"My good Captain Sparrow, surely we can discuss this –"

"By all means, Commander Mudd. After you step into the brig." Sparrow opened the cell door and gestured with his sword. "You, too, Admiral."

Mudd stepped into the cell but Kirk hesitated.

"Come, come, Admiral, we don't have all day."

"I don't suppose," Kirk said, a smile playing about his lips, "that I could convince you to put me in the other cell?"

Sparrow returned the smile as he pushed Kirk into the cell with Mudd. "And ruin your reunion, Admiral? How would I sleep at night?"

"It's a wonder you can sleep now, breaking the Code," Mudd blustered. "Betrayer –"

"Ah, my dear Commander Mudd, it's not betrayal if I don't know you. And believe me, I don't want to."

"Harry, Harry, Harry," Kirk clucked. "You can't go anywhere, can you?"

"It's a simple misunderstanding, Kirk –"

"Is it a simple misunderstanding, Captain Sparrow?" Kirk grinned at the pirate. "From what you said, it sounded rather serious."

Sparrow returned the grin as he slammed the cell door closed. "Aye. Very serious. Our friend here can tell you all about it. Have fun, gents."

Kirk cursed silently as the pirate left him alone with Mudd.

"This is all your fault, Kirk. The minute you appeared –"

Kirk silenced him with a raised hand. "Shouldn't you be convincing me to try to help you?"

"You don't need convincing, Kirk, you're Starfleet through and through. You wouldn't abandon me here."

Kirk didn't say a word.

"Would you?"

"What did you do, Harry?"

"I gold-plated a few trinkets." Mudd shrugged. "Who knew he'd melt them down?"

"Next you'll be telling me you brought a few harmless tribbles with you and sold them as pets."

"Now that's an enterprising idea, Kirk –"

"Mudd!"

"What? Tribbles would make excellent pets –"

"MUDD!"

"They're harmless."

Kirk silenced him with a glare.

"You used to be much more fun when you were younger, Kirk."

*******************************

Tribbles? Starfleet? Gold-plating?

Jack eavesdropped on his share of confusing conversations, but the one between the Admiral and Mudd was confounding as well as confusing.

And despite his dislike of His Majesty's Navy, Sparrow had to admit that this Admiral Kirk intrigued him. The man wasn't the least bit pompous or overbearing. He didn't suffer Mudd's blathering, either.

Jack counted to twenty and then made his way back to the cell. Both men stopped mid-argument at his approach and looked at him expectantly.

Grinning, Jack opened the door. "Admiral, I've had a change of heart. You can come out."

Mudd started to follow but Jack pushed him back in. "Sorry, Harcourt, old boy, but it's just the Admiral I want, savvy?"

"Next time, Harry," the Admiral grinned, "make up a more impressive title for yourself. This one doesn't seem to impress anybody."

"Kirk! You'll pay for this!"

"I'm sure I will." The Admiral smiled affably at Jack. "Lead the way, Captain?"

*********************************

"After you, Admiral." Jack guided Kirk into his quarters and watched Kirk's reaction carefully.

Kirk's eyes swept the room and finally rested on Jack himself.

"Join me for a drink, Admiral?"

"Jim."

"Eh?"

"Please. Call me Jim, Captain Sparrow."

Jack was expecting military-upper-class bluster, but Kirk seemed....human. He gathered a couple of mugs and filled them with rum.

Kirk sniffed the contents of his mug and raised an eyebrow at Jack. "Rum?"

"Aye. It's all I can offer ye, Jim."

"Believe me, after being in a cell with Mudd, arsenic would be fine." Kirk raised his mug. "To your fine ship, Captain Sparrow, and her victory over Mudd."

"To the Black Pearl."

They sipped the rum in silence.

"I've not heard of the Enterprise."

"I haven't heard of the Black Pearl." Kirk grinned at him. "But here we are."

"Aye, here we are." Affable, but a tactician, Jack realized. "Where are ye from, Jim? I can't place your accent."

Kirk's grin grew wider. "I was raised on a farm."

"And ye're not going to tell me where."

"No. Does it really matter?"

"It would help to know if ye're worth some ransom." Jack let that sink in for a moment. "Mudd mentioned some enemies. The Klingmans?"

"Mudd has no idea what he's saying half the time."

"Have you no wife or sons?"

"My son would probably ask to watch you make me walk the plank."

"You're placing me in a difficult position, Jim."

"Maybe you could use another hand on deck."

"You want to be a pirate?"

"Better a pirate than a prisoner. Besides, I am an admiral. Surely that experience is worth something."

"It might be at that. Ye'd have to prove yourself, mind, but I may consider it. You think you can handle taking orders from me?"

"I think I can give it a try."

"Well, Jim Kirk, I believe we have an accord."