Gillette's hand was overly heavy upon James's shoulder. "Ugly weather ahead, Commodore. It's not safe."

Really, there was no such thing as safety. The entire world was a sand castle, a constantly shifting, unstable reality that threatened to collapse around his head at any moment. James stood at the helm of his ship, surveying the clouds looming ominously before him. The gallows were waiting for a pirate.

"Sparrow will not escape us this time," he promised. Gripping the wheel, he held it steady through the waves. He slipped the noose around his own neck and plunged head-long into the hurricane.

xxxx

Boys never walked; they ran. They only had two settings, loud and louder. Finding it nearly impossible to keep sane while in their presence, the young Elizabeth Swann had determined at the age of six that she would have to remain a spinster for life. She had sworn that she would never marry a boy. Ever.

She had n forgotten her vow, though she was to be married today. Smiling, she watched as Commodore Norrington marched smartly down the aisle. There was no guilt on her face. In her mind, she was not breaking her promise.

James was no boy.

xxxx

When the infamous Captain Sparrow had proclaimed his adoration of weddings those long days ago on the deck of the Dauntless, he had hardly expected them to be taken seriously. Honestly, he hated weddings. He made a face, averting his eyes from the long, drawn-out kiss between the now-pirate and his wife.

When the expedition started, Elizabeth had been hunting for Will, and James had been wallowing in Tortugan mud with full intent of drowning himself in rum. They both seemed to have gotten sidetracked.

"Drinks all around," commanded the former Commodore.

For the first time that evening, Jack smiled.

xxxx

Bathed in moonlight and shadow, she looked too perfect to be true. James wondered if he had found himself in heaven. His grey-green eyes were locked upon her back, running along the curves of her lithe body, the perfect balance of cloth and skin sending his heart into erratic convulsions within his chest.

She turned around, a smile lighting her face. "James," she greeted. She still viewed him with a child's eyes; at fifteen she was hardly a woman and he was nothing more than an old friend.

"Elizabeth," he returned with a smile.



He hadn't stopped loving her since.

xxxx

He could have jumped off the battlements after her. 'After all, you saved me.'

He could have told her that he loved her. 'I won't ever stop.'

He could have chosen her over everything, over his job and his life and his fears. 'It's still far less than you deserve.'

There were so many things he had done over and over again in his mind, images of a life that had never happened, that could never be. He choked out a sob, head in his hands. What could have been was not reality.

James Norrington was a most successful failure.

xxxx

The years had not left James Norrington unchanged.

From Captain to Commodore: all it took was a sword, a stifling uniform, and a ceremony that was far too long.

From Commodore to Pirate: all it took was a storm and a single foolish choice to sail through it.

From Pirate to Admiral: all it took was a heart, easily won by deceit and swordplay.

From Admiral to Man: all it took was an unlocked brig, a kiss... and his death.

Oddly enough, Elizabeth was almost positive that James would only have considered the final transformation to be worth the cost.

xxxx

The mud was in his face, his eyes, his ears, his mouth; the pounding was in his head. Woozy, dizzy, nauseous, he lay facedown until his lungs screamed their protest. He had once been the pride of His Majesty's Royal Navy, a fine man. He was a pirate now.

Nothing mattered. Not the mud, not the pounding, the dizzy or the piracy.

"James Norrington, what has the world done to you?" there was a voice in his head, not his own, but familiar.

"Nothing I didn't deserve," he responded dryly. The voice deserved to know.

He was a pirate now.

xxxx



James had never liked the rain. It heralded storms and was a dangerous impediment to vision while out at sea. It ruined picnics and flooded towns. Not one to appreciate being soggy, he disliked getting soaked and felt pity for people who were unable to avoid such an undesirable occurrence.

Elizabeth, on the other hand had always loved the rain, though she had never gotten much opportunity to enjoy it. Her father had always whisked her back inside far too quickly. She had always loved rain; by the end of the night, she'd make absolutely sure Norrington shared her sentiments.

xxxx

The clouds swirled in the clear sky above. Only James's voice broke the silence.

"Miss Swann, I don't think your father will appreciate my teaching you the blade."

"Mister Norrington, I don't think I much care at the moment. Seeing as we are already here, standing in the middle of an abandoned field with swords, don't you think it's a bit late to turn back? I need to learn to protect myself."

James scowled. If he had his way, she would never be without protection.

"Teach me, James."

He would. Just not so well that she would never need him.

xxxx

The days no longer shone as they had done in days gone by. Part of that was his failing sight, but the main reason for the lacklustre appearance of everything beautiful was that the source of that beauty was gone. Forever.

Blue, red, yellow, violet... the flowers by her side when she had passed away, bright only for a moment when basked in the memory of her smile, otherwise as grey and lifeless as the rest of the dreary world.

He was stooped over her grave when they found him; it was only fitting that his last breath was for her.