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Chapter 3

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The man dropped to one knee with a clunk, his hand going to cross over his heart in what appeared to be some sort of salute. Behind her back, Jack and Will watched apprehensively. "Malika," the man who had to be Salim said reverently in greeting.

Ana shot a glance back at Will and she took another cautious step towards Salim. "Malika?" she questioned tentatively.

"Princess," he replied, his gaze fixed on the floor. His accent was heavy and thick with his native language.

Ana felt a jolt go through her at the title, and she closed her eyes briefly, her hand reaching out blindly to grab a chair backing to support herself. "How-How do ye know that I'm the one ye want?"

Salim's lips twisted in what might have been a smile. "I was good friends with your father's family as a boy. You resemble his sister greatly."

"His-sister?" Ana questioned, feeling the strength that she so often called upon as a pirate abandoning her. Jack must have sensed this, and she felt him come to stand behind her and put a hand on the side of her waist in support, and she leaned against him gratefully.

Salim shot Jack an ugly, dangerous look and rose to his feet. "Eeh*. She is of great strength to us."

Ana watched with concern as Jack and the other man locked in a staring contest and she knew Jack's hand was itching for his sword. "Stop it, both of you," she commanded sharply, and Salim's eyes fell to the floor again. She felt the beginnings of a headache overtake her. "I 'eard ye wished to tell me a story," she managed finally.

"Yes, malika. Sit."

"I'll stand," Ana shot back. Her nerves were shot and all at once she wanted this man to leave and never come back and let her forget about her past. Her father's past.

"Eeh," he said again in agreement. "I must be truthful. There is grave danger for our people."

Ana felt her blood freeze. Her father's echoed words from the middle ground resounded painfully in her head, the weight of her promise threatening to suffocate her. "Aye?" she said, her tone indicating for him to continue. Behind her, she felt Jack go very still. The silence was almost deafening.

"There is evil in the land. A pepo mbya, a bad spirit is hurting the people and the livestock. Many medicine men have been asked, but none can stop it. The brother of your father, the chief insists that your return has been foreseen by the ancestors to stop the destruction of the innocents."

Ana let her breath out in a whoosh. "They think I can stop it?" It was more of a statement than a question.

Salim nodded, his expression grave.

Ana's heart sank, and suddenly she had to get out, out of this stuffy small dark room and its heavy silence and talk of evil spirits and ancestors. "'Scuse me," she muttered suddenly, turning and pushing her way out of the room into the blinding sunlight.

"Ana!"

She could hear Jack calling her, and she began to jog, grabbing a spare rope and swinging herself back onto the Pearl. Ignoring the confused glances by the crew, she sprinted to the helm and climbed atop the railing so she could gaze at the ocean.

Ana heaved a deep breath, trying to free the thoughts and obligation that plagued her from her body. She closed her eyes and felt the salt air hurl itself through her loose hair and fill her mouth. Suddenly, along with her crushing obligation, she felt a devotion pulling at her heart. Ana felt treacherous tears prick at her eyelids and she opened her dark eyes to gaze down at the sea. The sea: her life, her sanity, her home.

Jack Sparrow's boots clicked softly as he mounted the stairs to the helm, spying her sitting there on the polished dark railing. About a foot from her back, he stopped. What could he tell her? Don't go? Don't listen? Go?

He carefully cleared his throat, but she didn't start, and he realized she had already sensed his presence. She shook her head slowly, and he heard a decisive note of sadness in her voice. "I don't know what to say, Jack."

Jack drew even with her, nimbly climbing up as well to perch beside her on the rail. His gaze locked out on the horizon and he didn't know how to reply. "An' I don't know what to tell ye, love."

Ana tipped her head back in frustration. "Guess I'm torn between one home and another, then," she remarked wryly. Sighing, she turned to face the man she had hated, one who had infuriated her to no end, a stealing bastard he was, and still the man she loved. "I'm goin,'" she finally said sharply, the weight of her promise pressing on her heart forcing her to say the words.

Jack's gaze shot to her, "Don't."

Ana shook her head, her eyes glittering with angry tears. "It ain't my choice."

"It is!" he yelled, his face darkening with anger. "Ye can say no, Ana. Tell me ye'll say no," he demanded harshly, his fingers wrapping around her upper arm.

She glared back at him. "No!" she screamed. Ana took a deep breath, knowing very well that it was possible that this was their goodbye. Captain Sparrow's wrath was a terrible thing. "No," she swallowed, repeated softly. "I'm going."

Jack's features went cold and she could see the veils go down behind his eyes, blocking out all emotion and feeling. "Fine," he said coldly. He took off the ring that she had given him and pressed it into her palm, "Then ye ain't comin' back here."

Ana's heart constricted painfully. "I know," she told him, turning to dismount the railing. She walked three steps, before gathering up her strength and coming to a halt.

"For what its worth, Jack Sparrow, I love ye," Ana told him sharply. Then, not turning back to see his reaction, she went down the stairs from the helm and boarded the Requisition with a puzzled-looking William Turner and sailed away, out of his life.

Jack stared out at the horizon for a long time, long after the other ship had pulled away. "Aye," he finally murmured quietly to the wind, "I love ye, Ana."

Jack swung his legs around the other side of the railing and stumbled towards the helm, his sharp features masking the searing pain that had torn apart his anger and his heart. Grasping the helm, he uttered one bitter phrase.

"A pirate's life for me."

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Finito.

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. . . Or not.

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In Swahili, 'malika' means princess or queen and 'eeh' means yes.

AN: See? No plot. Before you start with the flames, let me just make it known that I'm staring a sequel right now called "Find Your Way Back." Do you really think I'd have my favorite couple end like this? I don't think so!

I was going to wait and post 2 and 3 farther apart so I could get some reader opinions of it. . . but in the end this new story is flying into my head and I just can't keep up so I figured I better get this part over and done with.

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Um, please tell me the truth. Is it really really weird for a pirate fic would take place partly/mostly on land? Is that horrible? Please tell me if you have any objections or reasons why it shouldn't, but I'm fully planning on it happening for this next installment of Jack and Ana's story. If it's unacceptable, howevever, I guess I can try to change it.

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*Swahili meaning 'yes'