Title: A Moment's Weakness
Characters: Elizabeth, Norrington, Gillette, Governor Swann, Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth's maid
Word Count: 2,840
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to Disney or whoever owns the rights to Pirates of the Caribbean. This is just for fun.
Summary: Unable to express himself in person, James writes a love letter to Elizabeth never intending to actually give it to her. What happens when Gillette picks it up with other outgoing mail? The story takes place near the end of CotBP.
Author's Note: I have no idea if the British Royal Navy had outgoing mail. I'm presuming Norrington had to sign papers and those papers had to go somewhere, even if just to another department (and not "mail" as we know these days). So please ignore any historic inaccuracies. This story was originally posted on LJ under a new account I started there.
James Norrington sat at his desk in his office, the large windows dark with night and the candles burning low. The hour was growing late and he should probably be in bed already, but the fiasco involving Jack Sparrow had created a mountain of paperwork. The Interceptor had been stolen and later sunk, pirates had been captured and Elizabeth had been rescued. Supplies had to be accounted for, too, less they create discrepancies in the system. Good men had been killed and their deaths required even more paperwork. Those he had already finished, as well as a too tall stack of personal letters to each man's family describing the honor in which they had served the British Empire. The stack rested now on the corner of his desk, waiting for morning when Gillette would pick them up.
The pirates, including Jack Sparrow, were locked safely inside the Fort waiting their execution. He should be glad, too, and he was. Yet his main report describing the battle upon the Dauntless remained unwritten. Tired, he rubbed his eyes and allowed a sigh to escape his lips. Should he be truthful and describe the undead pirates in his report or would his superiors think him mad? That was the last thing he desired. He had worked long and hard to get the current post he had and the respect that went with it. The last thing he wanted was to ruin it by writing a crazy sounding report. What if his superiors thought him unfit for duty? Elizabeth had just accepted his proposal and he now had a duty to her as well. And he could not serve her, as was her due if he lost his job because of a report. What to do?
He didn't want to lie. He was an honorable man and lying wasn't something he did. None of his training up to this point had covered anything like this. Growing restless, his pen nib tapped the black piece of parchment before him. Closing his eyes for a moment, he leaned back in his chair and thought of Elizabeth. Truthfully, he couldn't believe she had accepted his proposal. He had been incredibly nervous when he had finally worked up the nerve to ask her to be his bride, for she was all the things he was not. She was bold and had a fire burning inside her, one that had allowed her to deck it out with pirates in the heat of a battle with no previous training. Even more surprising was the fact she had been victorious. Of course, Turner had helped her…
Turner. The young blacksmith had been cleared of his illegal activities, thanks to Governor Swann. Not that he really wanted to hang the young man. What he had done he had done out of love. It was no secret that Turner loved Elizabeth as well. Worst, he feared she might return those favors. Not that society would approve, of course. As the Governor's daughter, she was expected to marry someone of high standing, not a blacksmith's apprentice. How dashing he was didn't matter. Yet James knew it was hard to compete against that hero turned pirate image Turner had now acquired, especially since Elizabeth was drawn to pirates.
"She no doubt thinks they are romantic." James stated wearily, his voice sounding hollow in the large room. And everything that had happened had increased that ridiculous notion. Hadn't Sparrow rescued her from drowning? Hadn't Turner risked his own neck to save her? Romantic indeed!
The nib tapped the parchment faster. "Cannot I be romantic as well?"
He had missed his chance to save her and he now regretted the fact that he hadn't leaped off that Fort wall, rocks be damned. If he had done that as his instincts had told him to, she would be looking dreamy eyed at him, something he wanted very much. He wanted Elizabeth to love him, yet he didn't have the courage to tell her so. Whenever he was near her it seemed as if he grew uncertain and his tongue-tied, less he offend her some way. It made him come across as boring and he suspected Elizabeth loathed boring with a passion.
Yet society dictated how he must behave in her presence.
What to do?
He certainly couldn't tell her how he felt in person. He wasn't that brave, even if they were betrothed now. His eyes landed on the blank parchment and an idea formed within his mind. "If I cannot tell her in person then I will write her a letter…"
Some of the nervous flutter within his stomach had settled, but some of it remained as well. Although he had done a lot of reading of famous, well-respected authors, he had never written anything except reports. And he certainly had never written a love letter. What did one put in a love letter? Truthfully he had no clear idea, except somehow he must express clearly how important she was to him. He didn't want her to be a trophy or something pretty to cling to his arm at parties. He didn't ask for her hand to gain more power in Port Royal, to increase his standing in society. He truly loved her and his heart leaped with joy each time he saw her. Somehow he must express all that on paper and pray she wasn't offended.
Determined, James sat up straight once again and dipped the nib into the ink well. Pen carefully paused above the blank parchment; he began to compose the letter in his elegant handwriting.
My Dearest Elizabeth,
Do forgive my daring intrusion, but as I sit here in the dark I cannot but miss your bold glimmer and glitter, for in my eyes you outshine the very sun in the heavens.
Your eyes are the warmest amber.
I would happily spend eternity trapped in their crystalline depths if only you would grace me with a smile.
Your lips are the softest rose petals, petals I can only dream of touching.
But nay, surely I am not worthy of your kiss.
The graceful curve of your neck puts architects to shame for it is perfect when they are not.
Every time I see you is like the first, my heart aflutter and suddenly I am uncertain for you are the sun and I the flower seeking your warmth.
Pray, do not leave me in the cold for I will surely die.
I will love you for eternity, my dearest Elizabeth.
Yours always and forever,James
The letter finished, James sat back and read what he had wrote. The words sounded too bawdy and well, distasteful. Nor could he believe he had written something like this. Could he really send this to Elizabeth? Surely not!
Still, he had to try, didn't he? Once the ink was dry, he folded the letter carefully into thirds, sealed it with wax and then carefully scribed her name on the front. Uncertainty filled his heart and he pressed his lips together firmly, frowning. The clock on the town hall rang the hour, the loud bells serving as a much-needed reminder of how late it truly was. If he was going to do his duty tomorrow, he needed to go to bed now. If he didn't, he'd be a zombie awash in a foggy haze and that just wouldn't do. Deciding he would decide in the morning if he should mail the letter or not, he stood and headed out the door.
The next morning dawned bright and early. Unlike the Commodore who had stayed up until midnight, Gillette had gone to bed at a normal hour. So it came as no surprise he beat Norrington to his office. Spotting the stack of letters waiting upon the desk, he picked them up and then paused, his eyes landing upon the single letter. Deciding it must have slipped off the stack due to the partly open windows, he picked it up and discovered it was addressed to Miss Swann. Turning smartly on one heel, he hurried on his way. He would hand Miss Swann's letter over to one of the Marines to hand deliver. The Governor's house wasn't that far anyway.
A short time later, Elizabeth yarned as she sat up in bed. Within moments her maid knocked on the door lightly and poked her head in. When she saw that she was awake she entered, a silver tray with a single letter upon it in her hand. Curious who it could be from, Elizabeth wasted no time reaching for it.
"You must get dressed, Miss." Her maid informed her. "Today be the hanging."
"Don't remind me." Elizabeth sighed as she stuck a fingernail under the wax to break the seal. The seal popped and she unfolded the stiff parchment, curiosity etched on her face.
James stood under the hot sun, his calm expression completely masking the maelstrom brewing inside him. To his utter horror, he had slept late and when he had been awoken by one of his officers he had dressed and groomed in a rush. But his mad rush had been for naught because the wildly inappropriate poem he had written last night was nowhere to be seen. Realizing that Gillette had already been through to collect the mail, he waited for the Governor's carriage to arrive. Each tick of the clock seemed an eternity, but he kept himself busy with arranging extra security for the hanging. He was certain the notorious pirate, Sparrow, would try some lame escape attempt. The man had an incredible record of escapes, often disappearing completely from sight as if by magic.
Hearing the rumble of wheels upon cobblestones, he turned to see the Governor's carriage arriving. Taking a deep breath to calm his jangled and stretched nerves, he walked forward to open the door and offer Elizabeth his hand. Unsure what to expect from her or if she had even read his lame excuse at poetry, he was relieved to see her offer him a brilliant smile. Her warm eyes twinkled with mirth totally inappropriate to the somber occasion, but he didn't care. "Good day, Elizabeth. May I enquire as to how you are this morning?"
"I am fine, James." She replied smoothly as she brazenly stared into his eyes as she took his offered hand.
Her hand felt cool against his and the scent of her sweet perfume wafted its way into his nose. Stepping back so she could step out of the carriage, he admired how beautiful she was. The Governor soon appeared and smiled at the two of them. They were the perfect couple. Time passed in polite conversation and soon the three of them moved off to the side. The prisoner was led out and his crimes were read to the assembled mass of spectators. Will Turner appeared from among the crowd and paused in front of Elizabeth.
"Elizabeth, I love you. I should have told you from the day we first met." Will promptly disappeared back into the crowd.
Upon hearing Turner's words, anxiety gripped James' stomach. It was his worst nightmare come true. The young blacksmith had confessed his love for Elizabeth. Turning, he looked at her to see what she would do. Her eyes widened in surely what must be shock from the boy's inappropriate words. For a moment they seemed to dart about this way and than that before they rolled upward.
"I … I can't breathe."
Upon seeing her collapse to the ground, cold fear shot through him and her father bent over her, waving his plumed hat to give her air. But a moment later she jolted upright, trying to see what was going on with the hanging.
Relief flooded through James' body that she was all right, but he was also a bit annoyed that she had tricked him. Turning, he realized an escape attempt was in the process and so he ran off, shouting for his men. The battle was short, Turner and Sparrow being outnumbered by all the Marines and Navy with their sharp weapons.
And then Elizabeth stepped out and joined the two criminals.
"Please, put your weapons away!" The Governor pleaded, his daughter's safety the first priority. The weapons moved upward and away from the three.
James could feel his throat constricting. Didn't she love him at all? "Is this where your heart truly lies?"
Elizabeth stepped closer to James and reached for his hand. Holding it between her own, she gazed into his eyes. "My heart lies with you, James. But I plead; do not put Jack's death on my conscious. I could not live with that and surely it would destroy me. I know you see only a pirate, but he is a good man as well. If it were not for his efforts to save me from Barbossa, surely I would be dead."
Realizing it was an opportune moment; Jack stepped forward with his usual swagger and a wide grin. Stopping in front of the Commodore, the pirate wiggled a ring-decorated hand in front of his face. "I've been rooting for you all along."
Scenting the foul breath and the sour stench of unwashed body, James leaned slightly backward until Jack moved away in an odd glide. Mixed feelings filled him and he was confused as to what he should do. On one hand his duty said he was supposed to hang criminals and Jack was defiantly a criminal. But Elizabeth loved him! Unlike him, she had no real experience with death or the mettle it took to hang someone; to have their death on your hands. For all of Elizabeth's recent adventure with pirates, she was still innocent in that way and that made him glad.
Jack moved up to the wall and then stumbled over it, disappearing.
Everyone rushed to the wall and peered downward. Jack surfaced and started to swim towards the Black Pearl, which had suddenly appeared in port.
"Commodore, your orders?" One of his officers asked.
Raising his eyes from the water far below and the infamous pirate ship, James realized that Elizabeth was still holding his hand. Unsure what he should do, he turned to the Governor for advice.
"Perhaps if an act requires piracy, then piracy itself can be the correct course?" Governor Swann offered, smiling.
"Perhaps." James agreed. Turning, Elizabeth's hand still in his grip, he replied to the officer. "Oh, I think we can afford to give him a day's head start."
Slightly puzzled, the officer wondered off, the rest of the Marines following him.
Governor Swann smiled at his daughter and the Commodore holding hands, silhouetted against the sky. Spotting the young blacksmith staring unhappily at Elizabeth, the portly Governor wrapped an arm around the youth's shoulder and gently led him in the same direction the others had vanished in. The boy had a good heart but still needed guidance.
Alone for the moment with his betrothed, James suddenly realized that through some miracle Elizabeth had chosen him over the dashing, heroic actions of Turner. Blinking, he gazed at her beautiful face. "Do … do you truly … love me?"
"I had no idea you could be so romantic." Elizabeth breathed as she moved closer until there was barely a whisper of air between them. Her eyes were half lidded as she pulled her hand free of his grasp and placed them on his shoulders.
"Elizabeth," James started, his body growing too hot suddenly. "This isn't entirely proper…"
Rising onto her tiptoes for reply, she placed one hand behind his neck and pulled his head down until their lips met. Heat seared through him and he eagerly kissed her back, discovering to his delight her lips were as soft as rose petals. Breathless, the two pulled apart.
"You see, you are worthy of my kiss, if only you'd kiss me." Elizabeth replied, smiling. "And sometimes it's fun to be a bit improper, don't you think? The stuffy matrons need not rule our life, must they? Be a bold pirate and steal my kisses."
Wrapping Elizabeth in his arms, he bent his head and did just that.