|FIC: Affliction - PG
||[Dec. 10th, 2007|07:48 pm]
And they call it Scruffy Love
Pairing: Jack/James (sort of); Jack/Will, Will/Elizabeth, Elizabeth/James mentioned
Disclaimer: I own nothing, I just wish I did.
Summary: After the hurricane, a treasure has washed ashore for the Pearl to discover.
Warnings: AU (so what else is new?)
Author’s Note: Originally entitled “Bits and Pieces”, this was supposed to be an experiment in telling a story through short scenes. Alas, I failed. Apologies, loves.
Crossposted to pirategasm, scruffy_love, jack_madness
Affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. – John Donne
The sound of boots crunching on the rough sand made him look up. The approaching figure was familiar and he dreaded the words he knew would soon be spoken. His ship had gone down nearly a week before; most of his crew, if not all, were gone. He had struggled to make it to this God-forsaken spit of land where food was in short supply and potable water nearly non-existent. He looked back out to sea, using one hand to brush his dark hair back out of his eyes.
“Commodore Norrington? What brings ye t’ this little slice o’ hell?”
Aboard the Black Pearl, he was granted the courtesy of a cabin to himself, rather than the brig. Moreover, Sparrow was decent enough to provide him warm water to clean himself with, his first full meal in a week, a bottle of brandy, and clean, if ill-fitting, clothes. As he bathed, he discovered a rather nasty cut that ran down his left hip and thigh. He frowned and wondered why he hadn’t discovered the injury before.
He was partly dressed when there was a knock on the door. He raised his head, intending to send his visitor away, but the door opened. Sparrow peeked around the door.
“Ah, ye’re mostly decent. Jus’ wanted t’ ask ye where ye wanted us t’ leave ye, mate. Tortuga seems a bit too friendly-like t’ pirates but Port Royal’s out o’ the question, as ye might remember,” Sparrow smiled smugly with narrowed eyes. The expression reminded him of their first encounter on that dock in Port Royal.
The fates conspire against me, He mused, perhaps I should request a pistol. He lowered his gaze from Sparrow’s and shrugged. At that moment, he heard Sparrow mutter something sharply.
“Damnation, Commodore!” Without warning, Sparrow was kneeling beside him. He jolted upright when the pirate’s hot hand began probing at the left side of his back. “How’d this happen, mate?”
He shrugged, the entire aftermath of the storm was a blur. He recalled struggling out of the heavy uniform jacket in order to stay afloat then spotting Gillette, still in his own greatcoat, trying to swim toward him. He started toward his first officer but a swell put more distance between them. He saw Gillette’s bewigged head go under again and fail to reappear. A flash of lightning showed him the Dauntless was on her larboard side, her sails--what few were still unfurled--were filling with water and dragging her farther down. He’d called to his men, the few that were nearby, but the roar of the wind and waves rendered him voiceless. After that, he let his survival instincts take control.
“Ye know, Commodore, ye never been the mos’ garrulous but this silent act o’ yers is unnervin’. Speak up, man,” Jack ordered but the look in his eyes said he was only jesting. When Sparrow saw his expression, his own eyes saddened. “Very well, Commodore, I won’t pester ye more. Take down yer britches.”
That finally pulled a verbal response from Norrington. “I will do no such thing!”
Jack shook his head. “’Tis not what ye’re thinkin’, Commodore. Yer injury continues beneath yer trousers. By necessity we must be treatin’ it or it won’t heal properly. If ye don’t heal properly, how can I return ye to yer life in Port Royal?”
Jack kept his mind on the matter at hand. Treating the long gash down the Commodore’s back and side was the only thing he should be concentrating on. The truth, though, was that Norrington’s lean body, his long limbs and tight buttocks, made him consider highly improper actions--actions that might likely get him killed should he execute them.
He was nearly done and plucking the last of the splinters from the Commodore’s left flank when Norrington sighed heavily. Jack took a washrag and began to wipe down the entire length of the injury. As he did so, he grew aware that Norrington was shivering and not from the cold. He paused and rested his hand on the Commodore’s shoulder.
“If ye need t’ talk about it, James, ye have my word it will go no farther,” Jack fell silent and let the words sink in. After a few seconds, he returned to the task at hand. He set the wash-cloth aside and pulled the Commodore’s shirt down before turning away. He stood to leave the room. “Well, Commodore, if ye have need of anythin’, jus’--.”
“How--,” Norrington hesitated and Jack heard him swallow hard. “How did you manage? I-I know how you felt about--.”
Jack sighed and Norrington turned to look at him, alarm apparent in the blue-green depths. “M-My apologies if I presumed incorrectly but the look on your face--.”
Jack smiled gently at him and shrugged. “I should ‘ave known it was never t’ be but I had t’ hope. You saw him, Commodore, like a bright golden crown ‘e is, an’ so like his father--It was the first thing t’ stir this ragged ol’ heart o’ mine in many a year. Was it the same fer you an’ ‘Lizabeff?”
Norrington sat up and shook his head. “No, we were acquaintances at best. There was precious little in common between the two of us. It’s--I’ve lost the Dauntless. My career is ruined.”
“Ah, mate, no, it’s not possible!” Jack set the basin of water aside and took one pace forward. “Surely yer superiors will recognize that ye cannot control the weather. How could ye foresee--?”
“It was not unavoidable, Sparrow,” James replied. “You spoke of returning me to Port Royal. If you do, it will be to charges of dereliction of duty, at best, or negligence and a dishonorable discharge--if not a swift execution for my incompetence. I would prefer you return me to any British held port other than Port Royal. I would face my ignominy alone and without being witnessed by the Turners.”
Jack felt his lips draw into a thin line. Despite his own thoughts on the matter, the truth was that Norrington was probably right. His career, without doubt, was over. If this man--this good man--was to be returned only to face dishonor and, possibly, death, he knew he had only one choice. “Very well, Mr. Norrington. Welcome t’ the crew of the Black Pearl. When ye’re healthy, I’ll expect ye t’ report t’ me fer duty.”
“What the blazes are you talking about?!” Norrington stood then realized his trousers were down around his knees. Jack let his gaze drop to the juncture of his thighs where his cock caused the shirt he wore to curve outward. Norrington scrambled to pull his pants up and fought to pretend his cheeks were not bright red. “Sparrow, I warn you--.”
Jack smiled then sobered, turning his best “never challenge me” glower on the Commodore. “Nay, Norrington, that’s Captain Sparrow t’ you. I might remind ye, mate, that the Pearl is a pirate vessel. Should we find a treasure washed up on some shore, we’d claim that fer our own, like as not. Since I happened t’ find you washed up on the shore o’ that bloody little scrap o’ land, ye now belong t’ me, savvy?”
For James Norrington, the idea of being anyone’s property was simply unbelievable. When the additional concept that he was now the property of Jack Sparrow was taken into the equation, the notion became patently ridiculous. Yet the idea of returning to Port Royal--or, indeed, any British port--seemed inconceivable. Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis, James mused, picturing the pirate captain as the unforgiving rocky point and the British Navy as the sucking whirlpool.
Still, where there was life, there was hope. Despite the ridiculousness of the situation, he threw himself into the duties he was assigned. Mostly, they were those of any common tar aboard a ship. Repairing lines, reefing sails, scrubbing decks, and anything else that was needed. Every so often, he would find himself looking at Sparrow and wondering what was going through the man's head. If it so happened that Sparrow caught him looking, there was generally a gentle smile and a slow nod of acknowledgement that he returned before looking away. Sparrow seemed to understand that he needed time to work things through so he had, apparently, given orders for the others to leave James alone. On his own part, the pirate captain had kept his own distance and his silence. While James was grateful for that, to an extent, he realized he was growing lonelier by the day.
So it was that after six weeks of living and working on the Black Pearl, James presented himself to Jack Sparrow at the helm late one afternoon. He was dressed in his cleanest attire and had taken out the time to wash his face and hands. He stood with perfect military bearing while he waited for Jack to recognize him.
"Ye're lookin' mighty presentable, mate, fer a disreputable rogue," Jack said after a moment. "Did ye need somethin'?"
"Yes, sir," James answered, flashing back to his days as a midshipman when speaking to a superior officer. "I request that you return me to the nearest British port where I may surrender myself to His Majesty's Navy for trial and sentencing. It is time I faced the consequences of my actions."
Jack turned his attention back to the horizon and casually swung the wheel back a few degrees, starting the turn for the Pearl's next tack. It was several minutes before he answered. "It's high time, Norrington, that we discussed matters. I'll have ye join me fer dinner this evenin', in me cabin."
James blinked then asked, "Will you give me your answer then?"
Jack didn't look at him though a smile twitched up the corner of his mouth. "That remains t' be seen, don't it? Ye're dismissed."
James sighed heavily but understood that he would get no more out of Sparrow at the moment. He left the quarterdeck and went down to the main deck. He wandered along the length of the ship until he came across a knot of pirates--mostly young ones--clustered around Gibbs as he told a story about mermaids and sea turtles. He had to grin when Cotton's parrot interrupted the story with a blood-curdling scream, as of a woman in terror. It made every one of the scoundrels listening leap and clutch at their hearts or reach for their flasks--even Gibbs.
The rum Jack served that night after the meal was probably some of the finest James had ever tasted. Sweet but with a bite on the backside that promised a tremendous hangover the next morning, he really didn’t care. He might as well return to the Royal Navy and get things
over with. His father did have some influence so he might not hang after all. He might just spend several years in prison. He shuddered as he took another long drink from his mug at the thought.
“I’d prefer to hang,” He muttered then glanced up at Jack in some alarm. He had said that aloud, hadn’t he?
“T’ bein’ in prison, mate? Aye, so would I,” Jack replied, not at all disturbed about James’ mutterings. “When they hang ye, yer soul can go free. When ye go t’ prison, yer soul dies.”
James recalled seeing the brand on Jack’s arm. A brush with the East India Company, Sparrow? He remembered saying. He also remembered passing judgment instantaneously upon Sparrow: a filthy pirate, no better than any other murdering, thieving rapist. But the months and weeks since then had shown him how wrong he was about Jack Sparrow. He looked up to see that there was a pensive expression on Sparrow’s face, almost mournful, and James wondered how long Sparrow had been in the custody of the East India men. Long enough, He supposed and remembered something he’d heard about the men employed by that company. Another
shudder slid down his back. Perhaps it wasn’t so odd that they would both rather hang than live in a cage.
“Ye all right, James?” Sparrow asked after a few seconds. “There a problem, mate?”
“No,” James said finally. “I believe that you would be quite safe in leaving me in Nassau. I can then arrange for transport back to the Virginia colonies or perhaps to another naval installation for my trial. I would prefer to avoid Port Royal.”
Several minutes passed while Jack considered his words. He poured them each another mug of rum and sipped delicately at his while he brooded. James tried not to stare at Sparrow but he couldn’t avoid watching the way his hands curled around the mug, cradling it tenderly. When he took another sip from the rum, James noticed a few drops escaped out the side of his mouth and forged a trail through his beard to his throat. A quick brush of Jack’s hand to wipe them away broke James’ concentration and he returned his attention to his own drink.
“Was it a prison ship?” James asked to his own shock. He couldn’t believe he was actually prying into the man’s past.
For a few minutes, he wasn’t sure Jack would answer. Finally, the pirate captain wiped a hand down his face, smudging the kohl under his eyes further so that he looked as if he’d been recently beaten. “Don’t know if that would ‘a been worse or better. No, ‘twas
on a rocky little island near China. Don’t rightly remember exactly where an’, t’ be perfectly honest with ye, I don’t care to.”
“How long were you there?” James noticed that asking the questions was becoming easier.
“Can’t say fer certain. Probably four years. It was after I’d lost the Pearl, part o’ the reason it took me ten years t’ get her back. At the time, I figured I’d never get her back. Didn’t make the livin’ any easier but my soul was already dead, I thought, so it din’t matter all that much t’ me at the time,” Jack looked up with a quick smile. “It’s too depressin’ t’ talk about it, eh?"
James nodded, understanding but suddenly more curious than he wanted to believe. He pushed his next question back and took another drink. "I've assisted in jailing plenty of rogues in my time but I've never--not even the brig on a ship."
"Ah," Jack said and leaned back a little. “I could remedy that, mate, if ye like.”
James’ eyes widened and he looked at Sparrow only to see a glimmer of mischief on the pirate captain’s face. He couldn’t resist a slight smile of his own. “No, I would prefer not. So what do you intend with me? To return me to Port Royal and make my humiliation complete? Or will you grant me my request?”
Sparrow wagged his head from side to side. “Now, ye see, that’s a difficulty. In the first place, I’m a pirate captain, actually, an’ I make it something of a policy not t’ consort with naval types. Lucky fer you, mate, you’re no longer one of ‘em. And in the second place, it’s generally frowned ‘pon in pirate circles t’ be turnin’ one’s crewmembers over t’ the authorities. If it’s a hangin’ ye want, Norrington, I can arrange it here on the Pearl but it seems a waste of a good navigator, savvy?”
“If I’m such a good navigator, why am I scrubbing decks?” James couldn’t fight the flare of anger. He’d felt nothing for so long that he couldn’t stop the sudden rush of emotion. He leapt to his feet. “Why in God’s name did you bother to bring me aboard this leaky piece of jetsam?! You should have let me die! I’ve no career, no future, no family, not even someone to-to--.”
James finally managed to restrain himself as he looked into Jack’s eyes. The pirate captain’s face was impassive, just a hint of compassion in the black depths. James glanced away after a moment. “My apologies, Captain, I didn’t mean to--.”
“Ye did, Norrington. I been waitin’ t’ see when this would happen. Got t’ admire a man who can keep himself in order after what you been through,” Jack sighed and stood so he was more on the former Commodore’s level. “One thing ye mus’ never forget about pirates, mate. We live by the motto: Waste not. Gibbs is a good man an’ he’s a passable navigator when he needs t’ be but he’s gettin’ on in years. The Pearl needs another navigator. We ain’t had a trustworthy first-mate in years. I’d like fer you t’ take that post.”
The words took several long seconds to process through James’ mind. It wasn’t just the offer, though, that James was having difficulty with. Truth be told, he was a little offended that Jack hadn’t asked him earlier. No, what he was having difficulty working out was the use of “trustworthy” by the pirate.
When James didn’t respond for several more minutes, Jack sighed finally and shook his head. “Take some time t’ think about it. I’m in no hurry, nor is the Pearl. Patience is a virtue, eh?”
James couldn’t help himself. He began to chuckle then ended up laughing aloud. “Virtue isn’t one of your virtues, you rogue. Pardon me, ‘Captain.’ I suppose I have no choice, do I? Very well, sir, I accept your offer.”
James held out his hand. Sparrow started to offer his then drew back at the last second. At the startled look on James’ face, the pirate captain grinned broadly and grabbed his hand. Before James could react, Jack pulled him in and planted a swift but thorough kiss on his lips.
“We have an accord,” Jack muttered then set James away. “Best get up on-deck, Mr. Norrington. Ye have a long shift ahead of ye.”
James licked his lips then nodded after a few seconds. He downed the rest of the rum in his mug. “Aye, sir.”
James was almost out the door when he turned back. “And Captain?”
Jack met his eyes with a slight smile. James grinned and tossed him a left-handed salute. “Thanks very much.”