Author's Note: The last chapter. I bet you thought I vanished off the face of the earth? Well, I might as well have. My fandom interests changed, I got tired of writing, real life got in the way, etc. Excuses, excuses; but I noticed people still favorited this fic, or put it on alert; I still got emails and nice comments on my livejournal. This was my first serious multi-chaptered endevour and the fact that people still seem to read it and want the ending has motivated me to finish it, because you deserve it.
Part of my problem with getting this done was the fight sequence. I didn't want to just retell it, as I'm sure we all know what happened. Then again, I couldn't skip over it. So, I hope you forgive it's brevity. I made it disjointed to try and convey the fast pace and rush of it.
I'm probably doing you a disservice here – after all this time, your imagined endings are probably better than my own but ... well ... c'est la vie.
The rest of the night crept away in a tumult of questions that James had neither the heart or the ability to answer. Where Davy Jones had disappeared earlier remained a mystery, as did the fact that William Turner of all people seemed to have been there and conspiring with he and Beckett. And whatever he and Jones were presently discussing he could imagine didn't bode well – for any parties involved.
It had been an hour since the two men vanished inside the cabin, officers lining outside the door while those on guard duty with the heart brought it towards the room in question, various Dutchman crew members eying them with a watery contempt that did it's best to terrify.
James kept to the sidelines, the watchmen effectively stopping any half-cocked daredevil plan at eavesdropping he might have been able to come up with. The room had only one door, and no other sides at which to pry against. Any sound that could be heard stopped short of the crew's ears in between the sound of the sea and their own work. There was the cabin beneath it though...
Norrington cast a subtle glance over his shoulder, then down at the stairs leading below deck. He grabbed a mop and bucket nearby before beginning to swab down the planks in the immediate area. It was paranoia he knew that was making him feel as though all eyes where on him; that no one really believed he was just doing chores. Pushing the thought away he inched toward the stairway. He gave one final look before making it toward the lower decks.
It was mainly deserted, most either above or below in the kitchens or living quarters, and Norrington smiled at his first spot of luck in what seemed like years. He stowed away the mop and bucket behind the stairs before moving toward the back of the ship. The walls creaked around him as it bobbed in the water, moonlight streaming in through the portholes and cracks. The cabin loomed above him, waiting, and James felt his mouth go dry.
There were barrels and crates packed against the walls – the remains of the lootings and destruction of the ships that had found there way across the path of Beckett. Norrington searched the ceiling above him, listening, looking for an opening. It seemed quiet, all except for the scuffle of the crewman aboard and he felt for a moment extremely foolish. This isn't going to work...
"...course not!" There was the boom of the Captain's voice then, muffled through wood but still recognizable. A loud bang followed, as though someone had hit a wall or desk. James' spirits lightened and without a moments hesitation he began cleaning off a crate near a corner, allowing him to stand on it. He tried with all his might to press against the wood against him, the smell of salt, sea, and something much more musty assaulting him at his nearness.
"You will listen to me. They're at Shipwreck Cove by now, no doubt. The boy..," the ship lurched again and Norrington whispered a violent curse as Beckett's words were indistinguishable, "...the continued safety of Ms. Swann. And his father, as you know. I'm not asking for your compliance, I'm demanding it, actually. ... tomorrow, to the east, at midday ... not in the habit of negotiating with Pirates but if it positions them where we need them then be so be it. Have this ship at the ready."
James' gut twisted at the mention of Elizabeth. So she's alive, he thought, the mere notion of it near bringing him to tears of sheer relief. This wasn't all for nothing then; he had succeeded in at least one thing. His happiness was short lived though as the menace and calculations behind Beckett's words settled a deep unease inside him, his intuition pulling at his mind with something he couldn't quite but his finger on.
There was a growl and a jumble of speech Norrington assumed was the Captain's low and agitated response before Beckett announced their conversation was through and he heard the faint rattle of a door being slammed.
He barely had time to register just what he had heard before a hand gripped him by the shoulder and hauled him off the crate beneath his feet. He landed on his back with a thud, the wood seeming to splinter beneath him, the coral that lined his spine pushing in against his flesh with such a sharp pain he was sure he had to have been bleeding. James blinked his eyes, darkness blurring at the edges before he looked up to meet his attacker.
"Captain's business, not ours. Captain's. ... None of yours." Bill Turner leaned over him, eyes glossy and searching. The starfish clinging to his jaw twitched as he spoke, his words jumbling together.
James shifted against the floor, a quiet burn of anger settling into his soul in a way he knew he should have felt guilty for. Madness or no this man was slowly becoming the bane of his existence. He opened to mouth to speak before he heard the clatter of boots against wood as another figure came down the steps from above and rounded the corner, stopping at the sight of he and his attacker. Soon to be the one attacked had we not been interrupted, he thought violently.
"That's enough, now!" Came the voice of the man, gun ready and aimed. "I'll have you men come with me no-... James?" Skeptical, surprised, and a ring of disgust was evident.
Norrington lifted his head from the floor to look at his addresser before promptly letting it fall back against the wood with a resigned thud and a sigh: half exhausted, half ashamed.
"Lieutenant Gillette. Good to see you."
The metal bars of the brig clanked together before whining shut. Gillette stood on the other side looking at James with something nearing pity as he pocketed the keys.
"You're here because if I report what you were doing God knows what they'd do to you, and I owe you too much." He said it as if it pained him; picking sides between a former friend and his current authority. "The rest of the men are busy getting Beckett off the ship. You're lucky."
James stared at him, lazily, blankly.
"... Say something!" Gillette pleaded.
"There's nothing to say. My reasons are my own."
"Then there's nothing I can do for you except make you stay out of trouble. The other one's been called above by Jones, so you'll share the cell with yourself." He turned to leave, a mumbled apology falling on deaf ears.
James had to get out, because whatever was going to happen, it was going to happen soon.
And he was determined to be in the middle of it.
The sun rose not too long afterwards, the first rays of light peeking over the horizon in a golden glow that illuminated the dark waters around them. James peered out the ship through the dirtied window and over the side, his ears still burning from what he had heard. It seemed suddenly all so clear as he gazed down at the water, itself crystalline blue and deep despite the grim on the barrier he pressed against, that the moment he had been dreading was approaching.
Beckett had just left with Gillette and the other men, the small row boat carrying them back to the Endeavor. By midday the parlay the he assumed would signal the beginning of the end would be underway. The battle that was clearly inevitable following soon after.
Norrington didn't pretend to understand it all – the only thing he knew for sure was that the end of the day things would be different. He hoped for Elizabeth's sake at least the cards would fall in her favor.
The light behind his eyes darkened. An inky black covering his thoughts. Shouts above. The ship lurched.
James awoke with a gasp, sprawled on the floor, one of the crew bellowing at him as they opened the cell's door. "Get up, get up! It's war!" He turned and ran back up the steps, the door swinging behind him.
Norrington heard the roar of waves and canon filtering from above, the sky dark and ominous out the porthole to his left. It had already begun.
He hurried out of the cabin, feet nearly catching as he ran up the steps. A soldier slammed into him as he cleared the threshold to the deck, rain and blood splattering against him in a cold rush. He caught the dying man in his arms; another faceless one lost it seemed as he looked around him. He helped him collapse to the floor, a rush of guilt running through him at the death rattle; the man's sword hanging limply from his slackening grasp.
Something clicked then at the image of the sword; at the cries around him. He looked out to the sea. They were going under, another ship that he recognized instantly swirling with them. Norrington took the sword to his side. Now or never. Isn't this what you wanted?
A pistol clicked against the backdrop of the two ships smacking together, masts locking in a violent lean. He was vaguely aware that above him was the heart caught in a duel that he had nothing to do with anymore, and never really did in the first place. "Don't try it," came the voice; familiar and smug. James looked up at Mercer's face, the water hitting like pricks of ice against his skin. He was genuinely surprised the git had lived this long without the men picking him off in the heat of battle.
"Convenient, isn't it?" he asked, pleasure rolling through his words despite his shiver at the cold. "Just can't win, can you." He took a step closer, his mouth opening as if to speak again before the crash of something to his right distracted him. A tentacle wrapped tightly around a key. Norrington saw the eyes of the man before him widen in surprise before he made to grab after it.
He took a step before the groan rose in his throat, gurgling from his mouth as in contorted in pain.
James held fast to the hilt of the sword, twisting it as it tore inside Mercer, a dark red gush sweeping across the planking as the rain washed it into the seams. They both fell to their knees, Norrington pulling out the weapon before letting the body drop hitting with a dull and dead thud, pairs of duelers fighting around them as though the world had not just stopped; as though another man had not just died.
"Convenient, isn't it?," James whispered.
He lashed out then at the man next to him, chopping the coral from his back before running him through. Pirates swung onto the ship now, the battle doubling. He climbed a level to the fighting above, thoughts blank and resolute. There was nothing but this; nothing but the cold and the thought that maybe this was helping. That maybe Elizabeth would live. That maybe he was doing the right thing.
Will was there, cutting down one man after the next, wrestling with his father. He wasn't surprised to see him. Will seemed to follow him like a curse – why would this instant be any exception? Jones and –Oh, God – Sparrow were at it now on the deck, off the masts, chasing one another in a farce of combat.
A cut on his arm then; the sting pulling at him, making him focus. Another one down in the next moment, anger strengthening his limbs in this blind rush. Confusion plainly etched the men's faces, distorted as they were, before he hit their blade with his own. The wind against his ears was painful.
" ... you'll see no mercy from me!" Jones was shouting above the wind, his voice catching and carrying. He nearly paid no mind except -
- "That's why I brought this!" Metal against metal and his heart sank. Elizabeth. He rushed against the throng fighting against him. Too late as she hit the floor, Jones stalking closer, swords assaulting him at all sides. Will was going to get to her – he had to, didn't he?
A clawed hand brought an axe down on him, his eyes only leaving the horror before him long enough to grab it from the air above his neck, twisting the arm as he angled it at his attacker before pulling it free and bringing the hit home and across the monster's neck.
Jones was on her now. Will was going to be too late.
The axe flew in an arc, hitting the Captain square in the knee, the large bulk faltering with a growl of pain an instance before Elizabeth's misfortune. He looked above, directly at Norrington for the accused, his eyes sweeping past him as it did so many of his other crew members; he was just another man, just another monster.
Will saw though. As he thrust steel through Jones, he and James met eyes. He saw the confusion there, the relief, but it was gone in an instant. He had something larger at hand.
James felt his back hit the deck with splintering force, a sword to his throat, his mind cursing the poor bastard above him. He needed to know what was happening! He needed to be there!
Elizabeth was shouting. The lock on the ships broke in a crack of wood; the Dutchman was flying to the right now, the ungodly force of the whirlpool sucking them in.
screaming. Please, no.
Norrington pushed upwards, throwing the now lifeless form off him, crawling on twisting hands to the railing. His breathing hitched at the sight: Will run through with an instrument that was sickeningly familiar; Jack holding the heart, knife poised.
It happened so fast then, that turning of fate. The scuffle of the man man and the Captain, Jack moving closer to the bleeding boy. Something happened ... the heart ... the heart.
The rhythm stalled inside of him,
inside the ship. Something went black in his mind. The
They were under the water suddenly, something changed inside him. When the ship broke the sea the sky was blue. It was over, he knew it, and yet he felt nothing. A new Captain; a new soul damned for eternity. What did it matter? Not even as Beckett burned, shouts of the victorious lighting around him, the throb of the canon fire still shaking the boat and the water beneath it, did he feel anything.
Not even as the scales and the muck slid from him, flesh visible again.
The new Captain of the Flying Dutchman returned the instant the day's sun died, whatever otherworldly magic that controlled he and his crew speeding him to his place of rest for the next ten years.
James sat above deck, watching the water, the green flash of another world barely registering in his consciousness. His hands played one over the other, getting used to the feel of his own skin again– as it was, unmarred except for callouses rather than barnacles. He was a whole man again. As whole as he would ever be.
Footsteps stalked behind him, slow and hesitant. He didn't even have to guess who it was.
The knowledge that Will had married Elizabeth, had indeed spent their deserved wedding night with her hours before hurt him less than he thought it would. Will was where her heart lied; he was her happiness.
And if he continued to desire anything in the world, it was her happiness alone. The thought made him smile, slow and bittersweet.
"Captain Turner," he began, low and rumbling, "I do believe one doesn't have the need to hide on their own ship." He stood and turned to face him.
There was a moment of awkward silence as each sized the other up. James recognizing that the boy, after all he had fought through, had grown into the man before him. There was a wisdom and age behind his brown eyes now; something James could do nothing but respect. Will likewise noticed the changes in the man before him, but worried they were not for the better. For all the time he had known him, Norrington had been nothing but sure of himself. Now, an encompassing self doubt had manifested itself into his very countenance.
"You did a great service today, though I doubt you need hear it from me," Will stated taking a step forward. Norrington scoffed.
"You held your own. You gave Mercer a deserving end, a man of whom we can both agree had it coming a long while. Governor Swann is avenged. And you protected Elizabeth – don't think I didn't see that, or that I won't be grateful for the rest of my days. Those of which," Will smiled slightly, a sadness lacing his words, "have been extended considerably." James considered the praising words, his spirit fighting to lift with them but his mind refusing the reprieve.
Will could see the thoughts working behind his eyes and broke the silence that continued to linger. He had a thought, but before he acted on it, he wanted a question answered. "Why did you agree to Jones' offer in the first place?"
James looked at him, surprised. He supposed that Will would have understood – he thought that perhaps, just perhaps, everyone would; if not to simply spare him the task of explaining himself. "As a punishment," Norrington whispered darkly.
Will's brows furrowed in confusion and James continued, more heated that he had intended. "I was a traitor. I deserved my fate. People – innocent people – have died because my selfish actions. I placed you all in danger. I helped Beckett when he isn't deserving of more than the fiery end he met today. I needed -," he stopped and considered his next words for a moment, "- I... needed the chance to fix things. To try. I didn't deserve the peace of a grave and what better way to start a life of atonement than signing off on an eternity of servitude? I figured I had a better chance to regain some honor by living forever in the hope of changing things than laying down my life."
It was the answer Will expected and he shook his head, "You thought you were doing the right thing. I can't blame you – it's who you are. You were born to uphold the law, I think. It's in your blood." Will stared at James hard before continuing. "And Beckett was the law. You seek atonement and you've found it. Elizabeth is alive and Port Royale is free of the tyranny Beckett symbolized, saving the rest of the Caribbean at the very least from following suit. Those who died have not died in vain because of the battle here today. A battle that you aided in."
"Be that as it may," Norrington conceded, feeling a simultaneous sweep of relief and guilt filling him at Will's argument, "it will never be enough." He turned again to look at the rolling waves hitting the sides of the ship, trying to find some comfort in the familiar sound and sway beneath him.
"But it is a start, isn't it? Isn't that what you wanted? The chance alone? Well here it is, James Norrington," Will laid a steady hand on the other man's shoulder, his voice determined and showing his learned strength, "I set you free; to do with your life as you wish. To take your second chance and do with it what you will." He stepped away and from his belt pulled from it's sheath his sword.
Norrington felt a string pull at it his heart. It was his sword. The symbol of everything he had fought to achieve and had bartered away his soul to loose. He was, for one of the very few times in his life, completely speechless. The idea that he was free, that he had a second chance, and that that sword would be at his side was a life he never imagined he would have again.
Will noticed the unsure expression on his friend's – yes, he thought, after everything he is a friend – face and felt a twinge of remorse. He knew that no matter what James went on to do, no matter what he had done today, he would never forgive himself for his train of past transgressions. It was Will's hope that one day though, he would be able to accept the good he had done and would do, and the good that would come to him, with more pride than a feeling of unworthiness.
"I...," James began, uncertain of what to say. This was so unlike any of his promotions, so unlike anything he had ever experienced before. It was the beginning of a life he was afraid to take, because the prospect of failure was so great. Who was to say he wouldn't wind up again in Tortuga in a month's time, drowning in his own pity and stupidity?
Will seemingly read his thoughts, and turning the sword over to place in his hands, he bowed smiling, offering it, "Take it. You'll do the right thing, I'm sure of that by now, as is anyone who has known you. You can always be trusted to do the right thing."
Norrington swallowed what felt like sawdust as a tentative hand reached to grasp the ornamented hilt, the weight of it falling into his hands effortlessly, comfortably. It settled against his fingers in a grip that was right, and James felt a breath of new life fill him. He would try, and he would succeed. There was a world of good waiting, a world that he could be apart of. He realized then that there was no right way, no quick way, to undoing what he had done. That it was going to be a hard and long road before he ever felt that he had done enough to erase his sins. His journey consisted of betrayal, his own death, fighting against that which he had always been taught was to be upheld, and now here he was, on the brink of yet another rebirth. The long way around to redemption, he mused.
"So again, James Norrington," Will said with a smile, "what are you going to do with your second chance?"
"Live," James replied, bowing his head for a moment before he met the other man's eyes, "I'm going to live."
Author's Notes: There you have it. Thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed, added the story to lists or their favorites, and sent encouragement my way. I had a sequel planned originally, but we'll see what happens.
Until then, let your imaginations do the writing: I'm sure there will be plenty of guilt, drama, angst, romance followed by misunderstanding and eventually a happy ending.
Like he deserves.