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Compromises, part 3 of 3

by The Stowaway

 

Fandom: PoTC    Rating: NC-17    Pairing: Sparrow/Norrington    Full Header  Part 6 of the Sparrington Arc

 


Next morning, Gibbs and James spent some time making a list of supplies and provisions the Pearl needed for her transatlantic voyage. They did not lack for much, but some items were necessities. Jack had said they'd stop at a trading port after they left Pig Island - where they planned to take on some fresh meat (as much as would last), and to preserve a large quantity of it for longer keeping as well. The crew was looking forward to a boucan feast on the beach.

Kursar had taken himself off to the fo'c's'le and they were working in James's cabin, as Jack was busy in the great cabin and had indicated he did not wish for company. They determined that they could, most likely, purchase everything they required without a further levy on the crew. This put Gibbs, especially, in a good humour, for it would have fallen to him to collect said levy and it was customary for each man to grumble loud and long before surrendering his share.

Toward noon, as James chatted on deck with a number of the crew, who were engaged - in a leisurely way - in replacing yesterday's knots and bends with splices, Jack came on deck with his sextant, shot the sun and disappeared again into the cabin. He cast a glance at James that fairly shouted mischief. This both amused James and worried him. He tried to imagine what Jack might be brewing, but stopped himself. Why borrow trouble? He would, no doubt, find out soon enough.

A little more than an hour later, when James was perched on the foretop with a book in hand, he heard Jack's voice giving orders for a change in course. It was not, as James had expected, a mere correction to their course of the morning. Their new bearing was well south of east, which could only lead them to....

"…rich Dutch settlements, lads," Jack cried. "And poorly defended. One last raid to give 'em something to remember us by, eh?"

There was some cheering and shouts of "Easy pickings!"

James very nearly dropped his book in shock. He could not have heard that correctly! Gripping a stay he leaned out, searching the deck for Jack, and found him, feet planted wide, staring up, straight at James, and laughing. James stared, open-mouthed, for a count of three, whereupon Jack tipped his hat in mocking salute and strolled aft.

The Pearl began her swing to the new heading as James made his hasty descent to the deck. There had been no mistaking the challenge in Jack's face; but why? Why do this? And to the Dutch, of all people. It was madness. He almost ran the length of the ship and burst into the great cabin without ceremony.

"What the devil do you think you're doing?" he cried as he slammed the door.

"Captain," Jack said, not looking up from the chart before him.

"What?"

"You meant to say, 'What the devil do you think you're doing, Captain' didn't you?" Jack said coolly.

James was dumbfounded. "You can't be serious."

"Never more serious in my life," Jack said, still not looking at him.

"What does that have to do with this raid on the Dutch?" James asked.

"Just about everything, I'd say," Jack replied, turning at last and folding his arms as he leant against the map table. "Last time I checked, I was still Captain of the Pearl, which means my word is law."

"But you can't…" James began.

"I can do anything I damned well please!" Jack shouted.

Holding his temper with an effort, James forced himself to speak quietly. "We have a treaty with the Dutch."

"Who is this 'we' you speak of?' Jack shrugged. "I have no such treaty."

James felt he had stumbled into a nightmare where nothing was as it seemed. Distractedly he paced up and back while Jack watched him with the cold eyes of a stranger. At last he stopped. "This is wrong," he said. "Surely you see that?" But Jack just laughed.

"Pirate, remember?" he said with a toothy, humorless grin. "That's what I am - and," he added, with emphasis, "that's what every man is who sails with me."

James winced. "Jack," he said, almost pleading, "When I signed the Articles, you implied that you were going to take up trading."

Jack, unmoved, smirked and shrugged again. "I never said it, though, did I?" he replied, "You heard what you wished to hear, James."

"I see," James said. And he did see; what a fool he had been. "You will not give up this raid, then?" he asked, knowing the answer, but unable to stop trying.

"Why should I? Nice fat pickings and little risk; by the time the Dutch Navy gets off its lazy arse, we will be long gone."

Suddenly furious, stung by the contempt in the pirate's tone, he shouted, "You cannot do this thing!"

Jack sighed with exaggerated patience. "I will say it once more," he replied in a deadly cold voice, "I am Master of the Black Pearl, Mister former Commodore Norrington." His voice rose. "Me, Captain Jack Sparrow. I command here."

Stubbornly, James shook his head. "I will not countenance this raid."

"You will not countenance this raid," Jack repeated, leaning forward, eyes glittering. "Then I've a question for you, James. Think carefully before you answer. Can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not?"

James, who had begun to pace again, stopped in his tracks and stared at Jack. His mouth opened - Jack raised a sardonic eyebrow - and he shut it again. Turning, he left the cabin without a backward glance.

**************

Word of the quarrel was all over the ship by morning. The men talked of little else and opinion was divided.

Many thought James's scruples absurd. "We're pirates," they said, as if that explained it all, which, of course it did. "The Captain knows what he's doing." Among their number were to be found many of the wilder souls - those who had taken to piracy for the sheer deviltry of it - as well as some whose loyalty to Jack would not permit them to question any decision of his, and those who resisted any change as a matter of course. To a man they claimed - now, at least - to feel naught but contempt for the idea of trade.

But a surprising number of the crew expressed doubt. Many, but by no means all of them, were older men who'd been with Jack from the beginning. They were, as noted, comparatively rich men and growing weary of life as fugitives. Trade, as they saw it, would be easy pickings indeed. "Them heathens out East ain't no match for us," they said, "trading with 'em will be a sight easier than raiding, ah, and profitable." A few of the younger men, such as Jenkins, who had conceived an admiration for James, sided with them.

Anamaria shrugged and said, "We're pirates."

Gibbs shook his head. "Jack's the Captain, boys. What he says is what we'll be doing."

James had been on deck almost from sunrise, standing motionless at the windward rail, watching the horizon with tired eyes. He had not slept and, around dawn, fled his stifling cabin for the fresh air, in the vain hope that the breeze would clear his thoughts and bring counsel. It was with dull surprise that he noted how many men went out of their way to speak to him. To each "Morning, sir" he replied with a mechanical smile, but did not speak. He broke his fast with the crew, who made room for him without comment.

The business of the morning was the raising of the t'gallantmasts, as the weather bid fair to hold and they might soon need the advantage of speed the extra canvas gave them. As before, James joined the crew on the foremast, but this time was surprised to find himself working alongside Anamaria. She nodded to him, face neutral, but did not speak, beyond the necessary orders. They worked well together, with the kind of unspoken understanding that was often a sign of similarity of thought. This struck him as odd, considering her frank hostility to his presence aboard. He spent some time pondering it, to keep his mind occupied and away from his more serious - and seemingly insoluble - problem. They were both good and skillful sailors; perhaps it was no more than this - an instinctive recognition of one craftsman for another. A few minutes later, however, when their hands touched by chance as they took up a halyard, she jerked hers away, but not before he had felt a tiny shock course through him. Intrigued, he remembered that such sympathy of mind could indicate something more. He glanced at her speculatively and saw that the fierce scowl was back in place.

The work went smoothly, with a sort of half-serious competition developing between them and the crew on the mainmast, to see who could finish in the best time. Gibbs could be heard exhorting the other crew not to let the game tempt them to cut corners. "Do the job right, lads," he said. "Saves havin' to do it over - or worse."

Anamaria repeated his words, with a warning of dire consequences if she caught any man working slipshod. "Aye, ma'am," was the prompt reply from all her crew, although some grinned as they said it. James saw that they respected her well and that their hot-tempered first mate was a source of both pride and amusement to them.

The race ended in a tie, with much good-natured chaffing on all sides. Afterward, James took a book to the top of the fo'c's'le and tried to read, but the words blurred on the page and he found himself reliving - for the hundredth time a least - every moment of the quarrel. The coldness of Jack's manner, the callous and deliberate cruelty of his words, cut at James afresh each time he thought of them. He knew, he was certain, he had done nothing to deserve them. Jack had acted as if he thought James was attempting to usurp his authority, which could not be further from the truth. He knew his 'place', he thought bitterly, had chosen it willingly, in hope and a spirit of adventure - the more fool he, as it turned out. With an exclamation of disgust, he pocketed the book and went in search of Gibbs and asked to be put to work. "Anything at all, Josh," he said, "I wish to be busy."  And so it was that he spent the afternoon polishing brasswork.

After the day meal - taken once again with the crew - he went on watch, climbing to the crow's nest with relief, for he was in no fit state for the general sociability of the dog-watch and had little desire to immure himself in his cabin.

*********

Jack had slept late that morning, having had recourse to the rum bottle the night before.  When he came on deck halfway through the forenoon watch, work on the t'gallantmasts was well under way. He watched from the quarterdeck for a time, concentrating on the mainmast and studiously avoiding the sight of James. With a frown he relieved the helmsman, as was his custom most days, and he waited for the calm that spending time with his girl always brought him. It did not come. The Pearl was cold to him for the first time in memory. It sent a superstitious chill through his bones and he shuddered. He didn't need Gibbs to tell him it was bad luck to have his ship angry with him. Defiantly, he stood his ground for more than two hours before giving up and going below again.

Early that evening, as he sat brooding, there came a knock at the cabin door. He looked up with a glint in his eye. "Come," he said. Anamaria walked in and Jack sat back with a frown. "Anamaria."

She marched up to the desk and, without preamble, fists on hips, she demanded, "What is going on?"

Jack shook his head. "I don't think that's any concern of yours," he drawled.

"You selfish bastard, you don't think at all," she snarled. Deliberately, she spat on deck and glared at him.

Jack sprang to his feet. "Now wait just a minute…"

She cut him off. "Always it must be your way or nothing," she shouted. "Like a spoiled baby, for the love of God."

"Shut up, Anamaria." Jack came round the desk, face dark with anger. She rounded on him like a spitting cat, bristling with fury.

"No you shut up!" she cried, striking him on the shoulder with her open palm. "For once in your life you will listen. You are a damn fool, Jack Sparrow.

"First," she struck him again, backing him up a pace, "you bring a Navy man - your lover, for God's sake - on board with no notice and look what happens: a mutiny. If you had told Gibbs and me, we could have warned the men, at least. Perhaps stopped it before it began."

Jack raised his hands and tried to stem the torrent. She smacked him a third time. "Shut up and listen, damn you. And then you get nasty when he works well with the crew - like any good officer would do. Yes, I heard you, you bastard; don't deny it. He's a good sailor and a good officer - even though he's Navy - and you treat him like shit.

And now what are you playing at?" She waved her arms wildly. "Have you heard that half the men side with him in this stupid quarrel? This is what it has come to - you are tearing our crew apart, and for what?" Smack. "What do you want?" Smack. "Do you even know?"

Beside herself, she swung again, aiming for his face this time. He caught her arm, laughing despite his anger, and kissed her.  Tearing free, she slapped him in good earnest. "I told you to save it for them that cares for it," she said, stalking to the door, "if they'll have you." Over her shoulder, she added, "You made a bad mistake, Sparrow. Best see about fixing it," she opened the door. "Before it's too late."

For a moment Jack stood staring at the closed door, nursing his bruised cheek. Then he flung himself into his chair and leaned it back on two legs, glaring morosely at the decking above. 

Damn the bitch for a sharp-tongued shrew. How dared she speak to him like that? And she struck him. He could have the skin off her back for it, and none could say him nay. For a moment, he toyed vindictively with the idea of actually giving that order - but a sneaking notion that it might not be obeyed cut short his bloodthirsty musings.

And what was she about, taking James's part against him? She hated the Navy so bitterly - and with good cause - that he'd thought he could count on her to side with him in any dispute. Suddenly, it was "He's a good sailor and a good officer." What the Hell?

Then this "what are you playing at?"   What did she think he was doing? He'd told her he would see to it that James knew who was Captain and he had done so. So why was she so angry at him?

"What do you want? Do you even know?" With a groan, Jack let the chair fall forward. He folded his arms on the desk and rested his forehead upon them. Damn the bitch. Damn her. He just wanted things to be as they had been, but with James in his bed and at his side. Was that so much to ask? Apparently, it was.

***********

James stared out over the glittering evening ocean bleakly. The drawback to having the watch, of course, was that there was nothing with which to occupy his hands and nothing to distract his mind from worrying at his troubles. What was he to do? He could not lie to himself. He had known full well he was throwing in his lot with pirates - with outlaws - when he set out on this journey. But Jack had allowed him to think (with duplicitous intent, it now appeared) that he meant to take up trade and have done with piracy. James pounded his fist on the crow's nest railing. The bastard had misled him, but for what reason was not immediately clear. It looked as if Jack meant to make it impossible for him to stay with the Pearl. Well, he could leave the ship the next time they made port - the thought was agony, but must be faced - but then what? What might he do with his life, and where? He had cut himself off from all his former associates. Go back? Never. It didn't bear thinking of. And the Gull, his beautiful Gull, was gone beyond recall. That seemed, just now, the cruelest blow. He sighed. He was not thinking rationally and would do better to leave this until morning, presuming he was able to sleep. He shook himself and then stretched, drawing deep breaths, and resolved to think no more of his troubles for the evening.

************

Gibbs was staring up at the crow's nest when Anamaria stomped out of the great cabin, muttering curses in three languages. "He's a pig," she fumed, "a stubborn ass, the bastard son of a thousand poxed fathers." She followed Gibbs's gaze and swore again.

"Don't sound like it went well in there," Gibbs said. "What did he say?"

"Say?" she replied, "what could the fool say that I would want to hear? No, I gave him no chance to say anything. I am sick of him."

The watch was changing and James was relieved as they conferred. He climbed down slowly and stood once again at the windward rail, staring listlessly out to sea, his resolve already forgotten.

Gibbs patted Anamaria's arm and sauntered over to lean near James. After a short silence, he laid his big hand on James's shoulder. "Sometimes burdens are lightened by sharin' 'em, lad," he said.

James stiffened at the unexpected contact and frowned. "I beg your pardon, Mister Gibbs?" he said, emphasizing the 'mister' with chilling formality.


Gibbs smiled companionably. "Jest wonderin' if you were wanting to talk some."

"Thank you, Mister Gibbs," came the haughty reply, "but no thank you."

"Aye, Lieutenant," Gibbs chuckled. He was fixed with a green glare.

"What did you call me?" James demanded.

Gibbs grinned. "You put me in mind of a starched-up Lieutenant I served under once. Good man, but young, and with a stick up his arse.  Ah, but we were all younger then, eh?"

James stared at him a moment longer and looked out to sea and sighed. The rigidity went out of his bearing and he shrugged, looking, if he had known it, quite as young as that lieutenant Gibbs had invoked. "It's not going to work, Josh," he said softly.

Gibbs didn't pretend to misunderstand. "You'll be leaving us, then?"

"I don't know. I suppose I must. I don't see how I can stay…."

Gibbs squeezed his shoulder and they stood in silence for some time.

James spoke again. "How do you do it, Josh? Stay with him, I mean."

"Well, lad," Gibbs replied, "for all his faults - and I ain't excusin' him, mind - he's the best of them. When I left the Navy under a cloud, as you might say, I had no real choice but piracy. No merchant vessel would hire a naval deserter. I kicked around the Caribbee a good few years before I hooked up with Jack, and some of the sights I saw… well, if I were a dreaming man I'd fear my hammock o'nights. Murder, torture as would make your hair turn grey as mine, rape - some men're no better than wild animals, as you know from huntin' 'em all these years."

James nodded.

"But Jack," the old sailor continued, "ah, he's a whole different breed, as it were. He'll rob you blind as soon as look at you, but he don't kill less'n he's forced to it. And he don't burn towns or kill babies or force the unwilling. And if he can get what he wants by trickery, then he won't fire a shot. He's a good man, in his way."

James laughed and then caught his breath on what might have been a sob. "So I had always thought," he whispered. He turned away. "Good night, Josh," he said quietly, and went aft.

In the passage he came face to face with Jack, emerging from the great cabin. They froze, and Jack seemed about to speak, but then James looked down and brushed past him and into his cabin, closing the door firmly. There was the creak of chains as he threw himself onto the cot. Jack stared at the door for a moment and continued on his way.

No one spoke to Jack as he stood, frowning, on the quarterdeck watching night fall. Shortly after full dark, he dismissed the helmsman and took the wheel. He was braced, this time, to feel no response from the Pearl, but it unnerved him just the same. After an hour he was so on edge that, when Gibbs appeared at his shoulder, he jumped.

"Evenin' Cap'n," he said, his face bland in the moonlight. "It's a fine night."

"Is it?" Jack shrugged. "I hadn't noticed."

Gibbs nodded. "Ah, it takes some folks like that," he said.

Jack eyed him. "And what does that mean, pray?"

"Oh, nothin'," Gibbs replied.

"Not you, too, Josh," Jack sighed. There was silence for time. Jack muttered a curse. "Very well," he growled at last, "have your say. What 'takes some folks like that'?"

"Pride," the older man said.

"What?"

"Or, as some'd call it, pure stubborn pig-headedness," Gibbs continued relentlessly. "What are you aiming at, Jack? If you want to drive James off the ship, why'd you bring him aboard in the first place?"

"Drive him off the ship?" Jack repeated, incredulous. "I want no such thing. You must be mad."

"Am I?" Gibbs's voice was grim. "Well, that's what you've done. He told me so himself, not two hours gone. He'll be leavin' us next time we make port."

Jack felt as if a pit had opened at his feet. "He can't," he shook his head, "he can't do that."

"He can. And he will if you don't do something about it." Gibbs let that sink in, and then added, "I've known you a long time, Jack. You're not stupid, 'cept when you act mulish." He lowered his voice. "You need him, same's you need the Pearl, as you'll admit, if you're honest." Jack shuddered. "Make it right, son. You'll never be happy, else."

There was silence for some time. Abruptly, Jack said, "Take the helm." Gibbs had barely laid his hand to the wheel when Jack was gone, down to the deck and into the cabin.

Gibbs nodded to himself. "That'll about do it," he said.

James, lying in his bunk, still wide awake, heard Jack's bootheels come thudding down the passage-way. They stopped at his door. Heart pounding, he closed his eyes and feigned sleep. After a few moments, he heard the door open and then there was a long silence. When he could bear it no longer he opened his eyes. Jack was standing just inside the doorway, staring at him. He stared back, unspeaking. Finally Jack looked away, backed out of the cabin and closed the door. James heard him enter the great cabin and he let his breath out in a tremulous sigh.

Jack leant back against the door for a moment and then went to the table and took up the rum. He glanced around for a glass and, finding none, drank from the bottle. Slowly, he sat and propped his heels on the table. The cat watched him from the sideboard, unblinking, her eyes glowing in the lamplight. He drank again and let his head fall back.

Once again he asked himself: what did he want? The answer was the same. He wanted things to be as they had been, but with James in his bed and at his side. What was wrong with that? He drank some more. Why could not James see how much he was wanted and be content?

Would you be? The question came into his head as if someone had spoken it. He scowled. Why not, he wondered. Of course he could be content thus. He tried to imagine it. Content to be merely decorative, an object of pleasure… a mistress.

Stunned, he put his feet on the floor and sat bolt upright. So that was it. He was thinking of James as he would a mistress. He was shaken by silent laughter. The thought of James, his James, as any man's mistress was so absurd that he could do naught but laugh, albeit bitterly, for some time.

Finally, Jack sat back again, grim amusement still on his face. Well, this cast rather a different light on things, didn't it? He took a long swallow of rum, and another, welcoming the burn. He was an ass. It wasn't often that he was forced to admit he'd been a fool but he had backed himself into this corner and there was no denying it.

But how was he to persuade James to stay, after what had passed? He must do so, of course; the alternative didn't bear thinking of. He shuddered and took another pull at the rum.

For a long time he sat, deep in thought, feet once again propped on the table. He saw it now, when it was almost too late: James's coming would be bound to change things, but that need not be altogether bad. And James, he was certain, had given the matter considerable thought. Hadn't he accepted the office of purser - and he the commander of the Jamaica Squadron? Then, having made his choice, what had he done but striven to play his part without overstepping his place? Jack swore under his breath. He would trust James with his life; had done, in fact, more than once. So why had he been acting as if James meant to encroach on his command?

Ruefully, he realized he should have done this thinking before James arrived. Ah well, no time like the present, eh? He had nothing else to do with his night…

***********

At dawn, Jack, tousled and with bloodshot eyes, climbed to the quarterdeck and ordered a change of course. Crimp, who had the helm, grinned. "Aye, sir!" he said.

Stumbling down to the main deck, he came face to face with Gibbs. Jack drew himself up and glared. "Not one word out of you, Joshamee," he said with dignity. Gibbs winked at him and held his tongue.

When Jack had gone, Gibbs chuckled. "Well, it's about time," he said to himself, and went about giving the orders to set them on the new heading.

***********

James woke with a start from an uneasy doze. What had roused him? Then he felt the motion of the ship, heard the creak and shift, and knew. They were changing course. But what did it mean? He climbed stiffly from his cot - he had slept as he had flung himself down last night, still clothed, and felt wretched - and went out on deck. A glance at the horizon showed him they were turning northward again. He sought out Gibbs.

"What's happening, Josh?"

"Captain's ordered a change of course," Gibbs replied. "To Pig Island," he added.

James stood stock still and gaped at him. "Pig Island," he repeated slowly. As the meaning sank in, his eyes lit and he clapped Gibbs on the shoulder. Then he turned and vanished through the doors to the cabins.

Now that's a sight, Gibbs thought, as'd do a body's heart good to see. He went back to work with a smile on his face.

************

As James burst into the great cabin and stopped just over the threshold, Jack was leaning with both arms on the map table, his back to the door, head down. When James neither moved nor spoke, Jack gathered his courage and turned around.

Very slowly, James walked across the cabin. His eyes were wide and dark and Jack raised his chin defiantly to meet them. Stopping when they were just inches apart, James drew a deep breath and then hesitated.

"For me," he said, at last.

Jack nodded. "For you."

And then James's mouth was on his and James's hands were fisted in his hair and his arms were around James tight, tight, and they were laughing and kissing and tearing at each other's clothes and sinking to their knees right there, with the bed not five feet away …

When James's hand closed around him like a benediction Jack groaned. He leaned his forehead against James's shoulder, eyes closed; fumbling still - despite his growing distraction - with the other's breeches buttons. Successful at last, he took James in hand, pleased with the jerk and gasp he elicited.

Awkward as boys, they began to move - laughing breathlessly at their own hasty clumsiness even as they kissed again, tongues touching and curling, teeth clashing. Suddenly, they found their rhythm and both men gasped. Thrusting as one, foreheads together, they raced to completion.

Jack, reaching the edge first, held on for a few strokes, until, by a flick of his wrist, he was able to take James with him as he fell.

When sight and sense returned, Jack rolled his eyes toward the bed and winked. James nodded and they got to their feet. Jack stripped off his shirt, used it to wipe himself clean and took off his breeches. He stepped up behind James and wrapped his arms around him, pressing his lips to the nape of James's neck.

"James…" he whispered.

"Hmm?" James turned in his arms, one eyebrow raised.

Jack shook his head. "Just… James," he answered and James nodded.

"Just James," he agreed, as they stretched out together, "and just Jack."

"Aye," Jack sighed.

They settled into each other, lying half on their sides, legs entwined, hands languidly stroking and touching. Suddenly Jack yawned.

"Sorry, love," he said, ruefully. "Haven't slept all that well of late."  He felt James's chuckle.

"Nor I," was the dry answer, "what a curious coincidence."

Jack pulled up the covers. "You'll join me in a nap, then."

James's reply was lost in a yawn. Silence fell as the Pearl rocked them to sleep.

************

Jack dreamt that he was being stalked by a tiger. He stirred uncomfortably and opened his eyes only to be snared by a steady green gaze, thoughtful and a bit unnerving. He grinned and began to stretch, but stopped as James looked him up and down consideringly. "James?" he said. It was the dream, he thought, that made his voice sound so odd.

"Yes, Jack?" James replied, calmly continuing his scrutiny before bringing his eyes up to meet Jack's. "What is it?"  There was a flicker in the cool regard, as of lightning far off on a summer's night - a flash of fire - there and gone again.

Absurdly, Jack was, all of a sudden, conscious of his nakedness. He licked dry lips. "Um, how about some wine, eh?"  He rolled out of the bunk on the words and padded to the table. He poured and took a swallow. Speaking over his shoulder he asked, "Do you want a glass?"

The response came from directly behind him. "No, I thank you."

Jack started and whirled around, wine slopping over his hand. How had James gotten across the cabin without making a sound? "You startled me, mate."

James smiled, the lightning flickering again in his eyes. "Did I?" he replied softly, "then perhaps you should finish your wine. It will steady your nerves."

"No, I changed my mind," Jack began, half-turning to set the glass on the table, when James closed the distance between them and looked down at him.

"I said drink it."

Jack froze. When had James grown so tall? he wondered. Although Jack was not a big man his lack of inches did not, in general, trouble him. But with James looming over him, suddenly so large and, well, daunting… his hand shook, spilling a few more drops of wine.

"Don’t waste it." James's hand closed over his, gently urging the glass toward his mouth. "Go on," he said, voice deepened with amusement, "drink up."

Jack obeyed, taking a sip, another, and then draining the glass, which was removed from his slackened grasp and set down behind him. Fascinated, he watched as James took his wine-damp hand and raised it to his lips. His knees loosened as James sucked each finger in turn into his mouth before licking his knuckles clean, his palm, his wrist. He gasped.

"Look at me, Jack."

With an effort, Jack tore his gaze away from the mouth now nibbling and sucking at the webbing between his thumb and fingers and looked into James's eyes. He licked his lips again and tried to speak.

James chuckled. "What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?"

Helplessly, Jack began to laugh. James stepped forward, pinning him against the table. Twisting one hand in Jack's hair, he tilted his head back and smiled.

"What's so funny?" he asked.

"I dreamed of a tiger," Jack replied, wincing a little as James forced his head still further back and bit at his throat. He shivered convulsively.

"And you got me," James whispered against his neck, teeth and tongue alternately nipping and soothing. "How fitting." He straightened and looked down into Jack's eyes with a hint of mockery. "How… perfect."

As James's mouth closed on his, stealing breath and reason, the world seemed turned on its head. He was Captain Jack Sparrow, pirate without peer. He was no man's prey. But this was James…  "Wait, stop," he thought he said, but what came out was a breathless moan as his jaws were forced apart and his mouth ruthlessly invaded.

James thrust a knee between his legs, spreading them wide, and pressed his thigh upward. Jack struggled - he thought he struggled - but found himself rocking mindlessly against the welcome pressure.

When James turned him and bent him over the table he resisted but was overborne, crushed beneath the heavier man. After a moment, James shifted to the side and entered him with one finger. Jack bucked, trying for more. "James," he moaned.

"Shhhh," lips moved against his ear. James's fist was tangled in his hair again, holding his cheek to the smooth, lemon-smelling wood of the table. "Don't speak," James growled. Head spinning, Jack cried out wordlessly, arching his spine, as a second finger entered him, and a third; curling and stroking, sending stars shooting across his vision. The fingers paused and Jack whimpered.

"Want more?" the taunting voice asked. He tried to nod, but the hand in his hair prevented him. "Yes?" James went on, "then show me. Stop fighting."

It was only then that Jack realized his arms were trembling, braced to push him upright at the first hint of weakness or inattention in the man above him. But the man above him was James.  Slowly, every instinct screaming, he relaxed his arms and slid them out and up, until they rested flat on the table above his head, palms down and fingers almost touching.

James's hand loosed its grip on his hair, and brushed it back, off his neck. "Very well, then," James murmured, kissing his nape. Jack felt his feet being nudged apart as the fingers inside him thrust and twisted one last time - he bit his lip but could not keep from whimpering softly - and then withdrew.

And then James's hands were holding him still and James's cock was pushing - ah God - pushing its way into him until he was filled to aching and he was shoving back, wanting more and more still. He could hear James's breathing harsh above him as they waited for his body to relax enough for them to move. He wriggled impatiently until James leant forward and bit down on his nape, stilling him just as he - finally - drew back and drove in again.

Slow, far too slow. Jack opened his mouth to say so but James forestalled him. "I said don't speak," he rasped in a voice that brooked no opposition, as he continued his excruciatingly slow stroking.  Jack's clenching attempts to speed the pace earned him another vicious bite. With the tiny part of his mind not roiling in pleasure/frustration/submission Jack had to admire the iron control that kept him thus helpless without bringing him nearer his release. When he could stand it no more, he moved one arm, hoping to be allowed to take himself in hand, at least. But James pinned his wrists with his full weight, bit him again and issued a warning, "We do this in my time, Jack, not yours," he said, "and if you do not behave, I shall take my own pleasure and leave you unsatisfied."  The threat -and Jack knew it was not an empty one - took the last of his fight and he lay panting - whimpering when he couldn't stop himself - under the pounding onslaught.

It might have been half an hour later - for all Jack could tell, it might have been days; he had long since lost all sense of anything beyond his burning body and his need - when he felt James's thrusts speed up and become shallower. He had a moment's panicked fear that James did indeed mean to leave him unsated before a hand closed around his aching cock, stroking him hard. He cried out hoarsely, gasping and shuddering, almost weeping with the force of his release, even as he heard James's groan, felt him go rigid, and then fall forward atop him. And then he knew no more.

When Jack regained his senses, he was in his bed, with James curled against his back. He had no memory of getting there, but he was too weary to care very much. James slipped an arm around his waist and drew him close. He closed his eyes and sighed.

"I deserved that," he said.

James ran a gentle hand over his bitten shoulder. "You did," he replied softly, kissing the back of his neck. "Now go to sleep."

"Aye, aye, Commodore," Jack murmured, already half asleep. He felt James chuckle.

***********

Some time later, Jack lay watching James sleep. The afternoon sun, pouring in the stern windows, had made the cabin very hot and James had kicked the sheet off. He was stretched out, half on his back, providing Jack with a most enjoyable view.

Asleep, he looked, Jack thought, even younger than his 35 years, despite the inevitable weathering of a life spent at sea. His skin, so much paler than Jack's, showed only the faintest tan - in the few places that James's erstwhile uniform had allowed the sun to touch him. His hair had fallen across his forehead and Jack resisted the urge to brush it back, not wishing to wake him just yet.

The cut on his cheek was healing cleanly, Jack noted, but would leave him with a scar. It would add a rakish, piratical - he grinned to himself - touch to James's rather patrician good looks.

Jack leaned on one elbow and studied the sleeping body beside him. James carried remarkably few scars, he thought, considering his long career as a military man. This was due in part to his skill as a tactician, of course. Not many of James's battles had required boarding, as his seamanship had often given him the victory without resorting to a maneuver that was so wasteful of his men's lives.

Not that he wasn't formidable hand to hand when the occasion offered - quite the contrary. Jack shifted, wincing a bit. He would ache for some time, he reflected bemusedly, in consequence of James's latest 'boarding.' His play on words made him chuckle and at the sound James opened his eyes.

For a moment they watched each other; then James smiled a sweet, sleepy smile and reached up to pull Jack down for a kiss. Jack released a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He touched his fingers lightly to James's cheek. "When that begins to itch," he said, "See Gibbs. He has a salve that works wonders."

James nodded. "I'll keep that in mind." He smiled again.

"Just don't, whatever you do, ask him where he got it," Jack rolled his eyes. "Unless you've naught to do for an hour or more."  They laughed.

James stretched, and licked his lips.

"Fancy some wine?" Jack asked.

James nodded. "I do," he replied.

"Good. Just bring me a glass when you come back would you?" said Jack, flopping down and grinning at him. "Last time I was over there, things got a mite…interesting. Not sure I want to risk it."

James's laugh sounded startled. "Don't tell me Captain Jack Sparrow has learnt caution," he said, "for I shan't believe you."

"Then let's just say he's wary of meeting the Commodore again so soon," Jack grinned.

For an instant the lightning was back in James's eyes. Jack fought down a shiver. "Perhaps that is wise," James replied. He climbed over Jack - stopping on the way to kiss him again - and went to the table, returning with the decanter and two glasses. Jack scooted over to give him room to sit. James poured and they drank in silence.

Jack laid his palm on the small of James's back and stroked slowly upward and then back down, up and down, over and over. James arched into the touch. "Don't stop," he said.

"Lie down, love," Jack replied. "Let me do this properly."

James set his glass on the decking and swung his legs into the bed, lying facedown. Jack knelt over him, straddling his hips and leaned forward, stroking and kneading James's shoulders. Gradually he worked his way down his spine, soothing and loosening tense muscles as he went.

James hummed with pleasure and then sighed. "Where did you learn to do that, again?"

"Singapore," Jack answered, without stopping what he was doing. "I told you the story, remember?"

"Yes, but it sounded like balderdash." James chuckled, "and I dismissed it as nonsense."

Jack grinned. "The Commodore dismissed it. I'll venture to guess that plain James Norrington is more inclined to believe me, eh?"

"Demonstrations are always more convincing than tales," James agreed.

"But then," Jack continued, a sly smile glinting, "The Commodore always was a starched-up, untrusting sort …"

James rolled over, half-laughing, and unseated Jack. "Why must we talk of the Commodore?" he asked.

Jack laughed back at him. "All a diversionary tactic, intended to distract while I work my wiles."

James frowned. "Bugger the Commodore."

"Aye, well, that's the general idea."

"I might have known."

"Yes, you might - needle-witted as you are. Now, then," Jack said, pushing James flat and straddling his waist, "About that buggery…"

James assumed an air of patient martyrdom. "Very well, if you must," he sighed. He closed his eyes. "Wake me when you are finished."

"Humbug," Jack chuckled, leaning down until his lips brushed James's mouth. "I'll wager I can make you change that tune."

"Done."

***********

"I won, mate."

"Shhhhh. I'm sleeping."

"You weren't sleeping a minute ago."

"I was. I've been asleep for ages."

"Oh? And do you always say things like 'Oh god…Jack…harder' in your sleep?"

"Frequently. Or so I am told."

"Liar."

"Shut up, Jack."

***********

"James?"

"Hmmmm?"

"Hungry?"

"Famished."

"Me, too. Let's go see what the galley has for us."

They dressed in shirts and breeches and headed forward. They were greeted with smiles from most of the men they passed. James saw Gibbs wink in their direction, although Jack pretended not to notice. 

The cook provided them with bowls of stew and they sat to eat. James had last eaten, lightly, the afternoon before and he found it delicious after his long fast; Jack appeared to do the same, going back for a second helping and wasting no time on conversation. Queen Mab rubbed, purring, against their legs and James gave her his bowl to lick. The cook shook his head.

The sound of a fiddle being tuned made them look up. Jack grinned. "Shall we?" he asked. James smiled and they headed out on deck.

As on the previous occasion, nearly all the crew was gathered to hear Tommy play. Jack led the way aft and sat on the uppermost of the steps leading to the quarterdeck, high enough to see over the crowd. James allowed himself to be pulled to a seat on the step just below, between Jack's knees.

He listened with pleasure as the fiddler played several jigs and reels. As before, men danced and clapped along. The rum went around. Gibbs told one of his comical tales, swearing, despite the good-natured scoffing of his audience, that it was gospel truth. Tommy played again. There was a pause as he retuned. Jack sat up - he had been lounging with his elbows on the deck behind him - and whispered to James, "Watch this." Then he raised his voice.

"Gentlemen, I've an announcement to make."

Heads turned in their direction. James wondered what was coming. Jack waited until he had their full attention, then went on. "I've decided to make Mister Norrington here supercargo of the Pearl."

James stiffened in shock, but Jack's hand came to rest on his shoulder with a warning squeeze, and he sat still.

There was a general muttering and then someone asked, "And what's that, when it's at home?"

"He's the officer in charge of the buying and selling of cargo," Jack explained. "If we're to have a go at trading out East, we'll need someone to keep order."

"Trade? We're pirates!" someone else exclaimed. It was clear to James that some, at least, had not believed Jack's talk of trade to be sincere.

Jack was nodding. "We are, mates, and that won't change. Think about it. Trading - the way some folks does it - ain't so very far removed from piracy, eh?" He winked and some of the men laughed. "Only traders don't risk life and limb for their plunder."

"'Cept when pirates get 'em," came the reply.

"Ah, but we're no helpless merchant vessel, lads. Any pirate that thinks the Pearl's easy pickings would get a nasty surprise," Jack said. James, watching the faces before him, could see that Jack had begun to catch their imaginations.

"But what will we be trading?" was the next question.

"We'll take them a cargo of sugar, coffee and rum," Jack replied.

"And where will we get that?" A few of the doubters looked hopeful, as if they saw the familiar comfort of raids in their future. But Jack surprised them once again.

"We buy it," he said.

There was an outburst of confusion. "Buy it!" and "With what?" and "I ain't payin' fer naught."  For all that it might have sounded like the ugly situation of the other day, James felt the difference. It was not mutiny; these were men willing to be convinced.

Jack held up his hands for silence. "No worries, gentlemen. I've given thought to the matter."  He grinned. "We'll use the loot forfeited by Tearlach and his mates to buy our trade goods. What say you to that?"

Laughter broke out, mixed with a few cheers. "Bloody clever!" someone shouted and Jack bowed, laughing with them.

As the noise abated, young Jenkins spoke up, perplexity and some embarrassment on his face. "One more thing, Cap'n - and beggin' your pardon, Mister Norrington - but do you mean to give him charge of our money as well?" he asked.  "I don't fancy any but me holding my own, if you take my meaning." He shrugged apologetically.

Some nodded in agreement. "Good question, lad," they said. "Aye, what about that?"

Jack shook his head. "What's yours is yours. No man can touch it, or will. A supercargo minds the trade goods - what we pay for them and what we make on them - so when the time comes we know how much profit we have to share out."

"You mean to share the profit?" Blank surprise at the unconventional idea left them gaping.

"How else, my friends?" Jack said, and James heard how pleased he was to have astonished them yet again. "Ain't it in the Articles? One man, one share; same as ever."

Slowly, smiles were growing. Some were chuckling. He had them now. Jack sat forward, pressing his chest to James's back and draping an arm over his shoulder. James could feel him laughing under his breath.

"Puts a rather different face on it, eh men?" he said. A chorus of ayes answered him. One or two cheered.

"You've talked us into it, Cap'n," Duncan called, from his seat atop the capstan. "But then, you could likely sell toasting forks to the Devil himself."  There was a roar of laughter at this sally.

"And have done," Jack grinned. "Very well, then. It's settled."  He nodded to the fiddler. "Tommy, let's have another tune, if you please."

Before Tommy could begin old Giddings stood. "Just one more thing," he cried. "Three cheers for Cap'n Sparrow!"

Jenkins piped up. "And Mister Norrington!"

When the cheers rang out, Jack drew James close and spoke in his ear. "For you," he said.

James nodded and leaned his head back against Jack's shoulder. As the music started, he brought his hand up and laced his fingers with Jack's where they lay across his chest. "For me," he replied.

Dark fell as they sat, unmoving, listening to the music. More than one smile was cast their way, but, lapped in contentment, they never noticed.

*************

Much later, Jack, having sent James to bed, took the middle watch at the helm. It required all his not inconsiderable courage to lay his hand to the wheel, but, when he did, it was warm to his touch. Relief loosened his knees; he closed his eyes with a sigh and a whispered "Thank you." Flexing his toes against the deck, he felt the thrum as she acknowledged him. He was forgiven.
 

 

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