Genre: Pirates of the Caribbean
Summary: James Norrington, man of honor. Jack Sparrow, man of... something else entirely. Hint: It isn't honor.
A Practice in Patience
"You have to have a grudging respect for the man."
Commodore James Norrington looked up from the parchment on his desk, and sent a dubious gaze towards the man sitting across from him: Governor Swan. "I really don't," Norrington replied drolly, "now if you don't mind, I really have to-"
"He saved my daughter, after all..." the governor cut in.
"Hardly," Norrington said, knitting his eyebrows, papers forgotten. He placed his fist solidly on the desk, "That... pirate is a scourge. In fact, I would blame this whole episode on him."
"You let him go, didn't you?" Swan replied with a chuckle.
Norrington's lips pressed into a thin line. He hadn't realized that Swan knew the specifics of Sparrow's escape. Whatever momentary insanity that convinced him to let the pirate go had passed, and now he cursed his lapse in judgment. The Black Pearl was now careening around the Caribbean, a mad man at it's helm.
"That..." Norrington said slowly, "is not entirely true." Leaning forward at his desk, he tilted his head towards Swan, as if he were about impart a serious secret. "It's all part of a larger plan, you see."
"Oh?" Swan replied with a quirk of his eyebrow. A small smile played at the governor's lips, which Norrington found entirely irksome. What was this man besides a lazy bureaucrat? How could he understand the mechanics involved in catching a pirate? Norrington leaned back in his chair, refraining from crossing his arms for fear of wrinkling his uniform.
"He will hang, Governor, you can be sure of that."
There was a momentary pause as Governor Swan considered these words. "Unfortunately, Commodore," he said finally, "It seems that I may have to cut your plans a little short." With a grunt, he reached into his pocket, and pulled out a folded bit of parchment. "I've been hesitant in employing this, however the Crown has been pushing for more... shall we say, support for the East India Trading Company." He handed the slip of paper over with a frown. "It's not exactly something I'm looking forward to ordering you to do."
"This is a letter of Marque," Norrington said, scanning the delicate writing. "I don't understand... there's no name for who..." He paused, and then jerked his head up. "You can't be serious?"
Governor Swan sighed. "Yes, well, it seems that I am. It's your job to find him, and get him to sign the contract."
"Sparrow? Sign a contract?" Norrington couldn't help but laugh at the prospect. "I think he would sooner die."
"Then you must not know him all that well," the governor replied, "If there's anything I've learned from this debacle, it's that Captain Jack Sparrow has an incredible penchant for self-preservation." He laughed at his own wit. "In fact, I think the captain might find this arrangement intriguing."
Norrington's mouth hung agape. "Intriguing?" he said, incredulous. He stood up, and began to pace the width of the room, his hands clasped behind his back. "Governor, I find this order to be almost insulting." He stopped, and turned to look at the other man. "Perhaps, we could say that the letter was lost at sea?"
"Commodore, I am shocked that you would suggest such a thing," Swan replied, his tone bland. He raised an eyebrow, "Perhaps... I should give you some friendly advice. You are on your way up. You won't always be stuck on this godforsaken island. All I can suggest is that you continue to follow your orders to the best of your ability."
Considering this, Norrington glanced out his window. "Perhaps you're right," he said. He cringed at the idea of searching for Sparrow for the sole purpose of hiring the pirate to work for the Crown. The idea left a bad taste in his mouth. "I'll send a ship to Tortuga in the morning," he said.
He heard a slight guffaw, and pursed his lips. "Commodore," Governor said, not unkindly, "Lest you think that you can delegate this task to some underling, I am telling you now in clear and simple terms: this is your responsibility." The older man stood up with a groan, and turned to leave. "It's certainly your prerogative, if you want to send someone else. However, it's your career on the line."
Norrington nodded curtly, and stood stock still until the Governor closed the door behind. After hearing the click of the door latch, his stiff shoulders sunk, and he plopped down in his chair with a sigh. Of all the indignities he had suffered through... this might be the one to kill him.
Glancing back at the parchment on his desk, he felt his heart constrict. It was the intricate, lacy invitation to Will and Elizabeth's wedding. He brought his gloved hand up, and ran his finger along the silver embossing. There was nothing he could have done to stop it, and if there... everything would still be a sham. Flashes of the two, young lovebirds holding each other nearly blinded him, and he brought his hand to the bride of his nose, trying to rub away the growing migraine. What a disaster...
The wedding was on the following week, so maybe the sudden order to find Sparrow was not such a disaster. Norrington didn't hold any illusion that the pirate would make things easy for him, and show up at the wedding. That would be preposterous. Then again, everything about the pirate was preposterous.
Still, there had been no signs of the Black Pearl in the area, and even if Sparrow showed up for the wedding, Norrington would have time to go to Tortuga, and return before the date of the nuptials. "Groves!" he yelled from his seat, "Get me a course chart!"
"May I speak freely, sir?"
Norrington looked up from his charts to see Lt. Groves standing before him, bracing his feet slightly as the Dauntless rocked against the storm they were currently mired in.
"Yes," the Commodore replied, looking back down.
"I... well," Groves replied, shuffling on his feet.
"Lieutenant," Norrington cut in, "When I give permission to speak freely, I expect that the right isn't wasted."
"Yes, sir," Groves replied steadily, "What I meant to say is, I don't think your plan is very good."
The corner of Norrington's mouth raised slightly, unnoticed by Groves. "And why do you think that?"
A loud boom reverberated through the planks of the ship, as a cannon fought against it's chains. Groves tried to ignore the yells of his shipmates as he continued his discussion with the Commodore. "Sending a contingent of soldiers through Tortuga... will be too loud, sir. Better to send in a few men dressed as ruffians, so that no one will notice and cry the alarm."
"I see," Norrington replied, "Yet, I do believe a Royal Navy ship docking in the port will probably have the same effect as a contingent, so..."
"You don't actually want to find him, do you?" Groves replied with an uncharacteristic outburst. "Sir, it wouldn't be too hard to anchor farther out, and send in a row boat." He gulped as Norrington looked up at him.
"What?" was all the Commodore said.
Groves balled his fists, and drove on, "If I were to speak freely, sir, I would say that you already know the things that I'm telling you."
Norrington studied his lieutenant, registering the determination in the man's eyes. This was what he found both useful, and increasingly exasperating about Groves: the man was not afraid to speak his mind. "So what if I did know these things?" he said.
"Then, you are not following orders." Groves replied.
"Indeed?" Norrington said, turning his attention away from the lieutenant Sighing, he stepped around to other side of his table, and grasped the young man by the shoulder. "Groves, go help outside. Obviously, I need to come up with a course of action that isn't so... loud, as you say."
Groves blushed at the contact, and the implied approval. "Yes, sir." he said, backing out of the room.
Sitting down, Norrington glanced down at his charts. They should be near Tortuga in a matter of hours, and no matter how far out from the island they hid, the immense amount of sea traffic would guarantee that someone would see them. Groves was smart, but young. However, he did give Norrington an idea.
"That's right," Gillette stared down at the tanned, wizened dock master. "We're stopping here for shore leave."
The tiny man glanced at the contingent of men behind Gillette. "I don't believe it, you're all in your uniforms."
Gillette glanced back at his men, and smiled. "As captain of this ship, I thought it pertinent to give my men some time off," He stopped, and then looked down at the dock master. Leaning down, he whispered in the man's ear, "However, it would please the Crown if rumors that we were patrolling the island for criminal activity didn't go to far."
Across the way from the dock, Commodore Norrington and Lieutenant Groves watched Gillette speak with the dock master. "He looks like an adequate captain," Groves said.
"He certainly plays the part well," Norrington replied, as he adjusted his brown leather vest. "Groves, is this really what you wear when out of uniform?"
"Yes, sir." Groves replied, "There's nothing wrong with it."
"Fine," Norrington said as he started to walk towards the town. "Let's go, we've already wasted most of the day light."
"Sir," Groves said, "I don't think anyone does anything during the day here, anyway.
"True," Norrington said, "This hellhole is just one giant, debauched whorehouse." He missed the smile play on Groves' mouth as he continued to stride forward with a stiff back.
"You might want to... ease up a bit," Groves said, jogging forward to catch up with the Commodore, "They could spot you a mile away as a navy man,"
Norrington stopped walking, and turned to look at Groves. "What about you, lieutenant? Are you saying you fit in with the utmost of ease?" He quirked an eyebrow, "You seem quite keen on showing me how uninformed I am about the inhabitants of Tortuga,"
"Of course not, sir!" Groves said, "All I meant was... you look too honorable."
"Honorable?" Norrington replied, his rigid stance softening. "I look honorable?"
"Oh yes, sir," Groves replied said, "Very noble, like a hero. The exact kind of thing that would stand out around here."
"Well," Norrington said, "We can't have that." He stood still for a moment, and then slouched over as if there were a kink in his back. "Proceed," he said, motioning for Groves to keep moving. The lieutenant took one last dubious look at the Commodore before walking forward.
"If you ever try to use flattery on me again, I will have you whipped."
Fortunately, the inhabitants of the tavern were too blitzed to comprehend their head from their ass, granting Groves and Norrington some freedom of confidence that they wouldn't be found out. The talk spreading throughout the establishment was that the navy ship docked earlier had left after the dock master convinced the silly young captain that Tortuga was dead this time of year.
"Those navy fools get stupider every year, eh?" one surly pirate growled as he slammed back a beer. Norrington ignored the slight, and moved with the flow of people until he hit the bar. "Barkeep," he said, "I would like a glass of wine."
"He's joking," Groves cut in, elbowing in front of Norrington, "What my pal here is really thirsting for, is rum."
"Right," the bartender replied, reaching for a flask.
"Disgusting," Norrington breathed in Groves' ear, "Don't expect me to actually drink that."
He turned to survey the occupants of the tavern, and wondered again just what he was doing there. This was a fool's errand. Sparrow was probably gone from the first whiff of the Dauntless being nearby, headed towards God knows where. Well, Norrington would spend an adequate amount of time searching for the pirate, and then he would return home... to the wedding.
"Sir?" Groves said, watching as Norrington suddenly grabbed the rum, and pounded it down.
"Just trying to fit in," Norrington drawled, sneering at Groves, "A hopeless quest, I'm sure."
He slammed the flask down on the bar, and gripped Grove's arm. "Besides drinking, how else is a man supposed to partake of this island?"
"Women," Groves replied, point blank.
"I'm sure Sparrow has a harem of them," Norrington said, letting go of Grove's arm. His stature remained upright, making the lieutenant wonder if Norrington was even slightly effected by the rum.
"You must be fun at parties," he said dryly, earning a smile from the Commodore.
"Not nearly as fun as Gillette, correct?" Norrington replied. Groves blushed, and turned away from the Commodore.
James Norrington was not one to make jokes, however amidst all the absurdity that he had to contend with in the past few weeks, running into Groves and Gillette caught in a passionate embrace, was by far the most surreal. However, he couldn't bring himself to report what he had witnessed, besides the fact that the two officers were quite able... it would be a waste to have them arrested.
"Sir..." Groves said, "What you saw..."
Before he could continue, they both heard a large crash, and then the tavern erupted into the yelling, scrambling, and brawling. Utter chaos. "Perfect," Norrington said, as he ducked away from a flying boot, "this is exceptionally perfect." He grabbed Grove's arm, and started to drag the lieutenant through the fray, "Groves, I've decided to cut our little mission short."
"Yes, sir." Groves replied, dodging a fist as he ran to keep up.
As they reached the door, something came flying through the air, and hit Norrington right smack in the face. Leaning down, he reached forward to pick up what turned out to be a rather trodden-upon three corner hat. "I recognize this," Norrington said, his tone turning dark. Groves craned his neck over Norrington's shoulder to take a closer look.
"Ay," came a slurring voice from behind them, "Release the hat, and no one gets hurt, savvy?"
(a/n)I'm gonna try a full length fic with my favorite couple :) Whew, so... I never watched the fourth movie because YOU KNOW WHO GOT YOU KNOW WHAT'ED in AWE, which pissed me off to no end. I did google Groves and Gillette, who were apparently off'd as well? Jeeeeeez, what do the writers have against british men in uniforms? /Rage