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For Want Of A Nail
Disclaimer: I don't own the stuff that belongs to the Mouse. In this chapter, Mrs. Perry alone is mine.
Originally Posted: 4/7/04
Summary: 'What happened last... oh.'
"What," Norrington breathed, his eyes widening in panic as he took in Jack sprawled out beside him, "happened last... oh." He trailed off in a moan of pain as his splitting head made itself known. Jack muttered unintelligibly, eyes still closed, and kicked at him. Tasting cotton in his mouth, Norrington shielded his eyes with both arms as the streaming sunlight hit him. "Serves you right," said Jack. Norrington cracked one eye open to peek at him; Jack's face was stony and unforgiving. He forced his thoughts to focus, trying to remember. Had something happened—was Jack looking at him like that because he'd been no good at whatever had happened...? The brandy—he recalled the stinging taste of it, the feel of the cool glass bottle against his lips. And he remembered dirt under his nails, digging, burying his cat. After that—that was when the brandy had come about, fueled by sadness and the welcome prospect of a companion to share it with. After that it became a bit fuzzier. Jack shifted into a sitting position beside him, eyes narrowed and fixed on Norrington's face. "Think hard," he muttered. "Very hard." Jack pressed firm against him, mouth warm and pliant under his own, tasting of sweet wine... And then a great big blank. "Nothing... nothing happened?" he managed to get past parched lips. Jack snorted contemptuously. "Believe me, Commodore, if somethin' had happened, you'd still be feeling it." The color that had drained from Norrington's face when he remembered the heated kissing came rushing back. Jack thrust the blankets at him as he stood, swaying slightly more than usual and clutching his head. "Bloody unfair," he groused, the level of his voice rising to a near-shout that made Norrington wince and dive under a pillow. "I don't even bother to get good and drunk, but I'm still saddled with a sore head." He glared at Norrington as though this was all his fault. Really, it had been Jack who'd suggested drinking in the first place. What right did he think he was exercising by being cross about it the morning after? "Why are you angry with me?" Norrington demanded. Jack advanced on him, leaning over his prone body. "Because you're stupid," he hissed. "You're stupid and you're pathetic and you're a ruddy coward, and I don't want to talk to you." With that declaration, he stalked out of the room. His own door slammed three times, seeming to drive nails into Norrington's skull with each blast, before it finally stayed shut. He was still for a second before he decided that, pounding head and shaky knees or no, Jack was not going to get the last word on this. "What the hell was that about?" he bit out as he yanked Jack's door open. Jack whirled, squaring his shoulders and planting his feet in a fighter's stance. "Get out!" "I will not! This is my house! And how dare you treat me like—" "Look, your precious Navy arse is safe and untouched, so if you'd be so kind as to leave me alone, I would love to catch up on the sleep I missed last night listening to whine about your sad little life." Norrington's mouth opened and closed a few times before he managed to tighten the rein on his anger a bit. He pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. When he spoke again, his voice was calmer. "I—I suppose I owe you gratitude for not taking advantage in my state of—" "Ha!" Jack's sudden burst of laughter was harsh. "Taking advantage, you say? Let me tell y'something, Commodore, I would have been doing no such thing. Last night you were begging me for it, mate." "Begging—you lying, self-absorbed wretch—" "Aye, begging," Jack continued as if he hadn't spoken, eyes storming, "and more fool I for saying no, since God knows you could use a decent buggering. 'Course that's only if you're still capable of feeling an'thing under that stiff 'n proper uniform—" "Feeling?" Norrington snapped. His hands had clenched into fists at his sides. "Are you actually entertaining the absurd notion that I could ever have feelings for a thieving rake such as yourself?" "Oh no," Jack spat out, "that was never what this was about. I may have wanted to fuck you—" His eyes glinted in triumph as Norrington flinched at the harsh language. "But you're useless for anythin' else. Y'do what you're told and that's all you do, and you mean nothing to anyone with a scrap of humanity left." "And you're fit only for the crows to peck at Gallows Point!" "So hang me then!" Jack bellowed, before his eyes widened with surprise as his legs gave way and he dropped onto the bed. Without a single thought Norrington was beside him, guiding him back against the pillows. His skin was a cheesy pale color and he closed his eyes the minute his head fell on soft down. "Jack?" he said, choking on the bitter taste their mutual vitriol had left in his mouth. Shoving his hands away, Jack flopped over onto his side. "Go." He still sounded angry, if a little less vehement about it. Norrington wavered, one hand on Jack's shoulder. "Don't, Gabriel. Just... leave me." The half-formed apology on his lips fled when Jack pointedly recoiled from his touch, and hot fury, cooled at the sight of Jack's strength faltering, surged forward once again. "Fine," he said shortly. He slammed the door behind him, forgetting about his aching head until the crash echoed through the hallway. Clasping his skull in both hands, he sank down against the wall and tried to breathe normally. Of all the—Sparrow was the most insufferable, incorrigible—should have let him hang—should have let him rot— He needed to get away. He could no longer think in this house. Norrington was not good at making split-second decisions. He liked deliberation, he liked planning, and he liked to go in to a situation with all logical outcomes carefully weighed in his mind. But he was in pain, in more ways than one, and he was angry. And it was not the first time in his life he'd thought to solve a problem by leaving it to its own devices. Just as he was nodding to himself, Mrs. Perry came warily around the corner. "Commodore Norrington, sir? I heard yellin'..." Norrington got to his feet slowly, feeling a weight lift off of his shoulders. "I do apologize if we frightened you, Mrs. Perry." "We, sir?" "Perhaps I'd better explain...".
~~~Jack, meanwhile, decided to blame his trouble on his pillows. He tore apart the first with shaking hands, satisfied by the ripping sound and downright giddy from the feathers bursting all over the bed. The second he knocked around a bit before gritting his teeth and destroying it as well. "Bloody—stupid—Commodore," he growled, tearing at a corner of the pillow with his teeth and spitting out fluffy down. When he was done, the bed and his skin littered with feathers, he sat back against the headboard, panting from exertion and clutching his throbbing head. His abstinence from drink during his illness must've caused the wine to affect him more than it should have. That would do wonders to help explain his ridiculous behavior. He'd had a drunken, squirming, practically naked Norrington in his lap and he had done nothing about it. He should have taken him. He'd wanted to take him. If he had just been able to concentrate on the man he'd been kissing, it would not have been a problem. But he'd kept seeing the idiot as he must have—might have—been years ago, on the crossing from England, at a drafty English academy with that red-headed boy he'd been licked for, surrounded by little green-eyed sisters. And he saw him as he was now, playing with his cat, watching Jack spin a tall tale, the look on his face when Elizabeth had rejected him all those months ago. Jack didn't notice abruptly falling asleep, but he woke some hours later with the same damned headache and a new inkling of regret. He could tell himself all he liked that buggering Norrington while he wasn't lucid enough to think better of it was for the man's own good, but the sudden attack of conscience he'd had told him otherwise. The rage he'd directed at Norrington earlier had merely been his own anger at himself, at the knowledge that he'd done something right for a change and it had cost him what he wanted. The hurt in those wide eyes had been gratifying at the time, but now the memory only shamed him. He glanced out the window. It was a bit past noon and Norrington ought to be back soon with a spot of lunch. Jack would swallow his pride and— "Apologize," he said aloud, testing the sound of it. It had a sour taste, but maybe that was just his own breath. A rattle outside the door announced the arrival of a tray and, presumably, the Commodore. Jack sat up straight and fiddled with what had once been a fine lady's earring in his hair. What came through the door was not a tall, handsome Commodore, but rather a short, older woman balancing the tray competently on one ample hip. Jack stared. "Well, well," said the woman with a thick common accent, "so this'd be the famed Captain Jack Sparrow." She ran critical eyes over him. "Angry puppy indeed, laddie." Jack blinked a few times, but the apparition didn't go away. Instead she came over and set the tray down next to his bed, fussing with some soup and bread. "Wouldn't my Martin be pleased to hear 'bout you, now, if th' Commodore hain't sworn me to secrecy." "Where is he?" Jack burst out. The woman clucked her tongue sympathetically. "He's gone out t' sea, left near an hour ago. Put you in my care for so long 's he's gone—" He struggled to get up, his limbs suddenly weak. With a hum of disapproval, the woman easily held him down. "The Pearl," he cried, "I have to get back to 'er..." Fleshy hands were laid upon his face and he tried to wriggle away from them. "Oh dear, love, ye're burnin' up. How long's it been like this?" The suffocating sense of fever overtook him once again, the familiar ache and burn. He let the woman lay him back against the remains of the pillows—"Now why'd ye go and do a thing like tha', eh?"—and turned his face to the side. Norrington had left. Just like that, not a word of goodbye, not a single word. He'd gone where Jack couldn't go, and most wanted to. shut his eyes against the light in the room.
~~~Norrington stood on the deck of the Dauntless with his hands clasped behind his back, surveying the preparations. His men were clearly happy to be at sea again, and it was a feeling he tried to share. He wondered if Jack was awake right now, if Mrs. Perry was explaining matters to him. He was under no illusions that the pirate would still be there when he got back. He'd probably leave before the day was out; he wasn't so sick that he couldn't survive a few weeks abed in his own cabin. The thought was alarming and Norrington felt ridiculous. Of course he'd have to leave sometime. The notion of Jack staying anywhere for long was absurd, and the notion that he'd stay with Norrington was not even worth mentioning. He didn't want to stay; Norrington most certainly did not want him to stay. And yet when he closed his eyes he could see the inviting smile flash at him—for him—no one had ever looked at him the way Jack looked at him— He's not yours, a cruel voice in his head whispered. To keep him would be to break him, and to give up everything you've spent your life working for. No smile, however sweet, was worth that. No pair of black eyes, no pair of scarred skillful hands, no slim tanned body, no amount of easy laughter... It was only his body wanting Jack, and as his body had betrayed him in the past, there was no reason to trust it. No reason at all.
Chapter 8 ::
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