Rant

Chapter 4 - Disguised Intent

By L.M. Griffin


There is nothing more frustrating in this world or any other than a stubborn Half-Irish, Half-French Lieutenant, Jonathan Bush thought to himself, as he eyed his friend, clearly only moments away from a 'rant-moment'.

"Listening to French being spoken by a Spaniard," Gillette said firmly, crossing his arms over his chest.

Bush sighed, rubbing his fingers against his forehead with a slightly aggravated look in his brown eyes. "Andrew..."

"Eating anything that has crabmeat in it," Gillette continued, not to be deterred.

"Andrew, you can't get out of this. Again," Bush pointed out wryly, as he sat up in his chair. "You've weaseled out of every single social engagement with Lady Susan present for the past three weeks. People are starting to talk."

Gillette leaned over the desk, resting his graceful hands atop Bush's desk, his dark eyes intent. "Making love to Jack Sparrow. In a Tortuga inn, if they have such things there."

"...Actually, I always thought Captain Sparrow was rather attractive..." Bush trailed off at Gilette's fierce look, and sighed. "Listen Cris, I have no power on whether you do or do not go to the Governor's masked ball. But coming up with 'Things I would rather be doing' is not going to get you past James. He is going to -insist- on your attendence." He gave his friend a rather steely look. "Of course, the TRUTH..."

"The Truth? How could I possibly tell him the truth when it is quite obvious how drawn he is to Lady Susan?" Gillette growled, pacing Bush's office once more. "You'd have to be blind."

"Yeee-s, and that's a bit odd, acutally. James is normally never so blatant..." Bush tapped his fingers against the dark wood of his desk.

Gillette stopped in his pacing, frowning. "You're right. Not even over Miss Swann was he that obvious. I mean, he certainly showed interest - respectfully courted her - ungrateful wretch that she was..."

"Which broke your heart," Bush pointed out, "and had you said something before, would have saved you both a world of pain."

"Ash, really. What sort of home did you grow up in that it was a perfectly acceptable to break God's laws left and right?" Gillette sighed, finally coming to rest in a chair set across from Bush and his desk.

"One where love was accepted as God's Gift to us all, and not His punishment." Bush countered. "That's why I push you. That's why I despair at James. That's why I am going to this engagement ball to fully celebrate Elizabeth Swann's choice, because she seems to be the only person in this port who knows what she really wants."

"She broke James's heart," Gillette said hotly, his dark eyes flashing.

"Yes, for one brief moment, not an entire lifetime," Bush said quietly, "She could have given into duty, as you do, as James does, and left the entire lot of you miserable. But she followed her heart, and is better for it. She should be your object lesson, Cris, not suffer from your censure. Not like Lady Susan."

"...I thought you liked her Ladyship? You've been going to all these balls in her honor for the past month since we got back to Port with James." Gillette's ginger eyebrows arched, and his anger with Elizabeth Swann was momentarily forgotten.

"What you said about her being at the door of James's cabin stuck with me - and you are rarely, if ever, wrong about people. I forgive you your hatred of Elizabeth Swann and Captain Sparrow because they affect you personally... but you had just met Lady Susan and you disliked her. Let us just say that the Lady doesn't improve on accquaintance." Bush actually looked grim, a completely different expression to his usual cheerful countenance.

Gillette's expression darkened once more. "How so?"

"The Lady's attention wanders when James isn't in the room." Bush tapped his fingers together. "It wanders from here to there. It wanders everywhere. Even to me."

Gillette's mouth twisted. "Present company excluded, I can't see how she can be so... free with her favors?"

"She isn't, and that's the trick of it. She rides the edge of impropriety so well I think they are old accquaintances." Bush sighed, sitting up a little, "You want to know why I go to these blasted things when they aren't the slightest bit fun without you there? To protect James. I have this gut feeling, Andrew, that's she's more dangerous than she looks."

Gillette's jaw worked a little, and he sighed. He had been avoiding Lady Susan for the dual reasons that he feared his tongue around her, and he didn't wish to watch James made a fool once again. However, there was the other side of the blade, where if he left James in this woman's clutches she could do him a serious injury - and this time it might be something more than his heart.

His jaw braced into a trully fierce expression. Never. He would never let this woman hurt his Commodore. Abruptly he rose, his words edging around his accent, "Come along, Jonathan."

Bush started from his chair, but rose quickly enough, going for his coat and hat, "And where, praytell, am I coming along to?"

"We're getting costumes for this damned ball. James is going to be so protected he'll feel suffocated by Lieutenants, and that's that." Gillette said stiffly, throwing open the door. "I won't go through another 'One Day More' nonsense. Not for her."

Bush hid a smile quickly as he followed.

--//--

This Isn't Working, James Norrington thought to himself with frustration, as he and Lady Susan trailed along the fort wall. Why isn't this working? She is a enchanting, beautiful woman and God Knows I'm attracted to her on a physical level. Why am I not falling madly in love with her?

He wouldn't consider the answer. It was sinful. Wrong. Unworthy of his dearest friend and long-time confidante. Again he was struck with the heavy guilt of 'What would Andrew think of me?' So low, so perverse to be wanting him. Just the other day at review - Gillette had turned and said something to him - slightly brusque - and Norrington literally trembled within to hold back the desire to take him aside. Speak with him. Touch him. Soft touches that led to baring all that milk-white perfect skin...

Control. Control. He had to have control over these dissolute desires. He cleared his throat a little, turning to smile at Lady Susan once more, who put her hand on his arm and trailed her fingers up his sleeve a little, bringing a slight flush to his cheeks. Yes, that was much more like it.

"It's such a lovely fort, Commodore. I can't even begin to imagine how much time and patience it takes to keep it running." Lady Susan curled her lips up into a generous smile.

"Well, one does what one can for one's country, Ladyship," he answered with a quick quirk of a smile. Excellent. Charming yet polite. He could successfully woo a woman, Elizabeth and her blacksmith be damned.

"One would think you go above and beyond the call, Commodore. In all aspects." Lady Susan flashed another brilliant smile at him, moving her body just so, her cleavage peeking out of her fine yellow silk dress.

Norrington cleared his throat and tore his gaze away, attempting to speak neutrally. "I live to serve others, my Lady."

"Ah, but who serves you, Commodore?" Lady Susan arched one perfect golden eyebrow, moving to stand in front of him. Norrington nearly took an involuntary step backwards, eyes widening at the secretive and coy smile on her lips. Ah, perhaps he was charming a bit too well?

"Ah-em." A voice interrupted, and Norrington and Lady Susan turned, startled, at the slender form of Elizabeth Swann. Elizabeth smile thinly, her fingers resting around the parasol in a manner Norrington recognized as a passable sword grip, and spoke in a voice honeyed-sweet, "Commodore Norrington, Lady Susan. Pardon me for interrupting your little... walk?"

She put enough of a question on it, and put enough of a direct look to her Ladyship, that James felt even more embarrassed than before. He cleared his throat, stepping away from Lady Susan to say as calmly as he was able, "There is no problem at all, Miss Swann. How may I help you?"

"My father sent this note along to you." Elizabeth offered the Commodore a warm and sincere smile - one he was rarely accquainted with and therefore took him by surprise.

Ah Norrington, bad enough with Andrew, but haven't you gotten past this girl yet? His heart told him no, and he sighed internally as he moved forward to take the note from her with a formal little nod, and an almost smile of his own. "Thank you, Miss Swann. It was kind to stop here on what must be a... busy and happy day."

"Oh, no. I came for purely selfish reasons of my own," Elizabeth said, looking cooly over to Lady Susan, before flashing him another sincere smile, "I was hoping to ask you for the pleasure of one of the first dances, Commodore?"

Both of Norrington's eyebrows shot up, and he found himself momentarily flummoxed before answering, "Well, of course Miss Swann. I would be honored..." He paused, then cleared his throat, "That is, if your fiancÚ doesn't mind."

"Actually, he was the one who suggested it - he doesn't care much for dancing unless it's with a sword, and it's well known you're one of the finest dancers in Port Royal, Commodore." Elizabeth's smile returned, rueful, before stretching into pure brilliance.

"And how is your fiancÚ, Miss Swann?" Lady Susan asked, her genrous full lips parting into a smile.

The brilliance swept from warm to icy cold in just a moment as Elizabeth fixed her eyes back on her Ladyship. "He is quite well. Thank you for inquiring."

"Such a dear boy. I did so enjoy speaking to him at Mrs. Bilsworth's little dinner." Lady Susan flickered her fan open with a snap, the self-same smile on her face. Norrington found himself wondering if he was in another one of those female conversations where everything was said in some sort of code - and he was only getting the barest glimmers of meaning.

Elizabeth's lips lifted frostily. "He had nothing but the highest praise for your topics of conversation. I never realized you knew so many things about blacksmithies, your Ladyship."

"Well, it's always good to know a little bit of something about what interests gentlemen. They get so bored with conversations about teacups and the latest fashions, don't you find that to be so, Commodore?" Lady Susan smoothly moved forward, flickering her fan in Norrington's direction.

"Ah, well. It's always good for a young lady to have a breadeth of conversation topics on hand." Norrington straightened a little. "A man hopes to have conversation that is enlightening and yet entertaining."

"Well then, it's a good thing so few things are ever lacking in our own conversations, Commodore," Elizabeth said, flipping open her own fan.

Norrington couldn't help smile but at that. "Indeed, Miss Swann. Never did I know a young lady so well versed in the Royal Navy."

"Really? I never knew Miss Swann so educated. I would think your father wouldn't want his daughter to be so filled with concerns beyond her station," Lady Susan said, flicking her wand again.

This time it was Elizabeth with the pleasant smile, one that didn't quite reach her rich eyes. "My father realizes that the lady of his house must well accquainted with all matters dealing with his office. I'm surprised you didn't know that, being the former wife of a Lord."

"My husband was well beyond the years of his political glory when he passed on. We lived in a simple, country lifestyle," Lady Susan intoned sweetly and piously. "Far from the scandalous lifestyle of a politician's family."

"I find that hard to believe, your Ladyship. Unless of course we are speaking of the backcountry." Elizabeth flitted her fan in front of her face. "And then it makes much more sense."

Hrm. The barbs were becoming less subtle and ever the more sharp. Norrington cleared his throat, straightening, "Well, ladies, I really must be getting back to work... I'll be seeing you both this evening, I trust."

"Indubitably, Commodore Norrington. I look forward to seeing you, and of course the darling Mr. Turner, again. Good day, Miss Swann." Lady Susan closed her fan, offered a polite little curstey to them both, before heading down the steps. Her hips, Norrington noted vaguelly, moved with an almost swagger that reminded him of Jack Sparrow.

Elizabeth stared after her, the entire lines of her body tensing, and Norrington began to wonder if he would have to physically restrain her from jumping on Lady Susan and beating her Ladyship about the head with her parasol. Instead, with that poise that Norrington so admired in the young woman, she took a deep breath, turned to Norrington and offered a wry smile. "Again, my apologies for interrupting your precious moments of free time, Commodore."

Norrington's lips twisted into a wry smile, "I shall punish you with two dances, Miss Swann."

"Oh, however shall I survive?" Elizabeth said with a twinkle in her dark eyes, before tucking away her own fan, and moving towards the steps. She paused at the top of them, to look back at them, "James?"

Again, Norrington was startled. It took so much for her to use his first name, even in a social context. In his shock, he slipped from formality, speaking on more familiar terms than he had for months. "Yes, Elizabeth?"

"Please... be careful. Don't trust your heart where it doesn't belong," Elizabeth said simply. "Bad enough that I hurt you on my own selfish account. It would kill me that a fine man like yourself... well. I only want the best for you."

Norrington's aqualine face moved into a frown of confusion, but he nodded his head. "Thank you for your concern." 'If you only knew how dreadful it has become.' However, her point was. if he was discerning correctly, to Lady Susan.

He watched her leave, his thoughts more troubled from before. Folding his hands behind him, he turned again to the horizon. Did he have the right sort of judgement when it came to his heart? After all, so far he had fallen in love with two people, one whose engagement ball he was attending this evening, and the other was his closest friend and a man, for the love of all that was Holy.

What did he know of the Lady Susan, beyond the fact she was charming and looked well in a fancy dress? Almost nothing. In fact, the only thing he really knew about her is that she seemed to fancy him.

In the end, really, that is all it takes to win your heart, James Norrington. You want love, and don't care who offers attention of the romantic kind, he thought to himself glumly, turning away from the bay, and heading back down the stairs to his office. Paperwork made a great deal more sense to him than his own myriad desires.

--//--

At the Fort Charles's front gate, Elizabeth watched as Lady Susan drove off in her carriage, a scowl marring her lovely features. She muttered to herself, as she awaited her own, "If that woman was a pirate, I'd put on my tri-cornered hat and blow her out of the water myself. Long nines and all."

"Really, Miss Swann?" A richly amused voice said behind her. She turned, startled, to find Lieutenants Bush and Gillette, the former with a devilish grin and the latter with an interesting expression on his face, one that said to Elizabeth that the Lieutenant was trying to either look formally distant or smile viciously. Bush folded one hand behind his back, quirking up one eyebrow, "Shall I ask you whether or not you intend to keelhaul her, or simply hang her from the highest yard arm?"

"And if that is the case," Gillette finally settled on a smile, "may we watch?"

Elizabeth blinked, before her own vicious smirk appeared. "Gentlemen, might I have the pleasure of driving you both into town, if that is where you are heading? I have a feeling we have much to discuss."

Pirates are not the only ones who make accords.

--//--

Governor Weatherby Swann was known as a kind and generous man, especially so to his only daughter. Her Engagement Ball was no exception - for it was an affair of colorful silk and silver, brightly gleaming from every doorway and at every table. Guests dressed in costumes of similiar colors, their masks covering all matter of creatures - some real, some fantastic.

Gillette held the fox-faced mask over his eyes again, his eyes narrowed as he continued to scan the glittering ballroom. The tailor had cooed about the perfection of the russet silk to his natural hair, but Gillette hardly heard him. He was thinking of nothing but his James. Yes, his. Silent, unacknowledged, completely shameful, but by God he was not going to let that woman have him. First, however, he had to find the man, and that Lady.

There was the Governor himself, dressed in dark greys, appropriate as he was an owl.

Ah, and there was Bush, all together sly and grinning within his group of female admirers as a raccoon. He caught Bush's eye, and recieved a head nod and an almost wink response. He snorted softly, holding back his smile. Bush never could resist showing off.

There was the young Mister Turner, looking appropriately uncomofortable in his fancy new clothes, a lion's mask over his handsome young features. He seemed to be very keen on losing himself in the crowds tonight. Gillette had to wonder why.

Turner slipped off into the crowd, nervously glancing about, before disappearing from sight completely. Gillette watched him with a frown, but pulled his gaze away as another wave of guests arrived. He made a noise of disgruntlement when none of them were James.

"Any sight of the 'darling couple' yet?" Elizabeth's voice tickled at his ear, and he turned towards her. He blinked, once, with pleasant shock. Elizabeth had chosen the costume of a swan, unsurprisingly enough, but instead of wearing some rather large and ostenaniously ugly headpiece, she wore a simple sort of feathered cap, letting her curls tumble loose over her creamy white shoulders. Even her dressed was lightly layered to take on a feathered effect.

She, in turn, looked him over and her dark eyes glowed with approval. "You look extremely dashing this evening, Lieutenant. Russet suits you."

Gillette actually smiled in return, bowing his head. "And you look lovely, Miss Swann. Might I have the honor of escorting you inside?"

Elizabeth tilted her head, her lips quirking a little as she took his arm. "The Lieutenant is all kindness. If I had known all I had to do win your approval was forcefully dislike Lady Susan, I would have said something more biting ages ago."

"My approval is not so easily won. There is the matter of your broken word to the Commodore," Gillette reminded her, as they swept down the steps together. They caught a few surprised, yet intrigued, gazes from the other guests.

"...I never broke my word," Elizabeth said quietly. Off of Gillette's snort and look of surprise, she shrugged and smiled sadly. "I never broke my word, Lieutenant. If James had asked me on that parapet, with Will beside me and Jack crouching behind me if I still intended to marry him, I would have said yes. I would be Mrs. James Norrington without looking behind me, as much as it would have pained my heart. But instead, he asked me if my heart lay with Will's, and I couldn't lie to him about that. Of all the people who deserve the truth, it's James. He is one of the finest men in my accquaintance... and there is little I could have ever done to be worthy of such attentions from him."

They had reached the bottom of the stairs, and Gillette turned towards her, frowing openly as he dropped his mask once more. "What in the world are you talking of?"

"Oh, Lieutenant, surely you didn't think I considered myself an acceptable match? I would embarrass James horribly with my running about, trying to garner personal freedom instead of fulfilling my duties as a Commodore's wife. And the poor man is never very open with his feelings about me - he could never keep me in check with anything but brute personal force. He would have hated himself for that." Elizabeth lowered her voice qto a near-whisper, "James deserves someone, Lieutenant, who understands propriety and love go hand in hand. James's intended should know what is appropriate in public, and what is appropriate behind closed doors. Half the reason I am marrying Will is that he can control me with nothing but a gentle word. It's safe as houses, to marry Will. I won't ever humiliate him."

A glimmer of understanding flickered through Gillette's ebony-shaded eyes, before he looked off at the crowds abruptly, speaking dryly, "So you are saying that love isn't enough?"

"It never is. Love and trust, however, are entirely different things. To trust the person you love implicitly... that is a match made in Heaven." Elizabeth's lips curved up more, "So I imagine you must trust the Commodore a great deal."

Gillette jerked his head back towards her, his mouth working in protest, before she gently put a hand on his arm, stopping the words before they started. She shook her head silently, before nodding her head around the crowded room. "Propriety, Lieutenant."

"...Indeed, Miss Swann. Indeed," Gillette murmured, glancing over at her again. He might never truly like Elizabeth Swann himself, but he began to see what James had seen in her. Fine woman, indeed.

Her eyes narrowed a touch, and she nodded her chin towards the front doors, where Lady Susan entered arm in arm with Norrington himself. She had dressed herself demurely as a dove, pearl-white and innocent, while Norrington chose the costume of a hawk, browns and golds mixed in together. He looked all together glorious, and Gillette honestly felt his breath catch in his throat at the sight of James.

Elizabeth's grip on his arm tightened, and she started to lead him forcefully away, as she whispered low in her throat, "For Godsakes, Lieutenant! Wait until after we've freed him from the harpy to prostrate yourself before him."

Gillette followed, a glower working over his face, and found Bush by his side, taking his other arm with a waggle of his eyebrows and a knowing grin. Elizabeth dragged the three of them to the fine line of windows looking out into the bay, and out through one set of doors to the long and shadowy balcony just outside. She turned towards them, her eyes bright and eager. "All right, what's our plan for getting rid of her Ladyship?"

Bush and Gillette blinked at each other, then back at her. She stared at them for a moment, and then threw up her hands. "Do you mean we don't have a plan?"

"Well, it's not exactly something one comes up with on a whim, Miss Swann," Gillette said brusquely.

"You'll need rope."

"...Rope is never admiss in any plan," Bush said thoughtfully. "But what would we do to with the rope?"

"Attatch it to a grapple, o'course."

"Well, what in the world would we need a grapple for?" Gillette argued, looking at both them with a frown.

"How else will y'be able t'carry up the treacle tart, mate?"

"Now why would we need a..." Elizabeth trailed off, her eyes widening to the size of plates as she stared into the gloom behind her.

Gillette and Bush turned to where her eyes were fixed, and Bush let out a surprised, "Captain!"

Elizabeth finally found the words, and she stomped her foot with sudden anger. "JACK!"

"Sparrow," Gillette growled, his hands forming fists readily enough.

Captain Jack Sparrow leaned away from the balcony's edge, golden smile glittering in the soft candlelight thrown from the ballroom, and bowed decorously at the three co-conspirators. "At your service."


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