Title: You Had a Charming Air, All Cheap and Debonair, Part 1/15
Fandom: Pirates of the Caribbean
Rating/Pairing: PG-13 / Sparrow, Norrington
Summary: Set decades after PotC1, with flashbacks to 1 and after. Who doesn't like a little cat and mouse? Except, who's the cat and who's the mouse?
Disclaimer Own nothing, make not one red cent, the House of Mouse is run by Steven Jobs now. Also, sometimes I purposely look away to avoid holding the door for someone on an elevator.
A/N: Feedback, concrit, dropped commas, I'll take it all. If you don't want to put it here, feel free to email at my livejournal name. A huge thanks to floweringjudas for the knowledgeable beta, and to cherusha for the nudges in the Prologue, and for bringing me into the fandom in the first place.
[Prologue, 1] [2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 6 ] [ 7 ] [ 8 ] [ 9 ] [ 10 ] [ 11 ] [ 12 ] [ 13 ] [ 14 ] [ 15 ]
James Norrington slid his empty glass forward on the bar and within seconds, was given a fresh glass filled with the finest scotch. Or as fine a scotch as this tavern was capable of producing. The barkeep had served the former Commodore for years and kept a bottle secreted away on the occasion that James showed up thirsty. The barkeep also knew to not announce the man's presence to the other patrons. This was a tavern for mercenaries, for privateers. If they had known that a respected man of His Britannic Majesty's Navy, albeit former, but it carried the same weight in these parts, was listening in on their conversations, there would have been trouble. Especially if they knew which particular man it was.
After all, James may have been pushing sixty with a neatly tied ponytail of silver hair that cascaded down his back, deeply wrinkled eyes and coarse, scarred hands, but he was still quick with the blade and faster with his fists. There was a reason he had never ascended to a rank higher than Commodore, and his relationship with Governor Swann, God rest his soul, insured he never sank lower. He had retired many years before, forced into obscurity and had become bitter towards the Navy. So now, here, he listened and learned. What he did with this knowledge, only one man ever knew. If anyone else had ever suspected, well... but no one had, and this had been his life for over twenty years.
His finger traced the circular watermark that stained the bar where he sat. The night air was humid, and the stench of the many bodies crammed into tight quarters was overpowering. After finishing his drink he rummaged in his pocket for a few coins to square with the barkeep, ready to get away from this stifling atmosphere and breathe in the fresh air, possibly stroll along the shore and listen to the crashing of the waves. The sun and sea air would bake away all the unpleasant odors of men. Back when he had his own ship, he purposely commissioned his quarters on the opposite side of the other men so that his time spent below decks wasn't horrific.
God, he missed sailing.
As his fingers walked over the various coins in his pocket, he overheard a snippet of a conversation to his right and stole a glance out of the corner of his eye. Two old seamen were sitting hunched over their cups, one missing an eye and a large portion of his cheek, the other bent over, hands rough and haggard - signs of a life spent climbing ropes caked with salt and sea.
"Ne'er in my life have I seen a sight as fearsome. Mouth like the gates of hell, teeth the size of me arm, the sounds of the men screaming in me ears... Aye, that's the sound that will greet me as I take my final leave. He may'ha took a chunk of me," the old codger pointed at the ruin that was his face and broke into a jack-o’-lantern's grin, "but I took a big chunk out of him! Finest soup I ever et."
"Feh. I've seen the sharks, as you well know, but you've never been aboard a whaler. Oh, they are bastards. Canny and braw, and can swallow a ship whole. I cannae decide if I hate them, or love them."
"Love them? MacDougal, you've spent too long at sea!"
"Shut yer gob, M'talking about the whale that ate the greatest pirate what ever lived."
James slid back into his chair, pushing it a bit closer to the two old men, and slid his glass forward again for a refill. The one-eyed sailor crossed himself, kissed a bit of gold that hung around his neck and whispered, "I ken that whale - The Bird Eater."
"Ach, that's the one. The great beast what et up the slipperiest, most nefarious, most hated pirate of all times, bless him. Jack Sparrow always did have the Old Scratch two steps at his heel and the ghost of the noose always trying to catch his neck. Best he lived and died by the sea," he held a glass up, a solemn expression upon his sun-beaten and weathered face. "May I be as fortunate to die on water, and if I go on land, fie to those that leave me to lie there."
They clinked mugs and downed their ale.
"He wasn't alone, though, if I recall the story?"
"The Scourge. If Captain Jack did one thing right by those of us what fly beneath the Black, it was to take The Scourge Norrington with him into that gaping maw." The sailor gripped his glass tightly in his hand, face twisting into a hateful scowl. "He rotted in that great belly and I hope he ate that blasted wig of his in the end!"
James rolled his eyes and settled back into his chair, tongue firmly in cheek, although secretly pleased his name still caused such fear and anger amongst the wicked. His plan had gone perfectly, and the story seemed to grow every time he happened to hear it. This one had the look of a natural story teller. James wished he had thought to bring some peanuts or a meat pastie. He shrugged. There would be food when he got home. For now, he would attend his funeral one more time. Hiding a small, sly grin into his glass, he sipped, then rested his cheek on his palm, all ears.
The problem with catching pirates was that they were pirates. In essence: sneaky, lying, untrustworthy bastards who never ended up where they said they would. Intelligence from local sailors or pubs or ships' records were almost completely unreliable. Therefore, Commodore James Norrington, the most successful pirate hunter in the King's Navy, had learned years before to not trust anything but his own instinct as to where they lurked. His few brief encounters with the worst pirate on record, Jack Sparrow - he refused to call the man a captain, although there was that time in Port Royal when he'd gallantly stuck with his sinking boat, it technically wasn't his boat in that instance but still, he had remained with it until even the topmost flag had sunk, and he did love the Pearl, and well, there was that complete dedication to the sea and how his men followed him, unusual for a pirate, but perhaps-
The Commodore flared his nostrils. Jack Sparrow was not a good pirate. Or captain. The fool was a drunken lout who had got lucky, that's all, although he had been kind and seemingly heartfelt when expressing his shock over Elizabeth declaring her love for the blacksmith. Damn.
James rolled up the maps on his desk quickly and almost ripped them into pieces as he jammed them into their protective leather tube. "Bring us round North-North-West 14 degrees! Take out the middle sails. He's thinking he'll sail around the cove to hide in the rocks of Hispaniola, but he won't find refuge. He'll find us. And all our guns trained on him. Gillette! I'll be below decks in my study. If there is any sign, any hint of Mr. Sparrow-"
"Captain Sparrow, sir?"
James' green eyes narrowed dangerously and his head inclined forward the barest inch towards his Lieutenant. "MISTER Jack Sparrow. Any hint of him OR his rag-tag crew OR that dilapidated ship he loves - fetch me immediately. Understood?"
A chin up, eyes appropriately directed over the Commodore's shoulder, and a stiff hand in salute were his answer. James turned on his heels, slipping his hands behind his back to lace together as his coat tails spun out with the motion.
Everything was that bloody pirate's fault. His marriage, or lack thereof, his men's insistence on thinking the skiver to be a good pirate... Two days. James had given the promised one day's head start and they had been to sea for two days, fighting head-winds the whole way. He took off his coat, dusted a few flecks off the brocade and hung it on the gilt hook the Navy insisted on installing in the captain's quarters. His room was equipped with one wall entirely of windows. He leaned against the glass and sighed. The bastard had stolen James' compass when he offered commiserations at the loss of his fiancé.
Dammit, his mother had given that when he had set off on his first voyage at twelve! No better than a bloody, thieving pickpocket.
It wasn't about the compass. This... race against the weather, rough seas and other obligations. It was about honor. It was about James catching that poor excuse for a captain and slipping the tightest, greenest hemp around the man's neck and watching the air slowly slip from his hateful lips. To see the whites of the pirate's eyes when his eyes rolled back in his head, made more pronounced from the ridiculous black kohl around his eyes. Maybe those foolish little baubles that adorned that stupid hair with would jingle as Jack kicked about in his death throes. James thought he might just cut a few off and string them together. Wear them on his lapel like a savage.
...And also, he really wanted that compass back.
He pinked at the memory of the nut-brown, jingle-jangled fool leaning forward, hand on brocade and whispering, "I want you to know that I was rooting for you, mate. Know that." All the while his free hand slipped into his pocket! Into his breeches' pocket. And James hadn't even known. He felt shame burning his face. He wasn't quite willing to examine whether the shame was from being made a fool by a pirate, and a very poor one at that, or that the man had slipped his hand into his breeches and only-
James turned and grabbed a book, trying to calm his nerves with prose, gave up, and tossed it onto his writing desk. He grabbed his musket, a soft rag, and vial of grease and spent the next half hour taking the pistol apart and polishing it to a bright shine. Just as he locked the final bolt into the chamber and brought it to his eye to insure the chamber was clear, a sharp whistle from the port bow brought him back to his senses. Musket into holster, coat grabbed in haste and James was out the door and up the wooden steps in a trice.
"Sir! Finneus in the crow's nest, sir. He spies black sails."
A slow exhale from his nose and the barest hint of a smile on his face. "Well, well, well. We'll catch him, blast a hole through the side of that boat and show no mercy to those aboard. Lieutenant?"
"Have your men load the guns on the larboard side. We'll show him that no one, and nothing can match the superiority of the British on water."
"And thar they were, two of the finest, fastest ships on sea, guns pointed at each other."
"Both ships? Both ships had guns out? So the pirate knew the Navy was on him, eh? Why didn't he open more sail? Toss weight overboard and outrun them? Ride high and skim the shoals?"
"Who's telling this story? Me? Or are you?"
"Go on, then! So. Three days after Sparrow slipped the noose again, the Scourge has him in his sights..."
The old man rubbed his chin. "No, that's not right. The Pearl did weigh anchor, open all her sails, and beat the Navy ahead of a storm. Which time was..?"
The one-eyed sailor huffed, shook his head and sipped at his new glass of ale, completely missing the soft chuckle from the distinguished older gentleman to his left.
Yes, the Pearl had slipped out of his reach yet again, but not before James had taken out his glass and spied Jack on deck.
The pirate had his pants down, bare arsed on deck and was waggling it at him!
The small circle of the eyepiece was digging into the flesh around James' eye. Was he... he was slapping his bare arse now?
Through the eyepiece James saw Jack hold out the compass, give it a loving kiss, then waggle his fingers in farewell.
"Begging your pardon, Sir?"
The Pearl passed through the small channel, her sails filled with wind, and she was off.
"Commodore Norrington! Sir."
"What, for God's sake?"
"Hard a-port! Unless you all want to be turned into sharks' meat! Damnit!" James pounded the rail with his fist as once again Sparrow had slipped from his grasp.
Close to a year had passed with no sign or word of the Pearl, nor its lunatic captain. After registering with the harbormaster in Port Antonio, Jamaica, James took a well-deserved break and was far into his cups in a decent enough pub. It was the first time he had been on land in months, and his former commanding officer, the soon-to-be retired Captain Honeychurch, had invited him to join in a friendly game of cards with two mariners of the Captain's acquaintance.
The game was brought to a screeching halt when a familiar compass, dropped from a familiar hand, broke into James' vision, blurry though it may have been.
"Deal me in, fellows."
"He's a -! That's a bottom! He showed me his pirate!" James pounded the table with the flat of his hand to clear his head. "That man's a pirate and he showed me his arse and he'll not play!"
Captain Honeychurch, biting with the edge of his teeth into the gold of the compass, smiled at Jack Sparrow and dealt him into the game.
"Now, James, surely you can take a night off! Besides, you're winning."
"Yes, James! All work and no play make the Commodore's arse tighter than a knot hole in new wood." A flash of a gold smile and was that a wink?
James leapt to his feet, knocking his chair backwards, and tried to snatch his compass from the pot. Sparrow smiled benignly and fiddled with his wrist cuff, whistling.
"You'll be taking your hand off the money, James. Title or no, right or wrong his coming to have that may be, I don't care. You'll either earn that trinket fair and square, or watch one of us do it. Now, you have two guns trained to your back. What say you?"
James took a few deep breaths, willed everything inside him to not pummel the smirking pirate sitting across from him, nor the bastard who sat with him in uniform.
"Sure, sure, you want to say something, probably about honor and duty James, but you see, it's been a hard slog at sea for the past 15 months. I'll not have your little dispute with this ragamuffin spoil my first decent game with civilized men in well over a year."
James snorted at the word "civilized," dusted off his pants, smoothed his cuffs, righted his chair, and sat down as straight as a poker.
"Excellent choice. James."
"Don't call me that!"
"Oh, sorry. Your Eminence? I've a terrible head for cards. Probably lose everything. Shirt... breeches... anything else you fancy?"
"DEAL THE CARDS."
"James?" Captain Honeychurch stroked his walrus mustache to hide his smile. "James, I have. Ante up."
Lady luck was on Norrington's side that night. A few hundred pounds, a jewel encrusted eyepiece that had been made for a Spanish nobleman, a lousy sword, a gun that wouldn't fire, his compass and a new manservant were his winnings. James leaned back in his chair, smoothed his hair down over his head and positively beamed at Sparrow. The fool couldn't match the last pot and refused to fold for who knew what reason, and so it had been decided by the others that his person would suffice. And the idiot had been bluffing! Jack's hand was a rag-tag mix of low cards and clubs.
"Told you I had a terrible head for cards."
Norrington stood, held his hands out from his body slightly, and simpered, "I believe I'll wear my coat, now."
"Good thinking. Bit nippy out there tonight. The cold'll cut through you like a-"
"Get off your stinking arse and get my coat. You can either work for me, or be fitted with a new rope collar. What'll it be, Sparrow?"
"Now, when you say work, that implies that there will be monetary compensation..."
"Call 'round the guards," James ordered to a crewman.
"Fine! Fine, fine. But there will be food? And something to sleep on?" Jack shifted his weight to one shoulder, toyed with a matted lock of his hair and smiled coyly, "Or with?"
James blinked slowly and replied in a dry tone, "I believe we ship out with a brace of geese set for Haiti. Will that suffice?"
Jack looked off into the night and muttered, "They bite quite hard."
"What was that?"
Jack made a low, exaggerated bow, and held out the sleeves to the richly embroidered blue coat. "Your coat, James."
"I think I prefer you to call me Commodore."
Jack put his hands together at his lips, nodded and smiled. "Absolutely, your Eminence."
"Just... Commodore. Now come along, I plan on setting sail before dawn."
~TBC. Here there be more fic, Yarr.
If you like it, let me hear it. If you love it, spread the word. *pirate's grin* Cross-posted to sparrington