Author's Notes: I changed the name of the ship the "Bonnie Blue," to the "Charlotte"- a little tribute to a favorite film, "National Treasure." Previous chapters have been edited accordingly. Now onto the final installment!
After Commodore Norrington had secured passage aboard the Charlotte, he went to Elizabeth himself, to tell her of what had been arranged. Over dinner, Elizabeth had remained completely silent as he explained an annulment was being prepared, that he had guaranteed her a place on the same ship that would carry William Turner away from Port Royal.
Elizabeth's only words were, "Why are you doing this?"
"I love you, Elizabeth," he replied, and left her alone for the night.
The next morning they traveled for the last time as Commodore and Mrs. Norrington to her father, who would validate the annulment document as governor. Elizabeth said not a word to protest.
The scratching of the fateful pens was extraordinarily loud in James's ears. He signed first, forcing his hand to move over the parchment. Then Elizabeth attached her name in a quick, fluid motion. She looked nervous. Lastly, Governor Swann applied his own name and seal.
Elizabeth was left at her old home that night, but returned to Norrington's residence the next day with her father's butler to retrieve her things, which had been readily packed by Clara.
The maid said goodbye to her mistress, not without sadness, for they had become good friends in the time they knew one another. The most difficult moment came when Elizabeth stood with Norrington for the last time in the foyer.
"So your father agreed to your leaving?" Norrington asked stiffly.
"Yes. He did not want to, but he did." She looked at him straight in his green eyes, and he could see that old spark. She continued, "He asked me, 'So, this is the path you've chosen, is it?'"
"And your answer was?"
"Then I wish you well," he said, bowing his head.
"Thank you James." She wrung her hands, frowning. "And… I am sorry."
The Commodore fell back into his military demeanor. "Do not apologize. It is all said and done."
"Then let me thank you again," she pled, stepping forward. "You posses the greatest heart, James…"
Norrington closed his eyes; he did not want to hear this. She was only sewing more seeds of sadness into his heart with her polite gratitude.
"…You have done so much for me-"
"My purpose is to serve others, Elizabeth. Nothing needs to be done for me."
Elizabeth swallowed apprehensively. "May I give you a gift?"
When he did not answer she pulled out a small bundle from her handbag. Wrapped in a handkerchief was the pocketwatch. "I meant to get it for you when you returned from your patrol…" she trailed off and handed it to him. The previous night she had gone out to finally purchase it.
James unfolded the kerchief, embroidered with flowers, and the timepiece sat in his palm. He opened the silver case and admired the miniature painting on the clock face. It ticked softly, steadily.
"Thank you, Elizabeth," he whispered, and wrapped it back up and pocketed it.
The butler appeared in the doorway. "Everything is set, miss."
"Thank you, I'll be a moment," she replied hastily, and the man went to take his seat as driver. Elizabeth turned back to James. His face was carved in stone, but his eyes betrayed his heart as they welled with sadness. "I suppose this is goodbye."
"This is goodbye," he nodded. James would not allow himself to kiss her. They were no longer husband and wife, and the only real kiss they had shared had been one goodbye kiss, there need not be another.
But Norrington did take her into his arms and held her for a long moment. Tears fell out of his eyes and into Elizabeth's long brown hair. When he let her go, they stepped out into the sun, which was shining brightly. James offered his hand to Miss Swann once more, only just to help her into the carriage. He stood back as the horses began to trot. Holding one another's gaze as long as they could through the window, they bid their last farewell.
Dawn had painted a pink and blue sky that hung over the Charlotte on the day it departed Port Royal- James Norrington had watched its sails disappear over the horizon. Elizabeth was aboard, and her companion was her fiancé, William Turner. With the Governor's rather reluctant blessing, they married upon their landing in the southern colony of North Carolina. Together they acquired a modest home on the waterfront, part of a small fishing village, and there, Will found work as a blacksmith.
Elizabeth wrote to her father with news of their success and their happiness. And as expected, gossip swept through Port Royal faster than sand in a hurricane wind. While Will and Elizabeth had escaped their scandal; it was Norrington who had to tolerate the passing glances, whispers, and bold inquiries alike. The general sentiments concerning the matter included disdain for Elizabeth, who "had always been too free-spirited," and pity for James, "the most honorable of men." Even Governor Swann received criticism for making it possible for his daughter to run off with "the blackguard Turner."
To avoid it all, as well as distract himself from despair, James found solace in devoting himself wholly to his duties. The Commodore spent hours at the fort. In his office, he poured over paperwork and charts until the candles on his desk burned down to the very end of the wick. The marines endured drilling of a greater intensity than usual, on the battlements and deck. Norrington, in part as to earn a dreamless sleep, would push himself to exhaustion, exercising procedures alongside his men, even fencing with his Lieutenant, to improve his swordsmanship, despite his still-healing battle-injuries.
It was Gillette who had to act as a moderator, keeping an eye out for the condition of the troops- a reversal of roles, for usually it was he who normally cracked the whip harder- and especially for James himself. On numerous occasions, Andrew made it his responsibility to see James home, when his good friend had too long been sitting behind his desk.
Gillette had sat one night with Norrington in his home, sharing a drink. James had received that day a letter from his brother in England. The Commodore divulged to the Lieutenant his desire to perhaps sail to visit his family. Gillette of course immediately supported the idea of a well-deserved and much-needed leave from service.
"You've never asked for leave in your life. With out a doubt the Admiral would grant it," Gillette encouraged.
"You certainly don't have any objections," Norrington said, raising an eyebrow.
Andrew laughed, sitting back on the couch. "I'll pay for your passage."
"I believe your persistence on this issue is finally wearing me thin. Either that, or my good judgment has waned in the waxing of my weariness."
Gillette frowned across the tea table. "Thanks will be in order once you are rid of all the gossips and other intolerables of this island's society." After a pause for thought, he added, "Your brother lives in the countryside, does he not?"
"Yes, he does."
"All the more reason to go. Peace and quiet." He held his hands up as he reclined, as if the plain logic of his argument was visible there.
Norrington smirked. "Are you concerned for my well-being, or are you just looking to the step-up in rank when I'm gone?"
"Both- I will not lie."
James rolled his eyes, thinking of the possible scenarios in which Gillette would relish the new distribution of power most. "The marines will be overjoyed."
"They would count the days until your return," he chuckled. "As would I," he added sincerely. "I will miss you in your absence."
"I haven't even decided to leave yet, Andrew," Norrington quipped. Then softening his tone, he eyes read the same earnestness. "But your sentiments are mutual, assuredly."
Gillette looked at his hands, clasped, for a moment. "And what of when you actually do make your holiday?"
Indulging to sustain the jesting, James replied, "I'm afraid if I do make the visit I would be compelled to remain with my family indefinitely. But, if my duty does not oblige me to return, your friendship will."
"But what if I come to England?"
"Then I'd have no reason to return."
The two men laughed for a while; it was all a fancy. To any person's knowledge, the only luggage the Commodore would be packing would be for another patrol. Norrington would never ignore his duty- it was what made the man. If he had nothing else in the world, James would still live for the Navy.
Serving in the Navy gave James all the contentment he had asked for in the past. To serve his fellow man gave him all the pleasure he felt he needed. But in finding love in another person, and being unable to provide her happiness despite all efforts, he was defeated in character. Heartbroken, the joy he used to find in devotion was absent. James wondered sadly if he would recover it again.
But as he sat with Andrew, observing the light in his laughter and cheer, there was a very present element of that contentment.
Aged assurances arose in his brain, articles of the constitution of his gratification. If he was not to discover happiness with a single companion, he would strive to find it once more not only in his duty sailing upon the boundless beautiful sea, but also recover it within cherished friendships of old, and find it especially, anchored within himself.
Author's Notes: Well, there you have it; complete! I do wish I could have done more with the story, and strengthen the conclusion. But my sad tale is that since September 4th, I have been a college student, and the workload that accompanies said titles is very uncompromising. I cannot make any promises on writing or even drafting a follow up story, but there are ideas about James's family and friends brewing in my brain. We'll see how things are come holiday breaks.
A question or two for you: What was your favorite and least favorite part of the fanfiction? And also, do you think it would be in James's character to take leave to visit his family? Or would he feel too duty-bound to depart Port Royal? Tell me, what do you imagine our dear Commodore's old home life would be like? Any other comments are of course welcome as well.
I hope you enjoyed "We Learned The Sea;" I shall be very glad if you did. Once again, thank you for reading!