Elizabeth clutched her sword, dragging it silently behind her. No sense in wasting any strength in picking it up now. She turned down the long corridor leading into the foyer. The few servants still in the house were probably in their own quarters now.

Another thud caught her attention, almost right above her. She gulped at going up the staircase, so wide. It would be like going up the stairs naked, exposed to an attack from any direction. She drove her back into the wall, keeping her sword crossed in front of her. It was a dizzying feeling, her eyes adjusting to the dark at the same time as darting to and fro, trying to make out a form that might possess a pistol or one of the metal trinkets scattered about the house that could easily be reinvented to bludgeon her to death.

Hush now, she scolded herself. You're Elizabeth Swann, a survivor, a warrior woman, not unlike an Amazon with your sword and element of surprise on your side.

A light flickered from the room straight across from her at the top of the stairs: the library. Of course! Any thief knew to not waste time clanking silver from the dining room or sifting through noisy jewelry in a lady's bedroom. Her father's locked chest lay under the desk in that room, full of money, money of different lands to fund the privateers. Anyone could start a new life in Holland as easily as Portugal with the vast amounts of paper society decided to place value on in that chest.

She brought the sword up with both hands. Form wouldn't be so important if she could surprise the intruder. Her noiseless slippers crossed from the tiled hall to the plush rug that spanned the entire library, the skirt of her nightgown just short enough to not trip her. Her vision improved with each step she took. Soon she would be able to see…


The bent-over figure jumped at the sound and leapt up with a pistol ready.

"Ah, just you then, Lizzie, or is it still Miss Swann?"

"What, what are you doing here?"

He side-stepped the open chest, the locks broken. "Enterprising, love. When one goes as long without funds as I have, it comes to be known as a desperate time calling for a desperate measure."

"House breaking?" she scoffed, still stunned at the fact that Captain…HE…was in her house of all places. "Rather stupid of you to return to Port Royal."

"It is a smart man what does stupid things every now and then that makes them smart things, since all the other smart men venture to say no smart man would do something stupid." He turned and went back to gathering the bills into his long coat.

"Those things are my father's possessions, Jack." She dipped the sword down and pointed the blade right at his chin. "Old friend or not, you can't expect me to let you go about your business."

Jack stood, a smirk on his face. She never liked how he looked her up and down, always pausing at just below her eyes.

"Last I saw you, you struggled to maneuver a staff. Put that away, Lizzie, unless you want to make a fool of yourself." With that, he drew his own sword, grinding it against her own.

"I'm a little more layered than you remember." She twisted her sword free of his and brought it up to the level of his collarbone. It was always this moment of the fight her heart raced the most, to wait for the first move or to make it herself. She parried with the full intent of disarming him. He blocked, but she noted the surprise in those lined eyes.

"I do so like removing layers from you," he said with a grin and performed the same move on her. She spun to gain more control of the fight. It was a bit like dancing; if one took the lead, the other would have to follow until there was enough opportunity to change the direction. The lantern provided just enough light to reflect the metallic weapons in front of her face.

"Quite admirable of you to cross me," Jack said, distracting with just enough time to take the lead. "You might have known you'd be on the top of my hit list for burnin' me rum."

"For the best," she grunted, pushing on the shelf of books to throw herself back into the fight. Was no one hearing this? Was no one rushing to help her? Lazy maids probably took off to the bars.

Jack came closer, his style shorter than Will's, but effective when fighting one who was still a novice.

"Poor skill, Jack," she taunted, disguising the breathlessness she already felt. Someone at one time told her there would be no time limit if she faced a true adversary, but all the events of the past rushed out of her mind. "It's no good getting that close to your opponent."

"That's the corset talking, got you all wrapped up in it still." He bit his lip and tried to twist over to the side. "Well, I've had about enough."

With his empty hand, he gripped the wheeled ladder leading to the top shelves and gave a swift pull to it. It glided on its way right between them, pushing her with enough force to disarm her.

Still recovering from the sound of her sword crashing to the ground, she snapped her head back up to feel cold metal up against her jaw.

"How'd you learn all that?" he asked. "Because you were pretty good."

"Will." Her eyes still were on the pistol, its barrel tracing her jawbone.

"Ah. So young Mr. Turner saw fit that his lady knew to handle a sword." The grin on his face, the self-amused demeanor he nearly always had made her shudder at what would have been a perfectly clean statement under other circumstances.

"You would really kill me for saving our lives?"

"Had you explained it was for saving our lives, ye could have saved the rum and not used it all on me."

There was something she dared to call playful about the way he held the gun to her, much like before when…

"What are you doing back?"

"Truth be told, love, it's just a way of dodging ol' Norrington until he gives up the search." His weight shifted, a gentler smile replacing his smirk. Yet that pistol remained. "But as I was short on funds and I don't fancy me crew knowin' that knowledge, I came to where I knew I could get in."

"Presumptuous…" But he bore the barrel of the pistol deeper into her.

"If Pintel and Ragetti could break into this house, it's bloody certain I could." There was a pause in his voice while he continued to look her up and down, leaving her with that naked feeling she felt the last time he had done it. She saw the pistol edge away from her face and back, hidden away somewhere beneath his coat. "It's no offense to you, though," he said quickly, taking a step back from her. "A little more practice and you could have driven me off." He looked at the floor and nodded his head, as if he were counting the inches that separated them.

"Well now you have what you want, be gone, before I…" she trailed off. Before you make a run for the fort, stupid?

His eyebrows rose at the begun statement, like a fox's ears perk up to fresh meat.

"Before what?" He edged closer again. She had never seen anyone lose or gain confidence so quickly. But she could play back.
"I've gotten the better of you before, Captain Sparrow, and to paraphrase you, it's bloody certain I could do it again."

Something faded from his face, that way his eyes seemed to snarl when he swaggered over to something, someone, he thought he could manipulate. His mouth tightened. He was so close she could feel an escape of breath on her face. She felt his legs against her nightgown.

"You don't always have to fool me, you know," he whispered, his bottom lip quivering for a split second. "Sometimes some simple persuasion does the trick." He bent his head down, his forehead bumping against her temple. Her heart pounded harder than it did in the middle of any sparring she'd ever done. Not waiting for her to say anything back, he brushed his face along her cheek, letting her feel his unmoving lips.

Elizabeth let her head go back into the books on the shelf, closing her eyes. It was too easy to moan at the sensation of his mouth moving down her neck. She shivered, feeling his lips part, finally giving her exposed neck kisses she could never tell anyone about, much like how his hands had taken her wrists and held her in place. But none of it was forced, none of it harsh.

"You could come with me."

Her eyes snapped open. To look at him to make sure she didn't imagine those last words, she would have to tear her skin away from him.

"So that's a no."

She met his gaze. Yes, yes, he had spoken those words. How could he even speak when her throat felt so dry?

"Jack, you don't want me to c…" But his lips went right back to her neck. His fingertips flew up to fondle it.

"Course I know not every strong woman's a sailor, but if ye wanted, I could just drop ye off anywhere ye wanted to go, anywhere in the world. But if ye know your way around a ship…"

Back on the Pearl…with him…Elizabeth held her breath at such a thought. Her eyes searched him, waiting for the joke or the catch.

"Kiss me, Lizzie," he whispered, almost a gasp. She had no idea he could be any closer to her than what he was. What was this she felt below her stomach and above her legs? His hips against her own—she knew what was pressing against her, although she didn't know anything beyond that.

"Jack, Jack, I can't." The day's events crept back into her brain, circling around until they whirled past her. "I'm engaged," she sputtered, fighting for breath.

He released her and backed away. The room was so cold without him right there, looming over her, nearly melting into her. She wondered if that's what it would have felt like.

"Then I'll just be takin' me earnings then," he said without feeling and pocketed one more handful of money from the chest. It was too dark to see his face now.

"It's not as though it's not tempting," she began.

"Tempting. You'll be the death of me, woman," he muttered. "I'll just go back the way I came." He picked up the lantern, and without facing her, went for the window behind the desk. It would be hard to fool herself into thinking the room was cold now thanks to the fact that window had been open the entire time. He lifted a leg over and his form was gone, leaving her in the darkness.

"Jack!" She reached for a candle and raced to the window. He could have stood on the ledge and jumped from there, but he was already out of sight.

Bringing her fingertips up to her neck, she licked her lips.

"How long are we going to continue not talking?"

Will's familiar voice brought Elizabeth out of herself. She had been staring into the sea and the horizon again, like she did almost every night of this endless voyage. As soon as they rescued Jack, she would know. She would be able to put labels on what she was feeling in regards to these two men. She could see them both in the same setting and know for a fact which one she, she, she… Loved was not the right word, was it? No, you felt lust with Jack. There was nothing more to that. If you go with him, you'll always regret leaving Will off on his own. Will has been true to you, sacrificed for you, and has every marking of a good husband. But you'll always regret what could have been. She didn't even have the strength to shake her head at her indecision. Would she be condemned to love both of them to the point where she could never be happy with whatever she decided? To kiss one and imagine the other for all time seemed too much to bear. No. No, just wait.

"Once we rescue Jack everything will be fine."

A/N: Please review after reading. It's like when you come up to a stop sign when no one is around. Do you still stop? Integrity people...