By L.M. Griffin
Lieutenant Jonathan Ashley Bush paused outside of the office door, eyebrows raised at the yelling within. He tilted his head towards the heavy oak, eyebrows drawn together as he tried to make out who was yelling, and for what purpose. After a moment his lips quirked upwards once, then he composed himself. He knocked once. There was a harried 'Come In', and he entered with letters in hand, a demure expression on his face as he surveyed the situation before him.
"Je ne crois pas du tout que vous feriez quelque chose si complètement bête!" Lieutenant Andrew Cristophe Gillette bellowed at the man behind the desk, dark eyes sharp and tone biting as he paced, his graceful hands moving in sharp, angry gestures as he spoke, the language of his grandfather echoing through his London-born-and-bred-roots. He paused only to yell again, pointing a finger at the utterly composed figure in the fine oak chair. "Avez-vous un potiron sur les épaules, ou peut-être un tête avec quelque espoir du bon sens!?"
"Good afternoon, sirs," Bush said smoothly, neatly sidestepping the infuriated Gillette to step up to the man to the desk. "Your correspondence, Commodore."
"Thank you, Bush." Commodore James L. Norrington (no, you may not have the pleasure of his middle name) took the letters from Bush's hands, and glanced up at Gillette, his green eyes flickering through varying emotions. His aqualine features were set in a mixture of wry helplessness and a measure of friendly tolerance. This was, after all, a scene that had played out many times over many years of accquaitence. "Now, really, Gillette, that's a bit harsh."
Gillette spun on his heel, finger quavering in the air as he glowered at Norrington. "Elle est l'affaire la plupart bête dans l'histoire du monde depuis que l'invention du rhum!" Then he was off again.
Bush watched Gillette for another moment, as Norrington sighed and started going through his mail. "The Lieutenant seems upset, sir."
"Really. I hadn't noticed." Norrington commented dryly, as he took out his letter opener.
"Oh, indeed. I take it that something went amiss in the latest raid? He seems to have bypassed English completely and went straight to ranting in French, after all." Bush added innocently, lifting one eyebrow at his commanding officer.
"As soon as we walked off the ship, he requested an audience." Norrington let out another sigh, and glanced up at his third. If Gillette was his right arm, then Bush could be considered his left. "It wasn't that bad of an... incident. I hardly see the need for ranting at me in a completely different language right off."
Gillette stopped dead in his ranting to stare at Norrington for a moment, then smiled thinly. He put his hands behind his back, and said with mock-pleasantness. "Mais peut-être je me trompe tout à fait. Peut-être vous n'êtes pas un imbécile, mais un suicidaire."
"Suicidal?" Bush's other eyebrow raised in question.
"You forgot the sir, Gillette." Norrington said mildly. "It's nothing, Bush. Honestly. I just led a charge into the pirate's stronghold."
"Dans ce cas, je regrette vous de announcer, MONSIEUR, mais vous êtes ENCORE PLUS idiot que je vous ai déjà dit!" Gillette ground out, then turned to Bush, switching to English without missing a beat. "Oh no, he didn't just lead a charge up into the stronghold ... he led the charge up a slope, where we were being fired down upon, a good twenty paces in front of the rest of the troops! We had to RUN to catch up to him!"
"It was an inspirational charge. The men were feeling pinned down - we never would have gotten them to move otherwise," Norrington argued lightly, sitting up slightly in his chair.
"Oh! And here I thought you were angry because he used his sword-arm, instead of switching off after that fencing injury." Bush said with a chuckle and a wave of his hand. Then he stopped dead, staring at Norrington.
"Of course not, I didn't even know about the fencing... injury...." Gillette trailed off himself, also turning his gaze to Norrington.
Norrington cleared his throat, suddenly looking down at his letters innocently. "Oh Look. My mother has written me. I wonder if it's about my aunt's lumbago.."
"You... have a fencing injury? You didn't tell me you had a fencing injury!!" Gillette sputtered, waving his hands in the air.
"You charged up a slope in FRONT of the marines?!" Bush said, his voice rising with each syllable.
Norrington let out a long, deep breath, before rising to his feet, his green eyes flashing like hard emeralds. "Lieutenants, AT ATTENTION!"
The effect was instantaneous - both men snapped up straight, eyes forward, bodies rigid, and to Norrington's great relief, completely silent. He put his hands behind him, raising an eyebrow at them both from beneath his powdered wig. "Now. As much as I appreciate your concern over my safety, may I remind you both that I am an officer in His Majesty's Navy, therefore I will do my duty to the fullest degree possible. I am sorry to say that includes attacking pirates without a shield in front of me, and continuing on with a miniscule gouge in my arm. It is a filthy job, but I do not see anyone outside of the men in this fort lining up to willingly die for King and Country."
Gillette twitched, and Bush coughed, but they made no other response. Military training, Norrington thought to himself wryly, had its advantages beyond the normal scope of things. He continued, that slight smirk on his lips "Now - for the present. We are back in Port Royale - I am no worse for wear - and the only dangerous thing I shall do this evening is attempt to make small talk with people I dislike in a social context, because they are frivolous twits with the brains of an addled monkey. So I think your worries shall be laid to rest, if not my boredom."
This earned him a twinkle in Bush's eyes, and the corners of Gillette's mouth moving up just so, which was what Norrington was aiming for. He sat once more, folding his fingers into a steeple. "Since I expect you both there to 'pull me out of harm's way', and perhaps plan an early escape from the banality, you may now return to your duties. After their conclusion, you shall return home to change, and meet me at Mrs. Van-Crife's home at precisely six." He looked at both of them, and said with a degree of finality. "Dismissed."
Bush and Gillette fired off sharp salutes, and moved towards the door as one. Norrington watched the door shut behind Bush, adding quietly, "And God bless you both."
What would he do without them nagging at him to take care of himself? Especially Gillette, who had gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep his superior officer going through Elizabeth Swann's public rejection, and the long months that followed. 'The man is a miracle.' Norrington reflected to himself with a little smile, 'But then I knew that the moment I first saw him.'
Eight years ago ... eight years? Had it been that long? It seemed like yesterday he was put in charge of the motley crew of midshipmen and regular sailors, put under his command to sail the Interceptor from England to the Caribbean itself. He was the young Lieutenant then, and the voyage was to be his testing ground for further positions in the future. Gillette was the near silent midshipman - the other lieutenants and captains thought him dull and stupid because he hardly spoke, but Norrington watched the way the young redhead handled his duties with sharp precision.
So Norrington watched, waited, and pushed at all the right moments, until he pushed true. It forced Gillette to reveal his little secret - he was a quarter-French in a delicate position of power on a British Naval ship. Not an idiot - not by far, but one who was afraid to speak unless he spoke wrongly and ended up at the other end of a vicious beating.
Of course, the way his past was revealed - Gillette chewing out his superior in French for some major 'idiocy' - just made Norrington's gut instincts ring all the more true. This was the man he wanted to cultivate as his second, but more importantly, as someone he could depend on with his life. Gillette wasn't afraid to speak his mind when necessary, and with Norrington's obvious arrogance, it was something the lieutenant needed. From that one encounter, they were together inseparably - through promotions and dressingdowns, good times and bad.
He had, like a good second, taken him out for a long night of drinking after Elizabeth had rejected him. He had understood that one day more meant 'one day to get myself back together again. One day to be honorable. One day to let my conscience and heart rest easier.'
Gillette was the one constant in James Norrington's life that wasn't subjected to the whims of the weather, favoritism in the Court, or handsome young blacksmiths. Norrington had a feeling he would have Gillette by his side until they both died, and the thought comforted him.
"If I had known, however, that I would be getting regular nagging in French when I took that rash young man under my wing...." Norrington mused aloud, then chuckled. "I probably still would have. Ah, James Norrington, what a glutton for punishment you are." He smirked, then continued to read his mother's letter on his aunt Esther's lumbago.
"Lieutenant Gillette!" Bush said after the quickly moving figure. "Lieutentant ... God-Damn-It man, slow down! You know I can't keep up with you in a snit!"
Gillette made a growling noise, but slowed appropriately to let Bush catch up with him. "He seriously could have done himself a harm, and he puts it all up to duty!"
"I know, Cris." Bush said, trying to soothe him with the familiar nickname Norrington called Gillette. "But it is James. He is a man of action and unfortunately, the action is usually at the front of the battle."
"He had a previous injury. He could have gotten himself killed, fighting with a weakened arm," Gillette grumbled, nodding briskly at a passing pair of marines, who saluted back respectfully.
"I doubt it. After all, you were there," Bush said reasonably, a little smile on his face. "I am positive that you were only ten steps behind him the moment he started up that slope. He knew it too, or why else would he go?"
"Because he is bloody insane!" Gillette turned back to his friend, at the amusement on his face, and deflated a little. "He ... is James. Brave to a fault - never afraid, never backing down."
"And he is someone who trusts the men he puts at his back. Especially his loyal second," Bush said with a firm little nod, and then his lips quirked. "Aaah, but if he only knew how loyal you really were."
"Ash..." Gillette said warningly, glancing around nervously. "Do NOT start."
"I have started nothing. I am merely continuing an old argument. You should tell him how delightfully into Plato's works you are," Bush said firmly, his chocolate brown eyes fixing on Gillette's darker ones. "Not to mention Commodores."
Gillette's nostrils flared, and he hissed lowly. "You realize what you are speaking of is completely ILLEGAL? The very mention of it could see me hanged."
"Sodomy is illegal, Cris," Bush said with a little wave of his hand. "Such things have to be proven, after all and I know not one man who would see you convicted of it, at any rate. Our men respect you too much to send you to the gallows, and Norrington has more than enough pull to squash the charges at will. Beyond that, you have not even told the man how you really feel about him, much less bedded him. Rather like putting the cart before the horse."
Gillette let out a sigh, staring to the sky, before moving off again. "I blame your Calvinist upbringing for your utter lack of morality."
"And I blame your emotional Puritanism for your lack of bravery in matters of the heart. I have seen you take on undead pirates with not much more than a look of surprise at their existence, but put you before James Norrington ... and you lose all your nerve. I swear, you can tell the man he has the brains of a pumpkin to his face. What is so hard about this?" Bush asked dryly.
"...Because pithy insults do not have the weight of meaning that imparting my feelings would." Gillette sighed softly. "I am not even sure I would have the words. It is so much easier to worry and rage than it is to feel where that worry comes from."
Bush looked at his friend for a long moment, and clapped his shoulder. "As the Bard says, my friend, Love as thou wilt."
Gillette smiled tiredly. "Yes, but I do not think one of Shakespeare's actors was ever in love with him."
"Are you sure about that? All his actors were men, after all," Bush said, grinning.
"Go To Your Duties, Lieutenant Bush," Gillette groaned, pointing off in one direction. "And leave me in peace, you lascivious fiend."
"Parting is such sweet sorrow." Bush sighed dramatically, moving off slowly and putting one hand to his chest. "To work I go, fair Romeo! But remember this, naught one man was ever sinned for stealing a kiss!"
"Your prose is abysmal, and old Will is turning in his grave right now in pure horror," Gillette retorted, turning to walk in the opposite direction.
Not thinking of stealing kisses, not at all.
Not thinking of the way those green eyes flashed at him, years ago in that room where he ranted out his frustration. Nearly choking on his own heart at the thought he had just insulted his superior. Those eyes flashing, and then... that smile. That rare, beautiful smile.
He lost his heart to that smile. Lost it, never recovered it, but chased after the keeper of it fervently. 'Only to be near you', was the thought, 'Only to be near you, and that is enough.'
Or at least, so he thought. Until Elizabeth Swann grew to womanhood, and that rare smile appeared in thought of her - her beauty, her wit, her determination and indomitable spirit. Gillette had never given the girl much thought before that - but when he thought of her now it was all he could do not to grind his teeth down to sand.
'Tis better to have loved and lost, was the saying. Obviously, it was one that was not used by those who lost in the first place. Gillette's only comfort was it was unrequited, but it was a thin comfort at that. It didn't warm him in the cold moments of watching James's nervous, heartfelt proposal to Miss Swann on the fort wall. Of course, if he hadn't turned away - perhaps he would have noticed her falling off the fort wall. Then again, would have it had made much of a difference?
'Miracle she missed them, indeed. More like a damned curse.' He sighed to himself, pushing open his own office door, eying distastefully the pile of paperwork that awaited him. 'If she hadn't, there would have been no Sparrow. No undead pirates. No Turner. No watching James get his hopes precariously high up at her acceptance, only to have them dashed in front of all. If only. If only....'
He hung his hat up on its hook, and settled himself down with quill and paper to write up the lastest roster assignments for guard duty, but memories paused his busywork.
'Is this ..is this where your heart truly lies, then?'
"Ah James ..." Gillette sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose, the stricken look on Norrington's face coming to the fore as bright and painfilled as any sword wound. "Love as thou wilt, indeed. It hasn't seemed to work very well for both of us, has it? But I wouldn't change a thing, as cruel as that sounds. At least without a love of your own, you will always be mine."
A bitter smile passed his lips, and with another pained sigh, he returned to his papers.
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