James had been watching them since they had boarded the Black Pearl. He did not like the interaction between them. He did not like it at all. Sparrow filled every childhood fantasy in her naïve little head, and he had charmed her into believing every word that came out of his mouth. He led her around like a puppy, and all because he was what Elizabeth had always wanted to be—a pirate. Yes, she would deny that she wanted anything to do with him if she was asked, but the moment you would accept her answer, she would smile to herself, thinking she had fooled you, which made her even more like the great Captain Jack.
It surprised her when she saw the dark blue coat in the corner of her eye. She had thought him elsewhere on the ship, put to some useless task by Ja—Captain Sparrow. She hadn't thought he'd been just right there, hearing every word she'd said.
"It's a curious thing," he said, and she was snapped out of her thoughts, "there was a time when I would have given anything for you to look that while thinking about me."
She turned. He was smiling, bitterly, and it frustrated her immensely. Not knowing what else to do, she turned, pushing aside all thoughts of Captain Sparrow.
"I don't know what you mean," she said, trying her hardest not to show her anger.
"Oh, I think you do," he taunted. Nothing had changed. He still understood her in a way she did not, a way that made her feel childish. She had come to save to Will, the love of her life, not to go gallivanting after pirates. . . .
"Don't be ridiculous. I trust him, that's all."
And he laughed. Truly, she couldn't remember the last time she'd heard him laugh, but she knew it certainly wouldn't have been like that. He ambled away, his eyebrows raised. She relaxed a little, thinking he had finally left her in some peace, but just as she thought he was gone, he turned back around to face her.
"And you never wondered how your latest fiancée ended up on the Flying Dutchman in the first place?"
The accusation had stunned her, and she couldn't find anything to say back to him. He shook his head, disapprovingly and stepped away with a final arch of his brows. Thoroughly embarrassed, she pulled the compass from her belt. I need to find Will, she thought. Opening the compass, she saw that the needle was not spinning. It was indicating a single direction. Following the red tip, she looked to where it was pointing. There stood Captain Sparrow, gazing out at the sea with his spyglass, master of its waves. Tears stung the back of her eyes, and she shut the lid of the compass quickly. At that moment, she wished that the compass had pointed to anyone but who it was currently pointing to. Anyone —even James.
It was the breeze fluttering in from the window that woke James from his slumber. Reluctantly, he opened his eyes to the gentle blue-white light flooding his bedchamber. James hated having the window in his room open. This was the one place where he could shut out the world, to leave the smells and sounds of the piers behind. Wondering how he could have overlooked one of the servant's errors, he slid out from between the sheets. The floor beneath was cold and hard, not at all pleasant compared to his warm bed. He shuffled over to the window, his green eyes still filled with sleep. He stuck his head out, taking in the stillness of his estate, and, deciding that there was no threat, let the window down.
He did not expect to see the dark figure, sitting on the far side of the room. In an instant, he wrenched open the drawer of his bedside table and pulled a dust-covered pistol from it. Fully awake, he took his aim at the silhouette.
"Come out where I can see you," he said, evenly.
"'Lo, there, Commodore," said the figure, unmoving.
James recognized the voice immediately. Pistol still trained on its target, he lit the candle beside his bed, illuminating the tanned, smirking face of Captain Sparrow.
"No need to be hostile, Commodore. 'S no harm in me droppin' by to see me fav'rite Navy dog, 's there?" said the pirate, propping his feet up on the desk he sat next to.
"Captain Sparrow, if it is your intention to rob me blind, please do so quickly. They'll expect me to have a reason for having shot you."
Sparrow crossed his arms, his brow furrowing in his mock disapproval. "Now tha's no way to treat a gues', is it?"
James was unmoved. "Feet off the desk, Sparrow."
The pirate quickly removed his boot-clad feet from the table, brushing the dirt they had left off the commodore's papers. James lowered his pistol and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Now, might I ask why you have broken into my home in the middle of the night?"
Sparrow lifted himself off the seat and (James could think of no other word for it) pranced over to the bureau where he grabbed up the commodore's hat and placed it upon his head.
"For your information, Commodore, I did not break into your 'ome. Tha' window's comple'ly intact," he said with a flourish of his hands to indicate the unbroken glass.
James glanced over to the window as Sparrow inspected himself in the mirror. Indeed, the window was not even smudged.
"Well, I congratulate you, Sparrow. You are actually capable of not destroying everything in your path."
The pirate tossed the hat back onto its stand and turned around to face Norrington.
"I take offense to tha', Commodore, and I'm goin' ta pretend I heard a 'Captain' 'n there."
"Sparrow. . . Captain Sparrow, why are you here. I've given you a second chance. A wise man would take advantage of that."
"As I very clearly sta'ed b'fore, sir, I came by ta see me fav'rite Navy dog."
"For what reason, Captain? Have you come to thank me?"
The pirate pushed his brows together and plopped onto the window sill. "Of course not!"
James pursed his lips, wanting very much to push him right out onto the hedges below. "Then have you come to apologize to me?"
Once Sparrow turned his attention away from whatever he was picking out of his teeth, he shot Norrington a look and replied, "'F I was plannin' on apologizin' I woulda broke ye window."
"Captain Sparrow, as much as I am enjoying our conversation, I would like to get my rest so I can get you to the gallows before dinner tomorrow."
Sparrow hopped up off the window. "Fine, if ye're wantin' me to leave so quickly, I'll tell ye."
Norrington stood up and walked over to straighten his hat that was perched precariously on its stand. "What is it then?"
Sparrow spread his arms wide as if to embrace the commodore. "I came ta wish ye luck, o' course!"
Thoroughly annoyed, James grimaced at the pirate, wiping away the smile that was plastered on his face.
"Captain Sparrow, kindly remove yourself from my room."
Sparrow arms dropped down to his side, and he tilted backward, drunkenly. "Well, aren' ye gonna wish me the same?"
"Captain, the only thing I would wish you is syphilis."
Sparrow's face slipped even further. "So me fav'rite Navy dog wouldn' e'en wish me a quick death?"
"If it were legal to strangle you with my cravat, I would."
"Well, I believe me affection for ye's wained jus' a bit."
"Good," said James, lifting his pistol again.
"Now, rest your lil' wigless head, your Commodoreness. I'm takin' me leave."
James raised his pistol at Sparrow. The pirate tossed himself out onto the tree limb alongside the window, somehow managing to gather his own flailing limbs under him to climb down.
"'F you'll excuse me, Commodore. . . .I wish ye luck. And Heav'n bless the day, ye use yer fancy attire to strangle the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow!"
By this time, James was dearly missing his bed and decided the best way to return to it was to shoot the limb the captain was holding onto. With a yelp, the pirate landed on the ground below. James peered out to see if he was injured and was quite dismayed when he saw Sparrow scampering his way off of his estate.
"Still rooting for you, mate!"
James could not help smiling.
The night was unbearably silent. It was impossible for James to sit still. He walked through the house, jumping at every movement, every creak of the floor. He looked out every window, as if he were expecting an intruder. All the while, his fingers fumbled over the small box in his hand.
He stopped in the dining room and opened the box. The stone glittered in the moonlight, sitting atop the golden band. He took it out, handling it with care, fearing it might break under his fingers. It seemed so small in his large hands. He had noticed before how delicate Elizabeth's hands were, but he never imagined that they could be so tiny that a ring made for them would not slip much further than the first knuckle on his smallest finger.
He held it up, letting the moonlight fluttering in through the window shine on it. It sparkled brilliantly, but for some reason, the stone had seemed bigger when he had purchased it. He frowned. What if the stone was too small? He had always imagined her holding out her hand, showing it off when they announced the engagement. What if she was unimpressed by it, embarrassed that the commodore, who was certainly not in want of money, had bought her the most unappealing ring he could find?
He sighed and, running a hand through his brown hair, decided to go back to bed. Climbing the stairs to his bedroom, he winced, wishing the creaking beneath his feet wasn't so loud. His bed had grown cold in his absence. He placed the ring back into its box and sat it on his night stand. Even when he had grown warm under the sheets, he found it no less difficult to sleep.
Worry kept his eyes from closing, and he tossed and turned, the image of Elizabeth's disappointed face floating in front of him. Forcing himself to think of something positive, he remembered the smile she'd given him when he had joined the Swanns for dinner a fortnight ago. He'd known then that he wanted to make her his wife. A little comforted by the thought, he pictured the slight sneer that had passed over her face when Mrs. Finch had leaned over to have her wine glass filled, hitting three or four people in the face with the mass of feathers she wore on her head. Elizabeth is not so vain, he reasoned. She would not mind if the ring was smaller than most. Perhaps, she would even appreciate him more for it.
His shoulders relaxed a bit. He had not realized how tense they were. He turned back to the nightstand and took the box into his hand. Opening it, he smiled as it caught the light. He took it, still smiling, and placed it upon his smallest finger, forcing it down as far as it would go and curling the finger so that it would not slip off. He then turned on his side, facing the empty space beside him. Carefully, he pulled back the sheets on that side and moved the pillow closer to him. Almost able to sense her there, he laid his hand on the pillow. The ring was still there, smiling back at him with a glimmer slightly less brilliant than Miss Swann's. He sighed, feeling his lids close. By the sea, he thought as he surrendered to his weariness. Yes, tomorrow, he would propose to her by the sea.
And his eyes closed, a light still shimmering there. A shimmer he knew did not, could not, have come from the ring or even from the ocean. . . .