|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".
Norrington had often compared the Dauntless to an elegant greyhound. She had been the perfect ship for him, the guardian: swift, elegant, beautiful. The Blackberry, on the other hand... Gillette sighed. HMS Blackberry was a battle-scared alley cat. The ship had been launched only two years ago, but she looked as if she had already served for ten, in rough waters and many battles. Norrington had always been very careful not to get the Dauntless damaged; Benham didn't seem to have such qualms. Upon boarding, Gillette noticed that extensive repairs had been carried out.
"Has the Blackberry been involved in a battle recently, Mr. Wallace?"
The seaman, carrying Gillette's heavy sea chest as easily as if it weighed nothing, grinned.
"Not a battle, Sir. We only met some French pirates."
"Looks like she's caught a shot across the bows."
"Ah, no, Sir. We were in a hurry, so Captain Benham decided to ram them."
Gillette thought he had misheard.
"Yes, Sir. It's one of Captain Benham's preferred strategies. That's why our old girl here looks a bit off-colour. The captain had her fitted with metal sheeting at the bows, stern and along the keel, you see? Doesn't look very pretty, but it's effective."
Gillette shook his head once more while he followed Wallace. Captain Benham was a lunatic. A fascinating lunatic, that couldn't be denied, but a lunatic all the same. Odd to think that such a man had been a friend of James Norrington; they had nothing in common. Had it been a wise decision to trust him?
Wallace placed Gillette's sea chest next to the one of the first lieutenant. Gillette would have to share the cabin with him for the next weeks. 'James Dee, R.N.' was carved in the chest's side. Gillette's own looked rather shabby next to it; along with James Norrington's name, the holystone had removed most of the colour on the lid. Nobody was supposed to know that this had been Norrington's sea chest. Nobody was supposed to have Norrington's sea chest. Not his sea chest, not his maps, not his books. Nobody but him, Gillette.
"Thank you, Mr. Wallace."
Wallace nodded and left, while Gillette tried to turn in the small cabin without bumping into the bunks behind him. Not that he really minded sharing, he had seen worse, but he was used to being alone at night, and with Dee in the cabin, he couldn't talk to Norrington anymore. Gillette did that, at times. Talk to Norrington.
"Good to see you didn't get lost; at the size of our cabin, it could happen easily. I'm James Dee."
Gillette quickly stood up and shook the offered hand after a brief moment of hesitation. Just like the captain, the first lieutenant seemed to defy conventions.
"Lieutenant Thomas Gillette, Sir."
"Thomas? That's a good name. I'd refused to share my cabin with anybody called Cedric or Montague. To be honest, I hoped my promotion would finally give me the privilege of my own cabin, but then I should have known better. This is the Blackberry, after all."
Dee was a man of about thirty years of age, with light brown hair and blue eyes. His face was tanned, and he had a mischievous, boyish smile. For whatever reasons, his left ear was missing. Another alley cat.
"And on the Blackberry, things are different than on other ships?" Gillette asked, and Dee laughed.
"Very different! Would you like an introduction?"
"I'd be grateful."
Dee took off his hat and sat down on his sea chest.
"Captain Benham has no favourites among the officers. You could be his brother and he'd still tear strips off you if you deserve it. He's very strict with the midshipmen, though he might have a weak spot for Mr. Jeremy - he makes him study twice as hard as the others. Then there's old Wally, of course, who can do whatever he likes. The captain wants us to think and have an opinion, so speak up if you disagree with him. Just don't expect that he'll change his mind. What else - oh, never, ever treat one of the dogs badly. They're terrible beasts, especially Richard III., but I'll never forget the midshipman who kicked the pooch - it was terrible. Poor lad."
Upon seeing Gillette's puzzled face, Dee had to laugh again.
"There are no canings or floggings aboard the Blackberry, Mr. Gillette. The poor lad had to darn the shirts of all ship boys and powder monkeys. Took him weeks!"
Gillette shook his head.
"That's the oddest punishment I've ever heard of."
"True, but it was very effective."
Effective. Again. In Gillette's opinion, that word described Captain Benham perfectly.
Dee looked up at Gillette.
"There are captains one lives with, others one likes, and there are few, very few one would die for without thinking twice. Captain Benham is one of them, that's why he doesn't need a cat o' nine tails to win the men's respect. You have to understand this, Thomas Gillette, because this is the reason why we have such an excellent crew aboard the Blackberry."
Gillette ran his hand over the lid of his sea chest, just where Norrington's name had been.
"I have once served under such a captain as well."
Dee slapped his fellow lieutenant on the back.
"You're a very lucky man then! Now let's not make Captain Benham wait; I'd hate to spend my next shore leave darning stockings!"
* * *
After the first week, Gillette had memorised the name of every man aboard the Blackberry, and had settled in without further problems. The men appreciated being addressed by their names; it showed respect on the lieutenant's part. Gillette didn't tolerate any nonsense and took his duties very serious, but he never felt above getting his hands dirty or doing the occasional manual work. This won him the men's respect and made his duties easier to fulfil. Yet Gillette knew that they thought he was as cold as a pond in winter, and he couldn't blame them. He envied Benham for his enthusiasm, as trying as it was at times, and Dee for his amiable nature. He wished he could be like them, but there was nothing he had left to give.
It was good to be at sea and wearing an uniform again, though. Only now, on the quarterdeck of the Blackberry, Gillette realised how much he had missed the sea and naval life. But this wasn't the Dauntless, and if he turned around, Norrington did not stand there, hands clasped behind his back, giving orders. Gillette missed the way Norrington had said his name. He missed his voice, his presence, missed his half-smile and his sarcasm. Norrington had left an empty space in Gillette's life that nothing and nobody could fill, and at times, Gillette wondered if it hadn't been better if he'd joined his captain and died as well.
Gillette assumed that Benham was pleased with the way he went about his duties, at least there were no complaints. Unlike Norrington, who controlled everything he did and made him rewrite reports five times if there were spelling mistakes or ink spots, Benham let Gillette do as he wanted. As long as daily business aboard the Blackberry ran smoothly, Benham was happy. The captain watched him and nothing escaped his attention, though, and Gillette couldn't help but wonder why Benham had insisted that he returned to the Royal Navy and served aboard the Blackberry in the first place. Any other officer could have done that job, and probably better than him. Had Benham a plan he was not aware of?
Lieutenant Dee watched him as well. A good man who shared with Gillette all there was to know about the Blackberry and her crew. He had quite a few stories to share, and Gillette came to the conclusion that Captain Benham was indeed a lunatic, if the first lieutenant could be believed.
One evening, Dee opened his sea chest and showed Gillette the miniature portrait of a pretty woman and two little boys.
"Mary, my wife. And our sons, James and Richard. Are you married?"
Gillette had smiled upon seeing the picture, but the smile immediately disappeared when he heard Dee's question.
"No, I'm not married."
"But certainly you have a young lady waiting for you?"
"I have lost my love," Gillette replied, feeling like an idiot. How pathetic. He had lost his love, and nothing and nobody would bring him back, but this was his secret. Locked away, for nobody to see.
Dee quickly put the miniature back in his sea chest.
"My apologies. I didn't know... I mean, I didn't want to touch on anything that..."
"It's not important," Gillette cut him off, and began to prepare for the night. There was an uncomfortable silence between them, but he didn't want to talk to Dee anymore. Not now. Nobody was allowed to know, and he chided himself for letting his guard down for a moment. Benham had been right - there were always two sides to a story, the official one and the truth. Officially, there was nobody he loved. Officially, there was nobody he mourned.
Later on, he lay in the dark, trying in vain to find sleep. He had no painting of Norrington. He only had his memories. Gillette had always thought that he wouldn't forget Norrington's face as long as he lived, but already he found it difficult to remember small details. What shade of hazel had his eyes been? And his smile - what had it really looked like? He hadn't seen Norrington's smile for a very long time.
Dee was tossing and turning as well. Finally, the man left his bunk, the hem of his shirt touching Gillette's face.
"Thomas, I have to ask you something."
"Ask away. I can't sleep, either."
"Your lover - was not a woman?"
Gillette held his breath. Had he misheard?
"I wondered, you see. I've watched you, and - it wasn't a woman, was it?"
"Do you want to see me hanging from the gallows, Dee? You can possibly not expect me to answer this question!"
The first lieutenant sat down next to Gillette.
"I don't want to get you into trouble, Thomas. I just - wondered, as I said. Wondered if-"
He broke off, and Gillette could feel Dee's hand on his chest. The appropriate action would probably have been if he'd hit him right in the face, but Gillette didn't move. He didn't mind. He didn't care.
"I don't love you."
"Of course you don't," Dee replied, running his hand slowly across Gillette's chest and down his side. "But I like you. You seem to be lonely. And I can't bear being alone. I'm offering my company. I would not hold it against you if you turned my offer down."
Gillette considered Dee's words. Admittedly, it was a tempting. He longed for somebody's touch, but it wasn't Dee's. Good grief, he couldn't even bring himself to call the man by his given name, how could he possibly sleep with him?
Dee let go of Gillette and nodded.
"I understand. It's fine, Thomas. Did he - did he die?"
"No, Dee. I did."
The first lieutenant returned to his bunk, and Gillette continued to stare in the darkness.
* * *
"Do not leave your hideout for the next two months. Consider this information my payment to you for sinking the Endeavour. We're even now."
"There's no signature. It's an anim... amoni... animonythingy of a letter which is not signed."
Captain Jack Sparrow looked at the note, then at Elizabeth, who was feeding Will jr. porridge with mashed apples.
"That baby's lookin' at me funny," he said, then wrinkled his nose. "And he smells funny, too."
"So do you," Elizabeth snapped. Feeding a baby was hard work; she had porridge in her hair, on her face and all over her dress. "What about the letter?"
Jack looked at Cotton as if the man could give him further explanations.
"Jack smells funny! Jack smells funny!" the parrot on his shoulder croaked.
"Now you be quiet, or you'll end up in the stew," Jack threatened, but the parrot was not impressed. Cotton reached in the pocket of his coat and produced another letter. Jack unfolded it, read it and shook his head.
"It's your daughter moonin' over some red-haired young man with soulful eyes. What's that got to do with the note?"
Cotton quickly took the letter from Jack, and handed him another one.
"Another letter? What's that lass doin' all day? What do we have here... dear father... met Mrs. Turner... cute baby... what are you tryin' to tell me, Cotton?"
Cotton rolled his eyes, took note and letter from Jack and held them both in front of the captain's nose.
"I think he's tryin' to tell you that the warnin' an' his daughter's letter have been written by the same person, Captain," Ragetti said. "See? They look the same."
Jack scratched his head.
"You mean Cotton's daughter has sent us the warnin'?"
"No, Captain. Sally can't write, she has somebody writin' her letters. The one about the young man has been written by somebody else, but the warnin' an' the other letter have been written by the same person!"
Jack compared the two papers carefully. Ragetti was right.
"It makes sense," Jack finally said. "That's how the person knew where to send the warnin' to. Doesn't answer the question who said person is, though."
"Hold Will for a moment, please," Elizabeth said to Pintel. The pirate looked terrified, yet didn't dare to disobey and tried not to drop the baby, who just now had to burp and covered Pintel's shoulder with porridge and mashed apples.
Elizabeth read and compared the letters. For a moment she was quiet, then she hit her fist on the table.
"Gillette! It's that damned Gillette!"
"What?" Jack asked.
"Gillette! Here, you see? Sally writes about a young man she fancies, with 'soulful eyes' and red-hair, and that he sometimes writes letters for her, yet not this one, as he was busy. That's how Gillette always knew where I was! He knew through Sally's letters! Oh, that bastard! That obsessed lunatic!"
"What are we goin' to do now, Captain?" Ragetti asked. "We can't trust a lieutenant, can we?"
Jack looked at Elizabeth, who was fuming with anger, then at Ragetti. Gillette - of course. In his eyes, Lord Cutler Beckett was responsible for Norrington's death. The pirates were responsible for Lord Cutler Beckett's death, so he owed them a favour. It made sense.
"I say we stay here. Mr. Cotton, please write your daughter where Mrs. Turner usually stays. With a bit of luck, Mr. Gillette will send a battle ship and confiscate the baby."
* * *
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|BLACKBERRY - 6/15
by Molly Joyful