|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.
"They've just made port, Captain Norrington, Sir! And the Endeavour is much larger than the Dauntless! Oh, good afternoon, Miss Swann, you look lovely today, nice hat, and Lord Cutler Beckett, he's wearing a very elegant coat, and the new lieutenant-"
"And now you take a deep breath, Bertie. That's an order."
Norrington had hoped to spend the afternoon with Elizabeth Swann, taking a walk and discussing their future. As all his dreams involving Henry Morris had been crushed, Governor Swann's not overly subtle hints regarding a possible marriage between his boisterous daughter and Norrington didn't fall on deaf ears anymore. Elizabeth was a beautiful young woman; a bit wild and at times more forward than befitting a lady, but those were just the aspects of her character he liked.
Norrington was very self-critical and well aware of his flaws. He knew that he was neither witty nor amusing, and his contribution to conversations usually consisted either of polite little coughs or dropping the cards at whist. If he had to get married - and there seemed no way to escape that fate - then at least it should be to a woman who would not bore visitors to tears. That task, so Governor Swann and most officers agreed, was already perfectly covered by Norrington.
Alas, Bertie's arrival had put a sudden end to Norrington's plans for the afternoon. Lieutenant Groves' boy had the unpleasant habit of turning up at the most unsuitable of times, trumpeting news at the sound level of a fog horn. A good lad, no doubt, and devoted to his lieutenant, but he always looked like he had rolled around in a pigsty and was as long-tongued and indiscreet as a fishwife.
"The Endeavour has arrived? How exciting! Have you heard, Captain Norrington? Oh, I just have to see her!"
Elizabeth brought out the big guns - she batted her lashes at Norrington, smiled and showed off her dimples. He sighed, knowing well what would follow, and indeed...
"Captain Norrington, we have to go and welcome them! And your new first lieutenant is aboard as well, isn't he? I'm very curious to meet him; after all he seems to be an outstanding man."
Norrington could feel a headache coming up, he was sweating and his cravat was excoriating the already reddened, tender skin of his throat, a result of his footman's aggressive handling of razor blade and alaun in the morning. As usual in such situations, there was only one thing Norrington could do, though: grin and bear it.
"Of course, Miss Swann, of course. I'm afraid I have to return to the fort now so that I may inform your father. Bertie, please tell Lieutenant Groves to come to-"
"- to the Endeavour, yes, Sir, immediately, Sir!"
Before Norrington could say another word or chastise Bertie for interrupting him mid-sentence once more, the boy had already legged it, leaving a cloud of dust behind. Norrington coughed and held his handkerchief to his nose. Elizabeth, getting impatient, began to step from one foot to the other, clinging to Norrington's arm.
"Shall we?" Norrington finally asked.
"Indeed," she answered, dragging him off in direction of the fort. Norrington mused what a fine couple they would make - in their marriage, it would be Elizabeth wearing the breeches, no doubt. In that aspect she was like Morris, but he had at least had the decency to pretend that Norrington was calling the shots. But things would certainly change once Elizabeth had borne three or four babies. At this thought, he blushed a little - he usually preferred not to consider the more basic aspects of marriage. Dear God, he could still remember how Elizabeth had wiped her snotty nose on his coat on the Dauntless, and a good coat it had been!
While Norrington tried to keep up with Elizabeth, who was remarkably fleet-footed for a lady wearing French high-heeled silk shoes with ribbons - a fashion-folly Norrington strictly disapproved of - he wondered what Lieutenant Morris might be doing at this moment. He missed him very much, and not a day passed by without Norrington deeply regretting that he had said what - well, what he had said. Being drunk was not an excuse, and Norrington felt indebted to Morris for not reporting him to the Admiralty.
Norrington shook his head. There was no point in clinging on to an old love. Lieutenant Morris had left, but Elizabeth was here, and he would learn to love her. And even if not - when had love ever been a prerequisite for a marriage?
* * *
"Betsy, this is impossible," Groves protested, but his wife was too busy braiding the hair of their oldest daughter to pay much attention to her husband's words. She had managed to wash and dress all four children and herself within half an hour. Once Anne's braids were finished, Mrs. Groves turned her attention to the difficult task of deciding which hat to wear.
"Which one should I wear? The one with the flowers or the one with the ribbons?"
"Please be sensible, I can't take you with me!"
"I'll take the one with the flowers then."
While standing in front of the mirror, pushing her hat from left to right, Groves explained over and over again that he could possibly not take wife and children with him to welcome Lord Cutler Beckett and Lieutenant Gillette.
"Curiosity is a vice!" Groves finally cried out in desperation, but his wife waved him off.
"My dear Groves, nothing ever happens here. I will not die of curiosity, but certainly of boredom. I have to see the notorious Lieutenant Gillette. Really, how can I stay at home if there is a debauchee, rogue and villain to see? So, I am ready. Anne, take Martha's hand. I'll carry Charlie. Johnny, you stay with your father, and don't you dare to scare Governor Swann with that frog of yours again!"
She was out of the door before Groves could voice another protest. He looked at his oldest son, but Johnny only shrugged his shoulders.
"Blasted womenfolk," Groves muttered, thinking not only of his own wife, but also of Norrington and Elizabeth Swann. "Mark my words, John, women mean nothing but trouble."
"Yes, father." The boy's face lit up. "So I'll have a little brother then in spring? That's good to know; Anne and Martha are pests. It would be three versus two then."
Groves, hastily putting on his hat and hurrying after his wife, muttered some vague promise, but knowing Betsy, she would very likely give birth to twin daughters, just to annoy him.
* * *
The wig was of poor quality, and rain and seawater hadn't improved its state. Mr. Gillette was not pleased, not pleased at all, which showed in a frown and a wrinkling of the nose. Cutler Beckett had found the latter very endearing right from the beginning of their business relationship, so he made sure to annoy Gillette at least twice a day. A small gratification, no doubt, but better than nothing.
"I'd like to state that I consider a wig made of horsehair a personal insult. You should have bought one more suitable for my station, Mr. Mercer," Gillette grumbled. "And the coat is too tight."
"Don't eat so much then, and if wigs made of donkey's hair had been available, I wouldn't have hesitated to purchase one, Mr. Gillette." Mr. Mercer sniffed and arched an eyebrow. "But I promise you I will personally shear the first fox to cross my path and carry its coat to the wigmaker."
"Please, please, do stop the bickering, gentlemen. It's not amusing. Good grief, this heat is unbearable." Lord Cutler Beckett dabbed the sweat off his forehead with a perfumed handkerchief of finest linen. "I must say, I'm surprised that none of you seem to suffer as I do."
Gillette looked over his shoulder. It was one of those sly, sultry glances which never failed to raise Cutler Beckett's temperature by at least two degrees. Again the handkerchief was put into action, and Cutler Beckett was surrounded by a fine scent of lavender.
"Mr. Mercer and I have hearts of ice. This keeps us cool in the heat, my lord. How else would you explain that even here in the West Indies, Mr. Mercer won't part with his gloves? Are you afraid you could get frost bite, Sir? Better be careful when using your pot de chambre then, you might freeze something important off."
Mercer deemed Gillette unworthy of a reply, and turned his back to him to address Cutler Beckett. "I will arrange for our luggage to be brought to the fort, my lord."
"Wonderful. I hope these brutes won't break anything. Dear God, now they dropped Mr. Gillette's sea chest."
The deck of the Endeavour looked like an anthill that a child had poked with a stick. Men were running to and fro, and each of them gave Gillette a fearful glance when passing by, careful to stay out of his reach.
"I must say, so far you have done good work, Mr. Gillette. Even as a mere passenger, the men are impressed by your natural authority. I hope you will be as successful in Fort Charles."
Gillette smiled smugly and mocked a bow.
"You may rely on me, my lord. Give me two weeks, and all of Port Royal will eat from the palm of my hand."
"Don't you ever doubt your talents?" Cutler Beckett asked, trying to shake off the unwanted vision of Gillette feeding him grapes. Or sticky pastry. Blasted tease.
Gillette shook his head.
"Never. Doubt means failure, and in my profession, failure means death. You may trust me, my lord. I'll have your Captain Norrington, that baggy old wineskin, wrapped around my finger in no time. But keep in mind, my lord: any indecencies I have to put up with will-"
"-cost me extra. Yes, I'm aware of that."
Cutler Beckett had to hide a grin behind his handkerchief. The mere thought of James Norrington committing any kind of indecencies! Gillette, prepared to face an old drunkard and rogue, would have to spend his time with a humourless, pedantic and cumbersome man who drew lines in his journal just so his entries would be straight. With a bit of luck, Norrington might even entertain Gillette with a lecture on the local flora.
Considering how Gillette had teased and flirted all through their journey, promising everything and giving nothing, Cutler Beckett didn't feel any pity. Gillette looked good in his plain uniform, and the scoundrel knew it. More than once he had come to Cutler Beckett's cabin to learn more about his mission in Port Royal, leaning on the door and slowly untying his cravat. The lazy movements of his hands and finally the exposure of the pale skin drove Cutler Beckett crazy, and that was exactly the reason why Gillette did it. A special performance just for his lordship. One day Gillette would have to pay for that, Cutler Beckett swore. Oh, how he'd pay! With interest!
"Pay - yes, of course," Cutler Beckett finally said, "all bills will be settled, you have my word. Ah, I see that the reception committee has already arrived. Straighten your cravat, Lieutenant Gillette - the curtain rises! Good grief, it looks like Lieutenant Groves brought his shrew of a wife and his entire brood along! Out and about in her condition, such very bad taste! Come, come, I can't wait to leave this ship!"
* * *
Gillette followed Cutler Beckett, crossing the gangway. What a wonderful place! The sea seemed to be bluer and the grass greener than in any other place he'd seen so far. The mosquitos were probably the size of sparrows, but still, he was glad that he had escaped the winter in London. If only his mission had been more enjoyable! From all he could tell, Captain Norrington would be most unpleasant company. No time to lose to find a distraction then, so Gillette tried to catch a glimpse of the people who had gathered on the jetty.
There was a young lieutenant, his heavily pregnant wife standing next to him, a little boy on her arms. So that was Mr. Groves, Captain Norrington's second lieutenant. A boy clung to his coat, probably his son. Four children at that age, a fifth on the way? The man needed a new pastime.
Next to them stood two other lieutenants, both older than Groves. With their wigs and identical coats they looked like twins; highly unlikely he'd take a fancy to either of them. Lord Cutler Beckett had reached the group and was welcomed by an elderly gentleman with a terribly old-fashioned wig. Indeed, as far as fashion was concerned, this place was limping years behind London. Gillette concluded that this had to be Governor Swann, and judging by the expression on his face, Lord Cutler Beckett was as dear to him as a weevil to a sailor.
"My dear Governor Swann! I can't tell you how very much I have missed your most inspiring and enjoyable company," Cutler Beckett purred.
"No, doubt, no doubt," the governor muttered, turning slightly green. "Delighted to have you back here, delighted."
"And Miss Swann - lovelier than ever! I hope I will have the pleasure of your company more often than during my last stay."
Miss Swann was indeed very pretty, but had obviously neither the talent nor the desire to hide her feelings. All Cutler Beckett got for his flattery was a short nod and a contemptuous glare. A young lady with a mind of her own - wonderful! That might be a pray worthy of a hunter like him, and it certainly couldn't harm to win the favour of Governor Swann's daughter.
Then again, there might be somebody who would object such plans. Gillette looked at Miss Swann's companion. A captain, probably one of Norrington's underlings, and Gillette felt a pang of pity. The officer stood next to a beautiful young woman, bolt upright, sweating under many layers of heavy wool and cotton and looking very uncomfortable. Norrington probably made his life hell. The fact that Cutler Beckett ignored him and returned his attention to Governor Swann confirmed this assessment; he was probably nothing but a chaperone for Miss Swann.
Gillette noticed how the captain repeatedly looked over to the Endeavour, as if he was waiting for something to happen. When Gillette caught his glance, he quickly lowered his eyes. Very odd behaviour, Gillette thought, and as Cutler Beckett was still babbling to Miss Swann and the governor about the weather in London and the price of tea, he decided to break the uncomfortable silence.
"I'm looking very much forward to serving here in Port Royal, Sir," he said politely. Hitting the right tone - respectful yet not obsequious - was difficult, but Gillette mastered it well.
The captain seemed surprised that Gillette had noticed him at all.
"Oh? Oh. Yes. Of course. Yes. Welcome to Port Royal, Mr.-"
"- Gillette, Sir. Lieutenant Thomas Gillette."
All conversations stopped mid-sentence. As if an invisible puppeteer had pulled the strings, the heads of Governor Swann, his daughter, the officers and the Groves-family turned to Gillette, eyes staring at him in unconcealed bafflement.
"Lieutenant Gillette?" the captain asked. His eyes were hazel, Gillette noticed. Hazel, friendly and wide with surprise.
* * *
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|NINE MAN MORRIS - 3/?
by Molly Joyful