Category: pre-slash, romance, humour, wee bit of angst and rude 1st lieutenant
Pairings: Norrington/Gillette hinted (and Beckett wouldn't mind some Gillette. If wishes were horses...)
Warnings: spoilers for "Dead Man's Chest" if you look very hard for them and bring your own microscope. AU – definitely AU!
Feedback: most welcome. Good or bad.
Beta: the wonderful Eveiya
Summary: While Will and Norrington were marooned on a desert island ("Without Fail"), life continued in Port Royal. Lord Cutler Beckett is once again on the receiving end of Mr. Gillette's notorious bad temper.
Author's note: "Fluctuat nec mergitur" ("tossed by the waves, she does not sink") is the motto of Paris (and Thomas Gillette).
"Lt. Gillette to see you, my lord," the servant announced with a respectful bow. Lord Cutler Beckett looked up, a satisfied smile on his lips.
"Ask him in," he ordered. So it was just as he had thought: with Norrington gone, his stalwart second in command was trying to secure his future. Beckett felt a small pang of disappointment; he'd expected a fight, protests, but not the simple acceptance of his order.
Gillette entered. He looked around, saw the large map on the wall marking the territories of the EITC. Norrington used to call them "EITC infested places".
"How kind of you to come and see me, Mr. Gillette."
Gillette only now did what politeness required and greeted Lord Cutler Beckett with a brief nod of his head. One look into his eyes and Beckett's mood improved significantly.
"You ordered me here, Lord Cutler Beckett."
"Indeed I did."
Cutler Beckett filled a glass with wine from a carafe, hiding a smile. Gillette had indeed done the unexpected – he had picked up the gauntlet. The lieutenant loathed him, and the only way he could have made this dislike more obvious would have been if he ran him through with his sword, a scenario Gillette probably often dreamed of.
"I'm sure I don't have to tell you how very much we all regret the loss of Captain Norrington. Certainly, he did had his failings, as we all do, but we lost a good man, and I wish you would be more cooperative in making this matter less bothersome for his family."
"Commodore Norrington has gone missing, which is regrettable, but he's certainly not lost. I can't see how I could be of assistance to anybody."
Cutler Beckett sighed at that stiff response, and sipped his wine. He held the glass up to watch the sunlight play in the deep red liquid and smacked his lips.
"Ah, delicious! It might be an unpatriotic thing to say, but French wines are the best, don't you agree, Mr. Gillette? But I digress. To declare Captain Norrington dead, we need the statement of an eye witness. You were there, you saw him die. So I expect you to do the decent thing and sign these papers. I've prepared everything. Mr. Mercer, please."
He snapped his fingers, and immediately his factotum stepped out from the shadows, producing two documents, already sealed and signed by Lord Cutler Beckett.
Gillette's frown deepened as the documents were presented to him. Had Norrington been there, he could have warned Beckett that his second in command would lose his temper very soon, and that an angry Thomas Gillette was a dangerous man to deal with. He stood there, bolt upright, the tip of his tongue firmly pressed against the corner of his mouth; there was a fine twitching in the muscles of his face, indicating that the moment he would sweep the papers off the desk or kick a chair across the room was imminent.
"Commodore Norrington is not dead, I witnessed no such thing, and I'll certainly not sign any papers stating so, Lord Beckett, Sir," came the curt reply.
"Your loyalty is admirable, Mr. Gillette. But even you must admit this was not the first time Mr. Norrington has shown poor judgement. You of all men should know that. People are still talking about your arrival here on a sinking ship, with only a handful of survivors. If you asked the families of the brave men who died thanks to Mr. Norrington's miscalculations, they'd certainly not agree with your persistent admiration."
"The families I've talked to so far do understand that even a commodore of the Royal Navy can't command a hurricane. He did what he thought best. Furthermore, I couldn't have brought those men home if it hadn't been for him. And the Joyful Molly wasn't sinking. A little worse for wear, agreed, but she's a good girl. Nearly unsinkable."
Cutler Beckett took another sip of wine and looked Gillette over. The man could have become captain long ago if had it not been for his quick temper, notoriety for being lippy and occasional arrogance when dealing with superiors. The latter was now the case - any other officer would have lowered his eyes and avoided the scrutinizing gaze of Lord Cutler Beckett, but not Thomas Gillette, oh no! He only returned the look, with an arched eyebrow and a sneer.
Cutler Beckett had to smile at such stubborn arrogance.
"Just like you, it seems. The unsinkable Thomas Gillette they call you. An honourable sobriquet, no doubt. However, you should consider your own future as well, lieutenant. The Joyful Molly needs a commander."
Gillette's eyes narrowed into slits.
"The Joyful Molly already has a commander. I can't see the need for two. I'm quite happy in my position."
Beckett put the wine aside and steepled his fingers.
"I've often wondered what your position used to be under his command, Mr. Gillette."
Gillette was tempted to throw the carafe at Beckett, but he knew that Norrington wouldn't have wanted him to end up in a prison cell or hanging from the gallows, so he silently counted to ten before he replied.
"My position was such that he didn't have to watch his back because he could be sure that I would do it for him."
Cutler Beckett laughed.
"That was actually a very witty remark, Mr. Gillette. I wouldn't have expected a man of your social class to have the finesse needed for double entendres."
"You'll be even more surprised to learn that I also have the subtlety needed to know when someone tries to twit me, Lord Cutler Beckett."
"Now indeed? How interesting."
Cutler Beckett walked around Gillette and came to stand behind him. It was with no small gratification that Gillette noticed the lord had to stand on tip-toes to whisper into his ear.
"Norrington is gone, Gillette. And you have to decide now whether you'll stay an active participant in this game or not. If you don't sign these papers, somebody else will. To the world, Norrington will be dead; I'll make sure of that. So consider your options carefully. You're either with me or against me; there is no middle ground for you, mon ami."
Gillette looked over his shoulder and wrinkled his nose.
"I have absolutely nothing to consider, Lord Cutler Beckett. I've said my piece."
"Very well." Cutler Beckett returned to the desk and sat down. "I take it you will not sign those documents then?"
Gillette had reached the end of his tether, and there was no James Norrington to calm him down with a stern look or a placating gesture. He placed his palms firmly on the desk and leaned forward, coming almost nose to nose with Cutler Beckett. He could smell the heavy perfume, its strength nauseating in the heat.
"Your assumption is quite correct," Gillette hissed. "I'd just like to remind you that Commodore Norrington still has many friends here, and if you push the boat out too far, somebody might be tempted to shove those bloody papers up your noble arse, with all due respect, Lord Cutler Beckett, Sir."
He grabbed the papers and tore them in half, throwing the pieces over his shoulder. The guards standing behind Lord Cutler Beckett almost dropped their muskets upon witnessing this outrageous behaviour; Mercer's hand slipped into his coat, reaching for the dagger, but Cutler Beckett waved him off.
"There is no need for that, Mr. Mercer. It's just a little disagreement between friends."
Cutler Beckett hadn't even flinched during Gillette's little speech. He had underestimated the lieutenant, a mistake he wouldn't repeat. One thing became clear to Lord Cutler Beckett: Thomas Gillette was not the man to go after him with a sword; he would tear him to pieces with his own bare hands and spread his innards all over the market square of Port Royal for the crows to feast on.
"I admit that I find you intriguing, Mr. Gillette, and that's the only reason you're still alive. This place is very boring, and so little manages to amuse me. You have a good head on your shoulders - be careful not to lose it."
For a moment, Gillette thought he saw something like admiration in Cutler Beckett's cold eyes. But then it was gone, and the façade of cultivated ennui was back in place.
Cutler Beckett leaned back in his chair and waved Gillette away.
"I trust you will find your way out of my office yourself, Mr. Gillette."
"I wouldn't know about your offices, Lord Cutler Beckett. But as this is Commodore Norrington's office, I'm confident I can find my way out, thank you."
Without further ado, he turned and left, slamming every door he passed through in the process.
"Say the word and I'll get him," Mercer promised with lowered voice. "It would be my personal pleasure."
Cutler Beckett folded his hands on the desk and looked at the pieces of paper littering the ground.
"All in good time, Mr. Mercer, all in its time."
'And when the time comes,' Cutler Beckett thought, 'I will get you myself, Thomas Gillette, and be assured: that will be my personal pleasure.'
* * *
Back to "In Absentia: Quid pro quo" On to "In Absentia: Carpe diem"
|IN ABSENTIA: "FLUCTUAT NEC MERGITUR"
by Molly Joyful