This shouldn't be how it feels. His sole desire was freedom and now he's only ended up trapped further, like a caught bird that only ensnares itself more with its struggling. Was it so hopeless for him, then, doomed to be one more sacrificial pawn in their greater game? And what matter that it was out of love? Some part of himself still thirsts for the old days, for adventure on the prow of a battleship and unrequited love.
But times change. Situations change.
Each direction he moves cuts his skin to ribbons, suspended swords surround him, deadly, exacting their toll from him each time he brushes against the limits of their territory.
He's got to move.
It's going to kill him one of these days, but he must.
The scariest thing, though, isn't what might happen or what will, but how, in the true mirror of the cage blades, he no longer can recognize himself.
II. So Dark the Night
-----------------------------Elizabeth Swann gave him a funny look.
The man she knew as Commodore James Norrington stared out at the blue expanse tinged with the rays of sunset beyond the island, saying nothing. This was not very helpful when one was trying to find a ship to sail off from to rescue a pirate whom one had (accidentally!) sent to his death, so Elizabeth deemed it necessary to both her own sanity and his that she intervene.
if he could only assure himself that everything's done, already set in stone...but why must it fail to bring any consoling anesthetic for his frettings and numb his objections into cold submission?
He started at the sound of her voice, jolted from whatever contemplation he had been absorbed in. Elizabeth Swann was rather good at doing that.
"Ah, yes, Miss Swann."
"You said earlier that there was something you wished to speak to me in private about?"
Straightening, Norrington steeled himself for the speech he had practiced and steadied his voice and mind for the ruse. There would be no vacillation from this point onward.
there must not
To fail here was to cast everything into forfeit. It would be as though he had not acted at all. And that was unacceptable.
"You recall the incident when we saw each other last, I presume?" He cursed himself for his immediate return to the safeties of courtly speech. As far as Elizabeth Swann was concerned, James Norrington was a pirate, a has-been of a high-ranking naval officer who chose to drown out his evenings of dancing and waltzes in taverns with rum and hard liquor. He had to drop the pretense and start acting pirate.
"Of course." She replied. A beat. "You know where the heart is."
Well, she certainly hadn't taken her time figuring it out.
"I suppose I might."
Shrugging and taking a seat, he leaned back and once more gaged the position of the sun.
"Then again, I might not."
A grin had crept up on Miss Swann's lips and she was wasting no effort trying to restrain it in vain. Elizabeth enjoyed this kind of game: she was already at work charting out her next moves pending her acquisition of Davy Jones' heart. Norrington had brought just enough incentive for her brain to snap into motion and, tantalized by the prospect, she refused to let go off the idea.
Instead, she joined him in sitting.
"Why else would you have come but to pass on his heart?" She turned to him exuberantly. "Tell me how you made it back here. It's been ages since you left us with it. I'm guessing it'll be a grand tale. Wherever did you go? Why did you take so long in coming back? We've been waiting here forever, it seems, and the food is horrible..." She grimaced and then laughed. "I suppose I must sound like the girl you escorted at sea all those years back, perennially begging you to tell me about pirates."
Norrington smiled at the memory. Something bitter was starting to creep up in his stomach: unease--or just sorrow? He'd made his choice; why must he waver?
"Not so very different, Miss Swann."
"So?" She shifted forward onto her knees, at full attention.
There was a time when he would have given anything for her to regard him like that. Now she was thus regarding him, and he finally felt that perhaps, just perhaps he had at last made something of a fair trade after all. The strange sensation in his gut gradually ebbed its way away.
"You are quite correct, as per usual." Damn his infernal tongue and its ghastly Latin! It refused to cooperate, instead lapsing back into formal tones which would surely alert her to something, either that he wasn't the pirate that he seemed or that the heart he brought was not genuine. And he must not have that.
because it was the most genuine thing he had
"I've got the heart in my possession but I don't intend on giving it up unless several very specific conditions are met."
He waited uncomfortably for her answer, but received nothing instantly.
After a while came:
"Very well." Said with all the steel of a pirate captain. Her eyes had lost the warmth that had flickered and kindled in them before; her stance was cold. This was bargaining and the both of them were well-versed in it after their mutual dealings with one Lord Cutler Beckett. "Let me hear these conditions of yours, then."
Norrington took a deep breath. He knew (how long had he known?) that he couldn't got through with it if he looked at her. It was too much. Therefore, he turned his head to the shore with its high tide crawling back in, face bathed in the aftermath of a fiery sunset. When he spoke it was slow and deliberate, the well-orchestrated and emotionless tenor that one might employ when voicing a will.
"First, that the heart I give you be the sole possession of no one but yourself, with no exceptions. If it is to be given freely, it must be yours and yours alone."
it has always been yours and yours alone
"Second, what occurs involving the heart will remain your decision, regardless of what the others say or tell you to do. Last," he swallowed and tore his eyes away from the ocean, meeting her gaze with a feverish intensity, "under all circumstances, come what may..."
This was so pitifully hard to do. He cursed himself for his weakness, chided himself for not being able to finish, reminded himself of the time, worried, wondered, hoped and--
He smiled, a smile that caught Elizabeth Swann's breath in her throat and could have won her had it come at some other time, some other circumstance, in some other world... How close he'd been, he sighed, how close he'd walked the line between having all he wanted and having nothing.
And how, after all this time, had he fallen.
All the memories flooded back: escorting her on the Dauntless, rescuing her when she feel overboard, that shot he'd heard as a boy, knowing what it was too well, pirate chasing, catching a glimpse of her smile across the room at one of the governor's balls, courtship, watching her plummet down the barracks, and everything after. He had been close; their lives had come so close to one another, but, in the end, it had all come to naught.
Yet, it was enough for him to smile as he said the last words, whisper thin:
"...have a wonderful life, Miss Swann."
Her brow furrowed, confused, but she seemed to understand the gravity of the statement and nodded, saying or mouthing, "I will."
Perhaps the Navy was after him, perhaps they knew he had the heart and he would be in trouble for giving back to a group of ragtag pirates. Perhaps he'd need to flee before they caught up with him, she reasoned. All of which were very good reasons, though none of them true.
Yet, he was content.
Grabbing the drawstring bag that had been attached to his side, he lifted it gingerly and presented it to her. Elizabeth received it hesitatingly, eyes darting back and forth between him and the satchel. Instantly, chill racked his chest.
how quick the witch's magic acts...
"Don't open it now, best to save the surprise for when you get back to the shore."
He noted affably, beginning to feel cool fingers caressing his sides and torso and suppressing a shiver.
"The heart of Davy Jones..." Elizabeth mused, fixated on the object in the bag. "You went through so much trouble to get this for us. I can't begin to thank--"
Norrington shook his head. His fingers and hands felt awash with ice, like a dull frost was slowly inching and prickling its way up them. His throat, he considered, probably wouldn't last long enough for any drawn out conversations. Waving off the compliment, he continued while he still could:
"You ought to go, Miss Swann. One's fiance rarely appreciates his betrothed having engrossing chats with unmarried men for prolonged periods of time."
"But what of you...?" An idea. "You could come with us!"
"I feel...weary. I'll be along sortly."
Thus she left and his eyes followed her all the way. Her back turned and a gust caught her hair up and played with it, spreading it out like a triumphant banner as she returned with her treasure to her comrades. Then, she was gone.
His eyelids drooped shut, calm now that the storm had passed. It was finally, blessedly over. In a voice that was little more than an exhalation of breath, he murmured:
"Fare thee well, my dear Elizabeth."
And with that, James Norrington at last softly slumped down onto the sand, just in time to see the tip of the pink sun sink under the curve of the ocean.
"Well, looks like yeh finally did something worthwhile, Miss Swann." Barbossa crowed merrily as Elizabeth approached the group again, this time with the mysterious bag in tow. "Now let's see what the ole commodore's been keeping from us..."
Elizabeth snatched the bag away just as he went to grab it. "I happen to think that a lot of the things I do are worthwhile, captain," she stated smugly, "and I'm in no mood to ruin the surprise by opening it right away."
Will would have none of this. He was sick of waiting on this god-forsaken island for help to come, sick of having to put up with pirates' chatter, sick of hoping that a chance would finally come for them to be rid of this dull, adventureless existence...and now that there was a way out, and that someone was withholding it from him, even if that person was his fiancee--well, things were still not looking very good.
"Oh, for God's sake, Elizabeth!" He cried. "Stop being so pert and just open the thrice damned thing!"
All was silent as the realization set in that at last, after two long, grueling weeks, one of their own had finally snapped...
Elizabeth, for her part, pouted and tugged on the drawstrings. What the crew saw wasn't really much of a surprise--everyone had secretly known (or at least fervently hoped) that Norrington had brought them back the heart of Davy Jones-- but they still took the appropriate amount of time to oogle at it as Elizabeth gingerly pulled it, still beating, out of the bag. It was very...moist.
Will's face paled and he took a brief respite to retch loudly in the privacy of some conveniently placed palm trees.
Gibbs snickered. "Looks like Mister Turner needs to relieve himself of his lunch."
Barbossa rolled his eyes. "Aye, accurate, true, but lacking in a certain elegance and discretion. Crass but still, well said, Mister Gibbs."
"Elegance and discretion have never been Mister Gibbs' strong point, if I may say so myself," Ragetti offered.
"Not his metier, if you know what Oi mean." Pintel added.
Ragetti turned. "But wot if they don't know what you mean? Wot if nobody 'ere's ever heard of the word "metier?" In fact," he crossed his arms, "I haven't and I refuse to believe that it's a real one. I think you're just making it up to sound... uppity. Like you know stuff but don't."
"Me? Making up the word "metier?" " Pintel's voice took on a dangerous, gravelly tone. "It comes from French. You're just too stupid to know what it is."
"French! What sort of idiot makes up a word and calls it French? You don't even how to pronounce krake--"
Barbossa's shout effectively silenced those gathered.
"It doesn't matter what sort of word it is, who made it up, or if it's French or not!" He gestured theatrically to Elizabeth and her possession. "Miss Swann's being holdin' that thing for a good two minutes and all you lummoxes can do is fight with either other about vocabulary! Now, if I'm to be your captain on this voyage, we're going to focus our attention on what really matters and that's the end of that!" He threw in an "arrg" at the end for good measure.
The pirates nodded and shuffled their feet. Barbossa found this acceptable and so faced Elizabeth.
"Now, missy, let's have you summon the Flying Dutchman so she can get us out of here."
Elizabeth gave him a blank look. "Summon...?"
Had face-palms existed back in the early nineteenth century, Barbossa would have done a rather excellent one right there. However, they did not, so he merely gave her an exasperated look and vehemently hand-gestured instead.
"Yes, girl! How else did ye think we'd be getting off this here island? Davy Jones will answer the call of his heart, determined as he is to have it so, and being in possession of it, we'll be able to take over his ship and use it to find Jack. It's the fastest ship in the East India Company's armada, so we'll 'ave no risk of them catching us." He looked rather proud of his plan. "Nothing can go wrong. Provided that you summon the ship, of course..." The pirate captain let his sentence trail off, as the crew waited with eager anticipation.
Biting her lip, Elizabeth considered. She didn't mind handling the heart--it was a little strange, not exactly what she'd pictured it to be, but she supposed that for being the heart of a crusty lobster-man, it was looking pretty good--the summoning thing was bothering her, though. Were there any magic pirate words she was supposed to say? Or maybe...
Holding the heart before her, she strode out toward the sea, the incoming tide lapping at the hem of her dress. She raised her token and, eyes sweeping the horizon for any ship, anything, she let her eyes close and began to sing.
It was song she'd learnt long ago as a little girl, one she'd picked up on a ship she and her father were traveling on, one during which they'd seen the ruins of a merchant ship floating by, and one that Mister Gibbs had said was cursed. The words came easily and at the same time, hauntingly, as they had years hence.
"Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me..." She whispered the last phrase.
Then, suddenly, a helm shot out of the level waters and three masts burst through the waves in short order right behind it. The ship punched its way to the surface, fighting the algae and clinging kelp that threatened to pull it back down to the depths. As its sails unfurled in the evening wind that had begun to pick up, Elizabeth started to get the feeling that something wasn't the right, no, not quite right...
Apparently, others noticed too.
Gripping her shoulders forcefully, Barbossa had sloshed out into the sea froth after her. "Just what did you do? Tell me exactly what you did, you fool! How could you have ruined our last hope?" In the captain's wake, murmurs rose up from the crew. Elizabeth could only catch bits and pieces of what they were saying amidst Barbossa's tirade.
"...ges look at that..."
"Haven't seen tha', nah, for years--"
She broke out of Barbossa's clamp-like grip and headed toward the ship, now resting calmly on the waves, not struggling as it had before. It's sides were fairly free of decay and she could not see anyone on board, or at least, rushing out to meet them. And, just as someone had observed, the sails were crimson red.
"Well, how did you explain this?" She spat at him him, petulant. "I did everything you asked and I ended up with this thing. How does this fit into your perfect plan?"
The captain was silent a moment, and then:
"Give me that heart."
Elizabeth hesitated. Now that everything had gone all wonky, she remembered Norrington's words about not letting anyone have the heart but herself. She'd agreed to it then, thinking that he must have had a reason...
"What am I going to do with it, I ask you? Chuck it at the ship?" He eyed the pulsing red lump suspiciously. "I just want a look."
Deciding that this was acceptable, she held it out for him to see. Now that she really got a good gander at the thing...it was shocking. She'd at least expected the heart of Davy Jones to have rotted at least a little, maybe a barnacle here or there, you know, to match with its former master. This, though, seemed as normal a heart as any human being might have.
"Ah. I do believe I know the problem."
Elizabeth looked up.
"This isn't the heart of Davy Jones."
"Well, what makes you an expert on these things? Who knows," she cried, tired and exhausted, angry at her wasted effort and the lack of food available, "hearts can be wildly different that what you expect them to be, right? Who's to say it's not his? Who's got any really solid proof for me that what we're looking at isn't the heart of one Davy Jones?"
She was addressing them all now.
"Come on, then, step forward!"
"I do," said Will fervently.
"Oh, really?" Elizabeth drew out the vowels, as though she was terribly delighted to have her statement challenged by her lover. "And what, pray tell, is your evidence, Will?"
Will said nothing, only pointed at the vessel's side.
Inscribed there in faded golden lettering was a single word, the ship's name: Valor.
This was not turning out to be the adventure she had planned.
:: A/N ::
Hey everyone! For some reason, I've been on a fic rampage, so it only seemed fair that this one got something too.
I was pretty happy with this. Bit of a long one this time, huh? I was debating about splitting it up into two chapters, but I liked the balance that the two parts have too much to do that. Plus, there are other things I want to get to in the story sooner. (plotting) Besides, I'll be moving to Ohio on Tuesday, so I wanted to leave you guys with something to read as I play Harvest Moon and drive along on the cornfield highway.
As far as things go, it's the intro this time around I'm a little worried about: I used the Eight of Swords theme (self-sacrifice, traps) for inspiration when I wrote it and it sort of seemed to click, so any feedback on that would be awesome. Summer's when I like to improve my writing, so I love any comments/ crits: seriously, I think I won my school's English Medal thanks to all the practice I get over the summer.
And now, onto the reviews! (because Cy's too lazy for the reply button)
NorryIsUnderMyBed-- I think I can safely say that that's officially the second time my grammar has made someone happy. Good to know it's appreciated, especially in the Pit. Thanks! It makes updating all the more worthwhile.
Brokenspar--Dude, you've had it figured out all along! You have no idea how tempted I've been to do something drastic and change everything just to catch people offguard. Oh well. This is why I write humor, not suspense. (lol) I hope maybe something in upcoming chapters will surprise people, though. Thanks for your awesome reviews! I'll try and work on the next one soon--these first two have been tricky to fit all the plot in.
HecateTriformis--Jeez, I didn't even realize that. Wow. Yay for self-betaing. I think this chapter should be a little more coherent in the tense department: thanks for pointing that out!
MerryKK--Thanks! I love reading well done foreshadowing, so I try my best to make things come through in my work.
Dreamflight--I was a little bit, too. The biggest impression I got was that, basically it was all right, it just needed some revising here and there to fix somethings...as soon as I walked out of the theatre, I went all broody and started plotting what I would have done differently. Consequently, it involved the idea behind this fic, so...here we are!
Thanks again for all the reviews and your encouraging comments! See you in Chapter III.