Arc Series: The Matter of Rules

Title: Acts of Piracy

Author: L.M. Griffin

Rating: PG-13 (I'm sorry! It'll get racier next one around, I swear!)

Email: wren@knitmeapony.com

Archive: Asking gets you everywhere, teehee. Although I would prefer it if you took the entire arc... *wiggles eyebrows*

Summary: Two months after 'Men Of Our Word', Norrington has Jack on the brain and a new pirate threat to deal with. When the two collide, Norrington must think quickly if he wants to catch his prey. However, Jack has different ideas...

Author's Notes (and boy howdy are there are a lot of them..):

1) Gueeeesss what? Pirates of the Caribbean still doesn't belong to me. I don't ask for much, Disney! Just Norrington! All OC's, however, do. So be nice and ask if you ever want to use them in other stories. Bennett and Moncrieff belong to the NDL. NO TOUCHI WITHOUT ASKY!

2)I can't help it. I put other actors in my stories mentally. So here's a cast list for you people who like faces to go with names, in order of appearance.

Marcus Chip ... Anthony Hopkins

Nellie... Kate Winslet

Esme... Minnie Driver

Captain Harris ... Ewan McGreggor

Bennett .... Colin Firth

Moncrieff ... Rupert Everett

Lieutenant Richards ...Jake Gyllenhaal

Pirate Captain ... Jason Carter

(And the ONE OC who was in the movie - seriously!)

Mr. Tommy Studson ... Stuart Thompson

3)Right, I might get some guff for this, but honestly I had already starting writing 'Acts' when I found this out. So the name stays. I made previous mention in 'Men Of Our Word' to a Lieutenant Jonathan Bush, giving a name to that fabulous actor who said the memorable line, 'That's got to be the best pirate I've ever seen'. So what do I find out halfway through? His name is Theodore Groves. Bah. So for all you confused people? Same guy. Different name. Groves = Bush.

Dedications: To my SlynessGrammarSpellingNazi, my roomie LaurieStyleNazi, my heterosexual life partner Figgy, and all the M&M crew for putting up with my long absences while I scribbled out this tome. To Thalia, my fabulous second beta'r, to Webcrow for passing the word about my little fic around so nicely, and of course to the Norrington Defense League. Huzzah Ladies!

Also, I would like to thank Jack Davenport, Johnny Depp, Keira Knightly, Orlando Bloom, Damian O'Hare, Greg Ellis, and all the other marvelous actors of PotC who made characters worthy of further introspection. Huzzah, gentlemen and lady. Huzzah indeed.

And hey, look! I actually wrote a story to go along with all this! Enjoy!

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Acts Of Piracy by L.M. Griffin

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"..On the rare occasion pursuing the right course demands an act of piracy, piracy itself can be the right course."

-- Governor Swann

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William's sword whizzes past my ear as I dart to the left, dancing just out of his reach before I bring my own blade against his in a furious flurry of metal and speed. He moves backwards, carefully watching my face and not my blade, which I silently give him a point for. After all, it was that mistake last week that cost him the match.

As well as the week before that, if memory serves. Although that move he sprung on me the day before was an unsettling surprise. I keep forgetting how very active he is, to be flipping about like that. His blade swishes right past my hand, and I let out a curse before minding my steps around the barrel of iron filling.

"Distraction, as you often tell me, James, is the devil's playground," William admonishes me with a playful glint in his dark eyes, balanced and poised to strike once more.

"Yes, well, distraction runs aplenty through this shoppe," I say tartly, moving around him carefully. "I think there is a certain unfair advantage, William, to always have our swordplay on your territory. It's almost like -cheating-."

"As a good friend of mine once said to me, with emphasis on the utter ridiculousness of my pointing out that he too, was cheating ...'Pirate!'" He pauses, then allows himself that little amused smile of his. "Or rather, son of a pirate."

"Believe me when I say, it shows, boy. It shows." Yet despite my verbal disgruntlement, I am feeling better than I did hours ago, when the final orders had come from Admiral Covington about our latest conquest into the criminal element of the Caribbean.

There is a new fleet of pirates out towards the Colonies - calling themselves the Ebony Sharks. They have not much more to them than any other group of ruffians, except a leader who thinks, and I am well-acquainted with the dangers of an intelligent pirate captain. They have been pinpointing the shipping lanes coming back and forth from England, leaving few or no survivors, just wreckage. The Admiralty has sent out ship after ship to capture these brigands, to no avail, and now they are forced to send in their 'weapon of choice'.

Yes. That would be me. It is a dubious honor to be called 'The Last Face You See Before The Noose and God', I can assure you.

Unless we can catch them by surprise, it will be a long and drawn-out campaign. I will be sending more than one good man to die, and that is something that weighs on the conscience of any good Captain. In this sort of frame of mind I - as has become my habit over the past two months - sought out William for a crossing of blades.

It's a distinct memory, when we started our strange new tradition - the very day after his engagement party, in fact. I was working at my humble abode away from the fort, no worse the wear from my little 'adventure' than a severe case of the fidgets and a bandage around my brow. He appeared at my study door, sober-faced and worried in his brown suit of clothes, carefully brushed and smoothed for his visit. William pays attention to the details, same as I. I spent the better part of an hour watching him out of the corner of my eye as he sat in the chair opposite me, fiddling with his hat nervously while I finished giving my orders to Lieutenant Bush about the marine rotation on guard duty.

I was curious to see what had brought him to my office, but let him hang for a few more moments after Bush had departed as I read over paperwork. Then I looked up, one eyebrow quirked. He cleared his throat, finally resting his abused hat on his lap as he blurted out. "I have come to apologize for Captain Sparrow's appalling actions, sir."

Considering the -variety- of Sparrow's actions the last time we were together, I was momentarily at a loss of just what William was speaking of. "Well, you certainly can't be faulted for your friend's activities," I said slowly, eyes narrowed on his.

"Yes ... but to take you by surprise and hit you over the head with that brandy bottle - it was just bad form. He could have seriously done you an injury," William said with a helpless sigh, and an open handed gesture. "I would have words with him, but he IS a pirate."

"-That- he is." My fingers brushed across my lips, the stolen warmth almost still felt there, along with the scratchy feel of his beard against my cheek. I made a little noise in the back of my throat at the memory, causing William to give me a puzzled look. I coughed, giving him a curt gesture with my hand. "There is no harm done, William, save my frustration for letting him get the better of me." In more ways that one.

He looked at me for a long moment in contemplation, before leaning forward to whisper lowly, as if it were a royal secret to be kept. "You know, there is a surefire way to work off any sort of frustration, with any sort of pirate."

"Oh? And what exactly is your 'surefire' cure?" I asked dryly, eyebrow raised, finding myself intrigued in spite of my better judgement. I should have known better when that innocent smile appeared on his face, I really should have.

No more than an hour later, I found myself in Mr. Smith's blacksmith shoppe, a place I had frequented more than a few times, but never really bothered to investigate. William took my coat, and gestured for me to take off my hat and wig as well. I did so, looking around the dusty area with some interest. Blades of every kind lined the walls, rested in niches around the workings of the bellows, and I found myself staring in amazement. "Where in the name of -God- did all of these swords come from?"

"I made them," William answered simply, as he took off his own coat, putting it neatly aside with mine. "Every single sword here is one I have intended to put into a pirate's belly."

"...Then there are a considerable amount of dead pirates in this room." My eyebrows quirked up, my fingers then brushed over my own sword. I had no doubts in the excellence of William's craft - I just did not realize there was such a bloody-minded fervor behind it. "Although I suppose that has changed, taking in mind certain acquaintances you've made."

"Somewhat." William smiled grimly, as he went to the far wall to pluck one of the finer swords up. "Now I am just a tad bit more particular about the ones I do intend to gut."

"Really?" I tilt my head to the side. "I thought, of course, with your own parentage to consider, you would be more open-minded to the 'free as a bird' life, forgive the phrasing."

"My father chose to be a pirate, as did Jack. However, they also decided what sort of pirates they were going to be." William unsheathed his sword. "The sort of pirate I have chosen to be is the kind who never leaves his wife to fend for herself, and is more content with a simple blacksmith's shop than a leaky boat on the ocean."

"That sounds very responsible, if not a tad bit predictable. Not to mention dull." My lips turned around the edges, as I turned to face him. "Especially for a man who so fearlessly commandeered a ship of the fleet."

"Let us just say that if the cause is right, then 'Yarr, m'hearties'. Otherwise, I think I will avoid going out and -looking- to be hung." William grinned, setting himself up in the traditional defensive pose. "Now, are you ready for your curative for pirate-aggravation?"

I tilted my head at him, unable to fight the half-smirk on my own face as I drew my own blade. "So your remedy is an active one?"

"Indeed, three hours a day - every day." William's eyes bespoke of the silent challenge one male offers another on any field of combat. We are truly predatory creatures, we men.

"Three hours a day," I mused, balancing myself. "Intensive, to say the very least. I look forward to seeing if it eases my particular affliction."

"Only one way to find out, Commodore." Then he swooped forward, and the duel had begun. I have no idea how long we fought, but the 'curative' worked wonders. I forgot about my frustrations, I forgot about the ache in my head, and I almost completely put out of my mind Jack Sparrow. For the past two months, rain or shine, almost every day I go back for another dose of sword and verbal sparring.

I find in William an interesting combination of soft-spoken respect for authority and position, but an iron-clad sense of justice. If it is wrong, then it must be addressed, by word or by sword. He's still young, so very young, but his time with that ...pirate, and, if I can be so emboldened, with me, has taught him the value of patience. In turn, he has reminded me time and time again that dignity comes from all walks of life, a lesson any leader of men should know well.

If anyone had told me three months ago I would enjoy spending time with William Turner, I would have asked if they had their brains baked by the Caribbean heat. It is an odd friendship to be sure, but it is one of the few I possess, and I hold dearly to it.

'Grab hold, and never let go...'

-Blast-. Don't think of Sparrow now. There is a bona fide distraction I -will- get past, no matter -what- it takes to accomplish that state of peace..

I slide backwards, letting William sail past me at a seemingly impossible speed, then bring my sword around after him. He parries, barely, taking a step back to roll over the donkey cart. Coming around to his feet again, his sword is at the ready.

"Oh, -now- you are just showing off." I snort, moving after him. Our blades shred through the air, clanging together as we kick up clouds of dust.

"Showing off? You call -that- showing off?" William's eyes gleam, as he hops up on the forge's edge, avoiding my slashes with alacrity. He throws his blade into the air, bends over and flips midair over my head, tumbling to the ground. Then he rolls back to his feet just in time to catch his sword in midair. "-That-, James, is what I call showing off."

I roll my eyes, and then abruptly my attention is pulled to the stunning young woman at the top of the steps leading down into the shoppe itself. Her brown eyes crinkle in amusement and pleasure as she clasps her hands together, golden brown curls trailing down her fair neck. The sunlight coming in from the open door illuminates her white gown, making her seem more like an angel than a flesh and blood woman. Not to mention one hell of a distraction to any man.

"Good day, -Elizabeth-," I say, almost offhandedly, lifting my sword to her in greeting. William turns swiftly, his expression brightening as he takes his attention away from me, and to his fiancée.

Just as I planned.

I spin into my slash, knocking the blade from his hand and the force of it causes him to to half turn back to me. He loses his balance and stumbles over a bucket of horseshoes, to the ground. I smirk as I rest my blade near his chest, as he blinks up at me in confusion. "That, William, is what -I- call making a complete -fool- of yourself."

"I -think- I had a little help in that regard," William says with a smile, as I move the blade away and offer my hand down to him. He takes it, letting me pull him to his feet.

"Little Boys and their wooden swords. Aren't you two tired of playing yet?" Elizabeth says with a laugh, clapping heartily as she moves down the steps.

"We're -fully grown- boys, madam. We tie up our own breeches, eat porridge without prompting, and best of all, we play with -metal- swords," I say lightly, as I clean my blade off with my handkerchief, then tuck it back into its scabbard.

"Ooooh. Aren't they -shiny-," She says tartly, as we exchange little smirks. I think it came as a surprise to both of us that Elizabeth and I share the same sort of sarcastic sense of humor at times, although my tongue is much sharper than hers. More practice, she says. More experience, says I.

William has quickly done the same with his own blade, moving to greet his future bride. They hold hands, which is about as improper as they are around me, smiling blindingly at each other. I move to gather up my things, painfully aware how out of place I am in their little romantic tableau.

It takes William a moment to gather his bedazzled wits together, but he finally gets enough presence of mind to ask. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to remind you of dinner tonight with Father and me, so you would have enough time to change. Besides, I thought I might get here in time to see you fence," Elizabeth says, giving his large hand a squeeze in her seemingly delicate smaller ones. She looks over to me, an expectant glance. "Will we see you there, James?"

"I must respectfully decline, as I am dining elsewhere. It is, after all, the night before we sail," I say, pulling on my coat and dreaded wig, before settling my hat on my head.

"Ah yes.. The Tradition," Elizabeth and William say together, tones of dramatic solemnity in their voices.

"Has anyone ever told you two how -unnerving- that is?" I lift an eyebrow at them as I move up the steps beside them. "Like listening to a wandering Greek Chorus."

Their only answer is that innocent smile that makes me internally twitch, and externally frown as I move to hold the door open for Elizabeth. "-Shall- I escort you two as far as the docks?"

"That would be lovely, thank you, James," Elizabeth says sweetly as William doffs his own feathered hat, and locks the door behind us all. We move into the street, William and I with Elizabeth between us, the strangest trio of friends Port Royale has ever seen. The blacksmith, his high-blooded lady, and the stiff-necked commodore who loved and lost fair damsel, only to gain them both.

"And when do you expect Mr. Brown to be returning to his duties, William?" In other words, when will we have to make sure to move more quietly as so not to wake up the drunken blighter. I squint at the late afternoon sky, nodding my head with approval. The sky looks clear, and the sun doesn't show the slightest bit of red. Should be a glorious morning to ship out.

"The next week or so. The ... fall he took from the steps winded him rather badly. He is getting on in years," William says quietly, tucking Elizabeth's arm within his, as we exchange a knowing look. There are certain things a gentleman doesn't discuss in front of a lady, after all.

"You mean when he drunkenly slipped off the dock and knocked himself silly?" Elizabeth says, then gives us both a sardonic glance off of both of our startled looks. "Oh honestly, you two. I'm a -woman-. Gossip like that is bread and butter to society ladies." She gives William an imploring glance. "I do wish you'd take Father's offer and start your own shoppe, Will. Your talents are wasted on that rumpot."

"It IS the sensible plan, William." Between Elizabeth and I, we've hammered this into him for nearly a month. "You could make more than enough in six months to repay the Governor."

"...It just doesn't seem right. Mr. Brown is still my Master," William says slowly, a frown working over his face. "After all, I owe it to him to finish my apprenticeship."

"At what? Drunken debauchery?" I shake my head a little. "William, your talent has long surpassed his. Do -not- saddle yourself down this way. You, after all, have your future to consider." I nod towards Elizabeth, and his eyes stray towards her, his frown deepening.

Elizabeth looks between us, and gives William's arm a comforting squeeze. "I suppose Will simply isn't as ambitious for himself as we are for him, James."

"No one is as ambitious as James." William smiles, easing considerably. "He'll be Admiral before I shoe my first horse in my own smithy."

"Nonsense." I say wryly, my hands moving to fold formally behind me. "I admit I have certain goals, certain expectations to where I want my life to go... " I will not touch my lips. I will -not-. "... However. I have learned that even the best laid plans do not always come to pass."

The couple exchange another quiet look, and I silently curse myself for phrasing it that way. I didn't intend for it to come out sounding like another stab at their guilt, or their love. They have gotten enough from outside sources - to get it from those they consider friends is cruel. "I, of course, was not speaking ..."

"James, there is no need for you to apologize to us," William says, one side of his mouth lifting up. "We long ago accepted the consequences of our actions, and one of those was causing pain where we did not mean to."

"Besides, if there are two people who understand how plans can go terribly awry, you are looking at them," Elizabeth sighs, before putting her hand gently on my arm. "I just worry about you. We -both- do."

"What on earth is there to worry about? I haven't been ill, pirates haven't attacked recently, and I have yet to be eaten alive by sharks. Those in finery or fins," I say, eyebrows raised, feeling clearly baffled.

The way they keep looking at each other - I am honestly starting to think they can communicate to each other mentally. Elizabeth is the one who finally speaks, tugging on one of her curls. "Well, you -have- been terribly ... broody."

"Broody." I stretch out the word slowly, feeling a sense of disbelief that it is one, being used, and two, being used in context to my state of being.

"Off and on. You know. Rather ... dark and foreboding," William adds, looking slightly sheepish. He and Elizabeth exchange another glance, uncomfortable and yet earnest.

"Broody, dark and foreboding. Hm. Am I a -gargoyle- now?" I ask, giving them both a dry look. "Listen to me, you two, I have simply been preoccupied with important military matters. I am leaving on the morrow for another tour of hunting down pirates, -never- a pleasant thing to look forward to. Especially considering the nature of the stories that are coming back to Port Royale about this particular group of cutthroats."

"Oh, of course! That must be it. Naturally," they say together, relief clear in their tones. I wonder briefly if this is going to be the entirety of their marriage - saying words together as if they were of one mind and not two. Will they ever stop being this annoyingly in tune with one another?

...Will I ever have anything in which to compare it with? Sparrow's whisper, unbidden, drifts through my memory. 'Someone warm, t'wake up to.'

Damned ... blasted...

"-There-," Elizabeth suddenly says, gazing intently at me. "-That's- the Broody Look."

"-Just- like a gargoyle..." William chimes in, as they both stare at me. It is... disconcerting, not to mention rather embarrassing atop of that. People are gazing at the couple oddly as we walk past.

"... You two realize that we are walking along a busy avenue?" I say slowly, my eyes darting around.

"We are aware of the fact," Elizabeth says, but her eyes don't shift away.

"You realize then that we are walking down a busy avenue, where a -great- many people are probably, at this moment, watching us?" I add, as my eyebrows slowly climb down from my hairline.

"Hm, his face changed. Now he has got the broody YET scowling look. Less gargoyle, but much more angry." William thoughtfully brings his free hand to his face, stroking his goatee.

"-You realize- that you are giving commentary on my facial expressions, in the -middle- of this -busy avenue- looking like -complete nitwits-," I enunciate firmly, grinding out each word.

That earns me their attention in the form of dual-scowls from the couple. Elizabeth bats me lightly on the arm. "There is no need to be overly rude, -James-."

"I do apologize, Elizabeth. However, there is often enough reason to be -completely- direct with the two of you. You never seem to take in account the inappropriateness of your actions at times," I say with a shake of my head. Thank God, the docks are such a short distance ahead.

"When a friend's heart is troubled, it is not a time to be thinking of manners and 'what is correct'. Now are you going to tell me why you have been so glum, or will I have to appeal to your manly weaknesses and pout accordingly?" Elizabeth says, as she lifts an eyebrow at me with that look of hers - the one that says I am only going to get out of answering if I either spontaneously combust, or make a run for freedom.

The docks are not nearly close enough, and I don't feel a bit warmer. Damn. "I see. So you now want me to air my personal troubles, -still- in the middle of the street, only a few moments after the Broody Look Embarrassment." I let myself have a nice long pause, then say flatly. "No. I -think- not."

"James!" Elizabeth huffs out in exasperation, tilting her head at me with wide brown eyes. She must have inherited this particular expression from her mother, because I do not think I have ever had the privilege of seeing the Governor pout.

"Elizabeth, he has a point. This is neither the time nor the place to speak of such matters," William says quietly, as he rubs her hand comfortingly.

"Thank you, William," I say, nodding my head approvingly, even as Elizabeth gives her fiancée an incredulous look. -Finally-, a voice of reason.

"So obviously, we will see him for breakfast tomorrow morning before he sets sail, and then he can tell us all about them without interruption. In the privacy of his own home, no less," William adds complacently, a devious twinkle in his dark eyes.

...Apparently, he is the EVIL voice of reason. -Traitor-.

Elizabeth's smile returns, full force, as she looks adoringly up at him. "Thank -you-, Will."

"Anything for you, my love." William beams broadly, giving her hand another tender squeeze.

I just roll my eyes at the happy couple of duplicity. "Good God. What -have- I done to deserve friends like this?"

Elizabeth's eyes crinkle with amusement, as she touches her full lips with one gloved finger. "Really James - do you realize you're asking for enlightenment from the Divine Being in the middle of a busy street?"

The glower that I give her is sufficient enough to wipe the smile right from her face. William clears his throat, gently tugging on Elizabeth's arm. "Are we at the docks already? My. I -do- believe it's time for us to be going, Elizabeth."

"A hasty retreat would be deemed wise at this moment," Elizabeth agrees quickly. "Good day, Commodore - remember, murdering young Governor's daughters and blacksmiths -is- still considered illegal in the Caribbean."

"Today it is. Tomorrow could be an -entirely- different story," I say darkly. They wisely choose not to answer, but turn and head down the street together quickly. Halfway down the street block, he leans into her, murmuring softly and a laugh bubbles from her throat.

A sigh leaves my lips, and with it a great deal of my vexation. 'They're young, and in love. They are happy and they want everyone around them to be the same way,' I remind myself, as I turn to head in the opposite direction along the long street that stretches the length of the dock. 'It seems a pity I can't oblige them.'

People nod their heads politely as I pass, and I offer brief greetings, my hands still folded behind me. I lift my chin up slightly, thoughts dwelling on the faces on the street. As has become my conscious habit, I find myself studying them - men and women alike. I am looking for flickers of reaction, anything that would be akin to the body's burning desire to be with - to hold, to kiss, to ... feel.

Well, I can honestly say that today, as for the past five weeks, I feel no need to fall before Mr. Webster and start spouting romantic poetry. A sharp relief to me, for not only would it be considered scandalous, but the man is an irritating trollop with naught to him but a handsome face and a good business.

However, I also feel a similar lack of reaction at the sight of young Bess Young. She is the only daughter of our Magistrate Young - and considered after Elizabeth Swann to be the beauty of Port Royale. She is far too young for proper marriage, being a fresh sixteen years, but she catches every single male eye. She fails to catch mine more than a polite second, much is the pity.

This -cannot- be normal. I admit, I am not someone of easy passions or given to meaningless physical gratifications, but I am still a -man-. I have my baser needs that must be met - that is why I sleep and eat, after all. There should be something. -Anything-.

But I feel nothing. Continue to feel nothing. Have felt nothing for two months.

Except...

In the early hours of the morning, as I lie awake, staring at the whitewashed ceiling above my bed. The only sounds I can hear are the beating of my heart, the slow breaths coming from my lips, and the winds ruffling the trees outside my bedroom window.

Then I feel. I -feel- a pair of lips pressed hard against mine, indelibly imprinting their heated mark. I -feel- the ghostly whisper of fingertips running up my side intimately -- far -too- intimately. The smell of rum fills my senses, and the whisper that drifts through my brain echoes, 'I'm comin' back for -you-..'

The blood rushes through my veins, followed by a tide of emotions.

Anger. 'How -dare- he -!'

Shame. 'How dare I...?'

Confusion. 'What does this all mean?'

Anticipation. 'When?', it howls inside my skin, 'whenwhenwhenwhen?'

Then comes the loathing, aided by the anger and the confusion. I find myself on my feet, pacing edgily in front of my bed. Until the sun rises and with it, my sanity and self control.

I stop suddenly, realizing I've reached my destination without even a break in my thoughts. I snort to myself derisively, then push open the door to the 'Farthest Point' pub.

The 'Farthest Point' is one of those rarities in a drinking hole. It caters to all levels of sailor - from fleet admiral to simple merchant fleet cabin boy. The owner, Marcus Chip, was a Bo'sun long before any of us could even say 'ship', and he always said that there was nothing worse for a man's soul to come back from sea to sit in a rickety chair, at a table that looked like it had been soaked in swill, drinking rotgut rum. Therefore, the chairs are always sturdy, the tables clean, and the liquor and food a step above most other pubs.

There is only one rule that Marcus upholds above any and all others - 'No Fighting'. Which means, no fistcuffs, no swords, and no pistols. By an odd little twist, this had made his pub neutral ground, and any number of pirates stop by for a drink before dashing out of Port Royale.

I can only blame myself for the sudden flow and ebb of Marcus's business during these junctures. The first time a noted pirate saw me walking into the 'Point', he fell out of his chair, tried to scramble for the back door, and ending up taking out an entire table of drinks, unfortunately belonging to some marines in plainclothes. There is more than one story that involves me simply sitting outside on the horse post, waiting for my prey to stumble out drunk from the 'Point'.

Marcus now requests my sending a boy ahead to tell him when I am arriving, so he can prepare for the sudden mass exodus of customers and the disturbed wake they leave behind. In exchange, I am one of the few who can pause by the bar for any information he might care to pass along and so the moment I enter, that is where I head. Marcus, whose hair has been steel grey for as long as I have known him, is cleaning his mugs with a rag, and his one good eye doesn't even lift up from his task as he greets me. "Evenin' Commodore. You're a popular man, t'night."

One eyebrow lifts as I scan the expanse of the tables. It's a full crowd tonight, and I see more than a couple marines and sailors I know by name, not to mention the usual scrubby pupcrawling lot. "Indeed."

"Oh yes. Your mates are off in the back..." And he nods his head towards the back room, indistinct in a wave of smoke and conversation, before he tilts his chin towards the corner opposite. "And that lot over there's been singing your praises all the while. I was startin' to think I was in the Church o' Norrington."

I raise my gaze to the small grouping, whose conversation wafts in my direction, "...and then he sezs to t'me ..." A few merchant sailors I don't recognize, and of course there is Mr. Mullroy and Murtogg, sitting by a robust man with a drink in his hand, talking as if there is no tomorrow. Beside him is a slender, caramel-skinned lad with a mug in his hand, scowling at it from the depths of his floppy hat. And behind them ... well. All I can see is a pair of fine new black boots from sticking out of a darkened alcove, and the skirts of one of the barmaids. Esme, I believe. Apparently the newly-shod booted one has more interesting things on his mind than tall tales about me.

"Interesting. Well. I shall pass along my compliments, then." I give a knowing look back to Marcus, who nods once in return. Moving through the tables, it doesn't take me long to pass by where my esteemed admirers are meeting.

The robust man takes another long, long pull of his drink as I approach, putting his hands out in a dramatic fashion. "Now, you've heard it's bad luck t'polish your sword before a battle, aye? Well the Commodore.."

One of the sailors interrupts loudly enough for me to overhear. "I heard he even polishes his..."

"Shhh! Here he comes! Here he comes!" Mullroy hisses, elbowing Murtogg, who nearly drops his ale on his lap as they both struggle between saluting and looking innocent.

"Good evening, gentlemen. Just passing through," I say, finding the reactions to my presence fascinating. Some regard me with outright terror - one man actually dribbles rum down his shirt, he's shaking so.

Others watch me with wary respect, dipping their heads in greeting. Murtogg and Mulroy relax, as Mullroy burbles out. "Evenin' Commodore Norrington, sir."

Between the caramel skinned youth and the ... -familiar- looking robust gentlemen, there is a sharp glance. The man looks like he wants to drain the rest of his mug right then and there for a touch of liquid bravery. The youth, however, lifts his chin and looks at me defiantly. I set my face into a stony blankness at that challenging glint, fixing my gaze on his without flickering an eyelash. A moment later, he looks away, slightly discomfited.

A smirk covers my face briefly, before I glance over to Mister 'Boots', but he is too involved with Esme to be troubled by me. After a tense moment of silence, I return Murtogg's and Mullroy's salutes, then fixing my gaze on the robust man. "A gentleman always polishes his sword before a battle. It signifies his belief that every man deserves a clean death in combat."

I start to move towards the backroom, but pause long enough to add. "And yes - I -do- polish that as well." There were nervous gulps at that statement, and I favor the group with a thin smile, before continuing on my way. Yet as I move away, I feel myself being watched - a prickling feeling between my shoulder blades. I rub the back of my neck, but don't look back.

Ahead of me I can hear the clunking of mugs against wood, and warm, friendly male voices rising. My unease lessens as I peer inside the room, a smile quirking over my face. All humor from Elizabeth and William aside, this -is- tradition at its finest - three close friends meeting the night before they sail to enjoy drinks and and each other's company. We started it when I was a freshly minted first lieutenant and they mere midshipmen, and now ...

"You are -absolutely- barking mad," First Lieutenant Andrew Cristophe Gillette drawls out slowly, his inherited French accent tingeing the edge of his English-born-and-bred words. His fingers rest elegantly against his temple and his lips, cupping his sharp featured face. Dark eyes are flashing bemusement at his companion. Even relaxed in his breeches and uniform shirt, he appears aristocratically detached and sleek. Everything about him belays a sense of grace and poise few men I know can duplicate. His fiery red hair, a seeming surprise to anyone who wasn't familiar with his sharp tongue and quick wit, gleams in the candle's glow, pulled back with a simple black ribbon. "There's a full moon out tonight - you should go howl at it like the lunatic you so obviously are."

"All I am saying, Monsieur Doubting Breeches, is that is possible. Not absolutely -probable-, merely -possible-," Second Lieutenant Jonathan Ashley Bush retorts, smacking his mug down against the table. A study in opposites next to Andrew - his clothes, although clean, are comfortably rumpled, and his black curling hair is in the same state. His smiles are always enthused with more open warmth than either Andrew's or mine, and his jibes are a gentle slap compared to Andrew's razor sarcasm. His chocolate brown eyes are alive with feeling, as he embodies movement, always gesturing while he is in this relaxed state. He never seems to be able to sit completely still, while Andrew is the picture of calm.

"All right, then I am saying that it is possible, and likely probable... that you are a few masts short of a frigate," Andrew returns with a graceful twist of his hand, and a smirk. I note to myself that the mental shift for me had already begun - he is no longer 'Gillette', but 'Andrew' now. As 'Jonathan' is no longer 'Bush'. After years of this occurrence, I am no longer surprised by it, but am grateful that I am able to distinguish the difference between the moments with my friends, and the moments with my subordinates.

"Listen, there is more than enough ...Commodore!" Jonathan's attention moves from the redheaded man before him, his attitude shifting from annoyance to warm greeting.

"About time you got here, sir," Andrew says, sitting up, a smile of welcome curling over his face and taking some of the sharp bite of out it.

"I was unavoidably detained giving Mr. Turner his weekly thrashing," I say, as I move around the table. I stop behind Andrew's chair at the sound of female laughter coming from the main room. Mister 'Boots' is apparently very appealing to the ladies; as Esme is now joined by the lovely Mary.

"Whoever that fellow is, he has the damndest luck," Jonathan says with some amusement. I glance over at him, lifting one eyebrow questioningly, and he continues. "I know for a fact most of our men would give a month's worth of wages just to have Mary look twice at him. Much less laugh."

I move my glance towards the large room, and sure enough there is more than one envious glance towards the alcove. Andrew's wry voice pulls my attention back to him. "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked is making cozy with all the barmaids."

"Why Cris ..." Jonathan's lips curve up, brown eyes twinkling. They had long ago fallen into the habit of calling each other by their middle names when they were teasing one another. "Jealous of our avaricious friend?"

"He would have to be flirting with something a little more to my tastes, Ash." Andrew smirks in return, and without moving his onyx-colored eyes from Jonathan, he flicks a finger towards me as I start to sit down at the table. "Ah-ah-aaaaaaah. Hat, James."

I glare at the finger, then sigh as I take off my tri-cornered hat, putting it next to theirs on the table. I start to lower myself into the chair again.

"Aaaaaaaaaaaah!" Now the both of them are pointing at me, mock-stern looks on their faces. "-Wig-."

"...May I state this is the most ridiculous set of rules in the existence of human relations just to have the privilege of sitting down?" I retort, as my wig joins my hat, and I smooth my own dark-brown hair back from my brow.

"Yes James, you may," Andrew says, the smirk returning to his face as I -finally- sit. "And we will remind you..."

"As Always." Jonathan interjects, reaching for his mug again.

"-As- always, that we do not give a tuppence. You were outvoted eight years ago on this subject, and you continue to -be- outvoted. All men are equal without additional headwear. Therefore when we sit down to dine as equals, the headwear is removed." Andrew finishes with a firm nod of his head, looking around for our own serving girl.

"Damned majority vote...." I grunt a little, making myself comfortable in my chair, and change the topic of conversation. "What were you two snipping at before I interrupted?" The sudden look between them just proves to me that this is going to be one of our more interesting sidesteps in conversation.

"Oh Ho. Tell him, Ash. I cannot -wait- to see his expression at your mental leaps of logic." Andrew's eyes sparkle with wicked humor in the candlelight.

"...Just a bit of a theory I was contemplating," Jonathan says, glaring over at Andrew. "About some people being touched by powers higher than ourselves. You know, Gods-favored."

"Now tell him -who- you think the patronee of the Gods is." Andrew snorts, waving down our girl, then turning to join the conversation fully.

"Well, I believe, with -some- justification, that ... -perhaps-...all things taken in account..." Jonathan clears his throat, looking into his mug. "...that Jack Sparrow..."

"-Jack Sparrow-," I say flatly, lifting up my eyebrow. "One of the -divinely- protected. Jonathan, -please-."

"It's not as absurd as you two make it sound, you know," Jonathan huffs, throwing a look at Andrew first, then myself.

"I wouldn't say that. After all, I haven't been given much time to make as many caustic comments as I would like, and James has just arrived. I'm certain we can make it sound -much- more ridiculous." Andrew catches my eye, and I smirk a little in return.

Jonathan's eyes flash as he takes a long pull of his ale, then puts the mug down on the table. I can almost see the echoes of his father, the Calvinist elder, rising up to give his son the ability to passionately preach his beliefs - whatever they are at any given moment. "Right then. You want proof? Here, gentlemen, is proof. He -sacked- Nassau Port without firing a shot, or pulling a blade. The -entire- port, and not one life taken. He escaped seven agents of the East India Company, in their -own- headquarters! He impersonated a member of the English Clergy and robbed Georgetown of a King's Ransom of swag! He escaped from our prison using no more than a gullible blacksmith and a wooden bench, and then stole the -Interceptor- not an half an hour later!"

"Wherein, he took it out to sea and got it blown to smithereens by his former crew," I comment wryly.

Jonathan smacks his hand on the table. "...WHOM he escaped death from at least three times! He has a supernaturally, and I mean this figuratively and literally, blessed career! He HAS to be..."

"The best -damned- pirate you have -ever- seen," Andrew and I chime in simultaneously. I glance over at Andrew, adding ingenuously, "Does he not own us a half a crown every time he says that?"

"So he does." Andrew grins, and we hold out our hands, both with pleasantly expectant gleams in our eyes. Jonathan glares again, but fishes out his purse and puts the two half-crowns into our waiting palms. Andrew flips his once into the air, adding, "You keep this up, Ash, and I'll be able to retire a rich Captain."

"All mercenary actions -aside-, will you two concede the point about Sparrow?" Jonathan asks, eyebrow raised in sardonic question.

My lips press together, and I rub them lightly. Then I sigh, moving my hand away abruptly. "Forgetting my own personal frustrations with him - Sparrow would seem to have the Devil's own graces on his side." Not to mention a few more of His more damning attributes. Temptation comes to mind...

"Oh James, -really-. He's clever, I'll grant you both that, but a bout of intellectualism does not mean he takes tea with Neptune," Andrew snorts, dark eyes flashing derision.

An almost evil smile curls around Jonathan's mouth, and he leans forward on his elbows, saying pleasantly, "Perhaps they both dine together with the mermaid that flops up on deck regularly?"

Andrew had chosen that moment to take a long drink from his mug, and he chokes on the rich brown liquor. Jonathan chortles, and even I can't help smiling as Andrew attempts to swallow, glower, and retort all the same time. Finally, he manages to get the ale down, and breathlessly growls, "Am I -ever- going to live down that mermaid comment?"

"Of course you will, when you stop harassing me about the wonder that is Jack Sparrow," Jonathan says complacently. Andrew opens his mouth to retort, but stops as I rap three times on the table smartly. It is a signal between us, something that we take to have many meanings - 'All right then?' to 'You're cursing in French again. Open the door and tell us what's the matter'. The current one is 'Keep the Peace'. I am not going to have my two closest friends and best officers snark each other into a foul temper.

Both men look over at me, then nod once, relaxing back into their chairs as our serving girl arrives. Nellie isn't the prettiest girl in the place, but she is the most efficient and one of the few who does not try to flirt with us constantly, which is why I approve of her and ask for her over the other girls. She treats every sailor in here like a gentleman, which has the surprising effect of making even the most lewd linesman stand up from his chair for her.

Her auburn curls bounce as she maneuvers her rotund form around the table, smiling as she delivers the heavy food platters for Andrew and Jonathan easily. "Here you are, Lieutenants -- why Commodore Norrington!" Her Irish brogue rolls pleasantly as she turns to me. "Y'snuck right in when I wasn'nae lookin'."

"My apologies, Nellie." I incline my head respectfully, sitting up a bit straighter. "I shall try to scare a few pirates into announcing my presence next time."

She laughs, sweeping her plump hands over her apron. "What can I be gettin' you, sir?"

I open my mouth to order something simple, when Andrew interrupts. "He'll have the stew, Nellie. A big steaming bowl of it."

"Plus a few thick slices of bread, cheese, some fruit if you have it ... and of course ale," Jonathan adds, waving a chicken leg in the air.

Nellie giggles at the rather stumped expression I must have on my face, nodding her curly head firmly. "Aye then, sirs. I'll be back with yer ale in a moment, Commodore."

I flex my lips into a thin smile, before I turn to eye my friends. "What -exactly- was that all about?"

"You haven't been eating. -Again-," Jonathan says matter-of-factly. "This is our insurance to make sure that you do."

"What, order a great bulk of food and force it down my throat?" I say dryly.

They exchange a glance, then shrug as they speak as one. "That was the general plan of action, if necessary."

I glance up to the ceiling, sigh in exasperation, then give them what they like to call the 'I cannot believe you are being -this- mothering' look. "I am not a goose to be stuffed, gentlemen."

"Geese usually have enough common sense not to let themselves starve to death," Andrew says dryly, as he cuts off a slice of pear. "They also sleep enough hours every night, not working until exhaustion claims them."

"I was unaware geese -kept- regular work hours," I snort, shifting in my chair a little.

"-You- don't keep regular working hours." Jonathan shakes his head with a wry expression. "You've thrown yourself into this latest set of orders like a madman, but even then there are times when you simply aren't -here-, James."

"You're distant," Andrew chimes in.

"Preoccupied."

"Perturbed."

"Downright ... what is that word when you spend half your time scowling at the wall for no rational reason?" Jonathan turns to Andrew, lips puckering into a frown.

My fingers rise up to start massaging my temples slowly. "-Broody-, perhaps?"

"That is it, exactly!" Jonathan slaps his hand down on the table. "Broody as one of the gargoyles on some Catholic church, in fact."

"Of -course- I am." I let out an exacerbated sound, leaning forward. "Now listen ... " I trail off as Esme saunters up, all saucy smiles for Jonathan and Andrew as she puts three mugs of ale in front of us.

"What's all this, then?" Jonathan asks in bewilderment, as all three of us stare at the mugs incomprehensibly.

Esme tosses her dark, wavy hair as she nods towards my 'friends' at the table in the corner, where the robust man is still holding court. "My gentleman friend in the fine boots sends his compliments, Commodore. Apparently, he's an admirer."

Jonathan and Andrew share an amused look as I clear my throat, feeling a little embarrassed. "My... compliments to the gentleman, then."

"That's not all tho', sir." Esme flashes me the biggest smile in her possession. "He says for the cost of one real laugh from you, he'll buy the entire pub a round, and give each girl a gold sovereign besides."

My eyebrows gather together at that. "I see. And my state of humor concerns him, -because-...?"

"Don't know about that, Commodore. He just said no one should look that broody drinking with his mates." Esme shrugs, tossing her hair once more.

I close my eyes and grit my teeth, preparing myself to send Esme back with a scathing reply of what Mister Boots could do with his 'broody' money, when Jonathan spoke up. "Tell him we accept the offer, and to have his gold ready."

Esme bounces off with a knowing wink over her shoulder to both lieutenants. I narrow my gaze on Jonathan. "Oh -should- he now?"

"He should indeed." Jonathan grinned devilishly, as he threw a glance Andrew's way. "Are -you- pondering what -I'm- pondering, Cris?"

Andrew's dark eyes glow, as he rises from his chair, rapping on the table loudly, cutting off conversations and the like. He smirks a bit at me, before speaking to the pub at large. "-Gentleman-sailors-, may I have your attention? Due to the course of a wager made to us, we would like to honor you, and our Commodore, with a ballad. You all know it..."

I sit up straight in my chair as I look between them, alarm clear in my voice. "No. NO. You two are NOT singing..."

"'The Stupid Pirate Song'!" Jonathan calls out loudly, drawing sudden cheers from almost every corner of the room.

"Our apologies, James, but I -think- you've been out-voted again," Andrew says innocently, smiling. I say nothing, but scowl darkly at him. Dratted Parliamentarians, the both of them.

Jonathan sits on the table, starts beating out a rhythm on the wood, and every man and barmaid started beating it out with him. After a moment, Marcus claps his meaty hand in time on the countertop.

I rub the bridge of my nose, and sigh in aggravation. "You utter bast -"

"Ooooooooooooooooh..." Andrew's first high note neatly cuts me off, as he smirks at me, then moves around to address the crowd, who cheers loudly. He bows deeply, singing, "When I was but a wee lad, My father asked me.."

"He was a bit of a scrawny fellow," Jonathan whispers dramatically, getting quite a few snickers. "Still is. Sarcasm stunts growth, did you know that?"

Andrew throws a Look at Jonathan, and continues. "...Boy Where shall your fortunes be had?

I looked up at him, Then out to the glorious sea I said, not being shy Father, there is I want to be A man of honor, awash in bravery A man... Of the British Royal Navy."

"Huzzah! Huzzah!" Murtogg and Mullroy cheer together, and there comes the slapping of hands against the table in response. Even I, seated here and glowering, smile a little and slap my hand a few times against the wood. Not that I'm enjoying the song, mind you. No. Just paying fitting tribute to the Navy, of course.

Andrew holds up his hand to slowly bring the raucous stomping to a halt. A true bard, as he continues with the next line in a flawless baritone. "My father, he beamed with pride. He clapped me on the shoulder, saying Then to these words, my son, you must abide.

Keep your ears clean Keep wanton ladies at bay To your lessers never be mean Your Captain, always obey..."

"Two out of four isn't bad." Jonathan interjected once more, drawing more laughs and yes, dammit, another smile from me.

Andrew hit him with another glare, singing, "And don't smack your friends upside their skulls, even when they are being As thick as the seagulls."

Chortles erupted everywhere, while Jonathan smirks and stirs Andrew onward by beating on the table a bit more slowly. Andrew's voice takes a bit of a more solemn tone. "And this... most important all...

There are predators on the ocean Who lie, steal, and cheat. Of morals, they have no notion So heed these words, Avoid the clever ones For they'll have your head. If you're lucky? They won't kill you ... COMPLETELY dead."

Jonathan and the others picked in with Andrew, as they all sing. "Oh, but they'll come back for more! Every day, oh yes, every day Pray foooor...

Stupid Pirates! Stupid Pirates! Let them be poxed Let them be dotty Let them have the wits of a rock They're so MUCH easier to jail When they don't know a rig From a mainsail. Let them be addled Let them be slow Let them be thick A uneducated lout One I can trick Is what I am ALL about Oh please Lord, grant me Stupid Piraaaaaaates!"

Andrew takes a seat atop the table then, while Jonathan rises to the fore, to much applause. My gaze drifts over to where Mister Boots was, and I am surprised to see him beating out the tune with one of his fine black boots. Interesting..

Jonathan is a tenor, and when he sings his first note, the barmaids sighed happily. He winks over at them, then curls into the song like he was born to it. "Now I'm a fine Lieutenant.. I sail from port to port To enemies I make war, To the pretties I see, I make love..."

"Read, -attempts- to," Andrew says innocently, as the sailors burst into sniggers.

"Ah-Em." It is Jonathan's turn to glower over his shoulder, before continuing on. "I've fought quite a few Spaniards And I've crossed swords with the French. I've killed some right evil bastards

Oh, but those pirates are the worst They'll mock you all the way to prison Until your temper is ready to burst They're mean as vipers They'll steal your boots Steal your sword, your wife's bonnet Steal your bloody boat Probably while you're still on it!

I'll take all of King Phillip's forces And old King Louie rising from the grave I'll dine with the Devil himself Through all seven courses..."

"And he'll even remember how to behave." Andrew tilts his copper head, grinning from ear to ear.

Jonathan gives Andrew a friendly cuff of the ear, as he keeps singing. "I'll do anything, oh dear Lord But you have any mercy And really aren't that bored? Please see if you can forsee Sending me lots, and lots oooof.."

The chorus is taken up again, with as much gusto as before. Not that I'm humming along with them, or anything. Don't be ridiculous.

"Stupid Pirates! Stupid Pirates! Let them be morons Let them be silly buggers Let them ALL be twits I'll forever love their mothers. If they dropped their sons on their heads (Just a little bit!) Let them be confused Let them be cockeyed Let them be cogswallowed I'll let go my pride At all my sharp discernings If I could just have a pirate With no formal school learnings Oh Dear Lord, give me Stupid Pirates!"

Andrew and Jonathan glance at each other as the crowd keeps up the beat, and both of them raise their eyebrows together wickedly. Then they come to either side of my chair, taking an arm apiece. "Your turn, James!"

"... My what!? Oh no. NO. I am not helping with this ridiculous ..." I say, attempting to protest as they flop me back down atop the table before the crowd. I stare at the cheering, drunken mix of men before me, then over at Andrew. "You cannot be serious."

"Your adoring public awaits, Commodore," Andrew says solemnly, although the twinkle in his eyes belies that.

I glare between them, but I am stuck. Even Mister Boots seems to have sat up, and although I can't see his face I know he's waiting. So I clear my throat, as my mind scrambles to throw together some sort of verse. ".... They call me the Predator of Predators Those clever pirates fiends They call me a determined cur Who never backs off Once I've sank my fangs in

Yet even I will freely admit Without one hint of pride I prefer a pirate With less wit on his side."

The crowd bursts into a cheer, and I feel something in me loosen as I fall into the rhythm of the song. Jonathan and Andrew are on either side of me, grinning their fool heads off and clapping in time. I clear my throat, smiling despite myself. I have not the clear tenor of Jonathan, or the flowing baritone of Andrew, but I sit in the middle, making the tune my own.

"Now you may assume that I despite all evidence Can always through the lies Oh, but I can't always see through the bragging they do What's right in front of me. I've been fooled by quite a few Of the piratey crop. Probably why to them I wish A short stop and a sudden drop Every pirate I meet, I take them to the gallows Then I look to the sky And beg..."

I pause, and solemnly put my hands together, looking skyward as I say dryly, "For NO MORE -Jack Sparrows-."

The entire pub erupts into laughter, while Jonathan and Andrew whistle appreciatively. I look between them, resting a hand on each of their shoulders. "So let us all pray, mates.."

They grin in return, leaning in as we all sing as one, "Stupid Pirates! Stupid Pirates! Let them be besotted Let them be foolish Let them be idiotic I want a fish To have more cunning Than the dirty blackgards Who keep me running..."

"Let them be thick..." Jonathan sings, holding his arms wide.

"Let them be dumb..." Andrew chimes in after.

"And if you are a Kind God, Dear Lord ..." I put one hand to my chest, as the three of us exchange a glance, then grin broadly, as we all belt out the last line together, standing up and stomping on the floor. "Let Them ALL Be SWAGGED On RUM!"

"Stupid Pirate, Stupid Pirates. Stuuuuuuuuuuuuuuupid Piraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatteeeeeees!" The rest of the pub sings out, loud and boisterous, before bursting into applause. From corners of the room I can hear the roaring cheer of 'Huzzah, Huzzah!'. Jonathan, Andrew and I turn to each other with mock solemnity and bow, before we all fall into laughter.

There's a sudden hush in the air, and I turn just as a large bag goes arcing across the expanse of tables to land in Esme's waiting hands. She opens it up, and lets out a whoop as she produces a handful of gold coins, more than enough to cover the next few rounds. The barmaids all scramble to get their sovereigns as the men let out another hearty cheer. Free ale always warms up the masses.

Jonathan claps me lightly on the shoulder. "I'm going to go fetch our own share of the winnings from Mr. Chip. I'll be back in a moment."

Andrew drops into a chair with the same sharp grace in which he does everything, smiling at me broadly. "You should take this opportunity to go thank our benefactor. After all, admirers come and go, but those who are willing to buy the liquor are few and far between."

"I suppose so...." My lips quirk up into a smile as I run my hand across my brow, wiping the sheen of sweat away. I turn towards the pub, over to the corner, and blink with surprise. The table is empty, but my eyes catch movement towards the door. The caramel skinned lad is the one who catches my attention as he removes his -- her? hat, letting long black silky hair tumble down her back. Well, I didn't expect that. She is keeping close to the robust man who darts his eyes around as he lifts a flask to his lips ... ah! The memory which has eluded me hits me as our eyes meet. Mr Gibbs, drummed out of the Navy for drinking, ironically enough. Mr Gibbs, whose eyes widen as he leans forward to tap on the fellow in front of him, whispering fiercely.

The fellow in the ratty old coat, that swings lyrically in time off his hips. The fellow with the.. almost musical swagger. The fellow in the faded black tri-cornered hat that rests atop a ... wild assortment of ...dark hair ...colored beads and ... finery...

..No.

NO!

"STOP RIGHT THERE, SPARROW!" My tone sounds like it has come from the depths of Fury itself, as my fists clench voluntarily into tight fists. Hm. I Wonder Why I Am So Angry.

Around me, the pub suddenly stills, and I can hear Andrew's exhalation of breath and a sharp French curse as he rises to his feet. Someone drops their drink, and there is the sharp scraping of chairs on wood as people mindfully move out of the way. I am sure it is quite the dramatic scene, but my eyes are locked on -him-.

Jack Sparrow turns, a graceful twisting of legs and body, his new boots grinding into the floor. His head is lowered, and his hat covers his face, but I can see the braided beard - the sparkling red beads in both plaits. His head starts to rise, slowly, and his mouth appears. My insides twist at the sight of those lips, where a glimmer of gold flashes. Then his fey features - the fine nose, the high cheekbones, the planes of golden skin - all as I remember them.

Finally, I can see his eyes. Those dark, lustrous eyes - always unreadable, lined with kohl that makes them all the more indiscernible. They flash, and then flame to life.

In this moment, we are alone, and I fancy that above the thrumming of my own heart I can hear his own beating in time with mine. His lips part, and he wets them lightly with his tongue. He says nothing, just looks at me, his gaze burning into mine, and his expression of a starved man stumbling unto a feast. Yet, as soon as the look appears it fades within the mask of his face - naked emotion covered with caution and wariness.

I believe ... yes. For a moment there, I had forgot how to breathe properly. I exhale slowly, and he tracks the movement with his eyes, almost greedily. The very air seems to be charged with something more that I dare not speak of, and he seems incapable of forming the words.

"You both know the rules." Marcus's voice is like a dash of cold water on my face. I break my gaze with Sparrow to look at the tavern keeper, who nods curtly at Andrew, who has drawn his pistol, then over to the girl, who now has a rather large blade in her small, slender hand.

I glance back at Andrew, my curt tones shaking me even further from my ...mental abstraction. "Put it away, Lieutenant." Andrew's cheek twitches, but he obeys immediately.

Sparrow does nothing more than tilt his head towards the young lady, and she puts the blade away with curses in her dark eyes. Sparrow turns to smile at me, even though he addresses Marcus. "Have no fear, Mr. Chip. The Commodore knows I didn't come here for a fight."

Royal Naval Officers never panic. It is practically biblical canon law. Faced with the pirate who has haunted my dreams and is currently ravishing me with his dark eyes might send a lesser man screaming out of this pub, but I am James L. Norrington, Commodore. I hold my ground, and in fact take a step forward to close in on him, my voice filled with steel. "You have only until I reach that door, -Sparrow-, to get out of Port Royale. I don't -fancy- your chances, but Mr. Chip's rules shall be respected."

That last line stills Andrew's movement at my side, and Jonathan's efforts to edge closer to the door. The corners of the pirate's mouth curve upwards, flashing gold as he looks around, tone merry. "I recall you sayin' the same the last time we met, Commodore. Didn't -exactly- pan out the way you planned." His eyes lock with mine once more.

I can feel my expression hardening against that knowing look, as I move another two steps forward, grinding out the words. "Your window of escape is quickly closing, Sparrow, and this time you have no brandy bottle to waylay me."

"Oh, I can find other ways t'distract you, Norrington." Sparrow smirks, even as his two companions tug him back towards the door. "How-Ever, the timing is not ...opportune enough. No profit in me hangin' about, now is there?"

"Quite." I watch, as he retreats as far as the door, biting back the urge to run the last few steps and tackle him to the ground. Strangle him. Put my hands on him ...to obviously, to send him off to prison.

He pauses as the door is swung open, as Gibbs and the girl slip out, arching an eyebrow in my direction. "Be seein' you, Commodore." He puts his hands together, flashing me a knowing smile that makes that phrase not an innocent parting shot, but a promise to be kept.

The door closes with an audible click, and I finally spring forward, a hunting dog let off his leash. Orders spring from my lips as I stride towards the door angrily. "Gillette, our hats and wigs. Bush, with me. Pistols out when we gain the door. Mr. Murtogg, Mr. Mullroy, sound the general alarm."

To the chorus of 'Aye Sir!', I shove the door open, and step into the dusk coated street, pistol in my grip. I scan the street, but my only company is a confused looking dog down the way. The docks are empty, and still.

He's gone. Completely gone. Vanished, as in his dramatic way, into thin air. I make a noise close to a snarl. "-Damn- you, Sparrow."

The door opens behind me with a series of bangs - the first is Jonathan joining me, pistol drawn - then Murtogg and Mullroy flashing me a quick salute before dashing towards the fort - lastly Andrew, pressing my hat and wig into my grasp.

"I want a search on for Sparrow." I say grimly, as I shove my pistol back into my coat, before straightening my wig. "I sincerely doubt we'll find him lounging about under a palm tree, waiting for us with open arms. -However-, let us make it -clear- we are not just letting him walk about Port Royale whenever his fancy strikes him. Double the guard tonight - maybe we shall hit upon some luck and he will trip over an extra patrol."

"Yes Commodore." It is all business between the three of us again, and it is Lieutenant Bush, not Jonathan, who speaks up. "Sir, might I recommend you return to your home with a posted guard on duty?"

I frown deeply at him. "Explain, Lieutenant, why I should be confined to quarters while Sparrow runs amok on my docks?"

"Because, Commodore, -you- are the one Sparrow is obviously here to harass." Bush says firmly, his brown eyes serious. "I don't know why - but he's set his sights on you as his target, and I personally fear for your safety."

"I have to concur with Bush on this. He was obviously lying in wait for you here." Gillette added, his darker eyes flashing. "He's come for hunting you, sir. For whatever purpose, although I think nothing good of his intentions."

My guts clench momentarily at Gillette's words, followed by the roaring sense of anticipation once again rolling through my veins. Strange, they think he comes to harm me, yet I know he comes for something else entirely. So why does that unnerve me more? I let out a sharp breath, then nod my head once. "Agreed. After all, I wouldn't put it past Sparrow to try and kidnap me from the deck of the -Dauntless- itself. Report back to me anything of importance."

The relief is almost palpable on their faces, and as Murtogg and Mullroy return with a contingency of guards, I order the two marines to follow me back to my home, leaving the search in Gillette's reliable hands. A snippet of conversation catches on the wind and reaches my ears as I walk in front of the two marines. Murtogg, by the hushed whisper. "...d'you really think Captain Sparrow'd try to kidnap the Commodore right from under our noses?"

"Wouldn't put it past him." Mullroy returns. "I mean, after all mate! He was sitting not two feet away from US the entire time. Never can trust them pirates. Always sneaking up and buying you rounds of drinks, and when you aren't looking? Bam! They steal your commanding officer while you're knocking back the ale they so kindly put before you."

"Do you think we'll get in trouble, for drinking his ale? I mean - it being pirate ale?" Murtogg says, and then his voice gets more frantic. "Could we get -hung- for drinking his pirated spirits??"

"Well that's just the daftest thing I've ever heard. It's not like he -stole- the liquor in our cups. He bought the drinks, and we drunk 'em without knowing they came from a pirate. They can't hang you for that." A pause. "I think."

I let out a sigh, resisting an urge to rub the bridge of my nose, then raise my voice firmly. "We cannot hang you for drinking ale bought by pirates, Mr. Murtogg. After all, he did buy a round for the entire pub, and that is a lot of men and women to send pointlessly dancing on the gallows."

There is a long moment of silence, just our boots clacking against the cobblestones, before Mullroy whispers. "See? What did I tell you?"

"...But he could be lying, though, couldn't he?" Murtogg whispers back.

I mut resist the urge to turn around and smack them. I must. They are not being wilfully ignorant. Like the answer to a prayer - my home looms before us. A modest two story house with a pleasant garden in the back - nowhere near the grand opulence of the Governor's mansion - but the space is mostly occupied with my books and my work. It is, sadly, a bachelor's home, simplistic in furniture and other such knick-knacks, made of the plaster and wood of the local builders. I pause by the large front door, and turn to the marines, my eyes narrowing. "Murtogg - on the back door. Mullroy on the front. No-one beyond Lieutenant Gillette or Lieutenant Bush is allowed through those doors until morning. Understood?"

"Yes sir!" Both men sharply salute, and I step inside. It's late, so the cook and the maid have probably gone home for the evening. The only other occupant to the house is my manservant Lucien, and he sleeps like the dead until the hour of seven, where he mysteriously arises completely awake and aware of my needs no matter what they are. Therefore there is little need to be quiet as I close the door behind me, and walk up the winding staircase. Moving towards my bedchambers, I lose myself in thought.

He has come back. Did I really expect him not to? After all - he is a man of his word. Now the question that remains is what the hell am I going to do about it?

'Arrest him', is my first thought. 'Bellow at him, good and proper.' Is the second. It is when I get to the third and fourth thoughts that I start to get mired. 'Ask him what he meant by that kiss. Why would he come back for me. What Does He Want From Me?'

'What do -I- want from -him-?' My fingers brush against my mouth, and that kiss - that -damned- unforgettable kiss, spins through my thoughts again. Yet again, my mind reaches the same conclusion that I have been trying so desperately to ignore, forget, and shove aside.

I unquestionably liked it. I -liked- Jack Sparrow kissing me. I liked the shape of his lips pressed against mine, liked the way it made me feel. That was a kiss that made me feel wanted. No, more than that. -Desired-.

My cheeks flush with the shame of that thought, as I shove open the door to my quarters, jerking off my coat. Had it just been a matter of myself being attracted to other men, or just accepting the kiss as just a kiss meant to distract me, it would be different. There is the Church and our Almighty Lord to pray to for forgiveness for the craving of the flesh.

But I have never been drawn to other men. I am not even drawn to women anymore, beyond my constant love for Elizabeth. Not like that. Definitely not like this. What is it about Jack Sparrow that infuriates me, enrages me, yet is drawing me in now? What happened on that cliff's edge changed the Commodore and the Pirate Captain to ... something else. Something more complicated. Hunter and hunted have entwined to the point where I am not sure whom is chasing whom anymore. Or for what purpose.

I hang my coat up, moving about my room. A fire is laid out for me, so I pick up the flint box and set it aflame, to chase away the evening's chill. Then I dip one of the candles into the fire carefully to light it, to cast light around the room. I murmur to myself as I carry the candlestick carefully, "A little illumination never hurt anyone."

I snort softly at the very thought, and over to my dresser, setting the candle atop it as I remove my sheathed sword from my waist, leaning it against the wall. Pacing back past my french-styled windows that are open to the sight of the bay awash in the evening, over to the fireplace once again. Lucien has kindly left me a small basket of apples, knowing that this particular fruit is my favorite. A shipment must have come in on one of the merchant ships, so I must thank Lucien for having the mind to buy some before they were all plucked up. Picking one up, I roll the round, red fruit between my hands, listening to the whip and the snap of the curtains in the breeze, feeling restless and sharp around the edges.

Which is the point where I suddenly recall two things.

Lucien never leaves my windows open.

Jack Sparrow never uses doors.

I spin around, looking for my sword, but then the voice I dread to hear whispers through the darkness. "I wouldn't try if I were you, love."

My gaze shifts towards the shadows near my bed, as Sparrow slowly detaches from them, that ready grin of his appearing as he hefts his very sharp blade in my general direction. "Now did you forget that I was comin' for you? After I gave you that nice lil' reminder in the pub 'n all."

I swallow the swell of emotions rising in me, speaking curtly. "I didn't forget. There are two armed guards below, Sparrow. You'll never get out of here without raising the alarm."

"Ah, but why would I be worried about a little alarm when I have the fine Commodore as my prisoner?" Sparrow purrs, moving another two steps forward.

"You don't have me yet." My eyes narrow on him, even as I take a step back, quietly cursing myself for taking off my sword. It's there next to the dresser, temptingly close, but Sparrow stands between myself and its comforting weight.

Sparrow smirks, tilting his head slightly, making the dice in his hair click together. "Ah, but you have no weapon... " He pauses, then peers behind me at the fireplace carefully, then lets out a sigh of what sounds like relief. "Aye. You have no weapon."

I look around for a moment, then lamely but firmly hold up the apple in my hand. "I have -this-."

Sparrow leans on one of the posts of my bed for a moment, his coat and shirt opening to reveal a hint of that golden chest. I stand a little straighter, dragging my gaze upwards to his face, but he catches my look, and the smirk widens. "Ooh. An apple. 'N just what are you going to do with that, love? Eat it in front of me?" The dark eyes flash and flare, like cannon fire in the dead of night. "I'm -quiverin'- with fright."

Fury overcomes my confusion and just about everything else he is making me feel, and I pull my arm back and throw the apple at him with all my might. His eyes widen almost comically as the apple launches at him, and he barely has time to throw up his hand before it smacks him square in the middle of his forehead, sending him tumbling. I let out a viciously pleased sound as I swoop down and pull my sword out of its sheath, holding it at the ready.

Sparrow sits up, holding one hand to his forehead, groaning softly. I can almost hear his teeth grit together as he snarls at me, "... again with the bloody throwin'. Always, ALWAYS the bloody throwin'. Do you LIKE to see me flat on m'arse, man?"

"Sparrow. Sparrow. -Sparrow-." I swing my blade, letting its sharpened edge catch the light as I smirk at him. "You take it for granted that I care a tuppence about your arse to begin with."

Sparrow cocks his head slightly as he looks up at me, then a slow smile works over his face. He rolls to his feet easily, swinging his blade in front of him. "Jamie-lad, if y'don't like m'arse, then -why- do you keep lookin' at it?"

"I am -lipreading-." My smirk fades into a scowl, and I snap at him in return, circling around him carefully. "And do -not- call me 'Jamie'."

"Oh, do you have a preference, then, on your bedroom name? How 'bout Love? Or ...Pet? Darlin'?" He moves forward, sliding his blade across mine, dark eyes flashing with wicked mirth. "-Sweetcheeks-?"

All right. That does it. A man can only take so much before he is forced to violence, and 'Sweetcheeks' is my limit. I let out a growl and clash our blades together violently. "Do not assume, -Sparrow-, that one kiss makes ours a bedroom affair to begin with!"

"So are you admitting we're havin' an affair then, Jamie?" Sparrow asks innocently, as he parries my blows.

"I admit nothing of the kind!" I shift my arm, making our blades grind against each other again. "I am -merely- pointing out that you are assuming as much... and stop calling me Jamie!"

"Oh love - there's nothing really to assume, is there?" Sparrow does a quick two-step, and I am forced to parry quickly. "I mean, here you are ... here I am. I've come back for you and I -know- you haven't forgotten that kiss."

"Again you're assuming, Sparrow." I take a step backwards, giving myself more room to maneuver. Not that there is much room to begin with. My bedroom is not exactly palatial. However, I am well accustomed in fighting in closed quarters, thanks to all my time with William.

One eyebrow arches on Sparrow's face. "Well if you've forgotten, love, you seem to be getting upset over a great deal of nothin'."

"I haven't forgotten! How could I -possibly- forget you kissing me to distract me from the fact you were going to bludgeon me with a brandy bottle!?" I growl, thrusting forward with my sword, causing him to move backwards.

"Ah-HAH! I -knew- you were still miffed over that." Sparrow's grin flickers back on. "Oh, Jamie-love, I had to escape. Short of draggin' you over the cliff with me, the brandy bottle was just more convenient. The kiss, however .." and his expression softens in the glowing light from the fire. "The kiss was somethin' else entirely."

This brings me pause, and I watch him warily as we circle each other once more. "Oh, so I suppose if my men hadn't come crashing through the bushes, things would have 'turned out differently', is that it?"

"Quite so, love. For one, I would have waited t'see how you kissin' me back would have felt. I do regret not havin' the opportunity to find out." His smile is damningly inviting. "Until now, that is."

"And just what is -that- supposed to imply?" I snort a little, but I find out all too soon as he suddenly shifts his footing and his hold on his sword, forcing me to swing mine up to block it sideways. He uses the leverage to shove me backwards into a table I use for my paperwork, and the jolt of my back hitting it sends papers flying everywhere. I open my mouth, hissing out at the pain. Which is when, of course, he kisses me.

Kisses me. As if his kiss is something polite and quaint, like a kiss to one's mother. Jack Sparrow is incapable of sociable kisses. His lips -devour- mine, burning and hungry, as his sword holds me there. His free hand snakes around my wigged head and pulls me closer, raising a gasp from me. The man is not one to waste an opportunity, apparently, for his tongue slips between my open lips and tastes slowly, while he coaxes my lips to move against his.

Dear God, his mouth is so very hot...

I shift my head slightly, grazing our mouths together roughly and a little moan emerges from his throat. I feel a rather pleased tingle at that, coming from my chest and right down to my stomach. The pride lasts until I realize just what exactly I am doing. I am kissing the damned pirate. I am -kissing- the -damned- pirate because he is -making- me -kiss- him.

'NO!' my mind rebels, 'This Will Not Be Accepted.' I jerk my head away, gasping for breath, for air, for control. "I ... am not being taken!" I am not -exactly- sure to which 'taken' I am to referring to at the moment, but I assure myself that I mean all of possible connotations of the word.

" ... How about a little takin'? A bit? A smidgen?" If I wasn't here to hear it myself, I would never believe that Jack Sparrow could -make- a whining noise like the one I am hearing right now.

"No!" I growl, attempting to push him off, even though balance is on his side, and my own body is trying to betray me. "I ... won't ... let ...you!"

"Alright, alright! I'll make a deal with you. -One- more kiss, and I swear on the -Pearl- I won't take you." Sparrow grunted, pushing back, before adding. "Against your will, that is."

I pause for a moment, considering that. One more kiss couldn't ... absolutely not! If I weaken now he'll know he can take more whenever he wants to. You give Jack Sparrow a bloody inch and he ravages you in your bedroom. I have height on him which is slowly gaining me the advantage, at any rate, so I keep shoving.

"I said .... NO!" With one more push, I heave him backwards, holding out my sword to keep him at bay. I am panting breathlessly, from the effort and, I am ashamed to say, from his kisses. "Not ...without MY permission, Jack. -Never- ... without permission."

Emotion flits across Sparrow's face - brief anger, comprehension, surprising (to me) understanding, admiration, and the return of the fire from before, but purer somehow. He nods his head slowly, dropping his sword to his side. "Right you are, Jamie-love. No takin' without your say-so."

Good... wait. "That is ... would you STOP calling me ... I never said ..I mean I didn't mean that you ... Jamie??" Hm. I believe I am a trifle muddled at the moment.

That smile of his appears, gently amused. "Jamie. Only fair if you get to call me Jack, love."

Did I call him Jack? I did. Damnation. My lips part to say .. what, I have not a clue, but there is the sound of a door crashing open from within my house, and Mullroy's voice from a distance. "Sir? Sir?! Is everythin' all right? I thought I heard somethin'!"

I take a step back, into the table, as I force my thoughts into a comprehensive pattern. Right. Sparrow is here. I need to open my mouth, call for assistance, and throw this blackguard behind bars where he belongs.

Just need to open my mouth.

Make a sound.

Make -any- sound.

Sparrow lets out a little curse, eying the door, then me, then his escape route. His gaze flickers back to me longingly, and without warning he darts forward, sword swinging around to knock mine away. I glare at him, wary and ready to defend myself, or fend him off if he tries to use me as a prisoner. "I'm not going anywhere with you, -pirate-."

Oh, NOW I can speak. Sigh.

"Oh love, trust me. Sooner or later, you'll go wherever I go." He smiles slowly, and instead of grabbing me, he smoothes the back of his fingers across my cheek. Whenever he leans in close like this, I am always a little thrown off. As if his very presence is setting my common sense and discipline neatly on my ear...

Pressing in further, he curves his lips around mine for another kiss. Completely unlike the others, yet not lacking in passion. A gentle, thoughtful kiss. More like a nuzzling of lips, really. A careful feeling, as if he wants to savor my mouth like chocolate...

GODDAMN IT! I am letting him KISS me again! I let out a snarl, moving to push him away. "BLAST YOU TO HELL, SPARROW, I SAID NO!"

There is the slightest 'snick' sound as his sword slides away from me and my shirt, and he holds up one of the buttons to my vest in his fingers, easily pocketing it with a grin as he moves backwards towards the still open window. "Now, Commodore - you said no takin'. I didn't hear a WORD 'bout kissin'."

I let out a strangled noise of frustration as I search for my sword. Grabbing it from the floor, I race towards the window after him, but he has already dropped down below, crushing an innocent bush, dashing for the back wall. I bellow, half-tempted to leap after him. "Sparrow! SPARROW! HALT IN THE NAME OF THE LAW!"

He pauses atop the wall itself, looking back at me. He winks, cups one hand around his mouth, calling back gaily. "Wish I could, Jamie-love, but I've got a previous engagement to attend to! Enjoy the apples! Try not to throw -all- of them, eh?"

I blink once, then twice with surprise, turning towards the basket of apples. -He- brought them?? But how did he even know ... My confused thoughts are interrupted by the late entrance of Mullroy and Murtogg, bursting through the bedroom door. Panting, they swing their muskets around expertly, then move over to join me at the window. We all look out, watching as Sparrow gets further and further away. Murtogg hefted his weapon, trying to still sight Sparrow. "Should we open fire, sir?"

I sigh in anger, leaning one hand on the side of the window. "No - he's well out of range and we wouldn't want to put shot into an innocent bystander. Go find Lieutenant Gillette, have them run a patrol through the area."

"...What about you, sir? We shouldn't leave you here unprotected." Mullroy asks, a frown working over his round face. Murtogg nods his head fervently in agreement, worry apparent on his homely expression.

The concern from both of them is genuine, and my previous ire from earlier melts with it. I close and lock my window, before looking at them with a faintly wry expression. "It's all right, Mr. Mullroy. I do believe Captain Sparrow has had his fun with me. Not as much as he would have liked - thanks to your quick action - but I doubt sincerely he'll be back this evening." 'And if he is, I will shoot him myself', I add silently.

The two men look at one another, then back at me. Seeing that I am in no mood to retract my orders, they salute, and leave slowly and reluctantly. I have no doubts they will hold their weapons at the ready all the way down to the docks, and I feel a dollop of pity for any poor alley cat that might cross their paths. I follow both marines down, making sure to lock the door firmly behind them as they go. Then I return to my chambers, closing and locking that door as well. Strange, now I feel safer locking. If I hadn't locked it before, Murtogg and Mullroy never would have been able to get in here and stop Sparrow from taking even -more- liberties with my person.

Blasted ... which is not something to be -regretted-, for heavens sake! I turn to stare at the basket of apples, then my eyes scan the floor to find the one that I pegged Sparrow with. It rolled under the bed, and I lean over, picking it up thoughtfully. How did he know I loved apples? Barring the answer to that - why in the world did he bring them? I put the apple atop the others, sigh, and strip off my clothing to prepare for bed.

'Nothing will be answered now,' I think to myself, pulling my nightshirt on over bare skin. 'Sleep will relieve my worries.' I put my head on my pillow, watching the firelight play across my ceiling. My last thoughts before sleep claims me are the smell of the apples near my bed, and his lips on mine. Some brief, unsettled fantasy about the two combined drags me into Morpheus's depths.

*******

Hours later, after what should be considered a 'restful' night's sleep, I am no closer to an answer then when I fell into bed. Preparing for the day ahead, I shave abstractedly - through some mercy of God not slicing my own throat open - and put on my uniform as Lucien lays it out for me, piece by piece. Sparrow or not, I -will- be setting sail today. That hasn't changed.

I leave my hat and my sword aside as I go into breakfast, putting the basket of apples down in front of me. Call it a whim, but I am keeping a close eye on these apples. I half expect them to be loaded with gunpowder, and explode all over me in a pulpy mess, however innocuously they sit there. I am still staring at them when Lucien enters the dining room and announces gravely that Miss Elizabeth Swann and Mister William Turner are here. I blink, then press my fingers to my forehead. Of course. Breakfast. I had forgotten all about it. "Show them in, Lucien, and have two more places set. They'll be joining me."

"Of course, Commodore." Lucien bows out of the room, and a moment later Elizabeth and William come through the door, all smiles, she in a fresh gown of light blue and he in his sturdy good brown suit.

"Good morning James! We heard there was some sort of excitement last night ... Oh, what lovely apples!" Elizabeth looks at the basket with a little longing. "Have we gotten a fresh supply of fruit over from the colonies? I'll have to ask Father if we can buy some for the house."

I am about to respond when I catch William's expression. He has stopped dead, and his face is sheet-white all over as he stares at the apples. Suddenly it clicks together in my head, and I rise from my chair. "You. YOU told him about the apples."

William's gaze lifts to mine, and he nods his head dazedly. "I did .. but .. I swear, James, I didn't think he ..." He pauses, and his eyes widen. "He didn't --? That wasn't why all the -- " My expression answers him, and he sinks into chair. "Oh Dear Lord ... -Jack!-"

"Jack? What does -Jack- have to do with -these- apples?" Elizabeth frowns, staring from one to the other. "What in the world are you two talking about?"

"When did you see him last?" I say, glaring still at William, not answering Elizabeth until I am sure of the answers themselves.

"Two nights past. He came by the shoppe to see me, and we got to talking about you after he asked how you and I were getting along." William sighed, rubbing his goatee. "I didn't even think about -why- he seemed so interested."

"Why didn't you -tell- me Jack Sparrow was in Port Royale?!" I lean forward on the table, glaring down at William, infuriated.

William gazes at me for long moment, before he replies dryly. "I am not quite sure, -Commodore-, why I did not tell you my pirate-friend was in town. Perhaps it just slipped my mind."

My glower deepens as Elizabeth throws up her hands in what must be frustrated confusion. "Would someone -please- tell me what Jack did?"

"Go on, William. Tell her." I cross my arms over my chest, sitting back down. "He is, after all, -your- pirate friend."

William lets out a sigh, looking sheepish. "... Apparently Jack decided that he needed to visit James and leave him these apples."

Elizabeth tilted her head, still baffled. "I don't see what could be wrong with that. I mean, it seems like a nice gesture for Jack to -" Comprehension comes over her face. "Oh."

"Yes. 'Oh'." I snort a little. "He went as far as to stalk me out at 'The Farthest Point'. I wonder -how- he knew I frequent there as well?" Sarcasm? Just a touch.

William twitches a little in his chair, looking decidedly like a pup whose nose has been smacked. Elizabeth sighs as she sits down next to her fiancée, taking his hand comfortingly. "Why don't you tell us the entire story, James? We won't feel properly horrified and contrite until we've found out just what -exactly- Jack's done this time around."

So I tell them, about the pub and the wager. About Sparrow's and my first confrontation, which led to our second. About the sword fight, the apple comment, and him disappearing into the night once more. I tell them everything, a torrent of angry, confused words.

Well, -almost- everything. I do leave out a few things. As in anything dealing with Sparrow's lips on my person. Or how I felt about having Sparrow's lips upon my person to being with. Little, -minor- details.

After I am through, all three of us sit back in our chairs. Elizabeth takes up one of the apples, and rolls it absentmindedly from one gloved palm to the other. It is William who finally breaks the silence. "Well, that really leaves me with just one question."

Lucien had come in with tea during the midst of my telling of last night's events, so I avail myself of a cup of tea as I ask dryly. "Just what sort of game does Sparrow think he's playing?"

"No ... it's fairly clear what Jack is about." William shrugs thoughtfully. "He is obviously courting you."

The apple drops from Elizabeth's grip, as I nearly choke on the rim of my teacup. This time around, it is Elizabeth and I who are in perfect sync. "-Courting-?!"

"Well, yes. ... in his own odd-strange-Jack-Sparrow way. Almost Shakespearean, really." William smiles a little, brown eyes glowing. "Planned meetings and tokens of affection, all that."

"William. Officers of the British Royal Navy are not -courted- by pirates," I say, eyes narrowing. "We arrest them. Quite often we hang them. We do -not- have romantic interludes in tea gardens -with- them. If nothing else, officers of the Royal Navy should be the ones who are doing the courting! ...Of young ladies. Yes, young ladies of respectable backgrounds."

"...But you aren't, James," Elizabeth says, picking the apple back up, raising one delicate eyebrow at me. "In fact, you haven't shown any interest in any woman for ages."

"That's not the -point-," I say shortly, waving one hand dismissively.

"Actually, it rather is." Elizabeth tilts her head a little, sending her curls sliding over her delicate neck. "I was on an island with Jack Sparrow for well over a day and a night. He preferred to use that time, besides making one very sorry attempt at being lewd, drinking. And I have heard enough tales about Jack Sparrow that if he wanted to ..." She said no more, but the implication is there.

"I was on a ship to Tortuga with him for three days. There were a few glances, but nothing more," William says with soft simplicity. "And Gibbs told me himself, 'If Jack takes it into your head to seduce you, you're seduced'."

"I fear I have missed some sort of vital piece of your logic. What does this have to do with me?" I ask wryly.

"It's simple, really. I don't know about Will, but I spent the entire time we were on the island talking about Will," Elizabeth says, a faint touch of pink to her cheeks. "I could almost -see- Jack's eyes glazing over at a few points."

"Jack said I was obsessed with treasure. Just not the kind made of silver and gold." William gently squeezes Elizabeth's hand. "Now I suppose the same could be said of him."

I look at them both quizzically, and Elizabeth smiles as she continues on. "You see, our hearts were already claimed. We belonged to each other long before we could say the words. Jack may be a thief of many things, but he doesn't take people's passions lightly. He knew there was no-one else for us in the world but each other, and he respected that. However, -your- heart is still your own, and Jack ...supposes he has as much a right to try and win it as anyone else."

"...Are you attempting to tell me that because I am 'unclaimed', Jack Sparrow means to call me his own?" I sit up, slowly, staring at them both. "I am not a .. a .. a piece of swag!"

"No, you are not. I think if anything, you are akin to the -Pearl- in Jack's mind." William leans forward himself.

"..I am akin to his -ship-. Oh, well, let me just fall into a swoon right at this moment. However can I resist such a -flattering- comparison," I answer caustically.

"James, do you have any -idea- what Jack went through to get the -Pearl- back?" William raises an eyebrow at me. I frown, shaking my head 'No', and he smirks as he holds up one finger for each point he makes. "He lied, he cheated, he attempted to sell me to Barbossa, fought undead pirates, fought me, fought Elizabeth, fought Fate, fought YOU. He's bled, sweated, gone mad and nearly got hung more than once just to get that -damned- ship back. There is -nothing- in this world or the next that he won't do. His focus on the -Pearl- as -his- and only -his- is legendary. They write songs about it, James. Very -long-, poignant songs that they bellow out at the top of their lungs, with the help of a great deal of rum. And you -know- how pirates love a good meaningful song and a bottle of rum."

"And now he is putting -all- that focus on getting -you-," Elizabeth says, as they both look at me with a faintly wry expression on their faces.

I swallow, glancing from her to William. Then I push myself up from my chair with a snort. "..That is the most -absurd- thing I have ever heard of. Honestly, you two. I think you can find better ways to keep Sparrow from getting hung than implying that he's smitten with me."

"Oh yes. The most preposterous story ever," William says softly, glancing over at Elizabeth with an unreadable expression.

"Precisely," I say firmly, folding my hands behind me, looking out the window to the street, although I am barely seeing anything before me.

"Absolutely silly. A story worthy of a child's fanciful imagination." Elizabeth pauses, then adds innocently. "SO why would we use such a story to keep Jack from the hangman's noose?"

"A liar I am not, but I think even -I- could spin a better tale, James. Especially to save Jack." I can hear the reproach in William's tones.

I turn back towards them, my voice sharp. "Do you two even realize what you are suggesting is considered -immorally- wrong? Honestly. Jack Sparrow trying to win my affections is about as improper as ... as .."

"A blacksmith marrying a Royal Governor's daughter?" Elizabeth's eyebrow lifts and she and William smile together with innocuous complacency.

I stop, momentarily abashed, before I say gruffly. "This isn't close to being the same thing."

"It's -Jack-, James, plain and simple, and he never seems to want to fit into whatever mold people come up for him." William holds out his hands wide in a helplessly amused gesture. "He goes where his heart takes him. In that aspect, he is the truest, wisest soul I know."

My lips press together, and a sigh escapes them. "Yes, but does he have to follow it into my bedroom?"

"If that is where -you- are..." Elizabeth's lips curve into a faint smile, as she and William rise as one. She comes over to me, giving my hand a warm squeeze. "I know you won't do this, but I have to say it. Even if it is as markedly -improper- as can be. Let yourself be loved, James. And do not measure the heart someone offers you freely purely on appearances, for you are the one who will lose in that. It is a harsh lesson to learn, and I have had my bitter share of it."

A wry expression fixes on my face, as I squeeze her hand gently within my own. "Again. Not exactly the same thing."

"Perhaps 'not the same' is just what you need, James. You've been cooped up in yourself a little too long," William says with a quiet smile, as he comes to clasp my other hand briefly in his own. "The question on my mind is, what are YOU going to do about it?"

Hm. I have vague feeling of deja vu.... "I will go out and attend to my duties, NOT let Sparrow serenade me under a balcony, that is what I will do," I retort, even as I give Elizabeth's hand another squeeze, before stepping away from both of them. They exchange a harried but bemused look, then I add. "Come, I'll see you to the door. My carriage has probably arrived by now to take me to the docks."

We walk together, and our last words are thankfully not of pirates, but wishes of good sailing and to keep safe. Now be-hatted and my sword clasped to my waist, I step into the carriage and settle myself in. William calls to me, and I lean out of the carriage window, raising one eyebrow. He tosses something bright red at me, and I open my hand as the apple hits my palm squarely.

"Food for thought," William says with a quiet smile, and then the carriage jerks to life, pulling me away from both of them. I stare after them, still standing on my stoop and waving, before leaning my head and arm back into the carriage, and eye the apple in my hand.

Sitting back against the soft cushioned seat of the carriage, I am thoughtful. The Turners know Jack Sparrow as anyone is allowed to. There ...-could- be a great deal of truth in what they say. The question is - and the question remains - yes, what will I do about it? How do I feel about this entire situation. I -never- imagined that -I- would be chased by a pirate. At least not romantically.

I should -not- feel flattered. Nor should I wonder what he has in store for the next time we cross paths. It's ridiculous, really, to give it a moment's more consideration than I already have. So why am I still thinking about him?

I press the apple to my mouth lightly, not biting into it, just resting its smooth skin against my lips. Bah.

The carriage jerks to a stop, and I feel the tap from above to let me know we've arrived. I step out, smoothing my sleeves as my sword bangs comfortably at my side, shoving the apple into my coat's pocket. Before me is a sea of red and blue coats working - lifting, patrolling. The -Falcon- sits at rest, bobbing on the slight eddied waves before me, a majestic ship. Light on the handling, and YES, the fastest ship on the ocean with a compliment of well over 50 guns, she is a sleek testament to English shipbuilding. I straighten a little as I look at her with no little pride. After the tragic loss of the -Interceptor-, I never thought to find another ship to match. I am happy to say I was completely wrong.

A wave of salutes greets me as I take my first few steps down the dock, and those increase the closer I get to the -Falcon-'s gangplank. As I walk aboard, a feeling of peace fills me like no other. The gentle rocking of the ship is my welcome as I step up to the quarterdeck, and I look up with an almost smile to watch the birds flit amongst the tall masts. This is where I belong, standing here as the salty air slaps against my face gently, watching the ocean roll out before me to the horizon, always the horizon. Wide-eyed and bright faced midshipmen part out of my way, saluting. I return them gravely as I step over to the helm of the ship, and reach out. My fingers smooth over the rough wooden wheel, with the gentleness of a lover's caress. 'Hello my -Falcon-, have you missed me?'

"Commodore, sir!" Gillette's brisk tones draw my gaze towards him, sharp and svelte in his first lieutenant's uniform as he stands aft on the quarterdeck. Bush, equally groomed in his second lieutenant's colors, stands rigidly at Gillette's side. Beneath the formalness of their demeanor, I can sense the tense edge to both of them.

Stepping towards them, I fold my hands behind me, nodding my head once at their salutes "Gillette. You have a report on Sparrow?"

"...Keen as always, sir." Gillette says, a wry flicker of a smile on his lips, and admiration in his tone. He cleared his throat, before continuing in his efficient manner. "The search last night was a complete wash, however this arrived this morning from the -Intrepid-."

He holds out a neatly folded piece of parchment, sealed with the ring of a Royal Naval Captain. I take it, thoughtful as I break the red wax seal. The -Intrepid- is one of the ships that is going out with us to raid the new pirate threat, and already they prowl the merchant lanes close to here and Nassau.

I begin to read;

To the hon. Cmdr Norrington,

Dear sir. The -Black Pearl- spotted after the raiding of a ship bound to Port Royale, two days previous. Made chase but could not keep pace with her. Current whereabouts are unknown. No crew members or passengers were injured, save being robbed blind. Sparrow hoodwinked us again.

Awaiting your arrival, sir, with hopefully better news to share.

Yrs respectfully,

Captain J. Duggan
HMS Intrepid

I grip the paper in my hand, a slow, achingly painful roll of rage and although I am loathe to admit it, betrayal, going through me. "So..." I say slowly. "We were merely a pleasant distraction for Jack Sparrow. An amusing red herring, as it were."

"So it would appear, sir." Bush clears his throat, looking uncomfortable. "Plan of action?"

I stare at the words in front of me once more, then crumple the parchment firmly in my grip. "We prepare to set sail and join the other ships of the fleet, Lieutenant Bush. As ordered."

Gillette and Bush exchange glances, and Gillette ventures carefully. "What about Sparrow, sir?"

"Lieutenant Gillette, I -refuse- to feed Sparrow's ego any further by breaking off an -important- attack to chase after him and his gallivanting group of miscreants." I roll the words off in my driest tone as I flicker an 'invisible' smile. "He wishes to make a mockery of me? Then I will deal him the same hand. I refuse to cry and stomp my feet like a child. We have -far- more important matters to attend to, gentlemen, than Jack Sparrow. Let his fluffed-up sense of self chew on that one for awhile. I am well assured he will not like the taste."

This time it is both of my Lieutenants who flash admiration with their firm chorus, "Aye sir!"

"Continue with the preparations to make way. I'll be below in my office, reviewing the navigational charts and battle plans. We'll discuss strategy once we're out to sea," I return. "Dismissed." They salute as I leave the quarterdeck, heading below with a carefully neutral expression as I nod briskly at salutes and greetings from my crew, my hands held behind me.

It is not until I reach the relative safety of my office that I allow myself a moment of sharp anger, my fingers diving into my pocket and pulling out that damned apple. I stalk towards the nearest window, fully intending to throw the blasted thing out into the sea, when I stop, and stare at it, my breathing sounding harsh in the silence.

"My promise to you, Sparrow," I say quietly, glaring at the fruit in my grip. "The price for trifling with my head and my ...emotional state. I am going to shove this apple down your ruddy throat, so far that you choke on it. And if I do not have this apple? Then a humiliation as you have visited on me. Kind for kind, Sparrow." The apple is placed on my desk with a deadly grace. "Kind for Kind."

* * * * *

"Nassau, off the port side, Commodore!" Comes the call, and I lift my spyglass to my eye, nodding my head grimly as the busy port city comes into view. "Steady as she goes then, and pull her into the harbor." Stepping down to the weather deck, I nod at Gillette and Bush. "With me, gentlemen. We have a few questions that need answering."

A week we have been at sea, curbing around the Spanish held islands to open waters, and not only have we -not- seen any of the infamous Ebony Sharks, but the -Intrepid- never appeared either. Constant checks of the sky showed no storm activity, and I was beginning to think very badly of the efficiency of Captain Duggan, until yesterday. Until yesterday, where we came across the -Golden Goose-, another a third-rated ship bound to our small fleet, and the -Intrepid-. Or rather, what was left of her, and another unnamed ship.

The Captain of the -Goose-, a Josiah Harris of passing acquaintance, begged pardon to come aboard to give the full report from what he could gather from the scant survivors who even now stood at Death's door. When he stood in my office, he was trembling with repressed rage as he spoke of how the Intrepid had been waiting at the given position, patrolling the lanes until the -Falcon-'s arrival, one ship standing. This brought a frown to my face - why had the -Intrepid- been sent out alone? - but it was a question that could wait.

A passenger vessel, the -Haven-, passed their way and begged an escort as far as the coastline of the mainland of America. The captain claimed to keep spotting a ship off at a distance, always following but never quite overtaking. Captain Duggan agreed, figuring that he could easily make it back for our rendezvous after a day of hard sailing, and he was loathe, according to the survivors, to leave a scant crew of seamen with a ship filled with women and children alone on the ocean.

The sun had barely set when the pirates set on them. Three ships from three different sides, and although quickly crippled, the -Intrepid- kept fighting, trying to make a bid for the -Haven- to get away. Alas, there was to be no such luck, for one of the pirate vessels came around and cut off the -Haven-'s route of escape. As Harris reached this point, his voice sounded like he was eating anger as he told how the helpless crew of the -Intrepid- were forced to fight for their lives, all the while listening to the dying screams of the women and children, right off their portside. One ship out of the three, interestingly enough, did not participate in the slaughter. One of the surviving midshipmen recalled the yelling match between the three captains, that the one of the ship that had held back called out that he would have no part of a killing spree.

When the pirates finished their work on the two ships, leaving powder and fire aboard to scuttle both, they turned, like wild animals, on the third ship and fired on it, on both sides, then swiftly sailed off. The -Goose- and the -Indefatigable- arrived scant hours later. The moment I heard the name of the -Goose-'s companion ship, I shot a look over to Gillette and Bush. Both men's lips thinned, considerably. "And the -Indefatigable- took the prisoners from the pirate vessel, did they not?"

Harris blinked with surprise. "Aye, sir. Every last one of them. Captain Bennett said he would take them back to Nassau personally."

"There was a good chance those ships were allied with the Ebony Sharks." I frown, tapping my fingers against my desk. "There is less of a good chance that any of those men are still alive to tell the tale."

"...But, surely Captain Bennett would await for a formal declaration and trial, sir?" Harris asked, blinking once more.

"Captain Bennett is not known for his -kinder-, gentler side, Captain Harris. No doubt he thinks he has caught himself a fine prize for the makings of a promotion." And he and his Lieutenant Moncrieff would be enjoying the prize thoroughly. To say that Bennett and I carried different views of where our duties lay was to say that there might be a bit of a political rift between France and England. I believe pirates deserve the fate of any judged British criminal, a swift and just death. Bennett believes in a 'pound of flesh'. Literally. I've seen the mutilated corpses. "If we want to speak to any of these pirates while they still might be able to make words, we must make haste to Nassau, immediately. Captain Harris, you follow in our wake. Hopefully, we'll be in time."

Now a day and a half later, I find myself on the Nassau docks, with Gillette and Bush on my heels, as we make our way into the local fort. Marines, some of them a little indulgent in their laziness as they lounge at their posts, snap to surprised attention as I march past them. A flutter of whispers already floats through the air as we are trooping through the halls. We stop outside the officer's mess just as a young and nervous-looking third lieutenant closes the door behind him. A harried expression is on him as he lifts his head, and when he faces us completely, his pale face widens with shock and surprise. He pulls up the first decent salute I have seen so far in this hellhole. "Com-Com-Commodore Norrington?"

"The one and the same. Captain Bennett is in there?" I ask briskly, and at his slightly rabbity nod of his head, I storm past him and into the room itself. What I find there brings me up short, letting out a sharp noise of displeasure.

Two young boys, barely past the age of shaving, are serving Bennett and Moncrieff their luncheon, as they sit in breeches and white shirts - all other parts of their uniforms put aside. As I look around the rather lavish setting, Moncrieff has one of the boys by the arm, whispering into his ear. The other boy looks on as he pours Bennett more wine, his grey eyes flashing anger, and their features are similar enough for me to discern he is the elder brother. The younger boy's blue eyes are wide and a little scared, and it pulses a place of anger deep within me, as I speak coldly, startling all. "I am glad to see that the traditions of the Royal Navy are being kept up to snuff in Nassau. Honor, duty ...etcetera."

Charles Bennett, Captain of the -Infatigable-, lifts his curly head from his wine goblet, dark brown eyes blazing with sudden anger and hatred. The age-old story of resentment in the ranks, however backwards it is. He is the one with the good family connections, and the money to spare for the promotion to Commodore, yet I, the workaholic and second son of a gentleman made the promotion before him. Proof that the system does work, and not just for boorish oafs like Bennett. He is considered a handsome man by many standards, with a square, strong looking face and fine form. However, there is a flash of cruelty to his mouth and eyes, that once you are acquainted with him, make him seem almost a little monstrous. He lounges back, clearly in disrespect to the uniform and rank I hold. "Well, well. Look who's come to our celebratory party, Thom."

"He always seems to be dropping by when he's not invited." Thomas Moncrieff drawls slowly, releasing the boy, who flees to his brother's side as the brothers watch us warily. I have nothing good to say of Moncrieff, for occasionally despite the fine schooling of the Royal Navy, there are those who are not meant to rise in command, do so anyways. Thomas Moncrieff achieved his position through pounds in the right places, and close 'friends' like Bennett. Unsettling rumors follow his personal affairs, with good reason. Yet he always manages to ease his way through society like an oily snake, with what I have heard called 'dark sensual good looks, and a boudoir charm'. That charm he turns on to Bush, as always, with a full lipped smile. "And how are his loyal hounds?"

"On the prowl, Moncrieff." Gillette says shortly. The ire between he and Moncrieff is apparent to all who know them, and practically legendary amongst many of the sailors of the fleet in the Caribbean theatre. "So you would be wise to keep your business to your side of the fence."

Moncrieff's lips twist into a smirk at Gillette as he curls his rich voice in contempt. "Arf, Arf, -Andrew-."

Gillette makes a movement beside me, and I hold out my hand to stop him before he lets his French temper get him into a situation we do not need. "May I remind you both that a -senior- officer is in the room? Refusal to show respect to the rank, if not the man, is a court martial offense." I pause, then add with a definite edge to my order. "At Attention, -Gentlemen-."

I must give them this, for all the looks of rancor they throw my way, they rise to their feet promptly. My gaze flickers from them, to the boys, and I gesture towards the door with my chin. "On your way, boys. We have matters of military importance to discuss."

The younger boy looks only to eager to depart, but his brother holds his ground, grey eyes resting on mine. For the first time I note the neat repair of their rather threadbare clothes, and the thinness of them both. "The man owes us money, sir. A half a crown apiece. I wouldn't ask, except it's for our Mum, and she's needs t'see the doctor..."

"They haven't discharged all their duties," Moncrieff says softly. I flash him a sharp look, and he looks at me with the ingenuous expression of a well-fed predator. Out of the corner of my eye I can see the older brother stiffen in anger, and the younger one look a little more than sick.

Without taking my eyes off of Moncrieff, I step over to the boys and reach into my own frock coat for my purse. I select three gold sovereigns, and place one in each of their hands, and the third atop the older boy's. Our eyes meet, and I say quietly, "We must all remember we have mothers. Go take care of yours."

The boy's hand closes around the coins, and he nods, his grey eyes bright. "God bless you, sir. C'mon, Josh. Let's get home." The younger boy favors me with a shy smile, before hurrying out the door past the younger lieutenant, who looks after them, then at me with a bit of wonder on his face. I nod once at him before turning to Bennett, my voice once again crisp and sharp, ignoring Moncrieff's deathly glare. "We've come to speak to the prisoners - the pirates that attacked the -Intrepid-."

A thin smile crosses Bennett's face. "The purveyor of swift justice comes to ask me if I've left the pirates alive? How -very- ironic."

"Swift justice when it is met by the court of laws, Bennett, and they haven't been here long enough for a trial. They need to be questioned for further information." My eyes narrow. "So I trust that some of them have survived your 'hospitality'."

"We've already questioned them about the whereabouts of their other friends. They were rather disinclined to be chatty, I'm afraid. However, you being the Great Commodore, I'm sure you'll find a way to make them open up to you." Bennett's smile takes on more of an edge. "Rather like old bosom friends."

I step forward, expression as stony as the walls around me. "Captain, you forget your place. I suggest you remember it, before I have the pleasure of clapping you in irons."

We stare at each other for a long moment, and it is Bennett who looks away first, his voice clipped. "My apologies, sir. Lieutenant Richards will take you to where the ...remaining prisoners are being held."

"-Thank- you, Captain Bennett." I turn to the young lieutenant, who straightens a little. "Lieutenant Richards, I presume?"

"Yes sir. Right this way, sir," Richards says with a flash of amusement and respect in his dark eyes. His thin, angular face strikes a chord with me, as he leads the way down to the prison cells.

"Richards - any relation to the famed Admiral?" I ask finally, the face and the name connecting in my head.

Richards head tilts up with a sense of pride. "My father, sir."

"And what does your father think of your posting here, Richards?" I ask, the tone and question mild, but the implications less so.

Richards pauses before a heavy wooden door, knocking twice as he avoids my gaze. "He ... ah, doesn't know much about it, sir. I've told him only what I thought he should know." A pause, and this little rabbit of a young man gives me a bold, 'question-me-if-you-dare' look. "I want no favoritism, or cushy position because of my family."

I glance between Bush and Gillette, both of whom give me little knowing half-smiles, before I turn back to Richards. "Naturally."

The young man eases, and then continues on. "I ... am not quite sure of how well you will find the prisoners, sir. The Captain and the Lieutenant were with them for many hours. I wasn't present, being busy with other affairs." I read into that as I may. Richards had been sent off to do errands. That bodes no good.

The door creaks open, and a large and red-faced sergeant-at-arms opens the door. He speaks in a slight slur, his breath foul with spirits. "Yessir?"

Richards frowns, shifting backwards slightly from the man. "The Commodore has come to see the prisoners, Sergeant Matthison."

Matthison looks blearily over at me, his wig slightly askew on his head, and steps aside. "O'course, sir. After you. Jest mind your step. It's a bit, ah, sticky." I frown at his rather drunken smile, but the sights that greet me when my eyes adjust to the dim light of the prison floor almost make me wish I had a belt of brandy in me. Six cells, with five or six men to them, are covered with the faint sheen of blood and vomit. Each pirate lay, some unconscious, and some I am sure are no longer of this world, in his own filth. These men have been more than merely 'questioned' - they have been torn apart with careful precision. The smell alone would make one think he has walked right into Hell itself.

Beside me, Gillette makes a gagging noise, while Bush mutters a heartfelt prayer. Young Richards' face goes from pale to slightly green. I close my eyes for a moment, to clear my vision of the horrors before me, and that is when I hear the singing. It is a broken, a little caroling tune, but I have the sense the words have a meaning.

"Yo, ho, ho ... bottle of blood ... all hands down dead ... when the lark hunts the sparrow ...their love spawns the hate ... yo, ho, ... yo ho ...lovebirds in the tree, one turns on the other... when the lark kills the sparrow ...traitors and liars all follow the lark...and the sparrow dun't know... dun't know..." I follow the words, footsteps slightly muffled by the mess on the floor. In the last cell, there is just one prisoner, and for a moment my heart stops in my chest at the sight of the dark hair under a tattered tricorner hat. Surely this isn't the -Pearl-'s crew? Oh god, don't let that be ...

The sunlight flickers through the open bar windows, and the man lifts his chin up to it, as if to seek reprieve in the sun's gentle glow. Relief fills my veins as I take in his broken features, completely unlike ... that person that I never thought of for a moment. He ignores us, still singing his broken little song, and it is Matthison who breaks the silence on our side of the bars. "The pirate captain, sir. I think he's gone a bit around the bend. He's been that way for ...*hiccup* hours."

I look around the prison again, my expression stilling. "Considering the circumstances, I don't think I can blame him. Your flask, Sergeant, if you would be so kind."

"My ... flask, sir?" Matthison's eyebrows raise together, startled.

"The one in your breast pocket. The one you have been sipping from to keep from going completely mad. The one you may fill at your leisure when I have used it, with no censure from me if you hand it over without any more ridiculous attempts at innocence," I say, raising one eyebrow. "That flask. And the key to this cell."

Matthison gulps, and produces both promptly. I take the flask in hand and open the door, taking a step inside before a hand reaches over and takes hold of my sleeve. I look back at Gillette, who frowns at me with white-faced concern. "Sir? What are you doing?"

I pause, then answer with a little grim smile. "Pirates love two things - a meaningful song and a bottle of rum." Then I step inside, moving towards the pirate captain with even, measured steps. I stop, a mere two feet away from his slumped form.

He doesn't even lift his head to me, but stops his singing. Then his voice comes out, broken and coughing. "... I thought I told you Naval bastards I tweren't tellin' you shit. Take your flamin' brand and stick it up yer OWN arse."

"Ah, but I am a new Naval bastard." I say quietly, going to kneel beside him. I slosh the flask once, catching his attention. "And I bring something to burn the other way down."

His head lolls towards me, and I note his bloodshot blue eyes spark with interest. "..Are you now? And might I ask t'name of this new Naval bastard, sirrah, or is that too forward?"

"Norrington," I answer, as I slowly unstopper the flask itself. The smell of rum wafts in the air, taking away some of the blood-scent.

His charred eyebrows raise, and the pirate captain flashes me a broken smile. "Well, well. COMMODORE Norrington. I knew they wanted t'hurry me along to my Maker, but I didn't think they'd bring -Death- here personally t'take care of the matter."

"Well, I am a member of the Royal Navy. I believe in the expediency of justice." A humorless stretch of lips. "That's an interesting song you've been humming." The flask is held to his lips, and my eyes flicker the question.

He nods his head slowly, and I tip the flask back to his lips, letting him take a long drink before moving it away. He swallows, and his eyes close as his face moves into something close to ecstasy. "Aaah ... that's the stuff. So you like m'song, do you? Your other bastardy friends just think I'm mad."

"And I think you're just smart enough to make them think that," I comment, holding out the flask again.

A smirk stretches on his face, followed by a brief spasm of pain. "Heh. They told me you was sharp. So tell me, Norrington, after all the things your bastardy friends did t'me and m'crew, why the hell should I tell you any different?"

"One, they aren't my bastardy friends. Two, to die with a clear conscience. There were a lot of innocent souls on the -Haven-, sir," I say quietly, letting him take another sip from the flask. "The Ebony Sharks are upping their tactics."

The pirate captain lolled his head at me, eyes flickering different emotions. "Never said I were part of the Ebony Sharks, matey."

"My apologies. I made an assumption." I pause, then add with a hint of steel, "Now tell me it's wrong."

The pirate captain turns his head away, bowing his head a little. "...It t'weren't supposed to go like that. We didn't sign up for no murderin' like that. Oh sure, y'Navy bastards, but you're armed t'teeth. Women 'n children ... want'd no part of that. Never should have listen'd to that -bitch-.."

"..Bitch?" My eyebrows raise into my hairline, I believe.

"Aye, -bitch-." The pirate captain turns his gaze back to me, anger smouldering in his gaze. "A'right, Norrington. Y'want whut I know, and I'll tell you ... for a price."

"Name it, and I'll see if I can agree to your terms." I say evenly, holding the flask to his lips again.

He turns his head with a little wince of pain, to the other cells, then back to me. His face has gone gravely serious. "Most of us aren' gonna survive t'see the hangin's, Norrington, and even if I begged you for a pardon, none of m'men would make it a week. Not after what that bastard did to 'em." He pauses, and wets his cracked lips. "Y'know why they call y'Death, Norrington?"

"Why is that?" I ask softly, starting to get the gist of what he is asking for.

"B'cause when y'come for a man, a man knows it'll be quick and clean. Then nothin' else t'worry about except what awaits him beyond. Give me and my men that, Norrington." His blue eyes film over slightly. "We may be thieves and th'like, but no man deserves t'die like this."

I nod my head once, slowly and soberly. These men have suffered quite enough at the hands of Bennett. This isn't justice - it is a travesty for everything the Navy, and I, stand for. "Agreed, sir."

The captain nods his head once, and then tells me the entire tale. How he and his men were in a small bar in some Spanish port, when a woman as fierce as a storm entered with two men as big as mountains at her side, asking if there were any brave men willing to risk life for booty aplenty. Many asked her, with laughter in their voices, where she planned on getting this fabulous fortune, and she replied with a sharp smile, 'The merchant lines, of course'. This garnered her a great deal more interest, and many a sailor moved to her corner of the room, to drink her rum and listen to her speak of bringing piracy back to its glory days. There was a lot of talk, apparently by her, of the rising of pirate legends again. Which is when someone said, 'So we're all t'be Jack Sparrow, then?'

"And this is the part y'pay attention to, Norrington, b'cause it's the one that matters," the captain said, his gaze intent on mine. "For as sure as I'm breathin', Jack Sparrow's name was thrown to her, and she turned on that man like a vicious dog, blade out and at his throat, hissing like a viper that Sparrow's name was never t'be mentioned around her again, or she'd rip their hearts out through their throats. I got m'self curious, and after she was done with her threatenin' and spinnin' her lies, I went and bought one of her men a few drinks. Closemouthed lad, but he told me this - 'She's been chasin' Sparrow as long as he's been runnin', one way or another. Pity Sparrow when Captain Lark gets a'hold o'him.'"

"So Captain Lark has a bit of a grudge against Sparrow." I pause, and sigh a little, annoyed. "Why does it -always- lead back to -Jack Sparrow-?"

I am not expecting an answer, but get one nonetheless. "B'cause he's a bloody child of Fate, Norrington, n'when he touches your life, you're never free o'him." The pirate captain chuckles softly, before returning to seriousness. "All in all, I thought it was a fair deal for m'men and me, so I signed us up. No harm in lettin' the little girl play, I thought, and if I make a profit off of it, all the better. More's fool I was, for not readin' what was b'fore me when I signed that damned paper of hers, but others did. She signed the lot of us, but it was I and old Nathaniel Griger, a nasty seasalt if there ever was one who had the dubious honor of raidin' with her that first time out... and you know what happened there. My 'companions' scuttled me and left us for dead for not goin' the full mile - at HER orders - mind. Don't discount the fact she's a woman throw y'off, Norrington. She's a helldemon on Earth, that one is. N' if you want t'find her? Find Jack Sparrow. I'm sure his tales will be a lot more 'informative' like than mine."

'A task easier said than done', is the grim thought, as I nod. "That is all there is, then?"

"Nothin' more that a simple lad as I knows about, except she's been gatherin' up m'lot for months now...but y'knew about that already. 'The Ebony Sharks', pah..." The pirate captain slumps a little against the bars. "Any chance of me gettin' another nip, eh?" I hold the flask to his lips once more, and he drinks deeply. "Aaaah...yeah. That's the stuff. Don't except a tog like you t'get it, Norrington, but that's like mother's milk."

"Drink of the pirating Gods, or so I've been told," I say with a faint quirk of my lips, as I rise to my feet slowly. "Blade or pistol, sir?"

"Pistol. Quicker that way... oh, Norrington? Got a bit of a last request for you, sirrah." The pirate captain struggles to sit up a bit more, as his eyes blaze with an almost unholy blue fire. "When you find that maniacal bitch, send her straight down t'Hell, eh? Me and the lads will wantin' to be having a talk with her. She's got an appointment with old Marcus Hobbs, she does."

"I will be sure to inform her of it, when we meet." I pull out my pistol, and cock it. "Fine sailing, Captain."

"Let it all be smooth as the silk of the ocean, Commodore." Captain Marcus Hobbs smiles, closes his eyes, and I shoot him straight through the head, one ricocheting shot that echoes in the stillness of the cell. I look at his still body as it slowly rolls to the floor, the smoke from the shot wafting around his skull.

"Grace be with you, sir.." I murmur, before turning towards the cell door again. Gillette and Bush watch me, their expressions unreadable, while Matthison just stares at me as if I have grown two heads. Richards's face has all the markings of awe. I walk towards them, still-smoking pistol in hand as I speak. "Gillette, Bush, if you would be so kind as to accompany Sergeant Matthison and find for me a six-brace of pistols. Richards - please take my hat and coat and hold them for me outside? Matthison, I'll take the keys to all the cells. Each man should have the right to chose their own fate."

In the end, of the thirteen pirates left alive, eight choose the pistol, and five choose the blade. None wants to die at Bennett's hands. When I hand the last pistol to Matthison, I am darkly amused to see the man's eyes are clear now; his grip is a little shaky, but firm, as he stares at me, stonecold sober. I don't know what I must look like, with a bloodsoaked blade in hand and powder dusting my fine white vest and shirt, specks of crimson over my face, but the sight as I emerge from the prison draws silence amongst the fort's soldiers, all staring at me. I ignore them, moving over to Richards, Gillette and Bush, keeping my silence about me like a shroud. Wordlessly, Gillette takes my sword, and Bush gently takes the coat from a stunned-silent Richards, and helps me put it on.

Once I have settled my coat over my shoulders, I take my hat from the young Lieutenant, bobbing my head once. "My thanks, Lieutenant Richards."

His lips part to speak, but he falls abruptly silent as Bennett's voice fills the air, fuming with rage. "NORRINGTON! NORRINGTON! What gives you the damned right to go into MY prison and handily --" He is striding towards me, Moncrieff on his heels, twin looks of infinite fury on their faces that suddenly freeze in fear as I lift my gaze to them both. I hold their stunned eyes, like a snake with two petrified rodents, before I move forward and deliberately towards them. It is to their credit that they only flinch a little, although Moncrieff cringes as I delicately pluck at his pocket, and draw out his pocket handkerchief.

With slow deliberation, not moving my eyes from either man, I clean off my blade with the handkerchief, speaking with an icy softness. "Those men received their last request: execution by blade or pistol. Now, they will be judged by a far -Higher- Power than ourselves. I honored my word as an officer to the Royal Navy and discharged my duty as I saw fit, so I really think there is nothing left to say, -Captain- Bennett." I pause, then use what is left of the clean white part of the handkerchief to wipe clear my own face. I look at them again as I move the cloth away. "Save this. Pray, gentlemen. Pray very, very hard that you -never- have to ask me the same boon as those men did. For I doubt -very- much that I would grant it."

I move away from them then, marching towards the front gates with feet that feel leaden with steel. Behind me I can hear the precise steps of Gillette and Bush at my heels. I lift my blade and slide it home into its scabbard, the sound of metal scraping strangely comforting. The job is finished, but the images will stay with me. Like the first man I killed with my hands. The first pirate I saw hung, and the first man I brought to the gallows myself. The price of my destiny as the Great Pirate Hunter is soaked with the blood of other men.

Bush's hand suddenly curls around my shoulder, and I glance at him, startled a little out of my dark mood. He smiles at me, a quiet understanding one, as he speaks. "What is it that Governor Swann always says? 'The wages of justice are high, indeed, higher than those of sin. Only few dare to pay their dues.'"

I nod my head slowly at this, as Gillette speaks on my other side. "He also says that 'justice is not always tidy, and mercy is not always kind'." I look to him, and his dark eyes flash compassion. "You did what was right, Commodore. As always."

I straighten a little. "Thank you, gentlemen. Most humbly and sincerely."

Bush's hand drops away, and we walk in silence for another moment or two back to the docks, before Bush says with no little wry humor, "So we're back to chasing Sparrow again, sir?"

"Indeed. Hm.." I sigh a little, looking off to the ships in the harbor as we make our way back to the dinghy to the -Falcon-. That is a disheartening thought - another fruitless chase after Sparrow, wasting manpower and precious hours as he plays with us a merry pirate game of keep-away. Again. For once, I would like to turn the tables ... I stop suddenly. "Huh."

Bush and Gillette stop, moving around me to face me, quizzical looks on their faces. "Sir?"

"It occurs to me, gentleman, that we have overlooked a long lost adage in regards to Jack Sparrow. To catch a thief, one must think like one. We have been stuck thinking as British Royal Naval officers - which is all well and good - but we're not trying to run ourselves aground, now are we?" I arch an eyebrow at them.

"...So we should THINK like Jack Sparrow, to catch Jack Sparrow." Gillette tilts his head a little, and smirks. "Should I then go and drop myself on my head a hundred times and consume a few barrels of rum? That should do the trick."

"Actually, I think the Commodore is on to something. We think in clear logical lines of what any sane person would do." Bush says thoughtfully. "But we're not talking about someone sane, we're talking about Jack Sparrow. So - if I was a crazy pirate looking for another crazy pirate - what would I do? Where would I go?"

We all fall silent for a moment, and then look at each other with little smiles on our faces. "Tortuga."

Gillette's smile fades a little. "Wait. We can't just go sailing into Tortuga and say, 'Hello chaps, how are you? Listen, this is Commodore Norrington and his men, and we're looking for Sparrow. Mind being a friend and pointing us in his direction?' We'd be shot on sight. I think we've all learned that pirates are NOT as stupid they look."

A sudden look steals over Bush's face then, the same sort of devious look that he had when he went out for a new pair of boots and came back with a box of chickens. A look that makes me wary automatically. He crosses his arms over his chest, and -grins- at us both. "Actually ... that's not a bad idea."

* * * * *

"This is the WORST idea I have ever heard of!" Gillette grouses loudly, as he leans away from Bush once again. "And would you get that needle away from me! I am NOT piercing my ear!"

"Listen, one of us has to have a pierced ear, Andrew. We're supposed to be -pirates-." Bush heaves out a sigh, then glares at me. "And would you stop being so picky, James? We're already dressed and you're still just in your breeches."

"It is not my intention, -Jonathan-, to wear anything that smells as if it came off of a pig," I retort as I stand barechested, eying the pile of clothes before me. "Where did you get these, anyways?"

"Well, when I told the kindly madam downstairs that we were three young gents who had just escaped a penal colony in Australia, and we needed some new vestments, she ever so nicely let me buy them. Apparently if the gentlemen can't pay in coin, sometimes they pay in the shirt off their backs. Literally." Bush shrugged with a little smile. "They were cheap, at any rate, and have the right look."

"Hmm." I sigh, and start picking through the clothes again. Despite my utter lack of desire to put any of these... interesting garments on, I concede that Jonathan Bush is a genius to think of this. Dressing as pirates to go into Tortuga will get us much farther in finding Jack Sparrow than in our Naval uniforms, after all. So after making arrangements to meet back up with the -Falcon- and the -Goose- in three weeks time in the open waters near the Bahamas - after all we didn't know how long it would take us to find Sparrow, much less buy passage back to some decent port of call - Bush, Gillette, a few marines, and I, made our way to Tortuga by the way of a dinghy in the middle of the night. We have settled on a whorehouse in the 'quieter' part of town as a base for our operations, as we are unsure just how long we will be staying. For a few coppers rent, we have a large room all to ourselves and a fine gilt mirror, obviously some sort of plunder from a raid, to ourselves.

"..Ow...OW! Would you stop POKING me with that thing?" Andrew growls, swatting Bush's hand with the needle away.

"Well if you would just sit still, it would go right in!" Bush hisses back, clearly aggravated, as Gillette has covered both his ears in self defense.

I pick up a shirt and, lo' and behold! a jacket with no huge holes in it, as I stamp on the floor three times to get their attention. "Gentlemen. -Please-. Jonathan, you said we came from a penal colony, yes? Then we could't have worn earrings, and doubtless no one will mind that we go without." Gillette smirks triumphantly, but that fades as I add, "However, I don't see why he couldn't be the one with the tattoo."

"Excellent idea, James," Bush crows, as he goes over to the small pile of ... ahem, woman's toiletries left behind. He plucks out a kohl pencil, and advances on Andrew again. "Now show me one of those freckled arms, Andrew, or I shall pin you down and draw a moustache on you instead."

Gillette grumbles, but rolls up the sleeve of his borrowed shirt. "I don't see why I'm the only one who has to look 'all the part'."

"You're not. I've got an eyepatch." Bush says, picking a spot on Gillette's forearm to work his artistic magic.

"Well, what about James?" Gillette nods his chin at me. "Why isn't he getting a tattoo, or an eyepatch? What is going to make him so distinctively 'piratey'?"

I glare at Gillette as I tuck my shirt into my breeches, before shifting my gaze back to the pile of ... ah, woman's toiletries. An odd little smile crosses my lips, and I rifle around the pile until I find the mate to Bush's pencil, and move to the mirror. I swoop the pencil lightly around my eyes. "Piratey you want ... Andrew ... then piratey ..." I look at myself for a moment, close my eyes, and smudge the tops of my eyelids appropriately. Then I glance at myself in the mirror once more, grimacing slightly at my eyes lined so darkly. Hmph. I feel almost wanton. I turn back to Gillette and Bush, raising one eyebrow, drawling out mockingly. "Yaaaah-r."

Bush and Gillette stare at me for a long moment, and start to snicker together. I raise my eyebrows once, briefly smirking before going to tie this ridiculous sash around my waist. The only thing I can say about it is that it matches my jacket. The snickers subside behind me, and finally Bush proclaims Andrew's tattoo is done. We shift on varying layers of garments, and Bush eyes our hair critically, proclaiming mine should hang loose. Gillette can bind his back, and Bush himself lets his hang in three long plaits down his back after neatly braiding them.

I settle my hat on my head, and then glance over at the other two. "Well, shall we inspect the damage?" Gillette makes another face, but nods. Bush just chuckles softly, as we all turn towards the mirror for the final inspection.

Before us stand three pirates. One pirate, with a singular dark laughing eye, the other covered with a fine black silk eyepatch, is dressed in a pale green shirt open to his chest and loose heather-grey breeches that fall over his sturdy boots. The shirt is cinched with a waistcoat of the two colors in shades of grey and green respectfully. A jaunty little hat with a grey feather sticking out of it rests atop his plaited head, making him look playful.

The second is dressed in breeches and vest of some soft brown material, with hip boots to match, and a dark blue shirt underneath. His sleeves are rolled up, showing off a tattoo of some bird or another. His ginger hair falls in waves around his shoulders from his ponytail, smoothed back the rest of the way with a dark blue bandana. He is also scowling, which somehow adds to the entire look.

The third towers a bit above the other two. Clearly the pirate captain - dressed in black boots, breeches, and shirt open also at the neck. He wears a velvet frock coat in olive-green with what appears to be cameo buttons, the olive-green matching the sash about his waist and bringing out the sea-green of his kohl-lined eyes. A faded black tri-cornered hat sets off the dark brown hair that falls around his shoulders.

We stare at our reflections for a long, long moment, before Bush says solemnly, drawing out his tones to a Welsh accent. "A fine triplets of gentlemen we be, yessirrah."

Gillette glowers over at him under ginger eyebrows. "You're enjoying this far too much. I think you have some sort of strange pirate obession you've just been WAITING to unleash on the unsuspecting public."

Bush waggles his hat at Gillette with an innocent little smile that reminds me sharply of a pirate that our friend admires so. "Aye, avast!"

"Oh DEAR God." Gillette lets out a provoked growl, stomping past Bush and out of the door. Bush shrugs at me, smiling that same smile. I gave him the appropriate sort of scowl, before setting off after Gillette. A moment or two later we are all outside on the street, and I stop before an alleyway right across from the whorehouse (which is getting a healthy slice of business), dropping my voice. "Gentlemen? I trust you are at the ready?"

There is a rustle, and then the sound of three male bodies moving around in the darkness, with the mutterings of, 'That's my FOOT, y'clod!' 'Watch yer elbow, then!' Then three heads peer out of the darkness - Murtogg's first, then Mullroy's and above them the tall and gangly Studson, a friend they 'handpicked themselves for this dangerous mission, sir!'. They are dressed, lucky bastards, in more conservative clothing, and all three of them boggle at me for a moment, before saluting with whispers of, "Aye sir!"

"Good. Keep pace and follow us -- and keep your eyes open for Sparrow." I turn, sigh with some aggravation, and -swagger- off to join Bush and Gillette. As I join them, I shake my head slightly. "Brilliance aside, I feel like a complete fool."

"The motion is heartily seconded," Gillette mumbles beside me, as we turn the corner and head towards the livelier part of town. Already I can hear the sound of guns going off and wild debauchery, enough to make me wish for a hundred more marines. Not to mention my own clothing. Ah well, at least I have my pistols and blade.

"I'm actually having fun." Bush says, sauntering along, tipping his hat at a few passing whores who giggle and titter in return.

Gillette's dark eyes roll, as he enunciates bitingly, "Pir-ate Ob-ses-sion. Where should we start questioning the locals?"

"The nearest swillhole." I answer, glancing down the street, then nodding at a building where people are stumbling in and out, looking quite the worse for wear of liquor. "We'll move our way along the street - surely someone will have heard of where the Pearl is most likely next to be docking."

"Ye gods, it's going to be a long night," Gillette sighs, then straightens. "However, it's not like we expected to trip over Sparrow right away. So let's get -- agah!" He stumbles, nearly falling to the ground. Bush reaches out a hand to steady him, and I turn to see what in the world fell in his way.

In this matter, it is be more of a who. And that who is ... "Joshamee Gibbs." I say loudly, kneeling in front of him. The former bo'sun's answer is a rum-smelling snore. I glance over at the barrels beside him, note one of them is one filled to the brim with rainwater, and standing up, I carry it over, then pour its contents over his head.

"CURSE YOU FOR LIVIN', Y'BLOODY SCALLYWAGS!!" The man jerks awake, his blade out and in his hand as he roars. He looks around at the three of us, groggy suspicion in his still-drunken state. "Who the HELL are you bloody bastards?"

"Mis-ter Gibbs..." I drawl out, making sure to put as much lower-London in my town as possible. "Surely y'not be speakin' to friends of your'un Captain like that, would ye?"

"..Y'be friends of Jack's?" Gibbs squints his gaze at us for a moment, frowning.

"Oyes. Y'could say we've seen a few hangman's noose's t'gether." I force a smile to my face, tilting my head to the side.

Gibbs blinks for a moment, then chuckles throatily. "Aye, sounds like Jack's sort of mates... arrugh." The older man struggles to his feet, rubbing back his salt and pepper hair as he looks at all three of us once more thoughtfully. "Come t'think of it, you all look a might bit familiar. Y'ever been to Singapore?"

We exchange a glance, before Bush drawls out. "Name me any man worth his salt that hasn't, eh?"

Gibbs laughs again, slapping the knee of his stained breeches. "Aye, lad, aye! S'ppose you three are lookin' for Jack, then?"

Again, we look at each other. Surely it's not going to be this easy, is it? Gillette clears his throat, letting his French accent roll around the words. "We would be, how you say, most grateful, Monsieur Gibbs. We would like to pay our respects, comprends?"

"We docked into the east side, right over yonder." Gibbs nods down the way. "Jest take a left at the 'Fat Pig', then straight on. The -Pearl-'ll be sitting there waitin'."

"Most kindness, Mister Gibbs." I flourish a bow with my hand, and we start down the street. We make it no more than three paces, however, before Gibbs calls out to us, and we halt in our ill-fitting boots.

He comes along to my side, putting a friendly hand on my arm that I have to force myself not to shove off, instead putting a politely questioning look on my face. "Listen, matey ... Jack's been a bit off, lately. Y'know how he gets in his moods, aye? So jest watch your step around him, b'cause he's as snarly as a bear..."

My eyebrows raise in honest surprise, but I nod my head a little. "Aye, I hear you ... matey."

Gibbs grins broadly, and claps my shoulder so hard I nearly tip over. "That's a man. Now ... another thing, he was talkin' about havin' a certain lady aboard -- y'know ..." And his voice lowered to a conspiratorial whisper. "-Sweetheart-." He winks at me, and I open my eyes wide, faking comprehension. "So just loll about on deck with the other swabs that didnae go ashore, and he'll probably leave his cabin in a much brighter mood than b'fore, if you catch m'meaning."

"Clear as crystal." I respond, clapping him lightly back on the shoulder. "Thanks a plenty, Mister Gibbs." He gives us all another friendly wink, and starts ambling back towards the pub which we had almost entered a moment ago. I watch him thoughtfully, before calling out. "Mr. Mullroy?"

There is the sound of stumbling, more male curses, and Mullroy's head peers out of another alleyway, whispering. "Aye, sir?"

I dig into the wide pocket of my pirate coat, and pull out a few pieces of silver. "See to it that Mr. Gibbs has a pleasant evening, and make sure he gets back to the -Pearl-, hm? And have Murtogg and Studson go back and fetch our more ... appropriate clothing from our rooms?"

"Yes sir!" Mullroy pockets the coins, and ... well, stumbles back into the darkness beyond. Hm. Clearly marines are not meant for stealth. I nod my head at Gillette and Bush, and we ... sigh, 'amble' down the street together, sidestepping drunken, fighting pirates and giggling girls showing far more bosom than seems possible.

Which brings me back to the intriguing mystery of... "I wonder who this 'Sweetheart' is that Gibbs mentioned?"

"She's a prostitute, of a kind," Bush answers promptly, therefore earning himself two surprised looks. He blinks, and then chuckles sheepishly. "Madam Honoria was quite chatty while I picked out clothes ... she was trying to feel me out for clientele, I believe, so she was bringing up the different kinds of 'entertainment' a man could find here in Tortuga. A long and ... ahem, interesting list. Sweetheart is apparently the 'married-man's whore', whatever that means."

"And I am sure none of us wants to find out. At any rate ... " I say sternly, thrusting aside anew the betrayed feeling in my gut. I do not care who Sparrow has in his bed, just as long as it is me. Ah, -not- me. Yes. Quite So. Ahem. I lower my voice as we continue to walk. "Our situation is this, gentlemen. We're approaching a pirate ship - with pirates still aboard it. We somehow have to get PAST them all, and get Sparrow alone long enough to question him about the Ebony Sharks and Captain Lark. Suggestions are welcome."

There is a long silence, as I am sure Bush and Gillette are looking at one another, before Bush shrugs and says, "Well, what would a crazy pirate do?"

Fifteen minutes later I am clinging to a rope on the aft side of the -Black Pearl-, scaling up to the quarterdeck.

Of all the things I have ever imagined doing for the Crown and the His Majesty's Navy, raiding a pirate ship of my own accord was something I did -not- think would come up. I am edging closer to the top, foot by foot, trying to make no noise to startle any crew member who would sooner laugh at me than shoot me, when a set of broad windows quite near the top of the ship open quickly, and I bite down on my lip to keep from yelling as the window nearly smacks me. I get my balance back, glowering at the figure that appears there, but that glower fades after a moment as I just... stare.

Jack Sparrow leans out of that window, a rolled up cigar between his lips, smoking pensively as he stares upwards at the sky. A slight breeze ruffles his long dark hair which is, sans the bandana, is rippling against his body, which is sans a stitch of clothing. From what I can tell from the dim candlelight that's illuminating his ...bare back, that is.

He really is golden all over...

I need to keep climbing. I -must- keep climbing. Remember the apple. Damned apple. Accursed apple!

"Jack! Jack, where are you?" A low female voice, fearful, makes me pause in my climbing again.

Sparrow turns away, allowing me to gain another foot upwards as he answers her. "By the window, Sweetheart. Just fancied a bit of a smoke." I stop, gripping the rope tightly with both hands as he turns to look out again. A moment later, a woman joins him... ah. That's what happened to Sparrow's shirt. She rests her head of long light brown hair on his arm, a pale little thing in the shirt that is two times too big on her, and his arm wraps around her shoulders comfortably. Hmmph. Well, no business of mine who Sparrow dallies with.

She speaks, still softly as a mouse. "You weren't there when I woke up. I was scared, being on this ship alone."

"Tsh, luv. You know I wouldnae do that to my Sweetheart," Sparrow soothes, and I ignore the stab in my chest at the gentleness to his tones to the young woman. -None- of -my- business. My focus is on the railing of the ship, which is only a half a dozen more feet away from my fingers.

There is a rustle of cloth, so she must be curling closer to him. "Jack...?" Her soft voice curves the question on the night air. "...Will you tell me about James again?"

...WHAT!? My grip slips in my sudden surprise at my name, and I slide down the rope a few feet before I clamp my fingers down and try not to bang into the side of the ship. Sparrow's laugh seems to be reverberating off my now sweaty skin. "Third time t'night, luv. Aren't you tired of listenin' t'me prattle on?"

"I don't mind ... tell me again," Sweetheart's voice begs quietly. "Please, Jack?"

"Alright then... imagine a man - a fine Naval man. Spit and polish all the way down to his boots, and a Commodore besides. This is the sorta man that other men want to emulate, who people admire as much as they hate, for he's a -good- man. Kind who pays his taxes, follows the laws. He is Justice personified. You'd expect him t'be some sort of dour-faced weasel ... ah, but he's not..." Sparrow's voice trails off, a hint of sadness to his words.

...I should not be listening to this. It is distracting me from my purpose here, which is far more important than listening to the fresh kettle of lies that Sparrow has indubitably cooked up.

"What is he, Jack?" Sweetheart asks, and I, still clinging to the rope and the side of the ship, have to wonder as well.

Hm. Well. No sense in -not- taking a moment to get my strength back, I suppose. Just a moment...

"Beautiful." Sparrow murmurs. "With eyes as green as the sea, 'n a voice that's low and smooth, like a fine wine. His hair, n'I'll never understand why he wears it under that ruddy ridiculous wig, is like chocolate silk, and his lips are the sweetest thing a man can taste..."

I can feel my face reddening, and not all from exertion. However, I cannot forget my reason for being here, Sparrow's .. whatever this is, aside. So letting out a soft breath, I put out of my mind the laundry list of my .. ahem, attributes and keep climbing. Finally, I reach the top, and carefully creep across the quarterdeck. At the helm I can see a grizzled old man with a parrot resting on his shoulder, and I quietly pull out my pistol, holding it by the barrel to knock him lightly over the head.

The bird squawks loudly at me, calling out loudly enough to wake the dead. "ANY PORT IN *THUNK!*...awwwwwwkk!"

I glare down at the bird as it flutters to the deck next to its master, muttering to myself as I move towards the steps that lead down to the maindeck, pistol still in hand. "...can't believe I just had to knock a -parrot- senseless ... Jonathan?"

Bush is kneeling over the fallen form of, aaah, the caramel-skinned woman of earlier acquaintance. He looks up at me mournfully, rising to his feet. "I just hit a -girl-. My mother will never forgive me."

I look down at the young woman, then at my friend who is clearly afflicted with guilt, and pat him gently on the arm. "Well, she was a pirate woman. I -think- your mother will forgive you this once."

"..You two think that's bad?" Gillette whispers, as he came up from below decks, shaking his head in disbelief. "I've -clubbed- a sleeping -dwarf-. I had to wake him up -just- to knock him out again. I feel like a bully."

"Just remember, they're -pirates-. We can safely assume they would do the same to us." I nod my head towards the closed doors of what I can assume are the doors leading to Sparrow's private quarters. "He's got Sweetheart with him, and we'll have to wait until she goes to get to Sparrow. I won't involve any innocent women - he might try to use her as a shield. God knows he's done so before. Is there anyone else aboard?"

"Not that I could tell - it appears they have a light crew on guard for the night, sir. The rest must be ashore." Gillette murmurs, looking down at the woman.

I nod my head, then gesture to the woman. "Right - Bush, take the woman and put her below. Gillette, come and help me with the fellow on the quarterdeck ... and his parrot."

Gillette gives me a surprised look. "You knocked out a -parrot-?" Off of my disgruntled growl, he falls silent and meekly helps me take the pirate below, where we lock them all in one of the storage rooms. Then we return to the deck, looking around with the admiration that only sailors can appreciate.

"..This is a damned fine ship," Bush says quietly, summing it up nicely, in my opinion. And it is a fine ship once more - for the -Pearl- has been lovingly repaired and refurbished. I can all but smell the paint that must have been reapplied. The ropes and rigging are newly replaced, and the sails look new as well.

"Sparrow has spent a great deal of money to bring his ship to its full glory. It's his entire life," I say quietly, leaning against the railing. Hm. I look around once more. "...the one thing he would give anything up for, really."

"Without a struggle. Without a fight," Bush adds, as our eyes meet, and then we look over to Gillette.

Gillette folds his arms over his chest, and then he smiles slowly, "What would a crazy pirate do?"

A noise from below - a door opening carefully - draws our attention away. A small cloaked figure emerges from the doors leading to Sparrow's cabin and stops, calling out quietly. "Hello? Anamaria? Mr. Cotton?"

I ponder for a moment saying nothing, but the girl is clearly unnerved by the -Black Pearl-, and it would be simply cruel to let her think she's alone. Besides, I doubt she knows -all- the crew's name. "It's all right." I say aloud, gesturing Bush and Gillette back into the shadows. "They've gone below. I'm on watch now."

"Oh..." the young woman lets out a sigh of relief, pressing a hand to where her bosom is in a flimsy yet well made gown of grey. "Could you help me over to the gangplank? I do not trust my footing in the dark on this ship."

"Of course." I am always a gentleman first, I find. Even to the prostitutes of Jack Sparrow, apparently. She keeps the hood of her cloak pulled over her head, putting one small hand on my arm trustingly. I look down at it, and frown at the long patch of what look like burn scars running up the side of her wrist. They are quite vicious looking, if clearly old in nature.

We stop at the gangplank, and she pauses to look up at me, her lips parting to thank me before she falls silent and stares at me. I can say nothing as well, for the light from the torches hits her face just right, and the backwards movement of her head tilting back has moved her hair off of her face, and I can see that her wrist is not the only thing that met with fire. The left side of her oval face is a melted mess of red scars, ranging around her very pale eye of blue or grey, both of which are now wide open, while the other side is still smooth with youth. I am looking at the ravaged remains of what was once a lovely face, and the injury itself to such innocent looking beauty makes me want to weep. We look at one another, dumbfounded, before she speaks with amazement. "You're him... you're James."

The wonder that fills those eyes... I can't help but nod my head once. "Yes. I am him."

A slow smile works over her face, sad yet poignantly hopeful. She places both small hands on my arm, and squeezes tightly. "Please, be kind to him. I know it seems like such a little thing...." She pauses, and then smiles shyly, her unscarred lips parting a little. "But of course you will be." Her hands move away, light butterfly wings, and she moves off down into the darkness below. I find myself watching her, wondering briefly if she was real.

"..What was that all about?" Bush's voice says at my elbow, and I start slightly.

Clearing my throat, I shake my head. "I am not quite sure. I think she thought I was ... someone else." I can hear singing approaching, and by the sounds of it - hah. Yes - Murtogg, with Mullroy half-carrying, half-walking Gibbs down the dock, who is singing quite loudly the 'Stupid Pirates' song. Behind them is Studson, huffing along behind with all of our things, a strangely amused smile on his face. It must have been, I believe, some night.

"Sir?" Gillette comes along to my other side, smirking. "Sparrow is fast asleep, with a bottle of rum in his grip. All we need to do is put Mr. Gibbs to bed."

I nod my head at him once in silent acquiescence, and he moves off to help Mullroy of his burden. 'Oh, but it will be nothing', I think to myself with a tight little smile, 'To the morning.'

**********

Dawn is just ending when we hear the first noises of wakefulness from below - the solid sound of thumping. Obviously, Miss Anamaria and her companions are letting us know that they are wide awake to the world. I lean on the helm a little, glancing down at Bush who is settled on the steps, sleeping, then over to Gillette, who is further along the deck pulling one of the sails taunt. He glances back at me, smirks, and goes to open the doors leading below.

The thumping awakens the three Marines who were curled up on deck, and now startle to wakefulness. I do feel a little guilty over their exhaustion, but a little quickfire lesson in sailing never hurt anyone.

The thumping increases, over and over again, until a large crr-aaacking noise can be heard. Gillette climbs to stand at my side, wind whipping his ginger hair a little as he says complacently, "I think they've 'escaped'."

"Oh good. I would have hated for them to miss their own hijacking," I answer with equal blandness, as we listen to the sounds of footsteps echoing through the ship. Any moment now ... yes. They've found Mr. Gibbs, by the string of curses.

"...WHAT D'YOU MEAN, WE'VE BEEN ROBBED?" And Mr. Gibbs is awake. They are thumping through the ship again, looking in the holds. Ah, but you see, your holds are still full. We didn't touch a thing, there. Now you are running through the ship, but it's slower now. You're all disoriented and confused. You'll go to find your Captain.

"Jack! JACK! Wake up!" The girl's voice is fierce with her accent, and with the doors open I can hear the creaking of wood that must be the bed being shaken by at least four very confused pirates.

"..WAIT! Don't burn the rum!" Sparrow calls out, and there is a moment of silence, as his crew and he must be looking at each other in confusion. More creaking - he is climbing out of his bed. "...Why's the ship moving?"

That is when his crew bursts into a chorus of different complaints, "Some one HIT me over dey HEAD, JACK!" "He heet me too! Woke me up and HEET me again!" "Awwwwk, Dead Men Tell No Tales.." "Jack, they haven't STOLEN anything, but they knocked out the crew for some diabolical reasonin', and it's BAD luck to be hit over the head...."

"SSSSSSSSSSssssht!!" Sparrow bellows, and I can almost see him waving his hands in the air for silence. The four crew members fall quiet. There is a long, long moment of silence, before Sparrow speaks again, his voice getting louder with each syllable. "Now. I'm goin' t'ask again. Why. is. The. SHIP. MOVING?!"

Gillette is trying NOT to laugh so hard - he is nearly doubled over - and I find this is one of the rare occasions where I am actually smiling openly. My eyes move towards Bush as he sits up a little, pushing his hat back just a smidge to smirk at me. He starts to sing loudly, letting his hat drop back over his eyes as he oh-so-casually slouches back against the railing to the stairs. "Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me..."
Gillette and I exchange knowing glances, before we start singing with him. "We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot. Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho...."

The sounds of footsteps make us trail off, moving fast and bursting out unto the maindeck. At the lead is Sparrow, in what looks like a hasty dressing of breeches and shirt, his bandana slighly askew. He skids to a halt, the rest of his crew doing the same behind him, and lifts his eyes to the quarterdeck...

And sees me. Standing at the helm of his ship. The look on his face is one I shall savor for the rest of my days, for it is the sight of Jack Sparrow completely and totally bamboozled. He really can't seem to figure out what to say about me being here. I quirk my lips up -just- so, tipping my tri-corned hat at him. "Good -morning-, Captain Sparrow. Did you sleep well?"

Ah, so many shocked faces turned towards mine. Sparrow's expression goes from shock, to slowly red with rage. He jerks his arm out to the ocean, then back to me, then back out to his ship, then back to me, as he finally finds his tongue for speaking. "You ... " He gulps, spinning around to wave his arms at the open water all around us, and jerking his finger once more towards me. "YOU!..." Shaking his hands agitatedly, he moves towards the stairs finally. "YOU STOLE MY SHIP?!"

"Actually ... I believe the -technical- nautical term is 'commandeer'. I have com-man-deer-ed your ship. Indefinitely," I say with pleasant smugness.

"You... You ... You Can't DO THAT! THIS! ANY OF IT! This ... This ..THIS IS BLOODY -Piracy!-" Sparrow protests, his dark eyes widening at me.

"Not for me. This is undoubtedly recovery of stolen goods." I pause, thoughtful, before a thin smile passes my lips. "...Admittedly I don't know where it was stolen -from-, but I assure you I can find out."

"You -ruddy-..." Snarling, Sparrow starts up the steps, and finds himself facing the business end of Bush's pistol, who still hasn't moved his hat away from his face, impressively enough. The rest of the crew starts forward - only to stop at the sounds of musket hammers being drawn back by the three marines behind them.

I nod to Gillette, who takes the helm, and I move around to the stairs, my expression as cool and professionally empty as I can make it. Sparrow glowers up at me, but it switches to confusion as I walk right past him, hands folded behind me. It's rather hard to look properly Commodore-ish in this ridiculous garb that I am still wearing, but I believe I am pulling it off nicely. I stop at the bottom of the steps, fixing my gaze on the crew. "Captain Sparrow - you and I are going to go into your office and discuss the terms of your surrender to myself and my men. Your crew is welcome to walk the deck or go back to their cabins to plan my painful demise, but any hostile movement and my troops will open fire. Lieutenant Bush, might I add, is the finest shot with a pistol on this side of the ocean, and Mr. Studson can reload his musket in record time. Am I making myself -perfectly- understood?"

"-Inescapably-." Sparrow growls lowly. "But what's going t'keep me from wringing your neck, Commodore?"

I turn towards him, towards those dark eyes, and say quietly. "My word as a gentleman that you will get your ship back, but the terms of that will be discussed at a later date. Shall we?" Then without another word, I head through the double doors, and back to the rather dark little room where a large round table rests - a map across one side of it, an unused place setting ... and a entire bowl filled with apples.

I clear my throat at them, and behind me I hear a gruff chuckle. Sparrow is standing in the doorway, arms crossed as he looks at me, the hatred fading to a probing, questioning look. "Heard you liked 'em. Feel free to help yourself, mate."

"Not at the moment, thank you." I say, tearing my eyes away from him and the fruit, to move to one side of the table. Sparrow turns, closing and locking the door behind him, before going to take the other side of the table, his eyes never leaving me. I sit down, folding my hands over the map, getting right down to business. "The terms are simple, Sparrow. I took your ship simply because I knew it was the most expedient way to get what I wanted from you. Once I get that, we will drop ourselves off at the nearest legal port, and be on our way."

"..Wait. Waaaaaait." Sparrow waves one hand a little, as he leans the other one on the table itself, his expression clearly disbelieving. "Let me get this straight, mate. Y'come to Tortuga. You -kidnap- me and -steal- my ship..."

"Took -prisoner- and -commandeered-." I correct, steepling my fingers together.

"..Right, whatever. Y'did all that - jest t'get somethin' from me, and then when you get what you want, you and your lil'squad is going t'flutter off into the sunset." Sparrow stares hard at me, before his eyes widen. "...Is this some sort of sickly perverse scheme? Are y'going to lock me in the brig and then do unspeakable things to m'person? Ravage me without stoppin' until I'm beggin' for mercy??"

My own eyes must be as wide as saucers. "...-What-? NO! Absolutely -nothing- of the kind."

Sparrow pauses, and a look of absolute disappointment comes over his face. "...Really? B'oody hell. Was kinda lookin' forward t'that."

"-Captain- Sparrow, my reasons for seeing you are not personal of -any- nature." I say crisply, green eyes flaring. "I am completely in control of myself, unlike the last time you decided to use your dubious charms in the hopes of pulling the wool over my eyes. Well, I shall set the record straight, Sparrow. It won't be happening -ever- again."

There is a tense moment between us, when Sparrow suddenly smiles, straightening. "...So -that's- what it is, then. I wondered why y'didn't come after me."

"I thought I said I didn't come here for -you-, Sparrow. Must I write it out for you in black and white?" I say crisply, although I am feeling suddenly uncomfortable as he starts to move around the table.

"Oh... y'may not have, love, but that's all well 'n good. Makes it a lot simpler than me tryin' to go back to Port Royal t'get you m'self. More ...convenient, like." Sparrow's smile widens, and the morning sun glints off his teeth.

I clear my throat, feeling the conversation is getting a trifle bit... off-track. "One, this is not a discussion of your strange need to humiliate and taunt me with your 'flirting'. Two, if it was, might I add that I would go nowhere willingly with someone who uses people so shoddily. For example, oh, I don't know ... kissing someone in the privacy of his bedroom as a ruse to rob a merchant ship?" Damn. Now -I- am getting off track. "The real matter of this is.."

"Y'think that my kissin' you was a -ruse- t'rob that -vessel-?" How did I allow him to get so close to me? I stand, glaring at him as he edges the last few inches around the table towards me, his expression gleeful. "Y'did. You're poutin' at me, b'cause y'thought I -used- you. Now that's worthy of an ironic chuckle. Not once did it occur to you it might be the other way around. Jamie, I'm hurt. But I suppose I can find a way for you t'make it up to me.."

"I didn't come after you because I had other -matters- to attend to! You are not the ONLY pirate out on the water ... would you please -stop- that?" Yes, I am backpedalling away from him, as fast as I can, and as he pauses, I manage to get the table between us. That gleam in his eyes ... it's making me feel like a chicken before a hungry fox.

"Please stop what, Jamie-love?" He purrs, shifting direction, forcing me to do the same. "Y'didn't come after me then, but here you are now."

"-Chasing- me around the table, I am NOT a barmaid... and -don't- call me Jamie...there's a perfectly LOGICAL reason why I'm here..." I say, shifting myself back around the table. "I mean it, Sparrow! Stop that!"

"Stand still, and I'll stop chasin', then." Sparrow says innocently.

"...Will you stay on your side of the table, though?" I ask, raising one eyebrow at him.

Sparrow puts one hand up to his chest. "I solemn'y swear I won't chase you anymore, 'n stay on my side of the table, if you stop runnin'."

"...I am not running." I stop, however, and glare fiercely over at him. "I am moving with alacrity. There is a difference."

"I am sure there is, love." He smiles broadly at me, and before I can stop him, he's atop the table. He grabs me by the lapels of my coat, pulls me unto the table, and smacks me down on my back. "Not sure I care, tho'..."

"Sparrow!" I try to sit up, but he pins me down by straddling my body, hands moving to hold my own down on the table. "I did NOT come here to be -ravaged-!"

"If you didn't, you're sure wearin' the wrong clothes, love. If I hadn't been ready t'kill you up on the deck, I would have thrown y'down right there and then." Sparrow rumbles, his lips grazing my ear lightly.

I let out a little noise which I am sorry to say is not a noise of protest, and growl back up at him. "So you've decided the -table- is a better option than the deck?"

"Well, much more privacy, for one..." Sparrow's mouth is moving a line down my throat, distractingly warm and soft. My will to fight is fading with every little kiss. "More intimate... close quarters..."

"Sparrow..." My wrists go limp under the grip of his one hand, as his lips cover my skin with heated kisses and his fingers slide in front of my shirt, down my chest to my.. "HANDS! HANDS, SPARROW!"

"What?" He asks muzzily, burrowing his mouth into my neck again, causing shivers to run up and down my spine. I can feel the entire length of his lean frame pressed against my taller one, shifting over me in new and not at all horrible ways. "I'm jest bein' friendly with m'captor, and all..."

God that feels so good ...no, no, No, NO! "Your hands cannot be friendly with ANY part of my anatomy!" I growl, yanking one of my hands free, scrabbling across the table to grab the first piece of cutlery I can find. Which is, alas, a spoon. However, it works admirably as I bring it down hard on Sparrow's fingers, making him jerk back. As he's distracted by howling in pain, I make my escape. Scrabbling away to the door, I push my back against it firmly.

Catching my breath, my words snapping out of my mouth faster than I can think about them. "That is IT, Jack! I have HAD it with your roaming hands and roaming kisses! You kiss me, and then you smack me. You sneak into Port Royale, kiss me AGAIN, and then go rob a merchant vessel to get me to chase you! I take over your ship, and you try to seduce me on your table! Well, I am -not- taking it anymore. William says you're trying to court me - if that is so, you are doing a -pisspoor- job, -Mister- Sparrow."

Sparrow looks at me, clearly taken aback as he sits on the table, leaning forward on his elbows. He regards me with no little caution and a great deal of hurt confusion, which I attempt to ignore. "I don't know ...thought the apples were a nice touch."

"Yes, they were. The -only- one. You ...can't just HAVE me because you chase me down, or I come after you for a purpose which was not to ... do this, but something else. To court someone is to show them respect, to have them understand how you feel, and in return to earn their

-honest- affections. To get to know them as people, and not just objects of lust." I let out a long deep breath, trying to get control of my anger. Disturbing that the only person who can get me to this level of passionate feeling and lucid honesty is Sparrow.

What is more disturbing is the intent way in which Sparrow is listening. "So. You want me t'prove that I honestly care about you, then, 'n not jest for ..." His lips quirk up, and he gestures. "Tableplay?"

...Is that what I am saying? I exhale slowly, and look at him, standing a little straighter as I move to open the door. "Yes. That's what I'm speaking of exactly. Now. I am asking you to leave so I might compose myself, and we can continue our discussion ... of -your terms of surrender- later on." I pause, and add on tiredly, "Please, Jack?"

Jack's smile is an affectionate one as he slips off the table, and saunters towards the door. He stops in front of me, and he gently put two of his fingers to his lips, before tracing them along my jawline. "As you say, Jamie. I'll court you, fair 'n square, 'n won't take liberties unless I've got permission to ...heh ... table you."

He takes my hand into his smaller slender one, bringing it to his lips gallantly before he swaggers his rather hipinduced walk down the hall. He pauses at what must be the door to his own chambers, before leaning back to flash me a smile that does rather strange things to my stomach. "Let the Game of Love begin, then." The smile widens devilishly. "My move, I b'lieve?"

His door clicks shut, and I look at it for a long time, silent in what I have just willingly walked into. He is going to chase me, in earnest, and I am trapped with him on his -own- ship. There is no escape this time.

What -will- the crazy pirate do, indeed?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A little bit of this

A little bit of that

It started with a kiss

Now we're up to bat.

A little bit of laughs

A little bit of pain

I'm turning in my bed

It's all in

The Game of Love

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To Be Continued...