Be Careful What You Wish For
Fandom: PoTC Rating: NC-17 Pairing: Sparrington Full Header
Elizabeth stepped hesitantly into the dark room, inhaling a dusty, spicy scent that was redolent of mystery and magic. She was entirely out of her element, but Estrella had assured her that this woman was trustworthy.
A tiny, dark-skinned figure sat by the hearth, her needle flashing through a patchwork quilt top, her white hair gleaming in the dull firelight. The cozy domesticity of this scene both calmed Elizabeth's nerves and made her doubtful of her errand. Nothing about this old woman suggested the supernatural (with which Elizabeth had more than a passing familiarity, and on which she felt herself to be something of an expert). Then the woman looked up, her eyes piercing and bright, and for a brief instant, the room spun. There was power there, and an acute perception that cut straight to Elizabeth's soul. Disconcerted, she began to babble out her request. "I need a potion. My. . .friend is brokenhearted, because-" Elizabeth forced her eyes away from that penetrating gaze. "-the woman he loved chose another. I would have him discover his heart's desire. . ."
There was something almost malevolent about the witch woman's knowing smile. "You want him to love another? So you can feel at peace about what you done?"
Elizabeth suppressed the surge of guilt she felt at those words. "No! I was never the right woman for him. He was mistaken. I was meant for another, and could not have made him happy." She bunched her skirt in her hands. "But he is a good man, and somewhere I know there is someone who is meant for him. I only want him to find her, to be content." With some effort, Elizabeth calmed herself, smoothing her wrinkled skirt flat, then opening the package she carried. "Estrella said you needed something of his. I brought this handkerchief. He cut his hand sharpening a pen, and he used it to stop the bleeding. Will that do?"
The old woman cackled. "You fair on your way, miss. Blood makes the most powerful magic of all." She took the handkerchief and disappeared through a door at the back of the room.
The minutes stretched to nearly half an hour, and as Elizabeth's eyes adjusted to the gloom, she spotted odd objects in the smoky haze that surrounded her. An alligator's skeleton stretched across a table, what appeared to be bundles of human hair hung from the eaves, and a thickly smoking brazier sat on a low table where bowls of food and other less easily identified substances (all swarming with flies) had been set out on a red cloth. She wondered if she should go, if this was a terrible mistake; the woman did not appear to be a charlatan, but neither did she seem entirely benevolent. Elizabeth took a half step toward the door. Then the sorceress returned, with a small vial of thick, reddish liquid.
"This is what you want - it reveals what's hidden, unlocks the true desires of the heart. "
"And will it. . .bring his love to him?"
"It'll join him with his other half. . .." Another one of those unnerving giggles. "Never can tell what shape that'll take though. Not always what you're expecting."
"Of all people, I know that."
The little woman quirked her eyebrows at Elizabeth, in a way that could have meant anything.
She was all together too shrewd for Elizabeth's taste. Suddenly Elizabeth wanted nothing more than to be done with this and to return to the safety of her own home. She gladly payed the witch's fee and set her feet back towards her own front door. The hot sun couldn't cure the chill that had settled in her bones and she was tempted to throw the vial in the gutter, despite the exorbitant price she'd paid for it. Then she reflected on the woman's words. If the potion could do what she promised, if it could make James truly happy and erase the broken look that sometimes surfaced in his eyes, then it was worth the trickery and risk.
James Norrington lounged on a bench at the back of the Pelican’s Arms and watched, discreetly. He had learned over the past days (How many days? He frowned and shook his head.) that a direct look was tantamount to a challenge among the pugnacious and belligerent patrons of this filthy hole. And so he sat, seemingly at ease, hat pulled low over his eyes, scanning every face through the smoky reek, searching… for what? Or for whom?
He could not make himself believe it likely that he would meet someone he knew… remembered… in a place like this. Surely, he was a gentleman? He glanced down at his nondescript and rather worn garb and grimaced. Perhaps not. He rubbed his forehead - with the hand not holding his tankard - and resettled his hat.
A prickling sense of not-quite-danger brought his gaze round toward the front of the room. The smoke eddied and swirled in the flow of fresher air from the open door. It parted for a moment, and James saw him. What was this? Heedless of his careful pose of idle indifference he straightened and leaned forward, as if by so doing he could see more clearly. The man stood at ease, one hand upon his hip, and surveyed the room, a half smile upon his angular face. He was dressed just this side of outlandishly – from a battered tricorn and faded headscarf atop a wild mane, and a dark coat that had seen better days, to absurd bucket-topped boots. Just then his eyes swept over James... paused... and came back. James felt a shock in his gut. The stranger (and weren’t they all strangers to him?) stilled for an instant and then dipped his chin the merest fraction and turned away toward the bar. James drew a shaky breath and sat back again.
When the stranger collected his tankard, he made his way directly to James’s table and stood looking down, unspeaking and unsmiling. James met his eyes and waited.
“I didn’t expect to see you here, mate.” The words thrilled along James’s nerves and up his spine. “Has one of the lads been talking too wide?” James shuddered, but said nothing, giving back stare for stare, as the smoky voice wound its way into him, seeming to slot into an empty niche in his brain. The stranger sipped his rum and grinned; the black eyes flashed. “Well, Norrington, won’t you ask me to sit down? Or are you still too grand – although from the looks of you, you wish to appear to have fallen on hard times – to drink with the likes of Captain Jack Sparrow?”
James jerked his chin and Sparrow took it for acquiescence – seating himself at the splintery table with a flourish. “So,” he asked, leaning forward and peering under the brim of James’s hat, “how did you know I’d be here, then?”
James tore his eyes away with difficulty and took a much-needed swig of ale. This man knew him. He suppressed a surge of desperation – determined to play this carefully, intent upon not losing this clue. He cleared his throat. “I didn’t,” he said at last, “I am here by chance.”
Sparrow laughed, not particularly pleasantly. “Have it your own way, mate. But don’t think you’ll get anything out of me.” He drank. “And the Pearl ain’t here, so don’t go getting any ideas.” Sparrow made as if to rise.
James was struck by a surge of panic. Sparrow must not leave! Some part of his mind wondered at this sudden certainty, but James had no time for thought. He reached out a hand. “No! Wait… don’t go.” Sparrow froze, his eyes half-lidded but with a curious alertness about him. His eyebrows crept up. James cast about frantically for something to say. “Tell me,” he paused, and then plunged on. “Tell me where and when we last met.”
Captain Sparrow gave a crack of mirthless laughter. “As if you could forget that!” he scoffed. James did not reply, but his outstretched hand sank to the table and clenched into a fist. He shook his head. Sparrow assumed an injured expression. "Do you expect me to believe you? That fine and sunny morning on the parapet in Port Royal. Come now.”
James stared at Sparrow with a painful intensity. His head was throbbing, his thoughts in disorder. “I… I’m sorry,” he faltered, “I don’t… I can’t remember.”
Sparrow leaned back. “Well, I’m damned. You really don’t know me, do you?”
James could tell he had a history with this man. He felt it in his gut, where conflicting emotions were churning: suspicion, hope, spite, and a stirring of sharp lust. Yes, they knew each other, and well. Some part of James whispered that he could not trust this. . .scoundrel (for he was quite obviously no gentleman, nor even a respectable person of any class), but the desperate desire for information, as well as an inexplicable, overriding need to be near him, drowned out those subtle doubts.
James saw no reason to dissemble. "No, I don't. I’m sorry. . .Something's happened. I can recall nothing beyond the past few days." And even that was a confused blur, although he did not share that information. It wouldn't do to be too guileless. "But you know me. I beg of you, sir, who am I? "
"Why James, m'boy, we're old friends! I can't believe you'd forget your mate Jack, especially after all the good times we shared and the deviltry we got up to." He took up his tankard and settled back in the manner of one about to launch into a long story. "You don't remember that time in Madagascar-"
With dismay, James realized that anyone acquainted with such an individual was likely to share his proclivities. James didn't feel like a brigand, but perhaps his evil tendencies had been banished along with his memories. Cutting off Sparrow's rambling chatter, James asked abruptly, "Am I a common criminal, then?"
Some secret mischief gleamed in Sparrow's dark eyes and the corner of his mouth turned up in a smirk. He waved his hand in a theatrical gesture. "No, mate, you're a pirate!"
To Jack's great delight, this particular. . . revelation seemed to shake Norrington to the core. Even without his memories, the pirate hunter felt a natural repugnance for his prey. A plan sprang into Jack’s mind; a luscious, delightful lark that would horrify the good Commodore no end, when he returned to himself.
"And what's happened to the Revenge then, James? There's been no word of her for a month or more - you telling me you have no idea where your ship or or her crew is?"
James shook his head blankly, his eyes distant and worried. A thick lock of dark hair fell forward into his eyes and he pushed it back distractedly. He was a surprisingly good looking man, stripped of his ridiculous wig and the stiff, wool uniform. Those bright green eyes were quite a sight when they weren't sizing you up for a noose. Of course, he was a bit drab at the moment, but Jack could easily imagine what a treat he'd look in some flashy clothes, maybe an earring, and oh a tattoo - something permanent to remember this little adventure by.
Jack suppressed a gleeful snicker and assumed a concerned expression. "Since you're not feeling quite yourself, perhaps you should come back with me to the Pearl. I'm in need of some new hands anyhow, and you always were a handsome sailor. It'd be a pleasure to have you join my crew."
James may have lost his memories, but he wasn't quite the dunce Sparrow took him for. There was far more to the story than he was being told. But what options did he have, really? He could continue to sit in this hellhole, in hopes that someone else who knew him might arrive (unlikely, and perhaps he would be even less savory than Sparrow), or he could take his chances with Sparrow, and hope to glean more information from him as time wore on. Perhaps the proximity to one he'd known before might jar his memory and unloose the secrets hidden therein.
Furthermore, James was powerfully, inexplicably drawn to Captain Sparrow. The thought of parting from him filled James with a sickening revulsion, and he only just kept himself from grabbing onto the man's coat to hold him fast. Shrugging, he forced himself to speak with a lightness that he did not feel. "Why not, eh Captain Sparrow? It's not as if I have anywhere else to be."
James stood in the bow of the Pearl, watching the night come on. The first few stars twinkled against a backdrop of faded indigo, and a sliver of new moon hovered on the horizon. The ship cut swiftly through the dark waves, and a stiff breeze played in James' hair and left the taste of salt on his lips.
Unaccountably, his heart felt light. This was familiar and right. He was a sailor; that much of Sparrow's story was true. And for an instant, he wondered if he needed to know more. Perhaps he'd been given a great gift, to forget all that had come before and simply live in the moment. He'd signed the ship's articles and acknowledged Sparrow as his captain, but other than that simple pact, none here had claim on him.
Instinctively, he knew he could not simply remain as he was, abandoning those who were dependent upon him. He must discover his true identity and take it up again, no matter how tempting it was to renounce the past. Sparrow held the information James sought, and James must pry it out of him by whatever means necessary.
Somewhere on the ship, a fiddle struck up a lilting tune, and Sparrow's voice joined it in a raucous song. The captain sounded as if he were already deep in his cups. Little chance of an answer tonight, James thought. He tipped his head back, inhaled the smell of the ocean, and laughed from sheer joy.
Gibbs laid out his needles and inkpot on the top of an upended cask, while James eyed them dubiously. He was dressed now in tight fawn breeches, a soft linen shirt with full sleeves, and a sleeveless black velvet doublet that fit him like a second skin. He felt ridiculous.
When Sparrow had pressed the garments on him earlier, he had protested that there was nothing wrong with the way he was dressed, but the Captain just laughed. “Oh, aye, you’d do well enough on the Revenge, man – but this is the Pearl, and we’ve a reputation to maintain. I insist. Call them a signing bonus, of sorts.”
And now, Sparrow was urging him to let Gibbs tattoo him. “Rite of passage, James mate.”
James sipped cautiously at the noggin of rum the Captain handed him, and frowned. In the scant few hours since meeting Sparrow at the tavern yesterday, his fascination with the man had grown alarmingly.
James appeared to be the only one on board without some design inked onto his skin. Even young Pete, whose voice was still a piping squeak, had a crude shark on his forearm. In all likelihood, even the scowling woman at the helm had one, although she was too far away to show hers off as the others had. If James were truly a pirate, how had he avoided this "rite of passage" until now? Something about this didn't make sense, but when James attempted to pin it down, it slipped away, replaced by a vague confusion and a sudden awareness of Sparrow's proximity, breathing rum fumes in James' face and tapping his fingers on James' chest.
"Now, some sailors swear by another pair of eyes, right here. Makes 'em extra heedful of danger."
Rattled by the way his pulse sped up at Sparrow's touch, James pushed his hand away. "I think not, Captain Sparrow. I've lived this long-" (and how long was that exactly?) "-without one; I think I'll remain undecorated."
Sparrow's expression (which had grown strangely smug at James' "Captain Sparrow") grew forlorn. "I s'pose you've forgotten what a poor hand Hob Williams had with a needle. You swore you'd never let him near you with his kit. Nothing but the best for you - you were waiting for a real artist. And now here we are with Gibbs at hand. You'll not find a finer man with a tattoo needle. Why, he did my own lovely Pearl-" Sparrow's voice was muffled as he pulled his shirt up to reveal a perfect rendering of Sparrow's ship, rippling across his bronzed back.
The artistry was impressive, but not so much as the play of muscles under that dark skin. James felt his mouth go dry, even as he wondered at his own response. Surely it was not normal to feel such a strong attraction to someone so suddenly? Of course, it might not be sudden at all. The captain had been particularly evasive when James had tried to ascertain the exact nature of their previous acquaintance; had they been. . .intimates? Perhaps they'd had a falling out. Yes, that would explain both his own response to Sparrow and Sparrow's sly glee at James' amnesia.
“A nice mermaid, now – or the Pearl, of course,” Sparrow was saying, but James had stopped listening. If he was going to do this mad thing, he would get what he wanted.
“An eagle,” James said firmly, “in flight.” He stepped to one side, thereby slipping away from the Captain’s hand, which had landed again, as if by chance, on his arm, and looked at Gibbs. “Can you do it?”
Gibbs nodded. “Aye lad, that I can.” He took a stick of charcoal and sketched quickly on the barrelhead – a few sure, precise strokes. “That what ye had in mind?”
James looked down at the little drawing in surprise. Gibbs had captured the bird with wings upraised; every economical line conveyed a sense of speed and power. He felt Sparrow move up close, to look past his shoulder; felt his presence burning the skin of his arm, like a flame held too close. With an effort, he held himself still and nodded to Gibbs. “Yes,” he said, “Give me that.”
“Excellent choice,” Sparrow waved his arms, nearly cackling with delight, “Now, where to put it, ay?” He circled James – who shifted nervously – eyeing him up and down. “Hmmm, how about… here?” He placed his palm flat on James’ back, high on the right shoulder blade. James was shocked to find himself leaning into the touch, and he straightened abruptly.
“That will do as well as any,” James replied, and stripped off his doublet, anxious to get this farce over with. He removed his shirt and sat, at Gibb’s direction, on a barrel, bracing himself for the first touch of the needle.
It was not as bad as he had thought it would be, a stinging, prickling irritation – with a share of sharper jabs, to be sure – that grew to a sensation not unlike a bad sunburn as the minutes lengthened into an hour. He sipped his rum with his left hand – Gibbs reminding him to hold his right shoulder still.
Sparrow, meanwhile, occupied himself with supervising Gibbs, peering over his shoulder and commenting on the progress of the design. James listened with amusement as Gibbs’s replies to the Captain’s interference became shorter and shorter, until he simply grunted absently every time Sparrow spoke.
At last, it was done. “There ye be, lad,” Gibbs said, with satisfaction, “and a good job of work, if I do say so who shouldn’t.”
James craned his neck to see his new adornment, but could glimpse only part of it. “Ah,” Sparrow cried, “I’ve just the thing, mate. Hang on a moment.” He vanished into his cabin, whence issued a muffled thump as his sea chest was thrown open. He emerged, smiling triumphantly with a pair of hand-mirrors that looked as if they had been looted from a lady’s boudoir – which, James reflected wryly, was more than likely the case.
Sparrow handed one of the glasses to James and stood behind him with the other. “Hold yours up, James and you’ll see the reflection of mine.”
James did as he was told, and, after a bit of adjustment, caught the image from Sparrow’s glass in his own. The eagle flew, just as in the sketch, and he had to admit that it was a fine thing to see. He raised his noggin again for a sip, and the movement caused the mirror in his hand to tilt. He found himself looking, not at the other mirror, but at Sparrow’s face – eyes slitted and intent as he stared at James’ back. James caught his breath; the sound made the captain look up, and their eyes met in the mirror. As Sparrow’s eyes widened in startlement, James felt his own go dark. For a heartbeat – two – neither man moved. James felt himself flushing.
Gibbs, packing away his needles and the ink, jostled Jack's arm, and Jack started and looked away. Gibbs was determinedly pokerfaced, and Jack felt a bolt of resentment for the man. If he looks at me, he thought viciously, I swear I'll keelhaul him.
The odd out-of-time moment had passed, and James was easing his shirt over his head, careful not to jar the tattooed skin on his shoulder. Jack scrabbled for some way to take control of the situation again, to blot the memory of those piercing eyes, the pupils gone wide and dark. He clapped his hands together to banish the spell. "Now then," he said, "you just need an earring to be all fit and proper. Can't leave off that bit."
There was a flash of something like relief on James' face before it assumed a put-upon expression. "No more! I've agreed to these ridiculous clothes, and the damned tattoo-" at Gibbs' hurt look, James added as an aside, "Which turned out quite well." He wheeled back toward Jack. "But I see no need for further indignities. Why in God's name should I have a hole in my ear?"
Because Commodore Norrington'll look like a right fool in his dress uniform and a gold hoop, but it wouldn't do to tell James that. "James, James, James. You promised me you'd keep yourself safe! An earring'll save you from death by drowning - you just ask Gibbs, he'll tell you."
Gibbs nodded, his face a study in bland abstraction.
"After all we've been through, mate, you can't deny me this tiny little request." Jack wrapped his arm around James' shoulders, let his voice go low and cajoling, and resolutely did not think about how nice James felt snugged into his side. "I only have your best interests at heart, love."
Against his will, James once again found himself succumbing to that wheedling tone and those plaintive eyes. With a sigh, he nodded curtly.
This token assent was all Sparrow needed; shifting his weight onto his other foot, he gave James a spin and a slight push that landed him back on the barrelhead. Then Sparrow produced, from somewhere on his person, a dangerously long needle and a grimy handkerchief. With deft fingers, he pushed James' hair back away from his ear, brushing the tips of his fingers along the hair line. James shivered and arched into the touch, with a sound that was very nearly a purr. Sparrow's breath hitched and he jerked his hand away as if he'd been scalded.
"Don't move," Sparrow said in a ragged voice. He balled up the handkerchief and stuffed it behind James' ear. "This won't hurt. Much."
Gibbs snorted and coughed, then slipped away.
James was aloft with several other hands, replacing the t'gallant that had blown out in the last storm. They were taking advantage of the clear, sunny weather to make repairs, for this time of year, the respite wouldn't last. Another storm would hit, it was only a matter of when.
Jack worried the wood of the rail with his thumb as he stared up into the rigging, watching James moving with unexpected skill and agility. I'll be damned, he thought, the man can sail. Jack'd never seen Norrington in the guise of a sailor, always as a leader of men; and it was a pleasant surprise to see that James the common sailor was handy and competent. At times Jack could almost forget that his new crew member was more commonly known as Commodore Norrington of the Jamaica Fleet. And then, at the oddest moments, he would say or do something that was pure Norrington, through and through, and startle Jack half out of his skin.
The sail in place, James raced down the shrouds, landing on the deck with a thump and a pleased grin. He'd stripped off his doublet and shirt, and his bare chest gleamed with sweat. He was a fine figure of a man, there was no denying that, not too hairy, with a trim, lean build. If he was anyone other than who he was. . .But he was who he was, and there was no point in thinking otherwise. Sooner or later, he'd remember who he was, and who Jack was, and how they stood in relation to one another. Best not complicate that with relations of another sort. Of course, Jack reflected - as James bent over the cask of water on the deck, and the muscles in his back bunched and shifted - there's no harm in looking.
James dipped his hands into the cask and splashed water over his head and chest, then shook his wet hair, sending droplets flying. Looking up, his eyes met Jack's and he smirked, as if he knew Jack had been watching him. He sauntered over, pulling on his shirt and then his doublet as he walked. He leaned up against the rail beside Jack, still fussing with the laces on the doublet. "I feel quite the fool in this costume, Captain. Who am I meant to be, Hamlet?"
Jack laughed; truth told, James did look a bit like a player in the black velvet doublet. "Aye, it'll do. And I "a pirate of very warlike appointment." You must confess I've dealt with you as a thief of mercy-" Suddenly struck by a thought, Jack cocked his head and gave James a speculative look. "You mean to tell me you can't remember-" He caught himself in the nick of time. "-your ship or your crew, or much else besides your name, but you can remember a bloody play?"
"I am but mad north-north-west; when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw." James chuckled wryly. "I suppose it's but another symptom of my affliction. I have no trouble recalling how to sail, after all. It is only the particulars of my identity that are lost to me."
This seemed as good a time as any to get some answers from Sparrow. James cleared his throat and said, "Captain, what can you-
Sparrow's eyes widened. "How old are you?" he asked abruptly.
Taken by surprise, James started to respond, the answer shaping itself in his mouth, but before he could speak, it was gone. He shook his head in disgust.
"What year is it?"
James answered readily, and Sparrow nodded.
"I've heard of men losing their memories after a fall or a knock to the head, but I've never seen one that could remember some things and not others. . ." Sparrow twisted one braid of his beard thoughtfully. "Still, it seems the most likely cause. Can you remember anything of that nature?"
James cocked an eyebrow. "I thought we'd covered this. I can't remember anything about my past of any nature."
Sparrow acknowledged this with a distracted bob of his head, while his fingers flew into James' hair and started roaming over his skull. James jerked away, but Sparrow stopped him with a firm grip on his arm. "Hold up, mate - I'm feeling for bumps." His face was intent, his eyes distant. "Not the phrenological kind, the other kind." The fingers kneading and stroking James' head slowed and repeated their circuit, more carefully. Now that he was expecting it, James found the touch quite pleasurable, and he had to fight to keep his eyelids from sliding shut. Sparrow's brow furrowed. "Interesting."
Suddenly seeming to realize that his hands were entwined in James' hair, Sparrow pulled away and leaned against the rail once more. "Don’t you have an elsewhere to be, mate?" He flicked his hand in a dismissive motion. "I don't know how things were on the Revenge, but there's no lollygagging on the Pearl."
Jack was lost in thought when, a few minutes later, Anamaria joined him at the rail. She propped her elbows on the smooth wood and stared past Jack out to sea. After a moment, she said softly, for Jack’s ears, “Din’t find nothing, did ye?”
He stirred and tilted his head back to squint at the sky through the rigging. “No.”
Anamaria snorted. “I knew it. You were looking in the wrong place.”
Jack looked at her sidelong. “Would you care to explain yourself?”
“Tweren’t no blow to the head that took his mind, Captain. You got to look here for the trouble.” And she tapped her chest, over her heart.
Jack frowned a question.
“You damn’ fool,” she snarled, “it’s spellwork! I can smell the enchantment on him.”
His eyes widened before he could stop them – for he knew well that Anamaria, with her history, could indeed smell out hidden enchantments – but then he recovered himself and grinned at her. “Nice try, darling, but I don’t think…”
“That’s right,” she burst out furiously, keeping her voice low, “you don’t think!” Her eyes narrowed and she leaned toward him, bristling with wrath. “You’re a reckless, thoughtless bastard and you’re messing with what you don’t understand one bit! And if it was just you who stood to suffer for it, I swear I’d let you go down without raising a hand, but you’re putting us all in danger, Jack Sparrow. And the Pearl, as well.”
Jack’s brows snapped down in a scowl. “Anamaria,” he began, but she stomped off muttering something about ‘damn fool’ and left him to his thoughts. He saw troubled glances sent his way by crew who’d seen, if not heard, the exchange and he cursed with a fluency that would have amazed even Gibbs. Damn her and her superstitious claptrap – making the men nervous. Appearing to ignore the eyes upon him, he stretched and yawned and sauntered, grinning, the length of the ship, tossing a cheerful word or a jest to those he passed – to all appearances entirely at ease – until he saw them begin to relax, whereupon he ducked into his cabin to resume his pondering of the mystery over a mug of rum.
James had stood night watch – a sign, if any were needed, that he had passed muster – and had just been relieved. He leaned on the starboard rail, watching the moonlight play on the water. The week just past had proven to him that he was indeed a sailor, which he found comforting. It provided him with another shred of identity and gained him the guarded acceptance of the crew, some of whom clearly knew more about him than they were willing to say. He’d thought about asking Gibbs – who seemed oddly familiar – about that, or Anamaria. But she, it was clear, not only knew him but disliked him – she couldn’t hide it. And Gibbs, he knew, would never talk. For all the captain’s flamboyant behaviour – which James suspected was mostly a pose – Sparrow ran a tight ship.
Captain Sparrow continued to fascinate him. He was drawn to the man more strongly with every day that passed. And, he knew, Sparrow was not uninterested himself. No matter what watch he stood, a day hadn’t passed without some speech with him. He seemed to be everywhere – observing him with those knowing dark eyes. James wondered what Sparrow knew about him that he wasn’t telling. He was more than ever convinced that there was a good deal between them that Sparrow had not so far revealed.
James touched the gold ring in his ear – turning it absently. It was healing well – as was the tattoo on his shoulder – and barely stung. He asked himself yet again, why had Sparrow insisted upon them? Direct questions had brought him naught but evasions and maddening glimpses of amusement, hastily suppressed. How hard could he push for answers, he wondered. Only one way to find out…
Speak of the devil (or in this case, think of him) and he appears. And, just as if James' thoughts had conjured him up, Sparrow appeared behind him, singing a bawdy ditty to himself and polishing an apple on his coat. James turned to face him, and there it was again, that complete and utter sense of attraction, something at once too complicated to put into words, and yet so simple it needed no words.
Some of what James was feeling must have shown in his face, for Sparrow broke off the song and a wary look briefly surfaced in his eyes. Just as quickly, it was replaced by Sparrow's usual mocking demeanor. He cocked his head to the side and said, “Wool-gathering, James? Fine thing for the night watch, I must say. I might just have a word with Gibbs about this.”
James raised his brows, lounging back against the rail with an assumption of ease. “Off duty, Captain. Just moments ago, in fact.” Sparrow took a step closer and James felt his heart begin to race. It seemed like the opportune moment had arrived. Time to try what a push might achieve. He stood up and drew a breath, and took a short step, bringing him to within inches of Sparrow.
Jack stepped back nervously. "You feelin' alright, mate? You look a mite peaked."
Without a word, James stalked forward, fixing Jack with a dead-level stare, his chin tilted down and his mouth a straight line. Although James' memories were obviously still absent, he was every inch the commodore. Not that the commodore's eyes had ever held that particularly beguiling gleam. Jack felt himself growing hard, felt his pulse go wild and erratic, even as he was telling himself that this was a terrible idea and backing away. The rest had been a joke, and one that was sure to provoke Norrington when he regained his memory, but jokes could be taken too far. Jack was certain that Barbossa at his worst couldn't hold a candle to what Norrington would do if he discovered Jack had buggered him while he was on the Pearl. Jack shuddered. It didn't bear thinking about.
He was babbling now, saying whatever came into his head. "You having trouble with your bowels? Gibbs mixes up a good purgative. Good for what ails you." Jack felt the bulkhead behind him, and reflexively lifted his hands up in a warding gesture.
The forgotten apple tumbled to the deck and rolled towards James' feet. He kicked it out of his way and continued his relentless advance.
Oh, but James' lips were red, Jack thought, and when he licked them, Jack's breath caught in his throat. Pretty, pretty red lips. . .No, no, no! Jack's hands were flailing now. Whose idea was this anyway, bringing an addled commodore onto his ship? Whoever was responsible for this daft plan ought to be flogged. He tried another tack. "Or are you lonesome for a girl? We'll make port in a day or two. Surely your good right hand can satisfy 'til then."
James was perilously close now, and Jack knew he should do something to stop this, but all he could do was continue jabbering inanely. "I swear I'm the wrong man for you, mate. When you're feelin' more yourself, you'll thank me-"
James placed the flat of his hand on Jack's chest, feeling the tell-tale pounding of his heart. A galvanic sensation pulsed through Jack's body, and he bit off a groan. "Don't do something you'll-"
James grinned knowingly and moved his hand up into Jack's hair. He gripped and tugged, bringing Jack's mouth only a hair's breadth from his own, then growled, "Captain. . .shut up. . ." and kissed Jack fiercely.
His head swimming, Jack lurched to the side and broke away. He had to think, to remind himself that Navy and pirate were like oil and. . ."Must think," he muttered wildly.
James smiled tightly. "A little late for that, wouldn't you say?"
And James lunged forward, pinning Jack to the bulkhead and knocking the air out of his body. Quickly kissing him again, he sank to his knees, hands tearing at the buttons on Jack's breeches. James' tongue rasped across Jack's cock and then Jack was engulfed in wet heat. His knees buckled. "Bad idea, mate....this is....a...bad..."
James looked up at him with lust-darkened eyes and moaned. Deliberately - Jack was sure of it.
"Oh God." Jack's head banged against the bulkhead and his hands tangled in all that fine, soft hair, and he was unable to recall any reason at all why he shouldn't give himself over to this completely.
James closed his eyes to hide his amusement. Really, this was almost too easy. The captain – Jack – was delightfully flustered. James took hold of Jack’s hips to steady him, as he seemed in danger of slipping to the deck in his distraction, and applied himself with relish to Jack’s undoing.
Jack’s hands fisted in his hair and his stance widened, until he was almost sprawling. James grinned to himself even as he acted on the hint, taking Jack’s cock deeper still. He cupped Sparrow’s balls with one hand – while holding him in place with the other – and pressed gently with one finger at the space behind.
Jack moaned, rolling his head from side to side and bucking helplessly. “Oh GOD,” he said again, and James felt his own painfully trapped erection leap at the raw need in Sparrow’s voice. Jack was whispering, “James, love… please…”.
James felt Jack’s balls tighten and he sped up. In moments, Jack came with a strangled cry, tense and trembling. James held on, shaking with his own pent-up need, until Jack slumped bonelessly and eased his grip on James’ hair. He lapped at Jack’s softening cock until he felt Jack pulling him up. He rose and braced his hands on either side of Sparrow’s head, leaning in to kiss him and then pulling back “Now, Jack,” he murmured, grinning into the dark eyes that glinted, half-lidded, just inches from his own, “tell me…”
But he got no further. Sparrow’s face went from sated and open to wary and sharp in an instant, and James paused, thrown off by the sudden shift.
Bugger this, Jack thought to himself, may as well hang for sheep as for a lamb. And the only way to stop James asking uncomfortable questions was to keep him too busy to think. He ducked under James’ arm and clamped his hand around the man’s wrist, yanking hard enough to send them both stumbling toward his cabin.
“Just remember, mate,” he muttered, slamming and bolting the door with his free hand, “you started this.” With another well-timed jerk on the wrist in his grasp, he spun James around and slammed him face first into the door, pressing up against him and pinning his arms to the carved wood panels. James pushed back and Jack snapped his hips forward and ground against James’ backside. “This what you want?” he purred, and bit down where neck and shoulder join. James groaned and stopped struggling. Jack kissed the nape of his neck. “Well, James, is it? Tell me.”
In response, James could only whimper. Jack's hand slipped between James' body and the wall, a warm pressure against James' erection. When James leaned into the hand, Jack moved it, quick as could be, to fumble at the laces of the ridiculous, old-fashioned doublet he'd given James to wear.
"Boot's on the other foot now." Jack's tongue was wet on James' ear, and then he was tugging on the new earring with his teeth, muttering around it. "Thought you'd get the better of old Jack, did you?" His hands were still fumbling with the laces. "Nice try. But-" He wrenched off the doublet, turning James back around in the process. There was tense anticipation in every muscle of his body, pressed tightly against James'. "You should know by now, nobody gets the better of Captain Jack Sparrow." His lips twisted in wry amusement before he captured James' mouth in a searingly possessive kiss, clutching one hand to the back of James' neck and running the other down the length of James' thigh.
The world was spinning, and James couldn't get a breath. Fighting the overwhelming sensation, he pulled away from the kiss and tipped his head back against the door, baring his throat. Jack took this for an invitation, savaging James' neck with his teeth. That'll leave a mark, James thought, very distantly, but he couldn't bring himself to care. The attraction, the lust he'd felt for Jack before had been only a prelude to this abject longing. He was being dragged under by its force, and was helpless to resist it.
Still mouthing James' neck, Jack rucked up James' shirt and dipped his fingers into the waistband of his breeches. At the strained sound this evinced from James, he chuckled darkly, then, pressing his advantage, he swirled his tongue over James' chest. Wet cloth dragged across James' nipple, and he stifled a moan. I will not beg, he told himself.
Jack’s fingers were stroking his belly, teasing closer but never touching his erection, and James cocked his hips, straining for contact. Jack leaned back and grinned. “Feeling a mite eager, are you?” Nimbly, Jack undid James’ breeches and slid both hands inside and over his hips to cup his buttocks – squeezing and kneading. The breeches slid to the deck. He bit his lip to keep himself from groaning as Jack chuckled again. “You’re going to have to ask me, y’know, mate.” Something between a growl and a whine escaped James’ lips and he bucked sharply – against and then away.
Jack leaned in and bit again at James’ throat. “That’ll do for a first step,” he murmured. And he brought one hand around and closed it on James’ cock, stroking firmly upward once and then pausing to rub his thumb back and forth across the head. James’ skull cracked sharply against the door and he whimpered. He pumped his hips in a desperate rhythm. Jack laughed and let go his hold. “Oh no you don’t, love. T’ain’t that easy.” Jack stepped back and began to strip. “Lose the shirt.”
Jack grinned to himself as James hastened to comply. This lovely game might still go horribly wrong, but that wasn’t going to stop him making the most of the opportunity to bend the commodore to his will, just this once. He had divested himself of coat and boots when James, impatient, grabbed his arm and he found himself being kissed greedily. We’ll just see about that, Jack thought. And he backed James up until they bumped against the table that served as his desk. He freed his mouth and reached up to tongue James’ earring again. “Turn around, James,” he whispered, “and bend over.”
The speed with which he was obeyed tickled him. James lay forward over the table – his arms above his head, fingers clutching the far edge, and his cheek pressed to the satiny wood, eyes closed. Almost there, Jack thought; I’ll break that stubborn silence of his, yet. He grasped James’ hips and pulled him back until only his ribs and shoulders still rested on the table, and nudged his feet into a wider stance, noting with wicked glee how James’ cock now swung free, far from anything he might use as friction. “Perfect,” he purred. “Don’t move.”
James lay still, save for the trembling in his legs and the way his cock leapt at every sound from behind him. He breathed deeply, trying to collect the shreds of his resistance. The smell of ink and paper surrounded him as his body warmed the documents on which he was sprawled and the scent made his nose itch and his memory roil. Something about ink and paper… But before he could grasp at the almost-recollection, Jack was back and he nearly cried out when Jack’s body covered his.
Jack had shed the rest of his clothes and crossed to root among the clutter on the sideboard until he found what he sought: a small earthenware flask with a cork stopper. Carrying it back with him, he set it on the table by James’ side and laid himself down on top of him, pressing his stiffening cock against the proffered arse and licking at the eagle on James’ shoulder.
Jack wanted to hear him beg, that was clear – and James was determined to remain silent for as long as he could. The idea of submitting to this man was a painfully sweet temptation, but some buried instinct told him not to give in entirely – and yet, he was so close to the edge. He shuddered convulsively as Jack licked his shoulder in time to the rocking of Jack’s hips. “Like that, do you?” came the smoky voice in his ear. He closed his eyes tighter and nodded, gasping. “Want more?” his tormentor asked. And James nodded again. He felt Jack’s laughter puff against his neck and then Jack stood up.
He took up the flask and uncorked it. Pressing one hand firmly on the small of James’ back, he poured the oil it contained, drop by drop, at the very top of the division of James’ buttocks, letting it run down, tickling and warming as it went. Jack put the flask down and began to massage the oil in, leaning hard with his other hand, and James bucked helplessly as Jack maddeningly refused to penetrate him, working all around and down, until he was rubbing firmly behind James’ balls. James moaned. “Jack…”
“What’s that love?” Jack asked, “I didn’t hear you.” And he closed his hand on James’ cock and the last of James’ obstinacy crumbled at the touch.
“Oh God,” he cried, writhing, “Jack…. please…”
“Please what?” Jack almost chuckled, leaning down to bite at the base of James’ spine as he struggled. “Tell me what you want.”
“I want,” James panted, and stopped.
“You want…” Jack prompted.
“I want you to fuck me… please, Jack… please fuck me.”
And then Jack’s hand was twisted in his hair, pulling him upright and Jack’s other hand – slick with a fragrant oil that made him think of … someone…- was grasping his jaw and forcing his mouth open and Jack was kissing him and shoving him backwards until something caught him behind the knees and he fell into a nest of pillows with Jack on top of him, biting his lips and murmuring, “There now; that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
More kisses, furious and wet, then Jack's mouth trailed down James' chest. Sharp teeth on his nipple, Jack's knee parting his legs. "Ja-ack," James whined.
Jack looked up and winked at James, moving his hand in lazy circles down James' stomach and then to the junction of his thigh, leaving a slick trail. James' thighs sprawled open in a wordless plea, and Jack made a satisfied hum as he bit down right above James' knee, his hair brushing against James' cock teasingly.
James clutched wildly at Jack's arms. "Goddammit, Jack, get on with it!"
Jack stopped what he was doing and arched an eyebrow. "Manners, James," he tsked. There was a hint of laughter in his voice. "If you don't want me to tie you to this bed and leave you like this, behave yourself."
James let go of Jack's arms, then grasped hold of the sheet, when, with no warning, one of Jack's slick fingers slid into the crease between his buttocks. Then that finger pressed into him and he arched off the bed and very nearly howled. Jack pushed James' hair out of his face, and watched in fascination as every twist and crook of his finger contorted James' features with desperate need. He leaned down to whisper in James' ear, "Gonna have you like that one day. Tie you up. . .Take all day if I want to. . ."
James bucked his hips and tossed his head and groaned, "Yes. . .yes. . .yes. . .whatever you say, just fuck me before I go mad!"
The finger was gone, and James was turned on his belly again, his face pressed into the pile of soft pillows. There was more oil, then Jack's body covering him and a blunt, burning, satisfying pressure that filled him up. Yes, this was what he'd needed, this was what he'd been craving, this union, this surrender. But it wasn't enough. The slow, careful strokes were a sweet torment, a tantalizing hint of something else, just out of reach.
James pushed back against Jack's downstroke. "More. . . God. . .more. . ."
Jack thrust deeper once, then grasped James' hip, holding him still. He resumed his slower pace with a wicked laugh, then pushed the hair off James' neck and bit hard on his nape, making James moan uncontrollably. Nonsensical noises and half-formed phrases were bubbling out of him, a pleading, beseeching litany.
He reached for his cock, only to have Jack grab both hands and pin them to the bed. "Nuh-uh. . ."
That lewd voice was pouring into James' ear again. "Desperate's a good look for you, mate. . ." He sped up and angled his thrusts differently, each one hitting something that made James see stars. Jack's voice was taunting. "Gonna tie you down and take you apart. . .Make you beg for hours. . ."
James was barely conscious of what Jack was saying, barely aware of his own response. "Anything, Jack. . .yes. . .God. . . please. . .anything!"
As if this final capitulation had been what Jack had been looking for, he thrust hard and fast once, twice, and then yanked James' head back and sank his teeth into his neck as he spent himself in James' body.
For a long moment, neither man moved. Jack's weight was heavy on James' back, pressing him into the bed, and James' cock was still achingly hard. Nearly out of his mind with lust, James had a panicked thought - did Jack intend to leave him like this? Surely he-
Before James could complete the thought, Jack's hand was on his cock, and God, the touch was enough, just the fingers wrapped around him was all it took and he was coming, shouting Jack's name.
Another long moment of stillness; Jack licked James’ tattoo once more, and lifted himself off. He lay down on his side and pulled James against his chest, their bodies spooned together comfortably. Jack’s hand rested over James’ heart, to feel the frantic pounding slow to a more normal pace. James sighed, a contented sound, and one that made Jack grin drowsily. As diversionary tactics went, this had been one of his better ones. Certainly the most fun he’d had distracting someone in quite some time. He slid his arm further around the sweat-damp chest in front of him and let his eyes drift shut. Sleep now, he thought, and we’ll see about a little more ‘diversion’ after that. He was just slipping into a doze when James shifted restlessly, turning to lie on his back. Reflexively, Jack threw a leg across James’ and resettled himself for sleep.
“Jack,” James spoke softly, then a little louder, “Jack!”
“Mmmmphm,” said Jack.
James rolled onto his side, facing Jack, which caused Jack to adjust, but not release, his possessive grip on James with both arm and leg. “Jack.”
“Of course, darling,” Jack mumbled, “no one but you in all Tortuga….”
“Captain. Sparrow,” James spoke slowly and clearly and Jack opened one eye.
Damned fidgety bastard, he thought, why isn’t he sleeping? “What is it?” he said.
James raised himself on one elbow and looked down at him gravely. “Who am I?”
Buggeration, thought Jack, are we still on that? He closed his eye and sighed. “You are James Norrington, able-bodied seaman and a damn fine pirate.”
“Don’t evade the question,” James replied. “You know very well what I am asking, Jack.”
“If I did – and that’s not by way of an admission to any such thing and don’t you go twisting my words, mate - I wouldn’t have any intention of talking about it now,” said Jack, his eyes still obstinately closed. “Ask me again in the morning, there’s a good fellow. Good night.” And he tugged on James’ shoulder, hoping he’d lie down and go to sleep.
But James grasped Jack’s wrist and plucked his hand away sharply. “Damn it to Hell, Sparrow. Answer me! Who am I?”
Jack was thinking fast, if not very clearly. He rolled over on his back and lay for a moment, smacking his lips absently and scratching his belly. The truth would not do, of course, so, what to say?
“Alright, love, if you must have it. But it’s a dangerous bit of knowledge,” he paused and opened both eyes cautiously. James was glaring at him.
“Stop this nonsense, you rogue,” James growled, every inch the Commodore, despite the deliciously just-fucked look about him, “and tell me.”
Jack closed his eyes again and fought down a shudder that the sight of James as Commodore gave him. He drew a deep breath and said in a rush, “You are James Stuart, called the Eighth, Jacobite pretender to the crown of England, Scotland and Wales; currently thought to be on holiday in the South of France.”
There was a charged silence. Then James flung himself out of the bed and stormed across the cabin. He snatched up his clothes and yanked the door open so hard it crashed against the bulkhead, and he was gone.
Jack, who had sat bolt upright when James moved, sat staring for a few moments and then lay down again, hands behind his head. He gazed thoughtfully at the decking above him. All things considered, that hadn’t gone half badly. James was no nearer the truth and that meant…. Here Jack paused. What did it mean? He grinned. Well, for one thing, it meant that he’d have more chances to … er… enjoy the situation a while longer. (No denying – the man was made for it.) He felt his cock stir and told it firmly to be patient. We’ll have him again tomorrow night, mate – or my name’s not Captain Jack Sparrow.
The atmosphere on the Pearl the next day was uncomfortable, to say the least, between Jack's cocky grins and James' black mood. Gibbs and Anamaria were hiding from the both of them in the galley, eating leftover fish stew from the previous evening. The soup was a murky, salty mess, despite Cotton's best efforts. The captain was hellbent on getting as far from Port Royal as they could, and wouldn't hear of stopping long enough to fish, so it was salted herring (and be glad of it) until whatever daft plan Jack had conceived of had come to fruit.
Gibbs slurped down a spoonful of broth. "Jack's besotted with the-" at Anamaria's warning look, he hastily substituted - "new crewman."
"Aye," she said, each word embued with disgust. "And he with Jack. That's plain enough."
Gibbs smirked. "Can't take their eyes off each other, for all that Norrington's all scowls and blushes today." He chuckled at the memory of the caterwauling that'd come from the captain's cabin the night before. "I'll warrant Jack's taught him a few new tricks. Might be a few days 'fore he can sit down proper again."
Anamaria simply stared down into her bowl, her face drawn in concentration and her tongue fixed in the corner of her mouth.
Gibbs picked a hunk of something unidentifiable out of his soup and frowned. "T'ain't natural, consortin' with the enemy like that. Mark my words, nothin' good'll come of it."
"I don't like it. It stinks of spellwork, and they're both caught in it like fish in a net."
At this, Gibbs made a furtive, well-practiced gesture to avert the evil eye.
"I know somethin' about this kind of magic - it can't change a man's heart, but it can make him do things he wouldn't do otherwise. . .takes out the barriers and lets nature take its course. It's strong, 'cause it's woven out of something real. And the spell feeds itself - the better it works, the stronger it gets." She tapped her fingers on the rough-hewn tabletop. "Now Jack's gone and buggered him, it'll only get worse."
Gibbs couldn't resist the obvious joke. "Jack's buggered the navy before, but as far as I know, this is the first time he's buggered the navy, if you take my meaning."
The look Anamaria gave him made it clear she didn't appreciate his wit.
"If Jack's bespelled, we ought to cure him up quick, before he gets us into any more trouble." Gibbs was hit with a disturbing realization. He leaned in close to whisper, "The Royal Navy's gonna be missin' Norrington. It's only a matter o'time before they track him to us." He banged his palm down on the table. "What's it take to counter this sort of charm?"
Anamaria shook her head impatiently. "It's not that easy. This kind of curse works like pulling a spring. It gets tighter and tighter until something breaks the spell. When that happens, it'll pop back into place, but somebody's fingers gonna get snapped."
None of that made a lick of sense. Gibbs' confusion must have shown on his face, because Anamaria rolled her eyes and tried again. "It's all part and parcel of the same spell - Norrington not knowing who he is, and the way he looks at Jack, and the way Jack looks at him - that's powerful magic. When you stop the magic, it's gotta go somewhere, like water bursting a dam. No telling what might happen when it gets loose."
"So we're damned if we do and damned if we don't? Watch them play lovebirds until the navy comes callin' or break the spell and mayhap bring on something worse?"
Anamaria nodded gloomily and they finished their soup in silence.
James stood just inside the door of the Captain’s cabin, scowling at the other occupant of the room, who sat at his ease, booted feet propped on the desk and crossed at the ankle, munching another of his apparently endless supply of apples.
When Gibbs had said, “Cap’n wants to see ye, Norrington. Look sharp,” he had toyed with ignoring the order, but the punishment for mutiny was as swift and condign amongst pirates as it was in the Navy (he wondered how he knew that), and so he had done as he was bid, if with an ill grace.
The day just past had been made nigh unbearable by the conflict within him. He was furiously angry with Jack – for lying to him, for refusing to grant him the courtesy of a straight answer to his questions. He was even more vexed with himself, for it appeared that even such outrageous behaviour on the Captain’s part could not cure him of his fascination. Not even the sneaking fear that Jack was using his growing enthrallment for some as yet undisclosed and no doubt nefarious purpose of his own quenched the longing. He was unable to stop thinking about the night before and, he feared, blushing like a girl. The very soreness of his body sent little sparks of remembered lust coursing through his veins with each movement he made. He had sought out solitary tasks, to avoid the inquisitive gazes of his mess mates. And, despite a day spent in feverish thought, he had no idea what to do – trapped as he was aboard ship with a man he could not trust and yet could not ignore. The summons, when it came, had brought his confused rage near to the boiling point.
That rage suffered a check when he entered the cabin, for the sight of Jack, lounging insolently and grinning at him – all gold teeth and hot, hooded eyes – had made his knees go weak. And so he had folded his arms and glowered, refusing to speak first, nursing his anger.
James was sulking. Jack supposed it was to be expected, after the previous night's temper fit and the day's silent glares. By God, the man was stubborn; he still had enough navy in him to obey a direct order, but Jack was beginning to suspect that nothing short of that would have brought James around.
Jack finished his apple at a leisurely pace and let James stew in his own juices for a while. It wouldn’t hurt to remind him who had the upper hand here. When James appeared to be on the verge of leaving, Jack spoke, his voice insultingly indolent. "Well, mate, what sort of fun and games are you up for tonight?"
The disgruntled sigh was distinctly halfhearted, but green fire flared in James' eyes. "I'm not in the mood for your tomfoolery, Jack."
We'll just see about that, thought Jack. Standing, he strolled over to James, who re-crossed his arms and held his ground with a mulish expression, his shoulders tight and tense.
Jack looked James over, letting his gaze linger on the bare skin of his throat - still marked with faint red blotches - and then on the bulge in his breeches. Not entirely indifferent, then. "You feelin' alright, mate? Not too. . .sore?" He smirked suggestively.
One of James' eyebrows lifted ever so slightly and his voice was tinged with disbelief. "No."
Jack took up the bottle from his desk, and offered it to James, letting his fingers graze against James'. "Drink?"
There was a tiny hitch in James' breath. "No!"
"No need to be churlish," Jack said mildly. He poured himself a healthy measure and stoppered the bottle once more.
James turned toward the door. His voice was again dry and controlled. "I find myself quite. . .fatigued, Captain Sparrow. If you have no further need of me, then I'll be going."
Really, that was too easy. "Oh, I have plenty of need of you, James, m'boy." He reached for James' wrist. "The night's young yet-"
No sooner had Jack's fingers closed around his wrist then James had pivoted and launched himself at Jack with enough force to throw him off balance. Before Jack could recover, James tangled his hands in Jack's hair, and was kissing him furiously, sucking on his lower lip and sliding their tongues together. One hand slid down to Jack's arse, squeezing and clutching, and James groaned deep in his throat, a desperate, abandoned sound that set Jack's pulse racing and made his cock twitch.
Oh yes, Jack thought, need was the right word. And he had a momentary twinge of uncertainty. Surely the intensity of this wasn't natural - what the devil was he letting himself in for? But it wasn't Jack Sparrow's way to back away from a challenge, and this was nothing if not that; he'd be damned if he'd let Commodore James bloody Norrington scare him off with nothing but a few kisses and a slap on the arse.
James tasted the apple on Jack’s mouth, tart sweetness a maddening counterpoint to the expected salt and spice and the sting of rum. He groaned again as Jack’s knuckles brushed against his erection. Let go, he told himself, stop this. You swore to yourself you’d not give in. Jack was a lying, conniving bastard and … James wanted him. He tore his mouth free and jerked Jack’s head back, bending his own to bite at the exposed throat. Jack’s voice was in his ear, breathless and smug, a little strained, “I knew you’d warm up to me.”
The words struck James like a blow, shaking him with a sudden fear and frustrated rage all out of proportion to their meaning. The image of Jack holding a pistol to… someone’s… head flickered for a moment in his imagination.
“Shut up,” he snarled, desperate now to escape the memory, “shut up, shut up, shut up.” And he silenced Jack’s mocking laugh with another bruising kiss. Not now, he thought wildly, not now. Not when Jack’s hips were undulating against his and Jack’s teeth were nipping at his tongue and Jack's lips vibrating against his mouth with a pleased hum. Lust, anger and fear were swirling in him – a brew to send a man mad and he surrendered to it, slamming the door on recollection, concentrating fiercely on the body in his arms.
Growling, he stripped Jack of his coat, flung it away, and began to fumble with the knot of his sash. Jack meanwhile had unlaced James’ doublet and was tugging impatiently at his shirt.. They broke apart, panting, while Jack removed his boots and James’ shirt and then James pounced again, tearing Jack’s shirt in his haste to get at the skin beneath. “Easy, mate,” Jack chuckled as their hands fumbled – each undoing the other’s buttons. “We’ve got all night.”
“Shut up, damn you,” James muttered furiously, “don’t speak.” Their breeches fell to the deck as James backed him up to the bunk, hands fisted once again in Jack’s wild locks. When he heard the creak of the chains as Jack’s thighs pressed against the frame, James grasped Jack’s wrists and tripped him neatly into the bed. He fell atop Jack and stretched their intertwined hands out above his head, pinning the smaller man and leaning in to devour his mouth once more.
James was different tonight, more aggressive, his passion spiced with a barely repressed fury. Jack was put more in mind of the Commodore than the common seaman, and this only fueled his desire to take him, to make him scream and writhe and call out Jack's name. Jack fought for control of the kiss, all the while digging in the sheets for the flask of oil. No luck. Reluctantly, he twisted and wriggled out of James' grasp, only breaking the kiss at the last moment, as his feet hit the floor. There, under the hanging mattress, was the bottle. He scooped it up and returned to the bed, pushing James onto his back and settling himself between his thighs.
Jack twisted the cork lose and slopped oil everywhere in his haste. They were both too far gone for niceties. Jack's whole body thrummed with need and when he took James in his mouth, he could hear that same urgency echoed in his moans. Jack flicked his tongue along the head of James' cock, using one oil-slick hand to rub and tease and make James ready and the other to smear oil on his own prick. James grabbed at Jack's hair and bucked up into his mouth. Not hardly, Jack thought. He pulled back and grated out, "Roll over."
James' face took on a defiant cast and, without warning, he grasped Jack's shoulders and flipped them, landing so that he straddled Jack's chest. "Tonight, we do this my way." Sliding backwards, he rubbed himself wantonly against Jack.
Determined not to let James see how much he was affecting him, Jack merely waved his hand nonchalantly, inviting him to continue. Why not let James do the work this time? Then Jack's eyes rolled back in his head, as James slowly inched himself down onto Jack's cock.
James closed his eyes at the intensity of the sensation, and also to block out Jack's enticing grin, which was nagging at the edges of his memory in unpleasant ways. But the damned scent of the oil remained, surrounding them and made more potent by the heat of their bodies and so remniscent of. . .Then Jack thrust up into him, and the memory flitted away again, leaving only fierce lust.
Their bodies clashed together roughly,making the bed bounce and swing. James knew he'd pay for his enthusiasm the next day, but he couldn’t bring himself to care in this moment, with Jack pounding into him and Jack's hand on his cock and Jack's husky voice repeating his name over and over again. James' eyes flew open and met Jack's. The usually inscrutable expression was exposed and vulnerable, betraying a kind of joyous pain that stole James' breath away.
Whatever control was left to James cracked completely. Words were inadequate, yet he couldn't not speak. He cried out helplessly, "Jack. . .God. . .fuck. . .Jack. . ."
Jack laughed breathlessly and said, "Never thought to hear Commodore Norrington sayin' that. . ."
And in a moment it all came crashing back. Like flipping the pages of a book, a blurred succession of images flashed before his eyes so quickly he could barely recognize them - a glimpse of his childhood home, fog rolling across the water, a sword gleaming in the sunlight, then sultry dark eyes and Jack's voice saying, "Commodore Norrington, my effects please."
James froze as the images reconciled into a lifetime of memories, and the knowledge of who he was, of what he was. Boiling rage filled his veins, mingled with the lust, and drove his body to resume its breakneck pace. An uncertain look passed across Jack's face, then he too was pulled back into the maelstrom, his hand furiously stroking James' cock.
James could hear himself, as if from a distance, saying over and over again, "God damn you, God damn you. . ." as he forced their bodies together. As one, they shuddered and groaned and spent themselves.
Jack opened his eyes wide and grinned ingratiatingly. "So you remembered, eh?"
It was all too much. Shame stabbed at James' heart, fueling his fury. He had to get away from. . . Sparrow, from this debauchery and mockery. He had to think before he did something even more horrific than what he'd already done. Without a thought for his clothes, James threw himself from the bed and fled the cabin to the relative privacy of the bow.
Jack frowned. James hadn’t taken that well at all. The timing, he thought, could have been better. He remembered Anamaria’s fury the other day; “…you’re messing with what you don’t understand one bit!” She had been right. It would be a long while, he knew, before he’d forget the eldritch light in James’ eye as his memories returned. Jack shuddered. Uncanny, it was, and not without danger. The Commodore was formidable in ways that James the Pirate was not, and it had been unnerving to see the change happen at that particular instant. For a moment there, it had looked as if James might try to kill him with his bare hands. “Buggery,” Jack muttered, not quite without irony. “Best go find him and see what can be salvaged of this.” He drew on his breeches, picked up James’ pair, and went in search of the Commodore.
He found him forward – as far as he could get from the cabin, of course – staring out over the dark water. If he heard the pad of Jack’s bare feet on the deck, he gave no sign of it. Jack cleared his throat. “James,” he said.
James turned his head slightly, until he could see Jack out of the corner of his eye, and waited. Jack held out his breeches. “At least put some clothes on, mate – you’re scandalizing the crew.”
James took them, careful not to touch Sparrow in the process, and pulled them on. He turned back to the sea and placed both hands on the rail. “They’ve been laughing at me for a week; why should anything change now?”
Jack felt the prick of something very like remorse. He was reminded of how young the man before him was – of the ten long years’ difference in their ages. He noted the slump of the shoulders and the plaintive tone that James couldn’t quite mask.
“James, mate,” he began.
“Don’t!” James flung up one hand and bit out the word. Jack fell silent and waited.
Minutes passed. Jack reached out and laid his palm over the tattoo on James’ back.
James, who had almost managed to block Sparrow’s presence from his mind, drew a shaky breath. His shoulders tensed as he gripped the rail to prevent himself from striking the man. “Sparrow,” he said, in a tone vibrant with loathing, “I cannot answer for myself if you do not. Leave. Me. Alone.”
“I’ll take my chances, James,” came the soft reply.
“Such as they are,” James sneered. Near overpowered as he was by shame, yet pride did not desert him entirely. Years of military discipline came to his rescue. His head came up, jaw set. “You are quite safe, here among your crew, aren’t you?” he went on, bitterly. “What are the chances I could deal with you as you deserve before I was overpowered or killed?” He turned his head to glare at Jack, his eyes narrow and dangerous in the moonlight. “So gloat away over the success of your trick. If you haven’t the decency to do so in private, I can’t stop you.”
Jack opened his mouth; shut it. He raised both hands, palm out. “Wait just a moment, love,” he expostulated, but James cut him off.
“How dare you, you foul scum, use that term to me?” he snarled, rounding on Jack and clenching his fists. “By God, it would almost be worth dying, if I could be sure of taking you with me to Hell. Where would your triumph be, then? Answer me that, pirate.”
“Hold up,” Jack snapped. “Let’s be clear. Just what is it you are accusing me of, Commodore Norrington?”
“Of this,” James’ gesture took in himself, Jack and the Pearl in one sweep. “Of somehow stealing my memory and of kidnapping me and….” He stopped. “…and all the rest.” He looked away, as another wave of shame washed over him.
James’ head swung round. “What do you mean: ‘No’?” he demanded, “How can you deny it? I come to myself in a den of pirates, sure of nothing but my name, just in time for you to appear and scoop me up like a lost puppy.” He barked a laugh. “A little too pat for coincidence, Captain Sparrow.”
“Nevertheless, coincidence it was,” Jack replied, “or something else, but not of my doing.” James shook his head. “Listen, man,” Jack said, “what would I have to gain? Think about it – if I wanted the most dangerous man in the Navy out of the way, would I bring him aboard the Pearl? I would not. If – if mind you – I had the ability to take your memory (and a damned ridiculous trick it is), why wouldn’t I just leave you in Port Royal? Let your precious Navy see you were useless and remove you from command.”
James felt the force of the argument. His doubts must have shown, for Sparrow began to relax and gave a hint of a grin.
“Alright, then,” Jack straightened and held up his right hand. “I swear on the Pearl that your being at the Pelican’s Arms was none of my doing.” he intoned solemnly. “There ain’t a thing more precious to me than my girl, so if that don’t convince you, I don’t know what will.”
James was convinced, if against reason or caution. “But why,” he asked, “did I feel as if I was waiting for…” He paused. Jack tipped his head. “Never mind,” James finished, turning once again to the dark ocean. His killing rage had gone out, like a candle, even before Sparrow’s oath. Something told him that, in this, if in nothing else, Jack’s word was to be trusted. He was suddenly very tired. “You took advantage of the situation,” he muttered.
Jack chuckled. “I did. It was more than flesh and blood could resist, mate – surely you see that? You’re a fine figure of pirate, James, with your earring and your tattoo.”
James rested his forehead on his crossed arms. “And the rest?” he whispered.
“Was mutual,” Jack replied, firmly. “And you started it, what’s more. I told you so at the time.”
James sighed. “It was. And you did.” He stood up. “How then, did I lose my memory? Why was I there?”
“What’s the last thing you remember, before the tavern?” Jack asked.
James frowned in concentration. “I went to dinner at Government House. Swann’s birthday. After dinner there was music. Mrs. Turner offered me a glass of wine…. And then, nothing.”
Jack looked thoughtful. “Seems obvious that whatever-it-was was in the wine, then. If young Elizabeth gave you a potion intentionally, what did she mean to accomplish? Not like her to curse you… so what was it?”
James continued to gaze at the moon’s track on the water without answering. He felt drained of all emotion – it was not peace, but exhaustion that held him silent. He waited for Jack to speak again.
“Why,” Jack asked, and James jumped as a finger touched his shoulder, “did you choose this for your tattoo, love?”
James ignored the endearment; shrugged.
“Well, James, why an eagle in flight, eh?” Jack persisted.
James was too tired for games. He shrugged again. “Eagles are free,” he said.
“Ah,” Jack mused, “freedom might appeal to a Navy man, even without his memory…”
James rested his chin on his arm and watched the moon. He was waiting for something – some word from Jack, some final piece of the puzzle – he didn’t know what. After a time, Jack spoke again.
“And who were you waiting for at the tavern?” he asked.
“You,” James replied, before he thought. He bit his tongue and cursed silently.
Jack drew an audible breath. “Well, then, there we have it.”
“Have what?” James’ voice came out sharper than he had intended. “What is it?”
“Oh no, I’ll not tell you this one, James, mate,” Jack’s chuckle held an odd note, “You’ve got the pieces, same as me – fit them together.”
Guessing games, James thought, tiredly, are ridiculous. More to be done with it than for any other reason he began turning over Sparrow’s questions and his answers in his mind. His tattoo (and damn Jack for that) and the tavern… his eagle… what did his (admittedly lovely) eagle have to do with … the tavern? His eagle – alright, his freedom - and going to the tavern to find….. He gasped. The freedom to find Jack?
“No,” he whispered, unaware he had spoken aloud – not ready to accept what was suddenly so terribly clear.
“Yes,” Jack said, from behind his right shoulder. “Yes, mate.”
James whirled to face him. “You, too?”
A rueful grin teased the corners of the pirate’s mouth. “Aye.”
“Good God,” James exclaimed. He turned away and ran one hand through his hair. “Good God.”
“It’s been a night of surprises all round,” Jack said softly. “Takes some getting used to.”
James didn’t answer.
“Well, love,” Jack went on, “Don’t know about you, but I could do with some sleep. Join me?”
James shook his head. “Not… not just at present…” he stammered. “I mean, I think I will remain on deck, thanks.” He didn’t dare look at Jack, and cursed himself for a coward.
He caught his breath as Jack’s fingers traced the eagle on his shoulder once again. For a moment Jack’s palm, warm and callused, rested flat against it and was withdrawn. “Offer stands, if you change your mind, mate,” Jack said, and James heard his soft footfall fading as he went aft.
James rested his head on his clasped hands. “Oh, good God,” he sighed.
Jack lay in the bed, his mind too full of questions to sleep. What had prompted Elizabeth to meddle in matters? Had she guessed. . .Jack grinned to himself. Not bloody likely. How the hell had James gotten from Port Royal to the Pelican's Arms? What had transpired in that misty period between Elizabeth dosing James and Jack stepping into the tavern? Not that they were ever likely to know. The grin faded as Jack considered what might have happened during that time, while James was confused and unaware of what he was. Damn Elizabeth for a fool, she'd put James in quite a fix, and it was pure luck that nothing worse had happened. Where had Elizabeth gotten the damned stuff anyway? All of this was easier to ponder than the far more important question that hung over Jack's head like Damocles' sword. What now?
He'd just sat up, resolving to apply a nightcap to the problem, when the cabin door swung open. James stood there, doubt and hope warring in his face.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Captain. . . Jack." His fingers clenched around the doorframe and his eyes skittered to and then away from Jack's gaze. "I just need to get the rest of my clothes."
Jack slid out of the bed and began sorting through the pile of clothes. He picked up a shirt and handed it to James, who eyed it askance, then folded it over and laid it on the desk. Jack found the other shirt hooked on the sideboard, and tossed it to James, who pulled it over his head, while Jack fished under the bed for the doublet.
As if he could read Jack's mind, James echoed the question that Jack had been avoiding. "Now what?"
Jack schooled his face to indifference and stood, rolling back onto his heels and offering the doublet to James. "That's for you to say, mate."
“How far are we from Port Royal?”
The seed of a plan presented itself to Jack. “A week, with fair winds.”
James busied himself with lacing his doublet. “Will you take me there?”
“I might be… persuaded, aye.”
For the first time, since James had entered the cabin, he looked Jack full in the face. “Persuaded.”
"It's best if the crew don't tumble to the fact that you've remembered yourself. They're liable to get antsy at the thought of Commodore Norrington on the Pearl. . ." Ah, he'd caught James' attention with that. "What say you to this? I take you back to Port Royal, or as near as I can get without endangering my ship and my crew. In return, you play James the pirate a little longer, until you're back in your own territory."
James's knowing half smile conveyed exactly how little he was taken in by Jack's subterfuge. But he nodded gravely and said, "I will remain James the common sailor until I set foot on land, and give your crew no reason to suspect that I've recovered my memories."
Jack offered his hand. "Do we have an accord?"
When James took his hand, the contact was shocking and Jack caught his breath. James felt much the same, judging from his rattled expression. Jack stroked his thumb across the inside of James' wrist, and was reminded of how that wrist fit in his grasp. He had a dizzying moment of longing. James made an odd noise in his throat and his nostrils flared, then he dropped Jack's hand suddenly. An uncomfortable silence descended upon them.
"Stay." Jack said impulsively. He was probably pushing his luck, but you never get anything if you don't try for it. "Sleep here tonight, James."
James said nothing for a long while, then nodded and pulled off the doublet and shirt he'd just put on, laying them on the desk with Jack's. His breeches he left on. Jack blew out the candle and they climbed into the bed together; there was an awkward period of twisting and turning and shifting until they were both comfortable, James on his side and Jack behind him, the length of their bodies barely touching. Jack ran a finger over the point of James' shoulder blade, then pressed a kiss into the nape of James' neck and whispered "Good night, James."
James relaxed a tiny bit, letting his head fall back against Jack's chest.
"Good night Jack," he said quietly. And Jack allowed himself to believe
that, somehow, all would be well.
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