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.
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David Jasker tried to catch a glimpse of the street through the window of the coach, but strong winds and heavy snowfall made it impossible to see anything. All he could see was depressing drabness. Mrs. Caskey had refused to reveal where they were heading. "It's a surprise, my dear," she had announced with a wink. "And Robert would never forgive me if I spoiled it for you."
David had no idea where the coach was carrying them, but whatever place it was, it couldn't be worse than Newgate prison. It had been freezing in his cell, and he'd spent endless nights unable to sleep, wrapped in several coats and blankets, wearing three pairs of woollen stockings on top of each other. The small oven next to him hadn't provided much heat, but the smoke had burned his eyes. As a result, his eyesight had deteriorated - a fine cobbler he'd make! Well, better an oven and sore eyes than freezing to death, as had been the fate of many prisoners this year. The last winter had been hard as well, but not as bad as this one. Even the Thames had frozen over! If not for Robert's help, he would not have survived these two long years in prison.
"Don't look so glum, David," Mrs. Caskey said. "It's over!"
David gave her a blank look. "Is it?"
"What a question! There's nothing you need to worry about. Robert has made plans and organised everything. He's been very careful and discrete, and you'll want for nothing, trust me on that. And his love for you hasn't changed," she added, lowering her voice though they were alone in the coach.
David had a very good idea what his life would be like if he should be foolish enough to stay in London. He'd lost house and workshop. His former wife had moved to Birmingham with her new husband. He owned nothing but the clothes he was wearing. Hell, he didn't even have the tools to go about his trade any more! How was a cobbler supposed to earn a living without leather and lasts, knives and nails, peg breakers and shoe buckles?
That was not his biggest problem, though. In prison, he'd gotten used to insults, sneers and occasional beatings; it would probably have been much worse if Robert's money hadn't ensured his safety. So he had only aged ten years in two, lost weight and a couple of teeth. Nothing out of the ordinary. But while glares and insults seemed to be like water off a duck's back for Robert, he couldn't deal with it - not now that he was a free man again. He'd had two years to think about his future, and he had come to the conclusion that the only way for him to rebuild his life would be by leaving London, or better still, the country.
But Robert had already made plans. He had organised everything. And as usual, he had done so without asking David what he wanted.
* * *
"My apologies, gentlemen, I'm certain Mr. Garrow will be here any moment." Mr. Southouse gave the two men seated in front of William Garrow's desk an apologetic smile. It was a little forced, as he was clinging to a bookcase for dear life. He was balanced on a chair which looked dangerously fragile, going through stacks of papers crammed into the shelves.
"There's no need to apologise, Mr.-"
"Southouse. John Southouse, barrister."
"Mr. Southouse. I have no other plans for the day."
Southouse gave James Norrington a grateful look.
"But I have," insisted the young midshipman next to him. "I need to return to my ship. God only knows what'll happen if I'm not around to take care of everything." He'd spent the last minutes fiddling with his hat, his cravat and his sleeves. A very impatient young man.
"Let us pray, then, that your captain will manage without you for a few hours," Norrington said sarcastically. "Our country should be safe while you're sitting here, though. From all I know, the enemy's fleet has not yet set sail for London."
"A pity, really," Jack Aubrey grumbled, and Mr. Southouse almost dropped the files he was holding. The chair creaked under his weight, and Norrington wondered if he'd manage to jump up fast enough to catch the elderly gentleman if he should fall.
Southouse shook his head.
"Good grief, why ever would you want them to attack us?"
The midshipman shifted on his chair.
"Of course I don't want that. But I fear I'll die of old age before I can prove myself in battle."
"Well, I guess that's one way to look at it. I'd probably need a military mind to understand this stance."
Norrington had to hide a smile.
"Ah, Mr. Southouse, isn't it natural for a man to long to prove himself? Weren't you looking forward to your first case in the early days of your career? Mr. Aubrey here is young and full of zeal. We should encourage his aspirations."
"Young Mr. Aubrey here reminds me of Mr. Garrow in the early days of his career," Southouse said, and blew dust off a file. "Young and full of zeal, indeed. Be careful, Mr. Aubrey - too much of a good thing can get you into a pickle. Ah, here it is, finally!" He triumphantly held up the file and carefully stepped off the chair. Norrington breathed a sigh of relief. "I have to leave you now, gentlemen, as this case here requires my full attention. But as I said, Mr. Garrow will be here any moment. A good day, gentlemen!"
He hinted a bow at the two officers and left, his thoughts already with Mrs. Caskey, David Jasker and Captain Jones. Jack Aubrey managed to be quiet for all of five seconds after Southouse's departure before he turned to Norrington.
"I'm sorry if I should be too forward by asking, sir, but are you the James Norrington?"
Norrington closed his eyes for a moment and sighed.
"If you wish to know if I'm 'Captain Fairytale' or 'James the Storyteller' then I have to warn you that I've run out of patience with people who question the trueness of my words, Mr. Aubrey."
"But on the contrary, Captain Norrington!" Aubrey was too excited to notice that he'd dropped his hat. "I've read all the chapbooks about your run-in with Captain Jack Sparrow and the cursed pirates, and I wondered if-"
Norrington's face turned an unhealthy shade of shipwrecked green.
"Chapbooks? There are chapbooks about that unfortunate incident?"
"But of course," Aubrey confirmed cheerfully. "Most of the other midshipmen read stories about highwaymen, murder and robbery, but I prefer tales of battles and gallantry at sea. And pirates. Know thy enemy, as our captain prefers to say."
"Chapbooks. Good heavens. I only hope my mother won't see them," Norrington said to himself.
"Oh, don't worry, sir, they are chapbooks; a lady wouldn't read them."
"Quite clearly, you've never met my mother."
Jack Aubrey had never come across an officer of such unconventional manners. And he certainly had never held a conversation with a superior officer who would talk about his mother in such a way! This gave him hope that his burning questions might be answered.
"So, about those cursed pirates then - is it true they attacked Port Royal with a fleet of ships and you forced them to flee? And did they really glow in the dark? How many guns had the Black Pearl? And is it true that your first lieutenant lost the Interceptor to-"
"Too many questions at once, Mr. Aubrey." Norrington stretched his legs and crossed his arms over his chest, a bad habit he'd adopted from Gillette. "As much as I'd like to confirm your version, it wouldn't be the truth. No, there was no fleet of pirate ships. There was only one ship, the Black Pearl. I don't know the exact number of her guns, but I can assure you that there were far too many. They didn't flee either; as a matter of fact, they took us by surprise, pillaged the town and were gone before we'd even manned our ships. I'm afraid it wasn't a day of honour for the Royal Navy, and certainly not for me as the officer in charge. As for the Interceptor - the less said about that incident, the better." Gillette had actually said a lot about his involuntary bath, but none of his words were of the kind that could be repeated in the presence of an impressionable young midshipman. "However, the pirates did glow, if that's any comfort to you."
"Yes. My thoughts exactly."
"But in the end, victory was yours?"
"Good!" Aubrey smiled contentedly. "Victory is all that counts in the end."
Norrington shook his head.
"Victory is important, that's true. But it takes more than being victorious to be a good officer, Mr. Aubrey."
"What else could there be?"
"Discipline, loyalty, honour, friendship, respect for the men, to name but a few."
"Oh, being a gentleman? That goes without saying, and I think I can say that I fulfil those requirements," Aubrey replied with pride.
"Yes. But it's also important for a good officer to remain always clear-headed. That's almost impossible if you're focussed exclusively on the service. If your head is filled with maps, plans and battle strategies, you'll be at risk of losing the overview, so distractions are important. As for myself, I play the flute whenever time permits. And if we're ashore and a forte piano is at hand, my first lieutenant, Mr. Gillette, will accompany me." Norrington thought of Gillette's freckled fingers, dancing across the keys of the forte piano so lightly and fast that it was almost impossible to follow them with the eyes. "This never fails to restore clear-sightedness, Mr. Aubrey, and ensures perfect cooperation between us, whether we fight Haydn or pirates."
"I've started to play the violin," Aubrey said without much enthusiasm. "So your advice is that I should find a second fiddle?"
"Second fiddles make bad officers, Mr. Aubrey! Better try and find yourself a cello for a perfect duet. But-"
The door behind them was opened with such force that papers were blown off the desk like leaves from the trees in autumn. A tall young man carrying a large pile of papers rushed in. A battered old briefcase was squeezed under his arm, and he dropped everything unceremoniously on the desk, then pushed a strand of unpowdered brown hair out of his face. He was a bit out of breath, which indicated that he must have run rather than walked.
"Gentlemen!" he greeted them cheerfully. "My apologies for being late, my shoes were held at ransom by my son. But now I'm here, and so are you. Captain Norrington? Mr. Aubrey? I'm William Garrow. We best start discussing the case right away. Now where is the file... so you're interested in music? Ah, here it is, let me have a look at it. Jim Bolder, able seaman. Where are my notes... personally, I'm rather fond of playing the forte piano. So, Mr. Bolder is accused of brawling."
Norrington didn't notice the outrage on Jack Aubrey's face upon witnessing such uncouth behaviour, and he didn't listen to William Garrow's words, either. He just stared at the barrister, following each of his movements when he began to pace up and down in front of the window. No gesture of Garrow's hands escaped him, no smile on the good-natured face, not one twinkle in the blue eyes. For the first time since Thomas Gillette had come into his life, Norrington found himself wondering if a perfect duet might be possible with a different performer.
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Chapter 3 Chapter 5
|Yuletide Tales: "THIN ICE" - Chapter 4
by Molly Joyful