Warning: AU Dead Man's Chest
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to Disney. This is just for fun.
Ex-Commodore James Norrington leaned against the front of the nearest sturdy building, a partly empty rum bottle in his hands. His once pristine uniform was a mess, with ragged edges, loose threads, stains of unknown nature and the hairs was sticking every which way out of his poor wig. Underneath the wig and now visible was his own loose brown and stringy hair. A sudden gust of hot sea air blew the greasy strands across his face but he hardly noticed. He was still vainly trying to stay clean but found it was almost impossible since he was literally living in his clothes, without a second clean pair to change into. So he had given up on it, more or less. They were soaked through with layers of dried sweat anyway, some parts becoming incredibly stiff. In many ways it was like a second skin now, the once proud Navy uniform molding to his body.
Although he looked the mess, his mind was still sharp as he watched the busy harbor that was within view. He hated living here in Tortuga surrounded by all of the lowlifes, scum and pirates that he used to chase and hang. To his credit, he admitted that not all of the people here were bad as the pirates; some just had fallen on hard times like he had and so they had little choice. Nor did they seem to care who he was; something that had really surprised him. He had half expected to be run out of the harbor the day he had arrived but it was as if they had no clue as to who he was or that they simply didn't care. For that little kindness he was thankful for. It allowed him to live a meager existence on the small amount of money he had left. To his dismay, a large portion had gone to the rum. But drowning his memories in the sour alcohol had not worked as well as he had hoped, as his men was still dead at the bottom of the sea and it was his fault.
The only thing that could chase the bad memories away was thinking of Elizabeth, even if she had scorned him in public in favor of a lowly blacksmith. It was a more pleasant way to waste away the hours anyway.
Not that he would ever see her again…
And then James' breath caught in his chest as his green eyes locked on a certain young man that was making his way off of the new merchant ship that had pulled into port. Well, the person in question was dressed like a man but he knew instantly that it was no man. Perhaps Elizabeth could trick others with that disguise but she could not fool him. No, he knew of her secret habit of sneaking about like that. It had started with those stolen Marine outfits….
But where was Turner? It was clear she was alone and had made her way here by pretending to be a sailor on the merchant vessel, working her way. He would have thought she would have been happily married by now, but apparently not. Had the younger man ran off after all or had something else had happened? A bad feeling was beginning to form in the pit of James' stomach; that same feeling he got when he knew something was off with his ship or that a storm was coming even though the sky was blue with no clouds in sight. His raised the rum bottle to his lips and took a small swig, just enough to wet his mouth and throat. He didn't want to note that his knuckles were too white or that he was gripping the bottle too hard.
To his delight, Elizabeth was heading in his general direction, although it was clear she had not spotted him yet amid the loud crowds of people doing the most stupid things. Men sat drinking from two tankards of ale at the same time, others balanced on top of barrels, women advertised their wares and there was even a fight going on it one of the horse throughs: all in all a typical day in Tortuga.
James waited until she was just about to pass him by, her eyes drawn to the two fighting in the large tank of water. She had that startled look upon her face, as if she had never seen the sight before. And of course she hadn't. It was like a poor country person going to London for the first time, amazed by every little thing. His hand shot out and gripped her about the wrist tightly, then pulled her into the narrow gap between two buildings.
"Hey!" Elizabeth cried out as she stumbled, one hand reaching out for something to grab onto it. It landed on a strong shoulder.
"You should be more careful. Some unscrupulous person could drag you into a dark alley."
"James!" Elizabeth cried, happy to see him. "What are you doing here?"
"Saving you from those lowlifes out there, apparently. Now what are you doing here? Tortuga is no place for a lady."
"Will and I were arrested! We were thrown into the cells like common thieves, just because we helped Jack Sparrow escape from hanging that day. Lord Beckett arrived in port with three sets of hanging orders. I'm afraid the last one is yours. So whatever you do, don't go back to Port Royale."
"Great, just great…" James remarked sarcastically. "And where is young Mr. Turner?"
"I don't know. He left long before I did, searching for Jack Sparrow. Beckett wants Jack's compass for some reason, so he let Will go…."
James' sharp mind couldn't but help to think that for the moment at least that Turner was out of the picture, which gave him another chance at the girl. At this point, what else did he have to lose? He already lost everything else: his commission, his way of life, the respect from his fellow officers and the community of Port Royale, most of his money…
But wooing Elizabeth had never been easy.
Maybe the large amounts of rum he drank that morning would help?
"You know, I seem to recall that you like pirates…."
Elizabeth looked up at him, a bit blankly. "Yes, I always did find them fascinating."
"Well, this may come as a shock to you, but I'm a pirate now."
"And exactly what pirating have you done, besides drinking from that bottle of rum?"
"Well, I've dragged you into this sorry excuse for an alley? Does that count?"
"James, you're a good man." Elizabeth replied as she smiled at him. "And that is better than any real pirate."
Now what? His brilliant pirate line had stalled out and worst she was saying the exact opposite of what he had expected. How could he outdo Turner, who had saved her life so gallantly? Didn't he look ragged enough to be a pirate? Or was he too ragged now? She was always with "Jack this, Jack that" but Jack Sparrow really didn't look that dirty now, did he? His clothes were neat enough and his hair appeared relatively clean.
Of course, Jack was far too sneaky….
Isn't that what Elizabeth really loved about pirates, the brilliant stories about them and how clever Jack managed to do the undoable? But he didn't see how he could do those sort of things.
Maybe something would occur to him later. "So what's the plan?"
"I'm going to go talk to Jack." Elizabeth replied as she pointed out the black sails on the horizon. "I see I got here just before he did. Why don't you come with me? You'll find out that Jack and his crew are not really that bad."
"You expect me to sail on the Black Pearl?" James stated, somewhat shocked at the idea.
"Why not. Didn't you just tell me you're a pirate now?"
"I did. I just don't see Sparrow welcoming me with open arms after all the times I tried to arrest him or hang him."
"Oh, I'm sure Jack will forgive you. He's a better man than you think he is. Really." Elizabeth replied as she grabbed him by the wrist and started to lead him out of the gap between buildings.
"But he's still a pirate. He'll say whatever he thinks you want to hear, whether it's the truth or not. Don't you understand that? He'll lie to you if it suits him best."
"Yes, I realize he lies. I didn't say he was a saint. I just want to know where Will is."
And that's when the brilliant idea occurred to James, a smile twisting the edges of his lips upward. He planted his boots firmly on the ground and stopped, forcing Elizabeth to stop as well. He watched as she glanced up at him, questioning.
"Look, if you're moving and Turner is moving, you'll never find each other. One of you needs to sit still so the other one can find you. Does that make sense?"
"Hmmm…. That does make sense. I remember once long ago Father took me to London and we got separated. We had a hard time finding each other due to the crowds. I think we were both circling and thus kept missing each other. Funny, I hadn't thought of that for years…."
"Well, why don't you stay here with me? I'll keep you company and make sure none of these lowlifes bothers you."
James tried to make himself look as innocent as possible, so she wouldn't guess as his true motive: the fact that he wanted very badly to steal her back from Turner. The thing is he needed to spend time with her, so she could get to know him. And perhaps if enough time passed by, she'd forget about her blacksmith.
"Are they really that bad?" Elizabeth asked, nodding with her head at the drunken crowds around them. "They look harmless enough, besides being drunk that is."
"Some are harmless." James admitted, knowing he had to tell her the truth, mainly because he was not good at lying and she would catch him at it. Besides, he preferred telling the truth anyway. "But others are very dangerous. Many are thieves that would slit your throat for a single coin. Others would accost you for favors once they realize you're not a young man. Of course, some men favor young men to ladies, as odd as that sounds. So just because you're dressed as a man will not protect you from a group of drunken sailors or worst, drunken pirates."
Elizabeth's mouth dropped open in surprise, her brown eyes wide. "Men bother other men?"
"Of course they do." James replied, feeling somewhat guilty for telling her these things but surely it's the lesser of two evils? It's certainly better than her sailing with pirates and getting mixed up in Sparrow's crooked schemes. Who knows what sort of mess he's in this time? "I had to deal with it in the Navy. It's against the rules and I had to put a stop to it on several different occasions. Distasteful, truly distasteful."
"I had no idea…." Elizabeth simply stated as she looked at the drunks around her with new eyes. "I just thought this was a better disguise. The men on the merchant ship behaved well enough."
"That's because the ship had a good captain no doubt." James was thankful that the ship Elizabeth had arrived on was a well run, disciplined ship and that she hadn't been found out. "These people are the exact opposite."
"Yes, I can see how they're acting." Elizabeth's eyes dropped to the bottle of rum that James still held in one hand. "If you expect me to stay, you'll have to stop drinking that vile stuff."
"Gladly, as it never did me much good anyway." And to prove his word, James tossed the partly filled bottle into some nearby bushes. "See? I can give it up easily."
"But we can't forget that there's a price on our heads, either." Elizabeth reminded James as she started walking towards the pier where the Pearl was tying up. "Just let me ask Jack if he's seen Will."
Soon enough Jack Sparrow came sauntering down the gangplank and was met by two unexpected old friends, the word friend referring to only one of them.
"Jack! Have you seen Will?" Elizabeth asked hopefully.
"That I did, love. Due to circumstances far beyond my control, poor Will got press ganged into the crew of Davy Jones. But I expect he'll escape right enough on his own soon. No worries, love."
"Davy Jones?" Elizabeth asked, totally confused. "Who's that?"
"Just a squid man…" Jack replied as he passed her by.
"Oh, please!" James cried as he rolled his green eyes, his body filled with disgust. "That's an old legend, a sea legend. The man and the Flying Dutchman does not really exist. See? He's lying to you already. I told you he would."
Elizabeth looked in confusion from James to Jack. "Are you saying he's a man who catches squid?"
"Hiya poppet!" Pintel said as he came down the plank next, Ragetti right behind him. "And he's not no man that hunts squid. He is part squid!"
"Yeah, his chin is all tentacle-ly." Ragetti added as he wiggled his fingers beneath his own chin. "And his crew is all deformed fish-men!"
"And his controls this giant kraken, a monster so big it could pull an entire ship underneath the waves forever!" Pintel added for good measure.
Elizabeth stood in place as she watched the pirates from the Pearl head into one of the many taverns along the waterfront.
James circled around until he was standing in front of her. "Now tell me if you honestly believe that? Because I can tell you for a fact it's an old sea legend. They must have been discussing the tale just before disembarking and thought it would be a good joke to play on you. Sparrow and his crew have no respect for anyone, especially if they really expect you to believe that sad story."
"So it's just a story?" Elizabeth asked, her facial expression downcast.
"I'm afraid so, unless you believe all that."
"Well, part of me wants to believe that Jack is telling the truth; that he cares enough about me not to lie. But another part of me says that it just can't be so and that of course he has to be lying. I don't know which part I should listen to."
"You should always do what your instinct, your gut, tells you to do." James offered his arm to her and was very pleased when she took it. Nor did he care if they might appear to be two men walking side by side to the drunken pirates. The important thing is he was clearly winning Elizabeth with his clear head and logic. "Often in command that's all I have to go on, just a feeling in my gut or a little nagging thought at the back of my mind that something is wrong. That feeling is right most of the time, so I've learned to listen to it."
"And what is it telling you right now?" Elizabeth was looking up at him with real interest in her eyes.
"That we should stay on shore." He replied honestly. "I fear some scheme has gone horribly wrong for Jack and he's trying to push it off onto others. Besides, if the kraken really exists, as they claim, would you want to be on the ship it goes after?"
"No, of course not, I'd be killed!"
"So you'll be staying here with me than?" James asked hopefully. He had no idea what Elizabeth would think of the single room he was renting or how the two could even share it while remaining proper, but if need be he would gladly give it up to her and sleep outside, if it came to that. He wouldn't want to compromise her honor.
Elizabeth nodded. "For the moment, I think that would be for the best."