The cabin is surprisingly large; even on a ship like the ‘Dauntless’ space is limited, but Norrington knows the value of self-promotion and he entertains here now and then. So his cabin is a suite; a large, airy room with a long table, intricately carved, to save weight, and fastened down firmly, and a smaller bedroom off the main room, because really, he needs nothing more.
He’s in the dining room now and the door to his bedroom is shut.
“So you gave me a day’s grace? Kind of you. Why was that then? Because you relish a hunt only when there’s a small element of chance?”
Norrington smiles, disdain curling his lips as a lime would. “Hardly.”
He looks at Sparrow, wrists cuffed, cuffs over a hook in the ceiling, feet just managing to touch the floor, slender brown toes moving restlessly against a rug that cost more than a seaman makes in a year.
“It pleased me to do so, sir. I would think that should suffice as a reason.”
Dark eyes stare at him with a disturbing lack of acceptance. “Y’know, it really doesn’t,” he says softly, apologetically.
“No matter.” Norrington is determined to move on and dismiss the matter of the head start. It reflects well on him as a man, less so as an upholder of the law.
Jack seems disposed to argue but sense, for once, prevails, and he folds his lips in a mocking smile and is silent. He makes silence eloquent and Norrington finds his own lips parting to answer a question that was never asked, a query that is no more than a lifted eyebrow, a flutter of fingers held close by steel.
“We both have a common love,” he says, startling himself.
Jack looks cautious. “We do? Because if it’s Polly at the Lighthouse Arms, I’d steer clear, mate. She’s a nasty rash on her –”
Three steps bring him in front of the taut bow of Sparrow’s body, swaying gently as the ship rides the swell. “The sea; our ships, Mr –”
“ – Sparrow. Do not lie to me. I know it to be so.”
For a moment the face before him is serious, sincere. “I would not argue with you on that score.”
“Good. So, tell me; why a pirate? You have skills, intelligence, a certain low cunning –”
“Make that rhyme and it’s a love song you’re telling me.”
The moment of kinship flashes by. “Indeed it is not. I have not pursued you this far because of some non existent attraction, you conceited...baboon.”
Jack laughs. “Baboon, am I? Then why chase me? What harm can I do? I’m but an animal.”
Norrington steps back. The ship is in turbulent water now, for all the blue sky overhead, and though it takes a storm to make him stagger, he frets that an unexpected tilt of the timbers beneath his feet might make him clutch instinctively at the nearest support; a slender, muscular body, deeply tanned – or was that dirt?- a body that was warm and alive in a way his own could never be now. He feels cold, feels frozen into stiff immobility, as though Elizabeth’s betrayal has turned out the sun, so it no longer shines on him. His hand is steady though as he reaches out and deliberately cups Jack’s face for a second, the beard rough beneath his palm, and the skin surprisingly soft.
“Animal? Then I am your master, your owner. I have you chained and you are mine to dispose of.”
Jack’s lips thin. “Be wary of what you do to me. Until I am dead and buried, you won’t sleep well of a night with me hunting you.”
Norrington shakes his head. “I would offer you no harm beyond that to which my duty compels me. Truly. Do you believe that?”
Jack stares at him and nods slowly. “Aye. I do.”
Absurd to feel gratified. With a swiftness that takes him by surprise, though perhaps not Jack, he lifts Sparrow off the hook, allowing his hands no chance to linger on a body that quivers under his touch, as though Jack is incapable of being still, any more than the sea is. Even becalmed waters have undercurrents.
“Sit; drink with me.”
“Not an offer I’d refuse no matter who was pouring,” Jack says generously, accepting a tot of rum and bringing it to his lips, cuffs jangling.
“So I’ve heard,” Norrington says.
He waits for Jack to incline his head, wistfully staring at the bottle, and then pours a larger measure for his guest.
“I’ve chased you, I’ve caught you...I don’t want to kill you. I should, I know that...but I don’t.”
“And why is that? The fair Elizabeth would pout and wail?”
Norrington allowed a malicious smile to surface. “I doubt she’d notice if you were hung from her bed – that is, I believe her to be occupied with young Will to the exclusion of all else.”
Jack’s sympathy would chafe and gall. He wants none of it.
“Yes; the wench seems mightily taken with him. When they get like that, there’s no reasoning with them. Why, once in Tortuga –”
Norrington raises a hand. “Spare me. I have a bargain for you; I will ...allow you to escape, to take back your ship, to flee once more, in return for one thing.”
Jack eyes him over the rim of his glass, drains it at a gulp and sneers. “And we’re back to me bent over a table or on my knees servicing you?”
The crudity of it is like a blow but Norrington keeps his composure. “Will you disabuse yourself of that ridiculous notion?” he asks politely. “I’ll be frank; you’re all that’s left. The only challenge, the only scourge of the waters. I need you to stop from going mad with boredom. Some men collect coins, or art work; I think of you as my hobby.” Jack is stunned into silence for once. Gratifying. “But I require a payment for my mercy. Your ship –”
“What of her?” The mere threat to his love is enough to have every hackle rising, Norrington sees with a pang he refuses to name as jealousy.
“Her name, sir. There lies a story behind that name, if I’m not mistaken. I want to know what it is.”
Jack stares at him, head cocked, eyes glinting. “Ah...” His feet go up onto the table with a thud and his teeth glitter as he smiles. “Storytelling is thirsty work, you know.”
“I rather thought it might be.” Norrington brings out a mug and fills it half full. No sense in any getting wasted if the ship tilts.
Jack takes it, raises it in a salute, “Here’s to hobbies, to wild tales of wanton women...and you know?”
“I was rather looking forward to being bent over.”
Norrington smiles. “Perhaps next time. Begin your tale. Oh, and, Captain?”
“Don’t let me win next time. That’s cheating.”
Jack laughs. “You want honesty and fair play from a pirate?”
Norrington shakes his head. “Only from you, Jack, only from you.”
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