Slowly, Norrington began to realize he might still be alive.

However, as his thoughts returned, he asked himself how he could be certain. He reasoned that he still had a mind with which to ask himself questions, so obviously something of himself still existed. He could also feel a hard surface beneath his back, and a gentle rising and falling as if he was on board a ship. He heard the sound of distant waves and smelled the brine of the sea. Also, his stomach rumbled with hunger, and it seemed a foregone conclusion that the dead felt no need to eat. All these sensations strongly implied that he was, indeed, still counted among the living.

Still, he decided, after these past few days, there's no cause to leap to conclusions. It seemed there was nothing for it but to open his eyes and have a look. He did so, and found himself gazing up at a ceiling that seemed depressingly familiar.

Glancing around, he saw exactly what he'd expected. He was indeed on board the Black Pearl. Judging from the bright sunlight that shone through a knothole in the hull opposite him, it had to be mid-morning, at least. He was also surrounded by walls made of dark iron bars.

He stretched and yawned widely, then grumbled to himself. "The brig." His stomach gave another insistent rumble, and he wondered how long it had been since his last meal. "Why am I in the brig again?" he asked aloud.

His attention was attracted by movement; something had ducked out of sight beyond the wall of the cell, where the stairs led above decks. Slowly, a single dark eye peeked around the corner, blinked several times, then ducked back again.

Norrington rubbed his eyes. "Good morning, Captain Sparrow," he sighed. He looked around. "It is morning, isn't it?"

Jack peered around the corner again, slitting his eyes in suspicion. "So," he demanded, "are you evil, or not?"

Norrington sighed again. "How on Earth would I know?" Slowly, he sat up on the narrow cot, wincing slightly at a pain in his lower back. He clenched and unclenched his right hand; his fingers still felt slightly numb. Squinting in the light, he called towards the stairs, "Why don't you annoy me some more and we'll find out?"

Jack stepped into full view, his expression dubious. "You're dressed different."

"Am I?" Norrington looked down at himself with detached interest. His hands were clean; the dirt and grime that had coated them seemed to have been washed away. His formerly ragged clothes looked as if they'd been newly tailored; his shirt was white and crisp, his boots brightly polished. His coat bore no trim or insignia, but its former faded blue was now a deep, watery blue-green that was almost translucent, pale green where the light struck it, deepest indigo in the shadows.

"Hmm," Norrington observed, not really knowing what to think. He ran a hand across his face and over his head. He was still unshaven and his hair was shaggy and poorly cut, but felt like it had been washed, at least. "Well, I'm forced to admit your observations are accurate." He paused. "For once."

"Don't get cheeky," Jack snapped. He drew himself up and affected an arrogant air. "After all, I am captain of this ship."

"Are you? One can never tell." Looking up, Norrington went on, "Were you planning to release me? Or shall I settle back with a cup of tea and a good book while you decide?"

Jack looked down his nose at him. "Clearly your brush with godlike power hasn't improved your manners much." He made Norrington wait just long enough to make his point, then produced a jangling ring of keys and unlocked the door.

Norrington hesitated a moment, then stood up and approached the door. Jack gave him a haughty glare as if reminding him who was currently in charge of his fate, then stepped aside to let him out. "On deck, if you please."

"Aye-aye, Captain," he replied with a half-smirk. As he started to ascend the stairs with Jack behind him, he called back, "So perhaps you could explain why I find myself on this ship yet again?" He darted a glance over his shoulder. "Did Calypso bring me here?"

Jack opened his mouth and raised a forefinger as if to say yes, but instead said, "No." As they reached the top of the stairs, the pirate gestured forward. "Behold."

The deck of the Pearl lay before him beneath a pristine blue sky, out on the open ocean. Beside her was anchored another ship: the Flying Dutchman. Norrington could see members of the Dutchman's crew walking amongst those of the Pearl. Up towards the bow, Barbossa stood in conversation with Bootstrap, both men looking solemn and somewhat uncomfortable.

As he emerged on deck, Pintel and Ragetti, who'd been gathering in a rope on the port side, drew away from him with suspicious glares. Ragetti raised his hands and crossed his index fingers in a warding-off-evil gesture. Norrington only chuckled at this.

Just beyond them, Murtogg and Mullroy saw him coming, looked at one another, then drew themselves to some semblance of attention. He shook his head sadly. "Not to me, gentlemen," he said. "Not any more."

They looked at one another. "You all right, then, sir?" Murtogg asked hesitantly.

Norrington hesitated, then nodded. "I think so. Thank you." He looked at them both in turn. "Good fortune to you both."

Then he turned his attention to the center of the ship. Up ahead, standing beside the mast, was a young man Norrington recognized all too well.

Walking around past Norrington, Jack broke into a broad grin. "Ah, William!" he greeted in apparent delight. "I was just telling James here how you delivered him from a watery grave. Again."

Despite the cheerfulness of Jack's greeting, Will faced him with a dark scowl. With some confusion, Norrington noticed that the deck around the entire mast was liberally covered with dirt, leaving only a small circle of clear space in which Will stood.

Norrington walked towards him, his boots crunching on the dirt. Will glanced down towards the sound, and his expression grew even more resentful. "And how did you manage to accomplish this, again?" Norrington asked.

Will looked up, and visibly attempted to look solemn and mysterious. "The Dutchman sailed for Port Royal last night," he explained. Seemingly without thinking, he made as if to step forward, then jerked back with a grimace. Looking up at Norrington again, he went on with a wry expression, "Your storm got our attention."

Norrington turned away in embarrassment. "Ah. Well." He looked back at Will with a rather sheepish grin. "So sorry about that."

Jack came sauntering between them, ignoring Will's fuming expression. "Quite a lot of dirt around here, isn't there," he observed idly. He gracefully bent over and picked up a pinch of it, rubbing it between two fingers. "Remind me to have a word with the maid."

Will looked like he was on the verge of making several highly uncomplimentary observations when Norrington spoke again. "Any sign of Calypso?" he asked, a bit nervously.

Will shook his head. "None." He looked as if he would say more, but Jack broke in.

"Guess she got bored with you, mate," he observed, grinning. "Decided to find herself a new toy, as it were."

"Hmm." Norrington looked down at the center of his chest, and drew aside the flap of his shirt. The dragon mark was still there, but was now a pure emerald green, the color bright and strong against his skin. "One thing still puzzles me, though." He rubbed at the mark; sure enough, it remained a permanent part of him. "Why a dragon, exactly?"

Jack cocked his head to one side. "Perhaps because they're big, ill-tempered, dim-witted, massively destructive and have absolutely no sense of humor." He gave a mischievous grin. "Seems to sum you up quite nicely."

Norrington turned and raised his eyebrows. "Are you quite certain I have no powers left, Captain Sparrow?"

Jack's smile dropped away. "Fine," he muttered. Then he added with an air of one-upmanship, "But you only prove my point about the 'no sense of humor'."

Will broke in, as if growing impatient with this banter, "I need to return to my ship." He looked towards Norrington. "Will you be coming aboard?"

With a grimace of distaste, Norrington pointed at the mast. "Not that way," he retorted. "I'd rather take a ride on another runaway mill wheel."

Jack waved a hand. "Oh, we can run you across, don't worry. Happy to oblige." He looked politely towards Will, placing his palms together with a slight bow. "Not staying for a drink, then? I have some perfectly marvelous rum in my cabin..." He gestured towards it, and seemed astonished to realize that the deck's coating of dirt ran all the way to the cabin door. "Oh, sorry."

Norrington got the distinct feeling he was missing something as Will aimed a glare of deepest loathing towards Jack, then turned and vanished into the mast with as much dignity as he could muster. Norrington saw the rest of the Dutchman crew taking their leave of the Pearl; a long plank was maneuvered into place between the two craft, and they began to walk back to their own ship.

Glancing back towards the bow, he saw Barbossa hand an expensive-looking bottle of wine towards Bootstrap. The older seaman seemed inclined to refuse it. But although his expression suggested he was parting with his dearest treasure, Barbossa pressed it forward insistently. Finally, Bootstrap accepted with a nod of acknowledgement, and turned to depart. Meeting Norrington's gaze for a moment, he flashed a brief smile, then climbed aboard the plank and walked away.

Finally, Norrington was the only one left. He turned a slow gaze all around him, wondering if he'd ever see this ship again, and whether he wanted to or not. "So," he said into the awkward moment. "This is goodbye."

Jack paused, then nodded. "Yep."

"Well." For a moment, the two former adversaries regarded one another in uncomfortable silence. Finally, Norrington demanded, "Did you mean all that, what you said?"

"What I said when? What?" Jack asked in evident confusion.

Norrington hesitated, unsure how to phrase things. "Back when you said it wasn't my fault, that I shouldn't blame myself for everything that happened." He narrowed his eyes. "You didn't mean it, did you?"

Jack's eyes darted to and fro. "Nah," he finally said. "Not a word, mate. Just said that to get you to stop blowing things up."

"Ah, I thought so." Norrington nodded, folding his arms. "Because otherwise, one might almost draw the conclusion that we were somehow friends."

"Blah." Jack stuck his tongue out as if he'd tasted something horrible. "Of course not. Revolting thought."

"Absolutely. Couldn't agree more."

They fell silent again, then Norrington held out his right hand. Jack looked down at it uncertainly for a moment, then grasped it and gave it a firm shake.

Then Jack withdrew his hand and gave a broad smile. "Now, if you would be so kind, Mister Norrington..." He gave an expansive wave of his hand. "...get the bloody hell off my ship."

Norrington cracked a smile and inclined his head in gracious acknowledgement. "By your leave, Captain Sparrow." Then he turned and walked away, not looking back.

--

Some time later, Norrington stood on the deck of the Flying Dutchman. He leaned over the railing, enjoying the feel of the wind. A few gulls circled in the distance, and he was reminded of Calypso. Somehow, he knew she was done with him, and he would never see her again. At least not in her human form, he mentally added with a wry expression. He supposed he'd never know why she'd given him a second chance at life, and the opportunity to slay his own demons. After all, it wasn't as if she owed him anything...

Apparently for no reason, a series of images flashed through his mind. He saw himself shooting the rope between Jones' Dutchman and the Chinese ship Elizabeth had somehow become captain of. He saw Elizabeth holding a dangling metal token of some kind, saw it placed in a bowl full of junk--a playing card, a broken bottle, a bent pair of glasses. And he saw the bowl set afire, the objects burning away into nothing...

Blinking, Norrington shook his head to clear the unwanted images. "What was that all about?" he asked himself in bewilderment. Obviously, he concluded, his recent experiences had taken more of a toll on him than he'd realized. All I want in the world right now is a good meal, and a decent night's sleep...

He looked over his shoulder at a sound of approaching footsteps. "Captain," he acknowledged with neither resentment nor irony.

Will nodded, then gave a slightly mocking smile. "If you're worried, I promise this ship won't submerge while you're still on it."

Norrington gave a slight chuckle. "Your thoughtfulness is most appreciated." Then he yawned. "Oh. My apologies."

"No need." Blandly, he added, "I know how you mortals get."

Norrington shook his head sadly, but couldn't hold back a smile. There was silence for a few moments before Will spoke again.

"You know," he began, leaning back against the railing and propping himself up with his elbows, "when Davy Jones' curse was broken and the crew were freed, some of them couldn't get off this ship fast enough." He paused, looking up at the billowing sails. "But I was surprised by how many of them chose to stay."

Will looked sideways at Norrington. "They said they wanted a chance to redeem themselves. To try and make up for the evil they'd done under Jones' command."

Norrington gave him a slightly haughty look. "Are you offering me a job, Captain Turner?" he asked dryly. "One hundred years before the mast, and all that?"

Will laughed. "No, no, nothing like that." Then his expression turned serious. "But should you find yourself in need of a place to go..."

Pondering in silence, Norrington gazed out over the waves for some time. Finally, he said, "Perhaps I'm not ready to serve under another's command just yet." He looked back at Will and added in serious tones, "But thank you."

Seeming to take no offense, Will nodded. "My offer stands, should you ever change your mind. But in the meantime..." His expression turned awkward, reminding Norrington of the gawky young lad he'd once been. "If you have no destination in mind, I was wondering if you'd stop and...ah...deliver something for me."

Norrington sighed. "Why do I get the feeling I'm going to regret this? It's not a cursed gold medallion, is it?"

"No, it's...it's this." A bit clumsily, Will handed over a folded piece of paper sealed with a blot of red wax. Norrington turned it over, and read the name written in bold, somewhat inelegant strokes on the front.

"Oh," he said, quietly.

--

epilogue.

Night had fallen on the coastal town as a man slowly made his way up from the shore, where a small boat lay upon the sand. Glancing back over his shoulder, he saw the Flying Dutchman far off from shore. As he watched, it surged forward, then disappeared into the night with a faint green flash.

Norrington turned back and continued to make his way up the winding dirt path that led from the beach to a small, cozy cottage. A faint trace of smoke rose from the chimney as the windows glowed warm against the night. Stopping before the door, Norrington paused a moment to compose himself, then pulled his tricorn hat low over his forehead and rapped sharply at the door.

After a few moments, the door opened a crack, and a young woman peered at him with some suspicion. "Yes?"

Norrington glanced down. He couldn't see it, but could tell by her position that she was holding a pistol just out of his sight, ready to raise into place should she require it. Well done, Elizabeth, he thought with genuine approval.

He began, "Miss Sw--" Then he caught himself. "Mrs. Turner?"

Her eyes narrowed slightly, clearly not trusting strangers who came knocking at her door in the middle of the night. "What do you want?"

"I--" He hesitated, and kept his head lowered, trying not to look her in the eye. "I come on behalf of your husband." Elizabeth's mouth opened in surprise as he went on, "He gave me these."

Norrington held out the letter and a package, wrapped in plain brown paper and tied with silver ribbon. She exclaimed, "Will!" Then she flung the door open and snatched them up like a starving person would grab a loaf of bread.

Norrington smiled, a bit sadly. "He sends his love," he said. Then he glanced down at her slightly rounded belly and added quietly, "To you both."

She looked up, the letter half-open in her hand, and stared at him intently. He went on, "If you have anything to send him in return, I can..."

Suddenly, her eyes flew open wide. "James?" she gasped. "James, is that you?"

Elizabeth took a step forward, but he held up a hand to forestall her. As she stopped, he lifted his head so she could get a clear view of his face.

But he insisted, "You must be mistaken, Mrs. Turner." He shook his head with a sad smile. "James Norrington is dead."

There was silence between them for a moment. Finally, Elizabeth looked at him skeptically and asked, "Then who are you?"

At that, Norrington broke into a broad grin, the most genuine smile he'd made in ages. "You know, I have absolutely no idea." He lowered his head slightly and added, with a conspiratorial air, "But I'm certain I shall find out."

Leaving Elizabeth puzzled, he bowed to her in farewell. Without another word, he turned and slowly walked down the winding path leading to the sea, and disappeared into the darkness.