Series: The Cupid Series
1: Cupid's Sparrow
4: A Taste of Heaven
5: Sugar Rush
6: White Gold
7: Gentlemen of Fortune
Pairing: Norrington/Groves, Norrington/Jack/Groves, Jack/Norrington implied, Jack/Will implied.
Rating: NC-17 for m/m and m/m/m sex.
Archive: Yes, help yourself; include all chapters please.
Beta: FireSignWriter (Perfervivacity!), Moonsalt ("Barbossa!!!")
Disclaimer: Mouse & Bruckheimer Productions owns all, except Jack Sparrow who belongs to J.Depp. ;-)
Notes: Sugar is the mother of rum.
Summary: In which Captain Jack Sparrow discovers the delights of sugar.
The Cupid Series
Jack sat at the table with the papers he'd pilfered from Norrington's desk, entranced at the possibilities they offered him.
There was one particular missive from Admiral Cartwright, however, that held his fascination the most.
"Very interesting, indeed," Jack murmured aloud.
It would seem that the Spanish had grown unruly of late, and were preying upon a certain trading route that ran from the Caribbean directly to England. Ships borne for London and Bristol, laden down with tobacco, cotton, sugar cane and rum, were constantly at risk from attack by Spanish galleons, while the returning ships, carrying the payment for the Caribbean merchandise, were being systematically picked off with regularity.
There were tremendously distressed rumblings from the plantation owners of Hispaniola, Jamaica and the other Islands, as well as from the sugar industry in Britain. The Royal Navy had dispatched an entire contingent of ships and men to protect the interests of the English towns and settlements in the Spanish Main.
But unless the King decided to go to war with Spain, the galleons were considered a threat of piracy, politically, and to be treated thus. Which rather left the Royal Navy at a disadvantage, unable to directly go on the offensive and launch any sort of proper military action against the Spanish without bringing England into war with Spain after all.
Jack's eyes narrowed. The Spanish gave pirates a bad name; even the Spanish pirates, in fact. The corsairs they still employed were most probably the 'galleons' that had upset everybody recently.
But the trade route was clearly marked on Norrington's chart, and the coordinates of various attacks carried out by Spain upon the merchant ships left a blazing trail to follow.
Jack was intrigued at the thought of liberating a few homeward-bound vessels laden with rum… But the real prize would be the returning ships carrying gold. British gold.
He grinned, and sat back in his chair, thoughtfully tapping his lower lip.
Gold was gold, of course; whether doubloons or ducats, sovereigns or crowns mattered little to pirates, or even to the ports where they could spend them. But the fat targets that the Caribbean-bound ships presented would be carrying enough to pay the plantation owners their hefty prices for the sugar cane, provided courtesy of the toil and blood of black slaves.
While the plantation owners sat back and rolled in gold, the slaves would continue to die under the sun, and while the Brits happily and greedily demanded more and more sugar cane and rum, the plantations would line their owners' pockets with luxuries that would be better suited for sailors - honest and dishonest sailors alike.
Far better for themselves than for the Spanish, at any rate.
This could prove to be the most lucrative venture he'd ever embarked upon. Certainly a great deal more certain than the notion of chasing down the treasure of Isle de Muerte had been, and far more exciting than simply picking out ships at random that they happened across while sailing aimlessly about the Spanish Main.
Jack sat up, staring at Norrington's charts. It was brilliant. It was foolproof! All he had to do was sit and lie in wait for the returning ships believing they'd made it past the predatory Spaniards, and then pick them off as they limped in towards the various ports.
The Spanish had already created such a furor, it was unlikely that the Black Pearl helping herself to a few extra ships would create much of a stir. And no one would be the wiser for it, unaware that Captain Jack Sparrow held the keys to the trade route.
The fact that this would undoubtedly result in making Commodore Norrington even more furious than usual was merely an added bonus. The lovely Commodore already had his hands full, in any case, with Jamaicans and wealthy merchants and irate plantation owners, not to mention his little officer…
Then there was the promise he'd made to Norrington, to sin as often as possible until he met with him in another six days.
Sometimes, Jack managed to impress even himself.
At a thought, he rifled through Norrington's papers. Dispatches, ship information, manifestos, and destinations… There it was. Lists of expected arrival dates.
Jack's grin widened.
The first successful catch of the day yielded itself up to the Black Pearl's not-so-tender mercies by as early as noon.
Bound for Barbados, the merchant ship flying British colors came into range almost immediately upon their investigating the shipping lane. She tried to run, but the Pearl had already anticipated her, and cut her off cleanly.
The white flag had run up remarkably tardily, considering that it was, after all, the Black Pearl; notorious pirate ship and crewed by evil pirates, captained by none other than Captain Jack Sparrow.
But Jack had noticed that the captain and crew of the Herald seemed almost despondently unsurprised as the Pearl's company boarded them. He suspected it had to do with the enticing discovery of wooden crates in the hold that had been enough to bring a certain amount of anticipation and redoubled fervor to the crew's efforts in bringing each and every heavy crate aboard the Pearl.
Once they'd bloodlessly let the Herald loose to limp the last couple of leagues home to Barbados, Jack surveyed the crates. Damn heavy things, they were. The Herald's crew had seemed glum and passive. He swallowed, hoping that they would find them filled with the payment for the Herald's cargo it had carried to England.
His crewmen stood about the crates, waiting for him to do the honors and open the first of their takings. The sun beat down with less mercy than they had shown the Herald, except for an unavoidable minor scuffle or two during the boarding.
Snatching up a mallet, he set to hammering at the top of the nearest crate. As he peeled the wooden cover back, the nails pulled out of the wood, all the rest of the crew gathered nearer, peering closer, looming from a respectful and curious distance over him.
Jack frowned at the contents. Bags of white sugar.
As he opened one of the bags and sifted through its contents, revealing nothing but fine sugar crystals sparkling in his palm like powdered diamond dust, his heart sank.
"Well, least we can sell it, what with the gentry havin' such sweet-toothed appetites," he muttered.
He dug through the bags of refined sugar, wondering why they'd send all that bloody sugar cane to England, only to send ships from the Bristol docks back all this way across the Atlantic with stuff that would have served far better amongst the London glitterati.
A thought about smuggling came to him, and he grinned, pawing more rapidly through the bags, lifting them out, and then he found it, nearer the bottom of the crate. Standing up, he pushed the entire remainder of the contents out of the crate.
Gold sovereigns spilled in a shiny mass onto the deck.
"Open them up! Open them all up," he ordered, over the excited hushed gasps that the crew suddenly gave at seeing the overwhelmingly attractive morass of gold.
With a renewed burst of activity, the crates were flung open, pummeled, bags of white sugar replaced together in separate crates, and more and more piles of gold began amassing in tidy, shiny mounds on the planks of the Pearl. In the high sun, the gold caught the light and glinted, sparkling enticingly. No less than thirty crates, all filled with white sugar and gold. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
Jack went to his knees, tracing a hand over the coins. Crown Gold, with sovereigns and crowns no less than 22 carat each, if he weren't mistaken. Also a good number of florins, nobles and angels, he ascertained at a glance.
Sighs of respectful appreciation were emitted by all the company present, and with little wonder. It was a miraculous thing indeed, to have so much pure yellow metal, untainted and lustrous, sitting about warming in the sunshine all over his deck.
"It does a heart good, to see such a sight," said one, over the eager comments of the others.
"Aye, that it does," Jack agreed, happily. "I think we've struck the mother lode, gents."
Gibbs came up to him. "Capn, we're goin' te need to find a place to stash all this."
"To be sure," Jack said, standing up and clapping him on the shoulder. "But first, we'll take a few more. Won't hurt to collect it all together and see it safe in one trip."
Gibbs chuckled. "The Herald's got hell to pay, methinks, for lettin' all this go."
Jack shrugged. "That's their problem. Ours will be trying to find some things of real quality worth spending it all on. A task more suited to ourselves than those rich bastards who've already grown fat on the previous shipments. And the bloated Spanish ticks are already scrabbling over these ones that are coming back in to port." He shook his head, with a smile. "Should've thought of this before. We'd 'ave been rich men before today, in twice the time its taken since we refit her sails."
Gibbs was shaking his head in disbelief. "Can't quite figure why they'd let a ship carryin' such a trove as this go without any kind of protection."
Jack nodded once. "Mm, but that would call attention to it, now wouldn't it? Probably started trying to smuggle it through like it was nothing special, after the galleons started preying on 'em."
Gibbs cocked his head and eyed Jack. "You've got that look on ye again, Capn," he observed, cheerfully. "'At one 'at says we be embarking on another venture."
"Well, I may just have suddenly developed a sweet-tooth, m'self," Jack grinned at him.
Groves was standing on the ramparts, overlooking the view of the harbor, when Gillette strode up to him. As he looked up, he saw Gillette lift his chin with a nod.
"The Commodore wants to see you. He sent for you just now." Gillette added, with more curiosity, "Are you two up to something? More secret missions? Another late-night rendezvous with the brandy bottle, or perhaps merely scoping the alternatives amongst the marriageable lasses, what with Mrs. Turner's departure?"
Gillette's grin was somehow irritating, although he was usually a personable fellow, once his ambitious streak was overlooked. Groves shrugged. "There was a scare about the town's clergy, but I looked into it. It would seem that the only problem is the stuffed shirts. With the Governor gone, I think they believe the Commodore to be an easy target."
Gillette put his hands behind his back and stood looking out over the view with a smug smile. "He'll put them to route; see if he won't."
Chuckling, Groves agreed. "That he will. I think he takes it personally. Well, I'd better not keep him waiting. I daresay young Miss Urquhart will be lying in wait for you. Best stay up here, out of her way."
Miss Urquhart had been most relentless in setting her sights on Lieutenant Gillette, who actually did not fancy the girl at all. At the mention of the lady in question who had been pursuing Gillette with somewhat adolescent zeal, Gillette sighed. "Another excellent reason to seek further duties offshore."
Groves grinned and stepped away from him, leaving Gillette to contemplate the sea alone.
He carefully mustered a calm expression as he made the way to Norrington's office. Over the past three days, he had managed to visit the Commodore in his private rooms every one of those evenings.
The night before had in fact been most illuminating. Without the incentive of lovemaking, brandy or any other aide, Norrington had begun reminiscing with him as if they were old friends. He'd been pleased and surprised to know that Norrington was actually entrusting him with memories and thoughts the Commodore had probably never had the opportunity to share with anyone before.
A tender smile overcame him before he could remember himself, and he cleared his throat as he stalked down the corridors that led to the Commodore's office.
His Commodore, he thought with pride. All his.
When he knocked on the door, Norrington's muffled voice called out in that usual, familiar bored tone, "Enter."
But when he opened the door and went inside, shutting it behind him, Groves noticed a frown perched upon Norrington's face. A dark one.
Cautiously, Groves asked, "What is it, Sir? Is ought amiss?"
"Is there anything that isn't?" Norrington stated. "Why, for the life of me, I ever allowed myself to believe that he was anything other than a pirate, I cannot fathom."
Groves let out a breath. "Yes, the theft of your papers. It was him, wasn't it, Sir?"
Norrington awarded him a sardonic look, one that held far too much weight. "I'm afraid the situation has grown more drastic than a case of pilfered papers. The Admiral's letter to me was amongst what he lifted, as well as the dispatches regarding the ships we've been waiting to join us, from England. Most damning of all, however, was the trade route. He has the coordinates for all the merchant vessels running sugar along it. It would seem that Captain Sparrow has added his ship to the ranks of the Spanish looters helping themselves to the sugar ships. Seizing rum on the homeward bound ships, and the gold on the return, he's done more damage in the past four days than all the Spanish put together in the last two months."
"Good Christ," Groves muttered.
Norrington sank down in his chair and put his head in his hands. "Remind me again why I didn't hang him at the wedding?"
Groves' tried to suppress a smile. "Because we were both of us dead-drunk, Sir? And a hanging at a wedding wouldn't have been very auspicious."
Norrington looked up with a scowl. "Neither was a pirate raid on the city," he growled. "The Turners were doomed from the beginning. Much as I had wanted to press my suit with Elizabeth myself, I certainly wouldn't have wished quite so many misfortunes upon them. And we seem to be paying the price for our own leniency towards Sparrow into the bargain." He threw Groves a dour look. "We're just lucky Lynch hasn't joined in Sparrow's fun and added his own ship to the mess we've got raging out there."
Groves swallowed. It really was quite a serious situation. "What will you do, Sir?"
"What can I do?" Norrington asked, although Groves was sure from his tone that it was rhetorical. He let out an exasperated breath.
There was a loud knocking on the door. "Come in," Norrington called, angrily.
Mulroy stood there, breathing hard. "I'm sorry, Sir, but it's Mr. Humphries. He's at the gate, demanding to speak with you. Shall we bring him up?"
"Certainly not," Norrington snapped. "I'll not have that pompous ass in my office, shaking his dewflaps and dripping sweat on my floor. I'll go down. Tell him I'll be along shortly."
"Yes, Sir," Mulroy said, leaving Norrington's office with alacrity.
After a few moments of silence, Norrington said, "Have a seat. Humphries can wait a bit longer. Do him good to stew for a while. Sweat a few pounds off."
Groves chuckled. "Indeed, Sir."
Norrington tapped a letter on his desk. "When Mr. Turner left my office that afternoon, he forgot my order; the commission for those blades. I want you to summon him here at once. Sparrow has already cost us dearly; let's make certain he doesn't cost us yet more." He gave Groves a warning glance. "Be sure he accompanies you. He'll wonder why I didn't just send the order to him. I need to speak with him. He may be the only card I have left to play."
"Yes, Sir. I might add that it was the Spanish who have been acting out of character. Sparrow is a pirate, after all," he said hopefully.
"And your point?" Norrington asked, regarding him.
"We can hardly blame him for taking the advantage when offered, if we are the ones who delivered it into his hands."
Norrington gave him a tight-lipped smile without amusement. "Your use of the word 'we' is loyal, if extremely inaccurate."
Groves flushed. "I refuse to allow you to bear the brunt of the backlash from this, Commodore. We were equally in the wrong for letting him go that evening."
Norrington lifted his brows. "I'm afraid I must disagree with you. The Spanish are not acting out of character at all. Nor is the pirate. We have, however. Well, I have," he added, muttering it as an afterthought. He straightened. He slid the letter for Turner closer and picked it up with a sour expression. His eyes flicked to Groves. "William Turner is Sparrow's friend. Or at least he was, up until the wedding. After you've brought Turner here, see to it that the Sterling Hinde is made ready to sail in the morning, with the tide. Mr. Turner has a voyage on the King's business ahead of him," Norrington declared.
Groves lifted his own brows at Norrington, at this. "Is that wise? Sending Turner to deal with Sparrow? He'll more likely want to run Sparrow through for the loss of his wife."
Norrington smiled warmly. "Yes, he will, won't he? All the more reason for Sparrow to believe I'm not playing him false. If the messenger is that unwilling, he'll have to give additionally careful consideration to the message itself."
Groves sat in admiration, watching Norrington's face. He loved it when the Commodore expressed himself with more animation. He'd noticed that it happened more frequently when the pirate was the topic of conversation, whether in ire or sarcastic observation.
Norrington let out a breath and stood up. "To the salt mines for both of us then, until later."
This wasn't lost on Groves, who smiled and stood, meeting Norrington's eye. "Until later, Sir." He went to the door and opened it for Norrington, who put on his coat and hat, as it would never do to meet Humphries in a less formal manner. He waited until Norrington preceded him through the doorway and then shut it behind them.
As they walked down the hall, Groves asked, "Surely Sparrow realizes the political repercussions he's causing, with his seizing the sugar ships? The plantation owners must be spitting blood."
"I doubt he cares," Norrington returned, darkly. "Why should he? If it weren't likely to land me with the responsibility for the loss, I'd say he's welcome to help himself. Humphries may be the wealthiest plantation owner in Port Royal, but I'd give nearly anything to see him and his kind reduced to a less vocal status."
"The talk is that he wants to be made governor now that Swann has left."
"I'll turn pirate myself before it comes to that," Norrington swore.
Will sat in Norrington's office, in mutely impatient boredom. Officer Groves stood nearby, looking out the window.
The Commodore's order sat on the desk and Will could see his name on the envelope. He sighed, knowing that Norrington must have other matters to discuss with him that would probably be of a depressing nature.
"Where is the Commodore?" he asked, breaking the silence.
Groves turned. "Mr. Humphries paid us a visit a short while ago. I would have thought the Commodore would be finished with him before we got back."
Will contemplated this. Mr. Humphries was one of the wealthiest citizens in the town. No doubt Norrington was discovering that with political position came the necessity of hobnobbing with Humphries' sort.
He glanced back at Groves, who was once more staring out the window.
They both started when the door abruptly opened and Norrington strode in, closing it behind himself with almost exaggerated care. He glanced at Groves and then regarded Will.
"Mr. Turner. Good of you to come. I'll thank you for the excellent opportunity of forgetting your order the last time you were here, so that I might ask you back." Norrington removed his hat and coat. Seating himself behind his desk, he slid the letter over to Will across its surface.
Will picked it up and slipped it into his pocket. "You wanted to speak with me?"
Norrington sat back in his seat, steepling his fingers. "I have a most urgent problem, and I believe you can provide me with the best solution."
Will was at a loss. He looked back at Norrington, waiting.
"I assume you are a man of your word," Norrington commented.
Will straightened. "Of course."
"Then you'll make good on your promise to me."
Will frowned. He wasn't sure he liked the sound of this. "What promise?"
Norrington replied coolly, "You said your place was between Jack Sparrow and myself."
Will glowered at the mention of Jack Sparrow.
"I take it from your expression that you've reconsidered that rash statement," Norrington observed, dryly.
Will sighed through his nose. "Commodore, he did not deserve to die. But I never expected him to use my wedding as an opportunity to sack Port Royal again. It strains the bounds of friendship. I may be untried, inexperienced, where politics or piracy are concerned, but I don't appreciate being used."
"Didn't you speak with him about it during the night you spent as his guest aboard his ship?" Norrington asked.
"I tried to. We both did," Will explained. "But there was a lot of rum, and celebration, and, well," Will hesitated. "It was our wedding night."
Norrington looked down, a flicker of regret and something else moving over his face. "Ah. Naturally."
"We thought it was probably capriciousness, only to be expected." Will was unwilling to dwell on the subject any longer, "Commodore, I fail to see how I might present any sort of a solution to whatever problem you are facing. I'm not a sailor, nor am I a plantation owner. I am, as you already know, a blacksmith. So I shall take up your order and fulfill it. Where Jack Sparrow is concerned, he remains your problem, not mine. He is a pirate."
"And therefore not your friend?" Norrington asked. "You were willing to die for him; with him, even."
Will's anger about the subject was renewed. "I used him to get Elizabeth back. He used me to get his ship back. He didn't deserve to die for that. And it ends there."
"Your high emotion on the matter would seem to point to the contrary. I expect Sparrow has a reckoning awaiting him," Norrington pointed out. "But that isn't why I asked you here. I need a courier; someone who is not a Navy man, but who has the ear of a rascal like Sparrow. He'll let you aboard, and come and go between Port Royal and his ship. You are both a blacksmith and a pirate, therefore the best choice for such a role."
"I am not a pirate!" snapped Will, pushed a little too far now. Norrington was insufferable and arrogant and Will was exceedingly tired of being treated as an immature, rash, inexperienced boy. At 21, he could hardly expect his elders to behave any differently regarding his lack of maturity in simple years, but there were limits. He was still a man.
"His life might depend on it," Norrington observed, mildly, watching him and no doubt gauging his reaction.
"His life is his own," Will muttered.
Norrington looked back down at his desk. "The problem is this: the Black Pearl is intercepting ships bearing gold and payment from Europe, including British ships, returning from the sugar exports. He's relieving them of the gold intended for Humphries and the other plantation owners. In an imitation of the Spanish, he's managing to do more damage than all of them together. The merchants in the Caribbean, and all our settlements and towns are complaining of it. Barbados, Kitts, Nevis - they are all suffering from the losses. With the recent depredations of the Spanish on those very same sugar ships, we have a truly hellish predicament on our hands. Admiral Cartwright has not only given me latitude to deal with the situation myself, he's holding me personally responsible for it. I have command of the fleet, under his orders, at my disposal."
Will raised his brows. "And this should matter to me… why?"
"I cannot be seen as officially condoning piracy. I've already worked far too hard to achieve the reputation I have, clearing pirates from these waters." Norrington smiled at him. "Your father was a pirate."
Will glowered. "For years, I believed him to be a merchant marine. An honest man. If it hadn't been for the curse on the Black Pearl, I'd never have had to learn otherwise."
Norrington softened his tone a little. "Mr. Turner, it's because of his reputation as a pirate that I need you now. You are his son, plus you are also an honest and honorable man. I can, in fact, think of no one better suited to this job than you. A pirate who is not a pirate, and who can be trusted to carry a Letter of Marque under the protection of the King's Articles regarding privateers of the Royal Fleet."
Will stared at Norrington, and had to remember to close his mouth. He blinked. "You can't be serious."
Norrington pursed his lips and sighed. "I wish that I were not, but my options are limited. Barring open war with Spain, which I do not have the authority to declare, nor would I wish to, and considering the given disadvantage we have right now with our lack of naval power until the rest of the fleet arrives, my hands are tied. Therefore, I want you to sail with my men, in the Sterling Hinde, on the morrow. Make for the sugar lane; I rather expect you won't be able to miss it. We'll provide you with the locations. By all accounts, the Black Pearl should be somewhere in the vicinity of Nevis by now."
Will thought about this. "You wish to use me as a go-between, then?"
"Precisely. At the sight of a Navy vessel, Sparrow will either run or engage, but at the sight of your ship, he is more likely to listen to what you have to tell him."
Will shook his head. "He isn't going to stop being a pirate just because you ask nicely."
Norrington gave him a cold smile. "I have no intention of asking Mr. Sparrow to give up piracy. I have every intention of asking him to continue." Norrington stood, and began pacing the floor, his hands behind his back. "It's my duty to protect the interests of the populace from pirates, protect the sugar industry from being destroyed here in the Caribbean, and to protect the merchants with their cargo from the Spanish. We can achieve it in one move."
Groves let out an exclamation. "Of course! Use one threat to neutralize the others."
Norrington straightened. "Indeed. We'll pit Sparrow against the Spanish galleons. The Black Pearl is more than a match for any man-of-war or galleon, and she has the advantage of speed and a notorious reputation. The Spanish are the greater threat. Sparrow can be reasoned with, particularly if we appeal to his avarice and sense of self-preservation."
"He'll never agree to it," Will declared. "There's nothing in it for him. Besides, he is a true pirate - he'll never agree to sail under your colors, even as a privateer."
Norrington raised a brow. "Accompanied by your ship, under your protection and, by proxy, mine, there is no reason why extended clemency towards his ship in return for taking out the Spanish would be a problem for him. And the Spanish are already preying on the sugar ships, themselves. Then there's the Spanish gold that those same galleons are transporting from Panama and the coast of South America. He can help himself to whatever they already carry in their holds."
"It would hardly be the first time the Brethren of the Coast have aided us," Groves chimed in. "They were happy to before, when Spain attacked Port Royal. Of course, it's been a while since. However, it may appeal to his pride. And if he refuses, there is always Red Ned Lynch."
"Hm. I wonder." Norrington smiled grimly at Groves. "Lynch might come in useful after all. He liberated Chief Justice Sir James Barnett two years ago, as well as everyone in the prison in Kingston. It's a small step from piracy to revolution, I guess. Still, they love him for it. The man's become a legend; the people's hero."
Will sank back in his chair. "I-I'm a little out of my depth, Commodore. I don't think I can do this. What you're suggesting… it's ludicrous. I'm not fit to see such a task through."
"Delivering a letter to Sparrow, with my explanation for its contents, is hardly a job you can fail," Norrington said, dryly. "However you settle your account with Sparrow when you meet with him is up to you. Perhaps you should take the opportunity."
Will stared back at Norrington. "You admire him, don't you?"
A curiously indecipherable expression flashed over Norrington's face and he tightened. "Perhaps. He is, as you said, a good man. Will you accept the task, or will I have to go seek out Sparrow myself?"
Will let out a breath. He could see Norrington's point of view. He really was the best option, all things considered. A decided advantage, what with already being a known acquaintance of Jack Sparrow, and besides, Norrington might look suspicious, sailing out for rendezvous with a renowned pirate and then having said pirate attacking Spanish ships rather than being dragged back to Port Royal to face justice after having attacked Port Royal and innumerable sugar ships.
Will wondered though, why Norrington wasn't willing to just remove Jack from the Caribbean altogether, particularly after using the wedding as an excuse to allow the systematic pillaging by the other pirates in cahoots with him all along the Jamaican coast. Surely Norrington was expected to deal with Sparrow? The answer returned to him, however, in the solution Norrington was asking him to accept his own part in.
They wouldn't look as bad if they used Sparrow to deal with the Spanish, and thus could overlook their part in the fiasco over the raids. Will swallowed painfully, realizing he did owe it somewhat to Norrington and in fact Port Royal itself, for being Jack's friend was partly what had led to the raids in the first place. He sighed.
His head was spinning and he felt almost out of breath. The situation was… rather complicated. Feeling as though he was making a huge mistake, he said reluctantly, "Very well."
Norrington's eyes flickered as he met Will's gaze. Dryly, Norrington commented, "I believe I'd prefer you to remember yourself when you meet up with Sparrow, and not kill him outright. We need his ship and guns on our side. Bringing him to justice at this point would be a waste of a possible asset."
Will sighed in exasperation. "I don't want to kill him."
"Good. Welcome to the Fleet, Mr. Turner." Norrington stood and extended his hand.
Caught by surprise, Will awkwardly got to his feet. He shook Norrington's proffered hand and said, "Thank you. Sir."
"You should leave with the tide," Norrington added. "Be sure to be aboard the Hinde before dawn. I'll make sure you have everything you need aboard, with Captain Rowland. I'll have him accompany you."
"Very well." Will wondered why Norrington seemed flushed. He'd appeared flushed throughout the entire interview… "Are you alright, Commodore?"
Norrington was nonplussed. "What?"
"Your face," Will began.
Norrington nodded. "Sunburn. Courtesy of too much time spent out of doors, lately."
"Ah." He cleared his throat. Will gave a short bow. "I'll be on my way. Do I have your authority then, to speak on your behalf with Jack?"
Norrington smiled grimly. "Bearing my Letters of Marque, yes. As a privateer for the Fleet, you can extend clemency officially towards him in my name, and I'll have the letters drawn up for you in the morning. He can keep whatever he can take from the Spanish. I'll have further intelligence sent to him upon your return, should he accept the proposition. I think he'll see the sense in what I'm offering."
Will began to wonder if he had somehow allowed himself to be dragged into something he'd never be able to extricate himself from.
"One last thing, Mr. Turner," Norrington said. "How on earth did you and Elizabeth manage to form the conclusion that Red Ned Lynch had a deal with Sparrow to engage him in a mock battle?"
Will gave a little smile. "Elizabeth remembered who the woman was aboard Lynch's ship. We saw her aboard the Blarney Cock before we left the Pearl. The daughter of Sir James Barnett. She and Lynch were married last year. If you had Elizabeth aboard the Dauntless, would you attack the Black Pearl? Far from the aid of any other ship of the fleet?"
Norrington looked down with an answering smile of tight-lipped humor. "I see. Yes, quite. Very well. On your way, then. And good luck."
"Thank you." Will gave a curt bow once more, and left the Commodore's office.
As he made he way back to the smithy, however, he found himself feeling something other than anger, where Jack Sparrow was considered. It was a measure of hope. And it was mingled with sadness.
He wondered if Jack would manage to redeem himself after all, or if Jack was simply irredeemable. He recalled his last exchange with Jack, before returning aboard the Dauntless as they sailed back home from the Isle de Muerte the year before, after the curse had been lifted.
Standing over the chest of Aztec gold as he wrapped a cloth around his bleeding palm, he'd said to Jack, "You're the worst pirate I've ever heard of," with a grin. "You can be trusted, you can be counted on, and you don't betray your friends. What sort of pirate is that?"
Jack had given him a somewhat leery grin, eyes slitted, and replied, "The worst." And he'd held up a finger. "On the other hand, maybe I'm a man who can't pass up the chance to have revenge on the bastard who stole my ship and left me to die - twice - and who knows how to get what he wants. Now that's a great pirate."
With an answering smile, Will had clasped Jack's bloodied palm with his, both their bandages pressed together, but he'd still considered it a blood bond. The blood of brothers. Friends.
He shook his head. Why would Jack use his wedding as an excuse to raid Port Royal? It was as he'd told Norrington; he'd never had the chance to ask, and with the Dauntless and its escort of two, along with Lynch's arrival of the Blarney Cock, they'd had no time to ask the next day, either.
Well, he'd find out soon enough. There was something definitely fishy about Jack's avoidance on the subject. And such a personal, touchy subject, as well. Damn it, he'd lost Elizabeth over it. Jack owed him an explanation.
Will mulled over the possibilities, and considered a possible future career as a privateer in Norrington's hastily officiated new addendum of a pirate fleet to the Royal Navy's own. Despite being more dangerous, it would certainly offer more excitement and better pay than being a blacksmith.
Jack would probably laugh, he thought glumly. Not only did his father's legacy haunt him, it had now caught up with him. He could no longer run from it. Drawing new commitment into his lungs, Will put away worries and doubts and concentrated on planning how he'd present the Commodore's proposal to Jack.
As the sound of the blacksmith's footsteps receded in the corridor outside Norrington's office door, Groves said, "Sir, I still don't understand why you're sending Mr. Turner. An offer of clemency accompanying a proposal such as the one you're sending Sparrow could just as easily have been sent by one of us."
Norrington regarded his officer. Groves had a point. But Norrington was already painfully aware of how much he had at stake, both personally and professionally. "I believe it's called, 'covering all assets'. If Sparrow doesn't accept my proposal, I stand to lose more than my assets, and will probably be called back to England for my own hanging. Cartwright is far too eager to allow me all the rope I need to tie my own noose."
Groves went to the door and locked it. With a thoughtful and furtive expression, Groves then went to the window. Looking out, he said, "Captain Morgan was a buccaneer, and he was honored for his actions. You've already made a name for yourself, taking such a hard line against pirates. You've cleared the Spanish Lake admirably, Sir. There are plenty of us who would stand against such a decision. It would be unfair, unjust and unacceptable."
Norrington frowned at him. "If it weren't for my leniency, Sparrow would not have got his hands on the information, and would have been hung last year. We'd only have the Spanish to deal with. As it is, I now have to contend with the complication of him in both my personal as well as my professional affairs."
Groves looked down, worrying his lower lip. "You care for him."
Norrington shot him a glance. "Are you suggesting that I'm doing this to save him, and not myself?"
Groves faced him. There was a measure of admiration there, mixed with melancholy. With resignation, Norrington recognized it for what it was. Jealousy.
Groves said, quietly, "No, I can see how it serves to smooth the way. He's smart enough to accept, once he realizes it'll be far better to be on your good side. With everyone else against him, he'd probably end up running clear across the other side of the Pacific. And this way, you won't have to worry about people demanding that you hunt him down and have him hung after all. A necessary evil, or some-such. That's what he'll be called."
"Hm, yes. Pirate or privateer, it's all the same. But I'll admit I'm loath to see him hang, it's true. I would have thought you would share the sentiment, seeing as you admire him yourself."
Groves met his stare and didn't budge. "That was before I realized he was the rival for your affections, James."
Norrington cast his eyes to the door and then up at the ceiling. "Why do you think I most carefully did not send you to meet with Sparrow? Mr. Turner is a lesser danger to him than you are."
Groves frowned in confusion. "I wouldn't fight him over you. That's not what I meant. If you were to choose him over me, then that is your choice. Dueling him would not change your decision."
Norrington smiled at him. "Teddy, I do believe you're taking this all far too seriously. Does it really bother you that much, if I agree to meet with Sparrow on the odd occasion he happens to be skulking on our shore?"
Groves went to him, and leaned down to kiss him. Surprised, Norrington returned it, finding it very welcome indeed after the aggravation that Humphries and the news of Sparrow's recent actions had caused him.
Warm, passionate and still so loyal, Norrington realized. As Groves lifted his head once more, pulling back, Norrington murmured, "What more do you want?"
Groves shook his head. "If I have you, then I am content."
"And if I have Sparrow?" Norrington pressed, still wondering if it was advisable to carry on with either of them at this point. Especially as it had resulted in his being compromised in his effectiveness professionally… and in his relationship with Groves, personally.
Groves swallowed. And replied, "I'll have you any way I can get you." But there was a lingering pain in Groves' eyes that made Norrington look away and sigh.
Norrington answered, rubbing his face with both hands, "There may be alternatives. You seemed eager enough to kiss him, that night in the garden. Perhaps we could come to another arrangement."
Groves' face did color at this suggestion, and he licked his lips. "That… would be interesting."
Norrington had to admit he found it interesting also. His eyes narrowed, and he mused, "The back door. Yes. He might be persuaded to stay, next time he climbs up to my window. If I let you two settle your differences, maybe then I won't have to worry about either of you deciding to cross swords with me when one of you snaps."
Groves gave a laugh of surprise, aborted quickly. "Sir, you're joking. There's no way I'd cross swords with you over this. Nor with him."
Norrington smiled, "Not if I can help it. And certainly not when there are alternatives. If William Turner doesn't kill him first, perhaps we can both meet him on the beach in two days' time."
Groves stared at him in astonishment. "He's going to be here in two days? Why'd you send Turner out after him then? Why didn't you wait?"
"Oh, I have every faith in Turner's ability to present our case and proposal to Sparrow, and then return to report to me. Sparrow will no doubt be delighted. We can only hope he won't flaunt the clemency I'm extending him by walking into Port Royal bearing my Letter to wave under the noses of the townspeople. It's all part of the game at this point. Sending Turner is part of my message. We leave our professional considerations aside, when we meet."
With a glance at the door, Groves said in an undertone, "James…" He hesitated.
There was no mistaking the note in Groves' voice, and Norrington grinned at him. "Yes?"
"You'd asked me if there was anything in particular that I'd been wanting," Groves said in a low, rushed voice. "Would you - I mean, I'd like to please you, here in this very office."
"Very risky, indeed," Norrington commented, with a lifted brow.
"Exactly, Sir." Groves was staring down at him now with unmistakable intent. "It's something I've been dreaming of doing for some time now."
Norrington felt a twinge of arousal. "I wondered why you locked my door. I should have suspected ulterior motives. I put it down to your ensuring we had a measure of peace and quiet for a spell."
"That too, Sir," Groves said, moving to the right of Norrington's desk and sinking to his knees.
Norrington turned in his chair, suddenly filled with anticipation at the opportunity. "Good thinking," he muttered, his hand going to the laces of his breeches. At the thought of what Groves wanted, he found himself hardening rapidly. The added thought of someone attempting to interrupt them suddenly became an incentive to do it anyway.
Groves' helpful fingers were abruptly helping him to undo them. "Thank you, Sir," Groves breathed. With a mischievous glance up at Norrington, he added, "You won't regret it."
Norrington was a little confounded at the rush of lust that followed on the heels of Groves' words. He blinked, even as his officer's mouth was abruptly on his member, mouthing him with hot breath through the material of his breeches, the laces getting in the way.
"God, yes," he breathed, feeling all the tension and irritation and worry he'd been suffering suddenly depart on swift wings, replaced with a keen longing to feel those hot, adoring lips wrapped around his quickly-stiffening prick. Groves' sure fingers deftly freed him from the laces and those longed-for lips were suddenly moving up his cock, one hand gripping him firmly at the base, and the other palming his testicles through the breeches, pulling the laces away to expose them.
Norrington's breath left his body in a gasp, as Groves' tongue dragged over the head of his cock once, and then the tip of that talented tongue was dancing over the slit, only to return to the glans, and then slowly, oh God too slowly, he was engulfed in the hot mouth descending on him.
His hands were on either side of Groves' neck, and he leaned back in the chair for support. The soft, wet, lapping suction was making him see stars. Rivulets of pleasure were racing up and down him and he groaned aloud, causing an answering reply from Groves, the noise making a humming vibration surround his cock and he felt it go all the way down into his balls.
The sound of footsteps and voices outside the door, in the corridor beyond, reached his impaired hearing, and he glanced up at the door, not really seeing it, abruptly caught between the sweet havoc Groves was stimulating in him, and the worry that they were about to be interrupted.
But Groves kept mouthing him, and lashing heatedly, wetly, with his tongue, and finally moving up and down in a rhythm that had him panting, even as the voices and footsteps receded once more.
He felt it gathering way down deep; a dark, pounding reminder of what was real, of his own body and needs, the sweetness so long denied him, for years, and to have it handed to him without reservation was a revelation. A luxury. A necessity.
He let his fingers trail over Groves' face, wandering over the sharp cheekbones, Groves not letting up his tending of Norrington's member for even an instant, even at his touch.
Ah, God, Groves' mouth… was pulling it out of him, drawing it from him with searing wet sucking, causing tiny riots of lights interspersed with shadows to dance before him.
The sensation of hot, melted silk moving on his cock was too much, that tongue… and glancing down, remembering to look, he was stunned at the sight of Groves' head bobbing upon and down upon him. It was unspeakably arousing, and the memory of doing the same to Jack Sparrow burst through him, crowding his already-fevered thoughts, images of shafting Teddy's willing body in the nights before, and the pirate's sweat-slick body atop his as Jack had writhed on him on the sand, in the sun that morning.
When it came, flooding through him with hot, flashing and non-negotiable shocks of pleasure, he moaned aloud, unable to stop, and he felt Groves lean even closer into him, the head of his cock pushed against the back of his officer's throat, and then his release was pouring out of him with jets of helplessness.
Trembling in its grip, he happily gave himself over to it, trying to remember to suck gouts of air into his lungs. And Groves' low muffled voicing of his own satisfaction rumbled seductively, rasping with a reminder of the man's adoration and loyalty he always voiced to him, even wordlessly as now.
The brief, stark knowledge facing him in that moment was that Groves loved him, beyond anything he could return, no matter how much he might care for him in return. He was humbled by it. He could no more hurt him or push him away than he could deny his own feelings for the man.
He resolved in that moment, regardless of the motivation from the excellent job Groves had just done in servicing him, to never cast aside his officer… He deserved better.
As he stared down at Groves in some awe, Groves pulled off of his organ and gave it a slow kiss, and a few final licks, before looking up at him with a smirk reminiscent of a cat. "I trust it was sufficient, Sir?" Groves asked, rather cheekily.
Norrington swallowed and replied, catching his wind once more, "Indeed, Lieutenant. Although I might require a repeat performance later, just to see if it may have been a fluke."
Groves smiled swiftly, and with such undisguised happiness at receiving approval, that Norrington's breath caught anew. With a moan, he leaned over and caught Groves' mouth beneath his, tasting traces of himself, and enjoyed the luxurious abandon of sharing this kiss, tongues sliding against each other, lips sealed together, a little too much fire and passion burning still between them for Norrington to fear that it might ever die out.
The knowledge that he had discovered, thanks to the pirate, a number of incredibly important necessities in his life was enough to cause a little suspicion to run across the surface of his mind. Love? Whom did he love? And how much? How to compare? At this moment, all he knew was that there was room in his heart for love itself, and that was a miracle he'd never expected. Cupid, indeed, he thought.
Jack Sparrow had more to answer for in playing matchmaker and wanton seducer than he did for preying upon a few English ships.
He considered the possibility that Jack's piratical influence had finally infected him beyond redemption, and he grinned in spite of himself, against Teddy's mouth.
Pulling back slightly, he looked down into Groves' eyes and murmured, "I mean it, Teddy; I won't cast you aside."
He couldn't say it yet, but the realization that he did, in fact, love Groves was enough to cause a spark of astonishment in him at it. Somehow, the loss of Elizabeth Swann-Turner didn't hurt so much at all, and seemed more like a closed chapter of his life prior to this new development. The introduction of regular sex in his life appeared to have given him something completely intriguing. Something worth living for, beyond the cold appraisal of endless duties and ambitions fulfilled with each rank and goal he'd achieved.
Groves was looking back up into his eyes with a glazed expression and a smile. "Perhaps I should unlock the door, Sir."
Norrington grinned back at him. "Not just yet. Let me ask you something, Teddy. Would it bother you, sharing the pirate between us? I have something in mind."
Groves considered this. "What, exactly?"
Norrington allowed his expression to convey a measure of dangerous intent. "Revenge. Paying him back for his interference, and his licentious, libidinous and entirely lecherous behavior in corrupting two of the King's finest."
Groves chuckled. "It wouldn't have anything to do with the use of ropes, would it, Sir?"
"It might, at that. I'll let your fertile imagination conjure something appropriate." Norrington kissed him again. "He may yet regret having meddled with the King's Navy."
"Yes, Sir," Groves said, a little too agreeably.
Jack was sitting in his cabin counting coins, enjoying the feel of gold between his fingers. It felt clean and cool, and warmed to the touch so nicely. Smooth and glinting, and completely dependable. He'd discovered the only way to ensure the pitch and yaw of the Pearl wouldn't spoil the tidy stacks was to keep them to a height of thirty or thereabouts.
He had insisted on doing most of the counting himself, not trusting any of the rest of the Pearl's company to the task without lifting a few. If he lifted any, he'd be stealing from himself, and that made no sense whatsoever. He was even motivated on this lone occasion to abstain from the incredibly high-quality rum they'd liberated the day before from a merchanter just on its way out from Kitts. After all, he didn't want to lose count.
It was a monumental task, given the sheer weight of the gold they'd amassed. Jack was confident it would take a good long while. There was something soothing about counting it out.
Another two ships and most of the company would have enough to pay the bounty on their heads, purchase estates, or even retire. He knew most of his crew was likely to disperse as soon as they made landfall. Whichever port they stopped at, he was going to end up there a little while. Petit Goave was probably the best, except he had a sneaky suspicion that someone, most likely Norrington, would think of it also and set some sort of trap. It was one thing to allow that kind of thing to happen when it was just himself; quite another when his crew was at risk.
His count was distracted in the next moment by the shout of 'Sail Ahoy' from outside the cabin.
With a frown, he got up from the table and opened the doors. Snatching up his brass telescope, he went out to investigate.
A quick scan of the horizon revealed a ship making straight for them.
A particularly snaggle-toothed sailor approached him with a vacuous grin. "Shall we take 'er, Capn?"
"Let you know in a moment…" Jack peered at the ship, and then grimaced. "Bloody hell, they've run up the white flag already. I'm getting tired a that."
Gibbs joined them. "Is it someone we know? Ned, p'rhaps? Or AnaMaria?"
Jack hemmed and hawed aloud, and froze. "Well, well, well. It's Will."
"Will?" Gibbs asked. "What's 'e doin' out here?"
"Good question. I'd say we have 'bout fifteen minutes 'til we find out." Jack continued to scan the ship. "Aye. It's the Hinde."
He lowered his glass, and said, "Let's meet him halfway and take the chance he's not about to start firin'. Take us abreast of 'er."
"Aye, Capn." Gibbs moved off, shouting orders to the rest of the crew.
Jack scowled. His cabin really wasn't the best place to be conducting an argument with William at the moment, considering all the gold on the table… and on the bed… and on the floor… and the chairs.
He suddenly realized how it would look to Will. Indecent. And he grinned.
He called Gibbs over again and slung an arm about his shoulders. "Will is p'robly, most certainly, likely to be in a really bad mood when he comes aboard. So just see him straight to my cabin, eh?"
Gibbs coughed. "Your cabin, Capn? Is…Is that wise?"
"Aye, my cabin," Jack repeated, grinning once more at the thought. He was looking forward to seeing Will's face.
"But…the gold, Jack," Gibbs said, looking worried.
"Aye, the gold," Jack said, reverently. He slapped Gibbs on the back.
Jack went to sit starboard, seating himself comfortably to lift the telescope again. Humming underneath his breath, he scanned for signs of possible attack. Nope. Seemed they were going to hold to the white after all.
Several of the crew were laughing as the Hinde drew closer yet. Jack had to smile, himself. First they were taking ships bursting with English sovereigns, then merchant ships loaded with really good rum and new supplies, and now ships were throwing themselves at them.
As the Hinde finally drew abreast of the Pearl, Jack finally caught sight of Will Turner, standing beside a proper looking Royal Navy captain of the fleet.
"What business, then?" he called.
Will cupped his hands and shouted back, "Parlay."
Jack had to laugh to himself at this. "Right. Come on over then, Mr. Turner," he called back.
And humming again, he made his way all the way astern, retreating to his cabin. Putting up the glass, he sat down once more at the table to continue counting.
Before too long, Will opened the doors and stood there, looking at him.
Jack glanced up, and saw the lad's eyes widen at the golden piles everywhere.
Wait for it, he thought. And he waited, for Will to let loose with a volley of incriminating accusations about thieves, plunder, piracy and immoral conduct.
It truly was an obscene amount of gold, after all.
But to his surprise, Will merely removed his hat, the really nice one, and said, "Captain, I'm here to discuss business."
Jack raised a brow at him. "Now, Will, that's wonderful, I'm sure. But take a seat and make yourself useful while you're at it."
"Excuse me?" Will stared at him, obviously not getting it.
"Sit down," Jack urged him. "There's a lot here, and I don't think I'm going to manage to get through it all by me onesie. Could use a hand." At Will's blank look, he urged, "Counting, Will. Counting the coins. There's too many of 'em."
"But-" Will started. "Why can't you ask those amongst your crew to do it?"
Without looking at him, Jack gave a half-smile, carefully straightening a stack. "They're not what I'd call honest men, now are they?"
Will hardened at this, however. "Count it yourself, Jack. I'll have no part of it."
"'M not offerin' you part, Will. Wouldn't do you the disrespect of offerin' you stolen goods. Or gold. Maybe rum though," he added in a mutter. "It's really good rum, after all."
"I don't want your rum either." Will's voice was glacial.
"What do you want, then?" Jack asked, distantly, already having achieved another three stacks. He flicked a glance up at Will. "Ninety. Navy business, is it?"
"Commodore Norrington sent me."
"Ah," Jack said, enjoying the little memory that floated enticingly to the surface momentarily, of the dear Commodore blocking the sun over him. And the waves, the light and pale skin and the sight of him later that night debauching in a most un-military manner atop his little officer…He smiled.
Jack blinked up at Will, who was saying, "…wants me to deliver this message to you. He's willing to extend clemency to include your ship and crew if you'll accept his proposal."
Jack sat back in his seat, abandoning the idea of counting for the moment. "And what proposal is that?"
"That you cease picking off the sugar ships and sail under my Letters of Marque, with his Letter of Clemency here, against the Spanish."
Jack stared at him. "Sorry, Will. Can't sail against the Spaniards just now. Can't you see I'm rather busy with the gold? Maybe once we've found a proper place to stash it, but until then, Norrington's just going to have to make do with his own little ships. He's got more than enough bearing down on him right now, anyway. What does he need me for?"
Will leaned forward a little more intently. "He's trying to save your skin, apparently. As well as his own. As a privateer, reporting directly to him, I have the power to extend clemency towards you if you'll take out Spanish galleons that are seizing sugar ships and gold, rather than taking them yourself."
Jack looked at him with a puzzled frown. "An' why should I do that, when I can save meself the trouble of chasing Spanish to get gold, an' just pick it out of the water before it gets aboard 'em?"
"Because otherwise Norrington's going to have to hunt you down, and he doesn't want to," Will stated, as if it were obvious.
Jack gave him a smile. "Two more ships and I'm finished. Norrington's always been on the hunt, and never caught the Pearl yet. He's had a good year, lad. An' he's less likely to be able to now. 'Sides, he has much bigger problems. Spain's attacking the sugar business, and that's really not my problem, is it?"
Will raised his brows. "Have you considered what will happen when the sugar trade is threatened? Lots of British ships, coming in to set things right? And the rum, Jack. The rum production will be threatened. And then Spain will send in even more ships. And you'll probably be run out of the Main altogether. Or is that your intention?"
Jack sighed. "Will, give me one good reason why I should risk the Pearl by going against the galleons."
"To prove me wrong," Will said, inexplicably.
"Eh? Wrong about what?" Jack asked, mystified.
"That you're a selfish, manipulative, deviously inconsiderate bastard who uses other people for his own ends and nothing more. Except maybe a thief, a sea rat."
Jack gave him a sharp look.
This cut straight to the heart of the matter. He still hadn't quite accounted for it himself, why he'd considered it necessary to disrupt the wedding… He still wasn't sure, in fact. He was sure, however, that in the course of the next few minutes, he'd be able to come up with something. At least before Will drew his sword, or threatened his careful stacks he'd been meticulously counting.
"She's gone, hasn't she?"
He waited, watching Will's face review a number of interesting emotions. Anger, melancholy, followed by more anger, and then a sort of detached disgust. Jack gave him a little smile and added, quietly, "Tell you something, Will…I have it on relatively good authority everyone was really grateful for my timely interruption."
"Everyone else. Not me," Will said, surprising Jack with the depth of pain his voice now held. "I thought you were my friend."
Jack lifted his chin, and frowned at him, scrutinizing this statement. "So your friendship entails my somehow divining that I'm supposed to give up piracy, and never sack whatever town you happen to be getting married in?"
"If my friendship meant anything to you, yes," Will replied. "I don't expect you to stop being what you are, or what you do. But it would have been nice not to be used as the reason. The excuse."
Jack felt nettled at this. "Seems a bit unfair, really, laying the blame at my door when your wedding night doesn't bear quite the results you were expecting, eh?" He lifted his brows meaningfully. "Gave up my cabin for you, even, that night."
Stiffly, Will said, "That doesn't excuse it. You used me. The result was that it ended with both Elizabeth and her father returning to England."
"An' so to make up for it, I'm supposed to let Norrington use me?" Jack grinned. He waved a hand, lazily. "More than he already has, yet."
"Not at all," Will replied. "I'm content to let you suffer the consequences of disturbing the sugar trade, if my friendship means nothing to you. Don't confuse my business here with Norrington's."
"Why should I place myself at risk against the Spanish?" Jack asked, shifting the topic to something a little less fraught with emotional reproaches. "It's hardly a surprise they're attempting a weakening of the English power here… Jamaica was theirs once, after all." Jack sat up, and took a breath. "Suppose I agree to accept this proposal, and help take out some Spanish. Am I supposed to just sail around hoping to get lucky?"
"Of course not," Will retorted. "He sent his latest intelligence with me, along with everything else. He knows where the galleons are, the corsairs, and you'll have the support of any British ships in the area. You don't have to fly the colors; he'd actually prefer it if you didn't, so no one gets the idea that you're going to give up what you plunder from them. Part of the arrangement is that you keep anything you take. This is probably the best deal you're likely to get."
Jack sat back, thinking it over. He liked having rum flowing freely out of the Caribbean, and part of the problem was that Norrington was right; the sugar industry was helping it along. Sugar was the mother of rum, after all. Not his fault the plantation owners were a bunch of cruel, domineering, greedy bastards who gave the cutthroats and pirates of the Caribbee a run for their reputation.
It was pretty simple, really. "No more sugar, no more rum, no more gold. No more ships," Jack mused aloud. "So we'll be protecting the sweet stuff."
"The entire Caribbean will thank you," said Will with a slightly cajoling inflection. "Imagine being hailed as heroes in every port, instead of being fired upon. Remember how you were telling me about Lynch? Folks welcoming him with open arms? You'd be a hero to the common people, and to the rich as well. Plus the Navy would no longer be trying to string you up. If you're sailing with the Sterling Hinde, under clemency, you have the benefit of a pardon and a clearing of that bounty on your head." Will leaned forward again. "On the other hand, Norrington, Admiral Cartwright and Woodes Rogers will be forced to send all available warships after you if you persist in adding to the Spanish disruption of the sugar lane."
Jack squinted at him. "Thought as you didn't care."
"Think about it, Jack. There are plenty of famous men who were pirates, who worked relatively freely under the British flag. And plenty more Navy sailors who've been good pirates. Was Morgan a Brit, or was he a pirate?"
Jack heaved a sigh. "Alright, I take your point, lad. Still, galleons," he muttered, not liking the added risk.
"He was known for helping against the Spanish. If you nullify the Spanish now, you save yourself the trouble of the British later," Will said.
Jack grinned at him. "So not only have you turned pirate at long last, yourself, you're turning out to be a fine statesman, young Will. Your father would be proud." He shook a finger at him. "Ye might want to stop flinging Morgan at me though. Blighter was famous, true, but not a bloody saint. I'm not motivated in the least to walk in his shadow."
Will rolled his eyes. "It's good enough for Ned Lynch."
"Well, but he's Irish," Jack pointed out. "Can never predict what one of them's going to do, eh?" He tapped his upper lip, thinking. "As you bear the Marque, 'at leaves me free to keep me gold. There's just one thing wrong with this little proposal of Norrington's."
Will regarded him without much enthusiasm. "And that would be…?"
Jack gave him a lopsided grin. "After all this sorting through crowns, sovereigns and coinage, to start mixing it up with doubloons will be intolerable. Can't have that."
"I'd say that next to the threat of being blown out of the water by angry British warships, the inconvenience of mixing Spanish coins in with this…this excess, would be a minor consideration, Jack. Plunder, for protection."
"You're a natural at this, Will. Could set yourself up as a governor, someday." Jack was honestly impressed. And he was abruptly thrown by the fact that he was already accepting the proposal, not just for Norrington's sake - or his own, but Will's. For the sake of Will's friendship.
He cast a wandering eye over William, abruptly wondering why Norrington might have sent the lad to be his spokesman. Jack stroked his chin, realizing maybe this was some sort of gesture. To make up for the dalliance with his little officer? After all, Norrington had got up straight off the beach from Jack's own arms and promptly flung himself into his man's. Jack grinned, wondering if Will really was as upset with him as he appeared to be. And what it would take to make it up to him.
It would be a shame, after all, to not patch things up with the boy. He liked Will, he did. Despite the lad's lack of experience, he had too much potential to ignore, and despite his almost crippling honest streak, he also had the heart of a pirate.
Stiffly, Will said, "I have no wish to enter politics."
"Yet, here you are. Sailing for Norrington, no less," Jack remarked. "And as a privateer. You make a right fine pirate, Will. Ev'ry politician's a pirate, only most aren't honest enough to admit it. See, that's what sets pirates apart from politicians - they can claim it as the one honest title they have. Whereas politicians can't afford to."
Will looked back at him, his gaze dropping momentarily to the stacks of gold coins between them before returning to Jack. "What is your answer?"
Jack leaned back in his seat. He drawled, "The only way I'm willing to embark on this suicidal venture is if your Hinde, with you captaining her, sails alongside. And we'll need Lynch, too. In fact, a couple of friends might be of a mind to be persuaded by doubloons. A little fleet like that will take out the Spanish in no time."
"Fine. I'll return, and tell Norrington you accept, then."
Jack raised his brows at Will, and said, "No need to worry yourself, Will. I'll tell 'im myself. I'm already due for an appointment with 'im the day after t'morrow."
Will's brow furrowed. "You are? But- then… why'd he send me after you?"
Jack grimaced. "Think about it, Will. Look 'round you. Can't bloody well go limping into Port Royal with all this. Someone's like to seize it on principle. Far too tempting. I have to stash this, before going after galleons. He knows that. So he's probably expecting me to give my answer in person. Which I have every intention of doing. "
"Ah, yes." Will surveyed the gold. "This is… rather a lot. Jack, what are you going to do with it all?"
"Divide it equally. What else?"
Will shrugged. "It seems a lot, is all."
"Once it's shared out, it disappears fairly quickly," Jack said, sitting up to count out more stacks.
The clink and glint appeared to appeal to Will after he watched Jack for a time. Will sat up closer to the table and began counting out the coins nearest him, making a nice little stack.
Jack glanced at him, with a smile. "Told you."
Will frowned. "Told me what?"
"The pirate in your blood. You can't resist treasure. You've never been able to."
Will sighed. "I valued Elizabeth more than gold, Jack."
Jack gave him a little accusatory look. "Same difference."
Will glared at him.
"Would you stop lookin' at me like that?" Jack pleaded. "It isn't my fault the dream weren't the same as the real thing."
"Maybe if we hadn't been kidnapped and then hustled off onto our honeymoon in the midst of a firefight, we would have stood a chance," Will stated, calmly.
"Can't please everyone, I guess," Jack grumbled. "Here I am, running about tryin' to keep everyone happy and still nobody's very appreciative of me efforts."
Will looked taken aback at this outrageous declaration. "Your efforts resulted in the destruction of my marriage."
"If a little friendly kidnapping and detour from your 'Hinde's quarters' were enough to destroy it, it would seem it was bound for destruction anyhow," Jack pointed out. "After all, true love isn't shackled by such a little thing as inconvenience or public opinion."
Immediately that the words left his mouth however, Jack regretted it, at the wounded expression that covered Will. "Alright," he quickly added, "So I might've overdone it a bit. Just a bit, mind," he said, holding up a hand. "I suppose sacking the town was a little much."
Will shot him an accusatory glare at this. "Jack, enough already! You used my wedding as a pre-planned assault upon Jamaica. That's what I'm referring to."
Jack winced. "I did, at that, didn't I?" He drew a breath. "What will it take for you to forgive me?"
Will flinched, and looked back at him. "What do you mean?" There was almost a childlike plea behind the suspicious tone.
The confusion that joined the sorrow in Will's eyes was almost too much for Jack to bear. His poor Will was suffering, and abruptly Jack couldn't relinquish the notion that he had, indeed, been responsible for at least part of it.
Jack gestured loosely. "What must I do to earn your forgiveness? How can I apologize?"
"You haven't apologized yet," Will exclaimed. "All you've done is burble excuses and defend your actions, as if you did nothing wrong."
"I'm sorry, then. I am," Jack stressed, attempting to instill a note of sincere contrition in his voice. "I'm very, very sorry. For placing such stress on your marriage at such a delicate beginning, and… for," he paused, thinking it through, "for using your wedding as the opportunity to achieve some seriously successful plunderin' of the coast of Jamaica. I'm not sorry it was a success, and I'm not sorry that AnaMaria got herself launched with a new career, nor that Lynch made out well, in fine style. But I am sorry that it hurt you, Will. I am, truly."
Will looked away, obviously taking his apology in and mulling over it. "AnaMaria? So she is the mysterious new captain of the Seashell, then?"
"Aye," Jack grinned, in sudden good humor. "Thank God she got her own ship at last. Was startin' to wonder if I'd ever get her off." He saw Will's icy expression and pulled a face, beginning to doubt that Will would accept his apology.
In an abruptly painful self-realization, Jack discovered the true reason he'd used their wedding as an excuse to launch a coordinated series of raids while keeping the Dauntless and her two ships in tow, nicely diverted. He hadn't really wanted Will and Elizabeth to stay together.
Hm. Will was right. It had been terribly selfish of him, and although he was relieved that it had worked, he was really, very genuinely sorry Will had been hurt by it.
Something of his dilemma must have shown in his face, however, for Will said, "Don't tell me you didn't think it through. Jack?" Will was watching him, carefully. "You didn't think the results might be less than happy for me or Elizabeth? Or her father? I spent half my life thinking of almost nothing else, and now...what? What is there for me?"
Jack had to suppress a sigh at this. Will was all alone. And it wasn't really the time or place to suggest he needn't remain so. But the urge to comfort the lad at this point was almost overwhelming.
Just… a hand on his shoulder, a brief hug, to try to remove some of the sorrow and loss that hovered behind the anger and indignation, the accusation still in Will's face. He knew it wouldn't be welcome at this point.
It was entirely the wrong way to go; offering more than friendship so suddenly, when all Will had desired had been lost to him -including his perceived friendship with Jack.
Jack's eyes narrowed. If he admitted he had thought it through, it meant he'd have to admit also that he knew it would have hurt Will, so he couldn't afford to admit that at all. Yet, to claim he hadn't been aware of the consequences would be not only unfair to Will, it would also sound very thin, indeed.
He sighed finally. "I suppose I did."
"How then can I accept your apology?" Will asked, plainly, his calm tone belied by the sadness in his eyes.
Jack was treated to the most unusual sensation of a combination of shame, regret and guilt. He tried to cover it but it was entirely too strong to really be able to do so effectively.
To admit to Will that he liked him, in fact liked him a little too much, was out of the question. To admit he had been motivated by selfishness in that regard, even while dallying with Norrington and his little officer in the garden, was also out of the question. And to admit that he'd been jealous of both of them, of Will for having Elizabeth, and of Elizabeth for having Will… How could he possibly explain that one?
The longer he took to answer, the longer Will's face got.
"You can accept it as sincerely meant, for it is," Jack said, quietly. "Didn't intend for you to get hurt, Will."
Abruptly, Jack was filled with a renewed sense of sympathy for Norrington's view now, too.
No doubt Norrington was undergoing similar throes of ridiculously out-of-place emotional consideration with regards to his officer's broken heart over him, and having to balance it with his own heart's leanings towards Jack himself. For Norrington did want him, Jack knew.
He sighed, realizing that sporadically risky encounters with Norrington were probably more likely than any real chance with Will, in any case. And Jack came to a decision within himself. He wouldn't - couldn't - throw Will's friendship away for the sake of his own feelings. It would be doing the lad a grave disservice. Besides, he tried to rationalize to himself, Norrington was more of a like mind, and understanding of both their positions. Despite the adversarial nature of their strange relationship, Norrington was his equal. Whereas Will was still trying to live the dream, in finding some sort of noble ideal of love, unable to see when someone's heart was right in front of them.
In a way, Jack supposed, he owed it to Will to conceal it now, for the sake of their friendship. And had to manfully suppress the dart of pain that ran through him at it. After all, to salvage their friendship was far more within reach than trying to start something that wasn't there.
But Will appeared to be taking him seriously, and said at last, "Alright, Jack. I accept your apology, in that case."
Relieved, Jack replied, "Grand. So you forgive me then?"
Will sighed. "I suppose I do." He shook his head. "Whatever are we going to do with you, Jack?"
Jack lifted his brows at this. "Not entirely sure I like the sound of that one," he commented.
Will gave him a smile. "It's obvious you can't help yourself, you know."
"From what, exactly?"
"Helping yourself to things that end up requiring help from your friends," Will countered. "I put myself on the line for you, last year. Placed myself between Norrington's blade and you. Now I'm having to do it again, only this time, it's between the entire fleet and your ship."
Jack pulled a face. "Now you're being melodramatic."
"I'm not," Will said, "And you know it." He stood, and looked over the gold that lay everywhere. "I'd best be getting back to my ship."
Jack frowned. "Already? But you just got here."
Will shrugged. "Is there a reason you need me to stay?"
It was on the tip of his tongue, and Jack nearly had to bite down to stop it from leaving. Do stay, Will. Stay… for me. Stay for the night. Just… stay. Jack swallowed in a suddenly parched mouth. "Not unless you want to."
"Fine," Will said, firmly. "I'll leave you to your gold, then. Until next we meet, Captain. I must report back to Commodore Norrington, regardless. I'll tell him you accept his proposal. You'll no doubt be able to discuss it with him yourself in more detail, when you meet with him."
Jack sighed. The thought of rum and gold didn't seem very comforting, suddenly. He contented himself with the thought that it would be not only very good to see Norrington again, it was almost a necessity at this point. Someone who wanted him.
"Until next time, then," he managed, "And give my regards to Norrington."
"I shall." Will was watching him at that one.
Wryly, Jack said, "You're turning out to be a menace, you know."
Will grinned at him, a little too sharply. "I wondered if you'd noticed."
Norrington found his concentration disturbed by the call of the Watch, at the announcement of eight bells. Dusk had already descended, and the tropical breeze carried the distant sound of singing frogs through his window. He'd made his way down to the beach and waited at the entrance of the sea cave, Jack's 'back door', earlier that morning. He'd waited for over an hour before realizing Jack was not going to make it.
He'd carefully stowed the niggling worry that arose at Jack's absence, in favor of more pressing matters. Will Turner's return had precipitated a debriefing before himself and Groves that had been most illuminating. The talk of the gold piled up in Jack's cabin aboard his ship was almost hilarious, except for the fact that it was the deciding issue upon which hung Jack's future. For if he hadn't started preying on the sugar ships, Norrington would not have needed to create a privateer fleet in the first place. And now the Black Pearl, although providing a necessary protection and service to the rest of them in attempting to clear the Caribbean of the galleons, did stand at great risk.
Well, Jack had inadvertently chosen the battle for himself, and could most probably take out the galleons without suffering great loss.
Certainly no more word came from the sugar lane, and despite the ships still creeping along various courses giving word the galleons remained prowling farther out, the Black Pearl was decidedly absent.
Jack Sparrow would appear to have actually accepted his offer, as Will had stated. Norrington wondered if Jack might yet arrive. A week from the day, they'd agreed. He stretched, arose, and left his office, careful to secrete away quite carefully all his most sensitive documents.
When he entered his own rooms, however, he saw Groves sitting there at the table, with a basket. "There's a note here from Sparrow, Sir," Groves informed him as he joined Groves at the table.
Norrington frowned, picking it up and opening it. "Well, well. He made it after all." His eyes went to the basket. "Provisions, I take it?"
Groves smiled. "I thought it best, considering he's waiting down there for us. We might as well make an evening of it."
"Indeed," Norrington agreed, suddenly finding the prospects of the evening had lightened considerably.
Bearing torches, the basket, and intending to make a picnic out of it, Norrington and Groves made their way down into the cellar, where Norrington enlightened Groves as to the existence of the Fort's tunnels. Making use of no-doubt stolen plans, Jack had been the one to reveal them to Norrington, but at this point, Norrington was very glad no one else knew of them.
As they went lower, Groves wrinkled his nose. "You were right, Sir. It does get worse." The smell of rotting seaweed, unimaginable creatures and mildew threatened.
Norrington found he was getting better at remembering the way. "Down here," he indicated, leading the way with the torch.
Soon they came out of the sea cave, with only a few minor stumblings and slippings on the wet rocks. The darkness was thicker now, and the sea breeze blowing off the waves was welcome after the dank air of the tunnels.
On the sand, before a small fire, sat one Captain Jack Sparrow, who glanced up at their approach, a glinting smirk visible in the light of the fire even as they joined him.
Jack was sitting in his white shirt and breeches and not much else. The rest of his clothing was drying, spread out on the boulders.
"Wondered if you'd make it," he commented.
Norrington stared down at him. "I wondered the same," he replied. "I was down here earlier today. I thought perhaps you had changed your mind."
"No worries," Jack said, simply. "I had swag to stash, was all." He was watching Groves. "Is this an ambush, then?"
Norrington smiled stiffly. "If you like. Although we're hardly here in the capacity of soldiers."
"Aye," Jack agreed, looking away from them, back out across the dark waves.
Norrington sat down beside him, and Groves sat on the other side of the fire, putting the basket down.
Norrington couldn't help but notice that Jack seemed…subdued. It was impossible to ascertain the pirate's moods at any given time, but tonight would appear to be the exception.
With a wry glance at him, Norrington commented, "Considering William Turner's temper hadn't improved much by the time he reported back to me, I take it he's still at odds with you."
Jack's face shuttered at his words, however, and the only reply he was graced with was, "To be sure. Although I'll warrant your own's reached heretofore dizzy heights, at having snared my Pearl into the Navy's pressgang."
Norrington chuckled at this. "Hardly a fair comparison, when I'm allowing you to keep every last drop of that gold Will described lying about your cabin. I assume that was the reason for your absence, earlier?"
Jack gave a noncommittal murmur of assent. Whether he was melancholy or simply mellow, it was still hard to tell. "Couldn't just leave it aboard, what with us going into battle, eh?"
Groves had been holding his silence, but he spoke up now, directing a query at Jack. "When will you be taking them on, then?"
Jack flashed him a grin. "Missing out, are you? Could do with a few marines. You could always join Will on the Hinde."
Norrington saw the leap of interest on Groves' face and had to stifle a shaft of dismay that ran through him as he was suddenly made aware that he really didn't want to see Groves in the fray of any battles. Which was not good, considering he'd most likely been compromised entirely now, at being unable to properly give the situation an objective eye.
But Groves only said, "Perhaps. What of your plan, though? What do you intend to do?"
Jack regarded him. "Now that would be telling, would it not?"
Groves gave a little smile of amusement. "I thought you'd be unable to pass up the opportunity for a good story."
Jack chuckled at him. "T's no good, not until the deed's over; then, and only then, can the story be told."
Norrington gave him a sharp glance. "You can stop the pretense, Jack. You'll be gathering Lynch and anyone else who'll join you. I'm counting on it."
Jack turned on him with mock surprise. "Oh, are you now? And why is that?"
"Because then I don't have to worry about providing you with my ships," Norrington smiled tightly.
Jack snorted. "Nice to know I have your support, Commodore."
"What in hell possessed you to break into my office, steal my reports, and start waylaying the sugar traffic?"
Jack waved a hand in the air. "Was merely keeping up my end of our little agreement, if you'll recall."
Norrington stared at him. "This was for my benefit?"
"And my own," Jack smiled back. Then he made a winsome face at Norrington, adding, "Gave you a way out, didn't it? Offerin' me clemency and all, lets you off the hook and more besides."
"I'm still not sure whether it's blind luck or true wit that enables you to stay afloat," Groves commented.
"That's because they're practically indivisible," Jack remarked to him. "Place a fool beside a genius and you won't be able to tell 'em apart."
"Which explains yourself, I suppose," Norrington commented. "You're both."
Jack rolled his eyes at him. "Ah, but when, and which, and where?"
"He's incorrigible," Groves said to Norrington. Their eyes met over the fire.
Norrington smiled again, this time in anticipation. "He should be taught a lesson."
"He's certainly due for one, after what he pulled in the garden that night," Groves added. "Not to mention at your window."
"There really is no time like the present," Norrington observed.
Jack was looking between them with a distinctly suspicious expression. "So it is to be ambush after all, then."
"I'd say we owe it to you, Jack, not to send you out to engage the Spanish without a firm understanding of British strategy," Groves put in with a grin.
"Wolves to the fray," Norrington agreed.
"Divide and conquer," Groves quipped.
"Gentlemen, if I might interrupt your battle conference, I'd like to add a little something in my own defense," Jack put in.
"He talks too much, doesn't he?" Groves asked, over Jack, cutting him off.
"He always has," Norrington remarked. "I think it's considered one of his trademarks."
Jack leaned back with a sly glance at Norrington. "I kept my promise, Commodore. There's no need to rub it in." He shot a smirk at Groves. "Unlike our Commodore's sunburn, which really required it, aye?"
Norrington raised his brows at Jack sardonically. "Indeed, Jack. You've been quite the sinner. So much so, in fact, that you necessitated the presence of reinforcements to help me carry out your punishment."
Jack gave him a frown. "Must say, I'm not entirely sure I like your implication, Norrington. Beg pardon," he caught himself, lifting a finger. "James. That is your name, isn't it?" He gave Norrington a fatuous grin.
Norrington glowered at him. "How did you manage to discover that?"
"Was written all over your papers," Jack said, happily.
Norrington let out a dismal sigh.
"Should I fetch the rope, Sir?" Groves reminded him, obliquely.
Jack shot him a worried look.
"Mm. I daresay between the two of us, we can manage to strip him," Norrington commented.
Jack raised both hands. "Now, chaps, there's no need for all that. I'm sure we can come to some sort of arrangement."
"You stole my papers," Norrington reminded him.
"And you were eavesdropping - watching, even, that night," Groves added.
Jack grimaced. "I see. So this is revenge."
"No," Norrington countered. "Punishment, as I said." Something about seeing Jack on the defensive once more, vulnerable to both of them, began to cause a wonderfully bright, hot flare of anticipation in his groin.
His eyes met Groves' again, over the fire, and he was rewarded with a similar flicker in his officer's answering gaze.
"You have to admit, Mr. Sparrow, you've been most wicked, indeed," Groves said, admonishingly.
"Captain," Jack said, heaving a sigh. "That's Captain Sparrow."
"I'll hold him fast, and you can do the honors," Norrington said to Groves, who nodded.
Norrington moved quickly, seizing Jack who, for some reason, remained unresisting.
In a slightly injured tone, Jack said, "Is all this really necessary?"
"I'm afraid it is," Norrington said, keeping a tight hold on him.
Jack looked back up into his face at that, and smirked. "How long you been dreamin' of doin' this, then, mate?"
"I don't know," Norrington mused, and asked Groves, "How long would you say? Since he left the window? Or was it the next day when we discovered the papers were gone?"
Groves said, "I can only speak for myself, Sir. I believe it was when he was took his jollies at our expense."
"Now," Jack rejoined to that, indignantly, "A man has to take the opportunity when it's presented. What would you have done in my position?"
"I believe I would have come to the front door and knocked," Groves said, smiling at him. "Admit it, Jack, you've brought this on yourself."
Abruptly, Jack relaxed backward, against Norrington, taking him a little by surprise at the move, and said, "Very well, then. I suppose you've a point, at that."
At Jack's sudden dead-weight against him, unresisting, and almost affectionate leaning into him, Norrington blinked. But then he remembered Jack's efficient and swift countermove when he'd tackled him on the sand that morning a week before. And he kept a firm grip.
"Strip him," Norrington ordered Groves, who leaned over them both to comply.
Norrington felt the slight tremor that went through Jack at his words, and murmured in Jack's ear, "Tell me, Captain, how long has it been since you've been properly ravished?"
Whether it was from his question, or in response to Groves' hands upon Jack's hips to begin pulling his breeches from him, Norrington was certain - perhaps it was both - but Jack tensed and gave an involuntary gasp.
"Now, I've been promising Teddy here some compensation for the indignity he suffered from your willful voyeurism the other night," Norrington continued, in a low voice. "It would seem only fair that you be the one to pay it back to him."
As Groves pulled Jack's breeches off one leg and then the other, Norrington pressed his lips together at the sight. Jack really did have attractive legs. They were even more attractive in the next moment however, with the sight of Groves' hands upon them.
Unable to help himself, Norrington pulled Jack's face closer, turning him to face him with a hand on Jack's cheek, only to catch sight of those wide, dark eyes of his. With a suppressed oath, Norrington caught Jack's mouth under his, noting that Jack's lips parted instantly, welcoming him - as well as the intrusion of his tongue, which instantly stole between to recognize the flavor of rum.
It really was remarkably good quality rum, Norrington couldn't help but note, absently, in the plundering of Jack's mouth.
And suddenly Jack was tensing, quivering in his grasp, breathing a startled exclamation against him, and Norrington broke off from the kiss to see Jack's erect cock disappearing between Groves' talented lips.
Norrington was rather surprised to find that he relished the sight. It brought to bear a completely different view, to be able to watch and enjoy without actually taking part in the act. And he gathered this discovery into his thoughts, comparing it with what Jack had witnessed that night from his own window…
With a smile, Groves let Jack's cock slip free all too soon, and Jack muttered, "Ah. So, torture, then."
"Not at all," Norrington promised, with a possessive note of pride, both in having Jack in hand and at Groves' talents. He glanced up at Groves. "Let's get this shirt off of him."
Together, and with some assistance from Jack himself, they managed to lift it clear of Jack's head, over the long bone and the beads and the jingles.
And Jack was suddenly upon him, pushing him back into the sand, atop him, capturing his mouth with such desire that Norrington wondered at the desperation in it.
Groves' eyes widened appreciatively at the sight of Jack's back, and lingered upon the swell of his bum, lower. Groves leaned in again, this time to run both hands down Jack's body, and lowered his head to begin mouthing kisses against the smooth, bronze skin.
Jack's lips against Norrington's were trembling, warm, and the motions of Jack's tongue stroking against his seemed almost frantic, hurried. Whether it was in response to the fact that Groves was trailing his mouth lower, and lower down Jack's back, or due to the week's worth of waiting, Norrington could only wonder.
Certainly he hadn't expected to find Jack such a writhing, heated handful as this. He was abruptly glad he'd managed to get Groves to accompany him, as he rather suspected Jack would have eaten him alive otherwise. It was a bit like taming a panther.
With a small moan of surprise, Jack lifted his head and stared down sightlessly into Norrington's eyes. Norrington lifted a brow, and peered over, then couldn't help grinning as he realized Groves had already happily begun attending to Jack's backside.
Jack's mouth was parted, and his breath coming faster now. Norrington winced, feeling a shaft of arousal stiffen him to complete hardness at the sight. He had to have him. Had to.
But he knew Groves had first dibs, and said, in a voice almost too thick for himself to recognize, "Teddy, take him. Just like this, here."
Groves reemerged, and stood, and hastily removed his clothing, the firelight painting his trim, well-formed body with sculpted planes, almost as if he were molten marble. Set against the darker skin of Jack's, the contrast was delightful. The sheer pleasure of having Jack naked between them, caught, was enough to make him seize Jack's head once more and pull him down into another fevered kiss.
As Jack tensed against him, Norrington knew Groves had placed a hand against him, between his buttocks, to prepare him.
Norrington shifted his position, moving his knees up slightly to afford Groves a better angle with which to attend to Jack.
And then there was Jack's shiver atop him, his muscles tensing, as Groves uttered a gasp. As Norrington turned his head slightly, peering past Jack's dark hair, he was treated to the sight of Groves slowly sinking his shaft within Jack's buttocks.
The pure echo of fleeting memory, both of taking Jack, and Teddy, and having had it done to him by Teddy two nights' past, was enough to conjure a sympathetic response within him that rocked him to his core. To have Jack shafted atop him was something out of a wet dream.
Delectable, the expression on Jack's face, as Jack stared down at him, caught in the sensations of Groves moving in and out of him. Reaching up to cup Jack's face in both hands, Norrington pulled him down for another kiss, this time making sure to ravage his lips relentlessly.
The little gasps and moans were starting to give way to whimpers, and Norrington could feel Jack thrusting back to meet Teddy's steady plunges into him. Norrington reached down under, between Jack's body and his, to grasp Jack's cock, and began to fist him, strongly.
Jack quivered between them, and Norrington recognized the signs of Jack imminently achieving his peak. He held his breath at the loveliness of seeing that helpless expression on Jack's face, held prisoner to the pleasure, the surrender.
And then Jack gave an open-mouthed groan against him, low and heart-felt, eyes squeezed shut, and Norrington felt the wetness of Jack's release spattering his shirt.
Teddy's answering moan sounded so familiar to Norrington's ears, yet bearing a new note, one that lacked a certain amount of…anguish he'd always heard in it, previously. Norrington was gratified to hear it. He wondered if it meant Groves no longer felt threatened, and that in achieving this act with all three of them together, perhaps the breach had been healed.
And then Jack was slumping on him, with Groves on his knees in the sand, leaning, resting on Jack, and they were both covering Norrington before the fire.
Norrington's lips twitched as he realized he was the only one left clothed.
"If the two of you wouldn't mind," he declared in the silence and the crackling of the fire, "I believe the rest of the punishment ought to be administered."
Jack lifted his head and gave Norrington a wily gaze. "Could give a fellow a chance to catch 'is breath, mate."
Teddy slipped both hands around Jack, encountered Norrington's body beneath, and gave him a stroke or two before returning to Jack's waist. "I knew you had to be good," he said.
Jack's eyes darted right, with a sudden grin at Teddy's words. "Always. But most especially when I'm bad."
"I'm sure that's not in question," Norrington muttered.
Groves grinned and got up off of Jack, and Jack slowly stirred, moving up off of Norrington with a small wince. He tilted his head and regarded Norrington. "You're overdressed, Jamie lad."
Norrington heaved a quiet sigh at the liberal use of his first name. "So it begins." He began to unbutton his shirt.
Jack grinned affectionately at him and began to assist him in undoing the laces of his breeches, and helped him pull them down over his confined erection.
Teddy sank to his right elbow, lying lengthwise on their left, and said, "My turn to watch, I think."
Jack smirked at him. "Oh, am I forgiven then, for my offense?"
"Of course," Teddy said, smiling back at him. "I'll be judging, though, as to whether or not you're still the best pirate I've ever seen. The outcome depends entirely on how you perform in the next few minutes."
Jack gave him a curious look. "Can't say as I've ever passed up a challenge like that." He glanced down at Norrington, who was struggling to remove his shirt. Moving up once more to straddle Norrington, he said, "Never mind that, love. We've got more important matters at hand. Like the impressing of young Teddy, here." And he bent to kiss Norrington again, leaving Norrington feeling rather giddy from lack of air.
Abruptly, the pirate was squirming down against his hard organ, and reaching behind himself to lower himself onto Norrington.
Norrington's swift intake of breath elicited a happy sigh from Jack, who then began to back onto him, impaling himself even deeper.
The abruptly unexpected pleasure of being encased in Jack's slick, recently-used hole was unimaginably, unspeakably sweet.
He caught his lower lip between his teeth, and his eyes fluttered as he shot a nervous glance at Groves, but his officer seemed to be enjoying the sight. No trace anywhere of that rather painful jealousy or sadness that had been there before tonight. Hm. Perhaps it had worked after all, in seeing them, and being together - all three - maybe it had helped Teddy to see that he needn't consider Jack a threat.
Jack was smiling down at him, moving up and down in undulating motions, enjoying taking control far too much. Norrington narrowed his eyes and said, "And just where, exactly, did you learn to do this?"
Jack gave him a silent chuckle and said, "Jamie, m'boy, you really don't want to ask me that right now, do you? Might cause my concentration to wander, and then you'll be left wanting. But if you must know," he said, stilling his movements and seeming to make good on the threat, "I do believe it was in a small town on the coast of Florida."
Norrington seized Jack's hips and thrust upwards into him, hard, then repeated it.
"You're in no position to imagine your punishment is over," he said, breathing harder, not ceasing from the rapid thrusts into Jack's hot depths, loving the way Jack's thighs were astride him and the look of complete loss of control on Jack's face at his actions.
He found that he preferred that expression on Jack, actually. And allowed himself to plunge a little harder, a bit faster, giving Jack what he suspected Jack really wanted from him.
Which was to be ridden hard, and well.
Norrington wondered briefly if Jack had undergone perhaps too much emotional scarring in the wake of Turner's departure those two days before. He redoubled his concentration, focusing on thrusting against Jack's sweet spot. Hard, and with enough of a slight delay between each plunge into him to cause a slight ripple of anticipated shock that was mirrored in Jack's eyes before Jack's head went back and his lips parted.
"Teddy," Norrington managed, "I believe he could use a hand at this point, if you'd be so kind."
Groves gave a smile of assent and leaned forward, grasping Jack's cock in his palm.
Jack's strangled yelp at the touch was music to Norrington's ears.
But he had no intention of letting the pace slacken now, and he knew this was about giving Jack something… A curious sort of gift, that might offset the feelings and emotions that seemed to simmer beneath Jack's surface. Getting to know the pirate captain better had revealed even more vulnerability in tandem with his almost childlike devious enjoyment and mischievous, impish nature.
The sheer release in actually taking the man was joined with that affection he'd discovered with him on this same beach, the week before.
Norrington was gratified to find that, not just for himself, but perhaps for all three of them, the pursuit of sexual congress and sharing of intimacy was a balm and a form of solace.
Teddy got up and without relinquishing his hold on Jack's cock, slowly pulling at him, took Jack in his other arm and kissed him, letting his tongue lewdly and languorously move over Jack's lips. The sight of the two men, kissing open-mouthed above him, even as he continued to thrust upwards into Jack, was enough to tip Norrington over the edge.
Stiffening, he came with a cry, flooding Jack's body with his own cream, noting mindlessly as Teddy's hand moved more swiftly on Jack's cock, and Jack was suddenly tightening atop him, and coming again, writhing in a parody of pain as Teddy kept kissing him.
The fire continued to crackle, the darkness suddenly pressed more closely around them, and the sound of the waves returned, bringing a sense of realism back to Norrington's shattered sensibilities.
Groves was still kissing Jack, and Norrington could only stare upwards at the both of them, wondering at the nearly pagan picture it presented him.
For Jack's hair was long, dark, too wild, and Groves was an Adonis, athletic, as he appeared nearly Spartan with his physique, and the freedom of finding himself in this tableau of firelight, sensual flames of masculine passion mingled with unspoken care, suddenly undid him inside.
Norrington knew he had rediscovered himself. And he had both of them to thank for it.
All too soon, however, Jack and Groves broke apart, and Jack was looking down at him, with a smirk.
"James," Jack grinned, "…Commodore… if you could only see your face."
And Norrington grinned back up at him, in boyish delight, wondering at the strange twist of fate that had seen fit to deliver not just one lover to him, but two, in spite of the loss he'd suffered, and the loneliness up until now.
And he realized with some certainty, that there was no reason at all why they couldn't have everything they desired: each other, apart, together, at any time of their choosing.
And Norrington gave Jack a knowing smirk now, himself. "I do believe Mr. Turner is in for a surprise."
Jack's eyes flickered at that.
But Norrington pulled him down for a quick kiss and murmured against him, "Just don't forget that you're still mine, Jack."
And Jack's dry reply was enough to make him chuckle. "I've a feeling you aren't going to let me."
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