James Norrington was caught rather unprepared for the man who came bursting into his office at the fort that evening.
"What are you doing? Just sitting here? Shouldn't you be out capturing pirates?" The man leaned over James' desk so he was looking him straight in the eye. "Shouldn't you be out catching Jack?"
James blinked in surprise, trying to figure out if he was having some bizarre dream or if William Turner was actually there in his office, rambling and obviously a bit drunk and wanting James to go capture Jack Sparrow.
"My apologies, Commodore!" Lieutenant Gillette rushed up next to William. "He was very adamant to see you, sir, but I didn't realize he would be so rude—this way, Mr. Turner."
"It's all right, Lieutenant, I'll hear what he has to say," James said, motioning for Gillette to leave. "I'm curious as to what has brought about this tirade." Gillette eyed William suspiciously before nodding to James and leaving, closing the door to James' office behind him. "Mr. Turner?" James prompted.
Apparently having currently rid himself of his anger, William collapsed without invitation into the chair before the Commodore's desk and put his head in his hands. James coughed when William said nothing, and was shocked to see tears in the young man's eyes as he looked up at him. "Him. She chose him."
James blinked, trying to discern whom "him" and "she" were. The "she" could certainly be no other than Elizabeth, but James still had no idea what William was talking about. "What are you talking about, Mr. Turner?" William said nothing, his eyes staring blankly out the window of James' office and at the sea. "Why did you say I should be out catching Captain Sparrow?" James asked, hoping to receive some sort of explanation for William's behavior.
"Isn't that your job?" William said bitterly.
James blinked again, more than a bit confused. William had recently risked his life to save Sparrow from the gallows. He had also stolen James' fiancé at the same time, and the two had had a rather awkward relationship since then. But William was acting completely out of what was ordinary for him.
"How do you do it?"
James arched an eyebrow. "Do what, Mr. Turner?" He was getting very annoyed with William's questions and vague answers.
William swallowed hard. "You loved her. You loved Elizabeth, too."
James moistened his lips and glanced down at his hands. "Yes."
William leaned forward and took one of James' hands from on top of the desk. "It must have hurt you so much when…I'm sorry. I didn't—I couldn't—understand." The scent of rum was on William's breath, and his hand was rough, just like a blacksmith's hand. Or perhaps a pirate.
"Yes. It did," James managed to say, staring curiously at the hand wrapped around his and wondering why William was being so emotional and open with him. Well, besides the rum. "Mr. Turner—William. What happened?"
William drew his hand back quickly, staring at the ring on his ring finger. It was one of the two engagement rings he had made—one for himself and one for Elizabeth. "She left. With him." William put a shaking hand over his eyes as James tried to understand what William was telling him. "How the hell can you be so calm and all after she left you?"
James bit his lip. "I…I've learned to hide my emotions, William." He gazed at William intently. "She left with…?"
"Jack," William spat. "That son of a bitch."
James could not help it—he gaped. He was not certain of who he had expected William to say, but someone he was not expecting to hear "Jack." Of course, Elizabeth had long been obsessed with pirates, and Jack Sparrow certainly was a pirate. But he also did not seem to be someone Elizabeth would choose to be with. However, what did James know about her? He had believed that she could and did love him.
"No, you aren't!" William stood, throwing back the chair he had sat in and causing Gillette to knock on the door.
"Is everything all right, sir?"
"It's all right, Lieutenant," James said as he slowly stood.
"You're probably laughing inside at me. You're glad she did this to me!" William accused, pointing a shaking finger at James.
"No, I'm not glad, William," James said, shaking his head. "I understand."
"You didn't go get drunk when she left you, though." William slumped against the wall and closed his eyes.
"Don't be so certain of that," James muttered.
William's eyes snapped open. "You did?"
James nodded. "Granted, it was in the privacy in my own home."
"Still better than me." William slid to the ground. "You're not laughing at me?"
James shook his head, swallowing hard as he stared at the suffering man before him. Never had James felt so sorry for anyone, nor so sympathetic. James knew exactly what William was going through—and a broken heart is not an easy thing to live with. From James' knowledge, that wound would never heal. At least it would not be healed anytime soon.
James knelt down beside William. "Let's get you home, William. You need a good night's sleep."
"No." William recoiled from him, almost like a frightened child. "No. I'll dream of her."
James sighed sadly. Elizabeth often both blessed and plagued his own dreams. "You'll have to sleep sometime, William." James gently pulled William to his feet. "Come on. Let's go to my home—we can talk there. And get you a good meal. Food and rest—."
"Won't heal my heart," William interjected.
James did not want to admit that William was correct. But he left his work behind in his office, something he rarely did—but now he had a friend in need. Strange to call William Turner his friend…
Lieutenant Gillette was kind enough to take over for the night as James took William home. Despite his protests to sleep, William had hardly finished eating a small meal before he lost consciousness on the divan in James' parlor. James, not wishing to leave William alone, took off his hat and jacket, unbuttoned his shirt, removed his wig, and sat in the largest wingchair in the room, watching William through tired eyes.
William twitched a lot, but remained asleep long enough for James to drift to sleep as well. James jumped as he woke up to yelling. "No! I—Elizabeth?" James rubbed his eyes and focused on William, who was sweating and looking around with wide eyes. "Where…what…?" He laid eyes on James. "Commodore? What…?"
James got to his feet and helped William steady himself as he stood. "I…I need to go find Elizabeth…she's in danger. She was kidnapped by…by those pirates…the attack…"
James realized that William was still partly in his dream and was back in time, when Elizabeth had been kidnapped by the crew of the Black Pearl many months before. "We're leaving in the morning, William. Come on. Let's get you to bed. You'll need your rest."
"Morning may be too late!"
"Come along, William."
William was in no state to fight or argue, and he reluctantly followed as James led him to a bedroom. He fell asleep again almost the moment he lay down. James sighed as he gazed at the brokenhearted man for a moment. He brushed aside a lock of hair from William's face, studying him for the first time. He was little more than a boy, really. A handsome, strong lad, granted, but he was only just a man. There was nothing wrong with that, of course—it only served to increase James' sorrow about his recent heartbreak.
James walked around to the other side of the bed, sitting down and continuing to watch as William's chest slowly rose and fell as he slept. One woman had done this. One woman had shattered the hearts of two men. James was still hurting, and William was bleeding from it. Hopefully he could help him. He wanted to help him.
Lying down beside William, James closed his eyes. He was going to help William through this. And perhaps William could also help James recover the remaining pieces of his broken heart as well. They were more similar than James had ever admitted to himself before. Both were determined to do what was right, even if they had found completely different ways of doing it, they both worked hard to be the best men they could be, and they had both managed to fall in love with the same woman. And they both had their heart broken by her.
James drifted off to sleep wondering what the future held for the two of them.
The next morning, James awoke to find William gone. He wandered downstairs and found him in the dining room drinking tea, appearing to have only recently awoken. He stood when he saw James. "Commodore," he said, tilting his head in respect.
James shook his head with a small smile. "James. Good morning, William." William focused his gaze on the food brought in by James' butler. "Are you…are you feeling better?"
William coughed and glanced up at James. "I—I don't know." He put a hand to his head. "I don't really remember what happened. When I had discovered what Elizabeth had done…where she had gone…I don't know. I'm sorry for whatever I did, I didn't mean to get…well, drunk."
James reached out and took one of William's hands in his own, repeating the gesture that William had performed the night before. This time William's hands were trembling. "Think nothing of it, William. I am glad you came to the fort last night—I'm glad you found a friend to help you."
William again raised his eyes to James, and the touch of a smile tugged at the side of his lips. "Thank you, Comm—James." William tightened his grip of James' hand slightly. "I'm so sorry. I did not realize the pain I had condemned you to."
James shook his head, smiling sadly. "It was Elizabeth who condemned me, not you."
William glared at him, angry that James had dared to blame Elizabeth, and attempted to pull his hand away, but James kept it in a firm grip. "Elizabeth is—."
"That wasn't a remark against her, William," James explained. "It is simply a fact. You were not the one who hurt me. Just as Jack is not the one who hurt you."
William bit his lip and looked down into his cup of tea. "She'll probably leave him, too. Or maybe he'll leave her." He sighed. "I just want Elizabeth to be happy."
"As do I, William. But that does not mean that we need to be miserable, does it?" James smiled kindly at William as he looked up again, finally pulling his hand away.
"No…I suppose not." William finished his breakfast and stood. "I should get to work."
"Surely the smithy can survive without you for a day," James said. "Or even just a few hours. You still have a hangover," he pointed out when William put a hand to his head again and winced.
"You don't know Mr. Brown," William muttered, sounding rather annoyed.
James' brow furrowed slightly as he stood. "I'll see you out, then. But please, feel free to come here or the fort anytime you need to."
William smiled as the two walked to the foyer. "I'll be sure to find you every time I'm drunk," he said sheepishly.
Just before William left, James caught his arm. "Honestly, William. Anytime, for anything. I'm here for you," he said, staring intently into William's brown eyes. "I'm here."
William nodded. "Thank you, James." He turned to leave before looking curiously back at James. "Where did you get that tattoo?"
James' eyebrows shot up. "Excuse me?"
"The one on your chest. The anchor." James flushed slightly, wondering when William had seen that. James usually kept it quite hidden. As though reading his mind, William said, "I saw it while you were sleeping, sir. And I was just curious."
"It's—I—I was a young Lieutenant," James stammered, blushing deeply in surprise as soft lips brushed against his own, quieting his rambling. James stared at William in shock as the young man pulled quickly away.
"You don't have to answer, if you don't want to," William mumbled, turning to leave. James wondered if William was referring to the story behind the tattoo on James' chest, or…
James cupped William's cheek and pressed his lips to his, closing his eyes as he coaxed the younger man's mouth open with his own. When he pulled back, he whispered, "I'll be sure to tell you the story sometime."
William swallowed and shyly raised his eyes to James'. "Thank you," William said quietly. "For everything. And incidentally, the tattoo suits you. I…I like it." He coughed into his fist and smiled nervously at James before leaving.
James closed the door behind William, a hand going to the cloth covering his tattoo. Interesting. His heart no longer felt quite so broken…