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Squaring Accounts - Chapter 5

by Melusina

 

Fandom: PoTC    Rating: NC-17    Dramatis Personae: Jack, Will, Elizabeth, Norrington    Full Header

 

Temperance
Compromise-Balance-Healing-Partnership


No sooner were they back on the Pearl than Jack and Elizabeth were bickering again. Jack started it, by insisting that Norrington should spend the duration of the trip in the brig.

"It's only fair that I return his gracious hospitality," Jack taunted, with a wink at Will.

Jack knew her too well. Nothing put Elizabeth in a better humor than a little verbal sparring.

A fiery burst of temper banished the gloomy expression that had been lingering on her face. "He's our guest, not a prisoner! Do you mean to keep him in chains as well?"

Jack's eyes were twinkling with barely suppressed mirth. "Aye, but I will feed him! Hard tack and water were good enough for me, it's good enough for him."

Incensed, Elizabeth began to storm around the great cabin, demanding that Jack treat Norrington with some respect. Jack couldn't maintain his act, and was soon laughing aloud at Elizabeth's emphatic pronouncements. "Leave off! I'll do him one better than he did me, and give him a proper cabin." He grinned slyly. "Yours."

Elizabeth cried out in indignation, and raised her hand, but he'd anticipated the move and grabbed her arm, throwing her off balance. They were both laughing now, and when he spun her around and tossed her on the bed, she shrieked shrilly.

It was all too much -- the rapid fire mood swings, the quarrelling, the noise. Besides, they seemed to have forgotten he was there. Will turned on his heels and headed for the quarterdeck.

Gibbs was at the helm, and Norrington was beside him, his obvious relief at leaving the island making him appear years younger. Will was reminded of the young lieutenant who'd taught him to fence. Perhaps Norrington's thoughts were also on times past, because he greeted Will with, "You seem to be as good with a sword as ever, but you still can't hold your point steady."

"Only when I'm provoked," Will retorted. "I wasn't thinking of form just then."

"Rash, Turner, you always were too rash." But the musing tone in Norrington's voice took the sting out of his words. He spoke as he once had, as an instructor, and not with the venom that had colored their recent interactions. "Do you practice as much as you used to?"

"When I get the chance. Elizabeth spars with me a good deal, and Jack and I sometimes practice together. But his isn't the sort of swordplay you taught me."

"No, I don't imagine so. Not much discipline there, eh?"

Will couldn’t help but laugh. "No, little finesse, and no respect at all for the rules of engagement. But he bests me nearly half the time, although I know most of his tricks."

Norrington scrutinized the sky, as if gauging the weather. "I'd like to do some sparring. It's been too long since I held a sword. Mine is at the bottom of the sea, I'm afraid. . .I miss the weight of it in my hand. It was well-made and served me well."

The unexpected generosity of this remark took Will aback. "Thank you. It. . .It was a pleasure crafting it for you."

Indeed, Will could remember the care he'd taken, along with the uncomplicated admiration he'd still felt for Norrington at that time. The world had been simpler then, everything and everybody neatly sorted into the appropriate slot, just as his tools had been at the end of the day. Will had known his place, and although that had been limiting, there had also been a certain comfort to that knowledge. Then he shook himself, and remembered what he had gained by sacrificing that simplicity. Prompted by these memories, he wondered if he had surpassed his tutor. "We've plenty of weapons, if you'd like to go a round. The practice would do me good."

*


James had long suspected that Will would grow to be a better swordsman than he, and time had proved him right. He would have liked to believe that he was merely out of practice, but he was never good at deluding himself. Will was quite simply faster and more skilled, and he disarmed James with astonishing speed. James vowed that the teacher must turn pupil, for he'd never seen such a rapid and effective riposte.

So much exertion under the hot sun had raised a sweat, and James' shirt clung to him unpleasantly. At Will's direction, he made for the cabin he'd been assigned, to change into clean linen.

Once inside, he groaned in dismay. It was obvious whose cabin Sparrow had given him. As far as James knew, there were no other women on the ship, so the silver hairbrush and the peacock colored shawl draped over the chair must be Elizabeth's. There was a faintly feminine smell in the air, although James was hard pressed to explain its origin, as Elizabeth seemed determined to play the tomboy, and he doubted she spent much time prinking and primping. The cot, ridiculously adorned with fine linen sheets and a luxurious velvet coverlet, must be the berth she and Will shared when they were not occupying the captain's bed -- which, he supposed, was where they would sleep while James was aboard.

He began to think he might have preferred the brig. Not only did this mean he had to sleep in Will and Elizabeth's bed, surrounded by their things, but it also made it impossible to ignore their arrangement with Sparrow (which Sparrow must have known, damn his eyes). Again, James wondered how someone as upright as Will had come to behave in such an unorthodox manner.

With a cooler head, James was forced to admit that Elizabeth was probably responsible for the Turners' presence on the ship. Will was too besotted to manage his wife, and she'd ever been a wild, headstrong girl who refused to be bound by convention. But James was at a loss to explain their entanglement with Sparrow. Like most sailors, James understood the companionship and desire that could exist between two men. The law might condemn them, but such friendships were not uncommon at sea, even among the officers, and James himself had taken recourse in such arrangements at various times and with varying degrees of attachment. But Will had his beloved wife with him here, and his love for her seemed unchanged. Why then would he consort with the pirate? And why would he share Elizabeth with anyone, particularly a thoroughgoing rogue like Sparrow? James pushed his damp hair out of his face and wearily resolved to do his level best to ignore the entire muddle. It was a mystery, he decided, and he'd never understand it.

 

 

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