Genre: slash, drama/humour
Pairings: Norrington/Gillette, Gillette/Beckett unrequited
Feedback: very welcome. Good or bad.
Summary: Lieutenant Partridge wants to get rid of Gillette, Lord Cutler Beckett wishes to dispose of Norrington. Ideal conditions for a business arrangement...?
"I must admit that I'm pleasantly surprised to see you here, Lieutenant Partridge. If I wish to talk to officers of the Royal Navy, I usually have to send guards to escort the gentlemen in question to my office."
Partridge bowed his head.
"My lord, I'm afraid that discipline under former Commodore Norrington has been a little lax. However, I have no doubt that this has changed, now that he's serving you and the East India Trading Company."
Lord Cutler Beckett gave his factotum, Mr. Mercer, a sly sidewise glance.
"Mr. Mercer, we have finally found a man who acknowledges my potential. My life would be so much easier if all officers were like our dear lieutenant here."
Mercer arched an eyebrow, sniffed and returned his attention to the map on the wall. He didn't consider Partridge worth a comment.
"Very well then. We've exchanged compliments; now let's talk about business." Cutler Beckett pointed at his visitor, eyes narrowed. "I must warn you, though: I'm a very difficult customer, I'm not easily pleased. If the goods you wish to sell should not be up to my expectations, I might become irritated."
Partridge smiled smugly.
"My lord, I dare say that you will be very pleased, and it goes without saying that I expect the payment to be on par with the quality of the goods."
Cutler Beckett folded his hands in front of him, his index-fingers pointing at the ink well.
"You wish to dispose of Admiral Norrington, I wish to get rid of Captain Gillette. Those are ideal conditions for a business agreement. And I know how to make our wishes come true, my lord."
Not a muscle moved in Cutler Beckett's face, he only pushed the ink well a little further towards the edge of the desk.
"Now have you? Really? That's very interesting. Now, let's pretend for a moment that I really would wish to dispose of the formidable admiral - how could that be achieved? Theoretically speaking, of course."
"Of course. That could be achieved if an offence were committed by Admiral Norrington and Captain Gillette that, according to the law, would be punishable by death."
Cutler Beckett leaned back in his seat.
"There are so many laws; the parliament seems to be obsessed with them. How to pick the right one, Mr. Partridge?"
"Would 'buggery' be the right choice?"
"Buggery, aha. Now I admit, that's interesting. Trials for buggery are far more entertaining than those for theft, in any case. But are you aware of the consequences if you should accuse two esteemed gentlemen of such a heinous crime without proof and witnesses?"
Partridge gave Cutler Beckett an arrogant glance.
"I have all the proof needed, my lord, and more: you can witness the crime yourself."
Cutler Beckett frowned. He stood up and began to pace up and down in front of his desk. Norrington's desk, as the pesky Mr. Gillette pointed out on every possible occasion.
"We are not talking about fools here, Mr. Partridge. If any of these two gentlemen should ever commit the crime you accuse them of, there would be no witnesses. Mr. Gillette is a firebrand and rather protective of his friends, as you might have noticed. Possible witnessed would probably end in Davy Jones' locker, as they say, tied to a cannon ball."
"With all due respect, my lord, but I think you overestimate Captain Gillette. I admit, it took me a couple of months to get on his tracks, but with your help, the trap will snap close this Friday."
"Mr. Mercer, what are your thoughts on this matter?" Cutler Beckett asked, turning to his factotum.
"I would think that it is our duty to look into this, my lord," he replied, and Cutler Beckett nodded.
"Very well then. Name your price, Mr. Partridge."
Partridge licked his lips.
"I want the Dauntless."
"You're aware I'm not a member of the Admiralty? I'm only a humble servant of the East India Trading Company. How could I possibly be of any help to you?"
"Considering James Norrington's history, he should have been hanged or shot long ago. That he's still here, back in rank and with his honour restored is your doing, my lord. I'm very confident that it's within your powers to pay my price."
Cutler Beckett stood there, tapping his fingers on the desk, considering Lieutenant Partridge's suggestion. "I see," he said coldly. "Let's not beat around the bush: you want Gillette's ship and his rank, and to achieve that, you're willing to send your own captain to the gallows."
Partridge hesitated a moment, but then he nodded. "Yes. I'm a man with great ambitions, my lord. I'm a gentleman and a highly capable officer; King, country and the East India Company would profit greatly from my services. Captain Gillette, on the other hand, is nothing but a peasant, and definitely not a gentleman. He's an obstacle we have to remove. And so is Admiral Norrington."
Cutler Beckett nodded in agreement. "Your assessment of the situation is quite correct, and I appreciate men who know what they want. Mr. Mercer, please listen to Mr. Partridge's report and arrange everything needed."
"Yes, my lord," Mercer replied, bowed and beckoned Partridge to follow him.
* * *
"Thomas, I really don't think that this is a very good idea," Norrington protested. "What if anybody sees us here?"
"Nobody will. Decent people don't visit this part of Port Royal." Gillette continued to lead the way through labyrinthine alleyways. None of the carousers on the street paid any attention to them, only a sickly looking strumpet with a nasty rash on her face gave Norrington a lecherous smile. He quickly lowered his gaze.
"And what about the indecent ones?"
"They serve under your command, so you shouldn't ask me," Gillette snapped.
"Wait, Thomas. Please," Norrington begged, and held him back by the arm. The two men halted, and Gillette shook his head.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
"Groves is serving under my command as well, Thomas. Certainly you wouldn't call him an indecent man? Or Mullroy? Murtogg?"
"No, of course not. It just makes me sick that I have to see you and so many good men wearing that bloody uniform. It's not right. It shouldn't be like that."
"I'm not wearing that uniform now. Nor do you wear yours. We are just - ourselves. I haven't seen you for such a long time, Thomas. I've missed you, please, just for once, let's not waste our time arguing about things that we can't change."
Gillette looked at Norrington. The last months had left traces on his face. Deep lines, wrinkles around his eyes, scars, cheeks hollow. He had aged a year for every month he had been away from Port Royal, but he was still James Norrington, and Gillette loved him.
"Come. We'll be there any moment."
They continued their way and finally reached a small, seedy-looking hut. The scenery reminded Norrington of Tortuga, and he began to have second thoughts again.
"Thomas, I really think that-"
"Stop thinking," Gillette cut him off. He looked around to make sure nobody had followed them, then he opened the door and dragged Norrington inside.
"Shoot the bolt, James."
"We could still leave," Norrington said, looking at the tiny room with the narrow bed. It was lit only by the light of the moon, and against the window, Gillette was little more than a lithe silhouette.
"Do you want us to leave?"
Norrington reached out and touched Gillette's face.
"No. Oh God, no. I wish we would never have to leave again."
* * *
"And? Have I promised too much?" Partridge asked triumphantly.
Lord Cutler Beckett, hardly recognisable without his wig and dressed in plain clothes, didn't reply. He sat on the lowest branch of a tree, feet dangling in a rather boyish fashion, and watched the interesting goings-on in the hut through a spy glass. It was the best spy glass in Port Royal, a gift from Norrington to Gillette on occasion of his promotion. How thoughtful. And what a wonderful, starlit night this was! Not a cloud in the sky, perfect conditions for their enterprise.
"Truly remarkable, Mr. Mercer. You have to see this." Cutler Beckett passed the spy glass to his factotum who sat behind him. Mercer took a look as well and cleared his throat.
"Indeed. You have been right, my lord, and I fear I have lost our bet. Admiral Norrington is in charge. Who would have thought? But at least I was right in my assessment that he is a man of the dagger rather than of the sword, if I may say so."
Partridge looked from Mercer to Cutler Beckett, slightly confused by their conversation.
"Is this proof enough? Do you want me to call the marines and catch the two buggers in the act?"
Mercer returned the spy glass to Cutler Beckett, who turned his attention to Partridge.
"This is proof enough, indeed, and I will make sure that your reward will match the significance of your findings, Mr. Partridge. Have you shared your knowledge with anybody but me and Mr. Mercer?"
"Of course not, my lord. Nobody but you could pay me the price I deserve."
"That is very true," Cutler Beckett replied, and hit Partridge over the head with Gillette's spy glass. He did so with great strength, and the lieutenant fell over without making a sound. Mr. Mercer quickly climbed down the tree and checked on the unconscious man.
Cutler Beckett looked once more through the spy glass. "How regrettable, they have finished their performance. But this spy glass is really of excellent quality, Mr. Mercer. Not a dent, and the lenses didn't crack. Is he dead?"
"Only unconscious, my lord," Mercer reported. "Do you wish me to dispose of him? I could snap his neck, or maybe…"
"No. While I'm very upset that Mr. Partridge attempted to rob me of the only amusing person in Port Royal, I feel that I owe him a favour for this most entertaining night. Ah, Gillette - what can I say about him? What a sight, Mr. Mercer, what a sight! Mr. Norrington, on the other hand.. what has been seen cannot be unseen, I'm afraid. A hairy affair, Mr. Mercer." Cutler Beckett shuddered, then he remembered Mercer's question. "Put Mr. Partridge on a slow boat to China. The slowest boat of the East India Company you can find."
"As you wish, my lord."
Cutler Beckett folded the spy glass and put it in the pocket of his coat, then he swung one leg over the branch and jumped off the tree. Once he was safely back on the ground, he looked up at the moon and smiled.
"I cannot wait to repeat this experience, Mr. Mercer. I just have to know if Mr. Gillette is a man of the dagger or the sword."
Mercer shook his head and put on his gloves. "With all due respect, my lord, but I wish you would find yourself another pastime. One that's more - receptive to your charms."
Cutler Beckett looked back at the small hut and sighed.
"Yes, yes, but where would be the fun in that? Sometimes being rejected is far more entertaining than being wanted, Mr. Mercer. Acceptance ends the game, but rejection extends its running time."
Mercer searched Partridge's pockets. The man was heavy, it would be hard work to lug him to the port without being noticed, and Mercer wasn't a young man anymore. Damned be Gillette and his lordship's game: it was high time to get Cutler Beckett interested in chess.
* * *
|LIEUTENANT PARTRIDGE'S AMBITIONS
by Molly Joyful