A/N: Here it is, the final chapter. It's been a longer road than I imagined from start to finish and there were times when I even wondered if I would see the end of it, but here we are. This story was incredibly fun to write and I want to thank each and every one of you who read and reviewed this. It really means a lot. Now, without further ado, onward.
Norrington drifted into wakefulness like a piece of driftwood washing onto the beach with the low tide. His entire body ached but he didn't quite want to move. The sheets were warm and comforting.
His eyes snapped open. Sunlight streamed through the window and onto the bed where he lay very much alive. He remembered Jolly's invading forces, the screams and gunshots that had lit up Port Royal. He also had the distinct memory of pain. Gingerly, he shifted in the bed and pulled the sheets away from him. In place of a shirt was a tightly wrapped bandage around his middle, freshly changed from the look of it. He chanced another look at his left arm, sure that his mind had been playing tricks on him, but no, there was no sign of necrosis. He pressed a finger to his neck and felt his heart beating strong and steady. The curse was well and truly broken.
Then where was he? And where was Jack, for that matter?
The door opened on squeaky hinges to admit a bespectacled man with graying hair. "Good morning and welcome back to the land of the living, Mr. Norrington."
Norrington opened his mouth to correct him on the title before remembering. He closed it again. That was something he was just going to have to learn to live with.
"You'll be glad to know that stab wound is healing nicely," the man continued as he approached. "It was a bit uncertain at first. Gut wounds are never pretty. You'll have a scar, but you'll live."
Live. For the first time since this whole ordeal started, Norrington breathed a sigh of relief. It felt like such a very long time since he'd lived. A long time since Davy Jones had left him for the sharks, an even longer time since he'd believed in anything worth living for. Now it seemed he had a second chance and he was determined not to waste it.
"Thank you," Norrington said. His voice was harsh from dryness, prompting the man – the doctor – to grab a pitcher off the nightstand and pour him a drink of water. He downed it in one gulp.
"It's your friend you should thank," the doctor said once Norrington emptied the tin cup. He poured him some more water.
"Friend?" Norrington didn't have any friends.
"Sure. That unscrupulous-looking fellow. He dragged you up to my cottage even though I was sure you were dead."
Sparrow. Norrington grimaced. That wasn't something he was going to live down. "Where is he now? This friend of mine."
"His ship's anchored down in the bay. Oh, I wouldn't –"
Norrington didn't wait for him to finish before sitting up – he winced at the pain in his stomach – and throwing his legs over the side of the bed.
"You'll tear the stitches and I'm not going to haul you back here," the doctor warned.
Norrington spotted his shirt and coat on a chair next to the bed and reached for them. On second thought, he decided the shirt would prove too difficult so he grabbed only the coat. At least he was already wearing trousers. "Apologies, doctor. I must get going. But thank you for your help. I'm afraid I haven't any coin at the moment."
The doctor waved away his worry. "I heal people whether they have the coin or not."
Slipping on the coat, Norrington stood and almost collapsed before getting the hang of balancing again. He bid the doctor goodbye and thanked him again for good measure before hobbling out the door.
The events of that day – he wasn't even sure if it had been yesterday or a week ago – replayed through his mind. Fighting Jolly Roger, inside and outside his own mind, Jack tossing him the fabled Sword of El Patron. What had happened to the Sword? Probably Jack had it now, though with Jolly gone, it was likely no different from any other sword.
Which brought Norrington's mind to Beckett, who'd had the Sword. Had he survived the battle? He'd possessed one of the cursed coins from Isla de Muerta so it was very likely. Norrington winced. He didn't fancy running into Beckett again. Though after the fiasco in Port Royal, he doubted Beckett would keep his home there any more. Maybe with luck, he would return to England. Either way, with Beckett's ambition, he was sure to reappear at some point and when that point came, Norrington prayed he would be out of his sights.
By the time he made it down the slope and to the harbor, Norrington was out of breath and sweating, the heat and humidity taking its toll. It occurred to him he still didn't know where he was, only that he was no longer in Port Royal. A few thatched huts sat farther up the beach and several wooden docks jutted out into the harbor where a couple of fishing boats were tied, bobbing in the surf. There was no sign of the Black Pearl.
Norrington's shoulders slumped.
"Oi. 'scuse me, mister, you lookin' fer somethin'?" The voice belonged to an old, gnarled figure of a man, his matted gray hair tied back in an attempt to tame it. He stood with a perpetual hunch, but even without that, Norrington would have towered over him easily.
Of course he couldn't have expected Jack to wait for him. What did he expect? "No, no I don't think I am."
"Ya sure 'bout tha'?" the old man said. "Cause there were a ship here not long afore now. Big bla' ship. Got outta here in a righ' hurry, it did. As if somethin' were chasin' it."
Or as if Jack hadn't wanted to face Norrington again. That figured. Norrington looked out at the sea and there it was, closing in on the horizon. A small black spot against the calm sea.
Norrington never would have thought he'd miss that stupid pirate, but it was what it was. Jack had given him back his life and from here on out, he had no place left to go but forward.
A cool breeze blew in from the sea, carrying with it the scent of salt and adventure and new beginnings.
"You can have your head start," Norrington said and grinned.
The Black Pearl cut joyfully through the sea as the wind propelled her on. At her helm stood Jack Sparrow and by his side, Gibbs.
"You think maybe we shoulda waited?" Gibbs said.
"Nah. Lad needs to learn to go off on his own. Can't mother hen him to death." And good riddance, Jack added silently and with finality. Though he couldn't hide a small grin that formed. Who knew the commodore could make an excellent pirate?
"Either way, this calls for celebration, don't it?" Gibbs said. "Old Jolly's finally gone. Bane of the Brethren Court."
Jack's face fell. "Brethren Court…" Ugh. That was right. Teague had pirates on the lookout for Jolly. He supposed it was only the right thing to announce Jolly's demise and demand a reward except…well, there was a reason he hadn't wanted to return to Shipwreck Cove, even to deal with Beckett and Davy Jones. He hadn't been back since running up that debt and then running off to join the East India Company. He was not looking forward to seeing it again so soon.
"So…" Gibbs let his question hang in the air, unsaid.
"Oh, definitely not." Jack made a face.
"No, no, definitely not," Gibbs readily agreed.
There was a pregnant pause.
"Er…what heading, then, Captain?"
Jack placed a hand on the pommel of the Sword sheathed to his hip and grinned. "Tortuga."
"Aye, Captain. Tortuga!" Gibbs returned the grin and shouted orders to the crew.
The Black Pearl crested the horizon. And was gone.
There you have it. The end. Though this is by far not the last journey I'll be taking James on, it is the end of this particular non-canon and any new fics will still be a long way off. But if you enjoyed this, consider checking out my one-shot "All the King's Men". And thank you again.