Author's Note: Now, the question here is whether this update is merely a figment of your imagination. It seemed that way to me for a while. Thank you all for being so patient and thank god I finally got this over with.

Consider the monstrous size of this chapter a sincere apology for the delay (It was originally two separate chapters, hence the double title).

Forgive any spelling mistakes but please let me know of any in a review. I've gone over it more times than I can count but I'm sure there's still many I missed.

Hopefully I'll get around to editing it again soon. For now, though, I just wanted it posted.

One last note: I will be changing the title of this story to The Coveted Map shortly after posting this chapter. It's simple, yet suits the story more than the present title, methinks.

That's all!

-CPP

--

Chapter 9

Strangers and Family (Balls, Banquets and Battles)

--

It was two days prior to the engagement party that Mabel found herself in Elizabeth's company once more. They were in, of all places, Will's smithy, attempting to clean the place up a bit while he was gone. Mabel wasn't stupid, and knew that Elizabeth was only doing so because she (despite cheery appearances), was feeling rather sorry about treating Will so coldly the past week. The neighbours would probably faint if they knew such an esteemed lady was doing such menial work. And Mabel was only helping her because, well, she desperately needed to get out of the house before her mother and sister drove her absolutely mad with talk of wedding dresses, banquet dresses, dancing dresses, party dresses, and any other manner of dress that was available.

And just because dresses was the one topic that Mabel was trying to avoid, Elizabeth had, albeit unknowingly, begun chatting about them.

"My wedding dress was absolutely beautiful, Mabel! White as snow – I would have thought it made of clouds if it hadn't been so scratchy!" Elizabeth went on. "I did like it though, and my father had it shipped in from England – as a result the corset to go with it seemed much smaller than usual! But then I went and spilled punch all over the thing, silly me. Father was furious, of course. I was rather relieved to be out of it."

Mabel hummed an inattentive reply as she ran a damp cloth over the lone table in the shop. Elizabeth was wielding a broom and Mabel would have been thankful not to see all the dust that was being stirred up if she'd known about it.

"I wonder what your sister's dress will look like!"

"I wouldn't doubt if it was white," Mabel replied absently.

Elizabeth stopped cleaning to stare at the blind woman. "It has just occurred to me that you don't seem very enthusiastic about this wedding, Mabel," she said, and it sounded suspiciously like a scolding.

"Oh, I am!" Mabel assured her immediately. "Just not in the way you are."

Elizabeth sniffed. "Well, in what way are you excited, then?"

Mabel, too, stopped her cleaning. "Well, I'm more happy about the fact that my sister's actually found someone than what her wedding – dress, flowers, shoes, location – will look like."

"You doubted your sister would marry?" Elizabeth enquired curiously.

"No," Mabel said quickly, but then ruined it. "And yes."

"Yes?" Elizabeth echoed uncertainly.

"Yes, I have doubted it because…because…well she's rather…" Mabel cut herself short, cringing. "I can't say it!"

"Why not?" Elizabeth asked.

"Well it's not polite, for one. And second, she's getting married soon. I might doom the wedding with all my gloom." Mabel sighed wearily.

"You're gloomy?" Elizabeth repeated almost dumbly. "Well I hadn't noticed."

Mabel smiled triumphantly. "That's very good. I'm doing a very good job of keeping it to myself – and no I'm not telling you what it is!"

Just as Elizabeth opened her mouth to reply to that, there was a loud knocking on the front door to the smithy. She shut it immediately, and regarded Mabel, who seemed to be staring at the door with a perplexed look on her face. Royce, who had tagged along for the cleaning expedition, raised his head drowsily from his spot on the floor and regarded the door with a very similar look.

"I thought you said you hung a closed sign out there?" Mabel said curiously.

Elizabeth paused for a moment, thinking quite the same thing. "I did."

"Well, perhaps he can't read," Mabel offered.

Whoever was outside began knocking again – this time just a bit louder.

"I somehow doubt that," Elizabeth murmured, setting her broom against the table and patting down her dusty skirts. "Oh, don't I look like a right mess!"

As she fussed slightly with her hair the person outside began an insisted pounding on the door.

"He's getting impatient, I imagine," Mabel observed somewhat disdainfully.

Elizabeth promptly gave up on her hair when the pounding started getting louder and stomped towards the door. "For goodness sakes! – Just a moment!" she hollered, then to herself, "I hope they don't notice I'm absolutely covered in dust!"

Mabel felt her way around the table and crouched down to take hold of Royce's collar just as Elizabeth unlocked the door. The dog made a low whining sound deep in his throat, but Mabel tapped him lightly on the nose to shush him.

Elizabeth opened the door a crack, just enough to see that the person outside was a rather scruffy looking man perhaps in his mid thirties.

"Yes?" she asked politely, her eyes straying to his waist where a pistol was tucked neatly into his belt.

"I'm looking for Will Turner. This is his smithy, I presume?" the man asked, and Elizabeth detected a strange accent in his voice.

She narrowed her eyes the slightest. Perhaps this man couldn't read. "Yes. But I'm sorry; we're closed for the day. My husband is out delivering orders. Perhaps if you come back tomorrow–"

"I'm afraid my business cannot wait," he said, cutting her off.

Elizabeth gripped the door just a bit tighter, her face twisting into a look of disgruntled annoyance. "Well it must, because my husband is not here," she told him more firmly. "If you could tell me your name I'd be happy to inform Will that you're looking for him."

He regarded her quietly a moment with icy blue eyes. "Dominicus Drake. I'm a merchant in need of your husband's help for my business while I'm in town." His tone was not at all pleasant.

Behind Elizabeth, Mabel had been approaching with Royce by her side, and she nudged Elizabeth over just the slightest, opening the door wider and allowing the man to see the large, shaggy dog by her side.

"Well, Mr. Drake, as Mrs. Turner has said, Mr. Turner is out on business today. If you'd like to place an order, however, we would be very happy to relay your request to him," Mabel told the man in a voice hard enough to chip ice.

Elizabeth watched how Drake's eyes fixed on the dog a moment before raising to peer at the blind woman's face.

"Well, in that case I will return another day," he said, almost graciously.

Elizabeth nearly sighed with relief. "I shall inform my husband that you are town."

He took a step back, staring at the both for a long moment. "Well, thank you. I will take my leave, Mrs. Turner, Mrs…?"

Mabel swallowed slightly. "Browning. Miss Browning."

"Miss Browning," he corrected himself with another step backwards. Even while bowing his head slightly, his piercing eyes never left them. "Good day."

And with that, he turned and walked out of their sight.

Both women heaved a great sigh and Elizabeth quickly closed the door and latched it shut. They leaned against it for a moment, Mabel letting Royce free from her grasp.

"Well," Elizabeth began with an uneasy laugh, realizing that they had both felt the same animosity coming from the man. "That was certainly unexpected."

"And very curious," Mabel added.

"Indeed," Elizabeth uttered.

--

"Where have you been?"

Elizabeth was up on her feet, demanding, when Will returned home that evening. It was past ten at night and completely dark outside. Most the staff had gone to sleep for the night. She discarded the book she'd been reading while she worried over her husband and faced him with her hands positioned angrily on her hips. She tried her best to look intimidating.

"The same place as every day this week," Will muttered, almost irritably, and began to shrug off his overcoat. "With Jack and the crew, trying to fix that damned ship of his."

Elizabeth frowned slightly, thrown off by his tone. "You missed supper."

Will sat down on their bed and began tugging off his boots. "Jack wanted me to stay and sup with the crew."

Elizabeth sighed to herself and chewed on her bottom lip a moment. "Do I need to remind Jack that you are not one of his crew?" she asked sharply. "And why didn't you send word?"

Will sighed as his second boot came off. He wiggled his toes slightly, grimacing. "We needed all the hands, and I don't think Jack would want to risk sending someone to the house."

That hadn't been the answer she'd been looking for. Silently, Elizabeth walked around to take a seat beside her husband.

Will could immediately feel the anger rolling off her in waves.

"Elizabeth?"

She crossed her arms silently, and for a moment she resembled the spoiled young girl she'd been when they were younger.

"What is it?" He asked gently. "I'm sorry I stayed later than usual and I'm sorry I didn't send word."

Lips pursed, she regarded him with an arched brow.

"I promise it will never happen again?" Will offered up meekly.

Rolling her eyes, Elizabeth heaved a sigh. "Alright…"

Frowning, Will moved closer to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "What's wrong? Besides…me…?"

Swallowing, Elizabeth reached up to lay her hand over his on her shoulder. "Today…I was cleaning up the smithy a bit…Mabel was there with me…"

Will nodded, urging her to continue. "And thank you for that, by the by."

She sighed again. "Well…a man came to the door, despite the closed sign…and he wouldn't go away until I told him where you were."

Immediately, she felt Will stiffen. "And did you?"

She shot up from the bed, fixing him with a deathly glare. "Of course not! What sort of fool do you think I am?" she cried indignantly, turning away from him with an frustrated huff.

"No, you're not a fool at all!" Will tried to amend, standing as well in an attempt to placate his wife. "I just…I'm a bit…well," he stuttered a moment before giving up. "…What did you tell him?"

Blowing out a gust of air, Elizabeth whirled on her husband. "I told him you were delivering orders, just as you asked me to!" she told him.

"Then what's the problem?" Will stared up at her with a sort of naivety that stunned her.

"Well, I haven't gotten there yet!" Elizabeth fumed. "The problem is, that this man simply would not give and nearly broke the door down trying to get in! If Royce hadn't been there I'm very sure he would have!"

Will's eyes widened considerably at the thought of his wife being in danger.

"And then he demands where you are! Mabel nearly had to fight him off with her cane!" This of course was an exaggeration, but Elizabeth felt a little elaboration would help her husband understand her concerns. "And to top it all off, he says he's a merchant!"

"A merchant?" Will repeated slowly. "What—"

"He didn't look like a merchant to me!" Elizabeth cut him off, getting a bit red in the face.

"What did he look like?" Will demanded in that tone of voice that suggested he would go hunt this man down that very moment for frightening his wife.

"He looked like a pirate!" she said. "Certainly smelled like a pirate…"

"A pirate?" Will asked, sounding doubtful.

Elizabeth rounded on him. "Will you stop repeating me!" she thundered, and regretted taking such a harsh tone when Will actually seemed to recoil away from her slightly. Inhaling deeply, she collapsed back onto the side of the bed. Will immediately sat down beside her. "I'm sorry, Will…it's just he scared the wits out of me. He had a pistol. If Mabel hadn't been there I don't know what I would have done…" Closing her eyes, she rested her head on her husband's shoulder.

He took her into his arms without another word.

"This whole thing is such a stress," she murmured into his shoulder.

Will ran one hand along her back while the other slipped into her hair and began removing the pins that kept it up.

"I'm just so worried, Will. For Jack. For you…"

With her hair falling freely down her shoulders, Will wrapped both his arms around his wife and leaned back onto the bed. They lay side by side wrapped in each other's embrace.

"When is it going to end, Will?" Elizabeth asked, her voice sounding suddenly small and tired.

Pressing his cheek into her hair, Will responded quietly. "Jack will be sailing to Tortuga in no later than three days time, love."

Elizabeth's eyes were closed but her brow still furrowed. "And what will he do then?"

Sighing, Will was unable to answer.

--

Will locked up his shop just after dawn the next morning, his wife still asleep at their home. He hoped that arriving early would allow him to return early and avoid having Elizabeth angry at him again. Sighing to himself, he tucked his satchel of tools under his arm and flipped the sign on his door until it read Closed in clear print. Then, pocketing his keys and turning, Will was surprised to find a man standing only a few feet from him and gazing at him intently.

He froze, speechless for a moment.

The man took a step forward, slowly crossing his arms over his chest.

"You're Mister Turner?" he asked then, quite bluntly.

Will's eyebrows shot up, and he took a moment to inspect the man. Not the most clean of fellows, with dirty, worn boots and breeches with patches sewn on them. His shirt was stained light brown, and his overcoat was in threads. He looked like a seaman, Will concluded to himself.

Then his eyes fell on the pistol tucked neatly into the man's belt. His mind went straight back to last night, over the conversation that Elizabeth and he had had.

"Yes," Will replied cautiously, his eyes moving discreetly down the street to either side. It was early enough that no one was about and most shops were still closed for the night.

The man took another step forward. "William Turner?"

Tensing ever so slightly, Will replied slowly, "That would be me."

A smile curled on the man's lips. He gazed intently at Will.

"Good."

Will's grip on his satchel tightened, and he wished he had his sword with him. "You must be Mr…Drake?"

The man's smile widened. "So the bird did tell you, then?" he chuckled. "Yes, that would be me."

Wetting his lips discreetly, Will straightened himself. "Then I'm sure that my wife informed you that I'm not taking any orders this week."

"That, I had not heard," Drake replied with nonchalance, a small dagger appearing in his hands as if by magic. He began to pick under his fingernails with it. "However, fortunately, I am not here to place an order."

Will sucked in a breath, his eyes trained on the small weapon. "Then what do you want?" he asked stonily.

Drake's eyes seemed sly as he answered. "I'm under the impression that you know a man named John Smith? He's quite the rascal – often found hanging around in the gutters of Tortuga?"

Freezing, Will dared not react lest he give something away. Before he could reply, however, Drake continued.

"I would like very much if you would inform him that my captain is waiting just offshore, and would like the item that was stolen from him returned by high moon tomorrow…" he broke off with a sneer. "Tell him he must do this, or my captain will not hesitate to…use force."

Will had no time to even deny knowing this John Smith before Drake had whirled and left, disappearing behind a corner. He stood there for another moment or two before air rushed back into his lungs and felt a bit chilled. Then, he rubbed his hand over his face, almost tiredly.

Jack, what have you gotten yourself into? he wondered.

--

"Now, are you positive you weren't followed?"

Will gave Jack a flat look. "Yes, Jack. If anyone tried to follow me I would have known."

Jack blinked. "As long as you're sure."

"I'm positive," Will replied.

They were huddled on the beach with Gibbs near by and the rest of the crew already hard at work on repairs. The black ship was looking better than it had several days ago – no longer a decrepit skeleton but more so a half-decayed corpse. A half-decayed corpse-ship that Jack was almost defiantly adamant would stay afloat until he reached Tortuga.

"Ah, then no worries, Will." Jack smiled and turned away, already heading down the beach towards his Pearl.

Sighing to himself, Will started after Jack. He caught Gibbs's eye and the older man gave a hopeless shrug. In Jack's step was an unmistakable sway that only served to annoy Will. Catching Jack by the arm, Will whirled the pirate around to face him. Any indignant retort died on Jack's lips as saw the dark look on Will's face. He did not seem amused – rather, he looked frustrated and worried.

"Is that all, Jack?" Will asked lowly.

Jack didn't reply, but cast a pointed look at the hand that still clutched his arm. Will released him, but refused to back down.

Dusting off his sleeve slightly, Jack made a motion of casual indifference. "Well, that should be all, considering that you're positive the little bugger didn't follow you," he told the blacksmith.

Arching a brow, Will crossed his arms. "Did you not hear me when I told you what Drake said?" he demanded. "His captain – Hugh, I presume - wants you to return what was stolen from him – I can only guess that's your precious little map – or he will use force! Now, I don't know about you, Jack, but that sounds an awful lot like violence!"

Jack seemed to ponder Will's interpretation.

"Possibly," he agreed finally.

Will looked triumphant.

But Jack wasn't beaten so easily, and held up a finger. "But what you fail to realize, Mister Turner, is that Hugh Vanderveer hasn't a bloody clue as to where I am." He smiled disarmingly at the agitated man. "That is why he's using threats. Threats are just that – threats! Threats that by no means will be carried out. And do you want to know why?" he cast Will a devious look. "First, and already stated, the man has no idea where I am. I might as well not be on this island, with all the luck he's having trying to find us. And second, he wouldn't dare 'use force' in the first place, because good old Commodore Norrington is sitting up in his fort watching over his waters like a jealous wife. And, he's got his whole army of marines to do as he wishes, as well as naval ships, cannons, swords, and lots and lots of firepower." Pausing, Jack gave Will and pointed look. "Now, do I have a reason to dwell further on this issue?"

Will stood back, silent.

"Thought not," Jack muttered, and turned away with a flourish.

Will closed his eyes in defeat for a moment and gathered himself. It didn't work, of course. He only served to frustrate himself and perhaps anger the pirate captain. But he was convinced that Drake's threats should not be taken as lightly as Jack was willing to. He opened his eyes to watch Jack swagger away, clearly unconcerned. Pursing his lips and steeling himself, Will followed.

"That doesn't change the fact that Dominicus Drake, known pirate, walked into Port Royal, knocked on the door of my smithy and damn near frightened my wife and Mabel to death!" he shouted after the pirate captain, who hesitated just the slightest in step.

He turned.

They faced each other again as Will neared. Both were unaware of the curious stares their argument was receiving from the crew, as the men stopped working to watch these two forces wager their wills over each other.

Will was near enough to see Jack's narrowed eyes. "You failed to mention that before," he declared, the slur all but gone from his voice.

"You didn't give me the chance," was Will's biting reply.

Jack raised his chin. "Then tell me now."

Will's eyes glinted slightly as he retold what Elizabeth had said to him. "It was yesterday. Elizabeth and Mabel were in my shop – I'd been concerned that dust had been gathering on my tools while I had been away helping you, so Elizabeth volunteered to dust out the smithy for me. I didn't stop her, and she invited Mabel along for company. They were cleaning when he knocked on the door. Apparently, Drake wanted to know where I was. Elizabeth told him that I was out delivering orders and wouldn't be back for some time, but he insisted that he talk to me. He was carrying a gun, Jack, and this morning he had a dagger as well. If Royce hadn't been there with Mabel, I'm very sure he would have forced himself into my shop and…" he stopped, the muscles in his jaw clenching. "Mabel told him off – with help from Royce, I'm sure, and they locked the door."

Jack was silent for a moment. "He wouldn't have done anything to them," he said after a moment.

Will glared at him. "Are you so sure, Jack?"

The pirate was still. "He wanted to scare them – but most of all he wanted to find you. And if you weren't there then why would he hang around?" he reasoned smoothly.

But Will wasn't convinced. "He's a pirate, Jack. They don't play by the rules," he told Jack scathingly.

Jack eyed will a moment. "Then I suggest you make sure your wifey stays close to home, Mister Turner," he drawled out in a manner that made very apparent he was displeased.

"I refuse to have my family dragged into this mess, Jack," Will reiterated fiercely.

Jack regarded him once more with dark, unreadable eyes, before he turned to leave. "If you didn't want Elizabeth involved you ought not to have consorted with pirates, Mister Turner!" he called back over his shoulder as he walked away.

Will watched him go, this time not following. There was a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach – there since the night before – and now it only grew.

--

The carriage jostled and bumped to an abrupt stop in front of the Commodore's residence and the door swung open just as quickly. Immediately, there was a startled gasp from inside.

"Oh my goodness gracious, would you look at that!"

"Oh my…"

"Has he outdone himself, Joyce?"

"It's more beautiful that I could ever have imagined, Mabel," Joyce replied as she marvelled at the sight the open door revealed.

The gates to the Commodore's house were thrown open in welcome, and the people mingled along the walkway that led to the house. It was lit up like midday in the fading afternoon light. Hundreds of paper lanterns hung along the path, each giving off a warm golden glow to the surrounding bushes and flowers. They paled in comparison, however, to the many lanterns that had been strung up along the front of the house, running in long lines and across balconies. The steps up to the front door were lined with light and each window of the house seemed to be emanating golden light. Celebratory light. Joyce grinned.

"Miss?" a polite voice enquired and she looked down to see a smartly dressed man waiting to help her from the carriage. She gave him one hand while she held her skirts with the other, and stepped down to the ground feeling every bit like a princess.

Her mother was next, the door giving her voluminous dress some trouble. She fought with the fabric and it submitted, allowing her to step down onto the street.

Joyce hovered as the man helped Mabel down, but the blind woman had no troubles with her modest dress.

"Come along!" Eleanor hurried them, excitement evident even in her voice.

Joyce took Mabel's arm and led her forward. Their mother had refused to let Mabel take her cane, insisting that it ruined the look of her elegant dress. Mabel was somewhat irked to realize how much she had come to depend on the thing in the small amount of time since her sister gave it to her.

They passed through the gates, and behind them, the carriage bounced off to let another one in.

"What does it look like?" Mabel asked curiously as they made their way down the walkway. She heard their mother greeting people as they passed.

Joyce leaned in close. "There's lanterns everywhere, Mabel. The paper kind that mother had imported from India, remember those? And they're everywhere, Mabel. It looks like a palace…" she trailed off with an audible sigh.

"Soon to be yours," Mabel murmured with a smile.

Joyce's only reply was a dreamy sigh.

Together, the three of them made their way up the front steps and stepped into the house, Joyce holding Mabel's arm the whole while.

"Even the foyer is beautiful," Eleanor remarked approvingly.

A man stepped up to them before either could reply.

"Lady Browning, Miss Joyce and Miss Mabel, I welcome you to James Norrington's home. I am Jonson, head butler of the house. If you would please follow me to the ballroom…"

"Thank you, Jonson," Eleanor said, and Joyce tugged Mabel forward. Eleanor leaned in towards her daughters and spoke lowly. "I admire a man who's got his staff whipped into shape."

Joyce stifled a laugh at the remark and followed the butler, waiting occasionally for their mother, who seemed occupied in greeting various people as they went from room to room. The common rooms were filled with people, men smoking cigars and circles of young girls giggling away in corners. Mabel wondered if most of Port Royal had been invited, because it certainly sounded that way.

They were stopped shortly just outside what Mabel realized was the drawing room. The music originated there, and Mabel tried to imagine the couples dancing.

"If you would wait here a moment I will inform Commodore Norrington of your arrival," Jonson said, and slipped away from them.

Mabel smiled. "I have the feeling he was speaking only to you, Joyce," she ribbed her sister, who did not respond.

"He must have hired the finest musicians in the Caribbean. Fine musicians to play fine music," she mused. "Do you suppose he had them brought in from England?"

Eleanor hushed abruptly and Mabel could have sworn she knew it to be Commodore from the presence that seemed to surround him. It was stately, yet calm. The very air seemed to stand to attention as he stepped into the room.

"Eleanor," he greeted their mother first in a deep, smooth voice that Mabel hadn't been expecting. She also hadn't expected him to use their mother's name! That honour was usually reserved for very close friends. When had they the time to become so close?

"James, it's wonderful to see you again," Eleanor greeted him graciously, "And might I say that you have a very impressive home."

He thanked her politely, and to Mabel's surprise skipped over her sister and greeted her next.

"And you must be Mabel," he said, and she barely had time to raise her hand before he took it and kissed it lightly, surprising her yet again. The last man who'd one that to her was a suitor seven years ago.

"Commodore," she managed to find her voice. "Lovely to meet you finally. I've heard great things." She managed a smile.

"Thank you, but the pleasure is mine. Joyce speaks of you almost non-stop, but I'm afraid her description of your beauty doesn't do you justice."

Mabel just barely managed to contain her blush. Thankfully, his attention was now on her sister.

"James, it's wonderful," Joyce spoke in a breathy voice that made Mabel think she was about to faint.

"All for you," he answered effortlessly. "I shall take you for a walk in the gardens after we greet some guests. Some dear friends of mine have been asking for you."

And then, it seemed to Mabel, they were gone through the doorway and she was left standing with her mother. The music faded as Jonson gave a dainty cough and began speaking.

"Presenting Commodore James Norrington and his fiancée Mademoiselle Joyce Browning!"

Polite clapping ensued as the band started up again, playing a regal tune as Mabel imagined them stepping hand in hand to the dance floor.

Beside her, her mother slipped their arms together. "Charming, isn't he?" she whispered triumphantly into her daughter's ear, barely audible over the orchestra band.

Mabel just barely nodded as Jonson appeared once more and beckoned them to enter before bowing deeply and disappearing.

Not too much later Mabel had come to the conclusion that the Commodore's common room, tonight dubbed the ballroom, was about the side of her backyard garden. His house was massive, and every room seemed to be crammed full of people. The doors were thrown open throughout the house, so the music could be heard whether one was in the lounge or by the refreshments.

The drawing room was reserved for dancers, and clusters of seats lined the walls. Men and women mingled in groups around windows and small balconies, all the while chatting idly and watching the dancers while sipping at expensive wine.

Mabel and her mother had made a round of the house together, Eleanor introducing her to people she may or may not have known and gossiping with them while she was at it. Once the first round was done, however, Mabel found herself on her own. Quite on her own. Alone in a house full of strangers. She'd never felt so naked without her cane, and she tried not to look too obvious by groping around at the walls lest she accidentally grab a hold of some poor person. She wandered for quite some time, stumbling into a seating room that housed groups of chatting people and by the smell of it – men puffing avidly on pipes. It was here that she was offered a glass of wine, and she took it gratefully and managed to escape a large group of women who were gossiping fiercely in the corner. It was with relief that she made it back into the common room.

It was about this time that she realized quite suddenly that she wasn't too fond of large crowds. The type that she was stuck in at that very moment. For one, there were positively too many people – most of which she did not know. And for another, it was near impossible to find someone she did know on account of the sheer numbers of bodies occupying every inch of the house.

Rather than wander any longer, Mabel managed to find the doors to a small balcony and slipped out of the room and into the night air. Stepping forward, she felt discreetly with her hands until they touched the railing, and she leaned heavily the stone with relief. Breathing in the cool night made her realize how stuffy it was inside, and how uncomfortable her dress was becoming. It also reminded her that she would never be made for such lavish balls.

Mabel sighed to herself and was content to listen to the music from the safety of outside and let the smell of flowers and chirping of crickets keep her company.

The scuffing of boots on the floor alerted her to the presence of someone behind her.

"Miss Browning?" a voice inquired from the open doors.

Mabel realized who had found her. "Commodore, the ball is lovely," she told him politely as she turned around. She wondered what he was doing here and not with her sister.

"Yes," he replied slowly, then paused. "Which leads me to wonder what you are doing out here?"

The question wasn't scolding, merely curious. Mabel decided to sate the man's curiosity.

"I'm afraid, Commodore, that the heat was rather getting to me," she lied easily, fanning herself for emphasis. She heard him step up until he was standing beside her, leaning on the railing as she was. He smelled of leather and shoe polish and a hint of some exotic perfume.

"If we're going to be related in a few short weeks I have to insist that you call me James," he said then, his voice somewhat wry.

Mabel smiled at him. "Well then, James, may I inquire as to what you're doing out here when you should be dancing with your bride to be?"

She thought she heard him chuckle slightly, but there was laughing from inside and she could have been mistaken. "I've had enough dances with your sister to satisfy her for the hour, I think, and enough to satisfy all of Port Royal's elite in the way of gossip for at least a week," he told her humorously. "I haven't however, had the chance to dance with my bride's sister."

Surprised, Mabel let out a high laugh. "Com-James, surely my sister has told you that I'm not much of a dancer?"

"No. In fact, she told me that you loved dancing very much."

She heard the smile in his voice.

"Did she?" Mabel murmured, pondering her situation for a moment. "Well, I suppose one dance will do…if you insist."

"I do insist," he intoned. "One dance would indeed satisfy me."

Mabel stood and listened to their silence for another moment before nodding slightly and stepping away from the railing. "James, I must warn you that I have two left feet and haven't danced with a man since I was twenty," she confessed to him bluntly.

Smoothly, the Commodore linked his arm with hers. "That is no worry, Mabel, as I happened to be one of the best dancers in the room and I swear to teach you every step I know," he pledged to her as they entered the room once more.

Mabel fought back her smile. "Was that a hint of bragging, good Commodore?" she queried boldly. The music and murmur of people enveloped her as he led her further from her safety and into the middle of the room. "And are you so sure you can teach me to dance in just one song?"

She was somewhat surprised as he let go of her arm to grasp her gently by the shoulders. Then, taking her one hand in his own, he instructed her to place her other on his shoulder.

She did so, and he began to coach her as other dancers twirled on around them, skirts brushing past her and music flowing through her.

"Now, face a bit more to the right – that's it," he went on. "Straighten your shoulders slightly. Relax your arms and bend your elbows a slight more. There, now keep straight and I lead…" he declared just as the instruments quieted. As if on cue, a mandolin sighed and another song began.

Mabel was ushered into motion, her first few steps clumsy, but James's hands urged her forward with him. He murmured the step count lightly under his breath until Mabel's feet began to cooperate with her.

"Just follow me," he told her, and Mabel was amazed to realize that she was actually dancing – twirling slowly around the floor as other couples did the same all around them. She could feel the music in her toes, in her feet, and she followed James's lead with a slightly smile on her face.

"You're doing well," he said as she began to step without hesitation.

Mabel barely managed to keep a snort in. "Easy for you to say," she uttered dryly, nearly missing a step in the process. "I don't have to see to know everyone's eyes are on me. I can almost feel them boring into my back!"

James laughed. "Well, Mrs Amcotts has been giving you a rather funny look," he observed, and swung her around in a tight circle to avoid another dancing pair.

Clutching him tighter, Mabel huffed. "That old bag? She'll be gossiping about a secret love affair we're having right under my sister's nose by this time tomorrow."

"I would rather bet she's already gotten started on it now," he replied drolly.

Mabel smiled. "You're a much more interesting man that I would have thought, Commodore," she admitted.

"Is that so?" he hummed, sounding somewhat uncomfortable all of a sudden.

And Mabel continued, telling herself turnabout was fair play. It was only right that she make the Commodore properly uncomfortable after feeling so scrutinized when they'd stepped on the dance floor. "Yes. I had it in my mind that you would be a stuck up snob – pardon my tongue – but you're actually rather pleasant. More pleasant than my brother, I must say, who speaks of nothing else but of ships and swords and cannons and war tactics. Goodness, I do feel sorry for his wife," she muttered mostly to herself.

"Shall I take that as a compliment?" he asked her ruefully.

Mabel laughed. "Well, certainly don't take it for an insult! I would certainly get a lecture from my sister if I offended you!"

"I shan't say a word, then," he replied, and Mabel laughed merrily.

She was struck with the realization that she rather enjoyed dancing – not at first, of course, when she was all too aware of everyone's eyes on her. But as the music had started and she'd gotten used to the steps and managed to trust Norrington enough to led him lead her blindly through a throng of other dancers, she found that she enjoyed herself.

In fact, it ended far too soon and too quickly was she curtseying politely to her partner before he led her off the floor. She thought she heard the distant sound of polite applause, and with some reluctance, she hooked her arm through James's once more.

One dance, just as promised, she reminded herself.

--

Midst the shadows of night, several figures huddled in darkness. From their viewpoint, they could clearly see in several of the windows and therefore had quite a good view of the festivities inside.

"How long do ye figure we're gonna sit out here for?" a man's voice broke the group's silence.

"For as long as it takes," a second grumbled.

"How long do you suppose that'll be?" the first asked.

The second snorted. "Not much longer for me, I tell you. My arse is starting to go numb."

"Shut up, the both of you," the third hissed. "We're here on the Captain's orders."

"And where's the Captain?" the second griped.

"He's keeping an eye on things," was the short answer.

The first man shifted slightly. "I thought that was our job?"

"At the moment, ye idiots," the third ground out, "It's everybody's damned job."

Silence reigned over the party for a moment.

"I wish I could dance like that," the first stated, sounding somewhat forlorn.

"Shut up."

"What time do you figure it is?"

The second shifted. "What does it matter?"

"Well, 'cause we got sent up here before sup was ready, and I'm getting rather famished."

"Shut up, the both of you!" the third hissed suddenly. "I saw something in the shadows!"

"Is it the Cap'n?" came a hushed question.

"No…t'was something else…"

--

Mabel felt strangely giddy as the Commodore led her off the dance floor. Another song began and attention seemed to shift away from the pair. Almost immediately, they were met by Joyce.

"You two were fantastic!" she exclaimed excitedly. "James, did you see! Everyone's eyes were on you two the whole dance! I would have fainted with all the attention! Mabel, I'm so proud – mother was so delighted! You should have heard her bragging to the ladies, it was precious!"

Mabel unwound her arm from James' and placed her hands on her hips. "I haven't been that uncomfortable since Tomas Winfrey insisted we do the minuet at mother's Easter banquet, Joyce. You should be rather ashamed of yourself," she told her sister in a very stately manner.

Joyce was unaffected. "Don't you lie to me! I saw the smile on your face! Am I right, James?"

But before the Commodore could answer, they were joined by two others.

"And don't I recall you saying you didn't dance?" Will's teasing voice stated.

"And James, how did you convince her to do it?" Elizabeth laughed, standing beside her husband.

James cleared his throat. "Oh, I assure you there was an amount of blackmail involved," he stated placidly, and Mabel couldn't help but grin. "However, Mabel must have felt sorry for me because she agreed to a dance to appease her sister."

Joyce cried out in indignation. "James! You terrible man! I did no such thing! Now I insist that you get us something to drink – my throat is absolutely parched!" And she continued to talk as she pulled the Commodore away from the group.

Elizabeth was the first the laugh. "Was that I joke I just heard coming from James's mouth?" she asked in astonishment.

"I think it was," Will answered, sounding amused.

Mabel's brow furrowed slightly. "Am I to take it that he hasn't usually such a good humour?"

"Not when we knew him," Elizabeth murmured lowly, just as Eleanor's voice cried out from very close by.

"Mabel, darling! I have someone I'd like you to meet!"

She cringed slightly at the sheer volume of her mother's voice, but put on a smile nonetheless and tried to look amiable.

"Mr and Mrs Turner, wonderful to see you," Eleanor greeted the pair quickly before her attention focused completely on her eldest daughter. "Mabel, this is Henry Morris. He owns the plantation just down the road from us, you remember it?"

Deftly, Mabel offered the man her hand and inclined her head slightly.

"Hello!" he greeted her loudly. "Miss Browning, I would like to say how lovely you looked out on the dance floor! It was truly an enchanting sight!" He enunciated each word clearly and slowly as if he were speaking to a child – or a dog.

Mabel winced slightly at the pitch of his voice, but didn't have a chance to answer.

"Mr Morris," Elizabeth interrupted smoothly. "I'm sure Mabel is delighted to hear your compliment, but I feel the need to remind you that she is blind, not deaf."

Mabel heard Mr Morris make a choking sound. She smiled politely.

"And I'm also not a mute," she added, and smiled at who she hoped was Mr Morris. "It's very nice to meet you, Mr Morris. And yes, I do know of your plantation. Your staff once tried to shoot my dog when he accidentally strayed from our property onto yours." Then, giving the man a polite but stiff smile, she turned and left the group just in time to hear Eleanor's cry of dismay and Mr Morris stuttering out a reply.

Elizabeth caught up with her. "I can't believe you said that," she admonished in disbelief.

Mabel sighed. "Elizabeth, I'm nearing my thirtieth year and could rightly be considered an old maid. My mother, however, is obviously still hoping to unload me off on some poor, unsuspecting man! She did this when Thomas was married four years ago, as well! Eleanor Browning is still harbouring some mislead hope that her eldest daughter will one day be married to a fine man." She laughed, shaking her head. "Honestly!" she cried in exasperation.

Elizabeth as silent for a moment. "Well, perhaps one day…" she trailed off as if unsure that she wanted to finish her sentence.

Mabel shook her head firmly. "I was a lost cause since the day I was born, Elizabeth." She paused. "But enough of that. I'm getting rather thirsty."

Elizabeth was somewhat thankful for the change of subject and happily led Mabel to the refreshment table where two glasses of wine were procured and they stood off to the side sipping at it while Elizabeth narrated ill-mannered comments about passing people in Mabel's ear.

"Oh! Elizabeth!" a man interrupted the two women.

"Father!" Elizabeth exclaimed happily.

"Thank goodness I've found you!" he said in a very relieved way. Then, in lower, breathless tones, said, "I'm afraid Lady Bracknell is trying to engage me again." He gave a polite cough. "Now, you must introduce me to your lady friend!"

"Of course, you must meet Mabel!" Elizabeth cooed, gripping Mabel's arm slightly. "Father, this is Mabel Browning, the one I've been telling you about - the bride's sister. And Mabel, this is my father, Governor Swann."

Mabel dipped a small curtsey and the Governor took her hand.

"I'm delighted to finally meet you, Miss Browning. Elizabeth speaks very highly of you."

Smiling, Mabel decided that she rather liked the Governor. "That pleasure would be mine, sir. I'm very glad to meet you."

He chuckled slightly. "I spotted you dancing with the Commodore," he stated. "And I must say your form was very good."

Beside Mabel, Elizabeth barely managed to contain a snort of laughter. "Father, must you make everything sound so…military?"

"Well, Commodore Norrington's form was excellent as well," the Governor responded, sounding somewhat baffled. "Good form is essential to good dancing."

Mabel thought that he sounded rather like her mother at that moment, and forced herself not to crack a smile. "Thank you, Governor. I must admit, however, that I haven't danced in many years. I wouldn't have danced so well if the Commodore hadn't been telling me where to put my feet every other moment."

"Well, it was spectacular nonetheless," the Governor said. "And now, if you would excuse me, Elizabeth, Miss Browning, Ah…Mrs Faulkton is waving me over…"

Once Elizabeth's father was out of sight, she burst into giggles. "You must excuse him. Miss Bracknell has been perusing my father for the last month. He's getting rather edgy about it," she revealed humorously. "I'm not so sure he was certain how to act around you, Mabel."

Mabel took a sip of her drink. "He was charming."

Elizabeth stifled a laugh in her drink. "You're very kind—" she started, but was cut off abruptly by Mabel.

"What was that?" Mabel asked, cocking her head slightly.

Elizabeth stilled. "What was what?"

Frowning, Mabel stood in silence for a moment. Over the sound of music and chattering, she could have sworn that she'd heard…

"That! Right then!" she shouted. "Did you not hear it?"

Elizabeth was silent.

Off in the distance and clearly coming from outside was a thundering sound that seemed to shake the very foundations of the house.

Elizabeth gave a start. "What in the world…" she trailed off as another rumble was heard, but this time much closer.

The rest of the room seemed to have heard it as well, as conversation fell silent quite suddenly and the orchestra slowly abandoned their instruments and fell silent. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen, huddled in a hushed silence. A shiver ran down Mabel's spine.

"That sounded like cannon fire," Elizabeth stated eerily. She grasped hold of Mabel's hand and began to pull her away from the dining room and back into the common room full of dancers.

"Where are we going?" Mabel asked, feeling suddenly very ill at ease.

Elizabeth ignored her question. "It can't be…" she murmured to herself.

But the common room had fallen into a discontented silence, suspicious whispers escaping people's lips. Mabel felt Elizabeth clutch at her arm at the same moment that a loud boom rumbled above them. Above them, something creaked terribly.

"The chandelier!" Elizabeth cried, stumbling back and pulling Mabel with her.

Moments later, there were screams as something came shattering thunderously to the ground.

Mabel barely heard Elizabeth cry out over the panic that suddenly gripped the room. Its self-assurance snapped and twisted violently, and they were plunged into chaos. People fled, she heard – their shoes clapping against the floor in a dizzying staccato that couldn't drown out cries and shouts of dismay. She felt as though she was trapped in a room full of thunder.

"I have to find Will!" Elizabeth shouted over the noise. "Mabel! We have to leave!"

She didn't fight as she was pulled along, unwilling to get lost in such a situation.

"What's happening?" she demanded as Elizabeth pulled her from the room.

"Someone is firing upon the town!"

--

Will had not been dancing when the chandelier had fallen, but he'd watched it's decent to the ground with a shocked dread. People fled from the centre of the room like a giant wave, tripping over themselves and others in the process.

Only when the next shot boomed outside did Will realize what was truly happening. His eyes combed the room for any sight of Elizabeth, but in doing so, he realized she was smarter than to stay in this midst of chaos. So, like many other guests, he fled the common room, all the while his eyes searching frantically for any sight of his wife.

The scene that met him, however, froze him to his spot.

Screams filled his ears as fleeing people were met with more danger. Men, looking suspiciously like pirates, had invaded the house, wielding weapons and torches. They blocked the exits.

Before he could get caught up in the fight, Will turned and retraced his steps, racing back towards the ballroom. He rounded the last corner in the corridor, however, only to be met with a massacre. Several men stood over the bodies of what looked to be three marines, dressed in their finest. One man with a sword just finished running through his last opponent before he turned and spotted Will.

He turned to nod quickly at the other men, who nodded back before taking off further into the house. The remaining attacker advanced forward with a sneering grin. Will suddenly had a chilling feeling that this was no ordinary raid. His hand almost went to his side, but then he remembered he had no sword. Backing up, he searched frantically for some sort of weapon. The first thing he found was an ornate vase sitting atop a small stand with white flowers sprouting from it. Snatching it up, he discarded the flowers onto the floor (as well as a good deal of water) and faced the remaining man.

Will dodged backwards from the first swipe, but the second lunge made him stumble backwards. With more luck than anything, Will's attempt to protect himself ended up catching the sword in the vase. They froze for a moment, until Will's grip slackened on the vase. He had intended to run at that very moment, but as he turned, the man swung his sword – vase intact – and hit him square on the back of the head.

Will went down in a daze amidst broken pieces of porcelain. He waited for the inevitable final strike to hit him in the back, and was somewhat surprised when it never came. Dizzily, he recognized the sounds of swords clashing, and forced himself to roll onto his back. His vision was blurred, but he looked just in time to see someone who was locked with his opponent kick him square in the stomach. The man went stumbled back into the wall, stunned. A blow to the side of his head sent him sprawling to the floor, unmoving.

Will blinked curiously, trying to clear his vision. His saviour wasn't dressed in finery – in fact, it was very much the opposite. He turned, and Will balked in surprise.

"Jack?"

Said pirate swayed slightly on his feet, holding up a finger. "Captain."

Shaking his head, Will attempted to stand, but held his head as a wave of pain hit him. "What are you doing here?" he demanded, sitting back down.

Pausing, the pirate offered a disarming smile. "Enjoying the party?"

Will frowned. "You knew this was going to happen!" he accused fiercely.

Jack grinned, dark eyes alight. "Just a feeling, Will." He stepped forward to offer a dirty hand.

Swallowing his pride and taking it, Will allowed the pirate to pull him to his feet. Immediately, the pounding in his head increased tenfold. He could feel his pulse in the back of his head and he lifted a hand to feel where he'd been struck; his hand came away with blood.

Jack was staring at him intently.

"Is it Hugh?" Will asked, ignoring him and wiping the blood on his pants.

Nodding, Jack replied. "He's sailed into harbour an' I suspect he's ordered all his crew to pay Norry a visit."

Will's head swum. "Why attack the town? Why the Commodore's house?"

Jack looked grim. "I suspect he's got his eye on you," he said cautiously. "He's got it in his head that having you will lead him to me."

Fear settled deep in Will's stomach. "I have to find Elizabeth!"

Jack placed a hand on his arm before he could run off. Will regarded him angrily.

"Aren't you thankful I've got this, then?" the pirate said cheekily, holding a sword in his other hand.

Will's eyes strayed to where Jack's own sword was sheathed at his side before taking the proffered weapon.

"Thanks, Jack," he said, and then paused. "Perhaps you should get out of here. Hugh's goal is to find you, after all."

Jack considered Will's words as he watched the younger man disappear around a corner. Then, patting his hat down just a bit more securely on his head, he turned and went in the other direction.

--

James burst into his study, dragging Joyce behind him. He went straight for his sword, waiting on the top of his desk, before letting his fiancé free from his grasp. Pirates were invading his house. The guests were trapped and terrified. The town was under fire – there was a pirate ship in his harbour, he'd been told. The Commodore was angry – infuriated, even – and there was little he could do about the situation.

"What's going on?" Joyce demanded from beside him.

James shed his confining coat, tossing it onto his desk. "Pirates," he responded shortly, and flung open a drawer in the desk to reveal two ornate pistols. He held one out to her. "Take it, and whatever you do, don't leave this room."

She was staring up at him with shining eyes as she took the weapon. "You're going back out there?"

"I will not have pirates beat me into submission in my own home!" he nearly snarled, but regretted his words as Joyce flinched slightly. He leaned down to press a quick kiss to her forehead. "Block the door with anything you can find. You will be safe," he told her firmly, and with that, turned to leave.

She grasped the sleeve of his shirt, forcing him to turn around.

"Be careful," she ordered him fiercely.

He didn't dare disobey.

--

Elizabeth was – quite begrudgingly – beginning to mourn the rather aggravating similarities between this scene and one that had happened no more than two years before.

Elizabeth and Mabel had been at the tail end of a group of men a women who had fled terrified through the house, pursued by pirates, and therefore had unfortunately been the ones forced to face them.

They had burst into the front foyer, hoping to escape through the doors, only to find they were blocked by the enemy. The next best thing, she figured, were the stairs, and she had dragged Mabel with her as they sprinted for the steps. She had spotted a ceremonial suit of armour standing off to side in a nook, metal gloves clasped over the hilt of a ceremonial sword.

Ceremonial was better than nothing, and she urged Mabel in the direction of the stairs as she went for the sword. She knocked the whole suit over in the process, of course, and the metal pieces clanging loudly against the stone floor. The men advanced.

The sword was much heavier than she'd ever imagined, and she could barely wield it in the air. Nonetheless, Elizabeth had whirled with it in hand just in time to meet the cutlass meant for her back. The force of the swing set the man's weapon sailing.

She'd stumbled backwards, trying to remember anything that Will had taught and told her about swordplay. Instead, she'd planted her shoe firmly in the man's middle sending him tumbling into several others and snapping the small heel on her shoe in the process.

"Elizabeth!" came Mabel's distressed cry from the stairs.

Elizabeth stumbled, spinning clumsily around to see with dismay that the people they had been fleeing with had indeed fled. Quite completely. And a pirate had slipped past her and grabbed hold of the blind woman as she'd tried to ascend the stairs.

Rather irritated by now, Elizabeth charged for the stairs. The pirate, seeing her coming, swiftly had a dagger at Mabel's throat.

Elizabeth froze. "Let her go!" she demanded, sword in hand. Her arm shook with the effort.

"Strong words for such a little lady," he sneered back at her. "Drop yer weapon!"

"I refuse!"

A chorus of shouts from below startled them both. Staring in surprise, Elizabeth watched as ten or so scruffy men came bursting through the front door, weapons raised in challenge.

"Jack's crew!" she exclaimed to herself in a harsh whisper. She recognized their dirty and sunburnt faces and could have laughed with joy.

They charged forward, meeting the opposing pirates head on.

Elizabeth turned back to her opponent. She saw the dagger had drifted from Mabel's neck as he was distracted and took her chance, swinging the heavy weapon. She didn't have the guts to slice into him, but slammed him in the head with the flat of her sword. Unconscious, he fell sideways onto the banister, nearly taking Mabel with him. Elizabeth rushed forward and shoved him over the edge and to the floor below.

--

"No, no, no! Not good!" Jack muttered to himself as he stood in the Commodore's garden, the exact place where he had left several of his crew hours before with specific instructions.

"I said bloody well watch! Keep a bloody eye out! Report to the bloody Captain!"

He whirled around to face the house, lit up with lanterns and now alive with chaos. Gunfire, swordfights. He didn't doubt that marines would be crawling all over the place within minutes. And then where would his unruly crew be?

"Waiting for the bloody hangman's noose!" he shouted angrily, answering his own question.

Cannon fire echoed in the harbour below. He imagined that the town was in chaos about now. Captain Hugh's raid was in full swing – a terrifying success.

"Not my bloody problem!" he growled to the night air.

Then why, asked a slurred voice in his mind, were you so determined to keep an eye out for trouble tonight?

Because he'd known! Ever since Will had confronted him the day before, he'd had that niggling in the back of his head that refused to let him sleep. Conscience, he supposed.

One that refused to let him leave without his crew.

In a frustrated huff, the pirate Captain tore his sword from its sheath and stalked back towards the house, muttering obscenities under his breath and cursing his men for getting him into such a mess.

--

Realizing they had competition, most the men abandoned the stairs to go after Jack's crew. However, Elizabeth was caught completely unawares when she was grabbed from behind, dirty hands tearing the sword away from her. She shrieked just before a grubby hand clamped down on her mouth, stifling her protests. Along with Mabel, she was dragged struggling down the stairs.

The two women were pulled away from the battle, away from the front doors and away from freedom. They moved deeper into the house. Elizabeth howled under the man's hand, fear shooting through her. Fighting for all she was worth, she managed to jab her captor several times with her elbow and stomp on his foot, but he only hauled her off her feet.

She fell back down almost immediately as the man's grip on her slackened and he fell forward. She managed to stumble to the side and avoid being trapped beneath him, and looked up just in time to see the man holding Mabel howl in pain as a sword entered his side. He released Mabel and she was pulled into her rescuer's grasp.

"Will!" Elizabeth cried with relief, hauling herself up. The man who had been holding her was still with a pool of blood forming under his body.

"Will?" Mabel echoed a moment after, finding her feet and pulling away. She started slightly as Elizabeth's hand grasped hers.

"Where have you been? Why haven't you escaped?" Elizabeth demanded with wide eyes.

Her husband shook his head. "I would never leave you behind!" he told her earnestly, panting slightly.

It was then that Elizabeth saw the sword at his side and the slight trickle of blood running down the side of his neck.

"Will, you're hurt!" she exclaimed, grasping his shoulders.

He shook his head, dismissing her concern. "We have to get out of here."

Nodding somewhat hesitantly, Elizabeth turned to Mabel. She grasped the woman's arms. "We're leaving," she said in lower tones, hoping to calm the blind woman. She looked paler than death.

"About time," Mabel replied shakily, but with a weak smile.

Smiling in return, Elizabeth turned to follow Will, clutching Mabel's hand tightly. She stiffened and froze, however, as she saw the unexpected scene before her. Raw fear jolted through her and she suddenly felt very cold.

She wasn't sure how it had happened so quickly, but there was a knife at Will's throat and a pistol to his temple. He was breathing hard, and had a wild look in his eyes. Three men were needed to hold him, and a fourth was grinning at her. This man had his finger on the trigger of the pistol that was aimed at her head.

--

The majority of the Commodore's home was void of any life, Jack had noticed as he prowled the hallways. Minutes earlier, he had stumbled upon several maids who had shut themselves up in closet, and they had shrieked so loudly when they'd seen him that he did them a favour and locked the door from the outside. He had then fled the scene, opting to wander the house in the shadows. Will's advice to him was true, and Jack had every intention of getting out of the Commodore's home as soon as possible – but only if he could get his crew out as well.

Of course they'd rushed into a fight, Jack realized. They were pirates, for one, and their good friends Will and Elizabeth were inside a house under the siege of the enemy, for another. He couldn't expect them to keep and eye on things, because they wanted to be in the thick of things. Which was exactly where he didn't want to be. There was nothing to do but try to lure them out of battle.

Jack vowed that as soon as he returned to camp there would be lashings aplenty.

And as long as he wasn't spotted, he was very sure that something could be gained from this night of disasters.

Of course, that all changed when he rounded a corner and came face to face with three men with swords where were not part of his crew.

They all stared at each other for a moment or two before Jack acted. His sword was up in offence before they could blink, and his other hand rested on the pistol tucked in his belt. He swayed slightly on his feet.

"Jack Sparrow," one man said finally with a note of triumph, grinning crookedly.

"Aye," he affirmed immediately. "And who might you be?"

Ignoring him, the man nodded to his mates. "Cap'n will be mighty pleased."

Slowly, Jack removed his pistol from his belt. "No, I'm not. But I will be when you turn around and crawl back into whatever dark, dank and dirty hole you crawled out from," he replied glibly, aiming his pistol at the man who had spoken.

The man sneered. "I think not, Sparrow. Captain Hugh will be thrilled we managed to weed you out of your hiding place. We ain't goin' nowhere."

Making a sound of annoyance, Jack cocked the pistol and deftly pulled the trigger. The bullet hit the man square in the chest, killing him instantly or if not now certainly within minutes. He went down, and Jack slipped the gun back into his belt.

Jack wrinkled his nose at the cadaver. "Indeed, you're not," he muttered, then focused his attention back on the other two.

He was very pleased when both men backed away slightly.

Inclining his head slightly to the men, Jack sheathed his sword. "Now, I fully expect that as I turn my back to leave you will by no certain means try anything sneaky, deceitful or generally underhanded, because I wouldn't like that and I'd hate to dirty my sword with your blood." He glared at them both a moment, waiting for his words to sink in, before smiling slightly and swirling on his heel to leave.

He froze immediately in mid step, a disgruntled "Bugger," escaping his lips as he realized why the two men might have backed off so quickly.

Five or so marines were standing behind him, swords pointed at his back. And at the front of them was a very angry looking Commodore.

"Jack Sparrow!" he spat, his own sword raised to Jack's throat.

Jack was finding this very familiar and unpleasant. He tried to smile at the Commodore, but it failed as the tip of the sword jabbed at his Adam's apple.

"I suppose I should have foreseen your involvement in this," the Commodore sneered.

Raising his hands, Jack craned his neck away from the sword. "Actually…"

"Silence, Sparrow," the Commodore ordered. "You're crew is being rounded up as we speak. You will join them in the gaol." He tilted his head slightly to his marines. "The irons, men. Arrest the other two as well."

Jack's eyes darted from the marines to the sword at his throat before he took one smooth step backwards. His fingers grasped for the hilt of his own weapon and before the marines could react, he'd batted away the Commodore's sword with his own.

"Now, there is a perfectly good explanation for this, I assure you." Jack noticed the snarl on Norrington's face and the next moment was clumsily blocking a strike clearly meant for his neck.

"Commodore!" he shouted in protest and surprise.

"I have no need for explanations! Now surrender, Sparrow!" he commanded.

The remaining two pirates were backing away at this point, and Norrington swiftly shouted for his marines to arrest them. Then, he threw himself into a duel with the pirate Captain.

Deflecting a swing, Jack managed to get in a jab of his own. "Not bloody likely," he muttered to himself. Their swords met again, clanging shrilly. "This is a mistake, Commodore!"

Norrington snarled, backing his opponent towards the wall with surprising force. "My only mistake was when I failed to see this coming!" he responded.

Evading a stroke aimed at his midsection, Jack's back hit the wall. "This is a—" His eyes widened as the Commodore's sword met the wall just inches from his head, and he swiftly ducked away. "—A misunderstanding!" He whirled around just as the Commodore's weapon came free of the wall and he charged forward.

Quite suddenly, Jack found their swords locked in a battle of strength, each unwilling to let his opponent free. They glared at each other through the mesh of their weapons, and Jack noticed quite vaguely that his opponent's wig was off-centre and in terrible shape.

"There is no escape for you now, Sparrow," Norrington growled lowly between heaving breaths. There was a look of madness in his eyes.

Jack didn't realize how true those words were until something struck him hard on the head. His fingers didn't slacken on his sword, but his knees wobbled and crumpled as everything went hazy and faded to black.

--