|Overall rating: PG-13 to R
Genre: slash, drama, adventure, humour
Pairings: Norrington/Gillette, Cutler Beckett/Gillette
Other characters: Mr. Mercer, Governor Swann, Will, Elizabeth, Lt. Groves, Jack Sparrow
Warnings: a wee bit of angst, a bit of violence and some language
Feedback: very welcome. Good or bad.
Beta by: Eveiya
Author's note: set before and during "Curse of the Black Pearl"
Summary: How to get rid of James Norrington? Lord Cutler Beckett is convinced that he knows the answer, but there is no such thing as a foolproof business transaction.
"'Clap on more sail, you dogs!' No. No, that doesn't sound right. 'Damned buggers!' That's better. What? Are you certain? A pity... fine... 'More sail, gentlemen, if you please!'"
Mr. Mercer glared at the door to Lord Cutler Beckett's bedroom and rolled his eyes. He tried to concentrate once more on the document in front of him, trying to ignore Gillette's muffled words. The task at hand was difficult; Gillette needed papers. Real, valid papers that were fake. Sure, he had Admiral Rowle's original letter of recommendation for some Lieutenant Courtsworth as a comparative piece, but the admiral's penmanship was so terrible that falsifying it wasn't easy. Mercer had already shredded five drafts, the sixth would follow suit. This time the "G" in "Gillette" caused Mercer a headache - this had to be a bad omen.
"'The prospect of serving under your command delights me greatly, Captain Willington'. No? Gillington, then - ah, yes, of course. Norrington. 'Delights me greatly, Sir!'"
An ink blotch. Mercer swore under his breath, maybe he should hold off on the letter-writing until Mr. Gillette had become one with his inner lieutenant. There were still so many other things to organise and take care of! The uniform, for example. The late Lieutenant Morris had been a peasant with regard to fashion, and so his lordship had insisted that the uniform should be a plain one, much to Mr. Gillette's displeasure.
The man was annoying, but perfect for the part he would have to play. Gillette was the king among impostors. He had dined with noblemen and been accepted as a peer. He had been married to three women at the same time and managed to run off with their money; yet all three ladies still lamented the loss of his company more than the loss of their savings! Gillette had held enticing sermons at Winchester Cathedral for a while, then left the town with the church's treasury, considering it fair payment for his services. And scintillatingly witty conversations with members of the parliament had ended in the loss of pocket watches, signet rings, gold coins and a pair of silver buckles.
Despite all those crimes, Gillette had never been caught; proof for the quality of his work. It had taken a man of Mercer's skill and quality to track him down, and Lord Cutler Beckett's money to make him stay. Gillette had only two interests in life: money and amusement. Cutler Beckett could provide both, so the swindler had accepted the offer. Of course Gillette would be disposed of once he had done his duty. Mercer expected a man of Gillette's intelligence to be aware of that fact, and he was looking forward to that challenge. Maybe a dash of poison, served in one of his lordship's excellent wines? Or should he push him down the stairs, making it look like an accident? Whatever method he chose in the end, there could be no doubt about the outcome: Mercer was the king in his profession.
"'Midshipman Loudmouth's shoes aren't polished! Twenty lashes, I say!' What... no lashes? Why? Not even one? Fine, fine, no lashes then. May I just remark that Captain Norrington is a very odd fish? How about canes?"
Mercer gave up. He closed the lid of the inkwell and put quill and paper aside.
* * *
Lord Cutler Beckett rested comfortably on his bed and watched Gillette pacing up and down in front of the window, talking to himself and gesticulating wildly. It was interesting to watch this transformation into a lieutenant; Gillette would make a convincing officer. He looked and behaved like a gentleman and had an eye for the mannerisms and phrases people associated with a lieutenant. Norrington, unimaginative and boring as he was, would fall for Gillette's show hook, line and sinker.
Still, Cutler Beckett was beginning to get bored with the performance.
"Enough for today, Mr. Gillette. You're doing very well; I admit I'm impressed. However, there are other things you might wish to attend to. More - pleasant things."
Gillette picked a piece of pastry off a silver plate on the side table and crossed the room to sit on the edge of the bed. He smiled at Cutler Beckett and gently pushed the pastry between the lord's lips. Cutler Beckett chewed and swallowed, then his lips curled in a smug smile. This would be an entertaining evening.
"More pleasant things? I see," Gillette said, brushing some crumbs off Cutler Beckett's shirt. "Unfortunately for you, I'm not inclined to enter into that sort of business with you, my lord."
Cutler Beckett's eyes narrowed and he grasped Gillette by the arm.
"I pay, you obey. That is our agreement, and you better honour it."
Gillette folded his fingers around Cutler Beckett's wrist. He was surprisingly strong, his grip painful and bruising.
"I do as I please, whenever I feel like doing it and as long as I want to do it, Sir."
"Bold words from one who came here straight from a molly house," Cutler Beckett snapped, but let go of Gillette's arm.
Gillette laughed, leaning back on his elbows. He exposed a long, white throat, and Cutler Beckett wondered how high his offer would have to be to enjoy the privilege of leaving a mark on it.
"The ancient art of blackmailing, your lordship, can only be successful in a certain environment. And what better place to find honourable men engaged in dishonourable acts, parliament aside? Not that I would find anything wrong in it, of course. I appreciate all kinds of entertainment, but I fear you could not provide what I enjoy."
"I do not appreciate your tone," Cutler Beckett said icily.
Gillette looked pointedly at Cutler Beckett's groin and graced him with an infuriating smile.
"Really? From what I can see, you appreciate my tone very much." Gillette stood up and took a seat in the armchair next to the bed, stretching out his legs. He enjoyed the frustration on Cutler Beckett's face greatly, and couldn't help but milk it for all it was worth.
"Now don't look so disappointed, my lord. Who knows, maybe I will fulfil your wishes in the near future? But only if you are very polite and ask nicely. Begging would be greatly appreciated. I'm so soft-hearted, I probably woulnd't be able to resist."
"I'm Lord Cutler Beckett. I don't beg for anything."
"How unfortunate. Our stay in Port Royal will be a very frustrating one for you then." Gillette picked an apple from the fruit bowl and took a bite. "As we're sitting here so comfortably, you could tell me more about my tasks."
It took Cutler Beckett a moment to collect his thoughts and regain his poise. He straightened the cuffs of his shirt, and when he began to speak, his voice was as calm as usual.
"I have plans. Great plans. To make them come true, I need allies. Unfortunately, those in charge in Port Royal can't be counted among them. Governor Swann has influential friends in London, at court, even, and Mr. Norrington - he is very popular among his men. But I need the support of the navy if I want to succeed. Mr. Morris stood in my services, passing on messages and keeping me informed about everything. Unfortunately-"
"Unfortunately he discovered his conscience?"
Cutler Beckett waved Gillette off.
"Oh please. Where would I be if I had to work with men who have a conscience? There was an incident of a delicate nature, and Lieutenant Morris in his righteous indignation insisted on dragging Mr. Norrington in front of a court martial. I couldn't allow that, it would have delayed my plans. Better the devil you know..."
"Very delicate. Mr. Norrington had a soft spot for Mr. Morris. Or a hard one, depending on one's point of view. But now Mr. Morris is gone, and you will take his place. I entrust you with this task not only because of your skills, but also because I feel that Mr. Norrington will be more willing to trust a man who is to his taste. Do you understand?"
"Absolutely." Gillette pulled a face and put the apple aside. "You want me to wrap around my finger a lecherous ugly old man who has the habit of buggering hapless seamen in the great cabin. One of those unpleasant individuals with bad teeth and poor personal hygiene, I suppose? I hope I won't have to kiss him; that would cost you extra."
Cutler Beckett could have corrected Gillette's vision of James Norrington, but considering the rejection he had just suffered, he decided that it would be nothing but fair to keep Gillette on tenterhooks for a while.
* * *
Captain Norrington could see the disappointment on Lieutenant Groves' face. The man had read the letter twice, now he reached across the desk and returned it to his superior officer.
"I'm very sorry, Mr. Groves," Norrington said. "I assure you that I recommended you highly for this position, but the Admiralty saw fit to send me somebody else to serve as a first lieutenant."
"I thank you for your support in this matter, Sir. I only wish that it had been - somebody else."
Norrington put the letter back in his writing slope and sighed.
"The letter mentions that Lieutenant Gillette would leave within a week, so he will probably arrive here very soon. I want to be prepared, please tell me all you know about him. Every detail."
"I have never met him, Sir," Groves said, choosing his words carefully. "But my brother served under him on HMS Aurora."
Norrington reached for the quill in front of him and began to tap it on the desk, a clear sign of discomfort.
"Please tell me Lieutenant Gillette is not the officer who was responsible for the mutiny on HMS Aurora."
"I'm afraid he is, Sir."
"In other words, the Admiralty is sending me a notorious drunkard and brute as replacement for Lieutenant Morris. That's - unexpected."
Norrington pinched the bridge of his nose. He knew the tales of horror about the sloop Aurora, and even if half of them were exaggerations, there was enough truth left in them to make him shudder. Stories of severe floggings without reason, of rotten food and a lieutenant so cruel that it had taken two Admirals and many days of negotiations to convince the crew to end their mutiny.
"Well," Norrington said with fake enthusiasm, "let's make the best of it. Maybe Lieutenant Gillette is better than his reputation. You know what the men are like."
Groves had no doubts that the reports about Lieutenant Gillette - nicknamed "Tom the Barrel" for his enormous girth - were as true as reports could be, but he didn't have the heart to say so. He silently cursed Morris for deserting service and captain, leaving them in this predicament.
Then again: desertion didn't sound too bad, compared to the prospect of having to serve under Lieutenant Thomas Gillette.
* * *
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|NINE MAN MORRIS - 2/?
by Molly Joyful