Fandom: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Archive: Yes. Help yourself. Just make sure you include the first 3 chapters too. (They're mates, you see.)
Series: Yes, this is Chapter 4.
Chapter 1 is 'A Most Accommodating Commodore'.
Chapter 2 is 'A Very Captivating Captain'.
Chapter 3 is 'A Pair of Particularly Pretty Pirates'.
Disclaimer: The Mouse is the owner. I only play with them. ;)
Rating: NC-17 for graphic m/m (slash) sexual relations.
Pairing: J/N (Captain Jack Sparrow/Commodore Norrington), J/W implied, E/W implied, E/N implied (glossed), N/G (Norrington/Gillette) heavily implied.
Notes: This contains mention of het (m/f) sexual relations, but only in retrospect from the previous chapter.
Cover Art by me, using screencaps from Kimera.
Summary: Jack Sparrow is up to no good; Norrington is determined to find out what it is. Norrington discovers freedom, Jack discovers a free man. In the course of discovery, many hearts are freed.
A Fair and Fearless Freeman
Aboard the Perserverance, Elizabeth joined Will where he stood, forward, facing the ocean expanse. They were well on their way after their departure that morning with the tide, for Port-au-Prince. Or so Governor Swann and everyone else believed. She smiled as he turned to face her, and took his arm.
"I began to wonder if Norrington would let us use this ship," Will commented.
Elizabeth shrugged. "Seeing as I gave it to him, I think he felt obligated to lend it when I asked. I have to admit though, I've been worried about him. I think Jack's plans have taken a little too long to put into place. He seemed very depressed that night."
Will let out a breath. "Jack is Jack. He doesn't live by anyone else's ideas, and he keeps his own sense of time."
Elizabeth leaned her head against his arm. "I think James is very jealous of you."
"It's a good thing he won't have any more cause to be, then, isn't it?" Will smiled down at her, putting his arm about her.
"I'll be happy when they finally meet us at the rendezvous," she murmured. "Even giving him the ship doesn't seem like it quite makes up for deceiving him."
"We may be a pair of pirates, but we still have a conscience," Will commented, looking down at her and kissing her forehead. "But it was for his own happiness, after all. I still believe Jack was right about that."
Elizabeth sighed. "I'm afraid I'll never get over pirates," she muttered.
"I should hope not," Will grinned at her.
Captain-Commodore Norrington looked up from his desk as Gillette came into the room. "What is it, Captain?" he asked, absently.
"Sir, there's a matter about which I'd like to speak plainly, if you don't mind." Gillette seemed ill at ease.
Norrington regarded him, impassively. "Very well."
He waited, as Gillette shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other. "If I may be candid, sir, this- this matter of Sparrow, sir…"
Norrington waited. "Yes? The pirate. What of him?"
"Sir, the men all talk, and although you know I'd never set store by rumor, I can't help but notice that you always let him go. This last time, it was terribly obvious. The only reason I didn't mention it was because, well, you were in a frightfully bad mood, sir."
Norrington gave him a cold, wry smile. "Where Sparrow is concerned, you may rest assured that I am still in a bad mood and intend to remain that way. Furthermore, my mood is unlikely to improve if you keep bringing him up." He returned to his perusal of the charts before him.
Gillette straightened. "Yes, sir. But there is still the matter of your letting him go, sir."
Norrington looked back up at Gillette. "If I didn't know better, Captain, I'd say that you sound very eager to apprehend him indeed."
"That's… precisely the problem, sir," Gillette remarked. "You are not."
Norrington glowered over Gillette's shoulder, not seeing anything as he considered the problem, which, as the Captain was very rightly pointing out, remained unresolved.
Finally, he sniffed, and dismissively returned to studying the charts before him. In a bored voice, he stated, "Sparrow has the friendship and protection of the Turners, and by proxy, the Governor. As long as we cannot catch him in the act of holding stolen goods, smuggling, impersonating an officer of the Navy, looting or otherwise engaging in criminal activity, I am forced to treat him as a privateer. His services as an escort for the Turners on their honeymoon is already too widely-known, and although I do sometimes despair at finding an ample excuse to arrest him, he seems to have the most damnable luck. If he dares to venture here now that the Turners are gone, however, you can rest assured I'll impound his ship, confiscate his possessions and see him brought to justice under any possible justification." Norrington frowned at the charts. He looked up. "Is there anything else, Captain?"
"But he sank the Dauntless, sir!" Gillette blurted out.
Norrington stood up. "What do you propose we should do, Gillette?"
"Gather our forces, hunt down the Black Pearl and blow Sparrow out of the water, sir," Gillette said, as if it was obvious.
Norrington sighed through his nose. "I have dedicated literally months towards that very goal, yet his luck holds. They say fortune smiles on heroes and fools. I'm beginning to wonder which of those we are."
"They also say it smiles on the brave, sir, and that we most assuredly are."
"I believe that was what I said," Norrington commented.
"But sir, we cannot let him go next time." Gillette seemed adamant on this, like a dog with a bone he'd obviously fixated upon worrying.
"Yes; unfortunately, the political balance has shifted out of my favor for the time being and until I am in a better position to make demands upon Sinnott, who seems incapable of understanding that without yet more ships we cannot hope to entrap Sparrow's, we will have to make do. Although we know he's engaged in piracy before, we can't prove he's doing it now. Which would seem to present a problem, would it not?"
Gillette seemed a little deflated, but not by much. "Very well, sir. It's just, the men, sir."
"What of them?"
Gillette hesitated. "They say he broke you, during your captivity, and that you've lost your spirit for the fight. I keep reminding them that it's not true, but they do talk. And it doesn't help that you've let him go twice more since, and all in the space of a month, sir."
"Very true," Norrington nodded. "However, if you petition the Governor to revoke his protection, which he only gave to that pirate on behalf of his daughter and son-in-law, I'm sure we can bring him to justice."
Gillette stuttered, "But- but sir, why can't you do that? The Governor listens to you."
Norrington smiled grimly. "Because he listens to his daughter more."
Gillette let out a breath, agitatedly.
"That will be all, Captain," Norrington said, pointedly waiting for Gillette to leave.
"Sir," Gillette nodded, once, stiffly, unhappily, and left.
Norrington sat down and sighed, putting his fingers to his temples. The entire matter of Jack Sparrow had become a headache and an irritant.
The pirate appeared to be flaunting his protection, exactly as Gillette had pointed out, sailing in and out of Port Royal with a most negligent attitude and insultingly dismissive of the Navy's presence. The gall of the man was almost admirable, except that Norrington found the pain of knowing he'd played into Sparrow's manipulative, devious games by allowing himself to succumb to the desire he'd felt for him was not only unbearable, it was humiliating.
There was nothing he could do to redress the situation, nor could he resolve the residual heartache that remained in the wake of having to wait on Sparrow's every move. It had been so painful to realize that he'd ended up no better than a lovesick idiot, awaiting whatever crumb of affection Sparrow might toss in his direction. He'd thought he could handle the relationship, only to discover that he in fact did have a heart and it hurt more terribly than his conscience or his pride.
He would not lose his head again. He was committed to remaining cool and distant, in control, the next time he crossed paths with Jack Sparrow.
As it turned out, he did not have long to wait. The Black Pearl was sighted by a routine patrol, harbored just beyond Port Royal, along the coast, several days later. Norrington accompanied Gillette in the Valiant to intercept Sparrow. The other ships provided a net, in case the Pearl tried to slip by them.
Of course, the white flag went up almost instantly and Norrington sighed. Gillette and his men were all for firing upon the Pearl immediately, but Norrington gave the order to board her instead, earning impatient and disappointed looks.
On board, Jack Sparrow was sitting down, seemingly distracted by a new pastime of counting empty bottles, which all sat in a row before him. He looked up, pausing in his counting and recounting. "Ah, Commodore. P'rhaps you could help. Can't seem to decide which ones were mine."
The pirate was drunk. Again. Norrington drew a breath. "Anything to declare, Sparrow?" He was congratulating himself on not finding himself very pleased to see Jack at all. In fact, he was even a little surprised to find he felt nothing much at all either way.
Jack peered up at him. "You're different," he declared.
Useless, Norrington thought. Indulgently, he said, "You seem to have lost your crew again. You really aren't very good at choosing your crewmen or your friends, are you? It's just as I've always said."
Jack gave him a lopsided smile. "Now then, Commodore. Best not be pointing fingers, when ev'ryone knows the British Navy's got the highest rate of desertion in the world. The whole world. Why, every man-jack of me previous crew were Brits. 'At's why they're gone, I think."
Seeing Jack drunk and incapable, while still talking too much and creating a messily intellectual spectacle of himself, served to reveal to Norrington that he didn't much care for Jack Sparrow much anymore. Maybe the fire in his blood had run its course. But then there was the little remaining matter of the sting he yet felt at knowing he still felt more for Jack than Jack felt for anyone… Or anything.
The only thing one could take from Jack was his freedom. And only death could really accomplish that end.
Norrington found himself treated to the rare delight of discovering that it was what Jack represented that he truly resented and in fact desired; not the man himself.
Gillette came to stand beside them. "Sir, there's nothing aboard." His frustration was revealed in his words. Norrington could relate.
He sniffed. "Nothing?"
"There's barely even anyone aboard to crew the ship, and it's a miracle they managed to straggle this far with the supplies they've got left, sir."
"I see." Norrington looked back down at Jack. "You're captaincy would appear to be faltering, Sparrow. Dare I hope that you've forgotten to bear your letter from Swann, Turner, and company?"
Jack licked his lips and said, reflectively, "It's in me cabin, but I daresay you'll not be wanting to go back there. Not after what happened last time."
Norrington felt a flicker of interest go through him at the reminder. Damn.
He'd hoped he wouldn't find the thought at all fascinating, and yet here he was, already wondering if they had enough time to spare for something a little more private and intimate. Damn Jack Sparrow, anyway.
Gillette was looking down at Jack with a mixture of disgust and triumph.
"Tell me something, Jack. What is your business in Port Royal - this time?" Norrington asked casually. The man had some nerve to arrive back here after what had transpired… last time, indeed.
Jack frowned up at them, squinting against the glare of the sun. "'Nother crew, what else?"
"And where are you going to find this crew?" Norrington asked, his voice still deceptively amiable.
"Find it's usually best to follow the rum."
"Well then, we'll provide you with an escort so the good folk of Port Royal don't grow frightened at the arrival of your pirate ship, Sparrow," Norrington smiled down at him. "And this time, we'll accompany you to whatever gutter you're intent on occupying for the night."
Jack grinned up at him. "You're too kind, Commodore. You're the soul of generosity. And decency. Nobility, even. Very kind. I said that already… I'll buy you a drink." He gave Norrington a wink. "I remember what you prefer. Brandy. And I promise, this time, no port."
Norrington turned to Gillette. "Leave the men here, take a few back aboard the Valiant and follow us in. We're going to accompany Mr. Sparrow into the bay. For his own safety. As he appears too drunk to captain his own ship at the moment."
Gillette saluted. "Yes, sir," he agreed, with a note of sarcasm barely contained.
Norrington was hard-pressed to ignore the foolish grin Jack wore all the way back to Port Royal.
Halfway during the short trip back, he lost his temper, and glanced down at Jack who still sat, slouching in indolent and almost nauseating comfort, in place before his empty rum bottles. "Sad," he commented. "Very sad. And you call yourself a captain."
Mildly, Jack replied, "Daresay your little men are saying the same thing 'bout yourself, Commodore."
Nettled, Norrington sneered, "On the contrary, an admiralty and a knighthood still beckon. You're the only thing still remaining in my way, in point of fact."
Jack grinned. "Hang me and they'll give you everything, eh?"
Curious, Norrington asked, "Aren't you even a little intimidated by that thought? Or is your ego so large now that you can find a measure of confidence that you'll somehow be able to leave Port Royal this time?"
Jack stretched out even farther, as if attempting to emulate a cat bathing itself in a patch of sunlight. Which Norrington supposed he really was. Despite the ignominy of bearing such a paranoid military escort back into port, the Black Pearl looked like an Empress of the seas with a royal entourage, rather than a renegade vessel crawling in under duress.
"Considering your taste for games, in or out of bed, I'm not exactly sure which is more distressing," Jack answered placidly. "You really must stop making promises, Commodore."
Norrington frowned and moved away, letting Jack have the last word.
It wasn't fair, he thought to himself. As much as he'd believed the attraction had abated, it was still there. It coursed through him in fact, yet this time it was very definitely tempered by the sense of loss he'd been suffering from. To have to experience both, and not even with much real anger, it was quite simply uncomfortable and sad.
Norrington wondered which of them he was betraying more, Jack or himself. But he could see no other course, as Jack appeared to have completely lost interest and seemed very content to simply play him like a cat plays a mouse.
Well. This was one mouse who still had a vestige of self-respect, Norrington thought.
He could go the distance. He would see the game through. For it rankled that Jack had been right, last time, in saying that he'd begun it. For he had. In giving in to temptation that first time on Bermuda and saving the man from the Yard prison.
Norrington sighed. Directly into his bed. What had he been thinking?! He hadn't been, it was that simple.
When the ships entered the port and finally docked, Norrington merely ordered them to keep watch, while he and several of his men accompanied Jack off the ship and into the town. Jack of course was delighted with the attention and made a great show of leading the soldiers all the way into the backstreets and directly into one of the seediest taverns in Port Royal.
It was more than a scene, it was a play. Norrington had to admit that Jack was playing it for all it was worth. But this was at least better than knowing Jack would get away with whatever scheme he had up his sleeve.
But as the afternoon passed and Jack seemed more than happy to buy drinks for Norrington and Gillette and even some of the others, seemingly the happy and generous drunk now, there was no hint that Jack would attempt to rustle up interest in anyone to join him aboard the Black Pearl.
The afternoon turned to dusk, and then to night, and eventually, Norrington admitted defeat, ordering a change of guard to replace the exhausted and slightly drunken men who'd stayed with them. Jack appeared to have a limitless capacity for rum, which was surprising to Norrington, as he'd seen Jack pass out on various occasions during his time aboard the Pearl, that fortnight.
Norrington was not only tired and grim, but coldly angry and bored. The night was a waste. And he couldn't even really enjoy the time with Jack because Gillette was frustrated and muttering comments under his breath the entire evening.
Finally, Jack appeared to fall asleep at the table without any intention of rousing a crew for himself.
Norrington ordered Jack to be taken to the prison and held under guard, under the excuse of drunken and disorderly behavior, to sleep it off and keep a close eye on him, while he went home and got a few hours of decent sleep, himself.
The next day, he would have it out with Jack, seeing as the man still hadn't attended to the business of hiring himself a crew.
The morning found Norrington and Gillette gawping at the mass of men standing aboard the Black Pearl, silently awaiting Jack Sparrow's return to his ship.
"How- where - where did they all come from?" Gillette asked, too surprised to even bother sounding annoyed.
Jack held up a finger and shook it at him. "You forgot one very important thing, eh?" He grinned and spread his arms expansively, looking exceedingly pleased with himself. "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow. It's an honor to sail under my flag, in my ship. Men flock to have the chance to crew the Pearl."
Norrington considered them. Many African faces, various assembled nationalities - even a few women. "A motley company indeed, Jack. Who knew there were so many pirates in Port Royal on a single night, all looking for the opportunity?"
Jack shrugged. "Word gets around. Now, if you gentlemen don't mind, I'd like to go aboard my ship and inspect m'new crew. No sense in venturing out if they're likely to mutiny, now is there?" He said it with a note of irony, and Norrington had to smile. Indeed, it was how Jack had lost the Black Pearl before, eleven years before.
"Very well, Mr. Sparrow. Your reputation appears to have preceded you. I guess yet again we have no grounds to hold you. Although I do suspect you can't keep sailing back and forth eternally without giving in to the temptation to threaten another ship or port at some point. If I hear of even one instance of your doing so, or even the smallest act of piracy, the next time we meet, I will have you hung on the spot. Do I make myself clear?"
"As always, Commodore," Jack smiled affably at him. "Thanks for the drink, Captain," he directed at Gillette, who scowled at him. Turning back to Norrington, Jack clapped him on the arm - and then didn't let go. "It's been capital. We'll have to do this again sometime, James. Soon."
Norrington brushed Jack's hand off his arm. "You'd better hope not. I rather think you've outstayed your welcome this time."
Jack gave a jaunty little salute with his hat, and then bowed. "G'day, gentlemen." He swayed slightly, turned, and swaggered aboard the longboat to row over to where the Black Pearl was moored.
Gillette was furious. "He went too bloody far this time, sir. Why, he's made a fool of you."
Norrington raised his brows at Gillette. "Captain, you took Sparrow's letter of clemency from his coat last night. Hand it over."
Gillette blanched and held himself very still. "S-sir?"
"I'll overlook it this time, considering the nature of the pirate we just allowed to leave our dock. Now give it to me."
Gillette looked ill. "I'm terribly sorry, sir. I just-"
"Not another word, Captain. It's forgotten." He took the document from Gillette's nerveless fingers, and tucked it away. "On your way."
"Sir," Gillette murmured, all too eager to remove himself from Norrington's presence now.
Thoughtfully, Norrington considered Gillette's departing figure. Very rash, indeed. What was it about Jack Sparrow that incited men to behave like common criminals and bend the laws to their own personal agendas? The pirate's influence was like drink: inflammatory, volatile and uninhibited. He was chaotic and - Norrington sighed, turning to witness the Black Pearl with her huge black sails already slipping away.
Norrington watched her go with the horrifying realization that he'd acquired a taste for rum… and that was beginning to call to him most insistently even at that moment.
Norrington made a point of remaining aboard the Valiant, sans Gillette, over the next four days, keeping within distance of Port Royal in the hopes that upon Sparrow's possible return, he would be able to intercept him again. And this time, he was ready to sail after the man; he would follow the Black Pearl to wherever it was that she led. He was determined to find out why it was that Jack was so intent on flaunting his presence when he knew how dangerous it was for him to do so.
There was no profit from it that Norrington could see, and served only to inflame the Navy and himself further. Norrington could not see any benefit in either aim other than the devilish whimsy of a piratical excuse for mischief. Jack was not stupid. He would not risk himself if there were not something to be gained from it.
Sure enough, late in the afternoon on the fifth day, the distinctive black ship was sighted. Norrington shook his head. It really was too much. Sparrow was compromising the Navy's presence at Port Royal and causing a stir. There weren't even any Turners there to warrant a visit; and it was making Norrington look very bad indeed - worse than foolish, actually.
This time, he took the Valiant out to meet the Pearl, before Sparrow could get closer.
As they neared each other and both crews attempted to dock alongside, Norrington made his way to the railing. He couldn't help but notice that the crew of the Black Pearl seemed… strangely undermanned.
On the other ship, Jack Sparrow was standing and waving his arms.
"James," Jack called over, as Norrington winced. "Fancy meeting you here. Wasn't expecting you for another few hours yet."
"Declare yourself, Sparrow. What are your intentions?" Norrington was not pleased to see him here, under the circumstances.
Jack appeared to think it over. "Tell you what," he called back. "Come on over, 'ave a drink, and we'll talk about it. Just one thing, mate - send the Valiant back a bit, eh? She's making me crew nervous."
Norrington frowned. "After my previous incarceration, I'm afraid I must decline your invitation."
Jack grinned at him. "Very well, I'm coming aboard. We'll not venture into Port Royal, you have my word."
Norrington could not believe it. Jack Sparrow swung over to the Valiant, dropped onto the deck, and then shouted, audibly enough for Norrington's benefit, orders for the Pearl to depart.
Incredible. Norrington stalked over to where Jack stood aboard his ship, nonchalantly behaving as though this sort of thing happened every day. Of course, who knew, with Jack Sparrow? It probably did.
"What in hell do you think you are doing?" Norrington demanded. "This is a Navy ship - you can't just board when you feel like it."
"You declined my invitation, which left us with very few options, mate."
Norrington regarded the sky, wondering when Jack had finally lost whatever remaining sense of reality he'd ever had. Sardonically, he replied, "Your ship has just left without you. And you have no letter of clemency or marque, and you wear a pirate brand. What possible excuse can you possibly offer for me not to have you clapped in irons on the spot?"
Jack smiled at him. "I was going to suggest parley, but then I remembered, you're not a proper pirate yet. But I'll warrant you liberated my letter from your lovesick captain, did you not?"
Norrington blinked. "Lovesick captain?"
"Aye," Jack said, leaning a little too close and whispering. "That lad is off his head on your account. Surprised you didn't notice, mate."
Norrington regarded the wooden planks of the deck beneath their feet. He came to a decision within himself. "Very well, Jack," he said, slowly. "Join me for a drink, and I'll give you back your letter." He turned, and sought out the lieutenant who'd accompanied him out that morning. "See us back to Port Royal."
Jack followed him into the captain's cabin of the Valiant, and considered the interior.
"Not as spacious as yours, but it serves." Norrington went to his drinks cabinet and brought out his brandy and a bottle of rum that he'd always kept in the back of the cabinet on the vague notion that it might just come in useful - at some point.
He handed it to Jack, who took it with a flourish. "Ta. Now, James, before you lose your temper, just need to tell you one thing." He gestured at the chair across from him as he sat down. "One thing."
Norrington seated himself with a sigh, drinking his brandy straight from the bottle.
Jack continued, impervious to Norrington's lack of interest, "My business in Port Royal this time is really, very simple. I've decided I owe you an explanation."
Norrington found himself unmoved. He didn't reply, merely considered his brandy and took another swallow.
"As I'm sure you noticed, my crew is much depleted again. I've come back for another one."
"For a captain as popular as you consider yourself to be, your desertion rate is shocking," Norrington commented, not piqued at all by this revelation.
"Aye, that it is," Jack agreed. "But you see, I'm making a nice, tidy little sum from it, so I can't say as I mind."
Norrington did frown at this, and glanced over at Jack. "How the devil do you manage to make a profit from losing crewmen?"
Jack's smile was sly. "They aren't crewmen, Commodore."
Norrington sat up at this. Something was beginning to dawn on him, even before Jack could explain it.
"I had to find a way to keep finding useful excuses to visit Port Royal, to see Elizabeth and Will, and how else to make it a profitable venture than to engage in the liberation of deserters and slaves? So I offered the Pearl's services to that end, which entailed a certain amount of traffic, to be sure. But it also keeps me in your vicinity, if you'll take my meaning. So really you should be thanking me for being so considerate. Only thing is, it wasn't my turn to be kidnapping you; you were supposed to do it this time. And you never did. So I've come to ask if you're still interested, or if my charms have been fairly lost on you by now. Should I bother keeping it up, or go back to taking ships, which, I have to admit, pays rather better than freeing slaves. Although," Jack continued with an evil grin now, "have to admit, it does seem rather fitting that I'm singlehandedly repopulating the Caribbean with pirates, freemen and rascals after all the hard work you've gone to over the years to see us rid of them."
Stunned at the man's abrasive and completely irritating speech, Norrington could only consider him in somewhat shocked silence. He took a breath. And returned to his brandy. This did explain things, somewhat.
Jack leaned forward slightly, watching him. "I think your little captain is starting to get a clue."
Norrington let out a chuff of unamused laughter. "What is that to you?"
Jack shook his head and sat back. "None of my business, really. Just fielding out the competition, is all." He uncorked the rum and thoughtfully knocked it back.
Norrington swirled the remainder of the brandy in the bottle. "So all this has been for my benefit, is what you would have me believe?"
"And mine," agreed Jack. "And Elizabeth's and Will's, and the men that were wanting their freedom, and your little Navy boys, to keep 'em occupied for a spell. So everyone's happy, really. Except you don't seem to want to take the bait, and I'm wondering why."
Norrington looked over at him. "The bait. As in, holding you prisoner in Port Royal as an unwilling guest and having my way with you?"
Jack licked his lips and cocked his head. Quietly, he remarked, "Was a time you'd have leapt at the chance. So I'm thinking it's that you've found it's run its course, eh?"
Norrington closed his eyes. Jack had merely been continuing the game they'd already begun - it was he who had failed to keep pace… He wondered when it was that he'd lost sight of it. He suspected it was when he'd grown distracted with his relationship with Elizabeth, and resolving that matter. And the intense, painful jealousy at knowing Jack had been with Will Turner… the same man who'd taken Elizabeth's heart from him in the first place. Not really knowing how to proceed, he took a measure of courage from the brandy again.
With a self-mocking smile, he said, looking at his bottle, "The Turners assisted you, including the distracting of me from your activities. I've behaved entirely unbefitting a man of my position and rank. And now Gillette has acted beyond the law… you are a corruptive influence, Jack, and a devil."
"Flattery still isn't your forte," Jack commented, pulling a face.
All the heartache and suffering, for nothing. Norrington wondered how much he was the fool, and how much the blind man. Equal measure, most likely, he thought. All in all, he really should have considered Jack's ability for drawing people into complicated designs, especially where the matter contained a definite amount of interest for Jack himself.
"And jealousy doesn't become you," Norrington replied, at last. After all, Gillette was hardly a pirate, or anything like Jack. There was something to what Jack had pointed out, but Gillette was not in the running as competition at all. Anymore than Will was, come to think of it.
Abruptly, Norrington realized though that it might not look that way to Jack… And the thought that perhaps his pirate captain had suffered a small amount of possessive anxiety over himself was a bit of a soothing balm to his ruffled feelings.
"Ah, but then Will Turner isn't exactly in the same category as yourself," Jack supplied. "Far too easy. You present the greater challenge."
Norrington glanced at Jack, who appeared now as equally interested in the rum bottle he held, as he did with his brandy. Somehow, Norrington still felt as though he'd failed however.
Was it a failing though, to not meet the standards of deception and scheming that someone as manipulative as Jack possessed? He was not here to reach some level of piratical success as defined by a half-mad, lecherous pirate captain, nor was he here simply to help himself in the moment, by giving into a constant stream of depravity. Or was it love? He was confused on that issue, still.
The languorous two weeks he'd spent aboard the Black Pearl as Jack's 'unwilling' guest had been the best and most relaxing interlude he'd had in years. And it had resulted in his heart ending up completely compromised, to the point of being unable to find any satisfaction in even achieving an affair with Elizabeth.
But what Jack had just said, about himself presenting the greater challenge… Perhaps Jack was feeling that he was the one who'd failed, not Norrington at all.
Finally, he broke the silence that had fallen between them, and said, "I can't say as I've enjoyed myself, to be honest." At Jack's sharp look, he continued, "Somehow, I lost the one thing I valued, a long time ago, to a thieving reprobate who refuses to repay me in kind."
Jack pulled a face, obviously not following Norrington's reasoning.
Norrington smiled, tightly. "My heart, Jack."
An expression of recognition went over Jack, who took another drink and said, casually, "How much would you be willing to bet that your men are currently laying bets right now on how long we're going to be in here?"
"Why do you think I ensured that my captain, as you call him, would not be aboard this time?"
Jack nodded in approval. Then he leaned on the edge of the table in Norrington's direction. "So how much will it cost me to get my letter back, then?"
Norrington stirred. "Very well." He withdrew it from his pocket and slid it across the table to Jack.
Jack was smiling at him.
"You find it amusing?"
"Find it charming, rather," Jack said, looking down at the letter and then back up at him. "Didn't think I'd won so completely and overwhelmingly. Believe me, I'd no idea you were so devastated. Wasn't my intention to break your heart, Commodore."
Norrington considered him, and took a last sip of brandy, moving away to put it back in the cabinet. "No," he agreed. "But it was your intention to teach me a lesson."
Jack sat up straighter. "Might have been, at that," he said. "But then it was your idea to give in to Elizabeth. Practically fell into her arms, you did."
Norrington tried to catch some hint of jealousy in Jack's voice but Jack seemed devoid of inflection at the moment. That in itself was suspect, however. "Point taken," he responded.
Jack grinned up at him. "Knew something was up that day, when you were nearly ready to draw a weapon on me."
Guilt rippled over him at Jack's reminder. "You're right. I forgot the tacit rules of our agreement."
"Weren't any rules, either way. All's fair in love and war," Jack commented.
"Then it won't come as too much of a surprise to you when I tell you that you're under arrest," Norrington said, mildly.
Jack smiled and let out a little laugh. "Wondered when you'd get around to that."
"Indeed," Norrington smiled back. And went to the door. "Lieutenant. Bring me a length of rope." As his men came into the cabin, he ordered, "Have Mr. Sparrow held under guard on deck until we arrive. I want him safely escorted to the Fort, where I can interrogate him properly."
"Aye, sir," came a grim chorus in answer to his orders.
Norrington met Jack's eyes, who gave him a sickly smile. But Jack didn't resist, and went with them quietly.
Norrington remained in the cabin and thoughtfully put the rum bottle away.
The remainder of their return to Port Royal was intolerably long and aggravating.
In his office, Norrington paced, waiting for Gillette. He'd had Jack taken to his quarters, but he found his peace of mind was somewhat disturbed by the pointed reminder Jack had given him earlier aboard the Valiant, concerning his captain's behavior and motivation for it.
There was a knock on the door, and Gillette came in, looking rather abashed. "You sent for me, sir?"
"Sit down, Captain," Norrington said, taking a seat behind his desk. "A most interesting and difficult situation has presented itself to me this evening, which I'm afraid requires some deliberation. I'd appreciate your thoughts on the matter."
Gillette seemed to have steeled himself to endure a tongue-lashing concerning his faux pas earlier in the week. Now he relaxed somewhat. "Certainly, sir."
Norrington smiled to himself and continued, "I have apprehended Mr. Sparrow, and discovered I have something of a dilemma."
Gillette stiffened in his seat at hearing Sparrow's name. "A dilemma, sir?" he asked, carefully.
"Indeed. I have him in my power, and yet, I find I absolutely cannot bring myself to see him hang. In fact, I find I'm obliged to let him go in the morning, to make his way back to his ship the best he can. Further, I find myself unwilling to see him delivered into the hands of anyone else, let alone anyone who would consider seeing him hang. What would you consider would be the wisest course of action?"
Gillette opened his mouth and then closed it again. He looked very uncomfortable.
Norrington leaned back in his chair. "It turns out that he's been engaged in the liberation of slaves. A noble, if impetuous and misguided undertaking. I suspect the Turner boy has been rubbing off on him."
Gillette stammered, "S-sir, I hardly think it's my place to begin interpreting the legalities concerning Sparrow, or his acts of piracy."
Norrington nodded. "Quite right. Still, I'd appreciate your unique insight into the matter."
Gillette looked caught, and his face began to color.
"Of course, if Mr. Sparrow were to somehow escape in the night due to a change of guard occurring at an unfortunately opportune time that might enable him to slip away," Norrington said, with a glance to see how Gillette would take this suggestion. "Well," he smiled. "Let's just say, I wouldn't hold you or anyone else responsible, seeing as he does carry a letter of clemency and happens to be a friend of the Turners, and we cannot prove his recent acts due to lack of evidence."
Gillette bit his lip. "Sir, if I may speak plainly?"
"I was rather hoping you would, Gillette," Norrington observed, dryly.
"Considering all that you've pointed out, sir, I do think that it would be possible for the guard to be changed, and perhaps even removed along certain corridors, and… well, there could be mitigating circumstances," he stumbled along, adding, "In fact, this might just be a case, sir, where two wrongs make a right?"
"My thoughts exactly," Norrington said, agreeably. "A stolen letter, an escaped prisoner, and in the morning, we'll carry on. And Gillette," he pinioned the captain with a stern look, "The next time you intend to show such fervor, try to remember that you have to answer to me."
Gillette's eyes fluttered, obviously taking this in. It could in fact be taken a number of ways. Some of them as a warning, or even very interesting.
Norrington raised his brows. "You're dismissed, Captain. And by the way, I expect just before dawn would be the most probable time our prisoner might attempt an escape."
Gillette nodded. "Yes, sir. I mean, of course, sir." Gillette managed to back out of his office with some modicum of dignity, in spite of his red face.
Norrington retired to his quarters, considering that it hadn't gone all badly. Interesting, what jealousy and the desire to impress could do to a man's convictions and principles.
In the bedroom, he was met with the delectable sight of Jack Sparrow in a state of undress, sitting on the edge of his bed, waiting for him.
Jack's face brightened. "All clear, then?"
Norrington nodded. "I expect so. Although why you'd rather spend the night here rather than aboard your ship, I've no idea. You won't get much sleep, seeing as you're accustomed to the waves."
Jack chuckled quietly at him. "Didn't actually have sleep in mind at all, Jim-lad."
"Must you call me that?" Norrington said uncomfortably, pausing in mid-motion of undressing.
"Must, aye, as it upsets you so." Jack leered at him. "Take it all off, Jimmie."
"You're forgetting that you're here at my pleasure, and I outrank you, ship or no ship."
"And you're forgetting that, in the bedroom, it's age and experience before rank or command, and this time, you have no rope," Jack reminded him with no small measure of satisfaction.
Norrington blew out the candles, sat down beside him and pushed him over, back into the sheets. "Considering where you are, I don't think you can afford to be insubordinate."
Jack's eyes glittered up at him in the darkness. "Took you long enough to catch on, I must say. Could've been here weeks ago."
Norrington heaved a sigh. "It's true. I've been a fool. I blame you, of course."
"Naturally," Jack agreed, squirming his way upwards to take the best place in Norrington's bed.
Norrington regarded him in the dim light of the window, the faint illumination of the night sky and crescent moon barely enough to see by. He reached out a hand to touch Jack, enjoying the simple but important leisure of just being able to.
Running his fingers over that tanned skin, and purely losing himself in the act of it, without having to sacrifice a sense of conscience, duty or misplaced morality for the sake of social politeness. A private indulgence, that his heart demanded and his body required.
Leaning down, he found Jack's mouth in the dark, and feeling those lips part beneath his own, gave himself up at last to the safety of stolen moments.
"I missed this, missed you, so much," he murmured against Jack, not caring how it sounded, or that he betrayed more than he'd promised he would, even despite the fact Jack already knew.
He heard the smile in Jack's voice, and felt those wickedly, sinfully lush lips curve beneath his. "My Commodore still, for all that."
And Jack's arms came up and around, to pull him down against him closer, skin against skin.
Abruptly, beneath him, Jack muttered, "Didn't mean for you to suffer as much as you did, love."
Norrington smiled grimly at it. "Was my own damn fault for falling back on rules that hardly applied to either of us, in this." He moved over Jack, covering him, enjoying the feeling of pressing into him, every inch of contact a song as skin whispered against his. The familiarity of it was offset by the hunger that had grown too greatly over the past while since he'd last had this luxury.
He was rewarded by the sound of slight breathlessness entering Jack's voice. "Was starting to worry me a bit, I'll admit."
Norrington stopped, feeling that warmth and tenderness go through him; extremely welcome it was, too. "You don't say? Jack Sparrow, worrying about losing my regard?"
"You were starting to take it all a bit seriously, yourself," Jack pointed out.
Norrington considered this, allowing a wandering hand to drift over heated flesh, enjoying the closeness of it, and the way Jack's breath caught in his throat as he continued the caress down Jack's side, to his waist, all the way to his thigh.
"I was. But then, I'd forgotten I was dealing with a pirate. You still had my heart and I couldn't get it back."
"Well, then have mine instead. For I can't give you back yours," Jack murmured.
Norrington stilled, his hand on Jack's hip. "Are you serious this time, or are you still playing me?"
"I may play at being serious, but I'm always serious about playing," Jack replied.
This was entirely too cryptic however, and Norrington realized he was going to have to bring Jack to begging point before getting an honest answer out of him. Wryly, he moved to lie against Jack's right side, and took hold of Jack's cock with a firm hand.
Jack sucked in a breath. "On second thought, I was serious when I said you can have mine."
Chuckling, Norrington said, "Fine time to admit that, Jack."
Jack's breathing increased in speed and with an audible gulp, he said, testily, "Alright, alright. I confess; was just as hard for me as it was for you, having to watch you prancing about, off-limits, in your fancy uniform, with that absurd little lapdog bouncing around at your heels. Young man's a menace; thought he was going to run me through just to 'ave a word from you."
Delightedly, Norrington said, "Jack, I do believe you are jealous. 'Lapdog'?" He began to pull leisurely on Jack, who moaned under him.
"So, 'tis to be torture, then."
"Not at all," Norrington promised, calmly. "We have all night, however, and I do want to take my time to savor this, after all."
He began to inch his way down, enjoying the way Jack shivered and leaped under the touch of his mouth on Jack's body, and the tension that mounted as he neared his way over the flat belly.
And he really was not of a mind to torture Jack at all, so it was that the room was abruptly filled with a surprised, strained and eager groan from Jack as Norrington took him into his mouth in one movement.
Gillette stood outside the door in the hallway, in the dark; with his heart pounding, and a hand stealing to his cover his mouth to stop himself from making a sound. At first, he'd been drawn by curiosity - and a deal of anger. But now he was filled with something hot and unexpected. It filled his head with pounding images and strange considerations that were somehow tinted with regret.
The muffled sounds of the two men on the other side of the door grew more abandoned, and he found his heartbeat keeping time, while the fear of being discovered was quickly shoved aside in favor of the need for release, himself. His other hand stole to the front of his laces.
The appellation 'lapdog' rang in his ears still, and his face was overheated to realize it was true; he was so obvious in the way he tried so hard to win Norrington's approval. His face burned with the shame of it. Damn Sparrow anyway, what was it about the pirate that Norrington found so irresistible, and favorable over others? Had to be the whore's eyes as Sparrow painted them; or perhaps the affected walk.
The mingled sounds grew louder, Sparrow's moans rising unrestrained in pitch, while Gillette had to strain to hear Norrington's, muffled as they were. Abruptly, he realized why. A new wave of heat overcame him.
Dear Lord, no. It wasn't fair; two weeks aboard the pirate's ship and this was the result? Well, give him two weeks alone with the Commodore and he'd manage a similar feat, he was certain. Gillette was resolved to try for himself, now.
There was a cessation of noises from inside the bedroom now, and Gillette paused, his heart beating wildly in the darkness of the hallway, once more becoming acutely aware of the danger of his position as eavesdropper.
He frowned, leaning closer to the door, his ear nearly touching it, and then he heard Norrington murmur, in a tender and yet somehow commanding voice, "Turn over."
Gillette closed his eyes. His heart nearly stopped. He was frozen, burning, simultaneously. He shouldn't do this. Not to them, and not to himself. He wouldn't be able to forget the tone of the Commodore's voice saying that; ever again. It was burned into his memory.
'Turn over'. No, no, no.
But his curiosity was further enlightened as Sparrow's voice lifted once more, this time leaving no doubt as to what they were doing.
It was too much. Gillette's hands flew to free his aching organ, praying he'd remember not to cry out when the time came. His own pleasure seemed distant and somehow wholly dependent on the actions he could not witness behind the door.
And now, Norrington's voice joined Sparrow's and the duet seemed loud enough that even if he let slip a helpless sound, they wouldn't hear it. He hoped.
God, the sound of the two of them; it was pure, and joy, and heat, and wild. Something beautiful and forbidden, something he hadn't known he could want, and beyond the crude grasp of the touch of the tavern wenches and the giggling girls in the streets as they gawked at his uniform, his sweetheart he saw sometimes at the end of the pier. This was a world that he wanted into, something he wasn't even sure he could handle.
The sound of their voices, and the fresh memory resounding through him: 'Turn over'. Ah, god- He was coming before he realized he was so close, spilling over his hand, and managing to stifle his grunt and whimper.
It wouldn't have mattered, for the cries within the room suddenly reached a peak and hovered, the rhythmic sounds of the bed shaking beneath them stilled, and affected a staccato of out-of-pace movement.
Gillette pressed his ear against the wood of the door and tried not to breathe; the wood was cool against his burning face.
He was rewarded with the sudden sound of his Commodore lost in rapture, a sound so sweet and even vulnerable, he had to close his eyes against the way his chest suddenly constricted at it.
Finally, understanding dawned. To touch happiness.
He wondered what was wrong in it, to want it. He could no more deny that he wanted it, than he could deny that happiness to Norrington, whomever he found it with.
When no more noises came to him through the door, Gillette stirred himself and tried to creep away, soundlessly. A slight creak of the floorboard in front of him nearly gave him away, but he doubted it would reach through the door.
Jack shifted under him, and Norrington moved, obligingly. Jack muttered, "I don't usually perform for an audience unless they're invited."
"Stop sulking," Norrington said, serenely. "You'll have him to thank for your escape at dawn."
Jack began to laugh. "Very well then, sir. Why don't we just invite him in, then?"
Norrington hissed and held him down as he made to get up. "Stop it. He's a good officer; it won't do to shame him now."
"He's had his fun; now it's my turn."
Norrington turned and covered him once more, but this time in earnest, to keep him from getting up. "Don't."
The warning in Norrington's voice was sobering. Jack stilled, and said, wonderingly, "Maybe I'm the one who should be feeling jealous, here, mate."
"For God's sake," Norrington swore. "We're in the Fort, and it isn't a laughing matter. Do you want to see us both hung?"
"No. I want to see if -he's- well-hung," Jack said, irrepressibly. After all, if the Commodore's little captain wanted to play, he was willing to oblige him. "Next time, I say we invite him in."
Norrington gave a long-suffering sigh. "You are a piece of work."
"As is yourself," Jack grinned. "But I do love you, for all that." He enjoyed the way Norrington went still at this.
And he was properly distracted and chastened by Norrington's lips against his cheek, followed by the reply, "As I love you."
Finally. He wondered how long it would take his Commodore to admit it to him aloud. He realized he liked it, he liked hearing it and wanted to hear it as often as time allowed. He'd have to tell him he loved him more frequently. He'd started aboard the Pearl that lovely fortnight together, but Norrington had always shied from responding.
And his eyes narrowed in the dark, as he considered the possibility of seducing Captain Gillette in the morning.
After all, the fellow was after his Commodore, and so by rights, he had to take the opportunity while he could, seeing as Norrington would be within Gillette's grasp while he was forced to get himself safely back aboard his ship.
And he grinned to himself as Norrington held him close, at the knowledge that he'd apparently freed more slaves and liberated more men to enjoy freedom from their lives' shackles than he'd previously supposed.
- fini -
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