|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: h/c, angst, smut and a 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".
"And all the King's horses
And all the King's men
Couldn't put James
"Captain, what are we goin' to do now? That's one mighty big ship there, with lots of cannons."
Sparrow wrinkled his nose at Ragetti, who fiddled with a button on his coat and looked rather worried.
"It's probably James Norrington's ship. Wonder what he's tryin' to compensate there."
"Shouldn't we man our cannons as well, Captain?" Gibbs asked.
"What for? We have no powder left."
"Oh. I forgot."
It didn't take long for the Aronia's crew to bring her alongside the Black Pearl. She really was a big ship; one broadside, and the Pearl would be gone.
"Give me that bloody speakin' trumpet, if possible before they open fire," Sparrow ordered.
Ragetti handed the device to the captain. Sparrow cleared his throat, then he hailed the other ship.
"Commodore! How nice to see you again! Lovely day today, isn't it?"
To his great surprise, it wasn't Norrington who replied, but Gillette.
"You have ten minutes to launch a boat and release Lt. Norrington and Lt. Gillette before we open fire!"
"He sounds quite angry," Ragetti whispered, and Pintel nodded.
"Yes, very angry. Maybe we shouldn't upset him more?"
"Oh will you shut up now, you two?" Sparrow snapped. "Don't you remember that he always sounded like that? Bloody grumpy old git."
He returned his attention to Gillette.
"Mr. Gillette! Now what a pleasant surprise! 't is Captain Jack Sparrow speakin', which can't come as a big surprise, as this is the Black Pearl and the captain of the Black Pearl has always been, well, at least most of the times, Captain Jack Sparrow, which would be me. So, we have your sons, you want them back, how about you comin' over, we have a drink and discuss the conditions for the hand over?"
There was a moment of silence. Sparrow could see some commotion on the quarterdeck of the Aronia; Gillette was obviously attacked by a midshipman.
"Just what are they doin' there? Gentlemen, could you please pay me some attention? I'm the main person here!"
The next message from the Aronia was so loud and skirled that Sparrow winced.
"You bastard! Do you hear me? Jack Sparrow, if that's really you, then you better let the boys go immediately, or I'll blow your bloody ship to the bloody moon! I'll rip your balls off! I'll gut you like a fish! I'll - I'll - do terrible things to you! Do you hear me?"
A big smile spread all over Sparrow's face.
"Lizzy! My little moray! I knew you'd come! Pack up your old geezer and his terrier and come over here! We have to celebrate this - family reunion!"
Another stream of expletives followed from the Aronia, and Sparrow handed the speaking trumpet over to Jamie.
"Here. Say hello to your dear sweet old mother, invite her over and tell her to leave any swords, knives, daggers, pistols and muskets aboard the Aronia, if possible. I wouldn't mind if she'd left your old man behind as well, but I've given up on that hope long ago."
Jamie looked puzzled. Sparrow looked over his shoulder and scratched his beard.
"Say, lad - Elizabeth - your mother - she's still very pretty, I guess?"
"Absolutely," Jamie said with great enthusiasm. "One of the most beautiful women I know."
Sparrow looked Tom over, who was trying in vain to pry the monkey from his shoulder.
"Considerin' your taste, you're not really a reliable source, I guess. Well, we'll see."
"Crazy. Completely crazy," Jamie muttered, then he passed the message on to his mother that both he and Tom were alive, in good health and more than ready to return home.
* * *
Jack Sparrow almost fell over backwards when Elizabeth attacked him. Gillette didn't put too much effort in holding her back, and so Sparrow found his face scratched by ten fingernails.
"You rat!" she screamed. "You purulent plague-spot! You miserable, rotten, damned - Jack, is it really you? Jack, oh my God!"
He opened his arms, hugged her and grinned.
"Of course it's me, my little morey! What did you think? That old Jack's gone to Davy Jones' locker? Not for a long time, darlin'! But very glad you came to see me and pick up your monkeys."
He turned to Jamie and Tom with a sweeping gesture.
"Gentlemen! Your parents! No lengthy family reunions, please, I'm not the sentimental type, savvy?"
"Jamie! Is everything fine with you? Jamie!"
Elizabeth ran past Sparrow and took her son in her arms. Jamie was dirty and sported a bruise on his cheek, but otherwise he seemed to be unharmed. Tom hurried towards Gillette, who ignored rules and regulations for a change and hugged his son. Norrington didn't move; he watched the scene from a distance, but the relief was obvious on his face.
"Thanks God I have you back, Tom! Bless your heart, lad, you're alive!" Gillette said, ruffling Tom's hair as if he still was a little boy.
"I'm fine, father," Tom assured, then he lowered his voice. "But you better be careful - these people here are completely mad. Absolutely, completely, totally insane."
Only now, with Tom and Jamie safe and alive, Gillette took the time to have a closer look at the crew of the Black Pearl. He knew those faces - hadn't he spent years chasing after them? Mr. Gibbs... Pintel... Ragetti... Marty... the bloody monkey... and then there was Captain Jack Sparrow, no doubt. But how was that possible? Jack Sparrow didn't look much older than the last time he had seen him, almost thirty years ago!
"I demand to know what's going on here," Norrington said, and the noise calmed down immediately. "You can't be Captain Jack Sparrow. So who are you, what is your business, and most important thing of all, how dare you lay hand on two lieutenants of the Royal Navy?"
Sparrow rolled his eyes.
"Don't ruin the mood, Commodore. Why, of course it's me. Same hat. Same beard. See? I even still have Cutler Beckett's mark on my arm. May he rest in peace, whatever circle of hell he's been assigned to."
"Knowing Cutler Beckett, he's running hell by now. I admit that you look a lot like Jack Sparrow, but he'd be an old man if he still lived. Good grief, he was older than me!"
"I admit there was a time you looked better, Commodore."
"Admiral then, fine, fine. Now see, with your lieutenants, that was misunderstandin', based on those two gits over there understandin' me miss. I said I need two men, they found two men in the mud and didn't realise they were lieutenants. And you must admit muddy back alleys are not where you'd expect to find lieutenants of the Royal Navy. Well, fine, you'd expect to find them there, but they shouldn't be there, savvy?"
Norrington was very tempted to punch the pirate right in his face upon seeing his smug smile, but he remembered his age, swallowed his anger and tried to keep his decorum.
"Save your breath, pirate. I could have you all hanged for your crimes."
"Commodore - Admiral - whatever - I thought we'd given up on that, aye? You have your sons back, and actually, I should have you hanged for stealin' my lady!"
"I'm not your lady," Elizabeth hissed, "and he certainly didn't steal me!"
"Now didn't he? How comes you know I've been talkin' about you then, luv? Could've talked about just anybody."
Jamie pinched the bridge of his nose.
"One moment, please. Just one. Before I lose my mind here: mother, what's this with this pirate? He has the same sea chest as you! And why do you have a sea chest in the first place?"
"Awe, Lizzy, you still have it?" Sparrow sniffled. "I'm touched! Now lad, I'll tell you how that really was with your mother. It all started when she and this old stiff there-"
"Jack, be quiet!"
"Mother, please let him talk. So?"
Sparrow scratched his head.
"Let me see, it's a bit complicated and we all lost the overview a couple of times. Well, first she wanted to marry your father. No, no, wrong, he wanted to marry her. First she said nothing, then she said yes, though she had some terrible crush on the local blacksmith, then she said no again, then there was - oh, yes, then there was I. Then it was the blacksmith again, then me again and finally she jumped overboard to run off with your father. That's it, basically. Might have forgotten a man or two, but eh, we're not getting' younger, are we? My memory, you understand?"
"You? And a blacksmith? And a pirate? And my father? And - mother! Is that true?"
Elizabeth crossed her arms over her chest and gave her son a challenging look.
"Truth is always a matter of interpretation. Does it matter? I'm married to your father and I love him. That's all you need to know. I didn't interrogate you on Bessy and Ellen and Jane, either, though you've managed to make me the county's youngest grandmother!"
"Ah, skirt chaser he is, aye?" Sparrow asked, and wiggled his eyebrows at Jamie. "Wonder where you've got it from, lad. Not from your father, that much is sure."
Norrington had watched Sparrow all through the banter with Elizabeth. Nobody knew the pirate better than he did, maybe not even Elizabeth. He knew his voice, his mannerisms, knew every line in his face and bead in his hair. It wasn't possible, yet the man in front of him was without a doubt Captain Jack Sparrow. Norrington would have given anything to be thirty years younger; meeting his old rival in love and life in a state of ill health and weakness was a bad blow to his self-esteem.
"So it is you then, Jack Sparrow. I admit I'm surprised. I suppose that, beside capturing lieutenants of the Royal Navy and possessing the gift of eternal youth you're also the one responsible for the captured frigates and merchants?"
Sparrow shook his head.
"Ah no. You'll have to find another scapegoat for that, not-commodore."
"Now do I really - let me make a suggestion, Captain Sparrow: we will put you and your fine crew in irons and hang you upon our return. Should no more ships disappear, we'll know that you were guilty. If not , I'll be oh so very sorry."
Sparrow quickly hid behind Jamie.
"He wouldn't do that, would he?" he whispered.
"One never knows with my father," Jamie whispered back. "But it might be better not to take any risks."
"Oh. Hasn't changed much then. Well then, Admiral - would you mind if you and I had a bit of a word in private? This business shouldn't be discussed in public. It's a rather delicate business. Mysterious, dangerous..."
"It will be a cold day in hell before the Admiral will do that," Gillette barked. "For all I know, you could murder him the very second you're out of our view."
"Murder him? Now that's insulting! I'd had a hundred reasons and opportunities to send him to the Pearly Gates, why should I do it now? There's no honour in shootin' an old horse. So, Admiral - what say you? I have rum."
"Fine, we'll talk then. Just you and I. But I hope it will be worth it."
"James, you can't do that!"
"Admiral, that's not advisable!"
"Father, I really don't think you should..."
"Oh be quiet, the whole lot of you! Do you think me too old to make my own decisions? Lead the way, Sparrow, and that rum better be strong."
Sparrow grinned, and Norrington followed him, careful not to show any weakness. Gillette's face was red with anger, and Norrington knew that he was in for a stern lecture upon his return, but Jack Sparrow was no threat to his life. He was a pirate, yes, but over the years Norrington had come to the conclusions that men of honour could be found even among pirates, and the biggest scoundrels under wigs.
* * *
Sparrow's cabin still looked the same; with exception of a large shelf with books and new chairs. One of them was hastily freed of papers and maps by the pirate, and Norrington sat down with a groan.
He watched Sparrow fishing for two tankards in a chest, then he produced a bottle.
The two tankards were filled.
"To us, because nobody else would drink to our health," Sparrow said.
Norrington muttered something, and the two men drank. He had been right, Sparrow still had the best rum, and Norrington enjoyed the heavy, spicy taste, sweet and soft like molasses. He hadn't come here to get drunk, though.
"You still insist that you aren't responsible for the capture of those ships?"
Sparrow shook his head. Norrington couldn't help but follow the colourful beads with his eyes.
"No, that wasn't me. Or us. You're not the only one sufferin' losses, Admiral. Two pirate ships have gone lost within the last three months, both captains bein' old mates of mine."
"If it wasn't you, who was it then?"
Sparrow pulled his chair a little closer to Norrington's, and looked over his shoulder, as if to make sure nobody was eavesdropping.
"I can't go into details here, Admiral, but there's a reason why I'm all fresh and juicy lookin' while you, with all due respect, resemble a dried prune. Unfortunately, my crew and I are not the only ones who, let me put it like this, profited from certain lucky circumstances."
He lowered his voice.
"Something - someone - is out there, having declared everybody an enemy, capturin' and murderin' without regard of flag or mission. Navy or pirate, merchant of fisher's slope, they don't care. So you see, it would be in my own interest to catch those bastards. Unfortunately," he added, pushing the chair back and looking very regretful, "I can't go on a hunt when I got your bloody fleet on my shirttail day in, day out."
Norrington took another swig of rum and arched his eyebrows.
"You're expecting me to believe that hackneyed story and let you go? You can't be serious!"
"I'm very serious, Admiral! You of all the people should know! Look, I offer you the followin': until we've found the culprit and put an end to his foul deeds, we'll sail under your protection."
"Wait, wait, wait, now don't get all commodorial on me again! I'm suggestin' a cooperation, so to speak. We can go places none of your ships ever could, and to best that enemy, it will take imagination and a bit of magic, and with all due respect, Admiral: I wouldn't know of any institution with less magic and imagination than the Royal Navy."
"You've never been to court, have you?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Forget it. Now, let's assume - and I don't say I'll agree, mark my words! - let's assume I was insane enough to enter this agreement. What guarantee would I have that you'll be true to your word? That you'll really chase for this mysterious fiend and not just use my lenience to capture other ships and cause trouble? I might be old, Jack Sparrow, but I'm no fool. You're a double crossing liar if I ever met one."
Sparrow grinned and emptied the tankard.
"That's my man, that's the spirit. Admiral, you can send me any of your men to sail on the Black Pearl. Considerin' they are able seamen, I can't use any midshipmen who poke their noses all day. And don't send me your son, either, that's a parcel of trouble."
"I tend to agree with you on the latter. So what do you suggest? That I send you a couple of marines and Gillette?"
Sparrow jumped up and pulled a face.
"Gillette? There is no way in hell that I'll ever sail on the same ship with Mr. Fetchthemirons! You'll surely have other men!"
Norrington put his tankard on the table and considered the matter. It was crazy, of course, like everything Jack Sparrow had ever done, suggested or caused, but he had a point. Lost in thought, he began to tap his fingers on the table, only to wince in pain.
"It's your last journey, isn't it? I can see it."
Norrington startled upon that unexpected question, and the temptation to snap at Sparrow, to give him a dressing-down was great, but wasn't he the only one without any personal interest in him? Norrington thought that it meant little to Jack Sparrow whether he lived or died; the pirate was the only person he could speak openly to.
"It probably is. Keep that for yourself, though, I don't need any commotion and people fussing."
"She doesn't know, though, does she? No, she doesn't, she wouldn't look so happy otherwise."
"Of course she doesn't know. There's no reason to upset her!" Norrington replied, quite outraged.
"She's your wife. Shouldn't you be honest with her? But what do I know about that."
Deep down in his heart, Norrington knew that Sparrow was right, and he felt terribly humiliated. What had this come to, now he had to be lectured on honesty by a bloody pirate!
Sparrow took a book from the shelf, blew the dust off, leafed through it and put it back again.
"I could have done that, too, you know," he said, wiping his hand off on his coat.
"Makin' her happy. Could have done that, mate, really. We'd argued and bickered and screamed and yelled at each other, but I'd cherished her like Ragetti his glass eye. But now she's a lady, and you have this rather ill-bred and pertly son of yours and it doesn't matter anymore. But anyway," he said, turning around and smiling brightly, "what say you about our deal?"
Norrington had always wondered who the man was who hid behind the mask of the fool, and he also wondered if he'd finally caught a glimpse of him. He looked at the tankard, at the maps and books and finally at Jack Sparrow, then he nodded.
* * *
They were back on the Aronia, yet Gillette waited in vain for Norrington to give the command to either blow the Black Pearl to bits or leave for Port Royal. The admiral hadn't spoken a word, and he didn't seem to hear what those around him said, didn't react to any questions.
"James? Is everything alright? What have you and Jack discussed?" Elizabeth finally asked over dinner, scared by her husband's brooding silence. They were alone in Norrington's cabin, Jamie and Tom had been sent to the ship's doctor to have their scratches and bruises looked after, despite their protests.
"What? Oh. Jack Sparrow, yes. Elizabeth - if I'd ask you a question, would you reply truthfully? Even if it was a strange question - no, what am I saying - an inappropriate, outrageous question?"
She put fork and knife down.
"Of course I would. I've been often told that I was too blunt for a lady, as you know."
He smiled, that half-smile which never failed to charm her.
"That's true. I've always been fond of your honesty, though. Elizabeth - would you want to sail on the Black Pearl again?"
"Jack Sparrow will try to find the ones responsible for the capture of our ships; he seems to be quite certain about the place where he has to look for the villains. Until he's successful, he'll be under my protection."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I know, I know, it's madness, but sometimes we have to do unusual things to succeed. But I do need somebody to keep an eye on him. Somebody I can trust. Somebody I'd trust with my life. So that's why I'm asking: would you want to sail on the Black Pearl again?"
Elizabeth just starred at him, her face one big question mark. Norrington began to feel very uncomfortable, only now he thought of the very likely possibility that she could take this as an attempt to get rid of her so he could be alone with Gillette.
"I don't want to send you away, I hope that's not what you're thinking! You know how much I love you," he hastened to add. "I just - thought - maybe-"
He broke off.
"I'm sorry. I should never have said anything. Forget it, please my dear, and forgive me."
Elizabeth swallowed hard.
"James - why? Why did you make that suggestion? No, I don't think you want to get rid of me, you'd never do that. But I don't understand you, James."
He looked up, relief obvious on his face.
"Remember when you said that we both chose the way that allowed us to love and be loved without hanging from the gallows for it? It was a good choice, and I never regretted it for a moment. But I came to understand that I've been very selfish."
Norrington lowered his gaze, he couldn't look at her while saying the next words.
"You allowed me to love - both of you. You're the most generous and noble woman I know. And I'm a selfish bastard. I hope I've still made you happy enough in our marriage so you'll never regret it, but Elizabeth - I believe that he could have made you happy, too. He might be a raging lunatic, but - I guess I just want you to have the chance love - both of us. My God, I sound like an idiot."
"You - would let me go? Let me sail on the Black Pearl? Let me be with Jack? You would do that?"
"I would," he replied firmly. "Because it would make you happy, because I know that he'd take care of you and cherish you like Ragetti his - well, like the apple of his eye. I feel that it's my turn to be generous now."
There was silence. None of them dared to speak out of fear to use the wrong words. When he finally looked up, he could see that she was crying. Elizabeth never wailed like most women did; her tears were silent, running down her face, dripping on her coat and her breeches. They were all the more touching.
"I will sail with Jack on the Black Pearl, James. We'll find those bastards and I'll bring you the head of whoever it is on a plate when I return. Because return to you I will, James," she finally said, and wiped her eyes and her runny nose with the sleeve of her coat.
* * *
"It's good to be clean again, isn't it?"
Jamie, who had been lost in thought, startled when he heard Tom's voice. He nodded, then returned to watch the horizon.
"It's been here my father proposed to my mother, did you know that? I can't understand why she insisted on sailing on the Black Pearl. Or sailing at all. And why my father allowed it."
"Maybe because it's what she really wants?"
"Maybe, but still, it's not really the appropriate thing for the wife of an admiral to do, now is it?"
"I suppose you told her?"
"I'm not suicidal. That aside, my father and her seemed to agree on this, so it wasn't my place to protest. Still, I'm not happy with it, and I'll never forgive my father for putting her into such danger. And then that Jack Sparrow..."
Jamie turned to face Tom, who shrugged.
"You know, he wasn't half as bad. Your mother looked so happy - don't begrudge her that." He looked around to see if nobody was within hearing range, then he gave Jamie a quick, rather dopey smile. "I've missed you. And think about it, if it wasn't for Jack Sparrow, we'd still be arguing instead of kissing."
"Actually - well, that's something we have to talk about," Jamie murmured, looking rather uncomfortable. "We have to be careful."
"Things are easier here in Port Royal than back home, though. So I thought - well, I'm sure my father could arrange for us to stay here a little longer."
Tom's face lit up.
"You think he'd do that?"
"Sure he would. And the governor would agree, anyway; I don't think he'd wish to part with his daughter."
"His daughter?" Tom asked, rather puzzled.
"Sure! See, I like her, she likes me. We get married, you and I can still see each other, and everybody's happy. The perfect solution for our problem!"
Tom swallowed hard. The change from up one moment, down the next was too big, he felt as if Jamie had punched him in the stomach.
"Perfect solution? Jamie, my God - how can you say such a thing?"
"Don't look at me as if I'd just suggested murdering your grandmother! I just try to find a way to-"
"So you don't love me then; good. At least I know where we stand."
"No! I mean - yes! Yes of course I love you! But there are so many dangers; if we do this how I suggest, we could both have our careers and be respected and have families. Think about it, Tom - we could still meet whenever we felt like it!"
"No, I don't want this. I will not share you, Jamie. Never. Not with a wife our anybody else."
Jamie reached out and put his hand on Tom's arm.
"Please be reasonable; as much as I'd love to be with you, it's not possible. Would you rather have that they hang us? Is that what you want?"
The forlorn expression on Tom's face cut deep into Jamie's heart.
"I don't want that, of course not. But when we're apart, I don't want to think of you being with someone else. Maybe you don't mind, but I couldn't live like that."
"Ah, but I would have to live with the formidable Mr. Kyle?"
"I'd give him up for you, without thinking twice, and you know that. It's not like with you, Jamie. I don't love him."
"But what has my marriage to do with us and our love? Tom, be reasonable. Men get married. They have children. Marriage is convenient, a perfect institution by our society to keep everybody happy and well-provided."
"Good grief, Jamie - where did you get your ideas? Look at your parents, for Christ's sake, you can certainly not say they don't love each other!"
"Sure, they love each other, I think. Though I'd never allowed my wife to sail with a pirate! Love happens, and it's nice, but it's not really necessary. "
"I can't believe that this is the way you think. Where would that leave me in your world?"
"Bloody hell, Tom, stop being so dramatic! Nobody would suspect anything, with me being married and you - wasn't there this girl you used to write to? Sally? Elly? Whatever her name, you could get married as well and start a family."
Tom was very pale, and his hands trembled.
"I will not agree to that. I could not live being a - well, what would that make me? Your redheaded pastime when your wife's not around?"
"Well, that arrangement sure worked fine for Admiral Lord Nelson, didn't it?" Jamie snapped.
"You'd better not take a leaf out of that book! No, Jamie. It's either loving me, and me alone, or loving somebody else. You can't have both."
"You can't seriously expect me to make a choice! Are you insane, Tom? You must be aware that what we're doing is-"
"- a crime. Yes, I'm aware of it. It's a crime by any law in the book, but not in my heart. If you can't decide, throw a coin - Cross it's me, Pile it's Emily. And if you don't even have the courage for that, I'll make a decision for you."
Jamie crossed his arms over his chest.
"Is this your last word?"
Tom shook his head.
"No. My last word would be that I love you, Jamie."
"I love you too, Tom. But I'm going to marry Emily."
For the fracture of a moment, Tom wanted to reach for his sword and run it through Jamie, rather seeing him dead than leaving him. The next thought was to throw himself off the cliff, to shatter his body and his pain on the sharp rocks deep, deep below. Then he came back to his senses, and it scared him to realise how much power that Jamie had over him, and without a further word, he turned on his heel and left.
"Tom! Come back! Tom, we have to discuss this!" Jamie called after him.
"Did you have an argument?"
Jamie jumped and almost fell over when he saw Captain Gillette standing behind him.
"You - no, we didn't - it was about the canvas you ordered, and-"
"Jamie, you're the son of my best friend and an excellent officer. Sometimes I feel you're a bit of a son to me as well. This is the only reason you're still alive, any other man would have died for injuring my son the way you did."
Gillette grasped Jamie by the lapels of his coat and pulled him close, their noses almost touching.
"Don't think I wouldn't know what has happened between the two of you. No, there's no reason to panic, Admiral Norrington doesn't know, and I'll certainly never tell him. There is no limit to what I'd do for your father. But there's a limit to my patience with you. You're not going to hurt my boy again, and you're not going to insult your father any longer."
He pushed Jamie away, who stumbled backwards, face red with humiliation.
"I never wanted to hurt Tom," he gasped. "It just happened. I - would never hurt him. He's - dear to me."
"Odd way you have of showing it. And what about your father? You're aware he's dying, aren't you?"
All energy drained from Gillette, and he reached for the wall of the ruin for support.
"Yes, Jamie. What did you think why he sent your mother to be with the only man he thought capable of looking after and protecting her? Do you think he did that because he wanted to get rid of her? How little you know."
Jamie was in shock. His lips moved, but he couldn't speak.
"This is a bad place to be for any lovers, Jamie, a very bad place. You better leave now."
The young lieutenant starred at Gillette and slowly backed away. A bad place for lovers - yes, that was true. Without another word, Jamie turned and ran away, while Gillette starred down at the rocks below, still seeing Miss Elizabeth Swann in her pretty blue dress falling into the sea.
* * *
"Are you certain we will be safe here, Robert?"
Tom looked around the small chamber, which didn't offer much more but a chair, a small table and a bed.
"Absolutely. I've been here years ago, and as you can see, things are still the same. If any actions would be taken, I'd be among the first to know. No reason for any worries, Tom; the governor has more important matters on his mind, and the admiral - well."
Lt. Kyle didn't finish the sentence out of respect for Tom's admiration for old Norrington. This was not the right moment to discuss the admiral's ailing health or young Norrington's upcoming marriage.
Tom took off his coat and began to untie his cravat. Kyle held him back.
"Let me do that, Tom. Unwrapping the present is half the fun, don't ruin it for me."
"Ah, so I'm a present to you then?"
Kyle grinned. His fingers deftly untied Tom's cravat, then opened his shirt. He ran his thumb along the collarbone, then nibbled on Tom's neck. It was the very same spot where Jamie had left a mark three weeks ago. It had long faded, but Tom could still see it when he looked in the mirror. He often looked. He hoped it would go away, that he could forget it had ever been there in the first place, but it couldn't have been more permanent if Jamie had marked him with a red hot iron.
He closed his eyes and put his arms around his lover, pulling him close. Lover - no, Robert Kyle wasn't his lover. A lover would love him, wouldn't he? And he, he could love him in return.
"You're more than a present - you're a gift from heaven. I'd never thought I'd enjoy this place that much. Even if you exhaust me, I admit it."
"You've been a good teacher, and you know the saying that no good deed goes unpunished."
Tom began to undress Kyle. He did so without hurry, without any visible excitement, and this seeming disinterest only added to Kyle's passion. He slipped his hands in Tom's breeches, enjoying the sensation of cool skin under his hands.
"I'll lose my mind one day over you. I've become addicted to you, do you know?"
"Ah, so your participation in the heroic rescue mission was rather self-serving then?" Tom asked, arching an eyebrow. Kyle slipped Tom's breeches over his narrow hips, then pulled him towards the bed, not willing to wait any longer to feel skin on skin.
"Partially. But then I'm also rather fond of you."
He held Tom's face between his hands.
"They've treated you well, haven't they? I was seriously worried, Tom. They didn't hurt you, did they?"
"They were better behaved than many of the officers I've served with. Now stop the talking, we didn't come here to discuss the state of the Navy."
They kissed, and Kyle noted to his great delight that Tom was in one of his brooding moods. He lightly bit his shoulder, and dug his fingers deep enough in his skin to cause a small pain, but not hard enough to leave a bruise. They were both skilled in hiding their tracks and not leaving marks.
To think that he'd thought Tom to be mild and meek! He was demanding and commanding, always keeping him at arm's length, and not once had he managed to make Tom really lose control. It had always been him, the older, the more experienced, who'd ended up begging. Most of the times, Tom would finally give in, with a small, arrogant smile, but sometimes - and Kyle had to admit that those were the best times - Tom let him beg in vain, keeping him for hours on the brink of release until Kyle was close to tears. It was all a game, they had agreed on the rules, and Kyle loved playing it.
Tonight, however, Tom had decided that he wanted to play a new game.
"Tonight you'll take me," Tom said, and from his tone, he might have said "the weather is nice" or "I'd like an apple, please". Kyle swallowed hard and starred at Tom, who looked him over, a small smile on his lips.
"Why-" he began, but Tom clasped his hand over Kyle's mouth
"We're not here for conversations. Tonight it's your turn. And you better make it good, there are some ugly things I have to forget."
He took his hand away and caressed Kyle's face, a gesture so kind and gentle that it seemed to come from another person.
Kyle tried to find a reason for this sudden change of mind in Tom's face, but he couldn't find anything but that slightly arrogant smile. He grasped Tom by the arms, spun him around and pressed him down on the bed.
"As always, your wish is my demand. Come tomorrow, you won't be able to think of anything but me anymore, and mark my words, tonight you will be the one begging."
Tom closed his eyes. Jamie had been right - love was nice, but one could live just as well without it.
* * *
Norrington had continued to fulfil his duties for as long as he could, held upright only by determination and a good portion of stubbornness, but then a fever had forced him to stay in bed. The doctor had hinted that the admiral would very likely not recover again; news that both Gillette and Jamie quite naturally found very hard to come to terms with.
Jamie spent every moment he could with his father, caring for him, helping him dress, carrying letters and messages from his sick bed to the Fort, and finally, a heartfelt apology was made and an equally deep-felt forgiveness granted. When Jamie was on duty, he and Gillette took turns looking after Norrington, or at least tried to, for most of the time, he just wanted to be left alone. Knowing that Elizabeth was in good hands and his son loving him, Norrington saw his duty towards life fulfilled.
It was on the night of a particularly hot day when Norrington ordered that the windows of his bedroom should be left open. This was against the doctor's advise, as Gillette pointed out several times, but Norrington told him to open that damned window already and leave him alone. Norrington was fighting for every breath, and of course it wasn't a good idea to allow the damp night air in, but from his bed he could see the Buckthorn, now under the command of the formidable Lt. Jenkins.
With a bit of luck, his torment would be over come morning; he liked the idea of the last thing to see being his ship rather than the worried faces of Thomas and Jamie. He had no doubts about leaving Jamie in the care of Gillette, but he seriously doubted that Jenkins was the right man to command the Buckthorn.
"Very considerate of you to leave the window open, Commodore - Admiral," he heard a only too familiar voice say, then Jack Sparrow swung over the balustrade of the balcony. Norrington wondered if this was some sort of hallucination before death, slightly angry that he should die with the image of Jack Sparrow, of all the people, in his mind. But then he could smell the tar, the sea and the rum, plus a lot of less pleasant things, and he sighed.
"You've made my life hell for many years, Jack Sparrow. Can't you at least allow me to die in peace?"
Sparrow sauntered into the bedroom, bowed and looked at Norrington.
"Pardon my French, but you look like guano, James the man."
"How kind of you to mention it. How's Elizabeth?"
Sparrow picked up one of Norrington's medicine bottles, unstopped it and sniffed. He pulled a face and put it quickly back on the nightstand.
"Ah, Lizzy's just fine, don't worry. It's like she's never been away. The monkey still hates her, but he'll get used to her. Do they make you drink this brew? No wonder you look like you've been chewed through and digested by a sea snake. Lizzy's missin' you, by the way. And this git of a son of yours as well. Could have her back here in a week or so, if you want to."
Norrington shook his head, or at least tried to.
"No. I don't want her to see me like that. Bring her back when it's over, do me that favour."
Sparrow scratched his head, then inspected his fingernails.
"She makes me wash my hair, you know. Can't spit on the floor anymore, and she terrorises the crew. Can't help but love that woman. So you've decided it's time to go?"
"If I were a horse, I'd been shot weeks ago."
"I see. Well, apart from tellin' you that Lizzy the girl is fine, I thought I return this to you. Left it aboard the Pearl, remember? Bein' an honest and decent gentleman, I kept it for you. Thought we might meet again one day."
He reached into his coat and pulled out a bunch of rags. He shook them, and Norrington had to sneeze upon the cloud of dust that emerged from it. When his nose stopped itching, he took a closer look at the item, and he gasped.
"Good grief, it's Sophie!"
Sparrow looked at the dirty, ruffled wig in his hand and wrinkled his nose.
"Sophie? Don't tell me you gits named your wigs!"
Norrington looked flustered.
"That's none of your business. Why on earth have you kept my wig all those years?"
"Well, I thought you might like to have it back one day. Pintel washed it, and Ragetti tried to get the hair curled, but I guess he didn't that good a job, did he."
Norrington stared at the wig.
"Is this your completely moronic way of trying to apologise?"
"Naw, wouldn't put it like that," Sparrow said, and stuffed the wig under Norrington's cushion. "I'd rather say I might consider to acknowledge that it could have been, from you point of view, an act of hostility to make you scrub the deck of the Pearl with you wig."
If he hadn't felt so bad, Norrington would have laughed.
"You're mad. Crazy, insane, lunatic."
Sparrow shuffled his feet.
"It was a bad joke I played on you back then, especially with Lizzy seein' it and everythin'. So, well, I thought you'd like her back. The wig, I mean. Sophie."
"Please somebody shoot me, now," Norrington groaned.
The pirate pulled a chair next to Norrington's bed and lowered his voice.
"Can't shoot you, James. Think of the mess, you wouldn't want your boy havin' to clean it up, would you? But still, I could help you. To - improve your situation, savvy?"
"The only way to improve my situation would be if you'd return where you came from," Norrington scowled.
"Eh, you're only sayin' that because you don't know what I have to offer. If you're fed up with lyin' in this bed, of medicines and doctors and people bein' a pain in your arse about it, I could help."
Sparrow reached in the pocket of his coat. He searched around for a while, then he pulled out a small flask and opened it.
"Rum? Well, getting drunk might be a help, agreed."
"Bah, rum! 't is no rum! Sure, it is rum, but not rum-rum, savvy? Small gift from Tia Dalma which comes in handy for a man who's in your desperate situation."
"You mean it's...?" Norrington asked, but then broke off. The thought that Jack Sparrow offered to poison him was too absurd.
"Aye, it is," Sparrow replied, and wiggled his eyebrows. "Three swigs, and you'll be delivered from your misery, James."
"Go. Leave. Immediately."
The flask dangled directly in front of Norrington's nose.
"Think about it, James. You want to end your days here in this bed, watchin' Gillette emptying your chamber pot? Please! That wouldn't be the way I'd choose!"
Norrington starred at the flask. It was tempting, of course. Very tempting. He cringed in humiliation every time Jamie or Gillette had to help him with a task, which was almost worse than the pain. Though the pain was bad as well. Very bad.
"Would it - hurt?"
"Of course not!" Sparrow protested. "What d'ya think I am, a brute? No, don't answer that, it was a rhetorical question. No pain, no. You drink a bit of this wonderful brew, and you'll just fall asleep. That's it. After that - no more trouble. I hope."
Norrington thought of the rest of his life; a seemingly endless row of days filled with misery. Of course it was sinful, but - maybe it would be for the best? And Elizabeth would never see him in this state. She could keep him in good memory.
"What say you, James the man - take me up on my offer? Make up your mind, I have to return to my ship."
Was there anything left he had to say to Gillette and Jamie? Or Elizabeth? No. They knew he loved them. No need to repeat it.
Norrington nodded, and Sparrow smiled. He put the flask in Norrington's hand and closed the man's fingers around it. He did so very gently, and Norrington wondered if this was the way he treated Elizabeth as well. He hoped so. No, he was certain; she hadn't returned to him if it wasn't the case.
"Can't help you, James. You have to do this yourself, by your own free will, otherwise it wouldn't work. Anything else I can do for you?"
"No. You've done enough, I'd say."
He brought the flask to his lips, then closed his eyes and took four, five swigs. He swallowed, expecting burning or pain, but all he could feel was a mellow sensation in his throat. Sparrow took the flask from Norrington's hand and put it on the nightstand.
"That's the man," he commended.
"I can't feel a thing," Norrington muttered. "I hope you didn't lead me on, Jack."
"It's still Captain Jack Sparrow, and you should give it some time. Might take a while."
Norrington began to feel very tired, and a comfortable warmth spread through his body. His limps felt heavy, and the pain began to fade.
"Is that-" he began, but then his eyes closed and he was gone.
Sparrow waited for a moment to make sure everything went the way it should. When he heard steps approaching on the corridor, he quickly left the room, climbed over the balustrade and managed to disappear just in time before Gillette knocked on the door and entered the room.
"Bloody windows," he muttered, crossed the room and closed the doors. He looked at Norrington, who seemed to be fast asleep, and sighed. Pain had drawn deep lines into Norrington's face. He'd done anything to help the man, but this was nature's course, there was not a damned thing he could do but be there for him.
Gillette was just about to leave when he noticed the flask on the nightstand.
"Now where does that come from?"
It was none of the bottles the doctor had left, and when he reached for it, he could smell the alcohol and had to smile. Just the thing he needed! He took a swig from the flask, hten another one. Good rum, if it was rum at all. Who had brought it, he wondered?
Gillette put the flask back on the nightstand, then bowed over Norrington.
"James - when the moment comes... you don't have to stay here for my sake, you know? I'll manage. And I'll keep an eye on Jamie."
He pressed a kiss on Norrington's temple and caressed his cheek with the back of his hand.
"Love you, James. Always have, always will."
Then he left to see after the paperwork that was piling up on Norrington's desk. Life went on, and somebody had to make sure things were taking their normal course, after all.
* * *
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|CROSS AND PILE - 7/8
by Molly Joyful