|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".
Gillette looked around the captain's cabin. Will Turner's cabin. Very tidy and cosy. Not exactly what he would have expected to find aboard a cursed ship. There were maps on the table and a writing slope; Gillette could see a batonnet of red sealing wax. It had been used; whom could the captain of the Flying Dutchman possibly write to? It was not like there was any way to send the letters off.
The orderliness reminded Gillette of Norrington. There had been days when he had cursed his captain for making him rewrite reports five times because of a misspelled word or a blotch of ink in a journal. Once a bucket, forgotten on deck by a thoughtless ship's boy, had prompted Norrington to cut the crew's daily rum ration by fifty percent. Even Gillette had disagreed with that decision and tried to intervene, but Norrington wouldn't listen. It was such a typical thing for him to do - keeping his calm in the greatest storm, giving leeway to his men where any other captain would have punished, but losing his temper over a pointless, ridiculous thing like a bucket, disturbing the orderliness on deck.
To think that the pedantic captain and the former commodore in rags returning to Port Royal had been the same man...
The Flying Dutchman wasn't equipped with a night cabin for her captain. Will Turner's cot was located in the back of the great cabin, behind a curtain. A drawing of Elizabeth Turner was pinned to the hull; Gillette guessed that Teddy had made it, following Will's description. Quite a likeness, considering he had never seen the former Miss Swann. What kind of captain might Will Turner be? Was he stern with his crew? Lenient? Gillette found it difficult to imagine Will Turner in command of a ship, and then even a cursed one! Gillette liked Will, he had been a friendly enough lad and grown up to be a good man, but if the rumours could be believed, he had literally lost his heart. God alone knew what else he had sacrificed.
Gillette took a seat on the chair Teddy had previously been sitting on. He folded his hands and stared down at his shoes. So he was dead and aboard the Flying Dutchman - good. Norrington was here as well - excellent. Where would the journey go to? He had heard as many versions of the legend as he had asked people. Did the Flying Dutchman carry the souls of the damned straight to hell? Or the righteous to paradise? Or did she just sail the Seven Seas for eternity, without any purpose at all? And where would the Flying Dutchman carry him?
"Thomas - good grief."
Gillette jumped up. Hearing that voice again, after all this time, saying his name, came as a shock. He made a hesitant step forward, then halted, unable to do anything but stare.
Norrington didn't look like the troubled man in Gillette's memory - Admiral Norrington of the EITC didn't exist anymore. Nor did Commodore James Norrington of the Royal Navy. The calm, serene man wearing an old-fashioned lieutenant's uniform with blue breeches was a memory of Gillette's youth, when he had served aboard the Dauntless as a midshipman.
Norrington closed the cabin door and shook his head.
"You really shouldn't be here, Thomas." Upon seeing the crestfallen expression on Gillette's face, Norrington smiled - shyly and a little embarrassed. "However, I'd be a terrible liar if I said that I was not delighted to see you. I have missed you."
"I'm happy to see you as well, Sir," Gillette stammered. "I have been looking for you. For a long time, Sir."
"I know. And now you've found me. However, I hope you are aware that I can't approve of your actions."
Norrington didn't wear a hat. Gillette could see a bow, holding the unpowdered brown hair back in a pigtail. He had no idea why this insignificant detail caught his attention. Maybe it was because there was no wig, that intimidating sign of authority and superiority, that he finally could move again.
"I had to do it."
Norrington tapped his fingers on the table. No change in his habits, and he still wore the large signet ring. Not that there was anything to seal on the Flying Dutchman, Gillette thought.
"Thomas, you abandoned your ship, right in the middle of a storm. You ignored your captain's orders and even attacked him. Had you acted like this under my command, I'd dragged you in front of a court martial for mutiny. Lucas trusted you, how could you disappoint him so? And what about Mr. Jeremy, the poor lad? He must feel terrible for shooting somebody he considered to be a friend. And all this because of me? I wouldn't have wanted that."
Gillette paled. He didn't know what he had expected, but certainly not awkwardness and accusations. He couldn't even protest them, because Norrington was right. He had been irresponsible and jumped ship, and the worst thing about it was that he didn't feel any remorse at all. He knew what he wanted to say, the words were there, in his head, he had said them over and over in the long nights since Norrington's departure, but now he couldn't speak.
Norrington slowly crossed the room, then he took his former lieutenant's hand and pressed it to his chest. At first, Gillette didn't know what to make of that gesture, but then he understood. There was no heartbeat, no breathing. He wanted to ask - had to ask what Norrington was if not alive, but he didn't dare to.
"You silly boy," Norrington said lovingly, caressing Gillette's cheek. "All this for me? I'm not part of your world anymore, Thomas."
Norrington's hand wasn't cold, but still Gillette shuddered, and his own heart beat so fast that he thought it could be heard even on the fighting-top of the Flying Dutchman.
His own heart - it was beating. The realisation that he, Thomas Gillette, was alive and talking to a dead man finally hit him, and he swallowed hard, trying not to show his fear.
But Norrington could read in Gillette's face like in an open book.
"Don't be scared, Thomas. I'm not a ghost to haunt you; I'm still aboard the Flying Dutchman. Like everybody else here, I'm waiting. And learning."
"Waiting for whom? For what? And what do you have to learn?"
Norrington followed the outline of Gillette's lips with his finger. At first Gillette flinched, but then he pressed a kiss on the tip, and was rewarded with a grateful smile.
"All of us are here because of unfinished business. Bootstrap, for example - he has to catch up on a lifetime he hasn't been there for his son. Others have to let go, forgive. Sometimes their enemies, sometimes themselves. They can't leave this ship until they let go."
"Leave? Where to?"
"Who knows? We'll find out once we go there. But it must be a good place, because those of our crew who leave go with a light heart."
"What is your unfinished business?"
"Of course. That can't surprise you. I never thanked you for all you did, I never apologised for my harsh words, and I never told you that I love you. Three good reasons to sail on the Flying Dutchman."
Norrington took Gillette's hands in his own, running his thumbs over the knuckles. "Thomas, you can't stay here. Your time hasn't come yet, and there's still so much to do and see for you."
Gillette freed his hands of Norrington's hold.
"I will not return without you. Barbossa has returned, Sparrow has returned. Why can't you?"
"Because nobody should return, Thomas. Some borders may not be crossed."
"Those two shouldn't have returned, indeed! But you are not a pirate!"
Norrington shook his head. Gillette almost expected him to sigh, but of course that couldn't happen. Again, he felt that cold, uncomfortable feeling in his stomach. He made a step backwards.
"You refuse to return? Fine. Then I will stay."
"I won't allow it."
Gillette closed his fingers into fists.
"There is nothing you can allow or forbid me anymore, Mr. Norrington, Sir! If you want me to leave, you'll have to throw me overboard!"
Gillette rushed out of the cabin without a further word, slamming the door. There was no point in following him; he wouldn't listen. Norrington was grateful when the door opened and Edward deVette entered, looking very concerned.
"I was almost run over by a very angry red-haired lieutenant who swore a blue streak on your head. He could make a marine blush with that vocabulary. I assume it didn't go well?"
"Not well at all. I can't make him understand that he shouldn't be here, probably because I want him to stay. I want it so much, Teddy, can you understand?"
The painter put a hand on Norrington's shoulder, a friendly gesture of comfort.
"If anybody aboard this ship understands, then it's me. But that's another thing to learn: it takes two to let go, James. Maybe I should have a word with him? Who knows, between us tragic heroes, we might be able to find a solution for the problem."
Norrington nodded. "You are probably right, but I hope you won't hold it against me if I don't wish you good luck, Teddy."
"Just don't hold it against me if I should be successful, James. Eternity can be terrible in grumpy company."
* * *
The Lydia had weathered the storm well, just like the two other ships of the convoy. Lieutenant Dee was actually rather surprised upon hearing Captain Benham's report of the storm's ferocity.
"Looking at the state of the Blackberry, I have no doubt the storm has been terrible, Sir. As we caught up with you within a day, I assumed we had been close by. But we must have drifted off further than I thought. We had a bit of rough sea, but hardly any damage."
Benham, pacing up and down his cabin like a caged tiger, arched his eyebrows, and Mr. Jeremy looked very surprised.
"A bit of rough sea? I'd call that the understatement of the century! We have lost nine men!"
"Thankfully, no lives were lost aboard the Lydia, Sir, but I'm afraid we... lost Captain Greitzer. Sort of."
Benham halted abruptly. "I beg your pardon? How can you lose a captain? Sort of?"
Dee looked embarrassed.
"The barrel's gone. The brandy barrel, Sir. The one holding Captain Greitzer's body. It has disappeared, Sir."
"Good grief, Mr. Dee - stop talking in riddles! Brandy barrels don't have the habit of growing legs and walking away all by themselves! How can you possibly lose such an item?"
Dee shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. He had to be careful how to word his reply; Benham was irritable and in a bad mood.
"I don't know yet, Sir. I only know that it's gone. I suspect that some superstitious seamen threw it overboard, but none of my inquiries cited any answers. Nobody has seen or heard anything, not even our marines. Would it be possible for Mr. Jeremy to assist me on the Lydia for a day? There are some seamen I haven't questioned yet. Lieutenant Groves used to give them their orders, and as he's deadů they barely speak any English, Sir. Mr. Jeremy might be able to translate their words."
Benham clasped his hands behind his back. "Of course, of course. Mr. Jeremy, you will accompany Mr. Dee."
"Mr. Dee, I trust you to return Mr. Jeremy in one piece and unharmed. If I lose another officer, I might find myself holystoning the deck of this ship rather than commanding it. That aside, I wouldn't want him to miss his lieutenant's exam."
Jeremy risked a smile, and Benham pinched the bridge of his nose. Dee thought that the captain looked very tired and old. He had never seen him like that, not even through those two terrible years in slavery.
"The list of oddities I will have to explain to the Admiralty is becoming alarmingly long, Mr. Dee. I trust you are aware of the incident concerning Mr. Gillette?"
Dee, who had learned the whole story in every detail from Mr. Wallace, exchanged a quick look with Jeremy, but the midshipman turned his head away.
"I only heard that he went overboard in the storm," Dee replied carefully.
"Then you have heard all there is to know. Dismiss."
* * *
Benham tossed and turned in his cot. He was dead tired, and if this state of insomnia continued, he would have to hand the command of the Blackberry over to Lieutenant Dee. His exhausted mind began to play tricks on him. During supper, he had seen Gillette from the corner of his eyes. Last night, he had been certain to hear James Norrington's voice, shouting orders. It was maddening.
After two hours, Benham had enough and stood up. He put on his breeches, not bothering with stockings or even shoes, and went to the great cabin, where he first opened his sea chest, then a bottle of whiskey. He ignored the tumblers and drank straight from the bottle. Possibly a crime punishable by death in Scotland, but this was not about pleasure. It was about getting drunk as quickly as possible, numbing the pain, switching off his brain.
While the alcohol warmed his stomach and filled his head with cotton wool, Benham began to envy Captain Greitzer. No more trouble, no more responsibilities, and a final resting place surrounded by the best brandy the navy supplied. Benham knew that Norrington had always kept a barrel ready, just in case he should die at sea. Ridiculous. What family could possibly want to see a loved one returning home as a bloody pickle? No barrel for him. Benham couldn't care less what would happen to his own remains.
Then again, it might have been nice if Teddy had chosen a way of suicide that would at least have allowed for some sort of final resting place. Somewhere Benham could have gone to for a chat, once in a while. But Teddy probably knew that Benham would have put the most hideous and tasteless memorial on his grave - something very large with many winged putti, surrounding a weeping mermaid - all this just to punish him for leaving his lover behind. Despite his sorrows, Benham had to smile. Dear, dear Teddy - he knew him all too well.
Benham sat on his sea chest for well half an hour, and when he stood up, the whiskey had done its duty. He was four sheets to the wind, at least, and careened towards his cot, bumping into the door frame first. Benham rubbed his hurting head and decided that he was now in the perfect mood to be angry with Thomas Gillette.
That stupid lad! It could have been perfect! He would have taken his time to win Gillette over - seduction was an art and demanded care and patience, especially if there was someone so precious at stake. Of course, he would have sent Gillette to serve on a different ship; Benham knew his own temper and passion well enough to be aware that he wouldn't have had the strength to resist temptation in the long term.
Damned be the stubborn bastard - why didn't Gillette give him the chance to try and make him smile again? Benham was convinced that he could have done that. Making Gillette smile again. Love again. Live again.
Benham took another swig, then dropped the bottle.
"You bloody idiot," he grumbled into the dark, addressing the recently deceased Thomas Gillette.
"He's still young, give him some time, Blackberry," he heard Teddy's amused voice next to his ear. "And I would actually have liked a weeping mermaid."
Benham cursed and rolled over, trying to find the bottle. Quite obviously, he wasn't drunk enough yet.
* * *
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|BLACKBERRY - 11/15
by Molly Joyful