Up from my cabin,
My sea-gown scarf'd about me, in the dark
Groped I to find out them; had my desire.
Hamlet, Act V, scene II.
Lieutenant James Norrington pressed his shoulder against the door, and it
creaked on its disused hinges. The salt air here on the southern side of the
Fort always rusted them twice as fast as those on the north. It wasn't
sensible perhaps that the yard goods and similar items were kept this close
to the sea's reach, but those who planned such things were accustomed to the
northern side of a structure being the location most prone to damp and
mildew. Once again, the decisions were made by those who knew nothing of the
reality of a Caribbean posting.
Norrington turned to the largest of the three storage alcoves, and set his
sights on his target. A dark chest was flung open in a musty corner of the
room. Before it sat the colony's newly installed governor, shoulders hunched
and back bowed, just as midshipman Gillette had described. The young
redheaded middie had an eye for description, James thought to himself; a
good trait in an officer. Gillette would bear watching. He cleared his
throat to give warning, as if the screeching hinges had been insufficient
herald of his approach.
Without turning to look, Weatherby Swann spoke, "I can't seem to leave these
things alone, can I, James?" He chuckled and shook his head at his own
folly, yet still running gentle fingers among the folds of the fabric of
skirts and corsets, fine jewelry and feminine gewgaws. "I should never have
brought them with me from England. But I couldn't bring her beloved rose
bushes, and I couldn't bring her favorite chestnut tree, and I couldn't
bring the manse. I certainly couldn't bear to bring the horse that threw
her, that vile beast she loved so well. Did I tell you, I nearly killed the
creature with my own hands?"
The lieutenant merely crossed the room, passing casks of rum and coils of
rope. He laid a firm hand on the shoulder of the grieving older man. Atop
the trunk lay an exquisite gown, gold thread embroidering the creamy bodice,
deep blue-green silk peeking through the slits in the once-fashionable style
of a decade earlier.
"I miss her so, James. I wish... I..." Swann's voice broke with emotion, but
his eyes remained dry, through sheer force of will.
James swallowed against the lump in his own throat, and reached for the
buttons of his waistcoat, sliding shiny brass through taut boiled wool.
Weatherby turned his head at the subtle rustle beside him, and watched as
James loosened his neckcloth and began on his collar. Eleven buttons between
throat and waist, and beneath, the expanse of pale smooth skin. No scars
As he reached across to lift the gown from within its careful wrappings, a
smile quirked the corner of the young lieutenant's mouth. "Shall we see if
it still fits, then?"
A single tear escaped the corner of Weatherby's eye. "Bless you," he spoke
into James' lips, lips not nearly as soft as hers, but quite as delicious.