|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".
"Let not outward charms your judgements sway,
Your reason rather than your eyes obey;
And in the dance, as in the marriage noose,
Rather for merit than for beauty choose."
- Soame Jenys, 1729
"If I wouldn't know better, I'd say the French have paid Mother Nature to keep us away from Port Royal, Sir."
"There have been storms in the Caribbean before that Corsican pain in the neck was born, Mr. Jenkins, and there will be storms long after he and all of us have perished. I'm not looking forward to this, but at least the French will have their share of the fun if they should be out there."
The sea was rolling under the Buckthorn, and Norrington could smell that peculiar odour announcing a storm. It brought back many memories, and most of them not entirely pleasant.
"Mr. Jenkins, I want only men on duty who have sailed these seas before. We'll try to circumnavigate the storm, but we can't take any risks."
"Any news of the Aronia?"
"No, Sir. Not a sign of her in three days."
"Well then. Captain Gillette knows these seas like the back of his hand, I have no doubt that we'll meet him in Port Royal in a few days."
Norrington made that remark because Tom stood close by. He wanted to let the young lieutenant know that everything would be fine with his father.
"Mr. Jenkins, make sure the midshipmen know what they have to do. Maybe you should tie young Mr. Blackley to a barrel until this is over, or he might be washed overboard again. Mr. Gillette, you will stay with Mr. Jenkins at all times."
Tom, who had been watching the massive yellowish cloud bank on the horizon with increasing fascination, turned his head to the admiral.
"Yes, Sir!" he said, then followed Jenkins, who shouted orders and looked from time to time over his shoulder, probably to make sure that Norrington could see what an excellent job he did.
Norrington looked through his spy glass. The storm approached quickly; it would be difficult to circumnavigate it. The Buckthorn was not in the best shape; should she be hit with full force, she'd very likely not make it. He winced when he collapsed the spy glass; every joint in his hands ached, the simplest manual tasks were torture.
"To think that we once sailed through a hurricane, Thomas," he said to himself and shook his head. Then he clasped his hands behind his back and watched the men preparing the Buckthorn for the storm. His knees hurt as well, but as long as he was standing and not walking around, it was bearable. Now was not the time to retreat to his cabin and have a rest, and if things should become really bad, he could still ask Jenkins to tie him next to little Blackley to a barrel.
* * *
"Have I already expressed my delight in your presence aboard my ship, Mrs. Norrington?"
Elizabeth considered for a brief moment the heavenly delight of saying 'no!' and hitting Captain Edison over the head with the decanter in front of her. However, she decided that it would be too great a waste of excellent wine, so she smiled charmingly across the table instead.
"You have, my dear Captain Edison. Several times, actually. Words can't express how I feel about your gentleness."
Edison beamed at her, then he gesticulated at Jamie with his fork.
"I'm also honoured to have your son serving under my command. Excellent officer, chip off the old block, don't you agree, Mr. Kyle?"
"Lt. Norrington's skills are indeed very - striking," Lt. Kyle replied politely. Jamie's glare across the table did not escape Elizabeth. She arched an eyebrow at her son, but he averted his eyes.
"As I've stated again and again, Mrs. Norrington: a good family makes a good officer. I've expected only the best of your son, and I haven't been disappointed."
Elizabeth emptied her glass for the third time and hoped it would be replenished soon. It was so easy to see through Edison's servile flattery, and it was only bearable when drunk. What would she have given for a good glass of rum right now!
"Certainly the character of a person should be taken into account as well," she replied. "Being born into a good family might be helpful, but a good name is something a man has to make on himself."
"My dear Mrs. Norrington, I'm well aware of your husband's opinion that every man is the architect of his own fortune. I hope you will forgive me for mentioning such a delicate matter in the presence of a lady, but didn't we just recently see that this is nothing but a theory? Take the young man Admiral Norrington has taken under his wings, Thomas Gillette. His father had a reputation for causing trouble, and the son's not much better. He's often involved in brawls, I heard, and only recently lost an eye in a fight. You must admit, that's not behaviour worthy of a gentleman!"
Elizabeth counted silently to three.
"Captain Edison, may I remind you that Captain Gillette is an old friend of my husband? He's more of a gentleman than most officers I've met, and so is his son."
"Of course, of course!" Edison hastened to agree. "It was not my intention at all to insult friends of your family. Lt. Gillette is still very young. Maybe, in time and serving under a captain with a firm hand..."
Lt. Kyle cleared his throat.
"With all due respect, Captain Edison; I've had the pleasure of making Lt. Gillette's acquaintance some weeks ago, and found him indeed to be a fine gentleman; courageous, amicable, very enthusiastic and generous."
Elizabeth gave Lt. Kyle a grateful smile.
"That is my impression of Lt. Gillette as well. And the firm opinion of my husband," she added, glaring at Captain Edison. Then she looked at her son, expecting him to speak in favour of his friend, but all Jamie did was picking at his food, not looking up from his plate. He was very pale with exception of some hectic red spots on his cheeks, a sign of great anger.
"Well, well, now look at this, time passes so swiftly when in charming company," Edison murmured. He had well noticed that Elizabeth Norrington didn't share his opinion on young Thomas Gillette at all, and the last thing he needed was her enmity. His career was stalling, and he counted on Admiral Norrington's influence to change that state. Certainly the admiral hadn't sent his only son to serve aboard the Bilberry without reason. This had to be a test, and Edison didn't intend to fail it.
"Yes, very late, indeed," Elizabeth agreed. "Please forgive me, Captain Edison, I can't express how grateful I am for your hospitality, but I feel most tired. Would you be very upset with me if I'd return to my cabin?"
"My dear Mrs. Norrington, how could anybody be upset with you!" Edison protested. "I feel privileged that you had supper with me."
They all stood up and the men bowed in Elizabeth's direction.
"Jamie, would you be so kind to accompany me back to my cabin? I feel a little weak," Elizabeth said in a honeyed voice.
"Good grief, I hope it's nothing serious, Mrs. Norrington?" Edison cried out. "Do you want me to call the ship's doctor?"
"No, no, you are too generous, dear captain, I'm very sure that I'll feel much better after a short rest."
"If you are certain... Lt. Norrington, please, do accompany your mother."
Jamie bit his tongue; nobody but a fool like Edison could fall for that tone.
"But of course, my dearest mother," he replied sweetly, "do you think you will be able to walk, or do you desire me to carry you?"
"I really don't think that will be necessary. Ah, isn't it a blessing to have such a loving son, my dear Captain Edison?"
Edison nodded, and Lt. Kyle had to hide a grin. He had seen Dorothy Jordan on stage in London and considered her to be a great actress, but Mrs. Norrington's performance that night was definitely on par.
* * *
Elizabeth grasped her son by the arm and pushed him into her cabin.
"What on earth have you been thinking, Jamie? How could you allow that - that self-pleased, bloated toad of a captain to talk about Tom in such a way?"
Jamie looked over his shoulder and quickly closed the door.
"Mother, you have no idea what you're talking about!" he snapped. "It wouldn't have been appropriate to contradict Captain Edison, and please do me the favour and don't smile at Lt. Kyle all the time!"
"I beg your pardon? Do I need your permit now to smile at people? Unlike you, he had the guts to speak in favour of Tom! Just so you know, I happen to like Robert Kyle. Quite a dashing young man, reminds me a bit of your father when he was younger."
Jamie threw his arms up in horror.
"Good grief, don't say such a thing, that's sickening! Mother, your 'dashing young man' is the lieutenant who... the one I... with Tom! That one! At the tavern! Oh God, father has no idea what he's done to me; now I have to serve under this damned bugger!"
Elizabeth giggled, which upset Jamie even more.
"As long as he doesn't take it literally... well, I call this fair, justified and perfect punishment. 'Very generous young man' - I like that Lt. Kyle even more now, he's got a sense of humour! So, does he treat you harshly? Unfairly? Has he harassed you or made you an indecent offer?"
"No," Jamie grumbled. "He's a very capable officer, strict but fair."
"Awe - how terrible! My poor, poor Jamie. So the man doesn't even give you the satisfaction of ill-treating you, how inconsiderate of him! After all you've suffered, you'd really be entitled to some self-pity."
"Why is nobody taking me serious, but treating me like an idiot?" Jamie protested.
"Very likely because you behave like one," Elizabeth replied dryly. "Ever since we left Britain, you're sulking, moping and behaving as if the world was hating you."
She took her son's face between her hands.
"Jamie, this is a matter which only concerns Tom and you. Believe it or not, I can even understand your point of view, though I don't agree with it. But we'll soon arrive in Port Royal, and you will have to work with him, whether you like it or not. It's nigh impossible to avoid people there, trust me on that. For goodness' sakes, do at least try to behave civilised towards Tom. That's the least he deserves."
Jamie turned his head away from her touch.
"Fine parents I have - looks like everybody's more deserving of your concern than I. Why don't you and father just go and adopt Tom?"
"James, that's enough now. It's childish and nonsense!" Elizabeth said firmly, but Jamie couldn't control his temper anymore.
"I am sick of Thomas Gillette! Sick of both of them! Father spent weeks looking for Thomas Gillette after Trafalgar, weeks! I can't remember him wasting even one day looking for me! And now I've risked my career to protect Tom from the consequences of his... well, whatever that was! And all you and father do is berating and mocking me for it! You don't need me? Fine! I don't need you, either!"
"Jamie, how can you say such a terrible thing! Don't you know that your father..."
Jamie flung the cabin door open and stormed out, not allowing her to finish the sentence.
* * *
Seeing the Buckthorn coming into port took a great load off Gillette's mind. The storm had been quite vicious, and he had been worried sick about Tom, Norrington and the ship under his command, knowing that the Buckthorn wasn't in the best condition.
Two of the Buckthorn's topmasts had sprung and the sails were damaged; Gillette counted himself lucky that he had managed to get the Aronia to Port Royal with only minor damage.
He frowned when he saw Norrington, though. The admiral left the ship leaning heavily on Lt. Jenkins and Tom. Had he been injured during the storm? Gillette quickened the pace.
Norrington's face lit up upon seeing Gillette, but his smile turned into a grimace of pain when he tried to free from the two men steadying him. That was not the way he wanted to appear in front of Thomas.
"Thank you, gentlemen, you may return to your duties now," he ordered. Tom looked very doubtful, but obeyed, while Lt. Jenkins protested.
"Sir, I don't think this is a very good idea. Wouldn't it be better if..."
"It would be better if you would do as you were told, Mr. Jenkins, unless you prefer to swim back to Britain, that is!"
Seeing that Norrington was in one of his moods again, Jenkins let go. Norrington swayed, but he clenched his jaw and managed to stand straight when Gillette arrived to greet him.
"Admiral Norrington! I can't tell you how happy I am to see you! And Tom my lad! You as well, Lt. Jenkins."
"I'm very happy to see you again, father!" Tom said, giving Gillette a wide smile. Jenkins produced a sourly grimace which barely passed as grin.
"Good to see you as well, Captain Gillette," Norrington replied, trying hard to sound nonchalantly. "A nice little storm that was, wasn't it? We had to throw some guns overboard and took a bit of a shake, but we didn't lose any men and the ship's still here. How about the Aronia?"
"Only minor damage, Sir, and no losses, either."
"How are things in Port Royal? Has everything been prepared?"
"Hasn't changed much, Sir. And your house is ready for you to move in; it's been well look after."
"I hope so, I've paid enough for it all through the years! Have you found suitable accommodation as well?"
"I took the liberty to take quarters in the house of the late Mr. Mercer, Sir."
"Good grief. I hope you fumigated the place before you moved in. Very well then, please accompany me back to my temporary home. We have many things to discuss. Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Gillette, take care of everything."
"Yes, Sir," the two lieutenants replied in unison, bowed and returned to the ship. Gillette waited until they were out of earshot, then he sighed.
"What's wrong, James? You look terrible."
"You always say the nicest things, Thomas."
"I'm serious. Are you injured?"
Norrington shrugged, which was a mistake. He groaned in pain, and Gillette sighed.
"I see. Stubborn bastard. Come, let me help you," he offered, but Norrington shook his arm off.
"There is no way in hell that I'll return to Port Royal in any other way but on my own two feet and with a straight back. It's not far to my house, those few steps will not kill me."
"But I might if you continue to be so difficult!" Gillette snapped. "There's nobody left here who could find joy in your suffering, James."
"Evil people might die, Thomas, but their spirits often linger on. And just in case the ghost of Lord Cutler Beckett should haunt this place, I will not give him the satisfaction of seeing me limping through the streets like a shaky old man. If it makes you feel any better, though, you may carry me up the stairs to my bedroom once we arrive."
Norrington began to walk along the jetty, slowly and stiff-legged like an old cat, and Gillette followed him, ranting and raving.
* * *
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|CROSS AND PILE - 3/8
by Molly Joyful