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Squaring Accounts - Chapter 16

by Melusina

 

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

 

The Two of Swords
Defensiveness-Refusing to Decide-Stalemate


Morning was grey and stormy, with a tempestuous sea. A clap of thunder woke James and Will and they jerked apart guiltily. James felt quite as shamed by the way they'd been tangled together in sleep as if they'd been caught in flagrante delicto. They silently gathered their clothes, studiously avoiding one another's eyes.

Will pulled on his breeches and struggled with the buttons clumsily; he still appeared to be somewhat drunk. He managed the bottom button, attempted to fit the next one in the wrong hole, and in his agitation, pulled the button off, sending it flying into the corner. With a muttered oath, Will gave up on his breeches and pulled his shirt over his head. He shifted from one foot to the other, growing progressively redder, until he mumbled, "Good morning," and fled the cabin.

Still tired, James stretched out on the cot. Reflecting on the previous night, he told himself that it had been a misstep, but found he couldn't regret it. He hadn't been surprised by Will's ardor, but his skill had been a revelation. For too long James had imagined Will as the bumbling boy he'd been in Port Royal. But even as a boy he'd lost that awkwardness as soon as there was a sword in his hand. He was mercurial, switching rapidly from diffidence to assurance. In bed (or on the floor, as the case may be), Will was as certain as he was in a fight. James supposed he had Sparrow to credit for that.

Will had come to James because he felt shut out by the other two, which was no surprise -- how one avoided such jealousies in a situation like theirs, James couldn't imagine. And yet, he wasn't naive enough to think that Will would want him over Elizabeth or Sparrow. No, James was merely a convenient substitute.

This was a bitter thought, and brought James to question his own feelings for Will. Not love, certainly. But deep friendship, planted long ago, and brought to fruition in the recent weeks. Attraction -- who could not be attracted to someone so. . .beautiful was the only word for it, although there was a masculine strength to Will that belied the feminine implications of that word.

James had hoped that once would be enough. One tumble to get Will out of his system, and then they could go on as before, as friends, with no discomfort between them. Yet the hunger was not sated; if anything it had grown for being fed.

James' hand smelled of Will's release, and of the musky scent of his skin. James inhaled deeply, and his other hand reached to unbutton his breeches, even as he damned himself for a fool.

*


Despite the vast quantities of rum Elizabeth had drunk the night before, she slept fitfully and was troubled by dark dreams. She could not forget the sounds she'd heard just as she was falling asleep: Will moaning in unmistakable abandon, followed by Norrington's softer cry. She knew Jack had heard too; he stiffened in response and turned away, but he seemed to sleep well regardless.

The rum might not have aided her sleep, but it had left her with a sore head, and the noises of the storm and the men taking in canvas were piercing. Also, she felt as though she might be sick. She sat up, planning on drinking some water and then retiring to the bed for more sleep, when Will staggered into the cabin, bleary-eyed and rumpled.

"Why, husband, how good of you to join us." The mocking words were out of her mouth before she could stop them, but when he blanched and began to stammer out a response it felt so good that she added in the same vicious tone, "You make a fine figure of a man this morning, Will, to be sure."

"I. . .had quite a bit to drink last night. . .I--"

Whatever explanation he was going to offer was cut off by a harrumph from Jack, who rose nimbly and said, "Good morning, Mr. Turner."

In the time it took for Will to compose some reply, Jack had already donned his breeches and a clean shirt.

"Jack. . .I. . .I. . ."

Jack caught Elizabeth's eye and smirked. "What's the matter, Will? Commodore got your tongue?" Pivoting dismissively, he swept on his coat and clapped his hat on his head, before taking Elizabeth's hand. "The storm's getting bad; I should see how Gibbs is holding up. Get some more sleep, Bess, you look as queer as Dick's hatband."

*


Over the pounding in his head and rumbling in his bowels, Will felt a stirring of indignant rage. How dare Jack -- an unapologetic roué and opportunist of the highest order -- act as though Will had committed some unforgivable crime? When had Jack ever kept faith with Will or Elizabeth? It wasn't as if Jack and Elizabeth hadn't been entertaining one another all night, and making Will feel like an interloper for weeks. It was just like Jack to expect Will to adhere to a standard that he had no intention of maintaining himself!

Will had worked himself up into such high dudgeon that Elizabeth had to repeat his name twice before he realized that he was staring off into the now empty space where Jack had stood, his mouth hanging open foolishly. He gave himself a shake and attempted to assume a more dignified posture. Full of self-righteous rage, he curtly replied, "Yes?"

"What do you mean by this?" she harangued, gesturing wildly. "Am I to understand that you don't feel bound by our marriage vows at all?" When Will failed to reply, she continued, "And I thought Jack rash and impetuous! What on earth made you decide that of all the men in the world to debauch, Commodore Norrington was the one to choose? Did you think this would make things easier? What will he say when he sobers up and realizes what he's done? Did you think to be hanged for buggery as well as piracy?" On and on it went, ever louder and ever more hysterical, until she was nearly hoarse with her hectoring. Abruptly, she paused and took a deep, shuddering breath.

There was an expectant pause, and then she shrieked, "Why will you not say something?"

"How the devil am I to get a word in edgewise?" Feeling quite smug with this parting shot, Will turned on his heels and stalked out.

*


An uneasy tension ruled the Pearl for the next few days, and James began to wish he'd stayed on the island with the goats. Will was moody and resentful, alternately defiant and defeated. He and James were much thrown together, for Will sought refuge with James, who reasoned that he could hardly turn Will away from his own cabin. Mindful of propriety, James slung a hammock and slept there, careful not to invite any further peccadilloes on Will's part.

However, James' good intentions could not stop him from being tempted. He was plagued by the most vivid and unsettling dreams. The scenarios varied, but they all featured Will prominently, and he invariably awoke from them with an aching cockstand. He thought he might go mad with frustration.

Sparrow threw himself into the task of finding this Anamaria. He locked himself in the great cabin with his charts for hours, and climbed the rigging with his spyglass, scanning the water for the Black Fortune. The only company he could bear was Elizabeth's, and they were often together, whispering and glaring at any who dared to approach them.

Elizabeth was the worst. It pained James to see her behave with so little discretion; even if everyone on the ship knew about the ridiculous quarrel, there was no need for her to advertise it. She cornered Will frequently, ranting at him like a fishwife and insisting on the explanation that he clearly was unwilling or unable to give. The more she persisted, the more obstinate Will grew, and James feared that they would come to blows on more than one occasion.

The men, who had previously come to accept James' presence with some equanimity, blamed him for upsetting the apple cart, and there seemed to be nowhere on the ship that James could go without encountering ugly looks and muttered complaints. Even Gibbs seemed to have soured on him, and went so far as to call him a Jonah. James devoutly hoped they found the Fortune soon, before he followed that worthy gentleman's example and threw himself overboard to be swallowed by a whale.

*


Jack didn't like to think of himself as a jealous man -- he didn't number faithfulness among his virtues nor hypocrisy among his sins -- but he was green as glass over Norrington, and there was no getting around it. Whether to get back at Elizabeth, or from sheer contrariness, Norrington had set his cap for Will. In any case, Will had been ripe for the picking, and Jack had let his jealousy overrule his good sense. Now that he'd had the time to think it over, he saw that cutting remarks and isolation were the exact wrong way to handle it. That treatment was bound to drive Will to Norrington all the more.

Once this occurred to him, Jack wasted no time in demanding that Elizabeth and Will join him in the great cabin. A little highhanded, but Will was unlikely to refuse a direct order, and once he was there, Jack could contrive some pretty apology that would smooth Will's ruffled feathers.

Of course, in the event, this proved more difficult than Jack had anticipated. Will would sulk and flounce like a spoilt miss, playing up how greatly he'd been wronged. At least Elizabeth was keeping her mouth shut (Jack had begged her not to tear into Will again), but the daggers she was throwing with her eyes were hardly conducive to reconciliation.

"It's not as if you and Elizabeth were paying me any mind," Will complained petulantly. "Why should I not satisfy myself elsewhere? You certainly don't hold back in that regard!"

Jack sighed and tried again. "I don't pretend to be the paragon of virtue, love. I'm not averse to a. . .diversion here or there, but there are diversions and diversions, savvy?"

"Which one am I?" Will snapped.

Jack's temper slipped its fetters and an ill-advised retort sprang to his lips. But before he could speak, there was an urgent rapping on the door. Without so much as a by your leave, Gibbs burst in excitedly and announced, "It's our lucky day, Cap'n. Henrick's spotted the Black Fortune!"

 

 

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