Pairing: Jack Sparrow/James Norrington
Warnings: language, graphic nookie
Archiving: You like it? I give it to you.
Note: It's pronounced "fluh-ji-shus."
Other Note: Anyone who feels the need to kindly and gently try to "correct" the way I use an apostrophe with James's name, please take a moment to go here first. I don't resent the attempts in the least -- it's just that I really do know what I'm doing this once. :)
Comments: Welcomed in all forms. I'm a spastic answerer: sometimes I'm Rabbit, sometimes I'm Turtle. But I do read every one.
Summary: Post-Full Moon, post-Tides. Port Royal draws near, and time is short for, ah, cramming things, ehm...in. Heh.
Dedicated to doolabug's flaming panties.
Many thanks to the whole gang that's been hanging around my journal through the roughdrafting, offering feedback, suggestions and encouragement.
And special thanks to bastardized for this fantabulous icon that's still making me giddysquee.
And before you read, go take a quick peek at Norri's sweetsweet smile. Seriously, it's important.
Lying on his back, blinking with sleepy contentment at nothing in particular, Norrington found a thought running through his head that seemed at first to make no sense -- So nice that Jack's a sprawler... -- until he woke enough to put it in context. Because at the moment the sprawling pirate was sprawled right across him, arms and head nestled on his chest, one leg flung crosswise over his own. He had the sense that Jack would be spreading out like this, claiming far more room than a man of his size technically could, whether he had company in the cot or not. It just happened to be one of the benefits of being said company that he became a lucky lump in the mattress.
And a benefit it was. Despite the added heat, which really should have made it uncomfortable, he had to admit he'd come to truly appreciate the feel of that lithe, tough body coiled in odd ways around his own. Even now. Even in a quiet moment, with the need for sleep finally outweighing the need for sex.
Jack wasn't out yet, though his breathing sounded close to it. Idly, Norrington stroked a hand over that barbaric mishmash of hair and keepsakes. Memories, Jack said of the adornments. So far he'd not chosen to elaborate. He had, however, been persuaded to cut free that spiny...pokey...thing, after the third time Norrington nearly lost an eye to it.
The commodore smiled to himself, fingers twining and teasing through Jack's mane. A man might almost consider such a sacrifice testament to real...affection. Risky thought. Best entertained only in the depths of night like this, with the object of such unlikely fancy falling off the edge of the waking world. Particularly when the object happened to also be a pirate -- a man who no doubt had sufficient interest in endearing himself to a ranking representative of the Royal Navy to feign stronger feelings than he truthfully held.
His smile morphed into a bit of a grimace. Not that Jack generally demonstrated this great, wholly theoretical fondness. He still proved to be a malicious little cad as often as not, with barbs barely hidden in much of what he said and an unabashed need to see Norrington discomfited, out of his depth, looking the fool. Jack seemed intent on cramming as much of his own brand of 'education' -- about people, about personal philosophy, about matters as trivial as etiquette or as deadly serious as, say, rum -- into the remainder of their journey as possible.
It should have been insulting. Indeed, at times it was. But Norrington tried to profit from it regardless, recognizing the undeniable value of coming to understand Jack's more...worldly...experience of life, and so he debated when he disagreed, conceded with a degree of graciousness (he thought so, anyway) when his opponent's arguments bested his own, and had become almost accustomed to having some pillar or other of his worldview overturned by an hour's discourse or, worse yet, an offhand remark.
His hand ranged upwards, pushing hair back to bare an ear, trace its whorls, turn the earrings lightly. A golden hoop there, halfway up, punched right through the cartilage. He'd asked if it'd been painful. Jack's all too eager response was to offer to jab a hole in his ear so he could find out for himself. Nothin' like personal experience, mate.
He snorted softly. Imagined Governor Swann's face if he'd let Jack do so. No doubt Weatherby would entertain nightmarish ideas about the degradations poor Commodore Norrington had to endure over the course of his ordeal with pirates. Why, the fiends even assaulted the man's ear! Monstrous!
"Whssfhne," Jack mumbled from his place on Norrington's chest.
An immediate snicker. "Aye, he'safunny'un."
Norrington wouldn't have agreed that the man was intrinsically laughable, but figured the hour too late to bother explaining his mind's wanderings to a half-conscious pirate. "I didn't mean to wake you. Go back to sleep."
Jack shifted, resettling a little higher up his torso, curving that leg more snugly against his. "I don't take orders from you. I'm the captain here."
"An' I'm older'n you are, boy."
"Not sufficiently older to call me 'boy.'"
"I was tupping my first lass while you were suckling Mama's titties."
Norrington pinched his ear. "Speak respectfully about my mother, pirate, or not at all."
Not even opening his eyes, Jack lifted a hand to bat his fingers away. "I fail to see the disrespect. She did nurse you, did she not? From her very own illustrious white breasts?"
He sighed. "Let's just settle on not discussing my mother, all right?"
A moment wandered by.
Jack hmphed. "Stodgy prick."
"Insolent cur," Norrington countered, yawning.
Agreed then, they fell silent. Norrington eventually returned to caressing his hair, fondling the thick, soft braid in the back, sleep still only flirting with the edges of his mind. He'd not realized before boarding the Pearl how little rest a body could get by on. Likely he'd pay for it once he returned to his long workdays in Port Royal. Up at dawn? After he'd only just adjusted to hardly getting to sleep before the sky lightened?
Which brought to mind a more pressing concern. "Jack."
"You need to allow the delegation from the Encounter to board in the morning." Every day since the ship had caught up with them saw a boat sent over from the sloop-of-war before the Black Pearl got underway. Every day saw the occupants refused boarding -- usually, Norrington had to admit sheepishly, before he'd woken to raise an objection. Those aboard the Encounter had seen him, knew he was alive and whole, but still had no information as to the nature of the Pearl's current travels or what to expect when they got where they were going.
"Don't 'need' to do anything," Jack informed him, mild-voiced. "The Pearl's weighted down enough with one naval officer. Any more might sink her."
Norrington again counseled himself to patience. Jack's leeriness of the Navy was hardly misplaced, after all. "Then I'll go over there."
Jack's hand slid across his chest, down his ribcage, rather possessively. A pause, tight and lengthy, and then, "No."
Irritation battled understanding. His presence was Jack's only security in this ill-advised venture. "I would return, of course, to see you safely through Port Royal."
"No need to return if you never leave, eh?"
He blew out a breath. "So little trust, Jack?"
"Oh, I trust you, Commodore James. I trust you to do what's right by your view."
"And you think that means going back on my word."
"I think you think I'm taking a senseless risk, sailin' into your harbor like this. I think you might think of forcing me to play it safe by depriving us of your company."
Would he? Disturbing, really, that he didn't know himself well enough to say. But the thought of bypassing the anxiety of the Black Pearl's stay in the harbor, the tension of wondering if an overly ambitious officer might seek a path to advancement through Jack Sparrow's death, did have a certain undeniable appeal.
On the other hand, the thought of giving up two whole entire days (and nights) with him, forcing Jack to speed his departure from the Spanish Main, the Atlantic...from Norrington's own life...quite possibly -- no, preferably -- out of reach forever...
Selfish of him, rapacious even, to hold on to Jack for as long as he could before the inevitable end. If this taunting of Port Royal's defenses yielded the results he feared in his darkest imaginings... Never. He would never forgive himself for his part in Jack's game.
He sighed, deeply, chest rising and falling, Jack lifting and sinking with it. "As forcing you to play it safe seems unlikely to ever be an option..."
"And don't you go forgettin' that, mate."
"You'll have to permit them to board, then. I need to send the Encounter ahead of us with my orders."
"What orders would those be?"
"The orders that will hopefully preserve your neck and those of your crew in the course of this fool's errand," he said dryly.
Jack pulled up then, staring down at him, nearly black eyes gleaming in his shadowed face, darkened further by the sweeping fall of all that hair. He had a bit of an ugly sneer on his lips. It never failed to surprise Norrington to see how truly unpleasant Jack could make himself look with that expression. "Seems to me you've been takin' your share of enjoyment from my 'fool's errand.'"
His lips quirked, eyes heavy-lidded with sleepiness and sensual appreciation both. "Indeed." But the curve left his lips and the satisfaction fled his eyes. "I fear the enjoyment would be somewhat marred, however, if this were to end with your blood on my hands."
Jack's eyes narrowed just perceptibly. "Be wary, Commodore James. I might get the notion you care."
That being more than evident, Norrington arched an ironical eyebrow and reached to flatten a hand over Jack's chest, fingers splayed. "Allow them to board in the morning. Trust me that much."
The pirate's hesitation had an oddly injured edge that he couldn't quite pinpoint. "Are you so certain of your authority over the ship's commanding officer?"
At that, at least, he could smile with unfettered confidence. "Lieutenant Groves is loyal to a fault."
"To the Navy?"
Headshake. "To me."
He let his hand fall, scowling a little. "Are you implying that I fail to inspire loyalty?" A thought occurred, and he added sourly, "In those who serve under my command, that is." Because, given what they both knew of his once-fiancee's forgiven-but-never-to-be-forgotten rejection of him, he clearly did fail to inspire loyalty in that regard.
Jack might've followed that last thought. No, not 'might'; Jack was a man who missed little, and then likely only by choice. As if to mollify his wounded pride, the pirate eased down to reengage that contact again, lying sideways across his abdomen, an elbow propped against the mattress. "I suspect loyalty means very different things for pirates and king's men."
"And very different things for some pirates than others, from what I've seen."
A quick flash of teeth. "Got me there."
With gentle mockery-- "Oh, I shall celebrate the day..." He reached for that hair again, gathering one of those peculiarly matted locks strung with what 'memories' Jack counted important enough to make tangible. What did one have to do, he wondered, to warrant inclusion there? Had William Turner earned a place amongst the mementos with his foolhardy selflessness? "I once shepherded Groves through the consequences of a rather...ironic...impropriety."
Eyebrows rose. "Tell me more, Commodore. Sounds fascinating."
"It involved a sailor, a jollyboat, irons, and a rather...innovative...use of an oar."
Eyebrows notched up a bit higher. Jack twisted atop him suggestively. "Details?"
Norrington sucked in a breath. "That would hardly be fair to the man. Besides, I can't say I'd particularly like to try the maneuver myself. It looked thoroughly uncomfortable. And I'm fairly certain I'm nowhere near flexible enough." He frowned, considering. "You might not even be flexible enough."
Eyebrows had, by now, very nearly crawled off of Jack's forehead entirely. "I think I'm looking forward to meeting this lieutenant of yours."
"Mouth shut when you do. The incident could have cost him his career." His voice went grim. "Or much more." Because sodomy was, of course, quite definitely illegal in civilian life, and even more so in the Royal Navy -- illegal enough to warrant the death penalty, at least on paper. For all that the sentence was seldom carried out, imprisonment or the stocks being more likely, the seriousness of the matter should not be blithely ignored.
And here he was, cavorting carnally with a man, a pirate, one of the most wanted criminals in the region. Ah, Father would be proud. The youngest son finally managed to outdo both his brothers at something, even if that something happened to be egregious lawbreaking.
Jack fingerwalked up the center of his chest. "I'll be the soul of discretion, my friend."
'My friend.' He felt the smile take his face, lips and eyes and cheeks and brows, before he could stop it, alter it, hold it back behind safe stoicism. Not a wry smile. Not teasing. Not even simply fond. Touched. Warmed. Ridiculously flattered, and by so small a thing.
Jack's eyes widened hugely. Ring-bedecked hands moved like lightning to catch his face.
"What?" he asked, the word a bit mangled by the hands' interference with his jaw.
"That smile." Jack's expression had every appearance of intent, serious scrutiny.
"What about it?"
"That smile," Jack said wonderingly, "is positively the sweetest thing I ever saw."
Norrington rolled his eyes. "That's ludicrous."
But Jack shook his head swiftly. "No, mate, no! I mean it." He turned Norrington's captured face from side to side. "Do it again."
"I can't just 'do it again.'"
"You mean to tell me you can't smile on demand?"
He smiled perfunctorily. Jack frowned.
"That's not the one." Fingers moved to push and prod his cheeks, trying to shove eyebrows about as well. "More with the...the lift and the crinkle there...with a bit of...just..." He sighed. Let hands slip to once again cup Norrington's face like a frame. "It was," he said, quite earnestly. "Swear to Christ. Sweetest thing ever."
Jack clutched his face again, almost vibrating with excitement. "There it is! That's the one!"
He must surely be crimson by now. To get rid of that damned smile and shut the man up at once, he caught Jack's head between his hands and tugged him down.
"No," Jack said, muffled against his lips, "don't...wanna...erase it..."
No little bit practiced by now, Norrington shifted to hold behind Jack's skull, freeing a hand for a little trip down south, and in the space of a few breaths Jack's reservations took off for parts unknown.
Ah well. What harm was there in one more all-but-sleepless night?
The man was military. He liked being military. Self-discipline -- self-mastery? -- suited him. Given time (and perhaps the corruptive influence of a pirate who challenged him in every way said pirate knew how), Jack believed James Norrington could fully mature into a very special, very rare type of leader: one who led with courage, with insight and with conscience. Someone who could perhaps one day, from the inside, make a substantive difference in that 'civilized society' Jack felt obliged to spurn.
It'd seemed like brilliance. A favor to all the little people. He had the man aboard, unwillingly intrigued by him and the life he'd chosen. Jack had figured there'd be no harm, and perhaps even a little personal pleasure, in trying to shatter a few of those prejudicial walls built up, brick by brick, over the course of the commodore's upbringing and career. Blunt the edge of his pirate-hunting zeal. Put some personalities behind those faces he saw led to the scaffold. Undo him, if at all possible, and see what the result might be.
Problem being, Commodore James had been managing, all unknowingly, to challenge Captain Jack right back, and in ways the pirate hadn't been of a mind to examine.
Getting the Pearl back was supposed to be it. The thing. The penultimate achievement before settling in for a final, hopefully long-lasting, absolutely glorious run at the edge of the sky. There'd not been much planning beyond that in his decade of enforced, frustrated patience. Get the Pearl. Live. Die. Pray for reincarnation rather than Hell, and make every effort to come back as a pirate to do it all over again.
There was no contingency plan for an unsought and unwanted entanglement with a man so bound to duty as to practically make him landlocked.
He blamed the viridity of those eyes. They held a bit of ocean in them: depth and mystery, strength and sustenance. Danger. A great deal of danger. Drowning was a definite concern.
Gibbs had stopped talking. Not much more to say in that vein anyway; they were both accustomed to sailing with chancy crews (which was to say, pirate crews). Together they watched the four redcoats and one blue-uniformed officer climb onto the main deck, the soldiers all wearing in full measure the tension Jack didn't see in James.
James? Or was he again the commodore, first and foremost?
The soldiers saluted. James smiled, extending a hand to the officer for a grip and a shake. Warmth there. Friendship? The pleasure of seeing a familiar face from his side of the line after being too long in the company of enemies?
"Looks like he just got a package from home, don't he?" Gibbs commented beside him. "After all the trouble we been goin' to t' make sure none o' the boys up an' killed 'im. Kinda makes a man feel unappreciated, don't it, Jack?"
Jack slid him a silent look half a squint shy of a glare.
Gibbs shrugged, stepping aside. "Oughtta go down an' make their welcome official, Cap'n. You plannin' on sittin' in on this li'l meeting o' their'n?"
Two officers. Two pirates. Fair enough. It'd probably add an adversarial edge to the meet -- might force him and...Commodore Norrington...to play their roles as they ought to. "Aye, come on."
Lieutenant Groves, a lean and rather well-favored fellow, watched his approach with a look that spoke of grievance. Probably a bit miffed over his commandeering of the commodore who'd gone to all the trouble of preserving the little officer's career. From what Jack had seen of the Navy, not too many of those nearing the rank of admiral would've bothered. At least not unless they were of the nature to expect a certain manner of...payment...in return. And Jack was fairly sure James--
"Commodore," he muttered to himself, "Commodore."
--hadn't asked anything of the sort. That made him simply too valuable a superior officer for a naval sodomite to tolerate losing. Particularly to the un-tender mercies of pirates.
They reached the cluster of military. Jack circled, wordless, openly appraising. The redcoats held their muskets as though the weapons might offer salvation -- as though the lot of them weren't outgunned by any three pirates on the ship. Groves wore a sword. The hilt suggested nothing so ornate as the Turner blade at Norrington's side, but certainly a fine enough blade. Might even be forged by the same hand.
Jack's fingers twitched. He'd wanted a Turner sword of his own ever since the smithy. And it was pretty.
"Of course, Lieutenant Groves," the commodore said in a voice laden with amusement, "you recognize Captain Jack Sparrow."
Good man, that James. Learned his lessons well.
"Of course, sir." The officer followed his progress guardedly. "It's a...pleasure...to make your acquaintance, Captain Sparrow."
Jack came to a stop before him, quite close. Cocked his head, considering, eyes half-lidded. "I imagine it is."
Groves smiled humorlessly, not stepping back or even looking overly uncomfortable at his nearness. "After these past four days of being turned away, I was beginning to think I'd never meet you."
Jack smirked, slyly, flickering the swiftest of glances at James. "I'm worth the wait."
An unreadable look from the commodore. Testy? Oh, he hoped so. "Mister Gibbs," James said, "Lieutenant Groves. Groves, Gibbs. Quartermaster."
Following Jack's lead, Gibbs declined to offer his hand. Merely nodded and received a nod in turn.
James inclined his head towards the cabin. "Shall we, gentlemen?"
'Gentlemen'? "I believe you know the way, Commodore," Jack said smoothly.
A tight smile crossed those lips, somewhat less than good-humored. Instructing the redcoats to stay put (and not a one of them missed the apprehension that caused the poor chaps), Norrington motioned for Groves to follow.
Seated at one long side of the rectangular table, his officer looked at him with a spice of laughter in his eyes and a smile teasing a line from one cheek. "I received a...colorful briefing from Gillette, sir." That merriment had a decidedly wicked edge. "To listen to him, however, you'd already been fitted for a noose and had selected your yardarm of choice. It appears he was somewhat mistaken."
Norrington restrained a grin. His senior lieutenants were a competitive pair. Groves wouldn't pass up an opportunity to emphasize Gillette's flaws, and the reverse was at least equally true. It felt impossibly strange to be touching even so lightly on those endless machinations once again.
Particularly with an audience. And such an audience. "That's rather unimaginative," Jack observed disdainfully from the opposite end of the table. "There are much, much more creative things we could've done long before resorting to a noose."
"No doubt that did occur to them, Captain," Norrington said mildly. To Groves-- "Did he explain the circumstances?"
"He told me that 'that damned Sparrow'--"
"Captain Sparrow," Jack corrected matter-of-factly, not contesting the damnation.
"My apologies, Captain, I'm merely quoting the man." Jack waggled a forgiving hand at this, and Groves went on. "'That damned Sparrow has joined forces with Bartholomew Roberts, and together they ambushed the Dauntless, kidnapped the commodore, and are right at this moment subjecting him to God only knows what flagitious tortures.'"
Norrington sat back, impressed. "'Flagitious tortures'?"
"I might actually have to look that one up."
A lopsided grin. "I asked him for clarification. 'Shockingly brutal or cruel.' And he's offended by our ignorance."
"Ooh, I like it!" Jack, face alighted, looked to Gibbs. "Remember that one, eh?"
"Aye, I b'lieve I will."
Spreading his arms, Norrington indicated his unharmed self. "His concern is touching, and certainly understandable; however, clearly I remain whole and untortured, flagitiously or otherwise."
"And glad I am to see it, Commodore."
Jack fingertapped the table for attention, clearing his throat conspicuously. "You're welcome." An eyebrow arched -- hint hint.
Withholding a snort, Norrington said levelly, "In point of fact, Captain Sparrow's course of action very likely spared hundreds of lives on both sides of the line. And quite possibly the Dauntless." A pointed glare at the pirate. "As well as the Black Pearl and the Royal Fortune." No matter how highly he might be coming to regard the man, he wasn't about to let Jack slur his ship's dominance by implying she'd have sunk alone.
Groves blinked at him, forehead lining. Glanced at Jack, who contented himself, for the moment at least, with smug silence.
"That is...certainly not the impression I received, sir. I'd be very interested in hearing more."
"As would I," Jack said. "Don't keep us in suspense, Commodore."
So Norrington told Groves about trapping a pirate sloop in an island inlet in a nondescript chain of the Lesser Antilles. About the very nearly indescribable shock of seeing the double threat of the Black Pearl and Black Bart's Royal Fortune sailing out from concealment, cornering the Dauntless in her own trap. He talked about parley with Jack -- 'Captain Sparrow,' of course, in the retelling -- and Jack's intercession with the other pirate captain, the deal he brokered that ended the deadlock bloodlessly.
No one spoke during the recounting. Groves, who'd once openly admired this selfsame pirate for an act of unmitigated gall (and, admittedly, considerable cleverness), if anything seemed to drink the story in eagerly, his visage lightening, that cockeyed grin of his making more than fleeting appearances across his lips.
But what really warmed Norrington -- what made this telling a pleasure for all that it included his own abjection for his failure to produce a commanding victory -- was the crinkling beneath and beside Jack's eyes, barely visible under the smears of black but there to be seen if one knew what to look for. His mouth stayed still, full lips pressed almost tightly together, but Norrington knew that expression, that smile that wouldn't be hidden. Knew that what little he was able to do here with this honest tribute did not go unappreciated.
The next part might. He slanted a look the length of the table, gauging the man's reaction as he worked in his own twist. Opportunistic of him, maybe, but he figured a little balance of benefit might be acceptable here. "So now you might say the captain and I have reached an agreement. The Black Pearl is granted safe passage to and from Port Royal in this one instance. I will remain aboard for the duration as assurance of our good faith. And afterward..." It probably sounded as though he paused for effect. In truth, he found the words difficult to rush into. "Afterward, in repayment for his assistance in the matter of Roberts, we will permit Captain Sparrow and the Black Pearl to depart these waters, after which they will no longer be our...concern."
Jack's only concession to his obliquely claiming credit for the Black Pearl's departure was a smirk, brief, and a darkly mocking glare. Still, he seemed willing to let it slide by. Gibbs appeared rather sourer about the matter, but he followed his captain's lead, giving nothing worse than a dour frown, and Norrington allowed himself a small breath of relief. The Pearl's visit to Port Royal would be quite a bit easier to manage if he were able to tell his officers and servicemen that the Navy could indeed force the leave-taking of this most storied of pirate ships.
"Sir?" Groves looked down the table, taking his question directly to the man. "You're leaving, Captain?" He sounded almost disappointed.
Jack graced the lieutenant with a glance. "Your commodore is quite a...persuasive man. When he's of a mind to be."
Trust a pirate to support a lie without hesitation.
Groves returned his attention to Norrington, sitting a little straighter, remembering himself and his station. "What are your orders, sir?"
"You're to precede us into Port Royal and see to it that the Black Pearl finds the safe harbor I've promised. In particular, any privateer in the vicinity is to be locked down, do you understand? I want marines on every ship that might possibly consider firing on us."
A frowning, thoughtful nod. "The privateers may be a problem. Captain Barnet was in port prior to our departure."
Norrington scowled ill-humoredly. Jonathan Barnet had been given a commission by the governor to hunt pirates with his heavily armed sloop, thus expanding Jamaica's available fleet. The commission had been granted over Norrington's objection; he didn't trust privateers much further than he trusted pirates (generally speaking), and in particular he disliked the lack of direct military authority he might exercise over the rather...brisk...Barnet. "Make it painfully clear that any man who takes action against the Black Pearl, her captain or her crew while I'm aboard will be putting my life in immediate jeopardy, and will be held accountable."
"I'll do that, sir," Groves said solemnly.
His gaze crossed the table, meeting Jack's, and Norrington felt the fading of all amusement between them. He didn't believe Jack himself would order or condone any harm wrought on his person by an enraged crew (though he did keep a part of himself reserved from complete faith in that assumption; five nights might be long enough to chart the geography of a man's body, but he had a feeling five lifetimes would prove too short to fully know Jack's mind). Regardless of how much trust he'd put in Jack, however, this past week had taught him a great deal about the workings of life aboard a pirate ship, and he understood all too well how little functional control a pirate captain truly had over the actions of his crew. Outlaws instinctively chafed under authority, any authority. Even that of a man they liked, respected and admired, such as this crew with their idiosyncratic captain.
Had Jack thought of that? Considered how genuine the danger might be for both of them if their respective strengths of command proved even fractionally weaker than necessary?
Jack's countenance, deadly serious in that moment, said he had. But still he assessed the risk worth taking. Why? Could a fond farewell with Elizabeth and the blacksmith really warrant this hazard?
A tightening around those dark, dark eyes. As if from pain, he thought distantly, wondering at the source. So often these past few days he'd been startled by that specter of injury, ghosting past and then gone as quickly as any mood Jack wore might flee.
Perhaps the reality of the choice he'd made was finally coming home. Maybe he regretted the concession he'd given to Roberts, the bargain that had spared untold lives and led to this...this lustful friendship between the two of them. If that was the way to describe it. Of which he wasn't at all certain.
The harsh sound of a throat clearing called him back to the table. Gibbs, with his pale blue eyes shifting warningly from him to Jack. Norrington blinked away, focusing on the yellowing light streaming in through an east-facing porthole. Morning progressed apace. They'd need to wrap this up soon if the Encounter was to take good advantage of the day for travel.
Before he could say as much, Groves spoke up, an odd firmness underlying his tone. "Would it be permissible for us to speak alone, Commodore?"
His lieutenant's face revealed little of what hid behind it. Regarding Jack across the table, Norrington quirked an eyebrow in silent query.
The pirate's expression didn't entirely speak of trust. Or -- what had he said? 'I trust you to do what's right by your view.' So again here, their conflicting loyalties sprung leaks in the tenuous confidence they'd started building.
After only a moment, though, Jack gave a fluid shrug and flicked a few fingers more or less in the direction of Groves. "Only 'cause I like you, mate." Eyes slid to Norrington's. "Now don't go plannin' anything...unpleasant. Aye, Commodore?"
Norrington smiled urbanely. "You either. Captain."
Lips pursed, curving one-sidedly. Narrow-eyed, Jack tapped a one-fingered salute to his temple as he stood, gesturing for Gibbs to accompany him, and ambled out with apparent unconcern. The older sailor paused a moment to give Norrington an indecipherable look. Then he too pushed out, the doors schwooping behind him.
Groves didn't waste any time once they were alone. "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"I need to know," he said, eyes assessing Norrington intently, "if you are being coerced in any way."
"A sensible question. I assure you, I am not." He smiled a little. "My wig was tortured quite flagitiously, but I'm afraid it's long past having any value as a hostage."
The lieutenant studied him long enough that he wondered whether the man might actually doubt him.
Groves took a moment then to let his eyes coast around the room's interior, his manner suddenly casual, unnervingly conversational. "A bit dark for my tastes, but it's quite a nice cabin."
"Have you spent much time in here?"
Cautiously, Norrington said, "Some." With a sinking feeling.
"Huh." Those eyes kept wandering. And then they stopped. "Nice cot. Roomy."
Norrington said nothing.
Groves turned a far too knowing look on him. "Spent much time there?"
It was already hopeless, but he gave it one more shot. "The captain was good enough to grant me the use of his cot for the duration of my stay."
"The use of his cot."
"I see." Groves smiled slightly, without any pleasure. "Do I still have permission to speak freely?"
He wanted, quite badly, to refuse the right. But he needed to know. "Go ahead."
"The cot is not the only thing he granted you use of." Quiet voice. "As you were no doubt wondering: it's obvious, sir."
The sinking sensation became a yawning chasm in his gut. He thought he felt his career slipping into it. With difficulty, he kept his face composed, his voice flat. "Is it."
"Yes." That uneasy little smile briefly twisted with a hint of humor. "Though perhaps it's worth considering that I am somewhat more...alert for these things...than the average person."
Norrington examined his hands. His palms. Followed the lines of one with his thumb. Long life. Good health.
"May I venture a suggestion, sir?"
His jaw tightened. He swallowed down a knot of tension in his throat. "Certainly."
"I would suggest that you don't meet with anyone in Captain Sparrow's presence while the ship's moored at Port Royal. It's...considerably easier to be circumspect without the...other person involved."
Thank God the man was attempting to be tactful. This embarrassment burned badly enough on its own. "Intelligent advice."
"The voice of experience," Groves said, "sir."
Norrington looked at him sharply, reminded all at once. Groves had been hiding this sort of thing his whole life.
The lieutenant stared a moment, then gave another of those slow, one-sided grins. "I must say, sir, I'm a bit disappointed."
"Had I guessed you might be swayed that way, I would have made the effort myself."
Face flaming, Norrington swiftly returned his focus to the tracks across his palm. "Ah..." A memory hit like a blow. He chased it away before it could lodge firmly, but was left with the fleeting impression of a sleek, arched body, the metallic clink of shackles, and the frankly alarming use of that oar. "That's...very flattering, Groves. Ah. Ted." Something told him working alongside this man would forever after be an agonizingly awkward experience. "But..."
"But given the obstacles to engaging in such behavior beneath the watchful eyes of Port Royal's elite, you'd consider it highly inadvisable." Groves delivered this as perfectly as though rehearsed, and suddenly once again his manner was as unfaultable as could be. "No need to say more, sir."
He thought maybe there was need. But as he couldn't find a response milling in his head, he only cleared his throat and said, "Well. I have some missives for you to carry with you. Also a private letter to Governor Swann, and another for the Turners."
"I'll see them delivered personally, sir."
Jack stood just within the doors of the cabin, brows bunching, frowning over at the table where the other sat. "Eh?"
"You've made me a sodomite," James explained, with the solemn air of revelation.
"Didn't hear much objection comin' from your side of the equation, mate."
James didn't appear ready to consider his input. "I am a sodomite, and it shows."
A sigh, drawn-out. Green eyes focused on Jack with real discomfort. "Groves," he said succinctly.
"Ahh." Well. That explained the insociable mood the commodore had been in since morning. "Called you on it, did he?"
"How long was he aboard? An hour?"
Jack strolled over and took a chair. "Perhaps that."
"And in half that time, maybe less, he knew that I..." James paused with probably unconscious drama. "...have become a sodomite. A degenerate. Deviant."
"All right now..."
"Debauched. A pervert. A wanton bugger."
Jack exhaled a long breath, half a growl. "And a right good one at that, if you care for my opinion."
The man regarded him at length, blinking every now and then, mouth curved faintly in a considering frown.
Propping an elbow on the table, chin in hand, Jack gazed right back, aggravation battling amusement for supremacy.
James finally hmphed. "You have to say that. It's your fault, after all."
"Oh, I'm perfectly willing to take credit, mate." Absently, he twiddled a beard braid between two fingers. "Or blame, if you prefer. Tell me you regret it."
That haughtiness cracked a bit. James's lips quirked. "Would you believe me?"
"Say it and we'll see."
The arrogance cracked further, flaking away, baring a glimmer of the man beneath. "It would be a lie."
Jack leered winningly. "I know that." Stood then, circling the table, slipping a hand under James's arm and pulling. "Up with you."
He let himself be drawn to his feet. "Why up?"
"Some of the men were askin' if you'd be so kind as to join in for a drink."
"You. I told them yes."
"You told them yes."
"They already knew I'd be joining in." He tugged imperatively towards the door.
James resisted. "And if I say no?"
"Why would you say no?" Jack asked with honest bewilderment. "It's a party! There's rum!"
He glowered. "Last time I got drunk with pirates I was turned into a sod."
"As I recall, sir, it took a couple of days b'fore you went that far. And that was stone-sober." Abruptly switching tactics, Jack ceased his futile dragging and instead moved into James, swaying against him, melding hip to groin. The immediate intake of breath that caused was rather gratifying. "Make you a deal," he murmured, rumbling.
"What manner of...deal?"
Jack sent arms around his waist, snugging him closer. "One drink. If you're not enjoying yourself by then, we'll come right back here. And then I will do..." Lips briefly grazed the throbbing pulse in James's neck. "...whatever it takes..." He tongued a pattern there, matching the artery's rhythm. "...to make it up to you." A tiny nip. "Savvy?"
Somehow the man kept the presence of mind to remember that deals invariably had two sides. "And if I am...enjoying myself?"
Jack nuzzled the hollow of his neck, inhaling his scent, exhaling a steady, steaming breath. "Well then. In that case, seems only fitting you do whatever I want. To thank me."
James was quiet. No little bit taut all of a sudden, even with Jack finger-stroking his back, undulating gently against his crotch, and following that jumping pulse with devoted attention. Apparently he had an inkling just what Jack might desire, if it came to that.
When it came to that, Jack decided, blood already heating at the thought.
James's throat bobbed in a plainly nervous swallow. His voice was husky, tight. "Fair enough."
Grinning toothily, Jack stepped back out of his arms, drinking in the apprehension and the ardor in those eyes. Tipped his head, the hair-medallion chiming cheerful accompaniment. "C'mon, then."
The crew, being eighty-one strong not counting himself, spread over and through the Pearl in uneven clusters, some louder than others. For the most part James had spent very little time out of the cabin in the evenings -- initially too aware of his precarious safety, Jack guessed, and then far too busy learning the finer points of decadence and depravity. He was quiet, taking it all in as they zagged and zigged their way to the forecastle, Jack trading nods or greetings with random crewmen.
James faltered in his step, head turning when they passed Matelot and Rigsby who were, quite without rum, making a party of their own against the bulwark by a swing gun. Jack took his arm to keep him from bumping into anything, guiding him onward.
"They're...ah..." James said, eloquently.
"You're an observant one."
James faced front again, the shock quite evident in his widened eyes. Said nothing more.
Grinning to himself, Jack added public fondling to the list of things he'd like to do to the man tonight once he nudged him past that inconvenient first drink. Tip him back over the gunwale, work him over 'til his knees quaked, drag from him a few of those labored, hungering moans...
Gibbs was waiting by the foremast with the already boisterous group. The quartermaster unceremoniously put a bottle into Jack's hands, eyes dwelling inscrutably on James. "Good o' you t' join us, sir. You fellas are just in time. Bobby's about to start playin'."
Hails were called across the loose semicircle of crewmen arrayed by the mast. A few proved themselves bold enough to greet James: mostly by "sir," here and there with "Commodore." One seadog, Basil, who said he was about a decade too old to be afraid of anything, gave an irreverent, "Ahoy there, Jimmy." Which seemed to rattle James nearly as much as Matelot and Rigsby's show.
Jack squeezed James's arm, bobbing his chin at an empty spot by the bulwark. Pulled him unresistingly that way and pushed him to sit, folding down beside him, drawing in legs and crossing them.
"That pirate called me 'Jimmy,'" James said, blinking.
"Could tell 'im you prefer 'sod,' if you like."
All on his own, relatively unprovoked, James reached for the bottle in his hands, downing a swallow. Grimaced at the taste, but didn't hand it back. "'Jimmy' will do."
"Not 'wanton bugger'?"
"Do you remember when I advised you to be 'silent as the grave,' Jack?"
Jack reclaimed the bottle. Swigged rum. "You know you'd miss me voice."
No answer at that, and when he glanced sideways he saw that his words had put far too much joyless sobriety in the patrician face, bringing to mind all at once how quickly the end of this raced at them.
That wouldn't do at all. Jack propped the bottle on one of James's updrawn knees, holding it there, fingers curving around the extended neck of the thing. Waited until he had his attention, then casually slid his grip up, down, ever so slowly up again, all the while watching the bustle of activity before them as the group made room for Bobby and his fiddle.
Fingers curled over his on the bottle. James's left, his right, forearms crossing. James stroked the underside of his wrist with a thumb, staring at their hands with distance in his eyes. Too much gravity still marred his face, prompting Jack to bump his thigh with a chiding knee, hefting the rum. "Best start makin' inroads on that first drink, mate."
"Only drink," James said, obliging with a lengthy swig. Jack watched his head tilt back...the curving arch of his neck...the rolling bob of his Adam's apple up, pausing, down and then up, pausing, down...
A disjointed cheer wrenched him back to the group. Bobby, a skinny youth with curly yellow hair and a broad, snaggle-toothed smile, spread his arms with a flourish, fiddle in one hand and bow in the other. He looked to Jack. "Captain! What would you hear?"
Thoughtfully, Jack tapped a finger to his chin, staring off in contemplation. Basil groaned loudly. Jack ignored him and pointed at the lad decisively. "Surprise me."
That brought more exaggerated groans from the pirates. Jack thrust a hand up defensively. "One time!"
"You're a cruel man, Cap'n!" yelled one.
"Never get it out me 'ead!" cried another.
Bobby, brighter than most, simply put bow to strings and started to play, and for all their protestations it didn't take the men long to join in with gusto. By the last verse half the ship was bellowing along in a ragged, tuneless tragedy of sound.
"We're beggars and blighters and ne'er-do-well cads.
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho!
Aye! But we're loved by our mommies and dads.
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho!"
Jack left off there, settling back as the crew wrapped up with the last repetition of "Yo ho, yo ho! A pirate's life for me!" Looked to his right, beaming, to find tolerant amusement on the commodore's face. Not quite enthusiastic participation, but that'd do for starters.
Hoots greeted the final word of the song. Marty, newly arrived at the forecastle gathering, jumped in to stand before Bobby, facing the watchers with a mug held high. "To all the mothers what still love us sons!"
Jack nudged James with an elbow. "Unless I miss my guess, mate, that'd include you."
James raised the bottle. Quietly-- "To the mothers." He drank the toast, his gaze skipping around them to note the others who joined in and those who didn't. Offered the rum to Jack as an afterthought, brows up, curiosity in his eyes.
"Long gone," Jack told him, taking the bottle anyway, holding it up to judge its fullness. "Bobby's good, eh? Came up with the music for that himself."
Jack's voice dropped to an undertone. "Now mind you, he's only a fiddler, not a pirate. And I've not yet convinced him to come with us when we head out. So if he ever happens to show up at your fort in irons, you'll remember he's never harmed a soul, aye?"
Disquieted green eyes followed the musician. Eventually James gave a faint nod. "Noted. But do remember that I'm not the sole voice deciding any man's fate when it comes to trial. There's only so much I can do."
"I know that."
"For any of you, Jack."
Jack swallowed rum. "All I ask is you do what you can, when you can."
"When it's right," he added tightly.
"Figured that part a given with you, Commodore James."
More requests were called out for Bobby, and his fiddle sprang to life with a joyous rush, a flood of pure energy and excitement pouring from its strings. Conversations ceased. Shouts of encouragement came from as far back as the quarterdeck. This particular strummer had made himself a fast favorite in the weeks he'd been with them. He played with verve and rebellious speed, transforming the most common of tunes until they sounded new and fresh again. Were he not fairly certain it would destroy what made the lad's playing so rich, Jack rather thought he might consider kidnapping the youth, taking him with them into exile.
Beside him, slowly losing himself to the vigorous rhythm, James was getting a good deal friendlier with the rum, his posture easing into a comfortable sprawl and fingers unconsciously tapping. Jack's lips curved, eyes crinkling satisfaction. He used reaching for the bottle as an excuse to scoot closer and press full-flank against him. James turned his head, gazing cryptically, those eyes very dark out here.
Jack grinned hopefully. "Enjoying yourself yet?"
Half a wry smile. James eyed the bottle appraisingly. Took it from him without a word and tipped it back, amber liquid splashing and swirling inside as its level diminished further. A few good swallows left. Not long now.
Staggering shamelessly, Gibbs stood when next Bobby begged off. The old sailor weighed his mug high overhead, sloshing himself and others nearby, taking no notice of the few scattered curses that earned. "Gents!" he boomed. "To the Black Pearl!"
Jack snatched the bottle, thrusting it high. "To the Black Pearl!" The cry went up the full length of the ship. Picked up echoes from belowdecks as the most important salute ever uttered was heard and affirmed.
To that declaration, Jack drank a generous swallow, a third of the remaining rum burning just right all the way down. He flattened a hand on the deck. Felt the lingering warmth from daytime sun against dark planks like the heat of a body, with breath and blood and pulse. She lived for him. No other ship he'd ever sailed had truly lived for him.
James watched him in silence. Jack reached for his hand and pulled it down, pressing it level on the deck. "Feel it?"
The pale brow furrowed. No answer.
Jack spread his own hand over, sandwiching James's between the heat of flesh and ship. Stared at him intently. "Feel it." This time no question, but a command.
Eyes closed, dark lashes brushing skin. Too much concentration on those features, though -- too much effort. He'd never understand her, trying so hard.
James opened his eyes. Didn't move his hand, but didn't get it, either. Too honest to pretend, he only looked at Jack, patiently, gaze softened by drink, shadowed by night.
Jack eased off his hand. "Maybe later." Held the bottle up, swishing the contents in a thread of golden lantern light. No, not much left at all. He looked at James sidelong, then leaned in, lips a hairsbreadth from his ear. "Tell you what I'm gonna do: I'm gonna go fetch us another bottle..." Nearer, right hand slipping between bulwark and commodore to tickle up his spine, left presenting the bottle, pressing it low against James's belly with a little rocking motion. "...while you finish this one off, eh?"
He sat very still. "Perhaps I've drunk my fill."
Unobtrusively, Jack's hand untucked his shirt and forayed beneath, skin sibilant against skin, thumb marking the notch of each vertebra. "Perhaps you underestimate your capacity for being...filled."
A flush stole up the man's neck, over his face, even coloring his ears.
Standing then, Jack went for more rum.
It didn't take long to retrieve a bottle from his cabin, but by the time he returned to the forecastle the crew had descended on the commodore. Not, thankfully, with flagitious intent. Apparently Jack's presence had been buffering the man, protecting him from the overwhelming curiosity of besotted pirates; without him there they'd ringed James like children, taking advantage of this unparalleled opportunity to safely speak to, question, shake hands with a figure of fear and dread. A pirate's own bugbear, given flesh and fears of his own.
Unnoticed thus far, Jack hung back a bit, watching. James, standing with his back to the bulwark, didn't look wholly comfortable with the situation, but he was holding up well. He smiled rather more than Jack would have expected. Laughed a bit at something Basil said. Even appeared to get in a jibe of his own, which set the whole cluster around him to chortling.
Gibbs spied Jack then and came to stand with him, flinging a companionable arm around his shoulders. The quartermaster's eyes were reddened and bleary and extraordinarily cheerful. He'd relaxed quite a bit once the Encounter had moved off this morning, as had most of the crew. "Reckon he ain't the worst, Jack. Mind you, I'll be breathin' a fair sight easier once we put him an' Port Royal t'our rudder..."
Jack cocked an eyebrow, studying him aslant. "You said he'd bring us bad luck."
"Reckon if we survive Port Royal, I'll be takin' it back." He waved a blocky finger under Jack's nose. "But if'n we die there, I expect t'hear ye finally admittin' I'm right about the luck, aye?"
A snort. "Agreed." He studied James, now listening to something long and nervously rambling from Bobby. An idea formed, clear and quite elegantly simple, and Jack smiled a slow, sinful smile. "Need a favor."
He pulled Gibbs against the base of the forecastle, out of sight lest James happen to glance over. Pressed the new bottle into the quartermaster's hand and explained, low-voiced.
"Sure'n I'll do it," Gibbs said once he'd finished. "But what's this about, Jack?"
A bit of a leer. "You don't need to know that part, mate."
Eyeroll. "It's like that, is it?"
"It's like that. Go."
Jack claimed a vantage near the stairs. Watched Gibbs make his way through the gathered pirates to James, greeting him jovially, thrusting the bottle into his hands and, lacking a mug, pulling his own flask from its breast pocket. "A toast!" he declared.
James tried to hand the bottle back. "No, really, I believe I've had enough for--"
"To bonnie Elizabeth an' 'er brave lad Will! May they not be the death of each other!"
"To Elizabeth an' Will!" the cry went up.
Gibbs clinked his flask against the bottle in James's hands. Looking rather paler than before, James raised the thing. His throat jumped visibly. But of course it would be very ungentlemanly to refuse to drink to their well-being, and even at a pirate party, James was a very gentlemanly sort of fellow. "To Elizabeth and Will."
Grinning evilly, Jack hied himself up the stairs as James tipped back that fateful gulp and was at the man's side by the time the bottle came down. James looked at him. Quickly away. "Bloody pirate."
Jack's hand sought out that untucked shirt and slipped beneath, curving around his waist, claiming. "Drink up, me hearty," he growled.
James closed his eyes a moment. Opened them with a shaky exhalation, then hefted the rum, his hand not entirely steady, and muttered, "Yo ho," before downing an overlarge draught.
Jack was glued to his side. He kept touching, constantly, surreptitiously at first and then more openly as the atmosphere grew bawdier, the sweaty closeness thicker. Fingers patrolled Norrington's shoulders, the muscles that kept unconsciously tensing there. Arms wrapped around him from behind, palms roving his chest and abdomen, hands curving over his hips. He tried, quietly, to ask for a little grace, the awkwardness of so much physicality in the midst of so many men threatening to shred him with embarrassment.
"We can go inside whenever you're ready," Jack said in response, beside him with a hand at the small of his back, fingers dipping beneath his breeches. "Just say the word."
The word was not an easy thing to say. But when he found himself plastered to the foremast being adamantly kissed by an increasingly more aggressive pirate, he judged the word preferable to discovering just how far Jack would be willing to take this out here.
So once he managed to free his mouth he said, "Cabin." Fiercely hoping he didn't sound as daunted as he felt.
Jack's eyes glittered with a light Norrington had once called madness. Seeing it now did not comfort him one whit, and the uneasy coiling of his stomach picked up anew. Tonight more than ever Jack seemed to him a stranger, an outlaw, a man too different from himself to be fully understood or relied upon. The comfortable familiarity of the past days felt very far-removed indeed.
The walk to the cabin was a haze. When they passed the place where earlier he'd seen two men very...engaged with each other...Jack hesitated, putting a hand to his chest to stop him. Wordlessly prodded him up against the bulwark by the swing gun, hands going to the gunwale on either side. He stepped in sinuously, the heat and supple flexing and hard bulge in his breeches saying that yes, Norrington had guessed quite accurately what he wanted, and a deal was a deal and he could've refused the toast.
Lips on his chin. Teeth. A throaty chuckle. "Rough."
Jack rubbed his cheek against Norrington's jaw, eyes closed, lips curved. "You're all scratchy."
He let out a breath. "Morning was a long time ago." A lifetime ago.
Jack's tongue tested the texture of the top of his throat. He swallowed reflexively. Wondered how much more rum it would take to make what would happen in that cabin easier to contemplate.
"Is this my brave Commodore James?" Spoken rather softly, the words a sensation of moist breath and lips moving across his stubbly skin. "He who was all set to hand himself over to Black Bart's abuses with his head held high?"
"What do you mean?"
Body still on his, Jack drew back enough to meet his eyes. "I won't hurt you."
He felt the redness stain his skin. Wanted to look away. Couldn't. "I didn't believe you would."
"Is that true?" Inflectionless.
"Have I ever lied to you, Jack?"
"That is the question," the pirate murmured, laying a hand along his face. "I'll make you a promise, then."
"By the end of the night, I will see that sweet smile again."
Suddenly the need to look away didn't press him quite so heavily. His lips curved a little, sardonically. "You think so, do you."
Half a step back, haughtiness elevating his chin. "I give you my word."
He arched an eyebrow. "Care to make it interesting?"
"It's already interesting," Jack rumbled, eyes smoldering.
"If you fail to find that--" stupidly childish "--smile, I claim a forfeit."
Jack's gaze went half-lidded. "What manner of...forfeit?"
"Anything I want. Of course."
"And when I get the smile from you?"
"If you get that--" ridiculously undignified "--smile, I suppose you'll have earned the same."
A slow, golden grin. Jack stepped back. Extended his hand. "Agreed."
Norrington clasped it. "Agreed."
And then Jack was tugging him enthusiastically in the direction of the cabin. "Quickly! I have work to do."
Smiling a bit despite himself (but nowhere near That Smile, oh no), Norrington let himself be hauled along. Through the double doors, into the cabin, where a few burning lanterns and a bowl of fruit for the morning showed that someone had been here before them.
Inside, Jack turned immediately, stepping up against him in a sashaying motion that seemed to put every part of their bodies in contact -- or at least every part worth noticing at the moment. Clever fingers had Norrington's shirt open in no time. Pushed it back, down, until it fouled his arms and he had to struggle to get out of it. Jack was working his chest by the time he'd shed the thing, little kisses, strange patterns, a thumbnail scraping firmly over a nipple with a tingly sting. Norrington reached behind his head to untie the bandana, careful of hair as he pulled the binding away and dropped it.
Jack leaned back. Stripped his sash in a flash, then his shirt. Nodded to Norrington's remaining clothing as he set to swiftly ridding himself of his own. "Skin, mate."
More slowly, brought back to considering the worrisome event so near at hand, the commodore bared himself.
Before he had too much time to think, however, a very naked Jack Sparrow was against him with a hand snaring in his hair, pulling him into a fiercely declarative kiss. The other hand, quite a bold wanderer, followed ribs to spine, spine to the small of his back, then curved acquisitively lower. Norrington jumped when those fingers gave a good squeeze.
A low chuckle against his lips. Jack took a step back, pulling him along. Another, tongue surging into his mouth and then another, hand kneading his backside. Instincts newly discovered in recent days had Norrington wanting to be more assertive, bear him down to the cot, battle out dominance in a million subtle ways he'd never consciously connected with the actual act, the question of whose what went where. That hadn't much seemed to matter before, when the answer was 'Norrington's' and 'wherever Jack lets it go.' But now...
Jack twisted him suddenly, turning his shoulders, a leg catching behind his and tripping him down to the cot. His startled "ooph!" was lost beneath the protests of the chains as the platform swung irregularly. Jack, crouched atop him, paused a moment to listen to the creaking. Dismissed it. Returned to his mouth, hair falling to enshroud both of them, body swaying along his and a hand gliding up his ribcage and back down. Up and down.
Norrington's left hand slipped behind Jack's neck. His right ran down that flexing torso, the thought somewhere in his head that Jack was too ready, too eager, and it might be wise to seek to take the edge off. Their first time on any given night was usually a searingly swift affair, easing the urgency built up through a day of Jack's incessant teasing and restoring patience for the more languorous explorations to follow.
But Jack moved with striking speed, snatching his hand before it reached its target and pulling it up, pressing it into the mattress. "Really not needing any encouragement there, James." Then the pirate was grasping Norrington's other wrist and shoving it likewise down. "No touching."
"You're too close," he said, rather crossly. "You'll never last."
"Let me be the judge of that, eh? Daresay I've had a good bit more experience with this than you have." An insistent push to those trapped wrists. The gleam was back in Jack's eyes, flame-bright. "Need I find some rope?"
That thought -- being stripped of even the appearance of choice in this -- made his blood chill. He glared stonily. "No."
An unevenly arching lip bared a metallic glint. "Are you sure?"
Jack eased slowly down, eyes holding his. "Maybe later for that too, then." Kissed him lightly, not closing his eyes, and Norrington felt it a challenge to keep staring at him, glaring at him. To not be the first to look away or hide behind shuttered lids.
Jack's erection, rigid and leaking, poked his belly as the pirate lowered against him, gaze steady, lips playing over his mouth. Norrington's half-hard cock stirred to greater alertness between them, less aware than its owner that tonight was going to be Different -- that it wouldn't be finding that close, hot sheath they'd both grown so very fond of.
"Tell me something," Jack said, the words interspersed with the kisses. "Are you afraid you'll hate it?" A flick of tongue. "Or that you won't?"
He almost groaned. Of course the man had to take a simple case of near-crippling nervousness and make it infinitely worse. "I hadn't thought that far, to be honest with you. But thank you; I'll add that to the list."
A sneering laugh against his lips. Jack gave one more admonishing shove to his pinned wrists, then glided hands swiftly down his arms, across his shoulders to take his face. Leaned in and kissed him full force, tongue stabbing between his teeth, hips twisting, tormenting his quickly stiffening erection. Losing himself to the hot-slick prodding of that tongue, the torturously insufficient grinding against his swelling organ, Norrington forgot the need to keep his eyes open. Very nearly forgot about keeping his hands still, too, but caught himself at the last moment before reaching down to yank Jack's pelvis in tighter. Ohhh no, he was not going to give Jack any excuse to truss him up like some holiday fowl for the oven. His own agreement to the terms of their deal bound him here tightly enough as it was.
One hand left him. He heard the rustling of cloth beside his head and cracked an eye to see Jack drawing a very familiar jar from beneath a pillow. The significance hit him low and hard, quelling even the straining eagerness of his cock. All at once he forgot how to kiss, mouth stilling under Jack's assault, eye following the motion of that jar with the wariness of prey.
"Relax," Jack murmured, amusement underlying. "We're not quite there yet."
How comforting. He sought a pithy response to cover the sudden surge of trepidation. Couldn't find even the inkling of one.
Jack moved down his neck in a trail of nibbling bites, firm licks. Hovered over his pulse a moment. Sucked hard. Norrington watched the jar, only distantly paying attention to Jack's progress. Swallowed, his throat suddenly dry, spitless.
"Mine." A whisper against the new mark on his neck, surprising him with the vehemence of the declaration. Fingers strode down his torso, found the trail of dark hair from navel to crotch, followed it. His cock jumped in that rough-skinned grip. He quivered under an excruciatingly slow, tight-hard pull along his shaft. Clenched his hands into the pillow beneath his head, inhaling, exhaling harshly.
Jack traveled down his body. A leg nudged between his knees to prod them apart. Heart thudding, Norrington spread thighs enough to let him kneel between them, the pirate's breath like a forerunner to a midsummer squall over the head of his cock. "Tell you somethin', mate: there's a great deal more to enjoy in a good fuck..." He paused to drag his tongue along the slit, making Norrington whisper an oath. "...than just hammering it home."
He'd lost sight of the oil. This worried him greatly.
"Have you not wondered? What it is you've been doing to me?"
His eyes closed. Wondered? Oh, he'd wondered. Face-to-face, three nights ago, witnessing so closely, so personally, that moment of heart-stopping transformation between desperate reaching and the almost painful rapture of arrival, like ecstasy and agony and other things he could only guess at... He'd wondered at the stark beauty of it, and at the humbling awe of being the one to take him there. But to know the...the experience of it...?
Eyes flew open on a sharp grunt as Jack's mouth enveloped his cockhead, his tongue sawing all around, his hand flexing, sliding, squeezing, gliding...
Lanterns gleamed in peripheral vision with a fuzzy, blurred glow. The wet sounds Jack made upon his organ seemed curiously out of rhythm with the pulse of that mouth, the whipping of that tongue, the thrumming that spread through his veins in staggered tandem.
A touch against his balls, strangely slick, and he realized those fingers were oiled.
"Wait," he said breathlessly, lifting his head, "wait."
Pressure behind, below his scrotum, stroking the smooth skin there. Jack released his cock. Ravenous eyes peered up Norrington's body from beneath lowered lashes.
Staring at him, Norrington couldn't find the words. Wait for what? This was the deal. His head fell back. He pressed a forearm over his eyes, shutting off the light that crept in even through closed lids. Let out an unsteady breath. "Never mind."
Lips on his inner thigh. Nuzzling there as fingers rubbed, pressing, sparking...something...inside. He clenched teeth together when he felt the slippery prodding that sought entrance.
"Push out," Jack told him, voice quiet and intent.
"Push out. Makes it easier to take something in."
"Ah," he said weakly, shifting legs more comfortably, trying to comply. Trying not to think about the unfamiliar, dismaying wiggle of that gradually invading digit.
A wet swipe against his cock, which had begun wilting with the discomfort of the situation. "'twill all make sense in a moment, Commodore James."
He opened his mouth to express his doubt, but then that finger grazed the something inside, the something that had to be that same something he'd seen cause Jack to squirm and babble and blaspheme with religious fervor, and all movement of air into or out of his lungs ceased in an instant as the jolt shot his erection back to attention and blazed out from there in jagged flames of sensation.
His forearm fell away from his eyes. He blinked at the ceiling hook above his head, thunderstruck.
That did make a great deal of sense, oh yes.
Jack chuckled smugly and blew across his rigid organ. Said, singsong, "I'm gonna win the be-et..."
Lungs flexed slightly. "O-oh..." His mouth stayed frozen in that round ring of astonishment as another finger wriggled alongside the first, the pair spreading, turning, almost-but-not hurting as muscles resisted and then oh God Almighty there-it-was-again...and again...again... That hand moved against him, the fingers into him, over and over and over, and he felt the shift of the cot as Jack lifted a bit -- knew that when he looked he'd find those eyes on him, watching his response. Knew he should feel mortified to be laid so bare and utterly defenseless here. Knew...
Nothing. He knew nothing. His world had just flipped upside down.
He looked, and did meet darkly burning eyes set in a face taut with need and pained restraint.
"Jack...I..." A breath. "...you can..."
His head rocked back into the pillow. He clutched it tightly. "Aye."
Fingers withdrew, and he heard a sound like a whimper escape his own throat. "Over," Jack ordered.
He obeyed without pause or question, disallowing thought, rolling immediately and letting Jack's hands guide him to crouch on splayed knees, the man so close against him there seemed no break between their bodies.
And then there was none.
His respiration was harsh, gasping as Jack covered him, pushed into him, hands gripping his hips hard enough to bruise. For a moment inner muscles protested the intrusion, tightening, and there was burning, nearly piercing pain. He ground his teeth against a cry. Squeezed eyes shut and focused on breathing, just breathing, and then the pain was fading so swiftly it seemed a thing of imagination.
Jack came to rest atop him, fully sheathed within. He could feel the nudge against that wondrous place...could feel the slick heat of Jack's sweaty chest on his back...could feel the tickling weight of hair against his sides, and here and there the coolness of beads...
Hands followed his flanks up, then wrapped around him. Little more than a whisper-- "So tight, James..."
He startled himself with a short, sharp laugh. "I should...think so."
Those arms squeezed him snugly, Jack's hips began to move, and he lost the concentration for words entirely.
Bracing on forearms, eyes closed, he sought to accustom himself to these new sensations. When Jack slid into him, deep, the prodding against that hypersensitive spot made him moan involuntarily; when Jack withdrew he found the oddest feeling of emptiness that wasn't righted until he was filled again. The glide forth and back felt like tickling torment, like an itch barely getting a scratch, but then there was that push at the apex of each stroke, directly striking joy.
Jack's mouth ranged his back. "No virginity left now, eh mate?"
He crossed forearms over the pillow, gripping it again, fingers flexing and releasing with each drive in, each draw out. Lowered his forehead to rest on those arms, groaning shakily as the pace began to quicken and roughen.
A hand sojourned down his stomach to his erection. He bit his arm to muffle a shout, lunging into, away, he didn't know. Jack was saying something, or lots of somethings, his tone alternately soothing and fierce. Swearing maybe. Praising him. Boasting, perhaps, that Captain Jack finally got to stick it to the Royal Navy.
That hand on his shaft pumped, slick now with his own fluid. He jerked helplessly between the increasingly insistent thrusting within and the tugging hand that dragged small, unwilling cries from between his teeth for all that he kept them clamped on his forearm.
"You're there," Jack hissed. "C'mon, James, you're there..." Pounding deeply, vigorously attacking his ass and that place and his cock with that pistoning fist and then he was there, abruptly, overwhelmingly there, the eruption starting from inside and raging through his rod, outward in spurts of hot white, inward in exploding stars that filled his brain. A loud, hoarse sound ripped from his throat, only half-smothered against his arm. He tasted the iron tang of blood on his tongue.
Jack caught his hips again as he started to topple. Held him there, grunting and plunging into his quivering backside with determination or desperation or, no, definitely both. Norrington breathed in rasping gasps as it went on, as it drew out the euphoria that held him, as Jack's strangled utterances ran together in a rush and the thrusts were quick, jabbing and then pulsing and then ramming hard with a very foul string of endearments pouring into his ears as Jack's completion poured into his ass.
And then he fell forward, and Jack fell atop him, and the cot swung with all the agitation it always evinced in the moments after. He let its motions take his attention, not yet ready to think. Nowhere near ready for that.
Little by little, the cot readjusted to the Black Pearl's ocean-oscillations. Little by little, the ragged breathing that puffed against his shoulderblade slowed, steadied. Jack shifted a bit. Lifted and pulled back out of him, and the feel of the exhausted organ leaving him kindled a peculiar pang of loss.
Weight over him again, spreading out. Jack climbed up his body to lean down to his cheek with a press of lips just beneath his closed eye. The beard braids tapped softly at his jaw.
Thoughts tried to break out -- feelings. He swallowed them down as best he could in a thick, hard lump that tore and lodged in his throat on the way.
Fingers guided his hair back behind an ear, strand by sweat-soaked strand. "James?" The word held an odd uncertainty.
He should offer reassurance. Opened his mouth to do so, and heard, "I bit my arm."
A few long breaths. "Did you?"
In proof, he arched it over his head, and Jack caught it by the wrist. A gentle touch traced the wound. "So you did." Jack shifted again, making him grunt as the weight briefly forced air from his lungs. A kiss to his forearm, then it was released, Jack settling on him once more. He pulled arms in alongside, half-hugging, holding. Incertitude lingered in his voice. "D'I ruin it?"
Arms squeezed lightly. "This."
Norrington opened his eyes. Nudged up with an elbow to move Jack aside, then turned over, staring at him. There was guardedness on that face in place of the feral aggression that'd been there so much of the evening.
Norrington's lips quirked. He was a long way from delving into those raw, parlous whirlings in the depths of his thoughts, but this answer, at least, he already had. "No."
He reached with his wounded arm to catch a beard braid. Tweaked it with chiding affection. "No."
Jack leaned forward a bit, eyes searching his intently. "Prove it."
"How am I to...?" Then he understood, and it made him want to laugh, or to pinch the pirate punishingly, or to, hell, hide his face in a pillow maybe.
Instead he tugged that braid again. And gave him the damn smile.
The wrongness of it struck him forcefully. For a moment, brain still struggling for clarity, he wondered if he'd lost a few days -- if Port Royal was already behind them, and this was the way he'd have to get used to sleeping and waking again.
Then he saw the clothes scattered in careless disarray over floor and furniture, and he knew he'd never wear stockings like that. Which brought to mind the legs those stockings went with. The knees. The man who'd been huddling on those knees underneath him tonight, shuddering and panting and uttering smothered, animal cries as Jack took him to a place he'd never been.
But that didn't explain waking up alone. Or...did it?
He sat up, surveying the shadows in the cabin lest one prove to be hiding a brooding figure. No. Stood then, hunting up his breeches, and went to find his missing commodore.
A push through the double doors and then he stepped out into the small hours of the night, when even the liveliest of the crew had collapsed and a body could find a little quiet, a little peace. Almost a feeling of privacy in being nothing less or more than a tiny little man environed by a bloody great ocean and the awesome expanse of a star-dappled sky.
James wasn't far. Likewise clad only in breeches, hair still unbound, he leaned on his forearms against the gunwale on the starboard bulwark, staring off over coal-colored waters shined here and there by reflections of moon and stars. The soft illumination made James paler still. He seemed almost to glow, ghostlike. And that seemed somehow right on deck of the Pearl.
Soft-footed approach. The man must've heard him, though, because he didn't jump when Jack moved in beside him to follow his gaze off to the distance.
Wind soughed over the sea, around and through the ship with barely audible, hollow moans. It tousled James's already untidy hair. Made an effort to toss Jack's, but found his assortment more intimidating, only managing to whip a few long strands into dancing, beads into clacking, the medallion into singing a little.
After a while James smiled a bit, not looking at him. "I believe I'm going to be rather sore."
A soft snort. "Most probably."
"You failed to mention that part."
Jack regarded his profile. Reached without thought to trail the back of one finger down his arm, curving along muscle. "Usually find I like it. A reminder."
The smile tugged briefly wider and James turned his head slightly, glancing up. His voice held an almost shy warmth. "I'm finding that as well."
Something knotty and worried in Jack's chest untied.
"Tell me something, Captain Jack."
The appellation, used more sparingly than his own for James, touched him. "Aye?"
James returned his gaze to the ocean. "Why so...insistent...about tonight?"
"Is wanting you not reason enough?"
"If that is what it was, then it's reason enough."
"Nice answer," he said, meaning it.
"Thank you. Do I get one?"
Jack turned, leaning back against the bulwark, staring across the Pearl and out at the opposite horizon. Patient as ever he'd been, James waited.
Eventually-- "I wanted it to be me," Jack told him. "Not whoever comes next."
Silence greeted that. He wondered if he'd said too much.
Then a softly clearing throat. "What makes you think there will be a 'next'?"
He allowed himself a bit of a smirk. "You appear to have acquired quite the taste for wanton buggery, Commodore James."
"I doubt that." Dryly.
But his voice was calm, and sounded quite certain. "The only thing I've acquired a taste for is you."
Jack's jaw tightened. Keeping his words light took unreasonable effort. "Well, unless you've suddenly decided to reconsider that small matter of your career..." He let it dangle, just in case, but James said nothing. Jack sought that black-gray skyline off the larboard side again. "We're just about out of time, you and I."
A moment in which the breeze twining 'round the rigging had more to say than either of them.
James straightened with a wince. Turned, resting against the bulwark, gazing down at his own bare feet. He flexed toes in a wave from left to right. "I noticed the oddest thing when I came out here tonight."
"What would that be?"
"The Pearl. She's warm. Even now, even at night."
Jack stared at him, mute.
"I don't know how I missed it before." A hand glided along the gunwale, appreciatively slow. His face held the light of discovery. "I could almost imagine she has some sort of life of her own."
He couldn't take it anymore. Wordlessly, he stepped against him, into him, wrapping arms snugly across that bare back and pressing his face into the junction of neck and shoulder.
More slowly, James brought arms around him. Surprise in his suddenly softened voice. "What's this, Jack?"
Jack didn't answer, and after a moment that embrace tightened, pulling him closer. James didn't ask again.
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