|Overall rating: PG-13 to mild R (depending on the chapter)
Genre: slash, hint of het, drama, romance, adventure
Pairings: Norrington/Gillette, Norrington/Elizabeth, Norrington/Gillette, Jack/Elizabeth
Series: sequel to "LOST AND FOUND"
Warnings: CLIFFHANGER FROM HELL!
Feedback: very welcome. Good or bad.
Author's notes: "Cross And Pile" takes place five years after the events in "Lost And Found".
GIllette and Elizabeth have a long-due argument, Jamie and Tom turn the order on the Black Pearl upside down, James Norrington gives order to man the guns, and Captain Jack Sparrow offers to trade two monkeys for a barrel of rum.
Gillette had always been "the lieutenant" - an overzealous officer who followed James like a shadow, awaiting orders and seeing the main purpose of his existence in the fulfilment of those orders to Norrington's fullest satisfaction.
"Fullest satisfaction" - now there was a picture! Elizabeth shuddered while she made her way to the quarterdeck. She wore an old, faded midshipman's uniform, her hair was tied back in a pigtail. Her fashionable walking dresses were the perfect outfit to make the governor's toffee-nosed wife jealous, but Elizabeth was on the warpath, and whoever had abducted Jamie would be greeted by her sword, not her parasol, and fighting was easier when wearing breeches.
Judging by the expression on the faces of HMS Aronia's crew, many letters would be sent home with detailed descriptions of Admiral Norrington's crazy wife and her eccentric antics. That would keep the old cats at home entertained till Christmas, at least! A good thing her father was half-deaf; this would hopefully spare him from suffering a heart-attack.
But it couldn't be helped, Jamie was in danger, and she wouldn't let her son down. If it hadn't been for her constant worry about his fate, she'd actually enjoyed the adventure. Being aboard a ship again, and not as a mere passenger! How she had missed that; the sea, the challenge, the danger, the excitement. She loved James, and had never regretted her decision, but there had been many moments when she remembered her life aboard the Pearl with melancholy. First she had been fighting for Will, but then for herself, trying to escape the gilded cage she so had feared.
James hadn't locked her up, though. There had been no cage, he had never tried to fence her in. He had given her every liberty he possibly could, only one of the many reasons why she loved him. Why was Gillette drawn to him, she wondered - James' talent to bring the best out in those around him? Or friendship in combination with physical attraction? Admiration and hero-worship turned love? Or was this just another aspect of the "Band of Brothers" that she, a woman, had been excluded from?
The days of the lieutenant were over now, though. Gillette, looking rather intimidating in his uniform, talked to Lt. Kyle, who had volunteered for this mission. He hadn't hesitated a moment, and Elizabeth was quite sure that the main reason for his offer had been genuine worry about Tom. Lt. Kyle was married; he had told her about his wife and his children. Did his wife know? And if she did, how did she cope? Turning a blind eye? How many women like Mrs. Kyle and herself were there?
She remembered how Admiral Taylor's wife had lamented the deplorable custom of many husbands to get themselves a mistress. Well, there had certainly never been "another woman" in James' life, but Elizabeth almost regretted it. Had there been a red-haired woman with a voluptuous figure turning James' head, she could have picked up the gauntlet and fought back - she was a beautiful woman and she knew it. But how on earth could a woman compete with red-haired cranky captain?
When Gillette saw her approaching, he automatically straightened up. Just like James, he usually walked with a stoop; the result of years below decks which were not made for men as tall as him. His face was a mask of indifference, his brown eyes cold and unapproachable. Gillette always looked that way when she was close by, maybe he thought it would scare her off. It was ridiculous; he of all the men should have known that it took more than a frown and a growl to keep her away.
"Mrs. Norrington - what a pleasant surprise," he said, ever the gentleman. Lt. Kyle greeted her as well, and Elizabeth gave him her most charming smile.
"Is there anything I can help you with?"
"How kind of you to ask, Captain Gillette. Actually, I wonder if it would be possible to have a word with you - in private?"
She looked at Lt. Kyle, expecting him to leave, but the lieutenant didn't move before Gillette nodded. Of course - he was the captain. He gave the orders.
"How may I be of assistance to you, Mrs. Norrington?"
"Lt. Kyle is out of hearing range, you can talk like a normal man again."
"Have you come here to discuss my rhetorical shortcomings with me?"
How she hated that ironic undertone in his voice.
"I'd die of old age before I'd finished that discussion. No, I'm here to apologise."
He was truly surprised, she could tell from the nervous way he licked his lips. What an annoying habit, how could James stand it?
"Yes. I was in the wrong for yelling at you. Whatever happened, it wasn't your fault, and I know that. And it wasn't Tom's fault, either. Unfortunately - well, unfortunately it's very often Jamie's fault when things go wrong."
"As this is very likely the only apology I'll ever get, I'll cherish it to the day I'll die."
Elizabeth glared at him.
"The only one? What on earth should I apologise for beside that? For my existence?"
"Ah no, that would take things too far; your existence has to be blamed on your parents. But if you give me a day or two, I could prepare a list with all due apologies in alphabetical order. That might come in handy, you wouldn't risk forgetting one should you ever apologise to your husband. If we involve Mr. Turner's sufferings as well, I'll need three days, though."
"How dare you! Just who do you think you are?"
"I'm the one who picked up the broken pieces you've left of James Norrington. 'All the King's horses, and all the King's men' - and when I finally put James together again, you came along, once again changing your mind and deciding that, after all, it was more comfortable to be the wife of an admiral than the mistress of a pirate. You have a very healthy instinct of self preservation, I have to give you credit for that!"
Elizabeth wanted to protest, but then she remembered how James had looked at her when she had left him. It was true, she had contributed to his downfall, but not much to his resurrection. That, she had to admit, had all been Gillette's doing.
She pushed a strand of hair out of her face and sighed.
"I wish I could say that you're completely wrong, but that wouldn't be the truth. I've made many mistakes in my youth, but James and I have made our peace, and it's not your place to judge our marriage. If we wouldn't love and trust each other, this marriage couldn't have survived your intrusion. Marrying me was the more comfortable and safe option for James as well, don't you agree? Thomas, do you think this is easy for me? Sharing my husband? You've earned my eternal gratitude for bringing my son home, yet there are days when I hate you so much that I could kill you, because James will never be mine alone."
"And there are days when I hate you just as much because I'm indebted to you, because I have to live on your mercy. Don't you think that would be easy for a man."
Elizabeth was at loss for an answer. She had never looked at it that way; did he really think he was a dog she'd thrown a bone to?
Gillette sighed, his anger suddenly gone.
"Elizabeth, this doesn't lead anywhere. We're both right, and we're both wrong. The only thing of importance at the moment is that we find Tom and Jamie."
"The horizon seems to be endless," Elizabeth said, more to herself than to Gillette. "They could be anywhere. And while we're arguing here about things that can't be changed, the lads are in grave danger and wait for our help."
* * *
It was not the first time that Jamie's rather careless approach to life had got him into trouble. The cases of unintended fatherhood had been the smallest problem; his father had settled them discreetly by paying the girls and their families very generously. The same had been true for Jamie's debts - he always bid on the wrong dog in the rat pit - and complaints about brawls and general impetuous behaviour. Being the son of an admiral, especially one from a family as wealthy as the Norringtons, had proven to be very helpful for a prospective rogue like him.
Norrington had lectured him countless times on morals and standards, but Jamie had learned very early on in his life that his father's bark was far worse than his bite. Elizabeth been very upset with Jamie for getting those girls into trouble, and had often suggested to stop sweet-talking her offspring and employing a riding crop instead. Jamie had always laughed this off as a joke. Now that he had caught a glimpse of his mother's past, he wasn't so sure anymore.
Jamie took the Norrington's family motto - "Aut vincere aut mori - Either conquer or die" a little too literally. There had been duels, nightly horse races, and one incident of an angry husband firing his pistol at him and missing his head only by a hair's breadth. Jamie had enjoyed that adventure immensely; the danger was part of the game and made him feel more alive.
But as soon as he was on duty, he turned into an exemplary officer. His promotions had been deserved, had not just been the result of his family's connections. Even those who disliked him had to admit that he would make a fine captain one day. Jamie felt more obliged to the Articles of War than the Ten Commandments, and while nobody would have been surprised if he had been shot by a cuckold or died in a duel, the mere thought of Jamie Norrington breaking an Article of War was laughable.
Jamie didn't laugh, though. The air was hot and sticky in Jack Sparrow's night cabin, and Jamie longed for a breath of fresh air. He leaned on Tom, their bodies still joined; he felt exhausted and rather confused but also very happy. Tom worried the soft skin on his neck between his teeth, his fingers drawing lazy circles on the small of Jamie's back.
"This will leave a mark," Jamie murmured, his fingers caressing Tom's sides. "I mustn't forget the cravat, otherwise everybody would see it."
"Would you mind?"
Jamie shook his head. He didn't mind at all; oddly enough, he even enjoyed the fact that Tom had left a mark on him. How was it possible that this had happened? Rash action out of the spur of the moment, as usual? The thrill of the forbidden? Curiosity, maybe, because this had always been his weakness: the need to experience everything, pushing the limits.
"I can't resist the song of the sirens," he murmured.
Tom kissed Jamie's ear, then looked at him questioningly.
"That's what my father often says - that I can't resist the song of the sirens."
"You should resist them, Jamie. They are dangerous."
How true - illegitimate children, nightly duels and rat pits were nothing to be proud of, but also not completely unexpected from a young gentleman. But this here was a completely different kettle of fish. This was a hanging offence, and neither his father nor all his family's wealth would be able to save his neck if it should ever come out.
Jamie could feel Tom's hand in his hair now. He opened his eyes and had to smile. Despite the dead eye - and Jamie would never forgive himself for causing that injury - the dreamy expression he had so often noticed on Tom's face had returned. Dreamy and doting. Nobody had ever looked at him in such a way.
"This was not a very wise thing to do, was it, Jamie?"
Jamie could feel how Tom's body tensed, and he realised that this had been the wrong answer. He leaned forward and kissed him, caressing his cheek.
"But have I ever done anything wise, Tom?"
Tom shifted and Jamie winced, hoping that whatever destiny awaited them did not involve sitting.
"Odd to think men do this for pleasure," he muttered.
"That's what women say about drinking, yet we enjoy it greatly and wouldn't give it up."
They both grinned. 'We must look like idiots', Jamie thought. He had gone along with this because he needed to know what it was like - being with Tom. Now he wondered what it would be like being without him, and that was a frightening thought. While Tom nuzzled his ear and still basked in the aftermath of their love-making, Jamie was already planning ahead.
"We need to be very careful. It's not going to be easy, you're aware of this?"
Tom tilted his head and frowned.
"What? Keeping this secret? I doubt this lunatic out there would herald it on the market-square of Port Royal if he knew."
"I'm talking about being together. At least sometimes."
Tom clasped Jamie's hand, interrupting the caresses.
"Don't play with me, Jamie. I know you, and how you trifle with those who love you."
Jamie startled, surprised by Tom's reaction.
"So you don't want to be with me?"
Tom let go of Jamie's hand.
"Knowing you and your ways, you'll have forgotten all about this by latest tomorrow."
Jamie kissed Tom, who first resisted, then relented. He opened his eyes; he wanted to see what Tom looked like while he kissed him. All Jamie could see was an ear, red hair with streaks of mud, a couple of freckles and Tom's closed eye, but that was enough to convince him that he wanted to enjoy that view again.
"Now if I really was such a never-do-well and scallywag as you say, how comes you love me?" Jamie asked in-between two kisses.
"I never said I do," Tom replied, lost once more in the sensation of finally having what he coveted for so long.
"But you do."
Tom never had the chance to reply, because somebody tried to open the door and interrupted any possible declarations of love.
* * *
"Door's closed, captain," Pintel said, and scratched his head.
"Sure it is, locked it myself," Jack Sparrow said with pride. "That's why I gave you the key, you idiot. Now open up and let me have a word with the two young gentlemen."
"But that's what we're sayin', captain! Door's locked! From the inside!" Ragetti explained, gesturing in helpless desperation at the solid oak door of Sparrow's night cabin.
"From the inside? Ridiculous. Makes no sense. Out of the way, let me handle that."
Jack pushed the two men aside and reached for the key, which still stuck in the keyhole. He tried to turn it to the left, but it stopped - the door was unlocked.
"Now that's odd," Jack muttered, turned the key twice to the right, which was no problem, then twice to the left again. The lock worked. They key moved. Yet the door was still closed.
He banged his fist against the door.
"Mr. Norrington! Mr. Gillette! I demand to know what you're doing in there! 'In there' being my cabin! You are prisoners! Means we lock you in, not you lock us out, savvy?"
"We'll unbolt the door in a moment," Jamie assured, hastily putting his clothes on. Tom tried to button his waistcoat up, then he realised it was Jamie's, which was too narrow across the chest, and they swapped, cursing.
"This is against the rules! This is not the way prisoners behave!" Jack yelled, arms akimbo and hat pushed into his face. "Unbolt the door at once and come out! Immediately! Instantly! Promptly! This is not a request, you gits!"
Jack could hear muffled voices, a thud - Jamie pressing Tom against the door and kissing him, but of course Jack didn't know that - and then the door was finally unbolted and opened, revealing two very dirty, dishevelled and somewhat dopey-looking lieutenants.
"Just what are you learnin' in the navy nowadays? You don't lock your capturers out, they lock you in! It's against the rules of piracy!"
"But aren't they more like guidelines?" Jamie asked. "At least that's what my mother said."
"Your mother? Your mother. Of course your mother, who else! Enough with the nonsense, follow me!" Jack ordered, leading the way out of the cabin. "More like guidelines? Look who's talking. That's just like her, darned wench!" he muttered.
The monkey climbed up Tom's leg, then over his back and came to sit on his shoulder. He didn't dare to shrug the animal off, and the monkey began to comb through Tom's hair, either because he was not satisfied with the unkempt look of the young man or because he was looking for his breakfast.
Jamie gave Jack his most arrogant smirk.
"So what do you intent to do with us now? I hope you're aware that we will not give you any information, and that we know how to die like gentlemen."
"Why are you two so bent on dying? Are two harpies of wives waiting for you at home?"
"Well - no," Tom slowly replied. "But we thought-"
"Tom my lad, don't think. It's nothing your father was very good at, and your mother must have given up on it for a while as well - otherwise you wouldn't be here, now wouldn't you - and all things considered, be quiet now for a moment. I have important matters to discuss with young Master Norrington here."
Jack put an arm around Jamie's shoulder and lowered his voice. In his other hand, he held a compass, and gave it to Jamie.
"What's that supposed to be?"
"It's a compass. Don't you have compasses - compassi - compassa - whatever in the navy? How do you navigate? By following the singing of the sirens?"
"Of course I know what a compass is!" Jamie protested, insulted in his pride as a lieutenant. "But why are you giving me that old thing?"
Jack grinned, showing a good number of gold teeth.
"Jamie my boy, it's very simple. The sea is endless, alas, my patience isn't. I barely survived the presence of your father aboard my ship, your mother made my life hell and you are the combination of their worst characteristics. I could throw you overboard, of course, but as you're Lizzy's son, you'd probably scare the sharks away. So I decided to return you to your parents; I rather have you driving them insane than us here. This very moment, there's probably half the British fleet out there looking for you and your ginger-locked friend, if James Norrington is still the man I knew him to be. To speed things up, we will be looking for them - meet them halfway, savvy?"
"Look for them? How can you do that if you don't know where they are?"
Jack pointed at the compass.
"Just look at the compass, lad, and set the course."
"Just look at that damned compass, that's all I ask," Jack groaned. "Can't you just do once what I ask you to do?"
Jamie shrugged. There was no point in arguing with a madman. He opened the compass and stared down at the needle, which began to turn to the right, to the left, then swirled three times and finally came to a halt. Jack looked up - the needle pointed at Tom Gillette.
"No, no. You didn't do it right. Try again. Concentrate. Concentrate on what you want most, savvy?"
"As you wish."
Again Jamie stared down at the compass. This time the needle quivered only once, then pointed in Tom's direction again.
Jack covered his eyes with his hand.
"I should've known. I'm a cursed man."
"I don't understand-" Jamie began, but Jack cut him off.
"So that's why the door was locked? I'll have to fumigate my cabin! You didn't touch my cot, did you?"
Jamie gave him a rather panicked look.
"We didn't do anything! We didn't touch anything!"
"You better not! I'll only have to get the floor holystoned then. Now look: you hold the compass and think of your mother, that's all I want. Savvy? Think of your dear old mother. Think you can do that?"
"My mother? Why should I think of my mother now?"
"You didn't think your mother would stay at home and knit while your father is out here looking for you, now did you! I bet she's having a sword with her, too! And pistols! Maybe even a musket!"
Jack let go of Jamie and arched his eyebrows.
"Try it, lad."
Jamie closed his eyes and thought of his mother, her mischievous smile, the twinkle in her eyes and the freckles on her nose - twelve, if his father could be believed. He remembered her tears when he had been brought home after Trafalgar, the loving way she used to run her hand through his father's hair.
"Yes! That's it! Brilliant!" Jack cheered. "Mister Gibbs, we have a course!"
Jamie opened his eyes and looked at Tom.
"This is insane," he said. "And you have a monkey sitting on your head."
* * *
"Any news?" Norrington asked, looking up from his table which was covered with maps and notes.
"Not yet," Gillette replied. "But we'll find them, you have my word."
"Of course we will. I just have no idea where."
Norrington gestured at the maps in front of him.
"They could be everywhere, Thomas. Where to look for them? I know these seas like the back of my hand, but there are dozens of islands where the abductors could hide. If at least we'd know why the lads were taken, and by whom! It makes no sense."
Gillette sat down opposite the admiral.
"It makes me suspicious that of all the men Tom and Jamie have been abducted. Could it be that this is some sort of retribution from an old enemy?"
"Our old enemies are, as you say, either old or dead, Thomas."
"I know. It was only an idea. Jamie and Tom are fine, I have no doubt about that."
"I wish I could share your optimism. A good thing Jamie's inhertited Elizabeth's temper. He'll fight to the last."
"Yes, our lads are lucky to have such courageous mothers."
Maps forgotten, Norrington looked up and saw a small smile on Gillette's face.
"You never mentioned Tom's mother."
"You never asked for her."
"I didn't think it was my place to."
Gillette folded his hands and twiddled his thumbs.
"Tom was two years old when he came to live with me, give or take a month. It's difficult to tell at that age, isn't it? My mother said he had to be two. When I returned from shore leave, I was called to the captain's cabin and informed that somebody had left the boy for me. There was a bundle with clothes and a few lines telling me that the mother was dead and nobody there to look after him. So I brought him to my parents, and when he was old enough, I took him with me, as a midshipman. He was born to be at sea."
"He's a fine officer. His mother must have been a very gentle woman, I suppose, judging by his love for books and-"
Gillette broke out in loud laughter, which Norrington considered to be a rather undue reaction, considering the circumstances.
"Gentle woman? Very gentle, yes - when we first met, she threatened to run me through with her sword!"
"Your wife threatened you with a sword?"
"Not my wife. We were never married. I asked her to, but - she preferred the life at sea, so she left. Never heard of her again."
"But you wanted to marry her?"
Norrington was surprised how much this hurt him. It wasn't fair to be upset, he had married Elizabeth, after all. But the thought that Thomas had been willing to share his life with somebody else, even would have promised at church in front of everybody to 'forsake all others' - it was like being stabbed with a knife.
Was this the way Thomas had felt about him and Elizabeth all those years? Had this been just as painful? Then he could understand why Thomas had reached for his sword. Norrington didn't think he could have lived with the knowledge that there was another person sharing Thomas' life in such an intimate way.
"Is anything amiss?" Gillette asked upon seeing the pained expression on Norrington's face.
"No - or yes. I just realised what a selfish idiot I've been all those years. I'm sorry, Thomas. I never really considered how this must be for you."
"It could have been worse. She and I, we both lost our great love to Elizabeth, but while I got my wish finally granted, her dream never came true, I fear."
"Elizabeth? But... I wouldn't know of any woman... there was nobody I..."
"James - she wasn't in love with you. She was in love with Jack Sparrow."
Norrington made an odd, choked noise. His eyes became wide like saucers, and all colour drained from his face.
"You wanted to marry a woman who was in love with Sparrow?"
"You actually did marry one, James."
"But - who?"
"Sparrow's steersman. Woman."
There was a moment of silence.
"You mean - Tom's mother was a pirate?"
"Indeed. Just like Jamie's."
"I'll be damned."
"Aren't we all?"
Norrington chewed his lip.
"I guess we are, yes. And so are our boys if we don't find them very soon."
There was a knock on the door, and Lt. Kyle stormed in, barely waiting for Norrington's command to enter.
"Sir! A ship! There's a sighting of a ship!"
Norrington jumped up, which resulted in a pained yelp. Kyle looked at him questioningly, but Gillette quickly came to stand between the lieutenant and the admiral.
"Return to your position, lieutenant. We'll be with you in a moment."
Kyle turned on his heel and returned on deck, while Gillette rushed to Norrington's side. He was leaning against the table, breathing heavily.
"Bloody hell, James, what are you doing? You're not twenty anymore!"
"Thanks for reminding me. Just give me a moment, I'll be fine in no time."
Gillette looked over his shoulder to make sure nobody was watching them, then he touched Norrington's face.
"If I could carry this burden for you, I would. You know that, don't you, James?"
Norrington tried to force the pain under his control. There was a limit to what he could bear, and he was approaching it quickly.
"I know, Thomas, I know. I wouldn't let you, though. And I'm fine. All is fine. Don't worry. We have to go on deck now, if we're lucky, we found the ones we've been searching for."
Another deep breath, then Norrington walked stiffly across the cabin.
* * *
Norrington didn't say a word, he just handed the spy glass to Gillette. The captain watched the approaching ship, blinked, looked again, then passed the spy glass to Elizabeth, who snapped it up, eager to see the other ship. For a while there was silence, then she shook her head.
"That can't be. It's simply not possible."
"I'd agree with you if I hadn't seen it myself, my dear."
Norrington took the telescope from his wife.
"However, as we've all seen it, there can be no doubt that it's the Black Pearl."
"Which is supposed to be on the bottom of the ocean for at least twenty years," Gillette added. "I hate to admit it, but I have no idea what's going on here."
"Maybe that ship was built after the plans of the Black Pearl?" Lt. Kyle suggested. "Or it simply has an uncanny likeness?"
"I'd agree with you, Mr. Kyle, if it wasn't Jack Sparrow's flag flying there."
"But Sir - Captain Sparrow is dead."
"Maybe it's his son? I wouldn't be surprised. Madness runs in the family. Well, I suppose the riddle will be solved in short time. I only hope that we'll also find Lt. Norrington and Lt. Gillette. In any case, clear the deck for battle. Should really somebody have been negligent in their duties and not have sent the Black Pearl to Davy Jones' locker, I'll do it myself."
"But James, you can't open fire at the Black Pearl!" Elizabeth protested. "Jamie might be there, and Tom!"
"Elizabeth, leave the helm. This is none of your business, and whoever is commanding the Black Pearl, it's not Jack Sparrow. We might deal with a truly dangerous enemy here."
Elizabeth crossed her arms over her chest.
"I'll stay here. If you want me to leave, you'll have to carry me off."
Gillette didn't give Norrington a chance to reply.
"Mr. Kyle, would you be so kind and accompany Mrs. Norrington to her cabin? If she should resist, you are herewith authorised to carry her or, if that's too complicated, drag her away by her hair."
Kyle blushed profoundly, and Elizabeth gasped for breath like a beached fish.
"Sir, I don't know if..."
"But I do. Follow my orders, lieutenant."
The discussion was interrupted by a midshipman who came running, bringing important news.
"Sir, they had flags up earlier on," he reported. "Didn't make much sense, but we wrote the message down."
"What did it say?" Norrington asked.
The midshipman unfolded a paper.
"It said: HAVE TWO MONKEYS ABOARD. WILL SWAP FOR RUM. JACK. Then there was a second message shortly after: LIZZY HOW COULD YOU."
"That was all?"
"That was all, Sir. Any orders?"
"No. Thank you, Mr. Franklin, please return to your position."
Norrington, Gillette, Kyle and Elizabeth stared at each other. She was the first to break the silence, clinging to her husband's arm.
"Jack? James - do you think it's possible that-"
"Anything is possible when Jack Sparrow is involved. I wouldn't put it past him to return from the dead just to annoy me. If he should have hurt the lads, I'll make sure that he'll return to Davy Jones' locker within the hour, but not in one piece! Man the guns!"
* * *
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|CROSS AND PILE - 6/8
by Molly Joyful