Author's Note: Written months ago and finally posted. Trying to come to gripes with seventeenth century constructions of gender, women, and sexuality, I came up with this. Told in two parts, Norrington's POV first. Set directly after the first movie. Thanks to Aegle for the magnificent beta.
A Song for the Wretched and Wrecked, Part I
The happy couple, locked in an embrace, are silhouetted against the brilliant Caribbean sky, and for the first time since he has come here, James Norrington wishes he were home in gloomy England.
That night, there is gossip along the streets of Port Royal and he shuts himself up in his office. He drinks alone, the alcohol burning its way down the back of his throat and bringing warmth to his otherwise dead body. The more he lingers on it, the loss of Elizabeth becomes more and more painful until he realizes that it is morning, he is intoxicated, and the Dauntless is leaving in a few hours to find the Black Pearl with himself at the helm.
He is a good sailor, and pushes it out of his mind as best he can. There are other women in Port Royal. There are other horizons in this vast world to fix his compass towards.
There are calm, lovely (lonely) days and then there is a storm and tremendous losses of life. His crew is a mere ghost of what it once was, and he knows that he will bear the brunt of the punishment and rightly so. He deserves it for chasing a pirate as far as he did. He shouldn't have – should have allowed him to get away, but he didn't and now, they are heading back to Port Royal.
He sits in his cabin at night, wondering if falling into the depths of the sea and hoping to be fortunate enough to drown is an acceptable course of action. He decides against it; if he took his own life, people would assume he was ashamed by his mistakes. In reality, he is ready to accept full responsibility, because that is what gentlemen do and he considers himself a gentleman.
In reality, he does not want to see Elizabeth again.
At night, he allows his mind to drift and revel in the feelings of complete anguish that overtake him (he never knew he could be so melodramatic before all this had passed). The loss of his men seems like nothing compared to how he still feels about Elizabeth's rejection. He thinks of the house that has been built and decorated in his absence, the one he had hoped to make a home with a wife and children and a family, something he coveted dearly. He imagines her as his wife, spirited and nowhere near as boring as the other women in Port Royal. He thinks of her in candlelight, in moonlight and sunlight and how he ached to touch and taste inches of her skin hidden by those voluminous dresses.
He wishes to chart a new course in a different direction, leaving Elizabeth in his wake, but he fears that impossible. She will linger on, forever, the epitome of his failures and lost hopes.
The nightmare is over.
His resignation, ready on the tip of his tongue and quill, is halted by a visit from the governor with a plea for him to stay on, an assurance he will smooth things over, and a promise.
"Childish infatuation," the Governor says. "She has seen the error of her ways."
"Has she now?" James asks, breaking decorum completely. He apologizes, saying "Forgive me, sir, but I do not think I can deal with another broken promise." He is tired of these flirtations with happiness; he prefers his disappointment swift and furious.
"Young Mr. Turner left for sea six months ago," Swann says. "And she has reconsidered your offer, and if you will have her –"
The rest of his speech is drowned out by the sudden noise of Norrington's heart, beating fast in his chest. Perhaps this has not been failure. Perhaps he has something to show for his efforts after all.
The taste of victory is bitter in his mouth.
He goes to dinner at the Swanns' house, and watches Elizabeth during dinner. She has grown thinner, paler. Afterwards, they talk about his offer. He pretends not to hurt when she flinches at his touch.
Their wedding is a quiet affair, considering the participants. They are married in church, with a reception at the Governor's house. There is wine flowing freely, the finest cuts of meat, and numerous confections made with far too much sugar (a luxury taken for granted, one would think).
This is not what the Governor wanted, but exactly what the couple did. James cannot stand any public fuss over the nuptials, the grief from his failed voyage still heavy in his heart. He can only speculate that this is not what she wanted as a little girl, the complete opposite of her hopes and dreams, and making it a large celebration would only mock her.
He could not agree more.
It pains him in ways he cannot describeto think that this is a marriage of convenience. True, he gains a companion, and she keeps the life she's always had in the uppermost stratosphere of society. She keeps her servants and her gowns, and does not suffer from any lack of fortune as the governor, with his impressive clout, has secured James' station for a good many years to come.
While a gentleman cares about society, a man merely wishes some sort of affection from the companion he takes for life – to love and be loved, maybe, a sense of knowing that despite his failings in life, he will be cared for regardless. James, while having everything else, does not have this.
Elizabeth is beautiful, full of life and wit and so very interesting that James knows he will not bore while he learns everything about her. But she does not love him, she still loves Turner, and as comforting as the presence of a wife may be, none of the things that he really wants out of this life he has, nor will he ever have, and so the gods mock him.
They are taken by carriage to their new house, which he admits is a fine house. Elizabeth is impressed, remarking on the colors of wallpaper and furniture and the view from the dining room enthusiastically. She loves the concept of the garden, the friendliness of the servants, and the parlor she may call her own.
Her trunks have been moved to one of the two master bedrooms upstairs, and as she goes to inspect her clothes, he changes out of his stiff woolen uniform and wig and thinks about the next step which frightens him as much as it (must) her.
He comes to her later and is surprised to find that she is still awake. She is wearing only a dressing gown and shift, and her hair falls around her shoulders in a very becoming manner. He says some things he can't remember –he might be mumbling about food or other things – and then she, with the most charming blush, talks about wedding nights and marriage beds and i oh /i perhaps –
She lets him kiss her, lets him touch her and draw her slowly into the larger room, with the larger bed. She is so small in his hands, so small pressed against him, and so very nervous. She is not the only one.
When he kisses her neck, she moans. He wants so badly to see all that is Elizabeth, all that he's dreamed of, but he is terrified he will frighten her. The roll of her hips against his fills his mind and then, he merely wants to be inside her, to finish this and feel something other than the lingering doubt that throbs at the base of his skull.
He is no saint; he has been with women before, learned tricks to satisfy each and every one of them and will use them to satisfy Elizabeth tonight. She gasps and he moans and it's over far too soon, because this is Elizabeth and he is lost.
When their breathing stills, he brushes a kiss against her head and she rolls away, bringing the doubt and pain back to take residence in his chest. He waits until he thinks she's sleeping, then leaves.
He sits at the window in his study and, for the second time in his adult life and the second time in three months, cries.
He has given her everything that she could possibly want, and has demanded only one thing: they share the large bed that he had made especially for this house. He tells her he won't ask anything in that bed, and looks away when he says he's terrified of spending the night alone. He hopes her presence will stave off the nightmares, but he cannot be sure.
At least, he thinks, he was honest with her; the remarks wins him a sympathetic smile as she reaches across the table to grasp his hand. It is so small in his, and he wonders how a creature so tiny could control him, body and soul.
One night, they return home from a fancy party.
Elizabeth looks lovely and the wine is singing in his veins and he cannot help but pull her towards him and kiss her. Her lips are warm and she opens them to him, responding to his kiss and then, he remembers.
She does not want this, does not want him, is only trying to be a good wife and is breaking his heart without knowing.
Reluctantly, he breaks the kiss and turns away, trying not to notice that she is breathless. He goes to his study and pours himself something to drink but chooses instead to hurl the glass at the wall. The alcohol stains the paint, the crystal shards decorate the floor, and he thinks this room has never felt more welcoming than it does now.
"Why did you stop?" Elizabeth asks the next morning at breakfast.
He looks up from his letters, confused
"Beg pardon?" he asks.
"Why did you stop," she pauses, looking down, "stop kissing me, last night?"
Oh. He wonders how to respond and says the first thing that comes to mind. Thankfully, it is honest.
"You're my wife, Elizabeth, but I will not ask you for anything I do not believe you wish to give," he says. His jaw is tense and his stomach full, waiting for her answer.
"I understand," she says. He finishes his tea and folds the letters before putting them into his pocket. He does not look at her when he leaves.
That night, he is surprised to feel her breath on his neck as her hand wraps around his chest. He can feel every inch of her pressed into his back and he feels guilty the instant reactions of his traitorous body. He closes his eyes, feigning sleep but then - kisses - and he is torn between responding or ignoring her.
When her hand strays below his waist, the latter option is no longer valid and turns and takes her in his arms, kissing her breathless and enjoying the gasps and whimpers from her swollen lips.
They have been married for almost one month but this is the second time they do this, this time slipping clothes off gently. Her body, pressed beneath him, makes his eyes roll back into his head and he takes his time, making sure she remembers this as something enjoyable but also because he wants her more than he can even articulate and he will regret this in the morning.
And so, for what feels like an eternity but cannot possibly be one, he is happier than he has ever been in his entire life because there are no rules and no questions, just skin against skin and a tiny smile on her lips.
In the morning, he feels guilty for accepting her comfort, and over breakfast tells her that he understands she feels the need to perform certain spousal acts but he does not wish to make her do anything she does not want and will not be upset in the future.
She purses her lips and nods in reply.
They are a handsome couple, so everyone says, and whatever stir of pride he feels is always, consistently, vanished when he remembers that though they are a couple, it is merely a number which means two objects placed together and implies nothing more than that.
The silences between them, once tense, have mellowed with each passing day. She has taken up gardening with a fervor that he never expected but nonetheless enjoys to watch. The plants flourish under her green hands and he buys her books about plants, seeds and gloves and anything else she could possibly want. She devours the books and discusses what she has learned over supper at night. It pleases him to know she is happy and content, even if he doesn't understand half of the Latin names she throws at him in her excitement.
He is happy that she is happy. He buys her fabrics and ribbons on his way home from work, and she places cut flowers and small cakes in his study to greet him. She becomes more animated, more comfortable in his presence than before, an accomplishment if there ever was one.
He still longs to hold her, kiss her, touch her, but he is still frightened she will turn away and if she did, that would be his undoing.
One night after dinner, they are seated in the library. He pours over books and maps, tracing routes with his finger, and she is reading. He doesn't notice her until she is by his side, the skirt of her dress brushing his leg. He looks up.
"Yes, Elizabeth?" he asks.
She does not respond, merely extends her hand towards him, brushes her fingers against his own.
"You have been helpful in satisfying my curiosities these past few months," she says. "Save one."
"I'm sorry, my dear," he tells her. "Please, tell me what it is."
She leans down and kisses him, leaning forward until she almost topples into his lap and he must reach out and catch her. She presses herself into this embrace, lips becoming more desperate and hands seeking out the skin beneath his shirt. Clothes disappear quickly soon after. He feels light-headed by this turn of events, by the active role she takes and the way she moans so loudly when he takes a nipple in his mouth. He aches with need for her, and when she reaches for his breeches he is lost to her, in her.
And so it goes for a week or so, Elizabeth's eager hands reaching out for him after dinner or waking him from his sleep. She goes so far as to actually corner him one Sunday, and they spend the rest of the day rolling in clean white sheets.
Despite the joy he takes in all of this behavior, he cannot help the lingering doubt that crowds into his mind without his consent. This sudden wanton behavior is something he never expected from Elizabeth and it puzzles him; there is always a calm before the storm, a moment to catch one's breath before the onslaught and this came with no warning signs.
It is enough to convince him that Elizabeth is thinking of others, pretending there are dark eyes instead of his green ones, olive skin to his fair and unevenly tanned flesh. That when he presses her into the mattress she is imaging Will's hands, or even Sparrow's, on her – indulging in fantasies because she knows how much and how deeply he loves her and would do anything for her and how she is an elixir, a tonic, a promise of something greater and better.
These thoughts leave a bitter taste in his mouth, despite how he tries to shake them away each time she touches him. They cling instead, their roots digging so deep for better purchase. It makes him feel pathetic, angry and ashamed for wanting and taking something he cannot ever have.
She kisses him one night in the library, and he responds before pushing her away. The more he touches her the more he hates himself and since he is all he has, he cannot allow that.
"No," he tells her gently.
"Is something wrong?" she asks, her touch gentle and delicate against his neck and he pulls away, walking across the room to gather his bearings.
"You," he says, grasping for some shred of dignity, "you do not think of me."
She starts, hands balling up into fists at her sides. "What could have ever convinced you of that?"
"Because you have no reason to think of me," he says quietly.
"But you're my husband," she protests and he laughs.
"We are married, Elizabeth," he tells her. "I control your purse, not your mind or heart. My domain is limited."
"You have claim over me," she says.
"I am not heartless, whatever you may think. I will not force blood from a stone, nor demand you to love me nearly as much as I love you." He takes a deep breath. "Goodnight. I will not see you in the morning."
He leaves the following day for a three month tour of duty, hoping that the clean sea air will remove some of this confusion and tension, but knowing it will not. He has been swept away in the wake of Elizabeth, and he is lost.