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.
* * *
"I think the likeness is very good." Sarah Garrow narrowed her eyes; she stood so close to the printmaker's shop front that her nose almost touched the glass. "Don't you agree, Mary?"
Mrs. Garrow's maid, wrapped to her nose in a warm scarf and carrying a basket, tilted her head.
"I don't know, ma'am," she said, taking a closer look at the caricature. "One can tell it's Mr. Garrow, that's for sure, but the cockscomb is somewhat distracting."
"That's true. But as long as they portray him that way and not with horns... Lady Falham makes an excellent hen, though."
The caricature was really a masterpiece; no wonder the prints sold like fresh bread. Titled "Cock of the Walk", it showed William Garrow, portrayed as a rather flustered cockerel with a disproportionately long tail feather. He was fleeing from a gaggle of adoring hens which looked suspiciously like some of London's beauties of the season. It was rather to the point; more than one lady had set her sights on the young barrister, and the presence of a husband or, in Garrow's case, a wife, was considered a challenge rather than a hindrance. Sarah Garrow took the matter with humour. Few things in life were certain, but her husband's love and loyalty were two of them.
"Speaking of hens - there's Miss Hollow."
"Whatever happened to your manners, Mary?" Sarah said in a mildly chiding tone.
Mary curtsied. "I'm sorry, ma'am". It was obvious she wasn't sorry in the least, but Sarah couldn't blame her. She disliked the pompous and overbearing Miss Hollow as well. One of London's celebrated beauties, character and behaviour of the young lady were unfortunately not as immaculate as her looks. There were rumours of affairs with married men, and of duels fought over her at dawn in Hyde Park. Sarah couldn't muster any outrage over such things; she was too busy with her own love life to care much about anybody else's.
But Miss Hollow had accused one of her kitchen maids of theft. The poor underfed little thing had used rags from one of her mistress's discarded garments to mend her only apron which had caught fire, and though Will and Mr. Southouse, bless their hearts, tried to be positive about the case in Sarah's presence, she knew only too well that the future looked bleak for Mary Wentworth. At best she'd face deportation, and it was very doubtful she'd even survive the passage. Hanging would probably be more merciful a punishment.
"Now, that's very odd," Mary said, more to herself than to her mistress. "It's too long."
Sarah, who had returned her attention to the caricature, thought that Mary meant the tail feather.
"Not at all," she said to herself with a contented smile. But Mary was talking about something completely different, so the double entendre had luckily escaped her.
"But it is, ma'am, just look at that! Her gown is far too long for her, and the bodice is too wide across her chest. What a poor dressmaker she must have!"
Upon Mary's remarks, Sarah looked at Miss Hollow once more, and this time, she observed her carefully. Her maid was right; the material of the gown was of the finest quality; heavy blue silk embroidered with silver. Completely unsuitable for this weather, but very pretty - if it hadn't been so ill-fitting. That was indeed very odd. She would never have accepted such sloppy work from her own dressmaker, and -
"Good God," Sarah said, and she grasped Mary by the arm. "That gown! No wonder it doesn't fit her - she's smaller than I!"
Mary gave her a puzzled look. "I beg your pardon, ma'am?"
Sarah Garrow was so angry that her face turned as red as a cooked lobster, despite white maquillage and sub-zero temperatures.
"Oh, that miserable son of a-"
Sarah took a deep breath. Mary was right, it really wasn't dignified to scream and yell in the street like a fishwife. And she didn't want Miss Hollow to notice her.
"That's my dress," she hissed. "One of three new dresses I never got to wear as they were delivered after the separation from my former husband. He must have given one to her. So he's outfitting his mistresses with my dresses now? That's outrageous!"
Mary put the basket down and rubbed her chin.
"Very outrageous. And very dumb."
"Yes. So it's definitely the type of thing Sir Arthur would do," Sarah replied, her voice filled with enough vitriol to poison half of London. "Surely he must have known there was a good chance I'd see and recognise it?"
"Eh, with all due respect, ma'am, but Sir Arthur, he doesn't know much about women. I mean, the way we think. He probably thought that you wouldn't remember a dress you never wore after all these years, and as he'd already paid for it, he thought he might as well put it to use."
"He didn't pay anything. I paid for them," Sarah grumbled. "I only wonder what happened to the other two. They probably got worn to rags by some actress or dancer."
"Rags?" Mary's face lit up, and she clasped her hands. "Mrs. Garrow, you're a genius! Rags! That's it!"
It took a moment for Sarah to catch up with Mary's train of thought, but when the penny finally dropped, she cheered.
"You are the genius here, Mary! Blessed be you and your eagle eye! We'll leave the legalities to my husband and Mr. Southouse, but as far as the fashion side is concerned, Mary Wentworth is now our case!"
The two women hurried home, filled with all the zeal and pugnacity of two first rate frigates putting to sea to fight the French.
* * *
David looked around the workshop. It was perfect; a cobbler's dream come true. Every tool he'd need was available, and Robert had stocked up on the finest leathers. Well, he'd probably paid somebody to do the job, but still.
"So, what do you think?"
Captain Robert Jones turned his hat in his hands. He couldn't hide his nervousness; with Mrs. Caskey gone, it was the first time in two years that they were alone.
"It is all very beautiful," David simply said. Then he sighed and sat down on a chair. The well-known smell of leather and glue reminded him painfully of many a happy hour he'd spent in his old workshop. It also reminded him of all the things he'd lost. He'd been a well-liked and respected man back then.
"That - doesn't sound overly enthusiastic." Jones finally put his hat on the table and sat down next to David. The situation was awkward, and not at all like he'd expected their reunion to be. And good God, how David had changed! Aged and haggard; it was painful to look at him.
"It's beautiful," David repeated. "But what do you want me to do here?"
Jones folded his hands. "I've had to keep myself busy these last years, and I've set my mind on finding a way for you to continue your life in peace and prosperity. So lately, I've become very interested in skating."
"In - what?" David asked, thinking he'd misheard.
"Skating. On the ice." Jones stood up again and began to pace up and down the workshop. He'd dressed extra carefully in celebration of David's return, and the sight of breeches and coat made from the finest wool and clean white stockings made David feel even more uncomfortable. He looked down at his dirty shoes. One of the buckles was missing, the woollen stockings had holes. And despite a quick catlick in prison, he knew that he didn't smell like roses at the moment. All things considered, he felt like a beggar next to Captain Jones, and he didn't like that feeling at all.
"You see, these last winters have been unusually cold," Jones began to explain.
"So I've noticed."
"And this is the second year in a row the Thames has frozen," Jones continued, not noticing David's irony in his enthusiasm. "There's a big frost fair, which will last for weeks. There are thousands of visitors, hundreds of stalls and much entertainment. Many merchants will make a fortune there, and I can't see why you shouldn't be one of them. Here, have a look at that."
He reached for some papers on the table and handed them to David. The pages were covered with calculations, drawings and notes. David studied them and figured out quickly what they were about.
"Rather than tying the skates to shoes and boots, you intend to screw them on," he said. "And after usage, they can be removed." He nodded. "Excellent idea, I must admit. Skating will be less dangerous."
"Yes! And my invention will make it more fashionable and popular. Just wait and see; soon we'll have even the ladies showing off their skating skills! And you will be the man who provides them with skates. There's the storeroom," he said, pointing at a door behind him. "I've already stocked up on blades in various sizes. I've also hired a helpmate for you. Don't worry, he's one of us."
The workshop was perfect, the plan was perfect. And Robert was perfect as well, at least in David's eyes. Many terrible things he'd seen, heard and experienced in prison had been burnt into his soul. But being separated from Robert had been the worst of it. Not the cold, not the occasional beatings. There had been many times he'd been devastated and in despair, but the knowledge that Robert was waiting had always given him the strength to get up again.
And now he finally had what he wanted. Robert looked at him adoringly - quite a surprise, considering the pitiable state he was in - he was reunited with his lover, the future looked bright and he should be happy. But he wasn't. He wasn't unhappy, either - he just felt blank. Numb. Empty. Still, he knew that he had to say something, anything.
"This is all very beautiful," he repeating the same phrase for a third time. Jones beamed at him; his enthusiasm made him blind to the forced nature of David's words.
"Ah, but you haven't seen the best yet!" he exclaimed. He pulled a wrought-iron key ring out of his coat pocket. "Follow me, David."
Jones opened a narrow door in the back of the workshop. It led to a small corridor and stairs.
"I found you a place to work, but of course you need a place to live as well," he explained, as David followed him upstairs. The wood of the banisters felt smooth under his hand. "The kitchen is back there, on same level as the workshop. Mrs. Caskey has found you a reliable housekeeper and maid, so don't worry about cooking and cleaning. We need a drum roll now - here is your bedchamber!"
David had to think of a magician pulling a rabbit out of his tricorne when Jones opened the door.
"Please, come in. This is your sanctum!"
David did as he was told, and found himself standing in a small but comfortable room. There was a fire in the fireplace, and David soaked up the warmth like a sponge the water. For the first time since his arrival, he began to relax. There was a bed, a wardrobe, a washstand and a chair, plus a wooden silent companion depicting a footman in front of the window. A wall hanging showing St. George and the dragon covered the wall next to the mantelpiece.
"Ah," David sighed. "This is-"
"I know, I know - it's all very beautiful," Jones cut him off, and winked. "But this room has a secret." With a dramatic gesture, he pulled the wall hanging aside, revealing a narrow door.
David gave him a puzzled look. "Another room?"
"No. This door leads to the neighbouring house."
"I don't understand..."
"I bought it. Well, officially, Mr. Caskey bought it, as I didn't want to draw anybody's attention to this business. His cousin will open a butcher's shop there, but the rooms above are mine. So we can meet whenever we want, without anybody noticing. Isn't that brilliant?"
The rabbit disappeared back in the hat, and the magician waited for the audience to applaud him. David couldn't say a word. It was brilliant, no doubt. He couldn't even begin to imagine how much thought - and money! - Robert must have put into this plan. David sat down on the bed, careful not to touch the cover with his hands. He could feel its softness; after two years of sleeping on wood, straw and stone, he had almost forgotten what it was like to lie in a real bed.
It finally dawned on Jones that David might be overwhelmed, and so he sat down next to him. After a moment of hesitation, he put his arm around David's shoulder.
"I'm sorry. I'm an idiot, talking nineteen to the dozen here while all you want and need for now is rest. It's just that - ah, curse it, David. I've missed you so sadly, every second."
David leaned in and their heads touched.
"I just want to sit here with you in silence for a while," he said, closing his eyes. "I guess I haven't arrived. Not yet."
Jones pressed a kiss just above David's brow and pulled him closer. There were many men he could talk to, but David - David was the only one he could enjoy silence with.
* * *
As bothersome as the business with Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa had been, it had left officers and men under the command of Captain Norrington with a fortune in prize money. To be quite honest, they had all been left with far more than they'd been entitled to, and that was all Gillette's doing. The very moment Norrington had begun to talk about setting up an "inventory" for King and Admiralty of all the treasures in the pirates' cave, Gillette had put a crown on Norrington's hat and handed him an apple.
"Eat something and let me handle that," he'd said. "The less you know, the better." Gillette was a practical man, and so was his way of "sharing the prize money". The King, so he decided, already had a crown and didn't need another. The Queen was well-equipped with jewels and could not possibly need more, and as far as the Admiralty was concerned - well. Had it been up to him, they'd received a barrel of rotten apples. In the end, every man under Norrington's command returned home a rich man, the King received a treasure chest filled to the brim with gold and the Admiralty a map of Tortuga plus a report which won Norrington the nickname "James the Storyteller".
Gillette's generous interpretation of the rules for the splitting of prize money was the reason why they both now sat in a coach, on their way to Gillette's townhouse. He'd bought it around the same time as William Garrow had defended Captain Baillie in the case concerning the serious grievances at Greenwich Hospital. That case had been much discussed among the men serving in the navy, and Garrow's championing of Captain Baillie had been the reason why Norrington had immediately agreed to give a statement of character for Garrow's current client when asked.
"And I really think we should replace Groves with a mermaid, don't you agree?"
"Yes, of course," Norrington said absentmindedly. He hadn't been listening to Gillette at all; his thoughts were still with William Garrow. "Ouch! Are you mad?"
Norrington rubbed his thigh, which Gillette had rather rudely poked with his sword.
"A just question, which might as well be addressed to you. What has happened to you, James? You seem like a different man since you've been to that pettifogger."
"He's not a pettifogger at all," Norrington protested. "On the contrary, I think he's a pioneer of justice and a formidable gentleman!" And he had very gentle eyes - not that Norrington felt like mentioning that small detail, though.
Gillette pulled a face. "I see, Saint William has left a deep impression on you."
"I just think we should give credit where credit is due," Norrington said stiffly. "Did you know there are chapbooks about us?"
"Chapbooks?" Gillette laughed. "There are? Why, that's hilarious! I must see them!"
"I don't know what's so funny about it," Norrington grumbled. "We're probably the laughing stock of Britain."
Gillette shrugged. "That's possible. But we're rich laughing stock. Money is the best way to smother mockery. Ah, we've arrived!"
He paid the coachman, and at a knock on the door, Mr. Smith and a footman emerged to unload the sea chests of captain and lieutenant.
"Good to see you home, sir," Smith said, saluting both Gillette and Norrington. "We've kept everything shipshape and Bristol fashion, and your rooms are prepared. The wife's aired the beds and the maid's started the fires this morning, so it's warm and comfortable."
In the early days of Gillette's career, Charles Smith had taken the rebellious boy under his wing and taught him the ropes. He'd often had a calming influence on the hot-headed midshipman, and when he and his family lost their place at Greenwich Hospital as a consequence of protesting the ill-treatment of the seamen there, Gillette had offered Smith and his wife employment and shelter. The offer had been gladly accepted, and so Mr. and Mrs. Smith looked after Gillette's townhouse while he was at sea.
The sea chests were hauled upstairs, much to the entertainment of the five Smith children. Daniel, the eldest, was determined to join the navy, and the arrival of Captain Norrington and Lieutenant Gillette was a big event.
"Done!" Smith declared, and wiped the sweat off his brow. "Welcome home, sir. Anything you need, just call."
"Thank you. I think we're fine for the moment. We'd like to have tea later on, though."
"Certainly, sir! I'll tell the wife." Smith saluted again, and left Gillette to his fate. The lieutenant immediately went to the connecting door which led to Norrington's room, and knocked softly.
He heard the lock squeak as the key was turned, and made a mental note that he'd need to oil it. The Smith's quarters were far away, and the walls thick, but still, no sense in taking risks. Norrington had already taken off his coat, his hat was on the table and the wig hung on the bedpost. Gillette had to grin; his own sloppiness was beginning to rub off on his lover.
"And you thought buying the townhouse was a bad idea," he said, closing his arms around Norrington's waist and kissing his nose. "We have doors that can be locked, adjoining rooms and two beds to choose from. Could it be any more perfect, James?"
Norrington smiled and leaned into the embrace. "No, and though I hate to admit it, you were right. This time."
Gillette steered Norrington gently towards the bed. "I did mention the advantages of a bed, didn't I?" A push, and they both sank into the soft cover and cushions. Norrington closed his eyes, enjoying a kiss and the sensation of Gillette's body covering his for a moment. Then he sighed.
"Thomas, the tea will be ready any moment, and Mr. Smith is not really the kind of man I'd want to find us in the process of breaking an article of war. So, unfortunately..."
"Leave it to the navy to ruin all fun." Gillette sat up. "But tonight, dear James, we'll make up for it!"
"Let's hope the formidable Mr. Smith and his wife are sound sleepers."
"Ah, they won't notice anything. And we won't be here, anyway. I can't wait to finally take you to my favourite molly house. No worries about the sleep of housekeepers, and any witnesses of indecent occurrences there would greatly enjoy the spectacle!"
Norrington froze, and stared at Gillette in disbelief.
"You want to take me to a molly house?"
"Of course," Gillette replied cheerfully, "this is London! You've never been to such a place, it's about time! You'll love it, James. Nobody has to hide, nobody has to pretend, and everybody there is just like us."
Norrington scrambled to sit up.
"No, not like us. We have nothing in common with - them. Do I look like a Macaroni to you, Thomas? Do you really expect me to paint my face and - good God, there will be men wearing women's dresses! What is wrong with you?"
"So what if they want to have a bit of fun? No skin off your nose, and anyway, you wouldn't even know about their inclination if you were to meet them on the street. Most of them are married and have families. Their wives don't know, and they are wise not to tell them. I wouldn't tell my wife, either."
Norrington couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Wife? Are you considering getting married?"
"Of course I'll get married one day," Gillette replied. "As a matter of fact, so will you. Anything else would be madness and far too dangerous. For now, you're spared uncomfortable questions because people assume you're still heartbroken over Elizabeth Swann. But sooner or later, there will be questions. And even if your family and friends don't ask, you may trust me that your enemies will."
Norrington ran his hands through his hair.
"Never. I'll never do that. What is this? I feel like I don't know you any more, Thomas. Your suggestion, it's immoral. I could never share you. I couldn't live like that."
Gillette sat up and rested his head on Norrington's shoulder.
"Those are good words, James, and I appreciate the sentiment," he said, all anger gone from his voice. "You're a better person than I, that's for sure. But I've heard the same words before, and I've been there when the one speaking them ended his days by hanging from the gallows. I would rather see you married with twelve children than suffer the same fate, James. This is not about love; it's about survival. Immoral? Maybe. But the only way for the fox to survive the hunt is by running with the hounds and baying."
"Wouldn't it make more sense if the fox hid from the hounds in the first place?"
Gillette chuckled, then kissed Norrington's neck.
"Unfortunately, the fox has no say in the matter. Now don't be glum, James. I'll take you to a wonderful place tonight where we can be ourselves without fear. Please do me the favour - I want to show off with you."
Norrington shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Thomas. I can't. Even if I wanted to, which I don't. I - have an appointment for supper."
Gillette let go of him.
"Appointment? Why in the devil's name are you making appointments on our first evening alone?"
"Mr. Garrow invited me. For supper. And music-making."
Norrington had expected protests. An angry Thomas was easy to deal with, but this silence was awkward.
"Very well then. You'll make music, I'll make merry. Just try not to get yourself into trouble, James," Gillette finally said.
"So your mind is still set on going to that place?" Norrington didn't like the idea. "It's dangerous, I really wish you wouldn't go."
Gillette stood up and went to the connecting door and opened it.
"James, you'll be in greater danger than I. Please keep that in mind."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Don't forget to bay, that's all I'm saying. I'll see you for tea."
Gillette closed the door gently behind him, rather than slamming it shut. This was highly out of character for him and that, more than his words, worried Norrington.
* * *
Chapter 4 Chapter 6
|Yuletide Tales: "THIN ICE" - Chapter 5
by Molly Joyful