to go and help Gibbs and Anamaria below. I glance up at him, raising an eyebrow, and he jerks his head up for me to join him at the helm, while he shouts commands to my marines. I tie off my own rope, and head up to him. He throws me a cocky smirk, then nods to the coast ahead. "Your l'il speech got me t'thinking. There's a line of narrow sandbars up along this coast here, and with Spanish ships out prowling further south very little chance of us gettin' shot at. If we can squeeze through a space small enough, Griger's l'il boat'll catch itself."

"..Well, that sounds completely mad, so it will most likely work." I answer wryly, gazing over my shoulder at the sloop's progress. "What are the downsides?"

"Well, only two I've been able t'figure. One, that bloody sloop's light enough t'follow us through." Jack admits, a scowl crossing his graceful features.

"Always a damning possibility, but we should be able to outrun her." I say, turning back to him.

"Should? Can and Shall, Commodore." Jack tilts up his chin challengingly. "Pearl's the fastest ship on the water."

"Well, we'll soon see about that, won't we?" I allow myself a momentary smirk, before turning to gauge the distance from the coast. "What's the second one?"

"Low tide will catch us there as well." Jack sighs, "It's a risk we'll just have t'take."

I frown, looking around the Pearl, a slightly annoyed noise leaving my lips, "You would have to have a fat bottomed ship, wouldn't you Sparrow?"

"She's not FAT! She's well curved in all the right places!" Jack protests, glaring at me fiercely, as his fingers smooth over the wheel, "He didn't mean it, sweetheart. He's just upset b'cause the nasty men want t'kill me."

"...You're holding a conversation with your ship?" I ask, eyebrows raising in derision, "As if it's a person?"

"No, I talk to her like she's a ship. A fine ship. Bestest-ested ship there ever was." Jack purrs, petting the helm again affectionately as he gives me a pointed look, "And certain Naval officers shouldn't be so judgy if they want the Pearl t'do her finest. Which she can, can't you darling? Show the Commodore."

...It isn't possible that the ship just gave a little surge forward. It just isn't.

However, I have met Jack Sparrow and fought his undead pirates. Am I truly ready to disbelieve now? 'Child of Fate', after all... I glance back at him, then sigh as I put my hand to the railing beside me. "My apologies, Miss Pearl. I never meant to offend. Please feel free to shame me totally and completely."

Without a touch more prompting, the Pearl picks up speed.

I could give any logical excuse at this time, such as rising wind currents or going with the tides, if either one of those were true. As it stands, I rest my fingers along the wood, and I can swear, swear to God that I can feel it humming peacefully beneath my touch. I swallow, speaking softly, "Well I'll be damned .."

"She likes you, y'know. She wouldn't do that for jest anyone." Jack says quietly behind me, and I turn to look at him. The mask's slipped away again, and there is that gentle, earnest expression of his that's nothing but the truth and pure Jack. Then it slips away again into a hard determination, the cat on the hunt. "Here we come, Commodore ... I might need a bit more lean, so if you could get your gentlemen sailors to..?"

"Gladly." I nod my head once, heading down the steps quickly, pausing once to glance back, and finding his eyes on me. Fighting back the urge to smile, I move towards my men, calling out sharply. "Men, to the starboard side! We need to make this ship tilt, so lean as far as you're able! Mr. Mullroy, Mr. Murtogg, and Mr. Studson, to the aft side!"

Gillette grabs up a cannonball, and climbs the rigging ahead of me, his head moving towards our destination. As I climb up beside him, cannonball also in my grip, he mutters just loud enough for me to hear. "He wants to fit his ship through that? He is mad."

I look ahead myself, frowning. It's a series of sandbars, each one closer than the last to the shore, curving along a small island just off the coast itself, a mishmash of open sand and scrub bush. Behind me, I can hear Bush's wry answer, "Then let us hope he is mad enough."

Sea spray is soaking my hand, but we aren't nearly enough starboard to make this work. I curse mentally, then hiss loudly. "Come on, Pearl... Lean! Lean!"

The Pearl obligingly tilts for me, and surprised gasps come from my lieutenants fore and aft. Gillette's voice is tight with alarm, "Sir, did you just tell the ship to lean?" A pause, "And did it just comply?"

"I did." I say with grim satisfaction, but frown as we skim past the first sandbar. Too close, by a stone's throw. "Although I do not think it will be enough ... Lean! Just a touch more, Pearl!"

I feel very little surprise to hear Bush call out after me, "Lean, Pearl! Lean!"

However, shock ranges through me as Andrew Gillette, our known cynic and pessimist, bellows at the top of his lungs, "LEAN, YOU BIG, BELLE SHIP! LEAN FOR ALL YOU ARE WORTH, MA AMOUREUSE PEARL!!"

I hear Bush's startled laugh behind me, but the Pearl miraculously tilts that last bit of distance, showering salt water into our faces, beautiful and sharp. From somewhere behind us, we can hear Jack's whoop as we swerve past the last sandbar, and by the sound of the creaking rudder, scrapping by just barely.

"ANAMARIA, SHIFT THE BALAST! HOP ABOARD, NAVY LADS, B'FORE I THROW YOU!" Jack shouts, and I swing from the rigging, dropping the cannon ball overboard as I hit the deck, just as it begins to tilt in the other direction. I look dazedly up to the helm, where Jack is gripping the wheel with both hands, his full lips parted in a demented grin, the wind whipping his long hair behind him as he moves the Pearl like she was part of him, like those slippery hips of his or his floating hands.

The Pearl rights herself, and Jack pulls her tight, sparing a glance behind us and crowing out a laugh. I push myself to my feet, going to the side of the ship again, and my men follow me. The creaking sound of wood caught on sand is like music to my ears as the sloop catches on the last sandbar, held firm until the tides decide to rise again. Behind me, I hear Studson whooping, and Mullroy and Murtogg taking up the call, "HUZZAH! HUZZAH!"

From below, the pirates come up to the deck once more, pistols out, but when they see the sloop they join with the marines in a wild whooping, dancing around the deck rather like children, and you cannot tell one side from another for all their joyful exuberance. I exhale, slowly, my hand gripping the Pearl's railing once more as I look up to her Captain, and nod my thanks. He smirks a bit at me, before his smirk turns directly into a quizzical look, then a fierce expression steals over his face, and he jerks the wheel to the port side. Everyone on deck stumbles, and I tighten my grip to stay on my feet, before moving towards the helm.

Jack looks down at me, his mouth tense with frustration, "Bloody reef of seaweed ... we won't be able t'sail past until the tide rises. Which means we'll have to wait it out with them -- waiting it out while we sail in a damned circle."

A voice calls over our aft side, and I look to see a rather large and scarred man at the aft end of the sloop, in his late forties if he is a day, sneering over at us, "Well, well, looks like the tides caught a fair sized bird. Been waiting a long time to bring you down, Sparrow, and I can't wait till m'boys drag the cannon up so I can start taking prize shots at this bird caught in 'is own trap!"

Jack let out a long and rather interestingly vague string of curses, before barking, "Gibbs, the helm! Men, bring in those sails as quickly as you can!" Gibbs huffs up the stairs, taking the wheel from Jack. Below, the pirates and my men yank up sails as quickly as they can. Jack spins past me, that old and familiar look in his eyes - the look of the hunted, and the hunter, all in one. He jumps down the steps to the main deck, yelling off the side, "PARLEY, Griger, unless in workin' for Lark you've forgotten the Code!"

I turn my gaze back to Griger, who if one can be believed, looks even more ugly when scowling, "Don't you be impugning' m'honor, Sparrow! Parley you want, and parley you shall have - but best talk quick." He flashes a disgusting row of teeth. "There's a Lady who wants her prize claimed, and you be it."

I watch as Jack strains that small body of his against the rigging, an almost tortured look of anger and helpless rage. He looks to me, then smoothes his fingers over his ship, "If I go with you, no fight, you let my ship go it's own way without firing a single shot, or chasing after her one damned mile!"

Griger leans back from his own aft rail, leaning over to whisper to his first mate, while we all stare at Jack, some of us more open with our horror than others. I find myself completely stunned to silence.

"NO!" Anamaria, luckily, is not. Her dark are eyes wide, as she ties off her own rope-end and runs over to Jack, "Y'Can't!"

"Shush, woman!" Jack hisses over at her, "Better t'give you a chance to get you away. B'sides, I've talked my way out of tighter spots."

"Not with her. Never with her." Anamaria's hand closes down on his arm, her face tense with terror and determination. "I'm not lettin' y'go, Capt'n!"

"Don't be stupid, Sparrow!" Gillette hisses, coming over from the other side, his copper hair half loose and his face flushed pink with exertion and anger. "There is absolutely no guarantee he'll let us go, even if you go with him! It's more than likely he'll turn on us the moment he has you!"

"Then I'm supposin' I'm trustin' your Commodore to do something right clever, Lieutenant, t'make sure that don't happen." Jack says levelly, his gaze going from Gillette to me for a heartbeat, before he jerks himself away from Anamaria, turning back to the sloop, "Do we have an accord, Griger?"

"Jack, no!" Gibbs calls from the helm, his seaworn face stricken.

"I won't be hearin' anymore of this insubordinat'n!" Jack growls at his bo'sun, then calls out once more, "Well man? I haven't got all damned day. Tides will be in soon enough." Anamaria's eyes move towards me, imploring me to ... to do what? What can I possibly do now? I stand, frozen with fear - a desperate feeling not unlike when I watched Jack swim towards this ship nearly four months past.

Griger's lips twist into a demonic grin from across the way, "Not a word for your personal safety then, Jack? I'll be agreein' before you reject m'kind, heh, hospitality. AYE, Captain Sparrow, we have ourselves an -"

"NO." I can hear the word coming from my lips, louder than I intend. Which means of course I am mentally screaming it and it simply went from mental to verbal without my realization.

Heads swivel towards me, and Griger's gaze shifts towards mine, the smile still on his face, "What's that, now? Negotiation is done and over with, lad."

"No Sir, it is not." I say suddenly, fear suddenly crossing over to rage at that smile. That insidious face. He will not lay a finger on Jack, oh no. I will not allow that. I feel the anger boiling through my veins, icy cold and refreshing my mind as I step down to the deck, my shoes thudding with precise footfalls, "You have no right to him, Griger."

Griger's face contorts into anger quickly enough, as Jack and the others gape at me openly. The pirate hisses loudly over to me, as we sail past them once again in our circular route, "Oh? And who does, laddie?"

"I Do." I climb up to the rigging, facing him, my words coming out flat and venomous, "He belongs to Me."

Griger looks taken aback, startled. "He does?"

Jack, however, manages more surprise as he sputters out beside me, "...I do?"

"He does?!" Bush and Gillette say together, thrown. I flash them a glower, and they blink in confusion, before their expressions become determined and they yell off to Griger, "He Does!"

Griger's repulsive maw narrows, "Oh, does he now? And just how did that come about?"

"I'm wonderin' that m'self." Jack mutters wryly at my side.

I look down to the water, thinking quickly, then jerk my head up to answer, "Captain Sparrow signed a written agreement with me - saying that he would stay under MY personal watch until he gave me the information I require. Therefore, until he gives me that information, he is by legal form MY ward, and is subject to MY decision on his well-being." I flash Jack a stern look, "Since we are following the contract to the Letter of the Law, and I do not fancy your hospitality myself, Captain Griger, I am afraid we must respectfully decline."

"Oh, nicely done, James.." Bush murmurs off beside my elbow.

"Well - I s'ppose I can just wait 'n blow you out of the water, then." Griger growls in return.

"Or we can make this parley a little more interesting." My own gaze narrows. This is all dependent on the sort of man Griger is - and I know his kind well enough to call his action movement by movement. My mind falls back to chess, knowing your opponents sixth or seventh move before they have made their second.

"Oh? And how are we going t'do that?" Griger smirks, leaning one booted foot on his railing.

"Simple. You want to take something of mine. I want to keep it. Therefore, over the legal battlement of a person, we duel." I say, hefting my chin with unspoken aggression. "Winner takes the damsel, so to speak, and the loser's property." I pause, then add firmly, "To the death."

"WHAT!?" Jack squawks, waving his arms, "You can't DO that!"

"Are you out of your ruddy MIND?!" Gillette yelps. Off my cool expression, he clears his throat, "...respectfully speaking, sir.."

I huff, before turning back to Jack. "Weren't you the one who told Mr. Turner, Captain Sparrow, that the only rules that matter are what a man can do, and what a man cannot do?" I say under my breath to the pirate, "And on the matter of rules, I am most keen." Then I raise my voice an octave, "Griger! Your answer, sir!"

"Agreed, if I can be havin' the name of the man whose lifeless body I shall be kicking overboard." Griger cackles with glee, and his men cackle along with him.

"..He's my INSANE eunuch cousin! Who should NOT be parleying at ALL!" Jack growls at me, before moving his hands imploringly to Griger, "Name's Bob ... and Griger, surely you don't want to be makin' a deal with a mad half-man ..."

"He wasn't asking you, Sparrow ...'Bob'? Honestly." I roll my eyes, before I straighten myself accordingly, "James L. Norrington, Commodore of His Majesty's Royal Navy." I tip my head and hand in a mocking bow, "At your service."

Griger's ship is satisfactorily silent, as the crew stops laughing abruptly, and the muttering starts, my name cropping up in quiet, fear-filled tones. Griger himself goes a pale shade of white, before clearing his throat, "So the famed pirate hunter thinks he can take out ol'Griger, does he?"

I flash him bared teeth as my answer, before nodding to the island just off our starboard side, "Fifteen minutes. I'll bring Sparrow, and you bring your second." Dropping down to the deck, I avoid Jack's infuriated look to call to Studson to bring my sword and my 'pirate' coat. The poor man stares at me for a long, incomprehensive moment, before saluting jerkily and running down below. Only then do I dare glance Jack's way.

He is actually huffing, he is so infuriated with me, which is a strangely pleasing switch. "Y'know, I honestly thought I could never hear a worse parley-er than William Turner. I am so BLOODY happy t'know there is ONE worse!"

I contemplate this statement for a moment, before I nod towards the longboat. "Into the boat, Sparrow."

"Now just WAIT a flamin' moment!" Jack protests, "Do you even know what you're doing? This is Griger - and he's not exactly KNOWN for his fair gamin', if you catch my meanin'."

"...Aren't you the one who is supposed to trust me?" I ask, folding my arms over my chest. Jack's mouth works open, surprise and dismayed realization coming over his face. I flash him one of my 'invisible-smiles', "Get in the boat, Sparrow, like a good little pirate. Anamaria - if you would be so kind to lower it into the water? I'll be along momentarily."

"Aye, Sir!" Anamaria says immediately. When I look at her, arching both eyebrows, she flashes me a look that is so close to actual respect I believe I might be seeing things. Jack looks between the two of us, huffs, and clambers into the boat, muttering rather nasty things about First Mates and Commodores. I smirk, turning to Gillette and Bush as Studson appears with my sword and helps me on with the olive-green frock coat, then respectfully hands me my blade.

"You two are in command - if you can, try to keep at least ONE cannon on their ship." I say, strapping my scabbard to my waist, adjusting it properly on my hip.

Gillette just wordlessly nods, but Bush murmurs, brown eyes filled with worry, "Sir, are you quite sure about this?"

"Yes, Jonathan, quite sure indeed. However ..." I step up to him, and hold out my hand, hidden as I lower my voice. "Your lucky charm? I could probably use it."

Bush blinks, and then comprehension flashes over his face. Without a word, he slips it to me, a ghost of a knowing smile passing his face, and Gillette's as well, as I slip it inside my coat. I tilt my chin up once at them, raise both eyebrows quickly, then move towards the boat.

I am the one who ends up rowing to the island, as Sparrow is too busy sitting at the prow of the small boat, eyes narrowed menacingly at me. We are about halfway across, when he finally blurts out angrily, "Y'realize he's going t'cheat, aye?"

"Naturally. He is a pirate." I respond blandly, nudging the boat closer to shore with each stroke.

"...And they call me mentally addled." Jack mutters, his expression ironic and annoyed. I say nothing, thinking that discretion is the better part of valour, and not having one of the oars rapped across the top of my skull would probably be considered a wise move at this juncture.

Griger is waiting on the small island already, with his thin and gangly first mate, a dark skinned Spainard who crosses himself the moment he sees me approaching. Griger is a bigger man that I expected, but I still move forward, holding out my hand to be shaken, as it is good form. He looks at it, and laughs, a dark rolling smirk coming over his lips, "Let's not waste time on tea 'n crumpet-talk, eh? Where shall we start our little 'duel', Commodore?"

"Here seems fine enough. Would your man be so good as to give the count?" I say, putting my hand down, not in the least bit discomfited. He looks at his first mate, who shrugs back at him in confusion. I add gently, "From ten, gentlemen? It is part and parcel of a proper duel."

Griger smirks, as he pulls out his blade and stands a few paces away from me. "As you like it, Commodore. Jobbie, do the count, eh? Make fancy-pants Norrington happy."

"Si, Captain ... we can still leave-- " Off his Captain's irate look, he clamps his mouth shut, and begins to whimper out, "Ten, nine, eight ..."

"Off to the side, Sparrow. Wouldn't want you getting hurt." I say, balancing myself, resting one hand on my scabbard calmly.

"Aye, but what 'bout you, y'daft idiot!?" Jack says, looking from me to Griger with apprehension, who is bobbing on his heels, eyes glinting in murderous anticipation.

"I will be fine, Jack. Remember, you are supposed to trust me." I say, flicking my green eyes back to his dark ones. His eyes crinkle around the edges of a scowl, and he takes a step back. Reluctantly, but he does.

We are down to the count of five, and I see Griger's fingers twitching, which makes me smirk with growing dark knowledge. His first mate reaches the count of 'One', and he covers his eyes, as Griger streaks forward, pulling his blade - which quite suddenly parts into two separate ones. Fascinating. Must be some sort of Turkish make. I swivel one leg backwards, commenting apathetically, "Nice blades."

Griger flashes those nasty teeth at me again, and he lifts both swords up for a slash across my chest, which will probably gut me from throat to stomach. "Y'never said just ONE sword, Commodore."

"True enough. However.." I swiftly dip into my coat pull out Bush's 'lucky charm', his London-crafted pistol, glad to see the hammer is already drawn back as I point it at Griger's charging chest, firing point-blank.

The shot rips through him with a roar, right through his black heart. Griger jerks to a halt, looking at me with shocked amazement and utter horror, as I add disdainfully, "..I also never said we were using swords."

His eyes stare at me for another moment, blood trickling from the side of his mouth, before he tumbles face first into the ground, his blades clattering down beside him, crimson pools staining the sand.


Jobbie looks from me to his fallen captain, mouth opening and closing, "You ... You kill'd the Captain!"

I tense a little, ready to take care of this second man if need be, when Jack speaks up quite suddenly, his tone soothing, "No... he didn't."

Now it's my turn to look at Jack askance, but his attention is on Jobbie. He flashes the first mate a brilliant smile, as he sidles up to him. "This is the way I'm seein' it, mate. He challenged Griger, right? He won b'cause, well, let's face it, none of us heard a word about swords or pistols or even rocks, for that matt'r. Now, HE owns YOUR ship, but really, what is a British Commodore going t'do with a pirate ship? Nothin' good. N'since we're both sort of trapped here on these damn'd sandbars like, don't make much sense t'be blowin' each other up, now does it? How'ver, I'm sure the Commodore would be willin' to hand the ship over to a responsible crewmember, one who knows that messin' further with people like Captain Lark is going t'bring him and the Navy personally to his ship's portside, guns blazin'. Savvy?"

Jobbie looks to me, and gulps, nodding his head once. Jack claps him on the shoulder, smiling sunnily, "Y'see? That's why the Captain's not dead ...Captain."

Jobbie glances at him, and a sudden cunning look comes over his face, "Then I guess I'll just go 'n claim m'ship then, si?"

"Unless you think we have something else to discuss, Captain Jobbie." I say slowly, easing the pistol back into my inside pocket. The newly dubbed Captain gulps, and starts backing away to his own ship, slowly. My lips move into a predatory smirk, and the man is practically running. I allow myself the full-smile, before clearing my face and looking at Jack, expressionless, "Well, that was an amusing outing for the day. Cured that metaphorical pirate problem right up. Shall we get back to the Pearl?"

Jack stares at me, long and hard for a moment, before a grin cracks the corners of his mouth, "Y'knew he was going t'cheat. Y'wanted him to." Off of my little knowing nod, he snorts a chuckle, "Be careful, James. All this piratey logic might start affectin' your Navy judgment."

I arch an eyebrow, breathing out slowly, before I move towards the boat, drawling over my shoulder, "Yaa-hr." Off of his surprised chuff, I add dryly, "For the record? You'd best watch yourself, Jack. You might actually have a chance at leading the life of a proper British citizen - what with the noble self sacrifice and the use of proper channels of diplomacy. Oh yes, by the by? You're rowing back."

Jack is silent while we push off the boat, but when he takes the oars, he smiles over at me, tilts his bearded chin up in a respectful nod, and croons out, "Huz-zah, Commodore."

I hide a smile, all the way back to the ship.

An hour later as the tide rises, the sloop heads off to the open sea, and we watch it as the -Pearl- moves along the coast leisurely, heading west. The pirates can't seem to stop grinning at me; Anamaria herself helped me aboard with the prettiest smile quite possibly in her collection, one I didn't think her capable of. Off the pirates admiring glances, my own men are looking at me with no little awe.

However, I think the most satisfying one of all is the one Jack keeps flashing my way. Surprised, yet tender and ever so slightly bemused. I finally join him at the helm, which he has taken back most possessively, and remark mildly, "So where exactly are we heading, Captain Sparrow?"

"Ship needs repairs, love. Can't be doin' that in Spanish territory, so I thought we'd meander up the coast over to the French side o'the waters. They're much more open t'merchant ships, or those of the like." Jack grins broadly at me. "We'll have t'go a bit up-river, though."

"...Up-river?" I frown, folding my hands behind me as I look over to him.

"Aye, up-river." Jack glances over at me, dark eyes twinkling with that mischievous look that means nothing but trouble - for me, that is. "Tell me, Commodore Norrington, y'ever been to New Orléans?"

-- // --

Have I ever been to New Orleans? One might as well ask King George if he thought the Colonies should be turned over to the Spanish because it would be the 'nice' thing to do. One thing simply did not coincide with the other. Ever.

Yet, here I am, staring off at the sprawling French city of New Orleans, or what they like to call, 'Petit Paris', after their beloved capital. The sun is just starting to dip down from the sky as we approach the city, a good hundred or so miles up from the ocean itself. Founded not more than ten or more years ago, it is now the capital of the Louisiana colony. However, its population is made up of mostly thieves, criminals, and reprobates.

Yes. That is correct. I am sailing straight into a den of piratical iniquity, disguised as a colonial city of means. I sigh a little, leaning on the rigging. Jack is moving the ship expertly around the harbor, searching the long range of docks for a place to tie up the Pearl. I turn slightly at Gillette's voice, as he speaks wryly, "I rather have the feeling, sir, that we have just gone right out of the frying pan and straight into the fire, as it were."

"I believe the analogy is only too correct, Gillette." I sigh in return, then nod up to the sails. "Let's get those hoisted, eh? At least then we shall not have to think about how we are in the middle of a corruptible French colony in the company of the most corruptive pirate this side of the ocean."

"Aye, Commodore." Gillette says, and then adds with a little bit of temperance, "Actually, he's really not that bad at all." Off my somewhat surprised and amused look, he clears his throat, before climbing up the rigging, "For a pirate."

"Naturally." I answer, with a shake of my head. I need to get my men away from Jack. He's seducing them more effectively than he is seducing me. My eyes dart to the helm, to the slight, dark and golden-tanned man standing there. Hmmm ... or perhaps it is the other way around. Warming himself up to my men would be an easy way to warm my own sensibilities towards him, now wouldn't it?

God save me from clever pirate captains.

Less than an hour later we are sidling up along the dock, as Gillette and Anamaria swing over to the dock itself, grabbing ropes and tying the ship in place while the rest of us go through the interesting experience of dropping anchor. Finally, exhaustingly, the Pearl is docked safely, and before we all keel with tiredness, we all take a moment to lower the gangplank down so Anamaria and Gillette can board the ship once more.

Surprisingly enough, they come up together a few minutes later, laughing, as Anamaria leans on Gillette a little, "...Cannae believe you SAID that to 'im!"

"Well really, 'dear sister', I couldn't have the port official thinking he could just take up with my relations. Even if you do look fetching in that hat." Gillette smirks, stepping down to the deck, hand out to help her down.

"Oh, gawds .. 'n when you switched to French straight from Engl'sh! He look'd like he just got smacked with a dead fish, he did." Anamaria wipes away the glimmer of tears from her dark eyes, grinning maliciously in return.

Jack tilts his head at the duo, then back at me with a little bemused look. Bush clears his throat sharply, glaring a little, bringing Gillette and Anamaria's attention back to the rest of us. Gillette, still smiling, comes closer to us while Anamaria moves to Jack's side. He takes her hand, giving it a light kiss, "All fun aside, we're good and settled?"

"Aye, Capt'n." Anamaria nods her head with a smile, "We can go huntin' for supplies 'n men on the morrow."

"Men?" I ask, standing up a little from my place on the stairwell.

"No worries, Commodore. We need a few more hands, I was thinkin'. Just to discourage any more of Griger's ilk. Not t'mention we'll have t'be going back for the rest of the crew back in Tortuga, when they sober up in a week's time. Besides, sooner or later ... " Jack's smile becomes slightly devilish, "Prob'bly later - we're going to have to let you fine Naval lads off somewhere."

"Yes, as soon as you care to tell me about your erstwhile friend." I comment with a roll of my eyes, followed by a stern look, "Very well, so now we restock?"

"No, no. Tonight we relax, ease up after a hard day's travel. Tomorrow we go to work, n' tomorrow night... " That smile is becoming even more wicked, if that is possible, as he looks to his crew and they all grin in return. "..We go visit Saint Marina's."

I look to Jack, bafflement rising in me as I look to my men, who look just as puzzled. Which of course makes the pirates just grin all the more. A trill of apprehension passes over the marines' faces, Bush looks intrigued, and Gillette thoughtful. I find myself curious, however as Commanding officer curiosity is a price I can rarely pay. I fold my hands behind me, one eyebrow lifting, "Sparrow, you realize I cannot allow my men to be dragged into a debauching brothel, or the like."

Jack stands up, putting his hand to his chest, "Commodore! Wouldn't dare think of takin' you to any of the naughty places, gentlemen you all are. Saint Marina's is a pub, nothin' more. Bit of singin', bit of dancin', but not at all different from the fine Mister Chip's establishment."

"..Very well, but that is tomorrow night. What exactly are we doing to relax now?" I ask, still not entirely sure I like the twinkle in those midnight black eyes.

Jack's answer is a fine chicken dinner for all, bought from one of the local inns, not to mention copious amounts of liquor. The marines delight in finding that yes, there is ale on this French-held colony, while Bush, Gillette and I indulge ourselves in one bottle of wine. The pirates' drink of choice, rum, passes between them. Jack lays his feast upon the deck of the Pearl herself, so we all eat together, intermixed with one another. Pirate and Navy alike, we sit and listen to Gibbs's stories with alacrity although the believability is somewhat suspect.

Jack, I note, is having far too good a time to do anything more than take a few sips of rum, but his face is alight and alive as he chortles at some of Gibbs's stories, adding a few embellishments himself. At one point he catches me looking at him, then with a little waggle of his eyebrows, offers me the rum bottle.

"I must decline. I do not mix liquors anymore." I pause, then add with a wry look to Bush, "And thanks to certain escapades, I do not drink to complete abandon either."

"And we are all the wiser for it." Gillette adds with a little groan of memory, and we smile dolefully at one another.

"Oh, just the two times and you have put aside wanton drunkenness." Bush huffs a little, brown eyes glowing, "Really, you make it out MUCH more than it should be."

The pirates, and alas the marines now look intrigued, so I decide to nip the story in the bud by simply giving the conclusion, "The first time you implied that, we ended up in a field near Stonehenge one fine morning, thankfully clothed, but with little clue how we got there or how we were going to get back, if memory serves."

"With a goat." Gillette added dryly. "A live one."

"...What were you doing with the goat, sir?" Murtogg asks, blinking between us.

All three of us share a look, as Mullroy quickly adds, "Not that we were thinkin' you were doing anything improper with it, sirs. He's just a curious lad." The two marines shoot each other furious looks.

I shake my head, bemused, "It was nothing more than a celebration over Lieutenant Gillette's promotion, Mr. Mullroy, to third lieutenant."

"Aaawwwwk! Weigh anchor, weigh anchor!" Mr. Cotton tilts his head, as his parrot squawks appropriately.

"Aye Cotton, so what was the goat for then, sir?" Gibbs asks, taking another swig from his flask, rummy eyes bright with curiosity.

Gillette and I share a evil smile, turning to look at Bush. He groans, and puts his hand over his face. "Go on, get on with it."

"To quote the then Midshipman Bush, whose brilliant idea it was in the first place.." Gillette sits up absolutely straight, pointing his finger into the air in a dead-on impression of Bush that fateful day, "'A sacrifice to the GODS! ... oooooh, my poor aching head.'" He presses his hands dramatically to his forehead, causing the pirates to guffaw in laughter, and the marines to snicker behind their hands.

"Yes, yes. Very amusing little story. However, you have to admit that we've seen a few too many things on these waters to not take a few of the old stories for the truth now." Bush points out, hefting the wine bottle lightly to his lips once more.

"Undead pirates..." Studson mutters, causing a slight chill to run down my spine, and I am sure that I am not the only one.

"What was it like, facin' those with the curse upon dem?" Rudolph asks, his small body curling up a little as he looks at us, solemn and wide-eyed, the single bead in his beard glittering against the lantern's glow. I wonder if Jack has not told his crew about his experience on the Isla de Muerta. With the stilled, carefully blank mask on his usually expressive face, I am guessing not. Not that I can blame him. Skulls with no eyes, moving about with swords, intent on killing every last one of us -- I suppress a shudder.

"...Terrifyin'." Mullroy sums up in one word, although his round face belays much more than that, "Imagine the most evil men you could ever meet - blood and flesh - all their wickedness held inside. Now, imagine them stripped bare of all that, just the bones, and their damnation is clear. Through and through."

"And to think with all their sins, there was only the one that damned them..." Jack murmurs, taking another slow sip of his rum. Looks are thrown in his way, and he smiles enigmatically, "Treachery, my fine gents and lady. Treachery did them in as surely as I am sittin' here to tell the tale."

There is a poignant pause, as Gillette lets out a sigh, taking the bottle from Bush to take a longer sip than usual, "Mother of God, we sailors are a superstitious lot."

"Aye, but at least it's with good cause. B'sides, I didn't hear no complainin' when you Navy lot were bendin' logic and telling the Pearl to 'lean', eh?" Jack tilts his head up, making his hat bob a little more over his face, flashing gold.

"True enough, Captain Sparrow." Gillette salutes him with the bottle and a smirk, before patting the Pearl's deck, "After all, she performed gloriously."

Jack eyes Gillette for a moment, pointing one finger at him, "Aye, but just remember she's performin' for me. You Navy lads might have stolen her, but no wooin' her away from me."

Bush smirks a touch, putting his hand down to stroke the wood slowly, "Oh, but Captain, she's such a pretty ship."

"Beautiful, in fact." Gillette said with a glint in his eyes, as he did the same.

I rest my fingertips lightly on the mast beside me, thoughtful, "And Lord knows you still owe us for the Interceptor..."

Jack looks at the three of us with such horrified panic that Anamaria starts to laugh, and the others snigger in return. He glowers at them, then at us, wherein I take an expression well familiar to him - the most 'innocent' expression I possess, a look that my lieutenants emulate with ease. Jack snorts, swaying to his feet, "Right, that's enough debaucherin' of my ship, y'Naval flirts. 'Sides, we've got a long day ahead of us, so best to be gettin' some shuteye."

"We'll clean up, sir." Studson says cheerfully, "C'mon Ruddie, we'll get this done in a moment if we work t'gether." The dwarf slaps Studson on the arm with a friendly nod, as they start pitching bones over into the water for the fishes and gulls.

That statement stays with me, as I trail after Jack to his cabin. I never thought it possible that pirates and Naval officers could reach a sense of equilibrium. I watch Jack, musing on this. He is humming that song of his again, his bottle of rum tucked under his arm, "...and really bad eggs, drink up, m'hearties..."

My 'invisible smile' sneaks up on my face. At that moment, he turns, his mouth opening to say something, and I attempt to squash the smile behind a disinterested expression.

Jack's dark eyebrows arch, as his lips twist sardonically, "Y'know, y'are allowed t'smile, Jamie-love. I don't think they'll throw you in the brig for it," He leans in, whispering conspiratorially, "Sometimes, people are even allowed t'laugh."

I try to suppress it once more, with little avail, for the 'invisible-smile' creeps back on, much to my chagrin. He winks at me, reaching up with one finger to flick a wayward strand of hair out of my face, so quick I do not realize he has done so before the finger has done its job and moved on. "One o'these days, James Norrington, I'm going t'hear that laugh of yours again."

"Jack Sparrow, you are welcome to try." I say lightly, the smile twisting into a sardonic smirk.

He laughs a little himself, the laugh that I am growing, alas, ridiculously fond of, and opens the door to the cabin. His eyes widen as the door swings all the way back into the room, and he moans, as he rushes inside, "Oh, noooooooo! No no no no no! Stop it! Stop flyin' everywhere!"

I look in, blinking in surprise as pieces of parchment float and drift about the room, caught in the light breezes emitting from the slightly ajar window at the far end of the cabin. My eyes move to the cupboard at the end of The Bed, which is also ajar, probably from the wild flailing of the -Pearl- before. While I watch, another piece of parchment tumbles free from the top shelf and floats towards the ground.

I move inside, closing the door firmly behind me, heading immediately over to the window to shut it before any of the parchment gets drawn outside by the evening breeze off the lake, to parts unknown. Jack is scrambling around the cabin, trying to grab as many pieces as he can, letting out a long string of expletives as he does so. After securing the window, I move to help. My fingers pause, flickers of surprise working through me as I realize that these aren't just sheets of paper, but intricate sketches done in charcoal and ink. Maps, buildings, people - all done with care and detail lovingly lavished. My gathering slows as I admire the craftsmanship of each piece.

Jack's curses taper off, and his voice sharpens as he turns in my direction, "What do you think you're doing there, mate?"

I start, looking up from an amazing drawing of an equally amazing Asian building, pointing straight up like an arrow with curved awnings that make it look like some sort of fancy layered cake, "My apologies ... I have just never seen their ilk before." I trail off, then add honestly, "These are, you realize, incredible."

A flush, a flush of sudden crimson appears on Jack's face as he mumbles, picking up the last of the parchment, "T'weren't anything but scribbles on the page."

"Then they are the best scribbles I have ever seen." I say firmly, "The maps alone, Jack! Such attention to detail...it's as if the coasts are ready to come off the pages themselves."

"Y'really like them?" Jack asks, lifting one eyebrow in honest surprise.

One side of my mouth lifts, "I am no idle flatterer, Jack, as you well know."

"Now that I believe." Jack smirks, then neatly smoothes all the sketches in his hand, "Very well. If you like them so, you can have your pick of 'em, Jamie."

I blink, then narrow my eyes in pondering, "Any one that I fancy?"

"Any one you fancy." Jack says solemnly, although his lips are curving around the edges.

"Very well - then I shall need to see all of them." I say decidedly, going over to him to take the rest of the sketches from his hands. Off of his slightly stunned look, I lift an eyebrow, "I need to find out which one I like the best. Therefore, I will have to carefully review all of them."

Jack gives me a slow, appraising look, then chuckles, "Decidedly thorough, is the British Navy. Settle yourself down," I do so, using the baseboard of The Bed to prop myself upright, as he moves toward his cupboard again, drawing down leatherbound sketchbooks, dozens by count, "This might take a bit of time, eh?"

Which it does, no lie. Hundreds of pictures, maps, portraits and mere scribbles later, I am just getting to the last book of Jack's hefty portfolio. His earliest drawings seem to be ones of birds that graced his windowstill in London, fat things that are a little sloppy around the edges, and an somewhat lopsided group of drawings of London's famed buildings. As the years progress, they get better. Jack's drawings of the port are done with such naked admiration of the ships on her, it is plain that this is not art for show, but art in its truest form. Then scenes of a ship at sea, with Jack obviously aboard, then all the ports he saw as a lad. I find myself smiling at a picture of Moorish children playing in the streets of Turkey, frowning at the ravages of war that touch a distant village on the Nile River, marvel at the wonders of the Eastern world. An aerial view of Jack looking down on several agents of the East India Company makes me snort despite myself.

For every sketch I ask about, Jack has an intricate story to go along with it. For a few of these hours, he sits by me, pointing out varying places and telling me a wild and almost unbelievable tale to go along with the drawing. Why it meant something to him. How it changed him in some way. If it was not for the sincerity in his voice and mannerisms, I would have doubted their validity.

However, I feel that there is a gap in these sketches - a period of time glossed over. I know he's been to the British Colonies - there are enough reports of his escapades there. But not one of these drawings or maps shows any indication. Curious...

I open the last sketch book with that in mind, smirking slightly as I find sketch after sketch of the Black Pearl in all her glory. My eyebrows raise, though, at the first portrait. It's of a girl, a very familiar looking one, perhaps not much more than sixteen. Sweet faced and beautiful, she is smiling delightfully as she sits in the midst of what looks like ... hm. I dig into my vest pocket, drawing out the small paper crane, comparing it to the sketch. The very same. I look up at Jack, ready to pose a question, where I find him sitting before me. He leans against the wall opposite, not much more than two or so feet away from me. A fresh sketchbook in hand, and a piece of charcoal resting against his full lips as he looks intently at the paper in front of him.

I clear my throat and he looks up, blinking. He tilts his head inquisitively in my direction, a gesture that is somehow charming and endearing both. It has never struck me before .. well, before that incident up on the yardarm, just how embraceable Jack Sparrow is. He has the sort of body one just wants to wrap their arms around, and not let go, so poignantly wistful he is.

Heart suddenly thudding, I wordlessly turn the sketch towards him. A flashing storm of emotions sweeps over his face; sudden anger, grief, a touch of regret, and finally resignation. When he speaks at last, his voice a bit rougher around the edges as he looks back down to the drawing before him, "Pretty girl, eh?"

"Lovely." I say, keeping my gaze on him, "Who is she?"

"Someone that I cared about, very much." Jack says quietly, lifting his own, "Someone I'd rather not talk about, mate."

I nod my head in slow understanding, before I turn the sketch towards me again, " ...What were all the paper cranes for?"

There is the soft sound of the charcoal on the paper, as Jack answers, "It's an Asian tradition. It goes along with this story that if you fold a thousand paper cranes, the Gods reward your patience 'n determination with one wish. I want'd to grant her a wish. Her heart's desire." The charcoal pauses, and a bitter chuckle emerges, "Fool that I am, I thought t'would be me."

I put the sketch back into the book, carefully, as I start to flip through the sketches again silently. I pause, startled by one of Elizabeth fully dressed yet underwater, her hair streaming around her not unlike one of the famed tales of a mermaid. It hits me that must have been when Jack leapt into the water to save her, that fateful day back in Port Royal, where all our paths crossed for the first time. I note the title with painful humor, 'First Meeting', carefully turning the sketch over to the next. Elizabeth's face curls around in my thoughts, and I speak softly, "Of all the things a person may know instinctively in this world, the heart and the affections of another is not one of them, is it?"

The charcoal stops abruptly at this, as our eyes lift and lock together. This time, it is I who nod my head with quiet, painful understanding. Jack's face flickers that hunger again, almost long forgotten, but then simply just nods his head once, with a longing little smile on his face as he turns back to his sketch. I look back down, my lips twisting at the drawing of William, glaring back at me from the portrait, the background the smithy shoppe. Aptly named, 'First Meetings Deux'.

And the next sketch ... well. It's one of myself. Interesting perspective ... as if he's on the ground looking up at me .. ah, yes. This would be the first time we met, he sitting on the deck, soaked to the bone, and I in all my freshly promoted glory, William's sword at his throat. I look at myself thoughtfully - sharp-eyed and firm-jawed, the mouth thinned with anger, the uniform bristling with authority. I am not an easy man, by no stretch of the imagination, am I? Drolly, I comment, turning the sketch to Jack, "So this is how I look to the rest of the world. No wonder people walk around calling me Death."

A soft noise from across the way, and Jack replies offhandedly, "Keep goin'. Plenty more where that came from."

I do, noting all the sketches of William on the Interceptor - at rest, practicing with his sword, and - hah - brooding. Equal number of Elizabeth, although an Elizabeth I have never seen before - a fighting, dancing one. Ah, but that face I remember - determination. And then ... more of me. My distant form on the Dauntless, stony-faced and murderous looking, probably drawn not long after Jack took off with the -Interceptor-. I shake my head with self-mockery, then blink at the next sketch. I am on the steps, turning to face what appears to be the back of Elizabeth ... ah. When she begged me to go after William. I turn the page, to find quite a few more. Mostly studies of my face, which I am not surprised to see the lack of change in my expression .. at first. Jack, however, has delved deeper, pulling the meaning from my eyes, from the lift of my chin, to the thinning of my lips. Subtle distinctions that most would miss.

"The many faces of James Norrington.." I murmur, earning a chortle, and a knowing leer from Jack. I tilt my head towards his sketch, asking dryly, "So is that another for your collection?"

"Perhaps.." Jack murmurs, lips twitching as he continues to sketch.

"Indeed. May I see it?" I ask, sitting up a little.

"Ah ... no. I'm not done yet... need me a bit of the liquid ambrosia t'get the right effect in m'head." Jack frowns, looking around. "Hrm, where IS m'liquid ambrosia?"

"On the bed where you dropped, hours ago." I say with a wry tilt of my head.

Jack's kohl-lined eyes widen, and he shakes his head as he raises himself up on his knees to grab the bottle. "Cannot believe I spent this many hours sober, and on -purpose-."

"You know, one can get through life without being in a constant press of intoxication, Sparrow." I say tartly, leaning forward to try and snag the picture while his back is turned.

Without even looking at me as he draws the bottle back to him, Jack smacks my hand with his free one. I mutter a curse, pulling back my hand and shaking it out, giving him a look. He waggles his finger at me, tsking as he flops back down, "Shame on you, Commodore. I can't let you be pilferin' everythin', now can I? Sets a horrible precedent."

"Well, what do I have to do to earn a peek?" As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I know I am going to regret them.

Jack smiles, yes, one of those smiles, his fingers curling around the two little braids in his beard, making them clack together. "Ooooo, what's the proper price for a suitor's l'il favor. Aaaah, yes. A kiss, Jamie-love."

Why, oh WHY, must I always be right? I roll my eyes, moments away from a scathing reply, when I pause, musing, "All right. Close your eyes."

Jack's eyebrows shot upwards, but his eyes snap shut almost a moment later, and he leans forward, his lips ridiculously puckered. I move forward, taking his face with both hands, surprised by the slight tremble at my touch. I tilt his head up, slightly, and plant a very soft, gentle kiss ... on his cheek. Then I move back, and hold out my hand complacently, "Picture, if you please."

Jack's mouth unpuckers, and he scowls at me, "That is -not- a real kiss."

"My lips touched your skin. It counts." I say firmly, hand still out.

"Nope, sorry. Not a real kiss." Jack shifts forward quickly, all the way forward, so close that our eyelashes brush. His voice drops to a murmur, his beard rough against my skin as his lips part so near to mine that if I breath out they will be touching, "A real kiss is like this, love. Too close, too int'mate for anythin' else. Lips to lips, body t'body..." He moves back, a smug cat with his cream, drawling slowly, "When you can manage that, Commodore, do let me know. I'll let y'have your sketch."

I watch, frowning as he takes another swig of his rum, my fingers tapping against the wood of the floor, reaching a decision. I am rather tired of Jack Sparrow getting to simply take whatever he wants, -always- winning the moment, and demanding kisses whenever he desires them. That in mind, there is only one clear solution to my little mental quandary, and, I realize with some self satisfaction, it is almost completely safe for me to do.

Note the 'almost completely'. I must tread lightly. I could step too far. I could lose control of the situation. However, the prize ... hah, the prize is worth the risk.

Now all I need is the opportune moment.

That moment would be the moment he puts down the rum bottle. I ease myself towards him, quick as a bird of prey on a mouse, green eyes flaring as I grab him by both arms, and pull him towards me. He lets out a startled yelp, which is quickly muffled when my lips crash against his, a passionate kiss which hopefully is worth its mettle.

By the sudden pliancy of Jack's mouth, the way his struggling turns to wriggling closer to me, and the sudden tight grip on my arms -- I would have to say I am doing fairly well in that regard. I push him down to the floor, the collision making the rum bottle rattle but not fall, pinning him down with little else than with my mouth on his, suckling those fine, slightly chapped lips. The beard scrapes against my chin, but I don't care a whit, as he parts his lips to me and my tongue slides into the euphoric inferno that is his mouth.

'For all the kisses I couldn't return, for all the kisses he stole...' is my feeling on the matter, as he pulls me closer, trying to press as much of his lithe body to my own taller one as he can. All right, feeling might be a bit dishonest. Determination might be more correct. Needful, mindless determination to keep kissing him, to get him to make that little growling moan I heard so long ago. For it is my choice, my kiss, and my own desire that I am letting off the tether of my apprehensions and fears...

'And of course, keeping this up will not be considered leading him on at all..' The little voice in my head informs me dryly, 'Unless of course you are ready to admit certain emotions?' At that thought, I jerk my head away abruptly, staring down at Jack's heavily breathing form, openly wanting me, body and soul. Shame fills me. It isn't right to make Jack think he has a chance when he clearly doesn't -- and I wish the tiny voice would stop cackling. At least long enough for me to figure out what I am going to do now with the extremely kissable pirate in my arms and my 'well-thought out' plan long since dissipated in the wave of lust that just struck.

Ah yes, the sketch. What I was hoping to acquire in the first place. Not being able to resist, I press another light kiss to Jack's mouth, before snagging it with as bland a tone as I can, "I believe this is mine?"

Pulling away from him slowly, I stand up, looking at the sketch. The invisible-smile appears before me, comfortable as I sit against The Bed, looking at another sketch with an abstracted expression on my usually impassive face. Nodding my head once with curt approval, I look down to the still bright-eyed and heavily breathing, yet now sitting up Jack, speaking mildly, "Thank you ever so much. I think I'll take this to bed with me."

The glowing passion in Jack's eyes fades into shock as I start to move back to my hammock, and he gestures with his hands fiercely, "Now just wait a moment here! Y'can't just be kissin' a man like that, then head off to bed on your ownseys!"

"I can, I shall, I will. Remember, Jack. Never without my permission." I say, a smirk touching my face at his spluttering. Ah yes, that was the original purpose of the kiss, was it not? A little well-timed revenge. I kick off my shoes, and climb into the hammock, sketch in hand, "Sleep well."

My view is obscured by the edges of the hammock, so I hear rather than see Jack's body flopping back down against the floor, moaning softly, "For God's sake, man. How can I now? Y'really hate me, don't you? Some deep, burnin' hatred that runs deep in those Naval roots t'be kissing me, leaving me all impassioned and at your mercy, n' then y'take my picture and head to sleepin'. Sleepin'! Cruel, cruel temptin' Commodores ...I knew, knew, I should avoid them. But nooo, Jack, y'had to go chasin' after the slipperiest one of them all..."

I can't take any more of it, hyperbole or not. "Jack." I say, looking at the sketch in my hand quietly.

He stops his rant abruptly, "Aye, James?"

"I don't hate you." I pause, guilt and the tiny voice stabbing me onward to further honesty, "And I did not just kiss you for the picture, alone."

The silence in the cabin seems to be almost like a thick, emotion wrought presence, broken only by Jack, his voice so soft I have to strain to hear it, "Sleep with me ton'ght."

I sigh, rubbing my forehead. "Jack ..."

"No, wait. Hear me out first," Jack interrupts gently, "I'm not askin' you for anything more than t'sleep in my bed." There is a pause, and a little tired humor, "Fully clothed 'n with your honor intact. I just ... I just want t'hold someone t'night."

This admission makes me sit up slowly, to look over the hammock's edge at him. He lies on his back, eyes tightly closed, his mouth a grimace of pain. It took everything in him to ask me that - all his pride and all of his self respect. I recall that this is a man who in the course of one day nearly lost his ship, his freedom, and his life. He was forced to face his fear of Captain Lark, for he now knows she is hunting for him. He was reminded, by me, of a more personal loss. Then I kiss him - only to pull away from him, again.

Jack Sparrow has had a long, painful day. Lesser men would have simply drunk themselves into oblivion. He's resisted that urge all night.

For that alone, I want to hold him again.

I roll out of the hammock, putting my sketch in the hollow of it, crouching down to the floor to start picking up the sketchbooks carefully. I move around Jack, putting them away on the top shelf silently, and neatly. Behind me, I hear Jack murmur, "Oh, how I envy them long legs ... I'm always havin' to stretch up to reach so high."

I turn at his words, looking down at him. One arm is half covering those too-dark eyes, as he lays sprawled on the floor, tense despite his lax position. He moves the arm a bit more, a tired but patient smile on his face. I move to gather up more sketchbooks, my voice amazingly even, "Well, I won't be tripping over these in the morning when I attempt to get out of that Bed of yours. The last thing I want to listen to is you howling and whining, Jack, that early in the morning."

He sits up abruptly, staring at me. I return the look with a quiet one of my own, adding, "And if we want to actually get any sleep before the sun rises, I suggest you stop lazing about the floor like the wanton I know you are, and help me get these things away." I roll my eyes dramatically, heading back over to the cupboard, "Of course, all I seem to do these days is clean up after you."

"Now how exac'ly are you figurin' that, Jamie-love?" I can't see the smile, but I can hear it, as he scrambles to his feet behind me, and I hear the sounds of rustling paper.

"To start, I had to explain my 'one day more' actions to some degree of competency, not to mention your shocking escapade with sneaking back into Port Royal, twice. Hours ago I had to save you AND your ship, which you haven't thanked me for.." I put the last of the books away, turning to face him and his two armful-loads, one side of my mouth lifting, "And if you drop all those, I suppose I'll be expected to pick them up as well."

Jack grunts under his load, wobbling a little, "Well, if y'hurry up and take them, I won't be droppin' them, now will I?"

"Whinger." I smirk, taking one armful, tucking it away into the cupboard, and then the other. "I never knew hardened criminals had such a proclivity for self pity." Securing all the sketchbooks, I shut the cupboard firmly, before exhaling slowly, "Now, let us be abed, shall we?"

Jack looks at me silently, questions ranging through his eyes, tilting his head, "Y'don't have to do this."

I look at him quietly, before I unbutton my vest, moving towards my things, "You're right. I don't have to." Setting it aside, I also slip off my stockings and shoes, moving towards The Bed, some sort of nervous feeling fluttering through my stomach, before I smash it down. He promised. Nothing untold. Just sleeping. He can control his lustful urges.

The memory of that too lush and hot mouth beneath mine makes my heart charge, thrusting hot and heated blood through my veins. Dear God. Jack can control himself - but what is he going to do control to me? I snort derisively to myself, turning around to fall into The Bed backwards, drowning for a moment in the softness of down-mattresses and many sweet smelling pillows. Somewhat muffled, I mutter dryly, "Sparrow, do you actually sleep in this thing or merely allow yourself to be pleasantly smothered every night?"

"Bit o' both. Shove over, Commodore. You're hoggin' the bed." Jack smirks from somewhere above me.

"I hardly see how that is possible. This Bed is big enough for at least three or four Commodores." I snort, scooting further down and sideways, pushing back the cool covers to crawl inside. I pause, mid-motion, to look up at Jack. He is leaning with one hand on one of the headboard posts, his jaw moving for a moment, before he awkwardly and uncertainly sits on the edge of the bed, watching me warily. Waiting, I believe, for my permission.

My chest twists interestingly, as I, just as uncertainly and awkwardly, open my arms to him. Trying to keep my face expressionless, but not being able to control my eyes or the thudding of my own heart. Slowly, he crawls towards me, into the circle of my arms, sliding in close. I gently wrap my arm around his shoulders, fingers first tentatively brushing, then slowly entwining into the dark dreads of hair, jingling beads and other trinkets. My eye catches a flash of gold, and I tilt the lock of hair towards me as Jack makes himself comfortable against my chest and shoulder. I eye it, then glare down at Jack, "This is my vest button, braided in your mess of hair."

"'N a fine button it is, too. Taken from a very fine gentl'man indeed." Jack murmurs, one arm curving lightly around my waist.

I feel a slight flush at the gesture, but instead play with his hair again, listening to the soft exhalation of Jack's breathing, and the creaking of the -Pearl- beneath us, speaking quietly, "Go to sleep, Jack. I'm here."

After a moment, Jack speaks, a touch of his old mocking tone back to his voice, "Then, where's m'goodnight kiss?"

I look down at him, scowling. He tilts his bearded chin up at me, brushing the braids against my chest, smiling innocently. I make a disgruntled noise, before I lean forward to brush my lips against his forehead, "Go." My lips move lower, dusting his nose, "To." Then I falter for a moment, before moving my mouth carefully over his for a brief, yet sweet kiss, tasting his breath as he sighs against my lips. I move back, and whisper, "Sleep."

Jack's eyes are a tempest, a maelstrom of fire, but all he does is touch his lips and his bristles against my cheek, before settling into my chest once more. A few minutes later, he is fast asleep. Soon, the warm press of his body against my own, the softness of The Bed, and the rocking of the ship lull me to follow him moments later.

Well it's all so overrated
in not saying how you feel
So you end up watching chances fade
and wondering what's real
And I give you just a little time
I wonder if you realize
I've been waiting to see it in your eyes...


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