Chapter 17

Still, the pirate did not answer her, drawing out the silence and her patience.

'Well, answer me.'

Jack remained unmoving and silent, staring blankly into her reddish eyes.

'Fine,' the woman growled dangerously, letting his head drop. She then brought her hand back and forward, sending his head lolling off to the side while the sound of the impact echoed.

Still Jack didn't make a sound; he simply took the punishment as it came without reacting.

'Speak to me, slave.' The woman hissed vilely, bending down so her face was just inches from his.

Slowly, determinedly, Jack's head raised until his eyes locked onto hers. There was something mysterious and fiery in his eyes; they were burning with a renewed passion and vigor that made the woman back a step. ''m not a slave t' anyone.'

The woman took in a sharp breath, realizing that she could no longer manipulate him and get the desired results. Her surprise was soon replaced by a coy grin of dissatisfaction, a strong contradiction to her words. 'Very well, Jack. I knew you were strong but you've proven yourself beyond argument.'

'Thi' was a test?!'

'More or less. But now I truly see you for who you are. Take this.'

Jack dropped lightly to the ground as his bonds loosened enough for him to slip free. Looking into her outstretched hand he saw a small, simply carved talisman of stone. He tenderly took the charm into his own hand and examined the design, tracing it with one finger.

'It's my symbol. Keep it or sell it, but never forget it. It may come in handy someday.'

Jack watched in slight disorientation as the woman vanished in a cloud of evaporating mist in the blink of an eye, leaving him alone in his mind once more.

Ana sat beside Jack's bed, hands in her lap and stared blankly ahead. Will and Elizabeth were below talking with Gibbs while Will's cuts from the fight were being tended. Jack lay still and silent on the bed before her.

"Come on, Jack. Ye gotta fight it…bloody stubborn pirate," Ana mumbled mindlessly, wishing she could somehow help Jack win his internal struggle.

"No need t'…tell me tha'…luv," Jack muttered weakly, his eyes still closed.

"Jack?" Ana asked wearily, still not sure if it was really him.

"Don' worry, Ana; s'me."

"Open yer eyes."


"Open yer eyes," Ana repeated with her voice catching slightly from her conflicting emotions.

A dull sigh passed through Jack's lips and Ana looked down expectantly. "Well?"

Unable to think of any other way to convince her, Jack forced his eyes open. The lids seemed heavy and uncooperative and only slid open a miniscule crack. Ana smiled genuinely at seeing his normal, life-sparked eyes with the chocolate fire burning just under the surface. The fire was abnormally dull, affected by the fatigue from recent events.

She leaned down slowly before lightly brushing her lips against his. His hand shakily snaked up and caressed her cheek, drawing her into a deeper kiss.

Without warning, Jack drew back as doubt flitted through his mind, a frown of miscomprehension on his face.

"Wha's wrong?"

"'m so sorry, Ana," Jack whispered, his fingers having found the fresh gash on her cheek. "'m such a bloody idiot t' let her get into my head like that."

At this, Ana too drew away and her eyebrow rose skeptically. "Let who get in yer head?"

"'m not really sure…but she gave me this," he answered, reaching into the sash around his waist and carefully drawing out a cord with a pendant dangling from it.

Ana's brow creased in concentration as she reached out, silently requesting to hold it. Jack let the necklace slip from his fingers and into her palm like sand through an hourglass. She brought it close to her face and examined the markings.

"Wha' is it?"

"I don't rightly know, but I'll keep it all th' same." Jack decided, taking the string and its burden back from the female pirate. "But whoe'er she was, I'm sorry for believin' her. By doin' so I hurt you an' Will."

"S'not yer fault-"

"Yes it is. I didn't have t' believe her but I did. And it may have cost me." The last was more of an inquiry than a statement, but Ana ignored it.

"Wha' did she tell ye?"

Jack sighed. "Does it really matter? Th' point is I was stupid and believed her lies, thereby hurting…the ones I love."

Ana recovered quickly from the blatant show of emotion on Jack's part, not wanting to embarrass him. "Wha' was she tellin' ye?"

"I'm sorry I betrayed you an' th' crew. Same wit Will and Elizabeth. Ye're all good people…sorry yer tangled up wit' the likes o' me."

"Well I'm not. Yer a good man Jack an' ye didn't betray us."

"Yes I did. I left ya all in Tortuga with nary a warnin' or a shilling. S'not right."

Ana smiled lightly and settled herself on the mattress beside him while he shifted to afford her more room. She wrapped her arms gently around his shoulders and pulled him close to her. "Jack, we knew you had business t' tend to…you always do. There's plenty o' loot on the ship at all times, so no worries there. You didn' betray us." She said gently, reveling in the feel of his body against hers. She still sensed tension in his muscles. "Wha' else?"

"Some fears die hard, luv, but tha's fer another time."

"Alright Jack, relax. You can tell me later."

Jack sighed contentedly and settled himself against her, resting his head on her shoulder and allowing his eyes to fall shut. As he slipped into a long-needed restful sleep, a single phrase filtered into his mind.

"Welcome back, Cap'n."


[a/n: Firstly, I would like to take a moment and thank everyone for the copious reviews I have received. I really appreciate it, and am going to respond to those who reviewed the last chapter here:

pirate grlEe: Well, this was the last chapter…hope you enjoyed the story! I will keep writing, as I have an idea for a sequel to this story.

Otherhawk: Real life, what a curse, ne? XD Well, I totally understand that real life has this terrible habit of interfering with our fun time. Glad you like how the story was going. Thanks for dropping the review.

jackfan2: Sorry, mate, couldn't wait. ;) hands dagger over You know my saying on what to do when things go bad…eheheh. And no, sorry mate, s'not the Pearl. Good guess though. All will be revealed in due time. Thanks for being such a faithful reviewer!

bittersweet46: You don't sound 5 years old! I LOVE that movie too! And you are a good character comparison person! gives cookie Thanks for reviewing.

Secondly, please review. I had fun writing this and can only hope you enjoyed reading it. Please tell me what you liked/disliked and/or what you would have preferred to be done differently. Thanks all! Also, be on the watch for the sequel to this story…it's right around the corner!]