But I'm more than just a little curious
how you're planning to go about
making your amends
to the dead.
"The Noose" - A Perfect Circle
They fed him, and enabled him to bathe and shave. They gave him new clothes, plain but clean, and a wig that he couldn't bring himself to wear, though he did struggle through combing his hair out, and tied it back. They gave him a room in the fort, small and with absolutely no view to speak of, but with a clean, soft, dry and uninfested bed.
James couldn't sleep. Perhaps it was being back in the fort; military establishments, much like pirate towns, never really slept. Perhaps it was just the usual reason.
Eschewing the battlements - he wasn't actually a glutton for punishment - James turned his insomniac steps downwards instead. The breakwater was empty at this hour (midnight, he estimated, give or take half an hour). He leant on the slick stone of the bulwark and tasted salt with every crash of the waves; all the things that had held his life together.
Off to his right, under the headland and invisible in the dark, were three gibbets. He wondered if they'd swung empty in the months he'd been gone. He wondered if anyone had even noticed.
He could hear boots on the parapets above, and the challenge-and-response of the watches. He heard absolutely no sound of a step behind him before a voice said, "Well now, you do still scrub up nice, after all." James turned, as it continued, "Must say I'm disappointed. Thought I'd have left a more lingering mark."
Jack Sparrow, unsurprisingly, hadn't scrubbed up at all. It was all the same, hair and scruff, the worn-thin shirt, the stained-upon-stains vest, the unrepentantly sagging trousers, the cracked and wilting boots crossed at the ankle as he leant against the curtain wall of the fort. He even had his hat, calculatedly askew on his head, and that settled it, if James had required any further confirmation than his presence.
An eyebrow lifted beneath the hat's brim. "By the general lack of shrieks, gasps, falling into the sea or even polite inquiries as to my business, I take it I'm not wholly unexpected."
"Not really," James admitted.
"Thought not." Jack stepped forward, off the wall and into full moonlight. His boots were a whisper on stone. "If you're looking for a bunch to annoy you beyond decency, pirates are your men. And young James Norrington has sent to the gallows... what? A dozen? A score?"
"Two score and three," James recited, and then corrected, "Two score and four, though not all to the gallows."
"Dead's dead, mate," Jack said, and grinned.
Dead was dead. It was gone and done, and James was not in the habit of apologising. He might well have had an enumerated list of unfortunate necessities, but regrets were known and dealt with at the moment of decision. "Sorry" stripped the last dignity from the condemned man. Apologising for it was worse than making the decision in the first place.
Which was the key difference between he and Jack. Apologies came free and easy to Sparrow, sincere all the while, making mockeries of the things he had done. I'm sorry for destroying your ship. I'm sorry for destroying your life.
Jack propped himself against the stone sea wall next to James, looking out to sea with his grin lingering, like he'd left it stranded and sailed away. He looked as solid as stone; James could have reached out and touched him, but he kept his hands to himself.
"You're a duplicitous bastard, Norrington," Jack told the breakers, and chuckled. "Always knew you had it in you."
James let out a sharp breath, looking up at the unforgiving expanse of the curtain wall. "You're not making this easier."
And he was smiling even as Jack said, "Well of course I'm not." Because when had he, ever? James glanced over, Jack's grin a matching glint in the darkness. "I don't actually hold it against you."
James's smile was gone, words distant. He couldn't look away.
"We played," Jack said, words like molasses in the dark. "And this time, you won. Fair and square. Well." He smirked. "Close enough."
There was something in his throat; James made sure it was gone before he said, "I doubt Mister Turner would be so charitable."
Jack allowed that with a tilt of his head. "Best not let him catch up with you. Nor Lizzie neither. But he, I've always suspected, is actually a good man."
Maybe he was, at that. He'd been one of them himself. Once. A good man, James. Just a man, now, trying to chart a course by a compass that made sense only to him. And only sometimes.
He supposed this made he and Sparrow roughly even.
James turned around, salt spray on his face, the bulwark under his elbows. "Jack--" he began.
But was cut off by a lifted finger in his peripheral vision. "Ah. Captain Jack. She's mine forever, now."
Which wasn't particularly unexpected, but was saddening. "She was a beautiful ship."
James couldn't see, didn't look, but he could hear Jack's smile, lazy and pleased, a cat in the sun, a contented banker. "Yes, she is."
He'd forgotten what he had been going to say, and so he stared out over the midnight ocean, not looking for the gibbets, not thinking about the forgiveness of pirates.
When he turned again, he was alone, nothing but shadows sharing the breakwater.
James went upstairs, and went to sleep in his soft, warm, dry bed. He woke with the sun, for the first time in months. He hadn't dreamed. When he washed his face, he tasted salt.
Cutler Beckett saw him again after breakfast. "A commission as a pirate hunter?" he offered, jaunty and petty and vicious, like a lapdog with a temper.
James didn't bother suggesting that there were no pirates left worth the hunting. The Company was the last entity on earth to deserve his honesty. "That's what I do," he said instead.
The Loquacious Dead by dee
The base has been knocking around in my head for ages, waiting for canon to provide the last detail. Spoilers for DMC.