(Chapter Eighteen)

Last Premonition

I didn't take long for Jack to find his way into the hold.

He had never been so aware of his heartbeat. He had never noticed the way his blood flowed through his veins and the way the air filled his lungs…so completely.

At first he wasn't quite sure what he had been meaning to look for here. He wasn't sure if it was the return of his soul, or the blood loss, or the vertigo that was causing the dizzying euphoria. Not matter, he was having a hard time concentrating on his next move.

Jack looked around for a while, the hold of the ship was as creepy as he might have imagined, and found himself some barnacled bottles of rum. He decided against them.

Still he sat down and shook the bottles to listen to the liquid swish around inside and to think. He closed his eyes and let himself imagine, as he hadn't done for months now, the smell of the ink on the musty charts and the sound of the compass spinning. The constant motion of the ship around him and the passing though him like the vibration of a thousand strains of music.

He tried then to think clearly. Everything snapped into a sharp kind of awareness. The first thing to do was to stop the bleeding in his shoulder. He found some wadding cloths to press against the wound. Even the pain was refreshing, because it was all so real. Real was something he had missed. Living with only half a soul had been like walking through a dreamland and hearing a voice trying to call you awake, but trying desperately to maintain you dream.

Next he would find his friend, and next he would return to his crew. And next…And next. The new awareness snapped through his future steps in an infinite fast forward.

Jack was drenching in rainwater, which his pushed form his eyes as he picked his way through the below deck labyrinth toward the brig. Jack stopped with a sudden foreboding at the warped wooden door, with a single barred porthole into the darkness. He wasn't sure he wanted to find whatever was beyond it.

The cell door opened easily from the outside. The fist thing that struck him was the smell. He swallowed to keep himself from gagging on the sour rotting smell mingled with the tang of blood.

The second thing was a voice. "Jack?" It was a low whisper, pained and straining, and Jack squinted in the dimness to find it's source.

"Bootstrap? Where are you?" Jack sidled over to a huddled form.

"My son…" Bill Turner asked the foremost question in his mind. "Do you have word of William…"

Jack foundered for words of comfort. "He's fine, I'm sure he's fine. Not that easy to kill your son. I've tried a couple times myself with no luck at all." Jack smiled carefully unable to make it reach his eyes. Bootstrap turned his head to look at him. The change in his face was stunning. Yes, his visage lacked the corruption that had come from the deal with Davy Jones, but it was the hollowness of his eyes the white of his skin. The grief forged creases in his face and the dimming eyes that looked up into Jack's.

"You'll find him for me, won't you…you'll tell him I was free in the end…won't you?" Jack didn't answer. His natural tendency to avoid the realities he didn't like kicking in like it had never been out of order.

"You are wounded?"

Bootstrap smiled slightly, Jack's friend was still in there, and laughed. Though it might have been a cough. "I am dying. You must promise me. You must promise Jack…"

A sharp pain shot through Jacks heart, like the reopening of an old wound. Jack realized then, that he would never heal. Every moment there would me a reminder of his imprisonment, his wounded spirit…the scar on his soul.

"Tell him…He fulfilled his promises to me. Tell him I never forgave myself for leaving him. Tell him…tell him not to mourn my passing." The elder William Turner looked carefully at Jack's expression. "That goes for you too Jack."

"I promise."

Then, as if those were the only words he had been holding on for Bootstrap Bill Turner passed from the world with only three words for his benediction. "Good-bye old friend."

So it was in this way that the battle turned. When the pirates, under Will's command, overran the Endeavor, it was a final deadly blow to the fleet, which was already scattering under the pressure form the pirate forces.

With no sign of their commanders, the EICT ships were routed and turned back towards port.

The remaining crew upon the Pearl was relieved to see their captain return alive. They would later recount how Davy Jones's minions had looked up into the sky all in unison before the curse was lifted. Some, who would have been nearly a century dead, simply crumbled into dusk, while others upon receiving their freedom threw themselves into the roiling sea and were gone. Those that neither disappeared nor ended their long hated existence, numbering no more than ten altogether, attacked, but in such a way that they didn't seem to care, and almost took pleasure upon their enemies cutlass point.

Jack ordered them to leave the Dutchman unmanned and anchored to its spot. "Another man's prize." He called it. "God willing he'll still be breathing when we get there."

That same day, as the sun was beginning to settle, and shooting brilliant colored lights all about them, the pirate fleet all gathered. There, in the empty expanse of water, each ship held a private wake for their fallen comrades, before their burial at sea.

Elizabeth said words for Norrington in a choked voice, and Will squeezed her hand in comfort.

Jack and his small crew, Gibbs among them, stayed away from the ceremony. Jack said they would be only in the way of the others, and out of the spirit of the thing. Gibbs nodded, and didn't question the sentiment, unwilling to guess what friends of his own might have met their end.

The Black Pearl too had a small proceeding. Gibbs spoke of course, and Jack, breaking out of his newly reacquired character, broke out the rum for his shipmates. Jack stood for a very long time at the prow, looking out into the see with his spyglass, gazing over the twinkling lights of the fleet. Listening to Elizabeth's thoughts. Around midnight he shook Gibbs awake.

"I'll be gone till morning. Wait for me."

Jack commandeered one of the life boats and took his time rowing to the Endeavor. All the while thinking what he was going to do. What was he going to say if he got there and the ones he needed to see weren't?

It was a relief to be alone for a while. Even the half-dozen he was sharing his ship with where too many for him to have piece. Every once in a while the idea that he had been a better captain after the Locker came through his head. He didn't know why he had missed all his selfishness. He didn't really like the person that he was in those moments.

Finding the Endeavor was and easy business. All the other ships had gathered around it like the spokes of a wheel.

The deck was empty but for a lone figure. Jack lurked in the shadows for a while listening to a lilting voice tossed back and forth by the wind and the waves.

Long we've tossed on the rolling main
Now we're safe ashore, Jack
Don't forget your old shipmate
Fal dee ral dee ral dee rye eye doe!

But the best of friends must part
Fair or foul the weather
Hand yer flipper for a shake
Now a drink together

The voice that stood on the empty deck cracked, and the song broke into racking sobbs.

"Don't go." The woman said, but she wasn't talking to Jack. As far as he could tell, she didn't know anyone as there. But he recognized the voice.

"Bethanna?" That made not sense at all. Why would she be alone here?

"Jack?" She turned to look at him. There was little more than moonlight on the deck, but Jack could imagine her red eyes and the trails of tears on her cheeks. "None of us thought you were alive. Save Turner's girl, but I guess she would wouldn't she?"

Jack didn't know what she meant by that. "Where's Ana?"

Beth turned abruptly away. Jack waited, not pressing. After a pregnant pause, she said. "Ask the captain. I am not ready to speak of it, so ask Captain Turner. Sad thing, he might be takin' it harder than I."

Jack frowned deeply "I'm sorry." He said in barely a whisper. Anamaria's first mate nodded.

"I keep a vigil for her tonight."

"I won't disturb you, then. Know, I would join you but I have other promises to keep myself." Beth, nodded again and continued to stare into the distance.

Jack found Will without much trouble, and watched him sleep fitfully for a while before waking him up. Will looked terrible. His eyes great dark hollows of grief, his mouth tightened into an expression that suggested he wouldn't trust what he was looking at, no matter what I was. His voice was ragged. "What the hell are you doing here?"

Jack grinned nastily. "Pity, I should be alive, isn't it?"

Will shook himself and adopted a kindlier tone. "What do you want, Jack?"

"I have a message for you…from you father."

Will and Jack spoke for hours. Jack told Will all that had transpired on the Dutchman and Will returned the favor with an account or the battle or the two fleets.

Will took the news of his fathers death very hard, unsurprisingly. But he bore up under the pressure better than Jack would have guessed. He seemed to have reconciled himself to it. And after Jack told Will all Boot-strap had asked of him, they sat silent for a long time.

"The body is there…On the ship. I am leaving it there for you. You can decide what to do with the Dutchman. I think that is what was supposed to happen anyway, eh?"

When Will explained that Tia Dalma hadn't survived Jack didn't seem surprised or shaken. Will subscribed that to Jack's general heartless nature.

Jack never did ask Will about how Anamaria had died. Something told him that he was never to mention her to the boy, and that was alright because he felt the scar in his soul burn at the thought of her anyway.

When the sky started to color with sunrise, Will finally mentioned Elizabeth. "Will you go speak to her?"

"Yes, yes. I'll see her before I leave."

"You're leaving her then?" Will looked at him accusingly.

"Yea, but that was what you expected wasn't it." Will frowned more deeply with thought. Jack didn't want to leave her. He never did something he didn't want to do. That was odd.

"But you will say good-bye?" Jack nodded.

When he left, the dawn was an elaborate tapestry mounted on a wall of blue and clouds. Jack found where Elizabeth was sleeping. She was sleeping in an uncomfortable looking cot in a private cabin. Her hair was splayed across her face, her fingers tightly entangled in the bedspread.

Jack gently brushed the caramel tresses way from her cheeks and watched the light of the rising sun play with golden shots of sunlight and turn her hair into spun gold.

"I wonder." He whispered softly. "If you can understand, that the only way I can save you…is running away." She stirred in her sleep. He dropped his voice still lower so she wouldn't wake. "I'll never be without you. Goodbye."

Then he disappeared form the room like a coward and left the ship without seeing anyone else.

Then next day Elizabeth and her father were truly reunited. On the day of the battle things had been to frenzied for them to do more than acknowledge each others presence, but as soon as they were both awake they sat down together and talked.

They both of the noted the changes in the other. Governor Swann seemed older and worn about the edges. Elizabeth seemed filled to the brim with life or anxiety.

When Elizabeth at last told her father that she would not be going home, he did not protest as she had expected. Instead he nodded and said he would be barter for passage home where ever he could get it.

He had lost his protective possessiveness; He had even lost his sense of pomp and superiority. He kissed his daughter goodbye, in case he mightn't have another chance. "You will come round from time to time, to visit an old man. I am buying passage on another ship. I promised to pay my own ransom if they'd take me back. I've had far more of pirates than I care to speak of."

"Aye." She said in perfect pirate fashion. "I'll drop you line for time to time. You know I probably have my own poster by now. Port Royal will not be the safest place for me.

"Then I wish you luck daughter." They embraced, and several hours later he left aboard a war ragged skiff.

When Will finally awoke, for he slept very late, he ordered his crew to sail for the Flying Dutchman.

"Those who want to may join me and crew that ship, and Bethanna will have the captaincy here." Will rubbed his eyes and yawned yet again.

Elizabeth had a far off look in her eyes, and she kept he eye on the horizon, waiting for a ship to come out of the mist. One black sail was all the reassurance she need. However, even she noticed the bagged eyes and drawn tired expression Will plodded along the deck with.

Finally, when the Flying Dutchman appeared on the horizon, like an apparition returned to it's former coral-less glory, and Will didn't bat and eye, Elizabeth approached him.

"Are you alright?" She asked, almost jovially. In her mind, she was telling herself "Not to long now, you'll see him soon. Soon!"

Will looked at her gravely with an amount of concern that she didn't feel she entirely merited. "Are you?"

"I'll be better in a little while." Will frowned. She seemed to be taking to abandonment very well. Will's frowning was cut short with another yawn.

"You tired?" Elizabeth tilted her head to look at him.

"Yes. I should think you would be to."

"I don't see why."

"Well, talking to Jack all hours of the night doesn't help much."


"What what?" Will asked inscrutably.

Elizabeth punched him solidly in the shoulder. "You saw Jack? You saw him, and you didn't tell me? I have been sick with worry about him! You! You absolute—"

"Wait, wait…You didn't know? He didn't come to speak to you." Will backed up, incase she turned violent again, his face a mass of boldfaced astonishment. "He told me he was going to tell you…"

"Tell me what!" Elizabeth's voice was rising in pitch along with her agitation.

"He said he would go back and say good-bye. He told me he would speak to you. You swear you didn't see him."

"You think I would lie about something like this?" Her voice was thick with emotion.

Will slammed his fist against the railing. "Ow!…No, you wouldn't…He would."

"I cannot believe this."

"Really?" Will asked unkindly, but then his voice softened when he looked at her. "I'm so sorry Elizabeth."

"Why would he leave without saying goodbye."

"Maybe because he couldn't leave that way. He probably sailed away this morning."

"Sailed away…Don't sail away." Elizabeth began to mumble to herself. Will put his arm around her shoulder to steady her. "He wouldn't…he couldn't…"

"You've got to calm down. Elizabeth. You must start to let him go."

Elizabeth turned and looked at him, her eyes bright and excited, crazed even. "He wouldn't sail away, Will! He would sail back!"

Will blinked, uncomprehending.

"He had no crew, no weapons, no provisions. He couldn't go to sea. He had to go to port!"

"He would go back to Tortuga." Will nodded at last.

"Take me there!" She was shaking slightly with hope.

Will put both ands on her shoulders. "You want to go to him? After he did this to you? He tried to hurt you. Purposefully tried to hurt you." Elizabeth shook her head.

"I know that. I know he wanted me to hate him. He's tried it before."

"Your not making any sense at all." Will raised his voice, as upset as she was beseeching.

"I don't know that I can explain it to you, but if he wants to leave me. Really wants to, I mean. Then he will have to tell me to my face. I must know why. I have to see him again. Will you? Please Will, will you take me to him?" Her eyes shone slightly like her heart would break.

"I'll take you anywhere." He said softly.

And she smiled so that her entire face was transformed to a place of sunshine of magic…and kissed Will full on the lips.

The Black Pearl wasn't hard miss, and after bidding Will goodbye Elizabeth ran all along the beach and up the peer to get to it.

Will watched her, his heart only aching lightly, his mouth upturned in the faintest of smiles.

"She'll be alright I think." Bethanna said quietly from behind him.

"You didn't have to come with me. Why didn't you take the Endeavor."

"I will not dirty my soul on that blood ship." Will looked a little startled by his new first mate. "Besides, maybe I wanted to see what my friend and captains seemed to see in you." She pushed her sun bleached, white blonde hair out of her eyes, revealing a feminine blush on her cheeks. She smiled at him.

"Shall we then, Officer?"

Beth turned and began yelling orders. Will looked after her and shook his head. They way pirate wenches caught his eye of late was darn near Sparrowesque. Maybe he was going to turn into another dashing pirate playboy. "I certainly hope not." He said to himself.

He placed his hand on the helm and they took to open water…

Still Will had the unnerving feeling that the ship wasn't entirely without a mind of it's own.

Elizabeth padded aboard the ship, laughing and panting for breath, smiling with the thrilling exhilaration of a playful game of tag with school time comrades. Elation juggled here voice amongst several musical pitches as she called. "Jack?" She smiled and looked around her. "Gibbs? Is anyone here?"

The ship was utterly deserted, so she resolved to wait for them to return. She settled herself upon a barrel and started to sing wordlessly to herself.

Oh, what would Jack think when he saw her? He would be pleased? No. He would be angry, she thought. She hoped he would be mad at her. That would speak volumes all on its own. She wanted to she his face harden and hear him try to rationalize why she couldn't come with him. Then…she didn't know what she wanted…or if she did she wouldn't think about it.

She looked around her, at the port. There were some familiar ships here, The Ivory Edge was hear, and several others in its party. There was The Irishman and The Fury with its massive prison-barge-bulk filling up unnatural space.

She looked at the sun where it was beginning to set. What if Jack didn't come back by than night? What if he came back in the wee hours of the morning?

Well she wasn't going to stay up and wait. She would just go to sleep…in the captain's cabin. At least that way he wouldn't miss her. Yes, that would get his attention.

She had just made herself comfortable when she heard, or thought she heard, a door slam. She turned around and looked. She saw no one, but she had been wrong before. "Hello?" she called warily into the blackness that led below. The blackness stared back at her rather unhelpfully.

She went down the steps cautiously, foreboding what creeping along her skin like the cold night air. She shivered. Squinting into the darkness she called again. Nothing.

She turned to resurface into the warm sun.

Then she felt a rough hand grab her by the hair. Overlong fingernails raked her scalp and a voice laughed with poisonous good humor, "Ah, and I was thinking you would make this difficult."

Then the blackness became very dark indeed.

Jack came back alone. Gibbs had conscripted new sailors, and the others who had been with him on Jack's confrontation with the Flying Dutchman said they would stay. But there were a series of orgies and parties and pleasures to be had in the town tonight, and Jack had no taste for any of it.

He just go "home" and wait for them to return in the morning.

The sun wasn't officially down yet. There was plenty of light to walk by, the sky was amber with setting sunlight and Jack studied his boots and the way they meandered here and there while he walked.

His right arm ached and throbbed. It was unpleasant and distracting. He kept it in a sling of yellowed linen and tried to ignore that fact that it would make it impossible to draw his sword properly.

Jack found himself to be consistently depressed about everything not. The lack of rum had depressed him. Then the ineffectiveness of rum to relieve the depression depressed him, and then the lack of rum depressed him again.

He was depressed about the state of his ship, his crew, his arm. He wasn't crazy about the way the wind was blowing at the moment, and he had never trod upon a more obstinately depressing peer in his life. The depression was just a cover for the real reason he was unhappy. And there was nothing to be done for that.

His feet found their way, walking along unconsciously, and he didn't look up till he was aboard the ship. He was so tired, and what was the point of it all anyway…Jack's mental ramblings when on. He was saying to himself that the benefit to not having all of one's self intact was that at least then there was no one to argue with.

"Not as perceptive as you once were are you Jack." Jack whipped around at the sound of that voice.

"There was a time when you could have sensed a trap before it was devised." Jack turned and looked around him, searching for the source of these rather mocking musings.

"Who's there?" He asked.

"I truly am disappointed that you don't know Jack. And we were such good friends too." The voice laughed at him.

"I know who it sounds like, but I also know that he should have no reason to be on my ship." Jack's voice became biting and angry.

"Oh, how wrong you can be." Barbossa appeared form behind a shadow, his face spread in a wide grin, his pistol cocked and pointed at Elizabeth's head.

"God…" Jack choked quietly.

Elizabeth was gagged and trembling. One crystalline tear was winding its way around her cheek. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." Was the only thought he could read.

"It's actually a rather tragic thing, I'll have you know."

"What are you doing?" Jack asked ignoring the comment.

"I had had beautiful plans for revenge plotted out for you actually. I thought I might lead you and a wild chase around the world, following intrigue after intrigue, until I finally killed you the way you killed me. Let you task a moment of triumph and then dash the cup for your lips, you see?"

"You want to kill me?" Jack still didn't quite comprehend, or except, what was happening here.

"I want to torture you, and take you apart piece by piece…or wanted to. Then another avenue presented itself in the form of your friend, the simpering whelp, and his adored object." Barbossa reached up and grabbed Elizabeth's hair, pulling her head back sharply. She gave a muffled yelp. "She is quite the vision isn't she? I am hardly surprised she bewitched you too, the siren."

"You plan to kill her." Jack shifted into total control almost without time for the transition. His eyes took on an amused expression. He sounded completely unconcerned.

"Well, that is the general idea I suppose."

"Fine." Jack rested his left hand casually on his sword.

"Oh…oh no." Barbossa laughed loudly. "You can't play this game with me."

"No game. Shoot her, then I'll kill you. Again."

"No, that might work on another man, Jack, but not I. I know your tricks, you pseudo confidence, your brilliant acting."

"No acting required. She killed me, remember. I would be as happy to see her brains splattered all over the deck as I am sure you would be to kill me."

"You really think I haven't been paying good enough attention to call your bluff? I wouldn't have believed it possible until I saw it myself. Oh I have been watching you. And sometimes, it takes little more than the look on ones face to know. I know how you feel about this girl."

"You are mistaken."

"Am I?" He pressed the barrel of the gun harder against Elizabeth's temple until she winced and another tear rand down her face. Jack didn't bat and eye. "Well then, let's just test my theory." Barbossa drew his cutlass and set the against her chin. Elizabeth's face paled a little, Jack didn't move.

Barbossa began to slide the sharp edge of the blade along her jaw line, more tears appeared in her eyes, blood started running languidly form the cut. Elizabeth breathed in sharply, but in Jacks head he heard her, "Get away…please…please…he's going to kill you…"

Jack stayed stock still, save for the imperceptible tightening of he jaw. Ever ounce of self-control he possessed called on to steady him.

"So I really have wasted my time with a useless hostage?"

"It would seem so, yes." Jack grinned tightly.

"Well I don't need her then." Barbossa raised his as if he would slit her throat.

Jacks pistol was in his hand before thought could command the action. "STOP!" He cocked the gun.

"Ha ha, what are you going to do now Jack? Shoot the woman you love to kill me?" Jack's old first mate held his head behind Elizabeth's, eliminating clear targets. And Jack's weaker left hand was trembling slightly, he couldn't make the shot.

"Cruelty is this Jack Sparrow, to hold everything your enemy ever wanted before them and then take it away. This is my revenge on you Jack Sparrow, that you be cursed with seeing her fall dead, and that being that last thing you ever see."

Things happened very fast. Barbossa pushed Elizabeth away form him but kept his pistol trained on her heart, Jacks eyes followed her like they were supposed to and Barbossa cackled evilly.

Elizabeth stumbled and fell with a muffled yell through the gag.

There was a shout, Jack found it was him.

And then all there was, was rage and Elizabeth shouting into Jack's mind. "Not me Jack. Look, HE HAS ANOTHER GUN!"

And then he shot her.

The second gunshot was not so terrible as the first. Its echo was swallowed up in the sound of the one before. Its power wasn't felt by all aboard, only by the one who received it, and even he was not alive long enough to understand the importance of it.

Jack didn't even watch Barbossa fall, he was already moving, and didn't here his second final breath because he was listening to carefully for a sound of breath.

Elizabeth was still and silent, not just silent of breath but of mind. He couldn't see anything but blackness in her thoughts.

When Jack turned her to look at her face, so pale and he neck coved with blood, his whole mind and body convulsed because he wasn't seeing her anymore he had fallen backwards into all sorts of repressed memories…Arabella's blank dead eyes staring at him with accusations he had invented himself. The blood on her lips, on his lips. The sensation of holding her cold hand. The fingertips blue and dead, and he was covered in her blood…there was blood everywhere.

Jack pulled the gag away form Elizabeth's mouth. Her skin was colorless pale, her eyes were closed as if in sleep, and she didn't moved at all.

Dead, dead…he had let her die again…

Elizabeth's eyes fluttered opened, "Jack!" She gasped. She jerked forward like she was trying to sit up but was unable.

Her eyes rolled around in her head searching around, and when she looked at him it seemed to take a moment for everything to register. When it did at last, she slumped back. Jack caught her shoulders with is good arm, and Elizabeth leaned against him with her eyes closed, and chest moving in and out with shallow breath.

Jack looked at her carefully at her face, along the one side there was a deep purple bruise. Jack winced when he remembered that that had been his doing. Otherwise she seemed fine, save for the cut on her lip.

It was strange, Jack had been sure Barbossa had shot her.

Elizabeth's face tightened with pain. One hand when to her side, and Jack noticed a crimson stain now growing there on her shirt.

Jack loosed his right hand form the sling and pulled her shirt up a little to get a look. Elizabeth smiled privately at his touch. The wound didn't seem fatal, but the bullet had left a deep graze along her left side, which had been bleeding freely and running down her back and onto the deck so Jack hadn't seen it. He found some rags and pressed the against the cut.

"I think I'll live." Elizabeth said an a whispering voice, the best she could manage.

"You came looking for me?" Jack said, his voice was half of reproof, half of guilt.

"You weren't getting out of this that easily."

"You shouldn't have come. You're going to get yourself killed." He was all sense and indignation now. All business. That is until she trembled slightly with blood loss and emotion, then he was all alarm and tenderness and gentleness.

"I couldn't let you go. I never have been able to." She was very cold. It was hard to focus her eyes on his. She thought she might pass out soon.

"You could have been killed…" Jack speaking more to himself than to her now. "What then?" He looked at her, memorizing her features putting them away carefully, packing them in the storage of his mind. He opened his mouth and closed it again.

"I…" He tried again. "I don't want you with me."

"Just say it." She whispered. "We both know it."

"I…love you"

"I know."

Jack kissed her, holding on to her tightly. It was a kiss without guilt or reservation, filled with passion and rapture and realization.

Jack knew, knew like he knew his ship and better than he knew himself, that it would kill him to let go of her. And Elizabeth knew. Knew in her heart and soul and in the air that sparked and rushed around them, that she would never let him let her go.

The End


In some part of the ocean where the mist was gray and brooding like an unflattering reflection of the overcast sky, sound was relative to the listeners. The waves heard nothing and the sky heard nothing. The mist paid no mind to the song of oars slapping the surface of the water, and Cutler Becket had forgotten to listen to the sea-sounds. So, though the wind was howling and wreaking havoc on a once well maintained wig, and the choppy sometimes dangerous waves beat thundering time against one another and his boat, He heard nothing but his own voice. He was all alone but for the wind and waves, so he was all there was to listen.

"No, no…yes…no." Beckett's eyes were laced all across red, frightful and bloodshot. "Of course I can explain my actions…anyone in my position…you weren't in my position. Yes I knew was I was doing. I pride myself; I do, on my cogent thought. No…no…" He rambled endlessly, his thoughts were scattered like papers in a high wind. His condition was of the distant mind, so it seemed that for most of the time he did not know where he was. One could only guess, catching a few snatches of discernable conversation, he thought himself to be at his own trial. A hearing before a judge, interrogating him over the events that had lead to his position here in the midst of the sea. He had run form his conquered vessel, but left his sanity behind.

What kinds of flights of fancy, impossible terrors, and imaginings passed through his head, no one could guess. But for two days not, without food, and precious little water, Beckett's oars slapped against the gripping fingers of the sea, and the sea clasped his life boat all round and held it aloft in its hands like a favored gift.

The sea kept Lord Beckett, and ne'er showed him to another living soul.

Jack jerked awake and his fingers found the hilt of his sword. For a moment, he was looking into the darkness blindly, trying to remember where he was. What was his plan of action? Soon he relaxed and let his weakened grip fall form the sword.

He was aboard the Pearl, and his new crew had already ceased their bustling around a new ship, under the careful and every-so-slightly-smug guidance of Gibbs.

Jack rubbed his forehead with the heals of his hands, trying to push a recurring nightmare from behind his eyes. He was leaning stiffly against the wall at the head of his bed, sitting up with his boots still on and dozing…for the third time now?

He wasn't sure why he had thought sleeping would be easier after he was complete again. Now it seemed he had more things to dream about, the kind of things that woke him up in a dead panic.

His shoulder burned suddenly, like it was making fun of him. He winced, "Why can't you just die?" Elizabeth stirred somewhere to his left. He reached out and touched her cheek. She was breathing steadily, peacefully, as if she had nothing to worry about.

He suddenly didn't want to be there anymore, and stood up carefully, letting himself out of the cabin. Closing the door with a soft click, Jack walked down the deck just to hear the sound it made, and waved a slightly over disciplined deserter to relax, and hid himself behind closed doors with the charts. Sometimes he was able to loose himself in his maps and plotting, longitudes, latitudes and the like, until distraction found him. But nothing seemed to help his restless mind ignore exhaustion, or wish for sleep.

For hours his simply stared at the lines in the wood of the table. He gave himself a headache form sitting still to long. While his body was statuesque his mind stretched and grappled with thoughts to big for him to handle. And his nighmares were still with him, even awake. All he wanted was the pain to stop. Self inflicted mental torture was the only thing he couldn't runaway from.

Rattling of the door behind him made him turn. He gave Elizabeth the shallow reflection of a smile and turned back diligently to his idleness.

"Did you sleep?"


She sounded worried again. "Not at all?"

"No." Jack rested his head on his hand and closed his eyes long enough for images to cause a sharp pain in the scar on his soul.

"You can't go on like this…What are you doing here anyway?" The sky was just becoming lightened by false dawn.

"I am charting a course…" It was near enough to the truth, the truth he had needed to tell her since they left port.

"To where?" Elizabeth's tone was light, but not enough hide her apprehension, and Jack was to tired to restrain himself anymore. He couldn't do it anymore.

"Wherever you want to go."

"I don't care." Elizabeth laughed at him guardedly. "I'll go wherever you go."

"No. I mean, tell me where you are going and I will take you there."

"I want to stay here." Elizabeth's was suddenly angry. This was stupid. Why was he doing this? Why was he trying to ruin everything?

Jack was equally angry. He had been angry for days, and finally he didn't hide it anymore. He stood up so fast that the chair he was sitting on fell and struck the floor very loudly in the silence that followed. He took a moment to gather the words so they would sound like he wanted them to.

"Did you know that I could only sleep a few hours, sometimes less, after I came back?"

Elizabeth stepped backward as if it would protect her from what he was going say. "I had nightmares—A nightmare. I felt myself die every night. Every single night I died again, and each time it was as real or more real than you are now. I knew that I was going back to the Locker and I thought I would go mad. I did go mad. And then I would wake up so that the next night I could do it again." Jack's voice was so low, and so far from being cold. It was almost as if he was trying to comfort her with his voice, or comfort himself. As if the story he was telling was for the best. "I was chained to the mast of my ship, that mast." He pointed out a porthole. "Every night, and watch you leave me to die."

Elizabeth felt herself starting to loose her grip. Her throat began to hurt, and her eye stung.

"That all stopped two days ago. Now I don't sleep at all." Jack began to pace, to calm himself down. "I have new dreams. Worse ones. I can't close my eyes, I can't leave them opened. I am trapped with the certainty that one of these days you are going to die because of me, and my brain is doing me the favor of inventing your end every single night." Jack picked up a piece of chalk from the table and held it out to her. "I won't do it any more. So mark us a destination."

"I cannot believe I'm hearing this."

"Take the chalk." Jack talked over her.

"I don't believe you would do this."

"Make your mark or I will."

"I will not be 'protected' anymore."

"Don't do this, not now."

"This is my life, I want to live it!"

"I want you to have a life to live!"

"You want me out of the way so you can live your life, guilt free!"

"DAMN IT Elizabeth what do you want form me?!"

Elizabeth dropped her voice so he could hear the pleading there. "All I want it this. All I want it to be with you. I don't care what that'll cost me."

"But I am going to get you killed."

"How can you be so certain?"

Jack whispered with a volatile intensity that told her not to pry. "I am certain."

"So be it." Elizabeth walked behind Jack and sat his chair up on its legs. "Maybe my days are numbered. Maybe I won't live to see port again. And maybe my fate is based on the decision we make at this moment. But I don't need a seer or a soothsayer to tell me I am going to die some day. I knew, when I set foot on this ship for the first time, the risks of what I was doing. I face those. I choose those." Elizabeth pushed the hair from her face, and stuck a heroine's pose with her hands on her hips. "And if there is one thing this pirate's life has taught me, its that life is a vast ocean. It's unpredictable. It's capricious and dangerous and no one can out run it or master it. Some times life with give you tears. Sometimes just seawater, and no mater how long you stay afloat the waves always win in the end.

"So this is what I have decided. I'd rather live free than in fear. I'd rather fight than run. I'd rather face my fears and so gain that which I love, than hide and eventually loose it all anyway."

"Why would you want to stay with me?" Jack shook his head, almost grinning.

"It's a mystery Jack Sparrow." Elizabeth threw her arms around his neck.

"Very well. You promise to keep a hold on that life of yours…and I'll promise to give you something to do with it. I promise I won't--"

"Worry about me anymore. Just and enjoy life along with me. And you won't go leaving me behind anywhere, and you won't go tryin' to keep me out of harms way."

Jack shook his head. "You drive a hard bargain Miss Swann." His eyes drooped a little, he wanted, really wanted, to sleep.

"I know…And it's not Miss Swann any more." She rested her head against his shoulder.

"Elizabeth then?"

"How about Mrs. …Sparrow?" Jack looked at her his eyebrows raised sharply in mild shock."

"Wha…uh…um…" He fumbled.

"We'll talk about it later, why don't we?"

He shook his head again, resolving not to consider any alarming prospects until he was quite drunk. "Here you are then." He proffered the chalk again. "Chart your own course, you pirate."

"Any suggestions?" Elizabeth asked, rolling up her sleeves and stepping to the table.

"Well…once a reliable source told me about a treasure…one that only I could find."

Elizabeth smiled intrigued.

Together they examined charts, her listening to his vague and somewhat exaggerated tales of gold and curses. Then they watched the sunrise.