Disclaimer: I do not own Pirates of the Caribbean.
Author's Note: This takes place sometime between Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man's Chest. I was in a Norrington mood and his degeneration in DMC has always intrigued me, so I decided to explore that a little bit.
Take What You Can, Give Nothing Back
"Fancy a bit o' fun, luv?"
She was positively vulgar. The very picture of female depravity, with her ringlets upon ringlets of blonde hair piled upon her head, enough makeup around her eyes to rival Jack Sparrow, and a tight yellow dress that exposed much more than a proper lady ought to reveal.
She also happened to be exactly what James Norrington needed at the moment.
There was a time when Norrington was a straitlaced man, a man of upright morality who did not partake in whoring like a common brutish sailor. He was a man with a future; prized member of the King's navy and all that, but of course that was before he lost his chance at marrying a fine woman to go with his once fine career.
"Don't mind if I do," he said to the blonde prostitute, setting down his mug of ale. He had never been much of a drinker and tended to avoid pubs in the old days, but now he couldn't remember the last time he had spent a full day sober. Oh, how times had changed.
His mind didn't quite register how he managed to push through Tortuga's finest collection of drunken, brawling lowlifes, but next thing he knew he had left the pub and followed the bright yellow skirt that bobbed in front of him like a beacon. Her room was small and dim, filled to the corners with the heady scent of perfume, as if she had robbed an entire perfume cargo off a passing merchant ship. Knowing Tortuga, perhaps she had.
"Ya got a name, Mister Fancy?" the wench asked, tugging one of the dirty lapels of his uniform. He hadn't changed his clothes in over a fortnight.
Norrington swallowed and forced himself to meet her brown eyes, which probed boldly into his own. "Commo— Norrington. Just Norrington."
"Norrington be a bit of a mouthful, don't ya think?" She was behind him now, her breasts pressing against his back as she reached around to unbutton his breeches. "Got anything shorter, luv?"
"James will suffice, if it pleases you."
"Ah, Jamesy then. Much better."
Norrington flinched. He hadn't been called Jamesy since he was a lad of ten years. "Well, get on with it, then," he said rather pompously. He may have spent his evening drinking, but he wasn't drunk enough to fall into oblivion without a care.
Get on with it she did, and skillfully as well, which Norrington supposed was expected from a woman of her profession. He shut his eyes and tried to forget the wild blonde curls and harsh brown eyes, imagining a different set of features altogether, and when it was all over he gasped into her ear with a four-syllable name on his lips.
"It's Giselle, dearie," she replied, and that was the last thing Norrington heard before he passed out.
Giselle liked a desperate sort of man. The desperate ones were always easy to make regular customers out of, since the poor bastards didn't have anybody else to turn to, and who better to turn to than a warm body with a warm bed to match? Besides, a desperate, down-on-his-luck drunkard was more reliable than a no-good pirate who took pleasure wherever he liked and didn't give a damn. That sort of man was more trouble than he was worth.
Giselle smoothed down her skirt and pulled her stockings back on, then gently poked the unconscious man who lay sprawled on her bed. James, he said his name was, but he had a fancy surname to go with it. Had a fancy way of speaking too, despite his dirty clothes and the dark stubble on his face. Last time she met a man with such a fancy voice was all the way back in England, before she boarded the ship that would take her away from the crowded, pox-ridden slums of London and out to the turtle-shaped island where men obeyed no laws and pleasure was king.
She stroked the wrinkled blue jacket that sat in a heap at the foot of the bed, admiring the fine stitching that was bound to unravel sooner or later. He was some sort of navy man—emphasis on was; perhaps a captain or a commodore. He must have had a good life at one time, since he had all of his teeth—good, straight teeth they were, too—and his figure was trim from exercise, no doubt, and not just the sort of exercise that Giselle provided.
As for the name Elizabeth, well... Giselle had heard her share of names in all the years she'd been in business. Names meant nothing to her.
Still, she wondered who this Elizabeth was. She probably wore fancy clothes, bathed on a regular basis, and ate three square meals a day without having to work or steal for them. She had probably been married off to a pompous aristocrat with a fancy carriage, forever out of dear old Jamesy's reach.
Poor bugger. He really was a sorry sight with his disheveled wig, once a powdered white, and his once pretty uniform that must have looked dashing in its glory days. He groaned and stirred a bit, but he made no effort to get up. Giselle prodded him again, hoping he would pay her and then leave so she could have the mattress to herself, though she didn't look forward to the stench of ale that would undoubtedly linger on her sheets.
"Wake up, you," she told James. "I want me bed back."
"Elizabeth," James murmured sleepily.
There was that name Elizabeth again. Whoever this woman was, she certainly deserved a swift kick in the bum for driving James to such a state. Giselle wasn't sentimental in the slightest, but even she knew that fellows like James didn't deserve to spend their nights drinking and whoring, though if they didn't then women like Giselle would certainly be poorer.
"Wake up," she repeated, shaking him by the shoulder.
James groaned incoherently and swatted her hand away.
"All right, then," said Giselle, finding space on the mattress so she could collapse beside him. "Have it your own bloody way."
What a pity indeed that these fine men sank so low, but how else was Giselle supposed to earn her bread every night?
Norrington, in spite of all his recent hardship, was as much a man of habit as ever, and Giselle had become a habit. A bad habit compared to the ones he left behind with his respectable career, but relatively harmless compared to the other vices he had picked up since arriving on Tortuga. And like any habit, Giselle was hard to quit.
Norrington found himself stumbling to her door on an almost nightly basis, under the influence of whatever spirits he could get his miserable hands on. Any respectable woman in Port Royal would have chased him off with a broom at the very sight of him, but this was Tortuga, the scoundrel's paradise, where everyone was in the same proverbial boat bound for hell. Giselle didn't bat an eye at his slovenly appearance and never turned him away, just as long as he provided her nightly fee and didn't track mud onto her bed sheets.
He hated himself for thinking of Elizabeth each time he was with Giselle, but he couldn't help himself and the ale only made it easier to pretend. There was a time not long ago when he anticipated married life—a life with Elizabeth, a life most men would envy—and now... well now he simply felt hollow. Each time the sun rose he wished he could push it back down where it came from, and each time the sun set he drank to chase away the guilt born of a day spent in emptiness.
As for Giselle... well, Giselle was a constant reminder that he ought to be living a better life, and the more he slept with her the more he realized that his old life was long out of reach. Elizabeth had probably married that dratted blacksmith by now, Governor Swann had probably found some eager young captain to take Norrington's place, and Jack Sparrow was probably laughing at Norrington's memory over a bottle of rum.
"Men like you don't normally visit a rock like Tortuga," Giselle said to him one night. "Men what talk fancy like yerself, that is."
"I've seen dark days," Norrington murmured. It was one of the few nights in which he hadn't passed out after taking his time with Giselle, and he reclined on her bed wearing nothing but breeches and a half-open shirt. "I owe my sorry fate to Jack Sparrow."
Giselle grimaced. "Stay away from the likes o' Jack Sparrow and ya do yerself a favor."
"You're acquainted with the scoundrel?"
"Course I know Jack Sparrow. Seems every whore on this bloody rock knows Jack bloody Sparrow."
It seemed like Norrington could never escape the man. "For such an accomplished pirate, Mr. Sparrow spends an awful lot of time on land," he said drily, and if he closed his eyes he could almost pretend he was still the commodore, making witty remarks to his lieutenant, or a pair of soldiers, or perhaps even Elizabeth.
But Norrington refused to shut his eyes. He would need another drink or two if he wanted to lose himself to desperate dreams and illusions.
"Mr. Sparrow's got a habit o' false promises," Giselle added bitterly.
"Indeed he does." After all this time, he still couldn't believe he had actually aided Jack Sparrow's escape, all because he hoped it would help him win the woman he loved. What a fool he was. It never occurred to him to blame Elizabeth for consorting with pirates in the first place, for unintentionally dragging him into the whole mess with Sparrow, and he was naive enough to believe that her fascination with pirates was only a temporary nonsense that could be stamped out of her with time.
Fascination with pirates or not, he was still in love with her. He still hoped that she would come to her senses.
Giselle moved closer to him and reached for his breeches, a smile upon her red lips. "Sparrow and his kind can go to hell. Let's forget all about 'em, shall we?"
Giselle didn't know why she liked James, but she did. She liked him in spite of his drunkenness, his slovenly appearance that grew worse by the day, and the fact that they only saw one another for the purpose of pleasurable company. Pathetic blighter he may be, but he wasn't bad to have around when the sun went down. Besides, the poor chap kept stumbling to her door night after night, and she wasn't one to turn down a man in need.
She wasn't one to turn down a night's wages either.
At least he didn't seek his nights in other beds, unlike a certain pirate she would dearly love to slap again. No, the only problem she had with James was his sorry habit of calling her Elizabeth nearly every night, though she supposed she shouldn't judge a man who was well into his cups each time he arrived at her door.
Yet she liked James, faults and all, and found his habit to be a bit of a nuisance. No woman, even the lowliest harlot, liked hearing another woman's name on a man's lips.
"Who's the hussy yer always goin' on about?" she asked him one night. "Must be a bleedin' sight better than yours truly here, 'else you wouldn't think of her each time, now would ya?"
James sat up on the edge of the bed, looking tired and drunk as usual, and he swayed a bit as he fastened his breeches. "That is no concern of yours."
Giselle didn't think she would ever get used to hearing such a cultured voice come out of such a rundown, miserable sot. "It do be my concern, luv, seein' how I'm the one yer tumblin' almost every night. Who is she?"
"Elizabeth was a governor's daughter," James said hollowly. "I intended to marry her."
"It's clear that you didn't."
"She threw her lot in with pirates. There was nothing I could do to sway her."
"Pirates," Giselle snorted. "The lousy bastards are only good for one thing, and it ain't all that much to brag about."
"Why the devil do you do all of this, anyway?" James waved a hand about, encompassing her bedroom. "And with me?"
"Money, o' course," Giselle said automatically, though she wondered exactly how true that was anymore. "What about yer humble self?"
His eyes were sad; sad and resigned to a hard fate on this rocky island. "Escape," he replied.
"Seems fair enough."
Giselle knew that was all there would be for the both of them—the money and the escape—and that may have bothered any other woman, but she wasn't a Tortuga wench for nothing. Money and escape were the best they could get.