While the Navy had certainly earned its superstitious reputation, James had never bought into the tall tales the other sailors swapped when it was far past the time they should have been asleep. Mermaids and Davy Jones and magic compasses and green flashes had no base in reality, so he never took them to heart.
When he awoke to a beautifully strange woman cradling his face with cold hands and kissing the air back into his wounded lungs, his first thought was that heaven (or hell) seemed awfully different from what he'd heard about in sermons. He blinked wearily and his vision cleared, only for him to see pink water filled with broken wood and the bobbing dirty blonde hair of his angel. His mouth tasted like iron.
She grabbed him by the torso and began to swim deeper, tugging him close enough to feel that the rest of her was just as cold as her hands. He shivered and sent a flurry of bubbles up to the surface, catching a glimmer of scales out of the corner of his eye as she swam. She brought him through the wreckage with a sheer power that James knew couldn't come from a human being.
Just as he looked at her to silently question what was happening, silently pondering if he had eternal damnation to endure as the cost for his blindness, she placed a hand over the wood in his chest, shoving it back out with a swift, stunningly painful movement. He screamed, a warbling noise distorted by the water, and she stuck her fingers in the wound, causing him to scream again.
All of the sudden her hands grew terribly hot, and his body seemed to stitch itself back together. In that moment, he knew he couldn't be dead, because this pain was so incredibly vivid.
Once his wound was healed, she kissed him again and forced the air back into his spasming lungs. He looked at her in awe and horror, clinging to her as she swam away from the wreckage.
Within a matter of minutes, she brought him to the surface of the water, right at the end of a small fishing dock. He gasped for air, grabbing the wooden ladder leading into the water and holding on as if it were the only thing keeping him alive as he heard her whisper something lost to the pounding of his heartbeat in his ears. In his bewilderment, he missed the sound of his rescuer slipping away back to the depths.
After a few minutes of calming himself down from the brink of hyperventilation, he gingerly climbed up onto the dock.
His hair was disheveled and hanging in his face, and his uniform was in quite a frightful state. Along with the ragged hole in his shirt where his wound used to be, the gold rope had been plucked off in places and one of the sleeves was torn at the shoulder. His hat was long gone, lost when he was thrown off the ship by the cannon blast.
He made an ill attempt at doctoring his appearance before heading off to do the only rational thing he could after all this: to get completely and utterly drunk.
After all the years she'd been alive, Elizabeth never tired of the sea.
The depths that she'd barely scratched the surface of, the awesome power inside the eye of a hurricane; she even liked the ships that brought the strangely land-bound humans out onto the water. She wasn't sure she liked the humans though.
The sailors dragged to the depths by the others seemed terribly one note with their sorrows, making her reluctant to find a proper victim of her own. She was perfectly content in watching from afar.
That was until five ships arrived in their cove.
Elizabeth and the others knew that sailors were dangerous in numbers, especially aboard their ships. It would have been easy enough with their own numbers to lure the sailors of one ship, maybe even two, but five was too much of a risk. So they stayed in the dark depths, largely ignoring the happenings above.
The ships waited, and the mermaids were puzzled. Humans weren't known for their patient spirits. It was only when a storm began to rage, and a sixth ship approached from the horizon, that there was movement on the five.
The sixth ship drew closer despite the storm, and the five finally acted after days of nothing. They surged forward with the wind behind them, and began to fire their weapons. Elizabeth had never seen a battle so one-sided.
Sailors from the sixth ship quickly filled the water, meeting their fate with the others before their wounds had the proper time to bleed. Elizabeth watched with her usual passiveness.
Another sailor, dressed in a more decorated uniform, was thrown into the water, bleeding a little more heavily than the rest. A giant piece of wood had lodged itself in his chest, and as he sunk, he remained still, staring blankly at up the surface of the gulf.
She didn't know what it was, possibly some odd intuition she held, but she knew she couldn't let this one die. She sang to him as he approached, and he let his eyes lull shut as she held him to her chest.
She took him away from the wreckage, healing his wound as they went. All things considered, he was taking things moderately well; he only screamed.
She held him close and took him to the docks, where the smaller boats cast off from to fish. He clung to the wood and she whispered to him in a voice musical but firm, "Make good of your second chance."
She looked back at him before diving back into the gulf in a flurry of scales. If you were to ask her, she would have said she thought she'd never see him again.
The former Captain James Norrington stumbled out of a nearby tavern with a split lip and a limp, shouting back inside, "I said what I said!" A half-empty bottle of rum came flying at his head but he ducked just in time, leaving it to shatter on the uneven cobblestone. He grimaced at the waste of perfectly good liquor, going to kick a loose pebble down the street but missing and tripping over his boots.
He had spent the last few days blind drunk, only taking a break from his drinking to pass out in the alleyways.
He was pleasantly surprised by the lack of judgment in Tortuga's many taverns and burlesque houses; he only ever got thrown out when he started a scene, which is exactly what he'd done tonight. His hair was matted, the ribbon he tied it back with long gone, and his uniform had been reduced to wrinkles and stained fabric. His medals had traded for more liquor than he'd expected, but his coin purse was slowly running low, and he knew he'd have to work eventually.
He could never return to the Royal Navy. Hell, he couldn't return in the first place. He doubted any vessel around here would willingly take him back to Port Royal, where soldiers swarmed the place like ants. He could manage to drown his shame in rum, but he knew it wasn't long before it learned to swim.
But in all the confusion, he'd managed to swipe the man's flask, and he took a generous swig from it as he shuffled his way down the street.
Now that the gold rope had long been plucked from his coat and his hair hung in his dirtied face, he blended quite nicely with the rabble wandering from one pub to the next. The ambitious gleam in his emerald eyes had dulled, and in his increasingly rare moments of sobriety, he wondered what the hell had gone wrong.
Only he knew exactly what had gone wrong. He'd been too proud. He couldn't bear to lose, so he'd put every one of his men in danger. The crew was most likely dead or prisoner, he wallowed to himself just last night.
And no matter how much his mind dwelled on it, he couldn't explain how he was still alive. No one alive could swim like his guardian angel, and a large part of him wanted to blame his crazed recollection on the drunken stupor he was continuously in. There was no way he had that wound; he must have gotten a small cut and remembered being more drastic than it really was. And there was absolutely no way that an angel, a mermaid, whatever that strange hallucination had been, had brought him all this way. He must have landed on a piece of wreckage and drifted the rest of the way, or he had read the charts wrong and they were far closer to Tortuga than he thought.
He found himself often wishing that he had died on the Dauntless with his misled men. It should have been him, floating facedown in his failure. When he was drunk enough, swaying in his seat at the bar and slurring his words, he would tell anyone who would listen that he deserved every bit of this misfortune (however, as far as anyone in the pubs knew, James spent his days drinking nonstop, and that didn't sound very much like misfortune to them).
He stumbled down the street and made it to one of the more reliable alleyways to sleep in, finishing off his flask before tossing it on the ground. He collapsed into a pile of hay someone had abandoned there a couple nights ago, groaning out loud as a roll of thunder sounded in the distance. It started to drizzle softly, and he tugged his coat over his head, grumbling to himself.
Despite the cold, he was drunk enough to fall unconscious fairly quickly, slipping into his usual dreams of blonde hair and cannon fire.