|Standalone, but also a sequel to "In Absentia"
Pairings: Norrington/Gillette, Turner/Norrington hinted
Other characters appearing: Lord Cutler Beckett, Mr. Mercer, OMC
Warnings: AU - alternative universe. Definitely.
Feedback: most welcome. Good or bad.
Beta: the wonderful Eveiya
Summary: Ruining James Norrington's Christmas seems to be the perfect gift for Lord Cutler Beckett.
It took Lord Cutler Beckett several minutes to read the document. Captain David Bane began to grow restless; why did the man need so long to follow a simple order?
"Very interesting, Mr. Bane. I understand you're aware of this document's content?"
"The admiralty, I guess. The French. Me. And now - you."
"You forgot Mr. Mercer, Mr. Bane."
The captain looked over his shoulder. Little could be seen of Lord Cutler Beckett's factotum but a shadow behind the curtain.
Bane shrugged, blinking red-rimmed eyes.
"If you say so, my lord."
Cutler Beckett looked Bane over. He was one of those individuals who'd sell their own mother for the right money. Whenever deeds had to be done that involved the less savoury aspects of business and politics, both the EITC and the admiralty relied on Captain Bane's services. A very capable man, no doubt.
And a very dirty man, too. His hands were dark with grime, and the way he scratched his head from time to time did not bode well. The dirty auburn hair probably hosted colonies of lice. Cutler Beckett automatically took a step back.
"Do you celebrate Christmas, Mr. Bane?"
The jump from 'exchange of prisoners' to 'Christmas' was too great a leap for Captain Bane. The question only confirmed his suspicions that Lord Cutler Beckett was a little weak in the upper storey. He scratched his head, then shrugged.
"They say at church that Christmas is nothing for decent people."
"An interesting point of view… but anyway. Do you know the man this is all about?"
"'Course I do, my lord. Don't we both? I guess you'll be more than happy to be rid of him."
"So, I go and fetch him then. The quicker it's done, the less trouble."
Cutler Beckett studied the document once more.
"I suppose I'll miss him, though. He had his amusing moments. I've become accustomed to his face, so to speak."
"Heh, some ugly mug that is. Can I leave now?"
Cutler Beckett looked down at his hands. A hangnail, how bothersome!
"Yes, yes, do leave, Mr. Bane. Mr. Mercer, please prepare everything for my departure as well. I'll accompany our guest here and make sure that he can complete his mission without interruption."
Mercer emerged from behind the curtain. His usually blank face showed considerable confusion at that order. Captain Bane didn't look too enthusiastic about the prospect of having Lord Cutler Beckett aboard his ship, either.
"Nobody told me that you'd be coming along, my lord. My ship's small, no place there for noble passengers."
Cutler Beckett smiled.
"I appreciate your concern, Mr. Bane, but what can I do? I must follow orders, just like you. I'm only a humble servant of the British Empire; I'm sure you'll find a suitable hammock for me."
Mercer arched an eyebrow. This promised to become an interesting mission.
* * *
"Captain Gillette, once again you cause me great annoyance," Lord Cutler Beckett stated. If he hadn't been gagged, Gillette would have very likely cursed a blue streak and told him where to stick his annoyance, but things being as they were, all he could do was struggle in his bonds.
Gillette wanted Cutler Beckett, Mercer and Bane out of his quarters and off his ship. They'd come aboard the Joyful Molly uninvited, and before he could even ask what this was all about, he'd been bound, gagged and thrown in a corner by Captain Bane, who had made sure that Gillette fell as hard as possible.
"The French admiralty offers us an exchange of prisoners, Captain Gillette. They have one of our admirals, and they're willing to return him to us if we hand over a certain French individual who has managed to infiltrate our ranks. I suppose they hope for valuable information."
The French individual in question paled. That had to be a joke! Not even Cutler Beckett could do this! He was an officer of the British Navy! Handing him over to the French would mean certain death for him, for even Cutler Beckett had to know Gillette would never tell them anything!
On the other hand: he was Lord Cutler Beckett.
"Looks like the Thomas Gillette finally sinks, mate." Bane kicked Gillette on the hip. "Bloody French bastard."
"Now there, Mr. Bane, you're seriously hindering my attempts to hold a sensible conversation with Captain Gillette. Would you kindly wait outside?"
Bane looked from Gillette to the lord, shrugged and left the room.
"A charming man. Do you know he volunteered to be captain on a slaver? But that's probably not of any interest to you, Captain Gillette. I just wish to tell you that I truly hate having to ruin your Christmas in such a rude way. But it can't be helped; we can't allow them to keep an admiral to save a captain, even if the admiral in question is of no importance to us and, if I may say so, not the brightest button shining on a uniform."
Cutler Beckett sighed dramatically.
"Mind you, if it was up to me, I'd say: we don't need that admiral, keep him! There are far too many uniforms in Port Royal already. But what can I do? I was told to give the French what is theirs and bring home what is ours."
He crouched down beside Gillette, who glared at him with undisguised loathing.
"I assume Mr. Norrington will be waiting for you? I can well imagine – empty house, all the servants gone, nice meal, candles, Mr. Turner as every year scheduled for New Year's Eve… and later on? Imagine his disappointment. Hour after hour he'll wait for you, only to realise that you will not come. That you will never return, to be more specific. And of course, in expression of my great regard for you, I'll take it upon myself to inform him of this terrible, terrible tragedy personally. Poor man – his heart will break."
Even through the gag Cutler Beckett could understand what Gillette shouted at him.
"Did you hear that, Mr. Mercer? The French have such a way with words! Ah, how I'll miss his insults."
He returned his attention to Gillette.
"See, all this wouldn't have happened if you had accepted my offer. If you had, you'd now sit in a comfortable chair by the fire, dressed in silk, drinking expensive wine, and later on, I'd kiss every single freckle on your body. I'm really upset with you, Captain Gillette. You've ruined my Christmas this year."
Cutler Beckett stood up and smoothed his coat.
"Mr. Mercer, please call in Captain Bane. If we hurry and the French are punctual, I'll be back home just in time to make Mr. Norrington a very special present."
* * *
"This wine is really excellent, Mr. Mercer. Please arrange for another case while you're in town."
"Certainly my lord," Mercer promised, bowing deeply. Lord Cutler Beckett sat in his favourite chair, a glass of excellent French wine in one hand and his head resting on the other.
"It's Christmas, Mr. Mercer. Though, I'm not in a very festive mood."
"Understandable, my lord. But on the other hand he was a terribly annoying man at times, if I may say so."
"Absolutely. Still, in some ways, I'll miss him."
"I know, my lord. For a moment I was worried you might not do it."
"Ah, Mr. Mercer – you should know me better. I can't risk my position just because of a redhead."
He took another sip of wine and snuggled back comfortably in his seat.
* * *
Christmas was mostly ignored in Port Royal, but that had never kept Gillette from making plans. It was a matter of principle more than of religion; it was against his very nature to give in to sourly puritans. Or anybody else, for that matter.
Norrington had given the servants the evening off, he had the house to himself, and with Gillette coming to visit, this Christmas promised to be a good one.
But Gillette hadn't come. For hours Norrington had waited, pacing up and down in his study, peeking from time to time out of the window, but while the Joyful Molly was berthed in her usual place, Gillette had not shown up.
Despite his worries, James Norrington had finally gone to bed and fallen asleep. There were a hundred reasons why Thomas hadn't come. Maybe the ship had required some repairs. Or he had been held up by a superior. Norrington tossed and turned, dreaming that he and Thomas were involved in a violent fight with pirates, swords flashing. Somebody clutched him in a headlock from behind, and he fought hard to break free.
"Stop struggling, James. It's only I."
Immediately, Norrington was wide awake.
"Good grief, where have you been? I've been worried sick!"
Gillette caressed Norrington's chest, burying his face in his hair.
"Sorry. I was delayed by unexpected events."
"Anything dangerous?" Norrington asked, already placated and relieved beyond measure that Thomas was here and unharmed. He closed his hand over the one stroking his chest, brought it to his lips and pressed a kiss on it.
"No, no. All is fine, James. Don't worry. I'm just very tired. I'll tell you everything tomorrow."
Norrington felt a kiss on the nape of his neck, then between his shoulder blades.
"Quite alright, Thomas. You're here, that's all I need to know."
"Oh, one thing though, James…"
"That Captain Bane – I don't think he'll ever trouble us again."
* * *
* * *
This way for "In Absentia", please. :-)
|THE GIFT IS IN THE GIVING
by Molly Joyful