Pairing(s): Norrington/Gillette, Elizabeth/?
Other characters: Elizabeth, telling would be spoiling
Warnings: a wee bit of angst
Feedback: very welcome. Good or bad.
Summary: 'Beautiful' means more than a straight nose and a pretty dress.
"What's your name?"
The midshipman looked over his shoulder to check if somebody was standing behind him. When he realised that he was alone with the girl and that she had, indeed, addressed him, he closed the book he had been reading in.
"Gillette, Miss Swann. Thomas Gillette."
"That's a nice name."
"Wouldn't it be common courtesy to stand up when addressed by a lady, Mr. Gillette?"
"Wouldn't your father be very upset if he knew that you entered this part of the ship against his wishes?"
Elizabeth Swann was used to get things her way. Even here, on the Dauntless, everybody was at her beck and call. And now a mere midshipman had the nerve to chide her? That phenomenon had to be further explored, and so she sat down next to Gillette on his sea chest. He frowned but moved aside. He wouldn't have gone to such lengths for any of his sisters, but he could possibly not tell the daughter of Governor Swann to get herself gone.
"What are you doing?"
"Very interesting. You may call me Elizabeth," she declared graciously. Gillette nodded, but didn't offer her to call him 'Thomas' – if she should wish to do it, she would, and there was nothing he could do about it, anyway. But his name was among the few things that belonged to him, and him alone. He wouldn't give it away just because it was expected.
"How old are you, Mr. Gillette?" she asked, the tone of her voice mocking the formal title.
"Fourteen, Miss Elizabeth."
"That's – nice," Gillette muttered. If only she'd go away!
For a while they just sat there. Gillette felt increasingly uncomfortable and longed to be alone with his book again; he wasn't much of a conversationalist. Finally, Elizabeth touched the sleeve of his coat.
"Do you think I'm beautiful?"
Gillette almost fell off the sea chest.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Well, am I? You should be able to tell, after all you're a young gentleman!"
A two-headed sea monster couldn't have instilled more fear in Gillette than the sight of Elizabeth Swann in her pretty blue gown, looking at him with great expectation.
"That's – that's nothing I could judge," he stuttered, and it was true. He knew that the Dauntless was a fine ship and that the sea was a beautiful sight in the early hours of the morning, but girls? Gillette knew nothing about girls except that they caused trouble.
Elizabeth jumped up. Gone was the ladylike-behaviour; she stomped her foot like a petulant child.
"It's very rude not to reply to a lady if she asks a question, Mr. Gillette! So, am I beautiful or not?"
Gillette looked at her, the tip of his tongue firmly pressed in a corner of his mouth. It was a sign of greatest concentration, but Elizabeth couldn't know that. She just thought it looked a little silly.
"I think you are – comely," he finally managed to say.
"Well, comely in a – nice looking way."
Elizabeth poked her tongue out at him and left in a huff, using some expressions that she had certainly not learned at her father's house.
"That's more of a goose than of a swan," Gillette muttered, and reached for his book.
* * *
"Congratulations, Mr. Gillette. Or do I have to call you 'lieutenant' now?"
Gillette, his passing certificate in hand, turned around. Upon seeing Elizabeth, his face took up that reserved yet slightly arrogant expression which never failed to aggravate her.
"Thank you very much, Miss Elizabeth, but I don't think this will be necessary," he replied, hinting a bow. Daniel Groves, who had passed the exam the previous winter, had to hide a grin. In some aspects, Gillette was still very young.
"Mr. Groves, Captain Norrington has been looking for you. I think he is somewhere over there, talking to my father," Elizabeth said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the parade-ground.
"I better go and look for him then, Miss Swann. Thank you."
A brief bow, and Groves left, leaving a slightly annoyed Gillette behind.
"Would my assumption that neither Captain Norrington nor anybody else has been looking for Mr. Groves be wrong, Miss Elizabeth?"
"I might have misheard something. Would you accompany me for a short walk, Mr. Gillette?"
Gillette could have mentioned twenty activities off the top of his head that he would have preferred to going for a walk with her, but turning her down was out of question.
"It would be my pleasure," he replied, and offered his arm.
They left the fort, and he realised she was heading for the Dauntless' berth.
"I really don't think your father would like you to go there. Especially not as we are - alone."
"He will not notice that I have left, and I doubt Captain Norrington will worry about your absence. They will discuss politics, war and other boring things and completely forget about us."
Gillette had his doubts. James Norrington always seemed to know where he was; at times Gillette wondered if the man had an extra set of eyes on the back of his head. He didn't share that thought with Elizabeth though, who let go of his arm and sat down on a large rock, enjoying the view of the sea and the Dauntless.
"What a lovely place. I often come here, but I seem to be the only one. Well, at least we have the privacy to complete some unfinished business."
Gillette eyed her suspiciously.
"I wouldn't know of any business between you and I, Miss Elizabeth, be it unfinished or not."
She closed her fan and tapped him playfully on the arm.
"You still owe me an answer, Mr. Gillette. After six years, you will certainly have made up your mind?"
He looked at her, genuinely confused.
"I'm afraid I don't know-" he began, but she cut him off.
"Do you think I'm beautiful?"
Gillette arched an eyebrow.
"I think I've already answered that question, Miss Elizabeth."
"You've been a boy back then, that doesn't count. So, do you?"
"I still think you are very comely."
"Why do you always have to be so rude?" she snapped. "Would it hurt you if you'd say that yes, I was beautiful?"
"But isn't 'comely' the same as 'beautiful', Miss Elizabeth?"
"No, it isn't, and you know that very well, Mr. Gillette. 'Beautiful' means more than a straight nose and a pretty dress!"
There it was again, that smug smile of his she hated so much but still longed to see every time she met him.
"If you have objections regarding the word 'comely', I could also call you fair, pretty, bonny, nice, pleasing to the eyes, neat or, as words seem to mean so much to you, pulchritudinous."
She stood up, glaring at him.
"Pulchri- what? How dare you! Mr. Gillette, you are rude, arrogant, impossible and downright despicable!"
He sighed, feigning remorse.
"So I've been told, Miss Elizabeth. That's why I joined the navy rather than becoming a vicar. Would you allow me to accompany you back to the fort now? It would be very embarrassing for both of us if your father should send out a search party for you."
Elizabeth was fuming upon his imperturbability. Insult or compliment, words seemed to pearl off Thomas Gillette like water off a duck's back.
"As you please," she hissed through her teeth. "And just so you know, you're definitely the last man on earth I'd want to kiss!"
"Of course I am, why should I assume anything else?"
"I hate you!"
Gillette grinned, and Elizabeth found it very hard not to give in temptationi and hit him with her fan.
* * *
"Do you think I'm beautiful?"
Gillette looked up from the cargo list he had been checking, and raised an eyebrow at the Governor's daughter.
"Miss Elizabeth, I'd really welcome it if you could say 'good morning' like everybody else."
"I will ask you as often as it takes to get a decent answer from you, Mr. Gillette."
"This is not a question a young lady should ask, and I'm very certain your father wouldn't approve of it," Gillette replied sternly. The jetty was busy with sailors hurrying to and from the Dauntless, and he had no time to entertain Elizabeth Swann.
She blew a strand of hair out of her face. "My father isn't here, but I am, and it would be nothing but courteous if you'd answer me."
Gillette sighed, put the list in the pocket of his coat and looked Elizabeth over. After a while, he nodded.
"Yes, I think you are beautiful, Miss Elizabeth. With your permission, I will now return to my duties."
He had hoped she'd leave, but Elizabeth didn't make any attempt to move.
"Is this your honest opinion, lieutenant, or are you just trying to get rid of me?"
"Miss Elizabeth, I would never lie to a lady!" Gillette protested, but Elizabeth waved him off.
"Of course you would if said lady annoyed you. So, have you been honest?"
Commodore Norrington stood not too far away, and Gillette wondered if he was overhearing this conversation. How embarrassing.
"With all due respect, Miss Elizabeth, I have a lot of work to do, and I..."
"And do you think I'm one of those empty-headed women who spend their days embroidering handkerchiefs and think that Portsmouth is the capital of London? Or do you think I have a mind of my own and could hold a sensible conversation?"
"I have no doubt that you could hold a sensible conversation, Miss Elizabeth, though the one we're holding right now is none."
She gave him her loveliest smile and fluttered her eyelashes.
"You're beginning to become flustered. Good! I rather talk to the man than to the lieutenant. Now, if you think that I'm beautiful and that one could hold a sensible conversation with me, I wonder why you never ask me for a dance or talk to me when you are invited to our house?"
"I'm not much of a dancer and wasn't aware you wished to hold a conversation with me," Gillette replied stiffly.
"But I do! Very much so, actually. We know for so many years, Mr. Gillette. Remember? You were still a midshipman on the Dauntless, and Commodore Norrington was a lieutenant, just like you are now."
Elizabeth put her hand on his arm, but Gillette startled and quickly moved away from her touch.
"I doubt that I'm the same kind of lieutenant Commodore Norrington used to be, Miss Swann. I still have a lot to learn."
Elizabeth straightened up.
"Truer words were never spoken, Mr. Gillette," she said icily. "Now please excuse me, I wish to talk to Commodore Norrington who, unlike you, is a true gentleman."
Gillette followed her with his gaze, and he could see how Norrington's face lit up when she approached. As Elizabeth had planned, the commodore's obvious affection for her hurt Gillette, but not for the reason she assumed.
* * *
"Is there anything I can do for you? And for - him?"
Norrington blinked at the light of the lamp; it was dark here in the brig of the Black Pearl, and even the dim light hurt his eyes. He sat on the floor, Gillette leaning against his shoulder. The lieutenant was pale as a sheet, his eyes closed, and it was difficult to tell whether he was sleeping or unconscious. Considering the ugly wound on his shoulder, Elizabeth thought that the latter was more likely.
"An odd question coming from you. Why, are you not going to ask him if you're beautiful this time?"
She startled and took a step back.
"How do you know?"
"I have very sharp ears. That aside, there's hardly a thing that I don't know about Thomas Gillette."
"I could bring you some dressing material. For his injury. And water."
"That would be really kind of you, Elizabeth. And it only took you three days to think of this wonderful offer!"
She looked away.
"I'm sorry, James. Barbossa refused to listen to me. I didn't want this to happen."
"Yet it did happen, and if you think that you can buy indulgence with dressing material and a jug of water, you're even more of a pirate than I thought you were."
Gillette shivered, and Norrington put an arm around his shoulder. It was less the gesture than the gentleness of it and the loving expression on Norrington's face that made Elizabeth finally understand. Gillette had found her attractive - but he had never been attracted to her.
Norrington saw her shocked gaze and laughed without mirth.
"Spare me any kind of moral outrage. You're hardly in the position to cast stones."
She knelt down, leaning her head to the door of the brig and putting the lamp next to her. The wood was wet and cold - an unpleasant sensation on her skin.
"Things just - happened, James. I know you won't believe me, and I certainly don't expect you to forgive me, but please, I never wanted to see you or anybody else I care about coming to harm. I just wanted to be free, can't you understand that?"
Norrington made a sweeping gesture at the men locked up in the brig.
"Free? You are not free, Elizabeth, you're a prisoner like us. This is as much of a cage as your father's house has been, the only difference is that this one here isn't gilded. I wanted you to be happy, Elizabeth, because I've loved you. Just like Will loves you, that poor lad, and maybe even Sparrow, if he is capable of such feelings at all. I suggest you go for the pirate, should you ever find him again. As beauty means so much to you, it seems that you'd be better off with him. With Captain Jack Sparrow by your side, you'll probably not live long enough to ever see the moment when your beauty fades!"
She didn't want to give him the satisfaction of seeing her tears, so Elizabeth stood quickly up, taking the lamp with her.
"I will see what I can do for you, James."
"Oh yes, please do that. My regards and compliments to Barbossa, and maybe you can find a hammock to sew Gillette in."
Elizabeth left, and the darkness returned.
* * *
"Lizzy, we're havin' a problem."
The Black Pearl, badly damaged after a fight with a Spanish battle ship, had no powder left for the guns, and the captain of HMS Sprite, a heavily armed frigate which had just turned up on the horizon, would very likely not be susceptible to negotiations.
"You know, luv, I miss good ol' Norrington. At least the man would listen to suggestions. An' his gunners were slow as turtles and blind as moles."
"You could write to the Admiralty, Jack, and ask them to return him to active duty."
"Might do that, luv. If the bastard over there doesn't sink the Pearl first, that is."
Elizabeth blinked, then she paled.
"Good God, it's the Sprite!"
"Yes, thank you, luv. Wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't told me. HMS Sprite, an' knowing Gillette, he'll fire the first shot himself."
"He's taking his duties very serious, Jack. Can't blame a captain for that."
Jack threw up his arms.
"He'll blow the Pearl apart, Lizzy! Could you at least pretend to be worried? Wait a second, what's he doin' now?"
Elizabeth took the spy glass. "Those are flags."
"Flags? What's this, a battle or one of Norrington's tea parties? Give me the spy glass, Lizzy."
Jack watched the HMS Sprite and the signal flags closely. Then he lowered the spy glass and shook his head.
"What a git. Half the sentence's missing."
"Half the sentence?"
"Eh, all it says is 'YOU ARE' - where's the rest?"
* * *