Rooting For You

Part 2

By L.M. Griffin

A press of lips to my brow brings me out of the depths of slumber, and as I struggle to wakefulness I squeeze my arms around empty air. Frowning, I crack my eyes open fully, squinting in the morning light. I am alone. Well, in the sense that my arms are empty, but the smell of Jack still clings to me. I touch my forehead, where the kiss still tingles against my skin, then lay my fingers flat on the spot where he slept next to me, in my arms. It is still, amazingly enough, warm. I eye the door, and around the cabin carefully. Then I roll over a touch, curling my body over the impression of Jack's body on the bedcover, letting out a content noise.

The knock on the door shakes me out of my comfortable spot, and sends me crawling and stumbling over the side of The Bed as quickly as I can, calling out in what I hope is a brisk and efficient manner, "Just a moment!"

I jerk my gaze around, yanking the bedclothes on The Bed straight, then smoothing down my hair as I move for my shaving kit. "Come!"

I expected Gillette and Bush, so Anamaria and Gibbs come as a surprise. I stare at them for a moment, a feeling of sharp embarrassment filling me at facing a woman, even Anamaria, thusly - unshaven and unwashed. I clear my throat, before I pour water into the basin stiffly, nodding my head politely, trying not to betray the uncomfort I feel, "Good morning, Mister Gibbs, Anamaria. What can I do for you?"

Gibbs eyes Anamaria, who in turn eyes me, and closes the door firmly behind them both. She speaks slowly, husky yet firm, a kind tone, "We want'd to be speakin' to you about Capt'n Sparrow, Commodore."

My fingers still, then keep moving as I make up the lather to put on my face, "What are we discussing about him, exactly?"

Again, the bo'sun and the first mate exchange a glance, before Anamaria speaks again, "We know how he feels about you - 'n if his mood this mornin' was any plainer, we know dat you must feel somethin' about him." She takes in a deep breath into her slender frame, then lets it out again, "We want'd to ask you t'be ... t'be kind to him."

I am silent for a moment, before I start to apply lather to my face, observing quietly, "That is the third time in so many weeks people have told me to be kind to Jack Sparrow. I am beginning to wonder how little kindness he usually receives."

"A thimbleful, sir, and not much more than that." Gibbs says with a little nod of his graying head, his thick jowls firming into a fierce scowl, "Jack's a good man, deserves better, and he rarely finds it."

I see Anamaria's reflection watching me curiously, her arms crossing over her chest, "Who else be talkin' to you about being kind to Jack, eh?"

"For one, William and Elizabeth," The sudden smiles that cover the pirates faces remind me that the future Mr. and Mrs. Turner have more than just one pirate friend, "And the young woman you mentioned before, Gibbs. Sweetheart."

If they looked any more shocked, I would swear I had slapped them. Anamaria's face twists into a furious scowl, before she exhales, clamping on her fierce temper, "Aye, well, she would be one who needs t'say it. Seein' how much unkindness she's shown him b'fore."

I recall those hopeful grey-blue eyes, and that ungodly scarred visage, my mouth going dry as I push out the words, "What did that poor child ever do to Jack?"

Anamaria snorts, as she stalks up and down the length of the cabin. Gibbs watches her sympathetically, before turning to me as I take my shaving blade to my face, "Y'have to understand something about Sweetheart, Commodore sir. She is by far, the best and the worst thing Jack Sparrow has ever done - and while she lives the way she does - she tears into his heart just a little bit every day."

Again I recall that scarred face, frowning, before my eyes widen and dart to the cupboard. I speak low, without thinking, "The thousand paper cranes ....she's the girl in the portrait."

"He showed you dat, did he?" Anamaria shakes her head, leaning on the windowstill, "Most damned fool thing I ever saw - but he made them for her, every last one. He would've done anythin' for dat daft girl, and she broke his heart in more ways than a heart should."

"She was in love with someone else, Anamaria - y'can hardly hold that against her. She was duped, surely as Jack was." Gibbs speaks quietly.

"Oh yes I can! She lied, Joshamee! She promised herself to him, 'n then she stabs him in the back for that bitchwhore Lark!" Anamaria spins on him, dark eyes flaring. Gibbs makes a silencing motion off my sudden, sharp look. Anamaria looks over at me, and sighs, "...Said too much on somethin' that ain't m'business. M'pardon, Commodore."

I am silent for a moment, my mind analyzing all the information now handed, quite accidentally, to me. Jack fears Lark, and it is fairly obvious why now. She managed to use the one thing he loved besides the Pearl to hurt him - Sweetheart. Who has made herself an enemy of Anamaria's, and a source of pity to Gibbs.

I remember those eyes begging me silently to be kind to Jack, those eyes so free of malice and the horrible remains of what I now knew was a beautiful face. Sweetheart is the key to unlocking Jack about Lark's whereabouts.

Sweetheart is also the one thing that would break Jack's cobbled heart all to pieces again. No, allow me to correct that.

There is me.

I intake a deep breath, turning back to the shaving mirror, "You can both rest assured that I will do my utmost to treat Jack with the care he deserves." Oh God, please let that be true.

Gibbs nods his head, clearly accepting that as my word. He gives me a hearty smile and a salute reminiscent of his old Naval days, before lumbering cheerfully out of the door. Anamaria follows, but pauses at the door. I raise an eyebrow at her in silent query as I sweep my shaving blade around my chin carefully. She smirks at me, raising her eyebrows in a leer of Jack's own making, "SO. He hasn't buggered you yet, eh?"

Never was I so happy to have my blade away from my throat, as my grip convulses at her words. I give her the most disgruntled look in my possession, "Certainly Not!"

"Didn't think so. You ain't walking funny enough for a night with Jack Sparrow." She salutes me lazily, still smirking as she saunters out of the cabin, "So y'must be doin' somethin' right, Navy Man."

I stare at her swaying back as she leaves, then sigh as I return to my shaving. Marvelous, simply marvelous. Now not only do I have my duties trying to stare down my morals, but the daunting yet enticing images of Jack doing extremely sinful things to me in That Bed.

"It is going to be ... " I mutter to myself, finally clearing the last bristle from my face, reaching for the clean rag by the basin, "... the longest, damned bloody day in existence."

-- // --

"...Now this is a day written by the poets themselves." Jack proclaims gleefully as we stride down the cobbled New Orleans's street, side by side. His good humor has been buoyant all the day through, straight into the late afternoon when we finally left the Black Pearl for the streets. We are alone - Jack delegated responsibility to Anamaria and Gibbs, who glibly stole my officers and marines for their varying errands, with the agreement that we would all meet later at Saint Marina's.

Mind, this was not my idea at all, however where Jack Sparrow goes, so goes my nation, so to speak. Besides all my gloomy thoughts, I cannot help smiling internally at him. For the occasion of walking out amongst the French colonialists, he has dressed up in shades of rustic red, and his frock coat has more than enough embroidery to be considered fashionable, if a pirate wasn't wearing said particular garment. On the other hand, it is Jack. He could make wearing burlap the height of fashion if he wanted.

New Orléans suits the pirate, with its wide rambling streets, most of which promise liquor at cheap prices and fun for all in the most immoral ways possible. I look around, a detached observer to their reverie, but Jack is an old soul here. If he is not known, then he soon shall be. Many of the French ladies, and quite a few of the gentlemen, give him a second glance. Some even call out friendly greetings and invitations. He returns them with jests, his French accent so atrocious that Gillette would start moaning in pain. He is charming, alive and filled with glad feeling.

When he turns that sunny, golden smile in my direction, I feel a tiny surge within. I brought him this simple joy. I, James Norrington, made someone happy. I rarely, if ever, have the pleasure of that, and I want so deseperately to bring this glow to Jack whenever I can.

Inappropriate. Sinful. Immoral.

Yet I make him feel so gleeful. He makes me feel, which is something I never thought I would have again.

Duty, honor, my position and my future career with the Navy.

The curve of his lips, the warmth of his skin, the seductive pull of his laugh.

Indecision racks my mind and soul. and I sigh with weariness, saying softly, "Are we near this pub of yours yet? I could use a cold drink on this blastedly hot evening."

He glances at me, beaming, that smile almost tugging one from my own reluctant lips, "Not too far, Jamie-love - jest wanted t'give the others time t'get there first. They get miffed if I have a head-start on the drinkin'."

Down the street we amble. Or rather, Jack ambles and I stalk, towering over him like some sort of grim-faced specter in green breeches and velvet coat, creeping after the sunbeam that is the slender man right in front of me.

Until of course, we reach Saint Marina's, and I stop dead in the middle of the street, staring at the building before us. Ornate would be the kindest thing you could say about it, for otherwise it would be an architect's worst nightmare come to life. Instead of having too little style, it seems to have every single style since the days of the Roman Empire. Worst of all, however, is the color of the paint chosen to slap across the broad walls. My throat convulses a little as I finally manage to speak, "Well. It is rather a … bright pink, isn't it?"

Jack tilts his head, as if contemplating a fine piece of Rembrand's work, instead of this monstrosity. Then he gently pats me on the arm, "If anyone should know this, y'should, Commodore. It's not the fancy outside with all the frips and frills that make somethin' worthwhile, but all the wond'rful things under the finery."

"You mean the wonders within?" I query, one eyebrow raising.

Jack's eyes twinkle as he leers, "Did I say within the clothes, or under?" With a wiggle of his eyebrows and his hips, he heads for the two broad double-doors leading in, leaving me in the street, feeling flushed and annoyed at the same moment simultaneously.

He stops at the door, holding one side open, grinning at me, a mix of a challenge and an invitation. So of course, I set my shoulders, and walk towards him. The Game is still, and as always, in play and I must meet it. One wishes that pirates weren't so good at provoking Royal Naval officers, but I am afraid that Jack has become quite adept at what it takes to get to my skin – I mean, under my skin. Ahem.

It is only late afternoon, but men and women of all breeds are wandering into Saint Marina's, and I see none exiting. I frown as Jack and I step inside, taking in my surroundings. Red silken wall-hangings take the place of clean white plaster, with fine furniture lining each side. From within I can hear muffled voices and laughter. It seems to me there should be –more- halls, or at least more doors, but as Jack heads deeper into the house, there is nothing but candlelight at the end of this long crimson tunnel. A great deal of candlelight. I'm somewhat surprised there isn't a fire for all the flame…

"My Dear God." I stand at the threshold of lush Eden, with all of its most blatant sins draping over chairs and in comfortable booths, smiling as they wrap their arms around rather gleeful sailors of a certain criminal flavor. Women and men, some dressed for a certain purpose, and others simply there to be seen in their finery.

The room itself is a large affair – really more of a courtyard – spread from one end to the other. There is an open space, where a band of musicians resides, plucking their instruments expertly. The liquor flows freely from a long oak bar counter, where buxom young ladies move with full trays and teasing smiles. Vines crawl over the stone-work, reaching towards the open canopy of the quickly darkening sky.

"Such a cornucopia of delight was never found as it was in Saint Marina's." Jack lets out a long and pleased sigh, as he takes me by the arm, tugging me all the way through the doors. Once through the doorway, he turns me abruptly around, slipping two fingers under my chin and tipping my face up. Above us is a statue lady dressed in the clothes of a boy. Jack respectfully sweeps his tri-corner hat off his head, nudging me to do the same, "That there is the sainted lady hers'lf. The French take great stock in their saints, y'know. The lady Marina is one for sailors." There is a pause, and a tiny smirk, "Not t'mention cross-dressers."

"I take it for granted that the owner of this particular establishment is a Catholic, then?" It would certainly explain the rampant over-decoration.

"It's a French colony, Jamie." Jack grins, as he turns to look around the open courtyard, "They tend towards religious icons 'n good wines on this side of the colonial divide."

"Not to mention pleasure-mongering." I say dryly, before I frown a little as a small group of libertines is shoved aside by a petite woman dressed in black breeches and a vest, huge boots engulfing her legs to mid-thigh. Honey-brown hair flies in little wisps out of her bandana, and her deceptively innocent face looks quite ready to burst a vein. I add, nodding my head in the woman's direction as she quickly approaches us, "Do they tend towards painful vengeance?"

"Depends on the vengefulness of the particul'r offender?" Jack is looking in the opposite direction, looking for what I can only assume is an empty table. "Why do y'ask?"

"Well, what I suppose I should be asking is – just what offenses have you committed lately?" I fold my arms over my chest, just waiting.

Jack tosses me a puzzled glance, before looking in the direction I am. His darkened eyes widen in comical horror as the woman finally reaches us, her round face furious as she raises up her hand. Jack holds up his hands placatingly, "Now Monique, darlin', no need t'get straight to the smackin'. Really – I meant to come RIGHT back, but there was this incident with this designer of fine – "

"Jack." The woman Monique says in a sharp, clipped, French accent, her English flawless, "The only thing I want you to do is turn around and show me your tail, savvy?"

"Yes, but…" Jack takes one long look at her furious face, nods his head once, and turns, but he gets no farther than that as the smaller woman finally brings her hand around to connect with his backside with a resounding smack. Jack's face twists into a wince, as he rubs the seat of his pants with a grimace, giving her a woeful look. This causes her expression to go to rightly smug, then her eyes drift over to me.

"So yo found yourself a new pretty, Jack?" She asks, her bright blue eyes going from amusement to interest, like a wave cresting over.

Jack's eyes narrow a little, and suddenly I find his arm quite snugly curving around to my spine, "Aye, you could say that. You could also say he's Mine, darlin'."

"I am?" I give him a sharp look, trying not to jerk away nervously, but hold my ground against the now leering young woman and the evilly smiling pirate.

"If he is, Jack, I'd love to watch sometime. He looks like a right handful." She coos, tilting her chin up at me.

I frown, straightening a little, "We are not a common faire show for your amusement, madam."

"Eh, I'm going t'have to agree with m'lovely on this one." Jack's smile broadens … DEAR GOD! I succeed, amazingly enough, not to yelp when Jack's other arm tightens around me and his hand trails down to cup my buttocks in a very firm grip. "He is, after all, jest a lil' too much man for anyone but old Jack. Isn't that right, Sweetcheeks?"

Oh Heavenly Lord – he expects me to be able to speak normally when his hand is … where it is on my person? I tilt my head, coughing, before I manage to get out in a strangled tone, "Yes. I am really far too much man. Hmm-mm. Male-ness … " He is stroking my left cheek. Must not squeak. I must not. "… Personified."

Monique laughs, clearly delighted, "Well, you just let me know if you two change your mind." She winks at the both of us, before sauntering over to the bar.

There is a long moment of silence.

I clear my throat, glaring over at the smug thief besides me, "Sparrow. What have we said about hands?"

"There is nothin' wrong with a little cuddlin' between the courter and the courtee, love." Jack says with a peaceful smile on his face, as he nudges me along.

"Cuddling has nothing to do with the part of my body your hand is currently caressing." I very firmly reach behind and pull his arm up. I do not, however disentangle myself from his grip entirely, since having Jack's arms about me is the only thing keeping quite a number of interested parties from heading in our general direction. "Can we just sit down, without your hand going where it should not have wandered to begin with?"

"It might be a tad bit uncomfortable at that …" Jack leans up, his breath tickling my ear, and his lips brushing my skin, "But quite cozy. I have missed the feel of you t'day, James."

I shift my gaze over to him, rendered speechless, drowning in his velvety dark eyes. I feel the strangest sensation. I feel as we are the only two people here, but we aren't, and I am consumed with the near desperate desire to have him to myself, like a jealous little boy. I want to push him away, but not as much as I want to touch him in return. Forcing my gaze forward is a task worthy of Greek legend, as I say quietly, "Table. Portside. I think you will find it more useful to grab it instead of me."

"Oh, we'll just see about that, love." Jack wiggles his eyebrows, loosening his arms slowly, giving my back end another fond little squeeze before shifting over to the table. I fight back the urge to either smack his smirking head or his swaying behind, and take my seat next to him.

He orders our drinks from a passing bar wench, who knows him by name. I shake my head slightly, "Is there a bar where they do not know you on sight, Sparrow?"

"Yes. The ones that don't serve rum…" Jack crosses his arms on the table, grinning. I am about to reply when something blue and orange catches my eye, and I stare at it. A cat dressed in a little Naval coat, and a small tri-corner hat attached to its head at a rakish angle. It trolls under our table, weaving itself around Jack's legs, and he reaches down to pick it up, petting it fondly, "H'llo there, Commodore. Been keepin' up with your huntin'?"

"…Commodore?" I query, staring at the large orange tomcat, who stares balefully at me in return.

"Oh yes, I don't think you two have been formally introduced, like. Commodore Norrington, this is Commodore Felington – best rat catcher in all of New Orleans. The owner named 'im." Jack scratches the cat under the chin and then puts him down on the floor. Off my stumped look, he laughs, "Jamie, why are you so surprised that people admire you? Even m'ilk thinks of you on near biblical terms, love."

"Oh, they do not." I say, irritation sparking in my voice and eyes.

Jack smirks, as he leans back and raises his voice, "OI! Who's the greatest Naval officer in the Carribbees, mates?"

"DEATH H'MSELF, NORRINGTON!" Comes the loud chorus from varying tables and groups of people.

I lean back in my chair, clearing my throat as I tug up the collar of my frockcoat, muttering to Jack, "You realize they only adore me because they think I am all the way in Port Royal, and I would hate to disappoint the adoring masses by saying differently, so might we keep this to ourselves?"

Jack puts his finger to his lips, smirking knowingly, "Well, I do recall a course o'study I once took on bein' 'silent as the grave'. Glad t'know it's going to come in handy here … GIBBS! Over here, man."

I turn my head, and then frown. While all the pirates are here and naturally accounted for, I only see my three marines present. They troop towards us, and off my questioning look, Anamaria answers with a wry chuckle, "Your Lieutenants decided t'give the marines the night off. Frankly, I be thinkin' Gillette jest didn't want t'risk another goat incident."

So they have left me to fend for myself – or perhaps given me an escape? "Well, then I suppose I should head back to the ship myself…" I rise half-way to my feet.

Anamaria puts one hand on my shoulder, and firmly pushes me back down into my chair, grinning, "Act'lly Commodore, Johnny told me t'tell you to enjoy your night's leave. So sit back, enjoy your drink, and if you think of escapin', I've got rope 'n a marvelous square knot."

I look around at the smiling pirates, and sigh as I reach for the mug of ale that the bar wench puts before me. "Yes, of course. Because on my shore leave, going carousing in a pirate bar is so very restful and soothing."

The pirates snigger as the marines look at me, eyes wide. Murtogg tilts his head, "Really, sir? I would think you'd be absolutely miserable."

I glare a little, opening my mouth to comment, when I am interrupted with, "Well, there's always one cure for that …" A throaty female voice replies, and we all turn towards it. Monique has returned, and on her arm is an equally petite auburn haired lady, dressed in a … rather interesting gown of black with what looks like a great deal of binding cloth. She embodies sensuality as she leans a little into Monique, purring, "Or several. Some of them are even legal."

Jack grins, tapping his finger against his hat, "James, this here is Brianna, owner of Saint Marina's, 'n a lady of distinction – who is all forgivin' for my long absence from her presence."

"Oh, Jack, you really are the sweetest thing." Brianna's words curl around the air, as she disengages herself from Monique, moving behind the table to Jack, "You always say the prettiest words of apology, but this time I'm afraid I want a ...bit more."

Jack catches her hand, pressing a kiss to her silky white palm, his own voice lowering, "'N whatever can I do to make it up to you, darlin' Brianna?" It suddenly makes me wonder just how many women at this table he's made love to. Or rather, how many people in this pub. Or this French colony. Or any colony. Or any nation with a port … or without, really…

She smiles seductively, as she leans over to snag up his tri-cornered hat, "I want a song. And you aren't getting this back," She drops it lightly atop her curly head, "Until I do."

Jack's eyebrows raise together to his dark hairline, while all the pirates, and even my own men, start to cheer. He glances over at me, and I simply raise my mug in smirking salute, saying dryly, "Don't worry, Sparrow. We'll make sure your rum doesn't run away."

"Song!" Anamaria yells, pounding her fist into the table, and Gibbs picks it up with her, until it is a chant all around the broad courtyard, "Song! Song! Song!"

"Alright, alright, demanding bunch o' buggers, aren't you?" Jack sighs, but his dark eyes twinkle merrily as he staggers to his feet, giving me a friendly nudge with his arm, "N' I know –just- the tune, too. I'll even have Jamie here laughin'."

"Oh, -will- you now?" I snort a little, garnering a smile from Brianna, not to mention knowing smirks from all the pirates.

Jack turns to me, smiling broadly enough to make his mouth glint with gold, "How much do you want t'bet me, love?"

"Take a wager with Jack Sparrow? I would have to be mad, or drunk. I am luckily neither." I fold my arms over one another on the table, tilting up my chin.

"Oh, but you are so certain y'won't laugh, James…" Jack gestures broadly, that grin deepening, "How can y'not bet on such a sure thing?"

'Because there is no such animal as a 'sure thing' around you.' I think to myself. However – there is an answer to my problem. If I can simply keep from laughing, I can wager my way out of this situation with Jack. I tap my fingers on the table, before speaking slowly, "Very well. The same terms as before. I win, I get my choice of personal story."

Jack nods his head, crossing his arms over his chest, tilting his body a little, "And if I win … hm." He smiles, and starts down the open space where the musicians are, "Well, I'm sure t'think of something."

"…Now why am I not assured by the vagueness of that statement?" I mutter, shaking my head.

"Don't worry Commodore…" Monique smirks, as she pats me on the shoulder comfortingly, and goes over to Anamaria. The caramel-skinned woman opens her arms to the smaller one, and they curl up together in the one chair looking very, ah, cozy. I stare at them, as Monique giggles, "If one thing pirates can be counted on for, it's a good time. Even if it is …'vague'."

I turn my gaze back to Jack. He is leaning in to the musicians, who chortle quietly before nodding their heads in agreement. With a wink, he moves to take center-stage, a place I am sure he is well acquainted with. Hoots and loud catcalling fill the air, and he bows dramatically to all, before moving about, his hands dancing on the slightly smoky air, "Good evenin', beautiful ladies and fine lookin' gentlemen. I've been requested t'sing a little bit of a ballad for you, and I was inspired after a recent trip t'Port Royal, in fact, with a lil' ditty of my own. Shall I share it?"

He cups his hand around his ear to hear the wild calls, and I must suppress a slight smirk. The man is such a ruddy show-off, in all his finery. The candlelight makes him almost glow as the musicians take up a light tune, and he moves to the music, raising his voice in a husky, low tenor,

"I could have been a Poet, a Lawyer,
A Nobleman's Toady…

He stops, whispering theatrically, "I mean, of course, Se-cre-tary."

Gales of laughter fill the air, and he smirks as he continues to sing,

"But no, it be
A pirate's life for me
Which I admit with glee
And how could I resist?
For the long arms,
of Royal Justice's Fist,
Is more like a Limp Wrist.

He waggles his wrist back and forth, smirking evilly at the appreciative cackles, before singing on,

"Stupid Naval Officers
They clog the New World
Stupid Naval Officers
With their wigs all curled
Stupid Naval Officers
Yet for all their prettiness
Stupid Naval Officers
personify clueless-ness…"

Jack is in his element now, moving about the tables, his hands and body moving in time with the tune, and his audience is eating it up with a large spoon, clapping appreciatively along. I myself am finding it an actual struggle -not- to laugh, much to my own shame. He steps up and unto the bar, stepping lightly through the glasses of varying liquors and drinkers, who all raise a hooting toast to Jack, their self-made Prince of Pirates. He is adoring it, lapping it up like a cat laps up cream.

"Now the Royal Navies
Come from here and there
And their levels of stupidity
Are truly beyond compare
The Dutch think they're Naval,
Brain-fried as they are from the sun,
The Portuguese have a fine Navy,
When the Spanish allow them one."
And the Basque would gloat
If they even had a boat."

Stupid Naval Officers
Oh, their uniforms are neat
Stupid Naval Officers
From their pretty hats to their feet
Stupid Naval Officers
If only they had wits
Stupid Naval Officers
To go with their lace-trimmed outfits.

He spins, twists, and leaps lightly off the bar, to much applause and laughter. I bite the inside of my mouth, for I will not laugh. Not this time. He catches my eye, lifting one eyebrow, and I return his gaze with a challenging glint. His smile turns devilish, as he saunters through the tables towards us,

"Of course, there are
Bigger, Stupider Navies,
Much to my chagrin
The French are the verbal dunces,
For they gave us 'parley', silly idiots
The Spanish think they own the East Indies
Who wants to tell them they didnae win?

He twirls around our table, his fingers resting on the back of my chair, as he curves to my side,

"Ah, but the bottom of the barrel
Are the stiff-necked British Cads
They COULD be lots of fun…
For they DO have Norrington.

He pauses, and leans in to whisper theatrically, "And he's a right snuggly one...isn't he lads?"

The response to that statement? A resounding, "AYE!!"

My lips twitch as a snicker of laughter escapes my lips, damned traitor it is. Jack grins, leaning up to lead the crowd through the last repetition of the song, and the crowds sing with him, cheering and toasting him as the song ends. I cannot help but smile, just a bit wider, as I watch Jack soak in all the attention. He turns to me, bowing once more, before he holds out his hand, "Come along, James, it's time to collect m'prize."

To the cheerfully mocking jeers of our table and the wide-eyed staring of my troops, I rise hesitantly to my feet, eying Jack with no little suspicion, "Just what do you have in mind, Sparrow?"

Jack grins, grabbing my arm and drags me forward towards the open area, calling out to Brianna, "Fancy another song, dear lady?"

"Always, Jack!" Brianna calls out with a bubbling laugh behind us. Jack winks, before propelling me forward, leaving me in the middle of the open space, where chortles emerge from my awkward stance as I look uneasily out into the crowd. At their snickers, I stand up straighter, green eyes narrowing.

Jack whispers once again to the musicians, who nod their heads slowly and thoughtfully, before picking up a slower tune, a melody that reminds me of a slow reel. The pirate moves to the slower beat, shifting gracefully to the music, smiling softly at me. He lowers his voice, so only I might hear, "I fancy a dance, Commodore…"

"A dance?" I say, rather stumped, staring at him, "But we can't dance together. We're … well, we're men, for God's sake."

"Jamie, that's half the fun." Jack waggles his eyebrows with a leer, as he starts to sway in time around me, lifting his voice up on the down-beat, "There's such a sad love
Deep in your eyes A kind of pale jewel
Open and closed
Within your eyes
I'll place the sky
Within your eyes…

As he sings to me, I shift my gaze around uncomfortably, noting distantly that some of the bar wenches are cooing appreciatively. They twirl their skirts as they start to dance, moving in slow time along with Jack's mellow voice.

I am abruptly pulled away from this surreal image by Jack's finger on my jaw, turning me to face him, as he moves towards me, making me move backwards almost automatically. He smiles, a slow one that sends shivers down my spine. He takes another measured two steps forward, making me step back, before he moves backward, curving his fingers on the air, a come-hither gesture to follow. I move two steps forward, then stop abruptly, only to be forced another two steps back by Jack.

That smile deepens, as do my shivers as he murmurs, "That's it, Jamie. Just let go…" His voice raises higher, sweet and husky on the night air,
"There's such a fooled heart
Beating so fast
In search of new dreams
A love that will last
Within your heart
I'll place the moon
Within your heart…

The music, the rhythm of his voice lull me, and I find my body moving in time with his as he sings, losing myself in his eyes. Step forward, step back, step forward, step back. The music takes us and wraps us within, as he shifts slightly to the side, and I glide the other way, and we rotate around one another. Around us, out of the corner of my vision, I can see the bright and garish skirts of the barmaids as they dance in a circle around us, joined by pirates and other patrons.

It is all but a dim realization, however, for I cannot look away from Jack, from his lips as they form their heartfelt words,
"As the pain sweeps through
Makes no sense for you
Every thrill she's caused
Wasn't too much fun at all
But I'll be there for you-oo-oo As the world falls down…

He steps close, bringing those lips so close to mine, as we move in another close circle, then away. The line of heat, the point of connection, keeps us riveted to one another, as the music deepens and his voice does as well, "Falling …
As the world
Falling down
Falling in love…

God, to touch him now. To forget who I am completely, who he is. To forget why I am here, what I have to do. 'Then again, have you really questioned why you're here to begin with?' the little voice whispers to me. Hmmph.

My distraction must be clear on my face, for Jack's fingers brush along my cheek to draw me back to him, as he sways away. I turn towards him, but already he is weaving in and out of the dancing girls, beckoning me to follow him. A moth drawn to Jack's flame, I advance, finding my path blocked by the bar wenches, each taking their turn dancing with Jack, grinning as he does so. I frown, trying to move past them, as I can hear Jack's laughing voice singing from beyond,
"I'll paint you mornings of gold
I'll spin you Valentine evenings
Though we're strangers till now
We're choosing the path
Between the stars
I'll leave my love
Between the stars…

Frustration wars within me, until I finally decide if I can't step past them, I shall have to dance with them to get to what I want. Stepping up, I recall half-remembered steps as they swirl up to me, and I move gracefully around them, following the sound of Jack's voice. I can see him – glimmers of dark plaited hair and knowing looks, just one step beyond my reach. Oh no. Not this time. He isn't getting away this time. I will catch Jack Sparrow.

"As the pain sweeps through
Makes no sense for you
Every thrill she's caused
Wasn't too much fun at all
But I'll be there for you-oo-oo
As the world falls down…

I've got him now. Just spin this girl up close, then away. Shift past this other girl, all to the beat of the music. Now where the hell did he go…? I feel a tap on my shoulder, and turn quickly to find him behind me, crooking his finger. I don't even hesitate, but move closer to him, as we mirror each other's steps, perfectly in time. I am completely mesmerized by the way his crimson shirt shifts under his coat, flashing me tattooed golden skin, how his breeches fit snugly around those sharp hips. How he is like a snake in motion, and I am his prey, struck insensible. Palm to palm, we slide past each other without touching, grating the edges of my oversensitized nerves sharply.

His smile widens as he croons at me, his black eyes whirlpools of desire and desiring, all in one,
"Makes no sense at all
Makes no sense to fall
As the world falls down
Falling in love…

...Falling in love? Haven't we already fallen? Am I not already past the point of no return?

By the look in Jack's eyes, I am positive that he is. His fingers wrap around mine, and he leads me firmly off the floor, through the crowds of still dancing people, swirling to the soft music that is starting to peter out. All of this is barely comprehensible to me as we step through some sort of back entrance, a broad door that leads into a back garden. I am dimly aware we've left our party and his precious hat behind.

Jack, however, seems to have more important things on his mind as we all but run into a grove of willows just outside this large and garish house, shifting slightly in the early evening breeze. He shoves me back against one, his lips on mine, warm and tasting of rum, his heated lithe form pushed hungrily against mine. I wrap my arms around those lovely, graceful hips, pulling him in tightly as I crush us together. It is all heat and sensation, need overcoming everything else as I feel his hardness against my thigh, and feel my own pulsing against his hip. No thought to this madness at all, no consideration about who might be watching, or passing by. Just wanting, taking and having.

His lips are moving in at rapid fire, burning kisses that ravage mine without mercy. I feel the shivers rolling down my spine as he rumbles against my mouth, "Never want'd anyone as much as I want you right now, love…"

The heat dissipates a little as an image of two figures sitting in the window of the –Pearl- comes to the fore. Sweetheart – who may not carry Jack's heart, but still warmed his bed. Sharp doubt throws me. Will that be my fate as well? A mere midnight fancy that cools in the harsh light of day? My voice is quietly serious as I shift back a little, "As much as you ever wanted Sweetheart?"

He stills in my arms, looking up at me sharply, "What do you know about her?"

"I know you keep her in your bed, even when she's hurt you. I know she broke your heart, but I don't know how or why." I pause, and take the final plunge, "I know Lark had something to do with it, as well."

Jack lets out a noise remarkably like a growl as he yanks himself out of my grip, turning away from me, resting one hand on his side as he glares off into the distance. Just like that, closing himself off to me. For some reason this infuriates me, and yes, hurts me as well. I move away from the tree, speaking intently, "What did they do to you, Jack? How does it all connect?"

He glares at me, dark eyes flashing dangerously as he speaks sharply, "So I take it that's your only interest out here, eh? Nudgin' out answers through kisses and seduction? You'll have t'pardon me, Commodore, for feelin' insulted."

"It is not like that …" I take a deep breath, clenching my hands together, then letting them go, "Or hell, maybe it is. You know why I came here, Jack."

"Aye, but do you? You seem to have troubles makin' up your mind on the subject, mate." Jack spits out.

The anger is flashing through my body, "I'm here to find out about Lark. She's tied in with you – and I want to know why."

"Why do you want to know why, Commodore?" Jack asks, his own hands forming fists, "Y'want to capture her, but then, ah... y'want to capture me too, for completely different reasons. Y'just won't bloody admit it." He stabs a finger in my direction, "You stand there, all proper honor and decorum, lost in your own guilt about wantin' somethin' real - somethin' warm and flesh, and a man no less. So tell me, Norrington, do you think your fine officers will think less of you, that your friends will abandon you, or are you just afraid to admit t'caring for someone at all?"

"I'm not like you. I can't just follow my heart and my bloody groin wherever it takes me! I don't have the bloody luxury of letting go!" My voice raises with each syllable, "Caring, being open? It has done nothing but crush me."

"If you don't learn to, you're going t'lose a lot more than that fancy position of yours, Norrington …" Jack says slowly, his face a mask of fury and heart-rendering pain, "You don't see it now, but when you do, I guarantee you that you'd best be ready to accept more than your own emotional fallacies." He turns heading back to the bar, long strides I didn't think possible.

"…Where are you going?" I call after him quietly.

He pauses, but doesn't turn around, "You do me a favor, Commodore. When you figure out what the bloody hell you want, you find me. Until then, don't be bothered with what the hell I'm up to, eh?"

His footfalls stalk off, leaving me alone in the dark, literally and figuratively. I want to go after him. I want to, as I did when I was a boy, turn and run as far as I can without looking back. I want to have the ability to cry out, to feel something without hitting the wall of my own inner demons. I want nothing more than to be back in that bed with Jack in my arms, warm, comfortable, and safe, so very safe. That feeling of complete security that I haven't known since that dreadful day Jonas's ship came home without him.

Instead, I turn and make my way as best I can out of the garden and into the New Orleans streets again. I know only one place I want to go, and that is back to Port Royal, where the world is stark, cold, and clear to me. Where my heart isn't tangled up with my duty. I shall settle for burrowing myself in Jack's cabin. Perhaps … perhaps talking to Andrew and Jonathan … no. I cannot. I cannot risk losing them. What would they think of me, after all, if I do not even have the clarity to decide what I think of myself?

I stop on the gangplank, catching my breath and trying to control my thoughts and my expression as I make my way quietly aboard. The fewest number of lanterns are glowing, but it seems eerily quiet. I make my way down below decks, frowning in the darkness, but my unease lightens at the sound of two familiar voices from down below in the officer's cabin.

I step down, not wanting to disturb their conversation as their voices rise and fall. Shifting further down the hall, I can see Andrew through the half open door, leaning against the wall, arms folded over his chest in a very familiar disgruntled expression. Tinged with amusement, his voice is loud enough for me to make out the words, "…Well honestly, you didn't see me reacting so to Jack Sparrow. I don't see why Anamaria is any different."

Jonathan steps into view, his own arms crossed over his chest as he answers, scowling fiercely, "You know very well why. I wasn't deliberately trying to make you jealous."

My eyes widen at Jonathan's words – jealous? Jealous of what? Andrew speaks, rather dryly, "Oh, I see. So all this blathering talk about Sparrow this, and Sparrow that, was simply interesting conversation? You know very well you were trying to make me burst to the bilges with jealousy, Ash."

Jonathan stops dead, then that devilish smile of his takes over his handsome face, "Well, maybe just a little. However …" My breath catches in my throat as he leans in, putting one arm on either side of Andrew's shoulders, brushing his lips against Andrew's, "You are so very adorably French when you get protective, Cris. I simply cannot resist."

"Hmm. I am happy I'm so irresistible, then." I cannot tear my gaze away as Andrew snakes his arms around Jonathan's waist, pulling him closer, "As long as you remember who you belong to, mon amour."

"I could never forget." Jonathan's simple words are rich with affection, as his lips meet Andrews's once again, in a long kiss. They break away slowly, and Jonathan continues, lifting his hand in a tender gesture to push the ginger hair out of Andrew's face, "Now why exactly am I wasting our precious alone time with such matters? I ask you."

"Simply because you want to know that I am yours as well, idiot." Andrew chuckles low in his throat, lifting up his fingers to loosen Jonathan's collar, pressing a kiss to where the throat meets the shoulder. Jonathan gasps, digging his fingers a little more into Andrew's shoulders, as the ginger-haired man trails kisses and words up the side of Jonathan's neck, "Which I am, and you know it. Here, let me show you..."

Jonathan tilts his head willingly to Andrew's, their lips meet in a thunderous clash ... and I cannot take any more of this. Without making a sound, I turn and leave quickly, heading up and out of the ship as fast I can. My mind is awhirl and for the first time, I find that I cannot reason with myself. I cannot explain away what I just saw. I stumble down to the docks, then away, on the dry dirt road that leads around the lake and away - away from the confusion and the painful truths.

Jonathan and Andrew are lovers. No, no. They are far more than that. They are in love … with each other. My two oldest friends are in love with each other – and I never knew. I never even noticed. I am left wondering confusedly – for how long? When did it begin? Why did they never tell me?

Jack's words come back to slap me in the face, and I let out a heartfelt moan under my breath as I press my fingers to my face. Of course, Jack knew. Jack probably knew all along. He saw where I was completely unaware, and why? Because I thought I knew them.

No. That isn't right. I do know them – but I just refused to see. I have refused to see a lot of things, I realize now. How they were around one another. How I turned a blind eye to their all-too familiar bickering and affections, like so many married couples I have known. I blinded myself to the most important relationship in their lives.

They… they more than likely feared my censure. My own hatred.

I stop, leaning against a tall, thick tree that lines the broad lake. In the distance I can see where the Pearl is docked, as I rest my head back against the rough bark, looking without seeing the rippling water, the reeds that choke the shore. So this is what Jack meant about learning how to accept not only myself – but others. He knew if I couldn't accept my own feelings, I would have to reject Jonathan and Andrew for theirs. Such is the cost of following my duty instead of my instincts.

I stare at the Pearl, my jaw working as I just concentrate on breathing, on getting the air in and out. Letting my mind empty, as if it was the moment before the first rush of battle, where it is simply what needs to be thought. None of the extemporaneous nonsense of self doubt and my own near paralyzing emotional stupidity, for that is what it is.

If I really care for Jonathan and Andrew, I will -have- to be able to accept them. I cannot let this knowledge change what I think of them as people. They haven't changed, after all. Only I have – my perspective of them has. If I come to them as James, and not the Commodore, then I won't lose them. The question is, can I do that? I am starting to doubt it.

That is a very real and very frightening possibility, and I have to wonder how many times I have dangled on the edge. Not just with Jonathan and Andrew, but with William and Elizabeth as well. Every person who has a personal claim to my affections – how many times have they not wanted to admit something to me because they feared the Commodore's disapproval?

Therein lies the root of the problem, doesn't it? Where does James begin, and the Commodore end? Am I more the officer, or the man? I cannot be just one or the other.

…So why cannot I be both?

Why does my duty have to separate me from being human? Do I not have the right to be happy – to feel real emotions?

The answer – I do. I can. I exhale slowly, the epiphany filling me, filling my thoughts with clarity. I have spent all this time worrying about my feelings compromising my position, without realizing that I am simply compromising myself. Laws, morals – in the letter of both you are only in violation of what you yourself feel is wrong, after all.

Jonas is gone. He is gone and dead, and there is nothing I can do about that. There is no reason why my feelings had to die with him. Just because I care for someone doesn't mean they will be taken from me. Jack is not simply going to disappear because I love him.

My mind halts at this. Tentatively wraps itself around the thought.

...I'm in love with Jack Sparrow. Not because he's a damned alluring pirate, with his kohl-smudged eyes and too heated lips. No. I simply love him. Every irritating, annoying, marvelous, charming bit that simply makes Jack himself, I adore without reason. Even when he's driving me mad, he's - well - driving me gloriously mad for him. He could be a man, a woman, or even a damned eunuch - it simply wouldn't matter to me. I, James, love Jack. It has nothing to do with what we are, but who we are, and what he truly means to me.

Acceptance has been realized. Now, as they say, the moment of truth is upon me.

I can either learn to be myself completely, or face the consequences of not facing my fears and lose everyone I care about. Lose them all, and be left with nothing but my beautiful sword.

My fingers brush against the hilt of my blade, as I gaze out intently at the harbor again.

And make my decision.

I have to find Jack.

-- // --

The most obvious place to start is Saint Marina's, but neither Jack nor Anamaria are present when I swoops by. I watch with some grim amusement up to the stage where my three marines are enjoying themselves by dancing with a number of barmaids, while Gibbs drunkenly shouts at me, "Capt'n left 'bout a half hour ago, a few bottles with him, 'n when Anamaria came back from ... heh ... entertain' Monique, she followed after. Capt'n probably won't be back, but by the look in Monique's eyes I know Anamaria will."

I nod my head slowly, leave enough coinage for everyone to have a round of drinks on me, as it is shore leave, then head towards the outside world once more. My second choice, is of course, back to the Pearl, so with as much haste as I can, I head back to the ship. Upon my return I note quite a few more lanterns burning up on deck, all centered around the helm, and in the illumination of the lights I see Anamaria boarding the ship huffily. I head up the gangplank after her, just as Jack's voice becomes distinct, soused with rum and loud besides.

"…Jest don't understand it! Why doesn't he love me, Pearl? We're perfect for one another! ..Alright, he's a bit stiff in the breeches, but not always! Jest when he's uncomfy, and he IS comfy around me, I swear it!" I peer over the side of the railing to see Jack face-first on the deck, hatless and coatless, bottle of rum in hand as he rubs the deck of the Pearl, moaning pitifully. "..'N he's marvelous, 'n I want 'im, 'n he don't want me... I want 'im t'want me!"

In front of me, Anamaria is stalking up the stairs. She leans over, growling, to yank him upright, "I thought I'd find your drunken self back here, talkin' to dey ship! What's wrong THIS time?"

Jack blinks at her for a moment, then says solemnly, "The Pearl's jest been givin' me some advice ...*hic*...on m'love life."

There is a long silence, in which I swear I can hear the gnashing of Anamaria's teeth from here. She gives Jack a good, hard shake, "You want some advice on your love life, Capt'n?" She takes a deep breath and bellows, "Go Find Him And Apologize, Y'Daft Idiot!"

"…I wasn't in the wrong! He was in the wrong! With all his not bein' able t'decide what he wants. He wants me. He wants bloody Lark. He wants me. He wants his precious reputation!" Jack shouts back, leaning backwards tipsily, "Man changes his mind more than the tides!"

"He does not! He's just –scared-, and can you blame him? You know as well as he, Jack, that the heart is not an easy thing t'let go of. At any rate, if you were bein' all open, you -would've- told him 'bout Sweetheart and Lark to begin with." Anamaria gives him another shake.

"Oh, and what about you, eh? What 'bout …" Jack starts to say, and earns himself another jostle.

"Don't you DARE be usin' me as an excuse, Jack Sparrow, t'not tell him de truth! If you love him, you'll find him, and come clean!" Anamaria growls, letting him go as she rises to her feet. She turns, sees me, and the fury abates with amazement, then a gentle, knowing smile crosses her lovely face, "B'sides, I think he might jest surprise you."

She makes her way down the steps, clapping me lightly on the arm, before moving off of the ship once more, and down to the docks. I smile softly after her, then start up the steps. Jack seems to be contemplating the deck once more, bottle in hand again, before he slaps his palm down on the Pearl, "She's right, Pearl. I got t'find him, 'n give him a good talkin' to, I do. 'Bout time we settl'd this … thing between us. For better or worse." He pushes himself unsteadily to his feet.

"I could not agree more, Jack." I speak quietly, finally ascending to the quarter-deck. He starts with surprise, takes a clumsy sideways step and begins to stumble. I catch him in my arms just before he slams into the deck, arms going around him tightly.

We gaze at each other, the sudden sensual heat flaring between us once more. Jack hiccups, breaking the moment, "…Well, someone's gettin' rather good at uprightin' me."

"If you recall, Jack," I lean slightly, picking him up, wrapping my arms around his firm, small body, "You are the one who is trusting me to catch you whenever you fall."

"'Ey, what's this, now!? Put me down! I'm no damsel 'n distress, or the like!" Jack protests, squirming in my grip, as I move down the steps, trying to walk quietly as not to disturb Andrew and Jonathan below.

"No, you are a drunken fiend, and since I cannot trust you on your own two feet or to not grab my buttocks at any given moment, this is the safest way to convey us to your cabin." I say briskly, "Now shhhh. I think Andrew will be quite irked if he has to leave Jonathan to come and glower at you."

The sudden knowing, leering smile on Jack's face can only be considered to be fodder for future ravishment as he speaks, innocence personified, "I have not a clue t'what you are insinuatin', Commodore."

"I'm so very sure that you do." I roll my eyes, shifting my grip on Jack to open the door to his cabin. He lets out a curse as he slides, grabbing me to keep his balance. I breath in the sharp smells of rum, sweat, and Jack combined, and a bolt of lust shakes me down to my toes. It takes a great deal of my self control to carry the still squirming pirate into the room and drop him on the bed without exploring his face with my lips first. No, we indeed have business to discuss, and the lust fades under the apprehension.

I seat myself formally at the head of The Bed, waiting for Jack to untangle himself from his own limbs, and sit up. He finally struggles to a seated position, and we eye each other in turn, like two duelers on the field of combat. I clear my throat, "I've decided what I want."

A flicker of bemusement mixed in with curiosity crosses Jack's expression. He cocks his head to the side, sending his hair cascading down on side of his neck. He gazes down at the bedspread, letting his fingers trace the patterns absently, "Have you now. 'N what's that, Commodore?"

"I want the truth." I watch his shoulders hunch noticeably, and my voice lowers and softens at the sight, "And I want you." His chin jerks up, jangling the beads in his braids, his face a mix of wonder and hope, so very appealing that I have to force myself to say the rest. "In that order."

The lines of his expression harden, as he looks away, breathing out slowly, "So it's confession time, then. Tell you what you want t'know and then what? You'll be off on your l'il mission ..." Something close to outright panic is in those eyes, "'N then she'll have you."

I am quiet for a moment, before I move across the bed to him, "That is not going to happen, in any way, shape, or form, Jack."

He looks at me, lips opening to speak, his hand gesture angry, but suddenly halted as my fingers press against his lips firmly, mimicking the gesture he used on me a lifetime ago in Governor Swann's closet. I lean in close, whispering, "Shhhh. This time, I am the one with something to say." He falls silent as I brush a slow finger around his tender, kissable mouth, brushing whiskers as I do so, "You know, I have an entire list of reasons why I shouldn't be drawn to you. Very thorough, might I add? It is utterly and completely logical for me to walk away from you, from this, without looking back and it would be the sanest decision I have ever made."

I open my hand, stroking the side of his face, causing his eyes to close as he breathes out slowly. I murmur, entranced by the sight, "However, there is the small matter of I have fallen hopelessly in love with you, and therefore makes all rationality becomes null and void."

His eyes crack open, and that golden smile of his appears, the one that makes one want to hug him or hit him. I smirk in return, tapping his nose lightly with the knuckle of one of my fingers, "And it is because I love you, that I have to know." My entire demeanor goes intense, "I cannot fight against the ghosts of lovers and betrayers past, Jack, without knowing what I am fighting. You know what Elizabeth did to me, and you've seen how losing Jonas changed me. You are, were, there for me, and I ... I want to do the same." I pause, then add, letting my heart put itself on the line, "I want you to trust me, Jack."

Jack looks at me, his expression unreadable, before he rests his hands on his thighs momentarily. Letting out a heavy sigh, he pushes himself to his feet, beginning to pace around the room as his fingers jerk nervously in the air. Finally, he stops, looking out the window, to where a quarter moon glitters down, and sighs, "...It all started, over a girl."

I turn to him, resting my own hands on my knees, and he smiles bitterly over at me as his hands drop, "Age old story, really. Young, dashin' pirate named Sparrow meets fair lass in the Georgetown, where he has come with his first love, his bonny -Pearl-, to make his fortune as Captain. Sparrow falls for girl, unaware that said girl, his Sweetheart, is in love with another." A painful pause, and he snorts with bitter irony, "A pirate woman called Lark, beautiful and deft in her seductions, but crueller than any devil, who while dangling the interest of another, older and meaner pirate .. you may have heard of him? Barbossa? Yeah, while she plays him, she plays Sweetheart, like duelling fiddles. The only one privy to her lil' bedroom games is Lark's own slave, a lil' bit of a thing called Anamaria. Gettin' confused yet?"

Exhaling slowly, I shake my head no, and he nods his head, continuing, "Good, because it's about t'get complicated. Lark, much to the horror of the dashing Sparrow, tries t'get him into her bed, for she always has a taste for what she can't ever have. He refuses her, stating like an -idiot- his intentions for Sweetheart. Lark takes it well. Too well, or so thinks the savvy friend of the dashing pirate. The savvy friend, Bootstrap by name, tells Sparrow he shouldn't be trusting his Sweetheart, or the suddenly friendly Barbossa. He's heard stories, pressed coin into the frightened palm of Anamaria, for the gory details. But Sparrow, still the lovestruck idiot, ignores such good advice ... especially when it is starting to look like his courtin' is startin' to pan out favorably, like."

He lets out a sharp bark of laughter, moving to the window, his voice becoming darker and more vehement, "Then comes the 'Opportunity'. A compass, won in a dice game," And here he fingers the dice entwined in his hair, snorting, "With a warnin' and a Codex written in Spanish. A fortune in Spanish gold ... more than enough t'settle down in glory. Sparrow tells his Sweetheart, hoping this will be the moment that will win her, for he's fool enough to believe that money will prevail where affection does not. She of course, goes off 'n tells Lark, desperate for the older woman's approval 'n affection in turn. 'N Lark ... well she devises herself a plan. So very simple, really. Barbossa joins Sparrow's crew as the first mate, trusted friend that he was, and Sweetheart sweet-talks Sparrow, in the bedroom sort of way, gettin' Sparrow to tell her fair near everythin' 'bout the compass, the Codex. And all the while, Bootstrap's warnin' Sparrow, and Anamaria's warnin' him ... and -Sparrow just doesn't listen-." He stops, abruptly, the shadows enveloping him completely.

"Until it was too late." I finish for him softly, "Until he was marooned and left to die - without ship, friend or ... Sweetheart."

He nods his head slowly, bracing himself against the window frame, "Aye ... Barbossa took a particular pleasure explainin' what led Sparrow there, for he always was a jealous fellow and didn't QUITE fancy playin' second fiddle to Sparrow in Lark's lusts. Sparrow still remembers the words that hurt the most, 'I'll have t'be thankin' your lass, for the use of your compass, Jack. Lark'll show her gratitude to your Sweetheart much better than I, tho'.' Then Sparrow knew ...-knew- that his Sweetheart wasn't his, and there would be no help. No outcry. Not even Bootstrap could help him - he had a wife and a son t'consider for, and by the Code it's best by you first. Anamaria belong'd to Lark, 'n the girl lived in fear of her mistress like the mouse fears the cat. Sparrow didn't blame them - especially when he found the cache of rum t'drown his troubles in after the -Pearl- was swept away from him, 'n towards her cursed fate. He drank, and he mourned, 'n he jest about gave up on everythin', waitin' to die."

"What changed his mind?" I ask, holding myself back from going over to wrap my arms around him, for that isn't what he needs right now. Despite his protests, he wants to tell me as much as I want to hear, "What happened next?"

"Fate did. Fate in the form of an old stingray, washed up on shore, his sting'r bright in the sun, catchin' young Sparrow's eyes. He took that spine, and cleaned it till it shone, and whilst he was doin' so, his mind cleared. Grief was replaced by common sense 'n cunning, and a -mighty- thirst for revenge. He braided that spine, " Again, Jack's fingers go to his hair, tapping the thin strip of ivory, "As a reminder, 'n a silent promise to himself. Vengeance would be sharp and stinging for those who betray'd him. The rum runners came not a day later, and Sparrow bartered himself off the island, 'n then off to the Far East, to recoup, and plan. So when he return'd t'England, t'find Bootstrap and find out where the treacherous trio were hidin', he instead found Bootstrap's wife, caring for ... for what was left of Sweetheart."

There was a sudden choke to Jack's voice, "...Turns out, she hadn't known what they were goin' t'do. She thought they were going t'take the compass, 'n come back for the gold. Out and out thievin'. Not mutiny, 'n certainly not murder. Bootstrap saw his chance for his own bit of vengeance, 'n guilted the girl into takin' a piece of the gold to his son, for he already knew it to be cursed, and the compass besides. She did so, but Lark found out, 'n followed her t'England. Trapped her 'n a blacksmithy 'n... held her. Held Sweetheart in a bonfire of flames, laughing while Sweetheart was screamin' and cryin' and beggin' .. but not tellin'. Oh no. She wouldn't say where that compass would be. Finally, Lark left her t'die. It was Anamaria that sav'd her, Anamaria who went runnin' to Becca Turner. And it was Becca Turner who took both women in, who hid 'em. And in the end it was Sparrow who took both o' them back to the Caribbean, claiming the compass and Sweetheart, but lettin' Anamaria go free. It was owed her, a hundr'd times over."

"So Sparrow hide her in Tortuga with him, ah, but he never forgave her. The heart's a bitter thing, especially when it's been broken. He told her he only kept her alive t'barter with Lark and Barbossa - that she'd have to pay the price for mutiny and betrayal just like the rest, 'n all she did was look at him with that ravaged face ... and agree... and agree ... she had no spark to her. No more fight. Just pain, guilt, and betrayal, deeper than his own." He exhales slowly, looking down at his bejeweled fingers, "So really, how could he be so horrified when she took t'selling her body and her disfigurement for money? How could his heart break all over again when she came back that first night, hair dirty and clothes torn, her innocence gone but smilin' b'cause she thought he would be happy that she could give him somethin' that he wanted - money onna barrel. After all, he drove her to it, didnae he?"

He turns back to the window, "Didnae he break the one thing he loved? Or didnae Lark take it long before that, 'n lives to do it again? He had her own against her, a last partin' shot they both, surprisin'ly enough, lived t'see... but now? He keeps away from her - for Sweetheart's sake - for the mere mention of her name makes Sweetheart cry. For Anamaria's, for she still holds Lark's scars to 'er soul. For his own damn'd sanity, for he can't stand t'lose again." He jerks around, staring at me, "Won't lose. That's right, Commodore. I know where your fine Lark is, but I ain't tellin' you. Do what y'must, Norrington. Walk out of here, smack me about, put me in irons. I won't send you to her t'die. I will NOT lose you like I lost everythin' else. Lark destroys everythin' she touches ...just like me."

I look at him, not speaking. The bed creaks slightly as I stand up, and move towards the door. I can hear his soft exhalation, hear the creaking of the boards as he turns to the window swiftly. Then I can hear him turn just as quickly back as I slide the bolt home on the door, effectively locking us in together. I shift, putting my back against the door, crossing my arms over my chest as I contemplate the floor for a long moment, before speaking, "That is the biggest load of bollocks I've ever heard in my entire life. Really, Sparrow. Self-pity is one thing, but this goes beyond the pale." Off his offended snort, I hold up my hand, speaking with a note of experience, "Sweetheart made her choice. She fell in love with the wrong person. She paid for the consequences, and her retribution, gladly. I personally find her choice of sacrifice distasteful, but no less meaningful than ... let's say, standing in front of a pirate before of all Port Royal, saving him from the hangman's noose?"

I glance at him, watching the emotions move over his expressive face. He cocks one eyebrow at me musingly, "Y'mean by feelin' guilty that I've brought her to this way of life, I'm jest enablin' her to keep going at it, b'cause she thinks she still owes me?"

"More or less. You don't have to forgive her, Jack. You just have to accept her guilt. You have to accept the fact that she is trying to say, 'I cared for you, as best as I could'." My voice softens, "We all have our crosses to bear, but don't take on any more than you deserve, Jack."

"..'N what's your cross, love?" Jack moves farther from the window, towards me, stopping to wrap one hand around a bedpost, observing me with an unreadable expression.

"Oh, I have more crosses than I can number -- I still love the one woman who tore my heart asunder while at the same time, I find myself the elder brother to the man who took her away from me. I find myself at an interesting crossroads, where I have to learn for the first time that James the Man and James the Officer are not separate entities to be dealt, but to understand as simply James. On top of that, I find that my two dearest friends are sodomists - which would be understandable considering the amount of time we spend at sea chasing pirates. However, they are sodomists in love, so while my duties as Commodore say to punish them, my heart tells me to turn a blind eye. For greater sins are met, as you well know, in betrayal." I pause, then add ruefully, "Hypocrisy asides, as I myself have fallen in love with a -pirate-, who is not only a man, but an insufferable one at that, making me look the fool more than once in front of my own men. Not only that, but he seems to think that ! just because he can outsneak me, I am a complete incompetent.

"... I never said you couldn't catch 'er, love!" Jack says in quick protest, dark eyes going wide.

"Ah, but you think it unlikely. Just because you keep slipping out of my grasp, Sparrow, doesn't mean I am lax in my duties. It just means I am fond of you, you bloody bastard." I sigh mournfully, pressing a hand to my chest, "Heavy is the burden of a British Commodore in love."

Jack's lips twitch, and he shakes a finger at me sternly, "Don't you go underestimatin' her, jest because she's a woman. She's dangerous, she is."

"Yes, Jack, she is. But what you are forgetting is that So Am I." I rumble low, my eyes flaring with intent. Which is when I have the rare privilege of watching Jack twitch, just a tad. Or is that a quiver of something else entirely? Most intriguing.

"...Aye, that's true. I keep forgettin' that you're a bird of prey, and not just one of pretty plumage." Jack murmurs, twisting so he's leaning back against one of the bedposts, watching me with open predatory interest of his own.

"Quite so, with the talons to match." I meet his gaze with my own intent one, lowering my voice to a slow rumble again, "Really, Jack. I expect my lovers to have a little more faith in me."

The sudden gleam in his dark, endless eyes is welcome indeed. He drawls, gracefully drawing himself upright, "Well love, don't see one of them lucky blighters in the vicinity, now do I?"

"No.." I murmur, feeling the sudden inferno of blood rushing through me, settling below my waist eagerly. I welcome it, as I take a tentative step forward in his direction, "Not yet, anyway."

"Why Commodore James L. Norrington, sirrah..." Jack tilts his head down, making all his beads and bangles jingle, as that slow golden glint spreads into a wide, sensual smile, "Could it be that you're makin' me a proposition I cannot refuse?"

I stop, a handsbreath or more away from him, looking to the ceiling as if in contemplation, before stating firmly, "Lysander."

Jack's eyebrows drew together, his head tilted in confusion, "'Ehwhutnow?"

"Lysander. James ... Lysander ... Norrington. If you are going to be seducing me, Jack Sparrow, I expect you to use my full name with aplomb." I say, leaning on one leg as I fold one hand behind me.

Surprise jerks Jack's body into leaning back, along with slow realization of what I have given him. A tiny smile, warm and real, plays along the planes of his face, in the depths of his eyes. He clears his throat, leaning on hand on his side, before smirking up at me, "Well, Commodore James Lysander Norrington, d'you mind terribly if I kiss you now? I wouldn't want t'impress m'self on those fine Naval lips of yours, b'fore m'time."

I press those selfsame lips together in mock seriousness, before nodding my head once decisively, "Permission granted, Captain Sparrow."

He slides forward in an instant, his hands pressing lightly on my arms as he leans up, mouth hovering over my own. Dark eyes meet green ones, still questioning, until my hand slips to his waist to steady him, and he brings that mouth eagerly enough to mine after that. Sweet, warm, tasting of rum and wanting, his lips nuzzle and nip at mine, bidding them to part, and as my other arm comes around him, my lips open to his. The slip of his heated tongue inside of my mouth is enough for me to stiffen in interesting places - moreso when he wrecks havoc by teasing my own tongue to come and play, which it does. I press us closer together, feeling the hardening length of Jack against my thigh. Such simple kisses leading to so much untold desire...

Jack's hands dance up and down my chest, then across the planes of my shoulders, tugging at the shirt to get the collar open wider. His mouth pulls away from mine, and I make a noise of protest that earns me a throaty chuckle before his kisses start trailing down my jawline, nibbling and creating such quiet havoc within me that I am finding it hard to stand upright. My grip on him tightens as I mutter deeply, "Jack ... perhaps we should..."

His mouth closes down on the pulse at my throat, biting down hard enough to make me gasp, weakening me at the knees. His steamy, hot tongue drifts along the pulse itself, making my chest feel like it's going to explode, as I lean, staggering under the sudden wave of pleasure. His strong arms steady me, and a firm hand starts to push me back towards The Bed insistently, while the other unclasps the sword at my waist, letting it clatter on the floor, then tosses aside my jacket. My legs hit the side of the Bed, and I grab Jack, causing us both to fall together into the soft mattress. Jack lets out a hiss of sharp pleasure as he straddles me, hands moving down to tug impatiently at my shirt. I snort a little, reaching down to help him, "You realize of course, that this would be much easier if you weren't intent on sitting on me."

"Don't want you t'get any urges to suddenly make a run for it, love." Jack smirks down at me in the candlelight, claiming my lips for another kiss as he starts to roll the shirt up. Letting out a content sigh within his mouth, I slide my hands up his thighs, moving to do the same with his own shirt, startled when he freezes. I look up at him, inquiringly, at the sudden apprehension on his face. He flashes me a weak, half-hearted grin, rubbing his hands down his long sleeves, "...Most prefer the shirt on, Jamie. It's not as pretty as all that, up close."

"Let me be the judge of that." I gently pull the shirt up, looking at him with patience. He lets out a little aggrieved sound, then pulls the white shirt away from his golden torso. My eyes flutter open wide at the varied mix of marks that dot his skin - the nasty brand markings on his chest, and the long trail of angry red scars up his left arm.

Our eyes meet, and he speaks, voice low with anger, "I don't let go of what's mine without a fight, y'see."

"No good Captain should." I answer, sitting up a little, trailing long fingers along the scars on his arm. "I'm glad to see you're so ..." I grasp his wrist firmly, pulling it towards my mouth, "Dedicated." I press my lips to the edge of the scar, feeling the slow tremble of Jack's skin. I continue my path upwards, not missing an inch of the long, jagged lines, listening with smug content at the slow rising of his breath, and then his head on my shoulder, as he moans my name under his breath. I trail kisses up the rest of his arm, then turn the same loving care and attention on the scars on his chest - softly suckling the blackened skin. Jack arches above and over me, letting out a frustrated growl as he nearly tears at my shirt, and I oblige him by holding my arms up, letting him tug it off impatiently.

He pushes me back a little, letting his eyes and tanned fingers roam over my milk-white skin, now pink and flush with excitement. I reach up, carefully untying his bandana as he explores my torso with an almost childlike intensity and interest. I let out a sharp grunt as he presses down on an old sword wound near my belly, a straight white line of imperfection, and I have more than a few others to match. The shoulder bullet wound, the jagged shrapnel scar that runs along my collarbone. Off his questioning look, I smile grimly, "You are not the only one who protects his ship, Jack."

"Heh, I'm guessin' so. Lie back, Jamie-Lys. I want t'see how far these scars go..." Jack grins with a wicked lilt to his carefully darkened eyes, as he slides to my hips, and down my legs.

I drop my head back to the bed, letting out an appreciative shudder at his clever fingers. Random thoughts enter my head, and I murmur, "Why do you wear kohl, Jack?"

My shoes hit the floor, and my stockings soon follow. With a grunt, I can hear Jack's boots following, before his hands grasp my legs and start moving upwards again. I tilt my chin to look at him, and he flashes a whimsical smile as he waggles his fingers right over the lacings of my breeches, "The answer t'that, Jamie-love, is simply, Why Not?"

My member tightens and pulses as his fingers dive down, unlacing its confining prison and set it free to the warm air of the cabin. Jack finally gets the breeches off, letting out a satisfied grunt as he stands over me. His hands rest by his own breech lacings. He stops, however, staring down at me with a mixture of apprehension and awe, before he clears his throat,"...Well, that's a ... fine salute there, Commodore Norrington."

"It's damned near painful, at that." I murmur, rolling up to tug him by the hips to me, "And I am getting cold, Captain Sparrow, so let's get these off and you can warm me like you warm my temper at any given moment."

"Alright, jest ... remember that it is a bit cooler up here, 'n size is always relat've t'the body, not t'mention you've been lyin' down and blood flows better when you're lying down, plus the fact that it's all really not about the length ... or width...or size altogether, savvy?" Jack babbles, squirming a little under my touch.

I glance up at him, one eyebrow raising, "Don't tell me Jack Sparrow is worried about his own manhood?"

"In the workin's, never. However, in size contemplation..." Jack mutters, his fingers burrowing into my hair to untie it, "Jesus, man. You're built like a bloody horse."

A snort of laughter leaves my lips, and I smirk up at his sheepish expression while I work out his lacings, "Built like a horse, and with as much skill as one. Remember, this is my first time with someone of your ilk."

"A pirate?" Jack's lips quirk back upwards as he plays with my hair, letting out a content sigh as I press my lips against his chest again.

"No. With a man." I finally get his breeches loose, letting them drop around his ankles, glancing down at his own eager manhood. I rub a finger slowly along its length, listening to the eager hiss above, suddenly sober myself, "Jack - you know why I am doing this, yes? Because I love you. This isn't a meaningless affair for me. When I give my body," I meet his eyes, "I give my heart with it."

Jack sighs heavily, looking to the ceiling, before giving me a glare of irritation and affection, "What do I have t'DO, James Lysander Norrington, to prove t'you that I've never been after anythin' else but your heart? I've already risked life, limb 'n freedom -- would you perhaps like me t'dance naked in front of the Admiralty? Take supper in the King's privy chambers?" His fingers ghost under my chin as he leans in close, dark eyes intent, "Of course I love you, y'Royal Naval Idiot, or we wouldn't BE here."

I smile, a real smile that touches every part of me, and he stops glaring to look at me with open wonder. Serious fingers trail down the sides of my cheeks as he leans in further to kiss me, murmuring, "So beautiful, my Commodore. So very beautiful, and so very mine.."

I wrap my arms around his naked back, caressing the scars there. We lean back into the softness of the mattress, our fingers and limbs moving together, shifting now again to the appropriate noises coming from deep within us both. Jack murmurs against my skin, tugging off his fingerless gloves, before lifting his hand to my lips, to kiss and wet warmly with my tongue. He grins at me, tilting his head as he reaches southward, "Jest follow m'lead, darlin'. I'm going t'steer you straight on the many ways of makin' love to a man..."

Curiosity is suddenly answered when his callused hand wraps around my stiff maleness, moving up and down in slow strokes. I bite down on my lip, arching a little into that hand, that firm grip, and Jack lets out a throaty chuckle. Wordlessly, I stare at him, gnawing my mouth as I hold up my own hand to his lips. Dark eyes flash hotly, then close as his tongue laves over my fingers with wet care, making me throb from my head down to my very toes. Shifting slightly, to lie beside him, his stroking not slackening a smidge, I reach down and carefully take him in hand. Enjoying with no little satisfaction the growl of appreciation that emerges from him. I capture his lips, roughly kissing him as we stroke each other.

His member is stiff and hard, yet silky to the touch, and the more I stroke the slicker it becomes. It isn't as thick as mine, but nearly as long. Graceful tipped ... hah. Jack has a fine sword to him, in the line of crude thoughts. I chuckle darkly against his mouth, increasing the pace a little, dragging groans from him slowly. He squeezes down around me appreciatively, pulling a sharp gasp from me, and a low rumble of pleasure from my chest.

God, to just make this feeling go on. How can this be wrong? This cannot possibly be sin. I will not believe in a God that doesn't find something divine in this sort of bodily pleasure. Beyond the fact that with each stroke I am calling His name in a religious fervor of thanks, so I cannot devise how one kind of worship can be frowned up against another.

'All the Anglican clerics,' I think dreamily, nuzzling into Jack's neck, 'Should have a Sparrow to show them the way to Paradise.'

"That's it, Jamie...that's it love... just like that ... God, Yes..." Jack whispers into my hair, my crying manhood thrumming in his grip, and I am flying along with the strokes. So good. So Damned Good. Flying off, away from thought, only feeling. His grip ... so tight ... his body ... so heated ... Jack, Lord, Jack. Don't stop. Don't ever stop please don't stop so good Jack I love you I love you I cry out his name it doesn't matter Oh God Don't Let This End...

Explosion. Behind my eyes, throughout my body, as I jerk and thrust and come to completion, shaking down to my core as my seed splatters against his hand and my stomach. He moans from somewhere outside me, from the smoky haze of my ebbing orgasm, thrusting hard against me as my fingers convulse around him, and he trembles and shakes against me, coming hard and fast. Wet stickiness fills my waiting fingers, and his mouth closes over mine tightly as he thrusts, and pushes, until he arches back with a feline groan of ecstasy, shuddering to a slow halt.

The only sound left is the one of our harsh breathing against the creaking of the ship. I roll over on my back, lifting my hand up to my lips, suddenly curious as I delicately lick the tip of one finger. Salty, like the ocean. I smile a little, then shift as Jack mumbles beside me, scooting up under my other arm. I wrap it around him as he curls up close, lifting his drowsy eyes to mine with a sated smile. I wipe my free hand clean on the bedclothes, before reaching up to trace the lines of his face, smiling in return. With a little effort, we manage to pull the blankets over each other, and entwine our bodies together. Not a word is said between us as his eyes drift shut, and his breathing slows. I am just thinking of how beautiful he is when he sleeps, when the darkness swims up and claims me as surely as the siren in my arms.

-- // --

Prodding at my shoulder is what wakes me, finally, and I muzzily open my eyes to glower at Jack, "..What in the world is the matter with you?"

Jack eyes me carefully, before reaching over and poking me once in the middle of the forehead. I reach up, grumbling in irritation to swat his hand away, and a sudden smile curls over his lips. "Aaaaah, so you ARE here, 'n you ARE naked, and I'm NOT dreamin'."

I raise an eyebrow at him, shake my tousled head a bit, and then turn to my side to eye the sky outside the window, "It's but an hour before morning, Jack. Do attempt to get some rest if you haven't already, so you aren't as delusional then as you are -now-."

"Hmmm." I can feel his hand slipping down my warm side and spine, then the rustle of blankets as he slides downward.

My eyes both open, as I ask warily, "Jack, what are you doing?"

"Explorin', love!" Jack whispers, muffled and gleeful. "Didn't get to this side last night, now did we?"

I rub my face with one hand, mumbling, "Well -sleep- wouldn't be bad either ..aaahh..." My thoughts and breath are stolen from me as Jack's lips find a path to follow up the back of my legs, slow and through. My eyes drift shut, and I murmur quietly, "Never mind ..."

Jack chortles lewdly as his lips keep traveling upwards, and he hums that pirate song of his. He pauses when he reaches my buttocks, nibbling them in ways that make me twitch, and he sings a bit louder, "We're ne'er do-well cads ... h'llo, lil' sweetcheekies, have you missed old Jack? He's missed you, right enough..." He gives them another squeeze, and then puts his warm, wet tongue to the end of my spine, trailing upwards. Then he stops dead, his grip on my hips tightening a little. His voice drops low with wonder, "...Y'have a tattoo."

I stiffen slightly, and sigh as I cover my eyes with my hand, "...I might."

"No, no, you definit'ly' have a tattoo, love. Riiiiiiight.." And his fingers brush over just east of my shoulder blade, "Here. A pretty one at that, too. Bird, if I'm not mistaken. Now, what kind of bird is it, I must ask, as the artist was more into flourishes than ornithol'gy, 'n where did it come from?"

"It's the bird of 'Never You Mind'." I say firmly, glancing over my shoulder at my lover - hm, interesting thrill up my spine at that word.

"Oooh, an interestin' story behind it, t'boot. I want to hear a story, Jamie." Jack snuggles in closer, one hand wrapping around my waist as he gives me a woeful look, "Please?"

"Absolutely not." I say firmly, turning back around, "I've been sworn to secrecy."

"...'N it's the best KIND of interestin' story. Hmm, now how to wrangle it outta you..." Jack's mouth finds my back once more, trailing kisses over the spot where that dratted tattoo is, and his hand snakes lower, between my legs to find his half-awake partner-in-deviancy rising to his touch. I exhale slowly, eyes opening once more as Jack's nimble fingers do their work, and his beard brushes my ear, murmuring, "G'on, Jamie..."

That slow feeling of pleasant euphoria is taking me over once again, rolling from my cock to the rest of my body in ever widening waves. I push back a little into Jack, into his own hard manhood as he starts to slowly thrust behind me, adjusting himself between my legs. My voice comes out in a drowsy murmur, "Second and last time we ever let Jonathan get us drunk, was when I made Captain, and he passed his Lieutenant's exam. He, bloody bastard, introduced us to ... oh, Jack ..."

"Introduced you t'what, Jamie-Lys?" Jack lessens the pace a little, making me curse. I can feel his devilish smile against my skin.

"...introduced us to French wine. Andrew's family let him have thimblefuls as a child, but he never had the really good vintages -- GOD!" I let out a little groan, thrusting a bit harder into Jack's hand, as he thrust deeper himself, " we were drunk. Very drunk. Wandering the streets, babbling to ourselves drunk. A prostitute ...called us peacocks, which started a babble fest about what bird we were. Jonathan was a bluejay, Andrew was a swan, hah, and I ..I ..I ..Jack, -please-.."

"You were a ...?" Jack murmured against my skin, keeping the pace from fast to agonizingly slow.

"A hawk! I was a hawk ...a bloody we thought it would be a grand idea to have them on our persons - like those bloody spirit guides the natives in the colonies speak of, for good luck, GodGodGod..." I hiss, biting my lower lip so hard I can taste blood, "Jack..."

"A Hawk." Jack pulls his hand away, making me bite even harder not to let out a curse, or beg, or turn around and throttle him. The latter happens however, without my bidding as Jack turns me over, sliding atop me like a slicked otter, smashing our mouths together enthusiastically as he adjusts his very excited erection atop my own. He makes a little movement with his hips, grinding our bodies together, "A Sparrow's Hawk. I like that, love. I like that a lot.."

I cannot bear this any longer. I wrap one arm around his hips tightly, thrusting against him, as I pull his face down to mine, capturing his mouth in a savage kiss. He moans against me, hands looking for purchase on the sheets. When I finally loosen my grip enough on him for him to grip the bedsheets, I thrust hard again, making him cry out. I speak gutturally, moving against him relentlessly, "I may be your Hawk, Sparrow, but be mindful of who is the prey. You're mine just as surely as I am yours." Another hard series of thrusts makes Jack's eyes go wild, and I whisper harshly against his ear, "Who do you belong to, Jack?"

"You..." he rumbles low, pressing his face down into my shoulder, panting heavily, "I'm yours, James - naught else's..."

Satisfied, yet starving from craving, I grab his hips with both hands, and push us together with long, slow, hard jerks. Jack's kisses trail up to my throat, pressing down there as we move, truly the two-backed monster of the Bard's tales, giving and taking in return. Thrust for thrust, our Game has come to the Bed, where we each seek dominion and in the end, settle as always for equality. For satisfaction in finding the one who completes the other half.

When he shudders above me, when I arch below him, I can almost feel the overwhelming waves of pleasure bouncing off the wooden walls of the cabin, beating against the window. Like two birds looking for freedom in the air, twisting free on the wind. Apart, yet bound by the air and each other. I let out one lasting cry, soft against his sweaty golden skin, then fall against the sheets again. Jack's lips move until they find mine, and we wrap ourselves together, content in completion, in the slowly abating heat of our bodies.

After a few moments, Jack rises, making a little 'ech' noise as he pulls himself out of the sticky mess of our chests and stomachs, moving off the Bed. I tilt my head, watching him as he rinses out a rag in the bucket, and cleans himself. Lazily, I admire the fine golden back up close, the jingling mass of dark hair covering it so elegantly, almost to the curve of his back and that fine rounded backside of his. Old whip scars mar it, but those healed clean, unlike the scars on his arm. Humming once more, he turns, coming back to bed with the yet again newly rinsed cloth, proceeding to wash me gently. I close my eyes as his lips follow the path of his cleansing, letting out a long, happy sigh.

The laugh I love so well rumbles around the area of my stomach, as he tickles my bellybutton with his tongue, then grins up at me, "What fine piece of metal the British Navy has. No wonder they are admired the world over." He rises up once again, putting the cloth aside and putting on his breeches. My eyes drift shut once more, and I am content to lay abed for a bit longer, just enjoying the afterglow.

So it is that I hear the scratching of the charcoal against the paper before I see it, and I crack open one eye and sigh, "Jack - are you sketching me completely without clothing?"

"It's called a 'nude' piece, love." Jack murmurs from a chair he has pulled from his desk, bare feet propped up on the baseboard of the Bed. In the slow dawn's light, the angry scars on his arm show all the more. He glances at me, and I nod my head at the scars mutely. He sighs, looks down at them, before saying quietly, "Barbossa never took his jealousy well."

I mull that over, while I roll to my feet, earning a disgruntled noise from Jack, one that is quickly eased over with a kiss. Then I shamble around, dressing myself, never one comfortable with my nudity. Barbossa turned on Jack for Lark's love, but ... "What happened to Lark, afterwards? I cannot believe you left her alive all this time."

"I didn't. I thought Barbossa had taken care of it for me." Jack answers softly, his charcoal sketching across the page. I pause in the lacing up of my breeches again, staring at him, and he looks back at me, mouth grim. "I wasn't the only one who said things they shouldn't have, in the heat of seduction. Lark should have known better."

"You're a cruel man, my Sparrow." I murmur, as I finish dressing. Slipping on my shoes, I finally chase down my ribbon and tie my hair firmly back. He makes another noise of protest, which again is silenced with a kiss, "Heaven knows what you told Barbossa."

"Only Heaven does." Jack answers with a light smirk, and I swat him lightly as I head for the door. He chortles, then asks, "Where are you off to?"

"To check on my men - and you should do the same, lazabout." I answer as I unbolt the door, flashing him a slight smirk.

"Hmmm...but I'm still enjoyin' the feel of Commodoreflesh." Jack says, waggling his eyebrows, "Wouldn't mind feelin' it again, actu'lly."

"Later, fiend." I shake my head ruefully as I open the door. I pause in the doorway lifting my eyebrows, "Honestly, you give a man a little bit of a toss under the bedclothes, and he becomes an addict." Jack glowers at me, and I give him a brief eyebrow waggle all of my own, and a knowing smirk. The low laugh that follows me out the door is enough to put an almost swagger in my steps.

It's a fine day in New Orleans, even with the sweltering heat. The sun blazes over in the east, and new hands move about the deck of the ship, energetic and working hard, some of them murmuring in groups about working on the Black Pearl, and with Sparrow. My expression is grimly amused, at least if these men stay with this particular ship, there will never be the need to hang them. Sad, yet true. It would have to happen eventually, however. I cannot hang all the pirates, for simply being pirates. I have reached a line where my fervor abates, where my passion for duty sees the cool light of reality.

I just never thought that it would begin where my heart did, with a crazy, beau-nasty pirate who makes my heart and body vibrate with passionate feeling, inside and out.

Damn. I'm probably smiling like an idiot. I'll have to watch that in the future. Clearing my expression, I fold my hands behind me, strolling the deck with renewed purpose. I find the marines around the forecastle of the -Pearl-, chatting amongst themselves and the familiar faces of the pirates that I now know so well. Dockside, some children are playing with little wooden swords, darting here and there, laughing. I pause, flashing a brief smile at the sight of them, before joining the men, hearing Studson speak as I walk up, " nephew Jeremy's about their age. His birthday's coming up in a month's past. Big lad, bright as a button."

"So dat mean's he's gonna be a pirate when he grows up?" Anamaria asks, her dark eyes crinkling around the edges with a grin.

The other pirates snigger appropriately, while Studson snorts and jibes back, "I said he was -bright-, didn't I?" The marines hoot with laughter, and Anamaria leans over, smacking him in the arm. Studson grins broadly, before he catches sight of me, shooting to attention. Mullroy and Murtogg join him, pictures of Navy discipline. The pirates merely nod respectfully towards me, more than I ever could have expected otherwise.

"At ease, gentlemen. I came to see if you recovered from your little excursion last night." I give them all a stern yet bemused look, as they glance between each other, smiling sheepishly.

"We'll give the French credit, sir, they know how t'wanton well." Mullroy says with a smirk, as he sits and begins to clean his bayonet, "But I'll give a whole year's salary for one of Mr. Chip's pints of ale."

"Huzzah!" Studson and Murtogg agree heartily, earning laughs all about them. I press my lips together, moving off to look over the side at the children.

"Y'seem to be walkin' a bit funny t'day, Commodore. Feelin' alright?" Anamaria flashes me a smirk in passing, before she's moving down the deck to yell orders at the new hands. I watch her go, fighting to suppress my smile once more, letting my gaze wander down to the children.

They're playing pirates, amusingly enough. I can tell by the way one of them is trying to pretend to have a peg's leg, and the other has his handkerchief tied over his eye like an eyepatch. Little scamps, who I hope will grow out of their childish dreams and find a less ...dangerous line of work.

My mind shifts to Lark at this, and I think of all the innocents she's harmed - the poor souls aboard the Haven, and those brave souls on the Intrepid. Captain Hobbs. Anamaria. Sweetheart. Jack. My gaze moves over the new deckhands, and I wonder how many of these pirates joined with Jack simply because they knew there was no chance that he would ever join with Lark and her murderous schemes.

I think of Studson's little nephew, and the chilling thought of Lark coming into Port Royal, to ruin or worse yet, take more innocent lives. She has to be stopped, as soon as possible. It is not so much my duty to the Crown that demands this, but mine as a man. As someone who has people at home, and now abroad on these seas, that he cares for deeply. Lark could take this all away.

I've dallied here too long, trying to figure out my feelings for Jack. Now, my selfishness could cost him his ship, or worse yet, his life.

On the other hand, I don't want to leave him. I never want to leave him again. I want to wake up each morning to his poking, his warmth and his laugh.

I also, however, want all these things to still be here, and I cannot guarantee that until I see that woman hanging on the end of a rope. Mercy to the fair gender be damned - she shall get no special treatment from me.

"Sir?" Gillette's voice yanks me out of my private tirade, and I turn towards him, raising an eyebrow. He salutes smartly, looking much calmer than he has in days past, and I cannot help but think the reason is standing right to his left, looking at me curiously. I return the salute, and Gillette speaks promptly, "We were just wondering what the plan of action was for today, sir?"

I glance down to the children once more, then over at my marines, who return my gaze with slightly puzzled looks on their faces. Clearing my throat, I fold my hands behind me, making my decision, ignoring the sharp pangs in my heart as I reply, "We head out to open sea, gentlemen, to meet up with the Falcon. Our mission here is complete - now, it's time to hunt down our prey." I catch the startled glances between Anamaria and Gibbs, and I flash them a humorless smile, "It's time to make the waters safe for ordinary pirates once more, after all."

"Is it now?" Comes the soft, yet harsh voice from behind me. I turn, slightly startled to find Jack staring at me, his eyes and face hard. He is dressed down to his tattered hat, and I do not think I have ever seen a better picture of fury than him at this moment.

I lift my chin a little, preparing myself for the storm, as I meet his gaze head-on, "Indeed, Captain Sparrow. You should feel well pleased - you'll get your ship back none the worse for wear, and with a new crew besides. All I need of the Pearl now is a stopover at a Royal Port of the realm." I pause, then add, "Of course, I shall arrange passage out for you again, as per our agreement."

"So generous of you, Commodore..." Jack drawls out slowly, a mirthless smile crossing his face, before he turns to his own crew, "On decks, y'scabrous dogs! Weigh anchor and prepare to make way!" He turns back to me, "The Commodore has other places t'be." With a deliberate turning of his back to me, he swaggers up to the helm. Gibbs and Anamaria shoot each other looks, then over to me, before moving after Jack quickly.

I temper down every urge to follow him, to beg forgiveness, before I set my shoulders, turning to my men, "All hands on alert - if we spot a ship of the line we can beg a ride off her to the Falcon a far bit faster than waiting for a courier sloop. Help where you can to make way, but otherwise prepare yourselves. We're going to battle, gentlemen." Then I march to the foremast of the ship, as far from the helm, and my lover's hateful gaze, as I possibly can get.

-- // --

"Sails ahoy!" Comes the call from the crow's nest, and I raise up my spyglass to peer at the ship approaching from the northwest, my expression going grim. It is one of ours, which is fortunate, for the sooner I am off this ship, the better. Yet as I close my spyglass with a snap, I can feel my heart do the same thing.

I stare down at my hands, that so few hours ago were making love to Jack Sparrow, and wish with all my might that they could be doing that right now.

"Sir?" I turn at Bush's voice, ignoring his look of concern.

"Prepare the men to board, and ask Mr. Sparrow if he would be so kind as to run up the white flag of truce. Then go change yourself to more appropriate attire." I answer him, lifting my gaze back to the water.

"Aye, Commodore ... sir?" Bush looks at me, brown eyes crinkling around the edges with worry.

I look at him, then mutely shake my head. Not now. Not when everything is too new, fresh, and raw. "My orders, Lieutenant."

"Aye, sir." Bush nods his head silently, before moving off to the helm. After I stare out to the swiftly approaching ship once more, I turn briskly on my heel and find myself facing Anamaria and Gibbs. We look at each other mutely.

Gibbs breaks the silence first, "Y'sure you want to be leavin' this way, sir?"

I finally look to the helm, but those dark eyes are fixed on the horizon. Letting out a long breath, I look back towards them, "No. I don't." I feel a tired, pained smile cross my face, "But then again, I have little choice in the matter." Fixing my green eyes on Anamaria's darker ones, I whisper, "Take care of him?"

Anamaria looks at me for a long moment, then brings her hand up in a salute that would make any marine proud, "Aye, Commodore ..sir." I incline my head gratefully, before heading below decks, to Jack's cabin.

I try not to linger in my looks about the room, try not to touch the Bed's posts too longingly, or drift by the window too long. I strip perfunctorily, then re-dress myself with care, smoothing out the wrinkles in the fine linen shirt and blue jacket as best I can. Finally, I slide my cravat out, using the shaving mirror to tie it in place, then gaze at myself in the mirror. Sans the wig, I am the Commodore in all my Naval glory once more. On the outside, at any rate.

"It suits you." Jack's voice says quietly from the doorway of the cabin.

I stiffen slightly in place, but force myself to smooth down the lacy cuffs of my shirt before I speak quietly, "It always has."

The silence stretches, lengthens between us as I straighten the uniform once more. Above us, I can hear the Pearl's anchor dropping, and the great ship coming to a slow halt, to wait for the British ship to come alongside. Jack finally breaks the silence with an angry sigh, "So. This is how you Naval lads leave your catamites? In fine form, graced down t'your toes in silk and brocade?"

"I do not want to leave, Jack." I answer softly, reigning in my anger and hurt.

"Oh, don't you now? Doesn't seem that way to me, mate. Seems you're all too eager to jump to the first Naval ship you can get your grubby lil' hands on." Jack slams the door shut behind him, dark eyes blazing as he marches up to me.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I don't want to leave. But I have to." I turn to face him, staring at him dead-on, my iron grasp on my emotions slipping quickly.

"You have to. You haaaaaaaaaaaave to. And what exact'y is pressin' you to go off and meet your death so quickly, Norrington? So eager t'put last night behind you with the thought of certain demise?" Jack growls, not moving either.

"...Is that what you think? Is that the insanity your rum-sodded mind has come up with? You think I want to go off and fight Lark just to get away from you?" I must control my voice. I must not shout, or draw undue attention to this cabin. I must remain calm.

Jack crosses his arms over his chest, eyes cold in their contempt, "Well, you have yet t'be explainin' why you must be off with all haste, Commodore."

Well, leave it to Jack and his petulant five-year-old behavior to break my temper. Again. "I am leaving so I have something to come back to, you thick-skulled idiot! I am leaving because I know very well she is going to come after you, because she is already coming after you, and I won't stand for it! I am leaving so I can hunt her down and hang her from the highest gallows - in answer to my duty, as a salve to my moral conscience that such a creature has escaped the law for SO long, and to protect you, you ... you drunk swaggering twit!" I glower at him, breathing hard in my fury, "I told you once, but it obviously didn't stick in that liquor-sopped, braided head of yours. No Pirate Will Ever Again Take Something Precious From Me."

Jack's mouth drops open, and his jaw works wordlessly for a moment, before he says weakly, "Oh."

I just give him a stony look of my own, before turning to pick up my sword, to clasp it firmly to my waist. Of all the people I had to fall in love with, I had to fall in love with an irrational pirate. It isn't like my life isn't fraudulent with enough peril already - oh no. I have to give my heart to Jack Sparrow, Pirate King of Emotional Instability...

There is the slightest tap on my arm, and I jerk around to it, opening my mouth to snap. I stop dead, however, when I see what Jack is poking me in the arm with. It's a long roll of maps - at least three by number. Puzzlement throwing off my aggravation, I take the maps from him. Jack heaves out a breath, "...There's this inlet, y'see, outside of Georgetown. Sweet lil' spot that all the pirates favored back in the day, 'n no one knew it better than Barbossa and m'self. You could fit more than half a dozen ships in there. If there's a place where Lark would hole up herself and her l'il gang of murderers, that be it." He stopped, then adds roughly, " 'N I jest want t'tell you James, if you die? I'm headin' straight towards the dark arts t'give me the ability t'chase you down in Heaven, 'n I have full plans on draggin' your heavenly feathered arse right back down t'Earth so I can beat you within an inch of your holy life. Savvy?"

"...Savvy." I say quietly, bringing the maps to me, "I'm not leaving you, Jack."

"Oh?" Jack looks over at my things, then back up at me ruefully, "Then how do you explain all this packin', and such?"

"Temporary relocation." I answer, tilting my head towards his, "Even if the Commodore has to leave, if the Commodore has to remember the laws and his duties - James is right here. James, who answers to nothing but his own heart. James, who loves Jack - not Captain Sparrow - but just Jack, the sweetest and best soul that James has ever known." I gently reach out, and tap his chest lightly, right over his heart, "I'll never leave you, Jack. I'm always right there."

"...Don't make me say it." Jack whispers quietly, his hands clenching into fists, dark eyes bright.

"Don't make you say what, Jack?" My voice softens.

Jack closes the distance between us without another word, wrapping himself around me, pressing his lips to mine in a desperate kiss that says what words could never really convey. I wrap my arms around his waist, kissing him back with equal parts love and longing, trying to imprint the memory of him on every single part of my mind and body.

I tangle my fingers into his hair, finding the button that binds him, in some small way, to me. A thought strikes me, and I pull away from him slightly, taking one of his bangled braids in hand, moving to loosen the binding at the bottom just enough to slip off what I want. He frowns at me, "...Whut are y'doing?"

I slip one of the painted red dice from his braid, and then tie the braid in place once more. I palm the crude dice in my hand, locking my eyes with his as I slip it into my breast coat pocket. "For luck." I gently trace my fingers down the side of his face, "For remembrance. This time, I have something to come back for."

"Somethin' that plans on chasin' you if you don't come back." Sparrow remonstrates, shaking a bejeweled finger at me.

"Ah, so it's your turn to chase me. I, after all, stole your ship." A ghost of a smile crosses my face, "So I'll expect you in Port Royal as soon as it is convenient for you."

Jack's lips lift up, and he seems to mull this over, "How does t'morrow sound to you?"

I chuckle softly, before sealing Jack's smiling lips against my own in another kiss, not breaking it until I hear the call from Gillette, "Commodore!" I can hear the sounds of another ship along side, the dropping of a gangplank against the Pearl's deck. Jack brushes his fingers against my cheek one last time, and I gather up my things, stepping to the doorway. Glancing back at him - the forlorn figure with the kohl around his painfilled eyes - I quickly head up on deck - because everything in me is screaming to stay. Even when I know it is time to go. I let out a heavy breath as I ascend topside.

Where I am welcomed, quite unexpectedly, by a number of armed marines holding the pirates at bay. Gillette and Bush, in full uniform, have their hands raised, looking furious at the other ends of British Naval muskets, and my own marines look like they would very much like to point their muskets right back at their counterparts. I straighten my stance, my face hardening automatically, "Lower Your Weapons, Immediately!"

The reaction is instantaneous, as nearly thirty of His Majesty's men abruptly bring up their weapons at the tone in my voice. From the portside of the other ship, I can hear the startled squeak of, "Commodore Norrington!?"

I turn to face that squeak, and find myself facing the most unwelcome sight of all - the Indefatigable alongside the Black Pearl, with a shocked trio of Captain Charles Bennett, First Lieutenant Thomas Moncrieff, and young Third Lieutenant Richards on the Indefatigable's deck. I lift up my eyebrow coldly as I nod once to Bush and Gillette, fury united, to follow me across the gangplank to the Indefatigable. The marines grab my things from my hand, trailing after the Lieutenants to step across and on the deck. I step up into Bennet's face, my voice coming out clipped, "Since when does the British Royal Navy, Captain Bennett, raise arms against a ship displaying a white flag?"

Bennett regains his composure more quickly than I would have given him credit for, as he snaps back, "This is a pirate ship, sir, and one does not show mercy to these brigands."

"Mercy is not a dictate of the law, Captain Bennett. The white flag is." I state firmly, turning back to look over at the Black Pearl, where the pirate crew stands uneasily, "Now, let's get your marines aboard and be on our way, shall we?"

"Just a moment..." Bennett drawls out, his dark eyebrows drawing together, "This is a pirate ship, no doubt it is the legendary Black Pearl itself, vessel of the infamous Jack Sparrow. What are you, of all people, doing aboard her?"

I dip into my pocket, and draw out Jack's and my contract, "I hired out Captain Sparrow's services for the duration. In agreement for his help in tracking down the dangerous Ebony Sharks, I granted him clemency." I wave the maps in my hand, "He has fulfilled his end of the bargain, and now I mean to fulfill mine."

Bennett and Moncrieff scan the paper, before glancing at each other with twin-frowns. Then Bennett shoves the paper at Richards, "Is this legally binding, Richards?"

Richards skims over the several pages of the contract, his dark blue eyes widening with amazement and a little bit of awe, before he clears his throat, "Aye, sir. It's a clause contract. Commodore Norrington is bound to uphold the contract to the letter."

"Hm. Is that so. Well ..." Bennett smiles suddenly, looking over at the Pearl, "Then there's nothing stopping me in taking these pirates and their Captain prisoner, is there? Gentlemen, the first marine to find me Jack Sparrow gets the finest bottle of port imaginable." There is a general rush of marines then, except those posted around the pirates, to search the ship.

"Sir?" Richards says, startled as I frown fiercely, "Sir! You can't DO this! As officers of the Navy we're legally bound to the same ..."

"I never signed that contract, did I?" Bennett drawls out, glancing over at Moncrieff, who is primly bouncing on his toes, "Did I, Thomas?"

"I don't you recall you signing anything, Charles." Moncrieff purrs out, his eyes fixing on the pirate crew, moving his greedy gaze along the ship, "Sir, permission to...?"

Bennett smirks, nodding, "Go on, I know you want to go and search with the others."

Moncrieff's lips twist into a knowing sneer. As he moves forward to the ship, he finds his way blocked by my men, as I step forward, my voice going to a very frosty, calm place, "As a superior officer, Bennett, this smacks of insubordination and the refusal to follow orders."

"Norrington, I'm about to bring in Jack Sparrow - a feat you, the fair Golden Boy of the Caribbean Theatre could not even accomplish. How long do you think it will be before you are addressing me as Commodore?" Bennett smirks at me, just as the captain of the marines comes above deck, and he turns towards him, "Well?"

"No sign of him, sir. He must be hiding!" The marine calls out, "What should we do with the prisoners?"

Bennett and Moncrieff exchange another glance, before they smile at the same time. Bennett calls out, "Lock them below in the brig. Lieutenant Moncrieff, I am sure I can trust you with the scuttling of this pirate vessel?"

Besides me, Bush lets out a sharp noise of protest, and I step forward, seething, "Bennett! That is nothing less than cold-blooded murder!"

"I don't care to think of it as Murder, Commodore, just a new and interesting form of execution." Bennett smiles, before his face goes cold and he gestures to some uneasy looking marines on deck, "Escort the Commodore and his little group of men up to the helm, out of harms way. Wouldn't want anything to happen to him, after all. Make sure they have a good view of all the proceedings." A pause, and a sharp look to Richards, "Why don't you join them, Lieutenant?"

Richards lifts up his chin, glowering back at his senior officer as the bayonets swing our way, "Gladly, sir."

Mute in my rage, I am prodded along with my men up to the quarterdeck, watching in helpless fury as Anamaria, Gibbs, and the rest of the pirates are shoved unceremoniously below decks by Moncrieff and his group of sailors and marines. I keep darting my eyes around the masts, almost expecting to see Jack swing down from above like an avenging angel, but there is no sight of him. The marines press a close guard to us, but not too close. Apparently, an angry Commodore makes them nervous. Puzzling, isn't it?

Gillette hisses at my side, "We have to do something!" I glance towards him, at his face that is nearing crimson with his anger. He looks back at me, chin up, "There was not even a trial, and even without it, you gave your word of honor, for us all, that they would go free! We cannot allow these men to be slaughtered like this, sir!"

"I know, Lieutenant, I know." I pace the quarterdeck, my expression tight. As we watch, Moncrieff and a good half of the Indefatigable's crew draws up the gangplank, preparing the Pearl to sail, a task that takes longer when you are unfamiliar with the vessel you are on. More than likely they will sail her out about a quarter of a mile, then set the fuses to the powder magazines. Letting out a harsh breath, I look around at my men. Seven is not a likely number to take on a fully armed and even half-crewed ship of the line.

On the lower decks, Bennett smirks up at me, causing my glower to darken as I pace back and forth once more, muttering under my breath, "There has to be some sort of way to stop this. Any way." I look to the sky, begging God not to make Jack the folly of my carnal sins. If this is his punishment for a night of pleasure, it is surely too high a price.

The marines have huddled towards the starboard side of the ship, staring over at the -Pearl-. Murtogg suddenly raises his voice, "Ah, sir?"

"Not now, Murtogg." Bush mutters, as he takes up pacing with me, "We could ... no. Impossible."

"Ah, siiiiirs?" Mullroy drawls out slowly, turning towards us, "I really think you ought to come over here, and see this."

I look over at the marines, who have a mixture of amusement and horror written on their homely faces. I march over to the railing, "Gentlemen, I trust this is somehow useful to the situation. We are in rather dire circumstances."

"Not so dire, sir." Studson says quietly, so quietly I have to strain to hear him, as he nods his head downwards, "As I think Captain Sparrow's decided to take his circumstances in his own hands."

I look down. Gillette looks down. As does Bush, and Richards. Then all as one, we inhale sharply.

Jack Sparrow is swimming back over to the Pearl, between the narrow space of both ships. Which means he has been on the Indefatigable for nearly twenty minutes.

Closer to a half an hour, really.

He bobs over to the inset ladder, and pulls himself up, bootless, jacketless, and even hatless, crawling up the side of his ship like a spider. As he pauses by one of the gunwales, he glances up as if he knows he's being watched. He looks at us. We look at him. He grins, and waggles his eyebrows.

"Sir?" Richards says slowly, "What should we do?"

It takes me a long moment to compose my thoughts. I clear my throat, then speak as calmly as I am able, "Considering that we are all agreed on the point that we are bound to let Sparrow go, by law and by our word - IF Captain Sparrow just HAPPENED to find a way to escape, well, I really think that we can ... silently support him. Subtly, of course." A flicker of a smile crosses my face, as I add with a touch of dry amusement, "One could say I was, in my own way, rooting for him." I look around to the others, questioningly.

Besides me, Bush chuckles maliciously, "I would have to say, yes, I am also rooting for the man. He's still the best damned pirate I've ever seen."

The marines nod their heads in quick succession, "Aye, definitely rooting for Captain Sparrow."

Richards clears his throat, "Well, I can't think of any reason not to root for him, considering his competition."

We all look to Gillette, who looks down at Jack, eyes narrowed. He sighs, and looks up at the sky, "I personally think that Sparrow escaping from Bennett is about as likely as me laughing about it afterwards." He lowers his gaze, smirking, "Especially if it were at all possible for him to make Bennett and Moncrieff look like a bigger fools than they already are."

Jack smirks, giving Gillette a silent salute, before he creeps inside the gunwale, and inside the depths of the Pearl itself. I look at my men, and they all look at each other, and with a little nod to each other, we turn our backs on the Pearl as one.

That is, until the Pearl has shoved off, Moncrieff smugly at the helm. Then we slowly move back around, keeping our eyes on the ship. Bush drawls out slowly, crossing his arms over his chest, "So - how long do you think it will take, sir?"

"Probably not more than five minutes. Sparrow has little reason to make a dramatic production of this." I state, folding my arms behind me, a smirk trailing over my expression.

My attention is drawn away by Bennett calling out loudly to me, "Well, that's one way to get rid of a rat's nest."

Our eyes lock for a moment, as I say quietly, "Indeed." Bennett smirks broadly, before calling out orders to come and get him when Moncrieff returns. I turn back to the ship, my smirk widening, "Of course, it depends on the rat."

The Pearl is approaching the quartermile mark, when a sharp cracking noise that echos the water to us, and there is a rising string of smoke from the deck of the ship. Richards digs into his pocket, pulling out his spyglass, putting it to his eye. A little smile tugs at his youthful face, as he quietly hold it over to Bush, "Well, it appears that the Pearl is back in the hands of its rightful owner, sirs."

From the Indefatigable, we watch as a series of small redcoats falls off the side of the Pearl and into the water. Bush lifts the glass to his eye, and then chokes down a soft laugh, "Oh, this is ..." He glances over at me, clearing his throat, "This is quite horrible, how he is making them walk the plank."

Gillette takes the glass from him, looking back towards the ship once more, "I shall tell you what is more 'horrible' than that. Sparrow is making Moncrieff walk the plank," A pause, with a slow smirk, "Completely naked."

Bush nabs the glass back from Gillette, his eyebrows raising together, "So he is." The smirk on his face is truly an evil, evil thing. "Well, well. I don't think you ever have to be concerned again, Andrew. You are clearly twice the man he is." Off Gillette's cough and my eyebrow, he smiles easily, "Metaphorically speaking, of course."

I turn fully towards him at that point, both eyebrows raising together. He looks at me gravely, then out to the -Pearl-, then back to me with a little questioningly lilt. One side of my mouth lifts, and I nod my head just once. Bush gives me a firm nod of approval, taps the side of his nose. We both turn swiftly towards Richards as he exclaims in alarm, "Dear God, Sparrow's bringing the Pearl about!"

I squint in the late afternoon sunshine, and sigh a little as the -Pearl- swings back towards the -Indefatigable-, muttering to myself, "He can't just sail away. Oh no. He has to make a -point- out of the whole damned thing."

"Orders, sir?" Gillette asks, his voice slightly tighter than it was a moment before.

I frown at the approaching ship, then glance down to the deck. "Well, far be it for me to doubt the leadership ability of the future Commodore Bennett. Hold your ground, gentlemen, until the ... the opportune moment." A grim smile crosses my face, "After all, this is not our ship, nor our battle." My men look momentarily startled, then slowly, quietly wicked smiles grace the corners of their lips.

It does not take long for the call to go out, "Ship Ahoy! Black Pearl's coming up portside!"

Bennett emerges from below decks but a moment later, stomping up to the helm as he snatches the spyglass right from Gillette's hands, "What the Hell is going on?"

"It's the Pearl, sir!" One of the midshipmen chirps, "She's coming back around!"

"I gathered that, Nelson, by the way she is heading towards us, instead of away." Bennett says flatly, adjusting the spyglass to his eye. He snorts a moment later, "Well, well. Sparrow's left his hidey-hole. He won't get far, especially if he thinks he is going to take on this ship at her full battlement. Bring her about, Tyson, and show her the guns."

I glance over at my Lieutenants, and we tactfully retreat backwards a few steps as we watch Tyson go to the wheel.

"I wonder why I am suddenly struck by this odd feeling of deja vu?" Bush tilts his dark uncovered head a little, thoughtful.

Just then Tyson spins the wheel to bring the ship to rights - and watches, openmouthed, as it spins around without moving the ship itself one single inch. He gulps, and calls out nervously, "Sir, the rudder chain's been disabled!"

"Ah." Bush murmurs in satisfaction, "That's why."

Bennett swivels towards his helmsman, his face darkening, before he looks towards the approaching ship anxiously. I clear my throat a little, and he glares towards me. I put on a bland smile, "Feeling 'Sparrow-winked' yet?"

"No." Bennett snarls out, his chin jutting upwards angrily.

"Oh, don't worry then." I look back serenely to the Pearl>, "It should happen soon enough."

Bennett takes a step towards me, then with a growl, turns on his heel. I can hear him shouting orders over my shoulder, "Man the guns! I don't care how you do it, just get a clean line shot on that barbaric bastard!"

"...We can't, sir." A weak with panic-voiced sailor says from below.

"And Just Why Might That Be, Gregory?" Bennett asks lowly, his voice reaching arctic pitches.

"Because he's stuffed all the cannons with the squash in the kitchen, sir!" The sailor replies sheepishly. Besides me, the marines snigger into their hands, as all three Lieutenants attempt to keep straight faces, and fail miserably.

Bennett's jaw is working in new and interesting ways, but he has very little time to compose himself as the Pearl comes up alongside, their gunwales all open and pointed at the Indefatigable. The pirates, one and all, are jeering at the sailors, who are even now aiming pistols and swords rather lamely at them.

From the helm comes the voice of Jack, hat on at a cocky angle and his bangles and boots jangling as he smirks over at Bennett, "Good aft'rnoon, Captain Bennett! Sorry I wasn't aboard t'greet you earlier, but I had a mite bit of business t'finish b'fore I came up for tea 'n crumpets, like." His golden teeth flash maliciously in the sun.

At his side, Gibbs and Anamaria stand, both dressed, much to my personal amusement, in varying bits of Moncrieff's uniform. Gibbs looks rather ridiculous with his hefty build in Moncrieff's slender coat, but I must say the tri-cornered hat suits Anamaria. Off of Bennett's stare, she flutters her eyelashes and bares her blade, using the point to nudge her new hat up off her brow. Bennett sputters, "Those are my Lieutenant's things! What have you done with him?"

"Done? We haven't done a thing t'him. He could have stayed aboard ship, but he said he'd rather swim nekkid in the ocean than..." Jack pauses, looking over to Gibbs, "What was the alternate offer?"

"Nekkid or personally skinned by Anamaria h'rself, Capt'n." Gibbs says with a touch of self-satisfaction, "He preferred the jump. Can't think why."

"Interestin' choice, that is. But don't worry, we left them a longboat t'swim to. I'm almost POSIT'VE that we left 'em oars, too. B'sides, I'm sure a l'il soak in the ocean for an hour's time won't hurt your men none." Jack turns back to Bennett, still smiling. One that never reaches his eyes. "Sooooo, Captain Bennett, I must be askin' you -- what's your choice, eh?"

"It, ah, depends on my options." Bennett clears his throat, looking stumped beyond all reason. The man just really cannot figure how things have come to this. I would feel pity - but then again - why should I?

"Well, that's jest what we were discussin'." Jack purrs out, leaning on his elbows over the starboard railing, "Y'see - I fig're it this way, Captain. Y'can surrender, or I can blow you out of the bloody water. Now, if you surrender, well that means I get to take m'pick of prisoners, don't I?" He glances over at me pointedly, that glimmer returning in his eyes, "...Hullo again, Commodore Norrington."

He would not even use this ... yes. Yes, he would. He would use this situation to barter me off this ship and unto his until he decided otherwise. Which could be forever, knowing Jack Sparrow.

So tempting. So very tempting. Damn him. I roll my eyes pointedly, giving him my fiercest glower of 'No Way In Hell'. "Good day, Captain Sparrow. Whatever you are thinking -- Stop."

"You want the Commodore?" Bennett asks, relief too stark across his features, "Of course you do! Man of power, and influence. Man of much more importance..."

Jack flexes his smile broadly, running that velvet tongue slowly around his full lips as his fingers rub the railing in front of him slowly, those dark eyes taunting me, "Oh stop, Captain. You're makin' him sound damn near irresistible to a pirate like m'self."

Is he actually FLIRTING ... again, why am I even surprised? Of course he is. I will not grin. I will not crack my expression in the slightest. If I do, it's just encouraging his bad behavior. Instead, I speak sternly, "As I am not a member of Captain Bennett's crew, nor am I a willing 'guest' upon his ship, you cannot barter for me, Sparrow." I throw a pointed look over to Bennett, "As he well knows."

"Oh, I don't know Commodore ... Captain Bennett seems like a fellow who likes t'bend the rules well enough." Jack tilts his head to the side, one hand running slowly down his white shirt, showing off flashes of golden skin ... God Damn Him. I huff out in exasperation and something else, as I roll my eyes and look off to the horizon.

There, a sight catches my eye that makes the breath stop in my lungs, in an entirely unpleasant way. I exhale slowly, before setting my jaw and turning back to Jack, "In such circumstances, Sparrow, there is really only one thing I can do. I call the right of Parley for the crew of the Indefatigable, who are hereby under my protection."

Jack's eyes widen, then narrow with thought, "Oh, are they now? And what terms would you be wantin' to set, Commodore?"

"The same as in our contract, Sparrow. You get to go free - none the worse for wear and with your ship and crew intact." I answer in return, calm and collected on the surface, covering a great deal of sheer panic with my utter composure.

Jack snorts, looking around to his crew, then over to Bennett's, "No offense, Commodore, but you and your lil' crew were a great deal more threatenin' b'fore than this wanker. Why should I be so lenient in my barterin'?"

"Because while you might find the lack of threat from Bennett a good incentive to return vengeance upon him in kind for what he was going to do to your crew..." I have the satisfaction of watching Bennett twitch and Jack suppress a laugh, before I add drolly, "You might find my own personal ship having a bit more bite." I nod off to the southeast, where the distant but distinct shapes of two ships are closing in, fast. Around me, I hear a mixture of curses and relieved sighs, as I add, "Your choice, Sparrow. Run today to fight another day, so goes the expression."

Jack's eyes flicker off to the two ships, then back to me keenly, "Ah, but where's the part where I make my request, Commodore? I can still do a fair bit of damage to this fine Naval vessel b'fore I have to hightail m'self out of this currently unpleasant situation."

I bring my arms across my chest, raising one eyebrow, "And just what terms do you wish to make, Sparrow?" I swear to God, if he tries to get me on that ship ... I will not go. I mean it, wholeheartedly.

He smirks knowingly at my scowl, giving his head the slightest bit of a shake, before he trails slowly along the helm, ringed fingers flashing silver, "There just happ'ns t'be this social event happenin' in Port Royal. A rather high fancy t'do, in fact the marriage of the Govern'r Swann's only lass. And we all know how I love weddings, eh mates?" There are a few hoots of appreciative laughter.

My mouth stays in a firm line from sheer willpower alone, as I answer flatly, "You want clemency to attend the Turner's wedding, is that it?"

"Wedding festivities, Commodore. I want t'be able to enjoy m'self, after all, without you stalkin' to chase me out just as they get their first kiss as man 'n wife." Jack's grin is blinding, "For as long as the wedding lasts, until it ends. You savvy me?"

The entirety of the wedding ... Jack to myself for two whole nights .... for surely he'd consider the Turner's first night as husband and wife to count as a 'festivity'. I appear to give it some grave thought, putting as much scowl to my face and voice as I finally answer. "Very well. You are granted clemency, from me, in exchange for the lives of the crew and this ship."

"Agreed." Jack claps his hands together gleefully, doing a little half-step jig, before he grabs some of the rigging and leans over to give me a very direct look, "Now, I can be trustin' you, Commodore, t'keep to the letter of our agreement?"

"I intend to keep every single promise I make to you, Captain Jack Sparrow." I answer lightly enough, even if my gaze says more than that, "Man of my word that I am."

"Holding you to that, Commodore James L. Norrington." Jack tilts up his chin a little in understanding, before barking at his crew, "Alright, men, unless we want t'be dancin' a fine jig with the Navy, let's get underway! Drop sails! Show the blighters some real speed!"

Somewhere between no time at all and forever, the Pearl is skimming off towards open waters, fast as her Captain always says she is. I watch him at the helm, pressing myself lightly against the railing as I resist the urge to call out, to make him look back at me once more.

Which he does, of his own accord, leaning back with one hand on the wheel. In a gesture that would seem mocking to anyone else but me, he presses two of his fingers against his lips, and blows me a kiss, smirking.

One side of my mouth lifts, as I point one finger at him in warning, even as my fingers subtly wrap around that kiss. I bring my hand in to my chest, resting my closed fist lightly against my heart. Jack's smile twists up a winning notch, before he turns his gaze forward, to his horizon.

I tear my own gaze away, to watch the approach of the Falcon, the Golden Goose fast on her heels. By this time, the waterlogged and miserable crew members that had the unfortunate luck of being tossed overboard by Jack, including Moncrieff, are sniffling their way aboard. Bennett tosses a blanket around the sopping idiot, and pats his shoulder uncomfortably. I glance towards my men, and give them a firm little nod to follow me down to the main deck, our boots clopping precisely on the deck. Richards hesitates but for a moment, then joins us. Good man. A good man I am not willing to leave behind, no less.

I allow myself the pleasure of a thin smile as I move to the portside of the ship, waiting for the Falcon to pull alongside, as I speak, "Don't look so distressed, gentlemen. After all, you shouldn't think of it as 'demotion and public humiliation'. I like to call it as a 'learning experience'." I savor the silent glowers, before adding the final touch, "Gather your things, Richards. I think it best that we continue your Naval education with more desirable company."

Richard's face enthuses with excitement, and he shoots off a salute, "Aye sir! Give me but a moment!" Almost gleefully, he heads below. I turn my gaze to Bennett, daring him to contradict me once more, but all he does is turn his head away, his entire body tense with defeated anger.

Bush clucks his tongue at the now scowling officers, as the Falcon drifts alongside of us, and the gangplank is dropped immediately, "You poor souls. You never had a chance, and you want to know why?"

Moncrieff sniffles, sneezes, and then he snarls, his usually rich voice sounding particularly nasal, "Why?"

I look around to my Lieutenants, and then my marines. Together, we share a knowing smirk, before we turn as one, and respond as one, "He's Captain Jack Sparrow."

I start across the gangplank the moment I see Richard's eager face coming up from below, glad to have my back turned to Bennett as Gillette adds, with the extra French accented to make it especially cutting, "Savvy?"

There is a time to be gracious in losing, I find, and a time to glorify over it as much as you can. This is one of those moments, even if I take my moment in silent gravity.

The moment my boots meet the Falcon's, I feel in control once more, as the salutes are sharper and more heartfelt. The gangplank is pulled back with a satisfying thump, and I take the wig and tri-corner hat one of the younger midshipmen presses into my grip, sliding my hair under the familiar and always unwelcome binding of white powdered curls. Adjusting the hat over it, I let out a breath, then nod around to the crew with a wry, "It's good to be home."

This earns me more than a few chortles, and then I give out my orders, brisk and firm. The Golden Goose is to stay and help put the Indefatigable to rights, then escort her back to Nassau. The Falcon is to sail unto the Colonies, to meet the rest of the Fleet, where the new battle plans will be discussed and then implemented immediately.

Captain Harris looks over to the bedraggled Indefatigable from his spot on the Golden Goose, and then calls out to me with a little wry humor in his blue eyes, "I fancy facing the Sharks more than this, sir. Expect us by your side within a matter of days."

With a curt nod, and a knowing look, I give the orders to set sail, up to Jamestown to meet up with the rest of our small fleet. As we cut across the waves, and the crew settles into the patterns they have a thousand times before and will repeat a thousand times again, I move from my spot on the quarterdeck, to stand at the foremast, resting my hands against the railing as I watch the setting sun.

Behind me, I hear the soft steps of Jonathan and Andrew, and I know they are watching me. Waiting quietly. I straighten a little, and then put in the mildest tones possible, "I never knew you two were lovers." I turn towards them, at the sudden shocked and now fearful glimmer on Andrew's face, and the tired, accepting one on Jonathan's that reminds me so much of Jack's. I add gently, one corner of my mouth lifting up, "...Of Plato."

The two of them exchange a quick look, and then Jonathan's smile appears, warm and somewhat rueful, "Well, you know how fond I am of ...philosophy." He looks over at Andrew, and all the reserve in the world can't hide the fondness in that gaze, or the one that returns it.

Andrew pulls his eyes from Jonathan, to me. "Commodore ... James. You don't have to protect us. If it comes down to it - well. We knew someday that we might have to give up our lives for what we love - philosophically speaking."

"Andrew, I would sooner turn to a pirate's life of Edward Teach-ian proportions, then ever betray the trust, and the friendship you two have bestowed on me." I answer firmly, giving them both a stern look, "Honor dictates what comes first here, and it is not a law that they change whenever the wind blows differently in the Royal Bedchambers." I snort wryly, moving on, "It is love, and devotion. It is knowing that there are things beyond the uniform, gentlemen."

Gillette raises one ginger eyebrow at me, "Sir, I never knew that one experience with that pirate would change you so dramatically."

It is I who is startled this time, but I regain my composure as I answer peacefully, "Not changed, Lieutenant. Realized who I am."

Gillette smirks, a tiny nod his only agreement. Bush looks thoughtful, as he folds his hands behind him, "Does this new and freeman attitude of you both mean that we can perhaps have another night of sampling French wines?" Off our stern glares, he smiles sheepishly, "Perhaps not."

I shake my head, as I turn towards the horizon before us. At this moment, Jack is looking at another one. In three months, we will hopefully be looking at the same one once more. For the first time since our parting, a flicker of doubt moves through me. Will he still feel the same? Is ours only to be an affair of a moment, despite his words?

I smile mentally, with a great deal of irony. I am going to have to trust him to come back to me, just like he is going to have to trust me to stay alive. We will find out in two months, just how trustworthy a Pirate Captain and a British Commodore can be to one another.

Flash of dark eyes, a soft moan in a barely lit room, and the feel of warm golden flesh pressing into mine...

I sigh, deep and heartfelt. It is going to be a long, and lonely, trail of sixty nights.

-- // --

Not a month later, I am home in Port Royal to the accolades of the Admiralty, and Governor Swann. The stories reverberate from the Colonies, down to Port Royal, all the way to Merry Ole England. The Great Pirate Hunter, Norrington, rises to glory at the fore of a small fleet that trapped the Ebony Sharks. Thier fleet was nearly twice the size of Norrington's own, but he flailed those dastardly pirates against the shoals of the bay those worthless criminals were gathering in. The flames, the fire, the cannons roaring as Norrington took his place at the front of the battle, his loyal Lieutenants at his side as he charged into the fore. They say he's a Child of Fate, that Norrington. Not a scar on him.

No stories, I think, will return about the entire crews that dropped their weapons at the sight of the British flag floating above them. Not a tale for all those men, some of them nearly weeping in relief, as they handed over their weapons. The scars that marred these men's faces, the tang of absolute fear that ran through them.

They have still not finished counting the bodies of the dead, on either side.

Not all scars, I have found, have to be on the outside.

My plan was an absolute success in all ways, except the fact that no confirmation was made on the death of Captain Lark. Some say they saw her on her ship, going down in flames. Others say she escaped by the means of witchcraft, or the like. Some claim never to have seen here there at all. All too vague, but the otherwise complete routing of the Ebony Sharks as a threat to the British colonies, not to mention the pure 'genius' of myself has the Royal Government throwing roses at my feet.

I have not seen Jack in four weeks, nor heard a word about him besides. All those rose petals could be solid gold at my feet, and it would do nothing more but make me wistful for a golden smile I miss more than life itself.

I let out a sigh, and drain off the last dregs of the mug of ale I have in my hand, slouching back just a touch in my chair in the Farthest Point. I have claimed the alcove table as my favorite over the past two weeks, a familiar sight to my fellow pub-goers, sans my wig and hat. I do not know what I keep hoping will happen - that he will somehow form out of thin air and sit next to me - annoying and endearing all at once. Like all my dreams come to life, where I wake and swear I can feel his warmth on my cool skin, hear his laugh. At times, I stop in the middle of the street, because I know I've seen him, just out of the corner of my eye.

There is a clearing of a throat near me, and I glance up to see Marcus Chip standing over me. He nods his steel-grey head down at the mug in my hand, " 'Nother one, Commodore?"

I look at the empty glass in my hand, then press my lips together, before I nod my head. "One more, Marcus."

His shaggy eyebrows raise together, "Hmm. In the mood t'drown your troubles this afternoon, are you, Commodore?"

"Better than wallowing, Marcus." I smile thinly, before glancing out the window listlessly, my finger drumming against the wood. I don't even have the pleasure of having swordplay with William to ease the tension - for he has been gone the past week fulfilling a commission of his very own for a crafted sword for an old privateer, who lives further along the coast, a master of his own plantation, bought with his own illbegotten gold. William wrote me a letter, leaving it at my home to be read upon my return, that he was leery over the commission, but the money would be more than enough to start his own shoppe, which he would do after the wedding. As pleased as I am over the news, I can't help wishing he and Elizabeth would wed sooner rather than later. Ironic, that. Nearly a year ago I would have been chomping at the proverbial bit at the thought of them being together.

That was before I really understood what love and longing really are. My heart might pine for Elizabeth, but my soul longs for my Sparrow.

A light hand rests on my shoulder, startling out of my dark reverie, and I turn to stare up at Elizabeth Swann, a vision in light pink, a parasol resting in her gloved grip. She flashes me one of her bright smiles, brown eyes shining, "Well, I feel rather clever. I've tracked down the Great Pirate Hunter all on my 'ownseys'."

My heart twists at that familiar little phrase, as I give Elizabeth a stern look, "Miss Swann, it is completely improper for a young lady, even one who is about to be wed, to be wandering into a pub."

"Well, I wasn't going to, but no-one would take my silver piece to go in and fetch you. Apparently, a scowling Commodore is not one to be troubled." Elizabeth arches an eyebrow, "Besides, what harm can I come to if you are here to protect me?"

"I would make a list, but there are too many possibilities." I flash her a wry smile, "Congratulations on your astute tracking skills, at any rate. Any pirate would be glad to have you aboard their ship. Dare I ask what you are doing here?"

"Ye Gods, I hope not." Elizabeth's delicate nose wrinkles, "My fancy for pirates begins and ends with Will." She gives me a tap with her parasol, "Are you ready to go?"

"..Ready to go where?" I query, my eyebrows drawing together as Marcus returns with my ale, plunking it down on the table, before he bobs a polite nod at Elizabeth, who returns the greeting in her own warm way.

She then frowns at the drink in my hand, "Out. In the Venus. I hope you haven't imbibed enough to souse your good senses, Commodore, although it is clearly affecting your memory."

"Doubtful, Miss Swann, even with as much as he's gone over his limit in the past three hours." Marcus shakes his head with a grunting laugh, as he moves back towards the bar.

She watches as I smile caustically, taking a long sip of the ale in my mug, before asking, "Just how much has he had, Mr. Chip?"

"Includin' that?" Marcus eyes my cup critically, then turns to wipe down the bar with a snort, "A whole glass 'n a half."

She turns back to me, arching a sardonic eyebrow, "Oh James. What a Lush you have become." Then she tugs on my arm, "But all the better for me, for that means we can leave immediately. Up with you! Up, I say!"

I allow myself to be dragged to my feet, frowning all the while as she takes me firmly by the sleeve. I barely have enough time to throw down my money for my drink and a half, as I am pulled bodily from the pub itself, and back into the outside world. Shoving on my wig and hat hastily, I glower down at Elizabeth, "Just where exactly are we going?"

She gives me an arch look, as she shifts our passage down to the docks, "James, we really need to cut you off from the drink. It's Tuesday, and you promised me on Saturday past that you would take me with you to save Will from that nasty privateer and his plantation. If we set sail now, we can be there in a matter of hours, long before sunset."

"I recall saying I would go fetch William, but I said I would have to have your father's permission first to bring you along." I say slowly, then I narrowly glare at her, "Just how exactly did you convince him to let you go?"

"I did this repeatedly." She turns her delicate face towards me, flashing me the most pathetic begging expression I have seen outside of certain pirates in my acquaintance. I can't help but smile slightly, which makes the woebegone look disappear into a Elizabeth brilliant smile, "Moments later he was agreeing to let me around the island on a sloop, as he was presented with the idea, that his daughter would be under the trusted care of Commodore Norrington, scourge of pirates everywhere. Besides, he's rather nervous himself with the thought of his future son-in-law being so long with a privateer. He doesn't want Will getting any ideas, and if he has any ideas, he wants you and I to talk Will out of them." She lets out a content breath, one of a woman who has gotten exactly what she wants, smiling up at me with that familiar sparkle in her eyes, "At any rate, this is the best thing for you."

"The best thing for me in which way? I have never been that fond of being kidnapped, Elizabeth. I wasn't planning on going to fetch William for another three days" I answer dryly, as we move down the dock of registered Naval vessels, down to the smaller end of the ship line.

"I have three words for you. The Broody Look." Elizabeth shakes her head with a sigh, as we come to a dead stop outside the Venus, a smaller sized sloop. Large enough to have private chambers below, but not so large that two people cannot man her perfectly well. She shoves me unceremoniously aboard with the tip of her parasol, "You need distraction, James, and a good sea voyage will do just the trick."

"But, Elizabeth, I have ..." I start to say, as she delicately steps off into the ship herself, careful with her footing.

"Absolutely nothing pressing to do. I asked your Lieutenants. I also took the liberty of seeing that Lucien packed well for you, so you'll find in one of the cabins below clothes suitable for simply taking a day or three's sail around the island proper. Not to mention enough staple foods, including apples, to see us through." She rests her hands on her tiny hips, raising an eyebrow at me, "Now. Get below, get yourself properly attired, and then get us out to sea, Commodore, before I liberally apply the pouting face to your male sensibilities."

I raise a dry eyebrow at her, "Is that a request or an order, Miss Swann?"

She flashes me a dimpled, bedeviled smile, "Take your pick, Commodore Norrington." She gestures at me fiercely with her parasol, "Below with you!"

I would protest against this absolutely wretched treatment of my person, but I must to admit to myself an hour later as I ease our way around the coast, that this really was just what I needed. The wind, the sea, and a good steady boat beneath me, answering to each movement of my hand on the steering wheel. It clears my head and gives me some measure of true rest.

Elizabeth emerges from below, her long hair bound in a simple braid and dressed in the rough clothes of a boy, breeches and all. She leans out on the rigging, the sunlight catching her hair brilliantly, and in that moment I remember all over again why I loved her so. She is a wild spirit, never to be tamed to the land.

It took a wilder spirit than hers, however, to claim me completely.

She turns towards me, a smug look on her beautiful, fair-skinned face as she climbs up to the helm to join me, "Well someone looks worlds better, if I say so myself." She settles herself on the railing, breathing in deeply, letting the wind whip her long hair.

"Might as well. No one else around to do so, after all." I answer dryly, earning myself a Look, then a grin. I smile gently in return, before deftly steering us around the slow curve of the cliffs lining the island's edge.

"You miss him, don't you?" Comes the quiet question, and I find Elizabeth looking at me with sad understanding.

I look at her once more, frowning a little in confusion, "Well, as fond as I am of William ..."

"I meant Jack." Elizabeth says tartly, before her voice retains the same gentle tone as before, "You miss him. I can tell."

"... I do not miss that disreputable reprobate." I answer tightly, and off her eyebrow, I continue firmly, "Not in the slightest." Her eyebrow arches higher, and I keep going, "In no way, shape, or form do I miss Jack Sparrow." Her disbelieving look is starting to grate, and nor is it wavering. After another few minutes of it, I crack a little. "...Much. I do not miss him much." I pause, then look at her warily, "How did you ...?"

"Well, I don't want to say that you were obvious, James, but to a woman whom you were once in love with?" Elizabeth's smile was a wry revelation, "You spend every day watching the sunset. It didn't take a very large leap of logic to realize you were looking for something on the horizon. A ship with black sails, perhaps?"

"...Would you believe me if I said I was just admiring the view?" I ask, after a sheepish moment of silence.

The answering knowing smile on Elizabeth's lips is enough to drag a grumble from me. She shakes her head a little, murmuring something so softly I have to strain to hear it, "Peas in a pod."

"...Pardon?" I question, puzzled by the offshoot of the conversation.

"It's something that Jack said to me once. 'Peas in a pod, luv'. I didn't realize until now that it could mean something outside outright manipulation of good people." Elizabeth sighs, looking both pained and yet darkly amused at the same time.

"Elizabeth, in no way, shape, or form are you as manipulative as Jack Sparrow." I snort a little.

"Can't I be?" Something in Elizabeth's face twists, as she continues to look off at the island to our left, "Or am I not the same 'oathbreaking little whore' who broke her word to you on that same fort wall?"

"You never broke your word, Elizabeth." I say quietly, leaning forward to observe her. That phrase did not come from her lips. Someone said something that they shouldn't have, and she overheard. I glower at the thought, continuing, "You stood next to the man you loved, and made a bid for the life of a good man. There is nothing shameful in that. And you are certainly no whore - nor do I ever want to hear of you implying to yourself as such again."

"...How can you say that? How can you defend my actions?" Elizabeth turns to face me fully, gripping her hands together, her dark eyes filling with tears, "I used you, James. I used you horribly and knowingly, to get what I wanted."

"And what was that, Elizabeth? You wanted to save William's life. Oh, what a horribly selfish thing, to want to spare the life of the man you love. You didn't think that I knew? Even when you said it wasn't for Wiliam... I knew." I let out a heavy breath, "You were just too good, too fine a woman to hurt me. To tell me to my face that you really didn't want me." I fix green eyes on her brown ones, "But I know this. If not for that moment on the fort wall, you would have married me, even if it had broken your heart every single day for the rest of our married life." I take a moment, then hammer home firmly, "You did not break your word to me, Elizabeth. I released you from it. I only want you to be happy. Are you happy with Will?"

"... More than words can express. He is the best part of me. He makes me feel like I want to be a better person, just by his actions and words." Elizabeth says softly, alight with love from within and out.

"Then I think we made the best decision for all parties involved, don't you?" I offer her a quiet smile.

"I do." Elizabeth states softly, but firmly, before that ghost of a smile appears again. "Peas in a pod, indeed."

"You realize at some point you are going to have to expand on that statement?" I comment wryly, shifting my grip on the steering wheel slightly.

Elizabeth flashes me a slow, sad smile, "That occasionally, Jack and I are very much alike. We do very wrong things for the right reasons - and we are loved. Loved, respected, cherished and cared about by two men that in our personal opinions are far too good for us to begin with."

"...And you both have the same sense of the flair of the dramatic, I see." I answer wryly, trying not to look as touched as I feel, before I nod towards the lone sail, "Why don't I give you something to do, like tighten that down, before you break into another Greek Chorus?"

Elizabeth's lips curve up a little, as she salutes me, moving down the deck to do so. I watch her for a long moment, before calling out, "Elizabeth?" She looks back at me, coiling rope around one delicate arm, her gaze questioning. I clear my throat a little, before asking, "...Do you think he misses me?"

Her smile is warm, and gentle, as she answers sweetly, "If he doesn't, I'll throttle him within an inch of his grubby life. I may be your ex-fiancée, but I shall be thrice-cursed with pirate gold if I don't ensure that dandified criminal doesn't treat you with all the respect and love you deserve."

Elizabeth Swann is a fine, upstanding woman of polite society, but garnering the look on her face, I fear what will happen to Jack if he fails to show a tenth of the affection Elizabeth requires for me in a mate.

Of course, I also know Jack would probably sweet-talk his way out of her ire, so there you have it. God, I miss him.

The wind picks up, and my mind is pleasantly distracted for the next few hours as I fight against sudden gales of wind as we float onwards to this privateer's private kingdom. Elizabeth is the first to spot the dock, and at her gleeful cry I can guess who is waiting there. Sure enough, the closer we approach, the clearer and more distinct the form of William Turner, Junior, is.

I think if the way wasn't lined with sharp rocks, that boy would be off the docks and swimming out here, he is strained so far looking at us, waving his arms wildly. Hm. Best not to give him or Elizabeth any ideas. We are soon enough at the dock as it is, and as I toss him the rope to tie up the ship, Elizabeth moves to clamber out of the boat swiftly. Not a moment later they are in each other's arms, and a pang fills my heart, one that is different from all the other times I've seen them like this.

It is the pang of knowing that somewhere, out there, there is someone who is waiting hopefully for my arms to be around him, and I have no damned idea when or where that will occur again. I look off across the water, towards the sun that is dipping lower and lower in the sky, before I move to get off the boat myself, trying to shake off my melancholy.

William and Elizabeth part, and he moves to greet me enthusiastically, shaking my hand within his own, "It's good to have you back, James. We missed you." His smile broadens, "Or rather, I missed getting the better of you over a clashing of swords."

"Hah. You know very well I could trounce you whenever I liked, puppy." I snort in return, smiling.

William chuckles, wrapping one arm around Elizabeth's waist, and gesturing up towards the huge white house atop the hill. "I never expected you both to come and get me! In fact I was starting to consider ways I could hike across the mainland, just to get home." He turns his gaze to Elizabeth fondly, before glancing back at me, "He's been asking to meet Elizabeth since I started ranting about her the first day of my visit here ... do you mind wandering the grounds, James? I want to give the old man a chance to settle into the fact he has the Governor's daughter in his home before I mention the fact that the Great Pirate Hunter's come to escort me home."

I glance out towards the setting sun, then shake my head, "Of course not, William. In fact, I could use the walk." Beyond the fact I would be poor company right now.

"Don't wander too far, James!" Elizabeth calls out, as she grips William like he is her anchor, and I suppose in many ways he is, as they head up the slope to the large white house.

"Yes Mother. And if I do, I swear to leave a trail of breadcrumbs." I call out mockingly behind them, before heading down a little wooded path, until I find a large tree to lean upon, and an unobstructed view of the sunset. It is, I reflect, as I make myself comfortable, mine and Jack's time. All our beginnings occur when the sun tucks itself slowly beneath the waves. Creatures of the dusk, we are, not comfortable in the daytime, but not really welcome in the darkness of night.

I sigh, my fingers going to dip below my shirt, and pull out a long yet sturdy strip of thin black leather, a red carved dice threaded unto it. I rub the dice for a few moments, before pensively staring back out to the water, turning a brilliant red-gold as the sun dips closer to it. Suddenly an old seaman's legend strikes me, 'If you can hear the sun kissing the water, you are granted one wish'. I close my eyes, listening. Listening to the winds rustling through the trees, the sound of ocean water lapping against the coast.

Listening to the voice behind me - the wonderfully familiar, rolling tones, "Well, this is a pretty picture, t'be sure."

I turn, staring at the apparition of Jack Sparrow standing off to my side, arms crossed over his white shirt, his breeches and old tattered waist coat a near gold shade in the reflection of the setting sun. His dark hair flutters lightly in the breeze off the water, a devilish grin on his face as he waggles his eyebrows at me. It must be an apparition. Why else would I be seeing him here, of all places, where nothing connects us at all but my memories? My heart churns, and I sigh, "Indeed it is."

The Jack-apparition tilts his head to his side, "What's the matter, love? You don't look that thrilled t' see me."

"Jack, I have been dreaming so much about you, that seeing you in the imaginary flesh is nothing short of frustrating." I pause, then offer the Jack-apparition a little light shrug, "Nothing personal, of course."

"Nothin' personal taken." The Jack-apparition looks amused, as he saunters closer to me, "I must say, y'got a fine imagination to be thinkin' of me in such detail."

"The dreams helped." I answer honestly, "All the mindless fantasies that help fill up the days." I halt, looking down at the grass, "You have no idea how much I've missed you, Jack."

"...Might have a glimmer, love." The Jack-apparition is right beside me, not touching, but close enough to wrap his arm around mine. His voice is sober, a sharp tug towards lonely, "Like you're dyin' a bit, every day, not havin' the person you love there with you."

"Yes... yes, that's it exactly." I murmur, looking into those dark eyes, sighing a little, "God, I wish you were real."

Those fine, lovely lips quirk up, flashing gold, "'N what would you do if I was?"

"Kiss those teasing lips of yours until you had no breath to mock me with." I smile, wistfully, in turn.

The Jack-apparition seems to contemplate this, before answering me slowly "If I were real, then."

My expression clouds over, and I nod my head a little, "If you were real."

He nods his head slowly, then raises his hand, drawing it close over my face, but not quite touching, "Close your eyes, love. I have a bit of a surprise for you."

I blink a little, and a little tremor runs through me, "What sort of surprise?" It's not possible that he's really here - but... but...

"Close your eyes." He leans up and in, in his old way, and I swear I can feel the warmth of his breath on my cheeks, "Trust me love, you'll like this."

After a bare moment, I close my eyes tightly, taking in a long shaky breath. A fine tremor runs through me as I wait. Then wait another moment more. Finally I crack my eyes open, to find nothing but the empty field and grove of trees before me. Bitter disappointment chokes me, and I stiffen upwards before I can let out any emotional response. I will feel no pain. I will not get angry at myself for having such a realistic fan-


I yell, startled, as two hands that have grabbed my buttocks, firmly squeeze them in turn. I jerk forward, turning swift on my heels with sword in hand as I stand face to face ... to face...

"..Jack?" Comes the quiet, disbelieving whisper at the flesh and blood pirate behind me, who is currently cackling with devilish glee at my dazed expression, "...Jack. You're ... I are really ..."

His wicked glee fades into open warmth, and wanting as he smiles up at me, murmuring quietly, "Sur-prise, Sweetcheeks. Now, how much d'you miss -"

He gets naught another word out for the next ten or so minutes, for my mouth is quite busy welcoming him home to me.

If you're lost
You can look
And you will find me
Time after Time
If you fall
I will catch you
I'll be waiting
Time after Time



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