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.
* * *
Norrington found that the reputation of Sarah and William Garrow as warm and genial hosts was well deserved. Under their friendly guidance, friends and neighbours created an atmosphere of cheerfulness which made him, a stranger, feel as welcome as an old family friend. Young Samuel had talked his head off, and Norrington had found great joy in entertaining the child with stories of mermaids and pirates. Gillette's words still echoed in his ears. As obvious as it was, the fact that staying with Gillette and never getting married also meant never being a father had never crossed Norrington's mind before. Looking at Samuel's happy face was like a stab in his heart, and he quickly returned his attention to the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow.
The meal had been excellent, and the bottles of finest port - courtesy of Mr. Southouse - had brought supper to a perfect close and paved the way for music, merry-making and coffee. Mr. Garrow took up his place at the forte piano, and accompanied his wife, who had a lovely singing voice. As a great lover of music, Norrington couldn't help but notice that Garrow played with more enthusiasm than skill, but it was a decent concert and he enjoyed himself a lot. The audience applauded wildly, and as an encore, Mrs. Garrow sang a song about the adventures of a drunken highwayman. Not really the kind of tune you'd expect a lady to sing, but she performed with much irony and a twinkle in her eyes. More applause, and then Garrow hit the keys, drawing everybody's attention.
"My dear friends, we have a musical surprise for you tonight," he said. The audience oh'd and ah'd, and Norrington shifted uncomfortably on his chair. Garrow stood up and bowed in his direction. "Captain Norrington of the Royal Navy has kindly allowed me to accompany him on the forte piano. Please, come here, captain."
Norrington stood up and headed for the piano. Samuel was rushing to his side, carrying the flute carefully, and Norrington couldn't decide whether his wobbly knees were due to a bout of stage fright or Garrow's encouraging smile.
"Don't worry, Captain Norrington," Garrow whispered. "You have an appreciative audience, and I'm perfectly certain that we'll be a perfect duet."
His words managed to direct Norrington's thoughts immediately in a completely different direction, which had little to do with music but everything to do with duets. Despite feeling a flush of heat rising in his face, Norrington managed a smile and concentrated on his flute. A moment later, Clementi's Andante filled the air.
* * *
Taking off his uniform was like taking off the lieutenant. Gillette didn't give coat, breeches or waistcoat a second glance after putting them on the oak valet; his focus was on his wardrobe for the evening. He'd never liked to dress in bright colours and wouldn't allow himself more than a dab of powder. It was safer not to attract too much attention, and Gillette had also learned very early on that a confident manner could be more alluring than silk and velvet. So, after a moment of consideration, he decided to wear a plain silk-lined suit of brown wool. It complimented the colour of his hair without making him look like a lighthouse. Though Gillette had always hated wigs, he missed them for their unquestionable advantages when it came to blending in with the crowd.
Hat and walking stick completed the outfit, and a critical look in the mirror showed Gillette exactly what he wanted to see: a respectable but inconspicuous gentleman. Once on the street, he pulled his hat well down over his face to protect it from the blizzard. He sniffed; at sea, he could tell if a storm was approaching by the scent of the air, but here in London, the accumulated stench of too many people living in too small a space told him nothing except that the sewer system of his hometown being in desperate need for an overhaul.
Gillette could have called a coach or hired a sedan chair, but he had no interest in being noticed. He preferred to brave wind and snow than worry all night over a real or imagined wry look by the coachman. And the favourite molly house of his past was only a few streets away. He was still angry with Norrington for preferring his musical soiree to an evening spent in his company, but then again, maybe it wasn't such a bad thing if Norrington didn't encounter Gillette's past. He had only ever known him as the reliable, loyal lieutenant, either ignoring or simply not considering that there had been a life beside the Royal Navy - and before Norrington - for his companion.
He strode along swiftly, eager to get out of the freezing cold, and soon turned into a narrow, dark alleyway. There, half-hidden between barrels and crates, was a small door. Gillette felt his heart beat faster - he was about to return to a place that had always been very dear to him, and he feared the changes it might have undergone. Would there be familiar faces? One would be missing for sure, and that thought still hurt. Funny how such old wounds could still be surprisingly painful.
Gillette knocked twice on the door, paused, knocked once, then three times. He took off his hat and put his ear to the door; yes, he heard steps. A small peephole was opened. He couldn't see who was on the other side, but the voice asking his name and business was unknown to him.
"Tell Mother that David is here," he said. "She'll know."
The peephole closed. Gillette waited, tapping his foot. The snow was now falling so heavily that he couldn't see further than his own hand. He drew circles and spirals in the snow with the tip of his walking stick, hoping that the servant would return soon.
"Mother said you're welcome," the voice finally said, and the door opened just enough for Gillette to slip through. He found himself face to face with a servant, who gestured in the direction of the stairs.
"I trust you know the way?"
"Indeed, I do," Gillette answered, and gave the man a coin. He bowed, and then took his position behind the door again while Gillette went upstairs. The heavy curtains he had to push aside to enter 'The Magpie' were now of a dark green, not the red that he remembered, but once inside, he found that not much had changed. Candles provided enough light to prevent stumbles over the carpets, but kept the room dark enough to allow for discrete fondling. The air was filled with laughter and the sound of violin and piano, providing the musical background. Two couples were dancing, and when they passed him, Gillette could see the appreciative looks. One of the men winked at him, and Gillette smiled.
"David! Is it really true?"
Gillette turned his head and saw Mother hurrying towards him. Without much care for etiquette and decorum, she opened her arms and hugged him. He happily obliged, and when she finally let go of him, he made an elegant bow.
"Always at your service, Mother. I'm very glad to find you here in good health and not looking a day older than when we last parted."
She laughed. "Liar! But it's a charming lie, so I'll forgive you. I've missed you, David."
"I don't go by that name anymore, but I thought I would be refused entrance if I'd said I was Tom Tar."
"You'll always be David to me."
"But David is nothing without his Jonathan, isn't he? And Jonathan is no more."
She put her hand on his arm and squeezed it gently.
"That's true, and the world is a poorer place for it. But let's not dwell on the past; it saddens me, and everybody else is here to make merry."
Gillette nodded and looked around the room. There were some familiar faces, but none of the men had been close friends of his. Then his eye caught a lonely figure sitting on a sofa, trying hard to hide in the shadow of a screen of colourful Chinese silk.
"Not everybody though, it seems."
Mother shook her head.
"Ah, that's another David, and one that's very dear to me. You must know, he's just been released from Newgate. I don't even know why he's here, for he's got a home and a lover doting on him. But what do I know; two years is a long time and can change a man."
Gillette didn't know why, of all the men in the room, the most miserable looking one had to catch his attention.
"I'll find out." He kissed Mother on the cheek and made his way across the room. As James had given Mr. Garrow preference over him, he might as well try to be a Jonathan for another David and strike up a conversation.
* * *
David regretted deeply that he had come to the 'Magpie'. He had felt out of place in his new home, and lonely once Robert had left, but now, among all the chatting and smiling people, he was truly alone. The cloth of his new clothes, not worn in yet, chafed his skin whenever he moved, and the shoes pinched. He had received inviting smiles and interested looks, but had quickly lowered his eyes and made it clear that he was not interested in company. This, in a place where finding company was the main purpose, was definitely a stupid thing to do.
He hadn't paid much notice to the new arrival, until the man took his leave from Mother and crossed the room. He'd kissed Mother on the cheek, so he must be a very close friend if she allowed him to take such liberties. He was tall and lean, hair a warm shade of auburn, and David identified him easily as a sailor by his gait. No, not a mere sailor. Judging people quickly and correctly was vitally important in Newgate, and David had learned those skills very soon. There was a natural authority about the man, and his clothes looked expensive, so he must be serving in a higher rank. David froze when he realised that the officer was approaching him, and quickly leaned back, hoping that this would remove him from sight. Alas, no such luck. Brown eyes looked down a long nose at him.
"With your permission?"
David hesitated, then nodded. It was a matter of politeness, not the wish for company.
The officer sat down next to him in one elegant move.
"I'm Thomas," the officer introduced himself, and smiled at him, giving David the chance to admire the rare sight of a perfect set of teeth. "Mother told me that you are David?"
"Yes, my name is David. I don't want to insult you, but I'm not looking for company."
"Oh, I'm perfectly certain you did not come here to find somebody to keep you warm at night," Thomas said cheerfully. "But drinking is more fun in company, don't you agree?"
He gave a sign to one of the servants, who quickly arrived with wine and glasses. David didn't protest. Thomas was right; he was in the mood for cognac rather than copulation. He sipped the wine, and luckily, Thomas made no attempt to start a conversation. He just sat there with his glass, giving him an encouraging smile from time to time.
"You're a regular guest, I assume?" David finally asked. "As you know Mother so well."
"I - used to be. But the last time I was here was - oh, six, seven years ago? A long time, anyway. And you?"
David rolled the glass between his hands.
"It's my first visit in two years. Did she tell you?"
"Only that you've spent the last two years in a place which is even less comfortable and agreeable than a sixth rate frigate."
"I've never been on a frigate, but I doubt it could be worse than Newgate."
"Depends on the frigate and her captain." Thomas took another sip of wine. "But now you're a free man; what troubles you so?"
David was not the man to share his thoughts with everybody; Robert had often complained that talking to him was like pulling teeth. But that was because Robert knew and loved him. Thomas, on the other hand, was a stranger. He would never have to see him again, no matter what he said. David began to feel at ease.
"You've come here to make merry. There's nothing merry about my story."
"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want to hear it. So, tell me. You have my word as a gentleman and officer that I will keep any secret safe and nobody shall ever learn of our conversation."
David believed him, and his inner voice told him that Thomas could be trusted.
"Have you ever been in love? I'm not talking about the excitement upon seeing a handsome face; I'm talking about finding the second half of your soul."
"I wouldn't put it like that, personally, but I know what you're talking about. It's the kind of love that will rip your heart out and drive you to the brink of insanity, should it fail."
"That's very graphic. But yes. I have found such love. That was the worst thing about the two years I've been locked up: not seeing him once."
"Now, I've been with my love for two years, and I've seen him every day."
"Sounds like heaven to me," David said wistfully.
Thomas frowned, thinking of the five or six times in the last two years that he'd had the chance to touch James, and the agonising months he hadn't even dared to look at him. A battleship had much to offer, but not privacy.
"It was hell. But please, continue."
"I found such love, and it's been my ruin. I've lost everything I had - my reputation, my wife, my business. But I still have him, so I should be happy, shouldn't I?"
So that was where the shoe pinched. "But you are not happy, and you feel guilty because you realise that sometimes love alone is not enough?"
David, still clutching the glass in his hands, looked up in surprise.
"Yes! Yes, that's it! Love is not enough. He's given me everything; I left prison to find myself gifted with a workshop and a home, but it's not mine. Nothing is mine. Not the pans or the bed or the lasts or even the clothes. See?" He put the wine aside and pulled on one of his sleeves. "For the price of this coat I could have got three in my former life! His pans, his bed, his lasts and his clothes. Damnation, I feel like even I am his property!"
"I understand. You don't want to be a kept mistress."
David's face turned red.
"You don't mince your words, do you?"
"I don't have the reputation of being much of a diplomat, no. But isn't it true? Just like a lord might install his actress-mistress in a comfortable apartment in the city and pay her milliner bills, your gentleman has installed his - as you mentioned 'lasts' - cobbler-lover in a comfortable workshop and pays your tailor bills. What man, rent boys aside, would like such an arrangement?"
Diplomacy was definitely not one of Thomas' fortes, but he'd hit the nail right on the head and articulated the problem better than David could have ever managed.
"Very harsh, but I'm afraid you are right. I had planned to leave London upon my release, taking Robert with me. Maybe even leave the country. I don't believe that I can live here anymore, not after everything that has happened. People know what I am. There can't be peace or happiness for me."
"Well, all people."
"No. You said they know what you are. But it should be about who you are, shouldn't it?"
"I don't understand what you're getting at, " David said, rather confused.
"Most people are cattle, David, and they have the attention span of a trout. Be a gentleman, act like a gentleman, and they will see a gentleman. Simple as that. And with all due respect, I really don't think your fate is of such importance to the people of the good city of London that, after two years, they should still remember why you were in prison, that you were in prison, or even that you exist in the first place."
David leaned back. Thomas had a point. Did people stare at him because they recognised him, or because he expected them to? He'd have to think about it.
"And what do you suggest I do about my situation?"
"You can be the squiggle on your lover's Q or your own master. You don't want to be a kept lover? Then tell him to take workshop, shoe buckles and chamber pot and stick them where the sun doesn't shine. Tell him that the opposite of 'good' is 'well-meant'. He can't know what you want if you don't tell him. Love can do many things, but it doesn't turn people into mind readers, my friend. If he loves you, he'll understand."
David felt as if Thomas' sharp tongue had cut the Gordian knot he'd had in his head. His mood had improved significantly, and he was just about to thank Thomas for his advice when the house was shaken by a strong gust of wind. Some of the guests hurried to the windows, pushing the curtains aside to see what was going on.
"It's a blizzard," Mother said. "By my word, I've never seen so much snow in all of my life!" She clapped her hands, and everybody looked at her.
"My friends! I suggest that you leave now if you need to be home tonight, for I fear we'll be snowed in by morning. Those who have a long way home are probably best staying here."
Wigs were adjusted, cravats tied and breeches discreetly buttoned up. The musicians put away their instruments and servants hurried to assist the patrons with whatever needs they might have. Only four of the men stayed seated, probably taking Mother up on her offer of shelter.
David buried his head in his hands. "Wonderful. That's all I needed. Now I'm stuck here; there's no way I can make it to the other side of the city."
"David, you're a gentle soul and very handsome, but you're a terrible worrywart. There's a blizzard roaring outside, and you're in a warm and safe place, with enough wine to see you through all of the winter and, not to forget, the premium of my company. Consider yourself blessed."
He had to smile.
"I do. Your company's indeed very pleasant, and thank you for the compliment. It's a lie, but a charming one."
Thomas rolled his eyes.
"Why does everybody accuse me of being a charming liar tonight? I'd have no qualms telling you that you have a mug only a mother could love if that was the case."
They laughed, and Thomas, not known for subtlety, swung his legs over the armrest and lay down, his head resting in David's lap, and closed his eyes.
David looked down at Thomas. This was unexpected, but the attention wasn't unwelcome. He could feel a heat spreading through his body that he'd last felt over two years ago. This was scary, exciting, and without a doubt a very stupid thing to do, but after a moment of hesitation, he rested one hand on Thomas' chest and ran the other through his hair. It felt odd, not soft as he'd expected. Then he remembered Thomas' profession - it was probably tar.
"So it looks like I have to stay here. And you?"
Thomas opened his eyes slowly and gave David a decidedly lecherous smile.
"I live too far away," he lied. "And by now, this pillow is too hard for me."
David licked his lips. He wasn't used to such a direct approach, but he liked it. Thomas reached up and caressed David's face; he would never have thought a seaman capable of touches of such feathery lightness.
"Then we should find one that's softer."
He reached for Thomas' hand and pressed a kiss on it. Permission had been asked, permission had been granted, and whatever the consequences, he'd deal with them later.
* * *
The baby had interrupted the concert with loud crying. Sarah Garrow and her maid Mary had hurried to little David's cot, and after they'd changed his napkin and sung him a song, the little boy had quickly fallen asleep again. While Mary went to dispose of the soiled napkin, Sarah picked up a book of fairytales. William had been reading the stories to Samuel, and as usual, had forgotten to put it back on the shelf. When she reached up to do just that, an envelope slipped from the pages of the book. She caught it mid-air and had a look at it.
"How odd," she said to herself, then she remembered how yesterday a letter had been delivered for William just before Samuel had gone to bed. Her beloved but rather scatterbrained husband must have used the letter as a bookmark and then forgotten about it.
"Well, I'll give it to him later." She looked at the envelope one more time, and then she frowned. She knew that hand. Could it be? Sarah wasn't a woman who'd snoop on her husband's correspondence, but in this case, she'd make an exception. She pulled a pin from her hair; a lock of hair fell over her face. Uncaring, she swiftly opened the letter and read the note inside. First she paled, then her face became red.
"You bastard! Oh, this time we'll play by my rules!"
She put the letter in a pocket of her skirt and returned to the guests. She'd prepared for war with Sir Arthur, but had not expected that it would be a battle on two fronts! Never mind, she'd expand the armoury.
* * *
Chapter 5 Chapter 7
|Yuletide Tales: "THIN ICE" - Chapter 6
by Molly Joyful