That's the foremast, that's the mainmast, and that's the mizzenmast, and this is how you climb them in order to trim the sails. This is how you trim a sail. This is how you tie a bowline knot, and a clove hitch, and a figure eight, and a sheet bend, and a square knot. This is how you splice a rope. This is how you move the rudder. This is what to do when you want to tack the ship, and this is what you do when you're jibing it. On and on and on... All of Jack's instruction stuck in my head like a catchy song. In fact, I made a lot of them into songs and went around singing to myself so that I would remember.

Jack's methods of teaching sometimes weren't any less strange than my methods of learning. Once he carried me off with the boom the same way he'd done to Will.

"The hell are you doing?" I demanded as I clung to the boom, my legs dangling over open water.

"Testing you," Jack replied. "Let's see if you can adjust that sail, shall we?"

"I don't think I can do it. What if I fall?" The panic in me mounted as my arms started growing tired from being wrapped so tightly around the boom.

"You can do it. And you won't fall. I wouldn't have put you out there otherwise."

I took a deep breath and hoisted myself up onto the boom, a maneuver I wouldn't have been strong enough to manage a few weeks ago. Then I stood up and pulled at the lines, adjusting the sail so that it was at the right angle to catch the wind. Jack swung the boom back over the deck and I hopped down.

"See, I was right! We'll make a sailor of you yet," said Jack, beaming.

Regardless, he really knew what he was doing, and I was glad he was taking the time to instruct me. I wanted to be useful, to prove I was worth my salt. It didn't hurt that I still found Jack really attractive and liked spending time with him and listening to him talk. I found myself watching his mouth a lot. Now that I knew how nice it felt against mine, there was very little time I wasn't thinking about kissing him again.

Jack was acting kind of oddly. The barrage of flirting and innuendos had stopped. It was like he was trying to be respectful or something. Well, that doesn't sound right, it wasn't like he was ever really disrespectful, more like...he'd started being almost...formal. I worried he didn't like me as much as I liked him.

On the other hand, he probably could have taught me how to tie knots without touching my hands so much. Not that I minded the way he'd kept taking my hands in his and going, "No, no, like this.."

It was a mystery. I decided should just focus on being a good sailor.

In addition to the standard tasks everyone had to do, I had the official title of ship's musician, and as such, it was my duty to lead the crew in shanties while they worked. Normally the musician doesn't partake in the day-to-day work, being a bit encumbered by an instrument, but I didn't have one anymore, and I found it easy enough to sing and heave at the same time. At the moment, though, there wasn't really anything to be done. The water was calm and the wind was just right, and the Pearl was gliding along like a duck in a pond. A Navy ship was following us and had been for several weeks, but they hadn't yet managed to get within firing range. The Black Pearl was the fastest ship in the Caribbean, after all.

"Where are we going?" I asked Jack. "I'm just wondering."

"That is an excellent question. I don't know."


"There is a thing," Jack explained, as descriptive as ever. "A thing I wish to obtain. I know it's somewhere around northern Africa-ish, but I am not yet privy to its specific location."

"I thought your little compass thing could lead you to whatever you want," I said.

"There's a caveat," said Jack. "It can lead me to whatever I want most. The item in question is not what I want most. It's just a stepping stone to what I want, so to speak."

"Dang magic thingies and their loopholes."

"You can say that again."

"So what are you going to do, just...wander around Africa asking people for directions?"

"No. I'm going to ask a specific person. Someone who is intimately familiar with the Mediterranean region and most likely is privy to such an item's location."

We continued sailing across the Atlantic and through the Strait of Gibraltar. We encountered the 'specific person' Jack had been speaking of as we entered the Mediterranean and the Black Pearl approached another ship, the Fancy. The guy looked pretty silly, if you asked me-he had a long curly wig and had his face all powdered white and blush on his cheeks-but apparently he was the guy Jack needed to talk to, and talk they did. The object Jack wanted, apparently, was inside of a prison.

Stopping the Pearl in order to talk to Captain Fancy Pants turned out to be a mistake. The Navy was gaining on us. Fortunately, it looked like there was a huge storm coming. The Pearl made port in Tripoli to avoid the bad weather, and the Navy would have to make port as well if they wanted to avoid sailing through the storm.

We'd lowered one of the boats down into the water and Jack was getting ready to leave. I hovered around, trying to think of something to say. I thought I should say something. Infiltrating a prison sounded pretty dangerous. "Jack?"

He turned back to look at me. "Hm?"

"Be careful."

Jack gave me a crooked grin. "Aren't I always?"

"I'm serious," I said.

"Yes, it doesn't suit you."

I rolled my eyes. "What, would you prefer if I expressed it in song and dance? 'Please be careful, I don't want you to die!'" I ended the impromptu little song with sarcastic jazzhands.

"Much better," said Jack. "Don't worry, love. I'm Captain Jack Sparrow!"

"That's why I worry," I said, poking him.

He stepped closer to me and for a moment I thought he was going to kiss me, and it felt as though there were birds flapping around in my stomach. But instead Jack chucked me under the chin, and then he turned and climbed down into the boat.

It was light out when he left. The sky started getting darker and darker, and he still wasn't back. I couldn't sit still and kept pacing up and down the deck. Cotton's parrot squawked, "Raaaaawk! Even keel!"

"Cotton's got a point, lass," said Gibbs. "Jack can handle himself, you've no need to worry."

"He's been gone an awful long time..."

And then, with impeccable timing, Jack's head appeared over the side of the ship. Gibbs went over and held out a hand to help Jack aboard, but Jack slapped a skeleton's leg into it and climbed onto the deck. Cotton gave him his coat.

"What's with the leg bone?" I asked.

"It was formerly attached to a man, whom at one point was alive," said Jack vaguely.

"Great, that really clears things up, thanks."

"Not quite according to plan," said Gibbs.

"Complications arose, ensued, were overcome," Jack said.

"You got what you went in for, then?" said Gibbs.

"Mmmhmm." Jack nodded, wiggling a bit of cloth in his face.

"Captain," Gibbs began carefully, "I think the crew, meaning me as well, were expecting something a bit more...shiny. What with the Isla de Muerta going all pear-shaped, reclaimed by the sea and the treasure with it-"

"And the Royal Navy chasing us all around de Atlanteec," added Leech.

"And the hurricane," grunted Marty.

"Aye," the rest of the crew agreed.

"All in all, it seems some time since we did a speck of honest pirating," said Gibbs.

I snorted. "There's an oxymoron for you."

"Shiny?" Jack inquired.

Gibbs nodded fervently. "Aye, shiny."

"Is that how you're all feeling, then? Perhaps dear old Jack's not serving your best interests as captain?"

"I think you're a good captain," I piped up, but clearly I was in the minority.

"Awk! Walk the plank!" Cotton's parrot squawked. Cotton immediately grabbed the bird's beak and held it closed, but it was too late. Jack grabbed his pistol, and pointed it at the parrot.

"What did the bird say?" he demanded.

"Do not blame the bird," said Leech. "Show us what is on that piece of cloth there."

Jack the monkey swooped onto the scene. Snarling, he took the cloth and scampered off. "Ohh!" Jack the human attempted to shoot him, but his pistol misfired. Jack grabbed someone else's pistol and shot the monkey. Jack the monkey screeched and dropped the cloth. Unharmed, he scurried onto the rigging.

To Jack, Gibbs said, "Know that does no good."

"It does me."

Marty picked up the cloth. "It's a key!"

"No! Much more better," said Jack, taking it from him and holding it up. "It is a drawing of a key."

"How is that better, exactly?" I asked. Jack shot me a look, as if to say "Shut up, please," as the crewmen drew forward, straining to catch a glimpse of the cloth.

"Gentlemen-and lady," Jack added as an afterthought, "what do keys do?"

"Keys...unlock...things?" Leech guessed.

"You don't sound so sure about that," I said.

"And whatever this key unlocks, inside there's something valuable. So, we're setting off to find whatever this key unlocks!" said Gibbs eagerly.

"No." Gibbs's excited look faded slightly. "If we don't have the key, we can't open whatever it is we don't have that it unlocks. So what purpose would be served in finding whatever need be unlocked, which we don't have, without first having the key what unlocks it?"

"So..." Gibbs lit up again. "We're going after this key!"

"You're not making any sense at all," said Jack dismissively.

" we have a heading?" Marty piped up.

"Hah! A heading." Jack popped open his compass. Peering over his shoulder, I could see that the arrow kept spinning round and round. "Set sail in...mmm...a general...that way-direction."

"Cap'n?" said Gibbs hesitantly.

"Come on, snap to and make sail, you know how this works. Come on." I was about to go help them, but Jack grabbed my arm. "Hold on, I've got something for you."

"Oooh! What is it?"

"Can't tell you yet. That'd ruin the surprise," said Jack. "Follow me. It's in my cabin."

"It's not a surprise invitation to the party in your pants, is it?" I said as we went into the cabin.

"Oh, no," said Jack, "such an invitation is always extended to you, love. No, this is a thing. A tangible, shiny thing." He opened one of the large chests in the cabin and pulled out a black case, which he handed to me. "Go on, open it."

With a click, the case popped open, revealing a beautifully made violin. I squealed. "Oh my gosh! Wow! It's fantastic! I can't believe it!"

"I told you I'd get you a new one," Jack reminded me.

"Yeah, but you were super drunk. I thought you forgot all about it," I said, just about hopping up and down in excitement. "Thank you!" I stood on my tiptoes and kissed him, and then I stepped away a little, my own face getting warm. Jack immediately grabbed me around the waist and pulled me back toward him, kissing me. I kissed him back, clutching the front of his shirt. Then one of Jack's hands moved up to my head, fingers curling in my hair. My heart was jumping around, thumping in my ears. I cupped my hands around his face; his skin was warm, and a little rough with stubble and exposure to the weather. It almost could have been days and days before we stopped kissing. When we finally did, I giggled nervously and looked up at him. The way he was looking back at me made me feel all goopy inside.

At that moment, Gibbs burst into the cabin. "Cap'n, are you sure you can't-"

Jack and I immediately sprang apart. My face couldn't have felt hotter if someone had thrown live coals at it. "Mister Gibbs, there's this thing called knocking. Perhaps you've heard of it?" Jack suggested.

"Sorry, Cap'n, I just wanted to ask if perhaps there's any chance of you being a bit more...specific in terms of the heading," said Gibbs. He looked a little embarrassed to have walked in on us, although he also looked like he might start laughing.

"As slim a chance as ever, Mr. Gibbs," said Jack.