A/N: Okay folks, it's time to clear up a couple of things. Two reviewers brought up excellent points, and it's only fair for me to clear them up (Seriously, thanks guys!). If you don't really care for semantics, feel free to skip on down to the actually story.

A reviewer named Pepper said "you do know that lizzie HAD to have had her son rite? after the credits in at worlds end, she is walking to shore after 10 years, with Will the 3rd."

Yes, I do know that. I guess I should have made that clear from the start—I'm going AU from what happened after the credits. (Because, ew) So in this story, Elizabeth did not get pregnant at the end of AWE.

And thanks to howlongmustiwait who said, "Just to clarify the curse thing - according to the pamphlet released with the DVD by Disney, Will is bound to the Dutchman for eternity. It does not matter what Lizzie does. He gets one day on land every ten years. That's it."

So, of course, I checked Wikipedia (which is, sadly, my main source of knowledge), and this is what it had to say in its entry on Will Turner:

"It is a matter of some debate what happens next. According to the DVD booklet Will is now permanently bound to the Flying Dutchman except for one day every ten years. Since the writers and director were not involved in this, it may be considered apocryphal.

The writers instead have affirmed that Will will be freed from the Flying Dutchman's curse after ten years if Elizabeth is faithful to him. Since she remains faithful to him, he is freed of the curse and allowed to return to the world of the living, (as opposed to Davy Jones, who remained tied to the ship because Tia Dalma was not faithful)."

So, I've decided that I'm going with the writers, since I'll take their word over the word of a random dude who wrote the DVD insert. Plus, my heart absolutely breaks to think that Will would be stuck on the Dutchman for eternity. Therefore, in my story, Will can be freed in ten years if Elizabeth is waiting faithfully for him.

"But wait! This story is Sparrabeth!" you cry! Indeed it is. Wait and see, friends. I've got me a plan.

PHEW!

And now, on with the story. Another long chapter!

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The crew inundated Jack with questions as they went about their daily chores the next morning. In his glory, the captain acquiesced to relating endless tales of adventure and debauchery on the high seas. However it seemed that Elizabeth's threat was enough to keep him on his best behavior, at least for the time being, because when asked to relate the story of his battle with Davy Jones he would simply say that such a tale could only be told at the proper time and place and that the current setting was neither.

So the day passed relatively free of incident, although not without struggle. Elizabeth's few months back in high society had not served her well. Her formerly calloused hands were soft and prone to bleeding when she climbed the ship's rigging, and her muscles had lost their tone, leaving her with pain that she was certain would become a persistent ache in the days to follow.

Not keen on listening to Jack's stories, she spent the majority of her time shadowing the man with the black face tattoos. As the ship's boatswain, he did not have time to sit around listening to Jack's stories all day. He was called Ham (short for Hamilton, she was told when she asked), and despite his somewhat fearsome appearance, he was a surprisingly friendly chap.

About ten minutes had passed since she helped Ham adjust the rigging for the mainsail when Elizabeth found herself distracted. Dob, the sailor with the scar running from his fingertips to his forehead was standing several yards away. From the moment she saw him in Tortuga she'd wondered how on earth he'd received such a terrible disfigurement. She hadn't dared to ask him, since he seemed easily agitated and far from friendly.

"It's not polite to stare, Ed," said a voice very close to her ear.

Elizabeth spun around to see Ham eyeing her with a gentle but warning smile. Elizabeth blushed for being caught, but her curiosity got the better of her and she could not help the question that escaped her lips.

"Do you know how it happened?" she asked.

Ham guessed immediately to what she was referring. He followed her eye line and nodded knowingly.

"It's a beaut, innit?" he commented, tilting his head to the side as he examined the scar himself. "I 'eard 'im ravin' about it in Tortuga after too many glasses of ale. A lady of ill repute gave 'im tha' as a parting gift," he replied.

"A prostitute?" Elizabeth gasped. "How did she manage to get him so badly?"

When Ham looked back at Elizabeth, she saw in his eyes the same look of delight that she saw in Jack's when he was telling a story of interest.

"She was a crafty lass," he grinned. "She offered Dob 'er services. Planned to rob 'im blind in the night and leave before he woke... but he woke too soon."

Ham raised his eyebrows suggestively.

"So she did that to him?" Elizabeth said in a hushed exclamation.

Ham grinned once more.

"Well, he tried to do tha' to 'er, but she grabbed 'old of 'is knife and fought 'im tooth an' nail. Apparently, judgin' by the outcome, she got the upper 'and," he mused.

"So she did it to him with his own knife?" Elizabeth marveled.

"An' got away wi' the loot too," Ham added with a look of distinct admiration. "It's no wonder he 'ates women, really."

Well, this was news, and confusing news at that.

"But he's sailing under Anamaria," Elizabeth pointed out.

"Needs must when the devil drives," Ham remarked, shrugging indifferently. "A man will do what he 'as to in order to make a livin' Ed."

Elizabeth stared once more at the long, jagged scar. She felt a chill run down her spine.

"Anyway, lad, I didn' seek ye out for a round o' storytellin'," Ham said, breaking her train of thought.

Elizabeth looked abashed to be caught staring again. She muttered an apology but was cut off by Ham.

"I didn' come to chide ye for starin' neither," he hastened to explain. "Sparrow wants ye."

Elizabeth frowned, wondering what Jack could possibly want. Nevertheless she nodded and started for the captain's cabin, which was where Jack had decided his navigational headquarters would be located (much to the chagrin of the Dawn's actual captain).

"Ah, Elizabeth!" Jack greeted her boisterously when she set foot in the cabin.

Elizabeth's eyes flew wide open and she quickly slammed the door shut behind her. Jack seemed confused at her reaction when spun around to pin him with a warning look.

"Did you want to alert the entire crew as to my true name?" she asked pointedly.

Jack cringed and managed to look apologetic.

"Sorry, luv," he said quickly. Then he paused and gave her a searching look. "Why is it tha' you need to maintain this disguise again? I mean, wha' with Ana bein' captain an' all, I figure you'd be 'appy to dispense with the pirate act and go back to playin' a proper lady."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes and laughed lightly.

"I think you know better than most, Jack, that I'm more pirate than damsel these days," she said wryly.

Jack grinned back. It was the first true smile the two had shared since their reunion in Tortuga, and Elizabeth was surprised to realize that it actually felt quite nice. Comfortable. Normal.

"Aye, truer words were never spoken," Jack replied.

"Why did you call for me?" she asked, snapping out of the pleasantness of the moment.

He gestured for her to come around the table at which he was standing. When she did she saw a map spread out on its surface. Jack was apparently tracking the ship's course on it, judging from the series of Xs trailing northwest from a dot on the map labeled 'Tortuga.'

"Is this where we are?" she questioned, pointing to the last X inked on the map.

"That's where Anamaria thinks we are. We are actually here," Jack said, planting an ink-spattered finger an inch north of the mark.

Elizabeth looked up at Jack from under a furrowed brow.

"You're lying to the ship's captain about our location?" she asked flatly.

Jack spread his arms wide as if he was awaiting some sort of congratulations.

"That's right, luv. Ol' Cap'n Jack 'as 'ad a plan all along," he said proudly.

Elizabeth sighed.

"I'm afraid to ask, but what exactly does your plan entail?"

"So glad you asked, Lizzie dear!" Jack exclaimed.

He shifted closer next to her and threw an arm around her shoulders. Elizabeth resisted shrugging him off and resigned herself to letting Jack explain his alleged genius.

"Anamaria wants to 'ead to Havana. We want to intercept the Pearl," Jack explained as if this was news to Elizabeth.

"Yes, and how exactly are we going to drift far enough north to reach the Pearl without the captain or crew noticing?" Elizabeth asked skeptically.

"We're miles off course now an' no one's noticed," Jack reminded her.

Elizabeth gave him a disbelieving smile.

"Yes, but when land appears to our north rather than our south, I think it might tip a few people off that we've hit Florida instead of Cuba," she informed him.

Jack gave her a grin that suggested that Elizabeth was woefully misinformed and that he was about to take great pleasure in enlightening her.

"Who said anything about Florida, luv?" he asked.

Elizabeth pulled away, confused, and Jack let his arm drop from her shoulders.

"That's where the Fountain of Youth is," she said, waiting for him to contradict her.

"Yes, but who said the Pearl 'as reached it yet?" Jack asked.

He looked very smug. This annoyed Elizabeth greatly.

"How long ago did Barbossa maroon you in Tortuga?" she asked directly.

The smug look was quickly replaced by a pained wince and then a deep frown. Straightening up, Jack made his reply.

"Barbossa, the rotting pile of putrescent feces, robbed me of my ship a little over three weeks ago."

Ignoring his elaborate language, Elizabeth cut to the chase.

"Jack, it takes four days in good weather, a week in bad, to reach Florida from Tortuga. Why wouldn't Barbossa be there already?"

"Barbossa, steaming lump of odious excrement, would've wanted to take a grand tour of the Caribbean before settin' 'is sights on a treasure so great as the Fountain of Youth," Jack declared.

He stopped and leaned toward her as if he was about to impart a deep secret.

"In case you 'aven't noticed, he doesn't 'ave the best record when it comes to successfully huntin' down treasure," he said.

Elizabeth resisted the urge to point out that Jack's record was not much better. Before the whole mess with Davy Jones, he'd managed to get his crew nearly killed in a hurricane and failed to deliver so much as a hint of gold.

"As such," Jack continued, oblivious to Elizabeth's inner thoughts. "He'd want to ensure that 'is men's pockets were lined with plenty o' gold and plunder before attemptin' such a large undertakin'—just in case it's a failure."

It was a sound plan; Elizabeth had to admit that. Jack went on.

"Barbossa's many things; a vile rat, a villainous thief, a backstabbing wretch, a—"

"Jack," Elizabeth interrupted.

Jack's face had become twisted with loathing as he listed off insults. He quickly recovered, however, and went on.

"Well, you get the point. He's a lot of things, but stupid is not one of 'em. Unfortunately," he added as an afterthought.

Something seemed to occur to him all of a sudden, for his eyes grew dark and a scowl crossed his features.

"Of course it's also possible he just wants to flaunt the fact tha' he 'as the Pearl again. He'd want to roll out the guns and attack any and every ship in reach just to affirm 'is newly regained ascendancy."

Elizabeth was about to call Jack's name again to snap him out of his sudden funk, but he did it himself. In a flash his customary good cheer was back.

"But more likely, he's still sailing because he's not quite sure where to land," he said cheerfully.

He began shuffling through the maps strewn across the table until he pulled out a circular piece of aged parchment. Elizabeth examined it. It was the center of Sao Feng's map, the one that she and Barbossa had retrieved to guide them to world's end. It appeared as though Jack had cut the center of the map out and left Barbossa with its useless border.

As inept as Jack was at keeping his ship, things were never made easy for his mutineers. The first time it was an Aztec curse, and now the Pearl's crew would have no clear idea of where to go once they reached Florida. Smiling a bit at this thought, Elizabeth did not notice when Jack pulled his compass from his belt. Suddenly, he was waving the object in her face.

"Plus, the needle on this little contraption 'ere keeps moving in ways tha' don't match up with the way we're moving on this ship, which means that the Pearl isn't sittin' still. And I doubt very much tha' would be the case if she was beached somewhere in Florida," he added helpfully.

Elizabeth sighed in exasperation.

"Why didn't you say that in the first place?" she asked.

Jack grinned as he replied.

"Now Lizzie, where's the fun in that?"

Elizabeth ignored him and turned her attention back to the compass.

"How can you be sure that it's pointing towards the Pearl?" she asked.

Jack nodded, apparently deeming her question a good one.

"I'll admit, it'll be egg on my face if we wind up catchin' up to a merchant vessel full of rum 'stead of the Pearl, but then I think the crew might forgive me still."

Elizabeth tried (and failed) to resist smiling once more at the image Jack presented. She was torn abruptly from such entertaining thoughts by Jack's next request.

"Actually, that's why I called you in 'ere," he said. "Just wanted to double check our heading."

With that, he thrust the compass at her. Elizabeth observed the object as though it might bite her. Jack forced it into her hands before she could muster enough sense to pull her palms away.

Her fingers trailed over its wooden cover, but she didn't open it. She did not have good luck with this compass. What if…

What if it points to him. With him standing right here. No. Why should it point to him now? Before… that was understandable.

She'd had time to rationalize it all. The compass had only pointed to Jack before because of some lingering attachment to the legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, some shred of awe at his myth. By now she was completely disillusioned when it came to pirates. Therefore she had nothing to worry about. Right?

She peered up at Jack to find him examining her with amused interest. Was he hoping for the very thing that she was dreading?

No. I want to find Will. Everything in my life depends on it. And to find Will, I must first find the Pearl. The thing I want most is the Pearl.

She squeezed her eyes shut at the same moment that she flipped the compass open. After taking a deep breath, she slowly peeked out from under her right eyelid.

The needle was pointing at Jack.

DAMN IT!

"It's broken!" Elizabeth hissed, trying to ignore the self-satisfied smirk evident on Jack's face.

"Don't think so, luv," Jack said softly.

He chuckled, and Elizabeth glared at him. Then he started to move away from her. He made a slow and, as far as Elizabeth could tell, unnecessary circle around the table before coming to a halt on the exact opposite side of her.

"See, Lizzie. No worries," he whispered in her ear.

She frowned, unable to discern his meaning until she glanced back down at the compass. Its needle had not moved; it continued to point to the spot that Jack had recently vacated.

It was all a coincidence, she thought, relieved.

Jack had been standing in the exact direction that the ship was heading. Judging by his smirk, he'd known it too. Elizabeth shot him a look that told him she was not amused.

"Well, this is lovely! We're righ' on course," Jack said, unmoved by Elizabeth's threatening glower.

He snatched the compass out of her hands and reattached it to his belt.

"Wonderful. So we're going to meet up with the Pearl and do what?" Elizabeth asked bluntly.

"Well, Barbossa will no doubt be more than happy attack this beautiful vessel," Jack said pleasantly.

Elizabeth froze.

"You're going to lead the Dawn directly into the path of a ruthless and aggressive pirate captain with the hope that he'll attack?" she asked incredulously.

Jack appeared contemplative for a moment.

"Pretty much, yeah," he finally said, grinning.

Elizabeth shook her head.

"Anamaria will kill you if you endanger her ship."

Jack waved his hands dismissively.

"That's why neither of us will be telling her about our slightly different course, will we? She won't know a thing until it's too late. We'll scurry across to the Pearl in the ensuing scuffle, I'll kill Barbossa again, we'll sweet talk the crew, and then off we go to see dear William!"

She stared at him. He said it all so simply, as if it was already a done deal. She decided against attacking his plan because of it's implausibility, and instead reminded him of the more immediate danger associated with his actions.

"This is technically breaking the fourth rule of the Dawn's articles. You're betraying the crew by knowingly leading them into danger. This is a marooning offense."

Again, Jack seemed deeply unconcerned.

"Aye, an' it's all the more reason for you to keep that charming mouth shut, because if I'm marooned, you're coming along, luv."

Elizabeth almost gasped aloud. She had forgotten that little caveat in their contract. Why had she agreed to bind herself to him until they reached the Pearl?

She considered being marooned with Jack again.

"Chances are there wouldn't be a cache of combustible liquids at our disposal this time," she mused.

Jack let out an injured grunt, and when Elizabeth looked at him, he appeared honestly pained.

"Don't remind me of tha'," he moaned. "It still 'urts to think of all that beautiful rum—gone."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes once more, but she could not help smiling for a third time in so many minutes.

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There was no shortage of rum on the Dawn, Elizabeth learned this soon enough. That night a barrel of the stuff was hauled up from below deck and planted by the mainmast, where any and all could freely partake of it. And partake they did.

The men gathered on deck for an evening of revelry that would have put any pub in Tortuga to shame. Music was provided by a pair of red-haired crewmen (brothers, by the looks of them) who played a fiddle and a wooden flute. The rest of the crew alternated between telling ribald tales, engaging in rousing games of dice, or singing and generally falling over each other.

Elizabeth stayed away from the mainmast, preferring to lounge on the quarterdeck with Ham and the ship's doctor, an older gent named Lou. Elizabeth would wager quite confidently that Lou had never cracked a smile in his life. The man's face did not change its bland expression, just as his calm voice never wavered in tone or volume. Together the two made for quiet company, which Elizabeth appreciated amidst the madness buzzing about the rest of the ship.

She was currently lying on her back on the deck while Ham and Lou sat a few feet away discussing a hurricane that had blown through two months earlier. She stared up at the stars and wondered if Will was doing the same. She considered the possibility that their eyes might land on the same exact star at the same precise moment, and if they did, she wondered if she would somehow know. Maybe she would feel a sudden jolt or warmth.

A long while passed this way. Her ears were filled with a strange combination of low grumbling conversation (courtesy of Ham and Lou), waves crashing against the sides of the Dawn, creaking wood, fiddle and flute, and the distant roar of the rowdy crew occasionally punctuated by a particularly loud shout.

Elizabeth was gently lulled into a pleasant trancelike state—until Anamaria suddenly appeared above her, looking irritated. Elizabeth immediate sat up and waited to hear what was wrong. She thought of Jack's plan. Had Anamaria discovered that her ship wasn't where Jack said she was?

"Wondered where you went," the captain said curtly. "Thought you'd want to know tha' Jack's up on the forecastle tellin' a very interestin' story."

Elizabeth let out a deep sigh communicating intense vexation. Ana merely shrugged in a commiserating fashion and walked away. For a moment Elizabeth debated remaining where she was since no good could come from hearing Jack's story. However, she knew that if he was telling the account she thought he was, that she had to know what he said.

She walked toward the front of the ship, and as the main deck came into full view she saw that it was mostly empty, save for a few sailors who had already passed out. Everyone else was gathered toward the ship's bow, all craning their necks to hear Jack Sparrow speak from his position at the foremast.

Elizabeth did not fight her way to the front of the crowd. She kept herself hidden in the back so that Jack would not see her there, and she listened. It appeared that he'd already gotten through much of the story, because when she finally stopped to listen he was speaking of the Kraken's vicious attack on the Pearl.

"So there I was, sittin' in tha' rowboat, with two choices. In front of me, freedom and safety in the form of Isla Cruces. Behind me, me ship and me crew about to be devoured by Davy Jones's devilish sea monster. To be a bit profound, if you'll indulge me, in front of me was life at the expense of cowardice, and behind was heroism at the expense of me life."

"What did you do?" breathed Trevor, his eyebrows drawn together in deep concern.

"Consulted me compass," Jack said simply.

At the confused stares of the men, he unclipped his compass from his belt and held it out to Trevor.

"Bartered for it ten years ago from none other than the goddess Calypso. It points not north, but to tha' which you want most in this world," Jack explained enigmatically.

"That's a great swinging lie," Dob sneered, snatching the device from Trevor.

The scarred pirate flipped open the cover and all present, save Jack and Elizabeth, crowded around to see the contraption react. Elizabeth saw more than one jaw drop as the needle spun slowly and landed on…

Trevor.

Several of the men frowned, some went wide-eyed, and one or two let out furtive chuckles and then hastily attempted to cover them up with coughs.

"I'm, uh, flattered, really," Trevor stuttered. "An' I know tha' you 'aven't 'ad much luck with the lady folk, but—"

Before he could say any more, Dob was on him. Having slipped his knife from his boot, he placed it on Trevor's bare throat. When Trevor gulped his throat rose far enough into the blade that a small trickle of blood escaped.

"Take it easy, Dob!" Ham called out from behind her.

Elizabeth turned to see that both Ham and Lou had joined the crowd. Dob glanced at Ham and reluctantly pulled the knife back.

"It's pointin' at 'im because he owes me two crowns from a game o' dice tonight," Dob growled.

Trevor's eyebrows flew up to meet his hairline in a moment of realization.

"Oh, that's right!" the young man said, gingerly rubbing his neck. "Tha' explains it then."

"My compass, if you will," Jack said, completely undisturbed by the scene that had just unfolded.

The men looked back at Jack, suddenly remembering that he was in the middle of telling a story. Dob slapped the compass into Jack's open palm with obvious irritation. Jack ignored this and waited until all the men were resettled before continuing his tale.

"As I said, I consulted me compass."

Jack waited for the inevitable question.

"What did it point to, Captain?" one of the red-haired brothers asked.

"Incredibly enough, it pointed back at the Pearl," Jack related.

"Was it the Pearl the needle pointed at, or was it the girl aboard her?" Trevor asked.

Jack frowned and his mouth fell open for a few seconds. The question had apparently taken him by surprise, as it did Elizabeth. Her first thought was that Trevor's question was absolutely ridiculous, but then…

"Ah, there's the rub," Ham murmured, observing Jack's befuddlement with keen interest.

Jack suddenly snapped out of his stupor.

"The Pearl. It was most definitely pointing at the Pearl," he said agitatedly.

His voice was firm and almost angry. No one dared to question his answer.

"So you went back to save your crew?" Trevor pressed.

"Aye, I went back," Jack said simply.

A murmur of approval went through the crowd.

Jack plowed ahead, telling the men about the shot he fired into the mass of powder and rum kegs. He described in gory detail the way that the resulting explosion tore flesh from Kraken's giant tentacles, leaving behind dozens of black-rimmed, oozing wounds that could be seen disappearing beneath ocean's the surface as the beast made its retreat.

"So you won!" the other redhead shouted happily.

Jack smiled.

"You don't think a little thing like rippin' apart some of it's slithering arms was going to keep the Kraken down, did you?" he asked the pirate.

The redhead stared back uneasily and then shook his head as if he'd been joking with his previous comment.

"O' course, we all knew that the beastie would be back. So I called for the crew to abandon ship."

Several men gasped. Ham swore under his breath.

"Everyone piled into the long boat, while I traveled the deck one last time," Jack said.

From the wistful look in his eyes, Elizabeth could tell that he was entirely elsewhere, reliving that final stroll.

"To say goodbye?" Trevor asked.

Jack considered the question.

"In a way," he said vaguely. "In any case, as I'm doin' so, who should approach, but the lovely Miss Swann."

Elizabeth felt her breath catch in her throat. She wanted to flee, to run back to the quarterdeck and look at the stars. Why had she wanted to listen to this? The way he forced out the word 'lovely' was lost on all but Elizabeth. No one else knew that the word was positively dripping with sarcasm.

"What did she want?" Dob muttered.

"To thank me for comin' back," Jack said, a wry smile on his lips. "She told me tha' she always knew I was a good man. An' then she kissed me."

It took a moment for the men to process what Jack had just said. Once they had, however, the air was filled with the sounds of cheers, catcalls, and whistles. Only Dob and Lou seemed unimpressed (although Lou might have been positively ecstatic, and Elizabeth would have been none the wiser).

"How was it?" Trevor shouted over the ruckus.

The crew quickly quieted, eagerly awaiting details.

Elizabeth could still hardly hear a thing, as the blood was pounding in her ears. She watched anxiously as the faraway look came back in Jack's eyes. His face was unreadable. He was neither smiling nor frowning. Finally, he spoke.

"It was… devastating," he whispered.

Elizabeth's breath hitched as she exhaled.

"The heat of her mouth, her hands grasping at mine, the force of her passion," he recalled. "I lost all track of time and space. I forgot I was on the Pearl. There was only her lips on mine."

He paused, and the wry smile was back when he spoke again.

"An' then I 'eard a click."

The men, who had been hanging onto his every word during his description of the kiss, were suddenly confused again.

"A click?" repeated the first red-haired pirate.

"Aye. A click," Jack confirmed. "She cuffed me to the mast."

Elizabeth heard two dozen men gasp simultaneously, and her stomach dropped to her toes.

"Tol' me that the beast was after me, and she 'ad to do it to save the crew," he said, still smiling exactly as he had when said those words to him, just before he called her a pirate.

"Black-hearted temptress!" Dob thundered, his face a shade of deep crimson. "All women are wanton harlots! Every one of 'em! Not one is worth the trouble!"

"I couldn't agree more, mate," Jack replied calmly. "Especially concerning the woman in question."

Elizabeth wondered if she could slip away unnoticed. Nothing good could come of her staying there. However, Jack's next statement gave her pause.

"But o' course, what the rash Miss Swann failed to realize was tha' I was already plannin' on goin' down with me ship."

Her heart stopped.

"Any good captain would," Jack continued. "All Miss Swann did was giving me a lovely parting gift," he added smugly.

The crew was clearly impressed with Jack's commitment to his ship and crew. They smiled admiringly and murmured to one another.

Elizabeth was stunned. Was he telling the truth? Why had he not told her before? Had she been carrying around that awful guilt for nothing?

However, Jack did not supply any answers for her. He moved on with the story, describing his last few moments aboard the Pearl, culminating with his being swallowed whole by the Kraken's terrifying jaws.

Elizabeth finally tore herself away. She did not want to hear about the horrors that Jack had encountered in the Locker. She did not want to relive the moment of Will's death, or the moment of his rebirth as a heartless prisoner. She only wanted to go back to the stern of the ship and lose herself in the stars.

So she did. Slipping away unnoticed, she resumed her prone position on the quarterdeck. Long after everyone else had retired for the night, she remained on deck. It was hours later when she heard the thumping of boots growing near.

"Never could handle your rum," said a familiar voice.

Elizabeth shot up into a seated position, her heart suddenly racing. Jack stood over her, grinning.

Without thinking about what she was doing, Elizabeth stood and blurted out the question that was foremost in her thoughts.

"Was that true?"

"Was what true?" he asked, bewildered.

She took three hasty strides and her face was inches from his. Jack's eyes widened at her sudden proximity.

"Were you really going to stay behind with the Pearl?" she demanded.

He arched an eyebrow, surprised.

"Ah, so you ventured up to the front of the ship for a bedtime story, did you?" he asked.

When she failed to respond, Jack tilted his head to the side, considering her question. He stuck out his lower lip and squinted down at her before replying.

"What do you want to believe?" he said finally.

Before she could respond, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and continued to speak as if imparting helpful advice to an old friend.

"Because all tha' really matters is the truth you choose to believe. For example, I choose to believe that I'm the most fearsome pirate in the Caribbean, and therefore I am."

The casual lilting rhythm of his speech did not fool her. He was spouting tripe in order to avoid her question.

"It doesn't work like that," she said, calmly lifting his hand from her shoulder and dropping it so that it fell by his side.

Undeterred, Jack smiled and persevered.

"Doesn't it? If I didn't believe I was the greatest, I most definitely would not have become the legendary Captain Jack Sparrow, now would I?"

Elizabeth pursed her lips. She watched him stroll triumphantly over to the starboard side of the stern and drum his fingers absently on the railing. She could not refute his statement, but he was still avoiding the matter at hand.

"You didn't answer my question," she accused.

Jack pointed at her with the hand that Elizabeth had just removed from her shoulder.

"Correct!" he happily exclaimed. "I cleverly sidestepped it by declaring it irrelevant."

He grinned. Elizabeth plowed ahead.

"Were you going to stay with the ship even if I didn't chain you to it?" she repeated.

Jack was still smiling, but he was looking at her with that calculating curiosity that told her she was not about to get a satisfactory response.

"What do you want the answer to be, Elizabeth?" he purred.

"I want an honest answer, whatever it may be," she said firmly.

Jack let out a small chuckle and turned away to gaze out at the ocean, his elbows resting on the wooden banister.

"No, you don't," he muttered.

When he turned back to her, he seemed agitated. As he spoke he began to slowly advance on her.

"You want me to say yes," he continued. "Because if I was going to bravely remain aboard and distract the beastie to spare the lives of me helpless crew, then you didn't really do anythin' wrong. Did you?"

"I want the truth," she maintained, refusing to show an ounce of trepidation at his approach.

He took slow but purposeful steps, slinking toward her like a predator in pursuit of prey. He did not stop until the tip of his boots met hers. When he leaned forward and opened his mouth, she could see every single gold tooth in perfect detail.

"No," he said tauntingly.

Elizabeth jerked backward and let out an angry sigh. Why did he insist on avoiding such a simple question?

"Why won't you just tell me—"

But Jack cut her off before she could finish the question.

"No, I wasn't going to stay behind. I was goin' to hop directly into tha' longboat with the rest of you and move as fast as the oars could take me, possibly pushing one or two of you overboard to increase our speed if need be."

Elizabeth found herself floundering with her mouth still hanging halfway open.

"You're just saying that," she stuttered desperately.

Jack smiled.

"Why would I lie?" he asked.

Elizabeth frowned. He had to be lying. He'd returned to the Pearl, hadn't he? He could have abandoned them all to the Kraken, but he returned. It was entirely possible that he would have stayed. He just didn'twant her to be freed from her guilt. Yes, that was it.

"You want to upset me," she said weakly.

She mustered all of the confidence she could and continued.

"You want me to think that you aren't a good man, Jack, but you are."

She looked challengingly at him. She was right. She knew it. Jack did not step back, but rather leaned closer, a huge smile gracing his lips.

"Still under that delusion, are we? That's endearing," he quipped.

Unshaken, Elizabeth prepared to present her evidence.

"You've had moments of—"

Only to be immediately cut off by Jack.

"Of what?" he scoffed. "Of goodness? Bravery? Heroism?" he asked mockingly. "Allow me to recap for you those moments."

He began listing them off, holding up his index finger to mark the first.

"Over a decade ago, I, in a moment of fairness, agree to share with me crew the bearings to Isla de Muera. In return, I get marooned."

Elizabeth watched him hold up a second finger as he continued. He began moving in a slow circle around her as he spoke.

"I, in a moment of compassion, turn around and row back to save me crew from the almost certain death at the hands—er, tentacle… thingies of the Kraken. In return, I receive almost certain death through the treachery of… who was it again?"

He paused, giving Elizabeth time to respond. She fought to keep her face completely neutral. When Jack realized that she was not going to answer, he smiled (smiled!) and continued to circle her as he held up a third finger.

"I, in a moment of forgiveness, allow me mutinous former first mate back in me crew. In return, I get marooned again."

He fairly shouted the last word, stomping hurriedly to finish his final revolution around her until they were once again standing face-to-face. His expression lacked the minutest sign of amusement when he spoke again.

"Those weren't instances of goodness, Mrs. Turner," he scoffed. "They were moments of stupidity. And I don't plan on wastin' any more of my time on such endeavors."

He broke away from her, returning to the starboard railing. Elizabeth was stunned. Even when he'd registered the click of the manacles around his wrists just before she left him to die, Jack had a smile on his face. Perhaps the only other moment she had seen him so thoroughly undone was on that damned island when he revealed that his great escape from marooning amounted to a rum-soaked three-day vacation.

No, this wasn't Jack at all. This was a frustrated man saying things he did not mean. He would soon be Jack again. This was a fleeting slip in character.

Elizabeth cautiously approached him. She rested a wary hand on the banister, inches from his own, and found her voice.

"Being a good man does not always result in misfortune," she said.

His eyes found hers and she saw that the smile was back, but it was full of malice.

"No? How about one last example, then?" he said dangerously.

He could not completely circle her, as she was leaning against the edge of the ship, but he nevertheless began a slow semicircle, holding up four fingers.

"A young man, a new husband, fights to free his dear father from Davy Jones. In return, he winds up bound to the Flying Dutchman, ripped from his young wife, and doomed to sail the seas ushering the dead to the next world."

As he spoke the last few words he reached the end of his semi-circle, stopping directly behind Elizabeth. She had remained ramrod straight as he moved. She would not cry. She would not react at all, despite feeling as though she'd just been knocked to the ground.

She was facing away from him, but she felt him lean in. His breath disturbed the short hair by her left ear as he spoke.

"Bein' a good man gets you nothin', Lizzie. It's bein' a pirate that gets you the spoils."

Elizabeth could no longer remain impassive. He was lying! He was putting on a front because he did not want her to be right, but she knew that he was a good man. It was in his nature to do the right thing when confronted with an important decision, even though he might occasionally fight that instinct.

"On the Pearl, I gave you the chance—" she blurted out, before stopping herself. She closed her eyes, knowing that he could not see her face, and composed herself before continuing.

"I told you that you were too good a man to compromise my honor," she said.

She paused, and she knew that he was remembering that moment—how close their lips came to touching; the way his hand danced an inch from her hair, almost burying his fingers in her tresses to pull nearer still and close that infinitesimal gap.

"And you pulled away," she said proudly, unable to stop the slight smile that tugged at the corners of her lips. He was a good man.

Jack's low chuckle surprised her, and she finally spun around to face him. His entire face was the picture of mirth. He looked like she'd just told him a particularly funny joke.

At her questioning stare, he leaned close, as if he was about to let her in on the punch line.

"I'll have you know tha' I was perfectly prepared to compromise the hell out of your honor," he assured her. "It just so happened that the damned Black Spot returned to eat away at my palm at the very same moment, and the sight of it didn't exactly put me in the mood. That's why I pulled back."

If it was possible, his smile grew even wider at the sight of her surprise.

"But by all means, luv, if you choose to believe tha' I would have turned away out of some long buried sense of propriety, I won't stop you," he added, spreading his arms wide.

Elizabeth could not respond. She'd just had the rug pulled out from under her. She based so much on the fact that he'd resisted her advances that day. It was the evidence she needed to justify her believing in him. Her belief was shaken when she saw him rowing away on the Kraken, but then he'd come back.

Yes, he came back, she said to herself.

He could say that he wouldn't have pulled away had it not been for the Black Spot. He could deny that he would have stayed on the Pearl had she not chained him to the mast. But he could not deny that he rowed back to the Pearl when safety was only a few strokes away. No matter how much he tried to deny it, he was a good man.

She had no idea why it was so important to her to confirm this. Maybe it was just that with Will gone and her father dead, she needed the one last familiar face in her world to be someone whom she could trust.

"I don't believe you," she said weakly, knowing that her words sounded desperate.

"Oh really? Well then tell me, Mrs. Turner, since you're so eager to uncover the truth, what do I 'ave to do to convince you?" Jack asked.

He did not give her a chance to reply, which was fine because Elizabeth could not think of anything to say. His eyes lit up and she could tell that some wicked thought had just entered his brain.

Suddenly his hands were on her shoulders and her back was pressed roughly against the railing.

"Jack!" she gasped.

For half a second she considered the possibility that he was going to push her overboard. She dug in her heels and her hands shot up to push against Jack's chest. Jack laughed quietly and his hands slipped from her shoulders to her wrists, forcing her arms back down to her sides.

"I'm a pirate, Lizzie," he said matter-of-factly. "And you know our motto."

She gasped again as he moved impossibly closer, one of his boots sliding between her own so that their legs were intertwined.

"Take what you can," he whispered.

He released her wrists, but their bodies were so close that Elizabeth was unable to bring her palms up between them to push him away. His hands found a new home, one splayed across her shoulder blades and the other gently gripping the base of her neck.

He inched his face forward until his lips were so close that she felt their phantom pressure on her own.

"Give nothin' back," he finished.

Some part of her knew that it was coming, but she was entirely unprepared for the sensation of his lips on hers. She struggled to push him away, but her hands could reach nothing except for the tails of his jacket. With the hand on the back of her neck holding her lips firmly against his, she could do nothing but close her eyes and wait for him to release her.

It was no gentle kiss. Jack was trying prove a point; that he would not hesitate to take what he wanted, when he wanted it, regardless of the consequences.

His soft lips moved rhythmically against her own, while his beard scraped lightly against her face. She remembered the contrasting sensations from their last kiss. What she did not remember was the feeling of him teasing her lower lip with his teeth, largely because he hadn't done it the last time. Suddenly, he bit down, and she let out an involuntary yelp. Before the sound could escape, however, his lips were back on hers and his tongue invaded her mouth. She gasped at the intrusion and he took further advantage, deepening the kiss to a point that surpassed anything she had ever experienced. He was devouring her.

Elizabeth's stomach was a taut web of knots, her heart pounding a relentless staccato rhythm that reverberated throughout her entire body.

A loud shattering sound filled her ears, and she and Jack both drew apart instantaneously, whipping their heads around to locate its source.

"Sorry! Don't worry—I mean, I didn't see—That is to say—Carry on!"

It was Trevor. Elizabeth's eyes grew wide as she registered the sight before her. Trevor scrambled backward until his back hit the railing on the port side of the stern, his mouth falling open and slamming shut like a dying fish. She noticed that at his feet was a gleaming puddle peppered with shards of glass. The young man must have taken to the decks for a bit more to drink and upon seeing Captain Jack Sparrow lip locked with a teenaged boy, dropped his bottle in shock.

Before either of them could attempt to explain, Trevor was stumbling back from whence he came, looking every bit as terrified as if he'd seen the Kraken itself. Trevor disappeared, leaving Jack and Elizabeth alone once more.

Elizabeth was still staring after Trevor, her heart racing as quickly as her mind, when she heard Jack speak.

"Well, I 'ave to say, this kiss ended only slightly better than our last one."

She felt her face screw up into a mask of confusion, not only at what he said, but also at the perfectly calm and casual manner in which he said it. She was too bewildered to do anything but gape at him. Upon seeing her perplexity, Jack continued.

"Tha' was one part of my legend tha' I wasn't particularly keen on encouragin'," he explained.

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End Notes: Holy Moses, that was a long chapter!

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