|Wait For No Man
Author: Gamine PM
Now complete! Losing a wife is hard enough, but losing a child... some losses are too much for the human soul to bear.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure - Chapters: 14 - Words: 31,461 - Reviews: 345 - Favs: 126 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 08-30-03 - Published: 07-25-03 - Status: Complete - id: 1443969
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: No mouse ears for me. No profit made, just a little fun.
A/N: Set two years after the end of the movie.
It's all Keith's fault. You try being in a car for two hours with a pirate-loving Johnny Depp look-alike with the soundtrack blaring in your ears and see if you're not writing like a maniac too.
Wait For No Man
"Looks like rain, sir."
Commodore Norrington squinted at the lowering sky. "It does indeed." He glanced at the black-cloaked palanquin ahead, unable to see inside but knowing the man within huddled there lifelessly, immured in his grief. "Seems fitting, does it not?"
His subordinate nodded wordlessly, and they tramped in silence to the graveyard.
The rain came down in earnest as the parish priest of Port Royal finished his sad duty, and the company retired with dignified haste to the Governor's mansion on the hill overlooking the harbor. Norrington pulled off his tricorne in the foyer, watching a cascade of water spill from it. "And the heavens weep," he said to himself, almost absently.
"Thank you for coming, Commodore," said a husky voice, and he turned to find Will Turner, his face lined with grief. "I've a favor to ask of you, but not now. The Governor has asked me to bring you to him. Will you?"
"Of course." Governor Swann had aged decades overnight, Norrington thought privately, bowing respectfully as they approached him – a man bereft if ever Norrington had seen one. The intelligent eyes were sunken and greyed; the once jocular tilt to the firm mouth was gone, drawn downward into a poignant frown. Norrington thought he knew what the Governor wanted, and he wasn't disappointed.
"I leave on the morrow for England, Commodore." The commanding voice had grown querulous.
"So soon, my lord?" Norrington looked from the Governor to his son-in-law; Will shook his head slightly. No use to talk him out of it, then. Norrington inclined his own head a fraction to show he understood. "I shall have the Eliz – " a grimace from Will and Norrington smoothly edited himself, " – your ship made ready immediately."
The Governor nodded, frowning to himself. "My thanks. In my absence I wish to formally appoint you lieutenant governor, with the further recommendation to his Majesty that you be granted the full governorship upon my retirement, effective immediately."
Norrington stared. "My lord – "
"No arguments," interrupted the Governor with a flash of his old command. "I do not ask your opinion, Commodore, only whether you will accept the appointment if offered, which I have every confidence it shall be."
"I – " Norrington gaped for a moment, then collected himself. "I should be honored, my lord."
"May I be the first to offer my congratulations, Commodore – I suppose I should say Lieutenant Governor." Will Turner held out his hand. Norrington smiled stiffly and took it. There was undoubtedly fine stuff in Turner, he thought. That he had heretofore refused to see it was Norrington's own fault, blinded as he was by jealousy and then a broken heart. He'd not make that mistake again.
"My thanks, Will. And do please call me Edmund." His smile relaxed into a grin as he saw the surprise in Will's eyes, followed by gratification.
"Come," the younger man said. "I'm sure you'd like something to drink."
Norrington bowed to the Governor again and followed Will toward the dining room. "And you have something to ask me that you do not wish the Governor to hear?"
Will nodded as he poured a measure of ale. "I do, and you have made it much easier for me to do so." He poured a second, and they sat in a pair of chairs the bow of the window, watching the rain pour down the panes in sheets.
"I wanted to ask you, Will – how is the babe?"
The blacksmith smiled gently. "I like to tell myself she is the image of her mother. She is well, thank God. Two such losses I could not have – " his husky voice grew thick and he broke off. After a moment, which Norrington spent studying the pattern of the water on the window, Will cleared his throat. "It was about my daughter that I wished to speak to you."
Now that was a surprise. Norrington raised his brows. "Indeed? Of course whatever service I may render– but I fail to see what possible use I could be to a child but three days old."
Will looked him full in the face. "I wanted to ask you to be her godfather."
For the second time in an hour, Norrington gaped. "Me? You want me to – but – " he shook his head, feeling the need to clear it.
"Not for my sake, of course," Will hastened to say. "But I believe it is what Elizabeth would have wanted."
It was Will's turn to watch the rain while Norrington collected himself, blinking back the burning that came to his eyes. "Then, of course, I accept. With thanks." His voice was rough; Norrington coughed. "What do you name the child?"
"I thought to name her after her mother." Will sighed. "The Governor won't have her mentioned in his presence. He blames the babe for his daughter's death." He sighed again. "And me."
Norrington studied him. "He is wrong, you know. And so are you, if you believe him." Will's dark eyes flashed, but he said nothing. "Sometimes the Almighty moves in ways we cannot understand," Norrington went on, not unkindly. "But His will is always beyond our control. You loved Elizabeth, and she you. That is all the truth you need."
Will nodded, his lips pressing together. "Thank you, Edmund." He gazed out the window. "I do believe the storm is beginning to break. The christening will be Saturday morning, in the chapel."
"Not the church?"
Will smiled gently. "Elizabeth loved the chapel."
Norrington nodded, seeing again the radiant bride of two years before, leaving the small chapel on Will's arm, reflections of stained glass patterning her honeyed locks and white gown like the gayest of Harlequins. "So I recall." He got to his feet. "My thanks to you and the Governor for your hospitality, and again, my condolences on your grievous loss."
Will saw him to the door. "I should very much like you to come to dinner on Friday night, Edmund, if you will. My home is next to the smithy, of course."
Norrington smiled. "I shall be delighted to attend. I shall see you and my goddaughter then." He raised a hand in farewell, and began the long walk down to the fort.
The duties of a brand-new lieutenant governor were many and varied; that Friday afternoon it was with relief that an exhausted Norrington signed approval on a draft of a letter of business, putting his pen back in its holder with an air of finality. He pushed the paper toward his secretary and stood, stretching to crack the small of his back.
"I told you, Weston, I have a most important engagement this evening." Norrington overrode the protests of the other man as he shrugged on his coat. "Tomorrow morning my goddaughter is christened; this evening I dine out. And I shall see you," Norrington set his tricorne on his head firmly, "Monday morning, barring an emergency, of course."
"An emergency? What sort of emergency?" Weston was flustered, and no wonder. This was surely not the way things had always been done. Not that Norrington cared. He had better things to do than reams of paperwork.
"I trust your judgement, man. As an example, notify me at once if," the lieutenant governor stifled a grin, "we are attacked by undead pirates. Good day to you, Weston."
Twilight in Port Royal was her pleasantest time of day, he mused as he made his way down the slope of Governor's Hill. The cool air from the inland peak rolled toward the sea, bringing with it exotic scents of jasmine and citrus blossom, pushing away the damp heat of the day's toils. The sky was dressing itself in gaudy colors; To tempt the heart of the setting sun, he thought, watching the clouds turn red and purple and orange. It wasn't often Norrington allowed himself these poetical flights into melancholy fancy; such caprice is not suitable to the military mind. He knew what it was that brought him to such a pass, of course. Thoughts of Elizabeth were never far from his mind these days.
Ah well. What was past was gone. The better man had, after all, won. And lost. Norrington shook his head to dislodge these circular thoughts as he approached the small but pretty cottage Will had built only the year before.
And there was Will himself on the stoop, babe in his arms, beckoning him inside. "Your timing is impeccable, Edmund. My Lizbet," he dropped a kiss on the tiny forehead, "must dine shortly, and then to bed until the wee hours, when I am sure she will demonstrate once again that the tiniest of instruments may yet produce the loudest sounds." He flashed a faint smile at the lieutenant governor. "Here. You might as well get some practice in." Will held the bundle out for Norrington to hold.
He examined the small personage thus offered, then looked helplessly at the mite's father. "You must excuse me, Will, I've no experience with children."
Will actually chuckled at that. "How much d'you think I've had?"
Norrington gave him a rueful smile. "Point taken. Show me how, please."
"Just support her head, that's the main thing." And suddenly Norrington found himself holding the newborn against his impeccable primrose-colored waistcoat.
He looked nervously at Will. "When will I stop feeling terrified?"
Will smiled, stroking the back of a knuckle down the baby's cheek. "I'll let you know when I do."
Young Lizbet opened her rosebud mouth and made it clear in no uncertain terms that her dinnertime had arrived. Norrington eagerly handed the wailing, red-faced bundle back to her father. Will, in turn, gave her to the wet nurse, a middle-aged Jamaican woman who took Lizbet with a loving smile for the child and a curtsey for the gentlemen.
Will gestured to the table, now set with savory roast mutton and all the trimmings. "Shall we?"
"My word, Will, you do me proud," said Norrington. Will simply smiled.
The dinner was delicious, but Norrington spent the bulk of his time studying the young blacksmith. When the dishes had been cleared and fresh ale poured, Will leaned back and regarded him just as steadily.
"I really am all right, Edmund. Or I will be. I have to be, for Lizbet," he amended.
Norrington flushed slightly, feeling guilty. "Sorry."
"Please don't be." Will stared at the flickering flame of the candle for a moment. "I believe that if anyone could understand what I feel, it would be you. After all," his dark eyes focused on Norrington, their gaze uncomfortably penetrating, "you loved her too."
Pointless, and dishonest, to deny it. Especially now. "I did. If I'd been man enough to risk everything to go after her; if I'd done what in my heart I knew was right, instead of letting the letter of the law keep a stranglehold on me, perhaps she would have loved me too." Norrington took a drink. "The unvarnished truth is, I did nothing to deserve her. You did."
There was no answer to that; Will made none. They drank in silence for a moment, then Norrington leaned forward. "May I ask you something?"
The young blacksmith didn't pretend to misunderstand. "I told you. I believe Elizabeth would have approved. She had a great deal of respect for you." Norrington made no reply, merely waiting. Will sighed. "And because I believe you are the kind of man that would protect her and care for her, and love her for her mother's sake, should something happen to me."
Norrington sat back. "Do you anticipate such an event?"
"No. But the advent of misfortune is something no man can predict." Will regarded his guest steadily. "She is all I have, Edmund, all that is left to me of Elizabeth and the love we shared. I believe you would respect this as no other man would do, and love the child as a father in my stead. Am I wrong?"
The vehemence in the younger man's words took Norrington aback. "No. I will do all that you ask, should the need arise." He contemplated his host. "Tell me what happened."
Will blew out a breath. "'Twas nothing, really, merely a cry from a sorely wounded heart. He was wandering in his wits from grief at the time. He apologized before he left."
Norrington was puzzled. "Who, the Governor?"
"Aye." Will shrugged. "As I say, 'twas a storm that blew itself out. But I realized that if I made no provision for Lizbet and something happened to me, she'd be sent away to be raised by a man who believes he has no reason to love her."
"Ah." Norrington nodded. "I see."
Will held out his hand. "I have your word, then?"
Norrington clasped it firmly. "You do. I shall raise her and love her as you would yourself. But I trust the need will not arise."
That raised a shadow of a smile. "As do I."
Night had long fallen when Norrington rose to take his leave. He walked briskly through the smith's small yard to the gate and turned to close it with his customary care when a furtive movement at the side of the house caught his eye. He squinted, sharpening his gaze.
There it was. Just the merest flicker of red when the firelight from within the house reflected in a certain way. Norrington placed his hand on the hilt of his sword, curling his fingers around the grip. "Show yourself."
A faint tinkling sound, the scent of tobacco and rum and the sea, and the shadows at the side of the house resolved themselves into a familiar shape.
"Evenin', Commodore." Captain Jack Sparrow, his hat clutched in his hands, quirked a mere half a grin, quite unlike his usual cocky self.
Of course. Norrington wrestled with himself for a moment, then relaxed his hold on the sword with a sigh. He gave the man a wary nod, narrowing steel-gray eyes. "You'll not be here in the morning, I trust?"
Jack inclined his head, clearly surprised. "My word on it."
"For whatever that's worth," the lieutenant governor groused, and turned to go.
He paused at the corner. Behind him he could hear the smithy door open, a glad cry of 'Jack!', and a masculine sob of grief, quickly stifled against a filthy greatcoat. "All right, lad," came the pirate's harsh tones, greatly softened. "'Twill be all right."
Lieutenant Governor Edmund Norrington looked up at the silver crescent of the moon, smiling to himself. It was hard lesson, balancing one's conscience against the weight of the law.
But he was learning.