Pairing/characters: Jack/Will; Jack/James
Summary: When Jack experiences a devastating loss, James must help him pick up the pieces.
Disclaimer: Not mine; belongs to a three-fingered mouse and his bearded cohort.
Warnings: (optional) Character death(s), violence, male/male affection
Author's notes: (optional) AU after CotBP. As a result, DMC and AWE never happened. Will left Port Royal to go with Jack; Elizabeth eventually married James Norrington and they had a family. Begins approximately 27 years after CotBP takes place. Part 1 of 2. Response to potcfest prompt: Jack/James where James comforts Jack. Part 2 will be posted soon.
Feedback: Most welcome, mates.
Haste me to know it, that I with wings as swift
As meditation, or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge. –William Shakespeare, Hamlet
“Dammit, Pearl, at least ye should have the decency t’ act like a normal ship once in a while,” James Norrington heard Jack Sparrow’s voice bellow at the sound of shattering glass and metal clattering to the deck.
Vice Admiral James Norrington, retired, reclined in a hammock suspended from a spar. He glanced over at the notorious pirate captain and tried not to grin in a way that would antagonize the older man. What amazed James continuously about Jack Sparrow was that the man managed to look good, even well into his 60s, even with a life of drink and debauchery that would kill the average person. Hell’s bells, Norrington reflected, even had he not been drunk and debauched for most of his life, Jack’s run into enough of the supernatural in his life to turn any man gray and wizened before his time. But Jack seemed to thrive on it.
Since the pirate’s retirement from piracy four years ago, prompted in part by the rescue of the retiring Vice Admiral from Spanish privateers and a subsequent offer of amnesty from the crown, they had spent most of their time puttering around the Caribbean, sometimes doing things that James suspected were vaguely illegal or just visiting places Jack hadn’t seen in years. Norrington glanced up to see Jack standing near the main brace idly turning something over in his hands. He seemed quite absorbed in whatever it was and that roused James’s curiosity. With a sigh, he lowered his feet to the deck and padded over to Sparrow’s side.
“Well, what is it?” He asked, a slight smile on his face.
Jack glanced up at him, a game attempt to smile in kind on his features, but it didn’t succeed. “Nothing, really. Jus’-Jus’ an old bit o’ brightwork. Should jus’ toss it in the sea, I s’pose.”
James glanced down to see that it was, indeed, a piece of brass that had broken, a fitting for some lamp or gauge. But the way Jack held it told James the story. “Will Turner’s?”
Jack slid it into his pocket and turned abruptly away. “Why would ye say that, love?”
James moved closer to Jack and wrapped an arm about the shorter man’s shoulders. “I was there, remember? You don’t have to hide your grief from me. And your crew is safely ashore for their own amusement. It’s all right, my love.”
In his advanced years, James Norrington had grown to care nothing but a fart for what others said or thought about himself and his relationship with Jack Sparrow. He’d wasted far too many years denying that there was anything between them, trapped in an existence on opposite sides of a law that condemned them for their love and that prevented them from living the life they deserved. He decided four years ago he would waste no more. He’d become much bolder and Jack, though he was still capable of roguish acts at a moment’s notice, had become a bit tempered knowing his reactions were slower, his wits not quite as sharp, and his aim a bit shakier. A pair of curmudgeonly lunatics, James remarked to himself. At just shy of sixty himself, he knew he was still good-looking though the remarks he heard now used the word “distinguished” instead of “handsome.” Jack, on the other hand, still inspired women to sigh and men to grow nervous.
He would never forget that day almost a decade ago. Elizabeth had died of a fever along with their third child the winter before. He had thrown himself into his career with an intensity never seen before, his way to escape from the grief and rage. So it was that he was personally in charge of the fleet that encountered Captain Rimbaud’s armada bearing down upon a solitary black-sailed ship flying the British flag. Of course, James recognized her immediately and ordered her to be given safe passage through their line. Despite the warrants outstanding for Jack Sparrow, his partner Will Turner and their ship and crew, they were still subjects of His Majesty and he would not see them come to harm—without due process of law, at least. Faced with many more ships than he had anticipated, Rimbaud wisely changed course and sailed off for a new destination.
As was their wont in times of truce, James was offered and accepted the hospitality of the Black Pearl for dinner and a brandy. James could not bring himself to arrest Jack and Will out of a sense of fair play. It simply wasn’t decent to kick someone when they were down. Over the meal, various bits of news were passed along. Will and Jack both expressed their condolences again over the passing of Elizabeth and Lawrence. The solemn moment passed and they returned to their usual banter by the first round of drinks, though still somewhat subdued.
When the shift changed, Will went above to take his turn at the helm. Jack and James spent the next hour or so debating the merits of the new rifling process for weaponry and discussing how Jack should adjust the rigging on the Pearl to be faster. Jack had just made some very insightful comment when they heard the sound of a shot. When Jack’s eyes met his, they scrambled to get topside.
Never, in all the time he knew Jack Sparrow or had known him since, had he heard him make the sound he made as they stepped up onto the quarterdeck of the Pearl. They spotted Will Turner lying on the deck, blood pooling beneath him, at almost the same moment. The sound Jack made was a keen, a wail, of a type James prayed he’d never hear again. It contained every moment of horror, rage and despair that Jack Sparrow had ever experienced and when it ceased, Jack had become a very different man.
He’d watched, desolate, as Jack threw himself to the boards and gathered Will against him. In his heart, the loss of Elizabeth resurfaced, burning anew at the thought of what Jack was going through. Turner’s eyes fluttered open and his hand, blood-smeared from trying to stifle the wound, reached up to caress Jack’s face, leaving a crimson trail across the pirate captain’s cheek. James kept his distance despite his fervent desire otherwise. The wound was so near Turner’s heart, indeed buried in one of his lungs, that there was no hope to save his life. He heard them mutter their final “I love yous” to one another and turned to see the crew assembled, eyes set on Norrington with reproach; it was considered as unlucky to have a navy officer aboard a pirate ship as it was to have a woman. He rewarded them with a shaming glare and they moved off after a moment.
Quickly, he scanned the deck to see if the weapon that fired the fatal shot was readily in evidence but there was nothing. A glance at the crew showed that none of them were armed with a pistol. When he looked back, Turner was gone. Jack still held him and spoke to him as if he were alive. Reliving his own fresh hell at the deaths of his son and wife, Norrington could not prevent a few tears from rolling down his face though he wiped them away before they became too obvious. Not caring what was “proper”, James did what his heart compelled him to do. He went to Jack and embraced him.
“Jack, let’s go below. Let your Mr. Watkins take charge, hmm?”
When Jack looked up at him, there was nothing in the eyes. The sight made him shiver when he realized that Jack was mentally nowhere to be found. For James Norrington, though, uncertainty brought with it the need to take charge. He stood from kneeling beside Jack and turned to Watkins.
“Will Turner is dead. Captain Sparrow may not be able to carry on. How will the men aboard this ship feel if- . . .?” He allowed the softly spoken question to drift off. Watkins blinked for a moment, the blue eyes set in a round face gave him a jovial look though Norrington had never known him to laugh, let alone smile.
“I don’t know,” Watkins answered, his tone equally quiet. “But we’d hafta put it to a vote. Damn!”
At the muttered curse, Norrington realized that Watkins was as concerned for Jack’s physical and mental well-being as he was for the fate of the ship and her crew. He took Watkins by the arm and drew him to the stern. “This is the situation, Mr. Watkins. I am about to arrest Captain Sparrow for crimes committed against the crown. I am prepared to offer this crew at least a partial pardon if they will refrain from mutiny and sail her back with my fleet to Kingston. Do you understand?”
Watkins, whose eyes brimmed with tears at the sight of his captain mourning his first-mate, glanced up at Norrington after a moment. “Arrest him?”
Norrington nodded, slowly, his eyes never leaving the other man’s. A few seconds passed then the man started. “Oh! Aye, sir. I’ll tell the crew, see if we can’t talk ‘em around. But partial pardons ain’t much good if ye got more’n one hangin’ offense on yer head, if ye take my meanin’.”
“I suppose I do,” Norrington said with an ironic smile; the man’s maneuvering was almost worthy of Jack. “Whether full pardons are available or not depends upon the mood of Governor Rigby when we arrive. For now, the crew must be told something.”
“Aye, sir,” Watkins said finally. He stepped forward to address the crew quietly, his voice the same cadence that James had heard in his two older sons’ voices when Elizabeth died. James made his way back to Jack’s side, longing to pull Jack away but remembering that he himself had been given several precious hours alone with Elizabeth, both just before and after her death, to say his final goodbyes.
“It’s all right, Jack. I’m here for you. I’ll keep the Pearl safe for you, do you understand?” Norrington refrained from reaching to stroke the black hair that had just started to gray handsomely at the temples. “You have my word, Jack.”
There was no response from Sparrow. Reluctantly, James pulled the pistol from his waistband. With the lightest grip possible, he took Jack’s upper arm and pulled him to his feet but, more importantly, away from the corpse. He turned to Watkins.
“Please wrap Mr. Turner’s body in a sheet. It is necessary for a physician to examine the body before we dispose of it. Do I make myself clear?” James knew that, at the moment, it would be best if all those men were outraged at him. The more sympathy they held for Jack, the less likely they would be to try to force him off the Pearl. “Have the men who brought me here lower our boat and load the corpse into it. Captain Sparrow will be accompanying me back to the Dauntless. Mr. Watkins, you have given me your word of honor that you will bring the Pearl back to Kingston. If I see any attempt to escape on your part, I will sink her. Is that clear?”
Watkins nodded, looking properly unhappy about the entire situation. The pirates grumbled threateningly but, to their eyes, Commodore Norrington “the bastard” was holding a gun on their beloved Captain. At this point, they did not want Norrington to hurt him, which was exactly the feeling Norrington wanted instilled in them. What they had no way of knowing was that the gun was empty.
“Ye all right, Jamie?” Jack’s voice brought Norrington back to himself.
James smiled and drew Jack into his arms. “Lost in my reveries, like the old man I’ve become.”
Jack reached up and drew Norrington’s face down so they were eye to eye. “I must disagree with ye, love. We’re not old; we’re mature, savvy?”
Norrington couldn’t suppress a warm, soft laugh. “Captain Jack Sparrow? Mature? Now that, indeed, is an oxymoron. Though, I admit, a touch of gray on you is quite fetching.”
“Flattery will get ye in me bunk if ye ain’t careful, mate,” As Jack whispered the words, he let his lips brush against Norrington’s cheek.
Jack felt James’s hands stroke across his back to pull him closer. When one of the hands brushed across his buttocks, Jack arched into him. “’Zat why they call ye a ‘rear admiral’?”
“Among other things,” James replied with a smirk.
Jack let himself get lost in the simple pleasure of being held in his lover’s arms. There were days when he wondered if they didn’t just cling to each other because they had no one else. Usually, those were the days when James did something that really annoyed him. Most days, though, he’d look up, across the deck, to see the former navy officer hard at work like any other crewman—a sight that brought a wave of love into his piratical heart—or gazing back at him with a look of passion that made his breath catch in his throat. The same feeling that he used to get when Will looked at him.
He drew gently away from James. “Now, seein’ as how I’ve been actually workin’ this morning and you have been ‘lying watch’, as it were, I propose ye go below and fix me somethin’ t’ eat. Preferably somethin’ warm an’ gooey that will get all over us. Then we’ll have no choice but to lick it off, savvy?”
James grinned fiercely then ran a hand up to cup Jack’s chin. “Your wish is my command, oh uncanny one. Something warm, gooey and ‘lickable’ coming up.”
He ran a finger across Jack’s lower lip then was gone. Jack watched him go then pulled the piece of metal out of his pocket. The sight of the hammer-marks on the back brought it all back to him. The sound of the shot being fired, the mad dash to the quarterdeck, and the crushing black oblivion that set upon his mind when the light died in those golden eyes. Even now, so many years after it was over, he felt tears well in his eyes and the lump rise in his throat.
He didn’t remember emitting the “keen,” as Watkins had described it later. He did remember hearing Pearl’s voice in his head and her own cry of mourning when her boards tasted Will’s blood. She had loved him too. He remembered drawing Will against him, hearing that beloved voice mutter “I love you,” and the cold shock when the blood ceased flowing, the lungs failed to pull in air and the heart stopped beating. Above it all, though, he remembered hearing the Pearl begging him to stay with her and Jamie’s voice telling him, “You have my word, Jack.” Then it was all gone, lost in the despair that swept him away like an undertow.
Watkins told him later that James Norrington had arrested him immediately and granted the crew some type of forgiveness if they returned to Kingston with the fleet. He then took Jack, and Will’s body, to the Dauntless. Jack didn’t really know what happened next. Groves, at one time, had mentioned the Commodore barricading himself in his quarters with Jack, the only contact with the crew being to inquire about the Black Pearl or to order food or other items brought to him.
Jack’s next memory was of someone combing his hair cautiously then shaving his face except for the piratical beard and mustache. The hands were gentle, if a bit chilly, when lathering up the skin and turning his face from one side to the other as the straight razor sliced through the untidiness. A small scissors trimmed up his rough edges. He wasn’t sure how long it had been or even where they were. All he knew or cared about at that moment was that he wanted to die.
“Jack?” Norrington’s voice had reached him finally and he realized that the Commodore was holding him. “It would be very helpful if you would speak to me.”
But speech was not to be so easily restored. Despite his appearance and his seemingly whimsical nature, Jack had always been a person who needed an aim or goal in life. It wasn’t so obvious growing up on the streets of London but the second he’d begun to train as a navigator, a career which relied heavily upon achieving goals, he knew he’d never be able to be anything else. Meeting William Turner the elder had given him something other than his goals to consider in life but the arrival of the Black Pearl in his life, the attaining of her and then the regaining of her, had shaped him from a man with goals into a man obsessed by them, who used everything in his power to achieve them, his glib tongue most of all. The loss of Will Turner, gaining and keeping whose love had been Jack’s highest goal in life for several years, destroyed the voice inside him, the one that pushed him on to the next challenge, the next treasure.
“So your mind can be at ease, Captain, I have arranged for your ship to remain in the harbor here at Kingston until you are recovered. Are you recovered?” Norrington’s voice had seemed unfeeling but Jack, even at the time, sensed that the distance was a lie.
Jack shook his head, closing his eyes and turning toward the bulkhead. When he looked at the familiar wood-grain, he realized they were on the Pearl. The surprise caused him to glance back to see what Norrington was doing. To his amazement, James was tilting a bottle of rum up to drink it. We’re both alone now, He thought.We might as well just give up and die.
It was at that moment, when he was seriously contemplating throwing himself overboard or putting a pistol to his head, that he felt Norrington join him in the bunk. He stiffened at first, afraid in some measure of what James would expect of him. When he felt Norrington’s arms enfold him and James lay his cheek against his hair, he sighed. At his sigh, he heard James speak.
“I don’t have the words to tell you how sorry I am. What you and Will had was extraordinary. I-I’m not sure I ever understood just how special it was, Jack,” Norrington paused and Jack had the impression that he was struggling. “I do know, however, that Will Turner was murdered. I think we both need to work together to bring the villain to justice.”
Jack felt the tears rise in his eyes and he swallowed hard, trying to entice the welcome blackness back. Instead, he detected a subtle movement from the man behind him that he recognized just before he heard the soft sound. Without a word, he turned over in the bed and drew James into his arms. He fell asleep wondering why the feeling of the Commodore in his embrace made his heart ache just a little less.
“Unfortunately, Jack,” James said as he came up on deck with a tray of food in hand. “We are in dire need of chocolate. I did manage to find some honey which I hope is sufficiently gooey and lickable.”
As Jack came into view, though, James realized that he was talking to himself. Jack was back reliving those dark days after Will had died. I should be jealous that a dead man is so much more important to him than I am, James thought with a slight smile. But all I can be is grateful that Jack is now mine. It was, after all, the idea of finding Will Turner’s killer and bringing him to justice that brought Jack to him.
For two weeks, Jack was entirely lost in grief. It was only when they arrived in Kingston and James set up housekeeping aboard the Black Pearl as she sat in the harbor that Jack began to regain his senses. Still, it was several weeks before he heard Jack’s voice again. The governor and others had been urging James for some time to take a few weeks off of active duty. With Jack in the state he was in, James realized it was finally time to do just that.
“Why are you here?” Were the first words out of Jack’s mouth in over a month.
“I am here because--,” James had hesitated, looking into the dark eyes that were regarding him. “I am here because I care about you, as much as it pains me to admit that. You and-and Will are among my oldest and dearest friends. Not to mention your kindness when Elizabeth and Lawrence died. I suppose it might be said that I’m returning the favor.”
Jack’s reaction had been to nod slightly and turn away. After a pause, Jack spoke again. “You said you thought Will had been murdered. Why?”
James sighed. “It’s only a feeling. There was no pistol or long-arm in sight after it happened so someone had motive for keeping it concealed. If Will had been cleaning or repairing a weapon when it discharged, it would have been at hand. You have a reputation as a tough captain but also as fair-minded. Had it been an accident, the killer would have been better off being honest with you and throwing himself upon your mercy.”
“No mercy anymore,” Jack said the words so quietly, so calmly, that James shuddered.
“I doubt that you really mean that,” James replied, hoping he was right.
Instead, the eyes that Jack turned on him were soul-less. “Make no mistake, Commodore. The man who killed Will Turner should be buying his coffin. I will find him and I will destroy him.”
Prior to seeing that look in those eyes, James had thought that bringing the killer to justice would satisfy Jack and allow him to resume some semblance of a life. Seeing that look, however, reminded him that Jack was a pirate with a pirate’s code of honor and sense of justice. A pirate who, despite a stated preference for not inflicting violence upon others, was perfectly capable of shooting a man in the chest or wrapping a manacle-chain about a young woman’s neck.
“Is there anything I can say to change your mind?” Norrington’s voice was calm though his throat was tight. “I would prefer the scoundrel be brought to justice.”
Jack lapsed into silence then, stalking away from him to the bow of the ship. James didn’t pursue, sensing that Jack had to be alone for a while. He glanced up at the wheel and realized that Jack hadn’t been to the quarterdeck since his arrest. He stroked the rail of the Pearl and spoke, grateful that he and Jack were alone on the ship. “It’s all right, Lady Pearl; he knows it was not your fault.”
The results of the inquest into Will’s death had proven less than helpful. He had died from a gunshot wound to the lung. The only unusual thing was that Will was facing his assassin. As deadly as they were, pistols were only good for short-range. Will would have seen the person attempting to kill him, taken evasive action perhaps, or cried out. In all probability, the murderer would have been on the Pearl, if armed with a pistol, and none of the crew was armed.
It was during a long, sleepless night that the notion occurred to James. In the semi-darkness of dusk, a small boat could have slipped up on the Pearl in musket range, long enough to do the murder then slip away undetected. Particularly since Jack and I were so distracted, James considered. He lifted the whiskey to his lips and downed the shot in one gulp. He was about to pour himself another when the sound drew his attention. He stood and went to the bed where Sparrow slept. The pirate’s face was pale and thinner than before. James sat down beside Jack and gingerly took his hand.
“Jack, wake up,” Sparrow was clearly miserable and when he opened his eyes, the sorrow threatened to drown James. “You were having a bad dream.”
“I should’ve known better,” Jack managed to say after a moment. “We were too happy. The gods don’t like that, ye know.”
James didn’t reply. He really didn’t know what to say. In his experience, Sparrow had the right of it. Now here they were, both miserable and both alone. Finally, he did the only thing that had seemed to help in those days. He lay down next to Jack on the Captain’s bunk and drew him into his arms. They neither one could sleep but there seemed to be no words.