Apology.

The difference between Elizabeth and James was the manner in which they made apologies. James made them often, and most of the time they were not necessary. His voice, normally a rich, silken baritone that polished every syllable deliberated over in his mind before he let them flow from his mouth, transfigured itself into a quiet, muddled mess of excuses and "I-never-intendeds."

Elizabeth made them rarely. When she did feel the person she had wronged deserved an apology, she made them quickly, with "I-never-meant-tos" and "I-didn't-realizes." She never looked the person in the eye—it was a difficult thing to do when she told a lie. That was before James. She'd wronged him so many times. She repressed her guilt, fearing she would break if she let it surface. Sometimes, she wanted to throw herself at his feet, beg his forgiveness, spill out every remorseful feeling that weighed her down, that kept her awake when the night descended and morning could not come soon enough. She knew that even with a simple "I'm sorry," he would forgive all her wrongs and forget every fault. In this knowledge, she determined that she never could and never would look at him with regret in her eyes. It was just too hard.

"It is too late to earn my forgiveness," she spat at him.

"I had nothing to do with your father's death," he said firmly before his expression was corrupted with remorse," but that does not absolve me of my other sins."

"Come with us."

I'm so sorry, James.

Blood.

James arms and legs burned as he pulled his sword away from the pirate. Momentarily blinded from battling the cursed creature, he was taken off guard by the sudden silence aboard the Dauntless. The ship was still, as if all who had been fighting were frozen in time. James looked back at the pirate. The figure before him was no longer a skeleton, and, with his face twisted in pain, a final grunt escaped his throat as he fell to the deck.

He looked down at his sword. The metal glistened in the moonlight, coated with bright red blood. James, recovering from the surprise of the sudden and silent victory, looked to his left. There stood another pirate, weapon raised, eyes wide at seeing his companion's blood on the blade of the Navy dog's sword. The great James Norrington, scourge of piracy, put the point of his sword at his throat. The pirate, fearing for his life, dropped his weapon.

There was clink of metal as the pirates all dropped their weapons in defeat. James could feel his men looking at him, anticipating whatever word was going to come from his mouth.

"The ship is ours, gentleman."

Marines and sailors, scattered about on the ship celebrated their victory, but James couldn't hear them.

He had defeated the cursed vermin.

He had fulfilled his future wife's wish.

His Elizabeth was safe, and all he could think of was holding her.

James Norrington was invincible.

Comparitive.

Elizabeth stood at the bow of the Dauntless. She closed her eyes against the sun. The light refused to go, making the inside of her eyelids a warm orange. The wind blew through her hair, and she thought of Will. He had been put to work somewhere aboard the ship, conveniently far away from her. She loved him so.

He and Norrington were so different. Will was brave and reckless and true. James was no doubt brave, but he didn't have that ferocity that Will did. He was cold and cautious and followed the law. He was a stone that could not be broken, that could not feel real emotions, only halfheartedly simulated the simplest ones, that could not break free and . . . . live. She turned and saw him standing behind her a few yards away. His hands were clasped behind his back, his eyes trained on the sailors that were before him. He looked up, as if he had felt her presence. His face was made of stone. She turned away before he had been able to break his commanding veneer. She missed the smile that had spread over his face when he realized that she had been looking at him, not Turner, who was sitting beside the stairs, mending sails.

She sighed and wondered if she could ever be happy married to a stone. He would keep her safe, she knew that. He would be kind to her and give her a comfortable home. She suspected he did care for her in some way. After all, her father did say he fancied her, and she knew Norrington confided in her father, as if he was his own. Whatever it was, it wasn't love. Not love like Will's. Norrington would cherish his wife. Will would cherish his Elizabeth.

His. Will's.

She belonged to Will and he to her. For a moment, she felt a pang of guilt in her heart, knowing that rejecting Norrington would break his heart. This feeling was soon gone when she told herself that she would be breaking his pride, not his heart. The man had none, and Will had hers.

Norrington is a noble man, she reasoned. A righteous man, at least, and he would no doubt choose to damage his own pride rather than break her heart. She knew he would not understand her decision, no one would. The society she lived in did not understand love—the selflessness of it, the sacrifice it required, the pain that it could cause. She did. She smiled. The commodore had given her a choice, but, suddenly, she realized she had none.

Dissolution.

Commodore Norrington had been in the parlor with her father for awfully long time. She knew not what they were talking about, only that he had come to her door with a letter in his hand. She had curtsied when he entered, and he attempted a bow. Something was terribly wrong-- his knuckles were white around the letter he held, and his green eyes were bloodshot and filled with anxiety. Her father seemed to sense it to and directed him into the parlor. Worried and now alone in the hall, Elizabeth returned to the library to continue sketching her gown for her upcoming wedding.

When she heard the door to the parlor creak open, she looked around. Through the door, she saw Commodore Norrington, standing alone as her father walked away, clearly displeased.

"Commodore!" she shouted as his hand touched the knob of the front door. He visibly winced before he turned back to her.

She stood, putting her sketch down. "Please, do stay for a moment."

Reluctantly, he entered the library. She ushered him over to a chair, and when he insisted he should be getting home, she adamantly refused to let him. She would figure out what was wrong.

He was silent as he sat down. This would be harder than she thought. In attempt to start a conversation, she handed him her sketches.

"My wedding dress, Commodore. I've nearly finished designing it."

He took it in his hands, looked at it silently. Anxious, she spoke again.

"I was thinking of white flowers, something simple."

He continued to look at the sketch, and finally spoke when he handed it back to her. "Simple is usually best. I'm sure it will be beautiful."

Happy that she'd gotten that much out of him, she continued, "I was going to tell you next week, but I guess this is as good a time as any. . . I—we—Will and I were hoping you would be our best man."

He seemed thoroughly upset by this. "I regret to inform you, Miss Swann, that I will not be able to attend your wedding."

Elizabeth was shocked. "Why not?"

He stood, "I'm going to be doing some traveling."

She stood as moved towards the door. "You've got an assignment with the Navy? Is that what this is all about? How far away are they sending you?"

"No, Miss Swann, I'm afraid not," he said, firmly. "I've resigned from the Navy."

"Resigned?" It was as if her eyes had been opened. "Is it because of the hurricane?"

"I'm afraid it is."

"That's not worth giving up your job! You mad one mistake. . . ."

"That cost hundreds of lives," he said. "It's unforgivable. It would be better for everyone if I simply left. Good-bye, Miss Swann."

He walked quickly over to the front door, and she chased after him.

"Wait!"

"Miss Swann. . . ."

"That's it, then? You're just running away? We'll never see each other again?"

"I'm sure I will see you again," he said, opening the door.

That means yes, she thought.

Her anger was written on her face. She could not believe that he would leave this way, in such a cowardly manner.

Before she could think, she shouted, "So you're not even going to wish Will and I well?"

He turned from the door back to her, his eyes burning with anger.

"I doubted you would remember, Miss Swann," he said, his voice barley above a whisper. "I already have."

And he left the Swann mansion, taking off his blue coat as he walked away.