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Guardian Angel 8
Ledger of Lives
Disclaimer: Pirates of the Caribbean and such all property of Disney.
Note: Slower updates for a bit. RL. Sorry, had to write smex—was beginning to get bored of my own story. Lol!
The first thing the large mackerel-striped gray tomcat in Norrington's bedchambers did was to hiss at Jack, baring sharp white teeth. It sat on the table, ears flattened, fur fluffed in outrage and challenge. There was a collar barely visible under the smoky fur—black leather, with a tiny silver pendant with an Admiral's rank insignia. Norrington chuckled as he hung coat on the rack and removed wig and cravat, following its gaze to the apparently empty spot. "Jack. This is Admiral—the ship's cat of the H.M.S Mandate, new to Port Royal following the need for continued British Naval superiority." Amused. "As you can tell, he doesn't much like pirates. The Mandate's crew loves to tell lurid and possibly exaggerated stories about his vicious attacks on boarders." "How'd ye get th'ship's cat off th'ship?" Jack willed himself to be visible, and cautiously stretched out a hand. Which was hastily snatched back, as a paw, claws extended, swiped through the air, the cat snarling in warning. "An' how th'hell does he know I'm a pirate?" "First question—milk. The second... well, you are wearing rather outlandish gear." Norrington arched an eyebrow, with a smirk, patting the cat until it seemed to calm down—though it hissed again when Jack attempted to sidle closer, glaring at the pirate with murderous yellow eyes. "Ye know, usually yer kind is crazy 'bout angels," Jack shook a finger at the cat, which sniffed irritably, and began to wash a paw in disdain. Norrington smirked, reaching forward and pulling Jack up against him, nuzzling an ear, purring, "I'm sure I'm crazy enough about you for the both of us." Jack rolled his eyes, even as he curled fingers into the soft fabric of the other man's white shirt. "Worse than a penny dreadful, mate." The Commodore chuckled, but it was James who gently tilted Jack's chin up and pressed their lips together, gently, inviting exploration. Jack flicked a tongue curiously at soft lips, then remembered himself and pressed his own shut, unresponsive, even when Norrington lapped at then nipped his lower lip. Waited until the other man pulled away, then arched an eyebrow. "Terms, mate." Jack was glad his voice was steady. "Fuck the terms, Jack," Norrington growled, "I just spent a day having to pretend that I was infatuated with another person. Do you realize how hard that was?" This time, Jack opened his mouth for the questing tongue, though he forced himself not to respond. Self-control from ten years of single-minded patience—he pressed nails into his palm. Half-lidded eyes noticed the ignored cat slipping out from the balcony, probably headed towards the kitchen to try its luck at scraps. A warm hand at the nape of his neck, the other raking through the base of the wings at his back, evoking a shiver. Eventually, Norrington pulled back again, green eyes stormy with frustration at the impassiveness, and need—a wounded, gasped sound, and Jack found himself shoved up against the wall, sandwiching new muscles uncomfortably, tongue back in his throat, a palm slapped into the space beside his head. Kohl-rimmed eyes looked up into green ones with mute reproach when Norrington pulled back. Jack pressed four fingers against wet lips. Another inarticulate sound of frustration, and Norrington wheeled away to stand at his desk, fingers in a white-knuckled grip over the edge of the chair, back facing Jack. Shuddering, sobbing breaths. Jack slumped a little more against the wall, and closed his eyes with a deep sigh. Repression—it had to be the Naval repression thing. Certainly Norrington had managed to fool Jack about the apparent... difficulty in playacting with Lady Katherine—all three sides appeared to have been having the time of their lives aboard the luxury ship on their way back to Kingston, and even the dinner afterwards. Joking, chatting. It had been difficult to watch, even with Beckett's darkening expression on the side to keep himself entertained (Miyako had been gloating over that), and Jack had eventually excused himself to go check on the fort cats. A few hours playing with the kittens and the mother cat in the stables had restored his good humor somewhat. Allowed him to look at his jealousy and laugh at how irrational it was. Norrington had, after all, chosen this option to a large part because it allowed him to have Jack, at the same time. Irrational. Nothing to do with insecurity at all. The real problem was (he told James the kitten) was that all his life he had been grounded to... items. Things to give him focus to his wild obsession with freedom. Not people. Things he could keep close to himself—to possess against the rest of the world. Things that he didn't have to, well, really consider, regarding their future happiness, only really about their maintenance. Mundane issues. Tricorn hat, compass, pistol, Black Pearl. Rum, to some extent. They defined 'Captain Jack Sparrow', grounded him next to 'Jack'. He'd never been grounded to... a person. And now he couldn't seem to handle it, swinging between casual possession and an inclination to over-think about the future. Hell, the point was pretty much driven in with what he had appeared in when he'd been on that cloudy bit of real estate before the Pearly Gates. Tricorn hat, compass, pistol. No Pearl, but that was a little more complicated. Frustratingly, however, he knew that hat, compass, pistol couldn't be... real. Likely, if he tried shooting anybody with the pistol, the bullets would turn into... oh, bright pink butterflies. Something suitably angelic. The real hat, compass, pistol, were likely being digested in the belly of a monstrous beastie. Those he had now were in their purest form—simply external props for his sanity. Materialized, in his concept of 'Jack'—or rather, 'Captain Jack Sparrow'. He'd wondered out aloud, to a squirming, impatient kitten, if that was why angels wore white robes. When they'd slowly lost conception of what it was to be, say, 'Miyako-the-human', to simply 'Miyako-angel'—a human-shaped duty, sometimes enforced by a symbol (a white rose, for example, with endlessly shedding petals). Someday, perhaps, the dreadlocks would disappear, his hair would be straight and neat, the kohl would be wiped away and the brightly colored clothes and trappings would fade into a white homespun robe. Jack's conviction of that question had, however, been eroding as he'd observed Miyako herself over the past few days. She still had the capacity to care—did so, in fact, for Governor Swann. Still had curiosity, the ability to sympathize, a willingness to work around the rules. All the 'human' emotions. Being an angel, it seemed, didn't destroy these—perhaps it only suppressed it, when one was isolated, or attempting to lose oneself in the infinite, or whatever it was angels was supposed to do. Jack hadn't been informed of it, and he really had no idea or inclination as to how to start. Again, he'd found himself having to reexamine previously held conclusions about Heaven's motives. Perhaps he really was here as an apology (as much as that would hurt his pride), and everybody Higher Up was pretty mystified as to why he hadn't actually jumped Norrington's bones to relieve some of that... mouthwatering sexual tension. Ahem. Yes. As much as he was really tempted to test that theory (all in the name of research, really, since he wasn't getting much in the way of divine feedback)... there were consequences, weren't there? Seemed important, at the time—he just couldn't recall them right now, in the backdrop of Norrington's pained attempts to get himself back under control. And especially since Norrington had already pointedly taken a path that would allow Jack to be with him, and still have the necessary protection from Beckett—it seemed quite extraneous now, to continue to refuse him. Didn't it? "Sorry," Norrington finally muttered. Wardrobe door, steps, room door, fading steps. Jack tapped his fingers against the wall, lowered his head, and let out another breath. Pushed himself away, stretched out developing kinks in the wings. The balcony looked inviting. Jack, however, climbed up onto Norrington's desk, took out a fresh sheet of paper adorned with the crest of the Royal Navy, opened the inkbottle, dipped the quill into it and began doodling. Formless squiggles and deformed kitten shapes. A very, very bad sketch of his Pearl, and the paper was done for. Jack was in the midst of inflicting a drawing of the design of a Jolly Roger on the next unsuspecting piece of paper when the door opened. Footsteps, a wry chuckle. Warm arms around him and a chin on his shoulder—the smell of hot water, soap. Third piece of paper—a sketch of the sparrow tattoo on his arm, a terrible picture of Anamaria. The Jack-monkey. A pistol. Elizabeth, in boy's clothes, holding stick-fingered hands with William in his feather hat. Fourth piece. Jack wrote, 'When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat.
Yet fool'd with hope, men favour the deceit;
Trust on, and think tomorrow will repay.
Tomorrow 's falser than the former day' A whisper against his ear. "Dryden." A warm tongue, brief against the shell. " 'Fool, not to know that love endures no tie'." Jack wrote, 'Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?' A chuckle. "Easy. The Bard." Dreadlocks were parted, a kiss pressed into his neck, then, dryly, " 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day'?" Jack snorted. "Don't ye dare, mate. Predictable." Fingers took the quill away from him, placing it on the table, and he was turned, gently, to face the other man. "You're an educated man." "Could be," Jack smirked. Removed his hat, and put it on wet brown hair, then sea-urchin spine, belts. Shrugged off the coat, (convenient wings, that somehow managed to superimpose coat, muscle and feathers at the base—a feat of reality) and the vest, pulled off weathered leather boots, dumping those cavalierly on the ground. Norrington watched silently, his hands on Jack's thighs, kneading. Shirt followed the boots. Jack pulled one knee up onto the desk, displacing a warm hand, callused foot against the other joint, leaned back, rested one elbow on the leg, and beckoned with four fingers. Smirked again. Watched green eyes begin to smolder. Norrington leaned close. Pressed his nose to Jack's. Whispered, "I won't stop now, even if you tell me to." "Aye." Jack yelped as he was picked up bodily and dumped on the bed, on his front. He levered himself up onto his elbows, looking over his shoulder. Norrington was unbuttoning nightshirt, dropping it onto the ground. He pushed Jack down onto the bed, pressed a kiss to a shoulder, then began to explore the right wing's muscle and base with flicks of his tongue, nips, kisses, probing fingers. Jack arched with a moan, flattening feathers over the bed, then grabbed and pushed his face into a pillow as the other man proceeded to do the same thing to the other. Heat rubbing against his thigh. Breeches pulled to the knees, and a warm hand encircled his swelling prick, slow pumps. A pause, thumb running over the tip, then around the fleshy head. Too much sensation. Knees grinding into sheets, toes curling. Another hitching moan. The sounds of cloth, and the bed shifting as Norrington moved. An arm planted next to his shoulder, lips against his ear, a murmured apology. Spit-slicked fingers, the pillow pulled under his hips. Jack mewled, half-twisting, eager, then muttered an obscenity as he was firmly pushed back down. Another murmured apology, a third finger. A crook, and Jack hissed, back arching, wings flaring. "Did I..." "No." "But you..." "James, just fuck me now, damnit!" A soft intake of breath. Heat against his rump, and for the moment, far too much friction. Jack growled, pushing his hips up to meet it anyway. Clawed fingers into the sheets and grit his teeth. Pain would etch this first moment into his mind far longer than pleasure would. An oath, then there was a hand on his hip, the burn easing. Stillness, despite his best efforts, and a reproachful nip on a shoulder, then a slide to the hilt. So deep. A moan behind him, and another, less coherent oath. Jack turned his face from the pillow, saw the tremble in the hand beside his shoulder. And rolled his hips. A gasp, a growl, then another nip. "Jack." Strained. "Commodore." Irritably, "James." "It's going t'stay 'Commodore', if ye don't bloody start." A dry, choked laugh. Slow, deep thrusts. Wings arched to compensate, as Jack moved to meet them, against the rhythm, hissing out profanities, fingers digging into the mattress. Long fingers slipped back around his shaft, languid, squeezing pulls, rubbing leaked fluid out over the tip, into the pillow. Jack keened his frustration at the pace, then choked out another vulgar oath as angling hips found the perfect spot. Bliss. Made so much more visceral by the edge of pain. A completion too perfect to be anything, in this context, but profane. Another thrust, and Norrington relented. Sharper, shallower snaps of the hips, rougher pumps, intensifying waves of pleasure. Gasping cries (probably Jack), each shaping an obscenity in another language, and answering groans behind his back. A wing beat uselessly at the sheets, toes pushed into the mattress, back twisting, hands yanking at fabric. The edge. Another, hips grinding into his rump, and Jack came undone over the pillow with a harsh, wordless cry, clawing at sheets, feathers spasming uncontrollably. Boneless. Another, and another, and an intake of breath, then a low, trembling moan that seemed plucked from Norrington's soul. "Oh God... Jack." Jack rolled over when the other man pulled out. Smiled wryly when Norrington curled up against him and pulled him close, head resting against a nut-brown shoulder, blankets yanked up to his shoulder. Limp heat, sticky against a thigh. The stained pillow was pushed away. Evening breaths, then, wryly, "Broken every rule in the book yet?" "Probably still a few I haven't gotten around t'breakin', but m'workin' on it. Haven't been struck by lightnin' or summat yet, though." Jack was feeling dazed. Not just from the sex. He wasn't sure, right at this point, exactly what had made him give up his conviction. Green eyes so dark with pain, perhaps. Harsh breathing, and bowed shoulders. It'd have needed someone with far less heart than Jack to continue to refuse such desperation. "I'm surprised though. Terms." "Aye, well. S'pose they were only really guidelines," The pirate drawled. "'Sides, ye started it." Playful, if obviously weary. "Was it the poetry?" "Hell no." "Pity. That'd have been easy." "Just bloody sleep." "Mm." Fingers stroking through soft feathers at the base. "Do you? Sleep, I mean." "Don't need to." A yawn, chest expanding against his. "Would you be sore tomorrow?" "D'ye normally talk so much afterwards?" Sleepy, sated grins against Jack's throat. A murmur, "I'm just curious." "Ye can be curious in th'morning, mate." A frown, then a tightening grip. "You're not leaving, are you?" "What makes ye think that?" "The sudden preoccupation with me sleeping." Jack recalled Miyako's comment. "Suspicious sort." Snidely. "Yer getting wrinkles." A finger rubbed over Norrington's forehead. "It's all that skepticism ye hold within ye, mate." Another mumble, and Norrington lost the battle for consciousness. Jack twisted over to his front, and leaned his cheek against a palm. Folded a wing over the warm body that was just beginning to snore, and idly wondered how much trouble he was in right now.
Norrington was summoned to Beckett's office. He stood at ease, near the desk, while Beckett paced in a tight circle before the balcony, then finally stopped, facing the harbor. Jack leaned against the wall with the painted map, frowning. "You told them where the heart was." A shrug. "Didn't take it with you to Kingston?" No answer, though Jack felt that the temperature in the room had just became quite chilly. Then, "It would have been safer here than if it had been found on my person. Since no one else knew of it." "Your oversight," Norrington said witheringly. "You can't really have expected to trust me to keep my silence." "Not when faced with a better offer?" Coldly. Silence from Norrington. "Come now, Commodore. That rather puerile game you and the Tembury-Lysanders are playing was an obvious indication that you've been bought over. Don't be too trusting of their word and motive. They make quite the ruthless pair in these parts. Carved out a miniature empire of their own stretching to New Amsterdam, and being both so young." "And you, of all people, are giving me a warning?" A snort. "I just thought that perhaps you'd like to consider all the ramifications of your choice, Commodore. There used to be other East India Company Lords stationed in Montserrat, Kingston, Barbados. Now the only Lords around these parts other than myself are but here briefly on business." Absently. "The last Lord in Montserrat was found to have accidentally locked himself into his pet lion's cage. He was almost unrecognizable." "I still have yet to hear a better offer. And even so, I'm rather inclined not to accept one from you." After what you've done. A smirk. "When pawns lose their usefulness to me, I don't discard them. Once you've lost your usefulness to them... well. Don't buy pet lions, Commodore." Dryly. "No doubt they told you that they were investing in you? To be Admiral? Did you research their line? The Tembury-Lysanders and their various inbred relatives are heavily rooted in the Navy. No doubt they are already distantly related to all the Admirals employed by His Majesty." A yawn. Norrington walked over and slumped into one of the chairs, fiddling with the brocade on one heavy sleeve. "You'd have to forgive me if I'm unable to approach anything you say without a pinch of salt, Lord Beckett. And I still haven't heard any offer." Beckett turned, his lip curled into a smirk. "I propose we barter, Commodore. Your freedom from me—and hence the lack of a need to continue in your over-saccharine act with the Tembury-Lysanders. There is a book that they keep somewhere on the Stormy Petrel. My sources have informed me that its cover is the finest doeskin leather, but otherwise plain, heavily locked, and hidden somewhere difficult to find in a ship patrolled by assassins. Give me the location." "What's in that book?" Norrington asked, his natural curiosity aroused. "Perhaps it'd interest you, Commodore. It's a ledger of traded lives. A body count, among other details. Conquests, allies, enemies. A list of the various living properties of the Earl of Southsend." Dryly. "No doubt someday if you marry into their family you might get a page." Jack personally didn't think it believable that the twins would keep such an incriminating book—but he hadn't expected Beckett to leave the heart in Port Royal, either. Perhaps something about nobility pushed them towards oversight. "What do you want me to do, steal it?" "It's entirely up to your discretion, Commodore." A smirk. Norrington was frowning. "I'd think about it." "You may go," Beckett said absently. Just before Norrington reached the door, however, he added, "And you'd better find it fast, Commodore, before I discover who's been warming your bed, lately." A smirk. "Terms can so easily change." Norrington didn't look back—stalking out into the corridor, brushing past a tea-laden Mister Mercer.
The Commodore seemed distracted at dinner. Jack watched the twins exchange brief glances—and again with their practiced ease, they cut Norrington into a private room, this time in Governor Swann's residence. The study, it seemed—judging from the number of books and the disused desk. Lady Katherine perched on it, her brother at her side, as they faced the Commodore. The Earl was the first to speak. "I take it Lord Beckett has guessed at our game and extended a counter offer." "We're surprised at you, Commodore," Lady Katherine agreed. "We'd have thought you wouldn't want to have anything else to do with that man, after what he's likely done to you." "His offer doesn't involve me getting married," Norrington leaned against a bookcase wearily, fingers curled under a shelf. "Still worried about that?" Lady Katherine pouted prettily. "And we'd thought you were all for proceeding. Seeing as your... lover, whoever he was, is socially unattainable in that regard." At Norrington's raised eyebrow, she chuckled merrily. "Victor and I talked about it. It can't be a lady, even if she's attached, because I doubt you're one to concern yourself far too much about marrying down. And I personally can't really see you as the sort to commit adultery. So... it has to be a man. Hopefully not one of your marines?" Stiffly. "None of your business." "True. Forgive our idle speculation," the Earl agreed. "But of course, we'd be interested to know what Lord Beckett's offer is." Norrington ignored the veiled request. "He intimated that the both of you already have familial influence over the current Admirals." "Influence isn't a public affair, Commodore," Lady Katherine pointed out. "Marriage is." "And there's a distinction in consequences?" "Believe us when we say that is true," the Earl smiled. "Also, we need the marriage for other reasons, if you recall, outside of the issue of your potential Admiralty." "Even if you cannot find a rare man," Norrington said dryly, "You can probably frighten one into being so." "And risk scandal if he were ever to fall into a rival's hands?" the Earl countered. More gently. "What did Lord Beckett want, Commodore?" Norrington glanced up at the ceiling. "A book. Locked. Doeskin." Green eyes met the twins' stare. "Does it exist?" Lady Katherine smiled faintly. "Of course." She glanced up at her brother. An arched eyebrow from him, a little shrug from her, and a faint grin on both faces. "And we'd give it to you," the Earl added, "If you can somehow procure a more substantial agreement from Lord Beckett other than his given word to leave you be." Norrington blinked. "You will?" Narrowed eyes. "Why?" "Call it a token of trust," Lady Katherine said blandly. "Since you appear to need so very many of those. Or reward, since you've been playing your part quite well." Dryly. "Though, you know, Commodore, I was being farcical when I described what I wanted out of an act of courtship. I've enjoyed it, but Victor has observed that it was probably really difficult for you. You should really just talk to me as just another person, Commodore. As someone you'd like to know better. For our purposes, it'd be just the same." "So you'd give me the book if I can get something more... substantial from Beckett in the way of an agreement." "We'd give you our word, Commodore." The Earl said playfully. "Swear on our mother's name, if you'd like. We do, of course, want you to agree not to try and look inside the book, at any time. We don't want everybody to know our secrets, after all." "Somehow," Norrington drawled, "This sounds far too easy to be true." Lady Katherine shrugged one graceful shoulder. "Believe what you want, Commodore. The book is yours to trade with as you see fit, with the aforementioned stipulations. Whenever you're ready, just pass a brief note to Mister Bartleson—that tall, thin footman with the anxious tic in his jaw. I think I pointed him out to you before." Norrington opened his mouth to reply, then blinked when there was some sort of muffled uproar from the outside. The Earl frowned, and raised his voice a little, addressing the footman waiting outside. "What the devil? Bartleson?" A quiet voice from behind the door. "You might want to see this, sir."
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