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{fic} Never Learned to Drown 2/4 | Pirates

See first part post for header

~ * ~

 

Will can hear every creak of the Dutchman as the number of passengers increase. The ship dips into the waves readily at his direction and they travel steadily from each call to the next. Time becomes something of a forgotten entity until the sun appears in his view and he must squint against the light.

 

“We’ll be needin’ to cross at sundown,” Bootstrap murmurs, appearing at the captain’s side. All day he has quietly related what helpful information he can. Will can tell his father is making a great effort to not sound imposing or controlling. He appreciates the help.

 

“Have the crew take shifts one at a time. I’ve no desire to sleep tonight; the Dutchman knows her way, she’ll guide me.” He ponders what he’s just said, then asks, “Why is she the Dutch-man?”

 

Bootstrap’s startled chuckle is a pleasure to hear, something human in this otherwise alien setting. “I don’t know, lad. Mebbe she’ll give you a different name. She likes you.” His hand briefly caresses the wheel as he comments, “I never felt her so vibrant.”

 

“We’re getting on well,” Will agrees absently. Another voice is calling him, a soul lost and confused with an undercurrent of desperation. Judging by the sun, there isn’t much time before he must make the crossing; this will be the last call for the day. He tries not to think about how long it will take to catch up on Jones’ work.

 

Beneath his hands, Will feels more than hears the Dutchman’s despondent sigh. He suddenly feels the distinct lack of his heart as both the ship’s and lost soul’s cries echo in his mind. He looks around to find his small crew tending to the current passengers. Bootstrap squats beside two small girls trying to play cat’s cradle. None of the crew seem to be aware they should be searching.

 

Frowning at the strange inattentiveness, Will steps away from the wheel and lets his instincts guide him. His feet take him to port and he leans over the rail. In the water he first notices the naval hat of a commander. He wonders at the lack of other soldiers. How did an officer perish without his men?

 

“Come back for me?” a familiar voice drawls, irritation and sarcasm overriding a hint of resignation.

 

Will’s gaze quickly locks on the man bobbing in the waves. He casts a rope ladder over the side as he responds, “Jones is gone. Come aboard, Mister Norrington.” He watches as the man below squints against the setting sun. After a few moments he swims closer to the ship.

 

Will steps away from the rail once he knows Norrington is climbing. In the short amount of time he has before facing the former commodore, he attempts to organize his thoughts. He hasn’t thought about the man for months, since before Jack’s rescue truly got underway. Even before then Norrington hadn’t played much of role in his life.

 

As the man climbs over the railing, formal navy uniform soaked and wig missing, Will feels a twinge of sympathy from the Dutchman. Norrington smoothes a hand over his hair, a useless attempt to curb his disheveled appearance. He straightens, shoulders back, which manages to remind Will of the once stuffy commodore. Looking at him now, Will realizes he harbors no ill-feelings for the man and perhaps holds a degree of regret at the man’s fate.

 

“Well, Mister Turner, this is a sur—a surprise.” Norrington’s gaze falls to Will’s scar. He has no idea that the captain can hear his silent screams of resentment; bitter anger coils around him, trapping him with frustration and helplessness. Part of him tries to reach out, regret slipping through the angry and begging softly for forgiveness. Will doesn’t believe Norrington understands the true cause of his emotions.

 

“Things have a way of turning out unexpectedly,” Will says mildly. “I thought Beckett’s reward was Letters of Marque?”

 

Norrington’s jaw tightens and he refuses to meet Will’s stare. “I had asked for reinstatement.”

 

Will hums in agreement, this is not what he is particularly interested in. “I’m surprised Beckett didn’t think you as much of a threat as the governor.”

 

“I didn’t know!” Norrington snaps, but his anger is automatic and the Dutchman groans quietly with the unspoken guilt.

 

“You were not in control,” Will says. The other man looks about to respond, not understanding that this is a statement of fact, not an accusation or question. “I think we both know Beckett’s power-hungry machinations were carefully planned. He had the control.” His own jaw tightens at the memory of the extensive subterfuge that had to be undertaken in order to finally overthrow the overzealous lord. “He hadn’t counted on the complications from Davy Jones. Perhaps that’s the thing that saved us in the end.”

 

Norrington’s disgusted expression speaks volumes. True, this man has not been saved. To an extent, neither has Will. Once again they find they are two faces of the same coin.

 

The sun is getting lower and Will feels the Dutchman’s increasing desire to get underway. He motions for Norrington to follow him to the helm.

 

They’re silent until Will takes the wheel. Bootstrap approaches, then stops abruptly, eyes widening as he stares over his son’s shoulder. Glancing back, Will finds that Norrington is eyeing the other man warily. Instantly he knows why Norrington is dead, it’s not hard to imagine when he himself fought against his father.

 

Quietly he says, “Mister Turner, tell the crew we’ll be crossing soon.” Bootstrap nods and turns away.

 

Will remains silent for a long while, following the Dutchman’s directions as they plunge deep beneath the waves, the ocean rushing by like a fierce gale until suddenly the bow pierces the air of another realm. The sky is black as pitch, but the stars are brighter here. When he breathes, Will can smell a difference. He can hear more souls here than he has in the past day, but these are far more calm murmurings, the confusion missing from their tones.

 

The passengers drift toward the railings to stare across the impossibly smooth, mirrored surface of the sea. Will turns his head towards Norrington and invites, “When were you on the ship?”

 

“The chest was moved on board at Beckett’s insistence. I was sent with men to guard it while Mercer kept an eye on Jones...” His eyes narrow as he glances at the captain. “Why should this matter to you?”

 

Will gazes at the stars as the Dutchman makes her own way. “Could be I wouldn’t mind filling in the gaps. I might also be in need of stories to keep me company in the coming years.”

 

Norrington is silent for a long while. “The ship attacked Sao Feng. When Jones’ crew brought prisoners aboard, Elizabeth claimed captainship.” He sighs. “I tried to keep her from the brig...”

 

Will almost smiles. “She wouldn’t want special treatment.”

 

“No,” the other agrees reluctantly. “Seeing her, a familiar face, reminded me that I could not… hide or forget the past. I didn’t find my way with Beckett any better than my other decisions.” His tone is self-deprecating. “So I decided to help her escape. She even asked me to come with, started arguing when I said no.”

 

“You were stopped,” Will guesses. “My father was lost to Jones’ corruption of the ship.” He isn’t sure he should say any more, but eventually adds, “I’m sorry.”

 

Norrington laughs. “For what? I’ve accused you of ruining my life, yet I managed that well on my own. I can hardly hold you accountable for anyone else’s actions.”

 

They stand quietly together. More passengers wander up on deck to stare at the uncharted waters and breathtaking sky. The Dutchman whispers to Will that this is her real home, the place beyond reality with a different and indistinct set of rules. She reaches to caress the void within him and promises she can heal it if he’ll let her. When he doesn’t respond to the touch, she tells him of the numerous figures of legend she has carried to the edge.

 

“So Beckett’s gone along with Jones,” Norrington interrupts. Will glances sidelong.

 

“Yes. Beckett’s dead, along with many of his men.” He watches Norrington’s lips press together a little tighter. “I believe we retrieved most of them today,” he says, an implied question about recognition in his voice. Norrington shakes his head in the negative.

 

“Do you plan to take Beckett?”

 

Will’s hands tighten on the wheel and he can feel a surge of anger in the Dutchman. “No. Let him drift forever or wallow in self-pity. I’m done with him.”

 

Norrington’s lips turn up slightly in a smile. “I notice the crew is lacking their former uniform.”

 

“The job itself is not damned,” Will says. “But it is not difficult to imagine that the years wear away at one’s sanity, and the absence of a heart twists one’s perceptions.”

 

It takes some time for Norrington to respond. “With good companions, a sailor finds his home on his ship.”

 

“And when said sailor’s heart lies elsewhere, with others beyond his reach? Companionship is far more complex than you, and even I, can understand at this time.” Will’s eyes focus straight ahead, wishing he could make himself dismiss the other man. But Norrington is the last connection to his former life, and he’s unwilling to let the chance to hold on slip through his fingers.

 

“It never occurred to me you would accept anything as impossible.” Norrington sounds thoughtful rather than sarcastic. There’s a hint of amusement in his voice, then: “Perhaps no Jack Sparrow—”

 

Captain,” Will automatically reacts. He closes his eyes and ignores the quiet laugh from his companion. The sudden swell of pain feels like it saps all his strength. He struggles not to slump but isn’t sure he succeeds. The Dutchman reaches for him again, attempting to surround the ache and ease it.

 

“I think it best we leave Jack in the past,” Will says, eyes still closed.

 

Norrington stays silent, and Will is loath to attempt the start of another conversation.

 

~ * ~

 

Will watches as dozens of small boats rise up from the sea on either side of the Dutchman. Bootstrap approaches the helm, gaze wandering to eye Norrington who is at the rail watching the empty boats.

 

“We leave ‘em here,” Bootstrap explains. “The currents will guide ‘em.”

 

“Alright.” Will glances at Norrington from the corner of his eye before deciding what to say. Bootstrap waits patiently. “Would you see to them? I’ll be there in a moment.”

 

Norrington’s shoulders slump as Will approaches. The man’s knuckles are white from his grip on the Dutchman. “So this is the end,” he says bitterly.

 

Will stands beside him and stares down into the dark waters. “I don’t know where you go from here,” he admits. “I’m not sure I’ll ever know.” He feels the other man’s stare. “You died for love.” He almost smiles at the absurdity of the statement and such hopeless romanticism. “I died... because I was conveniently nearby when Jones decided to taunt Jack.” He remembers Elizabeth’s sobbing and her trembling hands, but he doesn’t remember seeing her. In his mind he sees the shock and anguish overwhelming Jack’s features.

 

“You have a task to do,” Norrington says. “Though it separates you— I’m not sure I’m envious, Mister Turner, but neither can I say I’m relieved to merely...” he waves a hand at the dinghies, “float away.”

 

A few of the boats have filled with spirits and drift away, invisible currents leading the souls on the correct path. Will listens to the sea calming its charges and welcoming them to the realm beyond death. He can still sense the fear and anxiety of the passengers on board but feels assured that they will be comforted. Norrington’s soul is unlike the others, though – full of frustration and resistance.

 

“You will know dem dat belong wit’ de crew, ‘n dem dat might not be prepared to die.” The memory of Tia’s voice seems to reach the Dutchman and she responds. The ship eagerly grasps at him, assuring him that she can lend the power to enable the impossible. Will considers the offering, unsure if he has the right to decide such things. The Dutchman whispers that he is the captain now, the ferryman watching over the gates between life and death; as such, he is granted certain privileges as long as the power is not abused.

 

Norrington straightens up with a deep breath. He exhales slowly and adjusts his ponytail. “Well, then. I expect this is where we part for good.”

 

Will reaches out a hand to stay the man. “Wait.” He turns to face Norrington, and he’s impressed when the other doesn’t flinch away from his stare. “Do you really feel it’s your time?”

 

A suspicious look creeps into Norrington’s expression. “I don’t believe I understand.”

 

“You haven’t corrected your wrongs.” Will encircles the man’s wrist in a tight hold. “The lessons learned are better put to practice than merely remembered. If returned, will you seek out the path opened to you?”

 

“What?” Norrington looks a little dazed.

 

“You’ve continued to love her,” Will says quietly. “Despite everything, you love her. That’s more than I can say. If I return you, will you seek her out and find if she is the one you want to follow? Elizabeth invited you to escape, it seems to me you already made your decision but were hindered by my father.” He tugs the man closer until there’s barely a breath between them. “Do you want this chance?”

 

For impossibly long seconds, Norrington stares at him in wide-eyed wonder. Will sees fear in the man’s eyes for the first time, and for some reason he feels relieved.

 

Finally Norrington breathes, “Yes.”

 

~ * ~



Continued in next post