A/N: Hey there!! This is my FIRST EVER PotC FANFICTION!! AAH!! It begins about two days after At World's End, and I've got a fuzzy outline written down, but the ending's still rather vague, and I'm afraid that without any support, I'm gonna get too scared to finish this, so I'd REALLY appreciate some reviews to help encourage me!! I reeeally don't want to drop this story, but I will if nobody likes it. Either that, or I'll just work on it by myself, and never post it. XD lol.

So here's chapter one. Yes, you will find out more about Carlotta, and no, she won't (at least I HOPE she won't) turn out to be a Mary Sue. If she does, I might cry, but I think sometimes OCs just inevitably turn out that way anyway, so I'll get over it if she does. Bah.

And yes, I know my title sucks. I'm awful at thinking up titles. Trust me. Me and naming stories is just a whole world of badness.

The night air smelled of rum and sex. The atmosphere was ringing with the sounds of drunken shouts and laughter. She felt like she would surely suffocate here. She had always avoided this part of town, but in her situation, there was simply no where else to run. Whores all around her were flipping their skirts and flashing their teasing grins at passersby, while men of every shape and size took full advantage of these women's hospitable offerings. They all smelled like alcohol, and the scents of sweat and lust hung about them, too. She dodged every man and whore in her path, breathing heavily as she ran through clouds of grime and smoke. She could feel dirty water splashing up her calves with every step she took. She knew her dress was staining, even though she was holding it up from the vile ground beneath her, but she didn't care. All she could think about was escaping this place.

She glanced behind her. Was he still following her? She scanned the crowds, but could not see his face. She paused for a moment to catch her breath, clutching her heaving chest. Her thighs were burning. She had worked them too hard. She had labored well on the farm back home, but she had never run this much before.

Looking ahead, still panting, she saw she was close to the docks. There was really no where left to go, if he was still following her. Perhaps she could escape on an unused boat, if there was one, she thought. But there was no time for that at the moment, for a familiar voice was suddenly shouting her name behind her.

Her blood ran cold with anxiety. Panicking, she flung herself to the left of the street, not even bothering to check if he had seen her. She would hide; that was her only hope, at the moment. She pressed herself between two drunkards chatting in the nearest doorway, and let herself into the place. The stench of rum overwhelmed her nostrils, and she wrinkled her nose as she glanced around. Fast-paced music had people dancing wildly all across the musty floor, and everywhere she turned, men and women had bottles to their mouths. She had entered a tavern. Of course, with her recent luck, that should hardly have been any surprise to her. She turned back to the still-open door, and glanced out at the crowded streets beyond the drunkards still standing just outside. She saw him. His face was beet-red, and his eyes were slits of fury as he looked all around for her. She watched him give an angry roar, and march desperately into the bar just across from the tavern she was currently hiding in. Knowing him, he was bound to check every single one of the surrounding shops for her.

Whimpering in terror, she scrambled backward, immersing herself more deeply in the crowd of drunks. As she went, she elbowed some poor wench in the face, who shrieked angrily and starting gibbering at her in Spanish. "Lo siento," she muttered to the woman unconcernedly, and finally tore her eyes from the door so she could see where she was headed in the tavern. The closest thing she saw that she could duck behind was a table. Only one man occupied it, but he was surrounded by a whole flock of desperate wenches who were all clustered around him as though he were their reason for being. She ignored the little group, got down on her hands and knees, and crawled behind the man's chair. She impressively managed to avoid being trampled by the collective of wenches, and hugged her knees, just waiting for the dreaded moment when he would burst in, screaming her name, searching for her.

But even in all her terror, she could not tear her eyes away from the man in the chair before her. She could not see his face, but it was simply fascinating to watch the way his hands roamed the bare chest of the woman straddled over his lap, and to see how her eyelids fluttered excitedly and her mouth opened wide in a delighted, moaning laugh. The woman was moving suggestively, and when she suddenly stopped and whispered something in his ear, he sniggered.

A bottle smashed somewhere to her right, and she jumped. One of the man's wenches laughed at her, but she ignored her. Taverns weren't the place for her. She gulped. Was he going to find her soon? Was he in here already?

She was shaking, but once again she found herself distracted by the sounds coming from the man at the table. He was groaning ecstatically. A wench at his side had gotten to her knees, and her head was buried in the man's lap. Her hand was playing with the ends of his long dreadlocks, which were spilling out from beneath an old, red bandana. The man was squirming delightedly in his seat.

The cowering young woman understood what was taking place, and she looked quickly away, her cheeks faintly pink. She had never seen people be so public about that sort of thing, but perhaps that was attributed to the fact that she'd been confined to the farm for her entire life.

"Carlotta!" someone yelled furiously. She heard a chair being toppled over, and angry footsteps. "Carlotta, where are you, girl?"

She let out a horrified yelp before coming to her senses and clamping her hand over her mouth. She was shaking madly as she curled herself into a tighter ball, biting down on the fabric of her dress to keep herself from making noise. Would he recognize her terrified whimpers? Her heart was hammering in her chest, surely bruising her insides. He was going to find her, and kill her, she thought wildly. She listened carefully for his presence. He was easily audible, even over all the other deafening sounds of the tavern.

"Where are you, Carlotta?" he was raging. "I'll find you, you filthy wench! There's no escapin' me!"

The man on the chair in front of her turned his head slightly to glance at her. She could see only his sharp profile, but she could tell that he was looking at her out of the corner of his eye. She glared at him. His eyebrows were raised, and she thought he had a smirk on his face, but there was a lamp in the distance whose light was twinkling just behind the man's head, so his face was cast in shadow. He was nothing but a silhouette to her. She knew, though, that he was putting two and two together in his head, and realizing that she was on the run. She prayed silently that he would keep his mouth shut.

"Carlotta!" The voice was very close, now. She crawled a bit closer to the man's chair, ensuring she could not be seen. She glanced past the wenches' legs and watched with horror as a familiar pair of boots approached the table. She drew herself in closer, and let the dark curls that had escaped her messy bun fall in front of her face as though that would protect her further. Clenching her dark eyes shut, she tried hard not to burst into tears of fright. "Have you seen my…?" he asked the man before her. She held her breath. Please, she begged internally, say nothing.

"Have I seen this Carlotta person you've been so pointlessly shouting for?" the man finished for her pursuer in a cocky drawl. "I have certainly not seen any woman 'round this dingy hole so deserving of your annoying yet admirable persistence, and I assure you, my good man, I have seen a good lot of women here. So I'd suggest you just sod off, and stop bloody shoutin' so much. You'll give a man a headache."

She opened her eyes again. The boots were leaving, but he was still calling her name. Eventually, she heard him give a cry of frustration, and storm from the place. She continued to sit, huddled, for a few minutes, before pushing herself shakily to her feet. She glanced anxiously around, just to make sure he was really gone. When she didn't see him anywhere amongst the sea of drunken faces, she sighed in relief. She made to leave, but as she passed the man with his wenches, she paused. She turned to look at him.

She was surprised to find that he was rather handsome. He gazed back at her, his dark eyes swimming with amusement and pleasure. The back of one of the women's heads could be seen bobbing in and out of sight beneath the tabletop before the man. She blushed slightly as she noticed this, but cleared her throat and continued to stare at him anyway. "Thank you, sir," she told him politely.

The corners of his lips twitched. "It was nothing, love," he replied, his voice low and suave. She nodded once, and turned to go, but he spoke again. "Next time, though, I'd suggest simply staying out of trouble." Irritation throbbed in her veins.

"I shall," she told him with false politeness. "Thank you." And at that, she left. That man had no idea what she'd been through. How dare a stranger tell her to 'stay out of trouble,' when he had no idea what was going on?

Carlotta pushed her way through the crowds again, still keeping a wary eye open for any sight of the man seeking her. He was nowhere to be seen, thankfully, and she could barely express her relief at this. She wanted so badly to get out of this place now, it felt like an illness eating away at her insides. Her skin was itching with the desire to escape it permanently. She forced herself to the docks. She could smell the seawater, and taste the salty air. She had never known much about boats, she mused as she stared at the line of heavily guarded ships tied there at the dock, but she supposed she'd need one to get out of Santiago.

She scanned the nighttime water. It looked dark and haunting. She didn't know what might await her if she were to set sail upon that swaying surface, or if it was even the right choice, but she had to try. She looked around desperately for something to help her with her escape, and finally spotted it.

A little out of the way from all the chaos of the port, a tiny boat was tied to a post. No one seemed to be paying it any mind. Its sails were stained and torn, and its down-trodden wood panels seemed to be rotting. Although its shaggy appearance made her nervous, another long look back at the raucous town behind her fed her determination. This was the only boat that would be easy enough to steal on her own, and therefore it was her only hope of escape. Glancing around the docks quickly to make sure no one was watching her, she lifted the skirt of her dress and stepped cautiously into the rickety boat. It rocked precariously under her weight, and she bit her lip. She was already starting to rethink this whole thing. She knew nothing about steering a boat. She didn't even have a compass or a map, let alone a heading. Still, she was doing what she had to. She had to get away, and this was her only chance. He would still be looking for her, surely. He would probably search all of Cuba before he could be sure she was nowhere to be found.

She sat, and her new boat began to wade a little further out into the water. She stretched over the edge to grasp wildly for the dock to drag it back, and squealed with distaste when her hand became covered with grime. She wiped it hurriedly on her dress before reaching back up and starting to untie the rope that bound her escape vessel there.

The boards of the dock shook slightly with approaching footsteps, but for a minute, she didn't realize what it meant. As a pair of grey, faded boots came into view, however, she froze. They weren't those of her folly, but unrecognizable ones. She stared at them. They were facing her. She was stealing someone's boat, and he had clearly just returned for it. She blinked at the worn leather of this man's shoes, unsure of what to do. For several moments, he stood above her in silence, while she continued to stare at his feet. At long last, he spoke.

"What the bloody hell d'you think you're doin' on my boat?" The voice was strangely familiar to her. She looked up. It was the man from the tavern. She recognized his red bandana. He swayed where he stood, staring menacingly down at her. One of his filthy hands was resting on the pistol at his belt, while the other had its heavily ringed fingers clasped around the necks of several full bottles of rum. She could still not see his face properly.

"Er…" she stuttered. What was she to say? Should she tell him the truth? He had already seen that she was on the run—and helped her, too—so what harm could be done in telling him? "I'm running, sir," she said. Her face flushed, ashamed to say it aloud. It made her sound so cowardly.

He grinned casually at her. "A concept I happen to be quite familiar with, love," he said, leaning forward slightly as he spoke. "But that does not excuse the fact that you're in my boat."

"Well, yours was the smallest," she said defensively, getting unsteadily to her feet again. "And it was the easiest to get away with." She placed her hands on her hips. She tried to look imposing, but as she barely reached his waist, she wasn't succeeding too well.

The man's offended expression was quite sardonic. He made a sound of indignation, and placed his rum lovingly upon the ground at his feet. "It is not that small," he said loudly once he'd straightened up again, his voice full of contempt.

"It is so!" she said, realizing she'd hit some sort of nerve. "Look at all these other ships around here!" She smiled amusedly at his expression. "Now, see here, sir: I really need your boat, so…"

"I need it more!" he grumbled resentfully, throwing his hands into the air wildly as he leapt down into the boat with her. It teetered dangerously, and a large amount of water sloshed over the edge, soaking both of their ankles. "It's my boat," he said plainly, leaning very close to her, "so get out!" He pointed at the dock. She blinked at him, wrinkling her nose. He smelled very heavily of rum. It did not sit well with her.

"I need this, sir," she said, trying to stay calm. "I have to get away."

He scoffed at her. "Well I need it, too!" he growled. "My ship was stolen."

Carlotta raised her eyebrows questioningly and leaned away from the drunken man to look him up and down. He seemed barely stable on his feet, and hardly capable to captain a ship. "You had a ship?" she questioned, sounding uncertain.

"I did," he muttered furiously to himself. "I mean, I do," he corrected, poking her shoulder as though to prove his point. "I do have a ship, and it is the most magnificent vessel in the entire Spanish Main, I swear to you."

She snorted. "Of course it is," she said, humoring him.

The man looked contemptuously at her, his brow low. "Do you even know who I am, love?" he asked her with a glare.

"Of course not," she told him. "Why should I? All I know about you, sir, is that you… well, you saved my life back in that tavern."

He seemed confused. "Oh, that was you?"

She rolled her eyes. "Yes, that was me," she confirmed irritably, glancing down at her feet in embarrassment.

"And, er…who was it that you were running from, eh, love?" He didn't sound very concerned.

"Just… someone, alright?" she told him evasively. "He was just… someone who wants me dead."

"Is that so?" he responded dully. His words were punctuated by the swish of a blade being extracted from its sheath. She looked up, horrified, seriously regretting her decision to ever look away from him. The point of his sword was directed ominously at her throat. She gazed fearfully at it. "I am… terribly unhappy to have to do it this way, darlin'," he told her, a mockingly tragic look in his eye, "but I really do need to get back to the Pearl, and I can't exactly do that without a boat, now, can I? You're costing me precious time, and as much as I hate to turn away an attractive damsel in distress…" His eyes scanned her body once over, and her stomach gave an odd jolt. "…I really do need this boat." She watched his hand nervously as it clutched his sword. What chance did she have against him? She had no weapon. She gulped nervously.

His arm shifted slightly, his sleeve fell back on his arm, and she saw something that made her mouth drop open. There was a small burn on the back of his wrist, she noticed—a P branded into his skin. He was a pirate, and he had come in contact with the East India Trading Company. "You're… a pirate," she stated simply, her eyes widening. She glanced back up at him. His expression was dangerous. There were deep shadows on his face in the darkness, and it made him appear slightly eerie when he looked so serious. She shivered.

His lip curled. "That's a fascinating observation, love," he said uninterestedly, "but I really have to be getting back to my ship now, so…"

"Look," she interrupted him desperately. "I want to get out of here, and you want to go get your ship. I have no idea how to even steer this thing, nor do I have any type of destination, so I'd be helpless anyway."

"Is this you accepting defeat?" the man asked hopefully.

"No," she snapped. "This is me asking if I can just… come along with you."

He tilted away from her as though he'd never seen anything like her. "You must really be desperate to get away," he stated bluntly.

"I am, sir," she admitted.

The man stared at her. She stared back. His eyes were very dark, but they seemed to glisten in the small amount of starlight that there was. After a while, he said, "First off, darling, don't call me sir. It's Captain, thanks." He sniffed in annoyance. "Secondly…" He hesitated. "…I'm starting to have a thought." He wrinkled his nose and narrowed his eyes at her, obviously cogitating something. They continued to stare at each other until he finally cleared his throat, and went on. "I've had no other opportunities to switch boats, y'see," he told her calmly, "because I only had me ship stolen a mere two days ago, but now that I'm thinking about it…" He looked away from her at last, staring hungrily at the ships decked at the port. "Here's my chance at last, and…" He looked back at her. "… Well, it's really quite difficult to commandeer a ship all by me onesome, love." He stared pointedly into her eyes, but she merely blinked.

"What are you saying, sir?" she asked slowly, feeling fairly certain that he was suggesting an act of piracy.

He rolled his eyes. "Help me commandeer a ship," he rumbled. "That way we both get what we want. I get an easier way to get the Pearl back, as well as some pleasant company, and you get to do your running away act."

She laughed hollowly. "And why would I help you do that?" she inquired. "I'm not a pirate like you are."

"But you're on the run, aren't you darlin'? And didn't you just describe yourself as desperate?" He grinned wickedly, his eyes dancing mischievously. "Sometimes desperation simply requires piracy, you know." He watched her closely as she thought for a moment.

"How about you go steal a ship, and I'll just take this boat?" she asked, smiling innocently.

His grin dropped. "You are too ruddy stubborn," he spat. "You have no heading, but I do, and I can't commandeer a ship that heavily guarded all by me self, so…" He lowered his sword at last, and she let out a relieved sigh. "What do you say?"

She chewed absentmindedly on her lower lip for a while, just thinking. "I could never steal a ship," she said resentfully. "I just couldn't."

"It won't be stealing," he assured her quickly. He hesitated for a moment as he slid his sword back into the sheath at his belt. "Borrowing," he said finally, gesturing fluidly with his hands at the line of ships. "Borrowing, only… not stealing. We can return it once I've got the Pearl back, savvy?" He was grinning madly, desperation evident in his hopeful eyes. "Come on," he pleaded. "What's there for you to lose, eh?"

Carlotta stared at him. He had already saved her life once, and he was right, after all: she had nothing more that she could lose. She had already lost her home and her family, and compared to that, what did it really matter if she lost her dignity, too, by committing piracy? She observed his face for another moment. Aside from looking desperate, he was very handsome. He smelled like an unwashed cow, true enough, but he was certainly pleasant looking. His long mane of dark, tangled hair was decorated with trinkets and beads, and the two braids that his beard had been made into only added to his eccentric appearance.

With an uncertain smile, she shrugged in defeat. "Why not?" she sighed.

"Excellent, love, excellent!" he roared gleefully, hopping from the boat and offering her a hand to help her out, too She took it warily, and found that though his skin was rough against hers, his palm was quite warm. She gazed up at him as he helped her back onto the dock, and then stooped to retrieve his rum again. She felt so strange to be agreeing to work with this man. She still didn't even know his name. All she knew about him was that he was a pirate, but he had already saved her life once, without even meaning to. He swung his arm out, showing her towards the line of guarded ships. "Shall we?" he suggested, bowing mockingly to her before heading off.

She followed him, still uncertain that it was the right thing to do. But as he'd said: she was desperate, and sometimes desperation simply requires piracy.

A/N: Thanks so much for reading!! Take a moment to review, and make me happy!!