Genre: pre-slash, romance, humour
Feedback: very welcome. Good or bad.
Summary: Mr. Norrington, waiting for a new command, discovers an interesting distraction on the local market square.
At times James Norrington wondered if he should put an end to the disgusting display of violence on the market square. But who would have dared to deal with such an unpredictable enemy? His marines, maybe... but then Norrington recalled that he had no ship, no command and therefore no marines at the moment. The Arrowhead was moored, and so was he. And anyway, a bucket of cold water might have pacified the parties at odds with each other as well.
Norrington pushed the plate with his half-finished meal aside. The fish was probably excellent and the sauce delicious, but he found it difficult to enjoy his lonely lunch. He was moored. A fish out of the water. For the first two weeks, dwelling in self-pity had been a comfort, but now, after five months, Norrington was bored to tears.
"Here, try to finish before the servants catch you." The cat, sleeping under the table while Norrington had poked around in the peas, stretched and yawned. Norrington smiled and put the plate on the floor, but Wig, a one-eyed ginger beast, sniffed with contempt. Norrington had no idea if it was because she disliked the fish or because the plate had been placed on the floor. One never knew. The moment they had moved in the luxurious townhouse, Wig had turned from ship's cat to spoilt pet within minutes. Well, at least somebody enjoyed being ashore.
The yelling and screaming coming from the market square increased. Norrington knew from experience that the ruckus would continue for quite a while, so he stood up from the table and looked out of the window. "One should think they'd become bored with this after a while."
A large crowd had gathered around two women, and the insults the two ladies hurled at each other were of the sort that could make the hair on a bald man's head curl.
"In future centuries, they will refer to this as The Fish War Of 1767, old girl," Norrington said to Wig. "I should probably consider myself blessed that I have the chance to witness such an important historic event. Good grief, just listen to me. If only I could put to sea again!"
It wasn't very likely, though. Day after day Norrington had been waiting for news from the Admiralty, news of a new command, a new challenge. But no such news had arrived; instead Norrington had received invitation upon invitation for lunches, suppers, hunts and soirees, mostly by people he only knew from hear-say. People with unmarried daughters. At first he had attended those events, out of fear to offend the hosts, but now he turned all invitations politely but firmly down. There was a limit to the suffering he could take.
Norrington feared it would be impossible to keep his sanity if he had to sit through one more soiree listening to "lovely Miss Maude" or "enchanting Miss Norton" singing. Especially as almost none of the young ladies held true love for music. They were like trained poodles, barking as their mothers had taught them, in the erroneous opinion that a gentleman would appreciate such performances. As far as Norrington was concerned, a woman with a good head on her shoulders and a mind of her own would certainly make a better wife than one whose main talent was singing like a lark or, in the case of lovely Miss Maude, like a crow with a sore throat.
As comfortable as the luxurious townhouse was: Norrington would have switched silver plates and soft pillows for tin cup and a simple cot without thinking twice. He was bored, he felt useless, and he had nobody to talk to. People, so he had learned, weren't interested in incredible stories that were true. And he wasn't very good at spinning yarn. So the weekly squabble on the market square provided some much-needed distraction.
On the other side of the place he could see the "Sour Grape" Inn. Not a place he would have visited or even noticed if it hadn't been for Lieutenant Gillette. He had first noticed the young man at the "Trademan" coffeehouse, engaged in lively discussion with an other lieutenant. Norrington, hoping to learn news without having to talk to the two men, chose a table in a corner, sipping on his coffee, following the conversation of Mr. Gillette and Mr. Groves.
The two officers were waiting for news as well. For a while Mr. Groves lamented the hardships of an officer on half-pay, but then it was Mr. Gillette who did the talking. Mr. Gillette talked a lot; nineteen to a dozen, jumping from once subject to the other, and half of it was probably balderdash. It was difficult to keep track of Gillette's train of thought, but Norrington tried his best. He found himself sitting in front of a cup with cold coffee, realising that he had spent almost two hours eavesdropping and watching Mr. Gillette's malleable round face with greatest fascination.
Mr. Groves and Mr. Gillette visited the "Trademan" on Mondays and Fridays, as Norrington soon figured out, and he made it a habit of being there before their arrival. By now the two lieutenants greeted him upon arrival with all due respect, but of course he avoided a conversation and pretended to study the Bath Advertiser. At times he looked up from the paper, and more often than not, he caught a glimpse of Gillette catching a glimpse of him, and both men would immediately look away. Norrington spent a lot of time thinking of and about Gillette, and since he had learned that the young man stayed at the inn on the other side of the market square, he looked out for a candle in Gillette's window at night. Sometimes there really was a light, which was comforting. Pathetic, and very much so; a fact Norrington was well aware of.
"Nonsense." Norrington shook his head and returned his attention to the goings-on outside. Things were getting interesting! It was only a matter of moments before Mrs. Greene, the fish monger's wife, would slap Mrs. Brown with a trout. Mrs. Brown was an apple woman who could count Mr. Gillette among her customers - another useless fact Norrington had collected. There would be more yelling and screaming, and the weekly argument between the two women would finally escalate into a terrible fight with dogfish and tunnies and apples flying all over the place. Delightful! Once Mr. Groves had almost ruined the fun by trying to reconcile the two parties, but had fled the place when the first eel had come-a-flying. The man was courageous, but not suicidal.
Norrington had no idea what the women were arguing about in the first place. Fishes, he assumed. Or apples. But whatever the reason, the ladies seemed to secretly enjoy it; otherwise they wouldn't have started the same spectacle every market day, over and over again. But what was that? Mrs. Green put the fish down, made one last remark - judging by the expression on her face not a complimentary one - and turned her back at Mrs. Brown. Quite obviously, the war had been called off.
"It's good to see common sense prevailed." Norrington clasped his hands behind his back, but in truth he was disappointed. Just when he wanted to turn away, an apple hit Mrs. Greene right on her backside, then a second followed, impacting with her head. A howl, a screech, and the two women were into each other's hair, bonnets and bows flying, and their husbands followed suit. Of course each party had its supporters, and within seconds, a truly magnificent brawl was in full swing.
"Huzzah," Norrington murmured, grateful to see his weekly amusement restored. He opened the window to see where the apple had come from. Sure enough it had not been Mrs. Brown who had thrown it, and really, Norrington could see Mr. Gillette, dropping an apple and hastily retreating towards the coffee house.
Norrington hesitated a moment, then he picked the plate from the floor, took the fish and flung it out of the window. His aim wasn't half as good as Mr. Gillette's, but still, the fish landed right in the face of a bystander who had followed the events with greatest interest.
"I've aimed at Mrs. Brown, but of course it's easier to throw an apple than a fish," Norrington apologised. "I better go and check that the unfortunate gentleman has not been injured."
Wig blinked and watched her master fetching coat and hat and hurrying out of the door.
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by Molly Joyful