Pairing: Jack/Norrington (with implied Jack/Groves, Norrington/Groves)
Rating: I guess I'll rate an R for m/m slash, and m/m/m-implied oral slashiness (excessive kissing).
Archive: Yes, help yourself; include all chapters please.
Beta: Moonsalt (I WILL convert you, dearie! MUAHAHAHA)
Disclaimer: Mouse & Bruckheimer Productions owns all, except Jack Sparrow who belongs to J.Depp. ;-)
Series: The Cupid Series
1: Cupid's Sparrow
4: A Taste of Heaven
5: Sugar Rush
6: White Gold
7: Gentlemen of Fortune
Summary: "A wedding! I love weddings - drinks all around!"
The Cupid Series
Commodore Norrington stood apart from the other guests, ruminating over all possible routes by which he might leave the hall and escape the dreary aftermath of the Turner Wedding.
Not that it had been a dull ceremony; on the contrary, both Elizabeth and her blacksmith had managed to eclipse the brilliance of the chandeliers with their happy glow, and even now lit up the floor, gazing uselessly into each other's eyes, wreathed with identically hapless smiles.
Sipping carefully at his wineglass, he considered the rest of the attendance. Usually he found the gatherings of the social elite of Port Royal to be insipid and entirely stifling. Tonight seemed to smile on the newly-wedded Turners, however, as well-wishers seemed genuine in the main.
The past year had seen the hullabaloo surrounding the-former-Miss-Swann's engagement surge and fade and resurge in tandem with the seasons. He'd managed to avoid most of the rumors of his own supposedly broken-hearted state by keeping to the affairs that cropped up in Jamaican politics, and military excursions in the waters of the nearby islands.
On the whole, it had been a tad dull lately, and Norrington had found himself actually chafing for a good skirmish with real buccaneers, as he had in the old days after arriving in the Caribbean.
Sometimes he regretted having done his job too successfully. The occasional raid or story of an attacked merchant ship farther away, coming or going from the Atlantic trade routes into the Spanish Main, usually turned out to be overblown for dramatic effect in taverns and alehouses.
His own military intelligence often revealed them to be insubstantial; he was usually able to put a stop to these rumors faster than he would have liked, and he was growing weary of discovering they were either unfounded or of lesser consequence than made out by tongue-waggers. Still, the ever-present lingering element of piracy did yet exist, and of course the most exacerbating threat was still the Black Pearl.
Norrington had been disappointed that the Black Pearl appeared to be absent from the Caribbean; to his surprise... for he hadn't expected to feel such disappointment.
The cheery orchestra carried on, swelling mutely along with his boredom as other couples joined the impaired Turners drifting in a seemingly oblivious fashion.
In the back of his mind, he tried to ignore the quiet, niggling hope that uninvited guests might descend upon the assembly. The early evening dragged on.
He sighed through his nose and drained the wineglass. Governor Swann had seemed happy for his daughter's happiness, but ever-so-slightly strained at her choice of husband, even after having a year to come to grips with the idea of having a blacksmith for a son-in-law.
That the said blacksmith was the son of a notorious pirate was the source of Norrington's hope that a disruption of the evening might occur. Action of any kind at this point would be preferable over the tedium.
The bright gaiety and happy voices, the cheerful music, the obviously visible romance of the pair swirling about the floor, it was all grating on his nerves. He'd almost prefer going over reports, except that Lieutenants Gillette and Groves had all too helpfully helped clear Norrington's entire schedule for not just the day but the entire weekend, upon which the Dauntless would then escort the wedded couple's ship, the Silver Hinde. He was left with no recourse but to follow through, with nothing that might distract or delay them.
They were to embark on a honeymooning cruise of the nearby islands, ending finally in a circuitous roundabout course that returned them to Port Royal, with a stopover in Kingston for several days to visit relatives and friends. Norrington had given his promise to Weatherby Swann that his daughter would be safe.
Norrington half-heartedly hoped something would happen to befall them, simply to relieve them of the monotony. Not to mention distract him from the considerable embarrassment of being in the position of the top ranking officer at Fort Charles and therefore the best and only officer of the Royal British Navy to accompany the Turners', as well as the man who'd been passed over by Mrs. Turner.
He'd managed to stem the hurt both to his pride and his heart over the passage of the year, but the wound had opened afresh with the day's proceedings. Seeing Elizabeth and William so obviously occupied with each other, and the general contentment and joy of the attending guests, had served to needle him painfully.
The music lifted, almost eagerly attempting to lift his spirits and the voices and laughter rose to keep pace above the notes. Norrington scowled, examining his empty glass.
"Sir, if you like, I could get you a refill," supplied a helpful voice at his right elbow.
Turning slightly, he glanced at Lieutenant Groves, who stood surveying the dancers beside Norrington by the table.
"No, thank you, Lieutenant," Norrington said, curtly. "Something stronger would appear to be in order."
Groves turned to him, a brow raised. "The rum-punch is excellent this time, or so I was informed. It's right behind us. I've been intending to sample it."
Norrington lifted his chin and sighed again, more wearily this time. "Yes, very well. I believe we've reached that point, haven't we?"
Groves poured them out two glasses of the unique mix. Regardless of the quality of the hosts at this ballroom hall, or the Swann fortune, or even the assembled guests, the fact that rum was the primary constituent of the punch would prove to be its undoing, Norrington was certain.
Groves handed him a glass and lifted his own. "To the happy couple," he said, clinking it to Norrington's glass.
Norrington frowned at his punch, and contented himself with a grim, "Indeed. Cheers." After a cautious sip, he realized it wasn't too bad. Not too bad at all. Bane of the fleet, this stuff. He'd have to go lightly on it - the punch went down far too easily and smoothly.
Then again, he mused, it might be the only relief he was likely to be offered this night. He gulped down a larger swallow. Despite the impending evening hour, the sun had only set recently and the dark in the sky just simply could not hurry along any faster.
Groves said in a lowered voice, "My condolences, Sir. She is a lovely bride, and the other men and I, well... Sir, we know it rankles, to be passed over for a blacksmith."
Unable to let this slide, Norrington stiffly reminded him, "For all his rash behavior and impetuous nature, Mr. Turner is skilled with the blade, as well as in the crafting of his swords. I'm sure a few more years will hone him. Rank and occupation aside, she chose for her heart, and I won't fault her for that."
"Not at all, Sir," Groves agreed, sipping from his punch and watching the Turners waltz past them. "There're plenty more fish in the sea, after all."
Norrington gave Groves a curious glance. "Just how much have you imbibed tonight, Groves?"
"Not nearly enough, Sir," Groves replied.
"Amen to that," Norrington muttered, and downed his rest of his punch.
Turning to refill his glass, he added, "We have the following week to look forward to, as well, which offers at least some consolation. I trust everything is in order?"
"Unfortunately, yes. Nothing left to do now but wait," Groves replied. "I must say, Sir, the men aren't exactly pleased about having to carry out a nursemaid mission."
With a grim smile, Norrington took Groves' empty glass and refilled it for him as well.
"Perhaps we'll see action along the way, however," Groves continued, in a slightly more hopeful tone.
"One can only hope," Norrington said, turning to observe the hall once more.
They stood in silence for a time, Groves drinking his punch, and companionably standing beside him.
Norrington reached the bottom of his glass again.
Norrington frowned at his glass now, and wondered if the punch was even having any effect on him. After three glasses each seeming to have no effect on either of them, he began to doubt that the rum really had been the main ingredient, and that the punch must have been diluted; with far too much fruit, no doubt.
Mrs. Elizabeth Turner suddenly appeared before them, her white wedding gown overflowing with a veritably cascading waterfall of lace and ruffles, ribbons and pearls. "James," she smiled at him with delighted fondness. "I hope the evening isn't too dull for you."
He smiled at her and replied obliquely, "It was a lovely ceremony. Congratulations, Mrs. Turner." It was easy to say it to her face; he'd been having to practice it for a year now, after all.
"May I have one dance?" she asked, winsomely. "As the only bride present, I've already danced with everyone that I'm supposed to. A girl has to have some fun, wouldn't you agree?"
He glanced at Groves, who wore a curious expression. No help there. Norrington put down his glass and offered his arm. "Certainly, Mrs. Turner. It will be a pleasure."
Elizabeth leaned in a little and said for his ears alone as they moved onto the floor, "Don't worry, James; I won't keep you too long. Just this one dance. I'm sorry that it isn't as exhilarating as one of your hangings. I'm sure that we could go hunting for some better sport on the honeymoon, however, if your men need the exercise."
He glared down at her, wondering at her flippant tone and manner. Her eyes were sparkling - and he realized he was being teased. Lifting a brow, he said, "Dare I hope you and Mr. Turner have decided to become pirates after all, then?"
She chuckled at him as they joined the couples for the next dance. Looking mischievously up at him, she answered, "I think we could give the Dauntless a run for your money."
She glanced about them, and he followed her gaze, noting the surreptitious looks of the other couples watching them. Ignoring them, Norrington replied, "I'm on the verge of asking you to, simply as a favor."
"Poor James; you're bored stiff, aren't you?" She nearly stopped dancing, a sudden idea coming to her, as he watched her face change. "We could make it a race. Liven things up a little."
"Your father would undoubtedly have my head," Norrington said, more for her benefit than his own.
"But Father need never know," she insisted in a loud whisper.
He smiled down at her, absently noting how warm she was in his arms. The wedding gown really was fetching on her. He was impressed anew at her ability to dance in it. In fact, any woman's ability to dance in the style of this gown. Unbelievable, despite her train had been detached. "Certainly not. I'm afraid that I've already given my word that your safety is paramount. Our first priority is to ensure the Silver Hinde has a proper voyage, without incident."
Elizabeth gave him a withering look. "Come on, you know want to."
"Mrs. Turner," he said, mildly, "Are you suggesting that I deviate from my orders?"
"Heaven forbid," she muttered.
Not above teasing her in return, Norrington asked quietly, "You can tell me, Mrs. Turner: did you marry him for his trade, or because he is a pirate's son? If my father had been a pirate, perhaps my suit would have not have fallen from your favor so quickly?"
The moment he said it, he regretted it however, for the crestfallen look that marred her face was not pleasant to see. Immediately, he said, "Forgive me. It was only meant in jest, Elizabeth."
Her eyes narrowed and she said, sharply, "It was hard for me to choose between you, actually. I hoped you knew that. The last time we talked, I had-"
"Please, Mrs. Turner," he cut in, just as quickly, "You need not remind me. They were hasty words, I meant nothing by them."
But the stiffness in her movements revealed all too well that she was uncomfortable now.
Blast. He'd hoped to get through the evening without some kind of scene, and not even halfway through their single dance, he'd already stepped in it. "My apologies, Elizabeth."
She quickly shook her head. "No, it's not me…I was just noticing something odd."
He practically sighed again. Like all women, a dissembling creature. She no doubt-
"It's that young officer," she murmured, for his ears, in a much quieter tone this time. "He keeps watching us. Well, you."
Norrington frowned. "Which one?" He cast his eyes about the crowd, seeing several officers in dress-uniform at this wedding banquet and not catching the one she referred to.
"He's stopped now," she said, as they continued to make their way across the floor through the press of other dancers. She gave a quick lift of her head. "That one," she said.
But he couldn't tell which man she was referring to. Besides, the flush of the punch was beginning to take its toll, he realized, feeling the effects of the warmth drifting through him. Perhaps he should have sunk them with more discretion. He'd stop at three. No more tonight. But the way Elizabeth Sw- Turner! -Turner's waist felt beneath his hand was entirely provoking and too painful a reminder to regret the three glasses of wine and three of rum-punch he'd already downed.
Another might do the trick nicely. Besides, the swirling was beginning to make him feel sick to his stomach. Or was it the aggravation of having to attend at all?
With a slightly sarcastic undertone, Elizabeth was still watching the officer in question and said, "Well, James, I must say; it's hard to tell from here who he's more jealous of: you or me."
He still had not ascertained who she was referring to, and awarded her with a dry smile. "Are you suggesting I dance the next dance with him?"
She gave a little shrug and then smiled a little too sweetly up at him. "Oh, please do? It would be so nice to have them all talking about someone other than Will and myself for a while."
He nodded. "I do appreciate your efforts, Elizabeth. The evening does seem a little more bearable now. But it's not enough, I'm afraid."
She gave him a sorry look. "Will and I can't leave either, not until another half-hour has passed, at least. I'm sorry. But once we've disappeared, I'm sure you can go."
The music came to an end, and he gave her the obligatory bow, as all the men on the floor bowed to their female partners. "Never mind, Mrs. Turner. I'm sure that once we're underway in the morning, we'll all be in a much more cheerful frame of mind. I do wish you all the best for your future happiness." And he kissed her hand.
With a smile, she said, "Thank you. Will and I are both grateful that you are accompanying us. Meanwhile, if you vanished earlier than expected, I doubt anyone would really notice. They all seem rather preoccupied. I could make sure that Will and myself keep their attention on the floor, if you want."
He shook his head. "It's very kind of you to offer, Mrs. Turner, but I would consider myself fortunate if I could ask for a kiss from the bride."
She blushed, a faint stain spreading over her cheeks, to his surprise. "Certainly, James," she said, a little too breathlessly.
Leaning down to her, he pressed his lips to hers, noting her surprise and sudden jittery state. Somehow, it seemed to soothe his ego as well as his heart, to know that what she'd said earlier had been true, about having to choose. He no longer felt as bad about the evening or the occasion for it. Straightening, he murmured, "Congratulations, Elizabeth."
With another stiff bow, he left her and returned to the table for one last glass of punch. He didn't bother to glance behind at her, wondering why a simple kiss would affect her so. He poured himself a glass and turned to regard the floor once more, casually skimming the dancing couples for her, and saw her finally, reunited once more with William Turner. Already, they seemed to have eyes only for each other.
Wryly, he mused over the fact that she had married Mr. Turner for love, and if he were honest with himself, as she truly loved the younger man more than him, the blacksmith was welcome to her.
He'd get over it. He would.
Groves came to stand beside him. "Commodore," he said, brightly. "How far have you got?"
Norrington asked, "What do you mean?" He sipped more punch, welcoming the drink now and considering another. At this rate, he would be inebriated in another half-hour, and he might even be able to remain after the Turners slipped away, excusing themselves for their wedding night.
"I'm on my fifth," Groves declared, as if this was some sort of feat.
"This is only my fourth, I'm afraid," Norrington enlightened him. "Although I daresay I shall catch up with you soon enough." He knocked the last of it back with abandon.
Groves licked his lips and without taking his eyes from the dancers, he leaned closer and said, in a conspiratorial tone, "I'll wait for you, Sir. I don't make a habit of it, mind, but I rather suspect I could outdo you, where this punch is concerned."
Norrington wondered at this. "Groves, is this some sort of belated attempt to lift my flagging spirits at the Turners' wedding, or a challenge?"
"Both, Sir," Groves informed him, an impish light entering his eyes that Norrington could not remember ever having seen in them before.
He lifted a brow. "We sail in the morning."
Groves smiled at him. "Yes, Sir. And you may outrank me, but I can still drink you under the table."
Norrington considered this. "Very well. I accept. What shall we wager?" He turned and poured himself another glass of the punch and took a hearty draught of it. He did have to catch up, after all.
"Anything from the loser that the victor claims," Groves said, a cautious and guarded expression fleetingly dancing over his face. "Anything that we may be carrying at the time."
Norrington frowned. "That is precious little," he pointed out.
Groves shrugged, and eyed his glass. "That's alright, Sir. We could recompense for the cost of the item, instead of taking the item in question."
Norrington tried to wrap his brain around this with difficulty, considering the rum in the punch had turned out to be far more potent than he had previously supposed. Now that this last glass had joined the others, he was beginning to feel much better. The evening had taken on a hearty, warm glow, turning the last veins of ice that had run through his heart into a melted trickle that ran all throughout him. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, Sir, that if I were to ask for, say, your shoes, you could pay me for the cost of them instead."
Norrington quirked a brow at him. "Very well. I accept your challenge." He knocked back the remainder of the contents of his glass, which was more than a few gulps.
Groves had a satisfied grin on his face as he poured them both another glass. "Bottoms up, Sir." He handed the glass to Norrington, who took it from him.
Norrington raised his glass. "To whatever battle may lie ahead of us in the coming week."
"Good one, Sir," Groves said, and downed his glass swiftly, meeting his superior's eye as he did so, the challenge in his own now obvious.
Norrington emulated Groves, this time taking Groves' glass from him for the refill. "That was six, then."
The warmth was becoming a tide that washed over him at intervals along with the pounding of his bloodstream. Norrington suddenly happened upon a discovery, one of those all too elusive discoveries that only a head liberated with liquor can happen upon. Groves was the young officer in question that Elizabeth had seen watching them. He blinked, wondering if Groves was - was oriented that way. Then immediately blamed the punch for his sudden discovery, and direction of his thoughts.
He had no proof, of course, having not seen which of his men Elizabeth had been speaking of. With a queasy sense of unease, he mulled over the possibility that he was projecting from a personal standpoint of interest rather than in response to any real interest in Lieutenant Groves' eyes.
The Devil's Drink, indeed, Norrington thought suddenly to himself, bitterly. It was all too easy to give in to the most absurd and compromising suggestions, even from one's own baser, inner urgings while under its influence. It was for that reason that he usually abstained, keeping to a shot of whiskey or brandy at night or at social functions.
"Seven, Sir," Groves reminded him, placing his glass in his hand.
"Already?" he asked, a little surprised.
Groves turned his glass upside-down with a smile, holding it as a single drop threatened the polished, hardwood floor of the ballroom. "Yes, Sir." The self-satisfied tone in Groves' voice was enough to galvanize Norrington to drain his glass immediately.
Norrington eyed the doors that led outside into the darkening gardens. "I need some air." Then he turned with a scowl upon the punch-bowl, where pieces of fruit bobbed idly. "Perhaps we could take it with us." He glanced up, met Groves' eye, and with a shared grin, they placed their glasses in the crystal bowl with the ladle, lifted the bowl from the table and began to carry it towards the glass doors that led to the gardens.
One of the servants came towards them, sputtering, "Gentlemen! What are you doing?"
"Ah, just the thing. Open the doors for us, will you? There's a good man," Norrington said, in his best commanding tone. Unfortunately, considering Groves' chuckling and his own inebriated good-humor, it had only the effect of causing the servant to look more shocked. "Open it!" he barked, in the voice he usually reserved for action and the training grounds.
The servant dithered for a moment more and then reluctantly flung open the doors for them. Somehow, they managed to carry the bowl out onto the grass and set it down on the stonewall overlooking the grounds.
The servant gave them a disapproving glare and then shut the doors behind them.
Laughing, they sat down on either side of the wall, their feet a good five feet from the grass below them. The doors opened again, admitting the exit of four giggling females, the music and babble of voices behind them cut off as the doors closed. The ladies continued down the stone steps and into the garden, off to the right, obviously on some ill-conceived evening tour of the grounds.
It was a beautiful night; the moon was half-full, illuminating the Caribbean sky, which was dotted with purple clouds in the result of the sunset an hour before. The night birds and flowers filled the twilight of the gardens with a suitably tropical ambience.
Norrington wondered if the twittering of the birds would be enough to mask their voices if they needed to venture farther away into the gardens to escape the other guests. He did not relish having to converse with any of them in small talk at this point. He was far too likely to find his tongue unguarded, as well as his thoughts, and he ran the risk of giving them the truth unedited, which would no doubt give any number of outraged and scandalized folk too much to talk about in the morning.
"This is eight, I think," Norrington said, fishing his glass out of the bowl, ensuring it was full of punch.
Groves followed suit, and lifted his glass in salute. "To the Turners, for providing us with an excursion to relieve our boredom," at which he gulped from his glass without waiting to see if Norrington kept up.
Norrington quickly downed a few swallows. "Indeed. And to the punch."
The double glass doors burst open, and the servant and several wedding guests came outside.
"They took it from the table," the servant explained in a disgruntled tone.
As the group neared Norrington and Groves, Norrington got to his feet, still in his finest uniform, which he had worn for the occasion. He straightened his hat. "What seems to be the problem?"
One of the guests, a rotund man with a paunch that looked as though it could do without any additional damage from the punch, said, "You've made off with the punch, sir. Really, you can't deny the rest of us and keep it all to yourself. Frightfully unfair, what?"
In his best cold and haughty voice, Norrington stared down his nose at the man. "Mr. Humphries, I have confiscated this bowl of punch under the authority of the King's Navy. It is a far too strong, dangerous mix to allow it to flow freely amongst the Turners' guests, I'm afraid. You'll have to do without. There are plenty of other drinks available inside. I suggest you go seek them out."
Humphries was not happy with this, nor was the woman standing beside him. Another man stepped forward. "Nonsense, Commodore. I had two glasses of it earlier and it was safe enough then. I highly doubt that its properties have somehow changed in the last hour. Come, man, you can't just hoard it all to yourself. You'll never finish all that by yourselves."
Norrington glared down at him. "The first person who touches that punch will find themselves under arrest. Mr. Groves," he added.
Groves hurriedly got to his feet. "Sir!"
"Defend that bowl with your life. See to it that no one touches it. I'll return shortly."
Groves saluted him. "Yes, Sir!" Groves drew his sword and stood by the bowl, to his credit appearing as steady as a sober man.
Norrington smiled dryly at the men and women facing him with consternation and began to advance upon them. "The cells of the Fort have been empty of late. I'm sure that I don't need to remind you that I take great pleasure in filling them with all sorts of vagabonds, criminals and other civilians who seem to think themselves beyond the law."
The men and women began to back away from him.
"You've lost your mind, Commodore."
"He's drunk. Shameful, really."
"It's not worth the trouble. Come on; let's go back inside. Leave them to their drink."
"Well, what else do you expect from soldiers? Not to mention a man who makes a career out of hanging people?"
The angry mutters drifted away as they returned to the ballroom.
Norrington went to stand beside Groves. "It would appear our location is no longer safe."
"Yes, Sir," agreed Groves. "Might I suggest we relocate to a more secure area? Like down there?" He pointed off to the left, down where the path led into some trees.
Norrington considered this from where they stood, peering down into the gathering gloom. "Indeed. That looks suitable."
Groves sheathed his sword once more, and bent to help Norrington lift the bowl. Together, they turned and made their way down the stone steps and off to the left, following the path through the taller bushes and into the trees, where the birds immediately stilled above them.
It was darker here, and the grass seemed almost dewy, although Norrington was sure that it was an appropriate place to sit. They carefully set the bowl down and he leaned back against a nearby tree.
Groves began to fill their glasses. "I've lost count, I'm sorry, Sir. I think we were on eight, but they interrupted us."
"No matter, we'll say seven and a half, just to be sure. This will be our eighth."
Groves handed him his glass, and then plucked out his own. "Mission accomplished, Sir," he chuckled, as their glasses met with a clink.
Then Groves began to laugh. "The look on their faces!"
Norrington smiled. And knocked back the entire glass in several large gulps. As he lowered his glass, he saw a man emerge from behind the tree in front of him who came to stand in front of them. From the light that still reached them where they sat, from the lamps of the garden path, Norrington realized it was not one of the guests.
He stared at the man, his gaze noting the boots, the long coat… the sword, the hat and finally the entirely familiar countenance of Jack Sparrow, with his darkened eyes and insufferable grin.
With a flash of gold that reached Norrington's eyes even in the dim light, Jack said, "Well, well, what have we here, then? Stragglers from the party, I take it?"
Norrington sighed. The one excuse he might have been able to avail himself of, in some form of distraction or disturbance requiring his immediate attention, had come far too late.
Glowering up at Jack, Norrington said acidly, "You're late. Why am I not surprised? You simply cannot be useful, even this once, can you?"
Jack seemed to follow this rum-instilled logic perfectly, and replied, "I do apologize, Commodore. Still, if you don't mind sharing, I'm sure I could catch up. Eight, is it?" Again with the damnable grin.
Norrington sat up, wondering why the pirate seemed completely at ease with two of the Navy's finest officers, drunken or not. He glanced over at Groves, who seemed eager to accept Jack's entry into their challenge.
Groves said, "It won't take him long. And it ups the stakes a little."
Jack raised his brows and turned back to Norrington. "Not long at all, I promise."
Norrington glared at him. "It won't save you from being arrested, pirate."
Jack grinned again, and said, "Naturally. That's if you *can arrest me."
Norrington shook his head. "It won't do. You're a pirate. You thrive on rum. It's an unfair and therefore disqualified entry. We'll have to arrest you now, I'm afraid."
Groves interrupted, "But, Sir," with a note of protest and eagerness, "We're the King's Own. Surely we can match him, if not out-drink him."
"Surely," put in Jack, hopefully, sitting down with them so that they now surrounded the punchbowl. He crossed his legs and said, "What are the stakes?"
Groves carried on as if Norrington had already agreed. "The victor can claim anything the losers are carrying, but the loser has to match the value of the item with its actual cost in moneys, so instead of giving up your hat or boots, you'd have to hand over the price of them, in coins. Or equal cost in something else. Unless you can actually hand over the item itself." Groves hurriedly added, "But really, that's only if you simply cannot bear to part with the item. Whatever it may be."
"Fascinating," Jack said, his eyes going from between the two of them, back and forth. "So which one of you is going to lend me 'is glass, then?"
Norrington let out a breath. "Why are you here? To plague us with a visit to the Turners, no doubt, in the event of their happy union?"
"Naturally," Jack said, cheerfully. "Although, as you say, I'm far too late and they've probably hied themselves off to conjugate, unite and otherwise consummate their new state from some advantageous locality. Far, as it were, from the prying eyes of any who might be tempted to watch."
Norrington frowned at him. "So, not content with being a pirate, a thief and an all-around lawless pirate, you are a voyeur and a debaucher as well."
"I find it's more rewarding, yes," Jack agreed. "You should try it sometime. It's amazing what you can learn from a couple's such as are really getting into it. I've had my eyes opened a time or two, I can tell you. There was-"
"You're not drinking," Groves cut in. He dipped his glass into the bowl and held it out to Jack.
"Thanks," Jack smiled at him. He put the glass to his lips, tilted it and drained it in four swallows. He handed it back to Groves, who promptly filled it again, and repeated the gesture, waiting for Jack to take it. "That's one. There's two- as I was saying," he continued.
But Norrington was curious. "What exactly is your business here, pirate?"
Jack stopped, drank half the glass, and said, "I assure you, Commodore, on my word of honor, I was only stopping by to wish Will and Elizabeth my best in their matrimonial condition. I have no intention of robbing the guests, kidnapping anyone, or otherwise amusing myself. You have my word on that." He drained the glass and handed it to Groves. "This is an unexpected detour; a pleasant one, to be sure, but entirely serendipitous and completely unforeseen. Thank you again," he grinned at Groves, as he took the glass from him again. "How many is that, now?"
Groves paused. "Three."
Norrington watched with a sinking feeling as Jack downed it with little effort. "I find that highly unbelievable. There is no way on God's Earth that you can resist pilfering, stealing or otherwise helping yourself to someone else's possessions while you are here in Port Royal, Mr. Sparrow."
Jack tilted his head and regarded him with narrowed eyes. He sank back into a reclining position, lying lengthwise alongside the bowl, completing his side of the triangulation of the punch, resting on one elbow. "Word of honor, Commodore. Again, thank you," he said to Groves who handed him the glass again. Drinking a little of it this time, Jack continued, "If you don't believe me, you can wait here with me. You can even accompany me to the Turners' home, where I do believe they will have excused themselves by now. We might have to take a carriage though."
"A carriage?" Norrington was mystified.
"Aye, for the punch," Jack explained, as if it were obvious.
Groves shrugged. "I'm sure we could get it there."
Norrington smiled and looked down. "Forget it, Sparrow. You'll not be seeing the Turners tonight. It is unlikely that you'll even make it back to your ship, which is no doubt anchored somewhere in the bay, beyond the dock."
"Quite right," Jack agreed. "But let's say that the winner, the best out of the three of us, can ask anything of the losers, including letting said winner slip away, quietly, and no-one would be the wiser, leaving the two losers to settle between themselves the outcome of the best of two. What do you say?"
Norrington considered him, warily. He was uncomfortably aware that Jack Sparrow, pirate, scoundrel and all-around wanted outlaw and criminal, was not in Port Royal merely to make a social call. His friendship with William Turner and Elizabeth were merely his calling card. Mildly, he said, "They didn't know you were planning to come, did they?"
"Couldn't risk it," Jack smiled at him, fondly, as if they were the best of friends. "T'was meant to be a surprise, really." He held up his glass. "Although, I must say, I was rooting for you all along, mate. I'm sorry it didn't work out. Thought maybe she'd change her mind. My condolences." He downed the punch and handed the glass back to Groves who dutifully filled it again.
"That's four," Groves said. "And at this rate, we'll be sobering up just as it starts to hit you."
"You're bright as paint," Jack observed. "What's your name?"
"Groves," replied the officer, with far too much of an impressed air for Norrington's liking. "But some of the lads call me Teddy. Just a nickname, really."
Jack handed him back the empty glass with a sly grin. "Much obliged, Teddy. That just leaves us with you, Commodore. Still don't know your first name." He took the glass Groves offered him yet again.
"I would consider myself fortunate if I could get through the entire evening without you learning it," Norrington informed him.
Jack grimaced and asked Groves, "Is he always like this? Even when he's off-duty?"
Groves nodded. "I'm afraid so. But that's one of the reasons we admire him, you know. He's dedicated. He sets an example for us all."
"Does he, now?" Jack turned his sharp eyes back to Norrington. Abruptly, Norrington had the sensation he was being reassessed. In his current condition, he couldn't really lie to himself and he was almost taken aback to find himself curious as to what Jack's opinion of him truly was. He was distantly distressed, in an entirely unemotional sense of course, to also find himself hoping the pirate didn't hold too negative an assessment of him.
Jack downed the glass. Then he looked up, his eyes going left, then right. "That's five." He gave it back to Groves and asked, "The exemplification of admirable dedication to duty, country and King. That's quite a recommendation. Isn't there anything else that could be said, though? Seems a little spare where virtues are concerned." He took the refilled glass from Groves and drank.
Groves seemed all to eager to say, "Of course. Upstanding, courageous, noble, strong and, let's see," Groves glanced at Norrington, before nodding at Jack, "Audacious."
"That is impressive," drawled Jack, regarding Norrington with a seeming new eye of appraisal. "My, my. And why are you so keen to drink with meself, if I might be so bold, Teddy?" He drained the glass and handed it back to Groves once more.
Groves said, to Norrington's complete astonishment and annoyed edification, "You're the greatest pirate I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. I remember your maneuver with the Interceptor. That was jolly clever, getting us to go after you by taking the Dauntless, only to then take the Interceptor right out from under our noses like that. It was brilliant. It really was."
"Unforgettable," Norrington added, with an accusatory glare at Jack.
Jack's surprised and smug pleasure at Groves' compliment dug at Norrington. For a moment, he hung between the dark anger he suddenly felt towards Jack, for having garnered Groves' good opinion and having impressed his own officer…and the strange jealousy he felt towards Groves for having suddenly captured all of Jack's attention.
Bewildered at himself, Norrington scowled, and looked down at the now-dwindling remainder of the punch. There was only just under a third of the bowl left.
Jack inclined his head at Groves, saying, "Why, thank you. 'M glad I could leave such a lasting impression. 'Fraid our audacious, strong and upstanding Commodore here wasn't very happy about it, though." Jack turned his face to Norrington at this. "Hope you don't hold it against me. Had no choice but to take her, really. Mr. Turner was most insistent that I help him get a ship and she was the only one appropriate under the circumstances. Going after the Pearl was really quite a challenge, what with her being the fastest ship in the Caribbean. Weren't my fault your lovely ship couldn't take her on in battle." He drained his glass. "Are you still keeping count? Or have you lost track?"
Groves considered it, chewing his upper lip. "Hm. I'm afraid I have."
Jack winked at him with a smile. "That's seven, mate. Ready for my eighth shot, here."
Something about the way Jack was smiling at Groves made something snap inside Norrington's chest and he had to swallow the sudden urge to go for Jack. Take him into custody. Arrest him. Just, jump him then and there, and… hold him down. The rum hadn't abated nearly enough for him to resolve this unwanted sensation of heat and accompanying excitement that thrilled through him at the thought, either. He wasn't sure if he hated the pirate or if he was jealous at the way Jack was playing up to the impressionable Officer Groves, or if he was simply infuriated by the fact that Jack would dare to show up at all. Flaunting himself like this.
Suspicion swirled through him, and Norrington shook his head to try clear it. He sat up straighter and took off his hat. He was starting to find his uniform uncomfortably tight in all the wrong places. He didn't want to lose all sense of decorum, but really, they were already compromised, considering their unwanted guest.
Or was Sparrow unwanted? Norrington wondered. And wished he hadn't drunk so much. And wished he could understand why he was so unaccountably glad to see Jack Sparrow again.
As Jack caught up with them, draining his eighth glass, Jack commented, "I do believe I've caught up with you and seen you by a half. Half a glass each more for you both, eh?"
Groves nodded. "It's true. We had seven and a half. Or was it eight? No, there was a half there somewhere. He's had a full eight… does that mean…he's had more?"
Norrington was torn with indecision. It was a moot point. If he didn't win this contest, he wouldn't be able to insist that Jack offer himself up into custody. And there was no way that Jack could afford to pay the price that currently sat on his head, which left him little choice but to admit defeat, should Norrington win. Groves was most probably compromised and useless at this point, he couldn't count on him to keep his head and remember that they weren't meant to be drinking with the pirate as new best mates, but arresting him. In their current condition, Jack could probably best them with his blade or pistol, and escape anyway.
But in the event that Norrington lost, he would still be slightly sober, if he played it right, and have a chance at being the least compromised of the three of them, regardless of the price Jack might demand of them. Seeing as Jack had already as much as openly stated that he'd be claiming his freedom in the event of his victory, Norrington was still bound to disregard Groves' acceptance of Jack's presence here with them, as he himself had not spoken of it outright, leaving him still to bind his word to their strange transaction here.
Shrewdly, he said, stoically ignoring the fact that his entire train of thought might be entirely shot to hell and back, "In that case, you win. I cannot stomach anymore tonight."
Groves shot him a disappointed look. "But, Sir, we can't let him win on just half a glass!"
Norrington pinned him with a stare. "By all means, drink yourself into a stupor. I've reached my limit. I daresay it's an unfair contest to begin with. He is a pirate; undoubtedly he's used to downing twice this much and twice again, on any given evening."
"If you're still in a such a foul temper after all that," Jack observed, giving him a worried once-over, "I don't think the problem is the drink. No amount of drinking's going to help 'im." He shook his head, looking down sadly, then back up at Norrington with a somewhat infuriating look of sympathy.
Norrington looked down at his nose at him. "Indeed. And what, in your inestimable expert opinion, would?"
Jack raised his brows and said, "Well, far be it from me to leap to conclusions, but I'd say you need to find yourself a wench. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof." He shot a look at Groves. "Teddy, how long has it been since our noble and audacious Commodore here's got lucky?"
Groves shook his head. "Couldn't say for sure." Groves turned with a thoughtful expression to Norrington.
Norrington calmly ignored him, and reminded Jack, "We forfeit. You win. Name your price. What do you demand, for your victory?"
Jack gave him a slow grin and sat up. "Don't want your hats or shoes, or anything else, mate. And you haven't exactly caught me, so there's no point in asking for me freedom, either. Which leaves just one thing." He waited.
Norrington took a breath. Jack seemed to be regarding him with expectancy.
"What? What is it?" Groves asked him.
"Well, let's see now. Seeing as you two gentleman tied, at an equal measure between yourselves, you both have to pay the forfeit, and will have to decide amongst yourselves as to how you'll leave off, tonight, once I'm gone."
Norrington let out his breath. "Stop stalling, Sparrow, and just name your price."
Jack gave him a jaunty grin. "A kiss from the both of you, and then you have to kiss each other." He held up a hand. "Not just any kiss, mind you. It has to be a proper one, not just a peck on the cheek. Something 'at might give the Turners a run for their money, savvy?"
Norrington stared at him in bemusement. "You're mad."
Groves was very quiet.
Jack looked from one to the other of them, and said, "Well? Are you gentlemen of your word? You lost; you forfeited, fair and square."
Jack looked positively determined to collect. Norrington found himself wondering why the thought of kissing the pirate suddenly was far too appealing. It was the punch, he decided. And then thought of Groves. He turned a curious glance upon his officer and saw Lieutenant Groves was staring at the punchbowl, his complexion slightly darkened. even in the dim light that barely illuminated them from the lamps on the pathway.
It was just a game, Norrington thought. Why in hell were any of them taking it seriously?
"Why?" he asked of Jack.
Norrington gave him an impatient look. "Why a kiss? Why is that important to you?"
Jack gave him a leering reply. "The two of you look so fine in your fancy uniforms, all dressed up for the wedding. Simply cannot resist. Besides, you make a pretty couple."
Norrington considered him. The rum hadn't abated yet enough for him to really make sense of what his true feelings would be if he were sober. At the moment, he couldn't quite tell what was wrong with the idea, after all. It might even be fun. And he had to admit, Jack fully expected him to renege on this and it would be a hell of a joke if he could get one over on the pirate and actually surprise him, for once.
"Very well," he said, coolly.
The look of astonishment that went over Jack at this was worth the aggravation and irritation of the entire day - no, the entire week - just to see it. A sense of fulfillment went through Norrington at it, at having accomplished this one thing.
"Whatever is the matter, Mr. Sparrow?" Norrington asked, mildly. "Surely you didn't expect us, as officers of the Crown, to break our word?"
"Suppose I did, at that," Jack admitted. He gave a little shrug. And looked at Groves. "What do you say, Teddy? Going to pay up?" Jack gave him a wide grin.
"Of course," Groves said, almost indignantly. He leaned forward and met Jack, full on the lips.
The sight of Groves' mouth on Jack's, the two of them in front of him suddenly caught in such an intimate behavior, it caused a jolt of arousal to rush through Norrington, and he realized he was holding his breath. Their kiss was gentle at first, barely moving, then began to gain speed, and before he knew how to react, or how he felt about it, they were reaching for each other, leaning into each other across the scant distance that separated them.
Heat, embarrassment and desire coursed through him, seeing the two of them so lost to everything, completely wrapped up in each other, both of them with their eyes closed… He could not account for the flashes of anger, envy and possessive need that fought for supremacy within him, and he sat dumbfounded, realizing with some shock that he indeed found the sight - beautiful.
He'd never before considered the idea of two men as something he would ever have thought to be pleasant. And although it was hardly a new idea, and a known curse visited upon seamen away from shore for too long, in each other's company, he'd never considered it something he might have thought of as voluntary, given the opportunity of available women…
He was suddenly aware that what he was witnessing between Jack Sparrow and Officer Groves was nothing less than precisely what he'd been unable to stop conjuring in his mind's eye when he'd accused Jack of voyeuristic intention, earlier, of the Turners together in their marriage bed.
And he was also aware that he was enjoying watching them too much, himself.
He was about to clear his throat, when they broke apart, Groves with a satisfied smile, and Jack with a flickering glance at Norrington. An entirely too sly glance for Norrington's liking.
Norrington flushed, having received that look before. He remembered it from their first meeting, as the pirate had held Elizabeth hostage momentarily, giving him that all-too-smug and confident leer.
The anger served to clear his head somewhat, but then Jack was moving towards him, almost too quickly, and before Norrington could react, Jack's sword was at his throat. "Now, now, no sudden moves, Commodore. Teddy," Jack ordered, in a suddenly very sober and sensible tone, "Your brave, audacious Commodore here is expecting a kiss from yourself, so if you'll do the honor of following through…" Jack trailed off, expectantly.
Groves blinked, looking rather sheepish. The turn of events was most distressing, and Norrington could see from Groves' expression that he really hadn't counted on the pirate taking such an obvious advantage of their inebriation. They both really should have, Norrington sighed to himself. They had both been witless, of course. He'd been caught up in the game, and allowed himself too many moments grace from following the wisest course of action; namely, arresting Sparrow outright.
Jack pressed the sword's tip closer to Norrington's throat. "We haven't got all night, Teddy, so unless you want your audacious Commodore to pay the price for your backing out of our little contest, you'll overcome your sudden attack of shyness and get on with it."
Swallowing audibly, Groves leaned closer to Norrington, who could feel the officer's breath on his cheek, and then Groves was kissing him. Groves' lips were warm, slightly trembling, and too revealing. If he'd had any doubt as the identity of the officer Elizabeth had noticed watching him, he no longer did.
Jack's voice was intrusive. "Pretty as a picture, truly."
Groves was still kissing him, and abruptly, Norrington considered taking pity on him. He parted his lips and returned the kiss, taking Groves by surprise, who gave a barely discernible moan against him, and then there was the taste of the punch and Groves' longing.
Things were growing gradually clearer, in Norrington's mind. He was sure it had nothing to do with sobriety, so he had to assume that was particular to the aching hardness throbbing between his legs.
The muffled sound of raised voices and crashing glass gradually reached Norrington's ears. He flinched, and Groves drew back, breathing hard, not looking at him.
Jack's sword didn't waver. "Be a good lad and run along now, Teddy," he directed with a smile. "By the sound of things, you're needed inside." As Groves hesitated, Jack said harshly, "Now, man! Get going."
The sounds of more crashing and some feminine screams now came from above, from the unmistakable direction of the hall.
Groves quickly gathered up his sword, his hat and his wits, and stood. "Sir, I…I-"
"Do as he says," Norrington said, tightly. "Find out what that infernal disturbance is. No doubt we're suffering a raid from Sparrow's friends."
"Yes, Sir," Groves managed, rushing off, stumbling, to run up the steps to the glass doors which in the next moment abruptly shattered, before he managed to get inside.
At least, Norrington hoped.
Yelling, fleeing guests ran around the right side of the garden towards the exit on the other side of the grounds.
Jack licked his lips and said, "I kept my word, Commodore. I haven't stolen anything since I arrived. And I won't. You'll have to pardon me, however, for the necessity of restraining you. Can't exactly have you arresting me, now can I?" And with a happy smile, he produced a rope, quickly produced a loose double knot, and handed it Norrington. "Slip that over your wrists, mate. Unless you fancy having a whole new set of holes in you."
Norrington furiously did so, and then angrily grunted as Jack quickly grabbed hold of the end of the rope once more and pulled it tight, then jumped to the side and began to quickly make his way around the trunk of the tree, then again, and then once more, effectively forcing Norrington to stand held against the tree.
Norrington cursed, "Damn you, Sparrow; this is completely unnecessary."
Jack was momentarily out of range, behind the tree, but despite Norrington's angry, ineffectual pulling at the rope, Norrington couldn't really do anything except cause the double knot around both his wrists to pull tighter, chafing.
Jack chuckled. "Commodore, your judgment's truly wasted."
Angrily, Norrington spat, "You're going to regret this."
"No doubt." Behind him, Jack knotted the end of the rope and fastened it firmly, and then came to stand before him again.
"Rather fancy it's worth it, though. Time to pay up," Jack grinned at him. He stuck the sword into the grass, and stepped in against Norrington, placing his arms on either side of him, still grinning insufferably, and before Norrington could protest, Jack's mouth was on his.
The knowledge that he really had no choice at this point, and was already completely compromised, both by drink and poor judgment, as well as confusion at Jack's motives and the feeling of Jack's lips on his… Hot, real, entirely too soft, and abruptly, imminently desirable, all served to undo him. Norrington groaned against him, and Jack chuckled once, twice, then flicked his tongue against Norrington's lips, seeking entrance.
The crashing, the screams, the jubilant yells and tinkling of broken glass seemed so far away, a distant distraction. The pirate's tongue was sliding between his lips, meeting his own in a mirrored echo of his own kiss with Groves, not moments before.
A sudden thought intruded sharply, and Norrington inhaled and pulled his face away to the side. Struggling to catch a breath, he said, "Hold on, that's not right."
"Damn propriety," Jack urged, shifting to lean against him, pressing his body up against Norrington's.
"No, I mean, you didn't win the bet. We all of us tied… In fact, we outdid you by half a glass," Norrington pointed out. "If not more." A very crude and insistent lower part of himself was shrieking that he was insane, why was he stopping the proceedings at such an interesting point? The slowly clearing upper part of his body, mostly his head, was abruptly aware that in fact, he'd downed eight and a half full glasses of the punch, and so, in fact, both Lieutenant Groves and himself had beaten Jack by half a glass or more. He allowed himself a smile at this.
Jack smiled back at him, and stepped away, returning to the punch and scooped up the glass that still floated in the remainder of the punch. "Cheers, mate," he said, and tipped it back.
Norrington sighed. "You can't. That's inadmissible."
"You forfeited. And under the circumstances, sir, I'd say it's rather irrelevant," Jack purred, returning to him and standing there, leaning against him, holding him. "Although I thank you for the reminder." Jack sighed contentedly and laid his head on Norrington's chest.
The sharp…whatever-it-was, was poking against Norrington and he moved his chin, irritatedly.
"Do you mind?" Norrington bit out, caustically. "Your *bone is sticking into me."
Jack began to shake with laughter. "You leave yourself wide open for these things, mate; you do realize that, don't you?"
There was another piercing scream from the hall above, followed by raucous laughter and the further crash of something that sounded unfortunately like a chandelier, followed by curses.
Norrington stiffened. "You won't get away with this."
"I already have," Jack informed him, quietly, looking back into his face and smiling. "I think you missed me."
"Certainly. You're welcome to submit yourself into my custody any time," Norrington retorted.
Jack experimentally rubbed against Norrington's admittedly interested…alright, alright - very excited lower half. His organ was throbbing. He had to bite his lip against the moan that threatened at the sensation. Damn the pirate, anyway.
Slowly, lazily, Jack said, "A part of you's missed me, anyway." He leaned in once more and gave Norrington another rum-punch kiss, then another. "It's been a pleasure, I'm sure. Until next time, Commodore." He began to walk away, pulled his sword out of the grass, then paused, turned to catch his eye, and added, "You really need to get yourself bedded, mate. That's just my professional opinion, of course. Feel free to ignore it." Jack gave him a little wave and a grin, and melted away amidst the dark trees.
Norrington sighed and hung his head, closing his eyes.
The awkward shame of being so completely ridiculed and compromised was nothing to the absolute horror of humiliation in knowing that he was actually relieved the pirate had managed to take advantage of their drunken state. Both for the pirate's safe departure and the kisses.
He realized that, in point of fact, Jack Sparrow hadn't lied. He hadn't stolen anything, merely contented himself with keeping Norrington occupied.
The Turners would no doubt wonder at the reason behind Jack Sparrow's decision to raid the same establishment that was hosting their wedding celebration after their own leave-taking earlier.
Maybe it was Sparrow's way of letting them know he was around, and didn't want to be forgotten.
Come to think of it, maybe the pirate's entire interlude with him and Lieutenant Groves had been his way of letting *Norrington know he didn't want to be forgotten.
Which was rather an interesting thought, whether rum-punch was involved or not. Certainly the rum-punch could be blamed for any number of indiscretions and tactical errors, and considering Groves' rather impassioned response to him and obvious desire, it would be excessively blamed for the reason for their compromised position and failure to apprehend the pirate.
Then there was the next morning to take into account. Reparations would be demanded, by the city itself. The Turners' honeymoon might have to be delayed. Norrington wondered if the raid was a blessing in disguise.
And he ran a tongue over his lips with a smile, tasting rum-punch and almost imagining he could still taste the pirate too.
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