So, I see that someone favorited this story. Yay! Thank you! I was honestly thinking of just leaving this hang out in limbo for a while, but you've inspired me to at least try to get some more of this written. I'm not sure if this makes a difference, but this fic is the sequel to Secrets to Discover. Also, I did happen to change my Pen-name. Now that it coincides with my Twitter, Xbox gamertag, and most of everything else, I'm a little easier to find (hopefully). It might be why people aren't really reviewing, or maybe cause there's less traffic on the site lately. Not sure, but whatever. Here you are, readers! Enjoy!
Atlantic Ocean, 3 Weeks Later
Cutler Beckett sighed. The presence of this Mercer man troubled him, and Cutler had yet to devise a plan to try to win the assassin over to working for him. Cutler was certainly not going to let this man kill Narelle but having him as an asset or ally would really be helpful. He knew he needed another set of eyes (or another sword, for that matter), and this Mercer seemed to be it. Cutler had managed to give the man an offer to consider working for him instead. When Mercer at first refused, he explained that no one would be the wiser, and the only other person that knew of his mission was the King. He also pointed out that he'd have nothing to do until Cutler gave up on her (which he never would), and it would only make sense to at least have a job while he was in Port Royal. The offer sent the elder man thinking, and Cutler left him to ponder his options.
He was grateful that he got his own quarters for the voyage. Sailing with others sharing his cabin would more than likely have frayed his nerves. It allowed him to pace while he thought. While frowned upon in public, pacing brought him some form of peace. He also sometimes vocalized his thoughts. He was really careful when he did, however. No need for anyone passing by to not only hear his potential plan, but to think that he was insane. His tricorn hat lay forlorn on the bed as he sat at the desk. The book he grabbed from the palace lied on the wooden surface open before him. If seeing the room where he picked it up had changed his perspective of her, it was nothing compared to the words that were written on its pages.
Cutler waited until the ship was well underway on its voyage before he felt he was brave enough to not only shove off the layer of dust on the cover, but to start reading it. Learning it was her own accounts, he was surprised as to how detailed her entries were. He pushed through the days when the late King John passed and her side of when the current king came into power. As he pressed on reading, it became clear that King George was absolutely horrendous to her, and he could only bear reading fewer and fewer passages as he continued. He should stop reading, throw it into the corner where he'd never see it again, and pretend he saw nothing. The disgust of what was done to her turned to sadness, which was quickly replaced by anger. Why, of all people, did she have to suffer? How could the King do such a thing to his own family member? The question he asked himself the most, however, almost broke his heart every time he asked it.
Why didn't she tell him? Moreover, why didn't she trust him enough to tell him?
He sincerely hoped she was alive. Everything in his mind screamed for him to apologize to her, for not seeing the truth at first, and for not seeming trustworthy to her. At least try and make everything right. He didn't care if she didn't ever want to set foot in London again, or if she never wanted to see anyone related to the palace for as long as she lived.
He sighed again. His eyes fell to the open book before him. With a slightly trembling hand, he pulled it closer to him, and off the edge slightly so the bottom rested at an angle against his knee while still being propped against the desk. Her penmanship style changed many times the more entries he read. Some were elegantly scripted, which he had theorized were times where she knew how to pick her words and had plenty of time to write them. Others seemed rushed, more untidy, or perhaps written with a shaking hand? As much as he liked the elegance of the other side of her, he could really feel the emotion with the untidiness of the entries, much like the one before him. It was like the emotion of what she had written (or sometimes, hadn't) would seep under his skin and into his soul. There had been a couple times where he'd thrown the book across the room out of anger, or (and he had hoped no one ever saw him at this point) a lone tear as he read.
As much as he wanted to start reading the next entry, a knock on his door pulled him away. He shut the book quickly and slid it away. Keeping his expression neutral, he cleared his throat before speaking.
"Enter," he called.
He was surprised to see Mercer come through the door. Cutler folded his hands after gesturing for the older man to sit across from him and rested them on his desk.
"Mercer," he said. "I'll admit, I wasn't expecting to see you."
Mercer looked towards the door hesitantly. "Were you expecting someone else, sir?" he said slowly.
"Not at all, I was just finishing some work. What's on your mind?"
Mercer leaned back slightly in his chair, trying to look comfortable. His eyes flicked around the room, as if surveying any potential dangers or possible escape routes besides the door. Part of Cutler wondered if he was making sure no one else was in the room with them, or if the old man was simply paranoid. When Mercer's eyes settled back to his, Cutler raised an eyebrow.
"I'd like to take you up on that offer, Lord Beckett," Mercer replied. "The more I thought about this job, sir, the guiltier I felt. This lady had done nothing wrong."
"I'm glad you see it that way," Cutler said softly. He sighed, relieved. "Honestly, I never thought you were going to agree to what I had proposed."
"She's done nothing wrong, sir. I'd rather serve someone who would give me a steadier place of employment than someone who will pay great sums only when someone needs killing."
"Very fair, Mr. Mercer. I hope you don't mind travelling by sea, then. I will need someone to help solidify the surrounding ports under the East India Trading Company's authority."
"Whatever you need, sir. I'm yours to command."
Reflexively, Cutler smirked.
"We're roughly halfway to Port Royal," he said. "We'll need a plan by then."
Narelle woke with a start, realizing a hand had been gently shaking her shoulder. She gasped as her head sprang up. Her crossed arms had fallen numb from supporting her head, the blood rushing back to her limbs caused them to immediately tingle. The paperwork under her arms were unfinished, the ink most likely smeared from being unable to dry. She groaned as she looked at her coat sleeve that was now tattooed with ink in the reflection of her handwriting.
"Captain?" came Theodore Groves's voice. His hand still rested on her shoulder.
She didn't trust her voice, so she grunted in response.
"You really should consider going home, m'lady," he continued. "It's almost dusk."
She sighed. "Any news yet?" she asked as she rubbed an eye.
"Keep listening for anything. I don't care if they're rumors. I need to finish this report."
Her eyes glanced up to Theodore's. "I'll be fine," she said, trying to sound reassuring. "I'm just going to finish this report, and then I'm going home." She yawned, her body betraying her intentions.
Theodore chuckled a little.
"If you're sure," he replied, removing his hand from her. "Is there anything I can help with?"
She shook her head, her mind trying to re-focus on the report. The words that had stained her sleeve were still visible, mainly. She dipped her pen back in the ink to rewrite over the previous attempt. She then froze after the first few words.
"Actually, yes," she said suddenly. She never looked up to him. "If you could get Captain Ward in here, that'd be fantastic."
"Captain Ward?" Theodore asked. "The merchant trader?"
"Yes. It's important. Tell him it's me personally that's asking, and not the Royal Navy."
Theodore looked confused for a moment, but shook it away, nodded to her, and left her office.
She continued writing. I really shouldn't, she thought, but it'll make me feel better if I send a ship after James. I'd rather be… protective, than find out something went wrong weeks later.
Though it had only been a few weeks, three precisely, since James left to pursue Sparrow. Narelle had been in charge of Fort Charles since then, and she honestly had no idea how he had put up with the constant stress of keeping this place running. Paperwork seemed to come out of the walls and piled themselves on her desk. She didn't mind signing requests or making replies to queries, but she absolutely didn't like writing reports for the Governor. She preferred to just tell him, but Governor Swann liked to have a paper copy for future reference. As much as she agreed with his logic, she still didn't like it.
She finished and signed her work about an hour later. She read and re-read the report, seemingly satisfied. She kept the numerous pieces of paper together and set them in the self-designated spot for outgoing documents. A knock on her door pulled her out of her thoughts. Without waiting to hear her acknowledge the guest, the door opened. Narelle smiled when she saw Captain Ward with Theodore.
"Captain," Groves said, nodding. "Captain Ward, as requested."
"Thank you, Groves," she replied. "Go home, I'm not far behind." She let Ward sit across from her.
Captain Allister Ward and Narelle had been friends since she was a young officer in London. He had served in the Royal Navy when she was a Lieutenant and had watched over her for her father when he was still alive. He taught her the tricks to sailing, tips on how to command a battle on the water, even how to navigate with the stars when there was no map or compass. Most of the skills she picked up that concerned a ship were taught by him. After the death of King John, Allister had found himself unable to continue service in the Navy. He had injured his knee during a battle against a few pirate ships. While the rest of his crew came out relatively unscathed, the piece of wood that had embedded itself in Allister's knee had effectively ended his naval career. Thankfully dodging both amputation and infection, he was discharged with honor by the Crown. He still wanted to do something that involved a ship and he felt empty until he joined up with a merchant sailor who made regular runs from London to the British colonies in the Caribbean. He landed in Port Royal a few months later, loved the quiet life, and made more local trading runs between the small port, the islands nearby, and even to the northern part of Jamaica.
Ward didn't even realize the new Captain was Narelle until her identity was announced when she was assigned to the day rotation. He had heard a rumor that the princess had run away, but he never expected her to turn up here of all places. Port Royal was quiet enough to hide, sure, but the population seemed to grow rapidly here. Sooner or later, she would be discovered, and she'd either have to run again, or stand her ground. He wasn't surprised that she had ascended to Captain already. Allister thought she was a good leader, if blunt with her words sometimes.
His eyes crinkled when he smiled at her.
"Well girl," he said, his thick Scottish accent light with amusement. "What can I do for yah?"
"Ward, I'm going to come right out with it," she replied. "I need you to track the Dauntless."
"Surely this isn't because o' yer flame, is it?"
"If you mean Commodore Norrington, you'd be right."
"Protective of 'im, are yeh?"
"Fairly. I know it's been a few weeks, but if he needs help, two ships are better than one."
"My Navy days are behind me, girl. I can't command troops to the degree that you can. Besides, my crew and I prefer to dodge a fight. My ship ain't built for offense, just defensive cannons to make hit and runs."
She sighed. "Fine, then can you at least go out there and see if she still floats?"
Ward leaned back in the chair. "I'm not a trooper anymore. I'll need compensation."
"What do you want?"
"My main mast needs some repairs. There's a nasty split at the base. Doubt she'd make the trip out an' back without snappin'."
"Done. Anything else?"
"Two thousand pounds."
"I'm assuming to divide amongst you and your crew for payment?"
"You'd be right." He crossed his arms with a smirk, thinking that she would refuse.
She didn't. "You've got yourself a deal."
His eyes widened. "That's a hefty price, Captain. This man o' yers worth it?"
"Would you agree if it was your lady, Allister?"
He thought a moment. "Aye, you'd be right. I'd sail around the world thrice to find her if she went missin'."
She smirked. "Your mast will be repaired on the morrow, but you won't be paid the pounds until you return. Fair?"
"Fair," he replied, shaking her outstretched hand.
Two Weeks Later
"The ship has returned, Captain."
It was the only thing that Theodore said to her when he stuck his head into her office, but it was all she needed to immediately stop her work, grab her coat hanging draped around the back of her chair, snatch her hat from the corner of her desk, and sprint past him out the office door, down the halls of Fort Charles, and down the cobblestoned road of Port Royal to the docks. She donned the clothes she picked up as she ran. The townspeople that saw her coming instantly made a lane for her to run and even pulled people out of the way that couldn't see her. Theodore tried to keep up but was a few paces behind her. He was initially ten seconds behind her but realizing that she ran off he used his longer strides to catch up to her. Lieutenant Andrew Gillette saw his two friends run off through the fort and joined in the race. He wasn't sure why they were running, but he knew he'd find out if he caught up to at least Theodore.
She saw the ship she sent to find James already docked. Determined to find answers, she pushed herself faster. As she neared the dock she slowed to a trot, and eventually to a complete stop, her eyes locked on the crew and eventual captain of the ship. Her expression lightened when she saw Captain Ward come down the gangway.
Seeing his expression, however, her face fell. He approached her, his features solemn.
"Captain," he said slowly. His voice was thick with sorrow. "I found the Dauntless."
"Where is she?" she asked, already having a feeling of the larger ship's fate.
Ward shook his head. "It's in pieces, m'lady. Completely gone. So is all but one of 'er crew. We found 'im unconscious driftin' on a door."
He pivoted so she could see past him, and she saw a man come to the top deck from below. The sight of a blue coat gave her hope.
"Be careful, m'lady," Ward said cautiously, catching Narelle's arm. "'E's been through a turn. Barely spoke a word the 'ole ride back. Kept to 'isself, mainly."
He descended the gangway, and she couldn't hide her smile any longer. She started towards him in a trot, but the pained look on James's face made her stop before she reached him. Her expression turned slowly from joy to concern as her eyebrows knitted together and her smile fell.
"I'm glad to see you, James," she said, worried.
"You may be the only one who will be," he replied quietly.
"That's not true," she countered. "Your friends are here, and they'll be glad to see you as well."
"I won't be staying long."
She winced, both in pain and confusion. He walked past her. She turned to see Theodore and Andrew's smiles also fall as James walked past him as well. Theodore's head whipped behind him to watch the older man start towards the governor's mansion. He looked back to her, alarmed and confused. Her face hardened to determination and indignation as she started after James, Theodore quickly following behind her.
James reached the mansion before them. The door slammed loudly behind him, stopping her, Theodore, and Andrew in their tracks at the gate of the property. She waited, leaning on a pillar, listening for any sign of an argument. There was none.
"Why didn't he embrace you?" Theodore asked quietly, confused. "What happened to him? Where's the Dauntless?"
"His ship is destroyed. He's the only survivor of his crew."
"What happened?" Andrew asked. "Does anyone know?"
She shook her head. "I don't know the details yet."
She heard a noise towards the mansion, and saw James descending the walkway. Governor Swann stood at the doorway.
"We can work this out, Commodore!" he yelled.
James, however, kept walking, his expression stoic. The gate opened, and he walked past the three officers again. Narelle recovered faster than the first time and kept pace with him. Theodore and Andrew hung back a few seconds
"Talk to me," she pleaded. "What happened?"
When he didn't answer right away, she grabbed his arm and wrenched him around to face her, pulling them to a stop in the middle of the road.
"Don't just walk away from me!" she yelled, tears in her eyes. "What happened?!"
"I killed them," he replied simply. His eyes fell to the street, and he hung his head slightly. His voice fell to barely above a whisper. "I made a mistake, and it got my crew killed."
"Mistakes happen, James. That's why we're humans, and not something man-made to be perfect."
"The mistakes we make end up costing our subordinates their lives! They trust us to take care of them, and I failed them!"
"You did your best!"
"You don't know what I've done!" he yelled, his eyes snapping back to hers in fire. "I sailed into a hurricane to catch Sparrow. It cost me my ship, my crew, and now my commission!"
Narelle was taken aback; her jaw fell open slightly. She felt her eyes water, and her throat felt thick. Trying to will her hurt expression away, she swallowed.
"I don't deserve my rank anymore," he replied. His head fell slightly. "I don't deserve the life I have."
"You have survivor's guilt," she said, growing desperate. "It's something we can work out, James. It will get better. You have your friends, and you have me. I promise you, James, it will get better with time."
The finality of his statement sent the tears in her eyes down her cheeks. Her grip on his arm tightened.
"I'm not letting you go," she said thickly.
"You must," he replied quietly. "I need this."
"You need us!" she said loudly. "Me. Theodore. Andrew. You need us! We can help you!"
"Let me do this."
She shook her head, tears falling faster.
He pulled his arm free with his other hand from her grip.
"You don't deserve someone without honor," he said. "Let me prove it to you by getting it back."
"Your honor never left, James! You cast it away because of a storm!"
"Let me do this," he repeated.
She let out a sob, sniffed quickly.
"Please don't leave," she whispered pleadingly.
"I will always love you," he replied thickly. She saw tears form in the corners of his emerald green eyes. He let go of her and turned away. It was only then that he let his own anguish forth, which only intensified with each step away from her. He willed the tears away for a moment.
"I will always love you too, James Norrington," he heard her whisper after him.
He couldn't stop the tears this time, but he kept walking. He was doing this for her, he kept telling himself. He was going to find something worthy of winning his honor back. He had to.
I'll be honest, the scene where James left was hard to write. Not that it was actually hard, but to get the tone right, I had to listen to a lot of depressing music to try and get the emotions I wanted. Please, please, please let me know what you think. I also wanted to clarify that while it doesn't follow the exact timeline of the movies, I wanted to get some set up done for the second film before I get into it. I'm fairly sure we'll get into it before long, but I want to develop this a little more before we really get to the adventure. Also, I'm sorry for the double author's notes before and after the chapter, but I like to communicate with you, my lovely readers, because I love you. :) Thank you again for reading!