|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: angst and smut
Feedback: very welcome. Good or bad.
Author's notes: "Cross And Pile" takes place five years after the events in "Lost And Found".
What are young men made of?
What are young men made of?
Sighs and leers, and crocodile tears,
And that are young men made of.
It was still dark when Lt. Kyle woke up, and while temptation to stay in bed for only a little while longer was very strong, his sense of duty won over. There was a lot of work to do; he had to see that the dreaded Mr. Jones finally delivered the canvas for the Bilberry that had been ordered, Captain Gillette waited for a report, and he would have to deal with a seaman who had started a fight with the Bilberry's purser.
And then there was Tom, of course. Kyle thought of his wife's letters in which she insisted that her husband petitioned to be deployed back home to serve on a ship protecting the Channel. She had spoken of their children and added a lock of his youngest daughter's hair. Oddly enough, it was mousey brown, while he remembered her to be blonde. His wife was right; he had been away from home for far too long, and her declarations of loneliness, eternal love and longing for her husband hadn't failed their purpose and made him feel very guilty.
Kyle had been honest right from the start about their affair not lasting forever, and Tom had never objected. Kyle certainly wasn't happy about the separation; he'd grown very fond of Tom, and not only because he had found him to be the perfect companion to share his bed. Despite occasional sarcasm and flare-ups, there was a very soft, vulnerable side to Tom; they shared many interests and had become good friends.
But even the best of friends had to part one day, and today was just the day to tell Tom that he would leave for Portsmouth soon. Tom would probably only arch an eyebrow and nod, but deep down in his heart, Kyle hoped for some sign of serious regret.
He quickly washed, dressed and headed for the Fort. Kyle knew that it was far too early, there was still at least an hour before he had to attend his duties, but he loved the early morning hours, the only ones in which Port Royal was quiet. He made a detour along the beach, admired the sight of the sea and took a deep breath of the fresh, salty air. He would miss Port Royal, and he'd miss Tom, who had often accompanied him on his walks.
Kyle nodded briefly at the tired looking marines who stood on guard. He decided to pick up the report from his office and place it on Admiral Norrington's - now Captain Gillette's - desk before heading for his meeting with Jones. That way, Gillette could study the report before their meeting, and they'd save time, discussing possible questions right away.
He didn't knock on the door, as he didn't expect anybody to be here at this time of the day. Gillette, so he knew, started each day by visiting his old friend Norrington. To Kyle's great surprise, Tom had obviously suffered from insomnia, and decided to catch up on work. He had to smile when he found him slumped over the scribe's desk, face buried in his arms, gently snoring.
Kyle approached him on tip-toes. Their ways would soon part, but that didn't mean they couldn't have some fun before he left. If Tom had allowed his hair to grow longer, it would have probably curled at the ends, but he kept it short in the Roman fashion, there were only some very small curls at the nape of his neck. Those curls had always fascinated Kyle, and as nobody else was around, he decided to indulge his little obsession.
He kissed the nape of Tom's neck, nuzzled his hair and nibbled gently on the soft skin behind his ear. He noticed that Tom used a new soap; he liked the scent. When Tom began to stir, slowly awaking from his sleep, Kyle kissed the small strip of skin between cravat and ear and chuckled.
"Tom, you shouldn’t fall asleep on the desk if you could fall asleep on me instead.”
Tom twitched, lifted his head and turned on his chair. Kyle just stared at him, all colour draining from his face.
"In your own interest I hope that you will have a decent, rational and especially convincing explanation for this outrageous behaviour, Lt. Kyle. Otherwise I'll save the Crown the costs for your Court Martial and take care of your execution myself!"
Kyle gulped, then he snapped to attention.
"Captain Gillette, Sir! I - Sir?"
Gillette rolled his eyes and secretly cursed his son. Just what had Tom been up to again? Rhetorical question, it was quite obvious. He really had to have word with him; this was too dangerous a game he played.
He stood up, cleared his throat and clasped his hands behind his back.
"Lt. Kyle, considering your merits as an officer and your reputation as a gentleman, I suggest that we assume you confused me with a chambermaid called Tomasina. Any other conclusion could have dire consequences, as you're certainly well aware of."
"I - Sir - you..." Kyle stammered, staring at Gillette in shock.
"Good grief, calm down, man! I won't have a good man in front of a Court Martial for a - misunderstanding."
Kyle didn't say anything, just continued to stare at Gillette with the expression of a rabbit facing a snake, and Gillette began to feel a little odd.
"Is anything amiss, Mr. Kyle? You don't look well."
"Sir - I – my apologies – but you have – please, permission to leave, please. I don't feel well at all. And you - maybe you should see the doctor as well, Captain Gillette, Sir!"
"The doctor? What for? I feel fantastic!"
It was true - actually, Gillette couldn't remember when he had last felt like this, ready to take on everything. He also felt like he'd had a glass of wine or two. A very couthie state, all things considered.
Lt. Kyle, however, seemed to have lost his wits completely, opening and closing his mouth like a fish washed ashore, so Gillette told him to leave. The lieutenant bolted out of the office; Gillette could hear him running down the corridor.
"Well, that fright will hopefully teach Romeo a lesson," Gillette muttered, then he rubbed his face. It hadn't been the first time he'd fallen asleep over papers, maps and sander pot; looking after James was exhausting on many levels, and he didn't get nearly enough sleep. Seeing how he felt so extraordinarily good that day, Gillette decided to skip his first cup of tea and head directly to James' house, hoping to find him well enough to have breakfast.
He took a few steps, then he halted. Something was not quite right with his clothes, he noticed. His breeches seemed to be a little wide, had he lost a button or two? He checked - no. Perfectly in order, as usual, yet something was wrong. Gillette put a hand between breeches and shirt, and there was quite a gap.
"Odd business," he muttered. "Must be the humidity, it’s unlikely I've shrunk during the night!"
He pushed his shirt back into his breeches, brushed some sand off his sleeves and waistcoat and headed for the house of Admiral James Norrington.
* * *
Norrington woke up and blinked into the first dim light of the morning. It would be a beautiful day, there wasn’t a cloud in sight, and he took in a deep breath of the fresh air, cleaned by the previous night's rain.
He had to smile. Gillette would certainly be amused by hearing of his weird dream. Jack Sparrow! What nonsense! Norrington stretched, and was surprised when the familiar pain didn't come. He wiggled his toes - nothing. He bent a knee - everything fine. Good grief, this would be a wonderful day! Awake for five minutes, and no pain yet! He turned on his back and stared at the ceiling.
"I feel good. No, I feel fantastic. That's amazing," he said to himself. He felt a bit woozy, squiffy, the same kind of comfortable lightness he usually achieved with half a bottle of nice French wine. There was a buzz in the air; one of those damned mosquitoes had made it into Norrington's bedroom.
"Bloody beast," he cursed, and slapped after the insect which had settled for breakfast on his hand. He missed the mosquito, but that was of no further interest, for Norrington starred with great fascination at his hand.
"Now that's..." he began, then he broke off, holding both hands in front of his face so he could take a good look at them.
He inspected them for a good minute, and came to the conclusion that those couldn't be his hands. Which was odd, as they obviously were his, considering they were attached to his wrists, but still… the fingers were slender, the joints agile. He couldn't see any of the age spots that usually covered his hands.
"Just what is wrong with me this morning?"
Norrington prepared for the daily ritual of slowly getting out of bed and adjusting to the pain, but now he found that he could just stand up without problems, and looking down at his feet, he was confronted with the next puzzle. He could stand without problems, and his ankles were just that: ankles. Not swollen, malicious sources of agony. Same went for the toes, which he wiggled again.
"I'm standing here, watching my toes. If this was afterlife, it would be a bit mundane."
This was all very confusing, but Norrington blamed in on the laudanum the doctor had given him. It was widely known that it caused hallucinations, but Norrington didn't mind if he was spared pain for a few hours. He pulled the nightshirt over his head, put it over the back of the chair and went to the washing bowl. The servant hadn't been here yet to bring hot water, but that was fine with him. He just wanted to splash some water in his face and clear his head.
Norrington did so, and when he looked up, he could see his face in the mirror. He froze, hands still half covering his face and water dripping down his naked arms. For a brief moment, he thought to see Jamie in the mirror, but then he realised that he saw himself.
Or rather, the James Norrington he had been more than thirty years ago.
"What on earth..." he began, and reached out to touch the mirror. The surface was cool under his fingertips, and very real. He lifted his hands again to touch his face, watching every movement in the mirror.
Then he began to giggle.
"Good old Dr. Drake - that was some dose of laudanum!"
Norrington began to pull faces at his reflection in the mirror, and found it hilarious to see his younger self mimic his actions. A shame, really, that the effect of the drug would fade off in a while, and that the face looking at him from his mirror would return to be the one of an elderly man with bad eyesight, too much grey in his thinning hair and deep lines in his face.
He splashed some more water in his face and didn't pay much attention to the sound of footsteps in the corridor outside of his bedroom. Only when he heard Gillette knocking on the door - and he knew it was him, nobody else knocked five times - the fog in his brain began to lift enough to make him consider the question whether he should get dressed first before asking Gillette in. He shrugged; Gillette had seen him in all states of dressing and undressing, he could certainly live with the sight of a woozy, half-naked admiral.
Gillette opened the door, and for the next moments the two men just stared at each other, two pillars of salt. Then Norrington began to giggle again.
"I'm sorry, Thomas, but this is too funny! I wish you could see how I see you at the moment! Dear old Drake must have given me too high a dose of laudanum, and now everything looks so strange. By the way, you look great."
Gillette seemed to be deprived of the power of speech. He stood there, blinking, mouth half open and looking like he had just seen a dog with two heads. Norrington shook his head. The days of Lt. Gillette were long gone by, and just like he would turn back into a cranky old admiral as soon as the drug lost its power, Gillette would look again the way he really did, greying hair and all. But until then, Norrington was determined to enjoy the sight of Gillette's freckled fresh face, framed by hair a shade of red he had always admired and once compared to a polished chestnut.
The chimera of a young Gillette finally managed to move again, and made a staggering step forwards.
"Oh my God, James," he whispered, then he clasped his hand over his mouth, a picture of total confusion.
"I beg your pardon?"
Norrington scratched his head, and noticed that he seemed to have more hair than the day before. He would have giggled again if Gillette hadn't looked so terribly shocked.
"Dr. Drake gave me too much laudanum, I guess, and now I'm seeing things that are not there. Don't worry about it, I'm aware that nothing is real, and it will pass. It's a good thing, though - I'm not in pain at all. See?"
He held out his hands and wiggled his fingers.
"I can move my fingers! And my toes! And it doesn't hurt a bit! Isn't that fantastic? It's certainly worth having some hallucinations for that."
"James, good grief..." Gillette stammered. "You look… that's not possible!"
"Did you take laudanum as well, Thomas?"
"Of course not! You know I don't trust its effects!"
Norrington closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. He only had to focus to make the hallucination disappear. But when he opened his eyes, Gillette still looked the same, and now he had a terrible, yet also very exciting suspicion. He crossed the room, grasped the still flabbergasted Gillette by the arm and dragged him in front of the mirror. Norrington stood behind him, arm around his waist and chin rested on his shoulder.
"Then this must be real, Thomas. Look at us!"
Gillette stared into the mirror. He could see Norrington's face, not a day older than thirty if his memory didn't betray him, mischief in his hazel eyes and the almost-smile on his lips that Gillette hadn't seen for months. And he could see himself, a young man just beginning his career as a lieutenant.
"God have mercy. I look hardly older than Tom!"
Norrington laughed, and tightened his hold on Gillette.
"This is a miracle, Thomas! Nothing more, nothing less!"
"Did you find a flask on the night table?"
Gillette, unable to divert his view from the mirror, slowly nodded.
"Yes. Rum it was, I think, and I-"
"-and you took a swig or two, didn't you?"
Again Norrington laughed, this time ending in a chuckle.
"Captain Jack Sparrow, you dog! It was him! He was here last night, Thomas, and brought me that flask. I thought-"
He broke off. The events of the last night came back to him, and while he was comfortable sharing almost everything in his life with Gillette, he'd never tell him what he'd originally thought to be in the flask.
"Jack Sparrow was here?" Gillette asked in disbelief.
Much to his regret, Norrington let go of him and went to the night table. The flask stood still there, and he picked it up.
"Here, that's it."
Norrington unstopped the flask and sniffed on it.
"The scent of eternity. Thomas, stop looking so miserable, can't you see what has happened here?"
"I thought you'd die."
"I couldn't sleep at night thinking what it would be like once you'd be gone."
Norrington hurried to Gillette and took his face between his hands.
"I can't believe how young you look - it's over now, Thomas. For the next thirty years, I'll be taking care of you."
He kissed the flustered Gillette, and though he'd done that so often before, he felt as if it was the first time. His tongue explored every nook and cranny of Gillette's teeth, and he only interrupted this pleasant activity to share his latest discovery.
"Good grief, Thomas. There are no teeth missing!"
Gillette first licked his lips, then he ran his tongue slowly along his teeth.
"Bloody hell, you're right! Oh my God, James, how are we going to explain this? What will Tom and Jamie say? And - Elizabeth? The Admiralty? Everybody? I've heard of people turning grey over night, but this?"
"In a world with cursed pirates and undead monkeys, a potion which rejuvenates those who imbibe it is probably the smallest of all evils."
"I'm not so sure about that yet. And even if they believe us, just think of the consequences! Everybody will want it! There will be wars fought over it, have you thought of this? Eternal youth? People would kill each other!"
Norrington looked at the small flask and frowned.
"You're right, as usual. We have to be very careful."
Gillette, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, staggered towards the bed and sat on its edge.
"This can't be real. It's just not possible. I'm looking like my son's older brother. What will our boys say, James?"
There were voices in the corridor. Norrington knew them, they belonged to his footman, Jamie and Tom. He arched his eyebrows and put the flask in the drawer of the night table.
"I'm afraid we'll find it out within the minute, Thomas."
* * *
Norrington paced up and down his study, thinking fervently of the best way to handle the situation. Gillette leaned against the desk, arms folded over his chest, and his eyes followed Norrington's every move. He still wasn't convinced that this was really true, and wanted to savour every second of seeing a healthy, alive and - that went without saying - very tempting James Norrington, just in case the vision might disappear.
"Father, could you please either sit down or stand still? This pacing like a caged bear is driving me insane," Jamie muttered. He cast his father confused glances, and tried hard not to look at Gillette at all. With Tom standing to his right, he felt as if he was trapped between two Toms, and currently, that was at least one too many.
Norrington didn't pay any attention to his son. He continued to wear off the carpet, looking from time to time at Gillette with admiration. Finally he halted, and gave the young lieutenants a stern look.
"This is a difficult situation, and we must all handle it with the uttermost care. We can't afford any mistakes. Jamie, I want you to tell the servants that they have to leave the house. Invent some story; you're good at that. You could tell them that we have to fumigate the place for rats, for example. I don't want anybody in that house for the next two days, understood?"
"Yes, Sir," Jamie mocked, and saluted.
"Watch your words, young man. Tom, return to the Fort. Lt. Jenkins is not there, so tell Lt. Kyle to take care of my correspondence. He's the only one with half a working brain. Jamie, you'll go and see the governor. Tell him that I'm undergoing some special health treatment - you have an imaginative mind, come up with something creative. Under no circumstances may Captain Gillette and I be disturbed for the next two days. We have to come up with a perfect and convincing story before anybody sees us, and that must be well-prepared."
"Aye, Admiral Norrington," Tom replied, and reached for his hat. Jamie shook his head.
"Father, with all due respect: there is no way you can come up with any explanation that will convince people that you and Mr. Gillette turned thirty years younger over night. It's not possible. It's against all laws of nature, and if this had happened a hundred years ago, they'd probably burned you two on the stake. I see it with my own eyes, and I still can't believe it!"
Norrington put his hand on Jamie's shoulder and smiled.
"Jamie, people want to believe in miracles. How else would you explain that they pay to see mermaids and the boy with a dog's head? The witch doctor and charlatan isn't born yet that would have starved due to lack of business. Trust me, Jamie, I will fix this. But I can't do it without your help."
Jamie had known his father all his life as a reserved man who never let his control slip. He wasn't used to seeing him so excited and determined. He couldn't help but being impressed by his charisma, and began to understand why so many men had followed Admiral James Norrington into battle, trusting his decisions with their lives.
"You can rely on me, father. I'll carry them out if I have to."
The two men grinned, accomplices now rather than father and son.
"We will see you in two days then."
Jamie nodded, and headed for the door. Tom followed him, but then he changed his mind and returned to his father.
"I just want you to know that this goes for me as well. You can rely on me. And you - look good. I just need some time to get used to this, but it doesn't change much, does it?"
Gillette shook his head.
"I hope not. Thank you, Tom. You're the best son a man could have."
They exchanged a quick smile, then Tom and Jamie left the study. Norrington followed them to the door, keeping it ajar.
"What are you doing?"
"I want to be sure everybody leaves. And I want to hear how Jamie handles this."
"Of course. A prerogative of youth."
Jamie's strategy was simple, yet effective. He yelled that all servants had to assemble in the entrance hall, and informed them in best military terms and sound level that they had to leave the house within ten minutes, as his father had recovered from his illness and the place needed to be fumigated to keep the fever out. Anybody still here after ten minutes would be out of bed and bread.
"You've raised a future admiral," Gillette whispered, who had come to stand next to Norrington. "That's some authoritative tone he has there. And I thought I used to be a bit of a martinet when I was a lieutenant."
"You've never been a martinet. Not even a bit. I just never had the heart to tell you."
"The men were scared of me!" Gillette protested.
"Nonsense. They admired you."
Gillette didn't know if he should be disappointed or flattered.
"Why did you never tell me?"
Norrington closed the door.
"Because you were so happy thinking that everybody trembled in fear. They did you the favour to pretend because they loved you. Such are our men, Thomas: they indulge our little fancies in return for our respect. Wait a second."
He returned to the bedroom and looked out of the window, hiding behind the curtains.
"Ah, they are leaving. Jamie knows his business, bless his heart."
He watched the servants leaving the house, hurrying and carrying bundles and baskets. One had taken the dog along, another carried four loudly protesting chicken. Briquette the cat lay in the grass, blinking and yawning, obviously not interested at all in the commotion.
Tom and Jamie were the last ones to leave the house. When they reached the gate, Tom turned around and looked up to Norrington, as if he'd known that the admiral would be standing there, watching them. There was a small smile on his face, and though Norrington knew that Tom couldn't see it, he smiled back.
"They are gone. We're alone, finally, thanks God!"
Once Norrington was sure everybody was out of hearing and seeing range, he opened the window.
"What are you doing?"
"Something I've longed to do for months!"
Norrington began to collect medicine bottles, powders, pills, cordials and salves in his arm. Then he wiggled his eyebrows at Gillette, who watched the strange behaviour with increasing irritation, and threw everything out of the window with great zest. Bottles and jars shattered on the cobblestone below, and Norrington accompanied every crash with a cheer.
"James! Good grief! Are you insane?"
"On the contrary, my dear Thomas! I've never been saner than now!"
Next followed herbal cushions, more cordials and, just because he felt like it, the chamber pot. When every reminder of his suffering had gone, he took in a deep breath of fresh air.
"I'm alive, Thomas. I'm alive. I don't need this anymore. I only need one thing."
He turned around, and Gillette almost melted under the adoring and loving gaze Norrington gave him.
"We've been given a second chance, Thomas. A second life. God knows I've made many mistakes in the last thirty years, and while not all of them were in my power to avoid, I'm responsible for a lot of what you had to suffer. I'm standing here and telling you, and God is my witness: I'll make it up to you, Thomas. Whatever I can do to make you happy, I will."
"James, I -" Gillette began, but he couldn't finish the sentence. In his head he knew exactly what he wanted to say, but the words wouldn't come. He felt helpless, overwhelmed, both by the events of the last hours and by James, who was so full of life and energy that he almost scared him.
"I suppose I sound like an idiot, don't I?" Norrington asked, smiling sheepishly at Thomas. "I can't help it; seeing you now, the way you look... this brings back all the hours that I've spent watching you, thinking by myself that I'd be the luckiest man in this world if I could have your love. I wish I'd had the strength back then to follow you when you asked me. Forgive me that I didn't. But I promise you that we won't part again."
"You used to watch me?" Gillette croaked. It was certainly the most unimportant part of Norrington's little speech, but it was something he had never considered.
"Of course I did. Our old hats were fantastic, if you pulled them deep in your face, you could look at whomever you wanted without anybody noticing. And I often looked at you when we shared a watch. Just seeing you made me happy."
Gillette had to smile and blushed; he quickly averted his eyes, a bit embarrassed about his reaction. He had no idea what to say or how to react, so he gestured vaguely at the door to the study.
"I suggest we better sit down there and discuss what we're going to do now."
"That's not why I've sent Tom, Jamie and the servants away. I wanted to be alone with you, Thomas. Just you and I, here, with nobody to watch us, with no need to be careful. I said I'll make it up to you, and I will. If you allow me to, that is."
Gillette looked him over thoughtfully.
"James, just how much of Jack Sparrow's very special potion did you take?"
"Come here and find out."
"I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't have taken a swig or two more. I might not be able to keep up with you."
Norrington caressed Gillette's face. How odd to feel the smooth skin under his fingers, not a wrinkle or line left!
"I'm very glad you didn't drink more of that potion, otherwise I might sit here with a screaming red-haired baby! I'd hated having to find a wet-nurse to look after you."
Norrington's fingers combed through Gillette's hair, deep auburn again, and leaned in for another kiss. Gillette had always been overly gentle and careful, out of fear that he might cause Norrington discomfort. There was no need for such caution anymore, and Norrington, so he learned, was obviously not the man to hold back with his passion. Strong, nimble fingers opened the buttons of his waistcoat, taking it off, throwing it carelessly to the ground. His shirt was yanked out of his breeches; Norrington pushed and tucked and finally slid it over Gillette's head, to join the waistcoat in a heap of fabric.
"That's what I used to dream off as a Captain," Norrington murmured, in-between covering Gillette's neck, collar bone and chest with tiny kisses. "You're perfect. Perfect, Thomas. All about you, the way you are, the way you look."
It was little less than a murmur, but Gillette understood every word. Taking off Norrington's shirt only took a moment, and now it was his turn to explore, touch and kiss. How different this was from their last encounters! His heart beat faster at the thought what would come; he'd never expected such abandon from Norrington. But then he remembered how the man had been as a first lieutenant, how boisterous, subduing the crew with a single glare. There was nothing frail and weak about him back then, and certainly not now!
Gillette slipped out of his shoes, and Norrington kicked them under the bed. He knelt down to take Gillette's stockings off, caressed the inside of his thighs. Gillette had to close his eyes for a moment, the sensations running through his body made him sway.
"I'll take care of you," he heard Norrington say, a feverish promise he knew his lover would keep. His lover, finally again! How he had missed it and longed for it! Now Norrington's fingers were fiddling with the buttons of his breeches, and within a moment, he found the garment dropping to the ground.
"Step out of them," Norrington ordered, then he pushed them aside. Gillette was now standing naked in front of Norrington, and for the first time, he felt conscious about it. It hadn't mattered so much in the past; both of them had had their best years behind them, but looking at Norrington now, Gillette felt oddly inadequate. He had never considered himself to be particularly handsome; he was too much of a realist to pretend otherwise and not vain enough to be bothered by this fact. But what if Norrington wouldn't find him pleasing now? It was possible, wasn't it? And good grief, there would probably a dozen people chasing after Norrington in the future, married or not, and-
"Whatever it is you're bothering your head about, stop it."
Norrington grinned, his hands stroking Gillette's backside.
"I know that expression on your face. You're pondering something deep and meaningful. Out with it, what is it?"
"I just had a vision of young and dashing Admiral Norrington, newly returned from the almost-dead, surrounded by admirers of both genders at a garden party. Many admirers. A lot of them. Droves. With queues twice around the Fort."
Norrington pressed a kiss just above Gillette's hipbone, right on the spot where only yesterday the scar of an old would had been. Now it was gone. Gillette could feel the edge of the bed pressing into the back of his thighs, the cool linen a stark contrast to the warmth of Norrington's caressing hands.
"Let's come to an agreement, Thomas: if you promise me not to shoot any possible admirers of mine, I will not shoot any of yours."
Gillette wanted to point out that this wasn't a fair agreement, as he would have to refrain from shooting far more people than Norrington, but his lover had obviously decided that they'd talked enough nonsense for the moment and cut off further conversations. He gave Gillette a little push, and grinned when he stumbled, fell backwards and came to lie on the bed.
"In the five years since we met again, we've shared a bed eleven times. I know, I've counted. Eleven times in five years, Thomas. And out of these eleven times, nine were rather about you avoiding pain for me than finding pleasure for yourself. Didn't I say I'd make up for it?"
"Yes, but I wasn't expecting you to make up for it in one night! I've never seen you like this, James."
Norrington ran his hands up and down Gillette's thighs. There was a determined expression on his face, and a good bit of mischief in his eyes.
"I admit I feel like I was slightly intoxicated. But it's a good feeling, Thomas. I don't know if it's Sparrow's potion or if it's you. Actually, I think it's you."
Gillette wanted to dispute this statement, but he was at loss for words upon seeing Norrington's nervous smile when he first nuzzled Gillette's groin, then slowly licked a wet trail from root to tip of his erection.
Norrington had never done this before. Nor had Gillette. This just wasn't done, period, not among gentlemen, anyway, and he wanted him to stop. Or never stop at all. Gillette couldn't take the sight of Norrington's head anymore, moving in a slow, steady rhythm, his hair tickling on tender skin. He covered his eyes with his hands, but that might not have been the best idea, as his sole focus was now on Norrington's mouth.
Just what had been in that flask? Liquid gunpowder? Gillette couldn't tell whether these new sensations were pleasurable or painful, but he willingly gave in, gave up, surrendered to the skilled hands and mouth of his lover.
He was just about to beg for mercy when Norrington let go of him, looking a bit embarrassed and giving him a shy smile. More caresses and kisses, from hipbone to stomach; Norrington nibbled and gently bit on a nipple, only to finally kiss Gillette again. He didn't know whether to be revolted at the bitter taste in Norrington's mouth or aroused, but he didn't have much time to consider it. Their bodies were aligned perfectly, rocking against each other just the way that felt best.
"You did that," Gillette stammered. "You did that, I can't believe it, why?"
Norrington looked helpless, lost in the situation and his feelings.
"Because you liked it? And because I love you. And I'll do it again, that and more. And - oh hell...!"
Norrington's fingers dug deep into Gillette's skin, leaving bruises and angry red marks. He couldn't help it, he was falling, and the only one he could turn to for hold was his lover. Gillette bucked and threw his head back, and Norrington was sure that he had never loved Gillette more than in this fracture of a moment when his face was scrunched up in passion and complete abandonment. There was no control in their movements anymore, no plan, they just acted upon instinct and let their bodies take control, going with the flow until they were both spent.
* * *
"Will you give me that blanket now, please?"
"No. It's mine. You can't have my blanket, get your own."
"But I'm freezing!"
"It's the Caribbean. Nobody's freezin' here. If you're freezin', you'll have to cuddle up closer, darlin'."
Elizabeth cursed a blue streak, but then she finally gave in and snuggled up to Jack, who put an arm around her shoulder and couldn't help a smug grin.
"See, much better, my little moray. Small cots make for hot love."
"They make for arguments as well."
"Which lead to pleasant moments of forgivin' and makin' up. So, how are you feelin'?"
"Odd. And good. It's great to look like twenty-five and have the experience of a mature woman."
"Can't see much of a difference, to be honest."
"Is that a compliment or an insult?"
"Take it as you like."
Elizabeth ran her fingertips across Jack's chest. She knew he was ticklish, and she kept the pressure just right to make it pleasurable for him. Whenever her touch became lighter, she could feel how he tried hard not to squirm, and that was her little revenge for the last days which had been very exhausting, and not only because the Black Pearl had been hit by a storm.
"It might be the wrong moment to ask, but are you sure Tia Dalma's potion worked for James?"
Jack pulled a face.
"Can't we leave your husband out of my cot, please? I'm not one for threesomes, darlin'."
"I have to ask."
"Yes, yes, sure. Of course it worked, it always does. By now, he and this tedious Gillette are probably goin' at it like rabbits in springtime, and..."
"Jack!" she cried, and pulled on one of his braids. "He wouldn't!"
"Ouch! Course he would! You have my word, Lizzy: first thing James the man did when he realised the effect of that potion was runnin' to old Ginger and makin' him drink half the bottle. Well, hope he didn't do that, or he'd have to find a nanny, and they're rare in Port Royal."
Elizabeth stared at him, then she finally understood what Jack's plan had been.
"You bastard! You gave him Gillette so you could keep me?"
Jack huffed, all insulted pride.
"It's nothin' but fair, my little moray. You had James the man for thirty years, he had you, he had - well, probably ol' Gillette as well, and what did I have?"
"Giselle, Scarlet, Jane, Susan, Rebecca, Anne, Elly, Barbara-"
"-Alice, another Anne, that female pirate I could never remember the name of, you know, the one with the blonde curls, Jenny, Sally, not to forget Tia Dalma, Rosalyn, Deirdre, the other Elizabeth, Margreth, Eliza, De-"
"- and don't forget Jack the monkey while you're at it, darlin'. Bloody hell, don't you ever shut up, woman?"
"-that red-haired wench in Tortuga which-"
Jack had always known that the most effective way to keep Elizabeth from ranting was kissing her.
As a consequence, they had kissed quite a lot during the last weeks, because she was a very strong-willed woman who never held back with her opinion. When they finally parted, he pushed strands of loose hair out of her face, and she could see that he was very serious now.
"He's had you for thirty years, my little moray. I've waited that long. Don't I deserve you now? Don't you think he'd understand?"
She thought of James, but also of Gillette and the conversation she'd had with him aboard the Aronia. Thirty years were a long time.
"Yes, Jack. Yes, I think he'd understand. And now give me that damned blanket, you bastard."
* * *
Gillette sat at Norrington's desk, quill hovering over the paper in front of him. All across the room, screwed up sheets of paper littered the floor, failed attempts of a written report to the Admiralty in London.
Norrington kicked the door to his study open, carrying a tray with a pot of tea and two cups.
"Come up with a believable explanation yet?" he asked, and put the tray in front of Gillette.
"Nothing that wouldn't land us in Bedlam," Gillette groaned, and raked his hair with his fingers. It stood out in spikes, and Norrington longed to smooth it. He'd do so later, he decided, after ruffling it some more.
"Maybe we should just say that Dr. Drake's cordial worked wonders?"
"Yes, and what would that do to poor Dr. Drake? They'd chase him halfway across the world! The man is seven-and-seventy years old, James! He doesn't deserve that."
"A pity. I liked the idea."
He poured the tea in the cups, then came to stand behind Gillette, looking over his shoulder.
"Now that won't help much," Gillette growled. "I can't work when you're doing that."
"What? Looking over your shoulder? Or that..."
He put an arm across Gillette's chest, slipped his hand in his shirt and kissed his neck.
"That and that. And especially that! You're wearing me out, James. I had no idea you were so - insatiable."
Norrington laughed and bit Gillette's ear, gentle and playfully.
"That's because you didn't know me when I was a young man, Thomas."
"When you were a young man, you were a lieutenant, and I was a midshipman. All I considered was whether you'd be satisfied with my work or not, or if I'd have to expect a caning from the captain because you ratted out on me."
"I never ratted out on you. I always recommended you and sang your praise. So you never thought of me at all? No romantic dreams you might share with me?"
Gillette put the quill down and looked over his shoulder at Norrington. It was difficult to be cross with him when he was like that, cheerful and charming. He'd been cranky long enough.
"Well, maybe I had some thoughts of that kind, once or twice. But it's been so long ago, I can't remember."
Norrington let go of Gillette and pressed a kiss on his temple.
"You've never been a convincing liar. Time for a break, let's have tea."
They sat for a while in amicable silence, drinking tea, when they heard somebody opening the front door. Gillette quickly put his cup on the desk and stood up, hurrying to the door of the study.
"Who is there?" he called, and breathed a sigh of relief when Jamie and Tom replied. The two young men managed to walk down the corridor towards the study with the greatest possible distance between them, and didn't look at each other once.
"Tom! How good to see you! Jamie, your father will be happy. Come in, we were just about to have tea."
Jamie, who was close to turning on his heel and running down the stairs upon the sight of the rejuvenated Gillette, swallowed hard and forced his face into a smile.
"I'm sure your father has a bottle of whiskey somewhere, Jamie."
"That's good to know."
Tom and Jamie entered the study, and Jamie shook his head.
"I'm sorry, father, but this is so unreal. I just can't get used to it how you look. How you both look."
"I thought I'd never get used to the sight of officers without pigtails and wigs, Jamie, but I managed. We can get used to the oddest things."
Tom, eager to nip any possible arguments in the bud, interrupted the two men.
"My apologies, Sir, but I have to bring you bad news."
"What has happened? Any news from the Black Pearl?"
"No, no. It's just - Dr. Drake, Sir. He died of a stroke last night. I fear this will make things even more complicated for you."
Norrington and Gillette exchanged a quick glance. Norrington thought of himself as a real bastard for feeling such a relief upon hearing of poor Dr. Drake's fate, peace to his soul, but Gillette had obviously similar thoughts and quickly reached for his quill again.
"How unfortunate," he said. "I'm very sorry to hear that. Yet you will be pleased to learn that we have found a solution for our problem."
Tom and Jamie looked up in surprise.
* * *
Had it been up to Jamie, his engagement to Emily Wilkins would have consisted of nothing but a brief announcement in the local paper, but of course her father had insisted on festivities with a banquet, speeches, music and the most annoying people Port Royal could offer.
He was melting in his uniform, the heavy wool a torture under the hot Caribbean sun. That would have been more tolerable than the small talk he was forced to make with the guests, though, for they grated on his nerves.
People were mindless sheep. Jamie had always had this suspicion, but now he was convinced of this theory. Nobody had doubted his father's story that Dr. Drake had given him and Captain Gillette a cordial which had rejuvenated them in such an extraordinary way. Governor Wilkins had ordered the marines to turn the house of the late Dr. Drake upside down, looking for possible remnants of the marvellous cordial, but all that had been found were three bottles of a very powerful laxative.
If he'd had those three bottles, he'd made Tom drink them all in one go. No, Jamie corrected himself, two bottles. One he'd kept for Lt. Kyle, who was all over Tom like white on rice, and there wasn't a thing he could do about it because Emily clung to him like a clam to a rock. To their left and right people chatted about the upcoming wedding, congratulating him. The men slapped his shoulder, telling him jovially what a lucky fellow he was, and the girls and women giggled with Emily behind their fans, probably talking about him when he wasn't looking.
And then there was his father, of course. God knew Jamie was happy that he was well again; and he did not begrudge him his newly-found youth, but it was terribly confusing to have a father who looked like an older brother. Considering where that magic potion had come from, Jamie worried that his mother by now might look like a younger sister, and that was too much for him to take. James Norrington and Thomas Gillette stood in the shadow, surrounded by admirers. His father had spent a lot of time in the sun to get a tan and look older, and he had also powdered his hair, yet he still looked ridiculously young and, if the admiring glances of the ladies was anything to go by, also very attractive.
Gillette, who couldn't go out in the sun without turning the colour of a cooked lobster, didn't seem to enjoy the attention at all and tried to escape his many admirers, but as he was a widower while Norrington was married, the ladies of Port Royal's society were not willing to let a potential husband escape without a fight. Currently, the eldest of the four Misses Auberleys was talking Gillette's head off about her garden and the difficulties of planting cabbage in the Caribbean.
Emily tucked on Jamie's coat sleeve and dragged him along to a shadowy corner in a ruin.
"They would be such a nice couple, don't you think? She's always had a thing for the Navy, and it's about time she gets married. Good grief, she's almost twenty-five!"
"You make me feel ancient, dear Emily."
"Bah, sweetheart, that's a different matter. You're a man, after all! A woman who's not married by twenty-five will end up an old spinster, mark my words! But poor Captain Gillette; it is really time that he finds himself another wife who will look after him. How long is he a widower now? Twenty years, I heard? Really, it can't be good for a man to be alone for such a long time, don't you agree?"
"He seemed to have survived those twenty years well enough. That aside, Lucy Auberley has the common sense of a gnat and the attention span of a fruit fly. What would he want with her?"
Emily fanned some cool air on her heated face and rolled her eyes.
"I didn't suggest he married her to discuss literature, silly! Men do have certain needs, after all."
"Oh please, Jamie. Not everybody is as prudish as you."
She moved closer to him, and he could smell her heavy perfume. A lovely scent, no doubt, but he'd preferred the mixture of tar, tobacco, salt and sweat that was so typical for Tom any time.
"I wish you weren't so old-fashioned, Jamie. We're getting married soon, so why wait? I always leave the door to the balcony outside of my bedroom open. All you'd have to do was climbing up the vines and-"
"You keep your balcony door open at night?"
She smiled and batted her lashes.
"Of course I do. Just for you, my darling."
"A very unwise thing to do, my dear," Jamie said. "You might catch a cold."
* * *
"She's quite lovely, isn't she?"
Tom, who had spent the last twenty minutes glaring daggers at Jamie and his fiancée, took another sip of punch and shrugged.
"If one likes that type, I guess she his."
Lt. Kyle chuckled.
"Jealousy doesn't become you."
Tom jumped, but Kyle put a hand on his arm and smiled.
"Your secret is safe with me, Tom. And no, you haven't done anything wrong. It was all young Master Norrington's doing; I know the green-eyed monster when I see it."
"Go ahead and mock me, I deserve it," Tom muttered. "Have I ever made a fool of myself for him; it will keep him laughing till at least Christmas!"
"Who hasn't been a fool for love once in a while? I know I have. And I can't blame you, Tom. He's fine looking. Not as classy as Admiral Norrington though. That's quite an amazing thing that has happened to him and your father. What a pity Dr. Drake can't share his knowledge anymore. Are you sure none of that wondrous cordial is left?"
"Quite sure. But seeing that Admiral Norrington is well again, I shan't complain."
"Of course not. As I said, a pity; I'd have loved to ask Dr. Drake if he mayhap sold said cordial to the crew of the Black Pearl as well."
Tom glared at him; it seemed to be impossible to keep any secrets from Lt. Kyle. A servant approached them, carrying a tray with canapés. Kyle took one and urged Tom to help himself as well. They ate in silence, and Kyle watched Tom, who couldn't take his eyes off Jamie.
"I think you should get married as well, Tom. You're old enough."
"What?" Tom almost dropped the rest of his canapé. "Have you gone insane?"
"No, why? It would be a very sensible thing to do."
"Now let me guess: next you will tell me that marriage is what every man should strive to achieve, that it's a wonderful thing and having some love to go with it would be nice, but it's not mandatory, yes?"
Kyle gave Tom a puzzled look.
"I would agree on the first part, but the rest? What nonsense! Why should you marry somebody you don't love? That would only add another cage to the one people like you and I are already living in. No, find yourself a fine woman to marry, one who'll love you and whom you can love in return. That is, of course, if you have love for a woman in you at all."
Tom looked helpless and sad, and Kyle began to feel guilty for the turn the conversation had taken.
"My apologies if I've been too forward or if I should have hurt your feelings. I'm telling you this as a friend who means you well: the world will not change for you, Tom. You will have to adapt to it. Now you have set your mind on loving that silly lad over there, but just like I, he has decided to play the game by the rules of our society, cheating at times to get what he wants. I certainly won't blame him for that. But if you want him, you have to play by the same rules, or you'll be left behind."
"I can't play that game, Robert. I don't like it, and I don't like the rules. I can't bring myself to share the one I love, I fear I'd be more unhappy if I did than if I'd stay alone. Maybe I'm one of those men who are not intended for togetherness. If that is so, I'll accept my fate. It's not too bad, is it? You're an officer as well, you know that we don't have much time for ourselves, anyway, and wouldn't it be unfair to bind a woman to me who I'd only see once a year?"
"I really wish you were less of a romantic and more of a realist, Tom. However, this is your decision to make. I hope that we will meet again, though, and that we will still be friends."
Tom gave him a smile.
"I'll miss you."
"I hoped you'd say that. A pity we're not alone. I'd love to kiss you."
"I certainly won't let you go without a proper farewell, Robert."
"I like the sound of that. Do you know that I kissed your father, by the way?"
Now Tom really dropped the canapé.
"You did what?"
"Not on purpose, I swear! I thought it was you, and I - well. Most embarrassing moment in my life; I count myself lucky he let me go and not dragging me in front of a Court Martial. How about repaying his kindness and saving him from Miss Auberley? She seems to have set her mind on becoming your stepmother."
Tom looked about and saw his father, cornered by Miss Auberley, who was just explaining in detail which fertilisers cited the best results with roses, and her younger sister, who demanded to hear all about the adventurous life in the Navy.
"Over my dead body! Give me ten minutes, Robert, I have to rescue my father."
"Make than half an hour, Tom. Miss Auberley is almost twenty-five."
* * *
"If you weren't already my only child, I'd make you my single heir."
Gillette looked grateful at his son and wiped the sweat off his forehead.
"Womenfolk, nothing but trouble with them!"
Tom had to laugh.
"Now you got a taste of what Jamie and I have to suffer in Port Royal! You can't blame them, father. It's difficult to find a husband here, and as Admiral Norrington is married, you're probably the catch of the day."
"Catch of the day, what nonsense! I could easily be their father!"
"Yes, by age, but the ladies go by the looks, so they only see a young captain, who, if I may say so, looks rather dashing in an uniform."
Gillette rolled his eyes, and Tom tried for the umpteenth time to find the father he had known all his life in the face of the young man next to him.
"Are you happy with the way things are?"
Gillette gave his son a sidewise glance and sighed.
"I don't know, Tom. There's certainly a reason why we get older and finally die, and I'm not very comfortable with the idea that we have tricked nature. When I look into the mirror, I feel as if I see a stranger. But don't worry, I'll get used to it. And if I look at Admiral Norrington and see how well and happy he is, I can certainly feel nothing but gratefulness towards Jack Sparrow, as hard as it might be to admit it. Would you like to accompany me on a walk? I'm rather tired of the company here."
The two men moved away from the cheerful crowd.
"Were you looking like this when you met my mother?"
"If you don't want to talk about her, it's fine for me," Tom hastened to assure. "But after all I learned aboard the Black Pearl, I became curious."
"Understandable. Your mother... when I first met her, I was first lieutenant on the Dauntless, serving under Admiral - then Commodore - Norrington. The Dauntless was a fine ship, you must know, and for a young officer it was a great honour to hold such a position. I was prepared to fight pirates, but I'd never dreamt of the danger we encountered in the end."
"The story with the undead pirates?"
"Yes. That's when I first noticed your mother. Well, she's certainly been there before, what with her being Sparrow's steersman, but it was in battle when she first caught my attention. There's nothing like a beautiful woman with a sword cutting an undead pirate in two to charm a man."
Gillette chuckled upon the memory.
"Unfortunately, I was in her way, and she tried to run her sword through me. She had quite a temper!"
"Was that when you fell in love with her?"
"Ah no. That was much later. I had left Port Royal and was waiting for news from the Admiralty regarding my future. But of course, they dragged their feet. I wasn't really the kind of officer a captain would have wanted aboard his ship."
"But you're an excellent officer! How came?"
"Nothing that would be of importance now, Tom. Let bygones be bygones. I met her on a market where she sold fish - she was the daughter of a local fisherman, you see - and... well, we had both just lost a loved one, and found comfort in each other's company."
Tom sighed and shook his head.
"Father, this is like pulling teeth. Did you love her? Did she love you? When was I born? What was your life like? That's what I want to know."
Gillette licked his lips. Tom was used to this little habit of his father, but now it made him look even younger, like a schoolboy caught at doing something forbidden.
"This is so difficult to explain. We learned to love each other. Love comes in many shapes, you see? I found a small house for us to live in, and decided that I wanted to marry her. She called me a fool, said I'd ruin my career, and with that she was right. I didn't care, though. I held no love for the Navy anymore, and I would have given all up for her. Then, one day, she was gone, and I never saw her again. Some years later, after her death, you were sent to me, and the rest of the story is known to you. That's all I can tell you about her, I'm afraid."
"Did she laugh very often?"
"Anamaria rarely laughed, but when she did, the sun was shining even on a rainy day. She always pretended to be grumpy and angry, but I never believed it. She had none of the skills a wife should have, couldn't cook or sew to save her life, but she knew how to use a sword and a pistol. And she was beautiful, Tom, so very beautiful! You look a lot like her; the eyes, the lips - I see her in every smile of yours. I wish you would smile more."
"It's not the time for smiles."
Gillette reached out and put his hand on his son's shoulder.
"I know what ails you, Tom. Don't look at me as if I'd just threatened to shoot you; I understand. I wished you wouldn't have to go through this, but it can't be changed. My guess is that your problem wants to marry the lovely Miss Wilkins, and that you might be tempted to agree on an arrangement that promises to give you at least part of what you really want. But Tom, standing in the background, hiding, lying, living on somebody else's mercy, that's not the way a man should live. Nothing but misery would come from this. Please, spare yourself years of agony, and make a new start. It is possible to love more than one person, if you only allow yourself doing so."
Tom had turned his head away from his father. So he knew, his secret wasn't a secret anymore, and his advise had been quite clear: to stay as far away from Jamie as possible. He looked up and saw Admiral Norrington in the distance, surrounded by people and obviously telling a funny story, because the laughter of his audience could be heard even at this distance.
"It hurts so much," he simply said, swallowing hard.
Gillette reached out and took Tom's hand, gently holding it between his own.
"I know, Tom. Believe me, I know."
"But are you - are you at least happy now?"
"I am. But it took me thirty years, Tom. That's a very long time if you're waiting."
* * *
Tom had found it easier to get used to his father looking like an older brother than to Admiral Norrington looking like Jamie. A more dignified version of Jamie, and a less irritating one. The only way for him to cope with Jamie's upcoming wedding was distracting his mind by thinking of somebody else; the moment he realised that he began to think of James Norrington in ways that were of a rather frivolous nature, he decided that enough was enough and that it was high time to make a clean cut.
So it happened that he stood in Norrington's office one rainy morning, wearing his best uniform, hat under his arm and standing bolt upright while Norrington read the letter from the Admiralty with the order that Lt. Thomas J. Gillette should return to Britain, serving as second lieutenant on HM frigate Nova.
After what seemed to be hours, Norrington put the letter aside, leaned back in his seat and drummed his fingers on the desk. Long, elegant fingers, Tom noticed. It was really time to leave.
"So you wish to return to Britain?"
"I have stated my reasons on page two, Sir. In paragraph three, I wrote that-"
"Yes, yes, I've read your petition to the Admiralty. I want to know the real reason, though. Before I deprive my ship of an excellent officer and send you away from your father and your friends, I have to know the reasons behind your wish, and why you made such a petition behind my back. Have you been treated unfairly? Is anything amiss? Would you rather not serve under my command anymore? Or have the recent events influenced your decision?"
Tom firmly shook his head.
"No, Sir. It has been a pleasure serving under you, and I'll certainly miss my father. My reasons are of a very private nature, yet they have nothing to do with what happened to you and my father."
Norrington picked the letter up again, pretending to re-read it. In truth he tried to find the right words to address the problem he suspected to be the root of Tom's wish.
"Is this a matter of the heart?"
Tom jumped and almost dropped his hat.
"You understood me the first time I asked. Are you running away from some heartache?"
There came no reply safe some unintelligible stammering, but Tom's flushed face and embarrassed look told Norrington all he needed to know. He leaned forward and folded his hands.
"I see. I do not want to go further into the question, as the matter is clearly none of my business. The Nova will leave in a week; Captain McFarlane is an old friend of mine and you'll be in good hands. He's strict, but treats officers and crew well."
"Thank you, Sir. I'm very grateful."
Tom waited for Norrington to dismiss him, but the permission wouldn't come. Instead, Norrington cleared his throat and brushed some invisible specs of dust off his desk.
"If two of my officers petition to leave their station within a month, it's my duty to ensure that the reasons for their wishes have nothing to do with my command. Lt. Kyle wants to leave Port Royal to see more of his family, a wish I fully understand and respect. You want to leave Port Royal to see less of - whoever. I can only say that I wish you the best of luck, and please, be careful, Tom. There are things which could bring even the most excellent officer in hot water, and my influence is limited. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Sir," Tom replied, almost breaking out in hysteric laughter. Norrington thought he was leaving because of Lt. Robert Kyle? If it hadn't been so sad, he would have laughed, but this was probably better than Norrington knowing the truth. Tom doubted that the Admiral would have been as lenient with him if he knew what Tom and his son had been up to!
"Thank you, Sir. I fully understand, and I assure you that I will not repeat my foolish mistakes of the past."
Norrington looked relieved, and Tom was touched that he seemed to be genuinely worried about his wellbeing.
"I'm glad to hear that. It's a pity, though, you will miss Jamie's wedding. He will be inconsolable about your absence."
"With such a pretty bride, the lack of one guest will barely be noticed," Tom said gallantly, and bowed. "I will send the newlyweds my congratulation and best wishes once I arrive in Southampton."
Tom didn't have the slightest intention of wishing Jamie well. He hoped his marriage would be a terrible failure and that Emily Wilkins would turn out to be a shrew. Such thoughts were not of the kind that could be shared with Admiral Norrington, but the picture of Jamie Norrington as a hen-pecked husband with a nagging wife offered Tom a small degree of comfort.
* * *
It had been Tom's wish that nobody would come to see him goodbye upon his departure. His father wasn't in Port Royal, anyway, as the Aronia was supposed to meet up with the Black Pearl. Lt. Kyle had already left for Portsmouth, and Admiral Norrington had respected Tom's wish and stayed at his office.
The Nova was indeed a fine ship, launched only two years ago; the officers were friendly and helpful towards him, and Captain McFarlane had welcomed Tom warmly aboard his ship. Tom's sea chest was stored in his tiny cabin, and he was glad to have a deck under his feet again. He wasn't made for service ashore, he needed the sea and the endless horizon, and he couldn't wait to leave Port Royal behind.
Of course there had been neither hair nor hide of Jamie, who hadn't exchanged a single word with Tom since he had learned of his departure. He spent most of his time now at the governor's house, taking Miss Emily for a walk or holding conversations with her father. There was so much to discuss about the upcoming wedding, and there were rumours that Jamie would make post-captain soon, a convenient wedding-present for both Jamie and his bride, who probably couldn't wait to see her soon-to-be husband in a captain's uniform.
Tom was rather upset with himself for being disappointed that Jamie hadn't said goodbye. A simple handshake would have done, a friendly word - but no, Jamie Norrington had decided that Tom Gillette didn't exist anymore, and if he didn't care, then Tom wouldn't allow himself to care, either. During the Middle Watch, Tom imagined Jamie dancing with Emily while he watched the horizon through the telescope. He would probably whisper sweet nothings in her ear, and her father would smile mildly, happy that his daughter had managed to marry into such an old and wealthy family.
In truth, Jamie wasn't dancing, and he wasn't flirting with Emily Wilkins, either. He stood on the pier where the Nova had berthed, drunk as hell, first cursing Tom, then yelling at him, and finally sinking down on his knees, begging him to come back. But it was too late, Tom was gone, and all that was left for Jamie Norrington to do was to sleep it off..
* * *
|CROSS AND PILE - 8/8
by Molly Joyful