Overall rating: PG-13 to very mild R
Genre: slash, het, humour, romance, drama, a wee bit of angst
Fandoms: Pirates of the Caribbean (Royal Navy of the Caribbean), Garrow's Law
Pairings/characters: Norrington/Gillette, Garrow/Sarah, Jones/Jasker, Mr. Southouse, Mr. Silvester, Sir Arthur Hill, Mary, Mr. Farmer and many more. Cameo by Jack Aubrey.
Warnings: None. Just keep in mind that the story is set in the 18th century.
Please click here for summary, disclaimers and additional information.
* * *
Sir Arthur Hill, wearing his favourite blue banyan and suffering from a terrible hangover, watched Mr. Farmer suspiciously. The man had not yet commented on his client's latest suggestion, and Sir Arthur was getting impatient.
John Farmer, clad in black and looking like an advertisement for cupping glasses, shifted uncomfortably on his chair.
"I fear I don't understand, Sir Arthur," he finally said. "You wish me to do - what?"
Sir Arthur sighed and shaded his eyes against the dim light of a pale winter sun.
"I really wish you would listen more carefully, Mr. Farmer. Time is money, and I'm a very busy man." Farmer rolled his eyes, but luckily, this escaped Sir Arthur. "Despite the outrageous indignity, malicious gossip and most shocking slander I have had to endure - without a doubt ignited and furthered by Mr. Garrow and his accomplices - I have decided to forgive my wife and allow her to return."
Farmer leaned forward.
"Please don't think me insensitive; I'm well aware of this matter's delicate nature, but you do not have a wife any more. You're divorced; the former Lady Hill, now Mrs. Garrow, has remarried. So what could be the benefit of your generous gesture?"
Sir Arthur reached for his quill and drummed it on the desk.
"Practical consideration, Mr. Farmer. By now I have eight children by five mistresses. And they are all girls! I'm beginning to wonder if those blasted womenfolk deceive me on purpose; I've made my wishes regarding an heir very clear. And unlike my wife, not one of them can organise a ball or even hold a sensible conversation. However, looking at the boy Samuel and the obvious family likeness, I must admit that I might have made an error of judgement. The court has confirmed that I've been cuckolded, and there can be no doubt about this shameful fact, but I've come to the conclusion that the child is mine. After much soul-searching, I found in my heart the strength to forgive Sarah; she may return with our son."
Farmer pinched the bridge of his nose.
"With all due respect, Sir Arthur, you have officially declared that the child is not yours and you have given custody of Samuel to your former wife."
Sir Arthur shrugged, and twirled the quill between his fingers.
"So? What has been done can be undone."
"But the Garrows are very happy; they have just welcomed a son into the family, and-"
"Do you have to rub it in?" Sir Arthur slammed the quill down. "I couldn't care less about Garrow's hell spawn. All I care about is my child, my beloved son."
Mr. Farmer stood up and clasped his hands behind his back.
"My apologies, Sir Arthur, but I really don't see how this could be achieved."
"Of course not. But I do. Here," Sir Arthur said, reaching lazily for some letters on his desk. "Have these delivered, then all we have to do is wait. 'Mrs. Garrow' will leave this dunce of her own free will, you can count on that. And this time, I'll make sure that William Garrow will be ruined for good. With a bit of luck, he might even entertain us with a gallows dance!"
Farmer looked down at the letters and narrowed his eyes. He didn't share Sir Arthur's cheerful mood.
"I will do as you have ordered, but I feel it's my duty to remind you that Mr. Garrow has many friends, and-"
"Friends? Those so-called 'friends' won't help him this time; nor will tottery old judges or self-important barristers! He's a nobody, I'm Second Secretary of the Admiralty, Mr. Farmer. Who do you expect to foil my plan? The Royal Navy?"
Sir Arthur laughed and folded his hands behind his head, leaning back comfortably.
* * *
James Norrington had started his career in the Royal Navy at the age of twelve, and during twenty-five years of service, he'd braved unimaginable dangers. Undead pirates, French buccaneers, sea monsters and Lord Cutler Beckett, but nothing and nobody had been as intimidating as Miss Silvester - the eldest of five sisters - casting him admiring glances over her needlework. And a two headed dragon could not have instilled more fear in his heart than her mother, sitting behind her embroidery frame and exchanging knowing smiles with her daughter.
John Silvester, barrister, was indeed very successful in his profession, and he took great pleasure in displaying his wealth. Norrington shuddered; the house clearly proved that taste couldn't be bought. The drawing room where he and Gillette were having tea with the Silvester family was a visual nightmare. The only advantage of the expensive but hideous wallpaper in bilious green was that it distracted from the multitude of porcelain figurines, most of them either representing shepherdesses in frilly pink dresses or cheekily flirting couples. One or two of those figurines might have looked nice, but twenty of them? The Norringtons were landed gentry, but James Norrington had been at sea too long to appreciate the subtleties of homemaking any more. His home was his ship, and the only decoration he needed in the great cabin of HMS Dauntless was Thomas Gillette.
To his great surprise, Gillette of all people seemed to feel right at home in this cornucopia of bad taste. His lieutenant took great pride in the fact that his family had come to England with William the Conqueror, and his manners were usually not much different from his looting and pillaging forefathers'. But now the same man who could instil with one glare the fear of God in lazy seamen and swear a blue streak that would have made a drayman faint, showed extraordinary interest in the price of silk and knew so much about the latest fashion in wallpapers and curtains that Norrington wondered if the maid had laced Gillette's tea with laudanum.
Norrington clung to his teacup. He wished he could return to the safety of his ship, or at least flee to the office of William Garrow, the barrister who had asked for his statement in court. He had never met the man before, but thanks to Mr. Silvester, Norrington knew all there was to know about him - and possibly more. But he was a guest in this house, so Norrington forced his attention back to the conversation between Thomas and his cousin John.
"Then? Well, then I shot him, of course," Silvester answered with a smug smile. "Not a deadly wound, mind you. Not worth the trouble. Just a simple, clean, through and through bullet wound."
With that, he helped himself to another pastry. His fifth, if Norrington hadn't miscounted. A sweet tooth seemed to run in the family.
"But I assume this neither impressed him nor did it keep him from further annoying you in court, did it?"
Mrs. Silvester laughed and pointed at her husband with an embroidery needle.
"Of course it didn't, Thomas! And God forbid that Mr. Garrow should ever decide on an occupational change. John would miss him terribly; who else could he fret about?"
"What nonsense, Martha," Silvester grumbled. "You won't find a man in all of Britain who'd care less about this - obsessed do-gooder."
In Norrington's opinion, Silvester's behaviour during the duel had been a disgrace. And he was talking an awful lot about William Garrow for somebody who claimed complete disinterest in the man. As a matter of fact, Silvester hadn't talked about much else for the past hour, covering every aspect of Garrow's life, work and involvement in politics. However, if his intention had been to influence his guest negatively, his attempt had backfired. Norrington was pleased to hear that Garrow shared many of his own views.
"I agree that Mr. Garrow's actions might be a bit extreme, but sometimes it takes a loud voice to be heard," Norrington said. "Personally, I fully agree with his stance on slavery. It's a blight poisoning the fresh air of our country, and the sooner it gets abolished, the better."
Silvester sniffed."Ah, I see, you're a man of great principle, Captain Norrington. I assume you have already petitioned with the Admiralty to abandon pressing men into the service of the Royal Navy then? That's a blight poisoning the fresh air of the Seven Seas, or so I've been told."
"You're comparing apples and oranges, sir," Norrington replied stiffly, annoyed by Silvester's sarcastic tone. "And yes, I have petitioned. Will you take my word for it, or would you prefer if I asked Mr. Garrow to prepare an affidavit concerning this matter for me to sign?"
Silvester gave Norrington a scrutinising look. He hadn't expected this close-lipped stuffed shirt to say anything at all, and now such a retort! Two years ago, James Norrington's name had been in every gazette and the scandal of his broken betrothal had been discussed in every coffeehouse. Outwitted by the world's worst pirate and jilted by his fiancée in favour of a blacksmith! Too amusing; he and Garrow would make a fine pair in court. A pity the sailor involved in a pub brawl was not his case; he would certainly have found a way to reference the disgraceful incidents in Port Royal during the process!
"Touché, Captain Norrington," Silvester finally said, folding his hands. "I'm not surprised that my dear cousin holds you in such great esteem."
"Oh dear, we need more tea," Mrs. Silvester hastened to say, trying to nip potentially heated discussions in the bud. "Celeste, more tea! Ah, I can't tell you how happy I am to see you again, Thomas, and you've brought such wonderful company with you. But now do tell; is it true that we may expect your engagement to be announced soon?"
Norrington almost dropped cup and saucer, but Gillette seemed to be unperturbed by Mrs. Silvester's question.
"Indeed, you may," he replied, snatching the last pastry right from under Silvester's nose.
"Yes? I had no idea," Norrington stammered. "How - delightful."
"Why, didn't he tell you about the lovely young lady who has won his heart?" Silvester grinned. "He mentions this mysterious beauty in every letter, praising both the elegance of her hands and the light in her hazel eyes. If we may believe his words, he already bought the engagement ring."
Norrington looked down at his long-fingered hand with the large golden signet ring and breathed a sigh of relief. That was so typical of Gillette; at times, he wondered if his companion saw their dangerous relationship as a game.
"Good grief, I'm so sorry that I've revealed your secret, Thomas," Silvester added. "But of course, I understand that romance is not a subject one would discuss while navigating shallow waters and chasing undead pirates."
"I'd rather deal with undead pirates than the ones who are running the Admiralty," Gillette said. "And your sarcasm is better suited for court than your drawing room, dear cousin."
Silvester knew that Gillette could be as acid-tongued as himself and could be hot-tempered. After receiving yet another stern glance from his wife, he decided to change the subject.
"But as we're already talking about the Old Bailey: I'm most curious to learn how you and Mr. Garrow got acquainted, Captain Norrington."
"A few years ago, Mr. Garrow represented an old friend of mine, Captain Baillie. It was through him that-"
There was a knock on the door, and Silvester's footman entered.
"A message for you, sir," he said.
"Thank you for the valuable information; I'd thought it was a pig, myself. My apologies for the interruption, Captain Norrington. It's very difficult to escape business. With your permission?"
Norrington nodded, and Silvester opened the letter. He read it, and the amused expression on his face quickly changed to a deep frown.
"No bad news, I hope?" Gillette asked.
"What? No, no. Just - a bill." He put the letter carefully in the pocket of his coat. "What was it you were saying about Captain Baillie again?"
Norrington and Gillette exchanged a quick glance. A bill? For a barrister, John Silvester was a very unconvincing liar.
* * *
Chapter 2 Chapter 4
|Yuletide Tales: "THIN ICE" - Chapter 3
by Molly Joyful