Title: One Regret

Author: Blue Chance

Chapter Rating: G

Disclaimer:I make no money from the mouse... though I doubt I'd turn it down

Summary: Post AWE, Jack has one regret and maybe no time to make up for it...

Author's Note: Hello! Me again. I hope you shall find this first chapter interesting enough to keep your attention until the next chapter even though Elizabeth does not make an appearance. Out of all the PotC fics I have going right now, I think I like the idea of this one the best... so I'm hoping that you will see in it what I see. *Deep breath*...

*****

One Regret
Prologue

"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story."
-Orson Wells

Things could not possibly have gotten any worse.

Jack Sparrow sat silently contemplating his life as he sailed slowly, very slowly, across the Caribbean in a dingy that he had been more or less calling home for about three months now. Barbossa was elsewhere with the Pearl and Jack once again found himself in search for it. It seemed that most of his life had been spent in search for that ship. It almost occurred to him to just let it go this time... but, of course, he never could. The Pearl was his home, his family... his freedom. It was everything that meant anything to him, and he would be damned (again) if he would let Barbossa win now. Not after all he had gone through. Not after all he had given up. Not after all he had lost.

Elizabeth...

She had never technically been his so it wasn't completely accurate to count her among his losses... but there had been a brief eternal moment where it had been almost possible. It had been like a dream where he knew he was dreaming. Too good to believe. Too sweet to be savored... but there had been something between them. Something more than his attraction toward her and her curiosity toward him. He could never be sure if he had been falling in love with her in the time had spent with her on the sea or if it had been something else entirely - he only knew that he hurt when he thought about her now. A subtle and dull pain that tightened his chest only just a bit, but it was there. Less and less as time went on, but it was certainly there.

The last time he had seen her... She had said it would never have worked out between them - using his own words against him. He had not challenged her. He had, in so many words, told her to believe what she wanted. There was no use fighting for her at that point. The battle had been lost and he had not even been around to lose it. She had always belonged to Will... even if she hadn't promised her soul to him that day in the maelstrom. She was his, not Jack's.

Though, even now, he regretted not letting her kiss him before she left him forever. Just once more. Just for a moment. One kiss that was not meant to kill him... even if it was her saying goodbye. He should have let her.

But, really, he supposed - that was the least of his problems just now.

There had been no wind for days, no water for hours and no rum for about ten minutes. He was in the middle of the ocean with nothing but a map that was no use to him if he had no way to get where the map wanted to take him and a compass that no longer seemed to want to point to any direction in particular at all - electing instead to spin ceaselessly in every direction. It was almost as though he had somehow wandered back in to the locker...

A shiver ran through Jack at the thought.

He had never known how long he had been stranded in his own personal sea of dust and heat - it could have been days, months, or years - before he had been rescued, but it had seemed like an eternity. A place with no night where the days bled one in to the next, no stars to guide him, no wind to give him hope. Only himself for company and conversation. He was a strong man, but even the strongest man would be eventually broken in a place like that... and there was nothing he feared more than to end up back there again.

Jack closed his eyes for a moment, trying to push the thoughts away. Why was he thinking about that anyway? He was not going back there. That was Davy Jones' locker, and Davy Jones was gone. Jack opened his eyes... and if he was surprised to see what he saw, he did not show it.

"Ah, William." He said. "Tea time already?"

"Hello, Jack." Will said from his seat across from him. He had not seen him since... probably since the last time anyone had seen him. He looked the same today as he did then - his hair down over his shoulders, covered by a dark bandana. His shirt open to the waist, revealing an angry scar over his heart. It should have been Jack. Will had had a life ahead of him with people who loved him. Jack had nothing of the sort and wanted nothing more than to sail the seas forever... It was odd how viciously one's dreams could be torn from him.

"That's a different look for you." He said, gesturing at Will's bandana. "Makes you feel more piratey, does it?"

Will was silent. Jack furrowed his forehead a bit.

"...So what brings you to my depressingly humble abode?"

"You know why I'm here."

Jack sighed and gazed briefly upon the setting sun before settling his eyes back on Will. Of course he knew why Will was there.

"So this is how it ends, ey?" He asked with an ironic smile on his face. "I always figured it'd be a bit more grandiose than this, but--"

"I owe a lot to you." Will interrupted. "And because of that... I'm here to give you a chance to come with me now rather than later."

"And later would be nothing to look forward to, I take it...?"

"Days and days more of this." Will said, looking around. "No water. No food. No rum. No shelter from the sun."

"Now or later - which ever I choose - I end up dead. Not much of a choice if you ask me. I wonder if, perhaps, there be a third option?"

"I can't spare you from death." Will said. "But I can spare you from dying."

Perhaps if Jack had been a different man, he would not have understood what it was that Will had just said... but being Jack Sparrow, a man whose rhetoric outweighed even the most scholarly and learned, he understood quite plainly the difference between death and dying. It seemed Will now understood it as well. These three months had changed him.

"Are you offering me a spot on your crew then?"

"All men are offered a place on the crew, but no man is forced to take it."

Jack took a deep breath.

"I haven't served under another man for quite some time now, mate... don't know that I could start again now."

"Then it's the other side for you."

The other side, but not the locker. Jack supposed he could accept that. He took another look at the setting sun, but this time he let his eyes linger upon it. He never thought it would end this way. Somehow he had always believed that everything would work out for him. That he would get his ship back and make it to cuba - that he would find the fountain of youth, and that he would live forever. Maybe even share forever with someone else...

Someone.

He supposed it was a bit perverse for his thoughts to turn to Elizabeth now as her tragic husband sat before him... but he could not help but want her there with him. Feel her hands upon his face, her lips upon his mouth. He wanted her. She would have made this easier on him. He had no one and he had nothing. At the very least, he had always expected to be on his ship when the time came, but now he was here. On a dingy. No one would even know he was gone. Even as he longed for her touch, Elizabeth would never even notice his absence. His heart ached a bit at the thought... Here he was at the end of his rope, and he was cut off from all the things that had ever meant something to him.

He wasn't ready, but there would be an eternity to square with that.

"In your time ferrying the dead to the next world... have you ever heard a man say that there was never more beautiful a sunset than his last?" Jack asked. Will looked upon the sun setting as well. He looked almost sad.

"No... but I've never heard anything more true either."

Jack took a deep breath and then looked at Will.

"So, how does this work? Do I need to sign something? When does it happen?"

"It's already happened." Will responded. Jack furrowed his forehead as he found that his surroundings had somehow changed without him noticing... they were still on the sea, the sun was still fading, a soft breeze was still floating lazily in the air, but they were no longer on the worthless little dingy to which Jack had been previously been exiled. Given the things that Jack had seen and lived through in his life, he found it just as odd as he found it not odd he and Will were now sitting on the poop deck of the Flying Dutchman.

"Oh." Jack said.

"What were you expecting?" Will asked as he stood and walked to the rail. "I'm not Davy Jones. People have forgotten that the job is to make it easier for you. Men still fear the Flying Dutchman... I hope to change that."

"You can hope all you like...." Jack started, and then followed Will to where he stood - deciding the change in location was not worth mentioning. What did it matter? "Men will fear this ship until the end of time."

"What makes you think that?"

"Because easy or not... this ship means death. It stands between a man and his tomorrow."

Will shook his head.

"It just brings him a new kind of tomorrow."

Jack laughed silently.

"You can appear with a hundred wenches and an infinite supply of rum, but a man will always want the tomorrow he knows... not the tomorrow he doesn't."

Will's eyebrows knit together just slightly - an expression Jack recognized of the old Will. This new Will seemed so world weary and serene, like he knew everything. But maybe he didn't.

"In the end, you're still just taking lives. Not saving them." Jack continued. "No one wants to die."

A moment of silence.

"I know." Was all Will said, but with those two words Jack could sense the weight of a life not lived. Yes... Will did know, didn't he?

"But you didn't die, mate."

"But I did die. Didn't I?" Will asked, though he was not asking for an answer.

"Yet here you are." Jack said, opening his hands in an encompassing gesture. "There's more to living than a beating heart. Sometimes it's just having a purpose. Having a reason. You have one of those." A pause. "That's more than most people have. That's more than most people dream of."

"I never wanted to live forever. That was your dream, Jack."

"Leave it to you to have eternity stretching out before you and still find something to complain about."

Will all but rolled his eyes.

"I'm not a selfish man." He said. "I've never had any interest in immortality, nor do I have any now. Any pursuit of the Flying Dutchman on my part was to rescue my father." A beat. "I'm not complaining... I've accepted my duty. That doesn't change the fact that it was never what I wanted."

Jack shook his head.

"That's the sort of irony that spawns great pieces of art and literature, mate. You were always doomed to be the tragic hero. This may not have been what you wanted, but it's what you were destined for."

Will sighed and shook his head a bit.

"You really believe that?" He asked. "Destiny?"

"Tia Dalma knew it the moment she set eyes on you. A touch of destiny - her words."

"She was crazy."

"And, as it turns out, completely correct." Jack looked back out at the water.

"You had more a part in this than she did."

Jack looked back at him - wondering if there was just the barest hint of bitterness within Will's eyes, but decided not to explore the subject further.

"Only a few moments left." He said, passing Will's comment up completely. Will's eyes turned one final time back to the nearly spent sunset.

"Is this very different from the destiny you always imagined for yourself?" He asked - seeming to be far away in his thoughts.

Jack thought for a moment, knowing his next words would be his last in this life. It was a strange realization...

"I was always destined to live and die a free man - time and circumstance being of little importance. This is as good an end as any."

In a life full of pirating and plundering - he had only one great. And that, he supposed, was not so bad.

The sun was gone.

Jack's world went quiet and dark as his consciousness faded away with one last memory.

Elizabeth's face.