Disclaimer: Don't sue me. I'm a good girl, I am. Washed m' face and 'ands before I wrote this, I did.

There is an old superstition, of what origins I do not know, that proposes that it is bad luck to kill a sparrow-- for sparrows carry the souls of the dead to their final resting places.

Chapter the Last: Sparrows

When Murphy had said that he was the "governor" of a "small island," he wasn't being entirely truthful. In actuality, as Jack and Gwen and their entire three-ship entourage realized when they sailed into his domain several days later, Simantikos was really a small archipelago of isles. The largest of these was home to most of the population of the island-chain; a town of aroundfive-hundred people bustled on the shores of this main island. A few handfuls of settlers clustered on some of the tinier isles nearby. Originally composed of a group of two or three dozen alienated Greeks, the population now included discontented or disowned individuals of all breeds and stations who had found a haven for themselves in Murphy's miniature province.

The evening arrival of the Black Pearl, the Gilder, and not least, Murphy's auspiciously-named Lux Fortunaque Mundi set off a spark of enthusiasm that brought effusive settlers from their cottages and houses and down to the harbor in a throng. Every man wished to see Governor Murphy and all were bursting with news. The most incredulous thing had happened, at noon that very day: The plague had released its hold on the settlement!

Several men and women were even then describing over and over to each other exactly how and when they had discovered themselves or their affected family and friends to be miraculously healed. The story was even being passed around about the resurrection of a daughter of one of Murphy's deputies. According to the tale, the young lass had actually been declared dead of the fever late in the morning. Half an hour later, the girl had breezed into her mother's arms as healthy and dainty as a butterfly.

Murphy, for all his shrewdness in business dealings, was so overcome with relief for the sake of his people that he hardly knew how to react. He listened to the accounts over and over, though with a knowing--if giddy--smile, before he recovered the sense to introduce the important guests he had brought with him and charge someone to prepare accommodations for them. It was only then that he realized that somewhere in the middle of the mayhem, Jack, who had been at his side not ten minutes earlier, had disappeared. Gwen was nowhere to be found either, when he began to fervently ask after her whereabouts, to have his people's savior brought before them.

Jack hadn't seen Gwen since earlier that morning, when they had awakened and risen at the same time. Then, however, she had gone below decks while he had elected to go immediately to the poop deck. But once they were on the docks, surrounded by the melee of excitement caused by the great healing she had obviouslywrought while they were still at sea, he began to wonder why she hadn't disembarked yet.

Elizabeth and Will were near him on the docks, talking with Gibbs and AnaMaria, who was holding their young son. A short interview with Elizabeth revealed that Gwen had not, in fact, spent her day with Mrs. Turner, as Jack had assumed. Gibbs and Will both confirmed that they hadn't seen her since early in the morning. She had been in the galley for a while, but then she had disappeared.

Jack wasn't quite sure if he was worried or just exasperated that Gwen had so easily vanished. Perhaps some of both. Either way, he was certainly annoyed. He headed back toward the Pearl, aware that Gibbs and Will came with him to help him search.

There was a small room--more of a closet, really--on one of the lower decks of the Pearl. It was a little cloister that was rarely ever used. On one side of the room were a few random items: a chair or two, an empty basin, unidentifiable poles of scratched wood, etc. Along the wall on the other side of the room were heaps of cloth goods--blankets and trousers and the like. The only time the storage room was ever visited was when a sailor realized that his bedding or waistcoat had grown too threadbare to continue using. Not surprisingly, this didn't happen often, since the men weren't usually so attentive to the state of their clothing. Thus, if a person wished to hide away and sit alone on the uncluttered half of the room, they could certainly do so with little chance of being disturbed.

It was here that Jack found Gwen, curled up on the floor near a tatty, out-of-place,brocaded armchair. Her hands and face were cold, and she was covered in a chilled sweat. Her breath was shallow and erratic. Jack knelt beside her but then hesitated, not quite able to think of what he should do. Half-realized thoughts flitted through his mind: Should he yell to the others he'd found her? Should he find Serge, or perhaps ask if Murphy's island medics were more qualified?

Mechanically, he pulled her into his arms and stood up. He felt strangely as though he were suddenly lost in the same sort of mental fog that was usually induced only by heavy rum consumption. It seemed he was becoming more confused and disoriented by the second.

Gwen's eyes suddenly flickered open and met his. The look she pinned him with froze him in place for a brief second before she closed her eyes again, a look of serenity now on her still-pale face. A chill swept over his body and settled in his stomach. He felt feverish and his legs wobbled. Shaking his head to try to banish the odd sensations, he staggered toward the door, beyond noticing that Gwen's breathing had evened out.

Jack awoke feeling warm. That was the only impression that he could assemble for a long moment while he tried to remember or figure out where he was and why he was there. He sat up.

Ah. He was in his bed. With Gwen's body tangled around his. It was dusky, as though the sun had just set. And… why was he in bed this early?

His motion must have awoken Gwen, for she pulled herself into a sitting position beside him and began absently running her fingers through her mussed hair and trying to sort out which legs were hers and which ones were his. They stared blankly at each other for a moment in the surreal atmosphere created by the fading light. There was a definite, detectable moment when they both remembered all that had passed.

At that point "What happened?" seemed like such a futile query that neither bothered to voice it. Gwen found herself shaking her head absently in her confusion and had to stop herself. She ventured to ask how he felt.

For a moment it seemed that Jack didn't hear her question. But then he stretched and yawned, as though to take stock of himself, and grinned. "It's bad luck to try to kill a Sparrow," he quipped.

"I didn't try to kill you," Gwen protested meekly.

He recognized that pensive tone in her voice, knew it all too well. And rather than give her an opportunity to start pondering what exactly had happened down in that storage room that day, Jack sprang out of bed and began tugging at her. "Get up, wench," he insisted as he glanced about in search of his boots. "Think later."

To his surprise and pleasure, Gwen nodded in agreement and let the subject pass away, at least for the moment. She stood and stretched herself, surprised at how wonderful she felt now after the terrible state she had been in earlier that day. At least, she assumed it was still the same day. There was no telling how much time had actually passed. A thought suddenly occurred to her and she found herself murmuring "the baby," as she put a hand over her stomach.

"It's fine," Jack answered her as he reassembled his clothes and stamped into his boots, even though she hadn't necessarily been speaking to him.

"Oh!" Gwen said in surprise. "It's kicking! Come here and…" She trailed off and looked up at him incredulously. "How did you know?"

Jack began in a very matter-of-fact tone to explain, "I…" But he got no further. He stopped and frowned. Why would he know that? He hadn't been guessing, or just saying it to reassure her, but how could he really know that Gwen's illness from overexertion or whatever side effect of her efforts it was that had caused her to be ill… how could he know that the child was unaffected by it?

Gwen stared at him. He clapped his hat onto his head. "Let's go, luv," he said, suddenly anxious to leave the confines of their quarters and go elsewhere, where they wouldn't have to wonder about why she had made him sick as well, or why they had mended so quickly (assuming, of course, that it was the same day and not the next evening), or… wonder about anything else even halfway related to these strange occurrences.

Gwen compliantly found her own boots, smoothed her hair and skirts, and turned to go with him. Just as she passed him on the way to the door, however, he grabbed her playfully, in an obvious effort to dispel the funk they were caught in, and spun her around and out of his way, then made a mad dash for the door himself.

Gwen lost her balance and stumbled, barely managing to right herself by reaching out and grabbing Jack's desk chair. "It's bad luck to try to kill a Sparrow," she complained. Then, as though realizing what she had said, and what she had insinuated by it, she cleared her throat nervously and walked silently toward the doorway where he waited.

But he made no objection to her claim of being a Sparrow as well. Actually, he didn't seem to notice at all. Instead, he merely joked, "Ye nearly made me fall down earlier when ye gave me that fever, I nearly made ye fall down now; we're square."

Gwen dropped her jaw in mock-irritation. Pointing at her belly, she said, "You did this to me, Mister."

"Captain," Jack corrected as he led them out onto the deck of the Pearl.

"Yes, that too, if you insist. But we're not even."

"Of course we're not even. I'm a captain. I rank ye."

"That has nothing to do with this," Gwen insisted.

"It's all a matter of who's on top, is it not?" Jack answered impishly.

"If that's what being a captain is all about, then sometimes I'm a captain too, am I not?" Gwen pointed out lewdly.

"Cap'n! Gwen! How be ye?" It was Gibbs. It occurred to Gwen to wonder how much of their conversation the man had caught or understood, but she thought it better to not mention it at all. She raised a hand to her lips to keep herself from snickering aloud and ignored the wicked grin Jack shot her.

"Everyone's been worried this past coupla hours," Gibbs went on, either oblivious or very good at pretending to be. "They'd be 'appy to 'ave ye go on ashore if ye was feeling aright. Be ye aright now, after so short a time?" He gave them a searching look, as though it had just occurred to him to compare how dreadful they had looked not so long ago with how healthy they appeared to be now.

"We're doing quite well, thank you, Gibbs," Gwen assured him. Offering an arm to him, she said, "Shall we go then, my friend?"

Jack scowled for a moment at his exclusion, then scampered over to Gibbs' other side, looping his arm through his first mate's. "To Oz?" he asked in a dainty falsetto.

Gibbs and Gwen both turned their heads to stare at him.

"Ashore?" he tried again in his natural, lower timbre.

"Ashore," they echoed.

"How are they?"

Will seated his wife before responding to the question Murphy had asked. "Better, I think. Elizabeth?"

She shook her head ambiguously. "It was very strange that he should take ill so suddenly. Anyway, both were asleep last I checked on them. Gibbs insisted on staying behind and promised to inform us of any change for the worse. But I think they'll be fine once they've had time to repair."

Murphy glanced around anxiously at the great assemblage of shambled-together tables and chairs before them. "This was t' be a banquet i' their honor," he said blandly. "It's been hard enou' tryin' t' keep 'em all from swarmin' th' Pearl, as 'tis. And now them not even bein' 'ere now…"

"It's not your fault she doesn't feel well," AnaMaria reassured him softly from where she sat on his other side. "She agreed to do it, whatever the consequences for herself were. And she's fine; she just needs rest. Perhaps tomorrow she'll feel up to being paraded about."

"Well, wha' o' Jack, then? Why's ee sick at th' instant she were found when ye and th' Turners 'ere and 'alf 'is crew all was around' 'er right after ee found 'er?"

AnaMaria shook her head slowly. "I don't know, Dylan." Her eyes were focused far away. "I don't know."

Suddenly, Elizabeth caught Will's hand to grab his attention and pointed toward the figures just entering the circle of light made by the torches ringing the banquet area. Will cleared his throat and tapped Murphy on the shoulder. Murphy elbowed AnaMaria out of her reverie.

"What was that for, you oaf?" she asked crossly, rubbing her side.

"If ye're still tryin' t' explain ever'thin'," he said, "explain that. Ill, were they?"

AnaMaria stared. "They were. I saw them when Will and Gibbs and Ben brought 'em up. As pale as Norrington's wig." She scowled, then turned to Murphy. "You're the legend master," she pointed out. "You explain it."

Murphy shook his head. Whether because he didn't know anything or just wouldn't say, AnaMaria wasn't sure. Either way, he didn't say anything more to her, but rose from his chair and spread his arms out. The crowd of diners grew quiet almost instantaneously as they nudged and poked each other into respectful silence to hear their leaders' words.

"Simantikos," he said, "I presen' t' ye your Light, Miss Gwendolyn, and m' ol' mate Cap'n Jack Sparrow!"

Gwen balked at the cheer that went up, and at the number of awe-filled, grateful faces who turned eagerly towards her, and the hands of those nearby who began reaching out towards her, anxious to grasp her hand or touch her skirts.

Gibbs had wandered off and gone around to join his compatriot shipmates as soon as they approached the light. But Jack moved closer to Gwen's side when he saw how anxious she looked and curled an arm around her shoulders. "See, even he calls me a captain, luv," he jested in a voice just loud enough for her to hear over the hubbub, trying to distract her from the awkward distress she was obviously experiencing.

Gwen relaxed somewhat into his embrace as he escorted her toward the front table. "What does he have to do with what I choose to call you?" she asked, playing along with his little game.

"That man," Jack informed her gravely, "served on the same ship as I did for five years. That's longer than ye have. We even inked our first tattoos together. I mean, that's brotherhood. He can call me whatever the hell he wants. But you--"

"Did it hurt?" she asked out of a sudden curiousity.

Jack didn't chastise her for her interruption. Instead, he thoughtfully flexed his forearm, considering the tattoo there that was currently covered by his sleeve. Sun, sea, and sparrow.

"I'll wager ye'll be able to bear it jes fine," he said, gripping her wrist and drawing her hand up to eye level. He paused for half a moment as though to examine her forearm, but then he released her and continued blithely, "S'long as ye remember that the captain is the one who will do it, and that the captain expects thanks for it."

Gwen didn't speak for a long moment, stunned at what he had just promised to do for her. She swallowed nervously a few times before she finally managed to ask, "Does the captain still insist on being on top to receive his thanks?"

"That's the ticket, luv," he said, winking at her use of the title. "Now…" He turned his attention to eye Murphy as they neared the big man and his "table of honor." Scanning the table up and down conspicuously, Jack demanded of him (in lieu of a proper greeting), "Where's the rum, lad? Bring it out now; we're here. Drinks all around!"