He did not know how many swallows of the 'Devil's drink' it took to drag him to the hell around him. So many
festering souls, drinking and wenching and laughing in their collective debauchery. The stench of the sweat and
the cackle of the doxie next to him as she downed another mug made something inside lurch like
an animal. Whether or not it was lust, or something deeper still, he did not know. He felt a pang of self-
loathing. Never before had he permitted himself to look upon a woman as simply a thing to be used.
Despite the carousing, and the teasing flips of skirts and flesh, he had never used his coin to buy one of these
women. Whether or not it was his last bit of crumbling honor, or in some perverse shrine to Elizabeth,
he could not bring himself to be that debauched.....at least not now. Not yet. Sighing, he took another sip of
the drink, hoisting his mug high with a smile bordering on breaking and drained it all in one cataclysmic swallow.
The rum felt warm in his gut, festering bright and dulling his tortured thoughts into a more agreeable shade of
oblivion. He blinked, languidly, felt a friendly slap across his back as he only flinched and hunched down on the
table. It was the closest thing to escape he had left.
Such a bitter race, now....between forgetting, and oblivion. I wonder which one I shall have when I emerge
from this stupor.
So many memories, and so much regret, and so little he could undo for all the mistakes he never made.
Norrington's eyebrow quirked at that. Honor, and treachery were two sides of the same coin, and the cost of
both was equally high.
It was not so long ago that he had held his god-like perch above Port Royal's courtyard, presiding over the
hanging of Jack Sparrow. Elizabeth had agreed to be his beloved, though the betraying flicker in her eyes, and
that tortured hesitation made his gut clench. She treated his embrace as if it were a snare, her spine was
rigid under his protective grip. The truth he warred with himself to deny was tormenting that day. She didn't love
him, and she felt forced to bargain her own salvation for the sake of that wretched blacksmith. It was an act
of sacrifice, however devious.
He had managed to hide the gathering storm of his tortured thoughts by that cultivated, distancing veneer of
duty as he turned back to watch the execution resume. Sparrow had strode to the platform with a dignified
acceptance that Norrington found suprising. The pirate stood unflinching to the jeering crowd, his
hands serene in the coils of rope. Sparrow's famous frivolity had died somewhere along the way, and Norrington
did not know if it was the weight of his impending demise, or that Sparrow had finally broken under the strain.
Lesser men had been dragged screaming and wetting themselves to the noose. Sparrow stared rather morosely
at the noose as his long list of crimes was droned by the bored magistrate. Norrington was disappointed at the lack
of bravado, and felt an unexpected pang of sympathy when he saw that Sparrow only looked tired and sad.
Elizabeth, however, had looked....tortured. She peered from the hangman's noose to Norrington, the unspoken
accusation in her eyes as she pursed her lips in angered anguish.
"This is wrong."
It was spoken so softly that he almost didn't hear her, and he found himself floundering miserably for some
explanation that would appease that wounded sense of wrong. It was right, it was the only acceptable outcome,
Sparrow had to pay for his crimes, and he was duty-bound to uphold the law....he could not bring himself to
defend the actions, nor exonerate himself from the outcome. In a perverse way, he was as trapped in this
horrific situation as Sparrow was, only Sparrow wore the shackles, and his chains were not so visible.
The sentence had been pronounced, the last words of "God have mercy on your soul," trailed in the air as
Sparrow lowered his head in acceptance of the noose. Norrington watched as Sparrow bowed his head, and
closed his eyes as if in prayer. It would be unheard of, but perhaps the prospects of the afterlife waiting for the
pirate had infused a bit of much-needed attention to his soul after all. Norrington had no more time to ponder that
as the black-hooded executioner jerked the latch and the trapdoor fell from beneath Sparrow's boots.
Norrington waited for the loud snap of a neckbone, indicating that the pirate's neck had been cleanly broken, sparing
him from the dishonor and the agony of dancing the hempen jig while he slowly choked to death. There was none.
Norrington heard the gasp of horror as Elizabeth clapped a hand over her mouth, sickened. Norrington rose to shout
for Sparrow to be shot quickly and put out of his misery. Sparrow dangled in the air, his face contorted in the death-throes.
The crowd was gaping and suddenly parted like water at the flurry of a large, white hat gliding through them like a bird
over the ocean. Norrington watched, shocked, as Will Turner swirled and parried and then drove the cutlass into the
platform under Sparrow's twitching bootheels. The pirate scrambled upward, wobbled, and finally stood on the quivering blade.
Norrington numbly shouted the orders to his men. It was needless, as they had already cornered Sparrow and Turner, caged them
in by a ring of drawn swords and pistols. Elizabeth had already shot to her feet, and burst into tears as she forced her way through
the wall of soldiers. She was heedless of the threat of getting shot, oblivious and indifferent to the penalty of interfering with an execution.
Norrington felt his heart shatter as she curled up to Turner's side, shielding him from their swords. Governor
Swann had stammered out the order for the men to put down their weapons, and Norrington hastily assented. Elizabeth
gazed at him with a mixture of pleading remorse and resolute defiance as her lace-gloved hand draped itself over Turner's callused knuckles. Sparrow was already grinning at the lovers, but his grin faltered into outright fear when he saw Norrington's face, contorted and drained of color in his mercifully numb misery. Turner was already swearing to die at Jack's side, and Norrington's heart broke anew when Elizabeth pledged her last moments on earth to die with Turner.
Was he truly so dispicable that she would choose being hung over being his wife? Did she truly hate him that much? They were all
staring at him, now, even as the most savage wound anybody could have inflicted on him was only beginning to hurt. Turner was already clutching at Elizabeth as if he owned her, Elizabeth was defiantly siddling up to him and taking a step backwards from Norrington. Sparrow was blinking warily, and for once, his never-ending stream of babbling had ceased.
Norrington swallowed hard, realizing that in a matter of moments, he had lost Elizabeth's heart. And, with the next vicious realization
as he looked at Turner, he realized that he never had her heart at all. He smoothed his face into a well-practiced mask of
serene acceptance, forced his trembling lips into that stern, proud line. He had held his head high, wished the lovers his best,
let Elizabeth go to follow her own path. He was not so cruel as to insist that she honor her word, and he knew the only thing
more unbearable than losing her as his love was breaking her as his captor.
He had watched Sparrow, bobbing back and forth in that mysterious, hypnotic swaying, as the pirate swirled and teased, coyly,
his maddening smile sprouting into an odd moment of empathy. He paused in front of Norrington, his dark eyes understanding.
"I was rooting for you, mate. Know that." It was muttered under breath so foul, that Norrington grimaced, his eyes watering from
something besides the tears.
Norrington only watched as Sparrow gave them an elaborate farewell, his foppish gestures all the more puncuated as the pirate gave them all a cheeky last grin. Norrington did not even have the time to cry out as Jack abruptly 'slipped' off the wall and plunged head-first into the writhing sea. Norrington could only watch as the Pearl glided out from the outcropping of rocks like a chariot driven by some delivering god to rescue her captain. Again.
Norrington's breath hitched in his throat as he choked out the question to Elizabeth....
"Is this where your heart truly lies?"
Her eyes gave him a searing plea as Turner draped a protective arm over her shoulder.
"It is." The two words were spoken with so much finality, the last decree before the death blow. His lips tightened into a smile,
as he could only nod, and turn before he either wailed or sobbed. Neither one was befitting him before this moment, but
after such a horrific turn of events, he was allowed to indulge in his misery. It was an act of perverse mercy that the two
lovers were far too enraptured with their long, long kiss to notice that Norrington had only slinked away in silence.
The memories burned a bit less with another swallow. Norrington had heard that their engagement was short from the gossip that had flooded into
his garrison. He had endured the embarrassment of being the jilted lover, of being the fool who let Jack Sparrow go, the sacrificial victim who had allowed the lovers
their happiness. In his second act of merciful madness, he had halted the guards from their pursuit of the Pearl for a day's delay. After seeing Sparrow nearly dying
under the noose, after the pirate had kept his word to bring Elizabeth back safely...Norrington found he simply could not order the pirate's death. He had privately asked Governor Swann to give him an assignment away from Port Royal for the time being. The govenor had been quite accomodating to that one wish, even providing Norrington with a higher commission, and command of his own ship, the Calliopie. It was hardly a consulation prize in the wake of so much loss, but it at least gave him an excuse to leave some of the heartbreak behind without looking like a coward.
So,with his shattered life, Norrington sailed away from Port Royal with his head held high and a bit of hope for
escape swelling in his heart. That precious glimmer of a promising future had been literally swept away in his rash decision to pursue the
Pearl through that hurricane. As the battered survivors were finally plucked from the ocean's wrath, Norrington learned with cruel, cruel clarity, that
his first crime was losing the ship. The unforgivable crime was living through it when so many of his men had drowned in the storm.
Norrington was forced to resign his commission, his rank, his life as one of the King's own in the flurry of irrate hearings afterward.
Not even Swann's influence was enough to sate their hunger for somebody to blame. It was a descent into hell from there. His honor chafed from the loss of place. His pride was broken by the burden, and his reputation had been so sullied, that the only place he
had managed to escape judgement from it was drinking with the scum that he had once hunted down. He had fled Port Royal
like a hunted animal, leaving everything in a moment of desperate haste, and caring nothing for the destination.
His consumption of the devil's drink had increased in proportion to his hatred of his inescapable situation, and it wasn't very
long before he was as filthy and depraved as the flotsom he somehow scorned and joined simultanously.
Norrington sighed, again. It was a painful realization to learn anew that the bottle held no answers, only distraction.
But, on a night like this, no, on any night like this, it was all that he had left, and truly all he wanted, any more.
The bitter smile curled on Norrington's lips. It amused him that even on his way to a drunken haze, his diction
remained coldly intact. It was only one lingering piece of the man he once was. He heard the odd commotion of shuffling
feet abruptly interrupted, and a few lewd shouts from women. He paid them no heed,only jerked the mug high and
dumped a few more coins over the table. The barkeep indulged him and filled his cup to nearly spilling. Norrington
nodded appreciatively of that.
He heard a breath of astonishment behind him, and the sudden blurting of his former title hit like a thunder clap.
Was it a drink-induced delusion?
The use of his title made him wince in suprise, the lilting cadence of that familiar voice made him close his eyes.
Norrington's fingers tightened until the knuckles grew white around his bottle.
That hated voice, so familiar and so viciously clear made him flinch as he swallowed hard and forced himself
to glance over his shoulder. Jack Sparrow, almost in sick parody of his last name, glided through the throngs
of drunken revelry, and perched onto the chair next to him, with an uncertain smile. Norrington squinted at that, he
had never known the pirate to show any sign of unease, and yet...the pirate was now eyeing Norrington in undisguised
shock. At one time, such a reaction would have garnered Norrington's wrath, but now, he was simply too
intoxicated and indifferent to care.
Norrington only blinked, and curled a lip of distain before he resumed his slouch. His displeasure grew when
he felt Jack slap his shoulder as if greeting an old friend, his dark eyes and teeth glittering in the sepia
"Unless you wish your throat to feel the bite of my blade, I suggest you move along, pirate." Jack wisely
withdrew his hand, clearly puzzled to hear that drunken hiss emerging from the stinking, sullen man
who was once the bane of all pirates. Norrington turned back to his drink, and Jack took that lapse in
attention to study the man.
If the stench didn't take my breath away, whatever dragged this former ponce to these depths certainly
would, Jack mused.
Norrington still wore the thick, brocaded jacket of the Navy, but it was a mess of stains and holes. His wig, once so pristine like
a crown, was as disheveled as a gull's nest, and was halfway off his head, revealing the long, greasy dark hair that
was held back by a knotted string. A dull sheen of sweat and filth was smeared across his furrowed brow, his
mouth was open in another sneer. That ramrod stiffness of his spine had been replaced by Norrington's drunken
slouch over his drink.
"I have heard tales that you disappeared from Port Royal." Jack's wicked smile
faltered when Norrington snarled at the mention of his former post.. Jack had no time to retract the words before he felt the
cold bite of Norrington's blade to his quaking throat, and that glittering madness in his drink-smeared eyes.
" I thought one of the King's own never took to consuming the intoxicating delight of rum." Jack attempted a disarming smile as
Norrington sneered, "I'm no longer one of the King's own, Sparrow." The blade cut into his flesh, drawing a small dribble of scarlet.
Norrington leaned towards him, until they were nearly flush, that feral, wild rage only sharpened by the stench of the alcohol
on his breath. "Nor am I bound by the King's law." It was a silken purr as Norrington's blade sliced a bit deeper into Jack's throat.
"But, I'd like to thank you for giving me the chance to complete what that hanging never did." And Norrington raised the cutlass for
the killing blow, just as Jack squirmed out from beneath his grasp. Norrington grimaced when he felt the cold circle of metal against his chin, and the
cock of the pistol. Jack held the unflinching gun with a steady hand and a wicked gleam in his eye.
"You can cut off me head, as I put a pretty hole into yours..... Seems that we'd be square then..." Jack jabbed the pistol deeper into
Norrington's chin for emphasis. "Or, we could compromise and keep our heads in tact whilst working our differences out as civilized men
with the social lubrication known as rum."
Norrington squinted at that, but something akin to remorse flickered over his face before it slid back to that sullen indifference.
Jack waved the other hand in the air around them, as Norrington only grunted and withdrew his sword, waiting. Jack gave him a wide smile,
and with a flourish, shoved his pistol into his sash. Norrington scowled, but stowed his weapon. Jack noted uneasily that his hand never left the
hilt, nor that hatred ever leave his eyes.
"There's no need for that, mate. Aye, you could try to kill me, but considering the speed of me reflexes, timed by the accuracy of my shot,
factoring in your...emotional turmoil that would diminish your once-admirable skill with a blade, not to mention you are most certainly...inebreiated..".
Jack's shoulders hitched in mock apology, as he cheerily continued, "I'm quite sorry to inform you of the facts, Commodore, but I'd kill you before
you even had time to draw that fancy blade."
Norrington watched in disgust as Jack lay both elbows on the table, winking at a barmaid who was bustling by. Sparrow gestured to her,
showing her a shining coin, as she leaned down and giggled at whatever he whispered into her ear. She gave him a coy, promising smirk,
and scurried away with another giggle. Jack kept his smile until she disappeared, and then turned to Norrington with an eyebrow arched.
Jack's hand crept uneasily to the cut in his throat, as he warily slid back to his seat, narrowing his eyes.
"So seeming that we're both civilized men, I suggest we settle our differences in a far more productive way." Norrington's lips twisted into a white
line of pain and anger, and he exhaled loudly.
Jack peered at him, his dark eyes nearly obsidion in the failing light. "What brought ye here, mate?" It was strange how those words could be infused
with so much disbelieving loss for any explanation. Norrington flinched, that broken look in his eyes lingered, but then hardened to hatred. He tilted his
head, rose high in his chair, and leaned forward to Jack until they were nearly nose to nose.
"You did." Norrington's words were all rancored snarl, heaved out between his clenched teeth, as he hoisted his mug for another swallow. Jack's throat
made an audible gulp as he leaned back a few inches to maintain his distance, and break some of the weight from that heavy stare. Norrington lurched back
into his seat, that glare never faltering as he sneered, again, "I never knew that one day's head start could lead to a life in ruins. Is that a satisfactory explanation,
Jack tapped his chin in thought, and shook his head, "Actually, no. It's not an explanation that satisfies at all, Commodore. Mayhaps I'm missing something, but
where is the nefarious link between you mercifully not hanging me, and you very graciously not pursuing my Pearl for a day, to your state of drunken misery...or
more to the point, a state of being a miserable drunk?"
Norrington only sighed. "You are only correct on one account, Sparrow. I've not consumed enough to be what you would label as being...drunk." Norrington spat.
"And if you insist on your incessent blathering, then do me the honor of at least dropping the title. I'm no longer a Naval officer, and have not been for some time."
Jack's eyes bulged at that admission, as Norrington resumed his bitter staring at his drink. "Am I correct in deducing that your departure from the trappings of the British Navy was involuntary?"
Norrington slid him a glare. "Apparently losing a ship in a hurricane and living to tell of it is not compatable with being an officer of the Navy.
"You decided to sail through that?" Jack blurted the words in a spew and regretted it when Norrington sighed, and slouched, in infinite wearyiness.
"Yes, Sparrow, I sailed through it, and lost everything in the attempt."
Jack grimaced in unexpected sympathy as he Norrington hitched a shoulder in resignation. "I was already on probation, as it were, with your successful escape from the gallows, and then the loss of lives to decidedly undead pirates. Apparently, it was far easier for the Crown to believe that I was to blame for the mishandling of the events that followed. Combined with the loss of Miss Swann's hand in marriage, and my rather stupid decision to let both her, and you escape me....I dare say, Sparrow, keeping my sense of honor was pitiful compensation indeed."
Jack sighed as well, and forced a bright, glittering smile to the barmaid who plunked down two frothing mugs between the men. "Thank ye, darlin." Jack slid her a coin and a wink, his hand lingering on her back in emphasis for a moment. Jack chucked her under the chin, "I'll be seeing you soon, dearie. Count on that."
She tittered as she went on her way. Norrington only grunted as Jack gestured for him to claim the drink. "This one's on me, mate. After that, you buy your own...
although, seeing how you've already consumed so much and have maintained the experienced ability to remain conscious, this bit would be like a drop in the ocean, aye?"
"Or one more knot in the supposed noose." Norrington groused morosely as he accepted the drink. "While I suppose I should be grateful for this unexpected show of
generosity, this is pitiful compensation, Sparrow."
Jack scowled at that, wagged a finger at the mug, "Buying rum is a very generous act, former Comodore, and as to the matter of why you'd expect compensation from a pirate? 'S downright delusional, and unheard of. Could you imagine the chaos and confusion on the seas if pirates boarded merchant ships, and then proceeded to give the stolen goods back? Absolutely ludicrious!"
Norrington shook his head at that. "So it would seem. Why are you here, Sparrow?"
Jack huffed, feining an insult to his dignity as he gave his mug a pointed look and swept a hand over the merry drinkers to encompass them all. "This is a din of wanton, drunken vice, debauchery, sin, and filth. Coming here is like coming home, mate...'s the closest thing I've got to Heaven, next to me Pearl. The
curious thing, though, former Commodore, is that I've noted there's only two ilks of men that drift to these unseemly shores..those who are lost, and those who don't wish to be found. Which one are you?"
The question lingered as Norrington met Jack's shrewd look with another distaining curl of lip. "Undoubtably, you know that after my involuntary resignation of my commission, I left Port Royal rather abruptly. I think it highly unlikely that Elizabeth or her irksome fiance would be so gracious enough to inquire after my good health, now."
Jack's voice was almost compassionate, as he softly answered, "They've wed." Norrington flinched as if he had been stabbed, before he shook off the sudden flair of pain with another grunt. "I should have expected no less."
Jack nodded at that. "Aye, but love lost is infinitely easier than love caged. A woman is a treacherous thing to hold captive against her will, Norrington. She couldn't have abided by that. And, neither could you, with all your trappings of honor and decency and the like."
Norrington snorted at the irony. "You are indeed right, Sparrow, about the trappings of honor and decency. Had I been willing to violate either one of those, I would
have been wedded to the woman I've loved more than anything, Turner would have been shot for interferring with your hanging, you would have been dead, and I would not be attempting to drown my woe in such a vile way in a shanty town filled with rum-soaked miscreants."
Jack only shrugged and smirked sadly. "Funny ol' world, innit?"
Norrington swallowed another sip. "Indeed."