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"I wonder what's keeping Guybrush? I hope LeChuck hasn't cast some horrible spell over him or anything."

Elaine stood beside the hole leading to the so-called "treasure" of Big Whoop, waiting for the re-emergence of her onetime boyfriend. When he'd first arrived on the island, she'd had half a mind to throttle the man. Arriving on her island, coming to her mansion, asking for her grandfather's map, and sweettalking her with seemingly no regard for their history or acrimonious break-up had done him no favours in her eyes. She'd decided that if treasure-hunting meant more to him than she did, then she was well shot of him and he was welcome to it, so long as he buggered off and didn't bother her again. That had been the end of the matter as far as she was concerned. Definitely. Positively. Absolutely.

Until she heard the explosion on Dinky Island.

Her first response was annoyance. How dare he come here, try to manipulate her, and then start blowing up parts of her jurisdiction for his own gain? When she finally found him, the sorry sod, hanging there with a treasure chest clutched in his grasp, ready to spin out his usual epically long story for her benefit, she was more interested in shutting him up, even if it meant assisting him in his quest. Even his unceremonious shortcut into the tunnels below—known in common parlance as "falling"—didn't faze her. Guybrush had a habit of bouncing back, figuratively and literally, from mortal peril. So she climbed back out of the hole and sat down to wait, knowing he'd come back up eventually. When he did, she'd be ready to stop him from doing even more damage to poor Dinky Island before it wound up even dinkier than it already was. She knew Guybrush would be back. He always came back. It was one of the constants of the universe.

But he didn't come back.

She waited hours, convincing herself that she'd leave when night fell. Then evening came and she decided she would spend the night there, leave in the morning, and let him find his own way back. She stretched out on the damp grass, trying to convince herself that her lack of slumber was attributable to the hard ground, not the fact that her ears were straining for any sound coming from those tunnels.

Morning came. No Guybrush. She decided to give him another day. It might take time for him to climb back out. He might have decided to spend the night in the tunnels. He might be carrying a heavy load of booty with him. Those were the only explanations she could think of. If there was some other reason behind his absence, he was going to have some explaining to do. She sat. She paced. She waited. Birds chirped. The wind blew. Night fell.

No Guybrush.

Elaine hated to admit it, but she was starting to get worried. Guybrush always came back. Always. His tenacity was second to none. If he wanted to come back, he would find a way to do it, no matter how many obstacles lay in his way. It was for that reason that, deep down, she hadn't really been surprised when he showed up at the governor's mansion. Given everything else the man had gone through, a change of address was never going to present much of an obstacle, not if he really wanted to see her. She briefly considered that the "want" part of the equation might be a factor in his disappearance. There was no reason Guybrush couldn't have found the treasure, snuck out some other entrance, and been long gone by now. But she dismissed the notion almost as soon as it crossed her mind. Even assuming that the man no longer held a torch for her, if he found the treasure, he would at least want to show it off to someone, and she was a prime candidate. No, something was very wrong.

On the third day, she flexed her governor's muscles and enlisted a team with the equipment and expertise to explore the tunnels and work out just what, exactly, was going on. What had become of Guybrush and, just as worringly, LeChuck.

Despite being advised to leave the team to do their work, Elaine was having none of it, leading the expedition herself. There were many, many strange things in the tunnels below Dinky Island, a place chock full of eerie bric-a-brac and skeletal corpses. But there was no sign of Guybrush, or LeChuck, or any so-called treasure for that matter. Elaine was well and truly worried now. A lack of answers was always a bad sign where LeChuck was concerned.

She immediately put together a crew and set sail to find out where the ghost/zombie/demon pirate had slunk off to. LeChuck on the loose was definitely a threat to her constituents and, not inconsequently, to her, and it was on this pretence that she began her mission. She told herself that it was definitely not about finding Guybrush, despite her strong suspicion that wherever she found one, she'd find the other.

Long days at sea left Elaine with plenty of time to think. Thinking made it increasingly difficult to pretend, to lie to herself that this was about neutralising the threat of LeChuck, not finding Guybrush. That led to the more uncomfortable question about what, exactly, Guybrush meant to her.

On the one hand, her reasons for ending things the way she had in the first place still rankled. Guybrush's ego, not insubstantial at the best of times, had expanded exponentially after he defeated LeChuck, and there were only so many references to his epically long memoirs that she could take. Calling him on it had started fights that exposed his immaturity for what it was, and when the bitterness crept in, Elaine knew it was time to go. The firm set of her jaw had never wavered since—at least not in public.

On the other hand, well, there was another hand, much as Elaine wanted to deny its very existence. Guybrush's ego wasn't uncontrollable—it could be slapped down. More importantly, she could slap it down, as needed, without much in the way of protestation from her blue-eyed suitor. The problem was, as her governor's duties began to infringe more and more on her personal life, there were fewer and fewer opportunities for her to do that. Or to talk to Guybrush. Or spend much time with him. Knocking around the governor's mansion with only his own imagination for company, it was no wonder he'd started building the tale up in his head. He couldn't really sail anywhere and have adventures, because Elaine had informed him she wasn't interested in a long-distance relationship, but with her being so busy he didn't really have a lot of time to be with her, either. Guybrush was never going to be the sort to sit around and watch the tide go in and out, so between a stalled career, a lack of stimulation, and an absentee girlfriend, bragging about past glories probably seemed like a pretty tempting choice of pastime. In hindsight, Elaine could track the correlation between her distraction and his self-absorption. Unlike the latest polls, it was the kind of graph that didn't make her happy.

What if they'd both tried a little harder? When Elaine scratched away at the fights and the annoyance and the stubbornness and the resentment, she could remember the good things. Guybrush's naivety, and its surprising tendency to give way to a quick wit. His unswerving tenacity. His lack of resentment or insecurity about her position. The quick and easy smile. And most importantly, the love.

Elaine had never been in love before. Most men saw her as a prize or a challenge to overcome. Guyrbush saw her as a remarkable woman. She was starting to remember why she thought he was a remarkable man. And why she loved him.

But he was gone now.

Elaine cried, but quietly, in her cabin, so no one would hear. The next morning she was clear-eyed and more determined than ever to find LeChuck. She had a sinking feeling that Guybrush was gone for good, but that didn't mean LeChuck wouldn't have to pay for it.

VVVVV

If there was one good thing about LeChuck, it was that he was predictable. No sooner had she settled in at Plunder Island to regroup and get her bearings, than he was blasting cannons at her fortress walls. How he'd managed to come back to life and where he'd come from were secondary concerns. Elaine had a lot of pent-up rage to exorcise and was spoiling for a fight and a spot of revenge. If there was a way to kill a zombie pirate with a cannon, she was sure as hell going to find it.

The first time she heard Guybrush's voice, down there amid the wreckage, she swore she was hallucinating. It was too much to hope for, after everything that had happened. And just as quickly, he was snatched away by LeChuck, taken onboard his ship, which had quickly made its way to the ocean floor. Elaine watched it sink from the shore, all-but-certain he was gone again. If it had even been him in the first place. For all she knew, he was a fantasy conjured up by LeChuck, a spell meant to confuse her. But then, as she waited on the beach, so sure she was going to be disappointed, yet somehow trusting in Guybrush at the same time, she saw him, in all his dishevelled glory, drifting toward the beach. The shock and euphoria of finding him alive after so long washed over her, and his completely unexpected proposal was accepted, a no-brainer. Of course she would marry him. She thought she had lost him forever. She never wanted him out of her sight again for a moment. Cool, rational Elaine Marley, was swept off her feet by a boyish blond, barely twenty, with great big blue eyes, asking her to be his wife. But that was what she loved about Guybrush, really—he stripped away that sturdy, formidable exterior and let a freespirited creature take wing. She remembered now why it was so nice to discard the governor's burden and let out her inner giddy, lovesick teenager. The poor thing hardly saw the light, but danced when she did, no matter how much it hurt her eyes.

And then, of course, the bloody ring wound up being cursed. As Elaine wound up for her right-hook, she suddenly remembered why they broke up to begin with. Just before everything went shiny.

VVVVV

Guybrush was nauseated, and it wasn't just because of the snowcones. Big Whoop theme park was one big, quease-inducing cacophony of unnatural noises, painfully bright lights, and offensive smells, all experienced through a surreal, omnipresent fog that Guybrush could never seem to escape, no matter where he went or how hard he squinted. Giant anthropomorphised animals were everywhere, encouraging him in spectacularly insincere voices to enjoy himself, Dinghy Dog being the worst of the offenders. Guybrush wanted to punch his smug fake face, but he was too small to reach. He vowed to do it when he was bigger, though he wasn't sure if he meant when he was a grown up, or when he literally "grew" up.

He staggered past the custard pie stand for the umpteenth time, waving off the offer to pie the unfortunate clown in the face yet again. His head hurt too bad to whack anyone else's. It was all his big brother Chuckie's fault for beating on him again. Guybrush's small face scrunched up in a frown. No, that wasn't right. It was when LeChuck had blasted him backwards during his last escape attempt. Guybrush frowned harder. Escape attempt? What escape attempt? Why would he want to escape when he was having so much fun? That was why he was here, right?

RIGHT?!

He needed to find his mom and dad, that was what he needed to do. He knew they had to be around here somewhere. It wasn't like they'd just take Chuckie and abandon him here, all alone, forever.

Guybrush froze in his tracks. Yes, they would. They'd abandoned him once before, all those years ago, though he tried not to think about that. Why wouldn't they do it again?

No, wait, he'd only seen them a few hours ago, when they arrived here. How could they have abandoned him years ago? That didn't make sense. But the images in his mind kept shifting and fading. The people who found him and Chuckie coming out of that maintenance tunnel sure looked like his parents, but there was something…off…about them. They had a shimmering, immaterial quality, like copies of copies. But if he wasn't worried about them abandoning him, then who…?

ELAINE.

The name crashed through his mind like a wave of clarity, temporarily washing away the miasma of Big Whoop. Elaine. Red hair, green eyes, porcelain skin, mean right hook…He'd seen her, just before he came here, before Chuckie and his parents and this puny body. His plunderbunny, the love of his life, the girl of his dreams—

Girls, yuck! the faux-child Guybrush implanted in his brain tried to assert, but the clarity brought on by the thought of Elaine crushed the impudent little brat. All this time, he'd thought the dull, hollow sense of loss lurking in the back of his mind was from not being able to find his parents, but it was really Elaine's absence he was feeling.

Wait a minute, all this time? How long have I been here? Guybrush looked heavenward, but the sun was stubbornly in the same place it had been when he arrived here, whenever that was. It felt like hours, but it could be days, weeks, months, even years. Years? Guybrush pondered the implications of that. What if Elaine was ninety now, and basically one giant wrinkle? He knew she was already a bit older than him, which had never really bothered him, but seven decades was a big gap to overcome. It would be even larger if he couldn't lift the curse and get back to his real age. Being mistaken for Elaine's great-grandson would be a major downer for even Guybrush's perennial optimism. But on the other hand…He squared his shoulders. It didn't matter. If that was the case, he'd hold her hand for however long they had left. They'd already had one self-imposed separation. He wasn't going to be responsible for creating another one.

Guybrush's mind cast back to the past year, with a clarity he found shocking. Apparently there was nothing like suddenly waking up from a hallucinatory voodoo spell to blow out the cobwebs. He could see now, without the benefit of self-delusion, how Elaine's distraction with her work, coupled with the stalling of his own burgeoning pirate career, had eventually engendered resentment, which, in turn, had fed his ever-hungry ego until it grew to monumental proportions, and ultimately driven her away. He'd managed the very clever trick of convincing himself that he didn't care, that he loved the idea of great adventures and, more importantly, even greater treasure, more than he did her. But the hurt had stayed with him, festering away, turning him into a man he didn't like the look of, one more selfish and nasty than he'd ever thought he could be. He didn't want to be that man. He wanted to be with Elaine.

If he was going to do that, though, he was going to have to find a way out of this stupid theme park. That was something he was confident he could achieve. LeChuck's spell had been good, but not quite good enough. The zombie pirate always made a grave miscalculation when plotting his machinations. His actions were motivated by obsession and a desire to possess. Guybrush was motivated by love. One of those was infinitely stronger than the others.

Guybrush cast around, eyes settling on the ride nearest to him, the bumper cars. "Use bumper car with…" Guybrush murmured absently, a sentence structure that he found helped him think. He searched around for something else, glimpsed it out of the corner of his eye. "Perfect," he declared, a decidedly conspiratorial grin spreading, incongruently, across his childish features.

VVVVV

By the time Elaine found Guybrush, LeChuck was buried under an avalanche. The pair of them commandeered a ship and started to sail back to her mansion. That left them with the first opportunity to talk properly since their breakup. Elaine, for her part, wasn't looking forward to it.

Elaine slipped the replacement engagement ring, which she had stolen back from LeChuck immediately after her escape, out of her pocket, and placed it on the desk in the captain's cabin. "Guybrush, I don't know if this was a good idea," she began.

Guybrush's big blue eyes suddenly got bigger, and a whole lot more moist. She could practically hear his heart breaking. Damn it, she remembered why it was so hard to stay mad at him the first time around. There was a reason why she had packed up and left while he wasn't there. This was not something she wanted to see. She gave herself a mental slap and forced herself to maintain her resolve.

"But…but you said I was the only man you ever loved," he quavered. His voice was gentler than before he went down the hole on Dinky Island. There'd been an edge to it then. It had started to creep in when things got bad between them. It was gone now. This was the Guybrush she remembered from the beginning, when things were good.

"I did," she agreed, wishing she hadn't spilled that little tidbit when confronting LeChuck. But she'd been so angry and so hurt, and thought there was no way Guybrush would ever hear. Just her luck that he'd chosen that moment to reappear. "But that doesn't matter. Nothing's changed."

"Everything's changed!" Guybrush exclaimed. "Well, except the part about you loving me, I hope. And the part about me loving you. And where you live…" He shook his head, as though trying to rerail his train of thought. "But other than that, everything's changed! At least, I've changed. I can see now that I was really difficult and selfish and didn't think about how you had a job to do and couldn't just hang out with me all day. But it'll be different now! I won't sulk about your job. I'll put the seat down! I'll start drinking coffee even though it tastes terrible because I know I'm not a morning person!"

"Guybrush…"

"Elaine, please!" His eyes were desperate now. "I thought sitting in your mansion all day meant you were taking away the thing I loved most: being a pirate. But after you left…" He trailed off and swallowed hard, trying to compose himself. "I-I got to be a pirate and do piratey things all the time. And I was miserable. I mean, I'm a tough, rugged pirate, so I hid it well, but I was. I didn't enjoy anything and I didn't like who I was. Don't get me wrong. I love being a pirate. But I love you more."

Elaine felt her resolve cracking. "Guybrush…"

"Please, Elaine," Guybrush ploughed on, clearly afraid of her answer, desperate to bolster his case and convince her. "I meant it when I said every road leads me back to you. If you give me another chance, I'll live in the mansion and I won't complain about the decorating, or how long you work, or not doing anything piratey. I won't feed your piranha poodles table scraps. I won't even brag about defeating LeChuck." He paused, considering his last vow, then added, "As much." Spent, he lapsed into silence, waiting her for her to reply, anxious anticipation written all over his features.

Elaine took one look at him, felt her prepared speech fade from her mind. She knew there was nothing to think about, knew what her answer would be, had always been, deep in her heart. "Oh, Guybrush," she said softly, with none of the vitriol that had typified those final exchanges leading up to their unceremonious breakup. She took one of his hands in both of hers, to her surprise found it was trembling. "It wasn't all down to you. It took both of us to sabotage our relationship. I thought I could put you in the mansion and go on living my life the way I always had. I knew you loved being a pirate as much as I loved being governor. I was wrong to expect you to give up everything so I wouldn't have to give up anything."

Guybrush was looking cautiously optimistic. "Are you saying this wasn't all my fault?"

Elaine smiled slightly in spite of herself. "I'm saying it was both our faults."

"Yay! I mean, I still feel really, really bad about the parts that were my fault, but I'm happy that it wasn't all my fault. Or not happy, more like relieved. And I'll just stop talking now." Guybrush clamped his mouth shut in an effort to not dig himself a deeper hole than he already had, and Elaine couldn't help but laugh.

"Well, in that case, I think we ought to engage in something known in political circles as 'compromise.' Not very piratey, I know."

"Pirates compromise all the time!" Guybrush interjected hurriedly. "Okay, it's usually something like, 'Give me your treasure and I'll let you keep your legs,' but it's the same idea, right?"

"Right…" Elaine allowed, wondering what other examples of 'compromise' came to Guybrush's mind, and deciding she was better off not knowing. "Why don't we agree that from now on, I'll make time in my schedule every month to sail the high seas with you, if you can see your way to being a landlubber at the mansion when I'm working." She leaned in and added meaningfully, "And you leave the poodles alone."

"I can do that!" Guybrush exclaimed excitedly, hand almost leaping from her grasp. "Does this mean I can move my stuff back into the mansion? Because that storage locker I've got on Booty Island is really bleeding me dry."

"Aren't you forgetting something?" Elaine picked the ring up off the table, held it out to him. "After all, every agreement needs something to seal the deal."

Guybrush looked from the ring to her and back again, surprised. "You mean…?"

"I'm not saying a word until you ask me properly," Elaine declared, handing the ring to him and closing his hand around it.

"Uh, yeah, sure." Guybrush was staring at the ring with the same gobsmacked expression he had when she punched him. Given the recent turnaround in events, his head was probably spinning as if she had. But if there was anyone who knew how to recover himself, it was Guybrush, and soon those bright blue eyes were holding hers. "Elaine, there are no words for how much you mean to me. I don't know how I managed before I met you, but I do know I never want to do it again. I want to sail the seas of time with you, in the ship of life, and, um, something else poetic. Was that poetic? I feel like this should be poetic."

"Just keep it simple, Guybrush."

"Okay, okay. Elaine Marley, governor of my heart." Guybrush dropped to one knee, ring held out in offering. "Will you marry me?"

"Oh, Guybrush." Elaine took his hand. "How could I refuse the mightiest pirate in the Caribbean?"

VVVVV

As a token of goodwill, and to make up for all the time they had spent cooped up in the mansion in the early days of their relationship, Elaine consented to a three month long honeymoon on the high seas. Guybrush had loved it, of course, and Elaine had to admit it was a nice break from her responsibilities, even if by the end of the third month she found herself itching to get back to her post and worrying about what might be going on in her absence. Of course, she'd been right to be worried. That governor's sixth sense never failed her, and being declared dead was definitely worthy of some tingling.

But that was a million years ago, an eternity. So much had changed since then, and so much hadn't. Elaine turned over in bed and looked at Guybrush, spread-eagled on his back, snoring gently. He was older and wiser now. So was she, now that she came to think of it. Sometimes she wondered what life would have been like if he hadn't been lost for all that time and made her reevaluate things; if he hadn't made it back; if she hadn't accepted his proposal. She didn't think about it often because the idea terrified her. She would have missed watching Guybrush evolve into the man he was today. Her own shell might have continued to harden indefinitely, with no one to nurture the soul within. Both prospects filled her with trepidation.

Really, when she thought about it, they owed LeChuck rather a lot. Not that that would stop them putting the ghost pirate down if he ever raised his foul-smelling head again. But his actions hadn't been entirely negative in their effects.

Guybrush stirred and turned over, big blue eyes meeting hers. "You okay, plunderbunny?"

She smiled at his sleepy expression. "I'm perfectly fine, thank you. I was just thinking about how things could have turned out, if we'd done things differently."

Guybrush pulled a face. "Turned out how? You were always going to end up with the mightiest pirate in the Caribbean."

Elaine's smile broadened, and she snuggled closer. "Of course I was. Go back to sleep, dear."

Guybrush draped an arm over her and let his eyes slide closed. "We could've bought a bigger ship earlier, though."

"Sleep, Guybrush."

"Okay, okay."

End