A/N: Don't ask me what this is about. I have no idea.

Three

This is the way it was.

The first pirate saved her. It was her first near encounter with death; as a matter of fact it was her first total immersion in water. She did not feel baptized afterwards. She felt sticky and soaked and encrusted with salt, even from the clear blue waters by which she had grown up. She learned— much afterwards— to examine the sea with a look of suspicion, as it hid from her its true nature until she was too close to avoid being caught.

He didn't look like an agent of redemption, eyes hooded and hidden underneath ancient layers of kohl, half-drunk dancing his only bipedal motivation, reaching and grasping for an invisible banister of life's staircase, down which to slide. It was a dangerous slope, to be sure, but he was so gleeful about getting there that she wasn't sure he minded; she wasn't sure that he wasn't even part of the danger itself.

Surely he didn't mind it; he was in love with the danger. He danced with it, that swaying walk the other half of a waltz played out in secret, to music no one would ever hear.

He traveled on his own, and the purpose of a crew wasn't to help, but so he would have someone to observe his own brilliance. He had no idea where he was headed and didn't seem to particularly care, that compass nothing more than an excuse to travel, as what he truly wanted was only to be himself; and that, no one could take from him.

Sometimes, to look at Jack Sparrow was to look at a mirror.

The second pirate stole her. He took her on the adventure of her life— or so she thought— and it was only out of some perverse desire to blame Jack Sparrow for everything that she missed how much of it wasn't really his fault. This pirate wasn't in love with danger; he wasn't the danger itself; he was an advocate of absence of danger, so he could intrude his own form of dark life into the light. He wanted to conquer, to rule, not to dance, but to sit on his throne and have a parade of perfections led in front of him, shackled and chained. He employed guards, and never thought about confidence or consequence or control. It was there in his hands.

He wanted an end to the ways of things, and a beginning to the ways of Barbossa. He was conversant with culture, enough to bow to it and spit in its face, enough to slap it with a glove and challenge it to a duel and stab it in the back when its back was turned. He knew to take advantage of that with which he was presented, and when she was stolen she was paraded, perfection, in front of him, shackled and chained.

She plead for her life because it seemed to disgust him.

Sometimes, to look at Barbossa was to look at one's hidden self.

The third pirate was hardly a pirate at all. He was a blacksmith of the waters. There must be, she thought, shores of coal deep within him, but their warmth didn't burn through. She was fascinated by the possibility, however, and nearly ready to commit to a lifetime of trying to find them.

Possibility wasn't a promise that they existed at all, however; she taught herself to look past that, taught herself to believe that there had to be more to a man than simply a desire for adventure and a willingness to put himself before others. It was not like looking in a mirror; it was like looking into murky waters in which nothing is reflected. He vowed to save her and took her mind instead. She could have tried to get it back.

But that would hardly have been safe.

She never could decide if it was rescue she wanted; or to be swallowed whole.