|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".
"The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts all on a summer's day;
The Knave of Hearts he stole the tarts and took them clean away.
The King of Hearts called for the tarts and beat the Knave full sore
The Knave of Hearts brought back the tarts and vowed he'd steal no more."
"Mr. Jenkins, don't be so complicated. With only sixty survivors, it can't be that difficult to find one lieutenant."
Lt. Jenkins sighed and consulted his notes.
"Next house, Sir, if our information is correct, which it very likely isn't, considering that the name is misspelled and the age is wrong."
Jamie gave his first lieutenant a sidewise glance.
"I can't help but get the impression that you're not overly fond of your current deeds, Mr. Jenkins. Is anything amiss?"
"No, Sir, everything is just fine. Over the years I've become accustomed to locating missing lieutenants."
"It's always the same: the French blow up a ship a Gillette serves on, and a Norrington will come and look for him, accompanied by a capable, loyal first lieutenant. You're part of a long-held family tradition, Mr. Jenkins!"
"I feel honoured, Sir."
Considering that the Muguet had blown the Nova to pieces, it was nothing short of a miracle that so many men had survived at all. Captain McFarlane had contributed his part to that fact; it was a tragedy that he had not been among the survivors. Jamie had made light of the matter in Jenkins' company, but he was tired of this war, just like most of his countrymen, and very likely a good number of the French as well. The revolution had devoured her own children, but Jamie doubted that anybody had learned something from the experience.
"There it is, Sir."
They stood in front of a small house where, according to the information Lt. Jenkins had obtained, the injured men 'Peter Berry, David Warringham, George Wilson and Thomas Shelet (lt.) in HMS Nova' were being nursed back to health by one 'Mrs. M. Finn, wdw. (resp.) at the Crown's expense'. Jamie had wondered why it was of any importance that said Mrs. Finn was respectable. For some uptight stiff at the Admiralty this note had probably made sense; in connection with Tom Gillette it seemed to be gratuitous.
Jenkins looked at Jamie, and when the captain nodded, he reached for the rapper in the shape of a bulldog and knocked.
"Thank you, Mr. Jenkins. I don't want to keep you from attending your duties any longer, you may return to the Persimmon."
"But Sir, I-"
"Alternatively, you can stay here and watch the grass grow."
Jenkins turned on his heel and left, sending for the umpteenth time a prayer to heaven that his promotion or transfer may come soon. Jamie shared this wish; Jenkins was a fuddy-duddy and grated on his nerves.
Jamie could hear a voice call for a 'Janet', probably the maid. It took a while for the door to open, revealing an elderly woman with a frown on her face, wearing a bonnet, a shawl wrapped tightly around her shoulders.
"That would be indeed my name, Sir," she replied, and her face lit up at the sight of the handsome young captain. "Are you here about the money?"
Jamie had no idea what she was talking about, but ignorance had never been a reason for him not to reply to a question.
"Captain James Norrington in HMS Persimmon. About your money, yes - I would prefer to discuss this business inside. There are curious neighbours everywhere, aren't there?"
This earned him a full smile, and Mrs. Finn opened the door, asking him in.
"Oh quite right, Captain Norrington! Thank you for being so understanding, but my, you are a real gentleman, I saw that on the face of it. Please, do sit down; I'll get us a nice cup of tea. Janet! Janet! Please do excuse me for a moment, that girl never listens."
She hurried in direction of what Jamie supposed to be the kitchen, not giving him a chance to turn down the friendly offer. Why did women always have to offer tea? In most situations, a glass of Whiskey would have been preferable!
Jamie waited for a good ten minutes, twiddling his thumbs. The temptation to look for Tom was great, but he couldn't wander around some woman's house, looking for the bedroom. Tom would be in a bedroom, or wouldn't he? Good grief, what if she had locked him away in some cold, draughty chamber?
Before Jamie could come up with more horrific scenarios, Mrs. Finn, the maid Janet in tow, emerged from the depths of the kitchen. Janet, a pretty girl with pink cheeks and blue eyes, carried a tray with a teapot and a plate with scones. They were probably still warm, and Jamie took in the lovely scent, chiding himself for his foolish thoughts and worries. Mrs. Finn seemed to be friendly, if a little overbearing, and she certainly hadn't locked Tom or the other three men up in the coal cellar!
"There you are, Sir," she said, pouring Jamie a cup of tea and urging him to try the scones. They tasted as delicious as they looked.
"Thank you, Mrs. Finn," he said between two mouthfuls of scone, remembering his manners. "Delicious. Absolutely delicious. I've never had better scones. This is paradise in form of pastry."
Mrs. Finn blushed and giggled.
"Oh, you are too kind with an old woman like me! Certainly your mother's scones tasted just as well."
"You have my word as an officer of the Royal Navy that my mother's scones are not fit to hold a candle to yours, Mrs. Finn," Jamie replied truthfully, thinking with a shudder of Elizabeth Norrington's last attempt at baking. She knew how to shoot two pistols simultaneously, though, and Jamie had always considered this to be a more useful talent in the world they lived in.
"So, about the money..." Mrs. Finn began.
"Ah yes, the money. Of course. What is the current state?"
"Well, Sir, I've looked after the boy like he was my own son, I had ale brought for Mr. Berry and Mr. Warringham twice a week and sat by Mr. Gillette's bed for a week all night long when he was so ill. I've had significant expenses, but unfortunately..."
"... unfortunately, you haven't been paid yet," Jamie finished the sentence, finally understanding what the woman had been talking about, and silently cursing the Admiralty for dragging their feet once again.
"Unfortunately not, Sir, and please understand, I'm a widow and only have what dear Harold left me, and everything's so expensive nowadays! I really did my best, Sir, you must believe me!"
"Of course you did, Mrs. Finn. Nobody doubts that. How much does the Crown owe you?"
Mrs. Finn named a surprisingly low amount, and Jamie breathed a sigh of relief.
"If you would be so kind to make out a receipt for me, I will settle our country's debts immediately, Mrs. Finn. At least the ones towards you."
"Sir, I have no words to thank you!" she cried, which was a blatant lie, for she had many of them, and lavished them all to Jamie. He tried to interrupt her stream of words several times, but only when he stood up, towering more than a head above her, he finally managed to find his voice.
"Mrs. Finn, thank you for your marvellous hospitality, which I greatly appreciate, and for your wonderful company as well. However, it is very urgent that I talk to Lt. Gillette, and this may not suffer any further delays."
She quickly rose from her seat and readjusted her bonnet.
"Of course, how thoughtless of me! Janet!"
The formidable Janet entered the living room and curtsied.
"Janet, lead Captain Norrington the way to Lt. Gillette. I'll make out the receipt in the meantime, Sir."
"You are too friendly, Mrs. Finn," Jamie said gallantly. Janet gave Jamie a rather coquettish look, and he followed her up the stairs.
* * *
"I understand Lt. Gillette has been quite ill?"
"Yes, Sir, quite. We sat with the poor young gentleman for many nights, and the doctor's been here a couple of times. It was really very romantic."
Jamie pulled a face behind her back.
"Romantic? That's not a term I'd usually connect with fever and illness!"
"Oh, you must forgive me, Sir. It was just so lovely how he called for his sweetheart all the time. She must be quite a fine young lady, I suppose?"
Janet looked over her shoulder, and upon seeing Jamie's dumbfounded face, she decided that she had to elaborate.
"Yes, Sir. He called for a girl called 'Janey' when his fever ran high. My apologies if I was too forward or if I jumped to wrong conclusions. Of course it could also be his sister."
"Janey - aha, I see. No, Janey's not his sister. Indeed, one could not be less of a sister to Lt. Gillette than Janey."
Janet looked somewhat disappointed, and Jamie was glad the conversation came to an end when she halted in front of the door to 'the dear late master's bedchamber'.
"The mistress didn't think it would be suitable to have the lieutenant share his quarters with the other three, what with him being a fine young gentleman," she explained. "They're staying one floor up, with the servants."
"I see. Aboard Mrs. Finn's ship, the officers occupy the lower decks."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Nothing, Janet. Thank you. Here, take this," Jamie said, and gave the girl a coin, "you will not have to wait for me."
"Why, thank you, Sir!"
Janet was delighted, slipped the coin in the pocket of her dress and hurried down the stairs where Mrs. Finn was already calling for her.
Jamie stared at the closed door and took a deep breath before he knocked.
Upon hearing that voice, his heart skipped a beat, but he braced himself and entered.
The late Mr. Finn's chamber was sparsely furnished, the centre being a large bed. It was empty, though, for Tom sat on a chair by the window, using the daylight for reading. His hair was the only dash of colour in the otherwise austere room. Jamie wrinkled his nose; he could smell camphor and other remedies, the typical stench of a sick room. He didn't want it to surround Tom.
"I'm not hungry, Janet," Tom murmured, without looking up from his book.
"Pity, that, the cook seems to know her business."
Tom startled, his head turning towards the door.
It had seemed to be a good idea until that moment, but now Jamie felt like a real idiot. Tom had made it clear enough that he didn't want to see him again, had neither replied to any of Jamie's letters nor accepted the invitation to his wedding. Jamie had continued to write, out of stubbornness and because he believed in the saying that constant dripping would wear away the stone.
Whoever had coined that saying had obviously never dealt with a Gillette.
"Well - yes. I just happened to be in the area and-"
"You happened to be in the area? I wonder how that came. Did you hold the map upside down? The West Indies are in a different part of the world, Captain Norrington."
Jamie brushed an invisible spec of dust off his hat.
"Don't be a git. I've been sent home to assume command on the Persimmon, I heard what happened to the Nova, made a little detour and here I am."
"I didn't ask you to come."
"May I take a seat, anyway?"
"If you have to," came the exasperated reply. "But hang your hat on the doorknob first, please."
Jamie gave Tom a puzzled look.
"The girl Janet likes to spy through the keyhole. It's bad enough she's watching me when I wash in the morning. I don't want her to witness your early demise".
"She seems to be enamoured with you."
Jamie covered the keyhole as he had been told, then pulled a chair next to Tom and sat down.
"You look pale. I don't think you're in a fit enough state to murder me."
"I caught some splinters when the French demasted the Nova. Some of the wounds became infected, I ran a fever - the usual. But now I'm fine again and can't wait to leave this place. I'm waiting for news from the Admiralty, but they seem to have forgotten about me."
"I'm sure they'll find some old wreck you can serve on. Are you really feeling better?"
"Yes, I'm feeling better. And now that you've seen with your own eyes that I'm not dead yet, you may as well go back where you came from. And leave the bottles alone, they were expensive."
Jamie, who had started to re-arrange the medicine bottles on the nightstand, quickly dropped his hands.
"My apologies. Don't you want to know how things are back in Port Royal?"
"My father writes me regularly."
"I write you as well."
"I don't read your letters."
"No?" Jamie looked disappointed. "Not one of them?"
"No. They go straight into the fire, so you might as well stop writing them."
Jamie cleared his throat.
"My mother is still on the Black Pearl with Captain Jack Sparrow, chasing whatever it is they are chasing and loving every moment of it. She briefly returned to Port Royal for my wedding and looked stunning. Your father is the very unwilling cock of the walk, and my father spends a good part of the time chasing away young ladies who wish to marry him. Your father, that is. It's quite amusing."
"Your father is very happy, by the way. He's commanding my father's flagship. The Admiralty first wanted to give the command to Edison, that idiot, but father wouldn't have it."
Tom knew. His father had written page after page in praise of his new ship, obviously over the moon with his new command. Tom couldn't help but admire Admiral Norrington, he showed class in the choice of his presents: a pirate for his wife, a ship for his lover. What would Jamie have given him if he had agreed on the suggested deal - a library?
"And you've made captain, I see?"
"Yes! And my ship, the Persimmon - ah, you should see her, launched only two years ago, finest ship you could imagine!"
"Nice wedding present," Tom muttered. "I suppose she came with a bow?"
"Of course. Would have been an odd frigate without a bow, now wouldn't she?"
Tom decided that sarcasm wouldn't work, and so he went for the straight approach.
"Jamie, I appreciate that you came here, assuming that the reason was genuine worry for my well-being. As you see, I'm alive and not likely to end in Davy Jones' locker any time soon. Now do me the favour and leave."
"You really didn't read any of my letters?"
"That's a pity. A good thing you didn't attend the wedding, though. It was a bit of a mess."
Tom closed the book with a snap and put it on the table.
"If you're going to talk about your wedding now, I'll choke you with my bare hands, Jamie. Don't you have any respect? No compassion? Can't you imagine that-"
"There was no wedding."
"- the last thing I'd want to talk about was your - what do you mean there was no wedding?"
Jamie looked a bit sheepish and scratched his head.
"There was none. No wedding. I'm not married."
Tom stared at him, finding it difficult to process what he had just heard.
"Not married? Why not? Good grief - you didn't lead her to the altar just to leg it before you had to say 'I will', did you? That poor girl!"
Jamie looked insulted.
"Of course not! Who do you think I am? I'd never do such an infamous thing! Well, yes, maybe I would, but in that case, it wasn't necessary."
Tom looked very serious and not at all delighted, so Jamie quickly tried to explain the matter.
"My father said that a man should consider all consequences before he gets married. He told me that Emily was a beautiful girl - and she really is, as you well know - but that it wouldn't matter in the end. He asked me what we'd do once we had finished admiring each other's good looks, and if she was the woman I'd want to see waiting for me at home for the rest of my life."
"And you decided she didn't match your sofa?"
"Could you shut up for a moment and let me finish my little speech? Thank you. Well, I thought about it, and decided that I was being very foolish."
"And told her that you wished to break off the engagement?"
"No, that wouldn't have been a good idea. Her father's governor, remember? I thought it would be more convenient for all involved if she'd be the one to break off the engagement."
Tom covered his eyes with his hand.
"I don't dare to ask."
"First I thought the easiest thing would be if I could find her another man. Unfortunately, she didn't want any of the ones available, and who could blame her, considering what a bunch of milksops they are. I think the only one she maybe could have been tempted with was your father, and this was out of question. So I decided to be honest with her."
"What a novelty concept. You told her you didn't love her?"
Jamie rolled his eyes.
"You really know nothing about women, do you! First I talked about my weakness for dice, cards and bets. That didn't work, she said her father was gambling as well. Then I told her of my debts, but she was unimpressed. Good grief, can you imagine I had to confess all three illegitimate children and the incident with Betty's husband before she finally decided to break off the engagement?"
Tom stared down at the book on the table. It wasn't heavy enough to hit Jamie with it, but the temptation was there for a moment.
"And now you expect me to applaud you?"
Jamie shook his head.
"I can't imagine you approve of the way I've dealt with this. But I'm not married, and that's all that counts. Don't speak up for her, either - not being married to me is probably a blessing. A year into our marriage, I'd very likely found myself a mistress."
Jamie stood up and began to pace up and down the bedchamber, making Mrs. Finn and Janet wonder why on earth those floorboards were creaking.
"You were right with everything you said, Tom. Emily, the marriage, it was nonsense. I'm not made for a marriage of that kind. I'd be unreliable, cheating and causing a wife nothing but misery. That's not only because I'm an unreliable, cheating bastard, but because I love you, and I can't imagine anybody ever taking your place. So, yes, I'm here to ask you to return with me to Port Royal. Important things are happening there, and we all need your help. Let others deal with the French, you'll be busy enough dealing with pirates. And me."
Tom's head was spinning. This was crazy, even for Jamie's standards.
"So you're telling me that it wouldn't be fair to have a woman trapped in a marriage with an unreliable, cheating bastard, but that you consider it to be perfectly fine if I had to deal with one? What are you, insane?"
"No! I mean, yes! Damned, Tom, you confuse me!"
He sat down again and raked his hair with his fingers.
"What I meant to say is that I miss you, terribly so. I don't want to share you, either, and you wouldn't have to share me. I promise that I'll be a loyal friend, and that I'll stay out of trouble. At least I'll try my best. Please come back, Tom. The way things are between us... that's not the way they should be."
Tom looked out of the window, not saying a word. Jamie didn't dare to address him again, out of fear he might be turned down for good. After a while, Tom picked up the book, leafing absent-mindedly through the pages, then putting it back on the table.
"When will you leave for the West Indies?"
"In two days."
"What if the Admiralty wants me to serve somewhere else?"
"My father will deal with it."
"You say this as if it was a bad thing."
"I'll be there."
"You will?" Jamie's face lit up. "You'll come with me?"
"Though this will ruin my reputation as a sane person: yes, I will."
"I suppose Mrs. Finn would disapprove if I had you right now and here on that bed?"
"She'd disapprove greatly, Jamie."
"Not to talk of Janet."
They stood up, feeling a little awkward, not quite certain what to do now, but then Tom pulled Jamie close by the lapels of his coat and kissed him. There could be no doubt: this was what he wanted, what he needed. Nothing else. Nobody else. Jamie's response was no less passionate, and when they finally stopped kissing and touching, they both looked rather dishevelled.
"Use my comb before you return to Mrs. Finn," Tom said. "And you might want to sit in a bucket with ice water as well."
Jamie combed his hair and splashed some water from the washing bowl in his face. A look in the mirror confirmed that he looked respectable enough to face Mrs. Finn. Tom watched him, a doting smile on his lips, and Jamie just had to kiss him again.
"This is becoming a habit. Well, I've had worse ones," Jamie said, pressing one last kiss on the brow above Tom's dead eye and caressing his cheek. He threw a glance at the book on the table.
"You know, Tom, I've read that book as well," he said. "Now don't look so surprised, it's all over Britain at the moment, and of course my father had it sent to Port Royal as well. I'm probably the only person in our country thinking so, but you know - I think I'd liked the book better if Marianne had stayed with Willoughby, though he was an unreliable idiot."
Tom tilted his head and gave Jamie his most loving smile.
"You never cease to surprise me, Jamie. But oddly enough, I agree with you."
* * *
The youth, clad in black, stood next to his master, a young man of no more than twenty years. His aquiline nose, a mop of slick black hair and dark, beady eyes gave him the appearance of a crow, a stark contrast to the elegant blond aristocrat sitting in an armchair.
"One Dutch merchantman. Cargo being spices, we should be able to sell them at a good profit," he said, looking at the notes he held. A lackey came to serve tea, but the lad ignored him.
"What about pirates?"
"Two ships sunk last week. No survivors."
"This seems to be my lucky day. Any news considering Jack Sparrow?"
"The Black Pearl has been sighted twice, but he managed to escape."
"How unfortunate. Not my lucky day, then."
The lad smiled.
"I have news from our middleman at the Admiralty which might cheer you up."
"Indeed? Now I'm curious."
"Captain Norrington - the younger - and Lt. Gillette are on their way back to Port Royal."
The hand holding the tea cup halted in mid air.
"Are you certain?"
"There can be no doubt. Captain Norrington is commanding the Persimmon. A fine ship, but no match for ours."
"I see, I see. This is indeed good news."
A sip of tea, then a smile on elegant lips.
"There are old scores to settle with Mr. Norrington and Mr. Gillette, as you well know. And who would be better suited to pay the debts but their sons? Well done. Very well done, Mr. Mercer."
* * *
READ THE PREQUEL: LOST AND FOUND
|CROSS AND PILE - Epilogue
by Molly Joyful