Pure joy filled Alex. He loved her. He looked none too happy about it, but he loved her. Laughter bubbled up inside her and spilled over when she considered the manner of his declaration. It had not been the most eloquent or romantic protestation of love but it had been pure James.
Feeling raw and exposed James immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion regarding her laughter. Stiltedly he announced, "I am glad that you find the situation so amusing. Apparently I was mistaken in my hope that you might return my regard. Do not worry. I shall bother you no further with this matter."
Dismayed that James had misread her laughter Alex protested, "Oh no, James. You have it all wrong." When his face remained shuttered she pleaded, "James, listen to me. Please." But it was too late. He had already withdrawn into his protective shell. Deciding that she would show him what she was unsuccessful in telling him, she crossed the room and pulled his face down to hers. Alex poured her heart into the kiss trying to convince him. James remained aloof and unmoved. However, this was a skirmish that she was unwilling to lose. Boldly she used her tongue to trace his lips and then with small delicate thrusts insisted on entry.
Something shifted inside James and he could no longer hold back. With a groan of surrender, he returned her kiss and with no conscious intent he began to plunder the sweetness of her mouth. She might not love him as he loved her but at least they had this physical connection between them. James decided that he would take what he could get rather than wish for the impossible.
When at last they broke apart Alex rushed to tell him, "James, you silly man listen to me. I was not laughing at your feelings for me. I was laughing because of sheer happiness and relief." she paused to take a quick breath before continuing, "James Norrington, you are a stubborn, infuriating, smug, and pompous man and damn it all I love you."
James just gazed at her for a few moments. At her words he had been filled with elation that she should return his love but he was afraid to believe that this could be true. He did not deserve this much happiness and was terrified that it would turn out to be some horrible misunderstanding. Yet the love shining from her eyes was unmistakable.
Alex could see James' hesitancy in accepting and believing her declaration. She could not resist teasing him, "I hope that you do not mind that I did not shout it at you?"
Her humor pricked the last of James' defenses and he at last allowed himself to accept the sincerity of her declaration. With his own lips quirking he replied, "I think that I might be persuaded to overlook that deficiency."
Relived that he believed her, she flirtatiously inquired, "Really? How good of you, Commodore. What pray tell would persuade you?"
"This." He pulled her close to once again begin kissing and caressing her.
When his lips moved to her throat and she was able to speak again, Alex half heartedly complained, "James, I thought that you said you were not a man of strong passions."
Fixing her with a carefree grin James replied, "Evidently I was mistaken."
As his hand found an extremely sensitive spot Alex squealed, "So it would seem."
"Are you lodging a complaint, Mrs. Norrington?"
Alex found that she adored the way that he could make calling her by her married name sound like a term of endearment. "No. I am not complaining at all, Norrington. Merely making an observation." This was the last coherent statement she made for several hours.
It was the very early hours of the morning when they were both to be found in the kitchen foraging for some food. They had spent the previous hours delighting in each other and the new level of intimacy that had arisen since their revelations of love.
"Do you intend to eat all of that bread or might you consider sharing some with a famished man?"
"Perhaps I could be persuaded."
"Good Lord, woman, are you trying to kill me?" he playfully questioned.
"Well, if you have to die from that or hunger, I'd think you'd prefer the former," she saucily retorted breaking off a piece of the bread and handing it to him.
"Oh make no mistake about it, I'd definitely prefer the former," he agreed and then pretending to adopt a more serious tone added, "Alex, we have wasted so much time and it's entirely your fault."
"My fault?" she queried half in mock and half in true outrage at the accusation. "Exactly how do you figure that?"
"If you had had the sense to take one of your suitors up on his offer, I would have been forced earlier to stake claim to you. Instead you dallied around and look how much time we squandered that could have been spent in much more enjoyable pursuits," he teased.
"And yet, you were the one who was engaged to be married to someone else." Alex hated that she still felt jealousy regarding his relationship with Elizabeth. She did not want to ruin the happiness that they now shared with remnants from their past.
James could tell that behind her bantering tone lay a wellspring of insecurity regarding Elizabeth and their engagement. He sought to reassure her, "Alex, I never loved Elizabeth. It was to be a marriage based on what I thought was suitability not true affection. The ease with which I let her go at first bewildered me until the panic I felt when I heard Lily arranging for your marriage. I had been able to freely hand Elizabeth over to Will because I never loved her as man should love the woman he intends to marry. However when faced with the prospect of you belonging to another man, I was unable to tolerate the thought and acted without hesitation. I was fool enough to convince myself that I was acting out of duty and loyalty but that was not the truth. I was acting out of pure selfishness because I do not think that I could have withstood losing you to another."
Alex felt humbled by his heartfelt words and all insecurities regarding Elizabeth vanished. "I never thought that I would be thankful to Lily for anything but it seems I owe her a debt of gratitude. Without her interference we might have gone on forever circling each other and denying our feelings. I know that I was certainly unwilling to acknowledge how deeply I love you," she ruefully admitted and then continued, "If I am to be completely honest with you, I believe that I have loved you since we were children. Only I never recognized it as such."
"While I may thank Lily for her original interference I doubt that I shall ever forgive her for switching letters and causing you to leave Port Royal," James complained and then petulantly added, "It took me over an hour to write that letter and you never got to read it."
Alex chuckled at his thwarted little boy look and demanded, "Then tell me what you wrote."
James grumbled, "Well I can not recall it all." Registering Alex's exasperated look he self-consciously looked down at the floor and conceded softly, "Well I do recall that I told you that my heart, body, and soul are yours and always have been." When James looked up and met her eyes he saw that they were sparkling with tears but that she was smiling as if she had been handed the most precious of treasures. Residual insecurity from his nightmares caused him to add, "Alex, I realize that I am inclined towards reserve and predictability. I am hardly a young woman's romantic ideal."
Alex placed her fingers over his lips and ordered, "Hush, James. You are my ideal." Then she provocatively observed, "Besides, there has definitely been more than a bit of the pirate in you as of late. One could hardly call your recent behavior predictable or boring."
"Yes," he dryly agreed and then formally offered, "I apologize for some of my more insolent actions last night."
"Oh, James, there is no apology necessary. It is a side of your personality that I find more than a little appealing," she admitted in a seductive murmur.
James was more than pleasantly surprised by this confession and found himself thinking that he needed to send Jack Sparrow a case of rum as a token of thanks. "You are a delight, Alex. I don't think our marriage will ever be placid but it is certain to be an interesting one.
"James I..." her reply was interrupted by a soft mewling.
James had produced Alex's version of a mewl several times that evening and was immediately aware that this sound must be coming from a different source. Alex looked around in alarm and then rushed over to a basket by the fireplace. Carefully she lifted out the tiny black kitten and began crooning to it. "Oh you poor poor dear. They all forgot about you and left you behind. Poor little Norrington."
James watched silently as Alex fussed over the kitten giving it milk and petting it. At last the kitten fell back to sleep and she lowered herself to the floor and tenderly put it back in the basket.
Feeling his desire for her yet again stir and annoyed that he should be jealous of the attention that she lavished on the kitten James imperiously drawled, "Come here, Mrs. Norrington."
Alex rose from the floor, lifted her chin, and challenged, "Why don't you come here, Mr. Norrington?"
They both stood their ground until James suggested a compromise, "Shall we meet in the middle?"
Flashing him a cheeky grin Alex allowed, "That seems like a good idea."
They both crossed and entered into each other's embrace. "I suppose you intend to keep that furry beast," James groused.
"Of course, James. Don't call him names. He is such a sweet little angel. I could not bear to get rid of him."
"Very well. We shall keep him if you insist but you will have to rename him."
"But why? The name suits him so well and…"
"Alex," James warned.
"Fine. I shall rename him." Alex took a moment to consider and then with devilment in her voice offered, "Perhaps I should call him Bertie?"
"Alex," James growled.
"Well really if you are going to be so unreasonable Norrin..." and she never finished her sentence because James had covered her mouth and was thoroughly kissing her.
Alex decided that she would continue the argument later when she could think straight. She really did not mind postponing arguments if it was to be done in such a manner.
James decided that he had found a decidedly pleasant way of silencing his wife when she was in her more outrageous moods. He really did not mind arguments if they could be concluded in such a manner.
They had at last reached an accord.