Josephine was sitting on the beach of Port Royal. The sound of the waves and the peaceful picture of white sand and blue water helped to somewhat ease her troubled mind. Her footprints were starting to get washed away by the flood, but she could still see them. They let up to the small fisher boat in which she was now sitting, trying to draw some comfort from the peaceful scenery surrounding her. She slightly wiggled her naked toes, to which the humid sand was still clinging. Its rough feeling against her skin was pleasant, as was the warm wood, which had been heated up by the sun.
The happenings of the last couple of days should have been only an unpleasant memory by now, but they were still fresh in her mind. Not even the gentle caress of the Caribbean afternoon sun was able to make her forget them or ignore the chill that crept up her spine at the mere thought of them.
When she had regained consciousness James had been there, telling her that everything was over, that they were out of danger. Davy Jones was dead and his crew taken care of. She could hear the enthusiasm in his voice, the relief, but somehow she could not join in on those feelings. She felt numb, overwhelmed, like she had seen too much in too little of a time.
Josephine had insisted to get up against James's protestation that she should at least allow herself some rest after all she had been through, but she chose to ignore them. She was neither hurt nor ill and therefore saw no need to spend the remainder of the day in bed. In retrospect it would have probably been a good decision to follow his advice, since shortly after she had met Jack Sparrow, who had told her in an uncharacteristically caring and sensitive way - in many words and in a soft tone of voice - that her brother was dead. She had expected it, but still she was not prepared for it. To her own surprise she had started crying right then and there, which caused the pirate to awkwardly offer her a consoling hug. She had stood there weeping at his shoulder for a while, feeling like a complete idiot. After that numbness, nothing. That was why she had fled here.
She stared down at the rough surface of the wood that was almost grey thanks to its incessant exposure to wind and weather. She felt like she had undertaken a long journey only to end up once again where she had started. It let her doubt who she was, doubt the things she had thought were for granted.
Now that Cutler was dead, she was her own master. It was a thought she did not like thinking, but nevertheless it forced itself on her. She was financially independent and did not to ask anybody's permission anymore before she took a decision, but nevertheless she had not wanted her brother's death in order to achieve that kind of freedom. However much she had hated him, their ties of blood were not easily discarded. It was hard to think of someone as entirely evil when you had spent your whole childhood living with them, sharing very similar memories about that important phase of your life.
This disconcerting lack of emotion, she was experiencing currently, also let her doubt her relationship with Norrington. How could something that felt so intense and had seemed so important now seem inconsequential? Had it all been nothing but a whim? Were desperate times to blame for their need to cling to each other and temporarily hold on to a feeling they thought to be love? Had it been love after all? Did she love him?
Her musings were disrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps. She did not raise her head and kept staring at the bleached wood boards of the boat with a bland expression on her face. The steps came to a halt very close by.
"Requesting permission to come aboard," she heard a familiar voice say. It was low and soft and the intimacy it contained mocked the formality of his words.
Only then did she raise her head to look at Norrington. She was squinting against the light of the sun trying in vain to make out something other than just the contour of his body looming over her. "Permission granted," she said after a while.
He climbed into the boat somewhat circumstantially and slowly sat down on the small bench opposite of her. The small vessel was rocking momentarily thanks to his movements, but it stopped after he had settled in.
She stared at him for a while, taking in his plain clothes, his clean shaven chin and the worried expression in his eyes that bore her inquisitive gaze unflinchingly. The scene was only accompanied by the soft cries of the seagulls that were circling overhead and the rushing of the sea.
After awhile her eyes landed on his feet. Polished leather shoes with a buckle. It seemed somewhat grotesque he should wear them out here on the beach. Despite her sullen mood a smile flitted over her face, which aroused in him the need to enquire after the source of her amusement.
"It's just…Well, has it never occurred to you that it might be actually nice to feel the sand underneath your feet?" she asked with a mixture of surprise and mockery.
"Apparently not," he raised his eyebrows as the corners of his mouth quirked up ever so slightly.
She realized right then and there that this trivial interaction was actually characteristic for their relationship, of who they were, of their limitations and characteristics. She was woman that essentially did not fit the time she was born into - a time that was obsessed with etiquette and the ideal of an orderly life, ruled by reason. Somehow it seemed to her as if he was the embodiment of all those virtues that this age praised so highly, a fact which made her doubt whether they were truly destined to be together. The smile completely disappeared from her face.
At the end of this line of thought lay a realization that was so fundamental, so impressive to her that she had to vocalize it, "I'm just not right for you," she said exhaustedly.
The expression on his face quickly changed from mild amusement to shock, bewilderment and finally settled on hurt. "What….what makes you say such a thing?" he enquired softly.
"I'm surprised you should have to ask," Josephine said bitterly. "We're very different you and I. I'm not the kind of woman, a man wants to marry. I don't behave as a young lady is expected to. I speak my mind and unsettle men, because I dare to contradict them…."
"So, I've noticed, but those traits of character a hardly a flaw in my eyes. I also think it to be untrue that no man would want to marry you," his last words were well measured and accompanied by a gaze that held an intensity that made her shiver.
"But when we first met you said my behaviour was improper, that I didn't know my place…," it seemed difficult to wrap her thoughts around the words she had just heard him utter. Her heart had outraced her head a couple of weeks ago and now it had trouble catching up.
"It was foolish of me to say such things, especially since I now think them to be absolutely nonsensical. I have wasted so much energy on being somebody else. I tried desperately to be what others expected me to be: a dutiful soldier, a good son, a respectable man… The heart does not love appearances. It loves what lies behind titles, names, appearances and expectations."
"You're an idealist," she smiled sadly.
"Is it not in the nature of man to be idealistic when he loves?" he gave her a serious look.
"He also tends to make foolish decision when he thinks he's in love."
He smiled and shook his head, "I don't merely think I'm in love with you," her heart sped up at his words. For the first time in days her feelings fully resurfaced from her subconscious. They seemed more potent now that they had been fearfully suppressed for so long. "I know that I love you."
"What if it was just a passing fancy? What if we just clung to the thought of being in love because we needed you each other right then?" she asked with a shaky voice that was filled with emotion. Her eyes were shimmering with unshed tears.
"Do you honestly believe that?"
"I don't know what to believe anymore."
"We've been through a lot in the past few weeks... It's hard not to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Give it some time...," he said gently.
"What if it this feeling doesn't go away...What if it stays like this? I can't feel anything. I'm nothing but a hollow shell...No, hollow is wrong...I did some things that make me feel nothing, but disgust and regret...I killed a man."
"I don't think there is anything I could say to console you," he said after a while, "I can only tell you that I'll be there for you," his fingers softly caressed her hands that lay inside her lap clutched tightly together. Her tense posture relaxed a little at his gentle touch. "I'll be there for you if you let me."
"I don't know…"
"James, what if it will never be the same again," he knew what she meant without her having to say it. What if her feelings for him would never return again, "Would it be the right thing to do if I took advantage of you like that?"
"Josephine, don't you understand? I have no choice in this. I love you. I couldn't possibly turn away from you and leave you to deal with this all by yourself," there was a bittersweet sadness in his words that almost broke her heart.
"What do you want?" she asked softly, unable to understand how she had deserved so much unconditional devotion.
"The answer's quite simple...To be with you."
"I don't even know who I am anymore. I feels like there's nothing left of me - of who I was. Nothing to give. Everything's slipping from me grasp. There's nothing to hold on to, because everything changes so quickly," she tried to explain desperately.
He understood her, especially since it had not been too long since he had felt the same, "Josephine, do you remember our conversation the night before you left? When I told you that I had lost my way...you said it was just change…"
"Yes," she nodded with tears in her eyes.
"This right here...this is change...it is frightening, unpleasant, maddening, but it will pass. It will wash over you, but it will not wash you away. You are much stronger than this. You can't control it. It took me a long time to understand it. I struggled, I tried to keep control, I despaired, because I knew that I was losing. Finally I relented and let go. I let it happen and it became easier. I've learned that I will never be able to live up to everyone's expectation, sometimes not even my own. I've learned to acknowledge failure, I've learned to that there are no absolutes in life. No absolute despair, no absolute pleasure. No matter how bleak the situation may be appear, there is still hope. There is hope that someday you might look back and realize that it was an important experience, that made you learn and grow stronger. I'm keeping my head over water, I'm merely afloat, but I'm not sinking."
His hand was still holding hers. Josephine looked down on their interlaced fingers. They fitted together so naturally, almost out of instinct. Like they had long before her understood something she had yet to realize. "I'm...sorry," she told him and hung her head.
"I shouldn't have doubted you...us."
"So you haven't given up hope on us entirely?" he said. She saw the tension in his face and the way his shoulders stiffened as he awaited her answer anxiously. It was not an absurd question to ask, after all Elizabeth Swann had once promised him her hand in marriage and then decided to run away with another man.
"No, I haven't," she replied softly.
He got up and the small boat rocked gently as he approached her and then kneeled down in front of her, so that his face was at the same level as hers. There was a searching expression in his eyes as if he was asking her permission to proceed. She nodded her head and he leaned in to softly kiss her on the lips. It was a very chaste kiss, full of reverence and devotion. Initially she did not respond to it, unable to channel into those emotions she had buried underneath despair and fears, but then his fingers grazed her cheeks and she shivered, not because of the caress, but because she suddenly remembered this deep sense of belonging, the warmth and security she had felt. Her palm hesitantly touched his chest and through the fabric of the shirt could feel his heart palpitating anxiously. She then realized his outward courage and his calm reasoning had only been a façade.
"I'm sorry," she repeated again. "I…I…was such a fool."
"You've never been a fool in all your life, dear," he said softly. "There's no need to apologize. I understand," his hand softly stroke her hair.
"It's still there, you know."
"What?" he knew what she was alluding to, still he had to ask.
"What I feel for you….I love you."
Josephine was the one to initiate the kiss this time which was neither innocent nor hesitant this time. It held all her bottled up emotion and was met with eager ardour from his side. She felt his tongue graze her lips and she granted him entry, feeling her heart sped up in response. Her hands roamed over his back, then kneaded through his hair trying to hold on to him and pull him closer in anyway they could, while his tongue explored her mouth.
Somehow, she did not know how, their position had shifted and she only became aware of it, when she felt his weight on top of her. They broke apart, each of them slightly out of breath. She felt an apology coming up, judging from the slightly embarrassed look on his face, but ere he could open his mouth to say it, she put her hand over his lips, "Don't even think about apologizing. There's no need for apologies, especially when you've just kissed me like that."
He gently pulled her hand away from his mouth, "I did not want to apologize," he told her smiling down at her tenderly and she couldn't help but feel relieved. "I merely wanted to suggest that we should probably stop now."
"Why?" she asked incredulously.
"Because if we don't I might ravish you right here on the spot…," he told her in all honesty, though he could not hide his embarrassment thanks to the slight pink that coloured his cheeks.
She regarded his admission as a compliment. The idea that she could reduce a grown man like him to behaving like a flustered teenager with just one kiss, was strangely appealing. It made her wonder just how far she could go until he lost control. So she batted her eyelashes coyly at him and said in her most innocent voice, "Then tell me if not here where would you like to ravish me then?"
A soft groan of frustration was his response, and then a mischievous spark flared in his eyes. He bent down and whispered his response into her ear. She shivered as his hot breath tickled her skin and his words fuelled her imagination.
"Such a dirty mind. I never would have expected…," her voice did not nearly sound as cool as she had wanted it to. It was rather husky and low.
She could see the intensity of his desire shine in his eyes, but still he did not allow it to fully rein his actions, "I do want to do this thing for once the proper way. When we are ready to…," he let the rest of his sentence hang in the air, implying that he would leave it to her when the right time had come, which he knew was probably not now, that she still had to work through the happenings of the last couple of weeks.
Josephine nodded and at this he slowly got up. He climbed out of the boat and offered her his hand. She took it and followed him. Then they stood facing each other for a moment both at a loss for words.
"You go ahead. I'll make sure the boat doesn't get dragged out on sea by the flood. The fisherman must have failed to take care of that," told her somewhat abruptly, suddenly feeling slightly awkward.
"Alright, but don't take too long," she said before she turned to slowly saunter ahead.
A few moments later he was at her side again and entwined his fingers with hers. She smiled at him. And later as she cast her eyes down to look for seashells in the sand, she noticed why he had taken so long. He had stripped of his shoes and socks and was now walking bare footedly.
Author's note: Thank you so much for reading this and maintaining your interest over the course of this story! It's always been a pleasure hearing from, you guys! Take care!