Chapter One

The sun shone so hot over the Caribbean that when the bright orb reached its apex, none could find comfort from her, not even indoors. Even so, the heat did nothing to dampen the high spirits of Captain Jack Sparrow - but then, he had found that there was little to be displeased with these days.

Because of course, he was not only Captain Jack Sparrow, but also the immortal Captain Jack Sparrow, and as much as he liked the sound of that, he enjoyed the reality of it even more. Staring into the distance at the pattern of the sun's reflection on the surface of the sea, he grinned like a madman. And why shouldn't he? After all, it had be he, and not Barbossa, who had been the first to find the Aqua de Vida – the Fountain of Youth - and the key to the manacles of mortality. And he'd done it using a leaky dinghy and a stolen map, no less – not forgetting the rum; there had been lots of rum.

No sooner was Jack uninhibited by the delicacy of his flesh then he had turned his attentions to getting back the Pearl, a task made much simpler when you no longer feared dying. Getting stabbed or shot hurt, to be sure, but the look on Barbossa's face, as Jack had waved good-bye to him before setting him out on Jack's own dinghy with only a pistol and a bottle of rum for company, was worth the pain.

What more could a black-hearted pirate of the Spanish Main want? He gently caressed the ship's railing before him. He had his freedom, and he had eternity to enjoy it. Even better, he had as much rum as he could ever want – a thought that immediately sent him towards the helm of his ship in search of a bit of silent communion with the sea.

Waving his hands nonchalantly at the young man at the helm, Jack shooed him away and took the wheel. The boy spared only a moment to give him a terrified glare before disappearing below deck. Jack didn't bother hiding his smirk. The boy had been recruited from a Royal Navy vessel at the point of a sword, his sword, to be exact. Jack wasn't one to force others into servitude; such actions usually led to no good - insubordination, or even mutiny, but he'd had little choice at the time. The boy could steer, and Jack had needed someone to replace Cotton.

One of the few downsides to being immortal, and Jack saw very few, was that time seemed to have lost all meaning to him. Faced with eternity, days had quickly begun bleeding into one another, until he only noticed the passage of time as it began ravaging the faces of those around him.

The life of a pirate was not usually long, and natural death among the lot of them was definitely out of the ordinary. It was, therefore, unsurprising when no one had at first understood what was happening when Cotton, manning the helm as usual, gave an unexpected gasp and slumped to the deck, motionless.

Gibbs, perhaps looking down the throat of his own mortality, had been the first to react, running to the mute sailor's side as the rest of the crew had stood frozen in place. After a moment of silence in which Gibbs' fingers prodded at Cotton, the old man had looked up grimly. "He's dead, Jack."

Jack could only stare in consternation at the body of his Helmsman, silently cursing the inconvenience to ignore the tightening in his chest, when something else wholly unexpected happened.

Cotton parrot, startled from his master's shoulder when the man had fallen, had suddenly alighted on the deck beside Cotton's head. The bird tottered over to the body, craning its neck as if to examine the scene from a different angle, and with a short flap of his wings, had resettled on the dead pirate's arm.

"Don't eat me!" the parrot had croaked, and without another sound, the bird fell to the deck beside its master.

As bothered as he was by the loss of his Helmsman, Jack was less concerned about the passing of the parrot; he wasn't sure what he would have done with the thing had it not faithfully followed its master into death. It would have been like talking to a ghost, and Jack had done enough of that to last him… well, an eternity.

But time had passed, and Jack knew it never better than when he looked into the face of his First mate, Joshamee Gibbs, who was headed towards him now. The man looked a lot older than he was – a testimony to a long life at sea – but he was approaching an age when most pirates would have begun looking toward the advantages of a life lived in loyal service to his captain – retirement, with a fair share of loot to ease his remaining years.

The thought might have worried Jack if he didn't know Gibbs as well as he did. The man would rather go without rum for a century than give up piracy, and Gibbs' loyalty wouldn't allow him to leave Jack. So as it were, the matter was closed between them.

Jack gave no acknowledgement of the other man's presence as Gibbs came to stand beside him, looking out over the brilliant blue of the sea. "Are we headed anywhere particular, Captain?" his First mate asked.

"Not at the moment," Jack said casually. "Just following the call of the horizon."

"Ah," Gibbs replied, giving him a slantwise glance. "I was just curious as to whether you'd thought to look at your compass lately."

The comment was made in such a deceptively off-handed manner that it took a moment for the frown to crease Jack's brow in response. "The bloody thing hasn't worked since I got the Pearl back, you know that," Jack said shortly. "It points nowhere I have any inclination, interest, or intention of going. And even if I had said interest, it would not be my inclination to give in to such intentions, as it were," he concluded.

Gibbs didn't respond, which had been Jack's purpose. But after a moment, the older pirate turned to him and said, "It's been nearly ten years, Jack."

Gibbs walked away before Jack could say anything, which was fine because at the moment, Jack couldn't think of a proper reply. Ten years – had it really been ten years? Jack felt his pleasure melt away until he found himself scowling at nothing. Ten years. Wait, not ten, nearly ten – that had been the old dog's point.

From the moment he'd set her onto that sandy beach and sailed off into the sunset, he'd vowed to never look back - and with few exceptions, he hadn't. Or at least, he liked to believe he hadn't. Comments like the one from Gibbs brought the troublesome Ms. Swann to Jack's mind a lot more often than he'd like. No, not Ms. Swann - Mrs. Turner.

The sky above suddenly seemed to darken, and a gust of wind from out of nowhere rushed past, blowing Jack's dreadlocked hair into his eyes. Absently calling orders to his crew to adjust to the change in the weather, Jack glanced down at his belt, and the small box hanging at his waist. The last time he'd looked at the thing, he'd been in Tortuga, and the act had later resulted in a slap from Scarlett in response, in a moment of passion, to being called a name that was decidedly not her own.

Ten years… he'd lived well enough, gotten into more than a few scrapes. Nothing a rouge of the sea such as himself couldn't handle. It was a life he'd always wanted. It was everything he'd ever wanted. Except….

Rum. He needed rum. As if sensing the captain's distress, Gibbs reappeared with the intention of taking the helm, and Jack let him without protest. With a smug grin, as though the lack of a complaint confirmed Gibbs' suspicions, he asked, "What's your heading, Captain?"

Scowling, Jack stared at Gibbs who met his gaze without flinching, which only served to irritate him further. Defiantly, Jack ripped the compass from his belt and thumbed the latch open. For a moment he continued to glare at his First mate, daring the man to imply that he was looking at the device due to any insinuation of his, before darting a quick glance at the compass.

Ten damn years, and the thing still pointed towards the only thing Jack was sure he didn't want – Elizabeth. Without a word or a change in his expression, Jack held out the compass for Gibbs to examine, and had the urge to shoot something when the man simply nodded confidently.

"I'll be in me cabin," Jack said. "Tell the men we'll be stopping in bonny Port Royal for a spell – they might want to be prepared for an unwelcome."

"No need, Captain… the crew's been looking forward to that port of call for months now," Gibbs said merrily.

Jack froze in the doorway to his cabin before storming inside, slamming the barrier behind him to the sound of Gibbs' roaring laughter.

Where was that rum?