Thank you to all of my reviewers: Angela, ellennar, MudGuppy, Rennie1265, llwyngronw, Jack E, LadyBush (x2) and Eledhwen.
Disclaimer: I do not own Pirates of the Caribbean.
A week. A week since the duel. James Norrington sat at the desk in his study, staring unseeingly at the paperwork in front of him. What in God's names had he been doing? What had he been thinking? What point was he trying to prove? That he, a Naval officer, could defeat a blacksmith, a bloody BLACKSMITH, at swordplay? He groaned and buried his face in his hands. Well, at least the gossip had stopped, and there was a new understanding between himself and the man who had been his rival. But that did not mean that he, an officer and a gentleman, had not challenged one of those under his protection. Officers and gentlemen did not challenge blacksmiths who were engaged to their ex-betrothed to duels.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. He hastily shuffled through some of his papers to make his desk look more orderly and brushed off his uniform. "Come."
A maid entered and bobbed a curtsey. "Beggin' your pardon, sir, but a Mr Turner requests that he see you in private."
"Thank you Mary. Please send him up."
As the maid closed the door behind her, James fell to pondering- what was the purpose of Mr Turner's visit, he wondered. It would clearly be something to do with their duel, but what? The gossips were silenced, the betrothal party was planned, he was invited and their differences were laid to rest. Unless his guest had some other grievance he wished to discuss. James straightened in his chair and schooled his features into his usual stern mask. Whatever it was, he would appear as the Commodore to the young blacksmith- it would not do to be thought of as human, he thought wryly.
William Turner entered the room, having knocked to announce his presence, and walked to stand in front of James, shuffling his feet nervously. James surveyed him for a moment and then gestured him to a chair. "Welcome, Mr Turner. May I get you a drink?"
The blacksmith shook his head and muttered a polite refusal. James continued to sit silently and watch his guest-not strictly the most courteous thing to do- guessing that whatever was on the younger man's mind would surface soon enough. It did.
"Commodore," Will began, avoiding James' gaze. "I would like to thank you for your gracious actions of a week ago."
James opened his mouth to reply but thought better of it and kept his quiet.
Will continued. "However, that is not the sole purpose of my visit. You have given Elizabeth and I a great gift by conceding the fight- even though our purpose was not to win the lady's hand. You have kept your word to us and given us the chance to be truly happy. But, there is something I do not understand- at the end of our duel, you could so easily have slain me and taken Elizabeth as your own. What stayed your hand?"
James was taken aback- the younger man's earnest words were entirely unexpected. Of all things, he had not thought to hear the gratitude and honest confusion that he now heard in Will's voice. "Mr Turner-" he began.
"Will," the blacksmith interrupted.
James paused for a moment, surprised, then nodded. "Of course, Will. As to your answer…" James stood and walked to one of the many windows and looked out at the sea crashing against the cliff, thinking carefully about his response. He realised that Will needed reassurance and a final answer to questions that had been plaguing him. He decided to let his mask of cold indifference slip and once again show the blacksmith the man behind the uniform. He prepared himself for his heartfelt response.
"Everyday, the waves smash against the cliff, with all of Nature's raw fury, and slowly they wear away at the rock, slowly grinding them and pushing them back. No doubt it will take many hundreds of years for even such a powerful force as the sea to conquer the rock. If I had killed you and taken Miss Swann for my own, her lost love and heartbreak over you would make her as cold and impenetrable as the earth upon which this fortress stands, and my feelings for her would be as impotent as the sea, wearing her away to nothing. That, Will, is your answer."
Will sat for a moment, astounded by the passion and poetry of the Commodore's words. "But what is there for you, to reward your selfless actions and your suffering?"
"For me?" James said quietly. He turned back to gaze again at the sea and smiled as he caught sight of a black speck in the distance, tauntingly just out of reach. He glanced at Will and beckoned to the blacksmith. When the young man joined him he pointed out of the window at the dark shape. "For me, there is always the hunt."
The Duel is over. Thank you for reading.