The aftermath of the ending of CotBP, set immediately afterward.
Disclaimer: This story was written for entertainment only and I am making no profit from it. "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the characters within belong to Disney; I am only borrowing them and no harm is intended with this story. Please do not post elsewhere without permission from the author.
"No; he's a pirate."
The problem was, Will Turner was not, at heart, a pirate.
It was easy to believe otherwise, when one was at his side on a ship's deck, shovelling debris into cannon while guns roared and smoked billowed.
It was easy while swinging makeshift weapons in tandem, treading shifting piles of coin and jewel like so much pebble-strewn sand, protecting each other's back from decaying skeletons charging with unstoppable fervor.
It was easy to believe when he was somersaulting across the parade ground, dodging redcoats, his sword flashing heroically in the hot Caribbean sunshine, intent upon the rescue of a good friend and a good man.
It was harder to cling to the belief when Will Turner, adventurer and pirate, slipped back into his steady, law-abiding life of village blacksmith with the relief of a man stripping off an ill-fitting shirt.
"Will, please come in and dine with us!" Elizabeth had begged once he had walked her home from the fort. They stood face to face below the front steps, in the shade of the porte-cochere. Will took her hands in his and shook his head.
"I mustn't," he said gravely. When Elizabeth made an impatient gesture, he forestalled her. "I do not wish to try your father's good will," he explained. "Let him get used to the idea of us-- of the engagement between yourself and the Commodore being broken-- of having an orphaned, half-pirate blacksmith in the family. It is all so unexpected, and, no doubt, trying for him."
Elizabeth gave a most unladylike snort. "I am quite certain he has already taken to his bed with a fit of the vapours," she said. Her eyes took on a wicked gleam. "Father will not notice what we get up to tonight," she murmered, slithering one arm up around Will's neck.
But Will only laughed, and gave her a chaste kiss on the cheek. "I dare not! Besides, I must get back to the forge. John Brown has undoubtedly been hearing wild tales about my imprisonment and death, and I should not like him to replace me."
"Oh, nonsense!" Elizabeth cried, fumbling to keep hold of him. The door from the rose garden to the morning room stood open in the late-day heat, and once inside they could bolt all the doors...
But he merely touched the brim of his fine manly hat and took his leave, leaving Elizabeth to trail disconsolately indoors after watching him stride down the steep curving drive.
He did not come the following morn, and so Elizabeth put on her second-best morning gown and her jauntiest bonnet to seek him out. Weatherby, only partially recovered from the previous day's upsets, found himself remonstrating in painfully shrill voice with his headstrong daughter. She brushed off his every concern with appearance and propriety, insisting that after her recent adventures, a simple stroll to the blacksmith's shop was of trifling danger.
"It is not danger that concerns me, Daughter, but wagging tongues!" the beleaguered governor cried.
"Really, Father! As if it matters after my days in one Pirate Captain's cabin, and a night spent marooned with another..."
"Enough!" Poor Weatherby looked paler than a moon-washed corpse. "Let us not speak of those days again, lest they become common knowledge." He drew himself up with trembling dignity. "You will not wander the mean streets of Port Royal, no, not even to visit your affianced husband!"
"Fine," Elizabeth capitulated sulkily. Crushing her gloves in her roughened palms, she swung around to the grand staircase. "Susan!" she bellowed with the ease of a seasoned crewman, the volume causing her father to flinch. "Susan, come down at once, you are to accompany me to town!"
And thus accoutered with maid and parasol and demure lace shawl, Elizabeth went to pay a visit on her betrothed.
The town was in uproar. Men swarmed over the Dauntless, hammering, planing, varnishing, scraping. A brigade of dockhands passed provisions hand over hand into boats, the boats then to be rowed out and unloaded into the holds. Women with baskets upon their hips hawked fresh bread and ripe fruit to anyone with the coin. A clamor of wagons and carts filled the streets, causing Elizabeth and Susan to leap out of their reckless path more than once.
"What on earth...!" Susan gasped, as they narrowly missed being splashed by a wagon wheel careening through a puddle of muck. She angrily shook her own sunshade at the frantic driver.
"'One day's head start'," Elizabeth murmered. James had not been speaking flippantly, then-- he meant to sail, fully provisioned and manned, no later than the afternoon tide. Abruptly she changed direction, turning toward the teeming wharf instead of the narrow street where the forge stood.
The two women were jostled most unpleasantly, and Susan received several pinches and pats on her bottom as they pushed through the crowd. "That's 'er-- the Pirate Lass!" Elizabeth heard, and then a rude whistle. She spun around, but could not tell which grinning, leering man had spoken. Her jaw clenched, and she fingered the heavy ebony handle of her parasol, but just then Susan gasped, "Oh! 'Tis the Commodore, Miss! Do only look!"
James. Or, she supposed, he was back to being Commodore Norrington again, now that that farce of an engagement was voided. He was standing on the dock with his two most trusted lieutenants, absorbed in the papers and books they held for him.
His hat was crooked, Elizabeth observed critically, and he appeared to have shaved most hastily, if at all. Otherwise he was as immaculate and strait-laced as ever.
She marched purposefully up to him. The other lieutenant, Groves, the one she did not know well, saw her approach and touched his commander's arm. Norrington glanced up impatiently, spied Elizabeth, and a brief spasm of hurt passed across his face.
When she reached his side, it was gone, replaced by the stony blankness she so abhorred.
"Miss Swann. I'm afraid I have no time to spare for social niceties. We are in rather a rush this morning to get under way."
"That is what I have come to speak with you about, James." She saw a flash of feeling in his eyes-- was it anger? And beside him, that young fop Gillette flared his nostrils and opened his mouth as if to speak.
Norrington quelled him with a glance. "Gentlemen, a moment, if you will?" Murmering assent, they drew aside, Groves with a curious glance, Gillette with a lowering one. "A moment only, Miss Swann, I beg your indulgence."
So it was to be stiff formality again, was it? Elizabeth felt her own impatience swell. She had no stomach for stifling propriety, not after the taste of such sweet freedom these past weeks. "Commodore, I must ask you-- do these preparations mean you intend to run the Pearl to ground?"
A faint frown gathered between Norrington's brows. "Of course."
"Then your 'One day's head start' was not simply a mere pretense of an effort to capture Jack Sparrow?"
"No, Miss Swann, it was not. Even had I put to sea the moment those black sails were spotted, we would not have caught the Pearl. She is faster off the mark and faster on a race out of port. Our only chance of catching her is in the long haul or by ambush. For either, the Dauntless needs to be fully stocked and manned. Which, as you can see, is what I am engaged in at present. I must beg you excuse me, my time is hard-pressed."
Elizabeth caught his blue sleeve. "James-- don't!" she blurted.
He turned back, one eyebrow raised and an odd expression on his face. "Don't what? Go after Sparrow?"
She nodded. "Please don't. Please. I... I wish you would not."
"You should not fear for my safety, Miss Swann. Chasing down brigands is what I do."
With no forbearance for his mistaking her concern, Elizabeth shook her head. "It is not you I fear for, Commodore! Jack Sparrow is a good man. He helped save my life and Will's. Can you not just let him go?"
It was not until all colour and expression drained from James Norrington's face that Elizabeth realized how callous her words were. Her lips parted, but there was no calling them back-- they had pierced the man opposite her and worked their poison.
His eyes were chips of green sea-ice. "I owe no allegiance to Sparrow," he said, low. "And he will not escape me again. Good day, Miss Swann."
She stumbled from the dock, a cold lump in her belly and another in her throat. She had blundered, badly. Norrington had thought she held some fond feeling for him-- after all, he had been a frequent guest in her father's house since their arrival together in Port Royal, had indulged her questions on sailing and navigation and tides through many a dinner party. He had just never realized the depth of her connection to Will Turner, blacksmith's boy, during those eight years of her growing up.
"Serves him right, the bloody fool!" Elizabeth muttered as she marched with an unladylike stride through the bustling streets. "Perhaps that will deflate some of his unbearable stuffiness!"
By the time Elizabeth and the silently trailing Susan had reached Brown's smithy, she had convinced herself her wounding words were deserved, although she did regret losing the possibility of wheedling a pardon for Jack out of her former intended.
Brown's Blacksmith was filled with soldiers of the Crown. Some were purchasing the simpler swords and knives from Will's stock; other were having weapons cleaned, sharpened, edged. One man was measuring chain and another counting out grapples, both arguing with a gently swaying Brown over the Royal Navy's account.
Will stood at the center of this hubbub, sweating freely as he pounded out a swatch of metal for a new sword-guard. He noticed Elizabeth instantly, catching her eye and grinning at her.
"Will!" These men possessed more manners than the merchants and dockhands outside-- they parted, allowing her and her maid to pass through the smithy. "I missed you this morning!"
The clamor of voices began to still. "That's 'er," someone muttered, and a chill undercurrent ran through the hot, dim room.
Will looked at her, his rhythmic blows never hesitating. "As you see, emergency orders have kept me here," he said over the clang of metal. "Forgive me if I don't pause and greet you properly-- the Dauntless sails today and her men must be ready."
Elizabeth raised her chin. "And you help them. By forging the weapons they will use to try and capture Jack."
He glanced up briefly then returned his gaze to the metal piece he was moulding with fire and force. "My duty, Elizabeth."
"Your atonement, you mean!" She pushed forward in a rustle of skirts, eyes blazing.
Will paused in mid-swing, his expression tinged with alarm. "Mind the sparks, Elizabeth!"
"Hang the sparks! Will! You cannot arm Norrington's men, not when they mean to kill Jack!"
He thrust the half-formed guard back into the fire and pumped the bellows. "My work has always assisted in the capture of pirates, my love."
"Yes, but... "
"But now I am a pirate, is that it? Dearest, I am a blacksmith. I earn an honest living. My nest egg comes from toil and sweat and scrimping, not from the pockets of others." He pulled the piece from the flames, considered its colour, and laid it back upon the anvil. Will Turner smiled shyly at his bride-to-be. "Don't worry-- we gave Jack a chance. He won't waste it."
"He would have a greater chance if you refused to accomodate the Dauntless's master-at-arms."
"I doubt your father would suffer his daughter to marry an orphan half-pirate unemployed blacksmith."
Elizabeth opened her mouth, a dozen arguments ready to spill from her tongue. Suddenly the forge came into focus-- the silent, staring soldiers; Brown, frowning slightly as he tried to keep up; Will, rounding the guard with expert taps, the tips of his ears burning; Susan, scarlet with mortification...
She closed her mouth with a snap. Hanged if she was going to let these common soldiers and sailors entertain themselves watching her harangue Will! It would be all over the Dauntless by nightfall.
"Please call upon me when you are finished," she snapped. Gathering her skirts once more, she swept from the forge.
Conversation swelled at ther back. "Careful, boy-- I hear hens peckin'!" she heard, and then a burst of rough laughter. It made her pause, one hand on the doorlatch, half-minded to turn and lash out at the rude lout.
"Miss, please!" Susan whispered, and with ill grace, Elizabeth let the remark pass and departed.
They made their way back toward the mansion. Several times Elizabeth saw townspeople start and stare at her. There were surreptious pointings, and several lasses ducked their heads behind fans to whisper. Elizabeth raised her chin proudly and glided past them.
Jealous, she told herself. Envious of my adventures. And she thought back on the terror and exhilaration of the past days and smiled to herself.
The glow of happiness faded somewhat as she and Susan passed the docks once more. The family carriage stood at the foot of the pier, and Elizabeth was irritated to see her father up on the dock at the Commodore's side. The two men seemed most comfortable together, and even as she watched, Weatherby placed his hands on Norrington's shoulders and leaned forward earnestly.
"Did you wish to wait in the carriage, Miss, and ride home with your father?" Susan broke into her thoughts.
"No. Come along, we shall walk."
The Dauntless sailed on the evening tide. Weatherby Swann attended the departure, resplendant in his finest wig and most decorated coat. The setting sun glittered redly on the abundance of buckles and braid.
At her father's insistance, Elizabeth was at his side. The wharf was crowded with townspeople, and the mood was much more solemn than the previous day's aborted hanging. Sailors' loved ones waved, blew kisses, and wept into handkerchiefs-- they knew the separation was likely to be a lengthy one.
Jack Sparrow and his Pearl would not be an easy prey.
High upon the deck of the Dauntless stood her Captain, hands clasped behind his back, feet slightly apart, balancing easily against the lift and sway. Despite herself, Elizabeth felt a sudden thrill of admiration-- James looked so at home on a ship under sail. He was in his element.
She had seen the difference in him on the triumphant return to Port Royal-- he had been at ease, almost lighthearted. She had caught him laughing-- actually laughing!-- with Gillette once, and staring out over the waves with a dreamy half-smile several more times. At the time she had been too miserable over Jack's capture and her own situation to remark much upon it, but now it struck her-- James Norrington felt as constrained on land as she did, and his ship gave him the same freedom as Jack's did him.
The sails caught the wind and filled magnificently. A cheer rose from the decks, was echoed back from those left ashore. The feathers on the Commodore's hat fluttered and he lifted his face to the salt breeze, the faintest of smiles softening his stern lips.
The Dauntless slipped from the harbor, the chase begun.
And Elizabeth Swann was left with the most uncomfortable sensation prickling in her chest-- on the one hand was a man whose life was the sea and the wind beneath a wide, wide sky, and on the other, one as chained to the land and its conventions as she.
And she may have made the wrong choice after all.