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Sailing, Part 1 of 2

by Linaelyn

 

Fandom: PoTC    Rating: NC-17    Pairing: Elizabeth/Will/James    Full Header

 


Prologue:


"Why did you choose me?" he whispered into her ear, immediately afterwards.

"Hmmm?" Their sweat-soaked bodies slithered together as she shifted her weight off him.

"You could have had everything with him. He could have given you so much, that I'll never be able to."

"Because I love you, simpleton."

"Why do you love me?" His voice carried his unease.

"Why does anyone love anyone? You are very, very lovable, you know." Her fingers traced the sparse hair of his chest, lowering to a nipple, and then circling, circling, entranced by his texture and scent.

"Love fades, on occasion. I've seen it happen. What shall I do if yours fades?" He stroked her hair back from her forehead, over and over again.

"My love for you shall not fade. You are loyal and trustworthy. I love how directly you speak; you always mean exactly what you say. I love your honesty. I love you for your willingness to enter danger for my sake."

"He has each of those qualities, every one of those. He is loyal, and honest, and trustworthy, and went into just as much danger as I, to save you. More, for he took his men there after him, and put lives other than his own at risk, for your sake." He swallowed uncomfortably, then admitted in a quiet voice, "I'm not sure I could have done that."

"I love your sweet smile when I kiss you."

"He has a smile." He paused and remembered that smile. That smile, which brought one to his own face. "Have you seen it?"

"He doesn't use it as often as you do yours."

"Perhaps if you'd married him instead of me, he'd have more reason to smile?"

"You are incredibly handsome." She ran a finger down his jawline, up his chin-cleft, over the swollen, oft-kissed lips, and then tapped him playfully on the tip of the nose.

"As are you beautiful," and he tapped her nose in return, "but beauty fades, my love. He isn't exactly chopped halibut in the face, is he?"

"Darling, what are you asking? Why this sudden interest in my lack-of-interest in him?" She was running short of plausible reasons, she was dismayed to discover. Would it crush his heart to know that if he had died for her, she would have grieved, but gone willingly to that other man's arms, enjoyed the pleasures of other man's ample marriage bed?

"I want to know why you chose me, and not him. He's rich, and powerful, and could give you more than I ever will be able."

"Wealth is no good reason to marry someone."

"But if all else is equal...why not the man who can make your life more comfortable?"

"Can you even imagine it? The life of a commodore's wife hardly suits me. "

"Is the life of a blacksmith's wife so much better? Truly? You are strong; you could make any life suit you, and you know it."

"I love you because you love me."

"He loves you, too. More than you realize, I think." His voice went very quiet. "I just want to know, are you mine forever? Would you always say, 'I'm glad I chose to be Mrs. Turner' and never 'I wonder if...'"

"Will," Elizabeth grinned fondly. "I am yours. Forever. For always. Honestly."

A comfortable silence fell between them. Elizabeth rested her head on Will's shoulder, listened to the air move in and out of his lungs, the pounding heartbeat, slowing gradually from their earlier exertions. His body still held a certain tension in it. He wasn't about to let this one go. She could hear it in his breathing.

It was time for her to display some of the brutal honesty she so admired in her husband.

"Still, I must admit there are times...when I wish..."

"When you wish what, love?" Will didn't notice that he held his breath, but his wife did.

Elizabeth whispered quietly, "When I wish I could have found a way to avoid hurting James. I wish there needn't have been any choice. That I could have had you both as husband. To not have to choose between the two most wonderful men in Port Royal."

Will mumbled something, almost inaudibly.

"What?" Elizabeth whispered back. "Go on. Say it again. I'm not sure I heard you."

"Sometimes..." Will hesitated, "me too."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sailing

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The winds lashed at the shutters, hastily closed against the sudden and violent squall which was passing through Port Royal. "I must insist, Commodore!" Governor Swann was frantic, wig askew and eyes wild. "In a storm of this severity, they may have snapped their mast or capsized by now!" He paused, and looked into the other man's stern countenance.

Swann laid a hand on his Commodore's shoulder. "You took the Dauntless into peril to save Turner from those pirates. How is this any different?"

Silent and stoic, the commodore bowed his head slightly and then shook it once in terse refusal. Weatherby's hand tightened on James' shirt, pressing the fabric against his collarbone, then releasing it in a wordless plea, a lump in his throat and eyes moistened.

An awkward moment, and the clock in the foyer ticked away the seconds. "Please. Please, James. She's my only child." The older man's voice broke, nearly imperceptibly. "She's all I have left of Sophia."

"And how many of my men must be placed in jeopardy again, Governor, because your only child has not the good judgment to guard her own safety, and must be rescued once again by His Majesty's Navy?" Norrington held up a hand to forestall the Governor's next words. "No, I will go and search for her, and for that rash young man of hers, but only after the weather has lightened somewhat. We cannot risk the Dauntless in this, when she is our only ship in port. Until the Interceptor's replacement arrives, we must husband our resources, both personnel and materiel, more wisely, sir." He placed his own hand on the older man's shoulder, in a mirror of their earlier motion. "Fear not. She's shown herself to be a fortunate girl. She'll be fine for the few hours until help arrives."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Timbers in the water ahead, sir!" came the call from the fighting top. "Four points off the starboard bow!" James paced the deck, and calculated the currents and the winds in this area. Likely this was the wreckage of the Turners' boat. He felt a twinge of guilt at the thought of William Turner's possible death, and the Widow Turner's possible subsequent...availability. Nonsense. Elizabeth would never have chosen him. It had all been just a ploy, their engagement, an excuse to get him to do her bidding.

"Helm! Course heading, four points off the bow, if you will. Take in sail!" The bo'sun called down the orders, and the crew livened.

Damn her eyes. Yet he longed to see her safe, even so. The thought of her, drowned and bloated and barely recognizable, brought up his gorge.

"Canvas! And a man in the water!" came the cry from aloft, again. "Both of them! They're swimmin', sir!"

James closed his eyes, exhaled a silent and inarticulate prayer of gratitude to his God, and then set about the task at hand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Weatherby Swann was dockside as the Dauntless approached. "What news?" he called, long before any on board were close enough to catch his words. His waving and shouting were apparent enough in their meaning, however. The fear showed stark on his face.

At the appearance of Elizabeth from between the milling sailors on deck, his expression passed from relief and joy, and quickly on through to a protective parental rage. Seeing her father's anger, Elizabeth made herself scarce behind the broad-shouldered Navy men again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The parlor doors shut behind Norrington, and Governor Swann bade him sit, poured him a glass, and continued the argument they had been conducting on the coach-ride up from the fort. "As a favor to me, personally, James. Will you not do this for me? For all our long years of service together?" The governor was past the worst of his fury, but was adamant in his demands. Elizabeth and William would not remain off the sea, and therefore must learn to sail properly, and not go gallivanting about, with neither training nor understanding.

"My duties keep me acutely engaged, Governor. Surely some other officer would be a more appropriate choice for your daughter and son-in-law's instructor?" Norrington was desperate to avoid any further entanglement with the Turners. It had been torture enough to view their happiness together, from a distance and out of the corner of his eye, in Port Royal's streets and markets. Far more so, the pain of viewing their intimate bliss after his rescue of them in the Dauntless. Elizabeth seemed so disastrously oblivious to his agony, the lacerations on his heart, caused by those delicate hands, the hands of a fine woman.

And William. He'd honestly cared for that lad, once. Orphaned and alone, shipwrecked and adrift, both literally and figuratively, he'd taken the fellow in hand, and seen to his apprenticeship and trained him up in the use of the blades he created. He couldn't replace the father Will had lost, but he thought he'd been at least a decent approximation of an older brother. He'd watched as the gangly lad found his feet as a handsome, nay even beautiful young man, and then lived to regret having done so well in his tutelage of the boy, as Elizabeth chose the dulcet-eyed blacksmith over himself.

There were times on the ship's return voyage, when Will would tilt his head at some query, and James' heart would stop, his mouth filled with the bitter taste of their once-camaraderie, gone to ashes.

Governor Swann's voice broke his reverie, shattering the reminiscence. "There is no one I trust as much as you, James," Weatherby would not be swayed. "Come, what inducement would you have? You've refused financial reward, and there is no further you can be promoted, at the current time. What can I give you that you do not already possess?"

For once, James spoke candidly, "Help me leave these God-forsaken islands." He hid his discomfort behind his wineglass for a moment, then continued. "Sir, I will never find a wife, never have a family if I remain here. You have the appropriate political connections. You could get me a posting in England again, or Gibraltar, or somewhere else where I might find another... might meet eligible ladies of quality, for the purpose of courtship."

"And who could possibly take your place, here? No, James, you must not ask so high a price. Even if it were in the best interests of the colony..."

And what of the best interests of James Norrington, wondered the man himself. No, those considerations must needs be abandoned, had already been abandoned, long ago and far away, when he had signed on to His Majesty's Service.

"Still and all," Swann countered himself, "what do you say to a proposition? I cannot abide seeing you so disconsolate, my dear James. Say you will agree to teach Elizabeth and William to sail, properly and safely, and if you are still determined at that time to abandon us here in the wilderness, I will bespeak to the Admiral about your position. What ho, James? Will that suit you?"

"It will suit admirably, Governor," replied the commodore, since it was likely as close to his wishes he was likely to ever get. He slugged back his wine. A few weeks, a month at the outside, and he could give the newlyweds their precious lessons, and begin the process of turning the wheels, and finding his way free from this miserable, benighted posting.

It would probably only take a decade or so to break free of the anchor chains that bound him to this remote backwater.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Interlude:

Her breath slowed from fierce panting to merely quickened. Still filling her, unsated, he waited for her composure to return. "What if you had died out there?" she clung to his muscular frame, tears pricking her eyes.

"Then I'd be dead. Or you would. Or we both would." His voice rumbled in his chest, tickling her ear resting upon it.

"And you don't fear death?" Her smile showed in her voice, pressed her cheek more firmly into his pectoral muscle. Will noticed the slight tickle, his nerve-endings still singing, wanting more.

Still, he waited for her readiness to return.

"We've faced it enough this past year. What I fear more is something else entirely; I fear refusing to take hold of life." He rocked his hips slightly against hers, testing her interest.

"I think you're taking hold of life quite admirably," and she kissed him, clutching his shoulders, stroking his skin with her thumbs and pressing him into the pillow. He moved his lips from her mouth to her chin to her adam's apple. She arched upon him, and he ducked lower to lap at her breastbone, her nipples.

Bringing a gasp from her, he asked "If you died out there, what would your regrets be?" slide. glide. smooth and steady.

"Not watching you grow old." She panted the words out breathily, between slow thrusts. "Not having our children together. Not seeing my father holding the baby." She chuckled, and lost the rhythm." And never learning to spin properly, damn it all."

"I was thinking about my own regrets, the tasks I've left undone." He rolled her to the side, and she straightened her downhill leg to catch her own weight. Side by side they lay, as she wrapped upper thigh around him, pulling him deeper, rubbing the front of her pelvic bones to his, that marvelous, delicious way that they seemed to just fit together, like pieces of a sundered slate, two parts of a single whole. stroke. againstroke. fit. fit. fit.


Will had lost the thread of the conversation in the joy on her face and the sensations of his body. "And...?" she prompted, pausing for a moment.

"There's someone I need to thank properly, for all he's given me. The sword training, the hours of advice and counsel, all of it. He was always there for me, a kind word, an encouraging hand, a bit of wisdom or counsel. There's a blade I need to make, and give to him. I should have done so, even before we married, but the wedding preparations, and the awkwardness that's come between us... I never did what I intended."

"You already made him that lovely sword for his commissioning, darling."

"At your father's behest! No this needs to be something from me, just myself."

Elizabeth giggled a little. "Need to give James a long, hard, pointy thing, eh?" She ground her hips against his cock, sucking at the hollow of his collarbone, the place that never failed to send him into ecstasy. He pulled out abruptly, to prevent himself from overstimulation.

"Elizabeth!" Will flipped atop her, pinning her beneath him on their soft featherbed. Lips nearly touching hers, he whispered, "I'm deadly serious about this."

"Will, so am I." She kissed him deeply and thoroughly for a several moments, fingers making a gentle tracery of fire over him, and waited for him to overcome his body's reticence to join with hers while speaking of these things. "I wouldn't want you to have any regrets, of things you missed because you married me."

Will paused, and quietly breathed against her skin. Briefly, his imagination supplied a different mouth kissing his, a different body pressed against his own. His blood did pound at the thought. However.

"I would never be unfaithful to you."

"Nor I you. But cannot love multiply, instead of divide?" She parted her legs, bent her knees, tilted her hips slightly.

Will answered by slipping within. Words were superfluous for a moment or three.

"What do you think the baby will be like?" Will seemingly changed the subject.

"She'll have your eyes and my hair, and father's dimples." thrust. stroke. squeeze.

"What if her eyes were green?" Will asked.

freeze.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You have my compliments," said Governor Swann to the chief of the table staff, as they sat before the remains of the dinner, a week later, "and please be sure to pass them to Rodriguez. He's truly outdone himself on the potted squab. The annatto gives it such a fine color and flavor."

"And the soufflé, as well," chimed in Elizabeth. "Be sure to mention how much the soufflé was enjoyed."

"Very good, my lord, milady. I'm sure he will be gratified to hear of your pleasure." George replied, and bowed himself from the room. The tall clock in the foyer outside bonged eight, then returned to its metronomic clicking.

"Shall we to the gardens, my dears?" Swann rose and led his daughter and son-in-law to the french doors that separated the dining room from the verandah.

"I spoke to James at length yesterday," Weatherby began, after they had arranged themselves on the carved-stone benches which caught the soft night breezes on the little garden.

Will grinned broadly. "How is the Commodore? He looked in fine fettle on the practice grounds at the armory, the day before yesterday. I regret not having managed the time to manage a practice bout with him in recent months." A bit of a faraway look took him. "I fear my skills may be slipping, without the challenge of his adept arm, his greater knowlege of tactics and strategy. Unfortunately, he always seems to be otherwise engaged, whenever I find a rare moment available."

Weatherby smiled stiffly at his son-in-law's chatter. "James has finally freed his schedule somewhat, and was able to give me some of his time, regarding an important purpose: the purpose of ensuring the continued safety of certain citizens in Port Royal."

Will babbled on, "The Commodore was certainly in peak form, when he came to our rescue. Discipline on the Dauntless is well-nigh perfect, and the officers and crew seem to respect him to a man. He is such a credit to the service here, wouldn't you agree, sir?"

"James is certainly the best officer to come along in the Caribbean in many a year, William, but that is not my concern at the moment. He should not be wasting his efforts in the rescue of civilians from their own foolish behavior!" Weatherby's countenance was particularly stern as he rounded on his daughter. "James and I have agreed that you should not sail any further until you have acquired sufficient skills to ensure your safety."

"Father! That's entirely unfair," Elizabeth countered. "We were caught by an unexpected squall, and the mast broke within moments of the first darkening of the skies! A sailor of extensive experience might have done no better, or far worse, even."

"I am gratified that you are cognizant of the dangers involved in any foray upon the sea, my child," the governor responded calmly. "I merely wish to ensure that you have as many skills at your disposal as I can possibly provide you with."

"You are most kind," Will interjected, fearing another outburst from his stubborn bride. He spoke formally, to remind Elizabeth that their host was not only "father" but also the ruler of the colony, one whose word was law when he wished it. "Certainly, Governor. My wife and I would appreciate a greater knowledge of the craft of seamanship, before embarking on any additional sailing adventures."

"Now wait just one moment, Will," Elizabeth argued. "I see no reason for us to have to spend our precious time..."

Her father held up a hand for her silence, and she fell still, through force of long years of habit. He invoked his authority over her so infrequently, that she had never yet failed to accord him the privilege of ordering her behavior... as long as he did so before she acted.

"Your precious time, my dear, is not the only one being spent on this endeavor, and for that reason I must demand your cooperation. Commodore Norrington himself will be providing your tutelage in the proper nautical procedures."

"The commodore is going to give us sailing lessons?" Will was incredulous.

"You shall begin with the morning tide, Thursday next. It's not only for you," Swann replied wearily. "It's for the sake of all of Port Royal. I beg of you, take all the time you need to learn the craft extensively and thoroughly. We must keep him occupied until this strange malaise he has fallen under passes."

"Malaise?" Elizabeth repeated. "What, has James been ill?" The miasma of the tropical clime had sickened so many of the colonists, in the past year. The humid air suddenly felt close around her. They wouldn't lose James would they? It was unthinkable!

"No, no. Nothing so clear. He's in some sort of despondency lately, not at all himself," Weatherby sighed. "He seems to be possessed of the mad notion that he should leave the Caribbean. Something about finding a place to raise a family..."

Will smiled across the flagstone at his bride, reminded of the someday offspring they would share. Elizabeth returned the look, with some little something else in her gaze. Will's expression shifted to quizzical.

"Be that as it may," Weatherby continued, oblivious to the silent conversation between the couple, "I want you to do your best to forestall him, and keep him occupied until this melancholia passes. We must convince him to remain here in Jamaica, by whatever means are at our disposal."

"Yes, father. I understand completely." Elizabeth demurred, head bowed slightly in acquiescence. "Never fear. We will undertake to learn as much as we can of seacraft, and in the meanwhile, do our best to convince James that this is where he should bide."

Will glanced at his wife in surprise. She had become too accommodating on the issue, too quickly.

What was she up to?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first day of sail training had gone far too well. Norrington glowered as he held the tiller of the little sloop, tacking back to the harbor at Port Royal. The seas were calm, the glass was steady, the winds blew firm and predictable even around the headland where they were notoriously difficult. It had been an idyllic day. Therefore, the commodore had called a halt to the day's journey two hours early, as no further challenge was likely to assert itself.

The Turners had enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Elizabeth was vibrant and ebullient; Will's laugh was infectious. Both of them grasped the skills quickly, and were adept at both the physical and mental aspects of sailing.

But worst of all, they clearly enjoyed each other's company in a way which left James feeling decidedly a third wheel. He was virtually extraneous to the newlyweds' conversations, and the joy that shone out from Elizabeth's eyes when she looked at her husband...it was more than could be borne.

There were so many moments when she seemed to be deliberately taunting him, displaying her fine figure in such a way as to attract his notice. The swell of her breast in the bodice, the curve of her upper arm's muscles, the flash of her dark eyes in the sunlight, the curl of her hair behind her ear. Brushing his hand with hers, bumping a soft hip against his own as positions were traded when coming about. And always, that little smile to Will, as she did so. Deliberate cruelty, he never would have thought her capable of it before. He had thought her oblivious and insensitive, but that was an error of youth. This...this was callous vitriol.

He hated her for arousing his passions this way, for aroused he was. He hated himself for his half-erect state, and yet could not seem to quell the condition, no matter how many times he thought carefully on the various ways to tie a bowline or a hawser. They passed the last of the shoal markers, and it was time to tack again, their last tack before entering the harbor.

"Ready to jibe?" he called out.

"Jibe ho!" the Turners called in unison, and giggled.

There is nothing so amusing about proper nautical procedure, thought James to himself, and he thrust the tiller aside.

The bow quartered to the wind in the exact opposite direction that Norrington had intended. The mainsail filled deep, the jib ratcheted tight instead of flapping free, and the boat heeled sharply in the strong breeze at the harbor's entrance.

"Prepare for capsize!" was all James had opportunity to shout, before the rail was awash and the mast passed through forty five degrees, then sixty, and finally the mainsail touched the sea, and it was all over. The little sloop sank, no more than two thousand ells from the dock, in less than 4 fathoms of water.

He came up sputtering saltwater, to the sound of the Turners' laughter.

God Damn it all to Hell.

An amateurish mistake, within sight of the town, and the salvage of the vessel to explain to the fisherman who owned it. To be sure, he was accustomed to a wheel, and a tiller's action was opposite, and rather more brisk to respond. His anger had clouded his wits, and he'd made a simple error. A stupid error. A highly visible error.

In front of Elizabeth and Will.

Fortunately, it appeared that both of the Turners had learned a thing or two about surviving the loss of one's boat, in the storm debacle. Elizabeth had kicked off her skirts and Will had removed his coat and shoes, to leave himself freer to swim. They were each making strong headway towards the nearest stretch of shoreline. Norrington, however, continued to tread water where he was. "James? Are you whole and uninjured?" Will called across the lapping waves that now stretched several yards between them.

I don't recall ever giving that young man permission to call me by my given name, thought Norrington. Briefly he considered striking out in the direction of the docks, away from the most direct path to land, just to get away from the embarrassment, but a life at sea teaches one to avoid foolhardy showmanship for the sake of ego. Besides, it was the season for those stinging jellyfish, which always clustered under the docks. "Fine, fine. Joining you directly!" he called out, and his strong, precise strokes soon brought him to their side.

Elizabeth crawled from the water, bare-legged and bedraggled, and Will stripped his shirt off to provide her with a skirt-like covering for herself. James could not help but stare, however, at the lovely, shapely limbs that were still quite visible through the drenched muslin. For that matter, even her bodice hardly concealed the placement of her nipples, in its dampened state.

James tried to meet Elizabeth's eyes, and nearly failed to get them to rise from the level of her bosom. When he did look to her face, however, he saw her gazing intently as well, at the snug, soaking white pants of his own naval uniform, unambiguously outlining every shape and bulge held within them.

Well. No longer the blushing virgin, she, James supposed.

Will interrupted whatever thoughts were passing through either of their minds. "Come, James, we'll dry off and change clothes at our home here; then, hie off to the fort for aid in raising the ship." As the blacksmith's apprentice in the town of Port Royal, Will had participated in the salvage of several boats from their misadventures in the vicinity, and knew the basic steps involved. "We've returned early, and none will miss us for some hours yet. No sense in being miserable when we've had the good fortune to come ashore as close as can be to Elizabeth's and my home!" True enough, the little cottage where the Turners made their residence these past several months, was no more than a few hundred steps from the beach where they had all come ashore.

"No, I must report the loss of the ship at the fort immediately," James began.

Elizabeth, dripping wet and indecently attired, grasped Norrington's hand in her own, and said, "Oh, nonsense! You can at least change out of...of..." she looked down again at the twitching, dark area at his crotch. "You can't go looking like that. You can't. Will certainly has some dry breeches for you to borrow, James."

James cursed inwardly. She was right of course. He followed them to the door of the little house, barely more than a hovel, really, but very much in keeping with Elizabeth's lowered station in life. And a huge step upwards in accomodation for Turner. Bloody impractical site for a home, James thought to himself. The place would flood in every storm or spring tide. He reached up to adjust his wig, just out of habit, to be sure at least one part of himself was decently dressed.

It was gone. Of course.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Interlude:

"He wants me," she said, plainly.

"So do I," and he trailed kisses down her neck to the curve at her shoulder.

"I mean, that this is likely the opportune moment."

"I'm not sure it... is."

"Will! You're afraid!"

"I don't want to... to destroy what little is left us. You've seen him, when he looks at me. He hates me, for taking you from him."

"So show him you can be a gracious winner."

"I... I'm not sure I can do this."

"I'm not sure I can't."

"...What?"

"I'm not sure I can live with myself, if I don't manage to bring the two of you together. Will, you're unhappy. I see your eyes, when you watch him in the armory yard, practicing. You need this, and yet you can't seem to..." Her words were stopped by his mouth on hers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Turners were in the bedroom of their cottage, in the only room that had a closing door, divesting themselves as best they could of their wet things. Elizabeth had presented Norrington with Will's third best pair of breeches. His second best pair being already soaking on Will's body, and his best pair being the braid-bedecked set worn for the wedding, and ludicrously inappropriate. Really, they could have done no better.

James knew that.

But the difference in their sizes had never really been obviously apparent before. Will was nearly of a height with the commodore, but was not long out of youth. His third best pair of breeches had been tailored when he was an inch or two shorter, and had shrunk a bit in the many washings. Rather short in the leg, they were. This could be forgiven.

That the opening at the fly would gap so distant was intolerable, however. Had he lost his youthful slimness? Was he truly that old?

Perhaps Will had another pair, more shabby but less miniscule.

James stepped to the portal of the bedroom, to knock on the closed door and call for assistance. His firm rap unlatched the hastily closed door, and the hinges creaked as it swung open.

Elizabeth wore nothing more than her underbodice and smalls, James noticed immediately. Will stood completely nude, his back to the entry. His arms were wrapped languorously around his wife's waist, as he kissed her deeply. Elizabeth's eyes had flown wide at the door's opening, and she looked directly into James' pain-filled soul.

Norrington could do nothing but turn and bolt from the scene like a fox before the hunt.

He did not account for Elizabeth being a natural sprinter, and very dangerous over short distances. She caught him, just outside on the little garden paving stones, seizing his wrist in a visegrip and tugging him back towards the house.

Although he outweighed her, he could not seem to break free from her capture, and could only drag her along behind in his wake. Before he reached the gate, her nails began to prick through his skin, and tiny carmine points of pain brought some sensibility back to him. He could hardly drag an unclothed woman into town, dressed as he was, and she the wife of another man.

He turned to face her, eyes wild and bewildered, and asked, "What are you doing?"

"I'm taking you home again. Home where you belong."

This was so unexpected, so bewildering a reply, that James allowed himself to be led back inside. Elizabeth shut the door tightly behind them, taking care to pull the latchstring.



Inside, Will had just succeeded in donning his fourth best (and only other) pair of breeches. They were even smaller than the pair James wore, and also did not fully close in the front. He managed to be the most fully clothed of the three of them, due to the shabby workshirt he'd also thrown over his head.

"Oh, good. You are going to be reasonable about this, aren't you?" Will queried, and it took James a moment to realize he was the one the question addressed.

"Reasonable? Reasonable about what, pray tell?" He reached up to adjust his still-nonexistent wig, and then assiduously examined...the floor, the ceiling, the walls, anything but the beautiful, half naked woman he loved, who was married to this man so dangerous with a sword. Would I survive a duel, if he called me out? James thought.

"About this," and the beautiful, half-naked woman grappled him close against her warm skin and kissed him. Kissed. Him.

He nearly bolted again. Elizabeth had him held too firmly, anticipating him. Breaking off her lips' salutation, she said, "Tell me you did not enjoy that, James, and I'll let you go."

James looked frantically over at Will. The broad grin plastered across the other man's face was even more unexpected than Elizabeth's scandalous actions. What the devil was going on here?

"I believe the lady awaits your answer, sir," said Will.

"I believe that I should at least give some thought as to whether my answer would result in my death in a contest of arms, at your own hands, sir," replied James, struggling for words. "I would be reluctant to...give any hint of dishonor to your...marital fidelity."

"I am ever faithful to my husband, James," Elizabeth held him even tighter, pushing breath from his lungs, "as he is, to me."

"You wished us the best of luck, that day, James," said Will. "We have found it, here in this home. Can you not see our happiness? Can we not share some of that joy with you?" Norrington was still having difficulty comprehending exactly what was meant by share some of that joy with you. Was Will offering to... Was Elizabeth intending...?

Elizabeth asked him again for an answer. "Tell me you did not enjoy that kiss, and I willingly let you go."

"And Will's not going to kill me on the morrow, with one of those blades of his? No matter what I answer?" James asked Elizabeth in return.

"You have nothing to fear of violence from me, James," Will interjected. "It is not a condition, it is a request. Your answer would not change mine." Will glanced at the floor, suddenly shy. "You are a fine man, James."

Elizabeth turned her head, and stared at her husband, bemused.

"Well. Very well..." James stammered, and a little smile pricked the corners of his mouth, "Excellent."

Elizabeth kissed him again, slowly and deeply, and James was lost for a moment. "Then we have an accord," she said, finally.

"What did I just agree to?" James wondered aloud.

"I'm not actually sure. Let's find out," said Will, and he led the way into the bedroom, pulling the shift over his head as he did so.

James took a deep breath and followed, and Elizabeth trailed in last, and kicked the door to the bedroom shut behind them.

 

 

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