Again, I still don't own Pirates of the Caribbean, still don't own Jack Sparrow. And I still wish I did. . .

Blue Jedi Hobbit 009: No, I don't fence. I just used what I had seen in movies and whatnot, and a few of my own ideas for the sword fighting training.

ATTENTION EVERYONE – READ THIS: I WILL BE CHANGING MY USERNAME TO JOHNNYDEPPFANATIC12. Just so everyone knows, so that you'll still be able to find me on here.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Ariana drove down, slow and hesitant, into the parking lot of the movie theater. She did not want to be here. She wanted to go back home and pretend it all had never happened; Jack could be just another normal guy, the movie could be just another movie.

Her memory would have to be erased for that to happen.

She had spent the entire car ride fighting with both sides of her mind – the one telling her to stay where her life was, and the other telling her to break free. What was so bad about a life of piracy?

What was so good about it?

Jack. . .

What was so bad about her life?

What was so good about it?

Family. . .friends. . .

Visions of her entire childhood up to that day flashed in her mind.

Birthday parties. . . Time-out. . . Writing short little stories in her room all day. . . Driving up to Maine with her parents and her friend. . . Being yelled at in school by the teachers for starting another fight. . . Going swimming. . . Her first kiss. . . Starting high school and feeling small and helpless. . . Receiving her first guitar in seventh grade. . . Trips with – friends.

Millions atop millions of memories surfaced of her, Kelsey, and Julie that swam around in her head. . .or maybe it was the tears that were threatening to come. She held them in with all the strength she could find.

She felt feeble and weak as she threw open the glove compartment upon the departure of the other three people from the car. She reached inside and withdrew a picture of her, Kelsey, and Julie that had been taken earlier that summer. Knowing the picture of her and her parents was in her wallet, safely tucked in her pocket, she folded it in half and put it in her pocket. Thank God I never remembered to put that in my scrapbook, she thought as she got out of the car, making sure to take the keys with her.

As she reluctantly walked across the pavement she could see Jack looking at her in her peripheral vision, but she paid no attention. She was focused on taking in every single thing around her; every rock, every tree, every building. She would never allow herself to forget any of it. Ever.

They reached the doors and went inside, Ariana's eyes gazing at everything once again, attempting to burn it into her brain. Jack noticed but remained silent.

Her mind felt ready to explode as they moved through the doorway into the theater. She felt as if she was not walking down the long red carpet between the rows of seats, toward the huge screen that loomed before her. She was not leaving everything behind. She was not tearing her friends, her family, her life, apart.

The other three stopped and so she managed to as well, though she would have rather just fled through the exit doors and never stop.

"Okay, so what do we do now?" Kelsey's voice penetrated her brain.

She forced herself to snap back to reality, though it was immensely difficult. "Um. . . Maybe we could just hold the medallion up in front of the screen?" She was too mentally paralyzed to think of anything at the moment except what she was preparing to do.

"How would that work?"

"Um. . . I don't know, but I can't really think of anything right now. . ." She knew she sounded distant and faraway – the same way she felt.

Kelsey hit her arm. "Hey. Stop spacin' out."

She barely winced; barely even blinked. "Sorry. . ."

"Maybe there's something we have to say?" Julie suggested, though she sounded uncertain.

"Well, if there is, we don't know what it is," Kelsey said. "Maybe it's written on the medallion or something. Lemme see it."

Kelsey's request did not register in Ariana's mind for several seconds. She slowly reached into her pocket and pulled out the golden circle, handing it to her friend and feeling like she was reaching her arm out ten feet. She saw her examining every inch of it but did not feel any surge of hope or doubt.

About twenty seconds later she heard Kelsey's voice again, louder than usual, it seemed.

"There's nothing. I can't believe this. I stole the fucking thing out of a goddamn museum and there's nothing!" There was a pause. "All right, what's wrong with you?"

Ariana looked up to see Kelsey looking at her inquiringly.

"What do you mean?"

"You're acting like you're somewhere else. You're bein' weird!"

"No I'm not." She did not have the energy nor the will to fight.

"Yes you are!"

"No I'm not. I just can't think of anything. And besides, we're here to bring Jack back to his world. Do you expect me to be happy about that?" Her eyes showed no emotion whatsoever as she spoke; her tone was completely flat.

"No. But still, you're just spacing out and it's not really helping." Her voice reflected some sympathy that was mostly covered up.

Well maybe I don't want to help. Maybe I don't want him to leave me. She only sighed and shook her head.

"Why didn't it work?" Will burst out incredulously. "It should have worked!"

"I dunno, maybe you said it wrong?" Gibbs suggested, shrugging.

"I can read, in case you didn't know. I said it right!"

"Well 'ey, don' go getting' mad at me now. I wasn't insultin' ya."

"I know." He took a deep breath and looked at the ground. "I'm sorry. It's just that – Jack is a respected friend, and if he's in trouble, I want to help him."

"I know ya do, lad! I know! Maybe ya should try readin' it again."

"It could work," Elizabeth spoke up.

Will looked at her, then turned back to the doors.

"Let me see that," Jack said, reaching out for the medallion. Kelsey handed it to him and he began to look it over, Ariana joining him.

"Well, I don't think it says anything," he announced after a few moments.

"I already figured that out," Kelsey said.

Ariana knew it as time. She could not hold off any longer; now might be her last chance.

She looked at her two best friends for several moments, imprinting the image of them in her mind and not daring to look away. "Um. . .guys. . .I gave a lot – a lot – of thought to this, believe me, and it was painful. I think – that I want. . ." She quickly forced back the tears that were already welling up. ". . .to go – with Jack." Her stomach was in such a knot that she did not believe anything in the world could undo it. Her hands were beginning to sweat and she had an unpleasant taste in the back of her throat.

They both appeared stunned, especially Julie, whose mouth actually dropped open.

"What?" Kelsey gave her "the look", and she wanted to die right then.

"I just. . ." She searched for words, any at all. "I can't just let him leave me. I – I – " She found it so difficult to admit, and she was not entirely certain why. "I. . .love. . .Jack."

They stared at her in dazed silence for several seconds before Julie said, "So that means that you're just gonna leave? Just like that? What about your parents? School? Us, your friends? Your LIFE?"

Each second she was feeling worse and worse, like she did not deserve to live. She knew what she was going to the both of them, and she hated it and herself more than anything she had ever hated before.

"I thought about that, and. . .well. . .I just. . . I've found someone I truly love, who loves me back. And you know. . .he lives a live of adventure, and I – I've always wanted that, ever since I can remember. I mean, it's a chance for me to live my dream. He's the one, I can feel it. He's the only one for me. How can I let that go? If you two could come with me, you know I would take you in a heartbeat. . . I just – I'm so sorry." She looked down at the floor. She could not bring herself to face them, to see the hurt in their eyes. She saw a glint of something fall to the floor, and realized she had already begun crying without recognizing it.

Jack wrapped his arms around her and she leaned into him, burying her face in his shirt, her only source of concealment.

After muffled sniffles were heard, Kelsey said, "What are we gonna tell your parents? And what about Alix? Remember, we told her about how we won a contest and everything. I'm sure she's spread that around by now."

Ariana forced herself to pick her head up and look at them.

"I don't know. . . Tell my parents that. . . Tell them what I just told you. And tell them that I'm so sorry, with all my heart and soul, if I'm hurting them, which I know I am, because of this. And about Alix. . . I know you'll figure something out, won't you?" Her eyes pleaded for forgiveness though she knew she did not deserve any.

They did not reply. She felt worse than she ever had in her entire life, worse than her most horrible moment. She did not want to leave her life behind. But. . . Adventure, love. . . This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She could not fathom even an ounce of how much she was wounding everyone who cared about her, and she did not want to imagine it. She felt more tears sliding from her eyes and she swiftly wiped them away. She looked at her friends and saw something that shocked her – tears were in Kelsey's eyes.

She had only ever seen Kelsey cry once or twice in the entire, long span she had known her and the sight was like a heavy sledgehammer swung right into her heart. Before she could say anything Kelsey had turned and walked down one of the rows. Julie was crying as well – her sniffles could easily be heard.

Ariana headed swiftly after Kelsey, never skipping a beat. The least she could do was try and console her.

She wrapped her arms around her from behind, silently breathing a sigh of relief when Kelsey did not push her away. She felt Kelsey's hands come up and grasp her arms tightly, as if she never wanted to let go.

"I'm sorry," Ariana whispered, her voice shaking.

Kelsey slowly turned to face her and embraced her, squeezing her tighter than anyone ever had before. "I would come with you," she whispered back. "You know I would. But I can't. . .I just can't."

Julie soon joined them, and the tears fell freely from three sets of eyes and torn hearts.

"Don't you forget me. Don't you forget. Don't you ever forget," Ariana told them both, her soul ripping and her arms clutching them harder.

"Never," they both replied in unison.

"Don't you either," Kelsey told her. "Don't. . ."


Several minutes later they broke apart, still remaining close to each other.

That was when Ariana felt it. The sensation that told her she was finally being taken from them, from everything she had ever known. She snapped her head toward the screen and regretfully saw that it was coming closer and closer, and she knew, and her heart broke into a million pieces that were scattered across space and time. She looked back at her two friends.

"I'll find a way! I'll find a way to come back! Believe me, I'll find a way!" Those were the last words they heard her say.

And then she and Jack were gone.

They stood there, two lone figures in the movie theater, just staring numbly at the large screen, the image of their best friend burned into their minds, hearts, and souls forever.

"She's gone," Julie said quietly; disbelievingly.

It was a while before Kelsey responded. She swallowed a lump in her throat. "I know."

"You think we'll ever see her again?"

Now Kelsey looked her straight in the eye. "We will. I know we will."

Julie seemed to be wondering about something. Kelsey noticed.

"What is it?" she asked.

"I was just remembering something. We smashed the medallion in the past. . .but it was whole in the museum when we got it." She paused and looked directly at Kelsey. "Who put it back together?"



I hope you all liked it! I'll be writing a sequel some time this millennium, don't worry, I just have to get around to it. . . JUST YOU WAIT!!!!!!