Chapter 5 - Keeping Up Appearances
By L.M. Griffin
"The only service you would be to me, Sparrow, is in a jail cell. Since you will shortly be occupying one, I suppose I should thank you for that small comfort," Gillette growled, moving towards the foppish pirate captain.
Sparrow danced out of his way, his light green suit of clothes shimmering a little in the candlelight thrown outside from the hundreds coming off from the Governor's mansion. Smirking a little as he did so, "Now now, Lieutenant Gillette - that's no way to treat a guest of the soon-to-be-wed-happily couple!" He twisted around, until he was in front of Elizabeth. "What about a kiss from the bonny bride?"
His answer was a resounding slap across the cheek, and a tiny ivory slipper stamping on his foot. He yelped, attempting to hop around on one foot and hold his face at the same time, which made a truly ridiculous spectacle.
Elizabeth hissed in true swan form at him, her small gloved hands curled into his fists. "It serves you right, Jack Sparrow! I would know if I had invited you to my own Engagement Ball, and I didn't for this very reason! Why in the world would I want to cause this much trouble when there is already so much afoot?"
Bush covered his mouth, choking back laughter and looking ever more the raccoon, and Gillette crossed his arms over his russet-coloured frock coat, smiling foxily.
Jack grumbled, still hopping a little as he leaned against the stone railing of the balcony. "For one, I didn't come to cause trouble, 'n two, if yer goin' t'be furious at someone for inviting me...."
"...You might as well get angry at me," Will Turner said quietly from the doorway. Elizabeth turned at him with shock, Sparrow with relief. He in turn glared at Jack. "Who Promised Me On The Grave Of My Mother That He Would Stay Out Of Trouble Until I Found You."
"I did! I did! It's not my fault the Navy's busy bein' all rude, bullyish and official!" Sparrow protested, finally standing on both feet.
"You wouldn't happen to mean, Mister Sparrow, doing our job in arresting you and seeing you hung from the gallows, would you?" Gillette said acidly, his handsome face darkening once more.
"You say ship, I say boat, Bob's your uncle," Sparrow said with a flash of gold, then scurried behind Will, as Gillette's resolve looked about ready to crack. Sparrow knew a storm rising when he saw it.
Will sighed a little, and shrugged helplessly at Elizabeth, "Since he was the one that brought us together, I thought it was only appropriate to invite him. Besides, he told me he had a surprise for me - a good one." He glowered at Jack a little.
"'N that I do, Will m'boy - if the Lieutenant Gillette can keep from tacklin' me, I'll show him as well and keep him from ruinin' his pretty clothes." Sparrow batted his eyelashes in a way that made Gillette nearly smack him across the face.
Bush moved in between the two of them, dark eyes flashing a bit of wry humour. "Simplification of matters would help, yes. Thank you, Captain Sparrow."
Sparrow flashed Bush a wide grin, as he started digging through his pockets, "Lessee. Rum flask. Odd key. Nice bead I'm gonna braid into my locks. Bit of coin, bit of glass... AAAA-hah!" He pulled out a roll of parchment paper, smiling triumphantly, unrolling it with one snap of his wrist. "A fancy bit of paper that says, 'Jack Sparrow, you're a nice fellow, pretty sort, and we don't want to hang you any more."
"What!?" Gillette spluttered, reaching for the paper.
"What!?" Elizabeth and Will said, with a little more enthusiasm, as they did the same.
"Well, well." Bush got there first, snagged it out of the pirate's hand and moved forward to keep the others from snatching it from him. He scanned it over while Gillette crowded one arm, and Will the other. After a moment, chocolate brown eyes lifted to meet amused tiger-eye ones. "So tell me, Captain Sparrow, just what sort of 'call above and beyond an Englishman's duty' did you facilitate in to achieve this?"
"Saved the Governor of Nassau's offspring from a rather compromisin' position with one of m'own brethren, as it were. Li'l runaway went off with pirate lover, I used my -many- powers o'persuasion..."
"Wait. Wait just a moment. The Governor of Nassau has a son, Jack." Elizabeth frowned prettily.
Jack coughed delicately. "Yes. Exactly, like."
Gillette scowled for a moment longer, before throwing his hands in the air. "Fine, fine! I don't care who he did... what he did... I Don't Care. We have other matters to attend to." He gave meaningful looks to Elizabeth and Bush, who both nodded in turn.
"Other matters?" Will frowned, looking over to his fiancée, then back to Gillette.
"Yes, of the utmost importance." Elizabeth said, pushing slightly at Will's back. "So take Jack, get some punch, and stay out of trouble."
"Unlike you," Will said firmly, planting his feet, "who seems to be wandering right into it. What are you up to that you don't want me around for?"
"William! I am not doing anything at all." Elizabeth sniffed, looking to the Lieutenants to back her up.
"She is, too. They're tryin' to come up with a plan that doesn't involve grapples," Sparrow supplied helpfully.
"Elizabeth... what's going on?" Will frowned, turning around to face her.
Elizabeth opened her mouth, and then shut it, looking despairingly over at Gillette. Gillette crimped his fine mouth into a firm, deadly-looking line, and crossed his arms over his chest. Bush looked at both of them, rolled his eyes and spoke, "Oh for God's sake! It's not a military secret, you two." He turned towards the pirate and a half. "We're trying to save Commodore Norrington from the wicked harpy of Port Royal."
"...There's a harpy o'Port Royal?" Sparrow blinked in surprise. "With the claws and the flying wings like a bat?" He made the hand gestures to follow.
"No, but she has a lace fan and is willing to flirt with anything male," Will answered with a slight strain to his usually open expression. "Lady Susan after the Commodore, then?"
The Lieutenants and Elizabeth both stared at Will, very much like the young man had grown a second head that had started spouting romantic poetry in Latin. Bush finally found his voice, "Ah. Yes. That's her exactly."
"Who's this Lady Susan then?" Sparrow asked, hating being the only one left in the dark.
"She's a high society doxy," Will answered Sparrow readily enough, the strained expression on his face becoming an outright scowl. "Who thinks it is amusing to play around with whatever male she can get her hands on, and cause as much trouble as possible."
"William!" Elizabeth scolded, but her expression was clearly pleased as she slipped her arm through his.
"I am beginning to think I simply should have put up a town announcement on the wall of the fort." Gillette observed drolly to Bush. "Even Turner is smart enough to realize just how evil this woman is."
"She does seem to have earned a rather bad reputation with the men who are smart enough to see through her game. Except for James," Bush answered, his expression filled with wry amusement.
Comprehension fully charged Sparrow's animated face. "So it's gotten that bad then? Well, I've known a few doxies in my day, so it shouldn't be too hard t'work this one out. Noble blood or no." Sparrow rubbed his hands together, looking eagerly over at the others. "Since we don't have a plan yet..."
"'We'?" Gillette's wry look vanished into amazement. "You would be willing to help Commodore Norrington?"
"Sure, don't see why not. Nice enough fellow like that doesn't deserve another heartbreak, now does he?" Sparrow smiled sunnily.
"Well of course not! But why in the name of Hell would you care?" Gillette's ginger eyebrows drew together.
Sparrow tilted his head a little, his dark eyes flickering over the young Lieutenant before him, before he shook his head. "No, I suppose you wouldn't understand, would you? Dedicated man like y'are to the Commodore...." Gillette actually felt himself blushing at Sparrow's implied statement, but before he could say something, Sparrow slid forward into his space, his smile a twist of the ironic. "There's a code, see, between men of honor. Now normally, pirates pay about as much attention to that as they do in Church on Sunday, but when you get someone like Norrington - man has a tendency t'respect it a bit more. Your Commodore saved m'life - he gave me a head start when most would have just blown me clear out of the water. I owe him, and I mean to square that." He paused to make sure the statement was clear to the Lieutenant, before flashing golden teeth. "Savvy?"
"...I really hate that word," Gillette muttered after a moment.
"I know. Why do y'think I keep sayin' it?" Sparrow patted him lightly on the arm, and danced backwards as Gillette swiped at his browned hand, amazingly clean of tar and grime. He beamed, then spun on his heel, as he swayed his way back towards the ballroom. "Right. Let's survey the battlefield, eh?"
Will and Elizabeth gave Gillette a hopeless 'You see what we have to deal with?' expression before following behind. Bush slipped his arm through his friend's, grinning like a fool. Gillette gave him a glower, "Don't you DARE tell me how much of an amazing pirate he is, Jonathan Bush. Don't You Dare."
Bush's face took on an innocent look worthy of Sparrow himself, as he responded lightly, "Now Andrew. Would I really rub it in that much?"
"Yes. In a heartbeat." Gillette glared at his friend as they entered the Swann mansion once more.
"Good. I would hate to think I was lessening in talent for annoying you," Bush responded lightly, his grin widening.
"...Bloody pirate sycophant," Gillette mumbled, as they slowed to a halt.
Sparrow, Elizabeth, and Will were all peering around the corner, and Elizabeth's fan drifted over the costumed assemblage, her lips twisting a little. "I don't see her. Ah. Wait. There."
"Blonde there with her back to us?" Sparrow murmured, giving Gillette and Bush a little nod of acknowledgement without turning his head.
"Yes. She'll turn around in a moment. Do we have a plan?" Will whispered, as the strangely gathered allies eyed the antagonist in their little personal drama. Gillette's jaw tightened as she gripped unto Norrington's arm like an anchor. But not for much longer. I won't allow this.
"Perhaps. At least it won't be somethin' dealin' with grapples." Sparrow smirked a little. "Alright, this is what we're gonna do. We'll-" He trailed off abruptly as Lady Susan tilted her head towards one young man, laughed a little, still gripping the Commodore's arm. His face tightened as rage spilled into his eyes, and he let out a noise that could only be a growl.
Everyone turned to blink at him in surprise. Will gently put a hand on the pirate's arm. "Jack?"
"That's her, is it?" Jack's voice was low. "The woman tryin' to get her marital hooks into Norrington?"
"That is the Lady Susan, yes." Gillette said slowly, eying Sparrow as the pirate's rage seemed to deepen.
"Be a bit hard, that. Considering she's already married t'-me-." Browned hands formed furious fists. "Not t'mention the five other men she 'widowed', all on her ownsies."
There was a moment of stunned silence, before Gillette exploded, "I knew it! I knew she was nothing but a filthy backdoor-" He was cut off by Bush's hand finding its way over his mouth.
"Then let us not give that away to the general public. As it stands, Captain Sparrow, despite his newly discovered role as a citizen of the British Empire, is not exactly a reliable witness. So let us just keep this under our hats until we can properly use this information," Bush murmured, using his other hand to pull Sparrow back with him, along with Gillette, into the shadows. "Now, perhaps you could tell us how this came about, Jack?"
The use of his first name brought Jack out of his glower into a surprised blink. He eyed Bush thoughtfully, before shrugging a little. "What's there to say? I married her once, she tried t'murder me horribly in my sleep, I threw her off the Pearl, she lived to murder an English Lord."
"...I take it this isn't one of your favorite stories," Bush said, eyebrows raising.
"I tend t'save my flair for a little something more pleasant, and I'll be damned if I let her get any more credit for pullin' the wool over my eyes," Jack said, his dark eyes flashing. "What's puzzlin' me, however, is why we're standin' here while she's preparing to make herself Lady Susan blah-diddly-poor-fools-who-married-me Norrington?"
Gillette jerked again, but Bush held him steady, dark brown eyes glowing. "Because I haven't told you all the plan yet."
Slowly, everyone's gaze moved towards Bush, and in turn, his smile widened knowingly. He beckoned them all closer, lowering his voice as they did so, "All we need is to..."
It was like all great plans, Sparrow would say later, for madness and brilliance both claimed it as its own, but reason would have nothing to do with it all.
Unaware of his fate, Norrington was attempting to be witty, charming, and interested in everything Lady Susan had to say. Up to date, he was failing in every regard.
Everything he said rang false in his ears. Every smile she flashed his way made him feel even more awkward. He longed for a little peace and quiet away from the brilliant crowds of costumes, to get his mind around a rather disturbing fact.
He was living a lie. Standing here, trying to court this woman? He was lying to himself on the most intrinsic level. He swallowed the bile in his throat. He had always been a man who believed in the truth, facing it and living by it, as it walked hand in hand with honor. Yet this, his proper duty, what he should be doing - it seemed as false to him as the smile plastered on his face.
Is this how Elizabeth felt, after she accepted my proposal? This heartsick feeling that now, and after, at least I am doing my duty? Norrington thought to himself, sipping his wine. It had nothing to do with Lady Susan - she was a tad... forceful, but otherwise lovely. She just wasn't right for him. He couldn't see her, twenty years down the line, at his side.
Laughing with him.
Teaching him a rather naughty French sailor song when they were both drunk and sniggering at each other in his bunk when he made Captain.
He sighed inwardly, staring off into the crowd again. He was hopeless, absolutely hopeless, but he wasn't going to ruin Lady Susan's life like Elizabeth had ruined his. He would break their acquaintance off this very evening. Save her the humiliation of being put with a... a whatever he was. There were some crude terms, but he refused to think of himself that way. His pride would not stand for it.
Then, he would consider transfer. They had been asking about him up north, towards the colonies. A Navy man to protect the corridor between England and His Majesty's colonies. Anything to get away from the heartache of watching Elizabeth marry Turner, and watch as he slowly became more and more estranged from Andrew.
Andrew, whom he loved.
Very good, Norrington. Even telling the truth to himself made it easier to bear. Oh, it would hurt later on, but he would not besmirch one of his dearest friends with the burden of his feelings. He had heard tales - every Naval lad had - of officers using their positions to take advantage of their lustful feelings towards their fellow sailors. He was determined to keep himself away from temptation.
He wasn't quite sure what he was supposed to do, however, when Temptation suddenly appeared as if directly from a dream, looking around. Temptation turned, dressed elegantly in russet colours that brought out the tints of his pale skin. Those dark, dark eyes fell on him with some relief, and Temptation came right at him.
He felt his breath catch, knew his fingers were curling around the glass a little tighter as Temptation swept to them. Those dark eyes lingered on his own green ones for a moment longer, before they turned towards the Lady Susan, and Norrington felt their loss keenly.
Dimly, he heard the Lady Susan say, "Why, Lieutenant Gillette! So we meet again. I haven't seen you in ages."
"Someone had to see to the paperwork, my Lady, while Bush went out to play," Gillette responded lightly. "Which is part and parcel why I am here. He seems to be surrounded at the moment, but he wished to beg you the favor of the first dance. He'll be over in a moment to collect it, but I wanted to steal the Commodore from you, first." A sharp, brilliant smile crossed the Lieutenant's face.
"I see... well, as long as you bring him back," Lady Susan replied, patting Norrington's arm.
Norrington found the play of emotions fascinating across Gillette's face, before coming back to himself. He had been meaning to have a word with Gillette on his attitude towards Lady Susan - now seemed the opportune moment to do so. "I will not be long, Lady Susan. Enjoy your dance with Lieutenant Bush."
"Oh, I'm sure she will, Commodore." Bush appeared, smiling dauntlessly as he bowed to Lady Susan. "If I may...?"
The Lieutenants shared a look before Bush took Lady Susan in the direction of the dance floor, and Gillette gestured off to one of the rooms off the main floor. Norrington followed, catching the sharp look Gillette cast over his shoulder towards the dance floor. Their eyes met...
Norrington's mouth dried as his hands were suddenly damp with sweat. There was no mistake in that look, the heat in Gillette's glance. But he couldn't - there was no way possibly...
Gillette's steps had lost their smooth crisp perfect motion, as he shoved open the nearest door and walked in. Norrington, after a moment, followed after.
"Might I inquire why you asked for the honor of this dance, Lieutenant Bush?" Lady Susan purred, as they swirled around the floor.
Bush's smile could have blinded most women to fluttering to the ground. "Act-ually, Lady Susan, I was asked about you. An old friend, wishing to renew his acquaintance."
A murmur of surprise was wafting through the crowd. Lady Susan, however, was more interested in the dangerous gleam in Jonathan Bush's eye. An uneasy feeling filled her gut as she simpered slightly, "Oh? I couldn't imagine who we would both know, Lieutenant, outside our already mutual acquaintances."
A hint of gold, a glimmer of ivory white, and suddenly Lady Susan found herself in a four circle with Bush, a smirking Elizabeth Swann, and... "Jack!?"
Jack Sparrow purred, his serpent costume shimmering almost as brightly as his deadly smile. "H'llo darlin'."
Gillette could feel Norrington's gaze on his back. The door closed behind them both, and Norrington spoke, confusion clear in his smooth tones, "Gillette?"
The redhead's head was dropped, and he murmured softly, " ...Je suis désolé. Je plains ceci ."
"Sorry for what?" Norrington's voice cracked a little. Gillette felt his throat tighten, as steps approached him. "Andrew, tell me what's wrong." A warm, long-fingered hand curved around one shoulder.
"Don't touch me!" Gillette suddenly shouted, pulling himself away. He jerked his gaze towards Norrington, dark eyes filled with silent pain. "I've had all I can take, James! Si vous ne pouvez pas voir quel est devant vous, alors par Dieu je vous ferai l'entend!"
He took a deep breath, feeling as if he was standing on that parapet, moments way from tumbling off, before he whispered fiercely, "I am in love with you, James!"
"Jack, what are you doing here?" Lady Susan hissed, glaring at each one of them in turn. "And if you think you three can blackmail me..."
"Susy, sweetcheeks, shut the hell up," Jack growled, that golden smile sealed into place. "I got here invited, legitimate. Under my own name, in fact. 'N we're not gonna blackmail you."
"Much." Elizabeth smiled sweetly. "At least, not for gold coin. All we want is the sudden disappearance of Lady Susan."
"Preferably somewhere far from the Caribbean. I hear Boston is lovely this time of year," Bush added, as they changed directions.
"And if I refuse to leave?" Lady Susan's eyes slitted to mere glimmers of blue.
Jack smiled, leaning forward. "Then I tell ole Norrie all about our lovely weddin' day, and all the other ones I've heard you've had over the years, Susy precious."
Lady Susan paled considerably, before she said haughtily, "And just what exactly would he do about that? He is, after all, a gentleman."
"He is at that. Which means he would take off his hat before hanging you," Bush murmured, and nodded his head towards the front doors, where William stood. "You're about to have a family emergency, Lady Susan, brought to you by the ever so dutiful future son-in-law of Governor Swann. I suggest you take it."
Norrington stood, struck dumb. He tried to make sounds, something that could be a reply, but nothing came out.
Gillette's hands formed fists. "I don't care if you don't love me. I don't care if you HANG me! I don't even care if this ruins Jonathan's plan all to pieces! Les condamner tout à l'ENFER! LADY SUSAN EST UNE FRAUDE!" He growled and shook Norrington by the shoulders, "She's played you false - like Miss Elizabeth did - but with instead with every malicious intent! I can't stand by and watch her do this... just rip your heart to pieces. Je vous aime trop beaucoup de pour cela. Peut-être vous ne m'aimerez jamais, mais je jure à Dieu je ne vous permettez jamais d'aime quelqu'un qui n'est pas digne de votre coeur...your very fine heart." Some of the momentum left his rant, as his mind started to catch up with what he was saying.
Frustration and desperation warred over Lady Susan's face, and she looked towards Jack, her face a harsh mask, "Why? I know we parted badly, but to be on their side - Jack, you're a Pirate!"
"Aye. That I am. And Norrington's a good man." Jack answered simply.
"A fine man," Elizabeth added firmly, her pointed chin lifting up with sharp anger.
"Best Naval officer I've ever seen." Bush tilted his head, his brown eyes hard as brick.
"Which means he doesn't deserve the likes o'you - never has, never will." Jack finished, and lifted one hand. "Tah, pet. Don't let the fancy gilt door hit you on your treacherous gilt behind."
Lady Susan's eyes darkened, her beautiful expression promising retribution, but she bowed with mocking perfection as Will moved across the dance floor, and to her side. A moment later she was giving her apologies, and all but running out the door.
She put on a good show, Bush thought to himself, as he stepped with Jack Sparrow, while Elizabeth and Will went hurriedly to explain to the Governor why the famed pirate was dancing with his own beloved daughter in the middle of Port Royal society. He'd give a great deal of money to find out how Elizabeth sweetened up that explanation.
"So now what do we do, mate?" Jack said, leaning on Bush companionably.
Bush sighed, "How do you feel about explaining to James Norrington, Commodore, that the second woman in his life loves him as much as the first?"
"...Like the noose is tightenin' around m'throat again." Jack sighed, shaking his head with a jingle. "Can we get a drink first?"
"No." Bush smirked at Jack's downcast expression. "I say two."
"I hate painf'l heartrending explanations." Jack muttered, as he grabbed two glasses of sparkling wine from a passing servant and gave one to Bush. "Drinks all around, eh?"
Oh. Oh God. What have I done? Gillette swallowed, starting to move backwards, staring at Norrington's chest and away from his gaze, "I..I.."
"Andrew." Norrington's voice was quiet, but firm. "Look at me." Gillette shook a little, and Norrington spoke again, "That's an order, Lieutenant."
Gillette's eyes moved up, trying to read the still expression on Norrington's face.
Then Norrington smiled, a smile that warmed his entire face. A crinkle that turned his eyes the exact color of the sea on a sunny day, as he murmured, " I am going to put this as succinctly as possible, as you've put it in more words and one more language than I have ever truly mastered the ability to express my emotions in. So pay attention, and listen carefully, because I will say this but once, Andrew Gillette."
There was a poignant pause, while the taller man leaned close and whispered against the other man's lips, "Je t'aime, aussi." He waited a moment to see those words sink into Gillette's mind, to see the dark eyes widen, before he added gently, "Now shut up and kiss me, you babbling idiot."
Gillette's dark eyes closed, then opened slowly. Then he smiled, his face losing all its sharp edges. "I always followed orders, sir... Commodore..." His mouth whispered against the too-long-waited for warm lips that parted, "James..." Their kiss was awkward in form, earnest in passion, and deepened with every brush of lips against tongues. Gillette's hands tightened on Norrington's shoulders, bringing him closer so he could properly obey his superior's rather direct command.
The two men inside the room were thankfully, blessedly quiet for quite a long time.
The two men outside the door were equally quiet.
Finally, the pirate spoke. "Think they'll scupper right 'ere?"
The Lieutenant smirked. "Only in my wildest dreams." A moment of eavesdropping, before he murmured softly, "You know, we shouldn't be listening to this."
"Ab'solutely not. It's downright ungentlemanly." The pirate agreed, before flashing gold. "I take it y'know where t'get a delightful view of the Commodore's bedchambers?"
"Jack, Jack, Jack." The Lieutenant flung one arm around the pirate's shoulders. "Of course I do. You bring the rum, and I'll bring the spyglass."
The pirate slipped his arm around the Lieutenant's waist, as they moved away from the room. "Johnny-boy, this is the beginnin' of a very profitable relationship."
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