James gasped for breath. He now firmly held the belief that goddesses never ran out of energy. He glanced out the window and laughed as he trialed his fingers along the smooth skin on Jacqueline's bare back. "The sunrise," he said. "My God, we've been at it all night."
Jacqueline giggled, moving a hand gently in little circles on James' chest. "'My goddess,' remember?"
James chuckled quietly. "Yes," he breathed with a content sigh.
Jacqueline kissed him gently. "Tired?"
"Liar." Jacqueline laughed, and James wondered how on earth (or in heavens?) she could still have so much energy and be so fully awake after that night. He himself was quite surprised that he was still conscious. "I know you're tired. You need sleep." James pulled Jacqueline in for another passionate kiss, smiling against her lips. Giggling, Jacqueline pulled away. "You know I mean actual sleep." She stroked his cheek. "Sleep," she whispered, kissing him lightly. "Sleep, my love." James felt his eyelids growing heavier, almost as though her words were putting some sort of spell on him. He smiled slightly as he thought that perhaps her words were a spell. "Sleep, James." He felt a drop of liquid on his face. Struggling to open his eyes, he saw tear streaks on Jacqueline's face.
"Jacqueline?" he asked with great concern. "What's wrong?"
"Shh…" She kissed him again. "I'm sorry." James tried to ask what she was sorry for, but he drifted into unconsciousness before he had the chance.
O O O
James' eyes opened as he heard a knock. He groaned. "That'd better not be Gillette…" he muttered as he struggled to sit up, feeling extremely drowsy. The person knocked again. "Admiral Norrington, sir?" he heard the voice of his butler say.
James sighed heavily. "What is it?"
"Are you just waking, sir?"
James looked outside and was shocked to see that it had to be at least midday. He never slept in this late. He swung his legs over the side of his bed, reaching down and picking up a shirt from the floor. "Yes, it seems that I am."
"I understand. Do you want help, sir?"
"I'm fine," James answered quickly.
"Mrs. Turner is here to see you, sir. Shall I have her return later or wait?"
What was Elizabeth doing here? Oh, she's bringing John, of course. How could I forget? "I'll be down in a few minutes. Ask her to wait, please."
The events of the previous day and night suddenly flooded James' mind. Jacqueline had met him there, on the beach, accepted his proposal, they had married, and… James turned around, but there was no one else in bed with him. It had most certainly not all been a dream, though. As proof, there was the indentation of another body, not to mention the intensity of the memories James had. Where had Jacqueline gone?
There was a rolled up piece of parchment on the pillow beside his. He reached out and untied it, beginning to feel rather anxious as he remembered Jacqueline apologizing to him just before he had fallen asleep. Much of the letter was scratched out, as though the writer could not decide what to say. There were also some parts that were blurred by tears.
I am no good at writing letters, especially…well, you can tell I'm no good at this, judging by how often I have crossed off what I have written. I'm sorry. I am trying.
I am so sorry, James. One night of happiness (sheer bliss is more like it) cannot be worth the pain that you are feeling—that you will be feeling, at least, once you realize that I am gone. I did warn you of what marrying me, the goddess of freedom, would mean. I do not know when I will return, but I promise to come back to you as soon as I can, whenever I can.
By all rights you should hate me, James Norrington. Perhaps after reading this you will. Then again, I was certain that you would after I broke your heart, after I lied to you, after I manipulated you, after you discovered who I was…yet you still cared about me. And no matter how hard I tried not to have a heart, you made me fall in love with you. Twice.
Perhaps I should tell you why I know where you had died and who had killed you…I have kept that secret long enough. It was mostly intuition, but it was also because I was the one who brought you back.
Not exactly me, to be honest, but my power. But not my…well, this is complicated. That kiss on the cheek, that night you first proposed to me—do you remember that? That permanently bonded me to you, because I loved you, even then. That bond gave you a second chance at life, as well as kept one of my own bonds from being a burden. I had to reveal my love for seven others, and then give my heart to one—you know how the rest goes.
I love you, James. Never forget that. I will return as soon as I can.
James held the letter to his chest, closing his eyes and listening to the beating of the hearts inside him. So she was already gone. One night. That's all the time she had had to be with him.
Remembering that Elizabeth was downstairs waiting for him, James got out of bed and began to dress. He tried to keep Jacqueline from his mind. He did not want to appear distressed or saddened in Elizabeth's presence. If he did, she may insist that he move back in with her. James put the letter from Jacqueline inside his coat, near his heart.
James entered the parlor, where Elizabeth was sipping a cup of tea. John was seated next to her on the divan, his legs swinging, for his feet did not reach the ground. He gazed around with a vague smile on his face as he took in part of what was to be his new home. Jack the Monkey climbed about on the back of the divan and being watched suspiciously by Elizabeth.
"Elizabeth," James greeted, taking her hand and kissing it gently.
"Hello, James." Elizabeth scanned him, apparently trying to see how he handled his first night "alone." "Are you all right? You look tired."
James could not help but smile softly, his mind traveling back to the events of the previous night. "I'm all right. I Just did not get much rest last night."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Elizabeth said.
I'm not, James thought, almost unable to hold back a grin.
"John has been so excited to see your manor."
John nodded as he looked around. "Is mother here? I miss her."
James flushed slightly. How was he going to inform John about Jacqueline? Looking at Elizabeth, James suddenly wondered how he would tell anyone about him and Jacqueline being married, but that she was not here, and rarely would be. It was much less than conventional for the wife to be mysteriously absent most of the time. Perhaps he should keep it to himself. "No. She's not here." He glanced at Elizabeth. He could trust her with the information, surely—she knew of Jacqueline's true identity. "But she will be." Looking back to John, he said, "Do you want to see the room we've made for you?"
The boy nodded and jumped to the ground. Elizabeth followed, eyeing the monkey distrustfully as they left it behind and James quickly showed John around the room. John began bouncing on the bed mere moments later, and then promptly fell asleep. James turned to Elizabeth inquisitively.
"He was up all night," she explained as they left the room and quietly shut the door behind them. "He was so excited about coming here, and about seeing Jacqueline again." James quickly averted his gaze to the nearest window. "I couldn't tell him," Elizabeth said quietly. "I thought you should." When James said nothing, Elizabeth asked, "Did you mean that? When you said that she will be here?"
James nodded. "Yes."
"How do you know?"
James put a hand to his heart, where Jacqueline's letter was hidden. "She told me."
They returned to the parlor and sat down on the divan, where Jack the Monkey still sat. Elizabeth leaned forward slightly, curiosity overtaking her. "So…what happened? You two seemed happy when I last saw you."
James coughed, suddenly uncomfortable as he realized that Elizabeth had been watching him and Jacqueline on the beach. "It went…well," he said, taking a deep breath.
"How well?" James tried to keep from blushing as Elizabeth continued. "Come on, James. What happened?"
"Forgive me for being blunt, Elizabeth, but what happened last night was private."
"It was day when I left you," Elizabeth commented quietly. She suddenly flushed deeply. "Oh…I…I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry into…well, such a…such a private matter." She coughed and got to her feet. "I'm sorry."
James caught her by the hand. "Where are you going?"
"I just…I thought…I'm sorry."
James gently pulled on her hand to guide Elizabeth back down onto the divan. "Elizabeth…you don't understand."
"Oh, no, I think I do," Elizabeth said, blushing.
James' cheeks darkened, but he shook his head, taking a deep breath. "Elizabeth, we're married."
Elizabeth stared at him as though he had just proclaimed that he had decided to give up his commission to go be a pirate. James' smile faded as Elizabeth continued to gaze at him in silence. Finally, she said, "You and Jacqueline? Married?" James nodded hesitantly. "That's…that's wonderful!" Elizabeth smiled and embraced him. "I am so happy for you." James returned the hug, relieved that Elizabeth approved, though part of the approval could be because she was guilty about breaking their engagement…but that was the past.
"Where is she?" Elizabeth asked as James pulled away.
James swallowed, slowly withdrawing the letter from his coat and gazing at it through tear-filled eyes. "I don't know," he admitted.
"Oh," Elizabeth said, sounding surprised. "When is she coming back?"
James shook his head and bit his lip. "I don't know."
"Oh," Elizabeth said again, her brow furrowing. "Then how do you know…?"
"She said she would return," James interrupted firmly. "She will come back."
"She's the goddess of freedom, James," Elizabeth said gently.
"And she married me, Elizabeth," James said quietly. "Me. She did not have to marry anyone at all, and yet she chose me. She will come back." James stood, putting the letter back into this coat. "I would appreciate it if you kept my marriage to yourself. I don't want any callers wishing to meet the bride, for obvious reasons."
"James, I didn't mean to, I just…I just wanted to help prepare you in case she does not return."
But a gnawing feeling began eating at him. Jacqueline had left before, and their reunion had been by chance, not be desire. And she was Libertas, the goddess of freedom. What if she did not come back?
"She will," James Norrington repeated, listening to the hearts beating in his chest as one. "She will…"
O O O
Lord Beckett looked up at the man who had just entered his office without taking the time to knock. "Yes, come in, by all means," he said dryly. "What brings you so boisterously into my office, Captain?"
"I was not boisterous," Captain Gillette muttered. "I apologize for the intrusion, but my crew and I are becoming quite annoyed with all this secrecy." Beckett merely arched an eyebrow at this. Gillette swallowed hard before continuing. "Sir, the crew, including myself, wants to know where we are going; how long are we to be gone; our mission; something!"
Beckett smirked slightly. "You are the Captain—I suppose you do have a right to know where we are headed." He motioned to the map he was currently studying on his desk. Gillette moved to stand beside Lord Beckett as he gazed at the aged map.
"This is unlike any chart I have ever seen," he muttered. "Do these move?" he asked, pointing at one of the rings that made up the chart.
"Yes," Beckett said, pouring two glasses of wine. "Don't touch it," he ordered sharply as Gillette reached closer to it. "I have it set how I want it." He held out one of the glasses of wine to the Captain, who accepted it without looking up from the map. "That," Beckett said, pointing to a small drawing on the map, "is our destination."
Gillette frowned as he puzzled over the foreign words for a moment, causing Beckett to chuckle. "The Fountain of Youth, my friend."
Gillette looked sharply up at him. "The Fountain of Youth?" he repeated, both doubt and desire in his voice.
Beckett nodded. "You have been dead before, I believe." Gillette nodded, shifting his weight uncomfortably. "So have I." Beckett took a sip of wine. "Twice, actually," he added. "And it isn't exactly an experience I look forward to repeating."
"But this…" Gillette said, motioning to the Fountain of Youth on the map. "This will…?"
"This will keep us from ever dying again." A slow smile crept across Gillette's face. "I take it you like the sound of eternal youth and immortality."
"Who wouldn't, Lord Beckett?"
Beckett laughed quietly and nodded. "True, Captain. True," he said, taking another sip of wine.
"These charts," Gillette said, gazing at the map curiously. "Where did you get them?"
Beckett smiled slightly, fondly remembering Jacqueline, despite the fact that his attempts to marry her had been so unsuccessful. "A friend acquired them for me," he answered enigmatically.
"Should I bother to ask who the original owner was?"
Beckett grinned, shaking his head. "Of that, I have no idea. But it seems to have been passing between pirates for quite some time."
Gillette winced at this information. "So we are likely to meet up with some of them along the way."
"Quite possibly," Beckett agreed with a little nod. "But it would be a rather efficient way to be rid of some of the Empire's foes, for them to come to us for their destruction, would it not?"
Nodding, Gillette said, "I suppose I is." He coughed. "But…wasn't Jacqueline…you know…?"
Beckett frowned. "Jacqueline was a goddess, Captain. Not a pirate. She's not like them—those rascals and scoundrels…" He took another sip of wine.
"Villains and knaves, the lot of them, sir," Gillette said in agreement, also taking a drink.
Jacqueline's voice suddenly seemed to float through Beckett's mind, and he was taken back to the tavern in Singapore when they had first reunited. "They're devils, they're black sheep, they're really bad eggs…" he said quietly. He looked up at Gillette and arched an eyebrow. Gillette grinned and raised his glass.
"Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!"