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One Last Time

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The uniform was new, of good quality, and acceptable fit. James Norrington could think nothing in the world that he hated more than that damned blue cloth. Still, he had had it brushed out especially for today. His buttons and what little brocade he retained gleamed and his wig was perfectly arranged. A man should always face the end with dignity.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door to the governor's mansion then stepped back. If he did not know where to look, he would not have known that pirates had recently assaulted the house. Governor Swann had moved swiftly to have the damage, and the embarrassment, covered up.

Norrington hid a wince when he saw who admitted him. Kemp had been his man before the governor had agreed to take him on. He maintained no such composure when he announced himself by name and rank. Some things he could never become accustomed to. He had to remind himself that he would not have to get used to this. That was why he was here, after all.

The governor must have been in the next room, for he didn't take nearly long enough to arrive. "Norrington!" he exclaimed. "It's good to see you." That was a lie. Men hated having to play host to fallen friends. "Will you stay for tea?"

Norrington liked playing guest even less. He could barely stand the pity. He vowed to make this as fast as possible. "Thank you, Governor," he said, "But I fear my stay must be brief, I have other matters to attend to." It was the truth. Norrington smiled slightly at the mixture of relief and scepticism on Swann's face. He held out the letters that he had so carefully prepared. "Governor Swann, this is a copy of my request to resign my commission from His Majesty's Royal Navy. I have not received word of its acceptance, but I do not expect it to be declined." The Admiralty would be glad to see the end of him. "This a copy of the letter of sale of my house and other local properties to Commodore Blake."

Swann frowned as he took the papers. Clearly, he wished that Norrington had simply handed them to his secretary and saved him the discomfort.

Norrington, however, wanted to make sure that these last two letters did not go astray. "This is for you, Sir. I am sorry that words of gratitude are all I have to give in return for your kindness to me." He cut off any protest by adding, "Without your intervention, sir, I am quite certain that matters would have come out far worse." For his men at least. The court had spared them. "I confess that you put more energy into my defence than I did myself." He kept his eyes fixed on the palms out side the widows, not meeting the governor's stare as he held out the last letter. "This… this is for Eli… Miss Swann. If you could give it to her…"

A surprisingly gentle hand touched his shoulder. "She's here, James," Swann said, "You might deliver it yourself. I know she would like to see you."

Norrington shook his head. "As I said, I have other matters to attend to, passage to arrange."

They both knew that was not the reason, but Swann did not press the issue. "When do you plan to leave us?" he asked instead.

"The Lively departs next week," Norrington said, "I hope to sail with her."

"So you are going to England then?"

"Yes, I am going home." The idea was not as repellent as he would have thought. "Presumably me family will find some use for me." He was not the first disgrace to the Norrington name. His Lord Father should be used to this sort of thing by now.

The governor shook his hand, one last time, biding him good luck.

He was glad that Swann did not repeat his previous offer of employment or promise of intervention. They both knew that the latter would do little or no good. There were few chances for advancement for men who had been stripped of command, listing, honour and pride. No, Norrington would rather give up the sea then spend his remaining years as a junior lieutenant. That was if he could find a ship that would take him. He had enough pride left not to beg his former subordinates for a position. And more then enough pride to be able to stomach the idea of staying ashore on half pay, especially here, where everyone knew.

Elizabeth stopped him with a cry of "James, wait!" before he was even halfway down the drive. She chased after him, unladylike as ever in a swirl of skirts and loose hair. "Why are you doing this?" she demanded upon reaching him.

Norrington raised an eyebrow. That had been fast. Either one of the servants had been eavesdropping or she herself had. He trusted Swann to have given him a few minutes in which to escape. "Good day, Miss Swann," he said. "May I enquire as to what I am to explain?"

She frowned impatiently. Apparently, she didn't like being toyed with. Norrington found that rather ironic, considering. "Why are you leaving Port Royal?"

He forced himself to sound calm and indifferent. His control had got him into this, had had better get him out. It was all he had theses days. "Miss Swann, I only had two things to keep me here. My career, I lost with the Interceptor." Rather, it had gone over that cliff with Jack Sparrow. Someday, someone would tell her that had he hung her lover and his pirate friend, the court martial would probably have had mercy on him. It would not be him. "The other, I recently discovered had never been mine at all."

"Won't you at least stay for the wedding?" He should have known better than to hope she would leave it at that. When had Elizabeth Swann ever kept to her own affairs?

Norrington shook his head, more out of despair than negation. "I do wish you a joyful day, but there is nothing that I would like less," he said, honest at last. "Good day, Miss Swann."

As he turned his back on her for the last time, he could not help but wonder at the sudden feeling of freedom.