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Title: The Five Times James Missed his Opportunity (And the One Time He Didn’t)
Author: Miss ‘Drea
Rating: R
Pairing: James Norrington/Anamaria
Summary: He grew up to be an Admiral and she was still only just a slave.
Warnings: Angst, for once.

I. The Birthday

She was just a slave, he would frequently remind himself. Though some white man - whoever had owned her mother last, he imagined - had sired her, the color of her skin and the lack of freedom in her face told him so. He was twelve, when Master Jonathon Norrington bought Cyrah and her daughter for their slowly growing plantation.

Cyrah was old, old by their standards and older still by slaves. Having just seen her 40th year, the colored woman was hunched and wrinkled, but moved with a steady briskness that belied her years. Her daughter, twelve and full of angry brown eyes, slouched along behind, earning a frequent and stern speaking to in a language James couldn’t understand.

As her age dictated, Cyrah was delegated to the kitchen, quickly assuming her rule there. For a while, her daughter helped, but she was graceless, and clumsy, often dropping the silver platters and trays during critical moments in state dinners. James’ father called her “Anamaria” as a joke - it meant ‘favored grace’ something she didn’t have. Her mother called her Ayanna.

Anamaria was the only other child on the plantation, the only others closest in age being in their early twenties. James knew intimately the feeling of loneliness. He didn’t wear it well. It took him nearly a year to do more than smile in her direction - it was generally met with a sneer or a blank look.

Finally, on his birthday, he went down to the stables where she had been relegated. “Anamaria?” he called cautiously, his voice cracking on the M.

A stable door banged open making him jump. The thirteen year old girl stared at him, hands on her hips, hay caught in her dark hair. “Can I help you?” she asked in clipped tones. “Sir?”

Her brown eyes were blazing, and James found his mouth going dry. “I um...that is to say,” he began before trailing off. “I was wondering if...” he tried again but found that track no more helpful than the first. “Good afternoon,” he finished weakly, blushing to the roots of his hair.

Anamaria’s eyes gentled and she leaned against the jamb of the empty stall. “Master James,” she said patiently, “is there something you wished of me?”

“Do you want some birthday cake?” he blurted out, closing his eyes in mortification when she blinked in surprise.

“Birthday cake?” she repeated slowly. “Why?”

Given a reprieve from humiliation, James launched into his tirade about how Cyrah always made the best birthday cake, and Anamaria had just had a birthday too, didn’t she, so why not have her share some of his? He kept going until her gentle laughter halted him mid-word and humiliation washed over him again. “Sorry,” he muttered, his blue gaze on his feet. “I’ll just...go.” He turned to leave but felt too warm hands on his elbow.

“Master James,” she said, still laughing. “Don’t go.”

Disgruntled and embarrassed, the thirteen year old turned back around. “I just though you’d like some cake,” he muttered.

She let him go and the skin of his elbow burned pleasantly. “I would love some,” she said with a smile. “Thank you for offering, Master.”

James flinched. “Call me by my name,” he said softly. “And I’ll get you that cake.”

She was silent for a long moment and James thought for a moment that perhaps he had overstepped his bounds and hurried to the stable door. He was halfway through it when he heard softly behind him, “all right. James.”

Twisting his head around to look at her, she looked very small in the frame of the barn. He smiled widely and hurried off, already planning on how to steal more cake from Cyrah.

II. The Firsts

At fifteen, a sleep tousled James opened his bedroom door to a crying Anamaria. He blinked stupidly at her, before pulling her in by her bruised wrists and closing the door firmly behind them. As soon as the lock on the door latched, the tears that had been silent as they tracked down her face soon became deep, racking sobs.

Shooting the door a concerned glance, James did the only thing he knew to do. He pulled her into his arms and rocked her as she cried. He moved them, and she was surprisingly light, to the bed where she collapsed against the sleep warm comforter and sniffled. “What happened?” he whispered, mindful of other servants.

“It was Kieran,” Anamaria whispered into his lap, where her head rested. “I had foal watch on Athena and Ziggurat, and he came up behind me.” She shivered when James began running his hand up and down her back soothingly. “He never liked me. ‘Cause I’m a Mulatto,” she spat. “Filthy Irish bastard!”

Patiently, James waited until her stream of unorthodox and unintelligible swears tapered off. “What did he do, Anamaria?” he asked evenly. She shook her head, sitting up and pulling a pillow to her belly. “Anamaria,” James said in a tone he’d only ever heard his father use. “What did Kieran do?”

Mutinously, she pulled the pillow away from her, and James’ eyes widened at the blood that stained the lower half of her shirt and pants. “He stole my first,” she said, her eyes tear glazed. “And it hurts, James.”

He rose from the bed quickly and unlocked the door to his room. It was late enough that most of the household was still abed, but early enough for Cyrah to be baking in the kitchen. “Come,” he commanded not unkindly. “Your mother will have a poultice, and I will go to my father with this.”

“James!” she said, shocked, “you cannot!”

He turned to look at her incredulously. “Why ever not?” he questioned firmly. “I am the son of the master of this house and I will not have stable hands raping young girls.”

She took his elbow, her hands warm and damp from tears and fear. “I am only a slave, James,” she whispered. “You shouldn’t go to such lengths for the likes of me.”

James lifted her shaking right hand and laid a kiss on the back of it. “Don’t worry,” he said gently. “My father will know what to do.”

Four hours later, the sun high in the sky, and the raging of the Master of the House could be heard in the town. Kieran was ejected from his indenture, and Anamaria was moved into the house again.

Everyone breathed a little easier when she bled the following month.

Especially James.

III. The Names

They lay together on the slope overlooking the cotton and corn fields. The smell of ripe sugarcane and coffee floated around them, and James rolled over onto his side. “My father has always called you Anamaria,” he said. “But that isn’t your name.”

She turned her head to face him. “No, the name I was born with is Ayanna.”

“Ayanna,” he repeated, tasting the sound on the air.

She giggled when he pronounced it wrong, inching him through the steps until he got it just right. “It means ‘beautiful flower’,” she mused aloud. “Mum must have missed the mark on me, eh?”
James gazed at her, his eyes soft. “No,” he answered. “Not at all.”

She sat up, crossing her arms over her chest. “I’m a slave, James,” she reminded him sharply. “And not only that but a ruined one.”

Angry, he sat up and pointed a finger at her chest. “You are not ruined!” he said, his voice a whispered shout. “Just because Kieran was...just because he did that does not mean that you are any less of what you are!”

It was an argument she’d heard before. “I am still only just a slave.”

“Men marry their slaves all the time,” he said. “This is the Caribbean, no one cares what goes on here!”

“You should,” she said, stealing the wind from his sails. “Because your father is old and someday you will be the master of his plantation.” He flopped back at the reminder. “And you won’t be able to sit out here, or steal me birthday cake anymore.”

The sixteen year old sulked. “I don’t care,” he said. “You’ve never been my slave.”

She leaned over him, her hair tumbling down over one shoulder, blocking the sunlight from his eyes. “You’ve never been my master. That’s going to have to change.”

Slowly he nodded, brining his hand up to run his fingers through the dark silk curtaining her face. “Ayanna...” he murmured. “Know this, if I were a lesser man, I’d have already married you.”

Her lips parted in surprise and he was up and down the hill before she could reply.

IV. Deaths

Cyrah and Jonathon Norrington died within a week of each other. First went Cyrah, her old heart giving out over a bowl of sticky batter. Then, Master Norrington, in his bed asleep.

James was seventeen and newly christened Master of the House, and his apprenticeship was going strong within the Royal Navy. He left the running of the house to Anamaria when he was out sailing, even when he was forced to take long extended trips. The household never suffered.

At eighteen, the boat wrecked, and word came back to Port Royale that Lieutenant James Norrington had died in the wake. Cousins from England moved into the Plantation, and Anamaria was gone.

Wet, wearied, and feeling every inch his broken arm, James trudged up the walkway to the front door of a house he knew couldn’t be his anymore. One of the cousins, Bernard or something, answered the door, and he was swept into a hug that hurt him more than comforted.

“We heard you were dead, little Jamie!” the man shouted. “When we got here, some Mulatto bitch was running the place in your stead.”

“Yes,” James said pleasantly enough to let Bernard know he was anything but, “that’s Anamaria. I left her in charge.”

Bernard paused, and it went long enough that James felt worry settle in the pit of his stomach. “In charge?” the older cousin said weakly. “She said so, but she’s only a slave...”

Angry, but without the energy or strength to truly do anything more than wave his good arm in his cousin’s face, James shouted, “Anamaria was the only reason this Plantation ran smoothly!” With a sneer of disgust he turned from the door. “Where is she now?”

“She ran off,” Bernard said hesitantly. “Months ago. Once we told her that you were dead.”

Holding back the litany of oaths and other unkind phrases wrought from too many weeks on the sea, James snorted. “Be happy here, then,” he spat. “And keep me down in the books as dead, if you will. I am much too busy to doctor this place.”

He stormed off without waiting for comment. It didn’t matter that most of his possessions were still locked up in the safe box in his old chamber.

The Navy would take care of him now.

V. Marriage Proposals

He asked Elizabeth to marry him. Of all the idiotic...! James slammed back the shot of gin, his hands shaking faintly in the early evening light. He hadn’t been looking to marry since...viciously he cut off the thought.

He’d never wanted to marry her. Never!

He poured another messy shot of the foul tasting alcohol and leaned his head back, letting the itchy, starchy and uncomfortable wig fall to the floor behind his seat. He left it there. Four shots later, and feeling nicely recumbent, James allowed himself think the following days through.

It had been almost ten years since he left the Plantation on the other side of Jamaica, ten years since he’d seen Anamaria. And five years past the time he should have married. Elizabeth seemed a good a catch as any - though she seemed to have eyes for the local Blacksmith.

James couldn’t really blame her, young William Turner had surprising talent for blades. Though his pedigree was unrefined and worst of all, unknown, at least he could give her the love she deserved.
He was clearly not meant to be happy.

(Four days after the attack on Port Royal, he realized that perhaps he was never meant to marry because he’d long since fallen in love with the sea.)

Then he saw Anamaria again.

...And The One Time He Did...

“Anamaria,” he breathed, nearly stumbling against the cell she sat in. Her head came up, her eyes still dark and luminous. Her hair had been unevenly shorn and was growing out strangely, but it was still the slave that had meant so much to him.

“Do I know yeh?” she spat out, her voice not the melodious African lilt he remembered but the spitting tones of the isles. “I don’ consort wit’ th’ likes a’yeh.”

He fairly itched to rip off the wig and hat, but there were too many people, too many witnesses. “You do,” he said evenly. “Though I better knew you as Ayanna.” Even after all those years, he could still say it right.

The caution in her eyes faded to be replaced with confusion. “Who,” she asked, her voice hard, “are you?”

He leaned in, his forehead touching the bars. “James,” he whispered.

She was on her feet in an instant, striding to the bars to grab his coat tails in her tiny fists. Though she couldn’t lift him, she pulled him uncomfortably close to the bars. “James,” she snarled, “died ten years ago!”

“I didn’t,” he protested. “I was presumed dead! But I survived.”

She snorted. “Bah! James would have returned home!”

“I did!” he said again, bringing his hands up to pull on hers. “Ayanna, look at me!” She looked into his eyes and he implored her. “Your mothers name was Cyrah; she died when we were sixteen. When we were twelve, I stole some birthday cake for you.” She snorted again. “And when you were fifteen, you woke me up because Kieran the stable hand had raped you.”

Her face lost its color and she let him go, her eyes dazed. “ really is you...” she breathed.

“Yes,” he murmured. “I returned months later, to find you’d gone. So I left again, and joined...well. I’m a Commodore, now.”

The happiness in her face faded. “And now you will hang me.”

“No!” he said immediately, and the knowing look on her face made his heart sink. “I could get you a Letter of Marque. Or...a pardon! Tell them you’re pregnant, Ayanna!”

Her smile was gentle. “No, James. My time is run. It’s all right, vidamo,” she soothed, touching his cheek. “I do not blame you.”

“But Ayanna...”

Her smile widened at the name. “I will tell you something that will make your job easier, James.” He hung in her weighted pause. “I am only just a slave.”

“You were never just a slave to me,” he whispered.

“But still a slave all the same.” She backed away and sat on the cot. “Good bye James. Be well and fair journeys.”

He didn’t watch her, when she hung.

When he went over the records in the following months, he had to ask Groves who the X was on the hanging martial.

“That was the Mulatto girl,” he answered. “She didn’t know how to write.”


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