Lieutenant André Gillette shook his head with a sad smile as he talked to Ensign Drake about Commodore James Norrington's peculiar fiancé. Elizabeth Swann was utterly ridiculous in general, with strange fantasies about pirates running around in her head and other odd beliefs. But André's last encounter with her proved her either mad or a practical joker.

"And she expected you to believe that the pirates in the cave were cursed?" Drake exclaimed.

"Cursed and can't be killed," André corrected with a grin.

"The Commodore probably wouldn't be marrying her if she wasn't the Governor's daughter."

André's humor changed immediately. "He isn't that shallow," he snapped. "He's in love with her, as mad as she may be," André added bitterly.

James was a very touchy subject when it came to André. Lieutenant Groves had learned long ago that insulting James in any way would generally earn at least a harsh response and at most a broken nose. Discussing James' fiancé was certainly not helping André's mood.

After all, he was in love with the man.

André tried not to hate Miss Swann because of her engagement to James. He wanted James to be happy, and if he loved Miss Swann and would be happy with her, than great.

But André knew that James could not be truly happy with her, because he could tell that Miss Swann did not love James the same way he loved her. Seeing dear James get into such a marriage with almost as painful as the rejection André had received.

Oh, yes, André had been rejected. One night he drank too much and said too much, and James realized how André felt about him. Instead of the fairy tale ending André had always hoped for, James firmly told him about his love for Miss Swann, crushing all of André's dreams. To make it worse, their friendship had grown rather cold and awkward since that night.

But André was determined to remain James' loyal friend. He said nothing negative about James' fiancé (in his presence, at least) and attempted to be the best officer possible. He never behaved as though uncomfortable in James' presence, but when alone with him he was always torn between to leaving the room and muttering apologies to James or taking him over the desk. Obviously he never did either, but he did have the tendency to blush when thoughts of the latter surfaced.

"What did you tell her?"

André blinked as Drake's question brought him out of his thoughts. "That Commodore Norrington already knew. A mermaid flopped onto the deck and told him the whole story," André said, grinning at his brilliance.

"Lieutenant?"

André turned around to where a crewmember of the Dauntless was looking. There was a little rowboat that seemed to have appeared from nowhere. Taking out his spyglass, André saw there seemed to be two women inside. "What the hell?" How would two women get this far out to sea? Was there a town somewhere on the Isla de Muerta that they did not know of?

One of the two suddenly began choking the other, both of them dropping their parasols in the process.

André's eyes widened in horror as he lowered the spyglass.

Instead of the women they had thought they were looking at, he and the other men surrounding him saw that the two were skeletons—and they were somehow alive. Still not believing what he was seeing, André watched as one of the skeletons picked up a pistol from the bottom of the rowboat.

Then the skeleton shot the gun, André was sure he was dead, but fortunately the pirate just barely missed and instead shot the hat from his head. Upon turning around to make sure it was just his hat, not his head, flying away, André saw more skeletons approaching them.

Momentarily frozen with fear, André watched the skeletal pirates coming at them, weapons drawn and already covered blood, most likely of some of his comrades aboard the Dauntless.

But he had to overcome his fright quickly as he drew is pistol and shot at one of the pirates, forcing him back, but the skeleton appeared unharmed. André drew his sword and desperately fought the pirates—pirates that seemed to be unable to die.

My God, Miss Swann was right!

The battle was a blur to André. He gave up fighting to win all too quickly. How does one win a fight when no one on the other side can die? He began to merely fight for survival, although he doubted he would last long. André saw Ensign Drake killed right in front of him by a pirate who stabbed him repeatedly, and witnessed the deaths of many others of the Dauntless' crew.

Ding, ding…ding, ding…

The bell. Someone was ringing the bell and calling for help. At first, he felt hope…but then he remembered that the call would bring James into the battle.

James was an honorable man and fighter—he would throw himself into the fray, no matter how unlikely victory was.

Please, James, don't get yourself killed…it's hopeless, don't come…

When André risked a glance out to where he knew James and soldiers were waiting to ambush the pirates and was dismayed to see them approaching. His chest tightened with fear as the skeletal pirates began using the Dauntless' cannons. The first shot was so dangerously close to the jollyboat James was in.

Oh, God, protect him! Take my life if you must, but spare his!

André gasped as he felt the cold metal of a blade pierce his shoulder.

O O O

Horror shot through James as he saw that the Dauntless was under attack. "Make for the ship! Move!"

Damn, I should be there!

Hopefully the people onboard were strong enough to hold the pirates off long enough for them to arrive. But suddenly a cannonball nearly struck the boat James was in, and he realized that the battle was most certainly not going well.

And his fiancé was aboard.

He swallowed hard as he thought of Elizabeth…she was probably dead. No, no, she could not be, he had ordered André to lock her in his cabin and make sure it was guarded.

But André…he was likely in the middle of that terrible battle he was watching being lost. If the battle was going as badly as it appeared…

God, protect André!

James did not even realize that he was pleading only for André's life to be spared, not even his fiancé's, as he climbed up the side of the Dauntless and entered the battle.

O O O

The curse had been lifted, and they had won. The pirates were prisoners in the brig—and now the tally of the dead needed to be taken

Elizabeth was nowhere to be found, dead or alive. According to Governor Swann, his daughter had escaped out the window of the cabin before the battle began. Hopefully she was all right.

André was another matter. James wandered the ship, panic beginning to cloud his mind. Everyone still able to walk, or just limp, had already approached him to let him know that they were alive, and often to inform him of the deaths of their close colleagues.

And still no word about Lieutenant Gillette.

André was James' closest friend and most loyal officer. But James had not treated him as such of late. Ever since the drunken remark that revealed André's love for him, James had been colder than was usual toward him.

And now…

I'm so blind…

He had been hiding from the feelings he wished he did not have. And now the last thing André may have known of James was his being distant from him.

James wandered up toward the helm, where a few people were helping move the dead. His eyes swept sadly over the bodies, and he wished that he had been here from the start, to help fight. Perhaps more would be alive.

Or more would be dead.

James inhaled sharply as a flash of red hair caught his eyes. A man was lying motionless near the wheel, his uniform covered in blood and his wig beside his head.

"Oh, my God," James gasped as he rushed over and knelt by him. "André?" He brushed some of André's hair from his face with a trembling hand. James swallowed hard as he repeated, "André?"

And again there was no response.

James gently took the man in his arms and cradled him against his chest, not caring about the blood seeping into his uniform from André's body. "André, I'm so sorry," he said into André's auburn hair as tears began to fall down his cheeks. "I'm so sorry."

"For what?"

James did not dare believe his ears—but he was certain he had just heard André's voice. "André?"

"Yes, sir," came the weak reply, accompanied by a pained cough. "Sir…"

"Shh," James said quietly, stroking the side of André's face. "I'm sorry for my behavior."

"I understand why…"

"What part of 'shh' do you not understand, Lieutenant?" James said with a small smile, pressing his lips to André's forehead. "I'm so glad you alive, André."

"I'm glad you're alive too, James," he replied, once again ignoring James' order not to say anything. "Should have listened to the mermaid," he muttered. André's breathing was becoming increasingly ragged and uneven, and James suddenly feared again for his life.

"I need some help over here," he said, turning to look at the men working behind him. "Bandages, alcohol!"

"James…"

"You're going to be fine, André," James whispered as he began carefully removing André's coat so he could better get to his wound.

"James."

James looked up into André's chocolate brown eyes at the weak, yet commanding voice, his heart pounding.

And suddenly the light in them was gone, and his body was limp.

"André!" James gasped, shaking his head. "No! Come back, André!" he said shakily as he held a hand over André's nose and mouth, waiting to feel the man in his arms breathing. "No!"

André did not respond for the hour that James knelt there, holding him and whispering in his ear, asking for him to come back.

Should have listened to the mermaid…