Disclaimer: Do not own, pray do not sue.
Norrington did not know what to expect of death. He was a good, practicing member of the Church of England and he supposed that he has two fates. He could either go to heaven or to hell.
The thought was not a comforting one, as Norrington felt his arm fall back limply and his heart stop and the pain expand, crest like a tidal wave to kill him, like the tidal wave that helped sink the Dauntless, and explode into darkness and strange stars and sparks of color. He tried, in the last, few struggling moments of breath, to think back on his life and he forced himself through flashes of memory, of every failing, from the time when he broke the creamer in his mother's good china tea set to the time Elizabeth looked up at him with hate in her fine eyes and blamed him for her father's death. 'This is not enough penance for all that,' Norrington thought, just as resigning his commission was not enough penance for losing his ship.
Hell it was then.
He thought uncomfortably of Gillette, swearing in French, pushed over the railing and into the sea and thought, with a bright, lingering flash of hope, that it was Elizabeth screaming out, "James!", thought that she would miss him, and thought with a strange surge of euphoria, of kissing her and her sudden look of realization (that he loved her? That she liked it? That in some odd universe she could have loved him back?) after.
And then darkness.
When Norrington came to (and he hated the phrase because it was not accurate- he had died and he could not come back to anything, for everything was strange and new and he could not learn it and master it) he kept his eyes closed and tried to imprint the memory of Elizabeth on his mind. He never wanted to forget the salt of the sea spray on her lips, the silken softness of her hair as it hit his cheek. He was good at rationing himself small bits of happiness. Norrington remembered how he had once spent six consecutive months at sea, shutting down rum- running operations, destroying pirate threats, gaining a new truthfulness to his reputation as the scourge of piracy in the eastern Caribbean, and exhausting his strength and any faith he had left in human nature. He was still angry at himself for not managing to be there when pirates attacked a port in Jamaica and began sacking a town before he arrived. After he'd captured the ship and clapped the captain in irons, it hadn't felt like enough and the guilt and the shame and the bitter regret he felt at it. Through all that, and everything else, he'd very carefully rationed out memories of a dance he'd shared with Elizabeth before leaving Port Royale and the memory of it left him oddly peaceful as he lay in bed, relieving him of his usual a sleepless night remembering that he had failed again. The way her cheeks colored in the heated ballroom, her smile, her flirtation, the curls of her hair- they drove out the memory of the blood on paving stones, of gun smoke, of leers, of death and the very conscious knowledge that he failed and innocent people died because he had not been there. He recalled times where memories of her laugh and her conversation drove away the restless guilt, recalled how one garden party sustained him for three months, how greatly he had treasured a spray of jasmine that had fallen out of Elizabeth's bouquet and how he had kept each invitation she sent him locked in his desk drawer, taking them out to marvel at them and smile at them and clear away the weight of service and office at the sight of her handwriting, at the memory of her presence. He went through a hurricane on the memory of her acceptance of his proposal.
He was reasonably certain that he could live for eternity on a kiss.
When he had fixed it in his mind, as sure as his old Latin lessons or the multiplication table or star charts he memorized as an ambitious midshipman, he opened his eyes and belatedly thought to breathe. Norrington found, suddenly, that he did not need to, but it proved difficult to break the habit. The sky was dark above him and he vaguely felt (though feel was not quite the right word- like remembering the feel of something, not feeling, but knowing) the roll of the sea beneath him. He carefully reached a hand out to the side and felt wood.
A long boat. He was in a long boat. He sat up a bit stiffly, feeling his hat fall off in the process. Why was he in a long boat? Norrington felt his mind whir and click into action as he scanned the horizon. The Valkyries were to take up dead warriors to Valhalla, according to Norse mythology; perhaps there was some similar service for dead seamen? Norrington doubted it, however. There had been Davy Jones, but Davy Jones now worked for the East India Trading company.
All in all, it was incredibly strange to find oneself sitting in a dinghy with a light in front. Norrington pressed his lips together and tried to count all the dinghies around him. One must know one's environment, after all. The boats were too close together; no one could move. Each inhabitant- men, mostly sailors, women, children- all lost in their own worlds, all sitting quietly in boats right next to each other, not looking at one another. The reserve, the silence, the lapping of waves against the boat (but he did not hear them, exactly- once more it is like the memory of hearing and it suddenly irritated him)- it all seemed strangely familiar, but he could not place it.
He surprised himself when he broke the silence. "This is terribly inefficient."
"There's a backlog," said a sailor in another boat. The boats were so close that, if Norrington had half-a-mind to, he could reach out and touch people on either side of him. He could see the bullet holes in the clothes of the sailor (an enlisted man by the uniform) beside him and wondered if he, Norrington had a gaping hole in his torso. The thought was too disturbing to permit further reflection on the matter. "There's a really large backlog."
"So it would seem," Norrington replied dryly. "Really, one would expect better organization from the afterlife."