A fluffy little Norrington and Elizabeth ficlet, I wrote while stuck home taking care of my hubby. This was not betaed.
I own nothing herein except the rather sad distinction of having thrown a cake at my future husband.
Elizabeth Swann descended the staircase in her father's home to the delight and applause of the entire room. She was a vision of maidenly beauty. She and her maids had spent nearly two hours getting her hair and make up just perfect for the event. She wore her late mother's jewelry and a luscious new gown her father had ordered for her in pale green with flowers of lavender and baby blue. Lace cuffs and collar of the most exquisite and expensive design framed her delicate arms and the curve of her thin neck. But what else could anyone expect, this was her 19th birthday party after all.
Her eyes scanned the crowd for faces she could tolerate. Some of the joy of the evening had been diminished knowing that Will would not be attending but she hadn't really expected him to. He was never comfortable in these very polite settings. There was one face, or rather set of green eyes she was looking for particularly, those of James Norrington, Captain of the HMS Dauntless and one of her dearest friends. And the keeper of the only present she really wanted for the evening, a kiss from.
The man tilted his head and raised his glass to her as she descended the stairs. He had only just arrived back in port two days ago and she had not had the chance to say more than a few quick pleasantries to him since she had met him at the quay. She intended to shamelessly monopolize his time tonight. It was her night after all so he couldn't refuse her and she had done more than enough to get him back home before her party. She had convinced her father that James's ship was more damaged than he was letting on and needed to return to port but he was too worried that the Commodore would say no. It took only a bit of prodding from the Governor to convince Commodore Fitzhugh that the Dauntless need to return post haste. Only a slight bit of fibbing and obfuscating and now she had James at her party and all was right with the world.
She mingled around a bit, talking to her cousin Fanny Groves and James's second, Gillette, and his wife before she managed to work her way over to the man himself. She was a bit put out that he hadn't sought her out on her own but she would forgive him since he seemed to be trapped by some plantation owner or other. She reached his small party and curtsied politely to the gentleman, the officer, and some annoying handsome young woman who had her arm resting neatly on James's sleeve.
"Captain Norrington, so good of you to come. I know you must be wearied from your travels." He said politely, trying to hide her annoyance with the paleness and fineness of the mystery woman's hands. She extended her own to James, knowing he would have to take it or appear rude.
"Good evening Miss Swann and happy birthday to you. You grow more lovely with each passing year." The greeting sounded bored and droning. He didn't meet her eyes. She wondered briefly if he was angry with her. He had learned long ago that yelling and screaming at her did little good because it only fed her ego. The best way to get her to cave in was to give her the cold shoulder. She could simply not tolerate being ignored.
She fought the urge to grind her teeth and spoke again. "Sir, please do me the honor of introducing me to your friends. I do not believe I have had the pleasure of their acquaintance."
"Of course. How boorish of me. Manners do to tend to slip, when one is out to sea so often I'm afraid. Mr. Donaldson, Miss Nora Donaldson, this is the lady of the evening, Miss Elizabeth Swann."
She held her hand out for the gentleman and glared daggers at the young woman as she reclaimed James's arm and giggled sickenly behind her fan at his feeble joke. "Charmed." Before she could do more, she was swept away by her father.
All through dinner she seethed and drank, watching James talk to the tittering ninny at his side. She even had the nerve to physically touch him when Elizabeth tried to gain his company. But what was worse was that James didn't seem to care. He had barely spoken to her all night and hadn't given her that look that said, "Please save me from this annoying twit." Maybe he had found a lady. Maybe he had forgotten about her or grown tired of her pestering for stories or of her letters asking about life at sea or the ways of battle. What if he found a normal woman to have a normal life with? The thought depressed her so she drank some more.
By the time the cake was to be brought out, she was quite in her cups and beyond angry with him. She stalked over to him as steadily as she could and grabbed his arm. "James, I need to speak with you."
"About what Miss Swan?" He asked politely, noticing her slight swaying from side to side.
"Why are you ignoring me?"
"I assure you, I am not ignoring you by any predestined design."
"Yes you are. You told me that I was one of the only things you enjoyed about being in port and now you won't even talk to me. You haven't come to visit me since you got back and you didn't bring me a present." She accused, her voice louder than it should be.
"Miss Swan, I think the excitement has gotten to you. You should sit down." She noticed that he caught someone's eye and she almost immediately felt Fanny's hand on her arm.
"I have not had the type of excitement that I wished for tonight because you will pay me no attention. Must I titter and have father buy a plantation to regain your regard again."
"Lizzy," Fanny began, trying to lead the woman away before she made any more of a spectacle. Even though almost the entire party was staring at them.
"Let go of me. Well?"
"You forget yourself, Miss Swann. I suggest you go an collect yourself." There was a smile on his face but his tone was anything but joking and his eyes were etched in steel.
"I forget nothing. You once said you liked a woman with spirit but if you have changed your mind and want something sugary and sweet then enjoy this." She grabbed for the top tier of her triple tiered birthday cake and smashed it unceremoniously into his face and head, knocking his hat and wig off in the process.
At that point time seemed to stand still for her, as she watched the chunks of cake fall from his face to reveal a completely irate Captain. Then the sands began to fall again and Gillette was immediately in between them leading Norrington away from the party and Elizabeth was being led away in the other direction by Fanny.
In a small alcove, her cousin rounded on her. "What is the matter with you tonight, Elizabeth? You have been acting like even more of a heathen than usual. What possessed you to embarrass the Captain like that?"
"He has been ignoring me all night. Since he got back actually." She stomped her foot indignantly.
"So you make him look a fool in front of everyone because you aren't getting your own way?" Fanny had certainly become more level headed since she had married Lt. Groves, Norrington's third in command. Sometimes it was hard to believe this was the same woman that had snuck out with her to a pub in Halifax and gotten so drunk that Gillette had had to carry her home, while James had carried Elizabeth.
"He deserved it."
"No he didn't!" She sighed and looked and Elizabeth square in the eyes. "Lizzy, you know how hard it is for him to get respect and keep it because of his age. Three quarters of the brass from around Jamaica and the Caribbean were in that room and you made the youngest post captain, by 10 years; look as if he was bested by a 19-year-old girl. How are those men, all of these people supposed to take him seriously and respect him, when you treat him like a fool?"
"I didn't mean to, I just got so angry with him. He was with that other girl. She seemed so lovely and polite. A perfect young lady, who has probably never tricked him into teaching her to climb the riggings, gotten drunk and thrown up on him, or even sat around watching him sleep" Ahh, that trip to Halifax had been so very much fun. That had been when a young girl's crush and matured to a lady's desire.
"No, I'm sure she has not because she is engaged to Lt. Smith, this fourth lieutenant. The man had taken a minor injury and asked Norrington to escort her and her father to the party to introduce her to Port Royal society. She is rather shy because she has a stammer so has stayed close to him because he is one of the few people she knows."
"I didn't know." She looked down, tugging on the folds of her skirt."
"You didn't ask." Fanny pointed out sarcastically. "You ran over there, gunwales open and broadsided him before he could even defend himself. It was very badly done, Lizzy."
"I guess I should apologize to him."
"And to Miss Donaldson." She sounded completely dejected. Eating crow in front of James would be bad enough but in front of a perfect stranger. How horrid.
"Very well then, sooner rather than later as mother always says." She led Elizabeth back out into the party and over to the stunned family.
Outside in the foyer, Governor Swann was doing his best to catch up with Norrington and Gillette. "Sir, please, please so down Captain, I am not in as good of shape as you Navy men." He panted. Norrington stopped, back ramrod straight, befouled wig and hat in hand. "Let my man take care of your effects. He can have them ready for you in a short time."
"I assure you that." Norrington interrupted in a clipped tone.
"I know you don't keep anyone to do such things, so please allow me to do this for you. Consider it recompense for the action of my daughter." He continued lamely.
"I do not believe your daughter is desirous of my company at the moment."
Gillette rolled his eyes. "Of course she is. Weren't you listening? The whole reason she did it was because she didn't have your company." He waved his hands at his commanding officer. The man was dense as highland fog sometimes.
"Please, just wait until this is finished. The private gardens are quite empty and a quiet place for you to wait until he is finished. Swann offered, glad for Gillette's assistance. "I insist." He ended, trying to not contemplate the sting to the young man's pride.
"If you insist, Governor." He finally consented and handed over his cake splattered hat, wig, and frock coat. He then allowed himself to be led through a side door to a private garden with a large fountain. He had been here many times before, with both the governor and Elizabeth. She once told him this was where she liked to sit to write her letters to him. The two corresponded often. It had started when she was 13 and had written to him to ask his advice on a maths problem. She had noted that the former Captain of the Dauntless had commented on his uncommon give with numbers. He had answered her question and thanked her for writing to a lonely sailor out at sea. He was after all an orphan with no close relations or friends that were not on his ship. The thought of him lonely and unloved had been too much for her to bear and she had started up a letter writing campaign to keep him happy.
Over the years, the letters had changed from bits of verse, comments about birds, the colour of her nurse's dresses and other such childish things, to more mature fair. They often discussed literature or politics through letters and had frequently had many page long debates about everything from the price of cotton to the practices of the East India Trading Company. She had grown from a rather self-absorbed fanciful lass to an astute and spirited fanciful woman. And he couldn't deny that the loved her greatly.
He sat down on a stone bench beside a fountain and looked up at the stars, his constant companions out at sea. They seemed so dim and distant in the town. He was so engrossed on thinking about stars so he did not have to think about how he would explain to his Commodore and his Admiral why she had made comments that sounded like they had some sort of agreement that he had broken, that he almost missed the swish of skirts.
"Star gazing?" Elizabeth asked.
"So it would appear." He didn't look at her. It would be hard to stay angry if he looked at her. All he had wanted to do all night had been to grab her and hold her close but duty and honor prevented him.
"I have something for you." She moved closer and revealed a large plate of cake, far larger than anyone would eat. She unbound her bun, picked up the plate, and dumped it on her own head. He stared at her in shock for a moment. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to embarrass you. I know how hard you have to work to make the officers see you as a leader instead of just a glorified Lieutenant." He still said nothing, torn between amazement and mirth.
She moved gracefully over to sit beside him on the bench, a chunk of cake falling into her lap and marring her new dress. She looked at him and started to speak again. "Please James, forgive me. I know I acted rashly but you know me. I have a tendency," was as far as she got before he reached over and plucked a piece of cake from atop her head and licked it from his fingers. It was her turn to stare.
"It's good. You shouldn't have wasted it. It has a lovely hint of orange."
She reached up and tried some too. It was quite good. "I had them use a light orange and lemon crème because I knew it was your favourite." She confessed. And on a whim or maybe do to the wine still making her mind muzzy, she reached over and ran her finger along his face, pulling some frosting from it then returned it to her mouth and licked it off. His breath quickened with her touch and he finally turned completely to her, their knees touching.
"Why did you do it?" He asked, needing to know if it was his fault.
"I," she paused and moved closer even still. "I didn't like seeing you with another woman." She answered in a low tone.
"She is affianced to one of my officers. She means," He stuttered.
"I know, Fanny told me." She was close enough to kiss now and took some icing from her chest and brushed her fingers against James's lips. His eyes met hers and she felt her the heat growing inside of her burn off any extra wine. He eventually opened his lips to lap at her finger. She repeated the process, only this time finally leaning in for a kiss.
It was her first real kiss, since she had come of age. She had kissed Will, when they were both much younger but it was nothing like this. Wills lips had been rubbery and clumsy. James's were warm and soft. He teased her and tasted her and she wanted even more.
When they broke apart, she felt bereft without his touch. She took his hand in her own and looked into his eyes. "You have not even asked what I got you for your birthday." He broke the silence. His voice was husky and his breeches felt too tight, thank god for waistcoats.
"I have received all that I wanted." She told him and tried to recapture his mouth. Instead he moved away a bit and handed her a small silk pouch. She emptied its contents and gasped. Inside was an onyx broach with a graceful swan inlaid in mother of pearl.
"James, it's beautiful." She put her hand to her breast as she admired it.
"I found it in Antigua and thought of nothing but you." He wanted nothing more than to kiss that long slender neck. She seemed to be having the same idea because she leaned forward and kissed him again, wrapping her arms behind his neck. He knew it was improper, he knew he shouldn't be doing it but damned if he wanted to stop.
They continued like that for a bit, unknowing that her father watched from above, a smile crinkling his features. All was as he wanted it. He had done his best to throw the two into each other's paths for years in hopes that an attachment would develop and so it had. He could think of no better match for his fiery daughter than the cold as ice Captain. He would be a man that Lizzy could not control and she would be a woman that could be strong for him, when he needed comfort. He could ask for no better end to the evening.
He looked down again and noticed that his daughter's hands had unbuttoned a few buttons on his waistcoat and that his mouth seemed to be working it's way up and down her neck, even as she had thrown one leg over his lap. He was wondering if he should intervene when he saw James finally pull away from her.
Lizzy was not happy when he again broke away from her. "We shouldn't be doing this. We have to stop." He told her.
"Why?" She reached for him again and he slid away from her, not realizing how close to the end of the bench he was and ending up falling on the grass.
"We are not wed and this is improper. You need to clean up and return to the party."
She knew all that, that wasn't what she wanted an answer to. "No, why won't you ask me to marry you, James. I thought before it was because you cared for me but had no attraction to me as anything but a sister but I see now that isn't true. Why do you hesitate, why do you wait when it is what we both want?"
"You know why. Being married to a Navy Captain is no life for a young woman like you." She was going to protest but he continued. "I am out at sea 10 sometimes 11 months out of the year. We sometimes see action 2 or 3 times a week. That isn't even considering hurricanes, disease, or accidents. I would not want to make you a window just as a made you a wife."
"You are being foolish. You think if any of those things claimed you I would be any less sad now than I would if we married."
"Yes. Find yourself a rich merchant and have a husband that can actually be at your side. You know I can not put you first and it would eventually destroy us." She had to admit to the logic of that but she wouldn't be swayed.
"You, James Norrington, are going to have learn that you cannot control everything. I love you and I want to be your wife. You may not like it but I have said it. Yes, you are often gone and yes you often come home with more holes in you than my aunt's pin cushion but it doesn't change the fact that I would rather have one year, one week, even one day as your wife and be really and truly happy than a life time of simple contentment as a merchant's wife.
"You don't know what you are saying." He protested again.
"Yes I do. It's my choice, James, and I choose you." She told him quietly as she ran her hand across his cheek. "I choose you and you alone."
He looked down and sighed. "I guess I need to talk to your father tomorrow."
"I guess you do." She smiled.
They sat and talked for a few more hours until he finally got his wig, hat and frock back (the governor had delayed their deliver to give the two time together). He walked back to the fort and she up to her room. She fairly danced up the stairs as she hummed to herself. She would be Mrs., James Norrington. It was too good to be true. She fell asleep, remembering the orangey sweet taste of his kisses.
The next day she awoke late and took her time in dressing. She wanted to look nice for James. She sat in the garden, then in the library, and finally at her window, watching the drive. At suppertime she questioned her father.
"Did James come by today?" She asked
"No, oh where is my head these days?" He waved his hands and fished a small note out of his pocket. "He sent this for you."
She snapped it from his hand and opened it. She instantly deflated. "It says that they had a report of Spanish privateers off the coast of the northern part of the island. He was sent out on the morning tide to deal with them. He says he doesn't know when he will be back." She felt tears threaten. How could he do this, how could he leave when she had only just gotten him to agree?
"Bother that. He'll hunt them down and get rid of them. Be sure of that. It shouldn't take more than a few weeks."
"I suppose." She muttered, no longer hungry.
It did in fact take longer than a few weeks. Ten months in fact before the Dauntless and its men returned to Port Royal. By then Elizabeth had resumed her acquaintance with a particular blacksmith, the former Commodore had contracted malaria, and the future Commodore was exhausted wounded and wearied by war. But he and his crew were praised. He once again gained the esteem of the town even as he lost the love of a woman all because he had missed his opportune moment.