James Norrington disembarked the ship and stepped onto the docks, gazing around at what would likely end up as his new home. He shuddered as he took in the grimy taverns, the drunken civilians, the disorder in the streets—how had he come to this?
Captain Jack Sparrow…everything that went wrong in James' life seemed to lead back to that pirate. If it had not been for Sparrow, James would not have lost his ship and crew in pursuit of the Black Pearl. James would not have been forced to resign his commission in the Royal Navy. If Sparrow had not been what William Turner had called a "good man," than Turner never would have risked his life the day of Jack's hanging, thus he would never have made his declaration of love to Elizabeth, and Elizabeth would be James' wife…
James cursed Sparrow under his breath, and then himself for allowing his thoughts to turn to Elizabeth yet again. Elizabeth loved Turner—there was no way around that. He would have to forget her. At least that was one good thing about this new life—James would never have to see his former fiancé again. It would be much easier to move on that way.
The former Commodore received some very strange looks from those around him as he wandered aimlessly through the pirate port. James had forgotten that he was still wearing his Royal Navy uniform. Few men of the British Royal Navy (at least honorable ones) ever showed up in Tortuga. But then again, James had lost his honor along with his commission.
James wandered into the first bar that did not have signs of particularly disreputable behavior and got a large mug of rum. He wrinkled his nose at it; he had recently become more accustomed to finer brews, but this was the best he could get here. Heading to the first dark corner of the bar he could find, James tried to make himself invisible.
The bar began to grow more crowded as night began to fall. Along with more people, it became noisier and more boorish. However, there was a little group near the door that was playing rather pleasing music. It was not as harmonious as the music James was used to hearing, but it was enough to make the ambiance bearable.
However, the atmosphere became tense as the voices from the other side of the bar began to rise. James heard what sounded like an argument about a poker game. A few other men began shouting about someone cheating, and a fistfight abruptly broke out. James was very glad he had chosen the corner he was in—he did not want to get involved.
A gunshot rang through the air, making James sit at attention, a hand on the pistol in his coat. Everyone in the bar, including those fighting, suddenly silenced. The occupants of the bar all turned their attention to a woman standing in the doorway. She was aiming a gun in the air, which was still smoking. "You done?" she asked sarcastically. "There'll be no fights in my tavern, you hear? If you want to beat each other up, take it outside."
Her dark eyes glared at all the men who had been fighting in the corner, who all slowly took their seats. She put her pistol into her belt and tucked some of her black hair behind her ear as she motioned for the barman to get her a drink. The sounds of the music and crude banter began again, slowly rising to their previous loud volume.
James began his previous activities of drinking the mug of rum and trying to remain unnoticed. In doing so, he somehow failed to notice that the woman, apparently the owner of the tavern, was walking toward him.
"A Navy man?"
James looked up, meeting the woman's intense gaze, and said nothing.
"A high ranking Navy man," she continued as she got a better look at him. "What brings you to this humble port?" she asked with an amused grin.
James was unsure of how to answer. He quickly took another sip of rum. "I…I'm not in the Navy. Not anymore."
The woman's brow furrowed, and she appeared concerned. "Why ever not?" She grabbed a nearby chair and pulled it out from under the drunken man who had been teetering on it. "You were obviously important," she said, glancing down at his uniform again.
James looked over the woman curiously. Why did she care? Given her garb, she was probably a pirate, just like most of Tortuga's population. But something in her eyes made him believe that she was sincere.
"Commodore," James confirmed. "But I made a mistake."
The woman blinked. "That's it? A little mistake?" She leaned back in the chair. "The Navy must be quite harsh."
James shook his head slightly. "It wasn't a little mistake." He took a deep breath, unsure of why he was choosing to trust this woman. "I…I made a decision that cost the lives of my crew." He put his head in his hands as he remembered the disastrous hurricane that had ended his career…and his life, in a way.
"Oh," the woman said. "I'm…sorry."
James looked at her again and smiled slightly. "Thank you. You're probably the only person in Tortuga who would say that."
Apparently the woman did not disagree. She laughed brightly. "True…very few here would feel sorry for a Navy man, especially a Commodore, given all the damage you've likely done to their business." James nodded, smiling slightly. "My name's Anamaria," she said, holding out a hand toward him.
James hesitantly shook her hand. "James Norrington."
"Pleasure to meet you," Anamaria said, leaning far back in her chair and casually putting her feet up on the table. "Do you plan on staying in Tortuga long?"
After thinking a moment, James sighed. "I don't really have anywhere else to go." He took a large drink of rum.
"You have a place to stay, then?"
James flinched, remembering the small amount of money he had with him. He would be lucky to afford a place for the night, especially if he had another drink. "No, I don't."
Anamaria nodded to the stairs at the back of the bar. "I've got a few rooms up there I rent out." Apparently the look on James' face informed the woman of his monetary situation. "Ah, no money," she assumed.
"Not much," James said, shifting uncomfortably.
Anamaria gave a little wave of her hand. "Then you can work to pay for it. Clean up after the last of the drunks have left, tend bar, that sort of thing." She laughed as James stared at her in horror. Commodore James Norrington reduced to a bartender for pirates… "I hope you weren't expecting me to let you stay for nothing."
James shook his head quickly. "No, no, I just…oh, God, what have I become?"
"Pity only goes so far with me, James," Anamaria said firmly.
James was slightly thrown off by the woman's use of his Christian name. The only woman who called him James was Elizabeth…he shook his head to get her out of his mind. "I'm not trying to get a free room," James countered. "I just can't believe what my life has come to."
"You sound as though it's the end of the world, James," Anamaria said, taking her feet from the table and leaning forward. "It isn't." She motioned around her. "Look. People are happy. Well, a lot of them are. And they're alive. But they aren't all Commodores or Admirals." She looked back at James. "Being in the Navy isn't the only life out there."
"It was for me," James responded under his breath.
Anamaria watched him for a few moments, seemingly unaware of how awkward her gaze was making James feel. Why hadn't Elizabeth ever looked at him that intently? James closed his eyes and sternly told himself to forget her, that she was another life.
"Who was she?"
James met Anamaria's eyes in surprise. He hadn't spoken out loud, had he? No, he was positive that he had kept his thoughts to himself, but that didn't keep his cheeks from darkening as he looked down into the last bit of rum in his mug.
"I'm assuming it's a she," Anamaria added when James said nothing.
James blinked in confusion, and then he found himself chuckling at her insinuation. "Yes, it's a she." He downed the rest of his drink. Anamaria held a hand up in the air and motioned to the barkeeper without even turning around. The man brought over another mug.
"It's on me," Anamaria said. "I didn't realize we were also dealing with a broken heart. You're getting two free nights for this. Maybe more." She motioned to the mug. "Go on, drink. It'll make you feel better, I promise."
The second mug of rum didn't taste so bad to James. But he decided that, if offered, he would refuse another one. He did not want to make a fool of himself, even though it was likely that everyone else in Tortuga would be doing so and thus would not notice. But James was still a gentleman, and he wished to stay that way.
After he had taken a few sips, he noticed that Anamaria was looking expectantly at him, and then he realized that these so called "free nights" came at a price—he would have to relive the most painful times of his life to satisfy Anamaria's curiosity. He took a deep breath and a huge gulp of rum to prepare himself for the pain that would tear at his heart as he told his story…
O O O
"So you've had your own troubles with Sparrow, then?" James said, leaning against the headboard of a rather rickety bed, now drinking his third mug of rum. The two had moved into one of the rooms upstairs to keep away from the rather loud drunks, and James had just finished telling Anamaria the sad story that was his life of late.
Anamaria nodded. "Yep—he stole my boat. And apparently sunk it," she added in annoyance. She was sitting in a chair near the bed, her feet using the bed as a footrest. "But you know, there are such things as happy endings. Jack kept his promise—he got me a ship to replace the one he stole. A right better one as well." She took a drink of rum.
"How did you end up owning this place?" James asked, looking around the small room.
Anamaria's expression darkened. "That story is not quite as happy, I'm afraid." She ran a finger around the edge of her mug of rum as she thought. "This tavern was my father's…but a few months ago, he was killed in a bar fight."
"I'm sorry," James said sincerely.
Anamaria smiled softly and nodded. "That's why I try to keep the fights from happening in here, I suppose."
"That makes sense."
The two fell silent. James suddenly realized how thoroughly exhausted he was as he yawned. Before he knew it, he was drifting off to sleep.
James opened his eyes. The tavern sounded quiet. He sat up, putting a hand to his head and moaning. "Too much rum," he muttered as he slowly got up from the bed and went to the small window. He opened the wooden shutters and clamped his eyes shut as the sun hit them. He squinted and was amazed to see that it was already midday. He never slept in that late…how late had he been up talking last night?
He stumbled to the door, still trying to overcome his hangover. James did not even remember drinking that much rum, but either his memory was faulty due to alcohol or he simply didn't handle rum very well. James headed down the stairs (nearly tumbling down them) and into the bar.
The bar was empty except for an old man in the corner, who was eating some sort of food, and Anamaria, who seemed to be tidying up behind the bar. "Morning, James," she said with a smile. "Sleep well?"
James nodded. "Yes, quite." He sat in a chair and put a hand to his head.
Anamaria laughed. "Don't hold your rum well, eh?"
James smiled, keeping his eyes closed and his hand to his head. "Apparently not." James looked up at her. "Are you cleaning up from last night?" Anamaria nodded. "So you also just got up recently," James deduced.
Anamaria glared at him, but smiled after a moment. "Yes," she admitted. "So I was tired," she added with a shrug.
James stood and walked behind the bar, where Anamaria was sweeping up some broken glass. "Did the bartender get a little clumsy?" James inquired.
Anamaria winced. "No…I got a little clumsy." James came up behind her and reached around her. "What are you doing?" Anamaria asked, sounding a bit nervous.
"Paying for my room," James answered, trying to take the broom from her.
Anamaria held the broom out of his reach. "I said you get two free nights, and I'm holding to that."
James put a hand on Anamaria's waist as he stepped closer in an attempt to reach the broom. He felt her body shudder as he did so, and he became suddenly aware of how close he was standing to her. James managed to take the broom from her. "Allow me," he breathed in her ear.
"Thank you." Anamaria turned and stood aside to let James get to the broken glass. She was blushing, though it was rather difficult to tell given her dark skin. As James cleaned up the mess, he felt Anamaria's eyes watching him. "I could try to obtain a new set of clothes for you, if you want," Anamaria offered, breaking the awkward silence. James turned to where she sat upon the counter. "You are a bit conspicuous," she explained.
James adjusted his hat, knowing what Anamaria said was true. "I'm not ready," he said quietly. His uniform was all he had left of his life, and he was not ready to let go completely…not yet.
"You will have to move on someday. You have to learn to let go."
James sighed heavily. "I know. But I'm not ready," he repeated.
Anamaria appeared strangely disappointed at this announcement. "You can keep the hat," she offered. James smiled charmingly at her.
"Is that the only part of the uniform handsome enough for you?" he asked jokingly.
Anamaria laughed, her dark eyes sparkling. "I like the whole thing, actually, but I'm afraid that you may receive some unwanted attention because of it," she replied. "I'm not certain how handsome you'll be after getting beaten up due to your former position of command."
James bent down to pick up the dustpan into which he had been sweeping the glass. This action also allowed him to hide the faint color that was coming to his face as he realized that, whether purposefully or not, Anamaria was implying that she believed that James was attractive. And James most certainly found Anamaria beautiful...
James dumped the last of the broken glass into the bin under the counter of the bar. When he stood and turned back to Anamaria, he saw that she was cradling one of her hands. "Are you all right?" he asked as he approached her. He saw that there was blood on her hand.
"Stupid glass," Anamaria muttered.
"Here." James took her hand gently in one of his own, pulling a handkerchief from inside his coat. He wiped away the blood and wrapped the cloth around her hand, tying it loosely.
"I suppose that uniform is still good for something," Anamaria said with a small smile. James returned the grin, bringing her hand to his lips and gently kissing her fingers. Anamaria blushed and continued smiling softly.
"Is there any other work I can do?" James asked quietly.
"Not at the moment…"
James was not sure how they had moved so close together, but before he realized what he was doing, he had captured Anamaria's lips with his own and was kissing her passionately. He ran a hand through her dark hair, holding her head closer as he explored her mouth and savored her taste.
A little voice at the back of his mind was asking what he was doing, trying to remind him of Elizabeth and his life as a gentleman. But suddenly that life slipped away—it was no longer his. This was his new life—here, in Tortuga, perhaps with Anamaria by his side… James continued his exploration of her mouth fervently, and a shiver shot through his body.
When he finally parted from Anamaria, both were breathless. Neither said a word as James leaned his forehead to hers. The only sounds in the bar were from the man who was still eating alone in the corner, ignoring the couple at the counter.
Elizabeth's name brought itself to the forefront of James' mind. But the name meant nothing to him and was easily brushed aside. The title of Commodore now presented itself. James smiled as it, too, lost its former meaning to him.
"James…" Anamaria breathed.
James looked into her dark eyes and smiled lovingly at her. "Thank you."
He had let go. He was free.