|Overall rating: PG-13 to mild R (depending on chapter)
Genre: slash, hint of het, drama, romance, adventure
Pairings: Norrington/Gillette, Norrington/Elizabeth mentioned, and then there's... eh. Wait and see. ;-)
Other characters: Norrington, Gillette (heh!)
Series: sequel to "LOST AND FOUND"
Warnings: a wee bit of angst, h/c
Feedback: very welcome. Good or bad.
Author's notes: "Cross And Pile" takes place five years after the events in "Lost And Found".
"I saw a ship a-sailing,
A-sailing on the sea.
And, oh, but it was laden
With pretty things for thee."
Tom sat on his sea chest in the late Lt. Trevor's cabin and stared at the door, concentrating on a knothole in the wood. Maybe, if he only tried hard enough, he could force his left eye to see again? Experimentally, he covered his right eye with his hand, and sighed when everything went dark. Tom blinked; quite obviously, this was one of the obstacles in life that even the most stubborn mind couldn't overcome.
He felt better than he had some days ago, but Tom knew that he looked truly terrible. The bruises had turned all shades of purple and yellow. His left eye was bloodshot and watery, and he couldn't close it. A look in the small shaving mirror confirmed that he was now squint-eyed. Fantastic - maybe he should wear a patch? Tom shuddered; he'd rather look like the idiot that he felt he was than like a pirate.
Well, at least the eye wouldn't have to be removed, Dr. Henry had assured. The doctor, a man of practical thinking, had pointing out the enormous costs of a glass-eye, which would have to be imported from Venice, and had counted Tom lucky despite his injury.
"More of that kind of luck, and I'll drown myself," Tom muttered. His world had changed within only a few days. A week ago, he had been lieutenant on a mediocre ship, serving under a mediocre captain, his career stalling. Now he was lieutenant on an excellent ship, serving under a skilled captain and, in his humble opinion, one of the best admirals the Royal Navy had ever had.
Tom knew that he was biased as far as Admiral Norrington was concerned, but he had never really managed to overcome the serious case of hero-worship he had developed after Norrington had found him at the hospital in Gibraltar. Serving on HMS Buckthorn was a dream come true.
However, a week ago, he had also still had a best friend. He and Jamie had served on the same ship for three years, and now he would have to adjust to a life without him. Losing an eye was terrible, no doubt, but losing Jamie's friendship hurt just as much, though in a different way. How could he ever forget the shocked and disgusted expression on Jamie's face? Tom had always known that Jamie was hot-headed, but he'd never expected him to lose his temper in such a way.
But then Jamie had probably never expected to find his best friend in such an embarrassing, despicable situation, either.
Tom dreaded the moment when he would have to face Jamie again, but even more he feared what his father would say. Unlike Jamie, who was a master in spinning yarn and inventing convincing tales, Tom was a very bad liar. It couldn't be helped, he would have to tell the truth.
He stood up and put on his coat. There was no point in delaying this any further, better to face the music now. Admiral Norrington had been very kind, not once had he mentioned the reason for Tom's injuries. The admiral had even introduced Tom to the crew and his fellow officers as an "outstanding man" and pointed out how very glad he was to have Tom aboard the Buckthorn.
Outstanding man - the laugh! His father would probably not agree with that assessment. Tom checked one more time that all the buttons on his waistcoat were closed and the cravat tied the way it was supposed to be, then he reached for his hat and headed for Admiral Norrington's cabin, where Thomas Gillette was waiting for him.
Tom felt like a condemned on his way to the gallows.
* * *
"Good grief, Tom..." was all Gillette could say upon seeing the battered face of his son.
"It's... good to see you again, father," Tom muttered, then lowered his gaze and tried to concentrate on the buckles of his shoes.
"I will return later," Norrington said, and stood up. Before he left, he put his hand on Tom's shoulder and squeezed it.
"All will be well, Tom."
"Thank you, Sir."
After Norrington had left, Tom stood for a while in silence, unsure what to do.
"Tom, I'm not here to rip your head off. If anything, I'd like to rip Jamie's head off. Come, sit down. Please."
Tom looked up in surprise.
"You know that Jamie...?"
"Yes, I know. But I want to hear the story from you."
Hesitantly, Tom crossed the room, hat still firmly pressed under his arm, and sat down next to his father at Admiral Norrington's table. A half-finished letter lay atop the writing slope.
Tom shook his head.
"It was entirely my fault. I've behaved in a way completely unacceptable for an officer - for any gentleman, actually. While it was not my intention for this to happen, I assume full responsibility for everything, and would like to apologise for my outrageous behaviour. I have..."
Gillette cut him off.
"Oh good grief, you sound like James! This is no court-martial. I'm your father. You know that you can always confide in me; I would never let you down. Just tell me what happened, in your own words, and for once without trying to excuse the formidable Jamie Norrington's behaviour, will you?"
Tom took a deep breath, then he put his hat carefully on Admiral Norrington's table. His hands trembled, so he folded them.
"We were on shore leave. I've been looking forward to our mission; I've never been to the West Indies, and as you and Admiral Norrington have spent so many years there, I was curious to see everything you've told me about with my own eyes. Ironic, considering what happened, isn't it? There was one lieutenant, Reynolds, who had served in the Caribbean for five years, and he invited me for an ale, I suppose to tell me grisly tales and scare me."
Gillette nodded. People often assumed that Tom was easy to scare due to his youth and gentle nature, but in truth he had a heart of oak where his duties were concerned. One didn't make it lieutenant that young by being a scaredy cat.
"He didn't succeed, I suppose?"
"No. But I drank more than I should have. Actually, I was rather drunk. There was an other officer at our table, and he stroke up a conversation. He had served on the Britannia during Trafalgar, so we had many stories to share. It was - he was very kind. Suddenly, some men began a heated argument over a woman, and before I could go to see what our men were up to, a huge brawl had started. Chairs were thrown about, bottles smashed - the usual. I tried to call our men back, but I'm afraid nobody listened to me, and I wasn't quite steady on my feet anymore."
Tom shuffled his feet, and Gillette guessed correctly that the worst part was yet to come.
"Take heart, Tom. There's nothing you have to fear."
"We had to duck behind the table so not to be hit by glasses or chair legs, and he said this was the right moment for a strategic withdrawal. He took my arm and led me through a door to a backroom of the tavern. There were-"
Tom broke off, face crimson with embarrassment.
"There were - men. And they were-"
"What? Tom, please continue!"
"-kissing. They were kissing. Some of them. I couldn't see much, there were only few candles and, as I said, I was rather drunk."
Gillette leaned back. He had braced for everything - orgies involving officers and strumpets, gambling, illegal religious gatherings. But that, of all the people in this world, his son had to walk in on a couple of mollies!
"It happens, as you know," Gillette said carefully. "Of course this is against the law, and I imagine you must have been surprised, but how has this anything to do with Jamie?"
Tom hung his head.
"The lieutenant asked me if I was shocked. I was, yet I wasn't. It was all wrong and I should have reported them, but it was so - so peaceful? It was such a contrast to the brawl in the tavern. I can't really remember what happened then, but I was handed wine. Red wine, very heady. I shouldn't have drunk it, but - oh God."
He buried his face in his hands.
"I could hear the yelling and the fighting next door, but somehow it didn't bother me anymore. I felt dozy, and then he asked me if I'd mind if he kissed me."
"He did what?"
"I said I'd neither mind nor didn't mind, and I really didn't. Then we- well, and just then the door opened and Jamie came in. He was furious and first attacked the lieutenant, then he yelled at me and-"
"-beat you up?" Gillette finished the sentence.
Tom didn't dare to look at his father, out of fear to see disgust in his eyes.
"You lost your eye because Jamie Norrington beat you up over a bloody kiss? Just who does he think he is? I hope you've broken his nose and a couple of bones during the fight!"
Tom startled, staring at his father in disbelief.
"There was no fight! Of course there wasn't! What makes you think so?"
"What makes me - Tom, you certainly did not just take the beating, did you? I know he thinks he's invincible, but you're taller and stronger, you could take him out at any time!"
"I could never hit Jamie, father. He's my best friend. Was my best friend."
Gillette stood up and began to pace up and down Norrington's cabin.
"Fine friend, that! How unfortunate he doesn't share your moralities!"
"Please don't be angry with him! He actually helped me, he didn't tell anybody and kept me out of trouble. Not everybody would have done that!"
Gillette kicked against the door of Norrington's night cabin.
"I hope you'll forgive me if I won't go and thank him!" he yelled. "You've been taken advantage of, you were drunk, that lieutenant shouldn't have..."
Tom jumped up.
"I'm twenty-two years old, I'm a lieutenant of the Royal Navy and I could drink you under the table if I wanted. So please stop treating me like a boy! Nobody took advantage of me. Nobody made me drink. I made a mistake, willingly and without pressure, and I have to live with the consequences. I would - I would lie if I said that losing Jamie's friendship and respect doesn't hurt me. And I'd certainly rather have two good eyes than only one. But it can't be changed anymore. I'll never do such a stupid thing again, and I can understand why he was upset. He's not inclined that way."
Gillette halted his pacing.
"By God, and isn't that the truth! If there has ever been a man who couldn't keep his yard in his breeches, then it's Jamie Norrington! I wonder if the admiral knows how many illegal grandchildren he has, or if he's given up on counting them! Maybe that's why Jamie was so eager to get to the West Indies - no girls left at home!"
Tom sank down on his chair again.
"Please. Don't speak about him in such a way. I know what he's like - he always told me. I was always the first to hear about Betty and Emily, Jane and Susan, Anne and Mary and Catherine and..."
He broke off. Yes, he knew it all, had always listened patiently and with an understanding smile. Jamie had no idea how hard it had been for Tom to pretend he was interested. He couldn't know how much he hurt Tom. And Jamie would never know, not if Tom could help it.
Gillette caught the brief, pained expression on Tom's face, and a little voice in the back of his head told him that his son was not suffering from a headache.
"Is there anything I can do for you, Tom? Please tell me. You're my son, I love you. I'd do anything to see you happy."
Tom shook his head.
"Thank you, father, but no, there is nothing. There is nothing anybody could do - all is fine now."
* * *
"How did it go?" Norrington asked upon Gillette's return.
"I guess you know what happened between our boys?"
"Of course. But I felt it was his right to tell you in is own words."
"You know how I feel about you, James, but I'd really like to break some of Jamie's bones. It's a good thing he's not here now. Tom survived Trafalgar as a lad, only to lose an eye through the hand of his best friend. That's idiotic. He says he's not a boy anymore and that he can handle everything, but I'm not so certain."
Norrington came to stand beside Gillette and put his hand on his shoulder.
"I feel with you, and with him. But he's right, Thomas - he's not a boy anymore. Tom is an excellent officer, he just lacks some self-confidence. I'll keep him here on the Buckthorn, and I promise you that I will not let him go before he is fit to be captain."
"You will not rest before you've made every single member of the Gillette-family a captain."
"We all need our pastimes."
Gillette rubbed his cheek on Norrington's hand and closed his eyes.
"I've missed you. Good God, have I missed you. How are you, James? I didn't like what I read between the lines of your letters."
"I'm fine, basically. But I'm getting old. I am old. And I can feel each of my years twice, Thomas. I'm tired of having to bow my head so not to bump it on the ceiling. I'm having enough of the war, of battles of - everything. I don't want to see you or Elizabeth only every other year. I'm weary of it all. Do you know that I've last seen you 382 days and ten hours ago?"
"You've always been a man who attached great importance to accuracy. I didn't count the days, but I know that there were far too many. I'm looking forward to Port Royal. I guess it has changed significantly, but I'm determined to find some secluded place where you and I can spend some time together."
"I hope so," Norrington said wistfully.
Gillette let go of Norrington's hand and headed for the door. The admiral looked very disappointed.
"Are you leaving already? I've hoped that we could have a glass of wine..."
Gillette didn't reply, just opened the door and yelled for Jenkins, Norrington's first lieutenant. It didn't take more than a few moments for the man to appear, as usual nervous and with the eager anticipation of a dog who hoped that his master would throw him a bone.
"Lieutenant, Admiral Norrington and I have very important matters to discuss regarding our mission."
Gillette lowered his voice and looked over his shoulder, as if he was worried somebody might overhear their conversation.
"Between you and I, lieutenant - this mission is of enormous importance. I will therefore stay aboard the Buckthorn tonight and discuss the details once more with the admiral. We may not be disturbed - the papers we'll work with are secret, under no circumstances may anybody but us see them. This is highly confidential, do you understand?"
Jenkins' face lit up.
"Of course, Sir! Absolutely! I will make certain that nobody will interrupt you!"
"Thank you, lieutenant. I knew I could rely on you," Gillette said with all the pathos he could muster.
"You can, Captain Gillette, absolutely! Anytime!"
"Good, good. Please send news to my ship, and now good night."
Gillette closed the door in front of the lieutenant's nose, then locked it.
"Thomas, you're evil. He'll sit personally in front of my door all night long, convinced that the fate of Britain rests on his shoulders!"
"I hope you didn't expect me to wait till Port Royal - you should know me better," Gillette replied, and wiggled his eyebrows. "Now forget your world-weariness for a while, James. Come, you suffering old man."
"I really don't think that's a good idea, Thomas," Norrington protested. "This is far too dangerous!"
"I have full confidence in Mr. Jenkins."
Before Norrington could voice any further protests, Gillette had already pushed him gently in the adjoined night cabin. A cot, a sea chest, a chair - that was just about it. Norrington had never attached great importance to luxuries.
"Thomas, you can't do that."
"That's what you think," Gillette said, and began to remove his coat. "You better take your coat off as well, James. If I do it, you might lose some buttons."
Norrington, who had gone through more buttons during the last five years than in all his life before hurried to follow the suggestion. While he was at it, he also unbuttoned his waistcoat and untied his cravat.
"I knew you'd change your mind."
"Am I that obvious?"
* * *
Gillette had made light of it, but he knew how much it had taken for James Norrington to admit weariness and pain. He also knew that the man wouldn't have wanted him to discuss the issue. But it was obvious that this was not the time for passionate love-making. Maybe there would never be such a time again. It was good the way it was, though - just being here with him, skin on skin, finally being able to touch and feel and taste him.
Over the years, Norrington's body had become a map that Gillette knew by heart. He had learned where to touch to make him squirm, how to make him gasp, even giggle. Yes, Norrington could giggle, ticklish as he was, a secret very likely not even Elizabeth knew, which filled Gillette with great pleasure.
Like an explorer found his way through unknown territory, Gillette created a new map of Norrington's body in his head. He would have to remember to touch Norrington's joints only lightly, because any pressure made him grimace in pain. Digging his fingers in the left shoulder was fine, but he had to be careful with the right. Norrington gave in to Gillette's searching, exploring hands, enjoying every caress and not putting up any protest when Gillette told him to let him do all the work for once, that there would be other nights when he could return the favour.
So there were no bitemarks on Gillette's skin tonight, no scratches on Norrington's back. He came, face buried in Gillette's neck, with little more than a soft gasp. Tiny kisses on his forehead, behind his ear; Gillette's callused hands holding him with a gentleness nobody would have guessed in the tall man. But Norrington knew, and that was his little secret - nobody but he knew what it was like to be loved by Thomas Gillette.
"I often wonder what would happen if they'd found out."
Norrington, head rested on Gillette's chest, sighed.
"So do I. If I look at Jamie's reaction, we can only hope they will never learn about it. They wouldn't understand."
Gillette stroked Norrington's hair - he was probably the last admiral still refusing to cut off his pigtail, and that was fine for Gillette. He enjoyed wrapping the strands around his fingers; there was something very comforting about it.
"There's something I don't understand though, James: why did he beat Tom up? It doesn't really make sense."
"I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd reported Tom immediately, or if he had just pretended that he hadn't seen anything and closed the door again. But such an uncontrolled attack? Your son is a hot-head, I know that, but this is out of character."
"They are friends. It must have been a huge shock for him. That aside: I remember a young lieutenant who drew his sword and threatened to cut me in two rather than allowing me to marry Miss Elizabeth Swann."
"I'll never hear the end of it, will I? You forget one very important detail, James: said young lieutenant was terribly in love with you. He still is, actually."
He pressed a kiss on Norrington's nose.
"Let's try to catch some sleep before the formidable Mr. Jenkins decides to come and check on us."
Norrington smiled, then he closed his eyes, dozing off very quickly. For a brief moment, he had an uncomfortable feeling, as if he had missed something important that Gillette had said, but before he could further think about it, he had fallen asleep.
* * *
"Give me a hand, Jamie, will you? That thing's disgustingly heavy!" Elizabeth called, and her son hurried to his parent's bedroom. To his great surprise, Jamie found his mother dragging a black sea chest towards her wardrobe.
"What are you doing there, mother? Wait, let me help you. Where do you want this thing to go?"
Elizabeth straightened up, wincing and rubbing her back.
"I forgot that I'm not seventeen anymore. To the wardrobe, love, it's easier to pack."
"Pack?" Jamie asked, highly confused. "I've packed everything I need. Does father need anything?"
She grinned; something he found rather distracting in any woman, but especially in his own mother.
"That's not your father's sea chest, Jamie. It's mine."
Jamie stopped mid-movement and stared at his mother in complete confusion.
"Yours? You have sea chest? Why do you have a sea chest? What for?"
"Because every sailor needs one, Mr. Norrington, Sir."
He reached out and put his hand on her forehead.
"You seem to run a fever, mother. Shall I send one of the men to fetch the doctor?"
Elizabeth gently pushed her son aside and began to pack various pieces of clothing in the chest, which was dark with age and had a bird painted on its lid. Jamie blinked. It was difficult to tell, as the colour had faded over the years, but it looked like a finch. Or a starling. Or a sparrow?
"Bah, nonsense," Elizabeth said, throwing a skirt over her shoulder. "I'm not ill, I'm excited! It's the first time in ages that I'll go to sea again, and I can't..."
Jamie almost fell over the chest.
"What? To sea? You can't go to sea, mother! You're a woman! And you're running a fever! And I won't allow it! And I leave for the Caribbean in two days!"
"I know," Elizabeth replied, completely unperturbed by her son's protests. "That's why I'm packing, Jamie. I'm coming with you."
* * *
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|CROSS AND PILE - 2/8
by Molly Joyful