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Guardian Angel 7
Disclaimer: Pirates of the Caribbean and such all property of Disney.
Note: Increasingly at a loss as to how to finish.
Summary: Proposals and lunch.
Somewhere around the business of getting changed and prepared for a society lunch, the Earl of Southsend and his sister, with practiced skill, somehow cut Norrington out from the colorful herd of social elite and into a private drawing room, in the Governor of Kingston's sprawling villa. Jack had gotten separated from Miyako when the latter had gotten distracted via the amusement value of older women approaching the admittedly single Governor Swann. He followed Norrington, a little suspiciously. The Earl now wore a smoky-gray vest, embroidered with silver patterns elaborately influenced by basic Celtic knot designs, white shirt sporting gleaming gold buttons carved with his family crest—a dancing unicorn. Lady Katherine was dressed in a pale blue confection of lace, emeralds and pearls, a diamond choker around her neck, her hair elaborately coiffed. Norrington wore the less formal version of his dress uniform, and he arched an eyebrow as the Earl closed the door behind them. "You wished a word with me, Lord Tembury-Lysander?" he asked politely. "Yes. But first, before I speak frankly, my sister and I would like your word that nothing spoken within this room is to leave it," the Earl said, with a wave towards the plush chairs. Norrington took the armchair near the decorative fireplace, while the Earl and his sister sat together at a wide divan. Jack settled himself against the fireplace to listen. "I cannot give that if..." "If, of course, it somehow impugns your sense of honor, then of course it would be up to you," the Earl agreed. Norrington nodded, cautiously satisfied. "You see, Commodore, my brother and I have a dilemma," Lady Katherine spoke, with a quick smile. "It concerns Lord Beckett." Norrington stiffened very slightly—the full red lips curved a little more, and the Earl dipped his head a little. "At the beginning, we opposed the entry of Lord Beckett into the commercial scene in Jamaica," the Earl said. "Arguing that there was no real need for him to be here. However, I am sad to say, we were outmaneuvered, and he has set up a rival point of influence here, a little too close to Montserrat. And given his confidence of late in expanding his sphere of power, my sister and I suspect that he has some sort of new trump card, up his sleeve. Are we correct in this?" Both twins observed Norrington closely, but the Commodore kept silent. Lady Katherine chuckled softly, continuing their observations. "Now, this sphere of power is beginning to overlap dangerously with our own hold on Montserrat and, in that sense, Jamaica. So naturally Victor and I jumped at the chance to visit Port Royal through Governor Swann, and scope things out." "At the same time, especially since it's been a few years since my inheritance, social obligations on both myself and my sister have increased several fold." The Earl patted his sister's hand, almost absently. "How does this involve me?" Norrington asked bluntly. "Through some... discussions, with Lord Beckett, and observing the both of you when in the same area, we concluded that he likely has some sort of... influence, over you, Commodore. Are we correct?" Lady Katherine arched an eyebrow. Norrington hesitated, then nodded tightly. "And it is not to your liking?" Another nod. "And you see a further aspect of our dilemma, Commodore. We have enough problems with Lord Beckett's newfound aggression without him having the obvious backing of the Commodore of Jamaica," the Earl said smoothly. "We won't ask you to outline exactly what the nature of this influence is, but we'd tell you our views, and you can choose whether or not to confirm our suspicions." "Firstly, we know that you, possibly due to a lapse in judgment regarding your previous warship the Dauntless, resigned your commission in Port Royal and disappeared for a few months." The Earl counted off his fingers. A nod. "Secondly, Lord Beckett acquired a warrant for your arrest, via pulling a few strings over in London. You disappeared, then came back a while later. Somehow, he rescinded the rather oddly worded warrant, and now his influence over you is based on the threat of somehow managing to recall your pardon. Ruin you, perhaps, with accusations of previous crimes against the Crown that were not covered by the terms of the pardon. Or perhaps find some inconsistency with the validity of the pardon itself." Lady Katherine said, in the same crisp tone as her brother. "And Governor Swann is too distracted to come to your aid, because his daughter and her fiancé have been sent off on what seems like a wild goose chase over the high seas." A twitch in the jaw, then a nod. "Now, my sister and I are of the firm opinion that control over you—and hence the Navy in Jamaica—was likely one of the main reasons why Lord Beckett acquired the warrant and headed to Port Royal in the first place. However, it doesn't appear to fit his character—it shouldn't by itself give him the confidence to challenge our power," the Earl smiled. "So, that's where you come in. We have a gap in information, Commodore. You must have traded something, for your pardon. What is it?" Norrington sighed, and looked out of the window, then back at the twins, with a wry smile. "You're not going to believe me." "Try us, Commodore," Lady Katherine said with a playful smile. "What do you know of Davy Jones?" Norrington drawled. The Earl blinked. "Hm. Captain of the mythical Flying Dutchman, the terror of ships over at the Cape at the southern end of the Dark Continent." "It's not very mythical," Norrington said flatly, daring them to disbelieve him. In the same tone, he described, briefly, what had occurred since he had entered Jack's crew. When he finished, both twins pursed their lips, eerily simultaneously. Jack was impressed—Norrington had managed to relate the events with a clinical accuracy, giving himself no excuse for what he had essentially did—stolen the one thing that could have saved the lives of Elizabeth and William. "We'd be more disinclined to disbelieve you if not for the fact that I had a brief... relationship, with one of your men who was with you on the Isla de la Muerta, when he visited Montserrat," Lady Katherine smiled. "Terrible nightmares, he had, a little disruptive to sleeping." Norrington colored slightly, obviously not wanting to know any scandalous detail about the private lives of his marines. Jack grinned. The Commodore may be aggressive in the bedchamber, but he was still so proper. "So. This 'heart', is in the possession of Lord Beckett," the Earl mused. "Well. Not a problem. I'm sure we can somehow acquire it. Do you know where he keeps it?" "In the middle drawer of his desk in Port Royal," Norrington said, "But he has a guard." "The estimable Mister Mercer." The Earl smirked. "Don't worry about the detail, Commodore. But Mister Mercer isn't the only capable assassin in the world. For example, why do you think my sister and I aren't afraid of being overheard, in this room?" "I see," Norrington commented dryly. "I suppose then I'm to believe that what you want from me is information, and my agreement no longer to aid Lord Beckett if you somehow resolve his hold on me?" "Naturally," the Earl nodded. "But how do you propose we get about doing so?" "Influence in London?" Norrington suggested vaguely. "Definitely possible," Lady Katherine agreed, "And again, you shouldn't really know the details—better for all and sundry. But we also want something else from you, Commodore." "So I'd be exchanging one form of control for another," Norrington observed, a little coldly. "Perhaps a better form," the Earl pointed out. "For example, my sister and I heard some rather alarming rumors, perhaps unfounded, of Lord Beckett's tendency towards sexual sadism." Norrington flinched, but didn't nod. "We could assure you that wouldn't be the case with us, Commodore, but it'd only be words," Lady Katherine patted her brother's knee. "We have a better proposal." "Why go to so much trouble over me?" Norrington asked suspiciously. "Certainly if you employ... assassins of the caliber of Mister Mercer, you could just have me removed, and that would end the issue of Beckett's Naval support." "In chess, Commodore," the Earl said dryly, "One doesn't always see pawns as pieces to be sacrificed. They can also be... developed. Of course, removing you from the board would be the easiest way out, and I won't lie to you by saying that my sister and I didn't consider it at length." "What we're thinking is that you are quite possibly in line to be an Admiral, perhaps within the next decade," Lady Katherine observed mildly. "It'd probably even be a safe investment. And an Admiral would be a remarkable ally indeed." "And more power that is vulnerable to abuse," Norrington said sharply. "I won't subjugate Naval interests to the East India Company." "Oh? And Lord Beckett had no intention of asking you to do so, in the future? He is pushing for you to become Admiral, you know," the Earl said blandly. When Norrington's blanched, he added, "I do believe so. No, Commodore, we wouldn't be asking you to do that, of course. Sometimes the potential of something occurring is far more useful than the reality of it doing so. Of course, a little minor aiding of non-conflicting interests would be useful, as well." "What you are both offering is very attractive," Norrington admitted slowly, "But it remains that I have no real guarantee of your good intentions. On the other hand, Lord Beckett has made it clear what his... intentions... are." "The known evil over possibly unknown good?" Lady Katherine arched an eyebrow. "Not a gambler, Commodore?" "No," Norrington said coolly. Jack wondered if it was as clear to him as it was to the twins that Norrington was lying. The proposal was very, very attractive, even without apparent consideration or reassurance. To his puzzlement, the twins smiled, but didn't call the Commodore's bluff. "What if we provide sufficient guarantee, Commodore?" the Earl asked. "That remains to be seen," Norrington replied carefully. More dryly, "I do hope you aren't proposing to bribe me." "Nothing so crass," Lady Katherine smirked. "Commodore Norrington. How would you feel about being married to the sister of the Earl of Southsend?" Jack blinked. Norrington's eyes widened. "What? I mean... that's your guarantee?" Disbelief. "We are very familiar, Commodore, with the legal power our society gives to a husband over his wife," the Earl said mildly. "You could beat me with a... what was it, Victor?" "I do believe social convention terms it a stick as thick as his arm. Or as long, I don't recall," the Earl noted casually, as if making remarks on the pedigree of his steed. "Probably both," Lady Katherine decided, "So, a husband could beat his wife, and it would be discipline; he could take her by force, and it would be love. What is hers is his, and he dictates what she can do with her life. That is absolute power, Commodore, of the most fundamental sort, because it is legal, and it is based merely because the one with power is different physically than the other." Coldly. "Our mother was the second wife of the now-deceased previous Earl of Southsend. She will never walk again without a marked limp, she is blind in one eye and deaf in an ear. So you can see, Commodore, we have given this issue much thought, out of necessity." "I would never do that," Norrington growled hotly. The Earl smiled faintly. "And we believe you, Commodore, or we will not be making you this offer. It is a very unusual man, who would allow a lady of status to manipulate him into risking his career, yet find it within himself to forgive her and bless her ultimate choice. You have the rare quality of honor, a sense of justice, and, also importantly, you are placed in a position that could benefit us in terms of power." "What makes you believe that I will agree to this... marriage of convenience? As a guarantee?" Norrington still sounded adorably scandalized at the very idea. "Because we have observed you over the past few days—and, of course, done some prior research. You appear to be single, and available, yet you have not shown the least bit of real interest so far in any of the beauties that have descended upon Port Royal, and you occasionally have this... air of thoughtful abstraction. Smiling at nothing," Lady Katherine said playfully. "Of course, it could be mere supposition on our part, but we believe that you've probably already given your heart away. Perhaps to someone scandalously inappropriate. Far below your station, perhaps, or already taken, or... just inappropriate," she finished, delicately. Not a woman. Norrington flushed. Jack rolled his eyes. Not a good liar either, the Commodore. "On the other hand, I have no intention to be shackled to conventional matrimony," Lady Katherine added archly, "As it could turn out to be quite... boring. We suggest a marriage with enough grandeur to satisfy the social sharks, and then I'd go back with my brother to Montserrat. You'd have to visit, naturally, every so often, or I'd come to Port Royal, whichever suits us best. We can even exchange suitably flowery letters and gifts. You'll have your little affairs, and I'll have mine. Discreetly. We'll handle the problem of Lord Beckett, and you'll work on perhaps considering any little favors we may ask, at your discretion. But the marriage itself would be a sufficiently powerful symbol, legally and socially, to make those favors few and far between." "You have to pardon me if it still sounds far too... outlandish," Norrington said slowly. "The thing is, Commodore, I have been infatuated many times in my life, but there are very few men whom I have actually liked. As a person. As a friend," Lady Katherine said earnestly. "And you are one. Victor shares my view. My mother married for love, Commodore. I think I'd like to try marrying out of... friendship, for lack of a better word." "You don't have to give us your agreement now, of course," the Earl added, "But it'd be easier if you do, and we can get around to... putting it in motion. Making it believable." "Believable," Norrington repeated, with a frown. "If I have to be married," Lady Katherine grinned, "I insist on the whole complicated affair of being properly and publicly chased. Seeking out my company over others, asking me for dances, showing me to the sights of Port Royal... oh, perhaps even a few tongue-tied stammers in my company. Meaningful glances over crowded rooms. An air of distraction when I leave, maybe some adorably half-cobbled excuses to come to Montserrat. On my part, I fully intend to enjoy pining, with sufficient melodrama, after handsome British officers. And Victor can play the part of the delighted, confused and protective brother." "With great pleasure," the Earl matched the impish grin. "What if someday you... or I meet... somebody who..." "Who we really fall head over heels for and want to marry?" Lady Katherine tapped her lip. "I trust your honor, Commodore, given that incident with Miss Swann. And it would only be courtesy to extend the same right to you." "Children?" Norrington asked, a little stiffly. Lady Katherine shrugged. "There'd have to be some issue, I'm afraid, since Victor has decided not to marry, and there's that very pesky question of estates reverting to the Crown or to undeserving male relatives. A wife would be too troublesome, we've thought—and the relative scandal of an unmarried skirt-chaser is far smaller than a flirting spinster. The names accrued to the former are far less derogatory, for example." A grin. "But I'd admit that I find you very handsome, and getting inebriated solves many problems. In any case, we have at least a decade to think that problem over, and the little details." "I'd need to think about it," Norrington said finally. The Earl nodded, and rose, supporting his sister. "If you agree, Commodore, you merely have to set our proposed little act in play. We will await your decision with bated breath." Dry. "In the meantime, I think we're probably being sorely missed. See you at lunch."
Norrington waited till they had gone, then walked over to the window, bowing his head. Very quietly, he murmured, "Jack?" Jack hesitated, then willed himself to be visible, perching on the arm of the chair that Norrington had just vacated. "Aye." "What do you think?" "It's yer choice, mate," Jack said carefully. "Didn't you want me to marry for love?" Norrington asked, dryly. "It shouldn'a be me choice, what ye choose," Jack shrugged. "I wanted ye t'marry fer happiness. I s'pose that don't have t'include love. Though, m'sure that Lady Katherine be easy to love, if ye was o' th'inclination." "It seems so... cold," Norrington continued looking out of the window. "A transaction with the use of a sacred union." "Ye'd be surprised how many sacred unions are really transactions," Jack commented, "How many o' th'women here under this roof think they'd really be marryin' fer love? Bet their fathers be usin' them as tokens. Buyin' an' sellin', that's how it be, fer th'nobs. D'ye like her, though?" "It's difficult not to," Norrington said dryly. "Before I met you, she'd probably be considered 'my type'." Jack chuckled, glad that the sound didn't seem hollow. "Think ye'd be happy, wi' her?" "It does seem to solve all my problems." More softly. "And I can still have you." "Yer not s'posed t'be factorin' that into yer considerations," Jack pointed out, refusing to feel flattered, or gratified, in any way. "Since m'not sure how long I'll still be here." "That's also difficult not to," Norrington commented wryly. He turned on his heel, and walked over to Jack. Placed a hand on the fabric next to Jack, and bent down to press a gentle kiss on the pirate's forehead. "If ye have t'ask me, I don't like it," Jack said quietly. "Ye still won't be free. One form o' control, fer another." "Neither will she," Norrington pointed out mildly. "Aye, well, m'sure that if ye ever did, as much as it be inconceivable, raise yer hand against her, she be havin' some Mister Mercer-types pop out o' the woodwork," Jack noted dryly. "Yer death certificate could be anythin' from 'Fell on his own knife' to 'Accidentally rolled down th'stairs, several times' to 'Stumbled and defenestrated'. T'aint real power that ye have in return." "But they do seem to be a better option than remaining with... Lord Beckett," Norrington said, with distaste. "Ye'd be better off checkin' them out first, p'haps. Ask 'bout them wi' Governor Swann. Maybe they just be appearin'... civilized." "It's not only the question of power, it's also the... freedom to conduct my life here in Port Royal without the pressing societal pressure to get married," Norrington added, stroking knuckles gently over Jack's cheek. And I can still have you. "An' ye better be real discreet 'bout yer 'affairs', then," Jack said dryly, catching the hand. Norrington chuckled, turning his wrist upwards, pressing a kiss on the back of Jack's palm. "Don't like her?" "Don't like them," Jack corrected. "Because of the supposedly skewed offer, or because I'm seriously considering it?" Norrington grinned. "'Cos ye deserve better," Jack muttered, annoyed that the other man still didn't seem to be approaching the issue with any real degree of seriousness or rationality. "Personally I think you're just... jealous," Norrington smirked. Jack stared at him, open-mouthed, then prodded him in the dress coat, feeling abruptly irritable. "Not true." "Then tell me why you don't like them," Norrington said mildly. "They're presentin' an act t'the world every moment o' their life," Jack countered, "An' that don't make me inclined t'believe anythin' they say." "A necessary act," Norrington said absently. "Given society's restraints on women. A way for them to share power in a rank that can only accrue to the male twin. She'd have expected, otherwise, normally, to be married off to cement ties." Mildly. "Besides. I like them. And, you're not particularly well placed to criticize the dishonesty of others. Being, well, a pirate. Previously." "Then why'd ye be askin' old Jack fer his opinion, if yer mind's made up?" Jack picked at one heavily starched sleeve. "I was wondering if you'd have any... insight. From..." Norrington vaguely gestured in the air. "From bein' all-present?" Jack asked dryly. "Be tellin' ye, mate, I ain't all-knowin'. Yer choice, mate. Sounds a little too good t'be true, that all yer problems can be solved just like this, but... they don't seem t'be playin' any outside game." Mildly. "Think they checked out Beckett first, though, fer an eligible bachelor, an' dismissed him as a possibility. Yer probably their second choice, fer all their flowery praise." "Mm. I thought so." "Commodore?" Someone rapped at the door. "Are you in there? Lunch is soon to be served." Norrington brushed lips over Jack's, in an elegant, chaste kiss, and headed for the door.
At lunch, Governor Swann seemed gratified—if a little surprised—to realize that the Commodore, seated opposite Lady Katherine, seemed to shower her with an inordinate amount of attention, occasionally stumbling over his words as he asked her earnest questions about how she had acquired her skill with the gun and her life in Montserrat. To the greater surprise of all and sundry, Lady Katherine herself appeared to respond with a sort of blushing, shy delight, even giggling girlishly at some points. The Earl seemed bemused to the point of ignoring the ever-present female attention he accrued, though he occasionally shot Norrington several thoughtful looks over his pheasant. Beckett was frowning, obviously aware of the ramifications of a Norrington-Katherine romance. Miyako prodded Jack in the side, around when roast boar was introduced to the table. "What happened in the room?" "We both lost our bets," Jack said wryly, and describes what had happened. Miyako arched an eyebrow, as she took in the conversation, then glanced over at Lady Katherine, who was giggling far more than propriety demanded at a dry joke from Norrington. "Wouldn't have expected that from him," Miyako pouted, obviously disappointed that Norrington wasn't about to enter a whirlwind romance with any of the pretty, eligible women. "But..." A sigh. "I suppose it really is the best opportunity available. And it's what we wanted, I guess. Protection." "Ye don't sound convinced," Jack observed. Miyako lowered her head and smiled faintly. "I suppose I was sort of... hoping to be able to, well, encourage some sort of fairytale romance. Since it wasn't available to me in life and, well, of the three charges I've had none of them married for love. Though I suppose in Weatherby's case it came about soon enough." Dryly. "Perhaps it's the dramatist in me that seems to have been kicked awake by your influence." Jack decided, wisely, not to mention anything about his current 'relationship' with Norrington. As fairytales went, it probably was something around the lines of tragic-humor. "What do you think of her though?" "Doesn't matter does it?" Jack said mildly. "Ye said not t'interfere." "She's very lucky, though," Miyako said, a little enviously. "Very few women can boast of having any real power, I should think. Not to this extent." "Any woman he chooses would be lucky," Jack said absently, before realizing what he said. Watched Norrington continue to—as much as it was an act where the main participants were enjoying themselves a little too much—pay court to Lady Katherine, and felt a cold pit in his stomach. Wanted the attention. Had the attention, actually, but managed to both want it and not want it (logic not being a strong point, and close attention to ethics being a new and unwelcome preoccupation). "But it's a good thing, isn't it? Maybe after this you'd be recalled to Heaven. If it gets pulled off," Miyako said, peering suspiciously over Beckett's shoulder at the next dish—some sort of unidentified, heavily garnished meat. "You'd have effectively solved all his problems and given him security for the rest of his life." "Ye helped too," Jack pointed out, and tried not to think about that. Leaving. Whatever his private Heaven entailed, he wasn't sure that, without the Pearl, it could be any better than being encircled by warmth and wanted so badly that it eroded all defence and logic, no matter how carefully constructed. "It wasn't entirely charitable," Miyako admitted, pointing at Governor Swann, who seemed hale and hearty. "He's stopped moping after his daughter all the time. I guess having someone else to help healed him. Still. Not much of a fairytale. I'm quite disappointed." "The soiree ain't even over yet, luv," Jack remarked. "P'haps ye'd be surprised yet." Miyako smiled wryly. "I really doubt it. So. Is this our happy ending?" Jack didn't trust himself to answer.
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