Author's Note: This is the last chapter. There will be no more. I do not write sequels. I would love to hear what you think though.

CHAPTER NINE - SYNONYMOUS WITH LOVE

The streets of Tortuga were filled to the brim with muck and grime and crawling with unsavory characters. James had been to Tortuga many times before, but there was something in him which made him follow the captain, almost clinging to the hem of his coat - some fear he could not name.

Jack took this all in stride - albeit a rather inebriated one - and led James into a familiar bar. After ordering several bottles of rum, he turned to him, "James. You'n'me're gonna get us a quiet little room and have ourselves a nice little chat."

Unwilling to leave the confident form of the captain, James followed him up a set of stairs. The room was thankfully void of inhabitants save a filthy bed. Jack locked the door and pulled the cork out of the first bottle.

"Tell me Jamesie," he took a swig then offered the bottle to his companion, "What was it like sailing through that hurricane?"

The ex-commodore's eyes glazed over, remembering, " It was quite difficult. Much like that storm we just passed through. 'Cept most of your men worked so hard 'cause they were loyal to you personally. Mine were either loyal to the crown or the money I gave them. None to me. There's a difference in the quality of their work. I could tell."

"My men trust me," Jack opened another bottle when he saw that James wouldn't be giving his back. Resting his eyes on the figure that sat cross legged on the floor to avoid sitting so close to Jack, he said, "That is: MOST of my crew trusts me."

There was a silence punctuated only by bar noises and the swish of liquid in their bottles as they were splashed into mouths.

"What do you want me to say?" James took another swig.

"I want you to trust me," Jack eyed the swiftly dropping level of his friend's drink, wondering how much he could take.

After much deliberation, James peered up at Jack, "Why're you making such a fuss about this?"

"You're part of my crew. I don't-"

"Fuck that shit, Jack, I'm not stupid," James cried out. "You wouldn't make this big a deal of it if it were anyone else. Hell, if I was in the Navy now-"

"I care about you, dammit," Jack burst out. "I don't like seeing you hurt. It hurts me, too."

"Why? I'm just another crewmember. In the Navy-"

"Fuck it, James, this ain't the Navy. And I DO care about you. Does it matter why?"

"Yes," James's voice was raw.

Jack said nothing. Only drank. Time stretched and wavered in that little room of sin.

"So-" James's voice was still raw. "So what do you want? You want me to show you all my scars? Here! You can see them!" He stripped off his shirt. "Is this what you wanted? To see this? No!"

"Yes," the captain longed to reach out and touch the newest scars that raced across his friend's abdomen. "I wanted to see them and to know them."

"Know them? You don't want to know them. To know these," Norrington spun around and pointed to the old scars on his back. "These were the first. When I was learning this discipline. They were put their by my Lieutenant. All these were his. To teach me my thoughts were wrong. To encourage me to do this," he turned his arms toward the captain, "even after I left his ship. You don't want to know that."

"What thoughts in God's name would merit a punishment such as this?" Sparrow's voice was edged with fury.

"Impure thoughts about men," he spat the last word and tipped the bottle back.

Jack's voice was low and dangerous, "I'll kill that bastard. I swear I'll kill him!"

He raged a while longer and then looked back at his companion. "James," this time it was the captain whose voice was raw, "you need to understand something," he pulled the man up onto the bed next to him, "there's nothing wrong with two men loving or wanting each other. There's nothing wrong with this," the pirate pressed his lips to the ex-commodore's.

James gasped and tried to pull away, but Jack refused to let him. Finally he drew back and looked James in the eye, "That was not a sin."

His eyes burned but his lips tingled pleasantly. James gave up the battle and gave into his tears, resting his head against Jack's chest. Jack rocked him back and forth until he looked down at him and saw James had fallen asleep with the faintest beginnings of a smile on his face.

Jack laid him down, kissed his forehead and said, "Some people say caring is synonymous with love."