Black Pearl smelled of tar and male sweat and rum and sea-spray and
monkey droppings. Elizabeth noted it was a significant improvement on the
stench of Tortuga. The former Commodore smelled a good deal better than he
had when on dry land, too. Gibbs had doused him with a bucket of soapy
seawater, rinsing away the worst of the pig shit and vomit. She no longer
had to suppress a gag whenever she was downwind of him.
Still, he was a far cry from the starched and scrubbed James Norrington that
she had known in times past.
She rather liked him this way.
"I hope your head doesn't ache too badly," she said as they holystoned the
deck per Gibbs' orders.
"No worse than it has any other morning for the past several months. I've
learned to hold my liquor just long enough."
"Your spewing skills seemed to be well-practiced."
"The trick is to miss anyone who is likely to slide a stiletto under your
ribs for soiling their shoes," James smiled. "Of course, one learns lessons
like that through extensive trial and error."
"Actually, I was expressing concern for your possibly-concussed crown and
not the effects of over-indulgence."
"Why, did someone bash me there again?" Norrington reached up and felt the
top of his head. "Ooh. I did receive quite the goose-egg, didn't I? Whom
should I thank for this lovely parting gift? Did you catch his name? I like
to repay my debts when I can."
Elizabeth ducked her head to hide her grin. "I believe it was some lubberly
cabin boy, just deserted from the Edinburgh. Didn't catch his name.
Gave you quite a blow to the noggin, though. Big glass bottle."
"I see." Neither James' possible concussion nor his fall from the heights of
society had dulled his wits. He heard the mirth in her voice. "And did this
'cabin boy' perhaps regret the necessity of putting my lights out?"
Elizabeth paused and her voice softened. "Mayhap he had always wanted to do
such a thing, but when it came to it, it was pitiful to see a such great man
brought so low."
"I scorn your pity, Elizabeth."
"I pity your scorn, James."
"Tell me something. Has Turner at least managed to deflower you, or are you
still a virgin?"
"What has that got to do with anything?"
"I've always thought that William might perhaps be a eunuch after all.
Certainly that would go a long way towards explaining why you need to put on
breeches and dash around rescuing him all the time."
Elizabeth seethed and ground her stone more firmly into the deck's surface.
"Will is categorically not missing anything necessary for manhood."
"Ah, so you have played at a bit of 'stiffen the squiddie' then."
"I despise you."
"No you don't. You despise yourself for making the wrong choices and placing
us both in this vile predicament."
"I love Will and that will never change."
"Enough to lose everything else you hold dear? Enough to have destroyed not
only your own chance at comfort and happiness, but to have destroyed your
father's position, my career, and brought chaos and privation to much of the
crown's colonists in the Caribbean?" James turned his head and spat. "Your
childish behavior and your father's indulgence of you is what brought Cutler
Beckett down on us all. You have no one but yourself to blame for all of
Elizabeth couldn't think how to respond to that.
So she leaped at Norrington and beat him with her somewhat-ineffectual
Gibbs sent her belowdecks to cool off.
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