Well folks, here we are. You've all stuck it out beautifully, and I got off my lazy butt to do something productive, and we all made it. I've had a lot of fun writing this, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. I want to thank all of my wonderful reviewers. You guys are the reason I get up at seven in the morning on a Saturday to type up the next chapter.

For all those who asked, I am planning a sequel, and let me tell you, you will not see some of this stuff coming. It's INSANE! But I'm not arrogant, or anything. XD As for the poll, it may or may not be the true result, but I'd love to hear what you want to read. So far, the scores are:

Norrington: 65

Barbossa: 23

Will: 3

Beckett: 7

Which is totally NOT what I expected. However, Cessations and Lady Barbossa329 have sent me personal e-mails regarding their votes, and that's always a plus! I'll keep the poll open for two more weeks before announcing the winner (I've still got my vote to cast…)

Disclaimer: Nothing but Kate. Blah.

I think I might've blacked out for a moment, because I felt Will shaking me pretty hard. I groggily lifted my head to meet his worried gaze. "What?"

"Are you alright?" he asked simply. "It's been a few minutes, and you haven't gotten up yet."

I hoisted myself to my feet. "I'm okay…you?"

"Fine…" Will murmured, staring into space. I followed his gaze; Elizabeth was standing a short distance away, looking down at one of the piles of treasure.

I looked back at Will, shaking my head. "No. No, you're not fine. You are perhaps the furthest from fine you could possibly be…at the present time," I added as an afterthought, thinking of later movies. "Seriously, Will, what's up?"

Will was silent for a moment before answering. "…she proposed to the Commodore…"

"She didn't have a choice," I replied softly. "They wouldn't let us go after you if –"

I broke off as Will's dark brown eyes fixed on me, and I saw the hopelessness behind them. "There's always a choice," he whispered. "You and Jack taught me that."

I had no comeback for that. "Will…" We were silent for a long moment. Will would not take his eyes off me, and I averted my gaze. I saw Jack rooting through the piles of gold, oblivious to the solemnity of the situation. Finally, I cleared my throat and looked back at Will. "At least go talk to her."

Will stared blankly at me before hurriedly shaking his head. "No, Kate, I can't!"

"Why not?"

"…I just can't."

I snorted. "Remember what I told you before? You never know what you can or can't do until you try it out." Will hesitated, but slowly nodded and made his way over to Elizabeth. I pulled a large treasure chest from the pile and sat down, crossing one leg over the other. He had to do this by himself.

Will stood just behind Elizabeth and folded his arms behind his back politely. Sensing him there, Lizzie turned around and smiled at him a bit sadly. I couldn't see Will's expression, but I could tell he wasn't smiling back. Jack suddenly ruined the moment by throwing aside a piece of the treasure, creating a loud CRASH! Will and Elizabeth looked at him briefly, and then back at each other.

After an awkward pause, Lizzie said softly, "We should return to the Dauntless."

I saw Will's fists clench. Uh-oh… "You're fiancé will be wanting to know you're safe." Ugh, you idiot!!!

Lizzie's smile disappeared, and her eyes brimmed with tears. She stood there in shock for a long second, but when Will said nothing else, she turned and walked swiftly towards the caves entrance, hiding her tears.

I almost got up, but Jack beat me to it. Adorned in gold jewelry and a lopsided crown on his head, he swaggered over to Will and gestured to Elizabeth's retreating form. "If you were waiting for the opportune moment…that was it," he said unhelpfully. I sighed deeply, rolling my eyes.

I looked back at the others to find Jack staring back at me. A slow smile crept across his face. I saw him mutter something to Will before coming over to me. I quickly scooted over to give him room on the chest to sit. He took the invitation gladly, draping an arm across my shoulders and kissing my cheek.

"Lookin' a bit pale, there, luv," he observed, frowning slightly. "Feelin' alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," I answered, resting my head on his shoulder. "Just…it's hard to believe we're finally done." I smiled up at him.

Jack looked at me with mock surprise. "We're not through yet, luv!" I raised an eyebrow, and he grinned again. "You haven't had a proper tour o' the Pearl yet! I'm gonna show you all the best spots: the helm, the forecastle…" He leaned in tantalizingly close to my ear. "The cabin"

I chuckled softly and wrapped one arm around his neck, breathing in his familiar scent. "You've got a one-track mind, don't you, Jack?"

"Can't help it," Jack murmured in reply, brushing my bangs away from my face. "You're just…you're so bloody amazing, Kate." He began trailing kisses down my jaw, his hot tongue rasping over my skin.

Oh, my God…

See? I told you he was serious!

"Jack," I said hoarsely, feeling like my insides had completely frozen.

I felt Jack's mouth twitch into a smile. "Mmm?" He pulled away and our eyes met.

"Don't…don't stop, Jack…"

Jack smiled and kissed me hungrily, his tongue pushing into my mouth. I moaned quietly and slid my hands down his chest. I felt him shudder and pull me closer to him. Beneath my fingertips, his heartbeat sped up. Jack…

We went for as long as we could without breathing, and even then I pulled away reluctantly, red-faced and breathless. Jack looked out of breath as well, but that didn't stop him from trying to kiss me again. I shook my head and turned my head to the side so that Jack's lips met my cheek.

Jack stuck out his bottom lip in a pout. "Kaaaaate," he whined.

I bit back a laugh. "Let's not rub it in." I gestured to Will, who was making an effort not to look at us.

Jack sighed exasperatedly. "Oh, fine…you'll just have to make up for it later, savvy?" His eyes twinkled mischievously as he stood and offered his arm.

I linked my arm with his. "Savvy."

"Oh, shit," I groaned a few minutes later. "That's not a good thing."

"Oh, really? I couldn't tell!" Jack snapped. I excused his rudeness this time; he did have a good reason. He, Will, Elizabeth, and I had rowed out of the caves and were now back in the bay, staring out at the spot where the Pearl was supposed to be waiting. All that we saw was the Dauntless, waiting patiently to take us to our deaths.

Nobody spoke for a long time. Jack's face was getting increasingly paler, and his eyes were dark and lifeless. Elizabeth looked guilty, and Will just looked shocked. As for me, I was furious. How could they just leave us here to die?! Even Gibbs agreed, the superstitious bastard!

Watch your language, Kate. They are pirates, after all.

Yeah, but I thought Gibbs cared about us.

They come back, remember?

So? They don't know that. They think we're going to die because they hijacked our ship!

Point taken. But don't give up yet; the movie's not over till the credits roll.

Yeah…I felt better, but not much.

Lizzie finally spoke up. "I'm sorry, Jack."

Jack was silent for a moment before answering. "They've done what's right by them. Can't expect more than that."

I looked over at Will, who met my gaze uncertainly. "Sometimes what's right by one man isn't what's right for another." Will look thoughtful for a moment, but then hurriedly looked away and picked up the oars again, sealing our fate.

Norrington, of course, did not share our somber mood, for he had just captured a boatload of dangerous pirates, won a battle, and gotten the girl of his dreams (or so he thought). And when he found out the most dangerous pirate in the Caribbean and his partner were turning themselves over to him? He was positively ecstatic – on the inside, of course. It would be improper to do a victory dance and laugh mockingly before his injured crew. So instead, he smirked haughtily as he ordered Jack to be removed for questioning and me to be thrown, once again, into the brig. Asshole.

The marines that escorted me down to the brig looked exhausted and shell-shocked, and one of them had a large gash across his forehead. I said nothing, but I felt a wave of guilt overcome me. It wasn't these guys' fault, they were just following orders. They hadn't deserved this, and now they were injured. Some of them had even died. I couldn't find it to be angry at them.

…I guess that goes for the crew as well. Both of them.

Speaking of the crew, the brig was pretty much packed to the brim with Barbossa's crew, looking even worse than the marines. My noise recoiled at the reek of blood, and I coughed quietly. The marines winced sympathetically and nudged me in somewhat apologetically. The pirates looked up as the door closed again, but their eyes were broken and empty; they looked like they didn't give a damn about anything. Which was pretty much how I felt.

I sat down beside the door, hugging my knees tightly. "This sucks," I said quietly.

"You said it," Twigg grumbled. There were murmurs of agreement from the others, and then everything was silent once again.

I don't know how long I sat there before it came to me. I'm gonna die.

Come again?


No, you're not. Will goes and saves Jack, remember?

Yeah. He saves Jack. That plan of his will only work if one person is being hung. He can't save us both!

What if he goes after you instead?

Then I'd die anyway. Jack would be dead, and I…I don't know if I can live without him. So, either way you look at it, I'm gonna f---ing die!


Aw, man…I don't wanna die yet! It's only the first movie! If I'm dying at all in here, I want to wait till the Shipwreck Cove battle, or at least the Kraken scene! I'm only seventeen! And what about my friends, what about Jeff and Ross?Will I just disappear in my world? I felt tears slide down my cheeks. I'm not ready to die yet!

I jumped as the door slowly creaked open. Jack stumbled into the cell, his crown and gold jewelry confiscated. Unlike the rest of us, he seemed a bit more lifelike; he glared openly at the guards as they slammed the door shut and marched off. He stood there for a long time, fists clenched and trembling with rage, before sinking down to the floor, just as defeated as the rest of us.

Wiping my eyes, I slowly leaned over and took his hand. He tensed up, startled, but visibly relaxed when he saw I was me. He smiled encouragingly and squeezed my hand. I tried to smile, too, but I'm sure it came out more like a grimace. Jack must've known what I meant, as he squeezed my hand comfortingly. I leaned against his shoulder and closed my eyes, feeling him wrap an arm around me.

Well, here's one thing: at least we're going down together.

"This is absolutely ridiculous! You can't possibly know what you're saying, Elizabeth!"

"Please trust me, Commodore Norrington. Just look around her neck once we get there."

The sound of voices moved sluggishly through my head. I felt exhausted and light-headed, and it seemed like the world around me wasn't really all there. I guess I blacked out again…I opened my eyes and quietly lifted my heavier-than-usual head. For a moment, everything seemed dark, but then the brig – strangely empty, except for Jack, who looked like he was asleep – slowly slid into focus. I pulled myself up to a sitting position just as a door slammed in the distance. I saw Elizabeth hurry down the steps, closely followed by Norrington and Will. Lizzie and Will had a sort of determined look about them, while Norrington just looked confused.

Lizzie's eyes lit up as she approached the cell. "Oh, Kate, you're finally awake! You had us all worried!"

I frowned and glanced over at Norrington, whose eyes were firmly fixed at a point over my head. "…worried? Why would you be worried about me?"

"You've been unconscious for a while," Will explained. "At least three days."

Whoa…guess I was more wiped than I thought. "What happened to –?"

"The other prisoners were escorted off the ship and to the jail at Fort Charles, where they will remain until their executions," Norrington recited emotionlessly, his eyes still turned towards the ceiling.

Fort Charles? Had we made it back already? Damn, this tub's faster than it looks…"So lemme guess: it's our turn, right?"

"Of course not!" Lizzie cut in. She smiled warmly, but her eyes looked urgent. "Well, not you, at least. You're the victim in this."

I raised an eyebrow. "Huh?"

"Oh, her memory must still be a little weak," Lizzie said to Norrington sadly. "You see there, around her neck? There's the medallion." I hurriedly moved to cover the coin, but the looks in Lizzie and Will's eyes stopped me.

Norrington bent down a little bit and leaned closer to the cell door. Not following any of this, I tilted my head back to give him a better look at the coin. Norrington's eyes widened and he scrambled backwards in an undignified manner. "Good Lord! You two were right!" He quickly composed himself. "I assume this coin does not turn you into one of those…skeleton people, correct?"

I swallowed the urge to burst out laughing, but I thought I saw the corners of Jack's mouth curve upwards. "Uh, no. No, it acts in a different curse. You see, what it does is…um…" My brain froze up. Smooth, Katie. Now what are you supposed to say?

"It controls her mind," Will finished confidently after a moment.

Norrington frowned. "What?"

"What?" I echoed.

What the hell's gotten into that boy?

I think the emotional stress has finally gotten to him.

Oh, sweet! Maybe I can go talk to his inner voice now…

Will nodded in affirmation. "Yes, she…she angered a…a gypsy, and a curse was placed on her, and whoever holds that medallion gains control of her mind and…forces her to do their bidding," he finished lamely.

"That's right," Lizzie confirmed. "And Captain Sparrow figured out how the curse works, and so he tricked her into behaving like a pirate so he could take revenge on those pirates back at Isla de Muerta. Poor Kate is just now coming to, that's why she was unconscious for so long. Isn't that right, Kate?" She looked at me pointedly.

Ohhh, now I get it! "Um…yeah, that's it," I answered quickly. "Commodore Norrington, I…I did still have a little bit of awareness, even though I couldn't control myself, so…I'm sorry about your back." I put on my best puppy-dog eyes.

Norrington's own eyes softened as he looked straight at me this time. "That's quite alright, Miss Cooper, it's completely healed. Now, let's get you ashore and see if we can't do something about finding where you came from."

I frowned quizzically. "Wait…what? Aren't I being…you know…sentenced to a short drop and sudden stop?" I matched Gibbs' pantomime with my medallion. Norrington blinked in confusion, and I inwardly cringed. You idiot! How're you supposed to explain that?

Norrington finally shook his head. "No. Governor Swann has been informed of the situation and is working on clemency papers for both you and Mr. Turner." I saw his eyes flicker to Lizzie, who kept a straight face."

A slow smile spread across my face. I was going to live! We all were! "That's…that's wonderful, Commodore, thank you!"

A pink tinge surfaced on Norrington's cheeks. "It's not me you should be thanking, Miss," he said embarrassedly. "Now let's get you out before he wakes up." He shot Jack an accusatory look. I nervously looked over at well. Jack's smile had disappeared – he was now biting his bottom lip, and his eyelids were flickering now and again. I felt a lump come to my throat.

I stood up as Norrington unlocked the cell door. Giving him a weak smile, I stepped out of the brig, willing myself not to look back.

What are you doing!? Get back in there! You're not just gonna leave Jack, are you?

What choice do I have? Besides, he'll be okay.

Yeah, but he doesn't know that.

I took a deep breath. "Commodore Norrington? If it's okay with you…may I have a moment to compose myself?"

Norrington hesitated, but then nodded. "Of course. When you're ready, feel free to come above." He started up the stairs. Will and Elizabeth followed, grinning at me.

I turned back and looked through the cell door. The door above us slammed shut, and Jack cautiously opened one eye – it looked like he'd been awake the whole time. "Finally," he muttered, crawling over to the door and smiling up at me. "Thought they'd never leave. Good thinking, luv."

I returned the smile and knelt down so that we were face-to-face. "I'm going to assume that you have some idea of what the hell just happened?"

Jack held up his hands in a motion of surrender. "Guilty as charged. But I can't tell you now," he added in response to my expression. "You'll find out soon, nothing t' worry about." He slipped his fingers through the bars.

I intertwined my fingers with his. "You put 'em up to it, didn't you?" Instead of answering, Jack lowered his head and gently kissed my fingers, one at a time. I stayed focused. "Why?"

Jack paused, and then his eyes met mine again. "Like I said, luv…young Mr. Turner will tell you after I've…" He broke off, and then sighed quietly. "Well…I s'pose this is it." He smiled again, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Thanks fer everything, Katie. Couldn't have beaten Barbossa without you." He sighed again. "Just wish I could've kept my part o' the bargain."

I chuckled. "I didn't exactly finish my job, either." I was silent for a long moment before speaking again. "Jack…you…you're not supposed to die."

Jack looked at me sadly. "I know, luv…I was supposed to get back the Pearl, right?" His voice was bitter.

I hurriedly shook my head. "No, that not what I…I'm not gonna let you die, Jack," I said firmly. "I won't let you."

It could've been my eyes playing tricks on me, but I thought I saw a tear slide down his cheek. "Katie…I don't think anyone can do that. Not by themselves."

The door suddenly opened. "Miss Cooper? Are you alright?" Norrington's voice called down.

I exchanged a panicked look with Jack. "Um, yeah! Yes, I'll be right up!"

Jack waited until the door closed again before speaking. "You should go, now…g'bye, Katie. Good luck being civilized."

"Jack…" I knew I had to go now, but I just couldn't leave him. Telling myself over and over that he was going to be fine, I slowly stood and made my way towards the steps. I looked over my shoulder one last time. "I'm not gonna let you die," I repeated. Before he could reply, I raced up the stairs and out the door, swallowing the urge to cry.

The next day was Jack's execution. Don't ask me to explain anything that happened before that – it was all a blur.

It was midmorning and a gorgeous day, with no clouds in the sky and a comfortably warm temperature. The gallows had been repaired and were looming ominously before us. A smartly dressed man stood to one side on a raised platform, holding a scroll under his arm. Several marines were stationed nearby, a few with drums and all with rifles. Murtogg and Mullroy were near the back, holding up the Port Royal coat of arms. A large crowd of civilians had gathered and were now waiting anxiously for the accused to come out. I stood next to Will (who looked admittedly sexy in his red velvet cape and fancy feathered hat) near the front of the crowd. Will stood with his head bowed and fists clenched, looking furious. I kept my eyes fixed on the swinging noose. That could've been around my neck…

The marines suddenly picked up their sticks and began playing the execution march on their drums. The crowd murmured excitedly as the door to the prison opened. Jack was led out by the heavyset, helmeted executioner, his hands bound. The executioner marched Jack up to the gallows, leered at him, and moved off to the side, fingering the lever maliciously. I shuddered and tried not to look at the axe hanging from his belt.

The man looked at the crowd dramatically, unfurled the scroll, and began to read. "Jack Sparrow, be it known that you –"

I saw Jack sigh exasperatedly. "Captain, Captain Jack Sparrow," he muttered.

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Will." Will looked up at me, and I unblinkingly met his gaze. "You can do what you want, but I'm stopping this hanging. I'm not just gonna stand by and watch my best friend get killed." I gazed at him intently. "It's not the right thing to do."

Will didn't answer for a long time. "Follow me," he said finally and began pushing his way to the back of the crowd. I followed obediently.

Lizzie, Norrington, and Governor Swann were standing on a second raised platform, watching the proceedings grimly. As Will and I approached, I heard the Governor say, "Commodore Norrington is bound by the law, as are we all."

Make that ALMOST all.

The three high-society members looked up as Will moved in front of the platform (I preferred to stay to the side). "Governor Swann…Commodore," Will greeted respectfully, and both men nodded in acknowledgement. Will turned to Lizzie, his eyes filled with longing. "Elizabeth…I should've told you every day from the moment I met you…I love you."

Well, it's about time!

Tell me about it.

Lizzie's eyes widened, and Gov. Swann and Norrington looked over at her, shocked. I averted my gaze and spotted Cotton's parrot struggling to keep its balance on the shaking coat-of-arms staff. A slow smile spread across my face. "Showtime," I breathed. I started forward, but I felt a hand clap my shoulder. I looked over at Will, whose face was set in determination. He opened his mouth, but I held up a hand to stop him. I knew what he was going to say. "Make sure you buy Jack some time with one of those swords," I whispered, motioning to the two weapons tucked into his belt. "You go after the executioner, I'll take the redcoats." Will nodded, and we started pushing through the crowd.

The march suddenly picked up to a roll, and a flash of panic passed through Jack's eyes. The executioner stepped forward and slipped the noose over his head.

"HURRY!" I screamed, feeling hyperventilation coming on.

"MOVE!" Will shouted, shoving people aside. For a moment, I saw nothing but the jostling crowd, but then a path was cleared for us and I spotted the executioner reach for the lever…

"WILL, NOW!" I called out, and Will unsheathed his sword and threw it. Just as the trapdoor gave out and Jack fell, the sword buried itself into the wood and Jack landed on it awkwardly, his feet slipping on the blade. Good…we had some time.

Will raced up the steps to the gallows as the executioner pulled out the ax. The marines dropped their drums and raced towards me, hurriedly loading their guns. Other marines rushed in from my other side, readying their bayonets. "Oh, please," I muttered, unsheathing my sword. "Way too easy." I took a deep breath, crouched down, and waited. Once the two groups were only feet away, I leapt up onto the gallows, ducking to avoid the swinging ax. The marines crashed into each other and collapsed onto the ground, struggling to regain their footing.

I howled with laughter. "Oh, snap! Thirty moron pileup, avoid at all costs!"

A bullet suddenly whizzed past my ear. I yelped, lost my balance, and fell forwards into the pile of redcoats. I lay there for a moment, stunned, but quickly looked up to see Norrington toss a gun behind him and pull out his sword. "Right, then," I muttered, and leapt to my feet. "Bring it on, Ice Cream."

He brought it, all right. I barely had enough time to block his washing blow. I gasped as the jolts raced up my arm – this guy was strong! I gritted my teeth and pushed forward. Norrington blocked me easily and slashed at my shoulder. I just barely dodged. Okay…looks like I'll have resort to the unorthodox. Sweet. I quickly feinted right. When Norrington moved to block me, I started slashing at his shoulder. Norrington's eyes widened and he leapt out of the way, but not fast enough – I saw blood ooze out of a shallow (but long) cut on his shoulder.

Norrington looked at his wound, and then back at me. "You…you –"

CRASH! There was a tremendous scream from the crowd as Will shoved the executioner off the gallows. The big guy flew into the air and completely crushed Norrington – leaving me seconds to get out of the way.

I laughed again. "Nice one, eunuch!"

Will leapt off the gallows, somersaulting in midair, and landed on his feet beside me. "I'm NOT a eunuch!"

"O' course you're not," an all-too-familiar voice answered. Jack came up from underneath the gallows, the rope he had so recently been hanging by in his hand. He grinned widely. "Proved me wrong again, luv!"

"You really should have more faith in me!" I shot back. "You guys take care of these marines; I'll try and clear a path for us." I only gave them enough time to nod in agreement before racing off towards the edge of the fort.

The crowd was in full-blown panic, now, and all the running around and screaming wasn't helping. It took about three minutes to push through the crowd, even with my sword out. Finally, I made it out to the wall and leaned out over the edge, careful not to fall in. The Pearl wasn't there. "C'mon, Gibbs, where the hell are you?" I muttered.


"Drop your weapon, pirate!"


The marines led me over to the overhang, where Jack and Will were just finishing up their most awesome escape plan. A circle of marines was guarding them, guns pointed straight at them. Will was making one last escape attempt, while Jack seemed a bit preoccupied with the feather in Will's hat. Norrington was standing in front of them, looking smug. His coat was ruffled and his hat askew, but he looked no worse for wear from the executioner's piledrive. He had stopped bleeding, although his coat had some pretty nasty bloodstains on it.

The marines pushed me into the circle beside Jack and Will and squeezed in themselves. I looked up at my comrades and smiled weakly. "Okay, so…we might need more practice."

"Maybe a little," Will agreed, scowling at the marines.

"I'm sure we can find time t' work that in, after we hang!" Jack cut in.

"The sarcasm is not appreciated, Jack!"


Norrington pressed his sword against the side of Will's neck. "I thought we might have to endure some manner of ill-conceived escape attempt, but not from you." He glared at me. "Is there something you would like to share with us, Miss Cooper?"

I smirked confidently. "Never trust a pirate, mate."

Governor Swann and Elizabeth stepped forward. The Governor looked appalled. "On our return to Port Royal, I granted you clemency," he reminded us, "and this is how you thank me? By throwing in your lot with him? He's a pirate!"

"And a good man!" Will shot back.

"Damn straight!" I agreed.

There was a mass flinch at my choice of words. "If all I've achieved here," Will continued, "is that the hangman would've earned two pairs of boots instead of one, then so be it. At least my conscience will be clear."

"I'm with him," I agreed. "I may be a pirate, but I'd rather hang than abandon my mates."

"You forget your place, Turner," Norrington sneered.

Will smiled coolly. "It's right here, between you, Jack, and Kate."

Note to self: remember this moment when I feel like strangling him later.

Elizabeth stepped forward to stand beside Will. "As is mine."

Gov. Swann's eyes widened. "Elizabeth…" He shook himself and looked around at our guard. "Lower your weapons…for goodness sake, put them down!" The marines hesitated, but slowly obeyed.

Norrington's scowl disappeared and was replaced with a look of complete hopelessness. I almost felt sorry for him. "So this is where your heart…truly lies, then?"

"…it is," Lizzie answered, looking a little guilty. Norrington hesitated, but reluctantly nodded.

I let him wallow in his failure before speaking. "Okay, well we all know Jack won't hang today – and neither will I – so I think I'll take this opportunity to say some good-byes." I looked pointedly at Norrington. "Dude…chill. Seriously, you can't be this obsessive about everything. There are just some things in life you just can't change." I thought for a moment. "Don't hold grudges!" I turned to Elizabeth. "Elizabeth…when we started out on this adventure, I hated you. But that's different, now. Now I just strongly dislike you." Her mouth opened slightly in indignation, and I laughed. "Only kidding! Ha, ha, ha…but seriously, I really enjoyed the whole bonding thing on the island. We should do it again sometime – you know, when we're not running for our lives. Good luck, Elizabeth, you're gonna need it."

She smiled. "Thank you, Kate."

"No problem." I turned to Will and smiled warmly. "Well, that was a nice change of pace!" He returned the smile. "Listen, I know you still have this thing against pirates, but I want you know that I…I think things would've been a lot harder for me if I didn't have someone to learn those things with. Thanks for being there, Will, and I hope you and Elizabeth are happy."

"Thank you. You taught me a lot; I can't ever repay you for that."

"Already did, mate. Already did. Jack, you wanna add anything?"

For a moment, Jack was silent; he was too busy staring at Cotton's parrot taking flight off one of the cannons. He quickly recovered, though, and strolled over to Governor Swann, who recoiled at his breath. "Well! I'm actually feeling rather good about this! I think we've all arrived at a very special place, eh? Spiritually…ecumenically…grammatically…" He left the Governor and turned to Norrington. "I want you to know that I was rooting for you, mate. Know that." Norrington rolled his eyes. Jack went to Lizzie next, a serious look in his eye. "Elizabeth…it would never have worked between us, darlin'…I'm sorry."

"Yeah, that's great. Can we move it along here before somebody gets hurt?" I snapped, fingering the hilt of my sword.

Jack made a noise that sounded quite a bit like a squeak and stepped several paces back. "Will…nice hat!" Will smiled in response. Jack nodded at me, and together we jumped up onto the ledge, the marines beginning to surround us once again. "Friends!" Jack announced, spreading out his arms wide. "This is the day that you will always remember as the day that –" Jack suddenly lost his balance and tumbled off the ledge. All the marines, Norrington, Will, and Lizzie rushed forward.

"Oh, my God," I groaned, passing a hand over my eyes.

"Honestly, Cooper…what do you see in him?" Norrington grumbled, watching as Jack hit the water.

"…I'll get back to you on that. As for right now, I should probably finish this up." I cleared my throat. "This will be the day that you will always remember as they day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow, and his partner in piracy, Kate Cooper! And that's all she wrote! So long, people! BANZAI!" I leapt off the ledge and dove into the water, grinning wide.

I resurfaced quickly, laughing. "So, how was that?"

Jack beamed and hugged me. "Couldn't have said it any better myself, luv." He thought for a moment. "Well, alright, maybe just a little."

I rolled my eyes. "You think you're better than me, don't you?"

"Well, I…the thing is…ah…oh, look it's the Pearl! Let's swim for it!" With a splash, he was off.

"…you are one lucky pirate, Sparrow."

We met up with the Pearl about halfway across the bay. Gibbs, Ana, Marty, Cotton…everyone was there, ready to meet us. I was so glad to see them, I couldn't possibly be angry at them.

Cotton tossed us down a rope, and Jack grabbed onto it gratefully. "Hold tight, luv," he whispered in my ear, wrapping his free arm around my waist. I barely had time to grab onto him before we were launched into the air, spraying a trail of salt water behind us.

We landed clumsily on the deck, dripping wet but happy. Gibbs and the others matched our smiles. "Hey, guys," I greeted. "Didn't think we'd ever see you folks again!" The smiles morphed into guilty grimaces.

"Thought you were supposed to keep to the Code," Jack accused jokingly.

"We figured they were more actual…guidelines," Gibbs explained. He helped Jack to his feet, and then held out a hand to me. I straightened up and watched as Cotton handed Jack his much-missed hat.

"Thank you," Jack said to him, placing the hat on his head once more. Cotton looked embarrassed.

"Captain Sparrow," a voice suddenly said. Ana moved from her spot by the helm and slid Jack's coat over his shoulders. My smile suddenly became much more forced. "The Black Pearl is yours." All eyes were on Jack as he approached the wheel. He slowly ran his hand across the faded wood, a strange look in his eye. I felt a lump come to my throat yet again, but a good one this time. He's got it…I can't believe we came this far and got it back…

You apparently don't know the movie as well as you think you do.

Jack's expression suddenly hardened. "On deck, you scabrous dogs! Hands to braces! Let down and haul to run free!"

"Aye, Captain!" we answered, and the crew moved to their places.

I started to go after them, but Jack's voice stopped me. "Not you, Katie, get back over here." He held out one arm, and I let him wrap it around me. Jack sighed softly. "This is a nice surprise, eh?"

"Maybe a surprise for you," I pointed out.

"Bloody coin," Jack grumbled. He was silent for a long time. "I suppose you're still wondering why I told those two to convince Norrington to spare you."

I had forgotten all about it until now, but nodded. "I am…why?"

Jack gently kissed the top of my head. "I didn't want you to die," he answered simply. "I figured I owed you that much, seeing as I couldn't have gotten that far without you."

I blinked. "Yeah, you could."

Jack looked straight at me, his eyes slightly misty. "No…I couldn't." He let those words hang for a moment before pressing his lips hungrily against mine. I returned the kiss, a sense of belonging flowing through me.

Uh, Kate?

Go away.

I'm not going anywhere, Kate…well, I kind of am…but so are you.

I pulled myself away from Jack. "What?"

"What?" Jack echoed, brow furrowed in confusion.

You gotta go home, Kate.

"But I am home!" I protested, feeling tears well up in my eyes.

You have to go back to the future.

"No…no, I'm staying!"

"'Course you're staying, luv," Jack interrupted, looking more confused than ever.

"No, Jack, I…the voice, it says…Jack, I can't stay here. It says I have to go home!"

Jack's eyes widened. "What?" Even before the word was completely out of his mouth, my medallion began glowing again.

"No!" I screamed, panic ripping through any common sense. "No, I'm staying! I have to stay!"

There's nothing I can do, Kate. It's just…it's just time.


Jack pulled me into a tight embrace. "You can't go, Kate," he whispered, a single tear sliding down his cheek. "Not yet. Don't leave me yet, luv. Not after everything…"

I leaned against his chest, truly crying now. "…I'm sorry, Jack…"

I felt that lightning-bolt sensation yet again, and I thought I heard Jack scream my name one more time before sinking into the darkness.


I groaned softly, reached my arm out from under the covers, and switched off the alarm. I opened my eyes and looked around. I was back in my bed, and the medallion was right where I'd left it – on my nightstand. Sunlight streamed through the tiny window. It was like nothing had happened.

I…made it back…hey, Inner Voice, you there?



No answer.


Still nothing.

I sighed quietly and buried my head in my hands. "It was a dream…it was just a dream." I sat there for a moment, trying not to cry, before getting slowly out of bed and walking to my closet. It just seemed so real…I sighed again and opened the door…only to gasp in alarm at what I saw.

Lying on the floor of my closet was a long, silver-hilted sword in a black sheath. My sword.

I stared at it for a long moment, expecting it to disappear. After about two minutes and it was still there, I bent over and picked it up. It felt cool and welcoming to the touch. I turned it over and spotted a note tucked into the sheath. Feeling like I was still in a dream, I pulled the note out, unfolded it, and began to read:

Your journey has only just begun.

March 1st, 2008…

"It's finally time!"

A day of reckoning…

"I can't believe he'd do this, after all we've been through…"

A day of hope…

"We're going to find that chest."

A day of fear…

"Yer a marked man, Jack Sparrow."

A day of courage…

"You know I'd do anything to save Elizabeth."

And a day…of the Dead Man's Chest.

"Jack must find his place in the new world, or perish."

"All ya knew was not as it should have been."

"I AM the sea!"

"I was nothing more than an almost-innocent bystander."

"I'm never leaving you again."

"I'm here to find the man I love."

"This wasn't supposed to happen!"

"I've got a jar o' dirt!"

"It's time, child…"

Pirates of the Caribbean: What's Dearest to a Man's Heart

Coming March 1st to a computer near you.