|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".
"You don't look very happy."
Gillette, leaning on the railing and staring out into the fog surrounding the Flying Dutchman, turned his head.
"I have no reason."
"You're in a byngish mood - I see. How unfortunate."
Teddy had changed his stockings; the ones he currently wore were not stained, but mended. Very badly mended, Gillette noticed. And what on earth did "byngish" mean? Teddy was a riddle, but a charming one; he felt comfortable in his presence. In a way, the painter reminded him of Captain Benham.
They stood for a while in silence, then Gillette couldn't hold back anymore, he just had to ask. "My apologies for being so blunt and forward, but what is your unfinished business?"
Teddy smiled and closed the top button of his waistcoat.
"I thought you'd never ask. The harsh truth is that I'm here because I've been a fool who made a terrible mistake. Artists tend to be a little melodramatic at times. I know I am - was - and that's why I'm here. When news reached me that Lucas' ship had been wrecked on the Barbary Coast and all men lost, I thought that life had become meaningless. And really, how could I have continued without him?"
"Lucas? Benham? Captain Benham?"
"Yes, Captain Lucas Benham. Judging from the flabbergasted expression on your face you aren't aware of our friendship's nature. The one he was about to offer you."
Gillette's head began to hurt; tiny hot needles in his eyeballs. Benham hadn't struggled during the last moment of their fight. Gillette had called him Lucas. Lucas. He liked the sound of it.
"Captain Benham is a sensible man," Gillette said carefully. "He would have never mentioned such a delicate matter."
Teddy wiggled his eyebrows. "Don't be so uptight. I don't hold it against him. Or you. On the contrary, it makes me happy to know that he hasn't lost his joy in life. Now where have I been with my story - ah yes. So, for weeks and months I sat at home, with nobody but the dogs for company, and one fine day I decided that it was enough. I threw myself from a cliff, and of course it was neither romantic nor dramatic. It was quite ugly, painful and unpleasant. I should have shot myself. And I'll never forgive myself that Macbeth drowned in a vein attempt at rescuing me."
"One of my dogs. I think you already made the acquaintance of Richard III. and Henry VIII.?"
Macbeth - Richard III. - Henry VIII. - good grief. "I did. They are aboard the Blackberry. So you - died?"
"As you can see. Died and found myself here on the Flying Dutchman, wearing this bloody uniform. I suppose that's some sort of punishment. Midshipman! I hated the navy. Even more so because this honourable institution kept Lucas away from me. The only time I really enjoyed myself as a midshipman was the day when I finally worked up the courage to kiss Lucas, behind a barrel in the hold. He didn't object at all, I have to add. See, if I'd had just a little more faith and patience, I wouldn't have thrown my life away. I should have waited for him. Lucas promised me once that he'd always return, and he did. He survived slavery and torture just to return and learn that I was dead. I'll never forgive myself for the pain I caused him. And now he has lost you as well."
Gillette shook his head.
"I doubt that my loss will have much impact on Captain Benham."
"That's where you're wrong about my Blackberry. He's-"
"That's what my mother used to call those with black hair, dark eyes and pale skin. And not to forget the freckles. I love his freckles. Nineteen he has on his nose. I should know, I've counted them every day he was with me."
Gillette wrinkled his nose; the mere thought of a man spending his time counting the freckles on another man's nose was ridiculous. That aside, Norrington had too many freckles to count each of them.
Teddy elbowed Gillette in the side and winked.
"You're a hypocrite, Mr. Gillette. But I don't mind, your kind of hypocrisy does have a charming touch. Please follow me; as you seem to have set your mind on staying aboard the Flying Dutchman, you should make yourself familiar with the ship. We'll start with the lower deck - know your crew, and you'll know your fate."
Gillette followed Teddy, slightly puzzled by the artist's cryptic remark.
* * *
Lieutenant Henry Tigg led the way to the lower deck of the Lydia. He was a good five years older than Mr. Jeremy, but looking at the nervous, insecure man, Jeremy couldn't help but feeling superior. Not that he hadn't been nervous, or felt less uncomfortable aboard the Lydia, but at least he didn't show it.
"There they are, Mr. Jeremy," Tigg said, and gestured at a group of five men, three of them standing, two of them sitting on a sea chest. When they saw the two officers approaching, they immediately stood up.
"Landsmen, all of them, but they learned quickly and are now quite skilled," Tigg explained.
Jeremy gave the five a stern look, but none of them lowered their gaze; their faces didn't show the expression of compliance Jeremy knew from the landsmen aboard the Blackberry.
"Will you need my assistance, Mr. Jeremy? If not, I would - there are some things-" Tigg said, then he broke off and chewed his lower lip, a picture of awkwardness. Jeremy, more than happy to get the man out of his hair, hastened to assure Tigg that his presence wasn't required at all.
Tigg breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank you, Mr. Jeremy. Mr. Dee might need my help."
Jeremy nodded, fully aware that Lieutenant Dee would need Tigg as much as a third leg. He waited until Tigg had left, then he turned to address the group of men, arching an eyebrow.
"You are landsmen, I hear? Not able to speak English? How very odd. The last time we met, you spoke it perfectly well, and you were very able seamen."
The oldest of the five stepped forward and made a deep bow.
"You must forgive us - depending on the situation, pretending not to understand a command can be very helpful, even if one has to put up with the rope end from time to time. Those who can't be asked questions will not have to give answers."
"You'd deserve the cat for this farce! What are you doing aboard a ship of the East India Trading Company, anyway?"
The man shrugged.
"Staying ashore would have been our certain death. We have to make a living. We have tried to find another ship, but..." He broke off, and Jeremy appreciated the man's tactfulness.
"I know. No ship would accept a man who sailed under my father's flag. How very strange to meet you here, of all the places!"
"We recognised you, despite the years that have passed since we have last met. We hoped that you would come aboard the Lydia again. This can't be a coincidence, Mou-"
Jeremy cut him off.
"My name is Jeremy. Midshipman Jeremy of the Royal Navy. If you want to keep your tongue, you better remember that. All of you."
The man bowed again.
"As you wish. We are very happy to see you are alive and well, Mr. Jeremy. Is there anything we can do for you?"
It took a moment for Jeremy to collect his thoughts and deal with this unexpected encounter with his past. He could feel the old pain and bitterness in his heart, but now was not the moment to allow his anger to take over his mind.
"I wish to know what happened to the barrel with Captain Greitzer's body."
The men exchanged a quick look.
"The barrel has gone overboard, Mr. Jeremy."
"I know that. I am not in the mood for silly banter. How did the barrel go overboard, that's what I want to know. Answer me, and make haste!"
For a moment there was silence, then a thin man with an eye patch stepped forward. Jeremy remembered him well - his nickname was One Eye, and as a boy, Jeremy had been very fascinated by the empty socket behind the patch. He had asked to see it over and over again, much to his mother's displeasure.
"It was us who did it, Mr. Jeremy," One Eye said. "It was the captain's wish."
"How can you know what Captain Greitzer wanted?" Jeremy asked impatiently. "No fairytales, I wish to hear the truth!"
"I wouldn't lie at my old captain's son," One Eye stated, looking very insulted. "Captain Greitzer always said that he wanted to be buried at sea. It was the right thing to do. The lieutenant gave us the order to throw the barrel overboard during the storm, and so we did it."
Jeremy lost his patience.
"This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!" he cried. "Are you trying to tell me that Lieutenant Tigg gave you the order to do such an outrageous thing?"
"No," One Eye replied. "Not Lieutenant Tigg. It was one of your officers, Mr. Jeremy. He said his name was Norrington."
* * *
Gillette heard the laughter of children. A rather unexpected noise aboard a haunted ship, but by now he had accepted that things aboard the Flying Dutchman were not at all as he had assumed.
"The ship's boys," Teddy explained. "They are obsessed with marbles; worse than the men with dice. Have you played marbles as a boy, Mr. Gillette?"
"Of course." Teddy's question woke memories in Gillette, memories of bright summer days, the scent of wild flowers, the feeling of the field-path's soft dust and sharp stones under his naked feet, the taste of clover and sour dock and - blackberries. Gillette closed his eyes for a moment, and it was as if he could feel the sun's warmth on his skin, and the tickling of the grass around his ankles.
He opened his eyes. No sunshine. No grass. No flowers. He was aboard the Flying Dutchman.
They approached the small group. Three boys on their knees, staring at the fourth player whose turn it was to shoot. A boy of about seven years bit his nails. Gillette concluded that it was his marble which was at risk. They all held their breath when the fourth player concentrated, threw his marble - and missed. Spectacularly.
The three boys cheered, and Will Turner shook his head.
"I can't believe it. I've missed again! I demand revanche!"
The boy laughed.
"You will only lose again, captain!"
"I'm afraid you are right, Mr. Greitzer. To sleep now, you terrible lot!"
Gillette stared at Will, then at the boy, and finally at Teddy.
"Greitzer?" he croaked. "Is that... is he...?"
"Wait and see."
The three boys stood up and patted the dust off their breeches. Greitzer picked up the rest of the clay marbles and put them in his pocket, then he went to his hammock. He was too small to reach it; somebody would have to help him.
"Eat more and grow faster," a young lad said, ruffling Greitzer's hair. "Can't spend my days looking after tiny tots!" He lifted the boy in his hammock. "Now sleep, and let the captain win tomorrow, just for once. This is embarrassing."
Greitzer poked his tongue out at the lad.
"You're only jealous because you're always losing."
"Terribly jealous!" The lad took a blanket and covered the boy carefully. "Now sleep, though I can't imagine that it's very comfortable to sleep on so many marbles. Never mind, it's your arse that will get bruised, not mine."
Greitzer muttered something, and the lad laughed. He turned towards Gillette and Teddy, and a lamp threw some light on his face.
Gillette staggered backwards, and Teddy quickly took his arm, steadying him.
"Oh God. Oh good God. Daniel - is that you? Daniel?"
The lad inclined his head, looking at Gillette in bewilderment.
"Yes, my name is Daniel, Sir. Daniel Groves. Do you know me?"
Gillette couldn't answer. He just stared at the lad with the blue neckerchief, the lad who had once been a lieutenant just like him - and his best friend.
"Mr. Gillette has only just joined the crew, Mr. Groves. He's still very confused. Go to sleep now," Will said, giving Gillette a warning glare.
"Yes, Captain Turner," Groves replied, and trotted off to his own hammock. He looked back over his shoulder, and Gillette thought that, for the fracture of a second, he had seen recognition in the brown eyes.
"You let him win again, didn't you?" Teddy asked, and Will grinned.
"Of course. But he's getting better; give him another month or so, and I won't have to pretend that he's winning. I wonder if my boy is good at playing marbles as well."
Gillette felt sorry for Will when he saw the wistful expression on the captain's face.
"Have you seen him, Mr. Gillette?" Will asked. "And my wife? Are they both well? What are they doing? Are they well cared for? What do they look like? Is he studying?"
"I - yes. Yes, they are well," Gillette replied, overwhelmed by Will's questions. He was tempted to say that no, he had no bloody clue what Mrs. Turner and Mr. Turner junior were doing, and that he couldn't care less, but that would have been cruel. Will didn't deserve such harsh words; his fate was bad enough.
"You son is still a wee baby, Captain Turner."
"Oh - yes, of course." Will scratched his head and smiled sheepishly. "It's a bit difficult to keep track of time aboard the Dutchman, you see."
"I understand. They are well cared for and are both healthy. Captain Benham and Governor Green have been very caring and generous."
It was good to see the relief on Will's face. He was a good man. Just like James Norrington, Will Turner shouldn't be here, separated from wife and son, no matter how much Gillette disliked said wife.
"You still don't like her, do you? No, don't answer. I know."
Teddy quickly changed the subject.
"Captain, I think Mr. Gillette would appreciate an explanation for - you know." He gestured in direction of Greitzer's hammock.
"The ship's boys?" Will pointed with his thumb over his shoulder. "Everybody has a second chance. Mr. Groves took Mr. Greitzer's life, now he's responsible for him. We will see if he will seize this chance. So far, it looks well."
Gillette could feel a hand on his shoulder. When he turned his head, he could see Norrington standing behind him, smiling.
"Letting go and forgive, Thomas. That's what it is all about." He went to the hammock where the smallest of the three boys was standing, looking helpless and a bit embarrassed. It was obvious that he was looking for a way to get in his hammock. Gillette wondered why the boy didn't simply ask one of the men for help, but judging from the determined expression on his face he was not one to ask for anything, rather preferred to get his things done by himself.
"You can stand here all night, young man, but there won't grow a beanstalk for you," Norrington said, folding his arms over his chest.
The boy pouted. "I could take a bucket."
"You could. But wouldn't it be easier if you simply asked for help?"
"If you help me, I will owe you something."
Norrington shook his head.
"Not everything has a price. Bread has, and wine, but not helpfulness."
The boy considered Norrington's words for a while, still suspicious.
"You wouldn't lie to me, would you?"
"No, I wouldn't. You have my word."
A sigh, then the boy nodded.
"Would you help me, Sir?"
"But of course."
Norrington lifted the boy up and lay him in the hammock.
"That wasn't too difficult, was it?"
"Thank you, Sir."
"My pleasure. Sleep well."
Norrington returned to Gillette, who stared at the boy in the hammock with unconcealed hatred.
"Would you have helped him, Thomas?" Norrington asked.
Gillette's fingers closed into fists, knuckles standing out white and fingernails digging painfully in his palms.
"No," he hissed. "Never!"
Teddy and Will didn't seem to be surprised about the answer. Norrington looked at the boy, then turned to Gillette. "I knew this would be your answer," he said. "And that's why you can't join this crew. At least not now."
* * *
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|BLACKBERRY - 12/15
by Molly Joyful