Title: Three Ways Elizabeth Swann Could Have Been Happy, and the One Way She Isn't
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Disney, not even a pair of plastic mouse ears.
Summary: AU imaginings of the life of Elizabeth Swann. Norrington/Elizabeth.
He returns today, after four months at sea. Elizabeth stands on the dock, unable to keep the smile off her face as The Dauntless appears in the harbour. Port Royal's waterfront is busy today and she should really be keeping a closer eye on the children but she has eyes only for her husband's ship.
When they married five years ago, she never thought it would be like this. Yes, it was a good match, everybody said that and it made Elizabeth's father happier than she had ever seen him. But she never expected to love her husband, or at least not this much.
She had fainted during his proposal, almost falling to her death, but James had caught her and when she had roused his green eyes had been the first thing she had seen. What a fate that would have been, to have died among the rocks, all because of a silly corset. But she did not die and instead she became engaged to James Norrington.
They married several months later, wearing the same clothes as on the day of his proposal. He laughs that night as he undoes her corset, remembering its role in their fate, and Elizabeth realizes how handsome he is, with his wig off and his eyes crinkled in mirth.
He is a good man, a loyal, dutiful man, and because of that he must go away. The first time he leaves is only two months after they are wed and she is surprised by the tears she cries the first night alone.
When he returns, noticeably downcast and brooding, Elizabeth is increasing. She doesn't show yet, not with the rest of her clothes on, but when she undresses in their bedroom, it is unmistakable. If she hadn't already fallen in love with him, she knows she would now, as his face lights up and all thoughts of lost pirates and dead sailors flee from his mind.
By their fifth anniversary, they have three children and a reputation as a scandalously amorous couple. This reputation is not helped by Elizabeth's habit of meeting her husband at the docks with fevered embraces, in full sight of all of Port Royal. Commodore Norrington, the gossips whisper, has become bewitched; otherwise such a man would never allow such a breach of decency. Perhaps he is bewitched, but most of all his is happy.
And so is she.
She comes home to Port Royal after Jack's 'death'. The others remain at sea, even Will, but she finds herself tired of the ocean. Tired of losing people to it. Jack has literally been swallowed up by the sea and Will's still fresh love for the sea is too overwhelming a rival for Elizabeth to compete against. So she finds herself at home again, having traded her pants for shifts and skirts, her hat for combs and elaborate hairstyles. What is more, she is not sure that she doesn't prefer it this way.
Her father is beyond himself with happiness. Every morning at breakfast he grins stupidly at her over the table and at night in the sitting room he fairly glows with pleasure, content just to observe her as she reads. Elizabeth is touched by his joy but wishes he had a different hobby as she fears she will develop a nervous twitch if he continues to watch her constantly.
Generally, she is content. She finds that she doesn't really miss sailing or, surprisingly, Will. She has enough grace to feel slightly shamed by the latter revelation. What she does miss are her friends on board, or companions of any kind really. Since returning home she has had her father to talk to and he alone. The girls in the village she used to call her friends no longer call on her; some have returned to England and some merely stay away because of Elizabeth's sullied reputation.
She still goes to parties and balls though; Port Royal society is too small for hostesses to openly blacklist eligible females, particularly when said female is the Governor's daughter.
It is at a ball, held at her father's house in fact, that she first sees Admiral Norrington, as he is now. Two months she has been back and has avoided any contact with him, even with him making almost daily trips to the house to conference with her father.
He is dancing (unhappily, she mentally notes) with the unattractive daughter of one of the town's wealthier merchants. He looks awkward and uncomfortable and Elizabeth couldn't be more pleased.
When the set ends, she loses sight of him in the crowd and resigns herself to making dull conversation with the pathetic suitors surrounding her.
She feels him behind her, knowing it is him by his scent, by his warmth, even before he speaks.
"Miss Swann," He drawls with an audible edge of contempt, "Your father assures me that he has put aside some documents for me in his office, but that he cannot be excused from the ball at this time. Would you be so kind as to open the room for me?"
"Of course Admiral." Elizabeth replies, before making her excuses to her partners. As they leave the ballroom, they are met by the housekeeper, from whom Elizabeth obtains the key ring.
The hallway leading to her father's study is dark, the lamps unlit in an attempt to keep guests away from this part of the house. Elizabeth stumbles into side tables several times, frustrated at her blush when James' hands reach out to steady her.
Somehow she manages to find the right key and fit it into the keyhole, despite the complete lack of light. As they enter the room, Elizabeth is only mildly surprised to find James' hand at her waist, seconds before his lips are on hers.
She isn't surprised, can't even pretend to be, and can't pretend that she isn't kissing him back, just as passionately. Ever since leaving Tia Dalma's, this is what she has dreamt about. Not Jack, not Will. Just James.
She hadn't meant to fall in love with him aboard The Pearl. Truly. But he had been there and it hadn't been long before their deck-side chats had turned into nighttime trysts in her cabin. It had been so easy then, because she was desperate to be loved and he had always loved her. But then he had disappeared, leaving her with Will and Jack and no plan.
"You stole the heart." She finally gasps when they pull back for air. Even as she accuses him, she finds herself touching him, her hands splayed across his chest.
"Yes." He answers.
"Do you regret it?"
"No. Should I?"
"No." Elizabeth answers, because even she has a hard time believing the heart would have been put to less sinister use by Jack, had he retrieved it. Charming though the man may be, he is still a pirate. Further thought is halted as James kisses her again, pushing her against the now closed door.
"Will you marry me? Finally?" James asks, eliciting a moan from Elizabeth as he lightly nips her earlobe.
"Yes." She sighs contentedly, pushing his white wig to the floor, happy to note that his dark hair is still long beneath it, tied into a tight queue which she quickly undoes, running her hands through the loose strands.
Elizabeth laughs then, suddenly, startling James.
"What?" He demands, lifting his lips from her neck.
"I was just wondering if I could convince you to grow back your beard." Elizabeth smirks, rubbing her hand against the now-smooth skin.
"Anything." He says seriously, his green eyes honest and loving and she believes him. She believes that he would do anything for her, and even die for her, if only she would ask. But she is content to ask only for the return of his beard.
The water is cold, so very cold that for a moment Elizabeth forgets how to swim, her body stiff from shock. But then she's moving, a lean arm wrapped tightly around her, pulling her back towards the boat.
On board, bundled in blankets, she realizes that it is James who towed her back to The Empress, who is now holding her, rubbing her hands between his larger ones, rubbing until she whimpers with pain as feeling returns to them. He drops them quickly, but instead of stepping away, of creating a respectable distance between them, he pulls her closer, crushing her to him almost painfully.
"You saved us." She mutters into his wet jacket, overwhelmed by the events of the evening. Yet, of all the things that have happened, James' decision to help her was the least surprising. Part of her has never given up on him, always believing that he is the only truly decent man she knows.
Elizabeth eventually pulls away from James, immediately missing his warmth, but proud enough to realize that she'll lose face with her crew if she spends all evening in the arms of an English sailor, not even another pirate. James looks down at her and smiles. A few years ago, she never even knew that he was capable of such an expression. Yet their time on The Pearl together changed completely the way she saw him. His smirks, his witty quips, his shameless glances all felt more exciting than anything she'd ever received from Jack or Will, because this was James. He didn't do such things. He wore uniforms and wigs and stuttered when he talked to her.
"Think you can find room on your ship for a deceitful, traitorous drunkard?" He asks, his smirk reappearing now and the pang in her heart reminds her how much she has missed him.
"No." She answers, smiling at his momentary confusion, "But I'll gladly keep you, you wonderful, loyal, brave, courageous-"
He cuts her off and for the second time this evening, for the second time in her life, she is kissed by James Norrington. However, unlike the first time, she is able to respond and does so enthusiastically.
What does she care for William Turner, or even Captain Jack Sparrow, when she has James Norrington, perhaps the only man in the world to turn pirate out of loyalty, to both his King and to Elizabeth?
Ten years. A long time to wait with not much else to do. Her son, their son, is born nine months into her ten year sentence. It is a sentence, for both Elizabeth and Will. He is doomed to sail the sea, touching land but once a decade, and she is doomed to wait for that one day.
It's ironic, she thinks, that her life should be so restricted. This is the life she thought she was running away from, when she chose Will over James, the pirate over the patriot. She thought she would have freedom, freedom that she had been convinced James could never give her. What a silly girl she had been. Anything would be better than this. Marriage to Beckett would even be an improvement. At least she'd have someone to fight with.
Her days are dreary and forgettable. She lives with her son in a small cottage near the beach, on the edge of town. Not Port Royal, too many people remember her there. Too many people who knew her father, who knew her when she was still young and adventurous and spurning men who loved her for the excitement of piracy. No. Port Royal was not an option.
She named their son James. Jack laughed when she told him, when he visited soon after the child's birth. She doesn't care. It is her way of remembering a good man, a man she could have loved, and did in many ways. It's a better name than Jack or Weatherby and another William Turner would make life far too complicated for them all. Elizabeth's son is her life and all too often she forgets that he belongs to Will too. As far as she is concerned, young James is hers alone, fatherless and free. She dreads Will's first return, introducing father and son. She is certain James will want to be like his father after that meeting, and that's the last thing she wants for him. She wants James to grow old and dull and happy. She wants him to live a life without pirates, without the fear of death at sword point.
Some nights, she wonders what life would have been like if she had chosen a different path. If she'd never met Jack Sparrow, if James hadn't been so damn noble and released her from their engagement, if she'd never turned pirate, and, most of all, if James hadn't died. Of all the deaths she has witnessed, it's strange that she obsesses over this one. But love is strange like that and it is only after something is gone, something that you took for granted for too long, that you appreciate how much it meant.
But Elizabeth chose Will and this isolated life with no one to comfort her but her son. So she floats through her days, numbed by the monotony of her tasks, and it is only at night in her bed that she escapes her life, into dreams of what could have been.