"Man Overboard" by mcee

(R) Norrington et al.


James Norrington dreams of being thrown overboard.

There is no voice yelling for his rescue, no lifeline tossed his way, only water colder than Caribbean water has any right to be, the salty slap of it soaking his coats and shirt, filling his shoes, pulling at his hair like an angry babe, dragging him downdowndown. He feels only mild surprise rather than panic at his own lack of reaction; lets himself sink and with the next breath, allows the burn of ocean water to fill his lungs.

He wakes up, as he always does at this point, just as he would rouse from dreamless slumber, were it not for the sheets clinging to the chill of his skin. He's alone in his cabin, of course, nothing but the thrumming of the sea hugging the sturdy, creaking wood of the hull, embracing him with a claustrophobia reminiscent of his dream.

He stumbles from his cot and winces when a foot misses the rug and a splinter pierces tender skin. Pulling on his breeches in the semi-darkness is awkward as he has to compensate for the Dauntless' sway and his own sudden lack of balance. Nausea churns ominously in his gut and he makes his way up to the deck on shaky legs, reaching the rail just in time to empty the meagre contents of his stomach overboard.

His grip is white-knuckled on the bulwark and despite the sweat-soaked hairs sticking to the back of his neck, Norrington shivers, the July wind burning glacial against the fever. Crewmen cast discreet glances his way but wisely avoid tending to their commander's seasickness. Norrington utters a quiet thanks that his lieutenants are nowhere in sight.

He lowers himself unsteadily; the deck is shiny and slick under the lantern a young sailor is using to light the tangle of rope he's attempting to recoil. Norrington's breeches are immediately soaked through with the thick humidity clinging to the planks beneath him. He suddenly finds himself desperately wanting his two feet on solid ground, land-locked somewhere with closed door and curtains on windows, maybe at his home where Elizabeth is pacing stifling rooms, rubbing the swell of her belly and peeking through the cracks between drapes at the blue-white glare of the horizon at high noon, thinking of blacksmiths and billowing canvas.

The dream has been coming more frequently since the Black Pearl's ultimate capture, and incessantly after her captain's hanging. The taste of bile in the back of Norrington's throat is ever-present now, just like the phantom grip around his ankle when he dreams, every night he's at sea, of drowning.