Author's Notes: This is a finished series of drabbles from a much larger, much more troublesome and much less completed fic dealing with James Norrington's resurrection and redemption. These specifically deal with the trauma of returning to life. It starts as he leaves World's End.
Feedback is greatly appreciated.
Mrs. Turner. Completely, irrevocably Turner’s, as far as he was concerned, for even in the blackest depths of his personal nadir he would never have considered trifling with another man’s wife. He could see the beginnings of a swell in her belly, now that he knew to look. She was so beautiful, even – no, especially - in her breeches and coat, standing so nonchalantly with her hand on her sword. She glowed, as breeding women do, and he knew he would never love her more than he did at that moment. The feeling welled up inside him, overwhelmed him, and brought tears to his eyes. It receded, after what felt like æons and, to his very great shock, he found that it took some of the strange penumbra of the other world with it. He wondered, fleetingly, if the pain of this world was better than the numbness of the world beyond.
He wasn’t sure.
Singapore stank. Not as bad as London, which you could smell for miles out to sea, but it was thickly rank nevertheless. The odor roiled through the port, the effect of thousands of people and their animals, the smoke from their cooking, their food and the resulting effluvia. He stared at the source of the stench and saw in it a microcosm of the whole of humanity. People working and playing. Eating and fucking. Being born, living their lives, and dying. His had been a clean sort of limbo, and he’d gotten too used the cold asepsis of a place above and past and done with all of this. He didn’t feel ready to wade back into the filth of being alive.
“See, here’s how this works, Commodore. They put the pretty board down to the pretty dock, and you walk across it and off my pretty ship. Savvy?”
Then again, it wasn’t like he had a choice.
The Captain had picked up some mangoes when they'd stopped at Mauritius to resupply before heading around Good Hope. He'd had them served around the table after dinner, as the officers talked. James had taken one bite and the taste of it struck him like a punch to the gut. He'd always been partial to the fruit, and this one wasn't especially good, but the very fact of it stopped him dead in his tracks. It was a mango, Mangifera Indica, and needed a few more days to be properly ripe, but he was back into the world, and the world had mangoes in it. He'd stared at the thing for a quarter of an hour before Groves noticed, and asked if everything was all right. He shook himself out of the reverie and palmed Theo off with some lie or another, because pointing and exclaiming "Look! It's a mango!" would not have done anything for his reputation for calm, level-headed rationality.
As if the events of the past couple of months hadn't been hard enough on his sanity.
They rounded Good Hope just before the Southern Hemisphere’s vernal equinox. He was looking at the world from the edge of the map: he had his back to the unknown. The stories of icy lands further south were just myths, though his recent experiences had given him a much greater respect for such things. If someone now told him that Terra Australis Incognita existed, and was populated by unicorns, dragons and the descendants of Prester John, he’d have to at least consider the idea before dismissing it entirely. He studied the African coast: Cape Point was suitably rugged and mysterious in the mists, but he could see the green of the vegetation already springing back into fecundity. As they passed a small island, he saw penguins attempting to waddle menacingly towards the ship, ready to run this large intruder off their breeding grounds.
He stared at the land as if he were seeing it for the first time.
Theo had saved a bottle of XO cognac that he’d picked up from God-knows-where, and brought it out the night the ship re-crossed the Equator. He’d shared it around the wardroom, gentleman that he was, but there was still enough in the bottle for the two of them to get drunk as lords later that night, in the cabin they shared. It was good. They toasted their absent friends. They toasted women of easy virtue. They toasted women of difficult virtue. They toasted the cognac. And then, as sailors invariably do, they’d started telling stories to each other, remembering. He was astoundingly fortunate to have a friend as good as Theo, he realized. He’d saved his life, and had the favor returned. They’d stood together in good times and bad, faced death and disgrace together, and now Theo was helping him take up his life again. He’d been so bowled over by that revelation that he’d cut Theo off in mid-story and started telling him all about it.
And thank God he could blame it on the drink, because sharing that sort of emotion when you’re also sharing a really small cabin for at least another few weeks can lead to some really awkward moments.
A bed. Not a cot, or a bunk, or a hammock, but a proper feather bed. Big enough for him to stretch out completely and only have his feet sticking off the bottom. Soft enough to burrow into, the better to escape the penetrating chill of late fall in London. Linens, clean and fresh-pressed, smelling faintly of lavender. A new night-dress. The sheer sensuality of all that snowy cloth against his bare skin engulfed him as much as the duvet did. It was bliss, and he reveled in it.
Chagrin took over, as sleep began to claim him. Good Lord. He was waxing rhapsodic about bedclothes. Much more of this and he really would run mad.
Music. She’d invited him to escort her to hear one of Handel’s newest pieces, “Music For the Royal Fireworks.” There were, of course, no fireworks in Lady Welland’s salon, but the music was such that their lack was not felt. The orchestra was truly in concert and the conductor led them with total precision and deep understanding. The chords progressed over him with such a sublime majesty that he felt they were listening to the Music of the Spheres; that the composer had truly heard the Voice of God. From his point of view, the concert was eternal, but lasted no more than a few seconds, so entranced was he. O brave new world, that had such music in‘t! He sat, transfixed, and only the quiet applause of the rest of the audience brought him out of it.
He sighed. These fugue states were becoming less frequent, thank Heaven, but he really feared he’d have one in a situation where he couldn’t pass it off.
She was, in so many ways, Elizabeth’s polar opposite. She was very tall, less than a hand shorter than he, had hair the color of black ink, and curved where Elizabeth was straight. But the two of them had the same unbowed pride and indomitable spirit that drew him so powerfully. “Are you quite well, Admiral? Did you forget the steps?” whispered a voice. He looked down into a pair of concerned eyes as green as his own. He apologized, and tried to concentrate on the dance. She was not his lover, but he had confidence enough to be able to add a “yet” to the end of that sentence. His world was slowly righting itself. The future beckoned seductively to him, treacherous jade that she was, and for the first time since he could remember, he wanted to run towards her.
He had hope.