Chapter VI

Abandon Ship

Before we begin, for anyone that enjoyed my introduction at the beginning of this story, feel free to take the time to check it out again before reading this chapter. You'll see that it has been extended quite a bit, as I've added more detail and quite a few ideas and opinions to it.

Yet Another Deleted Scene/Paragraph:

We all know that I support Norrington, his character, and even his actions – unlikable as they may be – in Dead Man's Chest, yes? I understand why he's bitter, I understand why he turned into an alcoholic, I understand why he vows revenge on Jack, I understand why he joined "the dark side," and I understand why he stole the heart… However, no matter how much thought I put into it, I fail to understand why he sailed through a bloody hurricane. Really, that's just stupid and we know that James is not a stupid guy. I have read several possibilities and have even come up with a few of my own, but none of them seem to fit with the character we saw in Curse of the Black Pearl.

One idea is that he was so depressed by Elizabeth's rejection that he allowed it to cloud his judgement and thus he did not heed the warning signs of an impending storm. This, for me, is the most plausible explanation, however, at the same time I find it to be a bit...far fetched. While I wholeheartedly believe that James was very much in love with Elizabeth, I simply have a difficult time believing that he would do something so utterly foolish. It's true that no one is completely selfless (as we saw in Dead Man's Chest), but he seemed resigned at the end of the first movie – hurt, yes, but resigned. Elizabeth loved Will and not him, and although the prospect of ending his loneliness had been snatched away from him, he accepted this because it meant that Elizabeth would be happy. I can see him being upset and even bitter, particularly if he's drunk and especially if he sees that Elizabeth is attracted to a man who is not the man she claimed to love. However, can I see him becoming so blinded that he knowingly endangers his life and, more importantly, the lives of others? No, not at all.

Then someone speculated that he tried to go through the hurricane because he had become obsessed with catching Captain Jack, but once again this doesn't seem to fit with the man we know from the first movie. Really, why would James, who clearly has a small amount of respect for Captain Jack, who looked a bit uncomfortable at the pirate's hanging, who gave him a day's head start, give such a serious pursuit? Despite what my inner Sparrington fan says, I'd like to think of something a bit more logical. It is possible that he thought that by arresting Captain Jack he could make up for losing the Interceptor, but one would think that at some point he would go, "Okay, this is pointless. I'm not redeeming myself by keeping this up, I'm only wasting time and making myself look like an idiot." Plus, what was he doing in Tripoli in the first place? Isn't that just a bit out of his jurisdiction? And I could also argue that the idea of James trying to sail through a hurricane is ridiculous simply because hurricanes do not occur in the Mediterranean and therefore do not occur near Tripoli… But that can be countered with the excuse that, in those times, any big, nasty storm that occurred near water was considered a hurricane.

Anyway, point is, I'm bothered by the thought of James doing something so reckless and would really like an explanation that is more rational than the ones mentioned above. I've toyed with the notion that he didn't intend to sail through the hurricane, that he didn't see it coming (what with satellite warning networks, GPS, radio broadcasts, wind-speed monitors, and the like having not been invented yet), and that by the time he did realize that a storm was coming, there wasn't much he could do to avoid it. After all, when Gibbs asks if he tried to sail through it, James neither confirms nor denies this, merely changes the subject. But then, this explanation conflicts with his feelings regarding losing his ship and his men. Why does he feel so guilty if it wasn't his fault? The only answer I can offer is this: Because he's James. Because it's like Jou-Jou said: He's much too hard on himself. Because he was in charge and, in his mind, that means that he should have been able to prevent the storm from hitting his ship, and the fact that he couldn't do that when he believes that he should have been able to only makes him feel more guilty.

But those are just my thoughts. If anyone has something to add, feel free. You know I always appreciate having my readers' input. :)

۞۞۞

Four months had passed since that morning, four months since he had taken a woman to bed, four months since their heated quarrel, four months since their reconciliation, their truce, their understanding…four months since she had declared him a good man.

He had not slept with her, not in any sense of the term, since that morning four months ago, and she had not made him another proposition. Of their encounters, that one had been the most…eventful…yet it felt as if a great deal had happened after that.

Four months ago, after the sun had set and the island had turned into a kingdom of nighttime pleasures, he had bid her goodbye and left her to her duties as bedmate of the carousing abettors of a corrupted royal court, assuming (though not hoping) that he would not see her again.

Yet they had not severed their connection.

That very same week he had had the misfortune to cross her path, and, somehow, what had begun as a fleeting moment of recognition – brief eye contact – had developed into actual discourse that had ended, not with each party fuming at one another, but in…neutrality.

Unpredictably, bizarrely, they had seen each other after that. They weren't part of his regular evening, their meetings…but every now and then, during those small periods of the night when she wasn't tending to a customer or when he wasn't at the wrong end of someone's fist, she would wander over to his shadowy little corner at the Ring O'Bells (always the Ring O'Bells; never any of the other taverns he frequented) and strike up a conversation.

He wasn't always willing to talk to her, but over the months the amount of belligerence and causticity he had shown towards her had faded considerably. No longer was he short with her, and he could now think of her profession without crinkling his nose in disgust. In truth, he felt…sorry for her, now knowing that she did not solicit men because she enjoyed it, and at times he felt rather guilty that there was nothing he could do to help her. Except treat her with more courtesy, of course. And because of this, they quarreled less. More often than not he had even found their talks leaning toward what one might call an intelligent direction. They had spoken of many different things – the subjects of which ranged from matters of faith (he had been surprised to learn of her loyalty for the Catholic Church) to fine dining.

That was one trait that struck him as peculiar: For a person who had never tasted the finer things in life, she certainly had a love for them. Whenever he would reminisce about all of the frivolous yet delightful tangibles that were lost to him – luscious red wine, linen sheets, clothes that were clean and crisp, warm baths with sweet smelling soap – a wide, dreamy smile would grace her features and she would rest her chin in her hand, her eyes glassy and faraway. It was as if she fancied what it would be like to partake in pleasures that he would have once called simple, and it was clear that she would have much enjoyed a life of splendor. He even thought that, at times, she would try to adapt to propriety's standards, as if testing herself to prove that she truly was capable. He had to offer her some commendations for her efforts because, for all her uncouth tendencies, she always took small, quiet sips of ale (and only when they were purchased for and not by her); she rarely slumped in her seat; and, for the life of him, he could not recall ever hearing her utter a single profanity.

When he first began to notice these small displays of propriety, he recalled that night four months ago, how she had taken the time to painstakingly fold all of her clothes, despite the already-wrinkled state of them, and then wrestled her knotted mass of hair into a neat braid. Later on he had made several more peculiar observations during the afternoon that followed that night, when they had woken up together for a second time. She had coaxed him into lingering for a while longer –"After all, lovey, what else were y'plannin' on doin'?" she had argued, her eyebrows arched pointedly. And so he had stayed and watched, quite unsure of what to do, as she pinned her curls in place, persuading the uncooperative tangles into a fairly passable arrangement atop her head. Then, chatting amiably all the while, she had added touches of rouge and kohl to her eyes, lips, and cheeks – and all of this was attended to with the same precision that had been shown to her hair. When she had finished, he realized that the slovenly appearance he was accustomed to must have been a result of her rough nights, for when she turned around to face him, he was met with a remarkably prim, if garish, image.

Yet another aspect that niggled at him was her indifference regarding her fellow prostitutes – or anyone else, for that matter. Oh yes, she showed a stunning amount of warmth toward men, but only, as he had discovered when they first met, if they had the means to fund it. He had often suspected that, had he not saved her from a horrible death, she wouldn't acknowledge him. Still, her lack of compassion toward the other ladies of the night perturbed him more so.

One night, nearly a month ago, they had watched as a woman had rushed through the tavern, globs of makeup running down her face and mingling with tears and blood from a ghastly split on her forehead. Not ten seconds after the prostitute had disappeared did a towering brute of a man enter the scene. His eyes swept over the area, lingering on each patron for just a moment until, when his search proved fruitless, he swiftly turned and left.

They could only assume that the two had been together.

At the time, a weak sense of urgency had stirred within him, but Jou-Jou, too familiar with his instinctive succor, had merely waved a hand, coolly unconcerned, saying, "'Tis th' life of a whore. Nothin' we can do about it." Though her mood had been curiously foul for the remainder of the evening.

There was a word to describe her… He searched through the fog born of alcohol that filled his mind… What was it..?

Heartless.

That seemed a harsh term, yet it was all he could think of. To be fair, however, her fellows appeared to be as sympathetic toward her as she was toward them. Such was the life on Tortuga; he knew this. It was cruel, but one had to be selfish in order to survive. He could not count the number of times she had said that, for indeed the callous phrase seemed to be her personal adage.

Callous, but true. Very true.

It was odd, but he had learned, while not a great deal, but several crucial life lessons during his time spent in her presence, just as she had come to know a little about his past.

Not that he had ever disclosed details such as names or locations, lest she discover his true identity. After all, he had not survived in Tortuga for this long with the entire populace fully aware that he had once been the infamous "Pirate Hunter." He had, however (after entirely too much rum, he was sure), gifted her with a vague outline of the recent events of his life.

She had listened raptly, offering her opinion on this or that and posing a question every so often. Sometimes he would respond, but oftentimes he felt disinclined. Oddly, she had never sulked or tried to wheedle answers from him, but had been content without them, as if she had known that there was a reason he hadn't ventured into more depth.

There was, however, one question…the one she had asked him weeks ago – one question so queer, so random that it still plagued him, even today: Had his then-fiancée ever thanked him?

"Fer riskin' yer neck an' th' necks of yer men t'save her pretty self," she had elaborated.

This would fall under the category of questions he decided against answering, though he found it greatly disconcerting nonetheless. Yet still more disconcerting was the knowledge that Elizabeth hadn't thanked him – but he had hardly expected her to, what with all she had had to endure.

"Turn y'down an' humiliate y'in public," Jou-Jou had muttered darkly. "A shoddy way t'repay th' man who's willin' t'die fer you."

At the time he had deigned no reply, once again experiencing that awful sensation of having far too many thoughts rattling around inside his skull.

"Did she even apoligize t'you?" she had demanded snidely.

"I fail to see the importance of this matter," he had snapped suddenly, though he had known that he would regret his temper later that night – even if she had no right to pry.

Just as he had known that that question would tug at his interest as well, nagging at him because Elizabeth had not apologized. And that, for reasons he still could not comprehend, rendered him acutely nonplused.

It was absurd. She was in love – not with him, but with a blacksmith, though that mattered little if she was truly happy. He had realized this, acknowledged it aloud, wished them both well, and promptly retreated, once again assuming his life as a bachelor. The entire affair was dead and buried.

Except that it wasn't, and he was a fool to try and tell himself otherwise.

۞۞۞

"Captain Sparrow!"

The man flinched – actually flinched – at the call, then spun around, hair (and other assorted objects) whipping wildly about his tanned face.

Damn it all, he was still sporting those atrocious beads, she noted, remembering all too well how during their last rendezvous the baubles had repeatedly smacked her in the face due to the man's inexplicable need to be the one on top. She had never been able to figure it out, though it wasn't a dominance complex as it was with many customers, rather something about eunuchs, or so he said. Whatever the reason might have been, she had always been sure to keep her complaints to herself. The Captain always paid well.

His eyes, wreathed with as much kohl as her own, were now darting frantically, searching for the source of the noise. Quirking a brow at this stranger-than-usual behavior but not too bothered by it, she raised a hand, donning her most alluring smile, and wiggled her fingers at him.

Drawn to the sudden movement, his gaze landed on her and, much to her surprise, he exhaled, utterly awash with relief.

Regardless, she smirked, sauntering forward, habitually swinging her hips.

He grinned.

"Jou-Jou."

"Evenin', Captain. Haven't seen y'fer a while. I was beginnin' t'think you'd fergottin me," she sulked, her lower lip, as red as a strawberry, protruding.

"Ah, luv, it hurts me that you'd think such things of me. Y'know y'carve a very…memorable…figure." His eyes swept over her appreciatively, drinking their fill as he practically oozed charm.

Her smile was back in an instant and she slipped her arm through his, beginning to head in the direction of the Bliss and Miss – an inn that the pirate often took her to for their nights out.

"So, what's yer fancy this evenin'?" she asked, her head resting on his shoulder. "Th' usual? Or are y'in the mood fer somethin' more…exotic?"

"Actu'lly," he began, gracefully shrugging out of her grasp, "as much as it pains me t'do so, dearest…I'm afraid I'm goin' t'have t'decline."

"Oh, Captain," she simpered, swatting him playfully on the arm. "Y'were never one t'play hard-t'-get."

"Not playin', luv," he informed her, his voice far too serious for her liking. "M'here on business. Speakin' o'which, y'wouldn't happen t'know where one might find twen'y…fifty…ninety-nine or so good, strapping lads lookin' fer a life at sea? Preferably gullible, obedient ones that aren't disposed t'commit mutiny?"

She arched her eyebrows but refrained from voicing her thoughts, knowing that it was unwise to ask questions of Captain Jack Sparrow as it would, ultimately, leave one with no answers and a dozen more questions.

"S'ppose y'could try the Faithful Bride."

He seemed surprised but cautious, for he carefully said, "Not the Ring O'Bells?"

"Captain," she began with a coquettish lilt, "y'know yer th' only man I'd ever truly want warmin' my bed…"

Her smile widened as she watched him beam.

"…but when yer nowhere t'be found, I've got t'find some way t'make ends meet, do I not? An' how can I do that if you're stealin' my best customers fer your little machinations?"

He opened his mouth to protest, but she pressed a finger to his lips.

"'Sides…you'll catch more fish at the Faithful Bride. They're a dense lot, not like my boys at the Ring O'Bells. Plenty of them're right clever."

Gently he took her hand from his mouth, the callused pads of his fingers rough against her skin. Soft hands were seen as an impractical luxury on Tortuga, though that did not stop her from liking them.

"Make you a deal, luv," he proposed. "If I can help it, I'll not set one foot inside the Ring O'Bells an' snatch up any o'yer many suitors."

"But nothin's stoppin' y'from snatchin' 'em up on th' outside," she countered, sounding seductive yet feeling annoyed.

"They're no longer in yer territory, Jou-Jou! S'free game!"

She pursed her lips but he was unfazed.

"Now, if you'll excuse me…my business, personal affairs, what have yous…they are in dire need of tending."

"Mmm…" she purred thoughtfull, leaning in. "M'not onna yer personal affairs?"

He quickly spun away and she stumbled, nearly falling on her face as a result.

"O'course. But, y'see, darling, if y'were t'make yerself my business, then I'd have business on top o'my previous business. Not that havin' an abundance o'goings-ons is onerous or anythin'. Fact, it's good fer you, 'specially when a portion of th'aforementioned business involves fetchin'an' highly skilled ladies such as yerself. However, when faced with too much of a plentitude o'business, things tend t'become…complicated. Right confusin' mess it is, m'dear, an' I'd hate t'see you thrown into it."

Retaining a huff of indignation, she pushed several strands of frizz out of her eyes and erected herself with as much grace as she could summon.

"On th' contrary, Captain. I'd think that throwin' me into th' mix would make matters much, much easier."

"Unfortunately, I beg t'differ," he replied lightly, edging away in a would-be inconspicuous fashion.

Seeing this caused a realization to hit her: He truly did not intend to take her that night. At once her vexation began to rise.

Of all the wretched scoundrels she had ever serviced, he had always been a loyal customer. Quite possibly the most promiscuous man she had ever met, he had always been willing. Be it the dead of night or the wee hours of the morning, he had always been willing. And now, quite suddenly and with no explanation other some ridiculous business venture, he was turning her away?

It wasn't so much his rejection that piqued her as it was his eerily foreign behavior. He was acting quite unlike himself, keeping his distance, ignoring her advances… Even his mannerisms were different. His hands had…calmed somewhat, stilled themselves, making his gesticulations less grand. His stance and oscillating gait had been reduced to a barely detectable sway. It was as if this once vivacious, colorful, enigmatic man had lost some of his luster.

A discomforting thought.

"Now, if you'll'' excuse me," he began, oblivious to her contemplation as he offered her a charming smile of white and gold. "Duty calls. I've places t'be, an' despite th' fact that I am Captain Jack Sparrow, I can't be in all of 'em at once."

"Oh," she sighed with exaggerated disappointment, promptly assuming her flirtatious façade, leaving concern for lackluster pirates to dwell within her mind for later contemplation. "I s'ppose, if y'must…"

"I must – I really must."

"Well," she breathed into his ear, her voice a soft hum, "if'n y'do find th' time…"

"You'll be th' first person I'll seek," he promised with such sincerity that she doubted that he would keep his word. So long as the customer walked away satisfied, it mattered not who had done the job. A whore was a whore.

۞۞۞

"The lousy git kept edgin' away from me! An' he was so jumpy! Always lookin' around – like he was expectin' something t'leap out an' attack him."

"I take it that this is odd for this particular customer?" he queried, setting down his…fourth…? No, maybe fifth… yes, only his fifth pint of rum.

"Odd fer anybody, ducky," she replied. "But yes, very odd fer him… He actually refused me…"

"I'm afraid that I can't even begin to conceive that notion," he informed her, smirking wryly.

She pressed her lips together but merely waved his sarcasm aside, the anger she would have felt months ago nowhere to be found.

"Makes no sense at all…" She shook her head, looking greatly perturbed as she absentmindedly twisted a lock of hair around her bony finger. "M'not concerned, but it is mighty unsettlin', seein' a man act so unlike himself. Honestly, in all th' time we've been acquaintances, I've never once known Captain Sparrow t'refuse a lady."

His hand stilled, frozen in mid-air when he reached out to grasp his tankard.

"Captain Sparrow," he stated. His voice was quiet, almost dead with disbelief. "As in…Captain Jack Sparrow of the Black Pearl?"

"Th' same," she confirmed, noticing his tone immediately. "Lemme guess: He's more foe than friend t'you, isn't he? …James? Lovey? What's th' matter?"

She continued to ramble on, but he barely registered it, her voice but a distant buzzing in his ears.

He was in shock. That was it. That was the reason behind this bizarre apathy. That was why he felt no rage – why the opportunity for vengeance stood before him, begging him to seize it and he remained still, unfeeling. He was stunned that, after months of living in shame and squalor, after all but giving up hope, an opportunity for expiation was presenting itself.

But perhaps this numbness was born from the knowledge that his ruination wasn't entirely Sparrow's fault? Was that what it was? He had deliberately let the pirate slip through his fingers, if only for a day. He was the one who had kept up the mad pursuit. He had sailed through the hurricane. He had led his men to their deaths. He was the one with his hands bathed in blood.

Yet hadn't it all started with Sparrow? Would he not still have Elizabeth, his commission, his life had that pirate never set foot in Port Royal? If Sparrow had not associated with Elizabeth and the Turner boy, would he be happily married by now? Was it not Sparrow who had sent him and his men to the Isla de Muerta to do battle with an immortal enemy? Never mind that Sparrow had warned him about the pirates' being undead – what sensible person would have believed such a tale, especially if it came from the mouth of a lying, immoral, thieving pirate who was clearly lacking in sanity? That day, good men had been killed because of Sparrow's madness, just as others had been lost in the hurricane for the same reason. Had Sparrow not sailed so close to the storm, he would not have been caught in it, he would not be sitting in this flagitious island, disgraced and miserable, his only companions rum and a prostitute.

Even if he could not feel the smallest tremor of fury – though now he most certainly could, and there was nothing small about it – a slight trace of hope should have still flickered to life, for did the promise of redemption not come with Sparrow – specifically, Sparrow's compass?

A little over two weeks had passed since Lord Beckett's personal assassin had approached him. The man – Mr. Mercer, if his fractured memory served him correctly – had come bearing a warning:

There was a warrant out for his arrest. Why? Apparently, that day's head start now considered a dastardly crime, one that stood one the same level as conspiring with and aiding in the escape of notorious pirates. One more reason to despise Sparrow.

The man had come bearing intriguing news, as well:

Elizabeth Swann was in jail, as was her fiancé, albeit, William Turner had been released to partake in a search for a broken compass that was in the possession of one Captain Jack Sparrow. However, shortly following Mr. Turner's departure, Elizabeth escaped from prison – presumably in search of husband-to-be – and disappeared. She had yet to be recovered.

Not only that, but Mr. Mercer had also brought with him an offer:

The Letters of Marque. A chance to regain all he had lost.

Lord Beckett had sent Turner after the compass…now, however, it appeared as though his plan would not continue as originally intended. In order to ensure the device's delivery, Lord Beckett was prepared to make the necessary alterations, which was where Tortuga came into play. He was well aware that Jack Sparrow frequented the pirate port; the man was apt to turn up eventually…

That was why he was needed.

It was a simple task: When the Black Pearl docked in Tortuga, he was to board her as one of the crew, after which he was to obtain the compass and then present it to Lord Beckett. Simple, almost degradingly so.

He had had questions, of course. Why did Lord Beckett desire a paltry compass? Mercer had replied that, if he cared at all about redeeming himself, then he would devote his time to procuring the compass and not concern himself with why Lord Beckett desired it. Then, should he choose to meet Beckett's demands, he could hope for atonement? Yes had been the answer; he would be allowed to return to Port Royal cleared of all charges, reinstated, respected, wealthy… He would be a commodore again, with the promise of Admiral in his future. And his past would become nothing more than an inane rumor, believed only by the very gullible, Lord Beckett would see to that.

The word 'tempting' paled in juxtaposition to what he had felt upon hearing that offer. He had wanted to agree right then and there, and came very close to doing so…but still, there had been one remaining question:

What were the consequences if he should fail?

Mercer had sneered, his teeth yellow and sinister, casually informing him that he need not worry, for if he truly craved release from his Hell on Earth, then he would not fail.

No. He would not.

He stood up.

Jou-Jou's outcry of "What'n th' hell – ?" was muffled by the nascent determination and rage that roared in his ears.

Remarkable the way even the most ludicrous notions could seem credible when one had desperation and alcohol to fuel them.

"Do you know his whereabouts?" he asked tersely.

"Who? Sparrow's?"

"Yes, Sparrow – of course, Sparrow." He glared down at her, suddenly seething. "Do you know where he is?"

"'Course I do," she replied, as if it were common knowledge that she was Jack Sparrow's personal keeper.

Silence followed.

It took several seconds for his sluggish brain to realize that she was not about to expound any further. The little shrew… Yes, he was being short with her, but this was no time for her to chastise him!

"Well?" he demanded at last.

She blinked slowly, mockingly, her eyebrows raised.

"Do you or do you not know where one – specifically, I – can locate Captain Jack Sparrow?" He asked, his voice low, curt, and deliberately slow.

"I already answered that," she said calmly, unmoved by, unaware of, or unwilling to show a reaction to his mounting choler. "You asked me if I knew, an' I told you: Yes."

A sigh escaped him, rough and exasperated through gritted teeth.

"Very well," he began with measured patience, "where can I find Captain Jack Sparrow?"

Her waxy red lips twitched in what he knew was amusement.

"The Faithful Bride," she answered simply. "Though I must warn y'that he's lookin' t'hire people."

His eyes went wide at this.

"Don't know why," she continued, seeing that his interest had been piqued. "But from what I gathered from him, it's fer some shady scheme of his. An' judgin' by how he was actin', it's not gonna bode well fer anyone involved with him."

Sparrow was seeking crewmembers? What could have prompted this? Never mind; it mattered not, and he was wasting time trying to decipher the ludicrous plans of a pirate. Importance rested with the information he had just been given.

With a nod of gratitude to Jou-Jou, he strode out of the Ring O'Bells, his senses alive with anticipation as a plan of his own began to take shape.

۞۞۞

She clicked her tongue in annoyance, staring down at the table but not really seeing it, her vision obstructed by thoughts.

Poor James…poor bloody stupid, desperate, darling James…

She glanced up just in time to see him disappear through the double doors of the tavern.

And sighed. What was to become of him?

Curse him for being so hopelessly foolish, and curse her for caring, though, really, it had all been his doing. He hadn't needed to save her life, yet he had. She had known the moment she had invited him to share a room with her that, not only was she eternally in his debt, but that she had taken an interest in him as well.

Not in the normal sense, of course. She never sought him out and typically only spoke with him whenever there were no men to be had – and he certainly did not occupy her thoughts, though every now and then he did manage to take a brief holiday within her mind. And the unnerving aspect of this was that, as of late, his holidays had become more and more frequent.

Yes, he was quite at fault. After all, he had never pushed her away after that night, and he had had so many chances to…

Wearily, she tipped her head back and sighed again, thoroughly exasperated with him and herself.

It was so strange, their relationship – if it could even be called that. They no longer despised each other, at least…she was fairly certain that he didn't feel any animosity toward her, and, truthfully, she could not recall ever really loathing anyone. However, she was hesitant to call them friends. Their alliance lacked the warmth of friendship, yet 'acquaintances' felt too weak. It implied that, while they had met on several occasions, there was nothing between them – and she knew that to be false.

There was something.

It was difficult to explain, even to herself.

She wanted to treat him with kindness whenever he was near – and it was neither forced nor born out of pity for the man. It was eerily real. And once again, this was entirely his fault. If he didn't insist on being so chivalrous, so bloody respectful… Damn it, no one else treated her that way! Though the majority of her customers weren't cruel, there were a rare few that showed her any consideration. To them, she was just another whore, which was, she supposed, one of the reasons men found prostitutes so appealing. They had no names, no faces, no identities… A man needn't worry about being judged by a whore (so long as he paid in full). With a whore, there was no cause for propriety or manners, for kindness or respect… She was not a lady. Yet James behaved as though she were one, and not simply because he worried that he would turn into a despicable cur if he wasn't polite to her. And she, being the foolish wench that she was, liked him for that.

She had come to this realization the afternoon following the night they had purchased a room together. And at the time, she had thought that, certainly, no ill could come from simply liking the man? If she was careful to keep her distance, sporadically chat with him, perhaps seek his help if it was absolutely necessary, and never let their relationship branch into the dangerous territory known as friendship.

Well. I was certainly mistaken, wasn't I?

She did not think herself a callous woman, though when it came to people she preferred to remain aloof. It was all for the best. Friends meant being bound to one another, and being bound meant that she cared for someone other than herself, and when one's career was prostitution, that would not do. Her life was parallel with a tiny, cramped room in that there was no space for anyone, save herself. She could not handle another person – not when she could barely keep her own self afloat. Yes, it was selfish to think that way, but it was the only way she could think if she wanted to survive.

Although…it was not as if she looked after him, spent time with him when she could have been working, offered him a portion of her meager wages. She merely talked with him when the influx of customers had slowed to a trickle. Their conversations were…what?

She balled her hands into fists at her brain's sudden incompetence.

Perhaps there was nothing to define it? They were not companions, but they certainly weren't enemies, yet they were more than acquaintances.

Huffing inwardly, she mused that this would be made much simpler if only she knew his feelings on the whole affair. Yes, she decided, if she knew that he enjoyed her company, that he felt at ease with her, that he even looked forward to their conversations – not a lot, just a little – then she would, once and for all, be able to define…them.

She stilled, realizing what she had just thought, and cursed.

She had, against her will and despite all odds, become unfortunately yet undeniably attached.

And it was because of this realization that she knew that she would follow him.

There was no reason to – really, there wasn't. All she had was an ominous feeling that put her on edge, the sickening suspicion that Captain Sparrow was recruiting men for devious purposes, and the notion that James, no doubt acting on his drunken logic, was on the verge of doing something reckless.

Did that constitute as a reason to chase after him? Certainly not.

But come morning, she would hate herself for not acting on those feelings.

So it was with an aggrieved countenance and begrudging acceptance that she left the Ring O'Bells.

For this, you owe me a room, James…

۞۞۞

"An' what makes you think you're worthy t'crew the Black Pearl?"

He barely listened as a withered old man was taken on despite his confessing to having utterly no experience as a sailor.

His target sat several feet away, rattling that worthless compass about, glaring and muttering at it with no regard for how insane this behavior must have looked to passersby.

He ground his teeth, the blood simmering in his veins as his abhorrence mounted with each passing second.

"Me 'ave one arm an' a bum leg," one blackguard said gruffly.

"It's th' crow's nest fer you," replied a man he recognized as Joshamee Gibbs – apparently having abandoned the navy for pirating. It seemed to be a common practice, as of late.

He scoffed. As if he had a sincere desire to join a pirate crew. Had the air not been so bristled with animosity, he might have found the thought highly amusing. As it so happened, this provided the ruse he needed for his plan to succeed.

"Ever since I was little," he heard a man say wistfully, "I've always wanted to sail the seas. Forever."

He would choose his words carefully and give his account in vivid detail, relishing in the horror that would contort Sparrow's face when the pirate realized just who was speaking – what a massive error he had made upon entering his life.

"Sooner than y'think," Gibbs informed the hopeful man. "Sign the roster."

Then he would savor the rogue's panic for a moment before seeing to his death and retrieving the compass. And after that…

He racked his muggy brain for an answer, though inebriation made the search a long one.

Track down the assassin, he remembered at last…Mr. Mercer… Yes, that was what needed to be done.

"An' what's your story?"

A bitter smirk pulled at the corners of his mouth.

Did they not know who he was, he wondered sardonically. Unsurprising. Every so often, he would catch a glimpse of him himself – or the ignoble shadow of what he once was – reflected in a window. Filthy. Beaten. Tattered. Eyes glassy and bloodshot, overly large on a gaunt face. Hair long, stringy. Wig exploding from beneath his battered hat. Drifting unsteadily, lost… Unrecognizable.

But that could change, if only he carried out Lord Beckett's orders.

It was faint, but something was growing within him – a light, weak and shivering in the cruel wind, but very much alive. Gentle warmth was radiating from the building glow, drawing him in. But he didn't dare submit, too fearful that it was nothing but a fallacy.

No. He would not begin to hope, not with the painfully real chance of failure looming above him, ready to strike. He could not allow himself to be blinded by it. He needed to force his thoughts away from what possibly lay ahead and concentrate on what laid before him now:

Sparrow.

The compass.

The promise of redemption.

He breathed deeply, and stepped forward.

۞۞۞

"Excuse me, I'm terribly sorry… Excuse me! …Please, don't mind me… Lady, so help me, I will run int'you if y'don't get out of my way… So sorry, darling, but I'm not workin' t'night. Y'can look, but don't touch…All right, that's quite enough lookin'! …Oh, fer God's sake – move!"

She brushed her hair from her eyes in frustration, though several wisps still clung to her flushed cheeks. Irked, she quickly searched the tavern, careful not to catch the eye of any patrons. There was no need to make them think she was giving a hint; she was only seeking one man tonight.

And there he was, standing in line with several other rabbles, though he seemed isolated from the rest of the group. It was as if some higher force had seen fit to ostracize him from the others, forcing him to remain permanently detached. And she found herself wondering if this was a recent development or if he had always been this way, standing slightly apart from the rest of society.

She began to approach him – quite unsure as to what, exactly, she was going to say to him – only to halt in her tracks several seconds later, frozen by the sound of his voice.

"My story..?" he echoed almost thoughtfully, bitter irony lacing his tone. "It's exactly the same as your story…just one chapter behind. I chased a man across the seven seas… The pursuit cost me my crew, my commission, and my life."

She chewed her lower lip in confusion, eyes flicking to the man behind the table – a grizzled sailor whose name she could not recall, though she knew him to be the quartermaster on the Black Pearl. Right now the man was sinking back into his chair, as if in awe, eyes wide, mouth slightly agape, unable (or perhaps unwilling) to believe what he was seeing.

When next he spoke, it was with stunned disbelief, more guessing than questioning.

"Commodore?"

She withheld a gasp.

"No, not anymore – weren't you listening?" James bit out furiously, his teeth bared. She watched as he leaned forward, now eye to eye with the older sailor, one hand partially outstretched and trembling ever so slightly, the other wound tightly around the neck of a bottle.

His next words were soft, barely audible above the din of the tavern. Even softer was the grief buried beneath them – a poignant, brittle edge that caused her breath to hitch.

"I nearly had you all off Tripoli… I would have, if not for the hurricane."

"Lord…" the quartermaster breathed, astounded. "Y'didn't try t'sail through it?"

No. He couldn't have, of that she was certain. Though she was often of the opinion that the man's intelligence was something to be questioned, the contumelies had only been invoked out of annoyance. In truth, even drunk, he came across as a man who had his wits about him.

So caught up in her thoughts was she that she nearly leapt a mile upon hearing a magnificent crash.

She blinked, aghast to see that the table had been overturned and that the quartermaster had been thrown off his stool.

A nervous hush fell over the patrons of the Faithful Bride; all breaths were held as the crowd pressed closer, tension building, waiting.

And in the midst of it all stood James, arms outspread, strutting about as he thoughtlessly challenged Captain Sparrow, provoking the other pirates as he did.

She closed her eyes.

That idiot…

There was the icy click of a pistol being cocked, and her head shot up.

James was aiming at something…a plant? A moving plant? She rolled her eyes. No, but a poorly disguised pirate captain who was most certainly about to meet his maker. After hearing his story – the guilt, the passion, the sorrow that enveloped it – she knew that James would kill the man who stood at the core of it all, and that she would think no less of him for doing so. No…all that unsettled her was why she would not hold it against him, why she would not flinch in disgust when next they met, why she would not look upon him and see the blood on his hands… Was she so glacial that she cared little if a person died and cared even less for who their killer was? Or had she some…fondness…for James that enabled her to accept, even defend his actions?

Well. Whatever the reason (and she had the most dreadful feeling that it was the latter), that did not mean that she could stand idly by while a man was murdered.

She turned her head away.

Four seconds later, a gunshot sounded and all hell broke loose.

۞۞۞

There was something about seeing a woman dressed in men's clothing, something that miffed her. Perhaps it was because she had always thought it wrong to deny one's womanhood in such a manner? Thought it may have just as easily been because it was so utterly unbecoming (after all, breeches left practically nothing to the imagination, and thought the same could be said for her scandalously low bodices). Then again, it was possible that it was the woman in particular who happened to be wearing the masculine attire.

Woman? Girl-child was more appropriate.

She hadn't cared for James's once-fiancée since the first he had spoken of her, the brazen young miss who had stolen his heart when he had at last left it unguarded only to throw it back at him, shattered.

The melancholy he had spoken with may have been an affect of the rum he had consumed, but that was the distinct impression she had received after he had told her the story of his rejection. And she recalled that it had irked her to know that someone had mistreated him so.

It was different from what she did for a living. Yes, if a man wanted her to love him then love him she would, but little harm came from it. She could have been an astounding actress, but, in the end, they would both know that it had all been a farce.

What that girl had done, however… it had been cruelty at its finest.

Ah, but she could not fault her, not completely. Not when the child had acted out of love – love not meant for James, but love all the same. Not when she, herself, had always – privately, secretly, within the secluded recesses of her mind – dreamt of being in love. It seemed like such a grand, marvelous thing to have happen that she could not help but fantasize. Not all the time, of course. It wasn't something she yearned for constantly, and she did not regard each customer with hope swelling within her that he might be her match. No, there was none of that silliness. But she did excuse a person's behavior if they were in love. Stupidity, disregard, jealously…all were forgivable when love was involved.

Besides, though clearly still hurting, the wounds left by James's fiancée did appear to be healing. It was more than likely that the recent bar fight was what had riled her so – and what a fight it had been!

James had not killed Captain Sparrow, thought aside from that, she knew little else of what had happened.

Her eyes had stayed shut until a body had collided with her, sending her tumbling backwards into a table. With a loud "Oh!" of alarm, she had watched with undeniable fright as man after man lunged at James – pistols, daggers, swords, all manner of weaponry poised. Several eager pairs of hands had grabbed for her – the gunshot apparently not only a signal for brawling, but for drinking, whoring, and other varieties of lively merriment as well. Too distracted by worry to think of their money, she had turned the men down, swatting at the offending hands in annoyance.

They were infuriating, bar fights – pointless, not to mention highly dangerous activities that reminded her of how useless she truly was, how very weak… for though she lived with cutthroats and barbarians on the vicious pit Tortuga where one was never want for murder, thievery, or rape… she felt helpless. She had no means of defense – she certainly couldn't return the blow if ever a man should strike her.

So when the fight had broken out inside the Faithful Bride, she, with no other options in sight, had stowed away, cowering beneath a table.

Eyes wide and alert, she had watched from her makeshift haven as James had taken on one opponent after another until, out of nowhere, there appeared a girl – for it was quite obviously a girl although she was clothed as a boy. The hoyden had helped him fend off his attackers for a time, all the wile displaying remarkable skill and agility for a woman. Yet despite her efforts, the two were eventually cornered.

Cringing, she had watched as he had faced his adversaries without fear, all the while daring them to do their worst.

She had groaned inwardly at this, silently pleading, Oh James, do be quiet! His bravery was a thing to be admired, however, though she felt certain that the rum was responsible for much of it. Still…she could not help but think that, even unaided by alcohol, he would have been just as fearless, though hopefully a bit more sensible.

Yes, for a sensible man would have never found himself in such a situation, let alone the very center of the turmoil. A sensible man would have never allowed that girl-in-boy's-clothes to bring a bottle down over his head with a sickening smash, and would have therefore evaded further humiliation such as being thrown into a wallow with the pigs to lay, forgotten, until he regained consciousness.

Which was why she had left the safety of her table and now found herself standing in the alley behind the Faithful Bride. Or rather, hidden around the corner of the building. For just as she had been about to rush to his side, a figure had emerged from the departing crowd of cheerful drunkards, so she had quickly darted out of sight.

It was her – the girl from before, the one who had fought alongside him, knocked him unconscious… She had been right to think of her as a child – the girl was barely over eighteen, at the oldest – and it was difficult to tell in the gloom of the alleyway, but she imagined that the girl was very pretty (once rid of her man's clothing and given a bath).

She bit her lip as the girl reached down for James, who had just begun to regain his senses.

"James Norrington," she sighed with (highly irritating and uncalled for) disappointment. "What has a world done to you?"

He hung his head as he had after he had insulted her on that morning nearly four months ago, unable to meet the girl's eyes, and said in a voice burdened by guilt:

"Nothing I didn't deserve."

"What on Earth possessed you to act so foolishly?" the child demanded.

"Elizabeth…" he began softly and in that name there were emotions – wonder, affection, and unimaginable shame – that told of the girl's identity.

His fiancée. She had to be to invoke so much from him.

But there was no time to ponder this, for his expression suddenly changed. It was small – just a brief widening of the eyes, as if in fearful realization – and then his gaze returned to the muck, unnoticed by Elizabeth.

But she had noticed, and she quickly searched the alley for what it was he had seen – what had, for that tiny moment, made him panic.

And then, she saw him:

A man. Clothed all in black. Sunken cheeks and a pox-marked face. Tall, thin, yet radiating power.

Looming in the distance, he was liken to a bird of prey, ever vigilant, his eyes sharp, never leaving his target.

She suddenly felt cold.

۞۞۞

A gasp tore at his throat as his back was slammed into a wall. His head, already ailing from an earlier run-in with a bottle, throbbed as it collided with brick, filling the world with sparks, the edges of his vision going strangely red. The stench from the muck of the pigsty filled his nostrils, the burning odor assaulting his senses, making his eyes sting and bile rise.

"Mr. Norrington, have you forgotten that you have a duty to Lord Beckett?" Mercer's voice was calm for all the pressure the man was applying to his windpipe.

A strangled, gagging noise was all he could manage.

"No?" Mercer queried mockingly. "I'm afraid that I require evidence that is more convincing than that."

Finally, he could breathe again as the crushing hands loosened their grip on his neck. He coughed weakly, sputtering as he fought the blackness that threatened to consume him once again.

"Of course, if you are no longer interested in the job, my lord has several candidates that are more than willing to step in and take your place –"

"No!" he gasped – how he loathed that desperation in his voice – before regaining as much of his composure as possible and attempting to speak calmly. "You may tell your lord that such effort is unnecessary. Of course I am prepared to take part in his plans."

"Are you?" Mercer pressed. "You see, I am not prepared to believe that after your episode in the tavern –"

"A mistake," he said sharply. "One that will not be repeated."

"You would be wise to keep your word," the man warned, "or it will be a bad lookout for you."

That said, Mercer promptly released his hold on him and turned away.

Only when the crunch of boots against gravel had faded completely did he allow himself to retch.

Sweating, shaking, he pressed his forehead to the cool brick, hoping for some form of solace, though expecting none.

Soon, he told himself. Soon it will all be in the past.

"James?"

Elizabeth? his weary mind wondered. He hoped not; she needn't see him in an even more humiliating state. He had sent her away shortly after he had seen Mercer lurking in the shadows, watching them. He had assured her that he would be with her momentarily, that he simply had several matters to see to before he departed. She had been confused (and not entirely convinced) but still she had obeyed. So who, then...?

The answer presented itself in the form of an alarmingly thin young woman with a wild mass of curls, garish makeup, and a dark, probing gaze.

Jou-Jou.

He felt himself relax slightly.

The tart looked as if she dearly wanted to inquire about his health, but instead she pursed her lips together, eyeing him in annoyance.

"I lost a lot of customers t'night b'cause of you."

"I'm sorry for that," he replied, and there was no sarcasm to be found. He meant those words, for he knew that there was a chance that she would go hungry that night, and recently he had come to concern himself with the idea of her not eating – her frame was truly a painful sight to behold.

"No harm done – really," she assured him, catching his doubt. "Th' night is young. I've plenty of time t'find a buyer."

He nodded, wincing as the movement caused his head to ache.

"Will y'be all right?" she asked. Then, quietly, "I saw what they did…"

"I'll recover," he said distantly, more to himself than to her. "Once I board the ship… I'll be fine."

"Oh." She looked down, appearing surprised. "So…so you're really doin' it, then? You're leavin' me."

Seeing his expression – an amalgam of confusion, curiosity, and mud – she gave a weak laugh.

"Well, not me exactly, but…th' island."

"Yes," he confirmed. "I have a duty to uphold, one that I do not believe you could begin to understand – and no, that was not a remark against your intelligence," he added quickly.

"Oh, I don't blame you, lovey. Lord knows, if I had th' chance, I'd be out of this Godfersaken place," she informed him, though in spite of her air of nonchalance, he felt…guilty – almost as if he was deserting her, like he was a captain abandoning his ship when he was meant to stay and go down with it.

"Jus'…swear you'll look after yerself – not t'say I did much good takin' care of you, but…well we both know y'can be right foolish at times." She smirked slightly. "A former commodore prancin' around in front of a bunch of pirates?"

"You heard," he stated flatly, quite unsure of what to make of this.

"Yeah," she replied. "Though, t'be honest, I shoulda put two an' two t'gether a long time ago – th' stories I'd hear, fact that you're a Navy man –"

"Was," he corrected acidly.

"Right, was…" she amended, eyes downcast.

An awkward silence.

"I must be off, I'm afraid," he said at last, wanting to fill the void that lay between them.

"Oh. Yes. I s'ppose y'should…"

He hesitated, feeling that it would be wrong to leave so abruptly, but uncertain of anything else.

"James?"

Ah. And there was Elizabeth, standing before them with impatience he still found endearing and staring in shock at the prostitute that stood across from him. Suddenly turning her gaze to him, she said in an undertone and with a disapproving scowl:

"Really, James, I wouldn't have expected this to be the kind of company you would keep."

"Jus' as I wouldn't have expected you t'be th' kinda company he'd keep," Jou-Jou cut in before he could form an excuse, eyeing the other woman's breeches with an expression of utmost distaste.

More bewildered than offended, Elizabeth gaped at Jou-Jou for a moment before fixing him with an imploring glare.

"James, I do hate to rush you, but we really must leave. In order to help Will, I need to find Jack — and he does not even know that I'm here. I highly doubt that he will wait for you to report for duty, therefore we need to find him as soon as possible – he could set sail at any time!"

She was right, of course, and in order to obtain the compass, he needed to be near Sparrow, yet… He looked down at Jou-Jou, who was still surveying Elizabeth with a critical eye.

"Then we must make haste," he told Elizabeth. "However, I must first clear up a matter with this young lady, here – " He indicated to the strumpet. "It shall take no more than a minute, but, should I exceed that time, I wish for you to go along without me. I am sure that you are in more need of Sparrow than I."

Elizabeth was silent for a moment in which a million emotions could be seen shining brightly in her lovely brown eyes.

Enough, he told himself fiercely. She loves Turner – and look at you! Better that she marry him than I, for I would have brought her nothing but misery and ill fortune…

At last, she nodded in understanding. Then, with one last confused look at the prostitute, she allowed them their privacy.

"I haven't much time," he began hastily, turning back to Jou-Jou.

"I'll do this quickly, then," she replied, raising herself up on her toes.

It was so swift that at first he thought he had imagined it. But no. When she pulled away, mud was smeared across her lips – a telltale mark from when she had kissed him on the cheek.

It was unlike anything he had been expecting – expecting? What? He hadn't been expecting that! He hadn't been expecting anything! Least of all something so gentle, so…chaste…and so very sweet…very unlike her…

He was still trying to comprehend what had just happened when she raised her hand to her lips and pulled it away.

Her fingers were spotted with grime.

Automatically, not listening as she smiled and told him that it was nothing, he reached inside his sopping coat to retrieve a handkerchief.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, sounding almost delighted. "This is onna mine!"

"Is it?" he asked, still feeling a bit dazed. He eyed the bit of cloth closely, noting the stains and frayed edges, two of which were naked, stripped completely of their ratty lace. "Oh. So it is."

"I'd fergottin I'd given it t'you…"

"It would seem, so did I…"

"No matter," she said, tucking the tattered bit of fabric back into his hand and folding his fingers around it. "Y'can keep it."

He looked at her sharply.

"What?"

She gave a careless little shrug.

"Somethin' t'r'member me by – y'will do that fer me, won't you? R'member me?"

He looked into her dark eyes, at the seemingly raw emotion being emitted from a woman who distanced herself from so many…yet, he realized, had allowed herself – was allowing herself to be vulnerable in front of him for a third time.

She trusted him.

And that was the cause for this feeling of abandonment.

Guilt was anchoring him down, trying to force him to stay aboard his ship…but he could not. They both knew that. She would not blame him for taking his chance and running with it. It was as she always said: One had to be selfish in order to survive.

It was for the best, he was certain that it was.

It would all be for the best.

"James?" she asked softly.

He looked into her eyes as he ran his thumb over the dirty piece of cloth, and answered her as truthfully as he could:

"I'm afraid…that it would be impossible not to."

– FINIS –

Yes, this is officially the end – well, not the end, end. But the end of this part of their story. I have a sequel, of sorts, in mind – one that is set during At World's End, though it will not, of course, end the way themovie did. It's basically our dear reinstated Commodore-turned-Admiral's side of the story. And, yes, Jou-Jou shall return, though I hope you all like the turn I've taken with her character (and I don't just mean pairing her with James, either). While I like what I have planned for her, I am hesitant to go with it because you guys seem to love her as she is. This is rather difficult to explain without giving anything away. I'm basically worried that in the next story Jou-Jou will come off as OOC or even Mary-Sueish – my typical concerns, I know, but this time I sincerely think that this will be the case, especially since I've put her in a completely new setting in which she will have to act accordingly.

I hope that my characterizations of Jack, Liz, and Mercer were accurate. Also, I'm concerned that James's and Jou-Jou's interactions in this chapter made sense – keep in mind that they've spent four months together, so things will have definitely changed. I'm very worried about all of this, so please don't hesitate to let me know what you think.

Notes

"Pirate Hunter" – I've always gotten the feeling that James, while proud that he was a pirate's arch nemesis in the eastern Caribbean, would have either blushed or rolled his eyes at being called this, depending on who said it and how it was said.

Queer – I adore using this word instead of 'strange' or 'weird,' but am so annoyed that I can't use it in public without someone automatically assuming I'm speaking ill of homosexuals. Does anyone else feel this way, or is it just me?

"Captain Sparrow!" – isn't it interesting how, when everyone else always forgets to, she calls him by his proper title? Remember, Jou-Jou's willing to do anything to make a man happy, so, whether he has a ship or not, if Jack wants to be called "Captain," then that's what she'll call him.

The man flinched – mind you, I'm characterizing Captain Jack according to his behavior in Dead Man's Chest in which he was incredibly edgy.

…something about eunuchs – while I have not yet discovered an answer behind Jack's penchant for mentioning eunuchs, I do know that he (or at least, my version) prefers to be on top because it makes it easier to get away should the person he's with decide to go Laurana Bobbit on him and pull out the scissors.

"As much as it pains me t'do so, dearest…" – I get the feeling that it really would pain him to turn her down and that he was probably thinking, "Damn you, Davy Jones, keepin' me from gettin' laid!" all the while. Remember, this isn't Jou-Jou's magical Mary-Sueness that's doing this; it's Jack's horniness.

The Faithful Bride – is this an actual tavern in the movie, or is it just one that's been adopted by the fandom? I'm only asking because I've come across this place in several fics but have yet to stumble across it anywhere else (that, and I always forget to check whenever I watch the move.)

… this once vivacious, colorful, enigmatic man had lost some of his luster – which was how I think a lot of us saw Captain Jack in Dead Man's Chest. Even Depp himself said that the character was much darker. This isn't a jibe at the movie or the character; just an observation.

"Odd fer anybody, ducky" – this is fairly unimportant, but I'm in love with the idea of somebody – anybody – calling James 'ducky.' No idea why, either.

…his ruination wasn't entirely Sparrow's fault? – it was rather difficult to come up with reasons as to why James would blame Jack for his downfall, especially when James (or at least, my version) is feeling so incredibly guilty. In the end, I came up with as many fathomable reasons as I could, and blamed the rest on the rum. ;)

Lord Beckett's personal assassin had approached him – I've always thought that there was a reason why James decided to join Jack's crew aside from "Grr, I'm drunk and he's the reason for all my problems! Now I'll be able to kill him!" What's really funny, is that I recently read that there is a deleted scene from Dead Man's Chest in which Mercer approaches James and strikes a deal with him – and I've had this idea for months now. :D

…that day's head start now considered a dastardly crime – this was the main thing, I think, that made me side with James in DMC. He, the infamous Pirate Hunter, was a nice guy and let Jack go at the end of CotBP, acknowledging that pirates could be decent people. And then was happened? That act of kindness came back and bit him – hard. Both saddening and unfair.

Her waxy red lips twitched – I know I'm not the only one who, upon reading this, pictures those big, red lips that kids wear on Halloween.

"An' what makes you think you're worthy t'crew the Black Pearl?" – oddly, unlike Chapter III, I have no qualms about using lines from the movie in this chapter. Though this may be because this is actually meant to take place when the words were said, whereas that chapter just recycled the line "I can't breathe." All of you seemed to enjoy that bit, though, for which I am extremely relieved.

He couldn't have, of that she was certain – see? She knows that he's too smart and practical to do something so stupid. I think I'm going to have to go with the "The storm crept up on them, they got stuck in it, and there was nothing they could do except try to ride it out, yet James blames himself because he was in charge and that's just what he does" theory.

She hadn't cared for James's once-fiancée – let it be known, here and now, that Jou-Jou's feelings toward Elizabeth do not reflect my own. I liked Elizabeth in the first movie and still retained some of that liking for her in the second, though I'll admit that I do not agree with several (make that many) of her actions (and I'm not just talking about the seemingly random J/E). However, in the third installment, I found that my dislike for the character outweighed my like for her, though, after reading several opinions on AWE, I find that I am not alone in thinking of the movie as being "the Elizabeth Show." Really, though, it's not the character I'm upset with; rather, it's the writers. But I've several issues with them at the moment. Moving on, in Jou-Jou's defense, you will find that there are very few women that she actually likes, and that she despises childishness in general – and she most definitely sees Elizabeth as being childish.

…activities that reminded her of how useless she truly was – and so we realize see that, despite her place of residence, Jou-Jou is not the rough 'n tough girl some may believe. Or maybe you guys never saw her that way? In any case, there is definitely a reason why she doesn't know how to fight – aside from the fact that we already have one sword-fighting chick in the story and I don't feel that another is necessary. Think about it – it's the 1700s and she's a woman. That pretty much says it all. Most – make that at least ninety-nine percent during that era – did not know how to fire a pistol, wield a sword, or even use her fists properly. It doesn't matter that Jou-Jou lives on Tortuga because it would just be illogical for her to know how to fight.

…the girl was barely over eighteen – I'm going by how old Keira was when she began filming the first movie (seventeen, I believe) and tacking on a year because apparently that's how much time has passed since the events of Curse of the Black Pearl took place.

…she sighed with (highly irritating and uncalled for) disappointment – Jou-Jou's kind of like a violent, extremely defensive Norrington fangirl, isn't she?

"Nothing I didn't deserve." – from what I've read, supposedly he really does say this in the movie, but the scene was cut short in editing. As were a lot of James's scenes, apparently. It would seem that Disney is unaware that James has an abundance of fangirls, for I imagine, had they known this, AWE wouldn't have worked out the way it did. Or, at the very least, James would have had more screen time. XP

But she had noticed… - I'm not certain if you could call this symbolism or not. Perhaps it's more like foreshadowing than symbolism, since Jou-Jou tends to notice James more than anybody (or at least, more than Elizabeth). She also, I believe, would know him, the actual man behind the uniform, better than others. This isn't because she has clichéd, hypersensitive intuition, but because when she meets him, he is no longer a commodore and therefore no longer has to put up a stoic front, as is evident by his behavior in DMC. She sees him one way, the way he truly is – self-abusive and vulnerable, yet struggling to remain righteous – whereas most others view him as a cold, impassive commander.

…stripped completely of their ratty lace – I recently watched the part of my Dead Man's Chest Bonus Features DVD where they tell us all about Captain Jack, and was very intrigued to learn that the bit of lace he wears around his wrist was given to him by a woman he once knew. Now, who this woman was has yet to be determined (and I'm sure it isn't Jou-Jou, unless I was right and Disney really is monitoring my thoughts) but I thought it would be a nifty idea to play with nonetheless. Thus, I made a point of mentioning the missing hanky edge in this chapter.

…allowing herself to be vulnerable in front of him – I find that I like this better than the typical "he was letting his guard down in front of her" scenario.

… for a third time – I'm worried that this might seem a bit vague, so just to clarify: the first time was right after he saved her from being crushed to death and the second was when he watched her sleep.

THE FINAL Simple Request/Reminder from the Author

I would not like to have to take this story down and rewrite it again as I have done with my works in the past. Therefore, I am asking all of my readers to alert me at once if anything is historically inaccurate, anyone is out of character, words are improperly spelled, grammar isn't up to par, or if anything seems Mary-Sue-ish even in the slightest. Remember kids, praise may be nice and make the author feel good about him or herself, but constructive criticism is more helpful in the long run. Politeness is preferred, though you may be harsh if you like – sometimes a little severity is the only way to get the message across. But also take note that by merely writing "Dear God, you suck big time. You suck. Your characters suck. Your story sucks. My eyes are bleeding from how much it sucks. Don't write anymore, I beg you" you aren't helping me anymore than people who say "OMG! U rool i wanna mary u!!!11 this is the new OTP!!!!1one1!" are. So please, help me out, but be kind about it if you can. Merci in advance!