|Rating: PG-13, slash (unrequited)
Pairings: Norrington/Gillette, Will/Norrington hinted
Other characters: Lord Cutler Beckett, Mr. Mercer
Summary: Some dogs will never accept the leash.
Cutler Beckett had only picked the best pieces for his splendid apartments. The paintings on the walls, the furniture, the floor-length purple velvet curtains - everything was perfectly matched. However, the manacles firmly locked around his wrists were a painful reminder for Lieutenant Gillette that this was not an invitation to tea.
"I can tell that you're a man of exquisite taste by the way you admire my home. Outstanding, isn't it?"
As usual, Beckett's voice made Gillette's hair bristle under his wig. He had disliked the smooth-talking, pint-sized representative of the East India Trading Company from the first moment on, and the warrant for the arrest of Commodore James Norrington had not endeared Beckett to Gillette's heart.
Beckett seemed pleased with the reply; Gillette had broken his silence at last. "You won't be surprised to hear that it cost me a fortune to have all those treasures shipped from England."
"I beg to differ; it cost Commodore Norrington a small fortune, for most of these pieces used to be in his possession. I'm very certain that the demi-lune over there is an heirloom of the Norrington family."
"I discern hostility. I can assure you that the Norrington's are not the only ones who possess precious items. There are heirlooms in my family as well."
"No doubt. Couple of brass buttons, a needle case or two and maybe the buckles off your grandfather's breeches."
Beckett clenched his jaw. His father had been a tailor, and it was not a wise move to remind his lordship of his humble origins. Nobody but Gillette would have dared, but that had not come as a surprise: maybe the Royal Navy in Port Royal had stroked the flag to the East India Trading Company, but not Gillette. Beckett had his own theories regarding the reasons for Gillette's stubborn loyalty to James Norrington and refusal to cooperate with the EITC, and in time, he'd present them.
"You're rather bold for one who stands here in irons, Mr. Gillette," Beckett said.
"I demand to know why I'm here. Do you need somebody to do the looting and pillaging for you, Sir?"
Beckett clapped his hands in mocking applause and smiled.
"Nobody can make a title sound like an insult as you do, my dear friend. But it's a fair question - why are you here? To be quite honest with you: I haven't made my mind up yet. There are so many tempting possibilities! Cowardice, for example – I'm very certain I could produce witnesses who will confirm that you struck the flag of the Interceptor and handed over command to Captain Jack Sparrow with nigh a fight."
Gillette gnashed his teeth. "There was no need for a fight. It takes - it took more than two men to sail her, so she wasn't of any use to Sparrow. I decided it would be a better choice to simply let him find out that fact for himself. I couldn't know that-"
He didn't finish the sentence. The angry tone of his voice amused Beckett greatly, though, and so he continued to needle the lieutenant.
"I see, I see, you would not appreciate such accusations. How about 'helping a condemned prisoner to escape' then? That always makes for an entertaining court martial. No? Very well then, I'll settle for 'treason'. I think you will appreciate the irony. Still, you must believe me, I really don't enjoy doing this, for I, more than anybody else, appreciate your qualities. It pains me to see a man like you in irons."
"I'm very sorry that you suffer so greatly," Gillette mocked. "Do you wish me to call Mr. Mercer so he may collect your tears in a bottle?"
Beckett smiled dreamily. "I might collect yours very soon. This really has been a bad week for you and your friends, Mr. Gillette. That scandal surrounding Captain Norrington - good grief! Shocking, absolutely shocking."
"There's no scandal surrounding Commodore Norringto.," Gillette hoped that Beckett wouldn't notice the fear tinging his voice. What had happened? One moment he'd been aboard his ship, the next he had found himself dragged to Cutler Beckett's quarters in irons.
"Of course, you can't know – silly me. It's too embarrassing, really. Mr. Norrington has finally surfaced, but unfortunately, he has switched sides and become a member of Jack Sparrow's crew. As you detest pirates just as much as I do, you will be pleased to hear that he is under arrest now, though. As you can see, the East India Trading Company is just as effective as the Royal Navy! Mr. Norrington was found travelling in the company of Mr. Turner, by the way. A very charming young man; Mr. Norrington seems to be very fond of him. Extraordinarily fond, actually,” Beckett added perfidiously, and he noticed with greatest pleasure that he had hit Gillette where it hurt this time.
"And you brought me here to tell me that? Next time send one of your servants with a note. And now spare me further nonsense and hang me already," Gillette snapped. "Whatever it is that you want from me, you won't get it."
"Who said that I wanted something you have?" Beckett protested, all righteous indignation. "And if there should be something I wanted - why would you turn an offer down that hasn't even been made yet?"
"No offer of yours would be acceptable to me. As I said, hang me. The sooner, the better."
"For one so young, you are very enamoured with death, Mr. Gillette. Very noble. Very heroic. Very - stupid. I have no doubt that you'd proudly walk to the gallows and laugh at the hangman, so it would be pointless to offer you a pardon, I'm aware of that. But what about Mr. Norrington's life?"
Cutler Beckett folded his hands on the desk.
"See, I knew that would catch your attention. Yes, I'd be willing to let him go a free man, despite the unfortunate matter of Jack Sparrow's escape. I might even offer him a career in the East India Trading Company. All charges dropped, honour restored, wig returned. Alternatively, we could have a double hanging in the market square. I'm sure people would appreciate some entertainment. It's your decision."
Gillette closed his eyes for a moment. He had witnessed many executions, and before his inner eye, he could see Norrington hanging from the gallows, breathing his last while people cheered and threw offal.
"So what is it that you want? I doubt your offer to spare Commodore Norrington's life is an act of selfless generosity."
Cutler Beckett left his place behind the desk and came to stand in front of Gillette.
"It's quite simple: I want your loyalty. I need somebody who I can rely on and trust. He who pays the piper calls the tune, but I'm no fool, Mr. Gillette. Many men are still loyal to Captain Norrington, even if they now wear the uniform of the East India Trading Company. They would be loyal to you as well. I'd give you command of your own ship; you'd be in the service of the East India Trading Company. And myself, of course." He stepped even closer. "That's my offer. I want you on my side. By my side. And I want you to be to me what you've been to him."
Gillette looked at Beckett with a puzzled expression on his face, then he threw his head back and laughed. It was a cheerful laughter, almost a giggle, transforming the usually so stern officer into a mischievous boy.
"I thought you were a man to study sales figures, now I have to learn that you read fairytales instead!" He chuckled once more, then shook his head. "You're insane. You want my loyalty? My friendship? By now even you should have realised how much I despise you."
Cutler Beckett grinned and ran his hand down Gillette's cheek, noting with great pleasure the disgust on the man's face as he flinched back.
"But that's exactly why I want you. Where would be the fun in that if you liked me? We are very much alike, and it's about time you acknowledged that fact. To me, hunting is far more fun than making a kill. I'm a hunter, and so are you, Mr. Gillette. The main reason why you want James Norrington is because you can't have him. That's your challenge. That's what attracts you to him. You're his loyal dog and you don't mind walking on his leash, barking and biting for him, hoping in vain to be petted for your efforts one day."
"You're pathetic," Gillette hissed.
"You can't really be surprised that he chose Turner over you," Beckett continued, ignoring the insult. "Norrington needs a pup licking his hand, not a terrier biting it."
Gillette shook his head."I've known Will Turner since he was a lad. Just like many others, you're underestimating him. You're also underestimating me. Only two of your many mistakes that will eventually be your downfall."
"I had no idea you were so fond of young Turner. Bravo, how generous of you, sharing so willingly. Fine, you have convinced me. I'll increase my offer: I'll also give Mr. Turner his freedom. Do we have an agreement?"
Gillette shivered. If there really had been a Garden of Eden once, he was currently talking to the snake. "No," he finally replied.
"Think about it. You could have all you wanted, become a very powerful man." Cutler Beckett's voice lowered to a mere whisper. "Your leash would be made of gold, and unlike James Norrington, I would know how to reward you, Thomas."
Gillette looked over his shoulder and arched an eyebrow, a smug smile on his lips.
"Lord Cutler Beckett is begging. Who'd have thought I'd live to see that?"
Beckett, who had just been fiddling with Gillette's cravat, jumped back as if he'd been stung by a scorpion.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You're begging for my favours like a lovesick fool," Gillette laughed. "I can't believe it! And my answer is no. Ten times no."
"You refuse? You'd actually rather see James Norrington die on the gallows than surrender to me?"
"You can't be serious!"
"James Norrington would never forgive me if I accepted your offer, nor would I ever forgive myself. We'd both be miserable, so keep your leash for your pugs and hang us."
Cutler Beckett's sighed, his face expressing regret.
"I see. I should have known. You were right,,I've underestimated you. Mr. Mercer, please free our guest of his irons."
Mercer quickly moved to Gillette's side, a key ring in his hands, and knelt down to open the shackles around the ankles, then stood up to do the same with the manacles. Gillette was flabbergasted, rubbing his sore wrists and staring at Cutler Beckett in confusion.
"Mr. Norrington has indeed switched sides. He is now Admiral Norrington of the East India Trading Company - under my command, of course – and has been commissioned to our flagship, the Endeavour. We'll put to sea in two days, so if you wish to say goodbye, you better do so soon."
"I don't understand..."
Cutler Beckett turned around. Taking advantage of Gillette's confusion, he reached out, pulled him down and kissed him. Gillette almost gagged, both from the cloud of Eau sans Pareille surrounding Beckett and the tongue in his mouth.
"You have potential. Not as much as Mr. Norrington, though. Now isn't it great good luck for all of us that he has been more accepting of my offers than you?"
"I don't believe a word you say." There was not even a hint of doubt in Gillette's voice. That didn't discourage Cutler Beckett, but he was surprised.
"You don't? What a pity, you should really appreciate what he did for you. He couldn't stand the thought of you hanging from the gallows at all, and was quite cooperative once he realised there were no other options." Cutler Beckett looked at Gillette with a sardonic smile on his lips. "Of course I can't tell if Mr. Turner or you were the main motivation for his decision. But it's fascinating to see what some men will do to protect their loved ones. Where I come from, we'd call that true love."
Beckett had barely finished the sentence when Gillette struck a blow. His punch caught Beckett by surprise, and there was so much power and anger in it that the lord almost toppled over. He cried out, only staying on his feet because Mercer came to his help.
"Commodore Norrington accepted your offer because he considered it to be the only way to restore his reputation as a gentleman. I have no doubt about that, and I will never believe your words. You really should hang me now, because if you don't kill me, I will kill you sooner or later - Sir."
Beckett leaned against the desk. He touched his nose, looked at his fingers and winced upon seeing the blood. It ran over his lips, down his chin and dripped on the waistcoat of thick green silk, leaving ugly dark stains. Gillette rubbed his knuckles, turned around and left without another word, confident that nobody would hold him back or follow him. The hunt had only just begun, after all.
"One word from you and I'll cut his throat," Mercer assured, his eyes shining with keenness. "Don't bother with the rope; let good, solid steel take care of him. He'll die so quickly, he won't have the time to utter even one last word!"
Beckett didn't want to see Gillette dead. He wanted to add him to the collection of desirable and precious things that had once been in the possession of James Norrington, just like the demi-lune and the paintings and the Wedgwood tea service.
A quick death? Where would be the fun in that?
* * *
by Molly Joyful