48—Advice and Apologies

DISCLAIMER: Jack'n'Lizzie etc. do not belong to me. I make no money from the writing of this fan-fiction.

A/N: Sorry for not getting this up sooner—I wanted to get it written and posted this weekend, but the new semester has started and I haven't had as much time as I originally thought.

Additionally, thanks to everyone who reviewed! It is, as always, greatly appreciated.

"That was…"

"I know," Jack replied, his eyes lazy slits, his tan skin still glistening with sweat.

"Really. I mean…"

"I know," he smirked. "We've outdone ourselves, Lizzie."

She laughed softly. "I didn't think that was possible." Her voice was low and throaty, heavy with satisfaction.

"Darling, I think if you'd learned anything since your time begun here, it was that things that seem impossible are, in fact, always entirely possible."

Elizabeth laughed again. She loved the way he talked. She was more than tempted to curl up against him and sleep until supper, but she knew she couldn't. Before the sheer sight of him was able to persuade her against her better judgment, she tossed the sheets aside and rolled out of bed.

"And where do you think you're going?" he asked. Her back was to him, but she knew he had propped himself up, staring at her from across the room.

"One of us has to make an appearance on deck today," she answered, gathering her clothing from the various places they'd landed earlier that morning.

"On the contrary…" Elizabeth heard the floorboards creek slightly as he stepped out of bed, ducking the toned arms that tried to grab onto her. She heard him blow out a pouty sigh. "Now see here, Lizzie. I'm captain of this vessel and as such I make the rules. I decide who goes where and when, or more pertinently, where who stays."

"Uh-huh," she said, nodding slightly as she pulled her breeches up, fastening her belt tightly around them. "Well, as the captain's future bride-to-be, I feel that I'm immune to such rules. Moreover, if you persist in only paying attention to me and not your crew, you won't have the title of captain to hold on to, which hardly makes any of this worth it."

"Beg to differ," Jack muttered under his breath.

Catching a glimpse of the boyish sulk on his face, she grinned, pulling her blouse over her head. She let him stand there and mope as she continued to dress, carefully pulling on each boot before placing her hat atop her flowing locks and throwing her jacket on. When she was finished and noticed him still glowering at her, arms crossed, she put on a sultry grin and crossed the few feet to where he stood.

"Besides…" she said, lowering her voice to a tantalizing whisper, "you'll be wanting to save room for later." She lightly ran her fingernails down his bare chest to the thick, dark line of hair that ran towards his groin. Placing a slow, soft kiss on his cheek, she stepped around him and without another word, out the cabin door.

Outside, the sun was so bright in comparison to the cabin's dim lighting. She had the shield her face and blink several times before her eyes adjusted. It was nearly noon by the looks of things. Her honey colored eyes scanned the deck quickly, observing who was doing what and trying to determine where she was needed most. It only took a moment for her to spot Rosalind across the deck, sitting in the ship's only shaded spot and mending what appeared to be a pile of the crew's clothing.

"Someone's put you to work," Elizabeth said, smiling and kneeling besides her friend as she approached her.

"No," Rosalind said, practically beaming. "I offered. It's the least I can do while I'm here. I'm determined to prove that I am in fact useful and not some porcelain doll who can't tell the bow from the stern."

Elizabeth laughed. "What's put you in such a mood?"

"Well…" The ear-to-ear grin on her friend's face suggested made her glow. Elizabeth followed her line of sight as she looked up, across towards the main mast, where Will was beginning to ascend into the rigging.

"I see," she nodded. "Have you spoken to him yet? About, you know…"

"More than that," Rosalind replied, a coy smile tugging at her lips. She looked around before lowering her voice to a whisper. "He kissed me last night."

"What?" Elizabeth broke into a shrill giggle and jumped forward, hugging her friend with an enthusiasm that nearly toppled both of them over. "Oh, Ros, I'm so happy for you. Both of you."

"Thank you. Really, thank you. I would never have known him if it weren't for you."

"I did nothing," Elizabeth insisted. "So… what else happened last night?"

"Please, it's not as if we're married," Rosalind shrugged. "He kissed me then walked me to my cabin and said goodnight." She looked up to see Elizabeth's averted eyes and began wondering how to best insert her foot in her mouth. "Liz, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that."

"I know," Elizabeth said, a small smile on her face. "Though it's not as if there have been others. He's the only one I've ever… and we are engaged." Rosalind nodded. "Can I give you some advice?"


"Don't let propriety hold you back. Life's too short and we only have one chance to live it how we want to. If you want to be with Will and he wants to be with you, then do it."

"I'll consider it," Rosalind said truthfully, nodding. "So have you spoken to him yet?" she asked, nodding her head in James' direction.

Elizabeth looked over at him and instantly her feelings of guilt and remorse returned. He stood by one of the railings, swabbing the deck. He was still filthy and his hat and wig were crooked.

"Not yet," Elizabeth replied, looking down at her hands and picking at one of her cuticles. "I just don't know what to say to him. Sorry will never be good enough."

"Maybe not," Rosalind countered. "But it's a start. And you'll have to face him sooner or later." She paused. "You might as well do it now while you have a chance to be alone with him."

"You're right," Elizabeth said, suppressing a groan. She stood up and dusted off her hands. "Remember what I said about Will," she told her friend as she started to back away, "don't hold back because it's not proper. He could end up being the best thing that's ever happened to you."

Rosalind watched her as she made her way towards James before glancing up into the rigging towards Will. She sat there, just letting the weight of Elizabeth's advice sink in, praying against hope that she'd have the courage to adhere to it.

As Elizabeth approached James, she was almost thankful that his back was turned towards her. It seemed almost every time she had looked in his direction, he found some other distraction… it didn't matter what it was, he seemed to take it so long as it would prevent any kind of contact between the two of them. She really couldn't blame him for it, either. She would avoid herself too had she been betrayed by… herself. She inwardly smiled, musing on how she thought more and more like Jack the more time she spent with him.

"James," she said quietly, her heart sinking just a little bit when she saw him stiffen and bristle at the sound of her voice. He said nothing, only paused momentarily and continued his swabbing. "I was hoping I could have a few words with you."

"You'll understand," he said, speaking in low, ominous tones and breathing in deeply through his nostrils, "I've not been given pause by my… captain."

"He won't mind," she assured him. She kept her voice soft and sweet, as if afraid he would crumble at her words.

He turned around slowly, looking at her over his shoulder, and grinned. There was something cold and steely behind his eyes, a distant look that partially reminded her that the James she was knew was likely long gone. And she was the cause of it. She'd broken him and the guilt was almost consuming. It wasn't like she'd turned pirate and plundered his wealth. She'd broken his heart, shattered it, and that was a crime far worse than anything a simple scallywag could do.

"I take it, then," he continued, "that Captain Sparrow has entrusted you with some authority aboard his ship." He set his mop back in the bucket near his feet, letting the long, wooden handle rest against the ship's railing. "It makes sense, I suppose, since he's given you so many other things."

His innuendo made her cheeks flush. He was right to think the way he did—she and Jack had no secrets from each other, in every possible way. But there was so much he didn't know and would never know—and so much he assumed that simply wasn't true.

"That's not fair," she said, maintaining the unaccusatory tone in her voice.

"Is it not true?" he asked, turning so that he faced her better and leaning against the railing besides his broom. He leaned on his elbows and watched her intently, a lazy smile on his face. But the hurt that lurked beneath his eyes was more than telling. "You've slept with him, have you not?" He sighed, as if the weight of his words had yet to reach their full impact. "Been sleeping with him," he added quietly.

"I always remained faithful to you," she swore. "Jack and I only became involved after I left."

"I used to tell myself that," he said, his eyes drifting away from hers. "But I wish you thought more of me."

Her eyebrows knotted. "Beg pardon?"

"I'm not a fool, Elizabeth. Why else would you leave the way you did?"

"James, I—"

"You're telling me you fled your home, your life, because he was nothing more than a friend?"

"Yes." He looked at her, seeming torn between wanting to believe her and being too heartbroken to ever believe her again. "Jack was my friend. And he always saw what you and my father failed to."

"And what's that, Elizabeth?"

"He saw me drowning." James' eyes hardened, but she couldn't tell exactly which emotion he was feeling… sadness, anger, shock… perhaps a mixture of all three. "He could see me suffocating in a world in which I didn't belong. All I did, all day, every day, was worry about living up to the expectations of others. I was losing myself… and he saved me."

"Yes, we all know what a hero he is."

"He is to me," she defended, feeling a tinge of anger towards his judgment. "He's a good man. I love him and I'm going to marry him." The long on his face as he snapped his head up to stare at her instantly made her regret her decision to tell him of her engagement. She didn't think it was possible to hurt him anymore than she already had, but she'd clearly been wrong.

"Why are you here, Elizabeth? What else could you possibly have to say to me?" he asked, his voice hard and bitter. He turned his back to her and stared out to sea.

Elizabeth swallowed hard, looking down at her tired hands. She half-wondered if she should bother continuing. She took a deep breath before looking back up at him. Yes… she needed to continue.

"I wanted to apologize," she professed, "for running."

"Which time?" Again, she fell silent. She hadn't been expecting that, however true it was. She ran from him once and broke his heart. She ran from him a second time and cost him his life, his livelihood… "Did you think that would make it better?" he asked, suddenly spinning around. She was caught off-guard by his sudden change in emotion, a small part of her fearing the fire in his eyes, if only for his sake. "Did you think that a feeble apology would take back everything you did? All the horror you caused?"

With every word, he seemed to edge closer to her. She'd never seen him like this, so unhinged. His voice got louder with every syllable. Members of the crew began to take pause in what they were doing to stare at them. Some of them, feeling protective of Elizabeth as she'd been something akin to a motherly figure, took several steps towards them. Their presence wasn't their only weapon… she had to get James to calm down before force was used.

"James, please—" she whispered, forcing herself not to turn around and inadvertently beg for help with her eyes. She had to do this on her own.

"Are you aware of what this has done to your father?"

Tears sprung to her eyes at the thought. She was angry with herself for not thinking of her father more often… had she really been so selfish in leaving with Jack? She missed her father terribly and James' words only served to hurt more, like adding salt to an open wound.

"Have you any idea the agony he goes through, day in and day out, wandering if you're alright? Have you even bothered to write him? Do you even care?"

He got so close she could smell what must have been grog on his breath when a heavy hand clamped down on her shoulder. Jack squeezed her tightly before pushing her behind him.

"Have we a problem, here?" he asked. Elizabeth's tear-blurred eyes darted between the two men—her former fiancée and her current one. Jack was clearly upset, but his words did not hold the same venom that James' did.

"Here comes Captain Sparrow!" James shouted, a sarcastic smile spreading onto his dirty voice. His arms gestured about wildly as he spoke. "To the rescue, yet again."

"The only one I'm rescuin' is you, Commodore," Jack said, a smirk on his face and a twinkle in his eyes. "Ye see, Lizzie's too soft on ye to beat ye senseless. An' I wouldn't dream of it, seein' as how it would serve to upset her more. But see those gents?" He motioned to the small group of onlookers, several with very cross looks on their hardened faces. "They don't give a bloody hoot as to whether you live or die."

"Listen to him, James. It's not worth it," Will said softly, standing just slightly behind Jack. Elizabeth stifled a gasp—she hadn't even noticed his descent from the rigging, let alone heard him approach. She furiously wiped her tears away, mortified at the attention this event had gotten.

James said nothing, but huffed out an angry breath of air. When he looked at her, her eyes shot away and instantly she'd wished she had the courage to do otherwise. She owed him so much more than that. He stomped off which such force that the mop he'd so carefully set aside crashed against the deck.

"Half a mind to lock him in the brig," Jack muttered.

"Don't," Elizabeth said sadly. "Just let him go."

"Thanks, mate," Jack casually said to Will. Will did nothing but simply nod and offer Elizabeth a sweet smile before turning away to attend to duties elsewhere.

"It's nice to see you and Will being so civil," she said quietly, refusing to look at him for fear that her emotions would run away with her.

"He's feeling thankful," Jack quickly explained. "I spoke to him about his father the other night, but that's neither here nor there. What was that about, Lizabeth?"

"Nothing," she quickly said. "I just—" She stared off in the direction that James had gone. "I needed to make amends."

"For what?" Jack crossed his arms, a solemn look crossing his face. Still, she refused to look at him. Noticing this, he took his fingers and placed them under her chin, tilting her head up towards his. "Lizzie, look at me." He paused for a moment before continuing. "For what?"

"You know what," she said quietly.

"You did what you had to do. You can't live yer life to make others happy, darlin'." She said nothing. Somewhere deep inside his chest, Jack felt a twinge of pain, a nagging doubt that made his head hurt. "Elizabeth, I made you a promise once… at any time, any time at all, you say the words and I'll take you back. No questions asked."

"No," Elizabeth assured him, placing one hand on the side of his face. "Don't you ever think for even a minute that I regret one moment of our lives together. You're my home and I'll never leave you. I just wish he hadn't gotten hurt in the process."

"Every war has its casualties," Jack said softly, quickly pecking a kiss on her forehead. A small, ingenuine smile crossed her lips. "Your heart's too big for your own good."

She chucked at that. "Yes, and you love me for it."

"Damn straight," he said with a smile and a nod, his thumb flicking softly across her chin. "And don't you forget it."

A/N: Please, please, please review! It makes me want to update faster. :)

Thanks for reading! I'll see you all next time.