|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".
The bright sunshine matched neither Captain Benham's affections nor the devastation on the deck of the Blackberry. The sun seemed to mock crew and captain; the latter wished he had the power to pick it from the sky and throw it in the sea. Benham, suffering from various bruises and a pounding headache, glared at the carpenter whose hammering echoed painfully in his ears.
He wished for silence.
He longed for darkness.
He wanted to be alone, if possible too drunk to think.
That's what he had done after Teddy's death - hiding and drinking. He couldn't do it now, though. He was the captain. He had to function even if everything around him went to heaven in a wheelbarrow.
The main mast had weathered the storm, and the Blackberry would make it back to Port Royal, though with a delay of two or three days. They had been lucky, all things considered. No news yet regarding the fate of the Lydia, but Benham wasn't worried. Dee was an excellent officer, if the men had been wise enough to follow his orders rather than give in to superstitious foolery, they were still alive.
The Blackberry had lost nine men, eleven were injured. Mr. Jeremy and Mr. Wallace accompanied Benham on his tour, first visiting the injured men - young Reynolds looked very pale but would recover soon, what a relief! - then going from sea chest to sea chest. Benham had established that ritual after losing a man. An inventory was raised of the chest's content and then he impressed his seal. Nobody would dare to break it and steal from the dead.
Jeremy had raised eight inventories and helped Benham to impress eight seals. His hair, encrusted with sea-salt, smelled of sealing-wax. Benham didn't know why this fact caught his attention. Eight men's lives in eight sea chests, yet Jeremy seemed to be unmoved, his face a mask of indifference. Not once had he mentioned Lieutenant Gillette's death, and Benham knew that it was not the right moment to bring the matter up. There would probably never be a right moment, only one that might be a little less painful.
"Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Jeremy. Please go and take a rest now. Mr. Wallace and I can do this alone," Benham said when they arrived in front of Gillette's cabin, the one he had shared with Lieutenant Dee.
Jeremy flinched as if he had been threatened with a pistol, then Benham could see relief in his eyes.
"Yes, Sir," Jeremy replied, nodded and turned on his heel, leaving without a further word. Benham wondered if he'd ever see the cheerful young man again that Jeremy had been before the storm.
"I wish people at home would know what the service does to us at times, Wally."
"Might be better they don't, Sir," Wallace replied. They entered the cabin, and Benham opened Gillette's sea chest. It wasn't locked, but there wasn't much to see, anyway. Gillette's full frock dress coat, shirts, stockings, a writing slope with quill, paper and inkwell. Maps, one of them carrying James Norrington's name. Benham wondered if that one would have miraculously appeared on his table as well if Gillette hadn't died. He'd never know now. There was a ditty box, containing a bible, thread and needles, a shoe buckle, some buttons, letters and a journal.
Benham stared at the journal. Did it contain Gillette's part of the story? If yes, should he read it? Did he even want to read it? What if he'd find his name? What if he wouldn't? And why was it once again him who had been left behind with nothing but a journal? First the one of his brother John's, then Teddy's, James', and now Gillette's. Many journals. Many losses.
"What will we do with his effects, Sir?" Wallace asked, less out of interest than of concern for his captain and the wish to break the uncomfortable silence.
"His effects? His effects, of course... I don't know, Wally."
Benham put the journal back in the chest, without even opening it. Then he closed the chest's lid and sat down on it. So far he had made it through the day as it was expected of him: in charge, giving commands, ensuring that ship and men would make it home to Port Royal. Nothing less would have been expected of a captain. But inside, Benham felt numb. He remembered Gillette's hand, waving at him. Nonsense, he hadn't been waving. It had been the force of the sea, nothing else; shaking the body of his second lieutenant like a child would do with a doll.
"We've weathered other storms, Sir. And Mr. Jeremy - well, I hope you don't mind me being so forward, Sir, but he didn't do anything wrong."
Benham looked up.
"Mr. Jeremy? No, he certainly didn't do anything wrong, on the contrary. To him it must have looked like Mr. Gillette was attacking me. He couldn't know that it was - insanity. I always knew I could rely on the lad; he's a very capable officer. Do you still think me a fool for accepting him as a midshipman on the Blackberry?"
"I've never thought you to be a fool, Sir!" Wallace protested. "Never! I admit I had my doubts, but now..."
"Now I will take care of this, Wally."
Wallace recognised an invitation to leave when he heard it.
"There's a lot of work waiting, Sir. With your permission I'll see what the carpenter's doing."
"Permission granted. Thank you, Wally."
Yes, they had weathered other storms, Wally and him. Two years of imprisonment and slavery, for example. The only reason why he had survived that ordeal was the knowledge that Teddy had been waiting for him. Would he have returned if he'd known that Teddy had died a year before? Probably not.
What an absurd situation. Benham couldn't tell Jeremy that he had actually done Gillette a favour. It had been his wish, following his captain. His captain! Benham cursed James and Gillette to equal parts, tried to find some anger in his heart towards James, Gillette's flawless, perfect hero. And if not anger, then at least jealousy. Anything would be better than this numbness. It was almost like being dead.
Benham closed his eyes and remembered Gillette surrounded by the midshipmen. He remembered that rare smile, the anger in his eyes during the supper with Greitzer and Groves. He also remembered that moment, that one short moment when Gillette had called him by his first name, just before he had been shot and gone overboard.
It had been a terrible storm, and worse was to come, but yes, he'd weather this one as well. He was the captain - he had no choice.
* * *
"Two years and two months since he left England's shore,
My bonny brave captain that I did adore…"
Somebody was softly warbling away, then humming, accompanied by an odd, scratching sound. Gillette woke up, slowly, feeling as if his head had been filled with cotton wool. He listened to the singing for a while, then his curiosity got the better of him and he opened his eyes.
"Broken hearted I'll wander, broken hearted I'll remain
Since my bonny brave captain in the wars he was slain..."
A man was sitting on a chair next to him, a sketching pad on his knees, drawing. He was a good fifteen years older than himself and wore the uniform of a midshipman. His strawberry blond hair was held back in a pigtail; open buttons on the waistcoat, stains on his stockings and strands of hair which hung in his face made him look a bit untidy. A friendly but definitely not handsome face - the nose was too long, the neck too short, the face pockmarked. Still, his bearing was clearly the one of a gentleman. Gillette watched him for a while, wondering how skilled an artist with podgy fingers, nails chewed down to the quick, might be.
The man looked up and gave Gillette an amicable smile.
"You have been sleeping a long time," he stated, then returned his attention to his work. "You were born to act as a model for a painter. I hate it when models fidget and move around."
"You are making a drawing of me?"
"I took the liberty, yes. You have an interesting face."
"Can I see it?"
Gillette sat up - slowly, very slowly, as his head was spinning - and the midshipman handed him the pad. Gillette took it, careful not to leave any fingerprints or smudges on the paper. After studying the sketch for a while, he nodded.
"You have great talent. But I'm not half as elegant as you've drawn me."
The midshipman laughed.
"I have to disagree. Just look at that swan-neck of yours - if I wasn't already dead, I'd die for it!"
"You're - dead?" Gillette almost dropped the pad. His conversational partner quickly reached for it and put it on the table behind him, out of harms way.
"Of course I am. Would I be aboard the Flying Dutchman if I wasn't? I've been very curious to make your acquaintance, Mr. Gillette. Captain Turner said you'd show up here sooner or later, and he was right."
Captain Turner. The Flying Dutchman. A dowdy-dressed midshipman. But what about Norrington?
The other grinned and shook his head.
"How I've missed the intelligent conversations with officers! The navy hasn't changed a bit. I suppose you want me to fetch Mr. Norrington for you?"
Gillette's fingers dug deep in the bolster of the chaise longue he had been lying on, and his face lit up.
"He's here? So he's alive?"
The midshipman folded his hands.
"Yes. And no. But I'll leave that up to him to explain. Please forgive my curiosity, but I have a question before I leave. What is it like - being shot? What does it feel like? Is it painful?"
"Yes. See, I drowned. I'm afraid I've read too many books praising the romanticism of giving yourself to the sea. Let me assure you that it was not romantic in the least. Wet, cold, the burning pain in the lungs, the panic... so I wonder if your way has been more comfortable."
This was completely absurd. A bizarre dream. He'd wake up any moment in his cabin aboard the Blackberry, or in the brig, shaking his head. But this promised to be a dream featuring Norrington rather than a nightmare, so Gillette decided to indulge the strawberry blond figment of his imagination.
"It just - happened. There was some pain, I think. I'm afraid I can't really remember. My apologies."
"There is no need to apologise at all. It was only morbid curiosity on my part - I tend to be a bit tactless, I'm afraid."
The midshipman stood up, sketching pad under his arm. Gillette admired the elegant, flowing movement, seemingly at odds with his appearance.
"Who are you?" Gillette asked.
The other smiled sheepishly.
"I'm obviously not only tactless, but also very rude, Mr. Gillette. Please forgive me, I haven't introduced myself yet." He made a bow. "My name is Edward deVette. But you may call me Teddy."
* * *
Author's notes: "Bonny Light Horseman" (also known as "Broken-hearted Wanderer") is a traditional tune of Irish origin which was very popular during the Napoleonic wars. There a dozens of versions; I took the liberty to turn the "light horseman" into a sailor. My apologies to the cavalry.
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|BLACKBERRY - 10/15
by Molly Joyful