|Overall rating: R
Genre: slash, drama - Pirates of the Caribbean
Pairings: Norrington/Gillette, Gillette/OMC, hint of Elizabeth/Will
Feedback: very welcome. Good or bad.
Summary: Captain Benham has been ordered to Port Royal to sort out the mess Lord Cutler Beckett has left behind. He's confronted with a web of lies, secrets and a lieutenant who refuses to accept that his captain is dead.
Author's note: While this story is a stand-alone, it can be read as a sequel to "UNSOILED".
"Today, W. approached me. His naivety used to annoy me, but now that he's lost it, I almost miss it. "I suppose you enjoy this," he said. It took me a moment to realise he wasn't talking about holystoning, but E. and J. talking, standing far closer together than would be appropriate. "I can't see why I should find enjoyment in the humiliation of a gentleman," I replied. He was very surprised. "You think I'm a gentleman?" What a silly boy. Would I have left E. to him without a fight if I'd been of a different opinion? "Was it like that for you? Like I feel now?" I had no answer to that. "My apologies for doing this to you, Commodore," he said. Commodore! I told him there was nothing he had to apologise for. - J.S.N."
Talking to Captain Benham while he was working in the garden demanded strategic planning from Mr. Jeremy's side. If he didn't want to soil his shoes and stockings, he had to make sure to step only on the stones, not in the mud. Captain Benham looked over his shoulder and grinned upon the sight of the midshipman.
"It's a good thing there's a wall shielding this garden from the view of Port Royal's people, or they would think that midshipmen of the Royal Navy have time and passion for playing hopscotch, Mr. Jeremy."
Jeremy preferred not to comment. He was glad that he made it within earshot of Captain Benham with clean stockings. The captain cheered him on.
"Congratulations, Mr. Jeremy! You made it unharmed this time. I suppose you wouldn't be willing to come here and tell me what kind of slug this is?"
The midshipman sighed deeply.
"If you ordered me to do it, I would, Sir."
"But I won't order you. I'm not cruel. And you will hopefully forgive me for kneeling in the mud and watching slugs. Though a very important lesson could be learned here, Mr. Jeremy: to fight the enemy, you have to know him, and sometimes you will not be able to avoid dirtying your hands in doing so. And the French aside, I know of no greater danger to British cabbage than those bloody slugs here!"
Benham poked the slug in front of him with a stick, but the animal was unperturbed and continued to feast on a cabbage leaf.
"Sir, Mr. Wallace has found Lieutenant Gillette. He's waiting in the drawing room."
"Wally has found him? Wonderful, I knew I could rely on him! But why did you hide the lieutenant in the drawing room? Bring him here; maybe he has greater knowledge regarding slugs than you and I."
"I see you have objections. Would you share them with me?"
"Permission to speak freely, Sir?"
"Of course, would I ask for your opinion if I didn't want to hear it?"
"For all I know, Lieutenant Gillette is - has been - a very capable officer, no doubt, and he certainly has his merits. However, he is also rather uptight, impolite and - brutish!"
Benham seemed to be pleased.
"Brutish? Wonderful, then he'll certainly know how to get rid of slugs. On your way, what are you waiting for?"
"Yes, Sir," Jeremy replied, and hurried back to the house. Unfortunately he missed the last stone and sunk his left foot ankle-deep in the mud, which made him curse and Benham grin.
"I have accomplished my mission. I know I should get some rest, but the faster the heart is out of the pirates' reach, the better, and the sooner I'll be back on my ship. She's called 'E.', so I've been told. I've never heard of her, she must be newly launched. I've been informed that Lt. G. will be my first lieutenant, but I will petition that T.G. will get this position. I still think he's committing a terrible sin, but I have committed worse within these last months. At least I haven't become a hypocrite yet. - J.S.N."
Benham stood up and looked down at his breeches and stockings. He probably looked more like a gardener than a captain, but it couldn't be helped. There was no time to get washed, and it would be interesting to see the legendary Lieutenant Gillette's reaction. The backdoor of the kitchen opened, and Benham heard Jeremy, making many excuses for both the place of the meeting and the circumstances.
"Mr. Jeremy, if place and circumstances are considered to be unsuitable by Captain Benham, then Captain Benham should apologise. If he finds them fitting, there is no reason why you should apologise in his place."
An agreeable voice, soft even, which added insult to the injury of the veiled reprimand. Poor Mr. Jeremy, he still had a lot to learn, especially where the nature of officers was concerned.
"What have I done? And I had a choice! I could have ended it, stabbed the heart with my sword, but this would have condemned me to take Davy Jones' place. C.B. knew it - it was him who handed me the sword. Why couldn't I find the strength? I should have cut his head off, so I'd never have to see his smirk again! May God forgive me; I never will. - J.S.N."
Benham had expected Lieutenant Gillette to be like Wallace: a seasoned seaman, experienced in battle, a bit on the brutish side but with better education and not blessed with a loving heart as dear Wally's. Mr. Jeremy's words, though not without bias, had confirmed this picture, and so Benham was rather surprised when he saw Gillette approaching him. Unlike Jeremy, the lieutenant found his way without problems from stone to stone. Compared to a ship in a hurricane, a muddy garden was no challenge for an officer of the Royal Navy.
Gillette was tall and lithe, his movements elegant, and when he halted in front of Benham, taking off his hat and making a bow, Benham couldn't find anything brutish in his face. On the contrary, he had delicately chiselled features, looked young and very pale for a man who had been exposed to the elements for years. A pleasing face.
"My name is Thomas Gillette, Sir. You wished to talk to me?"
There were some strands of grey in the red hair, unusual for such a young man. A nice shade of red. Like polished chestnuts.
"What? Oh. My apologies, I was just thinking about slugs," Benham said, embarrassed by both his behaviour and appearance. He suddenly didn't feel comfortable anymore, rather like a large spot of dirt next to the impeccable Thomas Gillette.
As he had started this ridiculous subject himself, Benham couldn't back down now.
"Slugs, yes. They are a pest, ruining my cabbage."
"Have you tried beer, Sir?" Gillette asked, his voice not showing even a hint of amusement.
"Beer? Why, do you think I should invite them to the tavern?"
Gillette smiled. A small smile, but a nice one, Benham noticed. One tooth was missing, but the rest seemed to be in perfect condition, a rare thing to find, and probably due to James' obsession with lemons and sauerkraut.
"No, Sir. But that's how my mother used to fight them. Stale beer in bowls, that attracts them and they drown."
"Drowning? That sounds like sound naval advice. Thank you, I will try that. I didn't expect Mr. Wallace to find you so quickly, and while it is up to me to reprimand the men in my services, I agree with you that I have to apologise for my appearance."
Gillette looked uncomfortable, but not insulted.
"I did not wish to interfere, Sir, my apologies. Some habits are hard to beat, especially when it comes to the education of midshipmen."
"Good. So you are willing to talk to a captain in scruffy clothes?"
Any emotion was wiped from Gillette's face, leaving only the mask of a dutiful officer.
"I have seen worse, Sir."
"T.G. has saved all my effects. All of them, even the books. Especially the books. The maps, even. Has threatened those who wanted to take my things. I found him in my bedroom, packing a sea chest. He has done that for me, after all I've said and done? There were no questions, no reproaches. Has there ever been a man less deserving of such kindness than me? He only said that I needed a bath. God bless his loving heart. - J.S.N."
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|BLACKBERRY - 4/15
by Molly Joyful