Well, here it is, the very last chapter of this epic saga. This is really the hopeless romantic in me raging out of control. Hey, I am a hopeless romantic and I am proud of it!!! Still, every romantic needs some help. This chapter was inspired by three different sources. The brilliant playwright William Shakespeare's plat Romeo and Juliet, the brilliant novel Emma by Jane Austen and Ever, Ever After, a song from the Enchanted soundtrack. I sure hope that everyone enjoys this last chapter.

Chapter 36: Ever, Ever After (Epilogue)

Every so often, dreams come true. Of course, dreams are coming true every day, however, most of the time they come true in ways that might not at first have been foreseen. And those unexpected changes can sometimes make the original dreams all the sweeter. But every so often, dreams that seemed utterly impossible can come true in exactly the way they were first envisioned.

Emma Swann had often thought her own dreams were far too impossible to ever come true, and yet, over the past few weeks, she had begun to think that maybe God had been hearing her prayers.

It had been little less than a month since the Dauntlesshad returned, beaten and disgraced, to Port Royal. In that time, many things had happened. The most important was that Commodore Norrington had stripped Lieutenant Henry Gillette of his rank and the now former Lieutenant had left Port Royal, though his destination was unknown. The Commodore himself had hardly been seen. He refused to see anybody and deflected any questions that might have been raised.

Rumors were beginning to circulate around Port Royal of what exactly had happened on this ill-fated trip. Some placed the blame on the Commodore and said that he had punished Gillette to save face for himself. Others said just the opposite, though they came up with even more outrageous stories as to what had happened. All claimed that they alone held the true story, but in truth, it was only ever hearsay and gossip. Such is man's habit to hearken after failure, that it would believe anything.

Only a few knew the truth of what had happened. Emma herself was among them, even though she had only heard through her father. Against James Norrington's direct orders, Gillette had ordered the Dauntless into a hurricane while they had been pursuing the Black Pearl. By the time that James had been alerted to the impending disaster, it had been too late to turn back. As a direct result of this, the Dauntless had been damaged beyond repair and nearly half of the crew had been killed. James was in no way to blame for what had happened. And yet, he was acting in a way that made Emma think he was torturing himself too much. Little could she have guessed that something very different was occupying his thoughts, something that had to do with her.

One August morning, two weeks after the Dauntlesshad returned, she found herself reading the garden. She had been expecting no visitors and hencely, no interruptions. However, she was surprised when she saw James coming toward her through the gardens. She had to restrain herself from allowing her hands to tremble, but not even she could stop her heart from hammering. Ever since he had released Elizabeth from their engagement, she had allowed herself to hope as she had never hoped before that she might have a chance. Before he had left on his voyage, he had said that things which were then unspoken and unresolved between them would be discussed when he returned. But she had understood that somethings had had to take precedence on his return.

Getting up, she went to meet him. "Good afternoon, Emma." He said, and was it her imagination that he was addressing her ever so differently than he once had? "I hope that I am not interrupting your solitary reverie?"

"No, you are not. Any visit from you is hardly an interruption. I was just catching up on some reading. The past few months have not really been conducive to such an activity."

"I can imagine not. What were you reading just now?" he asked, as they began promenading around the many paths that criss-crossed the garden.

"Shakespeare, actually. Romeo and Juliet. I can't imagine how many times I have read it, but every time I do, there is always something new which I notice which I have never thought of before."

James softly smiled, as he began to recite, "'Can I go forward when my heart is here? Turn back dull earth, and find thy center out.'"

Emma, despite her conflicting feelings in such a moment as this, couldn't help but smile, "'O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name, or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love and I'll no longer be a Capulet.'"

"'I am no pilot; yet wert thou as far as that vast shore washed by the farthest sea, I would adventure for such merchandise.'"

Emma could have continued, but she found herself blushing. She couldn't help but see an allusion to herself in those words. And something in the way he said and the way he looked made her wonder if it was really just an idle recital of Shakespeare's famous words of love. "You are familiar with the play I see?"

"Yes. His mastery of the human language in the matter of love is unsurpassed."

"It is also his only tragedy where the flaw is not in his main characters, but rather in the situation that surrounds them." Said Emma.

"Unless one could say that their own love brought about their overthrow. Perhaps they did not know when to stop."

"But, we still cannot condemn them, can we?"

James looked at her intensely for a moment and then murmured, "It is hard to condemn any who love so deeply."

Emma did not reply. She did not know is she could trust her voice when James looked at her in that manner. She finally managed to say, "I'm glad to see you James. Ever since the Dauntless returned, I have been worried about you."

"Nothing can change what happened." Said James, "Though perhaps, in hindsight, it might have been a blessing in disguise in some ways."

"What do you mean?"

He grew strangely silent. They had stopped in front of the fountain that stood at the center of the garden. Bees droned lazily from flower to flower. The roses were particularly lovely at this time of year, deep reds and sunny yellows, their scent stirring the still summer air, which was now very still indeed. Emma waited for him to speak, unsure if what she had said had been received.

When James spoke, it was hesitant, as if considering each word very carefully before he spoke it. "Emma, when the hurricane was at its height, I thought for sure that I was going to die. I have never been afraid of death. It is something that I have had to accept when I accepted this service. But, I tell you, Emma, that in the hurricane, I was afraid. I was begging God every second that he would give me one last chance at life, one last chance to-to say what I had to long left unsaid."

He glanced at her, as if expecting her to complete the thought. But Emma had turned away from him; she couldn't believe what she was hearing. She couldn't look him in the eye, lest he should see just how strongly his words were affecting him.

"You do not wish, than, to know what that is?" observed James, honestly surprised, "I would have thought that your curiosity would be peaked enough to ask. No, Emma, sometimes there is a place to ask questions, and this time, I must answer the question you are afraid to ask, though I might very well wish it unspoken the next moment."

"Than do not speak it, for heaven's sake, please." Cried Emma, turning at last to face him, "James, if there is any doubt in your mind as to what you want to say, than don't say it. Take time to consider before committing yourself to any action you might regret later on." She saw James step back, as if he had been physically stung by her words. She hadn't meant to pain him, and after a moment of silence, she said, "I-I stopped you too quickly. Please, say what you have to say and I will hear you as a friend."

"As a friend?" James repeated, "Emma, can you not see that is not my-" he stopped himself, and closed his eyes, as if he were trying to hold in some great emotion. "No, I have gone too far for concealment. Very well, Emma. I know that you will not only hear me honestly, but answer me honestly. That is always how we have talked you and I." he gathered his courage and prepared to put his future completely in the hands of the woman before him. "My dearest Emma, for dearest you shall always be, tell me and tell me truly, do I not have any chance? Can you forgive a man who was so blind that he couldn't see what was in front of him for so long? Now, that he has realized the truth, though, he will never let it out his sight for as long as he lives."

Emma's heart had seemed to stop beating, and yet, it was hammering so loud, she could hear it in her ears. Was she just dreaming? Would she wake in a moment and find that she was still alone? Of had this little garden suddenly been turned into a corner of paradise and she herself had at last been found?

James continued, "When I was onboard the Dauntless, Emma, I realized that if I never saw you again, than that would be the worst part of dying. I thought that if I just had the opportunity to see you once more, then I would be able to ask you what I should have asked you a long time ago. It was only in the face of death that I realized the truth and that was why I was afraid." It seemed as though he wanted to continue, but after a few seconds of trying to find words that would express the depths of his feelings, he knew that he did have the genius of Shakespeare. He could only speak to her plainly, as he had always done before. "I can't make speeches, Emma. If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more, but you know how I am. You know that I have never spoken anything but truth to you. Yes, you understand me, and you will answer me in the way that you know is best for you and for your future happiness."

Emma was not normally one to allow her emotions to overtake her, but when she heard these words, the emotions that she had striven to keep hidden for so long could no longer be contained. Tears of grateful joy began flowing down her face and she made no attempt to stop or hide them. She could barely think, so any effort to form words into any kind of response proved to be rather difficult. In fact, the simple act of standing proved to be hard enough for her to accomplish. She found herself sitting on the side of the fountain without any knowledge of how she had gotten there, and James was kneeling before her, looking up into her face, his eyes filled with concern, passion and… love. Yes, she could see it quite clearly, he loved her. This wasn't a dream, this was happening, this was real.

"Well, Emma," he said, awkwardly, at last, "Do you have anything to say?"

Emma began to laugh through her tears, the laughter of relief and pure joy. "James, do you have idea how I have dreamed for this moment, how often I have wished for it? Now that it is here, I have nothing to say beyond that I love you. I have loved you for many years, and I will not stop loving you. If this is a dream, then I will never want to wake up."

James Norrington, for the first time in a long while, smiled. "Emma, on this day, at this moment, I kneel before you as a man completely, devotedly in love. And I would feel richer than a king, if you, Emma Swann, would be my wife."

What more needs to be said? She answered as any woman in her position, who had suffered and experienced so much, would answer. After all, sometimes, dreams can be real. Sometimes, our own ever, ever after is only one wish away.

Well, how was that for hopeless romanticism? I just couldn't resist adding this chapter, though it does sort of set the stage for what I am planning to do with DMC. I should warn everyone that the next two movie will be AU in places, though the basic storyline will be the same. I don't want to give too much away, but I think you might have gotten a clue in this chapter. James is going to be playing a much bigger role in the story than he does in the original movie and (I know this will make a lot of people extremely happy), James is not going to die. However, how he manages to keep from dying and how everything else will play out with Jack and Marie, Will and Elizabeth and James and Emma, I will not say. I can only promise that there will be a lot of romance, action, sword-fighting, betrayal, forgiveness, reckless acts of reckless bravery, a little bit of tragedy and a lot of humor to go around. But than, it wouldn't be a Pirates fic if it didn't have at least some of those things.

So for now, we close this part of the adventure and look for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest to be up soon.

And finally, thanks to all who have read, reviewed, or favorited this story. You know who you are. You have made my first foray into the dangerous waters of fanfictiondom a great and rewarding success. May the wind always be at your back and may the seas always be fair for you (I know, cheesy and corny. I just couldn't resist letting the pirate in me have some say).

And always, read and review.