CHAPTER 6—Sweetest Friend

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

A/N: First of all, I would like to extend my greatest thanks to everyone who has read this story and consistently reviewed. It is for such dedicated readers that I continue to write. Second of all, I just want to thank everyone for their patience… I have been extremely stressed out with school these past few weeks and I haven't had a lot of time to write. Sorry this chapter is overdue! And last but not least, this is the final chapter for the story. I hope the ending is satisfactory for everyone! Enjoy!

The sun had set no longer than an hour ago, and Elizabeth hadn't yet opened her eyes. Every now and then she would stir or have a small fit in her sleep, the product, no doubt, of the never-ending nightmare she'd been living in since she was left behind after the maelstrom.

Left behind. Jack had never thought of it that way, never realized she felt the way she did until he was summoned by his father to Shipwreck Cove. He had always thought, considering what happened to her father and then to Will, that she wanted a quiet life, a life away from the madness that had caused their deaths. That's why he had stayed away, not because he didn't want to see her (God knows he did) or didn't care, but because he had always thought that that's what she wanted. If he had only known…

He took a deep breath from his chair in the corner, where he sat, quietly observing her. He had to remind himself that berating himself would not help Elizabeth… a self-pitying fool was not what she needed right now. He wanted the focus to be entirely on her getting better.

Still, there was little he could do to calm the enormous amount of guilt he felt. He knew full well that none of this would have happened had it not been for him. She had gotten wrapped up in his life, quite inadvertently and at no true fault of her own, and her life had been in a downward spiral ever since. All he could do now was offer his help, in any way possible, in a last-ditch effort for forgiveness.

The image of the broken woman he'd found, crumbled on the floor, surrounded by alcohol, a bloody knife and the still beating heart of her undead husband. It was a visual he had never wanted to see, one that would not vacate itself from his mind easily. It shook him to his very core to see her like that, so despondent that she'd considered taking her own life.

He hadn't given orders to set sail yet. If that's indeed what she wanted then he would make all haste away from this dreary and dismal place. But he wasn't sure at all what she really wanted, so the Pearl was left anchored in the small bay by the cliffs where her cottage sat. Either way, he'd already sent Gibbs to fetch some things for her, including the chest that contained Will's heart.

When the older man returned, he'd told his captain of the crumpled, bloody sheets he'd found, and Jack knew instantly the trigger to her attempted suicide. Once upon a time, he'd witnessed his own mother's miscarriage at the tender age of seven, what would have been a little brother or sister. It was an event from which she had never recovered, and he could only pray that the outcome for Elizabeth would be different.

It had been some time since he'd slept, and despite his determination to stay alert should she awaken and need him, he couldn't fight the heaviness in his eyes. He leaned back in his chair, closing his weary eyes for only a moment. Before he could fight it off, he'd drifted into a dreamless sleep.

The storm had returned, just as harsh and cold and unrelenting as it had been before. The clap of thunder awoke Elizabeth from her sleep, and her infant, too. The child immediately began to cry. She sat up in bed, throwing back the sheets and set her feet on the ground.

"I'm coming, darling," she called out in the night, making her way across the dark, one room cottage to where the bassinet stood. "Mummy's coming."

She peeled back the satin blanket covering the opening of the bassinet and was instantly horrified to see it empty. Yet her baby continued to cry. Panic immediately set in as she frantically peeled back blanket after blanket in a desperate search for her child.

"Where are you?" she cried, looking everywhere for the baby. She darted around the room, fumbling through the darkness in her search. The crying only got louder.

"I'm coming!" she promised. "Mummy's coming!" She was beginning to sweat, a dull sickness settling in to the depths of her belly.

Suddenly the door flew open, letting rain into the small home they shared, and a flash of lightning illuminated the doorway. The cry of her baby became more distant, sounding more like an echo that was growing farther and farther away.

"No!" she screamed. "Come back! Come back!"

Elizabeth shot up in bed, a cold sweat on her brow, the frantic panic that she'd felt in her nightmare staying with her even as she resumed consciousness. Her heart pounded in her chest as she looked around, her surroundings distantly familiar. The room was dark and it took several moments for her eyes to adjust. Once they did, she was deeply relieved to see the familiar knick-knacks and oddities that could only belong to Jack. His scent, a scent that well suited him, permeated the air, and she instantly found herself more able to relax.

She settled back against the pillows, blinking away a few stray tears and wiping her wet cheeks with the back of her hand. While she felt an undeniable comfort at being in his cabin, it was not enough to quell the ache she felt (and had been feeling) as a result from her loss. She craved contact, needed it, to a point where she hurt inside. She swallowed back more tears, but when she looked up to see Jack, sleeping quietly in a chair across from the bunk, she couldn't help it. She let out a sob and covered her face with her hands, overwhelmed and humiliated by the fuss she must have caused.

That one sob was all it took to wake Jack from his sleep. He quickly sat up, blinking hard several times, to see that Elizabeth was awake… and crying. Before he could guard himself from this distraught young woman, he was up on his feet, sitting again on the edge of the mattress. She didn't look up as the mattress dipped with his weight… she was too embarrassed.

He had nothing to offer her (he'd never been the type of man to carry a handkerchief—chicken foot yes, handkerchief no), but he had always been clever with improvisation. He quickly untied the bandana around his head and without saying anything, handed it to her.

"Here," he said gently. Her hands shaking, she slowly removed them from her face, tears staining her porcelain cheeks. She stared at him, a removed, tentative look in her eyes. "It's clean," he promised. Then with a shrug, he added, "sort of."

He had wanted her to laugh, but she didn't, and he wasn't surprised. He hadn't expected her to. She said nothing as she carefully took the bandana from him, burying her face in it and continuing to sob. He sat there, feeling awkward and foolish and completely unsure of what to do. After several moments passed, he finally spoke, saying the first thing that came into his mind.

"It will get better, 'Lizabeth," he said. She gasped, choking back another sob, as she lowered the bandana from her face and stared at him. He instantly felt like the single biggest idiot to ever live, but some uncontrollable part of himself continued to speak anyways. "I know it sounds like a right daft thing to say… and I know ye can't see it now. But it will get better."

She stared at him for a few more moments before speaking. She hadn't even wondered how he knew, but it seemed he always did. He was the all-knowing Jack and a part of her was thankful she didn't have to tell him. "Have you ever lost a child before, Jack?" she asked, not meaning to sound as harsh as she did.

He offered her a simple smile. "No. An' I can't imagine what turmoil passes through the mind of a mother experiencing the loss of her babe. But I have witnessed it. I have been there." She looked at him, puzzled. He sighed and shrugged as through it were nothing, but the extreme pain his mother went through was something he would never, ever forget. "I was seven when it happened to my mum."

Elizabeth said nothing—for what could she say? She looked away from him, her tear-blurred eyes locking onto the wet bandana clutched in her hands. "I'm sorry," she finally said, her voice cracking as she spoke. Her throat felt tight and saturated and she barely recognized her own voice. She gasped again, practically startled at the touch of another person (especially his touch, which felt so uncharacteristically soft and tender) as his hand came to rest on her knee, squeezing gently.

"You have nothing to be sorry over." His dark eyes bore into hers and she knew he meant more than just the issue at hand. She again felt overwhelmed and more tears began to stream down her cheeks.

"I wanted to die," she cried. "Why didn't you just let me die?"

The sight of her so unhinged, so clearly distraught, disturbed him immensely. He didn't know what to say or what to do, and he found himself fighting his own urge to cry with her. Pirates did NOT cry. And it certainly wasn't what she needed now. All he could do was scoot forward and wrap his arms around her quivering frame. He placed one hand on the back of her head and gently urged her face towards his shoulder. He was surprised when she leaned into him with no sign of protest, grasping the fabric of his coat.

"What?" he replied. "And be haunted by Your Highness for all eternity? No thank you, I quite value my sleep." Elizabeth choked out a laugh and Jack instantly felt a comforting warmth spread through his belly. "That's my girl."

Elizabeth felt an odd sense of relief at hearing him refer to her as "my girl." She pulled away from him, again wiping her tears away with the back of her hand.

"I can't go back," she told him. "I can't go back there."

"Then you won't."

She swallowed, her throat sore from recently drinking nothing but alcohol. "But I have no place else to go."

Jack cocked an eyebrow, looking at her in a way that suggested she'd said something stupid, and she didn't know whether to be hurt or amused. "Come now, Lizzie," he said. "You know better than that."

Fresh tears sprung to her eyes, once again overwhelmed by his kindness. He was being so good to her, so honest, that she felt she owed him the same courtesy. A part of her was screaming in the back of her mind, no—the time is not now, but she couldn't hold it back any more. Jack was giving her a fresh start—the least she could do was be completely honest with him.

"I have…" she started, trying to quickly come up with a decent way to tell him. "I need to tell you something."

"Oh?" He smirked. "I'm an awfully good person to be confessin' things to, having made many myself."

She smiled, almost wishing he wouldn't be so charming and amusing for once. Maybe it would make her task easier. "I prayed for you," she spat out, deciding that it would be far more painless to get it out quickly. "I spent a great deal of time hoping you would come for me. I don't know that you realize it Jack, but some time ago you stole my heart and I have a feeling that you're never going to give it back."

She dared not look at him, too terrified at her declaration to lock eyes with him. It wasn't until she felt his fingers under her chin, tilting her face up towards his that she looked at him again.

"Well…" he said, pausing as his eyes flittered away from hers. "What kind of pirate would I be if I returned what I took?" She felt as though her heart would stop beating, though in a wonderful, peaceful sort of way. "I'll make you a deal, Lizzie," he said, his voice soft and very un-Jack like. "If you let me keep yer heart… I'll let you keep mine. Sound fair?"

When she opened her mouth to verbalize her emotions, her breath caught in her throat, once again overwhelmed at how incredible this man was. Unable to speak, she placed a hand on the back of his neck, kissing him softly. It was a brief kiss, but the moment their lips met she felt something go through her, a sense of completion she'd been lacking her entire life. "Lie with me?" she asked, her eyes still glossy with tears.

"Aye." He nodded and leaned forward, placing a contemplative kiss on her forehead. She watched him, a long-lost feeling of happiness spreading through her like the warm rays of the sun, as he kicked his boots off and quickly shed his jacket and effects. When he was wearing nothing but his shirt and breeches, she scooted over, peeling back the covers and allowing him to slide in next to her.

He settled back against the pillows, looping an arm around her waist and tugging her gently towards him. She leaned against his chest and without saying another word, closed her eyes, smiling softly as he began to hum a sweet melody in an attempt to lull her back to sleep.

She didn't know what she was going to do next, didn't know how long it would take her to completely recover from what was the darkest period of her life. But she knew she could do it—knew with Jack's help that somehow everything would be alright. He was her sweetest friend, her dearest companion. With him, a part of her felt whole again, and the hurt she'd been living with for months was finally beginning to dissipate.

A/N: Thank you for reading! Now go review! :)