"See ya tomorrow, Cap'n."

Jack waved his hand freely in dismissal, half-watching Gibbs's retreating form. When he was alone, the hand fell to his side, and Jack's grin faded.

Tonight would mark the beginning of the new year, but for Jack, it marked the end of the old. He had survived his confrontation with Barbossa, earned back his Pearl (and his freedom, for they were the same), and had managed to not only not scare off, but befriend the son of Bootstrap Bill. It had been a good year, and that's what had Jack a little on edge. As much on edge as Jack could ever be, that is.

Jack stood in the darkness, leaning his body against the cool brick and mortar of a tavern. He had a view of the dark waters from here, and found his gaze drawn to the gentle, sparkling waves as they struggled to come on land. It was a popular night for drinking, and that's what the rest of his crew had left him to do. For Jack, every night was good for drinking, so he was in no particular hurry to start tonight. Instead, he let his head fall back against the building and listened to the soft sound of ceramic and brick colliding. Such stillness was uncharacteristic of him, but at the moment, Jack had nothing to do and no one to impress.

Captain Jack Sparrow had never really been fond of close human companionship. He was never one to turn down a lovely girl, and certainly valued a good working relationship with his crew, but in actuality, Jack had no one to just pal around with. No one to be fools with, no one who understood what made him tick and vice versa. Not anymore. Not since Bootstrap.

Stumbling, as Jack so often does, over young Will Turner had restored something in Jack that had been swallowed down over the years. In all of Will's naïve-ness, Jack found himself enjoying having the boy around. Will had been bold- like Jack, in good spirits- like Jack, and true to his heart. If there was one thing Jack Sparrow was, it was true to himself.

So now, when Jack stood in a dirty alleyway in the more rowdy part of Port Royal, trying not to draw attention to himself, Jack was struck with a seldom-exercised feeling of loss. While he and Will had made a good, but odd team, Will was destined to share his life with Elizabeth. Jack couldn't blame him.

A laughing and drunk couple stumbled down the street, illuminated by the moon. Jack tipped his hat lower over his face and looked down. He locked gazes with a large brown rat briefly before it scurried away with an apple core in it's mouth. Jack shuddered.

Maybe his time was drawing to an end. Maybe Captain Jack Sparrow should retire the Captain from his name and find a pretty girl to settle down with. While he didn't feel old, he wasn't getting any younger and some parts of him weren't as fast as they used to be. But what of the Pearl? He couldn't bear to see Her sail under someone else, not even Will or Gibbs. The Pearl was his, his alone, and She always would be.

A breeze blew down the alley, causing Jack's coat to flap in the breeze. He splayed a decorated hand over the heavy fabric to still it. He breathed deeply, looking to the sky as the familiar smell of salt and rum washed over him. Enough of this deep thinking. He needed a drink.

Jack had just turned towards the street when another shadowy couple passed before him. He paid them no mind, until he heard his name.

"Jack?"

He searched the dark figures while a hand twitched in the direction of his pistol. Now that the fated bullet had been placed, he was free to fire the weapon at will. "Depends on who it is that's askin'," he replied cautiously.

The figure took off his hat and the moonlight washed over a handsome face. "It's me Jack, Will. What are you doing hiding in the shadows?"

Jack's face bent into a smile before he could stop it. He opened his mouth to reply when the second figure made her presence known. It was Elizabeth.

"I think he's up to a little treachery," she said, obviously trying to mock him but failing with her bright smile.

Jack bowed his head. "Aye, you've the right Captain Sparrow." He finished moving (because Jack never just walked) to stand before them. "I might ask what a whelp and a governor's daughter are doing in this part of Port Royal."

"It's New Year's Eve, Jack, we're out celebrating."

Will sounded so matter-of-fact that Jack wasn't sure what to say next.

Elizabeth saved him the trouble. "You did know about the holiday, right Jack?"

He tilted his head and grinned. "Of course I knew about the bloody holiday, how could one not know with all this commotion about?" Jack flailed his hand about his head, indicating the shouts and gunfire and sounds of broken glass.

"Then why aren't you celebrating?" Elizabeth raised an eyebrow.

"I am woman, I was just going to get me something to drink!"

Great, now they both were raising an eyebrow.

"Come sit with us, Jack. We're going out to the water." Will turned his liquid brown eyes into a pleading gaze. The boy was obviously confused. Jack was no strumpet to be wooed.

Elizabeth held out a bottle of rum. How had he missed that? "Take this, but come be with us," she said.

Jack though about it, his hands floating near his chest, then he reached out and accepted the offer. Part of him admitted that the rum would not have been necessary.

Without words, Will and Elizabeth turned and headed for the sand. Jack followed, eyeing the bottle as he trailed behind them. He gaze wandered up to the expanse of Elizabeth's dress. How many more bottles were hidden in it's depths? Sadly, only Will may ever know.

They reached the beach in unity and Jack welcomed the feeling of pliable sand beneath his boots. His swagger grew a little stronger and his arms bent at the elbows, sloshing the rum around in the glass. Will and Elizabeth sat down together, side be side, and Jack plopped down on the other side of Elizabeth. He bent his knees and made himself comfortable as a feeling of déjà vu crept over him. He uncapped the bottle and took a swig of the drink.

"What brings you back to Port Royal, Jack? Isn't it dangerous for you to be here?" Will asked as he bent his head around Elizabeths'.

"It's dangerous for me to be anywhere son," Jack replied, looking out over the water. His home. He offered no further explanation, as he himself wasn't sure of the answer.

"It's nice to see you again," Elizabeth said, sounding as pleasant as if she were addressing one of her father's acquaintances. "I'm glad you're back."

Jack glanced at her, but she was smiling into the water. What had he done to earn such high regard from her?

"What were you really doing back there, Jack?" Will was quiet, as if Jack might run away at the wrong words. Jack was no runner.

"Nothing," he replied honestly. The sincerity tasted funny on his tongue. Perhaps it was the effect of storing rum under one's dress. "The crew is off in the taverns or with women." He stopped, though he wasn't sure why.

"And you're not?"

A corner of Jack's mouth lifted. "I can do those things any night. 'M in no hurry is all."

If Jack had looked away from the rum, he would have seen a silent exchange pass between Will and Elizabeth. Then Will spoke up. "Was it a good year for you, Jack?"

"Aye, it was. Got me ship back," he emphasized by pointing the bottle neck at The Pearl, docked some distance away.

"Don't forget the treasure," Elizabeth said. "Or have you pilfered it all?"

"Treasure's safe, love, no worries there."

"I suppose a thanks are in order," Elizabeth said. She turned to look at Jack, and he noticed a warmth and fondness on her face. "You brought Will and I together this year. We plan to marry in the next."

Jack lit up. "I do love weddings," he exclaimed, his bottle held in the sky. "Drinks all around!"

Will and the soon-to-be Mrs. Turner laughed softly. Will spoke up. "You will come, won't you?"

"I will try lad, I most certainly will try." Jack let his hands fall down again and settled into his usual slouched stature. He took the invitation to heart, a little flattered that the would want the likes of him at such a fancy to-do. Jack looked forward to the occasion.

Will pulled another bottle of rum from his side. Sand was stuck to the bottom and it glittered in the moonlight. Jack frowned. Where were all these bottles coming from? Damn things were like apples…

"Here's to a great year," Will started, stretching his bottle towards Jack. "And may we all find happiness in the next."

Jack raised his own bottle and listened to it clink against Wills'. They each took a drink then, and Jack smiled. "Here's to a pirate's life," he murmured. "And the Pearl." Elizabeth grinned at him.

Will raised one eyebrow in question, but Jack did not repeat himself. He was emerging from the end of this year triumphantly, with a ship and a treasure and good friends. He knew that now.

Suddenly, the coming year seemed a little brighter.

END

Author's note:

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