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35- Hold my Hand - One hundred stories by one hundred people
35- Hold my Hand
 Title: Sunsets and Solace
Pairing: James Norrington/Elizabeth Swann
Period: Pre-CotBP
Rating: G 
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine. No money made.
Warnings: OC Character Death
Word Count: 1,385
Summary: One shot. Norrington attends Lady Swann's wake and finds a grieving Elizabeth and tries to comfort her.

 Sunsets and Solace

The Swanns were known as a close couple who doted on each other even at their late stage of life. Warm and affectionate, there was nothing they wouldn’t do for their daughter or their friends. In fact, if it weren’t for their strong friendship with myself, I would not now be a fast rising Lieutenant in the King’s Royal Navy.

Lady Miranda Swann was a cheerful woman with smiles a-plenty for everyone she met. Her cold was spoken of as a ‘mere trifling’ and ‘nothing to worry your sweet head about.’ The sudden severity of it took us all by surprise and her death came shortly afterwards. The loss of such a charming woman was a heavy blow to us all but none were affected as deeply as Lord Weatherby Swann.

Swann shut himself up in his room for weeks after the funeral and would speak to no one, including his seven year old daughter, Miss Elizabeth Swann.

Miss Swann was not so young at the time that she did not understand the consequences of death and, most unfortunately, the perpetual light that emanated off her day and night had been extinguished.

My grief for the loss of Miranda was nothing compared with the pain I felt at seeing such a cheerful and energetic family sunk into the very depths of despair. If I had not felt such a responsibility to call on Swann from time to time, I would have stayed clear away if only to shelter myself from the reality that is the pain of losing a loved one.

The most I saw of Weatherby Swann during those first few months was at his wife’s wake. Usually quite cheerful when in the presence of company, his now taciturn nature unsettled me. I stood in a corner conversing with Lieutenant Weston in hushed tones. I had never known the large house to be so full of people and yet so dismally quiet. I kept expecting Miss Swann to come running past me, shrieking in laughter but the only jarring noise was Mr. Motley’s incessant wheezing cough.

Lieutenant Weston was shortly called away by Mrs. Harding who strongly desired his services in easing her niece’s grief. I inwardly cringed- matchmaking at a wake, indeed.

As I turned around to survey the room once more, I noticed Miss Swann sitting quietly in the opposite corner, her back straight and her hands folded primly in her lap. She was alone and looked extremely forlorn. It was a wonder no one was keeping her company. Resolved to make her feel as comfortable as one could at a wake, I took a few steps towards her only to reach her chair a moment after she had dashed off out the French doors, her head in her hands. I frowned, my heart aching for her pain, and followed her out.

I found her sitting on the beach, her head resting on her knees, and her toes dug into the sand. Unsure of whether I should interrupt her solace, I stood hesitant a little way off. I watched her turn her head to the left to look up the beach and then turn to face the right. She spotted me and looked me over for a moment as if she were summing up whether or not she would address me. After a moment, she turned back to watch the sunset. Her shoulders visibly drooped and I felt that I could not leave her alone even if she had wanted me to.

I took the few steps necessary to reach her and quietly asked if I might join her. A shrug was her only answer. Lifting my coat tails from under me, I placed myself on the sand beside her. I was quiet for a moment reveling in the joy of sitting comfortably on the sand, watching the waves lap the shore. I had not sat upon the sand since I was a young boy. Sometimes the simple pleasures are so easily forgotten amongst the consuming demands of daily life.

I turned my head slowly to face Miss Swann. Unsure of how to begin, I remarked on the sunset. “The sky is very pretty this evening.” I almost cursed myself for the inane remark. The poor girl was alone and grieving and I would make light of her suffering? Needless to say, she said nothing in reply.

A few more moments of silence passed between us. I did not want to prattle on if she had come to the water’s edge for some peace and quiet. But then she spoke to me in a soft, shy voice that I had not heard her use for a long time.

“I hate funerals. Nobody who comes to them even cares about the person who’s died. All of father’s friends never even knew mother like we did. Why should they come and pay their respects when they didn’t even pay her any attention when she was alive?” At the close of Miss Swann’s surprisingly astute observation, she turned her head. Her large, watery eyes appealed to me for an answer. I had no sufficient one to give.

“Perhaps they knew her as best they could, considering they weren’t family.”

“I think it’s all just for appearances. Funerals and wakes should be banned.” Her succinct answer would have made me laugh at her impish thoughts had the subject not been such a serious one. She continued, her voice becoming stronger as her anger cleared the surface of her repressed emotions. “No one even talked to me in there. They all acted as if I didn’t exist. But I know they knew I was there. I heard them talking about me, saying things about how I was a ‘poor dear’ and an ‘unfortunate child.’ They acted as if I was some kind of creature but they never bothered to actually speak to me.” She sniffed and looked back at the water. “No one talks to me anymore.” Her voice was once again quiet and unsure.

“I’m sure that’s not true.” I gently assured her.

“It is. Even father ignores me. It’s as if mother left and took me with her. I wish she had taken me with her. I bet Heaven’s wonderful…” She sighed and tucked her knees closer against her chest.

Ruefully, I watched her profile in the setting sun. How could I answer her? How could I remove all her grief and all her doubts and restore her back to her happy, carefree state? I hated hearing the inflection in her voice that seemed to suggest she was much older than her inexperienced seven years.

I’m talking to you.”

Miss Swann hung her head for a moment before lifting it and looking back at me. “I know. Thank you. But you are the only one.”

“For now.” I gave her a small smile. “I believe there is a saying that one is better than none….”

She returned my small smile and replied quietly, “I bet whoever made that up was someone who only does things that make them look important.”

I chuckled. “Probably. All the more reason for us to show them just how much better it is to feel with all the heart and soul.” I looked her in the eyes, trying to let her know that it wasn’t such a bad thing to feel so deeply.

I blinked when I felt her small head rest upon my shoulder. A sigh escaped her lips. “I miss her so much.”

As I looked down at her brown hair, I swallowed, attempting to remove the lump in my throat. “So do I.”

Quietly, as if on the wind, she spoke up again. “Lieutenant?”

“Yes, Miss Swann?”

“Would you hold my hand?”

I glanced down beside me where her small, sun-bronzed hand was resting beside my own, much larger one. I gave one thought to propriety and then waved it away as I gently clasped her fingers in mine.

We sat together on the sand for some time, the sun setting magnificently in front of us. Neither of us stirred until the last of the day’s light had gone, leaving us with a starlit sky, the only sound the gentle rolling of the waves, the only perception that of each other and the sand beneath our feet.

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