|The difficult thing about the night before was the day after. Will woke up to find Norrington gone. After the happenings of the previous night, he'd expected to welcome the day in company, but it probably took more than a blacksmith to distract a commodore of the Royal Navy enough to make him behave like a normal human being. Knowing Norrington, he would likely be racking his brains right now over possible consequences, moral objections and article 30 of the Acts of War.
Will stretched, still quite happy with the world as a whole and himself in particular. He looked around, and saw Norrington walking on the shore, gaze lowered. Either he was brooding or looking for crabs. Will hoped for the latter; crab would make a nice change from their daily diet of roasted rodents and fish.
He rolled onto his stomach and contemplated Norrington. He certainly looked more like "Scruffington" at the moment; the dirty, tattered clothes, worn boots and matted hair were a far cry from a commodore's dress coat and wig. Yet it was the same man that had intimidated Will since he had first experienced the scrutiny of those hazel eyes. He had fallen far, but tall and lean, his movements elegant, James Norrington still had the bearing of a gentleman.
When he noticed that he was being watched, Norrington stood still for a moment. He raked his hair with his fingers, then directed his steps towards Will. No crabs then, Will thought. A swift, shy smile appeared on Norrington's face when he came to sit next to Will, then he quickly looked away.
"You're up early," Will said.
"You could have waited for me."
"I guess so."
Will sighed. "Are we back to monosyllabic conversations again?"
Norrington shook his head. He cracked his knuckles nervously, a sound that made Will's hair stand on end. Norrington noticed, and folded his hands over his knee. For a while they sat in silence, then Norrington looked up, frowning at Will.
"You have no idea what it means to be in the Navy, have you?" he said. "I suppose to you I'm a stiff in a wig, tormenting my subordinates and parading around in a dress coat all day. Let me assure you, Mr. Turner, that my knowledge of maritime navigation and combat far surpasses that of Captain Jack Sparrow and the likes. You don't know the sacrifices my family made, you can't imagine how hard I worked to get where I am today."
Will shook his head.
"Do me the favour and stop talking to me as if I were a child. Let's just say that wielding a hammer all day isn't a spring walk, either, and in the end it got me to the same place where you are now: stuck on an island with a git for company."
Norrington looked outraged, but upon seeing the grin on Will's face, he held back a scalding remark and allowed himself to smile instead.
"I can't deny that's true," he said. "I suppose we deserve each other."
"Absolutely. Imagine if you'd been stranded here with Cutler Beckett."
"Now why would I want to imagine that, good grief! A fate worse than death!" Norrington said, pulling a face. "Cutler Beckett. Don't be disgusting."
"Harsh words, Mr. Norrington. Mr. Beckett would be heartbroken if he heard them."
"Cutler Beckett loves nobody but himself. I suppose he would spend his time blowing kisses to his reflection in the pool."
"What a waste of time, if he could kiss you instead!"
Norrington jumped and quickly looked over his shoulder, a reaction that prompted Will to laugh out loud.
"James, it's just you, me and a couple of monkeys here. Nobody can hear us, nobody can see us, so stop acting like a criminal awaiting his arrest."
"In the eyes of the law, I am a criminal," Norrington replied. "Make no mistake, should it ever become known what we've been doing here, we'd hang from the gallows, side by side."
Will looked doubtful.
"I have yet to see a commodore of the Royal Navy hanging from the gallows. Imagine the scandal, and all because of article 27!"
"Article 30," Norrington corrected, "and you're probably right. They'd give me the option of shooting myself. So you'd very likely be left to hang alone."
He reached out for Will, ran his hand through the dark hair and pulled him close.
"You must understand this, Will. What we do here is only possible because we're all alone. If we return to our normal lives, this will have to stay a secret, never to be mentioned or discussed again to the day we die."
"I know," he replied, leaning into Norrington's touch. "We might get away with theft, piracy and sinking ships of His Majesty's Royal Navy, but we'd not be pardoned for - this. The priorities of the British Empire never cease to amaze me."
"We could take on the world, Will, but we'd have no chance of winning. When my time comes, I'd rather feed the fish than the crows."
Will felt uncomfortable with the direction this conversation was taking. He grabbed Norrington's arm and squeezed it.
"Don't decry your fate."
"As you wish. Let's not mention it again."
They had sat for a while in silence when Norrington felt Will's fingers dig deep and painfully into his arm.
"Good god," Will gasped, pointing out to sea. "Look at that!"
Norrington followed Will's gesture.
"A ship," he said, not sure whether he could trust his eyes.
A ship. Of course it was a ship. Norrington felt as if he had been punched in the stomach. He watched the vessel for a while, then he nodded.
"Indeed. And it's one of ours."
"Pirates," Will said.
"Royal Navy," Norrington replied. For a brief moment, their eyes met, and the full implication of their words hit them.
"We have to collect more wood for the fire. Green, if possible, so there will be a lot of smoke. We'll be easier to find that way," Norrington ordered, though he felt more like covering the fire with sand and hiding in the jungle.
"I'll go and get some," Will replied, also fighting a mad urge to extinguish the fire.
Norrington swallowed hard. Then he grabbed Will by the sleeve and pulled him behind a palm tree. Will felt the bark scuffing his back and Norrington's hands cupping his face.
"Will - not mentioning doesn't mean we have to forget," Norrington said, and Will noticed well the desperation in his voice. He wanted to grab him, shake him, tell him things he hadn't managed to say the day before, but he knew that the very moment that bloody ship had turned up, Norrington had returned to a world where there was absolutely no place for Will Turner. There was nothing to say.
"I have to collect the wood, or else they might leave without us," he said, then quickly kissed Norrington's palm.
Norrington closed his eyes for a moment. Bloody ship. Three times cursed Royal Navy. And to hell with Will Turner as well. He returned to his part of the camp, took the tattered old dress coat off the tree and put it on.
He straightened up. The commodore had returned.
* * *
THE END (for now)
Please join our heroes in the sequel to this story, which will be called "Joyful Molly" and be up here soon.
THE SEQUEL: "JOYFUL MOLLY"
|WITHOUT FAIL 7/7
by Molly Joyful