A/N: This takes place at the end of DMC, completely ignoring AWE. It's going to be JE eventually, but starts out dealing with Elizabeth's guilt about the whole Jack and the mast incident, her troubles with Will, and fighting her attraction to Jack. Oh, and Jack's attempts to get his precious ship back (again). Please R&R, and if you don't like Sparrabeth, that's fine – don't read!
xxxx – One - xxxx
"Where's Jack?" he asked, suspicion and anger in his dark brown eyes.
Elizabeth stared at Will as the longboat rocked next to the Pearl.
"He elected to stay behind to give us a chance," Elizabeth looked away. Her mouth suddenly went dry and she felt an unfamiliar ache in her stomach. Now where did THAT come from? Guilt? Do I feel guilty for sending Jack to his death? Or for kissing him?
No one said a word. Elizabeth could feel all eyes upon her, and the enormity of what she'd done brought tears to her eyes. She struggled to hold herself together.
The silence was broken by the sound of Jack struggling on the deck of his beloved ship.
"T' hell with that," Gibbs muttered to no one in particular, "bring her about!"
Elizabeth stared at her feet as she felt the longboat move. Gibbs instructed the crew to return to the Pearl. She started to protest as Gibbs grabbed the rope ladder and quickly climbed aboard.
She glanced over at Will, who was still staring at her. And not with any true affection, at least not at the moment. She could no longer read his expression, so she turned away and waited.
With a loud thump, Jack fell into the longboat, oil dripping from his hand; Gibbs following him and shouting orders for everyone to begin rowing as quickly as possible. Jack adjusted a bead in his hair, then put his hat on his head and reclined against the side of the small boat.
"Faster 'n that, men!" Gibbs was still standing, barking orders and looking over his shoulder as the Kraken began to attack the Pearl.
Elizabeth's gaze drifted to Jack, who was sitting at the back of the longboat, rubbing his left wrist. His expression hadn't changed since their few moments together on the ship.
He was still looking at her with amusement and….pride. Was he actually proud of her for leaving him to the Kraken? For thinking first of herself and the crew?
Elizabeth could still feel the warmth of his lips on hers. She had kissed him much more passionately than she had intended. She fought the urge to touch her tender lips; she did not want to give away what….or whom….she was thinking of. Frustrated, she shook her head and focused on the small island ahead of them.
Suddenly the loud shrieking from the deck of the Pearl stopped. The occupants of the longboat watched as the Kraken abandoned its attack on their ship. Jack remained calm and quiet, so Gibbs took over once again.
"Row, filthy dogs, row!!!!" Gibbs shouted as they neared the island. It was apparent to everyone in the small boat that the Kraken knew that Jack was no longer on the Pearl, and the beast was heading their way.
Elizabeth spotted an extra oar resting on the bottom of the boat. She joined the crew in their mad rush to the island, finding the effort a welcome diversion from Jack's smirk, and Will's intense stare. She alternated her strokes with those of Cotton, who was struggling with the other oar. Every few minutes she glanced back toward the Pearl, searching for the Kraken. No dark shapes loomed nearby. She wondered if it was waiting beneath the longboat.
Jack and Gibbs jumped out as they hit the sandy bottom of the shore. The rest of the crew joined them, hauling the boat onto the beach.
"Now what?" Gibbs wondered aloud. He looked to Jack for orders.
"Best start a fire an' set up camp," Jack instructed. "We'll think of somethin' in the morning. We'll find a way to get back to the Pearl."
Since they had almost no supplies except for weapons, a few blankets and a small amount of food, there wasn't much camp to set up. Elizabeth set her blanket far from the fire. The flames wouldn't warm the chill settling in her bones…and in her soul. The guilt was starting to drive her mad.
While the rest of the men gathered more firewood and organized their few supplies, Elizabeth shook sand from her blanket and took off her wet boots.
"Cap'n?" Gibbs' voice was louder than his intended whisper. Elizabeth stopped to listen.
"Gibbs," Jack acknowledged, poking the fire with a long stick.
"I been meanin' ta ask ye, it's about the oil on yer hand when I found ye on the Pearl."
"And ye were pulling your hand from one of the shackles."
"How did ye end up shackled to the Pearl? Did ye really want to go down wif the ship?"
Jack dropped the stick in the fire. "Ye best be askin' Miss Swann 'bout that."
Gibbs looked questioningly at Jack, then at Elizabeth who was preoccupied by her boots. Sensing the tension in the air, Gibbs shrugged his shoulders and went to help the men finish setting up camp.
Elizabeth looked up as Jack handed her a dry biscuit and sat next to her on the blanket.
"Jack, I want to explain…."
"Nuthin' to explain, dearie," Jack said quietly, staring out to sea. The sun was about to set. "You said you're not sorry, and I believe the pirate in you isn't sorry at all."
"I'm not so sure," Elizabeth started.
"I'm not sure which I want more."
She watched the light of the fire dance in his eyes. "What?"
"I'm not sure if I want to drown ye," he looked at her before leaning in to whisper, his warm breath brushing her ear, "or to kiss ye again."
Before she could respond, he joined Gibbs next to the fire and pulled out a flask of rum.
Elizabeth turned to see Will watching her.
What, exactly, did he see?