Disclaimer: I've got something of Disney's, and it calls to them. The gold calls to them.
Summary: The young Captain Norrington has a rare moment alone with his beloved ship
Thank you Geekmama for betaing this.
James Norrington shifted position in the small tender so that he could see around the oarsman who had agreed to take him out to his ship. The movement caused the orders tucked in his breast pocket to rustle faintly, bringing a smile to his lips that nearly caused the rowing sailor to forget himself and smile back.
Norrington resisted the urge to take the papers out again, even though he had them memorized, indeed had nearly worn the folds through with repeated perusal. After all, he wouldn't be able to decipher them in the dark. And so far, however unlikely they might seem, each time he read them the orders remained the same.
He, James Norrington, only recently serving as captain of an eighteen gun, two-masted, ketch-rigged schooner of war, was being given, for extraordinary service (and also, James feared, urgent necessity), the command of the Dauntless, a first rate ship of the line, and the rank of post captain to go with it. He had been awaiting the fulfillment of his orders for what seemed an aeon, since the action that had taken her former captain's life had put the Dauntless in dock undergoing extensive repairs for several months.
When he had visited her there, he'd scarcely been able to see her properly, trussed as she was alongside the wharf, surrounded by water littered with all the rubbish of port, her yards a-cock-bill to clear the obstructions of the cranes overhanging her, her decks a jumble of unrelated items and invaded by grimy, yelling shore people. She had seemed to him a graceful and reluctant guest at a noisy and crushing ball, waiting a decent interval before thanking her host and fleeing.
Now, however, the Dauntless lay cleared for the sea, shed of the corrupting influence of land. Her crew would be boarding in the morning, but tonight she would only have a harbor watch set, and her new captain might spend a few quiet moments in communion with her, their first chance to be alone together and to become reacquainted.
On that perfectly calm night, the bay lay before him like polished glass, the silver track of the moon scarcely shimmering on its surface. At the centre of that immense starry stillness, the Dauntless rode at anchor, a darker silence, her tall spars etching black lines against the night sky and strung together by the gossamer blur of her rigging. A brighter star, her riding light, burned clear and confident, mirrored in the water, as though she had left out a welcome for one who had wandered far. And indeed, as her vast shadow engulfed the little tender, her former first lieutenant, now captain, felt that he was in truth returning home.
Norrington's unannounced arrival at the Dauntless startled her duty officer into a frenzied attempt to muster a formal reception for his ship's captain. It took Norrington's not inconsiderable ability to impose his will on reluctant subordinates to convince the man simply to lower the ship's ladder and allow his captain to climb aboard with no fanfare or even an announcement. When Captain Norrington informed the man that he was relieved of the watch for the next four hours, the poor fellow nearly imploded at the irregularity; however, as Norrington informed him gently, to disobey a direct order would be even more irregular.
When the creak of the tender's oars returning to shore and the footsteps of the dismissed duty officer faded, Captain Norrington found himself alone with the Dauntless at last. No sound broke the reverent hush of the night. Around the man and the ship, nothing moved—not a canoe in the water, not a bird on the wing, not a cloud passing across the moon. Not a whisper of wind stirred the rigging of the ship nor touched the cheek of the man. In this breathless pause at the threshold of their new life together, the Dauntless and her captain seemed to be considering each other with an intense and curious regard.
Having come from a much smaller vessel, Norrington's first thoughts were astonishment and awe at the scale of his new command. He had forgotten the magnitude of this incredible ship. With a stomach twisting wrench, the scale of his world had shifted. From his position just off the gangway near the poop, he could look up and down the hundred and seventy foot sweep of her weather decks and out beyond her bow to the thirty foot bowsprit soaring up and out.
And aloft! That was where his eye was drawn—to where her masts attenuated in the dark heights, stretching up in a diminishing ladder of cross spars, all her sails neatly furled in harbour stow. She seemed overwhelmingly vast, and he such a tiny part of creation, wrapped like a grain of sand in the loosely-woven cocoon of her standing and running rigging—her shrouds and stays and the hundreds and hundreds of lines that raised, furled, trimmed, checked, and eased her yards and sails. Within this enclosure, he could already feel the world of the shore receding.
With steps more instinctive than decisive, he made his way up her companionway to the Dauntless's helm. Running his hand gently over the curve of her great wheel, James Norrington couldn't resist a laugh of pure joy. She was his! This ship he had loved since the moment he had set foot on her as a lieutenant. In all his dreams, he had never imagined this one coming true.
Although his rational mind laughed at him, Captain Norrington removed his hat and swept his new ship an elegant bow. "My lady," he said, feeling both foolish and strangely moved. "I believe we shall do well together."
There was no wind, and the sea remained as still as a painting, but Norrington heard a whisper in her rigging and felt the faintest tremour of her deck beneath his feet, heart-stoppingly familiar, although it had been so long. As though the Dauntless, too, was claiming him as her own.
Suddenly, as giddy as a ship's boy, and fervently grateful no one was there to quell his impulse, James Norrington dropped his hat on the deck, shed his coat with its extraordinarily heavy captain's braid on the sleeves, more carefully set down his carefully powdered wig that he had just purchased merely to add some authority to his admittedly tender years, kicked off his shoes and rolled off his stockings. Then he galloped down the stairs to the main deck, vaulted to the mainmast shrouds and scrambled up to the foretop, ignoring the lubber's hole and swinging out and over the platform as insouciantly as any topman.
From that height he could gaze with satisfaction over the entire length of the Dauntless, his lovely ship, and he could look out past the slumbering bay to where the starry horizon met the edge of the world.
So incredibly beautiful.
The task set before him might be long and arduous, but tonight he could rest high in the arms of his ship, and together they would meet whatever adventure the morrow might bring.