1.0 – Boundaries
Commodore James Norrington considered himself an intelligent fellow.
When he had met Captain Raul Jay, known under his—ahem, their—roof as Jessica, for the first time, he sensed that he had not crossed an ordinary woman. Amid her physical prowess existed a mental acuity that stunned him. But it was her tenacity that made him keep her in sight.
It also led him to marriage proposal he’d made spontaneously…but he wouldn’t admit that to his darling wife because he feared she would comprehend his intentions in the wrong manner. And thus impart some painful and emasculating punishment with her bare hands. He hardly needed the mangled genitalia.
After their small ceremony in her backyard, the Commodore and his new wife took a sojourn before assuming their mundane lives together. Jessica found herself with an entirely new household to maintain—a household that had been male dominated. He had hoped that the new challenge would be entrancing enough.
Needless to say he had not judged his new wife correctly.
The day began normally with nothing amiss. The plans had been simple: take care of necessary duties at Fort Charles, have lunch with his wife, more work, and then go home. When he kissed her that morning in farewell, little did he know what wheels were turning in her cavernous brain.
After the adventure that had landed them traveling the Atlantic for several weeks and taking on a supernatural being, Norrington sought new recruits to replenish the ranks that he had lost. He expressed this desire and his concerns with his wife idly, conversationally, not thinking that she would actually do anything about it. The mere idea would be preposterous.
Which is why he should have seen it coming.
At nearly noon, Lieutenant Theodore Groves barged into his office without preamble. Norrington could tell something was amiss due to the high color in his pale cheeks but tried mightily not to jump to conclusions. “Yes, Lieutenant?” Norrington inquired.
Pause. Groves, a man of much more confidence than was displayed currently, hesitated before launching his opening statement. “I apologize in advance, sir. But…it’s your wife.”
A million calamities descended and exploded in his head like nano-grenades. He imagined her dead, alive but mangled, armless, legless, blind, deaf, carried off by burly pirates, seduced by Jack Sparrow (bloody hell), and captured by the Crown within the split seconds it took him to respond.
“Elaborate, Lieutenant,” Norrington pressed, rising to his feet. “Where is she?”
“With the new trainees, sir,” Groves answered. “In the main courtyard.”
Commodore Norrington promptly rounded his desk and exited the room. Groves followed, barely keeping up with Norrington’s long, ground-eating strides. Sensing Groves still with him, Norrington inquired briskly, “Is she in any danger?”
“To be honest, sir, it depends on what sort of danger you mean. If you are asking if she is in danger of getting hurt I would say it is much less than the danger of her inflicting hurt.”
His worry dovetailed into exasperation. “Oh bloody hell,” he spat as he heard the telltale sound of metal against metal. “How did this occur?”
“Not entirely for certain. I believe her intention was to come to your office but she was accosted by some of the trainees. My guess is she wanted to teach them a lesson.”
Frustrated that his wife was taking matters into her own hands, Commodore Norrington entered the courtyard. Before his eyes, his beloved wife took on five untrained navy midshipmen—while clad in a skirt. She charged and parried, shifted her weight once or twice to set the young men stumbling on one another. Her face was a study in ferocity. When one dropped his sword, she scooped it up into her grasp and used it to subdue two of the others. With two left, she feigned jabbing one in the heart and knocked the last one on his back in two swift movements. Nicollette was in the crowd cradling a package (his lunch most likely) and doing her best impression of Arsenio Hall.
“I sincerely beg your pardon.”
Everyone froze, Jessica included. The point of the sword rested benignly under the offending midshipman’s chin. When she raised her eyes to her husband’s, she spied exasperation most prominently in their depths. With a move that was more graceful than swift, she sheathed the sword and handed the other back to its rightful owner. The former victim climbed to his feet and stood at attention for his superior. Jessica merely waited for her husband to speak.
“Mrs. Norrington—” the Commodore began.
“Captain,” Jessica interrupted tersely.
He continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “Mrs. Norrington, are you aware that this area is off limits to those of the female gender during training?” Norrington demanded.
Jessica didn’t even blink while the rest of the men held their breaths. “No, I was not aware, darling.” Her husband’s mouth tightened. “I would promise not to do it again, but…” Then she shrugged. “Well, I took a vow not to lie to you did I not?”
The Commodore’s eyes sharpened with fury. An audible ripple went through the room.
“Oh shit,” Nicollette muttered and decided to hide where she could still observe but not be assaulted with blood spatter.
“The vow was to obey,” Norrington boomed, his voice growing resonant and forbidding.
Jessica’s chin lifted in a gesture of defiance. “I remember my vows, Commodore. However I fail to understand the offense you are taking to my presence here.”
“You. Don’t. Belong here,” Norrington ground out. “You are no longer at the helm of a ship nor do you have the burden of authority and never were you a military man so this place is unsuited for your presence.”
Something flashed in Jessica’s eyes, and Nicollette could tell it cost her to hold in whatever retort she had on her lips. Wordlessly, Jessica stalked out without even acknowledging her husband.
For a moment no one moved. Groves ordered the training officers to lunch since luckily it was time for a break. As the gentlemen marched out, wise enough to hold their tongues until they were out of range of their leader, Nicollette emerged from her hiding place and went straight to the Commodore.
Nicollette sighed. “Man…she’s gonna be putting your stuff out on the porch.”
Norrington couldn’t fight an eyeroll at the statement. “Your commentary is hardly warranted, Miss Smith.”
“After what I just saw? You better be lucky I ain’t helping her cut out the seat of all your pants.”
He attempted to exude confidence but he did feel a bit apprehensive. “My wife wouldn’t dare be that petty.”
The look Nicollette slanted him indicated that his wife would—and enjoy it immensely.
Norrington raised an eyebrow. “All because I reminded her of her place?”
Nicollette raised an eyebrow right back. “Did you find what just came out your mouth okay or do you like spouting hurtful bullshit?” She cut him off before he spoke. “Tell me something. You knew what she was all along, you’re not stupid. So why’d you marry her?”
He opened his mouth to speak but Nicollette walked away and swung his cooling lunch into his stomach, leaving him with the burden of her question and the fragrance of beef stew.
* * *
Meanwhile, the woman in question—whatever you would like to call her—stared out at the sea. Her emotions swirled dangerously inside of her and she struggled to keep herself from crying, screaming, or both. She was both galled by her husband’s chauvinistic behavior and the fact that she was in upheaval over it. Damn him. Damn her. Damn everything. Dammit.
If it were possible she would have emitted steam out of her ears. She exhaled heavily and faced Lieutenant Gillette, her eyes bright with unshed tears. “Lieutenant,” she began, giving him the courtesy to refer to him by his rank and not his name, even though she knew there was little chance of it being reciprocated, “if Commodore Norrington sent you to discover my whereabouts, he should be warned I possess very little good humor at the moment so proceed at your own risk.”
“The Commodore did not send me,” Gillette assured her, hands raised. “I came on my own command so please do not harm me in his stead.” Her mouth twitched, fractionally. “He deserves a good thrashing every now and again, but I wanted to speak to you on a matter of perspective.”
“A matter of perspective?” Jessica shook her head. “If you’re going to tell me that his male pride was shaken, believe me, I could discern that quite clearly.” She walked toward him and stopped momentarily. “I appreciate your intentions, Lieutenant, but I am not the one lacking perspective.”
Gillette stared bemusedly at her back as she strode past him. “And the Commodore is?”
She paused and turned again. “Gillette,” she started, eschewing courtesy for familiarity, “have you ever had your hands tied together?”
He blinked at the question. “I have been in perilous situations, yes. I fail to see where you are going with this.”
“Then you cannot recognize the sight of a woman cutting through her bounds.”
Gillette chuckled humorlessly. “Mrs. Norrington, if you feel trapped by your marriage perhaps this is something you should discuss with your husband.”
She peered at him meaningfully. “But I am not trapped by my marriage, Gillette. Or my husband.”
When she walked away, he still pondered her words with the sound of the waves hitting the shore.
* * *
Norrington, after making the rounds of the fort, retreated to have lunch alone in his office. Unfortunately, it was his day to be accosted by his sister-in-law and former object-of-affection. Claudia Vargas and Elizabeth Turner—nee Swann—awaited his presence in his office, much to his chagrin.
After a greeting coolly served, Claudia raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow. “Oh Norrington, what has she done now?”
“Claudia!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “Whoever said it was about Jessica?”
“They’ve only been married a short time and he’s suddenly acting like someone just sunk the Interceptor in the harbor,” Claudia explained. “Last week when Nicollette nearly burned his wig to cinders he laughed it off and now his countenance has taken a complete one hundred eighty-degree turn. Not to mention, I know the smell of my sister’s beef stew and the only reason why it’s congealing on his desk is because he’s angry with her.”
Elizabeth considered this. “Point taken.” She turned to Norrington with observant eyes. “So, James? What happened?”
Norrington fumed and shuffled some paperwork. “I am in no mood to recount the events of the hour previous.”
“Fine,” Claudia said. “So allow for me to guess. Jessica asserted herself in your domain and offended your male sensibilities.”
Norrington’s eyes flashed again. Bullseye. “Ah,” Elizabeth murmured. “That’s right. The training has started.”
Norrington caught the weight of comprehension in her tone and lifted his head, paperwork forgotten. “Did she say something to you?” Claudia and Elizabeth shared a knowing glance that made him stifle the urge to shake the information out of them. Before he could press any further, Gillette entered.
Gillette started to speak but noticed Claudia and Elizabeth standing nearby. “Hello, ladies,” Gillette greeted them. He shifted toward his superior uncertainly. “I, ah…sir…ahem…ran into your wife.”
Claudia tilted her head. “And you’re still alive? There’s hope for all of this yet!”
Norrington gave Claudia a baleful glance out of the corner of his eye before addressing Gillette’s statement. “Lieutenant, I hope my wife did not cause you any undue harm.”
“On the contrary, sir,” Gillette responded. “However, if I were you, I would take caution for the next little while. She looks like the type that would bite and not bark.”
“If she’s at home making bread, you’d better be scared,” Claudia told him with a nod.
“I didn’t know she even knew how to bake,” Elizabeth said, frowning.
“She doesn’t,” Claudia revealed, and Elizabeth’s frown turned into a wince.
“Gillette, she didn’t seem too mad, did she?” Elizabeth asked, more for Norrington’s sake than her own curiosity. “Did she say anything?”
“Nothing that I could immediately understand, Mrs. Turner. She stated that she was not the one lacking in perspective”—Norrington’s lips tightened at that statement—“but she did ask me a very strange question. Something about having her hands tied together.”
At that, both of the women’s eyes widened, and Claudia smacked Norrington across the face with her gloves.
“Hey!” Norrington protested. They were made of lace, but the action still stung.
“You bleeding idiot,” Claudia scolded him.
“I don’t comprehend,” Norrington returned heatedly.
“Of course you don’t,” Claudia shot back.
Elizabeth sighed and moved her friend away from the seething Commodore before she was thrown behind bars. “Calm yourself, Claudia. Perhaps James simply doesn’t remember.”
“Remember what?” Norrington demanded. “Is it a female trait to be so vague? Just explain to me what she means.”
“She’s worried,” Elizabeth elaborated but still sounded vague to his ears. “She simply doesn’t want anything to happen to you. Based on some of your…adventures at sea, she wants to make sure you’re well-protected.”
Gillette guffawed. “Well of course he would be well-protected! Why wouldn’t he be?”
No one spoke. Norrington slackened fractionally, settling back into his chair to think. His mind labored to find his wife’s reasoning or the circumstances that led to this reasoning. Elizabeth patted his hand and gave her farewells, deciding that he needed time alone. She all but dragged Claudia away, and soon Gillette made his exit as well after imparting some work-related information. The rest of the day ensued with little emotion on his part. He gave orders with authority and completed his tasks impeccably. He sent a short note to his butler to inquire the state of his home in the wake of the morning’s events.
The response was brief. The Mistress is making bread, sir. She seems extremely overwrought and will not let me into the kitchen.
Well hell. He was fucked.
“Groves,” Norrington began, “I think I will take the evening watch tonight.”