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.
* * *
Wrapped up in his coat and a woollen blanket, Norrington had made himself comfortable in Garrow's favourite seat by the fire. The snow was still falling heavily, and he pitied every man who had to go outside in such beastly weather.
The evening had been merry and pleasant until the howling of the blizzard had interrupted the concert. Garrow, as curious as a cat, had jumped up from his instrument mid-sonata and hurried to the window, eager to learn what was going on. Mrs. Garrow exclaimed that things didn't look good, so Norrington put his flute carefully on the piano and joined his hosts.
'Didn't look good' was an understatement. They couldn't see a thing; the street had become one with the sky, a wall of whiteness. The only one who didn't seem to mind at all was Garrow, who looked as pleased as a fox in a hen house. When his footman came to inform him that there was no way any of the guests, with the exception of next-door neighbours, would make it home that night, he seemed delighted.
"We're snowed in! Isn't that wonderful? I love having a house full of dear friends. Mary! Prepare beds for our guests! Sarah, where do we keep the spare linen? This is exciting, isn't it?"
Norrington found this neither wonderful nor exciting. Had Thomas made it home in time? Or had he stayed at whatever place he'd spent the evening?
The Garrows and their servants moved beds and couches, carried pillows here and blankets there, and after half an hour of activity, Garrow declared with a big smile on his face that everything was prepared, and that he hoped the dear captain wouldn't mind sharing the bed with him for the night.
The "dear captain" had first paled, then turned lobster red and declared firmly that he did not wish to cause his generous host any inconvenience and he would prefer to sleep in a chair. Garrow wouldn't have any of this, insisting that he couldn't allow a guest to spend the night in such uncomfortable quarters. But Norrington didn't move, explaining that, as a seaman, he was used to much rougher accommodation, and finally Garrow relented, noticing the desperate tone in Norrington's voice. So apothecary Wilson took Norrington's place, and he was left to sit by the fire, commending himself for his admirable self restraint one moment and cursing himself for his foolishness the next.
Norrington awoke from a light slumber when he heard somebody descending the stairs. He sat up and turned his head, only to be greeted by the sight of William Garrow in nothing but a shirt and drawers. Norrington closed his eyes and shook his head. There really didn't seem to be any escape.
"Oh, I'm sorry to have disturbed your sleep," Garrow said. "I tried to be as silent as possible."
"No need to apologise at all. I sleep very lightly, as one must at sea. I wish to thank you for offering me shelter."
Garrow smiled and joined Norrington, who hoped that his host would return to his bedchamber as fast as possible and stay there. No such luck, though. Garrow reached for a decanter, looked at Norrington questioningly, and when his guest declined the offer, filled a glass and took a sip. He was now standing in front of the fire, and thanks to the backlighting, Norrington could enjoy a view he'd never hoped to see. Curse you, Thomas Barnett, he thought, curse you! And curse you as well, William Garrow; you and your blasted drawers!
"I hope you enjoyed the evening, despite the blizzard," Garrow said, blissfully ignorant of the curse that had just been put on him and his underwear. Norrington, trying hard not to stare, blinked.
"It was a very enjoyable evening," he managed to say. "Very enjoyable and insightful. I mean, inspiring."
"Indeed!" Garrow took another sip. "I hope you don't mind if I keep you company for a moment; I find it difficult to find sleep tonight."
Considering that apothecary Wilson's snoring could be heard even here in the drawing room, this didn't surprise Norrington. How anybody could sleep while lying next to Garrow was a mystery to him, though. Had he been in Wilson's place, he'd have - done nothing, of course. But a man was allowed to dream, wasn't he? Lucky Sarah Garrow.
To Norrington's relief, Garrow finally sat down in the seat opposite him.
"You must know that both my wife and I are very grateful you accepted our invitation."
"Dear sir, why ever should I not have accepted it? Opportunity for music and merriment in esteemed company is very limited at sea."
"Esteemed company? Well, I know many who wouldn't agree with you. I've taken the cases of prostitutes, child murderers, slaves and sodomites, to name but a few. This did not endear me to my peers, and my marriage certainly went against convention. "
Norrington shifted in his seat; for one because his backside had gone numb, for the other because he could see Garrow better when leaning on the left armrest. There was something about him that reminded him of Thomas; not so much in appearance - they looked as different as two men could look - but in the determined defiance of social conventions.
"Sometimes true happiness can only be achieved by going against convention," he said, thinking of Thomas. "And if I may be so forward: to hell with your peers. And to hell with my peers, while we're at it!"
"A toast to that!" Garrow raised his glass and gave him a grateful smile. As a consequence, Norrington had to shift again, this time however for reasons of decency.
* * *
Despite the heavy snowfall, the early winter morning provided just enough light for David Jasker to see Gillette's features. He took his time watching him; the reflections of the light on the red hair, the freckles on his skin. There was something comforting about watching somebody sleep peacefully.
"I hope you enjoy what you see," Gillette suddenly said, eyes still closed.
Not sleeping peacefully then, David thought. He should have known; Robert was also a military man, and their kind never seemed to let down their guard.
"I do." David propped himself up on his elbow, and ran his index finger slowly down Gillette's forehead and nose, coming to rest on his lips. The tip of David's finger was nibbled on lightly and playfully, and he put his arm across Gillette's chest.
"Tell me about your lover," David said. "You know so much about mine, now I want to know something about yours."
Gillette chuckled and opened his eyes, giving David a sly sidewise glance.
"You're an odd fish, David. I'm still sore thanks to your experienced and thoroughly enjoyable treatment, and there you are, asking about my lover? There's not much to tell about him. He's as good as gold and possesses all the qualities and morals that I lack. A perfect gentleman; God only knows why he puts up with me. As for his appearance - well, you could be his younger brother. That's a compliment, by the way."
"It's strange how you present yourself as a rogue."
"A rogue?" Gillette rolled on his front, leaned his head on his crossed arms and grinned. "Let's just say that I'm a very practical man."
"Practical, aha." David used his finger to draw circles and patterns on Gillette's back. That elicited a pleased sigh, and he continued.
"This is the perfect way to start a day. And the perfect morning following a perfect night."
"I'm sure you've had many perfect nights."
Gillette pulled a face.
"You have never been aboard a ship, have you?"
David shook his head. "I'm a cobbler; I have no business with ships."
"It's impossible to have perfect or any other nights together aboard a ship. You're never alone. You're always watched. And even when on shore leave, there's always some Jack Tar who needs to see you for some business or other, and if you're not very careful, you can find yourself in front of a Court Martial very quickly. You were actually lucky to get away with only two years. I'm surprised they showed such lenience."
David stopped drawing and lay down next to Gillette.
"Oh, it wasn't for that crime. The sentence was for perjury."
"Perjury? You?" Gillette looked surprise. "I'll be damned. You don't look like a man who would tell a lie."
"I didn't. Well, I did."
Gillette pressed a kiss on David's hair.
"We can't leave before the snow stops falling, so there's plenty of time to tell me your story, if that's what you want to do."
David licked his lips.
"I was married to a wonderful woman and had my own workshop. Things went well, but I always knew that there was something not quite right with me. At least that's what I thought back then, now I know it's not wrong, just - different. We had a good life, and I loved her dearly. It's easy to ignore temptation if you avoid it, you know? And then I met Robert."
He paused, thinking back to the day he'd first crossed the path of Captain Robert Jones. He'd never thought that one second could change his life forever. There had been no courtship, no slow approach; they had fallen for each other hook, line and sinker with one meeting of eyes.
"And then I met Robert," he repeated. "And everything changed. He became a customer; he sometimes even bought shoes just so he would have an excuse to come to my workshop and see me! We met in secret, of course, and were very careful. But still, she began to suspect something, and really, how could she not have? I fear my love was obvious. She fought for me, tooth and nail, and I, I was too cowardly to tell her the truth."
"Cowardly? For not risking your life and that of your lover? I'd call that being sensible!"
David shook his head.
"No. It was cowardly. And I didn't do right by her. A husband should be devoted to his wife, not a liar who leaves the bed of his lover on one day just to crawl back into the marital bed the next. At least when she walked in on us in the workshop, catching us with our breeches round our ankles, I should have told her. But I didn't. Instead I accused him of assaulting me. Can you imagine? I was about to send him to the gallows!"
"But you didn't?"
"No. Thanks to Mr. Garrow, I saw sense at the last moment. I admitted that I hadn't been assaulted, he walked free and I went to Newgate."
Gillette narrowed his eyes.
"Yes, William Garrow, Robert's attorney. If it wasn't for him, he would be dead by now. And I as well."
Garrow again! Was there no place to escape from that man?
"David, what is William Garrow like? I've heard his name mentioned several times since I arrived in London, and I'm curious."
"He's a strange man. A good man and likeable, but decidedly strange. He seems to be three times more alive than anybody else around him. He's very dedicated to his profession, very self-confident, has a bit of a quick temper and doesn't give much for convention. And he's tall. Tall, lean and very handsome. Robert said that, looking at the old fools at the Old Bailey, Garrow was a rose growing on a muckheap."
Gillette didn't like what he heard at all. He would have preferred the formidable Mr. Garrow to be a gouty old man, covered in pockmarks. The Green-Eyed Monster reared its ugly head, though Gillette was perfectly aware that it wasn't Norrington who had gone astray.
"Thomas, what will your lover say when you tell him about this?" David asked. It had been an all-around satisfactory encounter, but now the first unpleasant signs of a guilty conscience began to make themselves felt. It wasn't so much the fact that he had been with somebody else. Robert, of that he was sure, hadn't spent the last two years in devoted celibacy. But what about Thomas' unknown lover?
"James?" Gillette frowned. "He won't say anything because I won't tell him. He wouldn't understand. You see, he would never want to be with somebody else. He's a one-man man, and that man is me. "
David shook his head.
"Never be too sure of that, Thomas. And don't lie to him. Nothing good can come of that."
Gillette, seemingly unperturbed, pulled David close and kissed him, cutting off further discussion. He had taken mental notes of the places David enjoyed being touched the most, and it didn't take long for him to distract his companion. David tried to say something, but then he gave in to the pleasurable sensations and decided that, at the end of the day, Thomas' lover wasn't his business.
* * *
Southouse, a scarf covering his face up to his nose, cursed himself for his foolish expedition. The blizzard had raged all night and well into the morning, and now the snow was knee-high. Not an easy task to walk under such circumstances, and then with his gouty knee! Foolishness, no doubt, but when he'd seen Mrs. Caskey with her basket, he'd just had to follow her. Which, it goes without saying, made him feel even more like an old fool. What he'd found in the file of Captain Jones' case had confused him greatly. Mrs. Caskey had lied to him, and this bothered him more than it should. For one, it had been a lie without purpose, and for another, he didn't think Mrs. Caskey to be a liar. So why had she done it? And why had a respectable woman like her visited David Jasker in jail? And, not to forget, were both of her cheeks dimpled or only one? Such were the thoughts that kept him occupied while he wheezed and huffed, trying to keep up with the woman. Luckily, she visited a number of shops, so he had ample time to catch his breath.
Finally, she disappeared into a butcher's shop, and that visit was peculiar because she didn't emerge again. Southouse waited five, ten, fifteen minutes - when he'd lost all feeling in his feet, he decided to walk closer to the shop front, so that he might see what was going on inside. But as happens with such plans, he suddenly found himself inside the shop, and confronted with the most forbidding man he'd ever seen. He was a good foot taller than Southouse, and twice as heavy. His arms were the size of an average man's leg, and his head rested on a bull's neck. He had watery blue piggy little eyes and cauliflower ears. The sight of blood on the apron and the large, hairy hand clutching a meat cleaver didn't make Southouse feel any more at ease.
"Good morning, sir, what can I do for you?" The voice was surprisingly smooth and friendly, and Southouse began to relax.
"Good morning. I need - meat," Southouse quickly said, and looked around the small shop. Not a hair of Mrs. Caskey in sight. How had it been possible for her to leave the shop without him noticing?
"I guessed as much," the butcher said. "Bread would be difficult to come by in this place."
Southouse managed a nervous smile.
"Ah - haha, yes. Of course. Meat. I need - beef."
The butcher looked at him expectantly, but when Southouse didn't produce further details, he leaned forwards.
"You have decided on the species, and it's a wise choice. But what part of the cow, sir?"
Southouse could feel the sweat on his forehead, despite the cold.
"Just - some part. Whatever is best for supper. I wonder, though, and you might help me. I thought I saw an acquaintance of mine enter your shop, only a few minutes ago. My eyes are weak, so I might have been mistaken, but-"
"You are mistaken," the butcher said, reaching for a piece of meat and swinging his cleaver. Southouse quickly took a step back. "You're the first customer this morning. The snow keeps people inside."
"Indeed? Well. Yes, the light must have played a trick on me then."
The door behind the butcher opened, and to Southouse's great surprise, Mrs. Caskey appeared. She wore a pale blue bonnet which was very becoming to her. They exchanged a surprised look, then Mrs. Caskey clasped her hands and laughed.
"Mr. Southouse! What a surprise! How kind of you to come and visit me!"
Southouse opened and closed his mouth like fish washed ashore, gasping for air.
"Mrs. Caskey! I don't understand..."
She smiled, and turned to the butcher, putting her hand on his arm.
"Why didn't you call me, dear? Mr. Southouse and I are old friends."
Dear? Dear? Southouse pulled out his handkerchief and wiped the sweat off his brow. Oh dear, indeed.
"Well, he didn't tell, and I can't read minds." Caskey shook his head and put the cleaver aside, much to Southouse's relief. "Old friends, yes? I can't remember having seen you before, dear sir."
"Mr. Southouse is an attorney, my dear Caskey. Don't you remember? David Jasker? I told you I met him at Newgate."
Mr. Caskey, as it had now been established, nodded.
"He got Jasker in jail, didn't he? Yes, I remember."
Pointing out that it had actually been William Garrow who had got David Jasker in jail was tempting, but Southouse didn't get to say a word, for Mrs. Caskey was a woman of swift decisions.
"Whatever good wind has brought you here, you must stay and have a cup of tea with me. Be assured that your purchase is in the most capable hands, and that my husband will look after it."
"I'm not sure if that would be-" Southouse tried to protest, but Mrs. Caskey waved him off.
"Ah, but I am. Please, I need somebody to try the muffins; it's a new recipe and I'm not sure whether they are up to Mr. Caskey's standards."
Mr. Caskey insisted that anything Mrs. Caskey cooked or baked would be up to even the King's standards, and Southouse, smelling the lovely scent of fresh baking wafting in his direction, couldn't help but accept the invitation.
* * *
Silvester, who had spent the last minutes stepping from one foot to the other, peeked through the two holes in his newspaper that had allowed him to witness the scene inside Caskey's butcher's shop without being identified. The anonymous letter he'd received had asked him to visit this address on Saturday if he should be interested in obtaining intelligence on a truly outrageous affair William Garrow was involved in. Of course Silvester didn't have the patience to wait until the end of the week, so he had come here to see where such interesting information should come from. A butcher's shop had not met his expectations. Just what could he learn here about William Garrow? Whether he preferred chops to sausages? And then Southouse, of all people, had turned up!
"Good morning, Mr. Silvester! And what a fine morning it is, isn't it?"
Silvester spun around and almost bumped into Mr. Farmer, who'd managed to sneak up on him without being noticed.
"Must be," Silvester said, and wrinkled his nose. "Seeing how the crows are out so early."
Farmer looked over Silvester's shoulder. The shop was empty, save for Mr. Caskey who prepared intestines for sausage making.
"Your business must be ailing if your wife sends you to run errands," Farmer said. "But do not worry; your secret is safe with me. And if I may offer you advice, servants can be found for little money at the workhouse."
"Too kind of you, Mr. Farmer, but I assure you that business is doing very well. I was actually on my way to a client, if you please, and I'm late. So, with your permission - a good day, sir."
He hinted a bow, stuffed his newspaper under his arm and hurried to get away from Farmer, who allowed his thin lips to relax into a small smile. Sir Arthur would be pleased, very pleased! Farmer rubbed his hands, but it was not to keep them warm.
* * *
Chapter 6 Next chapter not online yet
|Yuletide Tales: "THIN ICE" - Chapter 7
by Molly Joyful