|Rating: PG, gen
Characters: Gillette, Will Turner Jr, Elizabeth
Summary: You can't teach an old dog new tricks. But why should you? The old ones still work.
Gillette wished his eyeglasses hadn't been destroyed during the last battle. It was difficult to decipher his oldest daughter's hand at the best of times, and her recent letter, mentioning one Lieutenant Ellenwood far too often for Gillette's taste, posed yet another challenge for his eyes. Ellenwood was a stubborn hotspur, sarcastic and obsessed with the service. In other words, he was just like Gillette and there was no way in hell he'd ever allow Agnes to marry the man. Of course she'd do it, anyway, but at least he could pretend that he had a say in the matter.
He sighed. Weak eyes, greying hair and shooting pains - he was getting old. Still, waning eyesight and unsuitable suitors for his daughters aside, he didn't have much to complain about, and he often counted his blessings: Mrs. Gillette and the three young Misses Gillette, financial security, the loyalty of his friends and the respect of his peers. If only he could-
Somebody knocked on the door to the great cabin, interrupting Gillette's musings.
"Come in already," he grumbled. The door opened, revealing Lieutenant Browne. The man's uniform was dirty and he sported a bloody nose.
Gillette arched an eyebrow.
"Only five, Sir, and sad creatures they are. Well, four of them, Sir."
Browne put the list with the names of the new crew members in front of the captain.
"Is number five responsible for your injuries, Mr. Browne?"
"Indeed, Sir. Fought like a devil, almost escaped. Well, no more trouble now, we've put him in irons and will starve him into obedience in no time, Sir."
Gillette folded his hands on the writing slope, a gestured he had adopted from the late James Norrington, along with his guidelines on how to command a ship.
"Mr. Browne, how long are you serving under my command now?"
"Six years, Sir."
"Has ever a man you gently convinced to volunteer for the service been starved aboard this ship?"
"I thought so."
Gillette read the names on the list. He didn't like pressing men into the service, but Britain was at war, and HMS Triton had to be manned. They'd need at least twenty more for the ship's full complement, though. Hopefully Browne and his press gang would have more success in Montego Bay.
"Fuller, Hardwick, Lewis, Miller, Moles, Peters, Tate, Turner - William Turner?" Now that was interesting.
"That's the one, Sir." Browne carefully touched his nose. "The one we had to put in irons."
"William Turner," Gillette said, more to himself than to the lieutenant. He consulted the list again. Seventeen years old - now that would be too good to be true. Could it really be...?
"Mr. Browne, I want to meet the five new members of this ship's company. I'm especially curious to see young master Turner - fighting spirit is rare to find these days."
Browne thought both interest and compliment thoroughly misplaced, but he nodded.
"Yes, Sir. I'll bring them on deck."
"No. No, for a change, I'd like you to bring them to the great cabin."
"The great cabin? But Sir, that's not-"
"Do you wish me to go and fetch them myself?"
"No, Sir, of course not," Browne hurried to reply. Captain Gillette had obviously got up on the wrong side, and only a fool would have argued with him.
* * *
Gillette held his little welcome speech for the newly pressed men. He was quite proud of it; there was a reading of the Articles of War and a colourful description of the consequences if one should breach them. Flogging! Hanging! Masting! Four pairs of eyes widened in fear, but the fifth narrowed and was full of anger and defiance.
Four of the men where then led away by Lieutenant Browne and two marines. William Turner the younger still stood in the great cabin, waiting for the things to come and radiating anger. Gillette studied the lad's face. Not the most handsome one, slightly disfigured with pockmarks, but an honest face, with that particular expression of surprised indignation that he had so often seen on Will Turner.
"I know you," William blurted out, unnerved by the silence. "And just so you know, I'm not afraid of you!"
"I'm not aware that I've had the pleasure of making your acquaintance yet, Mr. Turner. And remember your place, you're talking to your captain."
"You're not my captain. It's true, I've never met you before, but I know all about you! My mother told me everything, how cunning you are and how you want to see her hanged!"
Gillette leaned back in his chair, looking quite bored.
"It must come as a shock, Mr. Turner, but it's not me who tries to get your mother hanged. If you decide to start a career in piracy, you'll have to accept the consequences. Should Mrs. Turner disagree with the punishment for piracy, I suggest she draws up a petition and submits it to the parliament. But as things are, pirates are hanged, yes."
"You don't even have the decency to deny it?" William was obviously surprised by Gillette's bluntness.
"I have the decency to admit it."
"You don't hate my mother for being a pirate. You hate her because of Mr. Norrington. She said that you blame her for his death, though she's without guilt."
"Commodore Norrington," Gillette corrected. "Come judgement day, there will hopefully be suitable punishment for all those responsible for his death. But until then, I'll do my duty aboard this ship. And I expect every man aboard her to do his duty as well."
"Duty, hah! Is it your duty to use me as bait for my mother to come and rescue me?"
Gillette broke out in laughter. William was surprised both by the reaction itself and the effect it had on the stern officer. Gillette almost looked like a mischievous boy who had just heard a particularly funny joke.
"Bait? You? Good grief, boy, you certainly have the same vivid imagination as your mother! No, your presence aboard my ship isn't part of a cunning plan. You were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time to run into Lieutenant Browne. And you need not worry, your mother won't have to come to your rescue and wipe your nose. I'll let you go ashore in the next port. Next time you see a press gang, do me the favour and hide under a table."
"You - let me go?"
"You won't hang me? Or keep me here?"
"Show some common sense. Why on earth should I keep you here? I need capable men, ready to work hard and do their duty."
William's face turned red.
"Sir! Are you implying that I'm neither capable nor hardworking or willing to fulfil my duties?"
"As Commodore Norrington used to say: we live to serve others. Now that's certainly not a motto a pirate could abide to, I'm sure you'll agree. So return to your mother, learn how do murder and pillage, and one fine day, you might end your career on the gallows. The Royal Navy isn't the place for a sluggard without discipline who can't tell a frigate from a dogger, Mr. Turner. Dismiss."
"This is insulting," William cried, making no attempts at leaving. "I was born aboard a ship! I grew up aboard a ship! I can tell a frigate from a dogger just fine, thank you! And I know how to splice, knot and reef a sail and just as much about sailing as any of your men! Pirates we may be, but a ship is always a ship!"
Gillette returned his attention to the papers in front of him.
"'Dismiss' means that you're supposed to leave. You might know how to splice, knot and reef a sail, but obviously, you don't know how to follow orders and show respect to your superiors. As I said, you're completely unsuitable to serve aboard this ship. Now leave this cabin, or I'll have you removed and you may swim back."
William crossed his arms over his chest. "Unsuitable, you think?"
"Can't follow orders?"
"As you're still here - no."
"Good, I'll stay."
Gillette looked up. "Pardon?"
"I'll stay. Where do I have to sign?"
"You want to join this ship's company? Without being pressed?" Gillette laughed. "You wouldn't last a week here! We're at war, boy, haven't you heard? What would you do in a battle? We don't have water barrels large enough for you to hide in."
William stomped his foot, rather childlike.
"I've never hidden from the enemy! I know how to handle a pistol. I could shoot a fly's eye out in the dark! And my mother taught me all there is to know about swords. Your mackerels of midshipmen can't hold a candle to me."
Gillette rubbed his chin.
"Even if your bragging should be founded on truth: why would I want a pirate aboard my ship? A pirate with a mother who'd very likely not rest until she had my head on a plate? No, no. As tempted as I am to see how you'd fare aboard the Triton, I'll send you ashore, as promised."
"I'll write to her," William offered, all excited by the challenge. "I'll tell her that I want to stay here."
"She'd be delighted, no doubt."
"No, she won't," William said, not noticing Gillette's irony. "But she always said that being a pirate means to be free, and that I should always be free in my decisions. And it is my decision to stay here."
Gillette stood up and began to pace up and down the cabin; another habit of the late Commodore Norrington.
"This is ridiculous. You're not aware of the consequences and the hardships, Mr. Turner. And pray tell, what will you do if we should encounter pirates? Whose side will you be on? This can't be. Your courage honours you, but-"
"If I stay here, then that's my side, but-" William fiddled with the cuff of his sleeve. "You wouldn't make me fight my mother, would you?"
Gillette halted his pacing. "If I should consider your request and we should come to an agreement, Mr. Turner, then I'll promise you that we won't go after your mother's ship. That is, of course, unless she attacks us first. I will not risk the Triton and her crew for anything in the world. Are you really certain you want to accept the King's shilling?"
William nodded enthusiastically.
"Yes. Yes - Sir. That's what I want."
* * *
"That bastard! That miserable, cunning, rotten bastard!"
Henry ducked and escaped the jug, which shattered on the floor behind him.
"Captain, maybe this-"
"How could this happen? Didn't I tell you not to leave William alone for even a second?"
"Captain, it happened so fast an' I-"
Elizabeth kicked a chair across her cabin.
"The navy! He joined the navy! Can you imagine? My son!"
"We'll go an' rescue him, Captain," Henry said. "The Triton's only a sixth rate, after all."
She grasped Henry by the lapel of his coat and shook him.
"Yes, she's only a sixth rate. But a sixth rate commanded by Captain Thomas Gillette and running on his thirst for revenge! That automatically makes her a heavily armed first rate!"
Henry scratched his head.
"But Captain, I thought that Captain Gillette gave Admiral Norrington his word never to cause you trouble? I didn't think of him as a man who'd break a promise."
She picked up the chair and sat down, then glared at the two letters that had reached her earlier in the day. The first was from William, telling her that he'd decided to stay aboard HMS Triton by his own free will and that he'd show Captain Gillette that a pirate could be just as courageous and skilled as any other seaman. It was a typical William-letter, bursting with enthusiasm and wide-eyed na´vetÚ.
The second was more of a note. Thomas Gillette expressed his delight with William's decision, praised his skills and pointed out how very fetching the young man looked in a uniform.
Elizabeth filled a glass with wine from a carafe and took a long swig. Damned the man. James should have been more specific with his definition of 'trouble'.
* * *
|OLD DOG, OLD TRICKS
by Molly Joyful