When he saw her a year after his betrayal of her, she was in chains calming walking up the gangway of his ship. That stubborn chin was tilted so familiarly into the air. A tricorn hat similar to the one he'd last seen her in sat on her head.
She was still amazingly beautiful.
But, there were differences as well.
Her hair, no longer in a windswept braid, was shorn to just beneath her chin. She was even more slender than before, her hands chafed red from salt and water and sun, her freckles more prominent from the same elements.
But, it was her eyes that had changed the most.
When they flickered unseeingly over him, he saw there was no longer one iota of innocence in them.
James Norrington stood at the entrance to his cabin watching as several soldiers dragged Elizabeth Swann onto his ship and wondered at the strange twists of fate that might have brought them together a year to the day after he'd stolen the heart and sealed both their futures.
A soldier's approach brought him out of his reverie and he accepted the leather-bound orders, untying them and quickly reading them. The contents weren't surprising. Elizabeth was, after all, a pirate.
A moment of sorrow for all that might have been passed through him, then he tightened his lips and nodded in her direction. "Bring her." The soldier immediately obeyed and, as Elizabeth was shoved towards him he saw the moment she recognized him. Her eyes widened in surprise, then shuttered and a coldness filled those pretty orbs and tightened her jaw.
"James," she addressed him, her voice like ice.
"Elizabeth," he responded, equally cooly. "Do you know what these say?"
"I can guess."
"As my next port of call if Port Royal, I've been ordered to escort you to Lord Beckett...and your execution for piracy."
"Then do your duty, Commodore. It's what you wanted more than anything."
"Not more than anything," he said darkly, then jerked his head to the cabin behind him. "Put her in there. Leave the chains."
It was nightfall and the ship had been underway for nearly three hours before James followed Elizabeth into his cabin. He found her calmly sitting at the table, chained hands clasped in front of her. A quick glance showed him that nothing was out of place. He was a bit surprised she hadn't torn his cabin apart in a fit of pique.
"I would prefer to be locked in a cell or even the bilge."
"Yes, I'm sure you would." Removing his hat, he fluffed the feather and placed it on the stand on a shelf next to his mirror and toiletries, then unbuckled and hung on a peg his sword belt-- the sword safely with his first mate. "Your wishes mean very little to anyone anymore, Elizabeth."
"Why am I here?" she asked baldly when he turned to face her.
He smiled tightly and shrugged out of his coat, noting as he did so that a spark of something lit in her eyes. "Even if you don't remember it, Elizabeth, you were once a lady. Soon enough there will be a cell for you, but, not while you're on my ship." Taking a key from his pocket he bent down and unfastened her chains, frowning at the sight of raw skin beneath the heavy iron. He removed the chains and manacles, dumping them outside the door, then called for warm water.
"What do you want from me, James?"
"Not a thing."
"Perhaps a bit of gentile conversation. It has been too long since I've conversed with anyone on my own level other than my officers."
"I'm not the girl you knew."
"That's quite obvious." A knock came on the door and he opened it, taking the pitcher of water from his cabin boy. Setting it on the table, he fetched a basin, soap and clean cloth, then filled the basin with warm water. "Bathe your wrists before the wounds fester."
For a moment, Elizabeth's look was mutinous, then she sighed and dipped her hands in the water, wincing as the heat stung the raw patches of skin. "What does it matter? In a week I'll be dead."
"There's no need for you to suffer during that week." As she bathed her hands and wrists, James opened a bottle of wine and poured two goblets, then rejoined her at the table and watched as she skillfully wrapped the cloth around her wounds. "You've done that before."
"I've been in chains before." Picking up her goblet, she took a hearty swig. "Aren't you afraid I'll hit you over the head with something and escape?"
His laugh was harsh and he sipped his wine before responding. "And where would you go? There's nothing between this ship and Port Royal but the sea."
"There are all kinds of things lurking on the horizon, James. You know that."
"You think to be rescued? That the Black Pearl--yes, I know the devil's ship has been reborn, along with its irritating captain--will appear out of the fog and steal you from me?"
"I guess we'll see soon enough," she replied with a secretive smile on her face.
James frowned again, disliking her confidence and needing to shatter it. "So, which brave pirate will be the one to rescue you this time? Which one took the innocence that no longer shines in your eyes?"
A startled flush crept up Elizabeth's cheeks and she lowered those eyes. "My eyes haven't changed."
"Oh, but they have. A lot has changed. You're no longer a girl, it's quite obvious. So, who shares your bed? Turner? Sparrow?" He gave her a cruel and calculating look. "Both?" He was pleased to see that he'd rattled her as she looked away and scuffed her booted feet on the floor, then drained the rest of her wine.
"None of your business."
"It was once my business," he hissed, suddenly angry. "You were to be mine."
The color on her cheeks turned to angry red spots and she lifted flashing eyes to him. "As a prize, your trophy as much as that sword Will made for you. It was never love, James, so you have no right to be angry with me."
His hands shot out and caught her shoulders, jerking her towards him. "Thanks to you my career shall always have a black mark on it. I'm lucky to have gotten back this much of it."
Elizabeth struggled in his grip. "It was your choice to let Jack go. Don't put that on me."
"It was all for you." With another hard tug Elizabeth was off her chair and pressed against him, held tightly in his strong arms. Her feet failed to find purchase on the floor and she hung there for moment between his legs before he pulled her up onto his lap and their eyes met, both so angry.
"Let me go," she spat.
"I won't make the mistake of letting a pirate go twice," he replied bitterly, knowing she didn't mean it that way, but wanting to make that point.
Elizabeth pressed her hands against his shoulders covered by fine white lawn and winced as his grip only tightened. Softening her lips and expression she tried a different tack. "James, please..."
"It might not have been love, Elizabeth, but you were never simply a prize," he said equally softly, the bitterness still heavy in his voice. "You have too much pride to ever be that. Remember that when you face Beckett."
The color left her cheeks and she swallowed convulsively at the reminder of her fate. "Let me go," she begged again, this time, perhaps meaning in more ways than the immediate.
"I can't," was the only answer he could give before he pressed his lips to hers and tasted her for the first time.
With a gasp, Elizabeth broke the kiss and met his turbulent eyes with her own troubled ones. "James, nothing good can come of this."
"Nothing good has ever come of anything between us." Scooping her easily into his arms he rose and carried her to the bed.
The lay separate on the bed, a gulf of more than simply mattress between them. Elizabeth curled away from James, and he could see, despite the release found in his arms, she couldn't relax. Folding his arms beneath his head, he stared up at the beams and the swaying lantern and felt the ship move beneath him as well.
She'd moved beneath him, her body knowing, her hands never hesitant. He'd known it was inevitable--a year sailing with pirates would never have preserved her virginity--but he felt regret for what might have been their first time together if events and pirates hadn't separated them. With some relief, he'd found her responses real, her eagerness true. He'd feared she'd be jaded, but despite her body's experience, there remained something young and fresh about her.
At her core, she was still Elizabeth.
"Do you truly think they will rescue you?" The question came out of nowhere, surprising him as much as her.
Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder, eyes wide, then turned back away from him. "You know they will. The prison I was in was impenetrable. On the sea, no ship can stand up to the Pearl."
"And which man will you return to?" he stressed, a perverse part of him needing to know.
"It's...not like that." Pushing herself up onto her arms, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and reached for his shirt, wrapping it around herself before she stood. Back to him, she fastened the buttons, then ran a trembling hand through her hair.
Intrigued, he watched her odd nervousness without comment and finally she turned to face him. He'd expected a blush. Her pallor made him frown and quickly slide from the bed. When he reached for her, she moved back, hands raised against him. "
"I don't want to die, James. My only option is the Pearl, but...I wish it wasn't."
"I don't understand."
"We made a bargain," she said faintly, looking past him, her mind's eye seeing someone else in the shadows. "He'd lead the rescue of Jack but he wanted something in return he hadn't been able to have before."
"Who wanted you?" James stressed, reaching for her again, this time catching her arms and shaking her slightly to bring her back to herself.
Elizabeth gasped and her pained eyes met his own, and the name she whispered shocked him.
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