A/N: This was inspired by a deleted scene from At World's End and features two characters who are seriously underrated and whose friendship is a cherished part of my headcanon. I hope you enjoy.
All the King's Men
"Governor, Miss Swann, may I introduce Lieutenant James Norrington. He will show you to your quarters."
"Thank you, Captain. Lieutenant."
Norrington made short bows to the pair. Governor Weatherby Swann, newly appointed at that by His Majesty King George II, a man who's age was difficult to discern in the lines of his face and the rich brown of his wig. And his daughter who couldn't have been more than ten years old, wide-eyed with awe. A pair of servants had their luggage and had already been prompted to deliver it to the hold.
"If you'll come with me," Norrington said. It was unusually clear weather today and he wanted to set sail soon and take advantage of it.
"Is this a real navy ship?" Miss Swann said before they could descend below deck. She was craning her neck to look up into the rigging and looked as if she might topple backward. "Has it been in many battles?"
"Not many," Norrington said. "The Dauntless is fairly new, commissioned by His Majesty in 1729." He wasn't used to questions, least of all by children. The vessels he'd served aboard rarely carried passengers.
"Have you been in many battles, Sir?"
"Elizabeth," Governor Swann chastised. "You really must forgive her. She's often given to unquenchable curiosity."
"It's quite alright, Governor." Norrington glanced behind him to see young Elizabeth squinting in the gloom below deck. "I've seen a few."
"That's amazing. You must be very brave."
They reached a pair of cabins and Norrington produced a key. "These are your rooms. I hope you'll find them adequate." He opened one door and then the next and Elizabeth's eyes widened and she let out a small breath.
The Dauntless was the largest ship Norrington had ever served aboard and below deck, she was surprisingly spacious. The cabins were better furnished than Norrington's own quarters, each with a bed and a cabinet. But though the rooms were more luxurious than Norrington was used to, they must seem small and cramped for someone who was used to lavish living on land.
"They are quite adequate, thank you," Governor Swann said after a cursory glance. Elizabeth was already on her bed, flopping down with an exaggerated sigh.
"It's rather small, but I quite like it. It's like being on an adventure."
"I'm glad the rooms are to your liking. Now if you'll excuse me, I must go up and help the captain. You must wish to rest before supper." Norrington made as if to leave when he heard the creaking of springs.
"Do you think we'll see any pirates along the way?"
"Elizabeth, that's hardly a proper topic of conversation."
"It's only a question."
Norrington had never known a woman or a girl who asked so many questions. He turned to see Elizabeth sitting up on the edge of her bed, hands in her lap, looking attentive as any young schoolchild.
"I rather doubt it, Miss Swann. And even if we did, the Dauntless is a first rate, one hundred guns. You've nothing to worry about." He thought he detected a slight disappointment in her eyes and he glanced at the governor, whose own expression was one of concern and apology. Norrington had to admire the man. Young Miss Swann must have posed quite a challenge, one that didn't look as if it would let up any time soon.
"What will become of the boy?" Swann asked with a furtive glance at the child they had pulled from the sea. Will Turner, they'd learned his name was. He was currently sitting on the deck in the shadow of the fo'c'sle, playing some game or other with Elizabeth. Ever since he'd recovered from his ordeal, the two of them had been nearly inseparable. Swann supposed he should have expected it, what with the lack of children onboard.
"By his word, he's an orphan," Norrington said. "There is little we can do, I'm afraid, save listen to his wishes. He'll be required to give his report to a tribunal for the loss of his ship and crew." To pirates, no less, what Swann had severely hoped against.
Strangely enough, he felt pity for the boy. And despite his concern over Elizabeth's fondness for him, he wanted him to have a chance at least, most especially after last night's conversation.
"I will not go back to sea," Will said with as much assertiveness as he could muster. "Sir," he added as an afterthought.
It was only fair and since the vessel that had been destroyed had been a merchant, he had no obligations to return, no duty to serve.
"Just because of pirates?" Gibbs said and Swann really wished he would stop saying that word.
"That, yes, but it wasn't just because of pirates." Will hesitated and Swann had the distinct impression he was leaving something out. Something important.
"You understand there are not many prospects for an orphan in society," Norrington said.
"I know that, Sir. I'll figure something out." But his look was uncertain.
"The boy has chosen," Swann said. "I think we should let the matter rest, at least for now."
And for reasons Swann couldn't fathom, Will looked grateful.
Swann looked out over the beautiful, clear waters of the Caribbean, so different from his home in England. "I…suppose I could aid him somewhat," he said after a hesitation. "I could find him an apprenticeship at the very least."
"You care for the boy?"
"Elizabeth seems to. And he has had quite the ordeal."
"Very good. I'll make sure arrangements are made once the tribunal is concluded."
"You don't need to do that."
"It's no bother. I will be attending the tribunal as well." Norrington glanced back at the two children. Will was laughing at something Elizabeth had said. "A ship with black sails," he murmured. "I am very curious as to what the tribunal will have to say to that."
Norrington never knew when mild exasperation turned into love. It must have happened gradually, so gradually he never even noticed until it was too late. It was as if one day, he left port and she was a child waving her kerchief in goodbye and when he returned, she was suddenly a grown woman, refined and beautiful though she had never lost that rebelliousness. He was rather fond of it now, to his own horror.
"The two of you will make a fine match, I daresay," Swann was saying. "I only hope your presence in her life will calm her temperament somewhat."
"It seems to be working well so far," Norrington joked which brought a wry smile to the governor's aged features. In truth though, he was nervous. His hands were sweating and it had taken a lot of thought before Norrington had brought up the subject to Swann. Of course, Governor Swann had been thrilled with the proposal, knowing that it was time Elizabeth married and he could think of no one more suitable than Captain James Norrington. Though in the end, the choice would ultimately be Elizabeth's.
"When do you suppose you'd ask her?" Swann finally asked the question.
"I was thinking about after the ceremony." And lord, that was only a week away. Which didn't help his nerves much. A week to plan it all out and ask her, the woman he loved, if she would marry him. And he was terrified of disappointing Swann who, in the past years, he'd come to consider a good friend.
"Excellent, excellent," Swann said and it panged Norrington to know that part of the governor's excitement gave way to relief. They both knew how often Elizabeth had returned home tracking in soot and hay from the blacksmith's.
Norrington hadn't left quickly enough to avoid seeing them kiss. It hurt and yet he shouldn't have been surprised. Ever since they'd pulled that boy from the sea, she'd been in love with him. In love with the idea of him, his stories, the exciting things he must have seen. And somehow along the way, even though she hadn't known it, that fascination had turned into love. The realization must have hit her just as it had Norrington.
He forced himself to look away. He needed to prepare a pursuit for that pirate, Sparrow. A cause that would surely prove to be just the distraction he needed.
Footsteps sounded behind him and a moment later, a hand was on his arm.
"Commodore," Swann said. Norrington stopped walking. "James. I am sorry."
Norrington offered a wan smile. "As am I."
"Not just that. I know that you care deeply for her, that you love her. Which means so much more than securing a socially acceptable marriage."
"You're right. It does. Elizabeth loves Will. You should be happy for them."
"I am. But what of you?"
The way Elizabeth had looked at Will…she'd never looked at him that way. "Elizabeth's happiness is all that matters."
Swann's expression was concerned, a look that Norrington had become all too familiar with. And that was the problem. Weatherby Swann simply cared too much.
Swann walked briskly down the road, not caring that his valet was having trouble keeping up. He couldn't believe it. He just couldn't believe it. After all that had happened?
The doors to the Rowdy Rooster burst open and his nose wrinkled automatically at the stench of alcohol and unwashed bodies that filled the place. More than one set of eyes drifted his way and if Swann wasn't so preoccupied, he would worry about being robbed. He'd made hardly an attempt to hide his wealth, despite his valet's protests.
Scanning the dimly lit interior, Swann's gaze alighted on a familiar figure in blue at the bar. Swann stormed over.
"Commodore," he said, placing a hand on the man's shoulder. "I heard what happened off Tripoli and I heard the rumors but I can't…"
"It's exactly like you heard." The voice was Norrington's but at the same time, it wasn't. "The Dauntless sank. The Pearl escaped. And that's the end of it." With deliberation, he downed a shot of something that smelled like whiskey.
"That is most certainly not the end of it," Swann said and he was surprised to find himself trembling slightly. In anger. "Is this any way for a decorated officer of His Majesty's navy to behave? Even in defeat?"
"I…beg your pardon?"
"Did you not hear me?" Now Norrington turned to face him and he was shocked to see the redness in his eyes and several days' worth of stubble on his cheeks. "I resigned my commission. I am no longer an officer, commodore or otherwise."
Swann's mouth worked and his mind could not decide on outrage or worry or sympathy. All that came out was, "What have you done?"
In answer, Norrington took a deep drink of whatever the bartender handed him next without even looking at it.
Norrington didn't recognize himself anymore. The uniform had too much gold on it. He didn't remember his wig itching this much. He straightened his cravat with the same care and attention to detail he'd possessed before his resignation. Yet somehow, he looked different, looking at the reflection of a man who had died and come back and the price had only been betrayal.
The decks of the Endeavour were cold and pristine and without realizing it, Norrington found himself outside Swann's quarters. He hesitated, on the verge of passing. He hadn't spoken more than a few words to the governor since he'd come aboard the Endeavour.
Taking a deep breath, Norrington rapped on the door.
The door creaked open and Governor Swann only looked up after he'd finished writing a next line. Norrington suddenly wished he'd kept walking but it was too late to back out now. He let the door click shut behind him.
"Admiral." The title felt wrong.
"I must apologize. My actions were unforgivable. I never gave you a chance and for that, I am truly sorry. I was selfish."
Swann was shaking his head even before Norrington stopped speaking. "No. No, you have no need to apologize. Those actions were in your past and that is where they will stay."
"Only those actions are precisely what has led us to this point." What had it been? Desperation? Ambition? An attempt to regain the honor he had so foolishly thrown away? Why had he chosen to give the heart to Lord Beckett? "Beckett has total command of the sea. I don't think any of us really understood what that would mean."
Swann carefully placed his pen on the table. The governor was not a young man and yet for the first time Norrington could remember, he actually looked old. "Why did you come here, James? What do you want?"
The answer was out before Norrington could think about it. "Your forgiveness. For everything. Though lord knows I don't deserve it."
Swann pursed his lips. "You are my friend. You have it."
A strange sort of anger took hold of Norrington, so strong it shocked him. He wanted to yell at Swann. After all he'd done, how could he forgive him so easily?
Instead, he said, "Very well," so quietly Swann might not have heard him. And because he couldn't bare to look at the governor anymore, he let himself out, feeling like an utter failure as an officer, as a person, and as a friend.
"Your daughter is dead. Pulled under with the Black Pearl by my pet."
"Did Lord Beckett not tell you that?"
Swann didn't care about anything anymore, he couldn't think straight. The heart was just sitting there, so exposed. The bayonet was in his hands.
But Norrington was there. His hands gripped Swann's wrists, stopping him from stabbing the heart, but why? Why would he do this? His expression was one of stern anger, demanding an explanation. And Swann realized that Norrington was still unaware. No one had told him.
"Don't you know?" Swann said and a sob escaped his throat. "She's dead." She's dead, your daughter is dead. "Elizabeth's dead." He could no longer speak, his shoulders shaking, head bowed. Elizabeth. Not her, not his daughter.
"Withdraw, Corporal," Norrington said to the soldier nearest him, his composure cracking. "Leave!" His voice was urgent, painful to hear. But the muskets were withdrawn.
"Let me go, let me do this," Swann begged him but Norrington's grip did not loosen.
"Let him go," a voice echoed and Swann looked up just as Norrington drew his pistol and cocked it.
"Stay back! I will kill you." He still held the bayonet above the open chest.
Davy Jones halted, a most peculiar expression on his face. "And are you prepared for what comes after? When I carved that traitorous vessel from my body, I placed upon it a terrible geas." He advanced, his tentacles moving lazily, coyly. "If you stab my heart, yours must take its place. The crew are not bound to me. They are bound to the Dutchman. And the Dutchman must have a captain. Will ye serve?"
Damn him. Damn him! He'd killed Elizabeth. He needed to die, he needed to die, he needed to –
"Governor!" a shout stayed his hand. Beckett. And he had that snake Mercer with him. "Your daughter is still alive."
"I saw her myself," Mercer said. "In Singapore."
A flash of hope lit up in his mind but he immediately clamped down on it. "No. You're all liars."
"No." Beckett took a step closer. "Jones is merely cruel. I am perhaps guilty of the sin of omission for which I apologize."
Why was he saying all of this? Why should he believe him, why should he believe any of them?
"Governor, work with me," Norrington said and their gazes locked. Norrington's eyes were pleading. "There's still hope. Please."
Was there? Truly? Swann wanted to believe it so so much but he had never hated anyone like this in his entire life. He'd never wanted someone dead so much. And damn Norrington for stopping him. Damn him for caring.
Swann wrenched his hand out of Norrington's grip and then, finally admitting defeat, he relinquished the bayonet. There was so much relief and gratitude in Norrington's gaze that he had to look away.
Beckett was stoic even in the face of his own wrongs. He stood, icy and indifferent.
"Our association is ended," Swann hissed and there was so much more he could have said but that was all he dared manage before walking stiffly out of the cabin and closing his eyes against the sun.
His hands shook.
He needed to get out here.
"It's for the best," Norrington said.
"The best." Swann barked out a laugh but there was no humor in it. "I'm sure."
"The Flying Dutchman is no place for you."
On that, Swann agreed. He was glad to be seeing the end of her. Apparently, Beckett felt uneasy about him being aboard the Dutchman after his attempt on the heart. And who could blame him?
"What will you do now?"
"For now, it's back to the Endeavour." Swann didn't much like that idea either, but it was still a good sight better than the Dutchman. "After that, I'm told the Raven can take me ashore."
Norrington nodded. "And Elizabeth?" he dared.
Swann's expression hardened. "I will find her."
"You will, I have no doubt." And Norrington's expression said that he meant it.
"So this is goodbye." Swann held out his hand.
Norrington took it. "Goodbye, old friend."
Swann offered a sad smile. Somehow, he felt deep in his bones, he would never see James Norrington again.
Norrington rubbed his eyes, finding it harder and harder to focus but he needed to get this log entry written. He picked up his pen again and tried to regain the threads of his last thought.
He noticed Beckett in the doorway and an ill feeling settled in his stomach.
"Lord Beckett," he said. He thought he remembered someone telling him that Beckett would be coming over from the Endeavour today. He really had no desire to speak to the man, but there was something he needed to know.
"How fares Governor Swann?"
Beckett's expression remained neutral. It never changed. "Unfortunately, Governor Swann is no longer with us."
Norrington's blood ran cold.
Before he could say anything, Beckett continued, "He has gained passage on a ship heading to England."
No, but that wasn't right. "Why would he do that?"
Beckett moved into the room. "It seems that events have not occurred in the way any of us would have wished."
Beckett hesitated. "Miss Swann's fate is still unknown. I fear the circumstances have dealt quite a blow to the governor's health. He has returned to England in order to recuperate."
But it didn't add up. No matter the circumstances, Weatherby Swann would never leave without knowing his daughter was safe.
"Now, do you have that report I asked for?" Beckett's change of topic was jarring. Still reeling from what seemed too impossible to be true, Norrington waved at the missive on the edge of the desk.
Beckett picked it up daintily and asked no questions, leaving Norrington once again alone.
There was no way he would finish this log entry tonight. Placing the pen on the desk, he rubbed at his temples. He made no attempt to stop the tears that welled in his eyes.
He couldn't get rid of the horrible, gut-wrenching dread that Beckett was lying.