James paced thoughtfully in the entrance hall of the governor's mansion, awaiting the return of the servant who had gone to ascertain whether Governor Swann were presently receiving visitors. He did not often meet with the governor in his own home, apart from the occasional officers' dinner or soiree hosted at the mansion, but they were relatively well acquainted; he had served on the HMS Dauntless since it had carried the Swanns from London to Port Royal some years past, and the governor and his daughter had always made a point of acknowledging James whenever their paths crossed.
To be sure, that detail by itself meant nothing; but given the rumors that the captain of the Dauntless was to be promoted to a rear admiral's position away from Port Royal, James thought he was justified in suffering from a slight case of nerves. He did not know whether the correspondence the captain had asked him to carry to the governor concerned that very subject, and indeed he was not the only lieutenant aboard the Dauntless who could be chosen as successor, but even a man as dedicated to the service of others as James endeavored to be could not entirely stop himself from wishing for his own advancement. He paused in his pacing before the mansion's front door and tugged ineffectually at his neckcloth, feeling unaccountably stifled.
Muted footsteps on the stairs announced the approach of a resident of the house, and James turned abruptly on his heel, his ready smile faltering only slightly as he realized it was the governor's daughter and not the governor himself. Elizabeth-- as he had thought of her privately since their first encounter, though he was careful to call her Miss Swann aloud-- stood at the top of the entry stairs, lips curving as she beheld him.
She had recently reached that awkward stage between the innocent beauty of a child and the full promise of womanhood. She still had much of the softness of youth in her face, and her dark hair, pinned back from her face and let to fall around her shoulders, was styled very simply; tellingly, however, the last few inches of her skirt appeared brighter than the rest of the garment, as though the hems had been recently let down. She had smudges of chalk on her fingers and chin, as though she'd just escaped from her studies, and a welcoming brightness shone in her eyes.
"Lieutenant Norrington! You're back!" she exclaimed brightly, tripping down the stairs and extending her hands in greeting.
James carefully took one of the hands in his own. "Miss Swann," he said formally, bending over it to press a kiss against her smooth skin. A small, reddish mark marred the flesh between her forefinger and thumb, suggestive of a recent, likely clandestine, visit to the Turner boy at the local blacksmith's shop; James carefully ignored it, confident as always that she would grow out of her foolish fondness eventually. "You're looking lovely today."
She giggled appreciatively as he straightened again. "Thank you," she said, sketching a quick curtsey. "You were gone for weeks this time; did you capture any pirates?"
He had come prepared for that question; ever since the first time he had spoken forbiddingly to her on the subject of pirates during the passage from England, she had pled with him for stories, the more exciting and gruesome the better. He was always careful with his answers, wary of the tales that might carry to the governor's ears, but had not thought it wise to discourage her entirely.
"Not this time, I'm afraid," he replied. "The voyage was entirely uneventful." He watched her face fall at the news, then offered her a slight, conspiratorial smile to cheer her mood. "Perhaps next time, however. There have been rumors of black sails reappearing in these waters."
"The Black Pearl," she breathed, eyes widening in awed horror.
"Indeed," he nodded. "There is a real ship and a real captain behind the rumors, and one day their luck will run out; I fully intend to be present when that happens."
"I'm glad to hear it, Lieutenant Norrington," the governor said, striding into the hall from a side door. "Your dedication to duty is, as always, very much appreciated."
"Governor Swann," James said, stepping away from Elizabeth in order to bow in her father's direction.
"Do come in," the governor said, gesturing in the direction of his study. "I understand you have urgent correspondence for me?"
"Yes, sir," James replied, "and I'm to wait for a response."
"Very well, then." The governor nodded, then glanced over James' shoulder with a slight frown. "Elizabeth? Aren't you meant to be with your governess at this hour?"
James did not have to look at her to know that she was returning the governor's inquisitive gaze with a petulant expression. "I was just..." she began to say, but her father cut her off before she could complete the thought.
"Yes, yes," Governor Swann said, waving a hand in her direction in a vaguely exasperated manner and offering James an apologetic grimace. "You can pester him for pirate stories over dinner-- that is, if you don't have duties to attend elsewhere, Lieutenant?"
As it happened, he did not. James made an affirmative reply, glancing briefly at Elizabeth's expectant face, and thought again how beautiful she would be in just a few short years. He did not have leisure for such thoughts at present, however; it was enough that she was a friend, one of the few he had outside of the Navy. It was pleasant to be missed when he was gone, and to have someone hang on every word of his adventures at sea.
"Until this evening, then, Miss Swann," he said, bowing again in farewell.
"Until this evening, Lieutenant Norrington," she replied cheerily, then turned and ascended the stairs again, glancing back at him with every other step.
James watched her go, smiling faintly, then turned back to the governor.