Author Quick Notes: Pirates of the Caribbean, Norrington, Jack, and all the rest belong to Disney, and the bigeared Mouse. Any quotes belong to other people, the name 'Andrew' belongs to the esteemable Dragonlady (Ah, Fox Commodore, when will you have more chapters?), and the name 'James' belongs to Jack Davenport. Trust me on this one.

Archive: Please? PLEASE?

Rating: PG-13, for I am unwilling to warp young minds.

Email: [email protected] - send your praises and flames!

This is my first slash fic ever, and I thought I'd go for a new approach to an old tableau, telling a love story instead of a sex-induced one. What the heck, isn't the squelchies always better when there's emotional connection?

I think so too.

RE-betated version! Thanks go to Sly and Thalia for catching all my mistakes. Huzzah, ladies!

Men of Our Word

by L.M. Griffin


As engagement parties go, I have attended far worse.

For instance, the food is excellent. The fruit punch that has been provided is tart, yet slightly sweet. Oftentimes the refreshments are dismal, making the entire affair wretched for all invited.

The weather is also pleasant - a sun-dappled afternoon with a cool breeze coming off the bay of Port Royale. Not a single cloud in the sky threatens to rain upon this lovely garden party at the Governor's mansion.

Beyond that, Eliz...Miss Swann and her future husband make a handsome couple. Truly. They are happy, smiling, in love...

Right. That is about as much as I am willing to delude myself about this nightmarish situation I find myself in. Attending the engagement party of the woman I love ... loved ... no, probably still love, in my freshest dress uniform, glass of punch in my hand and vaguely polite expression plastered on my face. I am rather hoping pirates will attack, just to pull me out of here. Pathetic, eh?

Truth be told, I think I have attended any number of hangings and had a more enjoyable time of it. At least there I was in the comfortable position of observer, not the poor devil just waiting for the platform to drop out beneath his feet. Strange to be the one on trial. Especially when the crimes I have supposedly committed have yet to be even considered, at least by myself. I find myself lacking the colorful imagination of my fellow party-goers.

For example, the round-robin of rumors I have heard for my attendance here. Public opinion has split, or so I have overheard, into two parties of thought.

One - poor, -slighted- Commodore Norrington. Forced to endure the humiliation of watching Elizabeth Swann fluttering about, blacksmith Turner in tow. The Commodore will of course, swear vengeance against Turner! Dueling pistols at dawn! Et cetera every other kind of romantically futile gibberish!

Two - the cold Commodore - so uncaring and aloof. Of course he showed up at the party to bring a damper to the festivities. You know he was only after Elizabeth Swann for her money! Her father's approval! An easy promotion!

Or my own personal favorite personal opinion - as it is the TRUTH - Ms. Swann asked the Commodore herself if he would attend. Out of respect, and to stem the ugly rumors about her, young Turner, and the Commodore himself. I well suspected it would do no more but bring to life new rumors, but I am a man of my word... and my word to Elizabeth ...Miss Swann, is inviolate.

So obviously, I am either a bloodthirsty fanatic, a vicious gold digger, or an honorable idiot. I am not quite sure which one is worse. Clearly, I am dealing with people who are completely unfamiliar with my character.

Although my own self-opinion isn't that flattering either, even if it is painfully apt.

...Blast. I've gotten lost in my own myriad maze of thoughts. My current fellow in making small talk, the estimable Mr. Bilsworth, must think me horribly rude. Although how he can think that his cloth business is the height of vogue conversation is a bit beyond me. He's a small man, nervous and stuttering, but better than the fleet of matronly women who have taken to accosting me in the street, with daughters in tow.

Right, now to insert myself back into the conversation, hopefully looking like I have been paying attention the entire time...

Mr. Bilsworth is stuttering along, oblivious to my inattention. "...and she's quite the cook. Our little Selphie is growing up so fast, Commodore..."

Double... Blast! I flicker my eyes around while fixating my polite smile on. Where ... where. ...ah-hah. There. The largely personable Mrs Bilsworth, the one of the steely intent gaze, with her daughter, darling Selphie. Equally large and equally steely. I think they might wrestle me to the ground to get me to come to dinner at their home. Beyond those two fine ladies, I see the fleet of mother and daughter trios dragging along their hapless husbands and brothers, stalking out prime positions around Mr. Bilsworth and myself. Waiting for what I have heard called, 'the opportune moment'.

Apparently, I am now a marriageable commodity, and this situation is one I have been attempting to avoid. How, you ask? Simply by escaping the aforementioned matronly types with tsking, clucking tones of disapproval that I haven't yet picked another suitable bride from the bevy of beauties before me with a few polite words of my own, and 'urgent' business elsewhere. I am usually assisted in these endeavors by the 'sudden' appearance of my lieutenants, and better friends then they will ever know, Andrew Gillette and Jonathan Bush.

Now, the ladies seemed to have upped their tactics considerably. Sending in their guilty-looking husbands and siblings to outflank me is a miltary move worth of Caesar. However, as much I admire their determination, I am frankly uncomfortable to be seen as not much more than available fodder to the marriage bloodhounds.

...Hah, and I'm the 'vampire' of Port Royale. Irony, thou escapest not me.

Time for a firm retreat and regrouping of my forces, excepting the fact that now I am not seeing any of my forces, so to speak. It does seem to figure the one time I truly need Gillette, he is off flirting with a pretty housemaid or conversating. Bush was left to man the fort, lucky fellow. Hm, now where can I find allies in the immediate vicinity..? The list is looking fairly thin.

"Commodore, there you are!" A warm, and very welcome voice says a bit loudly from just behind me. Governor Swann sweeps up to my side, hand on my elbow to guide me firmly away from a suddenly relieved looking Mr. Bilsworth, and the thwarted masses of mothers. "Pardon me, Mr. Bilsworth, but Commodore Norrington is needed immediately."

"Of course, Governor." I respond, straightening. I'd half-believe him myself, if I hadn't caught the flickered wink in my direction. God bless savvy ... Ah-em, intelligent Royal Governors.

We take a side path, closer to the front of the mansion, where laughter is the most prevalent. The Governor flags down a passing servant ladened with glasses of wine, and removes one, pressing it immediately into my grasp. "Commodore, this glass needs your most urgent attention -- for no better reason than you look like a man who could use a little bolstering."

One side of my mouth lifts in what I have heard called my patented 'invisible smile'. "I shall apply myself diligently to the task before me, sir."

"Good man." The Governor smiles, and we stand together, letting our gazes drift down to the bright blue bay, so clearly visible from the slope of the Governor's finely tended gardens. I sip my wine gratefully, letting the sharply sweet liquid seep down my throat. I do not drink, as a matter of preference, but a little wine never hurt. Especially the good kind.

I can feel the kindly brown eyes rest on me, so like Elizabeth's, as the Governor asks gently. "How are you holding up, my boy?"

I feel the sigh heave upwards, and I let it escape my throat as I roll the wineglass between my hands. "Like a ship that has just come out of a horrifically confusing squall." Another lipquirk passes my expression. "I'm settling into my bearings, so to speak."

He smiles, folding his hands behind him, before continuing thoughtfully. "I must say, I was surprised you came at all. Especially considering...."

"Elizabeth ... Miss Swann came to my home and invited me to attend, personally. There are too many ridiculous stories circulating about myself and my feelings on your daughter's nuptials, and we thought it best to nip them off at the root." I take another long sip of wine, feeling the grim smirk stretch my lips. "Apparently I've been after young Turner's head, and just never knew it."

"Really..." The Governor's eyebrows rose, and his lips twitched. "You would think that would be something you would recall, Commodore. Surely you are more organized in your methodical crimes of passion?"

Again my lips lift into that brief flicker of humour. Father-in-law he may never be - Governor Swann will forever remain a figure of respect. He is a man of peace as much as I am a man of action, and it is good to know that as far as I let my warrior instinct take me, he will always be there to pull me back.

When my momentary fit of amusement has passed, I answer as smoothly as I can. "In my defense, sir, it's been a rather busy week. I simply cannot keep up with all the people I have sworn vengeance on. However, I will be sure to fit Turner in with my social engagements for the upcoming month."

He lets out a laugh then, covering his mouth before someone overhears, and clasps my shoulder warmly, as we keep walking around to the front of the house. After a moment, he gives me a questioning look. "...Speaking of those who are on your social engagement calendar, how goes the search for Jack Sparrow?"

"You mean 'Captain Jack Sparrow'?" I say dryly, then let out another sigh, this time in frustration. "We gave him a fairly good chase around the farther islands, but he slipped through a narrow strait just as the tide was going out, cutting us off at the other side. The last I saw of him, he was cheerily blowing me a kiss as he sailed off into the sunset."

"Gracious ... how dramatic." The Governor's eyebrows climb once again. "Isn't that terribly dangerous to do in a ship?"

"Closer to -suicidal-." I shake my wig-covered head. "Sparrow is as mad as they come - especially when it comes to risking his own neck and ship. Still..." And here I am surprised to find a note of admiration curling around my tone. " was a fine show of seamanship."

The Governor pauses, glancing over at me curiously. "It seems to me, Commodore, that the chase for Sparrow is becoming less of a mission, and more of a... welcome distraction for you."

"The thought had occurred to me, as well. However, I have very little else to pursue at the moment." I answer slowly. Which is absolutely true. Now that we have our newest courier ship, the -Falcon-, and two more new tall ships besides, the pirates are by and large keeping to their own haunts. With the loud and bosterious exception of the Black Pearl, of course.

"You like the challenge he presents - the seemingly 'uncatchable' catch?" At my slow nod of assent, he muses further. "It occurs to me just how opposite you two are to one another. Like flip sides of a coin."

"I suppose there is some merit to that." I say, eyebrows raised.

"Although I am not exactly sure what the point is."

"Oh, mere observation. Such as, if you are so interested in catching him, perhaps he has an equal reason for giving you something to chase." The Governor waves his hand slightly. "Why else go to such lengths to just evade capture every time, after all? That in mind, it brings up an inevitable question you must face."

"And what question is that, sir?" I ask, tilting my head a little, curious to see where this line of inquiries is going.

The Governor turns towards me, and smiles wryly. "...What are you going to do when you finally catch him, I wonder?"

My eyes widen with some surprise, yet even as I try to answer, a window above us bangs against the side of the house, dragging both of our gazes upwards. The window hangs open, gently bumping against the window-frame, as if someone had been holding it open just so, then suddenly let it go.

"Odd ... " the Governor murmurs. "I'll have to ask Randolph to look at that. Must be a faulty catch.."

"Indeed ... " Did I just see a... no. Impossible. My lips thin a touch, as I turn my attention back to the Governor, feeling suddenly a great deal more composed. Determination does that to me. "I will do my duty, sir."

"Well, naturally ... " He gives me another probing look I am not quite sure I understand, and opens his mouth to speak again. This time he is interrupted by one of the party guests, calling out to both of us that Elizabeth ... Miss Swann, (By God I will get this right in my own mind, I swear it!) was asking for him. Or rather, the both of us. We exchange another baffled look, but the Governor moves forward and I follow behind, pausing only to glance up at the window once more.


We come around to the front of the house, where Elizabeth ... Miss Swann stands on the steps, young Turner at her side. Both of them are smiling, although while Elizabeth is radiant with happiness, young Turner is looking around a bit uncomfortably. In a flash of insight I realize that his position isn't that different than mine. We are generally private men - being put on parade like this must be more daunting to the young blacksmith than it is to me, a seasoned mover amongst the socialites of Port Royale.

Such is the price of following a sun as bright as Elizabeth Swann. You may always bask in the glow of her brilliance, but there is always the danger of being burned. A fate that I am, alas, -well- acquainted with.

Elizabeth ... oh for heavens SAKE, Fine... -Elizabeth- catches sight of the both of us, and moves down the steps, her cream-colored gown moving around her in graceful tribute to the fine workmenship of the London dressmakers, Turner gravitating after her in his simple but well made suit of brown. She offers her hand to her father, who takes it in his own and squeezes tightly, and flashes us both a warm smile. "There you two are ... I would have hated to make such a pretty speech without you. Randolph, wine for my father and the Commodore?"

I find a fresh wineglass in my hand before I can protest, then my attention is on Elizabeth as she signals for attention from the guests before her, calling out to more people. Soon we have a fairly sized crowd around the steps and Elizabeth, smiling, raises her hands for quiet. "First of all - I would like to thank everyone for attending my engagement fete. It means a great deal to myself and Will to see so many happy faces turned towards ours. It almost equates the joy I feel when I look at him."

The smile she gives Turner makes his eyes go soft, and rips my heart out of my chest. So I still my expression into vague politeness once again, working on not reacting physically to their love so warmly displayed. I am not a bitter loser by nature, and will do my damnedest to prove all those wagging tongues wrong. Luckily, I have the wine in my hand to sip. Liquor helps dull pain, did you know that?

Elizabeth's perfectly curled head moves towards her father, her voice rich with affection. "I would also like to thank my father for putting together such a lovely, elegant display of his love for me, and his approval of this match. As always, he dotes when he shouldn't have to, and I am, as always, grateful."

"She says that simply to see if I will spoil her even more on her wedding day," the Governor notes with a sly little smile, garnering laughter from the crowd and a brilliant smile from his daughter. He leans over to kiss her cheek, and I can see the brightness to his eyes. "Which I plan on doing, accordingly."

I turn my gaze away, wondering if the Governor is thinking of his own wife at the moment. 'Steady on, Norrington,' I tell myself firmly, 'Remember, you have to be the level-headed, unemotional member of this little cadre. As always.' I lift my chin a little, letting my gaze move out to the crowd. There were whisperers here and there, casting sly glances towards Elizabeth, Turner, and myself. My expression thins again, and I make sure to meet the gaze of every single one of them, until they turn away, slightly pinker with embarrassment. 'Not so venomous when faced with the truth, are you?' I think to myself with some smug satisfaction.

"Of course, I must thank Commodore Norrington. If not for his steadfast dedication, neither Will nor I would be alive today." Elizabeth's words catch me by surprise, and I turn to face her, eyes widening slightly. She flashes me that warm, knowing smile of hers, before she continues speaking, her gaze not wavering from mine. "...And if not for his sense of honor, and true nobility, the reason for this party would not exist either." She moved her gaze back to the gathered guests, and I could feel the sudden sharp heat to her voice. "A gentleman, through and though. -Few- women could be worthy of such a man."

Mrs. Bilsworth and Selphie stiffen at her words, and suddenly there is a influx of fans being waved by the female population of the crowd. My lips twitch, just once. Little wonder why I love this woman.

And little wonder why I couldn't keep her, either.

"I myself am not worthy. I find that I am overly blessed in the love of good men... " Elizabeth pauses, as she and Turner exchange a secretive smile, then they both look almost guiltily to me. I give them an eyeroll in response, then wave her on. We all know of whom she is speaking. She does continue on, that little smile clinging to her lips. "...Men that care for me beyond measure. I feel honored to have them all in my life, and even more so that two of them would consider me worthy enough to spend the rest of their lives with."

The rip in my heart mends at the soft glance she throws in my direction, yet tears open again as she and Turner share a look filled with love and passion. She looks back to her father, pressing another kiss to his cheek, before turning to the crowd, composing herself almost automatically. "So thank you gentlemen ... wherever you may be ...and thank you all before me for being here today. I lift this glass in respectful, and loving tribute."

We all heft our glasses along with hers, and drink deeply. I imbibe a bit more than I should, as I finish off the glass. Then the applause comes, not stinted in the slightest. Possibly because the Governor and I move to clap so heartily, causing nearly half the female population to drop their fans to join in. I see Gillette near the back, clapping so hard he is sloshing his wine all over the place, grinning broadly.

Over my head, I can swear I hear another thump from the balcony above, but when I move to look up there iss nothing. Not even the door looks like it had been moved - although the sash covering the glass could have been wavering a little. I let out a sharp, displeased breath, bringing my gaze back down, which is when I found the Swanns are off talking to guests together. Now, I am confronted with another servant with yet another tray filled with drinks, and William Turner.

...Some people might say that there isn't enough 'fiery spirits' in the world to be able to make polite conversation with the man who is about to wed the woman you love. I intend to prove those people wrong - so I take up another glass of wine, greeting the young blacksmith with a curt nod. "Mr. Turner."

Obviously he must feel the same way about speaking to the man who was engaged to his wife-to-be for all of a week, because he also picks up a glass. "Commodore Norrington."

We stand in an uncomfortable silence, regarding each other warily. Over his shoulder, I can see Elizabeth peeking over, and I realize she must have sent him over to 'make peace'. Well, far be it from me to distress a lady, so I stand a little straighter, and offer Turner my hand respectfully. "Many happy returns. I'm sure your wedding will be blessed by the angels on high."

He takes it, a little smile curling around his lips as he catches the humor, shaking my own hand firmly. I'm glad to see a blacksmith's hands, although rough, are well versed in not cracking one's bones, and I can tell he is surprised that my own hand isn't as smooth either. "Angels on high ... I know we are trying to convince people you aren't out to murder me, Commodore, but that does seem a bit much."

My mouth quirks up. "Mr. Turner, I am an officer with the British Royal Navy. We -thrive- on overkill."

The tension eases between us as he lets out a low laugh, then looks around, unease resting on his face again. "We are glad you could make it, Commodore. As it stands, I have few allies amongst the better half of Port Royale. However, your presence has stopped some of the lies and gossip."

"Mr. Turner ..." I say slowly, glancing behind him to Elizabeth once more. "Consider it an act of peace, and friendship. I wish you no ill-will. She made her choice, and I think it was the best one for all parties concerned."

He nods his dark head with understanding, then taking a deep breath. "I hope, for Elizabeth's sake ... that you'll feel welcome to keep up your acquaintance as of old. I want you to know that there is no ill-will from myself either."

His expression is so earnest, and yet so worried. He realizes completely that marrying him appears to be a step down for Elizabeth, even if he has too much pride to admit it. A gentleman, if not born of the blood, and I see that clearly now. Elizabeth has chosen wisely, and well. I look him deep into those dark, honest eyes, saying just loud enough that any eavesdroppers might take note of it. "Mr. Turner, if I hadn't felt welcomed before, I most certainly do now. I think I'll take this opportunity to now be the first one to ask to call upon you both after the wedding."

A real smile works over his face, and he offers me his hand again. "Commodore, it would be an honor."

We've just finished shaking on my invitation, much to the amazement of the gossipmongers, when Randolph, the new steward to the Swann's estate, approaches Turner with a perturbed look on his face. Begging my pardon, he leans in to whisper into Turner's ear. Turner's eyes widen, then fix on me. "...If you'll excuse me, Commodore Norrington. Something's just come up."

I watch him turn to leave, lifting my voice. "I trust there isn't some emergency?"

He throws me a nervous, mysterious smile, and the rather cryptic reply, "Not yet, I hope," before disappearing within the mansion itself. Odd. Very odd. I have half a mind to follow him.

My departure is stopped only by the slender hand on my coatsleeve. Turning, I find Elizabeth smiling at me, and firmly taking me by the arm. She lowers her voice to a whisper. "Walk with me, before the vultures decide to descend on us both, Commodore."

"They'll find us paltry meals, I'm afraid," I say quietly, but start leading her around the house once again. The silence between us is more hesitant than tense, but I am willing to let it lie. I have as little idea what to say to her as she might have to me. I take another long sip of wine, then watch her lifting an eyebrow at me. I shrug, elegantly. "I am bolstering, as your father might say."

A quick smile passes her lips, and she nods with understanding. "I know Will has already thanked you for coming, and I have as well - but again.."

"There is no need to thank me for standing around and making small talk, Miss Swann," I say quietly, making myself look forward towards the ocean. The sweet, blue ocean. I found myself wishing I was on the deck of the -Falcon-, salty air breezing past my face, and the whole wide sea before me to sail.

"Yes, but making small talk while you would clearly like to be anywhere else, is another matter entirely." Her words break through my thoughts. Her smile is knowing, as our eyes meet. "Also, when this is a painful thorn in your otherwise impenetrable side."

I swallow for a moment, then sigh. "It isn't easy, but I am managing. There is always my work, after all. Beyond that, other social engagements do need to be met."

"Yes, I've seen some of your other 'social engagements' today. It's rather strange, but I was unware that wolves were a natural predator of the Caribbean," she says tartly, glancing over her shoulder. Behind us I can see some of the young ladies looking none too kindly after us, and I fight not to snort.

"No more than undead pirate fiends, I suspect, but we know how readily those seem to appear." I answer, as we turn to walk forward again, my 'invisible smile' flashing on briefly.

She smiles in return, before the smile fades into seriousness. "Did you mean what you said before? About us remaining friends, Commodore?" The look in her eyes, the hopeful gaze of one looking to be forgiven. To have the one person she hurt the most say that it is all right that she crushed his heart before all of Port Royale.

I have mentioned that I am a honorable idiot, haven't I? Good. I would hate to think I missed out on that very obvious point. I face her completely, letting out a long breath. "Elizabeth ... I would rather lose you as a wife, than lose you completely. Consider that my one selfish request, that I might always have a part in your life, however small."

The relief on her face is palpable, and she squeezes my hand in her own small delicate one. "I am inclined to acquiesce to your request." She leans up, and her lips graze my cheek lightly. Our only kiss, and it was one made in friendship. Her whisper, however, hits much more deeply than that. "You are a -good- man, James Norrington."

I move to speak, but another voice interrupts, rather loudly, "Oh Eliiiiiiiiiiiiiiizabeth, is that the Commodore with you? I told you, Maybelle, that was him! Come along, dear, let's not be bashful around the gallant Commodore. Oh Eliiiiiiizabeth, DO stay right there."

We look together down the path to identify the voice, and wince as one as Elizabeth muttered.

"Mrs Van-Crife and of course, lovely Maybelle. How-ever did they find us?"

"Wolves, I hear, have an excellent sense of smell." I comment dryly. "Especially when they detect that their prey is near."

Elizabeth looks over at me, and quite suddenly gives me a bit of a push down the pathway. "Go down around to the left, enter the house through the first door you find. That should be the kitchen. Straight on through there, take a left from the main hall into Father's study." At what must be my frankly shocked expression, she gives me another little push, another teasing smile. "I'll keep the predators at bay - but you won't get out of here unless you hurry, so go! You have my full permission, Commodore, to hide in the study and bolster yourself with my Father's finest bottle of brandy. I'm sure he won't mind."

"Officers of the British Royal Navy never 'hide', Miss Swann." I say firmly, handing off my now empty glass to a passing servant, and fold my hands behind me to stand my ground. I can surely handle Mrs. Van-Crife...

Elizabeth gives me a bit of a tart look, then turns to look innocently at the group of women descending down upon us. "That looks like the Tate sisters with Mrs. Van-Crife, doesn't it?"

The Tate sisters. Known British Royal Officer hunters. I hear they keep clipping of curls from the wigs of the officers they've snaked their affections around. "...On the other hand, the British Royal Navy also knows when to quit the field. My compliments, Miss Swann."

"What are friends for, Commodore?" she calls out over her shoulder, and the last thing I hear before I am around the corner and through the kitchen door is her purring sweetly. "La-dies! So very kind of you to attend my party. The Commodore...where?"

A fine woman. A fine, brilliant woman. I keep myself from letting out a relieved sigh as I peer around the bustling kitchen before me, getting odd looks from all the servants and the cook herself. I tip my hat with respectful reserve, earning myself some girlish giggles from the kitchen maids. The cook swats at all of them, but does pause to bat her eyelashes at me once. It's the uniform, I think, that charms them so.

I just reach the opposite door when I hear the back door opening behind me, and the familiar voice of Drusilla Tate. "...I don't care what she says, I know I saw the Commodore step in here - oh, it's the kitchen!"

Evasive action is required. I sidestep quickly over into the pantry, holding myself back against the shelving. I carefully peer outside as the Tate sisters press one of the kitchen maids, and then the cook on my whereabouts, to which both women answer with blank looks, shrugs, and cunningly innocent, "Haven't seen such a fine gentleman as that, Missus."

As they have their backs turned to me, I neatly twirl back into the kitchen proper, my hand moving to hold the door leading out to the rest of the mansion open as a kitchen maid passes through. She looks at me, surprised, but I put my finger to my lips, gesture to the ladies, and then do a bowing gesture with my free hand as I slip out through the door, and freedom. The last thing I see as the door closes behind me is the young girl's bedazzled expression.

God bless the working class. They keep our great nation and colonies together, and protect their protectors from sharks dressed in silk and lace.

I move down the hall as quickly as I can, but voices coming from the main hall pause me at its mouth, and I keep to the shadows for a moment. Turner's voice, and another man's raised, then the sound of a door closing firmly behind someone's moving footsteps. Another set of footsteps approaches the first, and I can hear Randolph's tense voice. "What would you have me do, Mr. Turner?"

Then a sigh that seems to me both aggravated and amused comes from young Turner's lips. "Just keep the door closed, and make sure our guest gets whatever he wants. He'll complain less that way." Another sigh. "...Opportune moment, indeed. Where is Miss Swann?"

"I believe the last I saw of her, she was speaking with some of the young ladies in the backgardens, sir." Randolph says, as they head towards me. The manservant is the first to spot me as I emerge from the shadowy alcove, with a surprised. "Commodore!"

Turner looks at me, eyes wide as his mouth moves to open in question, yet just as he does, the front door opens, and Mrs. Bilsworth says loudly. "I'll just see if the good Commodore's gone inside, my pet. Now don't eat in that greedy way, you'll stain that -lovely- gown..."

I utter a curse under my breath, and then step back into the alcove, waving them both off. Randolph looks confused, but a spark of understanding enters Turner's eyes, and he turns towards Mrs. Bilsworh. "Good day, Mrs. Bilsworth -- may I help you?"

"Ah, young Mr. Turner." I can almost -see- the penetrating look the boisterous woman gives the blacksmith. "I am looking for the Commodore. Have you perchance seen him?"

"Not ... recently, Mrs. Bilsworth. Perhaps he's stepped outside to the backgardens?" Turner asks, keeping his tones quiet and neutral.

"Hmm. No. Someone was sure they saw him step inside of the house. Perhaps he's in the study, here?" Mrs. Bilsworth asks oh-so-innocently, heading for the door. I can see Randolph and Turner exchange a sudden glance, before they both move in front of the study door so quickly they seem to be ghosts.

"He isn't in the study, of that I can assure you, Mrs. Bilsworth." Turner says firmly, before adding in a slightly more mollifying tone, "The Governor is just outside - I'm sure he'll know the Commodore's whereabouts. Would you like me to escort him to you?"

"Well ... " Mrs Bilsworth says hestitantly, and I can see she wants to see what is in the study. I find myself rather curious, as well.

"Randolph, of course, will go with us and inquire around." Turner adds, and that finally seems to ease Mrs. Bilsworth enough to take Turner's arm. Randolph follows, looking nervously behind him as he closes the front door after them both.

I step out of the alcove, and into the front hall, thoughtful. My gaze moves from the door, to the one leading to the study. After a mere second's pause, I stride towards it, throwing the door open, my eyes moving over the room quickly. It is ...empty. I let my lips thin again and step further inside, closing the door behind me.

The Governor's study is a simple, elegant room done in oak panelling - tall bookcases occupying almost every single wall. The stately desk is clear of affairs of state, and the room is so clean it glows. Obviously, the Governor has done no work in here today, in preparation for the party. Sunlight slants in through the many windows, causing the wooden bookshelves to gleam more. Couches and chairs, along with tables set here and there that are covered in books, take up the rest of the space, beyond a large stash of liquors against the wall, set between two bookshelves. There, the brandy waits for me.

I take off my hat, and let out a sigh. Perhaps whoever Turner had been arguing with wasn't even in this room, but in the dining room across the way. I heard a door close, and I hadn't seen which one. If that was the case the person would have slipped out by now. Who was it, however? I can think of several names - or one in particular - but there isn't a way in Hell...

My fingers pause above the brandy glasses, as I watch the sunlight play off the crystal facets, showering tiny rainbows everywhere. It bounces off one of the bookcases at an odd angle, and it takes me a moment to realize why. Quietly, my hands keep moving, pouring myself a reasonable amount of the amber colored brandy. I swirl the liquid around in my glass, taking small steps as I do, then pause by the bookcase for but a moment, to confirm my suspicion. I take a step beyond, then suddenly spin, shoving the bookcase back. It slams back into the wall, and behind it I hear a muffled string of curses.

In a very familiar tone.

Putting the brandy glass down, I draw my sword from its scabbard, and quickly run my fingers down the bookcase to find the catch that opens it. As I suspected, a hidden bolthole. Probably -- yes - used by the Governor to store personal papers and belongings, on a simple set of shelves to the far right - and sprawled on the floor at the mouth of this small enclosement is the one person I was sure the Governor has no wish to be locked in with his treasures and personal mementoes.

"-Sparrow-." I spit out the hated name as I level the blade, in a rather deja vu-ish way, at the man's throat.

Captain Jack Sparrow shakes out his hand, still muttering curses under his breath as he looks up at me. The dark, almost fathomless eyes, lined in kohl, widen in surprise. He hasn't changed a iota from the last time I saw him - sans his ragged hat and coat. The beads and bits of finery still glitter in his dark, tangled mass of hair, off his braided beard. His golden skin glows with the vitality of a man who lives on and loves the sea. The white shirt is still half-opened to his bare chest, the pants are still snugly wrapped with that striped waistcoat (of sorts), and the rings still flash off his hands, the hands which never seem to stop moving while he speaks. We stare at each other for a long moment, then he flashes that golden-capped smile of his. "Commodore Norrington! Fancy meetin' you in a place like this. Small ole world, isnae it?" He eyes the sharp point at his throat, and sighs dramatically. "Now is that the way we always have to greet each other, Commodore? Me sitting about innocently and you sticking your sword in my face? I thought we were gentlemen."

I let out a snort, just barely resisting the urge to roll my eyes. "Get up, Sparrow."

"Of course, of course. Y'know..." He pulls himself to his feet, lurching in that oddly graceful way of his, as he cradles his hand for a moment longer. "You really ought to be more careful when you close mysterious doors like that, Norrington. You could take off someone's fingers. And I ask you, what good is a fingerless pirate?" He gestures at me, wiggling said fingers with a hint of that smile again.

"About as good to me as a dead one. A value I -cannot- put a pricetag on." I say sternly, gesturing with the sword. "Move along out, slowly."

Sparrow heaves out another sigh, and puts his hands up, moving outside the vault. I keep my blade on him the entire time. "I really don't think this is necessary, Commodore. I haven't come to cause any trouble."

"Sparrow, I find you cause trouble simply by breathing. How can you -not- be here to wreak havoc? It is your modus operandi." I gesture him over to the corner. "However, this time you've taken it a step too far, breaking into the personal office of the Royal Governor while the entirety of Port Royale is here ..."

"...To celebrate the engagement of the lovely Miss Elizabeth Swann, to the fine upstanding pirate - I mean, blacksmith Will Turner. I know, mate. I was invited." Sparrow says, lifting one eyebrow.

I give him a disbelieving look. "You ...were invited."

"Oh yes." He says easily, leaning back against one of the sofas.

"-You- have an invitation ... to -this- party." I hope he is noting my skepticism.

By the extremely dirty look I am now receiving, I am suspecting so. "Ye-es, but if I reach into my pocket to get it , you'll probably stab me with your pretty blade."

"Indubitably." Although he is sparking my curiosity, which is always a bad thing to occur around Sparrow. Perhaps he does have an invitation, but the moment you let him know you're intrigued, he has you. Then you are doing the most ridiculous things imaginable, ie letting him take a boat, alone, into a cavern filled with pirates such as himself to negotiate terms, and so on.

"So, looks like we've found ourselves at a bit of an impasse then, mate ...Wait!" He flashes me a lazy smile, and then he starts to lift up his shirt. I heft my sword, but he isn't wearing a pistol in his sash, as pirates are apt to do. He continues speaking, as his hands go to his waistline. "I have... an idea."

A minute later, I find myself holding Sparrow's pants.

I think the most unfortunate part of this situation for me is when I realize that not only do I have Sparrow's pants in hand, he doesn't have anything on underneath them.

I am also staring.

Not exactly my finest moment.

Sparrow, damn him, is as comfortable half-naked as he is doing anything. I swear the man has an almost supernatural level of unperturbed-by-the-universe attitude. He leans back against the sofa, and some dim part of my brain registers he is as golden below the waist as he is above it. "You'll find the invitation in the back pocket there, mate. Bit wrinkled, but it saw a fair few ports before it reached me." One eyebrow quirks, and that lazy smile returns, but a bit broader. "Unless there's somethin' else you'd be preferring to inspect on my person?"

Well, that snaps me out of it. Without breaking eye contact, or lowering my blade, I one-handedly open his back pocket, and tug out a familiar envelope, one with writing in Elizabeth's clear hand. I sigh a little, then give the pirate before me a thin, expressionless sort of smile. "Well, well. Congratulations, Sparrow. You weren't lying. Doesn't make you any less -arrested-, however."

"It's a nasty habit to always assume someone is lying, especially when a person has never lied to you." Sparrow says, waving his finger at me in a tsking gesture.

"Call it a preemptive measure." I say darkly, then my eyes widen as he turns to lift the sash on the nearest window. "What in the name of God do you think you're doing!?"

"Looking outside, mate. Don't tell me that's going t'get me -more- arrested than I already am." Sparrow looks intently outside. "My my, would y'look at all the fancy togs ....m'boy's moved up a step or two."

"Get Away From There!" I hiss, moving towards him quickly, pants in hand. "For God's Sake, Sparrow! You're half naked!"

"Hmmm?" Sparrow looks down, as if just remembering how little he is wearing. Then he cocks an eyebrow at me, that faux innocent look of his coming to the fore. "Don't think I have anything they haven't seen b'fore, Commodore."

"I wouldn't wager any large amount of money on that. Here." I growl. Using my free hand, I toss him his pants again, saying sternly. "Put them BACK on."

His lips twitch up as he caught them, but he makes no move to do as I ordered. "I've got to ask, Norrington. Is your problem that I'm not wearing any pants ... or your own distraction by the lack of them on my person?"

I believe if my face tightens any more, it will rip right open. "You would have to have something, Sparrow, to be worthy of the distraction in the first place. I am thinking of Common Decency."

"Is that all?" Sparrow finally tugs his pants up. He ties his sash tightly, still grinning. "Seems a shame, considering all the other things you could be contemplating."

...Now I know he's taunting me.

I hate that.

"We'll see where your own thoughts lie after you find yourself staring at the noose again." I say, steel in my voice and surely in my expression, gesturing towards the door. "March."

"Probably on the fact that your little man with his little list won't remember the 'Captain' before Jack Sparrow." He sighs, lifting his hands above his head. "And of course I'll come with you. Y'caught me fair and square, so the Game's done, the chase is over..." He stops suddenly, right before the door, turning around to stroke his beard thoughtfully. "I wonder though, have you considered..?"

I look at him for a long, long moment, then up towards the heavens, saying silently to the Higher Power that He has a sick, twisted sense of humor. Then to Sparrow's obvious surprise, I seat myself in one of the chairs nearest to the door, sword now pointed at his belly instead of his chest. With a put-upon sigh, I wave my free hand at him. "Continue."

"...What are you doin', mate?" Sparrow asks slowly, his puzzlement etched clearly over his features.

"This is the part where you come up with some insane, ridiculous, and yet -completely- logical and well thought out argument to why I shouldn't arrest you right now." I snort, leaning forward on my elbows. "I am merely making myself comfortable for the rush of balderdash that will soon be emitting from your lips."

"Again, you're assuming I'm going t'be lying." Sparrow says, the confusion fading into amusement again. "That shows a definite lack of trust in our relationship, Commodore."

Damn the man. I can -feel- the 'invisible smile' quirk on, before I answer dryly, "The only thing I can trust you to do, Sparrow, is to be as dishonest a man as you dishonestly are. Or should I say 'rampantly self-interested'?"

His expression is one I had never seen on the pirate's face before - a strange, probing look. "That's... an interesting way of puttin' things. Very interest-ing, indeed."

I frown slightly. -His- distraction is throwing -me- off. Best get him back on track so we can end this ridiculous little side trip of his. "...You were saying?"

"Hmm ... oh! Yes. I'm having a thought." He seems to snap back to himself. "Now, there's a lot of high society outside these doors. Lots of gentlemen and ladies of a certain kind of temperament, who don't exactly like my ilk and breed..."

"Oh Heavens. Why -ever- not?" I respond, sarcasm dripping off the words like rain-laden flowers.

"Well, I would run right out and ask them - but I don't see how that would look on the honorable Miss Swann ... or young Will. Who's trying so very hard t'be honestly upright, and worthy of his fair lady's hand." Sparrow lowers his voice, moving towards me with all the predatory grace of a lion. "You savvy?"

Our eyes lock, and I bite off my words. "I 'savvy' quite well. In exchange for a leeway of ..?"

"At least until the end of the party. Wouldn't want t'miss out on anything." Sparrow says, one side of his mouth quirking up.

I look at the grandfather clock, ticking slowly near the door. "Then say three hours. You will not leave this room and make a public spectacle of yourself, risking the reputations of the very people foolish enough to invite you."

"You do savvy well, Commodore." Sparrow leans against the sofa closest to me, offering his hand. "Do we have an accord?"

"Not Quite Yet." I lift the sword to rest near his throat again. "As we wouldn't want you wandering off and getting 'lost' in the Governor's mansion, you'll remain in my custody until the appropriate hour strikes. Where you will duly be sent off to prison."

"Aaaaaah!" Sparrow lifts up one finger. "Unless... I escape!"

"Barring that... Unlikely Event. Do we have an accord?" And it is I who offer my hand out this time.

"Let me think..." He eyes the sword, then me. A sigh rises from his lips. "Well, suppose I've had worse company. Right then, Acco --"

"Commooooooooooooooodore Noooooooorrrington!" Blast, double blast! I had completely forgotten about Mrs. Bilsworth and the fleet of predatory mothers. "Cooooooooooooommodore, are you in here?"

"Bloody - !" I rise to my feet in one swift motion, grab Sparrow by the arm and drag him back to the bolthole. I shove him aside, spin around to grab my hat and stuff it atop my head. Then I leap inside, close the door almost entirely behind me, and slide my sword into its sheath as I peer out of the small crack I've left open.

"Uhm - what are we doing in here?" Sparrow asks loudly behind me.

"Shhhhhh! They'll hear you." I hiss over my shoulder, before returning to my vigil of watching the study door.

There is movement behind me, and suddenly Sparrow's head is right over my right shoulder. He whispers into my ear, his breath tickling against my skin. "Who's 'they'?"

In response to his question, Mrs. Bilsworth's loud tones can be heard from the hall again. "Cooooooooommooodore Norrington! Check in the dining room, Selphie - no! You may not touch the food! Oh -honestly-, girl..."

I twitch involuntarily, moving away from the door, and bump my back against the wall. Sparrow stares at me for a lengthy minute, then a snicker escapes his lips. "You're hiding... from a woman? The Great Commodore Norrington - SCOURGE of bloodthirsty pirates - is hiding from a woman?!?"

I glare at him as his snickers continue. "Yes, yes. Hah-hah, on me. Shut up before they come in here and hear you cackling like an old fisherwoman."

Sparrow puts his fist over his mouth in an attempt to control his laughter. "Dunno, mate. What's it worth to you?" In the dimness of the room, his dark eyes gleam with mirth and calculation.

I lean forward from the wall, glowering. "Certainly not your release, if that's what you're thinking."

"Hmm. Day's head start?"

"Not A Chance. For undead pirates? Yes. For society ladies you need a lower price racket, Sparrow."

"All right ... I get t'choose where we spend the next few hours together then. And that's my final offer."

I lift one eyebrow. "And just where would you suggest? Taking tea with the Governor?"

"Of course Not. That would violate the agreement t'begin with," Sparrow scoffs.

"Where, then?"

"Can't tell you... it's a surprise." His eyes twinkle like a child with a particularly delightful secret. It actually makes me wonder what Sparrow was like as a boy - briefly. Very Briefly. Ahem.

"I suppose I'll find myself on the Pearl, and duly shoved off at the appropriate hour?" I snort, pushing such ridiculous thoughts aside.

Sparrow gives me a disparaging look. "Please, Norrington. That would take the challenge right out of this part of the Game."

This startles me, and I tilt my head to the side in surprise. "Is that how you see this entire situation? As some sort of"

He smiles slowly. "Don't you? Or else why would you be playing along now?" Hm. That brings me to another pause, one where I try to justify his question to my inner sense of logic. I can sense his impatience growing, for he moves his finger back and forth. "Tick-tock, Commodore. Do we have an accord?" Seeing that the hestitation on my face isn't exactly flowing away, he leans towards the door, and takes in a deep breath. "He's in Heeee..."

I straighten quickly. "All right, all right! Accord, damn you."

He grins sunnily, reaches up with his hand, and I grudgingly take it to be shaken. Firm grip - for a pirate. A lying, cheating, despicable pirate.

...Right. So. Why are we still this close to each other?

We both move back as one, as if we realize what we are doing, just as the study door bangs open and a discordant cachophony of female voices can be heard. "He must be in here..." "Commmmmmoodore?"

"Blast - are they all in there?" I mutter, moving back to the door, wiping my hand on my pants as if to take away the feel of Sparrow's hand in mine.

Sparrow is already there, peering out through the narrow crack. "Looks like they got a full-on mob out there now, sans pitchforks ... which one's set their cap at you? The, er... intimidating woman in blue? Bit older then I like'em, but in the dark..."

"That is -Mrs- Bilsworth, and it is her daughter in the green who has the interest. Or rather, any woman out there under the age of thirty." I sigh, aggravated. Trapped in a closetspace with a pirate who is making my professional life hell, and a cadre of women outside who are doing the same for my personal one. Could things get any more bleak?

Sparrow's lips move, counting as the ladies moved around the study, peering behind curtains and the like. "There are at least ten women that fit that description, mate." A long pause, and he gives me an incredulous look. "They're ALL after you?"

"Yes," I say, grimacing slightly. "Oh now -really-. I wouldn't be cowering under the desk, would I, Mrs. Van-Clife?"

"...I take it back. You've got every right t'hide. I'm amazed y'lasted this long, if they're all out t'get you. My deepest sympathies, mate," Sparrow says with sincerity, which just makes my scowl deepen. Of all the people I might ever want pity from, Sparrow is on the very bottom of a very short list. His next comment doesn't endear himself any further, either. "...I think I let you off too easy, though."

"Pity your conniving mind didn't leech on that earlier." I spit out, rolling my eyes. "Perhaps you can negotiate better terms next time. My -hat- as part of the bargain?"

Sparrow spares a glance to my three-point hat. "Well, I'll keep that in mind, Norrington." His lips quirk. "Or maybe -your- pants. Turnabout and all."

I give him a glare. He smiles benignly back. Things would have gotten downright murderous after that, if the female chatter hadn't been suddenly trailed off by the study door creaking open once more. Elizabeth's clear, crisp tones sliced through the sudden silence. "Ladies - is there any particular reason why you are all in my father's study?"

There is a pregnant pause, before an almost embarassed rustle of multiple skirts moves out to the hallway. Their voices are cut off as two sets of footfalls enter the study and close the door rather firmly behind them. Turner's voice calls out hestitantly. "Jack? Jack - are you still in here?"

Sparrow smirks a bit, his eyes glittering. He pats me on the shoulder as he slips past. I growl at him, "Sparrow, if you even think ..."

Sparrow pauses, suddenly leaning into my personal space far, FAR too much, to press a finger against my lips - a startlingly intimate gesture that steals my words from me. He speaks, head tilting in, his lips almost touching the finger itself, "Do us a favor, Commodore. Stay here and try not to do anything ... Noisy." He pulls himself and his hand away slowly, then flashes me a wicked smile as he 'unlocks' the door loudly. "Sit here and think of me. With or without pants. Your preference, mate."

Then he shuts the door in my face, and when I try the handle, I realize the door locked from the outside. Which means, of course, that I am trapped.

...I'm going to kill him. I only -thought- of hanging him before, but really, now? I am going to kill him. Or, perhaps maim him. Yes. Beat him with a club. A lot. A lot of beating with a club. Painful beating with hard, wooden club. Or - or... cut off his hands. Yes. Cut off his hands with a dull blade - because of course, it will hurt MORE. Or that silvercoated, devil's tongue of his...

My rather bloodthirsty thoughts are sidetracked by the conversation that has just begun outside the door. I would normally try not to listen to such a thing if I can help it. However, I cannot. Being trapped in a bolthole will do that to a man.

Elizabeth's voice is heard first. "Jack! I didn't believe it when Will told me you were here ... so what -are- you doing here?"

Sparrow speaks with warmth, his footsteps moving away from the door and towards them. "Elizabeth-love, you invite a man to a party and don't expect him to show up? I've got me a few more manners than that."

Turner's voice is softened by a touch of amusement, and a sense of resignation. "You realize of course, that you're insane."

"I prefer the term, 'delightfully eccentric'." Sparrow purrs. I roll my eyes. 'Delightfully-mad-beyond-all-reason', more like it.

Elizabeth's skirts rustle almost nervously. "Honestly, Jack! We didn't invite you to make trouble. We thought it would be a nice gesture - something to let you know we were thinking about you."

"Ah, but you see, now you don't have to think, pine, or miss. For I am here.." He must be bowing. A comment that ridiculously melodramatic deserves a bow. Then his voice changes, just a touch, and it becomes a tone I ... recognize. Rejection and longing, all mixed into one. "...Or did you really not want old Jack around?"

"Of -course- we do, Jack. However, the one place we don't want to see you is at the end of a noose, which Commodore Norrington will surely have you in if he sees you here." Turner says quietly. They all must be very close together.

"The worst engagement present you could give me, Jack Sparrow, would be forcing me to attend your hanging." Elizabeth adds gently. "If the Commodore ...the Commodore! He could be here any moment!"

"Could he?" Sparrow says with a little innocent tilt of his voice. I can't help but half-smile. What an incorrigible liar...who locked me into this bolthole. Hmmmph. The amusement is now gone.

"Yes! I sent him in here to escape all those horrible harpies -- Jack, you have to hide!" Elizabeth says, and I can hear the movement of skirts closer to the bolthole door, and I can only imagine that Elizabeth is dragging Sparrow back here.

"Wait." Turner's voice interrupts, and I can almost see the thoughtful look in his eyes, even as his footsteps move towards Elizabeth's rustling skirts. "The Commodore - I saw him out in the hallway earlier. In fact I called Mrs. Bilsworth off his trail so he could get away, but I didn't know he was coming here ..."

There is a moment's pause, then the sound of - moving cloth? - as Turner and Elizabeth both speak together, their voices edged with sudden tension. "Jack!! What did you do to the Commodore!?"

"Would ... you ... two ... please... STOP ... shaking ... me?" Sparrow warbles. Aaah. That explains the noise. There are a few wobbly steps which I can only assume are Sparrow attempting to regain his equilibrium, before he hisses out. "He's -fine-. I didn't touch a hair on his wigged head. After all, he's the one with the very nice -sword-, Will."

"...A craftsman always likes to hear his work praised." Turner says with a hint of wry amusement, before his voice becomes more serious. "But if you haven't done anything to him, where IS he?"

Well. I really just can't stand here being silent, can I? "I can certainly assure you, Mr. Turner, I am not under the desk."

There is another moment of silence, before Turner and Elizabeth speak, gaining quite the talent for duet yelling. "You locked him in the bolthole!?"

"Not ... locked .... more ... like ... left ...without ...way ....out ... Please ...stop ...with the ....shaking?" Poor Sparrow. He's getting so much abuse. Feel the wells of pity coming up from my soul. And no, I am not viciously smirking when I hear him add in low tones, "... 'M on land...shouldn't be gettin' seasick on land....b'oodyh'll."

"As much as the sounds of Sparrow getting manhandled amuses me..." I drawl out, putting myself at parade rest, "I don't suppose someone could let me out of here?"

I can hear the sounds of someone's hands moving over the bookcase, and Turner's frustrated grunt. "How do you open this thing?"

"Maybe one of the books moves?" Elizabeth says, and I can hear her pulling on random books. I let out a long sigh, scratching my eyebrow. At this rate, I'll be out of this bolthole in time for their wedding.

Sparrow is clearly getting as aggravated with their lack of success as I am, as I hear him let out a snort, and then there is the sound of cloth moved abruptly. "Move aside, move aside ...would think you two never saw a proper bolthole b'fore. Now Commodore ..." and I can almost see his grin through the stone and wood, "I hope you've been thinkin' of something pleasant while you've been coolin' your heels."

My fingers curl inwards as the door swings open. "As a matter of fact, Sparrow..."

You know, there is really isn't a more satisfying feeling in the world than one's fist hitting the jaw of someone who has clearly been asking for a proper pummelling since day one of your accquaintance. It fills one with the happy joy of a job well done when said person goes flying backwards, landing flat on his back.

"...guuargh....-That's- what you consider -pleasant-??" Sparrow grumbles, rubbing his chin as he glares up at me from his newly-found sprawled position on the floor.

I step out from the bolthole, pompously shaking my hand out once at him. "Quite pleasant, in fact." Then with every iota of proper British snark I can muster, I smooth down my uniform jacket, plucking invisible specks of dust from the sleeves.

"...He does look like he's enjoying himself, Jack." Turner says, the corners of his mouth attempting to curl up against him.

"Don't you encourage him, Will Turner." Sparrow shakes a finger at his young friend, then pulls himself to his feet, wavering for a moment. "See if I ever give you m'pants again, Norrington."

A moment of startled confusion cross both Elizabeth's and Turner's face as they turn to each other and mouthed the word, 'Pants?'. Elizabeth shakes her head as if to clear it and steps forward, her brown eyes crinkling with worry. "Commodore, please - I realize this is getting rather ridiculous, my begging for Jack's life... again..."

"I do like these happy li'l traditions we have, though." Sparrow says, as he saunters over and leans on young Will. They share a grin, before Sparrow looks back at me with those eyes of his. "Care t'clap me in irons, Commodore? Be just like old times."

He has -no- idea how -easy- it would be to just clap him in irons right now. However, then I would have to contend with Elizabeth's haunting eyes, Turner's guilt for drawing his friend in only to die, and the violation of my part of the agreement. Sparrow, no matter how much he has irritated me, is not worth all that. I hold up my hand, speaking gently. "There is no need, Elizabeth. I have no intention of arresting Sparrow at this hour."

"...You don't?" Turner says, surprise and some joy working over his face. He looks between myself and Sparrow, the latter looking at me with interest. "Thank you, Commodore.."

"I said at this hour, Mr. Turner. He has three hours to try and shake me, and make his attempt at a... more than likely brilliant, if not clumsy escape." I meet Sparrow's gaze. "We have an accord, after all."

One side of Sparrow's mouth lifts up as his eyes flash comprehension, and he folds his hands together to give me that little half-bow of his. "So the Game is still afoot, Commodore?"

"So it would seem, Sparrow." I answer smoothly, folding my hands behind me and fixing my gaze on him. "This round, however, you are not getting my hat."

"Or any other articles of your clothin', I'd imagine." Sparrow says, grinning dementedly, as he gaily steps towards the liquor cabinet.

Elizabeth crosses her arms over her silk-covered bosum, eying the both of us. "...I am completely lost in the subtext of this conversation. What are you two talking about?"

"I find it rather amazing they had anything to talk about at all, myself." Turner murmurs, his stance imitating Elizabeth's.

Sparrow and I glance at each other again, and then Sparrow puts his finger to his lips. The look in his eyes is clearly, 'Let us have this between us, eh? No need for them to have every secret, is there?' One corner of my mouth quirks up, before I answer smoothly. "Nothing for you to be concerned over, Elizabeth. Shall we go ..." I pause, then that corner of my mouth lifts again. "Captain?"

"I think we shall, Commodore - just give me a moment." Sparrow ducks down beside one of the sofas, plucking out his coat and hat, then eyes the liquor before him as he puts both tattered garments on. He picks up the bottle of brandy, nods his head in satisfaction at its fullness, and puts it in his pocket.

"Sparrow!" I say firmly, giving him a stern look. "Put it -back-."

"I fully intend to hand it back over to you ... once we empty it of its contents. Which is what you were going t'do anyways, Commodore. I'll just be helpin' you along. You can add it to that list of yours, if you like. 'Stolen Governor's booze', etc..." Sparrow arched an eyebrow at me, and then traipses over to Will and Elizabeth, my presence momentarily forgotten. "Now, as for you two..." Here he pauses, a thoughtful look on his face. Something flickers in those dark eyes, something unreadable. Except to those who had ...well, felt the same way. "You take good care of him, Elizabeth. He's one hellva pirate. 'N the same goes to you, Will m'boy."

"Jack..." Will's voice is soft with worry, clasping his friend's arm. "Don't say it that way, for heaven's sake. Like we'll never seen each other again."

"And we will." Elizabeth added, her voice a little shaky. I find myself turning to look at a painting on the wall, trying not not 'invisible-smile' at her next words. "After all, I fully intend to see you at our wedding, having duped the entire Royal Navy to get here."

"Oh, that shouldn't be too much of a problem, love. Besides the good Commodore here - the rest of them are hardly worth the trouble." Sparrow's voice becomes a bit more jovial. "Right then, Norrington. Let us be off."

I turn, my hands folded behind me, and move towards the door. Turner and Elizabeth exchange a glance as Sparrow peers cautiously out the door, with Elizabeth finally speaking. "Jack, where ...-exactly- are you two going?"

Sparrow half-closes the door, then eyes me, before flashing Elizabeth a dazzling gold-capped smile. "Out, love. Out. I don't fancy jumping into that bolthole every single time a lady comes to stalk yon fair Commodore."

"Out. Of the house? But how are you going to get out of here without being seen?" Turner asks, puzzlement drawing his brows together. I have to admit, I am rather curious on how exactly Sparrow is going to manage this one, myself.

He gives all three of us a little tap on the side of the nose, before edging out the door again. "Same way I got in, Will. Sneakin'. C'mon then, Commodore..."

And then he - there is no other word for it - -slinks- across the broad main hall to the stairs, with large tiptoeing steps of an almost clownish nature. Slapping his back against the wall, he looks around in a slightly wild fashion, before gesturing for me to follow. I raise both eyebrows, glance back at Turner and Elizabeth with a shrug, and head out of the study. I am not too surprised that they follow after me. We, however, have more dignity, as we walk quietly across the floor and up the stairs after Sparrow and his insane capering.

He has paused at the front balcony, moving aside the sash again, and suddenly something clicks. I point one finger at him. "It -was- you earlier."

Sparrow glances at me, one eyebrow raising with amusement. "Aye, and a sharper eye to you, Commodore, for lookin' up. Of course, it goes along with your suspicious nature."

"You were up here?" Elizabeth says, her eyes widening in round surprise.

"Ye-es .. .meant t'thank you for that lovely little remembrance in your speech of old Jack." Sparrow says with a little smirk, as he continues to move down the hall. "Really touched this pirate's rather rusty heart."

"Incorrigible," Elizabeth says with a little shake of her golden-brown curls, looking after him.

"Impossible," Turner adds, giving his fiancee a squeeze around the waist.

"My vocabulary lacks the words." I say, then spare Elizabeth a little look. "At least in the presence of ladies."

"Y'know ..." Sparrow's voice carries from down the hall, in a little sing-song. "The point of 'sneakin' is NOT to get caught. You three are the most clueless sneak-ers I've ever laid ears on."

"Says the man who fell off the side of my fort." I snort deversively, then follow him down the hall to one of the doors to the left, with Elizabeth and Turner at my heels. We find ourselves in a guest's bedchambers, and I find myself facing a very familiar looking window. "You seem to be lurking all over the place today, Sparrow."

Sparrow gives me a flash of those golden teeth. " 'N you've been watchin'. Ho-nestly, Commodore. Don't you have anythin' better to do than chase after me?" He gets down on his knees, reaching under the bed. "Although I'm rather curious ...uuurrrh...'bout that question the Governor put to you. As it affects me personally, n'all."

I feel both Elizabeth's and Turner's on me, filled to the brim with curiosity, as I answer brusquely, "Since the question wasn't yours to begin with, I shall not trouble myself to answer it. At the moment."

"So I s'ppose it should be somethin' I should be askin' in two hours and forty minutes, then?" Sparrow pulls out a rope with a grappling hook on the end, and moves towards the window, expertly hooking it to the top of the window of the frame.

"You can suppose all you want, it doesn't mean I'll answer..." I say, watching him keenly, as certain things start clicking together. "You gave this particular plan a great deal of thought, didn't you Sparrow?"

Sparrow settles on the windowstill, giving me a steely sort of glare. "What'ver do you mean, Norrington?"

"The rope, the almost supernatural way you seem to know the layout of the Governor's mansion - and the bolthole. Don't tell me you found that by sheer luck, as your luck has never been that good to begin with." My gaze narrows. "How long have you been in Port Royale?"

Sparrow's gaze shifts away, lips fight against the smile, lose, and when his eyes met mine again, his voice softens with that sharp intelligence that all his frippery can never completely cover. "For all you've been huntin' for me, Commodore Norrington, you'd think you'd notice old Jack Sparrow wandering around for three days."

"Three days? You've been here for three days?!" By -God-, those two are getting this yelling-in duet-talent down. Sparrow and I both throw them irritated glances, which make them look somewhat abashed.

I speak with a little more force than perhaps needed, as I switch my glare from the couple to Sparrow. "Except you weren't wandering around. You were here, noting when people came and went. The preparations for the party were perfect, I'm sure, for they covered you walking around the house with probably nothing more than a bucket in your hand."

"And a mop. Don't forget the mop, mate," Sparrow chastises, the wily smile broadening. His expression reminds me of a fox, cunning and pure mischief. It really is a game to him.

...Then what was it that he sees in my eyes that made that smile a little wider? That makes his dark gaze glow? It has to be the gleam I know to be in my own green eyes, the spark of interest. I can feel my blood, sluggish from social niceties, begin to pump through my veins. That was when I know, really know, that Sparrow wasn't playing the Game alone. I am a willing accomplice in this real-life chess match between us. He offered me a place at the board, and I have taken it without hesitation.

The question before me now is, 'Why?'

Governor Swann's words waft through my brain...

'You like the challenge he presents - the seemingly 'uncatchable' catch?'

'That in mind, it brings up an inevitable question you must face...What are you going to do when you finally catch him, I wonder?'

"Do you think they remember we're in the room?" Elizabeth's too loud whisper snaps me from my thoughts as surely as a slap would have.

"Well, I could try yelling, 'undead pirates!', but that is only really effective during a full moon." Turner says, amusement clear in his tone.

"That is not the least bit humorous, Mr. Turner." I say, tearing my gaze away from Sparrow to glare at the blacksmith.

"But it did serve it's purpose, Commodore Norrington, which was to get your attention." Turner tilts his head innocently, making Elizabeth cover her twitching lips beside him.

"...Thought you two were on friendly-like terms." Sparrow says slowly, as he moves to perch on the windowstill, the glow in his eyes fading to curiosity.

I frown back at him - just how long HAD he been listening at the balcony door? "We will be again, when he stops making poor attempts at levity." I glare back at Turner, who somehow manages to look completely innocent while smiling. I am beginning to believe it is some sort of trait passed on through pirate's blood.

"Then I have t'be askin', why's it Mr. Turner this, and Commodore Norrington that?" Sparrow's eyebrows flicker up. "Seems t'be rather formal for two people who aren't going' t'be dueling it out at dawn for fair Elizabeth's hand." He looks at me intently. "Or don't you have a first name, Commodore? Though perhaps your first name -could- be Commodore, never considered that angle...."

"Don't be purposely daft, Sparrow. Of course I have a first name." I sigh, moving towards the window.

"Well! Let's hear it then!" He smiles, leaning in towards me. Off of my stony look, he sighs, and waves his hand around fluidly. "Think of it as proper introductions, as this is the first time we'll be spendin' any length of time t'gether where aren't guns and swords flashin' about. M'name Captain Jack Sparrow, you can call me Captain Jack, or Jack, or just your normal irritated Sparrow if that's your pleasure...."

"Really. Thank you, ever so much. I had forgotten from the last twenty times in the past half hour that I've said it in utter frustration." I cross my arms over my chest, scowling.

He continues as if I hadn't spoken. "...That there is William Turner, Junior, but he goes by William or Will. That is his fair and beauteous lady Elizabeth Swann, whom I'm sure you're accquainted with, what with being momentarily engaged, and you are...?"

I look over at Tur ... William, one eyebrow raised incredulously. "Is he serious?" They both just smile, and look at me expectantly. I look to the ceiling again, sigh, then answer flatly, "Commodore James L. Norrington. A pleasure, I assure you, it is -not-."

"James! Lovely name. Probably after your grandfather, I'd wager. Now ... what does the 'L' stand for?" Sparrow flashes me the same innocent smile Turner did. Yes. Definately a pirate trait.

"Sparrow ..." I grind out slowly. "Are you going down that rope, or am I going to have to make it a moot point of it by pushing you?"

He waggles his eyebrows at me, and then blows a kiss over my shoulder to Elizabeth and William. "Ta, loves. I'll be seeing you in... what, six months?"

"Six months, in the chapel by the bay. Dress appropriately, Jack." Elizabeth says with a hint of a smile. I give her a look, and she turns that smile into one of pure innocence. Dear Lord, it's not a trait, it's the damned black plague of piracy.

"Be there with bells on, love. Pardon me, James. Just be lettin' m'self out." He swings down the rope with practiced ease, and into the foliage with nary a whisper of leaves moving.

"Was there any point to that interlude?" I sigh, moving to take the rope in hand, scanning the yard to see if anyone has been watching.

William and Elizabeth exchange glances, and then smile as one as William speaks. "The honor of Jack being the only pirate in these waters who can call you by name, James?"

I shake my head slightly. "Joy -abounds-. If I am not back in three hours, be so kind as to inform Lieutenant Gillette that I followed a suspicious looking character off the grounds? I'm sure the search party for my body will be thorough."

"I... have a feeling that killing you is the furthest thing from Jack's mind." Elizabeth says slowly, with a little smile. "Good luck."

I frown at her, not exactly sure what I would need luck for, but I grab the rope and slide down it ably, hopping off to land beside a crouching Sparrow. He gives me a surprised look, as he moves to tug the hook loose. I step neatly out of the way to avoid the falling sharp object, trying my damnedest not to make the bushes rustle. Sparrow speaks blandly as he wraps the rope up to tuck into his jacket. "Didn't think a Commodore would know how t'get down a rope without falling on his highly-placed arse."

"Commodores were all once midshipmen, Captain Sparrow, and I assure you I can probably make it to the top of the rigging before you." I retort, peering out of the bushes. "The area is still clear, if you were curious."

Sparrow peers out with me, then raises an eyebrow. "Didn't know you were also so good at sneakin' ... James."

"If you are going to use my first name, Sparrow, at least have the decency to use it for good purpose, and not to mock me with the knowledge of your possession of it." I give him an arch look. "And I know it's hard for you to believe, but I was also once a schoolboy."

"Really. Huh. 'N here I thought y'sprung right out of the sea, with your uniform all on freshly pressed, covering your particulars, like Venus..." Sparrow muses aloud, as he starts to creep out slowly, eyes darting this way and that. He nods once at me, before making for the back garden gate. I reach it a moment after him, the gate clicking shut behind us, sounding rather musical while Sparrow ducks his head low and motions me to do the same as we walk down the dirt path.

Then he leads me along, humming to himself as we walk in single file along the trail, along the island's edge and farther away from the Governor's mansion. The sounds of polite chatter fade with the breezes coming off the sea, and I breathe in deeply. Sparrow does the same in front of me, giving me a little nod over his shoulder. "Nothing like it in the world, is it? Smell of the water welcomin' you home."

"No ... there really isn't." I admit honestly, taking in another deep breath. He taps his nose and turns back around to do the same. We walk along for perhaps another ten or more minutes, through a grove of thick trees, and out the other end to a gentle slope of wild grass and local flora leading to what looks like a short little cliff; Sparrow's chosen location by the happy sigh he gives as he ambles cheerily across the tropical meadow. I take a moment to regard my surroundings, and head down the slope to look over the cliff itself. The waves and breakers aren't nearly as damning as they are near Port Royale itself - the water, from what I see, is deeper here as well. I peer over the edge, a soft, grim chuckle coming from my mouth.

Sparrow has found himself a wide, leafy tree, and is just settling under it with the bottle of brandy in hand. He tosses his hat aside, giving me a look as he does. "What's so funny?"

"A short drop, and a sudden stop." I say, glancing back at him, then clear my throat at the clearly baffled look I receive. "It's... a private joke."

"Commodore, you are decidely the oddest Naval officer I have ever heard of." Sparrow says, eyeing me with that smile of his again, before he pulls the crystal decanter cork from the bottle and drinks deeply.

"Ah, but you -have- heard of me." I smirk in return, then move to lean against a slightly rotted stump close to his own tree and take the bottle from him. After a long drink, I frown a little. ".. Well, thank you Sparrow. Now it tastes like brandy mixed in with rum."

"Really?" He takes the bottle back from me, and gives it an experimental swallow. A tiny, pleased smile works over his face. "Then it's truly the drink of the Gods. Or at least pirates."

I let my eyes roll, take the bottle back to drink again, and let the rum-flavored brandy burn its way down into my stomach to mix with the wine. Then I take off my own hat, put it neatly by my side, and watch Jack Sparrow lounge back against his tree without a trouble in the world, apparently. So that brings me to a rather interesting question. "Since we're going to be here for a good bit of time while you get drunk... or rather drunk-er, perhaps you could answer a question for me, Sparrow."

"Ask away, Commodore. I fear not your inquisitions." Sparrow says lazily, eyes closed, looking almost peaceful. It's strange how the simple lines of his face turn all the more graceful when he isn't stretching his face to contort whatever emotion he's feeling at the moment.

I let the silence fill the air for a few long minutes before I ask quietly. "Why did you come back?"

There is the slightest tension to his mouth, and it takes him a few minutes before he answers. "To cause trouble, o'course. That's what you said before, mate."

"To which you assured me it was not why you were here, so again stands the question." I return evenly, taking another long sip of my bottle.

"Well ... if you put it that way, I suppose I jest came back t'wish old Will and lovely Elizabeth all the best." Sparrow's eyes slit open, as he turns his gaze towards me. Oh yes, he is clearly evading now, and wary.

"That was your excuse, Sparrow." My voice is even, and my gaze steady. "Now what was your reason?" He is silent, as I thought he would be, so I add, more gently then I thought possible for me to ever be around Jack Sparrow, much less while speaking directly to him, "Who did you come for? Elizabeth ... or Will?"

Sparrow lets out a frustrated sigh and sits up to give me a long, hard look. "Y'know, you could try being a little -less- clever." I raise an eyebrow and merely wait for his answer. He lets out another sigh, and a bitter short laugh. "Alright, y'want to know? Will ... or Elizabeth. In fact, -both-."

"Both?" My eyebrows rise together, and I think my voice raises an octave before I clear my throat. "Certainly ... ambitious of you."

"It's not like I would have had a choice, mate. Y'seen those two? Attached at the bloody eyes. Y'can't take the first anywhere without bringin' the other one." Sparrow snags the bottle of my hands and takes a long swallow. "But when I got here, sans your distractin' presence, I decided it weren't really worth it. Useless thing t'try to swaggy them into. They've got it pretty good right here, what with a Commodore of the fleet on their side, n'all. They done best by them, savvy?"

I contemplate this little diatribe of slurred words for a moment, as he puts the bottle to his lips again, before saying calmly, "You are -such- a bloody liar."

Sparrow coughs a little as he attempts to swallow the liquor in his mouth and give me an incredulous look at the same time. "...Now that's a bit uncalled for!"

"Nevertheless, it stands. You could have talked them into it within a moment - you have William wrapped around your little finger and Elizabeth doesn't need much persuasion to make her follow William anywhere." One eyebrow lifts up, daring him to challenge my logic. "You didn't try anything, because it wasn't right to do so, and you knew it. So you decided to leave with me in tow. For him. For both of them."

He stares at me for a long moment, before speaking intently. "Then I guess m'reasons would be along the lines of yours, Commodore. Don't you even try givin' me that look, neither. I'm not the only one here who took the honorable step backwards. That girl swore to marry you, and you let her break her word, even when you hold your own word up to nigh unbreakable. Not t'mention the Dauntless didn't set out after me an entire day after I ... cleverly fell off the fort wall down one hundred feet into a shallow area of the bay lined with sharp rocks...anyways, point is, you let me get away." A pause, as he pointedly adds, "For her. For -both- o'them."

We glare at each other, silent and steady. Then I let out a long sigh. "I suppose that makes us both honorable, doesn't it?"

"Bloody men of our word of honor, we are." Sparrow grunts, flopping back against the tree. "And damned morons t'boot." We fall quiet, both lost to our brooding thoughts.

I finally break the heavy silence, as I reach over to take the bottle back. "Well, at least I got a sword out of it."

"'N I got the -Pearl-..." Sparrow gives me a sad sort of smile. "But the authority of the blade 'n the freedom of my ship don't exactly help late at night, do they?"

"No... no, they do not." I shake the bottle a little, looking at the distorted grass through the amber liquid. "But we did the right thing. As much as William might have enjoyed the open pirate life with you, you must have known it would have been as good as signing his death warrant at some point. He is ill-suited for it - he is far, far too ...principled. Even you wouldn't have been able to protect him from some scuffle due to lack of 'good form'."

"Aye .. can't deny that. 'N I suppose Elizabeth would have been at least content married t'you. But it wouldn't have been a happy union, y'know. She never would have loved you the way you do her, and there's no way you could have made it stretch far enough for the both." Sparrow answers softly. "We did right by them."

"So with ship and sword, we will content ourselves..." I take another long drink, then grimace. "Not to mention making conversation to the one person in the world who understands, despite the fact he's a damned pirate."

"Or a damned officer in the Royal Navy." Sparrow counters, his smile returning.

"Or even that." I say, the corners of my mouth lifting up ever so slightly, before smoothing out to apathy once more. I look out to the ocean, where the waves and and the salty air call to me. "I suppose our love now should belong to that, out there. The sea, and the ships we sail on her."

"Can't fault ourselves there. The -Pearl- is m'wife, the ocean m'mistress. Of course, both have gone well with other lads and lasses, so I am not sure if mine is a devotion worthy of keeping." Sparrow sighs softly. "If they had been faithful, the ocean would have swallowed that bastard Barbossa and the -Pearl- would have dragged him down to Davy Jones's locker."

"Hmm... then I have a long life to move my career along. Make Admiral before my 40th birthday, as I celebrate it alone with my fine new hat. And my fine new sword, more than likely." I hand the bottle to him and push myself to my feet. "How very depressing."

"Is that all y'really want out of life, mate? An admiralty?" I can feel his eyes on me as I pace a little. "There's got t'be more than life than your position."

I grip the sword at my hip. "There was. She's marrying your friend William Turner." I run my fingers almost lovingly along the scabbard. "I remember the day I received this sword. Anything seemed possible. Even her saying yes to a stuttering, nervous proposal of a man who thought he could never put his emotions before his uniform."

"But you did, mate. I was there, remember?" Sparrow's voice is equally gentle, and close. "Don't think I admired any one as much as I did in that moment, either..."

"What are you talking about, Sparrow?" I tilt my head towards him. He has gotten up, a serious dark-eyed figure leaning on the tree next to me.

One side of his mouth lifts up as he runs his fingers over the mouth of the brandy bottle, and he moves towards me, hands out in one of his soothing gestures. "I remember a trip, on a ship, where a lovely lass took away all my rum, and I was quite glum. And on this ship, she begged the man who loved her, to go off after another." The other side lifts into that goldcapped smile. "I remember her father telling her no, and you making not an answer, even though I could see you were discomfited, leaving Will t'die. I remember coming up to you n'saying, 'Think about it, the Black Pearl, the last real pirate threat in the Caribbean , mate. How can you pass that up?' Couldn't help thinkin' that you'd jump right on that with your, 'Get the pirates!', and then you turn ... and give that look with them cold green eyes of yours, like hard jade, said with that the perfect iron conviction. 'By remembering that I serve others, Mr. Sparrow , not only myself'.."

I nod my head slowly. "I recall it..."

"You started up those stairs, and Elizabeth, she was getting desperate and she offered up to you, 'Commodore, do it for me. As a ... wedding gift.' The look in those green eyes o'yours then, Norrington, 'bout near broke my heart. That slightly confused, almost hopeful gleam. Like a pup being let in out of the rain." Sparrow tilts his head at me. "'N then I thought, well there's a man who will put honor above everything else ... 'cept when his heart tells him otherwise." His dark eyes flash. "You can't give up, Norrington... not like this. Not on love. Look out there." And he gestures to the ocean beyond. "There's more water in this world than there is land, and there's more love than there is of that. You 'n me, we just have to find some of it and..." I watch as his hand grasps at thin air, slowly curling his fingers around it. "...grab hold. Never let go."

"The whole wide world, eh?" I say softly, looking off into the distance. "Strangely, Sparrow, that's not what I really wanted. I never wanted a dramatic romance, or anything close to it."

"Then what -do- you want, Norrington? B'sides the fancy pointed admiral's hat?" Sparrow asks softly, and as before, I can feel his breath on my skin.

I rub the side of my neck as I gaze out to the water, not really sure why I am collecting my thoughts to share with a pirate I can barely stand most of the time. Except, there was all the liquor, and all the ease between us, and the understanding that yesterday, today, and six months from now, we are giving up what we love. Probably mostly the liquor, though.

A soft sort of smirk rests on my lips, as I speak. "Someone to make me laugh. Someone who will rest their head on my shoulder while we watch the rain fall. Someone who would know the uniform and the wig do come off." I heave out a quiet sigh. "I grow tired of facing the morning in a bed alone. I want..."

"...Someone warm t'wake up to?" Sparrow finishes for me, his gaze intent upon mine.

I nod my head once in assent, my voice quiet and tired. "Someone warm, to wake up to."

We fall silent once more, watching the sun dip down lower, bathing us both in a warm golden light. It takes me a few seconds to realize that Sparrow's eyes have never left me, and I turn to raise an eyebrow at him in silent question. He offers me the bottle silently, and I take another long sip of it, while he watches me with that same probing look from earlier, then starts to move back to his tree. How odd, to see Sparrow so quiet.

He leans against the trunk, looking out again. "Learned a long time ago, mate, that's the one thing I should look for, and not worry 'bout the particulars. Not that it hasn't led me down some dark roads... but there were good times. Women 'n men I'll miss." He finally looks at me again, and an odd smile passes his face. "Can't win them all, eh? But y'can't spend your whole life second guessin' your own heart. You love who you can, when you can, 'n hope it makes it through."

"Yes, I suppose you can't be more right." I nod my head once, before looking back out at the water, his words and his quiet look roaming in the newfound peace in my mind.

"It does happen on occasion, Commodore. Now bring that brandy back over here." Sparrow says, and off my arched eyebrows, he bats his eyelashes. "Pretty please? I'll give you back m'pants."

I let out an irritated snort, but I move back towards him, holding out the bottle. "Sparrow, what in the name of hell am I going to do with you?"

"Dunno, mate. But I'm sure you'll think of somethin' clever." Sparrow said, lips quirking up as he takes back the bottle. After he drinks deep, nearly draining the bottle to the dregs, he looks at me with interest. "There really somethin' under that wig?"

"Unlike your pants? Yes." I comment wryly, leaning on the tree next to him, for no better reason than to finish off the last of the brandy.

"..Take it off, then." Sparrow says, leaning over to tug on one white curl, his eyes lighting up with that childlike curiosity.

I glare at him, making him deflate slightly. "Absolutely not. It's ... well. It's a breach of protocol."

"So's standin' against a tree talkin' to a pirate, mate, drinking rum with brandy." Sparrow smirks up at me. "G'on. Yer gonna hang me in the mornin', so don't I get a last request?"

"You know, most people ask for something sane. Like a pardon." However, my hands move to my wig, gently tugging it loose into my hands. A lock of dark hair falls over one eye, and I eye it. Hmm. Obviously I didn't tie it back tightly enough this morning...

My eyes meet Sparrow's, then widen. His expression... I've never seen that look on his face before. It's unsettling how intense his gaze is, how the shock so quickly fades into dark flame. Can people's eyes be on fire? A ridiculous thought. I straighten a little, then fix a disapproving gaze on him. "Is there something the matter, Sparrow?"

"...Nothin'. Nothin' at all. Jest sort of confirmin' m'self there. One's got t'make sure he's got all the reasons straight in his head b'fore he does something rash 'n quite possibly irrational." Sparrow's grin fixes 'on'. "How'ver, I think I can say with utter confidence that this is a decision I won't mind in the slight'st."

"Oh? And what is this tremendous life decision you've made a whole day before your demise?" A sudden noise off to my left garners my attention - are those voices? What is the time, anyways? Surely the two hours haven't passed by that quickly.

That string of thought is suddenly cut off by the last thing I ever expected Sparrow to do to me. His hand is suddenly cupped around my jaw, pulling my head back around and then his mouth smashes against mine. I stiffen completely, even as he pushes me back into the tree, and my thoughts start to swirl back into some sort of coherency. What is he DOING? ...all right, he is kissing me, that is obvious. Why? What on earth is possessing him? His hands dance down my arms, distracting me from ... I am not sure what, but they are definitely distracting. And he is STILL kissing me!

Another thought enters after that one. If he is kissing me, which he is, why am I allowing him to do so? I can think of no answer. No rational one. The bristling of his beard against my bare skin is odd, not at all like kissing a woman. Kissing Jack Sparrow. I am kissing Jack Sparrow. No, wait, his brandysoaked lips are kissing mine. Not vice versa. I still do not push him away, but that is not the point. I did not intiate! I just am not ... protesting. Or reacting. Or much of anything.

Except, I think, enjoying. Egads. I am enjoying getting kissed by Jack Sparrow. His lips are warm, and pliant, and they gently make mine kiss him back ... clearly from stimulus and nothing else! ... but still. I am starting to kiss Jack Sparrow, the dreaded, hated pirate, back. I must be insane. I must be drunk. I must be ...

Something hard hits me on the side of the head, and I stumble over, stars before my eyes and the twittering of sparrows in my head. Well, that was unexpected, I think to myself, as I hit the ground hard, moaning a little as my hand moves to cover my face. He must have ... hit me with the brandy bottle! That ...Bastard! When the world stops spinning I'll run him through.

"Don't get up, love..." Sparrow drawls from somewhere above me. "I'd hate t'have to smack you again." His face swims into my distorted vision, grinning broadly. I'll shove those goldplated teeth back in his head! ...once I figure out which head I should hit.

Oh ... my head ... no! I have to get up. "You ...Sparrow ... I'm going to get you for ..." I struggle a little, trying to push myself to my feet. His blow had winded me, but I could still do something. Grab him, tackle him to the ground ... let him kiss me again? -What-?

His lips are pressed firmly to mine once more, and a hand runs without invitation up my side. I can feel his soft breath against my skin, brushing my cheek. "Shhhhh now, love. I'll give you plenty of opportunity t'bellow your head off the next time we meet. N'trust me, James L. Norrington ... we will meet again. Finally found m'self somethin' worth chasing. Next time, I'm comin' back for you."

Obviously, he'd hit me harder than I thought, if I thought I heard all that. My head slumps back down against the ground, and I vaguely hear yells and shouts -- Gillette's voice. And then Sparrow's voice, clear as a bell, calling out in mockery. "Alas, gentlemen, this will again reign as the day that you ALMOST caught Captain Jack Spar-OooooOW!"

Yes, I sit up. Yes, I pick up that -damned- brandy bottle and toss it as hard as I could at Sparrow. Yes, it knocks him off balance, and off the cliff, but by the sounds of what my men are yelling, he just hits the water, and comes up swimming. Bastard... I'll hit him again with it.

My vision swirls, as I struggle to my feet and find a strong arm at my elbow. Gilette's concerned face swims into focus. "Sir, are you all right? Miss Swann said you followed a suspicious character out ... we had no idea it was Sparrow!"

"...Took me by surprise ... hit me over the head..." I manage to get out, which is the absolute truth. How we got out here, how he took me by surprise? No one's business but my own. "...He's escaped?"

Gilette lets out an aggravated noise. "Yes. He's swimming out to the -Black Pearl-, now. The damned ship must have been waiting for sunset."

"Of course. Changing of the guard at the fort. Perfect time to slip past our ...defenses." I put a hand to my forehead, trying to get the throbbing to stop by pure will alone. "My orders..."

"Sir... -James-, your orders can wait. We need to get you to the physician to see about that head wound." Gillette says firmly, wrapping one arm around my waist, putting my own arm around his shoulders for balance. "What on earth did he club you with?"

"Brandy bottle." I get out, finally finding my feet again. Excellent. Wouldn't have wanted Gillette to carry me. "Heavy glass one."

"The one you threw at him?" Gillette says, blinking with surprise and a touch of admiration. "Well, I suppose that will teach him a lesson on who to smack with blunt objects."

"Indeed." I let out a low breath and walk slowly, as the whirlwind that is my emotions and thoughts tried to catch up with themselves. "Have someone get my hat and wig, Gillette? I think he was trying to take them as souvenirs."

"Of course, sir. Glad to know the only souvenir he's going to be walking away with is a bruise on the arm from that bottle," Gillette says with some smug satisfaction. I just return his pleasure with a grim stretch of my lips. Sparrow hit me with the brandy bottle. He kissed me, then smacked me over the head. What was that, some sort of weird pirate courting ritual? Or was he simply trying to escape?

The first option is damning and frightening. The second is the one that wants to cling to the logic. The first, however, reminds me of the feel of Sparrow's mouth pressed to mine. The second says Sparrow would have done anything to escape. The first snorts and says that people don't kiss other people to escape - they kiss them so the other person will have something to remember them by. The second says, well, we're certainly going to remember him fondly from the concussion we most likely have.

I touch my mouth, and frown. He kissed me. I am still going to have to figure out how I feel about that. He hit me with the brandy bottle. I am going to have to figure out how I feel about that, as well.

He said he would be back for me.

_Blasted_ _Bloody_ _Hell_.