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 for them with a microscope. And alternative universe. Definitely.
Feedback: most welcome. Good or bad.
Beta: the wonderful Eveiya
Author's note: "Quid pro quo" = a favour for a favour
Summary: While Will and Norrington were marooned on an island ("Without Fail"), life continued in Port Royal.
* * *
"Blasted heat," Groves cursed as he loosened his cravat and pressed as close to the wall as possible, trying to avoid the merciless Caribbean sun. "You'd better get into the shade as well, Thomas, you already look like a cooked lobster."
"I always look like a cooked lobster. People wouldn't recognise me if I looked any different."
"Could be true. We need to cool you down; I've heard the inn-keeper of the Mermaid got in two barrels of an excellent wine yesterday. How about going down there tonight and giving it a try?"
It was always 'maybe' lately, which actually meant 'no' in Gillettese. If he wasn't working, he was sitting brooding somewhere. Groves thought that Thomas overdid his mourning for James Norrington; agreed, he'd served under his command for many years, and Norrington had been a good man, but people died all the time here, this was not a first. Groves had lost count of the friends he'd lost over the years; he had always stopped for a moment in sadness, then continued on his own way. There was no alternative. At the end of the day, what mattered was that they were still alive.
He elbowed Gillette in the side.
"You should get out more, Thomas. It's not good for you, all this sitting and thinking and brooding, you know? Have some fun, share a laugh, find a wench, get drunk!"
"I'll do that, Daniel, I really will."
Of course he wouldn't, and Groves knew it. By now he'd tried just about everything to lure Thomas back into the normal course of life, and he was ready to give up. Usually all it took to cheer Thomas up was finding him a nice girl and paying for a round or two; three rounds after a run-in with Lord Cutler Beckett. Now, however, it seemed there wasn't enough wine in the world to make Thomas Gillette smile again.
"I'll see you later then."
Gillette didn't answer. Something must have caught his attention; when Groves followed his gaze, he saw that Gillette was watching a group of prisoners shuffle across the fort's square, each of their movements carefully overseen by the guards.
"Pirates," Groves stated. "They'll be hanged tomorrow."
"A hanging? No wonder the crows are already gathering," Gillette replied, and gestured with his head in the direction of Lord Cutler Beckett and his factotum, Mr. Mercer, who stood on the other side of the place.
"If you hate him only half as much as he admires you, he'll drop dead from the sheer viciousness of your thoughts, Thomas. Come, let's go swimming, our shift is over."
"I'll come along later. Keep the water cool for me."
"I'll do that. Don't strangle Cutler Beckett in the meantime."
"Can't promise that, Daniel. But I'll try to behave."
Groves grinned, slapped Gillette's back and left.
Gillette couldn't have cared less for swimming, taverns or Lord Cutler Beckett. He waited for a few minutes until he could be sure that the prisoners were locked in their cells. Cutler Beckett and Mercer were engrossed in conversation, and paid no attention to the lieutenant who quickly crossed the square and entered the building that housed the prison.
The guards saluted; Gillette nodded briefly, then hurried down the stairs. He wrinkled his nose at the stench down there; a pigsty was a perfumery in comparison. The smoke from the torches on the wall made his eyes water.
"Lieutenant," the prison guard on duty greeted him.
"I'm here to fetch one of the prisoners for interrogation."
"Sure, Sir," the guard replied, reaching for the key ring. "Which one?"
"Chubby old geezer. Red cap, greyish beard."
"Ah, yes, I know the one. Give me a moment, Sir, I'll be right back."
He left, and Gillette began to pace up and down impatiently. From time to time he turned to glance at the stairs, as if fearing that someone would come to interrupt his mission. From the cells he could hear yelling and swearing, then the creaking of the door, more yelling and protests, the barking of that blasted dog, then the cell door slamming shut again.
The guard returned, pushing the prisoner towards Gillette; a very dirty and very scared old man, who blinked owlishly up at him.
"So, here we have him, Sir. Let me just fetch them irons."
"There's no need for that," Gillette quickly replied. He ignored the suspicious glances the prisoner gave him, and grasped him by the arm.
"As you wish, Sir. When will you return him? Wouldn't want him to miss his hanging, you know."
The guard laughed, and Gillette gave him his most arrogant look, silencing the man immediately.
"Don't count on his return," he said. "And mind your own business."
"Aye, Sir. You were never here," the man hastened to say, and returned to his chair. Gillette had a reputation for hitting first and asking later; he didn't want to be on the receiving end of his anger. And one pirate more or less, who cared? The officer certainly knew what he was doing.
"Good man. You'll make it somewhere in the Navy."
Gillette pushed the prisoner forward, still holding his arm in an iron grip. The pirate didn't put up much of a struggle; it would have been pointless anyway, with all the guards around. They left the building, Gillette looked around – good, Cutler Beckett and his woodlouse were nowhere in sight.
"Where are you takin' me?"
"Shut up and walk," Gillette hissed. He dragged the pirate through the gate. Nobody paid any notice. This was ridiculously easy! Now down the road, into a side street, on and on, towards the port. The old man wheezed, but he couldn't stop now for a rest. Only when they arrived under the mole where the Joyful Molly was berthed and he could be sure nobody had followed them, Gillette halted and let go of the man.
"Can't you just let me hang with me mates? What's this supposed to be?" he groaned, rubbing his arm and trying hard to catch his breath.
Gillette wiped the sweat off his face. Then he looked at the pirate, who was eyeing him with great suspicion, and sighed.
"For goodness' sake, Jeremiah – don't you remember me?"
Upon hearing his name, Jeremiah Peters jumped. Then he stepped closer and scrutinised the tall lieutenant, trying to find anything in his face that would trigger his memory. Suddenly, the penny dropped, and he threw up his arms.
"Blimey! That I live to see the day! It's little Gillette! Let me look at you! Pretty damned good you look, boy! Stuck with the Navy, eh?"
"So it seems."
"Got a family now, eh? Little wife and six kids, I bet?"
Gillette bit his lip and frowned.
"No. There is somebody, but I – I'm not the first choice, I'm afraid."
Peters spit on the ground.
"Bah, women are daft, lad. Forget her, she's not worth it. You're a good man, the uniform suits you! Handsome devil, I bet all the other ladies are after you and your French charms like bees after honey, eh?"
Gillette had to grin.
"Well, I'm not doing too badly. The same, however, can't be said of you, Jeremiah Peters," he added, trying to look stern. "You, a pirate!"
Peters shrugged and scratched his head.
"Eh, it's not easy to make a livin' these days, you know. But what are you going to do with me now? Didn't bring me here to talk about old times, I guess."
Gillette shook his head.
"No, definitely not. Jeremiah, take yourself away from here as quickly as possible. Get a ship to Tortuga, and Godspeed." He reached into his coat and gave Peters some coins. "Here, that's all I have on me, but it's better than nothing."
Peters looked down at the coins in his hand, then at Gillette again.
"But lad, why are you doin' this? You'll get yourself a peck o' trouble!"
"Can't be worse than it already is, and I can't allow them to hang you, Jeremiah. I owe you my life, in more than one way. Now stop the tattle and shove off before we both get hanged!"
"Aye, Sir!" Peters saluted and put the coins in his pocket. "Can't have that, being hanged next to a bloody Frenchman!"
"Damned yourself, Gillette!"
Gillette offered his hand to the pirate, but the man pushed it aside and hugged him instead.
"Good to know you're still alive, boy. I often wondered what happened to you. Thought you'd be dead, you know."
After a moment of hesitation, Gillette returned the old man's hug.
"It'll take more than that to kill me off, Jeremiah. I'm unsinkable."
Peters patted Gillette's shoulder.
"Take care of you, lad. Don't get yourself into trouble."
"I won't. Now shove off, will you?"
He didn't have to ask twice. The pirate nodded and quickly left to find a ship which would bring him to the safety of Tortuga. Once he was out of sight, Gillette made his way back to the fort, this time, however, at a much slower pace.
"Now that was very interesting, my lord, wasn't it?" Mercer asked, emerging from behind the trees where they had hidden.
"Indeed," Cutler Beckett confirmed. "It looks like Mr. Gillette has slightly bent the truth about his origins! A very naughty thing to do, but I'm quite certain that this information will be useful in the near future. Don't you agree, Mr. Mercer?"
"Are you thinking about charging him with treason, my lord? Or with aiding the escape of a condemned prisoner? It's a hanging offence."
Cutler Beckett tapped his index finger against his lips.
"I haven't yet decided what to do with our hot-headed French pastry. But I'm sure that I'll come up with something amusing."
* * *
The Mermaid Tavern used to be frequented by William Shakespeare. It was located in London, not in Port Royal, but from all we know, the wine they served was still quite lovely.
On to "Fluctuat nec mergitur"
|IN ABSENTIA: "QUID PRO QUO"
by Molly Joyful