Author's Notes: You know those Pirates characters? They STILL don't belong to me. Dammit. However! I claim the kittens! The kittens are mine..yeeees, miiiineee...
Dedicated to Musey for coming back and inspiring me. Welcome back, darlink!
Chapter 3 - Cats On The Prowl
By L.M. Griffin
Well she was a very charming woman...very charming woman ... very charming woman... The words played on a loop within Gillette's mind the next day as he walked through the Dauntless, seeing to its preparations for heading out to sea later that afternoon. He gave orders with an air of distraction that was noted by many of the crew, who frowned and muttered amongst themselves.
In fact, Gillette was so distracted, it took Bush three times calling his name to garner his attention, when the other man was a mere five feet away from him. Bush frowned at his friend, as he handed the senior officer the note from the Commodore about making sure they had enough gunpowder aboard. "Are you all right, sir? You seem not quite yourself."
"Just a bit off my feed, as my Irish grandmother would say," Gillette said with a thin, tired smile, reading over the note, then with a little more feeling in his voice. "Carpenter, Jenkins! See that we get another full six barrels of powder below."
"Aye, sir!" The crewhands replied, relief apparent in their voice. There was the Gillette they knew - sharp and efficient.
Bush noted the sudden spark in his friend's eye, and the more dutiful step, smiling a little. "We'll have to make sure you get a heartier luncheon, then."
"Hm? Oh yes. Something filling will do wonders... blast, I meant to send you back with the navigation charts I marked for the Commodore. I must have left them below in my quarters... will the Commodore be here soon?" Gillette asked, chastising himself for not being more attentive with his duties. One attractive woman flirts with James, and not only do I start suspecting her, but I start assuming that a few admiring comments make an entire love affair.
"He's been delayed - the Governor wanted one last report before we set sail, but he should be here within the hour," Bush reported dutifully.
"Well then, I'll just fetch them and leave them in his office for his perusal when he arrives," Gillette said briskly. "Carry on, Lieutenant Bush. I'll be below."
He headed down the stairs to the lower desks, moving along the creaky wooden halls with a brisk step. His fingers reached up to brush the long slats with fondness. He loved the Dauntless; he had spent some of the happiest hours of his life aboard this ship. Sailing the oceans, with Bush there to cheer him and mock him, and James... James there to love. Love and honor. A lifetime of passion accumulated over a mere number of years. There was no match, no peer to James Norrington, in Andrew Gillette's heart.
The best and purest kind of love, Gillette snorted to himself. The unrequited kind. He opened the door to his modest cabin, blinking with surprise as something warm and fuzzy wrapped around his ankles. He looked down with a warm smile at the large ginger cat purring at him. "Well good day to you as well, Madam Cinnamon. We had wondered where you had disappeared to."
Cinnamon was the Dauntless's ship cat, and had been for three years. She was the pet of the ship's crew and officers, for they doted on her with food and other tidbits. However, it was to Gillette she always curled up with first, to Gillette she brought the dead rats and other varying and sundry 'presents'. Now she nipped lightly at Gillette's boot, before slinking over to one of the cupboards that lined the walls. Curious, Gillette followed her, kneeling down beside the cabinet she nosed open.
It was dark inside, but even there he could hear the soft meowing. Cinnamon purred in pleasure at Gillette's excited exclamation, settling amongst her brood of mewling kittens, all of them little more than two months old. Gillette smiled, reaching to pet one of the brood. Cinnamon nuzzled his hand in permission, and he gently nuzzled one of the kittens beneath its furry jaw. "Well now, Maman Cinnamon - this is a fine brood you have here."
Cinnamon purred with motherly pride, nuzzling Gillette's hand once more. He rubbed her stomach lightly, then frowned. Hm - eight nubs. Seven kittens. He searched delicately in the dark, but found no sign of a small body. So either the kitten had never been born, or it was wandering around his room. His lips pressed together. He had been in and out of his quarters all day - the kitten could have slipped out without him even noticing. He'd best find it before something happened to the little kit, or Cinnamon finally noticed its absence and put up a stink over it. Mother cats were notably protective of their broods, defending them against all outsiders.
He started to search his quarters first, careful to move things without upsetting them too much. He didn't want to accidentally squish the poor thing. So intent was he in his search that it took him a moment to register that there were people standing outside in the hall near his cabin. He frowned for a moment - had he just heard a woman's voice? He stopped his search, moving to the door and throwing it open.
The sight that met his eyes was completely and totally unwelcome. Lady Susan stood at the door of Norrington's cabin, her arm entwined with the marine Murtogg. The young man looked somewhere between enraptured and distinctly uncomfortable as he murmured, "But .. I can't let you go inside, Ladyship. These are the Commodore's private quarters."
"Now Mr. Murtogg ..." Lady Susan spoke softly, gently running one fingertip up the sleeve of Murtogg's coat, making the young man flush. "I am sure that the Commodore wouldn't mind my stopping by -just- to leave a note, would he?"
Gillette's mouth dropped open in surprise, then his entire expression narrowed. Jealousy aside - what did this woman think she was up to? Did she even know how grossly inappropriate it would be for her to be wandering around the Commodore's cabin? Or perhaps that was the point. He spoke up then, his tones crisp and sharp. "I can assure you, your Ladyship, he would." A pause, and he pointedly added. "After all, there is your reputation to think of."
The reaction was instantaneous - Lady Susan stepped away from Murtogg, and the young marine flushed a red that matched his coat and his hair. That alone told Gillette that the young man wasn't exactly a willing accomplice in this situation. He moved the short distance down the hall, putting himself firmly between Lady Susan and the Commodore's door. Lady Susan's eyes narrowed, just a touch, then her expression smoothed into sweetness itself. "Oh, I don't know what I could have been thinking, Lieutenant! I merely wanted to drop off an invitation for the Commodore, personally."
That look would have fooled lesser men, in fact Murtogg's expression relaxed at the honeyed words. Like Hell was Gillette's internal response, but he smiled with bright congeniality, marking his tone with an indulgence that he didn't feel. "Oh, well. There is no harm done, then, your Ladyship. Merely a little social blunder. We all have them." She batted her eyelashes at him with a sweet smile, then moved as if to go past him, and he raised his arm to stop her, adding with the same polite tones. "So why don't I just bring him the invitation?"
Lady Susan's mouth twisted for a moment into something completely alien to her usually lovely countenance. Then those lips curved into the self-same smile, as she dipped into her pocket and held out the invitation. "That is so kind of you, Lieutenant Gillette."
"A gentleman before an officer, my Lady," Gillette answered smoothly, before turning to Murtogg. He wasn't completely sure he should leave the young man alone with Lady Susan, and a sudden thought occurred to him as he glanced back over his shoulder at the cabin. "Mr. Murtogg - I have a job for you. Madam Cinnamon has given birth to a fine litter of eight kittens... and I can only find seven of them. Gather a few of the boys and search for the poor thing?"
Murtogg's face went through a variety of emotions. First apprehension at the job, then delight over the kittens, proving to Gillette once again what a gentle soul this simple young man was, then a frown at the thought of one of the poor creatures being lost. There was a moment of hesitation, as he glanced over to Lady Susan, before he saluted. "Aye, Lieutenant."
Gillette turned swiftly, and caught the tail end of a dark expression on Lady Susan's pale features. She smiled at him complacently, and Gillette had to force himself to return it. "And I shall accompany her ladyship to the docks. Wouldn't want you to get lost, of course."
"Of course not. So kind, Lieutenant."
"Just doing my duty, my Lady."
And so the mental foils were momentarily laid aside, but both opponents knew they would meet another day. The battle, as some would say, had just begun.
James Norrington sat himself down behind his desk on the Dauntless, smoothing his fingers over the leather-bound arms of the chair with a soft sigh of satisfaction. To be here, to be in command of his ship again. There was no greater pleasure to him than being a Captain of the ship of the line, and the Dauntless was a first-rate ship, to be sure.
He rifled through the neat stack of papers and missives on his desk, pleased to see that Gillette had completely finsihed the revisions he asked for. He let his eyes linger over the neat yet expressive handwriting of his junior officer, nodding his head in silent approval. Excellent, and exactly what he asked for. Putting them aside, he continued through his correspondence, blinking with surprise at the small envelope pushed in the middle of his reports on pirate activities. Taking up his letter opener, he opened it and read the unfamiliar hand.
Aaah, Lady Susan! Well, he must have made an impression for her to send him a note so early in their acquaintance. He continued to skim, a slight frown working over his face. Poor woman, she must be lonely, staying here all alone, to invite a perfect stranger to dine with her. Well, considering the impropriety, he would send a polite refusal. After all, a recent widow, as she had stated to him that she was, probably simply needed male companionship. The loss of a loved one was always hard, even more so if that person had been your partner in life.
His mind drifted solemnly over to Elizabeth Swann as he took out his paper and uncapped the inkpot on his desk. She would have made the ideal wife - her wit and humor, her sweetness and her comforting presence. Something warm and good, for a man to come home to. That is all he really wanted from her, companionship and love. Apparently, that wasn't enough.
Did you really expect it to be? the little voice in the back of his mind asked, After all, a young brilliant girl like that, and you honestly thought she would be happy to be a career officer's wife? Fool.
He let out a sigh, then sat up a little straighter as he reached for a quill pen. There was no room for dwelling on the past. After all, what was it that Gillette always said? The only point to looking to the past if you're fool enough to want to run face first into the future.
A smile crackled the edge of his usually apathetic expression, as he penned out a short, but sincere refusal to Lady Susan. Gillette had been in high form the other night - he sparkled with a life that few others at the party could come close to. Even Lady Susan, with all her fresh charms, seemed a little dull when Gillette came to the fore. Perhaps it was simply because he had known Andrew for so long, but he frankly found other people tedious next to his Lieutenant. Himself, alas, included.
He leaned back, reading over his response, then nodded his head once in silent approval before sprinkling a little powder over it to help it dry. Then he reached for one of his envelopes, knocking his quill to the floor in the process. He grimaced, reaching down to get the quill.
A moment later, Mr. Mullroy started, smacking his head on the steps above him at the yelp coming from the Commodore's office. He stared at the closed door, but when no Commodore came out a'bellowing, he shrugged before returning to his search for the lost kit.
"...She is a widow, Andrew. Perhaps she didn't think anyone would feel it was amiss for a widow to be in a man's bedchambers," Bush said slowly, his brow creased in a frown.
"Maiden, wife, widow - the same rules apply. No woman alone in an officer's quarters, unless she is his wife or his fiancée," Gillette said firmly, as they moved as one towards the Commodore's office.
"Are you sure you aren't simply adding suspicion where suspicion is not because of certain emotive responses?" Bush asked, one eyebrow raising.
Gillette's mouth opened, then shut with a sharp snap. "Perhaps. However, it doesn't make the action any less questionable." Raising his hand, he rapped on the Commodore's door twice, then put his finger to his lips, looking meaningfully at Bush.
Bush touched his own lips, and whispered, "Silent as the grave, chum." They heard the brisk call of "Enter!" and stepped inside.
"Good day, gentlemen. I have our orders here from the Admiralty." Norrington's tone was brisk, as he held out two pieces of parchment to his Lieutenants. His face was impassive, and he folded his hands, one over the other, on the desk.
Gillette frowned, noting the one thing the Commodore covered up, and not entirely artfully. He let his eyes shift down to the orders, even as he questioned Norrington, "Have you done yourself an injury, sir?"
Norrington's green eyes flashed momentarily down to his hand, more specifically to his bandaged thumb, and he cleared his throat. "Just fine, Lieutenant. Now... the objective of our orders..."
Gillette listened intently, folding his hands behind his back. Or at least, he tried to listen intently. After a few minutes he frowned. The frown deepened as the seconds ticked by. What was that noise? It was edging right at the back of his mind, distracting him from following the Commodore with his usual rapt attention. He glanced over at Bush, and was faintly pleased to see that the same sort of frown played over Bush's features.
Their eyes met, in puzzlement, before Bush's eyes widened and he turned back to Norrington. "Sir?"
Norrington stopped, his dark eyebrows lifting a touch. "Yes, Lieutenant?"
Bush wet his lips, glancing over at Gillette before saying slowly, "Sir, forgive me, but I believe your desk is mewling."
Norrington's eyebrows rose higher, and then comprehension came over his face. "Ah. Yes. Well, that's my prisoner."
Gillette and Bush blinked at each other, before speaking together, "Your Prisoner, sir?"
A wry expression came over Norrington's usually unemotional face, and he gestured his subordinates to come around the desk itself. Curious, both men moved around, their eyes moving down to the drawers of Norrington's desk.
He pulled the largest one, which was already partially open, all the way out. Three pairs of human eyes gazed down into one pair of feline ones. The small marmalade kitten tilted its fuzzy head, and mewled again as it batted at Norrington's pocket handkerchief.
Gillette's eyes widened, as he reached in to scoop the kitten up. "James! I can't believe you locked it in a desk drawer! It's just a baby!"
Norrington's face went from bemused to vaguely disgruntled. "I did not lock it in the drawer - I just made sure it couldn't get out again. Imprisonment, not torture." He looked at his thumb ruefully. "Beyond that, I never knew helpless babies to be so vicious."
"Still, it didn't know any better. I bet it was just playing. Isn't that right my..." Gillette lifted the kitten up, then smiled as he ran his slender fingers over the kitten's fur. "Lad."
Norrington's lips twitched. "I wish I got half as much sympathy for my hurt thumb, Andrew."
Gillette's mouth went dry at Norrington's seemingly harmless words, and suddenly his eyes shifted to Bush. Bush, who was smiling that smile of his again, the one that always meant trouble. His friend's dark eyes blazed as he drawled out slowly, "Well sir, I'm sure that if you hold it up, Andrew will be more than willing to kiss it all bet-OW!"
Gillette's mouth flexed into a thin smile as he removed his elbow from Bush's stomach. "Permission to return the kitten to his mother, sir?"
Norrington cleared his throat. "Permission granted. Just be quick about it. I'd rather have the kit set on me than the angry mother."
"As so often is the case, sir." Gillette cuddled up the kitten in his arms, and moved towards the door, closing it behind him quietly.
Norrington's lips moved into a real smile, as he rubbed his thumb again. "Gillette is a softer touch than I realized."
Bush glanced towards the door quietly, then down at Norrington. Teasing aside, it pained him to see Andrew Gillette torturing himself this way. It pained him to watch James Norrington give his heart out to unworthy trollops, while completely missing the one soul that wished only to love him. Moral constraints were one thing - the law quite another - but eternal suffering had to be less damning than what both of his dearest friends were inflicting on themselves.
"Indeed sir. Very true indeed." Was his only reply.
"That's my hair, you know." Gillette informed the small troublemaker from earlier who decided that the copper-colored hair spread out over the pillow was much more interesting than the balls of paper the rest of his brothers and sisters were playing with. Gillette stretched out on the floor, frowning at the missive again, making a mental note to ask Bush about what he thought of a two-pronged attack, when another insistent pawing caught his attention. He leaned his head back to glare at the kitten, who looked back at him with maddening innocence. He sighed, and started to sit up slowly. "All right, all right... we'll play. But I want you to know this under duress."
He straightened, putting the kitten in his lap, letting the small orange ball of fur bat at the open gap of his shirt with a little laugh, tossing his loose hair over his shoulder. "You're a little fighter, aren't you? Toughest one of the bunch, aren't you?"
Outside Gillette's door, Norrington paused, one side of his mouth lifting at the low, rolling sound of Gillette's laughter. Chiding himself for eavesdropping, he knocked lightly on the door, and at Gillette's cheerful "Come in!" he entered, a large tray in hand.
Then stopped dead at the sight in front of him.
He thought to himself, a little dazed, why he had never noticed how many different golden highlights rested in Gillette's red hair, or just how warm and open that normally cool face could be. Or that the smile that greeted him was filled with charm and light and something else that was just nigh inexplicable.
"James!" Gillette said, pulling him from his surprisingly tender musings. "Come, what have you got there?"
"Food for the prisoners," Norrington said, finding his voice at last as he went to kneel on the floor across from Gillette and the kittens, putting the tray down and emptying it of saucers of milk. "Although they should know they shall not get such good treatment if they continue to attack the Commodore."
Gillette watched as the treasured ease came over Norrington's face, the lessening of tension in the tall frame, and the long strong arms and legs. He marveled silently at the privilege of being one of the few who could see his Commodore like this, wig gone and hair loose, the shirt open just enough to see the faint dark hair on his chest. He spoke, hoping his voice wasn't as lustful as his thoughts, "Well sir, I'm sure they're very contrite."
Norrington looked up from the kittens frolicking over to the saucers, startled at the low tone in Gillette's voice. Startled with the pulse in him that wished it would come again. After a moment he smiled quietly, as he flicked lightly at the tail of one of the stripped kits. "As well they should be. Especially that little biter."
"Well, despite Bush's comments, I am afraid I can do nothing more than hand you another bandage, sir." Gillette put his words as lightly as he could, pulling his knee up to his chest.
Norrington's eyes drifted over his Lieutenant once again, and stayed there. A heat had started pounding in his veins, a heat he had felt a few scant times before but put it down to mere excitement or too much wine. But his body was at rest, at least most of it. Suddenly he wanted nothing more than to reach across the space between him and Andrew to touch that hair. To beg a kiss to, as Jonathan had put so well, make it all better.
Gillette's eyes were warm, but becoming a trifle bit confused around the edges, and Norrington shook his head, pushing himself quickly to his feet. "I'm sorry, I am staring mindlessly. I must be much more tired than I thought."
Gillette moved to rise as well. "Well, the hour is late, sir, and you must be exhausted." Stupid Andrew. You should have told him to go to bed immediately. Stupid and selfish to want to keep him here for a few more minutes, nay, a few more hours.
"Indeed. Exhausted to the bone." Norrington straightened, turning slightly away so certain things that had suddenly become quite obvious to him were not so obvious to his poor, unknowing Lieutenant. He had to get out of here, immediately. "See you in the morning, Cris."
"Sleep well, James." Came Gillette's soft reply, and Norrington again had to force himself to move away at the sudden lilt to Gillette's onyx eyes.
What is wrong with me? he hissed to himself, shutting the door behind him and moving down the hall swiftly, 'What in the world did I think I was doing in there? My God, what Andrew would have thought of me if I had given into those insane thoughts!' Thoughts, now set free to wander, did so freely as Norrington closed the door to his cabin firmly. The sight of Gillette's hands moving as he talked. The flash of those dark eyes. The copper hair that Norrington's fingers now trembled to bury themselves within.
Was he this lonely?
Was he this insane?
Or was he suddenly waking up to something building up in his heart?
Norrington leaned against the door to his cabin, staring at his bed with a disturbed glare. Oh, there would be no sleeping well tonight. None at all.
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