Fandom: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Archive: Yes. Help yourself. Just make sure you include the first 2 chapters too. (They're mates, you see.)
Series: Yes, this is Chapter 3.
Chapter 1 is 'A Most Accommodating Commodore'.
Chapter 2 is 'A Very Captivating Captain'.
Disclaimer: The Mouse is the owner. I only play with them. ;)
Rating: R for heavily implied m/m (slash) and m/f sexual relations. No graphic scenes this time though. Surprisingly, it also contains an amount of angst! You've been warned.
Pairing: J/N (Captain Jack Sparrow/Commodore Norrington), J/W implied, E/W implied, E/N implied (glossed).
Notes: This contains mention of het (m/f) sexual relations, but do not fear. I am a slash writer and will not subject you to much of it, though it's intrinsic to the plot. ;)
Additional Note: This story seems to have run away with itself! I have had to break it into yet more chapters. ;) Lengthwise, it's getting ridiculous. My apologies! But at least you have something to sit down with a cup of tea and actually read for a while.
Summary: Upon his return to Port Royal after enjoying Jack Sparrow's hospitality, Captain-Commodore Norrington discovers a pair of particularly pretty, plotting pirates are drawing him into a complicated web of intrigue. But Jack Sparrow seems out of reach, and Norrington realizes his heart is no longer his own.
A Pair of Particularly Pretty Pirates
As Norrington entered the drawing room, Governor Swann stood up hastily.
"Commodore! Good God, man; when we heard what had happened, we feared the worst. It's good to see you alive and well."
The man's honest sentiment was welcome, although Norrington did notice the way Will Turner and Elizabeth exchanged a look as her father spoke. Will stood beside his young wife, with Elizabeth giving Norrington a welcoming smile. Norrington found it rather fetching upon her, if a bit suspect.
"Indeed," Norrington responded. "None too worse for the wear, considering. I was lucky that they were the sort of brigands who understood the meaning of the words 'hostage' and 'negotiation'."
Governor Swann was shaking his head. "It must be good to return home, after your ordeal."
"It is," Norrington stated, a little too nonchalantly.
Elizabeth shot him a suspicious glance.
"Captured by pirates," Will said. "It must have been quite an adventure. You've been missing for several weeks."
Norrington realized his tanned complexion and relaxed demeanor were probably causing a number of doubts concerning his 'adventure' in both Turners' minds. He suppressed a smile and answered, casually, "Yes, I was lucky that the crew of the Black Pearl were not of a mind to maroon me after all."
Elizabeth and Will both gasped in unison. "The Black Pearl?" Elizabeth asked, accusatorily. "You were with Jack Sparrow?"
Norrington sniffed. "I was. The man may be a pirate, and certainly no gentleman, but he is a good man for all that. You were right about him, Mr. Turner."
Governor Swann let out a breath. "That rogue," he commented, darkly. "We received word that you were missing and captured, but I had no idea you were being held aboard the Black Pearl."
Elizabeth folded her arms across her chest and was tapping her foot on the floor, frowning at Norrington. "And to think, all this time, we were so concerned for your welfare."
Governor Swann frowned and turned to look at his daughter, obviously wondering at her sharp tone.
Norrington awarded her a small smile. "I'll admit it was touch and go, for a while. But the man has a remarkable predilection for rum. I found him more amenable to reasonable discussion once he'd imbibed enough of it."
Will let out a breath of what seemed like relief. "That he does most well, assuredly. I assume the Pearl has come and gone, then? You only returned this morning. Surely they'll have left by now?"
Norrington shrugged. "I had that thought as well. But then it crossed my mind that perhaps they intended to lurk nearby, so that Captain Sparrow might drop in for a little visit on his two favorite friends," he said, eyeing Will and watching the furtive expression creep upon the younger man's face.
Will straightened. "Yes, it's too bad. I'd rather hoped to catch up with him. It's been so long since we've had the opportunity, after all."
Norrington smiled at him. "Very good, Mr. Turner. I'd almost have to believe you after that, wouldn't I?"
Elizabeth gave Will a warning look and then went to Norrington, placing a delicate hand on his wrist. "I do hope you'll accept our invitation to join us for supper tonight. Will and I would be so happy if you would. Although perhaps after your…" she paused meaningfully, "'ordeal', maybe you'd prefer to make it another night?"
Norrington took her hand and gave a little bow. "I'd be delighted to accept, Mrs. Turner."
Will looked even more furtive and coughed. "Excellent. Tonight it is, then."
Governor Swann was frowning and looking between all of them, obviously at a loss to understand what was passing between them. Finally, he contented himself with a smile and accepted the fact that at least the Commodore was safe, and his daughter and son-in-law were not at odds with the man he'd once hoped his daughter would marry.
Norrington wondered if Jack Sparrow was still in the vicinity, or had already returned to the Black Pearl, which was undoubtedly moored somewhere out of sight of the Fort's sentries.
"Very good," Norrington commented. "I shall see you both this evening, then?"
Will Turner appeared most anxious to depart. "You shall."
Elizabeth was regarding Norrington's face, searchingly. "You'll have to tell us all about it," she suggested lightly.
Norrington grinned down at her. She was still a winsome lass, for all the time he'd spent in Jack Sparrow's cabin these past two and a half weeks. "I look forward to enlightening you, Mrs. Turner. Indeed, we haven't had a chance to speak since your return from your honeymoon."
Governor Swann cleared his throat. "Well, all's well as end's well. That's good. Although I have a letter for you, from the Admiral stationed at Bermuda. Apparently he is most confused as to why I'd allow that pirate to bear my letter of clemency after all his criminal actions in the past. I've had to engage in the most delicate conversation with him to assure him we are not condoning piracy here at Port Royal. I only awarded it on behalf of my daughter, to be sure." He gave Elizabeth a sardonic look.
But Elizabeth was watching Norrington shrewdly.
The girl was about to burst with curiosity, he could tell. Norrington decided to illuminate them a little. "It was no laughing matter, to be sure. I lost the Dauntless. This will not go down well."
Elizabeth and Will were both visibly moved in sympathy for him. "Your beautiful ship, yes. We heard," Elizabeth said, sadly. "I'm so sorry, James."
Governor Swann interjected, "Yes, well, apparently Admiral Sinnott's gratitude for the return of his ship, the Endurance, does not extend so far as seeing you with a replacement, I'm sorry to say. I've had to have strong words with him in that regard. We simply cannot keep the Fort without a strong naval presence. I'll bring him round eventually."
Norrington looked down, overcome for the moment with grief. The demise of the Dauntless was still a gaping wound for him. "Indeed."
Will bit his lip. "I'm sorry, Commodore. I'm sure that Jack would not have done it without good reason."
Norrington lifted his chin. "The actions of my men, under my command, are my responsibility and I shoulder it myself. Besides, I should have known better and weighed the odds before attempting to take the Black Pearl under the circumstances." Eager to leave this unfortunate turn of their talk, he nodded at Governor Swann. "There are several further matters we need to discuss, of a more military nature, best left outside social conversation." he said.
"Of course," Governor Swann replied. "Come into my study. If you'll excuse us, Elizabeth? Mr. Turner?"
Norrington accompanied the man, glancing over his shoulder to see Elizabeth elbow Will furiously and hiss something under her breath at him, and Will's response of a wide grin.
Hm. Whatever those two were up to, he was sure that it was as far outside the law as his own actions had been since his being taken aboard the Black Pearl. Jack Sparrow was a menace; everywhere he went, he incited lawlessness and debauchery.
Norrington allowed himself a private smile at the memory of his recent stay aboard Jack's ship, and Jack's final words to him before he'd left in the longboat for the dock at Port Royal: "Until next time, Commodore, and rest assured it won't be long."
Yes, a corrupting menace with dark eyes, an indefatigable spirit and a wicked mouth, whether speaking or silenced by another's.
Elizabeth looked from one to the other of the two men sitting in front of her. "You're both crazy," she declared with finality.
"We are. But in a good way," Jack pointed out, attempting to not leer for once.
"It's not for ourselves that we are doing this," Will added, sincerely. "And besides, we're not using him. It's his welfare we are thinking of, to spare him the aggravation or the possible damage to his reputation."
"It won't work," she stated. "Even if I do manage to convince my father to give me permission, he's bound to find out and revoke his support."
"Then we'll just have to make sure he doesn't find out, won't we?" Jack suggested impatiently, as if it were obvious.
Elizabeth sighed. "Very well. I'll do this," she paused, watching as they both tensed expectantly. "On one condition."
They were both staring, waiting for her to speak…
She was hard-pressed not to laugh. Carefully, she remained as calm and implacable as she could muster under the circumstances. "I want a ship," she said.
Will frowned. Jack was confused also. "What for?"
"For me. A ship of my own," she explained. "Surely that's not too astonishing for you to accept, seeing as you have one."
"But, but Elizabeth," Will began.
"I know what you mean, lass," Jack began. "But-"
"No," Elizabeth said, firmly. "I want a ship. And you are going to get it for me." She looked hard at Jack.
Jack withered slightly, curling back as if in fear. "Me? Why me?"
"Because you can. And you are going to help him, Will." Elizabeth was adamant on this matter. "Or there's no deal."
Jack and Will exchanged a doubtful glance and both looked as though a calamity had befallen.
Elizabeth couldn't hold it in any longer. With a peal of laughter, she gasped, "If you two could only see your faces."
Will smiled, nervously.
Jack grinned. "Wonderful; really wonderful. That was a good one, love. Now, let's-"
"It's no joke," Elizabeth interjected, still smiling at them. "I want a ship. Get me one. I don't care how or when or where." She pulled a delicate face and muttered, "Actually, I really don't think I want to know how, or where. Just - bring me a ship and I'll collude with you in this mad scheme."
"But it's only for his own happiness," Jack protested.
"And what of mine?" Elizabeth responded, coolly. "My happiness is absolutely dependent on it. You promised me a wedding present, Jack Sparrow. That's what I want."
Jack sighed. "Take note, Will. This one's a flashpacket, despite the ladies get-up."
Elizabeth's eyes widened. "I ought to slap you for that one, Jack."
Jack squinted at her. "Since when have you been picking up gutter-talk, miss?"
"I'm a quick study; something you should have remembered." Elizabeth hid the tremulous caution she felt within her behind a schooled expression learned from her late governess. After all, what she was asking them to do was no less dangerous than the course of action they were asking her to engage in with them.
She really wasn't sure that Captain Jack Sparrow would agree to it. It was an outrageous enough demand as well, that it might very well steer them both clear of their scheme. A very dangerous scheme, indeed. She didn't want to lose Will in either the acquisition of a ship or the implementation of Jack's brash plan, and they were asking her to be their accomplice.
Will was staring at her with a bemused expression. He looked like a lost fish, his earnest eyes a little too wide and his face distinctly settled into concern.
"Stop worrying so much, both of you!" she exclaimed. "I only want a ship. What is so extraordinary about that?!"
"Love, it's the principle of the thing. What are you going to do with one, once you've got one?" Jack inquired, a serious note in his voice now, mirrored in his eyes.
Elizabeth gave him a disgusted look. "What do you do with your ship, Captain?"
"I live there, miss. It's my home. Now unless you and Mr. Turner here are thinkin' of raising your wee ones aboard a sailing vessel, I can think of nothing less appropriate than for you to have a ship to go gallivanting around the high seas in. They're bloody dangerous enough already, what with the Commodore roving about and the entire Royal fleet attempting to catch me and my Pearl."
Will was shaking his head. "I still don't see how you will manage to convince your father to help you."
Elizabeth shrugged. "Father won't deny me a trip to visit my own cousin. He knows we've been on our honeymoon and haven't had the opportunity to go calling on anyone in months. No, you two get me a ship, and I'll help you... But not until I see it sitting in the harbor."
Jack scowled. "This is going to be more trouble than it's worth."
"It was your idea in the first place," Will reminded him, sharply. "I still don't see why you are willing to go to such lengths for a man who's still obliged to bring you to justice."
Elizabeth watched Jack at this. Her suspicion that had begun to form earlier, when Norrington had arrived at her father's house that afternoon, crystallized upon Jack's reply. Jack was very well aware of Will's feelings for him.
With an arm flung about Will's shoulders, Jack said to him, "Laddie, there's something to be said for the art of persuasion. Besides, this is a noble venture, and it's a bit late for me to be backing out of it now, innit? I've already got everyone waiting for me final word. There are lives at stake."
Will sighed, not seeming to notice the admiring way that Jack looked him over. Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
Will shot her a look, obviously wondering why she was dissembling after their thorough discussion the previous night. Will was hoping to use the time he spent with Jack to seduce the pirate captain who, to all appearances, seemed completely oblivious to Will's feelings for him.
Elizabeth gave him a warning glance to go along with her, wondering in her turn if Jack truly were as oblivious as Will still seemed to believe. She doubted it, considering the way Jack was still standing, even before Will's own wife, with his arm proprietarily draped over her husband's shoulders. Then again, she thought, Jack had a way of draping himself over everyone, so it was forgivable that Will still might not have a clue.
"Jack," she said, getting the man's attention. "There's still one thing I'm not clear about."
Jack gave her a fatuous grin. "And what's that, love?"
"Exactly what is it you expect me to do, to keep our Commodore occupied, while you and Will embark on this ill-advised venture of yours?"
Jack made a face and gestured loosely in the air with his free hand. "The usual, you know."
"The usual," Elizabeth repeated, a glint of merriment in her eye. "Unlike you seem to believe about me, Jack, I don't spend a lot of time hobnobbing with the guttersnipes of Port Royal and the ladies of the night."
Will began to laugh.
They both turned to look at him.
Still chuckling, Will said, "You know, for a married man, I think I'm taking this rather well."
Jack squeezed his shoulders. "That you are, lad. That you are." He turned to Elizabeth. "Elizabeth, love, just make it up as you go along. I have it on irrefutable evidence from the good Commodore himself that he's still quite taken with you. Just… fall into 'is arms. One of your fainting fits might do the trick. He'll mostly likely still respond to that."
Will lifted his brows. "Or you could tell him the truth. Tell him that you've never forgotten him and that I said you could have him, and I agreed to give you the same latitude that he showed you when you left him for me."
"Oh, please, you're both hopeless." Elizabeth gave him a withering expression. "You're right, I'll handle him myself. So what am I supposed to tell him you two are up to? How should I explain what you two are actually doing, seeing as I cannot possibly let him in on your disgracefully noble and selfless plan?"
Jack opened his mouth to speak but Will abruptly said, "Tell him that Jack and I have, you know, eloped, whatever."
Elizabeth raised her brows at him. "Eloped? You? And Jack?" She laughed.
Jack squinted at her. He turned and cast an eye over Will. "What's so funny 'bout that? We could dissemble, if the need arises."
Elizabeth laughed harder, wondering if either of them had any idea. She caught Jack's eyes, who grinned at her, finally helping her to cast off any doubt that Jack was completely aware of Will's infatuation.
"Of course we can. We may have to," Will pointed out, his blush firmly coloring his face. "If the Commodore is already taken with you, Jack, then surely it won't come as a surprise to him, and it's the most reasonable explanation for our absence in any case."
"Of course it is," Jack assured him agreeably.
"I'll be very lucky if he doesn't become jealous however, and hang -me-," Will said glumly.
Elizabeth was still laughing. "Not if I'm distracting him. Just promise me that you two will be careful. If you get arrested on the first night, I'm not sure I'll be able to convince Father later on to be lenient on your behalf, should anything go wrong. And it probably will," she added, grumbling.
As they stood there, considering the gravity of the plan they were about to embark upon, she stamped her foot. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go get me a ship!"
They hastily turned about and made for the door.
Elizabeth smiled to herself and rang the bell for her maid before going to the closet to select an appropriately demure, obviously married, yet seductively and ever-so-slightly-available dress for her un-chaperoned supper with Commodore Norrington a few hours hence.
It was wonderful; the liberated maturity that married life had brought her. She began to understand the whispered gossip amongst the socialites and ladies about the shocking conduct of Parisian affairs. Father would be scandalized, she thought. Then again, Mother had been a decent woman, and had chosen her father because of his good-natured ability to overlook with tolerance the more interesting aspects of female behavior.
So far, it had allowed her some understanding during her adolescence. And her ongoing fascination with pirates. And particularly that whole adventure with her being kidnapped by undead pirates, and hoarding Will's cursed gold medallion, and getting engaged to the Commodore only to fling herself between Norrington's blade and Will Turner and a pirate captain. Marrying a blacksmith. Honeymooning in pirate-infested waters. And now this…scheme of Jack Sparrow's.
She grinned to herself. Married life was not as boring as she had feared.
Commodore James Norrington arrived at the Turner residence at seven-thirty, contemplating the utter absurdity of feeling bereft of Jack Sparrow's presence a scant afternoon after returning home.
As he waited inside the modest entrance for the couple to greet him, he still could not help dwelling upon the pirate. His mind was alternately moving from gloomy despair at the reality of facing his life back in Port Royal, and the Naval duties his rank and position entailed, and sifting through the impressions of the last fortnight he'd spent aboard the Black Pearl.
It was true that he'd had to reassess his opinion of pirates once he'd gotten to know Jack a little better; not to mention the crew, who'd turned out to be interesting characters once they'd realized he had no intention of trying to bolt or attempting to imprison and hang them upon his return to Port Royal… At least not immediately. Drinking rum with the captain and sharing the captain's cabin with somewhat overly-loud overnight revels and drunken singing seemed to have warmed him to them and proven that he was not a hard-boiled spoiler after all.
He was just as surprised as they were at it, to be certain. But then, no one could spend more than several days with Jack Sparrow and not experience a somewhat uplifted and carousing change of attitude towards life. He'd promised them as long as they stayed out of sight, he would ignore they were there. He sighed to himself, wondering if he'd yet hang, himself, for his complicity with pirates. He'd once been such a fine officer of the Crown. He'd sunk so low.
Elizabeth Swann- (Turner, Turner! He reminded himself fiercely) - entered the hall. "James," she smiled, brightly. "So good of you to come! Please, come into the drawing room. Supper is nearly ready." She came to his side and tucked her arm into his.
Surprised, he accompanied her into the next room, wondering at her warm welcome. Surely it was hardly appropriate, considering the still slightly awkward circumstance of their previous broken engagement and her marriage to the blacksmith. Her father had set her and Will up with this house, but Will was still keeping to his previous occupation and Elizabeth remained in her social circle.
He cleared his throat. "Thank you for the invitation. I must admit, I was a bit surprised at it. I didn't think it would be apropos so soon after your return from your honeymoon."
"Oh, it's alright. We're all friends here, after all. Sit down. Shall I ring for tea?"
"No, thank you; I can wait, I think."
Elizabeth sat in the seat across from him. Arranging her dress, she remarked, "I'm afraid that Will has been called away. On business." At his sharp look, she added, "Yes, business. He won't be joining us."
Norrington's brows lifted. "What? Well. Good. I mean - that's too bad. Might I inquire as the nature of his business? Is everything alright?"
She hastily put up a hand. "Yes, quite alright. It was something to do with a shipment of metal or something. Down at the docks."
"Yes, the docks." She smiled at him, amiably.
"I see." Norrington regarded her.
They sat in silence for a few moments. Then a few more.
She added, "He'll probably be kept for a while, tonight. At the shop."
"Indeed." Norrington kept his voice polite.
"He'll probably not be back for hours."
This was growing rather interesting. He cleared his throat. "Mrs. Turner, if your husband is currently involved in some clandestine rendezvous with a mutual acquaintance of ours, you can rest assured I won't be calling the militia."
Elizabeth visibly relaxed. "Thank you- I mean- yes. That is-"
"It's alright," he continued. "Sparrow may be a pirate and a scoundrel, but I do recognize that he is a friend of yours. I daresay he's a friend of mine, too. Although how that is possible still escapes me."
Wryly, she commented, "More like he is a friend of Will's, actually."
Norrington found this curious statement more than interesting. "I do believe you've more wits that either of them has accredited you with, Elizabeth."
She flushed, prettily. Norrington wondered if she had any idea how becoming that particular hue of pink was, beneath her skin. "It's not like that, exactly. Will and I, we have an understanding. Jack has no idea. At least, not yet. I expect he will in about another hour or so."
Norrington found his lips twitching. "I see," he replied, sardonically. This eager young couple really had no idea who they were up against. Jack Sparrow was hardly a spring chicken. The Turner boy was way out of his depth. Curiously, Norrington realized he felt no jealousy or spite, even though he'd just that morning said his goodbyes to the pirate in a rather wordless but heated fashion.
Perhaps it was because it was quite impossible to think of Jack Sparrow truly belonging to anyone.
Elizabeth brought up her fan and began flapping it as if she had a temperature. "It must be really awful, to have lost your ship. She was a beautiful ship, James. I'm so sorry. I have to admit, I used to envy you, having her."
Norrington sighed. "Yes, it is rather awful, at that. I have only myself to blame, really. But it was a terrible loss. And the way she went, too. Ghastly. I very nearly embarrassed myself." It was true. He'd almost wept at the sight of her, broken in the water. "She didn't even have a proper burial," he continued. He straightened. "Captain Gillette is probably more heartbroken than I am. Still, as Commodore of the Fleet in these waters, the other ships are at my disposal."
"Yes, but it's not the same, is it?" Elizabeth pointed out. "I'm sure my father will convince the Admiral to send you another one."
"Hm. Nelson's Dockyard. Yes, I may yet have the opportunity."
Another silence fell, less awkward this time, and Norrington realized that Elizabeth's fan was beating nearly as fast as a hummingbird's wings.
He cleared his throat. "So, you-"
"Are we-" she began. She stopped, smiled nervously and stopped.
When he waited, she said, "Are we actually breaking any laws by consorting with him, do you think?"
"If what you implied is true, then William is," Norrington pointed out. Then he felt the heat rise to his own cheeks as he realized what he was discussing…and with whom.
Sodomy was hardly a fit discussion for any situation, let alone with the man's wife, to whom he had even once been engaged. Norrington found himself horrified at his lack of discretion and complete abandonment of etiquette. It was Jack Sparrow's fault, all of it. The man was a bad influence.
She made a face. "I'm not worried about that. I want only Will's happiness, as he wants mine. No, we have an understanding, as I said. What I meant is, are we not bound by the law to actually tell someone if an individual we know is a pirate or engaging in criminal activity?"
Norrington considered her. "You're not a fool and you do have more sense than is probably decent or expected of a woman of your standing, Elizabeth. So I will be plain. I have no intention of hanging Jack Sparrow, nor arresting either you or your husband for being his friend." Wryly, he added, with a curl of his lip, "I'd have to see myself arrested, for all that. Two weeks spent in the man's company proved to be more of a holiday than a trial."
Elizabeth's frenzied fan was beginning to get on his nerves.
"Are you alright?" he inquired.
"Yes, yes. I'm fine," she hastily said.
The butler came to the door. "Supper is ready, Mrs. Turner."
Norrington quickly stood, and Elizabeth got to her feet rather hastily. "Thank you. We'll go in directly."
Norrington offered her his arm. "I must say, I wasn't expecting such a -married- woman to return from her honeymoon, Elizabeth."
She took his arm. "I'm not the only one returned from a honeymoon though, am I, James?"
He could find nothing proper to answer her with and wondered what the world was coming to, that everything and everyone should somehow revolve around the antics and relationships of one single pirate captain in the Caribbean.
A week later, Norrington stood on the deck of Captain Samuels' ship. He lowered the telescope. Captain Samuels stood beside him. "What is it, sir?"
Norrington turned his head slightly without taking his eyes off the ship that awaited them. "She's flying the Turkish colors of a merchant trader from Istanbul; could be Algerian, but there's no way to tell what nationality they really are. I don't see anyone aboard of Turkish descent - only sailors, possibly Dutch. As long as they aren't Spanish however, I see no problem. Her name isn't visible."
"Well, it seems suspicious to me. I say we should board them. They're in Jamaican waters. A quick inspection would be prudent."
Norrington considered this. They were only a few hours out of Port Royal, returning from a visit to one of the other towns nearby, down the coast. "Very well. Tell the men to be armed and ready for possible action."
As the Navy ship neared the large, 3-masted Turkish ship, Norrington realized that it was unlikely in the extreme that it was a Turkish warship or merchant vessel at all. The make and the timber were reminiscent of one of their own British fleet. Her coat of paint was all wrong and there were other things… Something was not right; he could feel it in his bones.
As the marines boarded the distinctive man-of-war, her sparse crew appeared passive. Norrington joined them, his instincts still engaged. He made his way aft and was peering down one of the ladders as the men began searching the hold, when a distinctive voice reached him.
Norrington turned and beheld William Turner. He gaped.
Will came up to him and grasped his arm. "Well met, Commodore! Fancy meeting you aboard. I didn't think I'd see you until we reached port."
"Port?" Norrington's brain was still confused by Will's presence aboard.
"Port Royal. We are headed home, are we not?" Will's innocent expression seemed to belie the still-present sensation of something-not-quite-right that plagued Norrington.
"What exactly are you doing aboard this ship?" Norrington asked, not caring for niceties in the current situation.
"James!" came a delighted and heart-sinkingly familiar voice behind him now. Captain Jack Sparrow had emerged from the cabin a-stern and Norrington drew a breath.
"I see. You again." Norrington turned back to Will with a sardonic smile. "And William Turner. This is no Turkish ship."
"It was; that is, it used to be," Jack informed him. "Actually, to be honest, it wasn't at first, but then it was, and now is no longer."
Captain Samuels joined them. "There is no cargo below, sir."
"We obtained it from a Turk, I assure you," Will stated matter-of-factly.
Norrington regarded the mischievous and altogether guilty expression of Jack Sparrow, and Will Turner's equally honest, stalwart one, and decided that he'd been had, but damned if he could figure out how. He swallowed.
"Captain Samuels, I doubt that you'll find anything amiss aboard this ship," Norrington said. "But check it again anyway, every inch."
Captain Samuels left them to give the men the order to search the ship more carefully.
Will was watching him. "Elizabeth sends her regards."
Norrington held himself very still, and carefully replied, "Be sure to give her mine."
Will inclined his head. "You can give them yourself. She is expecting you, I believe."
As his eyes met Will's, he knew that Will was very aware of the liaison between his wife and Norrington, who began to wonder if he'd been altogether wise to fall to Elizabeth's temptations that night after their strangely harmonious supper together, a week before.
His eyes flicked to Jack, who was grinning at him. The realization that Jack had kept his word, and somehow was completely innocent for once of any wrongdoing, was offset by the promise Jack had made. There wasn't any way he'd be able to detain the pirate, unless he wanted to make a scene and have Jack arrested on the strength of his carrying the pirate brand. There was no point either, with all of them being so close to home.
His thoughts returned to their final conversation before he'd left the Black Pearl, the morning of his return to Port Royal…
"Why don't you do something for yourself, for once, mate? Just look the other way, next time."
Norrington had given Jack a hard look, not fooled for an instant. "Very well. The next time our paths cross, I'll not see you arrested, on the condition that you offer me no reason to."
Jack's eyes had widened and his face lit up with eager intensity - as well as an alarming degree of mischief. "Agreed."
Norrington had felt a lump of indigestible doubt suddenly settle in the region of his stomach, and he awarded Jack with a sharp look. "Just like that? Why do I not believe you?"
"Now, now, love; no need for you to worry your pretty head about the details. Leave that to me, right?" Jack's grin was anything but reassuring.
Now more suspicious than ever at what the pirate had in mind, Norrington had no choice but to sigh and lift his chin. "No doubt I'll come to regret this."
Jack had placed both hands on his shoulders and given him -that- look, the one he used when he was most serious. "Commodore, I promise; cross my heart. Next time we meet, you can board my ship and you'll find nothing amiss. I reckon you'll be really disappointed, in fact."
Jack's grin was insufferable. "Because you won't have any excuse to keep me and you'll be forced to let me continue on my way. Reckon that'll get old after a while."
Norrington had smiled at him. "Impossible. There is no way that you'll be able to resist engaging in acts of piracy."
Jack smiled back, the gold glinting and his eyes twinkling. "I promise," he repeated, meaningfully. "You'll find nothing amiss; no swag, nor trinkets, nor stolen bounty of any kind."
Norrington was laughing. "It can't be done. There's no way that you can give it up, Jack."
"Mark my words," Jack had merely said.
Now, Norrington had to wonder. And the disappointment that filled him, at knowing Jack had kept his word and he was now honor-bound to keep to their agreement and let them go, was almost stifling.
His disappointment and frustration was mirrored by the look of knowing understanding in Jack's eyes who, by some miracle, was not calling much attention to himself at all.
Captain Samuels stood stiffly beside him. "They are probably pirates, sir. This ship was undoubtedly commandeered."
"Yes," Norrington agreed, with a dry smile. "It probably was. I don't suppose you have a bill of sale, Mr. Turner?"
Surprisingly, Will held out a parchment. "I do." He met Norrington's surprised eyes, who took it and read it.
It appeared to be completely authentic, and Norrington began to wonder why Jack Sparrow would be involved in the purchasing of a ship he could just as easily have stolen. Rolling it up, he handed it back to Will and said, "Captain, these men can dock at Port Royal. Their business appears to be legitimate."
"Aye, sir." The disappointment in Samuels' voice would have been funny if he weren't still feeling it himself.
Jack grinned at him. "Now, then, James. Buck up; no need for the long face."
Norrington turned on him. "I'd be much obliged if you'd remember to address me properly before my own men," he said, angrily, remembering not to address Sparrow by name himself, to avoid a riot amongst Samuels and his men. He found it unnerving to have to endure Jack calling him by his first name in their current circumstances, as it acutely reminded him of when Jack had managed to extract it from him aboard the Pearl, a few weeks before, in Jack's bed…
"Exactly how long will it take for you to conclude your business in Port Royal?" he demanded. "And return to your blacksmith trade?" he added, with a look directed at Will.
Jack shrugged, answering for Will. "All depends, really. Mrs. Turner was most adamant that we see her directly; weren't she, Will?"
"Aye, she was," Will agreed. "Most adamant."
Norrington frowned. He couldn't think of a reason to keep them there. "Very well. You may continue on your way."
He couldn't put his finger on it but there was still something very fishy about the entire situation.
It wasn't until after they had returned to Samuels' ship and Will and Jack and their scanty crew had continued on their way in their 'Turkish' vessel, followed by a very suspicious Samuels in the ship behind, that Norrington realized he'd completely forgotten to ask what they were doing with the ship in the first place. He'd have to demand an answer on that score from Will after they docked.
To see Jack Sparrow engaged in any kind of financial transaction, with Will Turner, no less, that wasn't somehow criminally inclined, seemed wholly wrong. It went against the very grain for Jack to not be stealing, pilfering or otherwise pirating somehow.
Unfortunately, once they returned to Port Royal and Norrington managed to make his way to the 'Turkish' man-of-war, Jack Sparrow was nowhere to be found and Will had already begun to make his way back home.
Norrington could only offer the explanation to himself for his complete loss of mental acuity regarding their business with the ship with the most excellent reason of Jack Sparrow: for some reason, the man had the ability to remove all common sense from those closest to him.
He sighed, and decided that evening would be an excellent time to call upon the Turners and demand some kind of explanation.
The confusion swilling through him at seeing Jack again, not to mention the fact that Jack seemed more than intimate with Will Turner now, and his own conduct with Elizabeth had entered completely inappropriate relations, all served to fray his nerves. By the time he went to have it out with them, his composure was completely discombobulated.
Things were definitely getting out of hand.
Elizabeth met him in the drawing room, as usual, and she seemed genuinely pleased to see him. "How good of you to come. I wondered if you'd respond to my invitation so soon."
Norrington regarded her. "What invitation?"
"Didn't Will tell you? Never mind," she said, with a bubbly laugh. "I have good news for you. Do sit down." She went to ring for tea.
Norrington began to worry that not only had it been entirely inadvisable for him to fall for Jack Sparrow in the first place, but it had affected his judgment and he really shouldn't be now consorting with Elizabeth Turner either.
And also the jealousy that he most assiduously hadn't felt, at the thought of Jack Sparrow with the very same young blacksmith-pirate who had stolen the heart of his fiance, arose with sharp talons to dig itself into his heart.
He began to bitterly wish for a draught of Jack's rum.
Elizabeth seemed preoccupied, never quite returning to her seat and instead finding interesting distraction with various matters that required her attention until the maid came with the tea and left them alone.
Then she busied herself with the tray and the teacups.
"Elizabeth," he began, with every intention of letting her know of his decision to call off their improper affair.
"James," she smiled at him.
He stopped, wondering at the fact that she most probably was handling this better than he was, or even those two pirates who were undoubtedly at that very moment engaged in- He forcibly stopped himself from thinking it. "Elizabeth, it's not very seemly for us to be alone here every time I come to call upon you and your husband."
Elizabeth gave him a look. "Unless you want to share our bed with both of us in it, I'd suggest that it's probably better that we are."
Norrington could think of nothing to say to that. "You deserve better," he started to say.
But Elizabeth interrupted him. "I'm more than happy with our arrangement," she assured him. "This way, we can all have what we want."
Can we indeed, Norrington thought to himself, darkly. He wanted Jack. He hadn't expected it to be this painful. He accepted the tea that she offered him and sipped at it, glumly realizing that his heart truly was no longer his. But he said nothing.
"I told you, I have a present for you," Elizabeth reminded him, with a satisfied glow about her. She leaned forward conspiratorially. "Will said that you were very suspicious about the ship we bought from the Turkish shipmaster."
Norrington frowned at her over his tea. "-You- bought it? I should have known. Jack Sparrow would never buy anything in his life."
Elizabeth shrugged. "He helped Will with the transaction. Will and I managed to convince Jack that the price of clemency for his visiting us here would be the return of all the stolen goods that the Black Pearl had taken from Port Royal when Captain Barbossa and his crew sacked us that night. So Jack has been coming and going for a little while now. We did worry about what might happen if you found out, but he told us not to be troubled, that he'd take care of the matter. We had no idea, of course, that he'd find such an unorthodox way of doing so."
Norrington was still unhappy, however. "Why did you buy the ship? What is it for? Elizabeth, I cannot allow you or William to engage in piracy, and if the ship is for some-"
"It's for you," Elizabeth interrupted. "You weren't meant to know about it until she was ready. I heard the Dauntless had been lost, and I knew you'd be heartbroken. I made a deal with Jack and Will to get you a replacement. It's a British ship, very new, and I had every intention of repainting and renaming her, and offering her to you as a gift. Your own personal ship, apart from any that you might receive as a replacement. She's yours, James."
Norrington was astonished. "That- this- it's- I cannot accept it. Why-"
Elizabeth leaned forward again. "Oh, but you must! Please. And since you know now, you can name her yourself."
Norrington sat back, blinking, completely overwhelmed. "It is an extravagant gesture. How on earth did you manage to afford it?"
Elizabeth smiled at him, and looked away, out the darkening window. "I managed to convince Jack that it was the only thing he could offer Will and myself as a wedding gift. You should have seen their faces though, when I finally told them what I wanted. I think he only helped get it for me because he knew I'd be giving it to you."
Norrington was still quite overcome. "You're giving me a ship."
"Yes, I am," she said firmly. "In return, you can promise me that you won't hold it against Jack that he sank the Dauntless."
Norrington gave her a frown. "Why should you care so much for Jack Sparrow's welfare?"
She regarded him. "Will likes him, and he was his father's friend. And besides, Jack's all right. He's a good man. And he cares for you. I guess the real question would be why should -you- care so much for him?"
He gave her a wry glance, wondering why she would be caring about -him-. Good question, that one. "Elizabeth, why do you care for me?"
Elizabeth picked up her cup of tea and regarded him over it. Sipping delicately, she murmured, "I've discovered, somewhat unexpectedly, that hearts are big enough to love everybody, and although I'm very happy with marriage, love demands a little more, both of open heart and open mind."
Norrington found himself a little chastened by her reply. "So you do love me, then," he said, quietly.
"I do. James, I wouldn't be here with you if I didn't," she said, cajolingly. She sipped from her tea again. "You miss him."
He shot her a look.
She gave a little shrug. "You do; you miss him. It's understandable. I think he misses you, too."
It was so surreal, to be speaking with Elizabeth, once his fiance and beloved and now his lover, about his feelings for a pirate captain they both knew were currently engaged with trysting with her new husband, while they dallied together. To confide in her, as her lover, about the lover of her husband, was tangled and unspeakably wrong, and yet he couldn't bring himself to see how, despite that it went against any kind of socially-acceptable behavior, it was really hurting anyone. They were all grown-ups, after all.
But for some reason, he was beginning to feel as though he was the one being played the most, in ending up sitting with the wife to keep her occupied.
And Elizabeth did deserve better than that. But his feelings for Jack the damnably-irritating-pirate Sparrow were in even more turmoil now than before he'd rescued the man from the Yard those past months.
"He hasn't come calling on me," he replied, slowly. "Not that it would be easy; far easier, I expect, for him to come here, after all. But no word, and then to catch up with them today…" he trailed off in a melancholy tone.
She was regarding him with a new expression of surprise and affection.
"What is it?" he asked.
"You love him," she said.
It didn't sound as bad when she said it, but he still couldn't speak the words aloud, so he refrained from confirming it, and merely sipped his tea.
With a wistful smile, she said gently, "Love isn't a crime. Some may claim the expression of it is, but then, jealousy has many faces, doesn't it?"
Taken aback at her newfound opinion and impressed with her mature grasp of the matters of the heart, Norrington had to admit to himself that she was a greater prize than he'd previously even considered. Perhaps it was not so terrible to be her lover rather than her husband. Did young Will even recognize the magnitude of it?
After they finished their tea, he allowed her to draw him upstairs to the bedroom, and was surprised to find a measure of comfort and forgetfulness in her arms in the dark, like the embrace of Lethe.
Norrington threw himself into his duties as an officer of the Navy. No further invitations came from the Turner household, and for the next fortnight, he watched over the continuing transformation of his new ship, which he had decided would be called 'Perseverance'.
With somewhat lacking grace, Admiral Sinnott agreed that in return for his ordeal of kidnapping by pirates and having liberated the Admiral's ship 'Endurance' with his own life, Norrington would indeed receive a new ship, which would be sent from the Dockyard to Port Royal forthwith.
With two ships now his, and with Captain Gillette already having got himself another, the harbor was getting crowded.
And yet Norrington felt a morbid fatality about his life.
Nothing seemed to matter anymore. Everything seemed less important, missing some vital, crucial element.
He knew what it was, of course. Of Jack Sparrow, there was no word. Not a single sighting of the Black Pearl by anyone, not a shred of a whisper. The Turners, though thick as thieves, claimed they'd heard nothing either.
He was unable to bring himself to visit Elizabeth again, having bowed to the realization that she had already passed from his heart. Despite the enjoyment he'd taken in her company, he knew now that he'd not really wanted her for herself at all, but for the pleasure of having a 'wife' in every sense of the word, and mostly in the capacity of a good marriage. He certainly did not lack for the company of other interested ladies. But none of them had the wit or the appeal that the exciting and completely inappropriate company of a certain pirate could offer.
He found some comfort in patrolling the waters in his new ship, as the Perseverance neared her own completion. Thus it was that he and his men encountered the Black Pearl one afternoon nearing the coast not far from Port Royal.
As the white flag quickly ran up, and she seemed almost too eager to present herself to be boarded, Norrington found he was returning to life with almost humiliating eagerness, himself.
He boarded the Pearl with the hope that he might find some excuse at last to have to detain Jack Sparrow, perhaps keep her docked for a time.
He frowned as he noticed that the crew was very sparse indeed.
Jack Sparrow appeared, walking towards him with that memorable sway, managing to look simultaneously drunken and savvy. Norrington had to fight to retain any control at all and not greet him too happily.
"Why, it's Jim," Jack called out, loudly, as he approached.
Norrington stiffened. "I've asked you not to call me that," he snapped.
Jack waggled a finger at him. "You tol' me not to call you 'James'," he corrected. "S'good to see you, mate. It's been too long. Now that you've boarded my ship, what can I do you for?"
Dryly, Norrington said, "You're sailing in our territory, and in broad daylight, no less. We'll have to inspect your ship, captain." He turned to his men. "Search it, down to the hold and the bilge, everything."
Jack spread his arms wide and grinned at him, as Norrington's men scurried to obey. "By all means, Commodore. We're at your disposal. I think you'll find everything's in order." He held up a finger. "You'll be wanting to see this though, I think." He reached into his coat, and pulled out a document, which he held out to Norrington.
Stepping forward, Norrington took it and opened it. He smiled, and nodded. "Naturally. Someday, Jack, you're going to outstay your welcome and use the Swann and Turner excuse one time too many." He handed it back to Jack - who took it with a glint in his eye and put it away.
Norrington looked about them. "You haven't got much of a crew complement aboard. What is your business in Port Royal, anyway?"
Jack made a face. "To find some honest crewmen. We're running a bit short. This is my skeleton crew." At this, he quickly waved his hands. "Not that kind of skeleton, mind you. These are good men."
Norrington considered him. "I find it hard to believe that you've given up piracy altogether. What are you really doing here?"
Jack smiled at him, more predatorily. "Not exactly a fair question, eh? I can hardly expect you to believe me if I say that I'm here to pick up some honest sailors, but I'd be telling you an untruth if I said I were here to pillage or plunder your fair town, because I'm not."
One of the lieutenants returned to Norrington's side. "Sir, the ship is mostly empty but for supplies. There's virtually nothing in the hold. It's… empty, sir."
Norrington frowned at Jack, who shrugged and gave him an innocent look.
Feeling somewhat cheated, Norrington growled, "Very well. We'll let them go this time. They don't appear to be here to threaten the citizens or ourselves. You can go, Sparrow."
Jack looked a little taken aback. "You're serious?"
The lieutenant was also regarding him with some shock. "Sir, this is the Black Pearl! You can't mean to just let them go?"
Norrington sighed. "Carrying Swann's letter of clemency, which has not been revoked, I have no other alternative, seeing as they bear no signs of piracy or intent to indulge in piracy. You may go, Sparrow. But be warned, while you are in our waters, you will be accompanied by an escort."
"Lovely," Jack grinned. "What a sight that will be, eh? A proper Royal escort indeed."
Norrington gave him an answering smile. "My men are most eager to fire upon your ship, Captain, so if I were you, I'd treat it with a little more respect."
In a slightly lower voice, Jack only answered, "My cabin certainly hasn't been the same since you left, Commodore."
Stung, Norrington replied, "Neither has Turner's shop."
Jack shot him a startled look. "Well, well, well. Do I detect a teensy bit of anxiety over meself, perhaps?"
Norrington let out a breath in exasperation. He really was in no mood for Jack's games. "Right. On your way," he said, loud enough for others to hear.
Turning back to Jack, he muttered, "I will have this out with you, Jack. Mark -my- words."
Jack gave him a little smile, his eyes dark and guileless. Norrington found he couldn't get off the ship fast enough.
Norrington sat in the Turners' drawing room, chafing with impatience. He had been to the shop, with the sign of W. Turner hanging above its door, only the lights were off and no one was within. Angrily, he had made his way to see Elizabeth, and she had yet to appear. He had half a mind to storm upstairs and demand the whereabouts of Will and Jack.
Elizabeth appeared in the doorway, moving forward in her gown. "Shall we sit out on the terrace? It's a lovely evening."
He rose and accompanied her, with a heavy heart.
It was admittedly a beautiful sunset, with crimson splashes in the sky tingeing the waters of the bay with red and gold. The nearby flowers trailing around the trelliswork were effulgent. She sat down and he took a seat opposite her, across the table that separated them.
"Elizabeth," he began, noting how she seemed to be content.
She turned to him, intently. "I've been doing some thinking, and so whatever you are about to say, I just want to tell you that we probably should have had a talk before now." She appeared still quite calm, despite her words.
"Exactly so. I, ah, have been thinking that it might be for the best if we were to remain friends. We -are- friends, after all, are we not?" He surprised himself by coming right out and expressing his reservations about their affair.
She looked relieved. "Yes, we are. And yes, I agree. It would be for the best. I know where your heart truly lies, now, as do you."
He found himself caught by her echo of his sentiment to her that day on the battlement when she'd pledged herself to Will before her father, and himself, surrounded by bayonets. With a self-mocking smile, he replied, "Indeed. It's extraordinary, you know. I have everything that I believed I wanted, and yet none of the having of it has actually made me happy."
She smiled back at him, openly. "Will has been joking that your mood has been most foul, and that the only solution to lift your spirits would be for Jack Sparrow to kidnap you again for a spell."
"It would certainly make things a damn sight easier," he agreed, darkly.
She laughed, before he realized that he'd been completely serious about it.
"How can you be so complacent about your husband's preoccupation with him?" He was genuinely curious.
"How can I be as equally complacent about your preoccupation with him?" she rejoined, her fan aflutter now.
His eyes narrowed as he regarded her in the ruby rays of the setting sun. It was hard to tell, but she looked feverish. Her eyes darted from the waters of the bay and back to him, repeatedly.
"Elizabeth, I'm not rejecting you," he assured her. "I do believe you deserve better."
She gave him a wry smile. "James, we both know that it isn't working between us. You wanted a wife, not me. I'm not at all upset; after all, I did choose Will. This isn't about me at all. It's about Jack."
Norrington was growing tired of her clever observations about his feelings towards the pirate. But he realized that even as he discovered his heart did not belong to Elizabeth and never had, he could perhaps avail himself of a good friend and her confiding ear was more than understanding. Slowly, he admitted, "It is, at that. I have everything, and yet nothing. No matter how much I gain, it will never be enough."
"It's because he's free," she said, simply. "That's the quality he has that you really want. You recognize it in him, and desire it for yourself."
"Since when did you become such an astute observer of human nature, Elizabeth?" He was a little aghast at how easily she was reading him… not to mention others.
Her fan still fluttering like a trapped pigeon, she replied, "It's hardly a secret. He's a pirate."
Chuckling quietly, he looked away. "Of course. A member of that illustrious, notorious brotherhood of men that you've been studying with enchanted fascination since your childhood."
"And whom you've been hunting," she reminded him, swiftly. "I've known you for so long, James. Nine years, it's been. I know how confusing it must be for you, to have fallen for someone who embodies everything you have considered wrong with the world."
Morbidly, she had a point he had to concede. He sighed. "I may have been mistaken."
"On the whole, you've probably been right in the main," she remarked. "I had romanticized pirates to the point of folly. It took my kidnapping and being held against my will aboard the Black Pearl to help me see the reality of pirates."
"For me, also." His reply was laced with irony.
She giggled. "Good Lord, you're right. James, I'm going to impart you with a little secret, but you must promise me you won't tell anyone."
"Your secret is safe with me," he promised, absently staring out across the darkening water of the bay.
The singing of frogs was growing louder as their evening chorus began to swell.
"I'm with child," she said, her fan reaching hummingbird proportions once more.
He turned to stare at her. "You are? Why, this is - amazing news! Wonderful. Congratulations."
"Will doesn't yet know," she said, uncomfortably. "But, this is why I have been reconsidering our affair. I'm not rejecting you either."
"Of course not. But this is wonderful news. I'm sure he'll be delighted," he said, reassuringly. Then he realized that her faithful husband was in fact with his lover, and they were both sitting together, wishing that they were with the other's partner… Except of course Jack was no one's partner and no one could ever hope to keep him.
Elizabeth gave him a look. "Will and Jack are not as bound together as you seem to think. You needn't be breaking your heart over it. Will looks up to him, it's natural for their feelings to run their course."
A wave of relief at her words washed over him; it was so intense that it nearly made him giddy. Then he gave a short laugh, to recognize that his response was so complete. Caustically, he said, "I'm afraid it's too late. The damage has already been done. I think it started when he first arrived."
Her eyes sparkling somewhat, she replied, "Yes, when he dove into the water and rescued me from that corset. You seemed to hate him on sight."
Norrington swallowed. "Precisely."
Slowly, Elizabeth commented, "I think you shouldn't be so swift to imagine that it's over just yet. I happen to have it on good account that he has plans for you."
Norrington lifted a brow at her. "That's not entirely comforting."
"Well, I don't know the particulars. I just know that he's not been idle. He and Will have been up to something."
"That would explain their absence from his shop."
She darted a guilty look at him. "You were there?"
He nodded. "Earlier this evening. That's partly why I came to call on you. Where are they, Elizabeth?"
She shrugged and gave him a doe-eyed expression of complete innocence. "I have absolutely no idea."
He smiled. "And you wouldn't tell me if you did. Never mind. It's probably for the best that we remain in the dark. No doubt it's some plot he's hatched to steal everything from everyone eventually. How is it that he always manages to make off with the one thing that one considers valuable?"
"I did not know that you considered your heart so highly," she murmured, catching his eye. "I'm glad for it."
He shifted in his seat. "If you had, perhaps you would have not chosen another so quickly?"
"Perhaps." The fan was fluttering again. It really was most adorable, the way that she betrayed her inner state so unconsciously. "But looking back, and considering my new condition as a mother, I cannot say I'm unhappy with my choices."
"Good, I'm glad." He did approve, after all. He was glad for her happiness. Somehow, he felt an even greater sense of loss now than before they'd spoken, however.
After a few moments of silence between them, during which each were lost in their own thoughts, she mentioned, "I shall be leaving with Will in several days, to visit a cousin of mine who lives in Port-au-Prince. We'll be gone for a good while. I daresay Jack Sparrow will find himself at a loss without his accomplice of my husband to accompany him on his ventures here. You can probably expect a visit from him then."
Norrington frowned slightly. "Is this fair warning you're giving me, or an indirect message?"
"I wanted to give you something hopeful, actually, to cheer you up."
He had to believe her, too, for the fan had returned to a less frantic pace. "Thank you. And thank you for the ship, as well. You know that if you ever have need of it, you have but to ask."
Her grin was a little too pirate for his comfort. "I was sort of wondering if you'd let me borrow her occasionally. Nothing illegal, I promise. Just… to keep my sea legs. In fact, do you think I could borrow her for our trip?"
He remained with her for a while longer, and had to admit to himself that his conscience was clearer, for having discussed these issues with her. Still, he had not yet resolved the matter of Jack. And his newfound possessive and unwarranted jealousy regarding the pirate.
The following morning found him aboard his ship, the Navy issue awarded him by Sinnott, the H.M.S. Valiant. The Black Pearl was attempting to slip out of the bay and Norrington was very glad to have the opportunity to head her off. He was very angry to see it, and to his chagrin, more hurt than he had expected to be.
He ordered his men to board the Pearl, and stalked aboard with no intention but one: to confront Jack Sparrow and gain some sort of comprehension as to why the man had not been to see him even once these past weeks, despite his continued presence in Port Royal. He felt jilted, and knew he was behaving emotionally, but damn it all, the bloody pirate had taken advantage repeatedly of his feelings for him. It was time for some sort of reckoning.
"Search the ship, top to bottom," he ordered curtly, almost praying to find something amiss, some sort of reason for detaining Jack. What else did he have, after all? Jack had left him no choice, he reasoned.
He carefully stifled the irrational pain that lanced through him at having to go through these motions now. His heart belonged to Jack Sparrow, after all, and Jack's belonged to no one. Except perhaps the Black Pearl. Which made Norrington twice as angry now, and hurt, because Jack had been the one to sink his Dauntless.
It had taken a very costly and outrageous gift from Elizabeth, via Jack, to undo some of the damage of that loss. Still, the loss of Elizabeth, the Dauntless and his own self-respect were nothing compared to the loss of his heart. The humiliation of having to run after Sparrow continuously was taking its toll on not just his pride but his self-possession. This obsession was dangerous and had gone too far.
Jack was perched on the guardrail, portside, his arms folded over his chest, and with a somewhat smug expression on his face as Norrington stalked towards him.
"Really sorry to disappoint you yet again, mate," Jack said as Norrington came close enough to hear. "It's like I explained to you yesterday; I only came to find me a crew. Honest sailors and the like."
"That's not good enough this time, I'm afraid," Norrington informed him, stiffly. "I want to see you in your cabin, now."
Jack tilted his head and regarded him through partly-slitted eyes. "Ah. So it's come to this, then."
"Now," Norrington growled.
Jack shrugged. He called to his crew, some of whom were standing on deck, watching as Norrington's men still searched fruitlessly for some sign of piracy, stolen goods, anything other than provisions. The Black Pearl was a large ship, but it was mostly empty, it seemed.
Norrington was tense, and barely able to contain himself as Jack preceded him into the cabin. Norrington went in behind him and shut the door.
Jack turned to face him, a smirk wreathing his lips. "Taking its toll, then; isn't it, Commodore?"
Norrington stepped forward, not caring to hear what inane comments Jack might have about his self-control. He seized Jack's arms with both hands and pulled him close, hard, bringing his mouth brutally down on Jack's.
It had been far too long, and there was no time. The heat that swept over him in claiming Jack once more was offset by the disturbing reality of their position, casting a terrible sense of futility over the act.
It was a kiss, but it was only a kiss and nothing more, and even the satisfaction of feeling those lips against his own, and the slight 'give' as Jack leaned into him during it, was robbed from him as the need to draw breath finally won out. He drew back, lifting his head and looking down into Jack's widened eyes.
"Couldn't even last two months this time, could you?" Jack muttered. "You've really got it bad, mate."
Norrington's grip on Jack's arms tightened. In a harsh undertone, Norrington tried to keep his voice low. "This has to stop."
Jack let out a single laugh, low and altogether distressing in its knowing edification at his expense. "Does it, now? Tell me something, my good man; do you really want it to? I've done you a favor, have I not?"
"This- this unhealthy bewitchment? That has me compromising my career, my position, my honor, at every turn? I fail to see how it's a favor. You've ruined my life." He shoved Jack backwards, away from him, as if somehow by flinging him from him, he could regain his sense of equilibrium.
Jack fastidiously brushed at his clothing, indignantly. "You started this, not I," Jack pointed out in such a rational, calm and matter-of-fact manner that Norrington was hard-pressed not to hit him.
Dangerous. Entirely too dangerous. Norrington realized he was treading on very thin ice indeed. Hate, love, passion, anger - it was all too closely related and he could no longer tell one from the other.
"Then I can finish it just as well," Norrington said, straightening. "This ends here and now." After all, it was obvious that Jack had been playing him from start to finish, using his own feelings against him. Jack had no heart, and took pleasure in sporting with others' hearts. His heart ached because of it.
Jack gave him a puzzled frown. "If you really believe that, then you're failing to take into account that it's no longer just your decision, eh? 'Sides, you aren't being very convincing."
"Neither are you, to be pursuing the Turner boy," Norrington pointed out.
"Ah, yes," Jack smiled, almost reminiscently. "A pretty pair, aren't they? Though I see the lass wasn't quite able to provide what you were really wanting, eh?"
"No more games, Jack," Norrington said, coldly. "You've made it quite clear that you are in fact nothing -but- a pirate. The next time our paths cross, I will not be so lenient, clemency or not."
Jack appeared to be thinking this over seriously. Finally, he answered, "Very well. Still, I'll leave you with my word that my business in Port Royal in fact has nothing to do with the Turners, nor piracy, nor profit."
"Then why are you here at all?" Norrington demanded, quite at a loss.
"It's a matter of honor," Jack said, as if this should explain everything. "Yours."
Norrington glared at him. Bitterly, he said, "Yes, it is, isn't it? And you take great delight in testing it, repeatedly."
Jack was laughing quietly to himself. "Love, you really ought to take a little while to think this over before you go making any hasty decisions." He gave Norrington a fond look, his smile aggravatingly welcoming, charming and entirely too warm. "Methinks that both our crew will be wondering where we've got to. Now unless you intend to ignore the issue of clemency and seize my ship, in which case you will have a bloody battle on your hands, you'd best let me get on my way, eh?"
Norrington straightened. "You're right, of course. Until next time, then."
Jack bowed, indicating that Norrington should leave first. "After you, Commodore."
As Norrington went to the door, with his hand on the door handle, Jack added quietly from behind him, "It's not over until I say it is."
Norrington stopped, with a suspicious glance back at him. "Unless you plan to somehow hold me involuntarily aboard your ship again, it is quite over. And I daresay I won't be as easy as I was before."
"To be sure," Jack agreed. Then he grinned, insufferably. "I'm glad I could please."
Norrington scowled at him.
Hastily, Jack added, "To provide ample distraction from your otherwise dreary life, that is."
Furiously, Norrington ripped open the door and stalked away, muttering under his breath.
He'd been played, and masterfully. It would not happen again.
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