Pairing: Jack/Norrington, slight Will/Elizabeth
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Summary: Norrington believes in his country's laws . . . Jack believes in freedom. Can the two be reconciled?
Disclaimer: Disney owns these characters and the setting in which they live. I don't.
Notes: If you happen to have them available, listen to some jigs and reels while you read this. Makes a world of difference.
There are, thought Jack Sparrow, several damnable realities to a sinking ship.
First among them, the potential for death. Death didn't concern him too much, personally--after all, he was Captain Jack Sparrow, and he had survived far more than a mere dunking. He had been stabbed through the stomach and lived! . . . although, admittedly, he'd been slightly undead at the time.
The second and more irritating reality was desertion. There sat his crew, glaring from their collective perch on the snapped mast of the ship. This, he considered, was brazen mutiny. It didn't matter that the ship was fast sinking to the bottom of the sea--he was their captain, and they had thrown him off of the biggest remaining part of the ship, which made it a right down mutiny. He clung to the remnants of the bowsprit and watched the dark shape of the Tigress sink into the salty blue waters.
The sinking of said ship was another point to be considered. It was all very well to curse the storm that wounded her, but it didn't bring her back to the surface. Not only had the crew lost three months' hard-earned profits, along with the vessel needed to acquire more, but he had lost three crates of the best rum he'd ever tasted.
This was, in Captain Jack Sparrow's approximation, the most damnable reality of all.
However, the fast-approaching British ship was jockeying for the top spot.
"Commodore Norrington! Haven't seen you since you took the Pearl!!" Jack shouted cheerfully, clapping the man on the back. It was rather difficult to do when shackled, but he managed with ease.
The commodore examined the hand-shaped wet spot on his uniform with disdain. "You managed admirably after we . . . commandeered your ship. Is that the word you use?"
Jack chuckled. "It's the word I use. 'Ave you turned to piracy yet?" He looked as though he were going to touch the commodore again, and Norrington withdrew. Strategically, he told himself. That was the word that the British Naval Academy used. It meant "ran away scared."
"No, I have not."
The pirate shook his head sadly, but his grin showed all of his gold teeth.
"What about Will? Is he still playing with his swords and hammers, or has the salt gotten into his veins?" He was grinning far more than the situation merited. For a man chained and held between two stiff officers of Her Majesty's Navy, he grinned madly indeed.
Norrington looked over at the other pirates--Jack's crew, he supposed--who gawked quite openly. "Will and Elizabeth are to be married in a fortnight." There might have been an entire harpoon put up his arse; how else could a man stand so stiffly and look so pained? "They asked me to invite . . .." He gritted his teeth, and there were any number of reasons for the disgust in his voice (all of which Jack knew). "They asked me," he got out, "to invite you to the wedding." He smiled grimly. "Unfortunately, the governor has asked me to grant you temporary asylum. This will only last until a day after you leave from Port Royal, so I suggest you find a fast ship."
Jack looked Norrington over very carefully. He looked at the redcoats who had him by the shoulders, and with Norrington's reluctant nod, they released him. With looks that said that this release was entirely temporary.
"Good man, Commodore--I knew you had it in you. There is a little matter, though, and it's about this asylum . . . the way I take it, as long as I have asylum, I might as well not be a pirate, eh? Legally speaking?" He held out his wrists. Norrington looked him over with a stronger disgust than before. This was vintage disgust. This was properly-aged disgust that had been stored in the right sort of barrels and kept at the right temperature for years, and saved for a very special man. Captain Jack Sparrow inclined his head and jingled the chains. A man came forward with a key.
The shackles fell to the deck.
"My crew?" Jack ventured. He was pressing his luck, he knew, but Jack always pressed his luck.
"We will drop them in Port Royal, and if you wish, you can reunite with them there."
On the ocean, a crate suddenly bobbed to the surface. Jack's grin had seemed toothy before, but it was positively brilliant now.
Commodore Norrington sipped the rum as he would have a fine wine, but there was nothing fine about the taste. Nothing cultured.
"It's better if you swig it," Jack said helpfully, upending the bottle into his mouth. He smacked his lips. "Nothing fancy to rum. She's a cruel mistress for mornings after, but what a night she gives you!"
"Don't discuss such lewd things." The commodore continued to sip his rum. "You can talk of nothing else but drink and lust, it seems--I've seen no evidence to the contrary."
"On the contrary--we've talked about plenty of other things!"
A smile briefly berthed on the commodore's face, but sailed away into the lamplit night again without having really settled. "Violence. Ports. Will and Elizabeth. Yes, plenty of other things."
"Ye would be a great pirate, Norrington," Jack muttered. "Ye sail well and command better. Glorious in plundering and pillaging, ye'd be. Could deck out in gold and throw the wig into the sea."
"I am a soldier in Her Majesty's Navy!" Norrington shouted, and knocked back the rum in his glass. He liked the way it burned.
Jack swayed--whether he was drunk or just moved as though he were, the commodore had never discovered. "Sailor, fighter, and a damn good singer. Teach you the song, and then you'd be a pirate."
Singer--yes, he'd had more than a few such midnight conversations with Jack Sparrow. Usually over alcohol.
He supposed he was tracking the pirate down to be hanged, but though the two had crossed paths and swords many times in the past year, it had gotten to feel like a pretext for some constancy. He had wanted Elizabeth for constancy's sake; because he had needed a wife, not because he had needed Elizabeth. Will, now . . . Will had needed Elizabeth, and he would have her whether or not she was Norrington's wife. On the other hand, it was reassuring to know that he would always see Jack Sparrow laughing at him as they fought. It was a comfort to know that he would have the man clapped in irons below one night, and that an ingenious escape would have been planned and executed by morning. There would be swashbuckling and epithets and then wine and conversation at night, and life would be gloriously stable.
"Song?" Norrington inquired, pouring more rum. It really was better if one swigged it.
"Bah." Jack made a fluttering hand gesture over the table. "Yo, ho, yo, ho, a pirate's life for me!" He grinned. "Try it, mate."
"A pirate's life." The second glass was almost good, and the third was damn good. "Not for me, mate."
He grinned. "But rum's for you." Another pull at the bottle confirmed that yes, rum was also for him.
". . . D'you know, I think it is." The commodore laughed, and Jack was laughing with him.
"Rum starts your mistress and finishes your master," the pirate intoned, sounding more sober than usual. In the light of the candles, the black kohl around his eyes made them look deep-set, and Norrington could see the beginnings of pouches of skin under Jack's eyes. He's older than I am, he guessed, and the thought seemed funny.
"Try it, Norrington. Piracy--you're your own king and kingdom. No laws but your own and the sea's."
"A man needs laws, or else he's . . . he's . . . he's a pirate." There was a voice that whispered he'd said something wise, and he nodded in agreement.
Jack put his feet on the commodore's polished table and finished off the bottle. "You know freedom," he murmured, fishing in the crate for another bottle.
"Aye, freedom." Norrington shrugged his coat onto the back of his chair and undid his waistcoat.
"The hat as well," Jack suggested, and the commodore pushed it and the wig off the back of his head, then put his feet up as well.
"Freedom," Norrington tried, and the voice gave him encouragement, "Freedom is--it's being out there. 'Nother bottle, Jack." The pirate reached into the crate and withdrew it, handing it across their boots. "It's wind and salt and a fight against people who deserve to be shot."
Jack gestured with his bottle as Norrington let the rum fill him. "S'right. And are you free at berth, Commodore?" he asked, tipping back his chair.
The other man put down his bottle and felt full of peace and good humor. "Never. Not ever."
Rum was a man's favorite mistress at night, but in the morning you cursed her wiles.
Or cursed the man who introduced you to her.
This was what Norrington was currently doing, and very thoroughly, too. There were some things at which pirates were the masters, but Captain Jack Sparrow gave the British navy this--they could cuss like switched devils.
As he dodged around the table and backed against the cabin door, Jack laughed, "Just makes it worse to leap around, Commodore!" He spun over to the commodore's bed and snatched up a blanket, pinioning Norrington in its folds and stuffing a corner into the man's mouth. "You're going to lie down now so the axe stops splitting your brain in two, savvy?" Jack lowered the trapped man to the bed, and he stopped struggling.
Norrington moaned. "Keep your rum, Sparrow. I think she likes you best."
"Nonsense," chuckled Jack. "She just needs to know you better. She'll like you, I promise."
In the next eight days, as they sailed toward Port Royal, Norrington found that this was true.
"So your name's John, eh? John Norrington. Interesting," Jack whispered, leaning over the table to look into the commodore's eyes as if assessing his fitness for the name. "Known a few Johns in my time."
"I imagine you have. It's a common name. And these Johns were pirates."
Jack shrugged. "Most of 'em. One or two were landfolk."
They were anchored less than a day's sail from Port Royal, and there were only four bottles left in Jack's crate of rum.
The pirate looked thoughtful. "Though there's nothing in a name. You've heard of Bootstrap Bill Turner?"
"Of course," Norrington replied. "The man who garroted two gaolers with his bootlaces."
Jack grinned. "Not a good name for a pirate, 'Bootlace.' The men were waving ladies' handkerchiefs at him for weeks, and he took to wearing boots with straps and then took the name." He watched the firelight on John Norrington's brown hair--the man had stopped wearing his bloody hat and wig everywhere. "Would you think that young William Turner shares that pirate's name and blood?"
"Does he?" But then John nodded. "The boy might make swords for a living, but he was born to use them."
With an exaggerated roll of his eyes, Jack muttered, "He might fight well, even look something like his father, but Will's a different man altogether." There was a carefully timed pause. "Stupid, for one thing. Bill took a risk where he could benefit. Will takes a risk where there's a risk."
Norrington raised an eyebrow as he reached into the crate for a bottle. He didn't uncork it; he just watched the liquid slosh around. "With all your talk of adventure and freedom, I would think you would favor taking a risk where there's a risk."
Jack laughed. "A man can be adventurous and stupid, but that's not my plan." He got his own bottle, and stared darkly at the one in John Norrington's hands. "Freedom, John. Adventure, freedom, the sea. You get tied up in that commodore's coat and that white wig, and the way you have to be ties you up even more than the laws."
"Are you still trying to convince me to become a pirate?" John asked sharply. The cork came out easily.
"Say I'm not for a moment." Jack looked absolutely impassive, with his dark eyes half-lidded and his mouth drawn in a straight line. "Say I'm trying to convince you not to be a commodore."
The man spluttered in his drink. "Not be a commodore? I spent years to get to this rank!"
"And what good does it do you?" Jack put his bottle down, stood, and moved behind the other man. His hands were on the chair, and the room's smallness was apparent. The chair rocked a little as the pirate swayed. "See it this way--you were a commodore when the lovely Elizabeth chose a blacksmith. Or chose a pirate. Whatever the hell Will is." He gripped John's shoulders. "You couldn't get what you wanted, and you still don't have what you want, mate."
"I didn't want Elizabeth."
Jack made a clicking noise with his tongue. "You turned around to fight armies of the undead for a woman you didn't want? Hard to swallow."
"When I wanted to marry Elizabeth . . . I wanted a wife, and if a man were to want a woman for a wife, Elizabeth was a fine woman." Jack Sparrow tipped left, right, front, and back, and Norrington tipped with him. Was the man perpetually drunk? "I wanted to fight the Pearl's crew, but law . . . Elizabeth's offer was an excuse. And a poor one."
"Why did you want a wife, John? No good comes of choosing a woman because she's a woman. Trust me." The laugh was ruefully indignant.
Norrington took a breath and a gulp of rum. "I suppose no good comes of choosing a woman because she's not a man, either."
"No." The pirate removed his hands from the commodore's shoulders and made his lopsided way back to his chair. "Trust me, no good comes of that, either."
It had been a beautiful wedding. Elizabeth had been a real blushing bride, red-cheeked and smiling, and she'd gasped every now and then, as though the whole affair were too much for her.
Jack rather hoped that was the shape of things. It was that or they'd laced the girl in a corset again.
Will, though . . . Will had been a sight. He'd obviously been exploring the world of plumed hats since last Jack had seen him, and plumes really suited the boy. He'd looked dashing in his half-cape, with a sword at his side and that cocked hat on his forehead.
Jack thought he'd seen the shadow of a tattoo through the boy's white cotton shirt-sleeve, and grinned a gold-toothed grin. Pirate in his blood.
Commodore John Norrington had stood with the other officials of the British navy, looking terribly dignified, and he'd continued to looked terribly dignified as Jack clapped Will on the back and kissed Elizabeth's cheek. The dignified mask had slipped into amusement, however, when Elizabeth had slapped the offending mouth.
Players in the crowd started a reel, and the governor descended on his daughter to dance her through a clapping, stepping mass of people. They looked remarkably courtly.
Jack watched the dancers and turned his eyes to the stiff officers. His dark eyes danced, and so did he as he dragged Norrington into the reel.
"What the hell are you doing?" hissed the commodore as he was promenaded between two lines of merrymakers.
"Have a moment of fun, John," laughed the pirate. "I'm mad, remember? Brain soaked in rum and boiled by the sun. Just a moment of fun." His hair swung around him as he whirled his partner. The ornaments and earrings and gold teeth twinkled in the sunlight as his dark hands clasped the commodore's pale ones; sashes swirled and boots thumped at the ground, and for a moment Norrington wanted to look as alive as this heathen man who was leading him in the dance. He felt that alive.
The reel became a hornpipe with nary a pause between, and Jack laughed and danced the way deckhands did when they were far out to sea--fully and completely, because no one was watching. John had danced that way when he had been a mere sailor, before he had become Her Majesty's man. Ah, the freedom! Jack beckoned, and John the second mate came to dance with him, forgetting that he was Commodore Norrington and that Commodore Norrington did not dance with wild pirates.
Will swept past with Elizabeth, their eyes shining with love and the madness of those who are young and know it. John smiled broadly at them as they passed, not regretting his loss for a moment.
"A day's journey away from Port Royal, Jack."
They walked the docks, and Norrington wore none of his frills and fancy hats. He wore practical clothes for sailing and a plain, worn tricorn. He looked at the tied boats because Jack walked on the other side.
"A day's journey with no ship is a short journey." He had his eyes on the high blue sky or the deep blue waters.
John Norrington cleared his throat. "You, er, have a ship."
"At the bottom of the ocean, mate." Norrington had stopped walking, and Jack turned to look at him.
"No, mate. You have that ship."
His long finger pointed toward an anchored ship with black sails.
Jack didn't speak for a moment. He only stared at the Black Pearl, almost recognizing the faces on the men (and woman) who crewed it but knowing who they were without the need for recognition. Then he clasped John by the arms, and his voice was low and passionate.
"Come with me, John. Feel the sea air on your skin. Be your own master. Be your own man. Come with me." Dark eyes, made darker by the kohl that lined them, cut into Norrington's soul.
The hornpipe melody thrummed in his head with the voice that rum awakened; Captain Jack Sparrow's entire, intense concentration focused on him, and the smell of the sea and the smell of Jack's skin were one and the same in that brief, powerful moment. He knew then, and with absolute certainty, that he was in love with this man.
"No, Jack." He clasped the other man's arms at the elbows and whispered, "I'll follow you to the ends of the earth. I'll go wherever you lead, into whatever storm hits you and through whatever battles you do. I will always be there, one step behind you and ready to close the gap. But I will not be a pirate."
The captain let his arms fall, smiling. "Savvy." He looked at his ship. "Best use what day I have. Don't want it to be too easy for you to catch me, eh, mate?"
John smiled. "No. We don't want that." He drew Jack in quickly and kissed him. "Your crew is waiting, mate. And so is mine."
"But . . . but--asylum!" Jack shouted, pulling back, hands twitching in indignation.
"Aye," Norrington answered, and he looked as though he'd been too clever by half. "A day's journey from Port Royal, and I'm allowed to apprehend you." The right corner of his mouth quirked upward. "Or I would be."
Jack didn't like it when someone was a step ahead of him--especially when the man was supposed to be a step behind. "Why . . . why aren't you, then?"
That clever smirk was still there. "I'm never going to be a pirate, but you've convinced me not to be a commodore."
"What are you, then?" asked the pirate captain skeptically.
The former commodore shrugged. "In time, I might be a vigilante or a bounty hunter. It's certainly a good pretext for following you. But for now, I've bought a shipment of rum, and I intend to make a profit." He grinned. "Pirates drink an awful amount of rum, I've heard. Nasty habit of theirs . . . rum starts their mistress and finishes their master."
"Stole me words!" Jack muttered, but the wild creature who had danced the reel was cavorting behind his eyes.
"I did. Perhaps I am a sort of pirate." They laughed together, but Jack's face was serious when he stopped.
"To the ends of the earth, mate? Storms and battles?"
"Sea air on our skin--two men our own masters."
The pirate kissed him lightly and bounded toward the Black Pearl.
John Norrington licked his lips and inhaled deeply. "Freedom," he breathed, and he turned away.
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