A/N: Unless I decide to write an epilogue, this fic is DONE! –dramatic music- Thanks for reading, and a big HUGE THANK YOU to tammsla, who really made it readable. xD

James's heart was a steady drum as he gave the sides of the horse a firm kick, gripping tightly with his knees as the animal broke from a canter into an all out gallop. Perhaps he had no right to push the horse so hard, especially given the lengthening shadows obscuring the already-dangerous road. Originally, it had not been so close to the edge of the cliff, where the grassy plateau ended abruptly and the only thing left was air. But time and weather had worn down the rock face. Now the single, winding path was a misplaced footstep away from the crashing waves, and James was a breath away from that fatal misstep.

The gelding snorted indignantly when James finally wheeled off of the main road. Because this new path was overgrown and filled with potholes, Norrington allowed the horse to ease into a more comfortable pace. The stiffness of his muscles was a testament to the fact that he had not ridden for some time. His legs, back, and neck ached furiously and were beginning to cramp from his long hours of relative immobility. He was far more comfortable on a ship, where he knew that he could coax the full speed out of the vessel without fear. This was a constant guessing game of how much abuse the horse could or could not take.

But there were no natural harbours near the secluded house that sat nestled just at the base of the hill, when the plateau and the jagged cliff finally sloped and evened out into a quieter beach and the endless plains disappeared beneath the boughs of leafy trees. Anything larger than a skiff would surely be grounded, anything smaller bashed against the rocks. The sea was too shallow, broken up into white froth for miles against the shoals and the reefs, already thoroughly battered by the time it lapped against the shore. It was the perfect place to hide, nigh inaccessible by sea and a fair stretch from anywhere by land.

Though it had been all but abandoned as Port Royal grew and the job of running it became more and more time-consuming, the house had been the Governor's summer cottage when Elizabeth was growing up. James had never been there himself, but as a Lieutenant he had received enough letters from the young Miss Swann that he almost felt he would be able to recognize every inch of the property. When Sparrow had divulged Elizabeth's location, James had not even needed to question the pirate's honesty. It would be too simple a lie, something so blindingly obvious that it had to be true. Without a shadow of a doubt, Norrington knew that Elizabeth would be there when he reached the house.

She had to be.



xxxx

Elizabeth would be unharmed by the time James returned for her. She had to be. He would accept nothing less; any violator of his strict orders would be keelhauled and assigned to bilge duty whether they were still able to function or not. If one of the fish men were to blame, Norrington would personally hand them over to Jones for punishment. And they would be punished; or- so help him- he would shoot the heart and carry out the sentence himself.

Even as he paced across the deck he wondered why he was not by her side, watching over her even if she did not wish to take up his offer of safety and security. He wondered why he had not begged for her favour the moment she expressed doubts about his plea for forgiveness…and he wondered why he had not yet kissed her. Her scathing words echoed about in his head, each syllable stinging all the more potently for its truth. Everything she had told him was frighteningly accurate, as if she had peered into the secluded corner of his soul that even he feared to examine.

But if she knew him, she gave no indication that she had expected his next move.

"Come with me," he commanded, one step away from grabbing her by the sleeve and hauling her bodily out of the cell if she did not comply. "Quickly!"

Though she hung back until her brutish crew filed out of the small cell, Elizabeth complied when she heard the urgency in his voice. "What are you doing?" she demanded, her eyes only meeting his once he finally managed to choke out his next words.

"Choosing a side."

"I think it's a bit late for that, James." One good deed was not enough to redeem a man from a lifetime of wickedness, it seemed. He winced at the irony of the words that pierced his thoughts, but he swallowed his insecurities down and ushered her out of the brig, following her closely.



"You are unharmed?" He asked as they climbed the stairs onto the deck.

"Yes- of course." Her voice trembled slightly, as if the very idea had not occurred to her. "I am a pirate lord. They would not dare…"

"I have known pirates to dare far more than to make advances on a single unarmed woman locked in a cell."

Elizabeth's eyes narrowed. Perhaps that had been the wrong thing to say. Her independent nature was evidently flaring up, her lacklustre eyes smouldering with sudden passion. "I am hardly helpless, James. I am a Pirate Lord now, no longer the delicate girl you pine after."

He had never considered her such, but he made no move to contradict her words as it would only end badly for him. She would never listen- never had, when she got into such a mood. Without another word, he began ushering the crew of the Empress along the ropes that connected them to the Dutchman, Elizabeth refusing to leave despite his insistence until all of her men had left the ship. James looked away from her as he leaned against the wood of the ship, trusting the breeze would carry his words to her. "Do not go to Shipwreck cove. Beckett knows about the meeting of the Brethren."

"It's too late to earn my forgiveness," she snapped, and for a moment silence lingered.

"I had nothing to do with your father's death. That doesn't absolve me of my other sins." And what sins they were. If she could not forgive him for something he had not done, there was hardly hope of redemption now. Hardly any reason at all to tell her of all his shortcomings. But he had promised her father, and he took a few deep breaths to steady his unsteady voice.

"Come with us," she said suddenly, interrupting him before he could begin.

He turned around to fix her with a shocked expression.



"James, come with me."

He didn't know what to say. Her honey eyes told him that she regretted her previous rash words. She looked so torn, the fire having died out to leave only charred remains. So forlorn...so alone.

"Go, I will follow," he told her.

"You're lying." He wasn't. But she had to be completely out of danger before he could even begin to contemplate leaving the ship. And Bootstrap was coming.

"Our destines have been entwined, Elizabeth," he whispered, "But never joined." Until now.

xxxx

Up until now, James had always considered himself an extremely patient man.

Waiting had never been a problem for him before; he was outwardly as calm and composed as always. But it was so hard to watch the hours pass by; only the crescent moon's slow course in the sky gave any indication that time was still moving. Each minute felt like a year, with his steady breathing providing a harmonic accompaniment to the constant, unchanging song of the crickets. Though he kept telling himself that it was no different than any other time he had waited, the calm before the battle when he would finally deliver the killing stroke upon his mortal enemy, his heart knew that he was simply lying. It pounded frantically in his chest, his chest constricting more and more each moment in growing anxiety of the task he had been meaning so long to complete but had never managed to carry through.

Bathed in the glow of the moon, he simply sat on the grass and leaned up against the side of the house, his coat thrown overtop of him like a blanket as he endured the torturously slow hours until daybreak. However difficult it was to restrain himself, James would not even consider calling upon her at such an hour. He would do things appropriately, and a surprise visit from a ghost in the dead of night would hardly classify as proper. A cramp shot through James's legs and he languidly opened his eyes, pushing himself to his feet and stomping at the ground to coax the blood back into his limbs.



He guessed that it must have been about two hours after midnight, for the early morning was at its darkest. He could hardly see as far as the porch railing where he had tied up his horse … and didn't notice the approaching assailant until there was a blade nearly at his throat. Turning around and drawing his weapon in a single movement, his own sword was soon in a similar position on the other's neck, hovering dangerously close to where the jugular artery pulsed beneath the skin.

"The lady of the house does not take kindly to thieves," a quiet voice informed him. The stranger who was swathed in shadow like a cloak, as dark and mysterious as James would certainly appear to him. From what Norrington could gather, his opponent was about a head shorter than he was, wiry and small with a voice to match.

James scowled, though he hardly expected the expression to carry through the darkness. "Then it is a good thing I am not a thief," he returned. Moving deliberately, he removed his sword from the stranger's neck and used it to swat away the offending blade. "But I don't suppose you believe me."

Apparently not, as the first blow came crashing down onto his sword.

"In all fairness, I should warn you now: this will not end well for you, sir," Norrington's voice was low, barely above a whisper.

The other paid no heed to his words, lashing out once again. James retaliated this time, the position and ferocity of his strike just dangerous enough to serve as a warning.

The dance began. At first it was slow, each step James took inexorably met with equal precision, every flick of his cutlass countered with a resounding clang of steel meeting steel. They moved from shadow to shadow, if the breaks in the darkness created by the weak moon could have been classified as light. Though he was not yet exerting himself fully, he could tell by the way his attacks were parried that he was not fighting an amateur. James allowed his opponent to determine the speed, returning the flurry of blows with his own.



James flowed from technique to technique, analyzing the situation with a surprising calmness. His fury seemed to always run icy cold, working in perfect synchronization with the liquid fire of his adrenaline to create a concoction that- much like oil in a machine-kept the Admiral working in top form. That was perhaps the thing he admired most about fencing: how it enabled him to pour all of his intensity into a focused point without fear. All of his insecurities paled beneath the vibrancy of his passion, which concentrated as it was could rarely be matched.

Norrington side-stepped neatly; the blow intended for his neck slammed into a tree, shaving a curl of bark from the trunk. Having taken the initiative moments ago, switching from a defensive to an offensive strategy, he had steadily forced the fight onto playing grounds of his choosing. They were now amongst the grove of trees that grew close to the west side of the house, where tree roots and branches provided a new challenge to overcome.

"I have no intention of losing," the stranger panted, stealing a quick glance behind his shoulder to duck an overhanging branch as James forced their duel deeper into the trees. It was a pity, for James had every intention of winning. Tired of toying with the slender combatant, James deftly disarmed his foe, backing him against a tree and placing the pommel of his sword heavily against his temple. The man would be extremely sore upon awaking.

"You don't want to do that," the stranger warned.

"Why not?" James insisted, eyes narrowing.

"I am the Pirate King of the Brethren Court. If you touch a single hair on my head, I promise you will not survive the next fortnight."

James's sword nearly clattered to the ground. So much for propriety. "Elizabeth?" he exclaimed in surprise, immediately removing his weapon from her head.

"Who are you?" she demanded in a breathless whisper, trying to peer up at him through the darkness. "I could swear that I know your voice." After a moment, she shook her head furiously. "I must be dreaming." Grabbing her sword from its place by her feet, she pushed herself from the tree and brushed past him. "Or I'm going absolutely mad!" she shouted, breaking out of the grove and onto clear ground.



Norrington finally found his voice. "Elizabeth, I assure you, you're not mad! Or dreaming!" He hurried after her, grabbing her by the shoulder. She immediately stiffened beneath his touch, stopping dead in her tracks. "I have to tell you something," he informed her.

"No. Don't even start. I won't listen."

"It's important."

"I don't care. It will just end up like every other time. It seems so real, like you're really here… but then I'll wake up and be worse off for it. Why can't I just forget you, James?"

"Do you want to forget me?"

"Sometimes," she admitted slowly. Silence lapsed for a moment, and she finally turned to face him as if to say something else. She moved her hand to his chest, letting it brush momentarily against the cloth of his jacket before wrenching herself away. "Oh, now you've got me started! Just go away and leave me in peace," her voice quavered as if she was fighting back tears. "Please, James," she implored, "no more words."

He hadn't planned on speaking.

Instead, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

Xxxx

He kissed her; it was as simple as that.

And yet, it was somehow more important than he had ever dreamed it could be. It was the first step forward: the one that he had never dared to take. He hated himself in that moment; for waiting so long, 

for never telling her how much he loved her, showing her how much he loved her… for not being the man she deserved. But he was kissing her now, and that was all that mattered.

He just wished he could feel it.

xxxx

He could feel her lips against his- timid at first, but soon taking from him everything he was able to give. Pulling her closer, he wrapped his arms around her. One of his hands curled around her slender waist, the fingers of his other splayed across her back. He was intoxicated by her touch, dizzy off her scent and her taste. He found himself unable to stop even as his lungs screamed for air, pulling away only when they threatened to send him crashing to the ground if he did not comply.

He needed her, just as desperately and unapologetically as she needed him. More than breath, more than life. Shudders racked his body as her hands found his face in the darkness; she slid her fingers along the line of his jaw. "You're alive," she whispered, pulling his head down to meet hers in a gentle kiss. The taste of salt told him she was crying.

"I am now." He spoke against her mouth, confident that even if the sound of his voice was lost in the night, she would be able to read the wealth of meaning off of his lips. She hummed in contentment and leaned against his chest, murmuring some quiet statement that did not quite reach his ears. After a moment, she asked again, this time louder.

"How?"

His heart skipped a beat and his mouth went dry. He had momentarily forgotten the reason he had come. Ashamed, he pulled back from Elizabeth's embrace. Her hands slid from his face to hang limply by her sides. How, indeed.

"James…" She sounded worried now. Perhaps for good reason. "…what aren't you telling me?"



He wondered how terrible she thought his reason was, if the story he would relate to her would surpass her expectations or fall tame in comparison. If she would be relieved or appalled. But it didn't matter, because he would tell her nevertheless. He had solemnly vowed both to himself and to Governor Swann that he would. There was no backing out now. Resigned, James decided he would face the consequences of his actions.

He folded his hands behind his back, averting his eyes from Mrs. Turner, and staring intently down at the ground with an almost uncharacteristic timidity. He felt somehow exposed around her as if all his faults- which were so easily hidden behind a brocaded uniform and a powdered wig- were suddenly laid bare for examination.

James Norrington, what has the world done to you?

It had forced him to come to terms with himself, a fact he both resented and respected very much. It had made a pirate out of a man.

He licked his lips, bracing himself for what needed to come. Flicking his gaze back up, Norrington straightened his posture, throwing his shoulders back and assuming a rigid military stance. Instinct was the only protection he had left. " Elizabeth..." he started tenderly, before checking himself. He changed his tone, desperate to separate his raging emotions from his words and keep them from interfering with what he needed to say.

" Elizabeth, I have a confession to make. I've done some things in my life that I regret, but this one perhaps most of all. It's the reason I'm still alive today... but I could not tell you if it was worth the cost I have paid- and perhaps always will have to pay."

Yes, he had done a lot of things he regretted. He would never regret his love for her, however, and it was that fact which made it so incredibly difficult for him to tell her of his misgivings.

"You may never realize how complete my guilt is concerning this matter and how hard I am willing to work to attain forgiveness, but that is not the point. The point is that I have gone against myself. I have used the Aztec curse for my own personal benefits. I willingly submitted myself to hell on earth, and for 

nothing." He paused before speaking once more. "I want you to know that I am sorry. For becoming a pirate... and for sacrificing myself to become so."

James Norrington, what has the world done to you?

The world had done a great deal. The world had made a man out of a pirate.

Silence settled between them once more, sparking a tension that weighed heavily on James's shoulders, forcing the navy out of his posture until he settled in a more natural stance. For the moment he was glad of the darkness, for he was unable to see her reaction. As long as he could keep from hearing her, from seeing her, he could imagine that somehow she would accept his actions for what they were and put the past behind them. Though he knew it could never be so, it was what he yearned for with all his being.

"You're not..." she trailed off, clearing the tremor out of her voice, "… like that now, are you?" In the dim moonlight he could see her put her pale fingers to her lips, unsure what to make of their kiss. Evidently wondering if she had been kissing a dead man.

Swallowing hard, he shook his head, only managing to choke out a quiet 'no' after a long moment. Never again.

"So, is that how you became Commodore?" she inquired, her voice turning from shocked to irate as she continued on. "You survived all the greatest battles while your comrades fell around you, is that it?"

James recoiled as if struck. "Wrong." It was only the Dauntless. And that had been enough. "I only touched the coins after-"

"-after I broke your heart?" James was shocked that she had noticed, however obvious it may have been. She had never seemed to have been aware of his wounds before, never seemed to care, and yet her words carried such emotion in them that James thought she might have torn her own heart out somewhere in the process of shattering his. "So it's my fault, and you've come to flaunt it?"



"No, Elizabeth. I would never-"

"There were a lot of things I thought you would never do, James." Without another word, she drew her sword again.

xxxx

He drew his sword.

In the end, what had happened between him and Elizabeth didn't matter. She was still on the Dutchman. He was an Admiral, she a Pirate Lord. Bootstrap was still coming.

The look in his eyes commanded her to leave, and she clambered up onto the rope, needing no further instruction. He did not have time to dwell on the prickling feeling that shot along his spine, emanating from the look she had given him when he had pulled away from their kiss. One of revulsion… or revelation.

Bootstrap was coming, and James pulled out his pistol when it seemed his sword was not enough to dissuade the crazed seaman. "Stand down. That's an order!" he snapped. He stole a look behind him. Elizabeth was not nearly far enough away from the Dutchman. If the alarm was raised, she would never make it.

"That's an order. That's an order. Part of the crew, part of the ship. Part of the crew, part of the ship." Mad babbling.

"Steady, man!"

"Part of the crew, part of the ship. All hands, prisoner escape!"

"Belay that!" James shouted. There was nothing he could do now. Except become a distraction. Turning around, deliberately dropping his sword-arm to his side as he raised his pistol, James aimed at the thick 

rope that bound the ships together. With deadly precision, he pulled the trigger, sending Elizabeth toppling to the ocean, but free.

Bootstrap stabbed him, and he was pushed against the rail by the sheer force put behind the attack. The Admiral was dead: it was the only commotion that would keep Elizabeth from being hunted down.

xxxx

James felt as if his very soul was being hunted down by Elizabeth.

Her sword fell upon his again and again, although her blows were faster and more passionate than those of their previous fight. He dodged and parried where he could, completely stunned by this sudden turn of events. She offered no explanation for herself; she only continued to frantically pound away at his blade with her own. Eventually, she would hit him. It was inevitable, because he almost wanted her to. To give him some excuse to act, instead of just taking her abuse in silence. Or because maybe the sight of his blood would remind her that he was just a man, neither the monster nor the deity she had always seen him as.

"Fight," she demanded.

He would not. He simply continued to dance back from her fury, retreating where he had always advanced, deflecting where he would have struck. She had always been wild, unpredictable, and with her nerves this frayed there was nothing to do but wait out the storm.

"Coward," she spat, aiming a low slash at his knees. "I hate you."

He deflected her blow with a well angled blade, causing her arm to overextend and send her toppling off balance, nearly spilling her to the ground. "Do you?" When her temper cooled, would she remember his arms around her?

"Yes." Or would she simply remember his treachery?

"Do you really, Elizabeth?"



A small hesitation this time, the silence punctuated with the clash of metal upon metal. Finally, "Yes."

James 's hopes plummeted. It seemed foolish that he should have let them escalate in the first place, but he had never learned from his mistakes when Elizabeth was involved. She was his undoing.

"Then I will leave," he said suddenly, and sheathed his sword just as she plunged hers forwards into the soft flesh of his arm. Her timing had been perfect. A second earlier and James would have caught her weapon on the edge of his blade as he slid it into his scabbard; a second later and she would have completely missed. Hissing through his teeth, he stole a glance down to the wound. It was nearly down to the bone, and it burned like fire.

Elizabeth's sharp gasp overpowered his growl of pain. She had been lying. Obviously, she did not hate him. Carefully holding Elizabeth's sword arm so that he was in complete control of her otherwise motionless body, for she was too busy staring at the blood colouring her weapon, James yanked the point of the blade out of his arm, clapping his hand over the laceration to staunch the bleeding.

"You idiot!" she cried after a long moment of silence, dropping her weapon and rushing to his side. He could hear the concern colouring her voice. "Why did you do that? I wasn't actually going to stab you!"

He grunted his almost amusement at the irony of her intent as Elizabeth practically dragged him up the steps of her porch and into her house. She scuffled around in the darkness for a lamp and lit it, holding it up to his arm. James looked down at his hand; it was slick with blood, beads of the crimson liquid beginning to gather on his fingertips and roll down his skin in a slow descent before crashing to her floor. "It's nothing to worry about," he growled through clenched teeth. "Get me some thread and a needle and I'll leave as I promised."

"I am not letting you sew yourself up, James. Sit down."

Rolling his eyes and holding himself back from saying something he would regret, Norrington made his way over to the chair Elizabeth pointed to. What was she playing at? Her mood swings were grating on his already tender nerves. He could understand, to some degree, why she would hate him… but saying that she did when she really did not was something he was unable to comprehend. Why did she want to hate him? Or did she?



"You never broke it, you know," Elizabeth mused as she re-entered the room with a bottle of alcohol and a suture. "Your promise not to hurt me. I hardly thought it would stand if I were threatening you, or attacking you."

"You presume to know me too well, Elizabeth."

"Yes, I suppose I do," she sighed. "But that is hardly the case."

James took the bottle from her when she handed it to him, downing a long swig of the acerbic liquid before sloshing it over his arm. He grimaced when she applied the needle, but otherwise remained steady. "Thank you," he murmured, keeping his face turned away from her, his eyes locked on the far wall. Attempting to avoid looking at the wound really did nothing to relieve the pain, and it was the same way with her. Yet it did not keep him from trying. He wondered how long he could keep his eyes off of her.

"You're a good man, James. An admirable man." Something twisted in the pit of his stomach when she spoke. She still presumed to know him too well. He hated to correct her, yet it was his duty.

"Far from it. I am a liar," he confessed, though he doubted it was very surprising.

"Can you not be both?" she asked quietly. "Like a-"

"-a good man and a pirate?" James winced slightly, and not just because Elizabeth drove the needle through his skin again. "Like Mr. Turner? Like Captain Sparrow?" It was a discussion that had too often haunted his thoughts.

"Like me."

"You are not a man, Elizabeth," he reminded her gently, downing a second mouthful of the alcohol. Although she was a pirate, albeit the fairest one of the lot. "Are you nearly finished?" He certainly hoped that she was. He could take no more of the exquisite torture that racked every inch of him simply by being in her presence. It was too much like the life he had suffered through… standing beneath the sun and feeling no warmth, on a ship without the breath of the wind on his neck. Beside an angel and never able to touch.



"Yes, I'm nearly done. But what is your hurry? Even you can not ride in the darkness." She pulled the last stitch tight, cutting off the excess thread. James waited until she had tied it off before standing. He stumbled slightly, the sudden movement along with the drink he had consumed and the loss of blood making him unsteady on his feet.

"I will leave at first light." He headed towards the door and even go so far as to push it open, letting the cool night air rush inside. He had promised that he would leave, but first… he needed to know. "Do you forgive me?"

Elizabeth, I love you. It was the message hiding behind the façade, the one that leaped the gap between them, springing from his eyes and boring into her very soul.

" Y-yes."

"Do you love me?" The true question was finally translated into words, escaping before he could even hope to close his mouth.

She did not answer for an agonizingly long moment. The house was so quiet that James could hear the crackling of the tiny flame in the lamp as the wind whipped around it. Scowling, he cursed himself inwardly. Inevitably, he knew that it would come to this. It always had and always would. She did not hate him, but he constantly pushed for more until he asked her something so preposterous she could not deign to answer. He turned to leave.

A small hand brushed against the sleeve of his jacket, immediately causing his knees to lock up, commanding his body to freeze. "I never thought you would ask." Elizabeth's breath tickled the back of his neck, instigating waves of goose bumps to break out over his skin. "But then again there were a lot of things I thought you would never do, James." She grabbed his arm tightly, her lips brushing against his ear as she implored him for something he was all too willing to give. "But I want you to do one of them again: kiss me?"

He did.

xxxx

"James Norrington, do you fear death?"

He did. But he did not answer.

If James had not been burdened beneath the curse of the Aztec gold, he was sure that he would be able to smell the stench of rotting fish wafting off of Jones's breath, taste the steady drip of salt water that dripped from the creature's tentacles and onto his face. Already he could imagine how his skin would recoil… if only it could have.

The captain was leaning so close to him, triumph displayed across his inhuman features. He had all but promised that James would join his crew, and he was sure that he would win. But he was wrong. James did fear death, but unlike most, he had done something to protect himself from it. Unfortunately, the prices he had to pay were far from worth the results, but for the moment he was save. Infuriatingly unshakable.

He stabbed Jones.

What would be a fatal to any other man was hardly a distraction for the Captain. Little did he know that he was not the only one laughing at death.

xxxx

She was far from a distraction. She was an all-encompassing truth. She haunted his waking thoughts, his slumbering mind and being so close to her was nearly unbearable. How could he have done anything but comply when she asked him to kiss her? But still doubt plagued him. Was she simply lonely? Was he setting himself up for another spectacular failure? Because he didn't know if he could survive this time. There was no numbing relief; only the pain that would last his entire life. "Do you forgive me?" he asked quietly, somehow finding the time to choke the words out between the barrage of kisses Elizabeth threw at him. His mind was shutting down, completely under her control.

She pulled away and she found the air she needed to say, "I love you, James."



His heart nearly stopped. He had heard her pronounce those words a thousand times in his dreams, but now that he heard them he could not believe them. The scores across his heart were still bleeding too freely for him to completely trust her. "You love-"

"I love you," she affirmed. Then, as if sensing his worry, "No conditions. No requests." She squeezed his arm affectionately.

Her affection had found his wound, spurring it to protest rather violently at the contact. He gasped, wincing. Pulling away, his brow furrowed slightly and he swallowed hard. "What about Turner?" he asked now that he could find enough air. Though admittedly the man was the last person he wished to inquire about, it was a subject that had to be brought up. "What about your husband?" The word was bitter on his tongue and he turned away. "You're married. I should go."

"He's dead, James! Will is dead!" Her voice cracked beneath the weight of her emotion. He halted before the door again, captivated. "He can come on land once every ten years. That's all! Maybe not dead, but he is certainly not alive."

"You accepted his proposal."

"Until death do we part. It was his choice, and he made it. He chose his father. He chose the sea."

"Have I not also made my choice?" James asked pointedly.

"Yes," she admitted. "But your choice has always been me." She stared at his boots. "I just never realized it before."

"Elizabeth-"

"I love you." She forgave him.

"-will you marry me?"



xxxx

His real death had been a slow process, spanning the course of his lifetime. Instead of one set event and time, his downfall had happened slowly. As a tree being felled in the forest, he had been chopped away, a little at a time. Small deeds, little decisions, minute fears and woes, each contributed to his eventual defeat. The first and final axe-strokes had been plunged by Elizabeth Turner.

But now he was alive.

Because of Elizabeth Norrington.