|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 stood next to Gillette on the quarterdeck, hands clasped behind his back. This was a familiar pose. Gillette had seen him standing like this countless times: solid as a rock, unmoved. Benham was usually pacing up and down the quarterdeck, talking to three people at the same time, always thinking one step ahead, being everywhere and nowhere and still not missing a thing happening aboard his ship.
Gillette wondered what Benham and the crew of the Blackberry were doing at this moment. Had the ship weathered the storm? Had there been any losses? Had they already made port in Port Royal again? And what might Benham's thoughts be? Had the captain already forgotten about him, Gillette the madman? Somehow that thought bothered Gillette. He wanted to matter. Be of some importance to Benham.
"You are, Thomas."
Gillette, lost in thoughts, jumped when Norrington addressed him.
"Of importance to Lucas. One of the many reasons why you shouldn't be here."
"I'm here because of you. I don't understand this ship, its mission - or you. I hoped for answers, but all I got so far were more questions!"
Norrington looked down at his shoes.
"I'm sorry, Thomas. Please ask whatever you want, I'll reply - if I know the answer, that is."
"How did you die?"
"Bootstrap Bill ran my sword through me. But before you do anything unwise: he wasn't himself, his mind was troubled. I hold no grudge."
"And why did he kill you?"
Norrington straightened the cuffs of his shirts, a certain sign that he felt uncomfortable.
"I was securing the escape of Elizabeth and her men. It was the only way."
"Nonsense," Gillette snapped. "You could have joined them, nobody forced you to stay aboard this bloody ship! You could have returned!"
"And then? What then, Thomas? Tell me. Return to Port Royal? To you? What would my life have been like? Or yours? My time had come, and at least I died for a worthy purpose."
"You died for her."
"Is that what Elizabeth told you?"
"She said you sacrificed your life for her."
To Gillette's great surprise, Norrington smiled.
"She is right. Then again, she is not."
"I don't understand..."
Norrington gave Gillette a sidewise glance.
"In the last minute of my life I remembered who I was, Thomas. I would have died for Jack Sparrow or anybody else in her place as well. I remembered that I've once sworn that I would serve others, not only myself."
There was silence between them. Gillette thought about Norrington's words, and how they applied to himself. Was he serving others now, or only himself? If he was honest - and Gillette tried to be - he had to admit that his actions had been rather selfish, driven by his love and longing, without regard to anybody's feelings but his own or the consequences of his actions.
It began to drizzle; the tiny drops covered his red hair with a thin, wet veil. Fog and sea and clouds became one, and Gillette had the uncomfortable feeling of being lost in this silent greyness. When he licked his lips, he noticed that the water was salty. Another reminder that he was in a different world. And whether he liked it or not, it was not his world.
"The worst thing was being alone. Knowing that there was no way to reach you. Those few weeks at sea on the Flying Dutchman were what I imagine hell to be. Ten years must be endless torture for a man who is separated from his loved ones. Thomas, I will offer Captain Turner to take over his duties and become the captain of the Flying Dutchman. I want him to return home. I don't want his boy to grow up without a father, and I don't want Elizabeth to be alone."
Norrington could feel Gillette radiating disapproval, bitterness and anger. Elizabeth Turner's well-being was none of his concern. Norrington put his hand on Gillette's arm, and was grateful when he didn't shake it off.
"I will command this ship and wait patiently for the moment when my first lieutenant returns to me. Once your time has come, you will be by my side again. Until then, I want you to live. I could order you to leave the Flying Dutchman. I could even force you. But I won't do any such thing. Instead I beg you, Thomas - please return."
For a long while, Gillette remained silent. Then he covered Norrington's hand with his own.
"I have your word that you will keep the position of first lieutenant available for me?"
"You will always be my first, Thomas."
Gillette didn't let go of Norrington's hand. He looked up and saw in Norrington's eyes a question, something that had not been discussed yet.
"I - may I ask you for one last favour? There is something you can do for me - for all of us aboard the Flying Dutchman."
"Anything, James. Anything."
* * *
From the corner of his eyes, Gillette could see the stack of letters on the small table. Some were addressed to people who were probably dead for a century. But he would still deliver them, even if he had to deposit them on withered headstones or stick them in grave mounds. A good number had been written by himself, being the scribe again, during the last two days, for those men aboard the Flying Dutchman who had never learned to write.
The content of those letters were all the same - declarations of love, petitions for forgiveness, countless apologies. Most of the men who had given him a letter for a loved one had disappeared; at least Gillette had not seen them again. Maybe they had finished their business?
Will Turner was still there, though. He had placed a stack of sealed letters in front of Gillette, all of them addressed in a very neat hand to "Mrs. William Turner and Mr. William Turner."
"For my wife," he had explained, a little embarrassed. "Will you give them to her? She must be worried."
Gillette had gnashed his teeth but promised that he would, indeed, make sure that Elizabeth Turner would receive all her husband's letters. He didn't promise to deliver them personally, though - he had to draw the line somewhere.
Norrington chuckled and pressed a kiss on Gillette's neck, just below the ear. He was rewarded with the pleasant feeling of his lover's fingers drawing lazy patterns on his back. Gillette was still a bit dizzy and wearied by their love-making. Good words - "love-making". Accurate - at least this time. Their encounter had been nothing like the pitiable coupling back in Port Royal at all, which had been little more than a desperate last-ditch attempt to save Norrington's sanity and had left Gillette miserable and heart-broken. It had been a mistake; had him left wondering if he had meant anything to Norrington at all.
Now he knew, and with that knowledge came peace. He had to leave, yes, but one day he would return, and he would be welcome.
"Has Teddy given you a letter as well?" Norrington asked. He wrapped a strand of Gillette's hair around his finger, let go, did the same thing over and over again and was happy with it.
"No, he hasn't."
"What have you two been talking about then?"
"I asked him if he would return if he were in my place. He said he wouldn't hesitate a moment. Why are you asking?"
"Curiosity, nothing else. Will you tell Lucas about all this?"
Gillette looked at the stack of letters. He thought of the ship's boys and their marbles, of Will Turner. And he thought of Teddy. How could he possibly tell Captain Benham about this?
"I'd be locked up in Bedlam for the rest of my life. Who knows if this is even real - maybe I'm dreaming, and I'm only seeing you because I want to. Maybe I have lost my mind."
Norrington caressed Gillette's cheek, his fingernails slightly scratching over the skin.
"Should you ever decide to tell Lucas - if the discussion should ever come up - will you give him a message from me?"
"Ask him to burn the book."
"He will know."
Gillette was not happy with that answer, but he was too tired to dig deeper. His limbs felt like lead, and he could barely keep his eyes open. It was annoying; he wanted to enjoy the sight of Norrington's face as long as possible.
"Give in, Thomas. You're tired, you should sleep. I will watch over you."
Tiny kisses on his face, caressing fingers on his skin, a loving kiss, tasting of the sea, then the bliss of a deep, undisturbed sleep.
* * *
Mr. Wallace found Mr. Jeremy sitting on one of the coops, hunched over a book and seemingly lost in study. The fact that he hadn't turned a page for half an hour supported Wallace's decision to have a word with the lad. He leaned on the top coop, next to Jeremy's legs, ignoring the loud protests of the fowl.
"Pardon me, Sir, but Mr. Reynolds was allowed to leave sick bay. I thought you might want to know."
Jeremy looked up.
"Thank you, Mr. Wallace. That's good news, for a change."
"Not much of that lately, I'm afraid."
Jeremy slapped his book close.
"Mr. Wallace, may I ask you a question?"
"Will you answer me truthfully?"
"I always do, Sir."
"Good." Jeremy put the book aside and folded his hands over his knee. "I know that I have done the right thing, Mr. Wallace. And I would do it again, if I was in the same situation. Yet I still feel as if I was a common murderer. Why is that so if my actions have been right?"
Wallace scratched his head.
"Well, I'd say I'd be worried more if you didn't feel bad about it, Sir. A life is a life; takes nine months to give it but only a second to take it, as Captain Benham often says. And Mr. Gillette was a fine man. You couldn't know about his insanity, and even if - it would have been impossible to tell if the captain was in danger or not. I don't know if it's a help to you or not, Sir, but I think Lieutenant Gillette would have been very proud of you. Really, he would have."
Jeremy slipped off the scoop and went to the railing. Wallace followed him, standing next to the midshipman.
"Sometimes I think the sea is endless, Mr. Wallace. I know I shouldn't feel fear, but it's a scary thought that he's out there now, somewhere. Do you think he's in a good place?"
"I have no doubt about that, Sir. I don't know where Lieutenant Gillette is, but-"
"Mr. Wallace, look at that!" Jeremy interrupted him, and grasped Wallace's arm, suddenly very excited. "Can you see that?"
Wallace squinted, then he whistled through his teeth.
"Indeed! I will inform the captain immediately!"
Jeremy hurried to fetch Captain Benham, shouting some commands. Men gathered on deck, staring out at the calm sea.
"Debris from a wrecked ship," one said. "Driftwood," suggested another. Wallace said nothing, but to him it was obvious that it was a boat, maybe even one of their own, lost in the storm.
* * *
"You are right, Mr. Jeremy," Benham confirmed, looking through the spy glass. "It is a boat. And it's not empty."
Benham turned to his men.
"Launch the boats!" he yelled. "There might be a castaway aboard! My compliments, your eyes are sharp like those of an eagle, Mr. Jeremy."
It was a dorey, approached quickly by the two boats of the Blackberry. Despite the spy glass, Benham couldn't tell whether the person lying in it was alive or not. He hoped that his men wouldn't be confronted with the sight of a corpse which had been exposed to the sun for several days.
One of the boats had reached the dory, dragged it close with a pike pole and took it in tow. Benham wished the boats would speed up their return to the Blackberry, but then again, it was better they took their time rather than losing the dory and its freight. What a good thing there was a lull in the wind - highly unusual in this part of the West Indies.
Benham began to feel uneasy.
"Can you make out the ship's name on the dorey, Mr. Jeremy?" he asked, and passed the spy glass to the midshipman.
Jeremy had a closer look, the tip of his tongue showing between his lips. It was another one of those little quirks he had copied from Gillette, and seeing it was a stab in Benham's heart. That idiot. That stupid, thoughtless, obsessed, loveable idiot.
The boats were now very close, they would reach the Blackberry any moment.
"That's not possible..." Jeremy murmured.
"What? What? Good grief, lad, speak!" Benham snapped impatiently.
Jeremy returned the spy glass to his captain.
"I could be wrong, but to me it reads like 'Vliegende Hollander', Sir."
"Nonsense!" Benham glared angrily at Jeremy, then he hurried without a further word to the group of seamen who were busy heaving the castaway from the dory aboard the Blackberry. It was a man; Benham couldn't see his face as one of the men stood in the way, but judging by the uniform he wore, the castaway was a midshipman.
"He's alive!" somebody cried. "Fetch some blankets and rum!"
Wallace didn't join the crowd, he looked at Jeremy who clung to the railing, pale and shaken to the core.
"Mr. Jeremy, pardon me for asking, but why was the captain so upset about that name?"
Jeremy stared at the dorey. He heard a heavy, thudding noise - the castaway had been heaved aboard the Blackberry. The very moment the man touched the deck, the dorey began to wither and turn to dust, blown away by a soft breeze, ending the lull of the wind.
"It is nothing, Mr. Wallace," Jeremy said. "I must have been misread it."
* * *
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|BLACKBERRY - 13/15
by Molly Joyful