A light mist hung over Port Royale, obscuring the sun as it rose slowly to bless a bright new day. In the harbour, two ships rolled gently with the little swells, each crew as eager as the other to be off. Capstan shanties echoed across to the sleeping town, casting their tuneful melodies along streets silent with reluctant awakening.

On the dock a small group stood together, watching the ships as they made ready to sail. Two of their number had already rowed out to the waiting ladies, clambering aboard to oversee the readying of their Pearl for the voyage ahead. The others lingered a while longer, wishing for a way to ease this painful leave-taking.

Rosemary gathered her niece into her arms, mindful of the baby, holding her close as she tried not to cry. So many people had told her of the danger involved in this voyage, and she was afraid she would not see her family again.

'Aunt Rosemary, I'll be fine,' Elizabeth told her gently, pulling back from the tearful embrace. 'We'll be back in less than a year.'

'Don't make promises you may not be able to keep, my dear,' Rosemary said unsteadily, stepping aside for Elizabeth to bid farewell to her father. Will hung back, not feeling it was his place to be a part of this goodbye.

A little way down the dock, Laura fought to hold back her tears as she gazed up at James, trying to tell herself that the ache in her heart was a figment of her imagination, nothing more. He held her hands tightly, duelling within himself as he wondered what to say.

'Miss Blythe,' he began, stopping as a single tear escaped his companion's control to roll down her cheek.

Laura forced a smile for him.

'I had thought we were past that,' she said brokenly, suddenly bombarded with memories of his arms about her, his lips on hers.

James sighed, unable to put into words the feeling that leaving her behind was possibly the hardest task he had ever set himself.

'Don't cry,' he whispered, gently wiping away the moisture from her face. 'Please, Laura. I will come back for you.'

She swallowed past the lump in her throat, exerting will-power on the flood of tears rising within her.

'What if you don't?' she asked him, sounding small and alone. 'The seas are rough around the Horn, even I know that.'

He frowned, cursing himself for telling her mother of his first brush with Cape Horn. He should have realised Lady Rosemary would mention it to her daughter.

'You are right,' he murmured. 'I will not swear to you that I will return, the sea may take me to her as we sail. But my heart will always lie . . . here.'

His hand hovered over her heart, his fingers picking up the steady beat within. She smiled, resting her hand over his own heart.

'And mine, here,' she breathed.

James smiled gently, his fingertips brushing her cheek tenderly.

'Will you wait for me?' he asked her.

Laura nodded, trying to lean into the gentle touch, to seek refuge in the warmth of his hands.

'I would wait, even were there no hope of your return,' she swore, sighing deeply as he drew her to him.

Governor Swann held his daughter close, trying to quell the doom-laden foreboding that filled his mind. The last time he had said goodbye to her like this, she had returned on another captain's ship, the Lady Swan sunk with all hands, and with a tale to curdle his blood. But this time they had a purpose, and they were sailing with the Black Pearl. As much as he disapproved of Jack Sparrow, Swann knew there was no other man he would trust his family's lives with.

'It'll be lonely here without you,' he said quietly, smiling sadly as she drew back.

Elizabeth returned his smile, feeling the bittersweet farewell as keenly as he did. Behind her, Will stepped into the boat that had just returned for them, beckoning to James to join him.

'Don't be silly, father,' she chided him gently. 'You'll have Aunt Rosemary and Laura, and we'll be back before you start to miss us.'

She kissed his cheek gently, turning to embrace her cousin as the commodore stepped into the little boat, somehow unable to take his eyes off Laura as she squeezed her green eyes tight shut against the tears threatening to spill.

'Take care, Liz,' she whispered, frightened beyond words that this could be the last time she saw the people who meant so much to her. She was grateful to Marin for avoiding the sadness of the farewell, bidding them all a flamboyant goodbye alongside her husband and rowing out to the ships before the emotion really kicked in.

She drew back a little, her eyes flickering over her cousin's shoulder to rest on the commodore where he sat in the little boat, his eyes on her. Elizabeth smiled, knowing what she was about to say.

'I'll do my best, Laura, I promise,' she swore. 'He'll come back to you, we'll make sure of it.'

The sorrowful smile that lit on her cousin's face was almost heart- breaking. Elizabeth moved away, letting Will take Matthew from her as she stepped down into the boat. The sailors pulled on their oars, and the little boat drew away, rocking on the swells that swept the harbour in the dawn mist.

Rosemary could feel her daughter's fears and sorrow, wrapping a comforting arm about the younger woman, at a loss for anything to say that might make everything better. She watched the row boat pull away from them, holding close to her heart each face that had left her side that morning, and resigning herself to a year of worrisome fears and heart-wrenching ignorance.

*~*~*

Jack stared out across the harbour, watching as the little long boat made its slow way out to them, the three passengers looking decidedly down- hearted. He had never been one for tearful farewells, and besides, he had been almost frantic with impatience to get on board his beloved Pearl once more. Marin had taken her leave of them as swiftly as he, but he knew it was because the goodbye pained her more than she would admit willingly.

He glanced around at his crew, watching in barely concealed amusement as they hurried about, obviously as pleased as he himself to be back on board once more. He'd told them what he felt they needed to know, that he and Will Turner were going after Fitzpatrick's treasure, and that the commodore was coming along to collect his own share of the gold.

Gibbs stood by the larboard guns on the main deck, Marin by his side as he introduced her to the new cabin boy, a young lad of around ten who had been caught pickpocketing at her wedding. Fortunately for him, it had been Dugan's pocket he'd tried to pick and so he had got away with a bruised forehead and a new job.

'This here's young Harry,' he said gruffly, as the lad nodded respectfully to Marin. 'Harry, yer to do as yer told, understand? No stealing, or we'll keelhaul ye.'

Marin winced at the terrified expression on the boy's face at the thought of that awful punishment. She smiled gently down at him.

'Have you ever been to sea, Harry?' she asked.

'No, miss,' he said, and she was struck by his unusual accent. 'Well, not that I remember, miss. I came here when I was a baby, miss.'

She grinned.

'Alright, Harry, relax,' she told him, watching as Gibbs ambled to the stern to pick on some poor soul who didn't seem very chipper that morning. 'My name's Marin, and you can call me by it. Just remember to call the captain by his title, and you'll get along fine with him, too.'

Harry grinned back at her, relieved to find someone who wasn't gruff or threatening. She gestured to the sword that hung clumsily by his side.

'Do you know how to use that?'

He shook his head, looking a little ashamed. Marin lifted his chin, making him look her in the eyes.

'Then you'll just have to remind me to teach you,' she said gently. 'If you want an easy job while we set out, you'll clamber up to the crow's nest and stay there until someone comes up to relieve you. The bow is the front, the stern the back, larboard is left and starboard right, understand? If you see a ship on the horizon, then you shout down to us which direction to look. Got that?'

Frowning, he nodded jerkily. Marin smiled.

'Get up there, then.'

He grinned nervously and scrambled up into the rigging, making his slow way up the ropes to the crow's nest far above him. As he reached the fighting top, Marin decided she couldn't watch anymore. He seemed more than a little frightened, but was determined to reach his destination. She glanced over at Gibbs.

'He'll do,' the old sailor nodded. 'Don't let me forget to send someone up there after him, though.'

She laughed.

'I'll try,' she promised, turning as James swung a leg over the side, stumbling aboard with a grimace.

He smiled down at her, trying to mask the regret he was certain marked his face from the awkward farewell. They'd not yet left the harbour and already he wished he could return to Laura's side.

Marin smiled gently up at him, her eyes strangely understanding.

'She'll be there when we return,' she told him, and he was struck once again by how quickly his cousin had learnt to read his moods, even beneath the mask he wore so well.

'You didn't see her face when I said goodbye,' he murmured, grateful when she reached out to squeeze his shoulder.

'I don't need to,' Marin said softly. 'I can see yours. Go below and get changed, James. The sooner we set off, the sooner we'll return.'

James sighed deeply, nodding to her as he slipped to the hatch. As he disappeared into the depths of the ship, Marin glanced up in time to see young Harry squeezing through the lubber's hole beside the mast, his feet vanishing up into the crow's nest. She looked over at Solomon, who grinned past the marlin spike he held in his teeth. Removing the piece, he threw it into a coil of rope and moved to join her where she stood surveying the deck.

'The little lad should work out fine, if I say so meself,' he said warmly. 'And if his lordship mucks in, he'll be one of us before the week's out.'

Marin laughed.

'I'm sure he will,' she assured her friend. 'It'll grate on his nerves that I can sail better than he ever will.'

The guffaw that erupted from Solomon on hearing that comment must have been heard by those waiting on the dock to see the ship set sail.

'This I cannot wait to see,' he gasped, stifling the chuckles that continued to rise within him.

Marin waited until he was composed once more before speaking again.

'Harry has an accent I've not heard before,' she said pensively. 'Any ideas where he's from?'

Solomon snorted.

'Botany Bay,' he spat, his eyes dark with anger for a moment. 'Only the British could sentence a young man with a family to support to penal servitude. Young Harry was born out there, and when his pa died, his mam brought the children to the Caribbean. Youngest of seven is our Harry.'

Marin frowned, suddenly sad for the young boy they had brought into their fold. Still, it explained why she didn't recognise his accent. She had never met anyone who had lived in Australia before. Solomon sighed.

'Well, I guess I'd better get up there before the devil Gibbs starts laying about him with the cat,' he muttered, throwing her a quick grin as he vaulted himself up into the rigging. 'See you later.'

Marin waved him off, moving to join Jack on the poop as he took the helm from Cotton. The mute grinned at her as she slipped to her husband's side. The parrot piped up raucously.

'Show us yer ankles!'

Without a change in expression, or even a glance towards the man, Jack wrapped an arm about Marin's shoulders and coughed pointedly.

'If you've something to say about my wife, Mr Cotton, I'd appreciate it if you would put it into more refined talk,' he said formally, and Marin had to hide her smile as the older sailor shuffled his feet apologetically.

'Dead men tell no tales,' the parrot croaked quietly and Jack nodded.

'Exactly,' he agreed.

As Cotton shuffled off the poop, Marin smiled up at the captain, pleased to see him looking so alive aboard his beloved ship. He really had been sickening for the sea, she realised, and swore to herself never to let that happen again. He grinned down at her.

'You know, you should be up there with the crew, love,' he said speculatively.

Marin raised an eyebrow.

'Are you going to make me?' she challenged.

Jack laughed.

'On the day I have a death wish, then I'll try to make you do something,' he told her. 'Until then, I think I'd rather do things myself. Where's dear James?'

'Below, getting changed,' she told him. 'And the new cabin boy ventured up into the rigging with very little encouragement, so I don't think we'll be having a problem there.'

Jack nodded happily.

'That's what I like to hear,' he said, glancing across to the Dragon. 'Well, it would appear everyone's ready for the off. Make sail there! Come on, move, you scabrous dogs!'

As his voice filled the air around them, the orders floating out across the harbour, Marin realised that his crew had anticipated his readiness to sail. They were all in place, and as soon as the breeze carried his voice up to them, the sails dropped, billowing in the wind as they were secured in place. With the barest of lurches, the Black Pearl slipped forward, cutting through the waves as she sailed out into the Caribbean, on the trail of adventure.

*~*~*

It's over! *sob* But will there be a sequel? It's up to you, you know . . .