The day that William Turner helped Jack Sparrow escape from his appointment with the hangman's noose, Elizabeth Swann had been sure that Will was going to profess his love for her. After all, it seemed only a natural progression of all that had taken place in the days before, even if he had kept his distance as of late.
But they both disappeared off the end of the parapet without even a word of goodbye, although there had been a brief and yearning glance in her direction on Will's part. So Elizabeth faced the facts; she would still be marrying the Commodore after all.
If she was honest with herself, it was not that she dreaded the idea entirely. She wasn't in love with the man; no, she was in love with Will - or at least she thinks she was. But she did possess a certain fondness for James that could possibly, one day, turn into more. At the very least she could settle into a steady companionship based on mutual affection. But for the time being she could still console herself that her fiancé was a good man, and one who would not leave her for a life of piracy.
Being married to James would not be so awful, she reminded herself even as they walked arm in arm back to her home. He was strong and steady and he would love her, no doubt of that. She would be kept in the manner she was used to. He would be a dutiful husband, despite his enforced absences. In return, she would learn to be a devoted wife.
After all, it was not as if they were strangers, her father had made sure of that. Elizabeth had danced with him at every ball she had ever been too, and he was an adequate conversationalist - a little quiet - but that could be worked upon. He tended to humour her, she knew, when she questioned him about ships, sailing, and his tours of duty. He frowned often when she mentioned pirates.
His eyes were green like the ocean on stormy days and she had always thought they were the most striking thing about him. Though, for all the years she had known James Norrington, Elizabeth felt she truly knew very little about him really apart from the obvious things. She did not know his favourite colour or author, or if he preferred the morning sunrise or the evening sunset. What she did know was that he loves the sea, (as she does), that he is honourable and true, and always does what he thinks is right. These were admirable qualities in any life partner, and Elizabeth knew she had no right to complain.
He was a fine man. She had said it herself.
The Commodore gives Sparrow, and Will, the one day's head start that he promised, because James Norrington never breaks a promise, even to pirates. Her heart is strangely light as she watches him sail away with the Dauntless. But, it grows heavier and heavier when the weeks turn into months, and there are no white sails on the horizon. The storm season is coming, but her father tells her not to worry. James is the finest sailor in the Caribbean and he will come back to her.
When he does return, it is four months later, and he looks more tired than she has ever seen him before. He is still the same, but different somehow and she cannot place her finger on it. He calls upon her not long after the Dauntless docks, and Elizabeth having heard the news of their return had been anxiously pacing the hall waiting for him. He does not kiss her hand, or stand stiffly at attention. Instead he embraces her, and she is momentarily shocked before relaxing into his unfamiliar arms. It is the first time in her life she has been held in such a way by a man who is not her father, and the brocade on his uniform is rough against her cheek.
"Miss Swann. Elizabeth," she hears him murmur into her hair.
He tells her about the hurricane they only just missed; about the Pearl, and how they could not catch her.
"You will not go out looking for them again, will you?" she asks, realising too late that she said 'them' and not 'Jack'.
She feels him pull away a little, his arms unravelling from around her shoulders.
"No, Elizabeth. I will not." She likes how he says her name – a deep resonance, his tongue tripping over each syllable. His tone is neutral. Not displeasure, as she expected - just nothing. He is the navy captain, stoic and proper once more.
She nods politely, secretly relieved that Will and Jack will not be pursued anymore. Relieved that the pursuit of them will not take James from Port Royal again so soon.
"You were gone a long time," she says, as they sit in the drawing room where the servants have efficiently laid out tea and biscuits.
"Not as long as I could have been." He is expressionless and suddenly very interested in the teacup in his hands. She notices the dirt under his nails and frowns a little. She has never seen him anything less than immaculate, and this even small departure comforts her. He is not so perfect after all.
She searches for words to fill the gaps. She wonders at how things suddenly have become so awkward and tense between them, and wonders if this is what their marriage is destined to be like.
"Yes, I recall," Elizabeth begins, "the tour you did when I was fifteen, and you were gone for almost nine months. I remember thinking you would never return."
"Yes," James nods, and looks at her, truly looks at her for the first time since he arrived. She feels a little uncomfortable under his impenetrable gaze, like he is studying her for something unknown. "I… I did not think it was best to pursue Sparrow any further, especially after the hurricane. You and I both know that the Pearl is the faster ship."
She nods the affirmative, remembering what Jack said that time on the island - that the Pearl is not just a ship, not just a hull, a deck, sails. The Pearl is freedom, and idly she wonders if this is how James feels for the Dauntless.
"And in truth," he continues, placing his tea down on the sideboard, "I had reasons that made me eager to return to Port Royal again." He colours slightly at this confession, bowing his head in a shy sort of manner, and she is reminded of his sweetly awkward proposal on the ramparts overlooking the water. If she hadn't been so distracted by the tightness of her stays, she may have even found his nervousness as endearing as she does now.
"Oh," she answers, realising she is acting very demure and ladylike and not asking him the reason for his eager return, even when it is completely obvious to them both what he means. These charades are strange to her – she is much more apt at direct questioning, but she thinks with James she will have to become more practised in this subtle form of conversation. "And I trust you find Port Royal well on your return?"
She is baiting him for an answer, and he knows it and smiles. It does not quite reach his eyes but it is almost there, and for a moment she almost forgets about Will, Jack, and the Pearl.
"Port Royal is just as beautiful as when I left it," he replies with the utmost sincerity, and her heart does a small flip in her chest.
He departs soon after with excuses of reports to write and duties that still need attending to. Elizabeth sits at the window and watches him leave, walking their gravel pathway with the precision of a soldier, but becoming more familiar to her with every step.
They decide on May for the wedding, one week after James' birthday. Quietly aside he whispers that she is birthday gift enough for the rest of his years, and Elizabeth smiles to herself in reply to these amorous words from James.
Sometimes she thinks of Will and misses him, but these times become less and less often now. She wonders what he is doing, whether he is roving the ocean with Jack or other things, and if he ever plans to return to Port Royal. It is hard for her to say if she really misses him, or if she misses what he represents to her. Perhaps she will never know.
Elizabeth does not know what to expect from married life. She does not have a mother to ask, and it is not appropriate to ask the servants, or even Estrella. And although, being appropriate was never something Elizabeth had worried about before, she did want to try and be better now that she was to become a Commodore's wife. There are books, of course, which tell her things. However, there is only so much she can garner from them and listening to the maid's gossip in the kitchen.
She is a little frightened, of course, but curious all the same. But after all, with James to guide her, she is sure she will always feel safe.
He was very buttoned up, was her James. It took a lot for him to smile, really smile. She could only remember a few instances in her life, and she had filed them away in her memory, cataloguing the time and place for future reference. There was the occasion on her sixteenth birthday when she had accepted his hand for the first double and his smile had reached his eyes, and she was surprised at how different he looked. Another was the time on the Dauntless when she assured him she was sincere – she would marry him; her acceptance unconditional.
Now, of course, is another one of those rare occasions. As he takes her small hand in his large before the minister, all she can see are the hundreds of eyes looking upon them. But, all he can see is her.
Elizabeth is nervous, much more nervous than she thought she would be, and her heart is beating a frantic rhythm in her chest. Her stays are too tight again and have been the entire day, but it is her wedding day after all.
James looked handsome and fine in his officers uniform and their first dance as man and wife was comfortable and familiar. She remembers that it was the same dance they did on her birthday, when he had been so tense and tripped over his feet, and she had giggled at him and made him blush. This time he is step perfect and it is her left fumbling, but he carries her and spins her and she feels as light as air in his arms.
Now there is only air between them, and there are not words enough in Elizabeth's head to think of anything to say. He shows her what is to be her room, and then stands in the doorway awkwardly as if scared to cross the threshold without invitation. Her hands are shaking but she hides them behind her back and pretends to admire the wallpaper and the view from the window instead.
"It is to your liking then?" he asks, watching her pace about the room.
"Very much," she replies for she does not know what else to say.
"You must be tired," James proffers, his hand tense on the doorframe and he watches her with those sharp green eyes. He is offering her an escape, and Elizabeth appreciates it, even though she knows she won't take it.
So she walks over to him and takes his hand, and raises it to her lips. She places a soft kiss, just once, on his calloused knuckles before she answers. "You do not have to go." She is sure he cannot doubt her meaning now.
"Are you sure?"
She kisses him in reply, her first with James; her first real kiss with anyone. There was a time when she thought William Turner would be her first, and nearly was once below decks on the Dauntless. But that feels like a lifetime ago, because now she is kissing James and it is nothing like she expected.
His mouth is soft, warm, and so very inviting. His hands shake as they cup her face, and she feels so small pressed up against him.
"Elizabeth," he murmurs, his lips whispering against her ear, down her neck. She shivers at the sensation, almost feeling her body humming in reply to the deliciousness of it.
He is slow and gentle with her, just as she always imagined that he would be. She is not afraid, not in the end. His touch is tender, and he caresses her until she almost ashamedly pleads with him for more, more, please James, and he silences her with his mouth again.
His desire for her is endless, she can see it and feel it. She sees it in his eyes and feels it under his touch. His hands are reverent upon her skin, tracing undiscovered paths with fingers and palms until she is shaking with a need she cannot even explain.
"James," she murmurs, because it is the only word she can seem to conjure up. She does not understand what he has done to her to summon these feelings, but knows when he touches her it feels so very nice, and then better than nice, until it is almost unbearable.
"You are so beautiful," he murmurs into her hair, and his fingers trail down her thigh, and up again, pressing against her hipbone, and lower, and it would make her blush just to think about it if she weren't so distracted by the way it feels, and the way he looks without all his finery.
His cold exterior has melted and given away to this whole new James. She finds that she like this James very much, and it has nothing to do with the way he is touching her. There is a fire in his eyes that she has not seen before. It is a hungry sort of look that she never would have associated with him until she is seeing it now, and feeling it under his caressing fingers. He needs her, wants her, and she likes this power, even though it is he who is in control.
It is uncomfortable at first, a little painful like she had been told it would be, but he is accommodating and careful. When he moves again, it is a completely different sensation, and Elizabeth cannot help but gasp. A sharp moan escapes from his throat, but he does not look ashamed for it, but rather kisses her again, harder this time.
This is a new dance to her, but somehow her body already knows the steps; instinctively moving against him, pressing closer and closer, until she feels like she cannot tell where she ends and he begins. She wants to crawl inside and wrap herself up in him, and when she tells him this he emits a low hiss, and quickens against her.
She kisses the pulse in his neck, feeling it beat under her lips, strong like a naval drum. There is so much passion to James, passion she never sensed, never saw, never knew. But now she does, and it overwhelms her and shatters her at the same time, that she never saw all this, that he hides this need that he feels.
She is mindless; she is overcome. His name is on her lips, over and over. There is a pressure building, she wants to scream but there is not enough air between them. His mouth is rougher, more insistent, and she likes it; she takes his bottom lip between her teeth until he grunts and drives harder, and there are no words to describe it anymore.
Her release is hard and fast, ragged with sobs and whispers. His follows swiftly after, and they lie entangled and breathless, skin against skin, sated and undone.
This was not how she imagined. It was not anything liked she dreamt marriage to the Commodore would be like.
But he is not the Commodore; He is just James, and she is glad for it.
James is a contradiction, she soon realises, a far cry from the mask he displays in public.
On the surface he is the man she has always known - proper and dutiful, honourable and true. None of this as changed; he is still all of these things, and yet now he is more, and she sees him with new eyes.
When he first pushes her up against the study wall and kisses her with such shameless fervour, she is a little shocked by his bold actions, but soon forgets with the trailing path of his fingers, and the hasty unlacing of her bodice. He is never persistent, never takes what she is not willing to give, but when he touches her in such a way she is left weak at the knees, and is entirely at his mercy. At first, she is overwhelmed by these attentions from her husband; she is still discovering the art of love, still unaware of the extent of her effect over him. But, soon Elizabeth welcomes them, finds herself longing for them. She even goes as far to provoke these eruptions in him.
Their home is an overabundance of rooms that Elizabeth has yet to discover and James takes great enjoyment in introducing each one to her in the most intimate way possible. She becomes, one by one, fully acquainted with all of their guest rooms, thanking heavens for soft beds, and his quickness with buttons. His library requires an in depth tour, with more than one visit needed to show off all its fine points. This is the first room that she corners him in, and presses her own suit until he is the one begging in hoarse tones, and the first time she is in control. She makes quick work of his coat, shrugging it off broad shoulders, and pushes him towards the desk, trapping him between it and herself. She smirks at his bemused look, and his hands are already reaching for her, tugging at the lace around her neckline.
Sometimes he is rough; totally unlike his customary nature, but Elizabeth doesn't mind. She knows she drives him to it with her gasps, and moans, urging him faster, or harder, or now, until he has no choice but to obey. This time he is desperate for her, and she teases him mercifully until his always-so-strong resolve snaps and she is pulled to the floor atop of him.
It is teeth, and mouths, and tongues, and he tastes like limes, a habit he cannot break even though she assures him he will not get scurvy while on land. His body is a path of corded muscle, subtly strong from his time working onboard, and conscientious sword practise. It is not unblemished which she so foolishly imagined long ago, but mapped with scars and imperfections from his days at sea. She traces them carefully with her fingers although he has assured her many times they do not pain him at all. She cannot imagine such wounds, or how they must have felt, but James is nothing but strength and they are second nature to him.
Her clothes are little impediment – James has become adept at finding her underneath her layers of garments. She is secretly pleased that he is less complicated to unravel. Today, he is quick, impatient with lust and desire, and she scarcely less so. There is no prelude; not this morning, unlike other mornings where he will touch her until she curses him in her frustration. This morning, he is there, and takes her, and she cries out with the sweetness of it; the feeling of completeness. Elizabeth never knew it would be James to make her feel this way; so alive, and reckless and on fire. But he does, and she is drunk on it. Addicted to it.
He moves in her, a new ferocity about him; a man condemned. Her skin feels hot and tight, and he drives hard, and she feels her hair come loose from its pins, and hands tangled in it. Her eyes are tight shut, as if trying to alleviate the pressure building inside of her, and she wants to touch him but can scarcely do anything but move with him, and cry out.
"Look at me, Elizabeth," he implores, his voice distant beyond the ringing in her ears. It is not a request really, more of a demand. And so she does, and there are green eyes ablaze with such fever, and she is lost.
"James." It is no more than a murmur, before his mouth cuts off her voice; she is so deliciously undone by him. He pushes her, driving her closer to her quivering edge, holding her there cruelly until she can bear it no longer, until she begs him to let her fall and so he does and follows with her, and it is a wave. It is a crescendo and then crashing; shattering her so completely she may as well be glass.
"I love you," she whispers her limbs tingling, and drowsy in the aftermath. It is the first time she has told him, and cannot think of why she has waited until now. His body is heavy, and he pulls her tight in his arms and says nothing, but she can feel his smile against her hair.
He learns what pleases her, just as she learns quickly what pleases him. It secretly amuses her to think that people would be shocked to know this side of James, the part of him that is demonstrative and loving, almost voracious in his needs for his wife. He hides it so well under the brocade and the stern brow, and that looking at him she would never know his thoughts until there is a flash of green eyes, and she is left breathless and longing.
It is only now, with these months of wedded bliss behind her that Elizabeth looks upon her previous opinions of James with enormous shame. She had thought him kind, but dreary and unappealing, and to all degrees somewhat perplexing. He is still mystifying in many aspects, but becoming less so as she learns his ways and habits, his likes and dislikes.
She learns he carries a pistol with him at all times, keeps a second in his study, and a third in the drawer by the bed. He cannot abide by lemon in tea, and hates it when he cannot find things. He has a wry sense of humour, which he expresses mostly with a quirk of the eyebrow and a slight curve of his lips. He takes immense pleasure in a sunrise; often getting up while it is still dark so he can watch it from his office at the fort. He takes the greatest pleasure in his wife.
His appetite for her remains unappeasable, as endless as the horizon he studies. There are moments when he is so brazen in his desire for her, and she finds the more blatant he is, the more she likes it. She takes to wearing her hair soft and loose at the nape of her neck, simply because she is sick of her fancier styles getting ruined by his wandering hands, and lively activities. He is lost for her, and she revels in it. It is his loss of control when it comes to her that perhaps is the most powerful elixir of all. To know that she undoes him in such a manner makes her only more eager.
On the occasions where she comes to him, she enjoys the look of surprise on his face most of all, and the wicked turn of his lips when he realises her game. He is swift in his reprisal, scarcely allowing her breath when she dares to tempt him in such a way. His office has seen more than its share of sinful activities, and Elizabeth is thankful for the sturdy lock on the door.
"You are nothing like I imagined, James," she murmurs sleepily one night, curled up in their marriage bed. Her own room is unused now, except for storing her excess of gowns.
"How did you imagine me?" he asks bemused, his arm tight around her shoulders, and lips brushing her forehead. "Or would it be best that I not ask?"
"I did not imagine you… like this. I thought you were…. dull. Obsessed with catching pirates, so dreadfully proper, and, well… boring."
James laughs at her description, not disconcerted by her truthful manner. "Well then, how do you find me now?"
Elizabeth considers for a moment, pressing herself the length of his body, and feeling his breath catch a little in reply.
Licking her lips, she presses a kiss on the inside of his neck. "Insatiable," she whispers, and his retribution is swift.