ales," Will Turner snapped at the barkeep of the Faithful Bride. "And two
rums as well," he added.
"Expecting a friend?" The burly tavernmaster inquired conversationally.
"No." Will tucked the rum tankards between one arm and his chest, grasped an
ale in each hand, and stormed towards the furthest, darkest corner of the
Only to find the secluded place already occupied. Nearly failing to halt his
headlong progress in time, Will's ale sloshed and dampened the ankle of the
bewiggéd figure seated in the corner. "Lieutenant Groves!" Will stammered.
"My apologies, sir. Allow me to..." Will began to bend to remedy the
situation somehow, and succeeded only in further bedecking the floor with
"No, no, nevermind." The officer assured, waving a hand. An awkward pause
fell between them, and after a moment, Groves invited, "Would you care to
sit with me?"
"I don't wish to intrude on your solitude, sir," Will discovered the
appropriate etiquette for the situation, filed under "soiling the clothing
of a social superior in a public setting." Step one ~ grovel. Check. Step
two ~ leave, if allowed to do so.
"No, I think you'd better sit down," Groves said. Before you fall down,
he did not say.
Damn. No leaving then. Step 3 ~ acquiesce to any request made. Will sat, and
managed to avoid any more loss from his cups. He took a nervous swig from
the nearest, thinking it the ale, but nearly choked as the fiery rum burned
a course down his gullet.
God, could this day get any worse, Will thought.
"You have quite a lot of drink there," Groves remarked. "But then, I've got
a good bit arrayed before myself, as well, so I imagine your purpose in this
visit to the Bride is the same as mine."
As well for a sheep as for a lamb, thought Will, and said the first thing
that came to his lips: "I didn't know officers of the Royal Navy had
occasion to drink themselves blind, due to having had the worst day in the
history of humankind."
"Oh, let me assure you, that is entirely too often the case." Will noticed
for the first time the split lip that the Navy man sported, and the
beginnings of tomorrow's black eye.
The silence stretched again. Both men drank deep.
"Perhaps a sharing of tales would lighten the woe?" Will offered after a few
minutes of serious imbibing.
"Perhaps." Groves considered. "Perhaps not."
"I meant no offense or imposition, sir," Will retreated.
"Nay, no offense taken, Mister Turner." Groves smiled to give truth to his
words. "I think my dark day may put even yours to shame, however, and I am
loth to bring more sorrow to your ears, if you are already burdened with
"Please, call me Will." The blacksmith offered. "I am not afraid to hear
your tale, sir, and the sharing of sorrows can be a halving, not a
"Very well, Will. But only if you stop calling me sir! You're no more than,
what two? perhaps three years my junior?"
Groves flicked his fingers to indicate how little he thought that mattered.
"Well, then, shall I begin, Lieutenant?" Will offered.
"No, I'll take the first watch. Worst first, I always say. However, I need
no more reminders tonight of my rank and responsibility. I beg you, call me
"I thought your name was Theodore?" Will was startled.
"And so it is on all my official documents and such. But it was my father's
name as well, and the name of the two older brothers who preceded me from my
mother's womb, and died in infancy. I care not for it. My mates all call me
by my middle name."
"Well, then, Ellis," Will took a deep draught from his remaining ale,
"begin your tale, if you please. I am prepared for it."
The navy man hung his head silently for a moment. Then he whispered, "I
hanged a good man today."
"Pirate?" Will asked.
"Able bodied seaman. One of my best."
Will was shocked. "Why?"
"He was caught in an act of Sodomy. Naval regulations are quite clear on the
matter. Hanging is the only recourse." His voice was flat, his eyes took in
only a tiny square of the table before him, as his fingers traced the
woodgrain and the damp of the spilled rum.
"Couldn't you have...I don't know...turned a blind eye, somehow?" Will
thought back to his...experiences...with Jack Sparrow. What if they had held
the threat of death for him?
"I was not the accuser, not the witness. In fact, there were several willing
to testify against him. And he made the error of committing his
transgression in a publicly viewable location. There was nothing to be done.
I hanged him from the yardarm of the Dauntless at high noon today."
Will and Ellis raised their mugs as one, and drew the levels down further.
"He requested for it," Groves voice choked with emotion, "to be by my hand."
"We need more ale," said Will, "and more rum." He stood, left the other man
to compose himself while he fetched more drink.
By the time he returned with the beverages, Ellis was in command of his face
and voice again, despite the pile of empty mugs accruing before them.
"Barkeep says they're running low on cups, and we're to bring back our
empties before he'll give us more."
"Ha! We'll just hold 'em for ransom, won't we!" said the officer. Groves had
a bit of a pirate streak in him, after all, Will mused.
"Is there more to your tale? Or shall I lighten both our hearts with my
faint attempts at a disastrous day, as compared to your own." Will grinned
across the table. "For truly, you have given me cause to rejoice, that my
own troubles are fleeting trifles by comparison."
"Oh, there's more to the tale, far more." Groves shook his head sadly. "But
I've told all the tale I plan to tell tonight. Let's hear your misbegotten
"Very well, and you shall have them." Will shrugged out of his waistcoat,
reached under the table and unlaced the top of his breeches, and untucked
his shirt. Pulling the hem upwards above his nipples, he displayed two large
semicircular bruises on his chest, side by side, nearly symmetric and rather
Groves gasped, and his jaw dropped. Then he snapped it shut, and took
another swig of his drink. After swallowing hard, he queried, "And how, pray
tell, did you receive those?" Then he shifted in his seat uncomfortably.
Will ran his hand over his bruises, and his nipples peaked. "Did you hear
that George the Farrier broke his arm last week? They say he may lose it,
broken in three places, and could fester." Will grinned with pride, and
finally lowered his shirt.
Oh, fuck. thought Groves. More ale.
"Today I shod the horse that did it to him." Will said with a bit of hubris.
"Took bloody near all day, too. That thing is the meanest bastard in
"I can see how that might make for a trying day." Groves chuckled.
"And I have a wicked sunburn to prove how long it took, too." The
drink was beginning to affect Will's judgment a bit, thought Ellis.
Otherwise, why would he be taking his shirt entirely off, in the middle of
"Will. Get dressed. Sit down." Groves found his breeches uncomfortably tight
at this point. Damn the man. And surely he had no inkling...did he?
"But look!" Will turned his muscular back to the table, and indeed, it was a
lovely cooked-lobster color. "You can see how bad it is, with the
contrast..." and damned if the fellow didn't lower the tops of his breeches
to show the pale tops of his rounded cheeks, absolutely correct, they
were a contrast.
"Sir! I beg you. Sit. DOWN." Groves managed to choke out.
"Heeheehee! whups!" Will giggled. "I suppose a bit more decorum is in order,
when drinking with an officer, eh?" He swept his shirt up off the floor in a
graceful motion, marred by the hiccupping that began thereafter.
No man should be that beautiful, thought Groves. Certainly not a happily
"So here's the kicker to my day," Will continued, apparently oblivious. "HA!
Kicker! No, that was that Beast. No, but all's I want to do at the end of a
long day, is go home and lie abed, nurse my wounds, and all." He paused for
another long pull at the ale.
Ellis put a hand on the mug. "Time to slow down, mate. You're at your
destination, no sense in moving on past it."
"Aye, and I've left you behind, haven't I?" Will passed his mug across.
"Time for you to catch up, then. Down the hatch!" And without further
urging, Groves downed what remained in both Will's tankard, and then what
was in his own. Will grinned. "That ought to do th'trick."
"So where was I?" the blacksmith continued. "Has she thrown me out yet?"
What?" Ellis laughed.
"Oh, right. Not that far then." Will grinned giddily. "I'll tell you a
secret, mate. You're not married, are you? No, I would have remembered that.
Women? They're all crackers. But when they're baking a baby inside? They're
REALLY crackers. Heehee! Whups. Elizabeth is going t'kill me. Not supposed
to mention the baby. Too early. S'bad luck. Anyway with her hurling up her
meals and all, it's no wonder she's not herself, and not at all interested
in...well that's not really part of the story only now come to think of it
perhaps it is?"
A garrulous drunk. Oh joy, thought Groves, and searched through the
remaining tankards. Ah! this one's still full of rum. He swigged.
"Anyways, her new maidservant, well, I fear she has an eye for me! And I was
late for supper, so she was already angry and she had eaten, and gone to lie
down, and I didn't want to disturb her and the maid offered to poultice the
sunburn with a remedy from her aunt, and Elizabeth walks in just as she's
smoothing it into the skin and I swear it was only to help the burn but it's
been months of needin' a kind touch and all, well, no, just weeks, I
suppose, and her not able to even look at me and so I guess I did appear
to be enjoyin' myself a bit too much, if you take my meaning..."
"Will," Ellis interrupted. "Shut up. Time to get you home."
"That's what I'm trying to tell you," Will crossed his arms on the table,
and lay his head on them, forlorn and self-pitying. "She said not to come
"I see." Groves ruminated for a moment. "So you're planning on spending the
night here in the Bride?"
"Actually, I hadn't thought beyond drinking myself rather blind." Will was
usually this straightforward, but the rum took away any small ability he
might have had to dissemble.
Decisive men were the successful ones in the Navy. "Right. Then you'll sleep
at my home."
"Oh, no! I couldn't impose on your good nature in that way!" Will was
startled at the man's generosity.
"Nonsense. I may not have a wife, but I do know if you spend the night in
the tavern you'll have a far harder time crawling back to yours on the
morrow," Ellis argued reasonably. "What will she think you've been up to
with the doxies?"
Turner's eyes flew wide. "Oh. Oh my."
"Right. Best to have me to vouch for your honor, Mr. Turner. Up with you
"But I'm not blind-drunk yet!"
"Well, I'm not carrying you," though Ellis could see that might not be a
terribly unpleasant proposition. "Come to mention it, I could use some more
liquor in me, myself. We'll take a couple bottles with us, if they have them
Moments later they staggered up the street towards the little villa on the
hill where the Lieutenant resided. The uneven cobbles were poor footing for
two rather soused men, and after a time of flailing about individually, the
settled on an arm-in-arm stance, each one holding the neck of a rum bottle
in the opposite hand, which seemed to assist in the forward progress
Groves tried not to think about how much he was enjoying holding that arm.
Will's muscles were positively delicious. But no. Not thinking about that.
Not on today, of all days. Not tying up death with those feelings.
Sex. Tying up.
Ellis slipped. Will caught him. "Easy, now. I thought I was the one having
the trouble walking." said the younger man. "Are you going to make it? Or
shall I carry you?"
"If I swoon in your arms, it will do neither of our reputations any good,
sir," Ellis jibed.
"So, let's wait 'til we get to your house for that, then." Will retorted,
and flashed that smile with the thousands of teeth in it.
A chuckle was forced from Groves' belly, through sheer force of habit,
hiding his insides from public scrutiny.
After an age of staggering uphill through the night, the men arrived at the
intricately carved wooden door of the little house. Groves led Will in, took
the rum bottles and set them down, turned to close the door behind them, and
was composing a polite speech of welcome in his head...
...when Will spun him 'round, shoved him bodily up against the just closed
door, and mashed their mouths together.
And then broke off after only a delicious, blissful, thoughtless second or
two. "Only if you're interested."
Egad, thought Groves. How many teeth does he have? The cut on his lip
throbbed, and his finger rose to it. It leaked slightly, fresh blood.
"Oh, damn. I'm sorry! I'm drunk. I should never have listened to Jack's
tale. Do you have to hang me, too? No, wait, can't hang a man for his
thoughts..." Will babbled. He reached for the wrought-iron doorhandle to
flee, but oh look, some of my own work here, I remember this one, a
tiny corner of his mind said, and in the hesitation of the instant found his
face grabbed and pulled in and devoured. Lips and tongues and cheeks and
gums and teeth and the fingers on his face, holding and hooking in that drop
of jaw just below the earlobe.
Groves was never much of a kissing man. But the unexpectedness of it, like a
lightning bolt from the azure-clear sky, made him want to dig deeper, find
the man within the handsome package. He wanted to see what made Will behave
in a way so patently unlike what he thought Will was. He held the face
between his hands, feeling the stubble beneath the fingers, lapped tongue
over those incisors, touched tips with Will's own tongue, retreated to test
the length of the mustache and little goatee with little nips. Exploration.
Will had more of a sense of urgency. He began to work his way through the
fastenings of Ellis' uniform. Brass buttons and braided cordings, resisted
his attempts, thwarted his access to the skin he wanted, the touch he
craved. "Aauuhh!" he fumbled inarticulately, "Damn thing's all backwards!"
Once again, Ellis laughed, this time deep from his belly. So, this wasn't
something that Turner made a habit of, after all, if he didn't know how to
undress a man without being inside the clothes himself. He spun 'round and
faced the door, reached behind himself, and grasped Will's hands, and pulled
him forward to press into his back. "The buttons go the proper direction, if
you work it like this." Will pressed into his backside, and Ellis almost
forgot to breathe.
Maybe, just maybe, this wasn't going to be the absolute worst day of his
life. Oh, wait. It's well past second night-watch. No longer today, it's
already tomorrow. A new day.
"Ellis? Lose the wig?" Will's nose tickled with powder and the incongruity
threatened to pull him out of the moment. He wasn't really all that thrilled
by the idea of a man in uniform. A man out of uniform, a safe,
guaranteed silent partner...skin was skin, and if the delicious substance
came in different flavors, so be it. He was almost all the way down the
jacket buttons. There.
"One moment. Need to be careful with it. Things are a bloody nuisance, blast
it." Ellis shrugged out of the coat, pulled the pins from his wig, and
lifted it. After finding a reasonably secure resting place for it atop a
bowl of fruit on the dining table, and draping the jacket over the shoulders
of the chair, Ellis lit the lantern on the mantel and closed the shutters.
Will took the opportunity to gaze around the room. Spare, but very
tastefully appointed. It showed that much of the lieutenant's time was spent
at sea. A conch shell here, a long black pinion from some enormous dark
seabird, a skull of a monk seal, each decorated the crevices around the
room. Naval service didn't make one rich, but if Groves had reached this
rank at this age, his family was surely moneyed, perhaps even landed
in Britain. Silver candlesticks, imported furniture. It was more than the
Turner household sported. Will felt the gap in class, intensely, for a
moment. And remembered Elizabeth at home. Carrying their child.
"I shouldn't be here," he said quietly.
Groves turned. "Second thoughts?" He approached Will, lay a hand on one
shoulder. "You're welcome to stay, whether or no. I'm just..." he looked at
the sliver buckles on his shoes, "...grateful...for any company you might
have to share this evening. More rum? I feel the need myself."
Will was looking at their shoes as well. The contrast. Blacksmith's
workboots, scorched and tattered, encrusted with old donkey dung and fresh
horse manure from today's exercises. And the black spit and polish of an
officer's high-soled shoe, designed to lift him out of the muck and mire of
the commoner sort, the symbol of the gulf between their social stations.
"These things are beastly uncomfortable." Ellis stepped out of the footwear.
"The entire bloody uniform is designed for another climate. It's not so bad
out on the sea, but in port, the wool scratches, binds at the neck and
waist." He wandered to the table, grasped the nearest of the two rum
bottles, handed it to Will, and swigged straight from the second one. "And
these Goddamned stockings. How I hate them." He paused, then spoke
businesslike, "I want to make clear. I've no interest in a regretful
morning. Full, complete consent, and swearing absolute discretion, or
"And it's all the same to you?" Will looked a little bruised.
"No. I'd certainly rather..." Groves cocked an eyebrow. "But it's not worth
having you go squealing to the Commodore at the dawn."
"Commodore would protect you anyways," it was Will's turn to smirk, at
Groves startlement. "Between Captain Sparrow's occasional letters, and my
wife's social connections, I probably hear more deep, quiet gossip than
anyone else in the Port Royal."
"Which is why I request you address all your complaints to Norrington, and
not the Governor," said Ellis. He gestured for Will to sit in the stuffed
chair on one side of the fireplace, as he crossed to its opposite number.
"You've caught me out, mate. So. What's it to be?"
"This all seems so cold-blooded, now. I've gotten too sober." Will gazed at
the bottle in his hand regretfully.
"If you need liquor to do this, then you shouldn't be doing it." Groves
began taking down his stockings, unlacing his trousers, stripping to his
smalls. "I always get out of the damned things as soon as I get the shutters
closed. Hope you don't mind."
"Now I feel overdressed for the occasion." Will slid off the filthy boots,
unbuttoned his waistcoat, and tossed them in a pile next to the chair. "You
never told me how you got your face battered."
"Another time for that story. I need you to tell me, what sort
of occasion is this to be?" Groves asked, intensity glowing in his eyes.
"I..." the blacksmith lifted the bottle towards his lips.
"No!" Groves interrupted. "Answer before you drink. Or your drink will
answer for you."
Will hung his head for a moment.
"Not without her express permission. I made a vow. I can't break my word to
her." He looked into Ellis' eyes. "Much as I'd like to. For you. For this
night. For what you had to do today."
Ellis found himself at a loss for words.
Will stood, and walked to the other chair. He leaned down, and gave Ellis a
deep, searching kiss. "You're a good man, Ellis. I wish it could be me who
gives you what you need tonight." Will straightened and turned to gather his
things, but Ellis grabbed his hand.
"No, you're the good man, Turner. You have more honor in you than all the
aristocracy and nobility of the British Isles."
And Will's smile would have lit the sun.
"You'll be sure to let me know if she does happen to give you her
express permission, won't you?"
"Aye, that I will," Turner replied. "You have my word on it."