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White Admiral 3
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"Where is he?" James was surprised to find the midshipmen Gillette and Groves, along with the Turner boy, on the Black Pearl, sans the Admiral. The boy held the white cat in his arms, petting it absently as it purred. Memory reminded James at this moment of Sparrow's tendency to squirrel himself away at the oddest locations, and he cast glances sharply around him, especially up at the rigging, even over the side. No distinctively sashaying, lithe form, though. "I haven't seen him all day." The midshipmen looked thoughtfully at him, as if wondering whether or not to answer his question, then at each other. Groves glanced down at his boots, tugging at the corner of his hat a little nervously. "Well, that's eh, well, is it important business, sir?" "It seems that Admiral Sparrow has forgotten to certify the Interceptor as a Naval ship assigned to his fleet," James said irritably. That dispatch hadn't been on the desk when he had been sorting out the mountain of paper—it had been under one of the couches in the attached lounge. It had been pure luck that James had seen it—he'd had to speak to an East India Company representative regarding projected patrols in the Admiral's glaring absence, and the man had dropped his cigar, which had rolled next to a suspiciously official-looking envelope under the couch. White cat hair, scratches and some teeth marks hinted at the nature of the culprit responsible. "As such, it looks as though I've somehow done away with my ship." "Er... well seeing as you've already been here a while, you could, um, wait a day longer, sir?" Gillette's placating smile was nervous. "Where. Is. The. Admiral," James growled. The Interceptor was not just a symbol of his authority, she was his first ship of command, and he had been through far too much in the Barbary Coast with her, lost men and spilled blood on her decks, limped back to port once too often, wondered if his last glimpse of the world would be her masts too many times. It went beyond sentiment. It was unthinkable that there could be any sort of scandal or impropriety, or even a hint of such, attached to the sleek ship. Gillette, Groves and Will took a collective step backward. Eventually, it was Will who spoke, in a small voice. "I saw him head up towards the church, sir. After breakfast." James blinked—of all places he had managed to find Sparrow whenever the man felt like shirking his duties (which was most of the time, despite his best efforts), the St Patrick Church had never been one of them. The man didn't even turn up for services on Sunday—instead apparently spending his time playing in rockpools on the beach some distance from the port (and getting bitten by all manner of strange creatures). However, the sudden twin expressions of horror with which Gillette and Groves were regarding the 'page' were better than any verbal testimony. "I see. The church." "You really don't want to disturb him today, sir," Groves said quickly. "It's April the Seventh. Just today." Pushed beyond annoyance by the amount of effort he had to go through simply to find the damned commander and get his own ship certified, James narrowed his eyes. "And why is that? What's so special about today?" "Er..." the midshipmen exchanged glances again, then Gillette studied his fingernails. "That's probably not our place to say, Lieutenant." "It's not an... assignation, is it?" James asked incredulously. As much as Sparrow seemed to flirt (sometimes blatantly, in fact) with just about every skirt that crossed his path, James had never seen him actually... court any. Not from any lack of willing from the women, but it simply appeared that the Admiral was as yet not ready to be tied down to issues of family. "No sir," Groves said, just as Gillette murmured, "Well, sort of." "Whatever it is," James clapped the mauled dispatch to the side of his coat in a curt rhythm, "He isn't off duty at the moment." He sharply on his heel turned to go. On the way off the gangplank, he heard Groves mutter "Can't say we didn't try to warn him."
The priest—an angular, ascetic man with watery gray-blue eyes and a hawk nose—pointed wordlessly in the direction of the graveyard when James entered the modest whitewashed building. James arched an eyebrow, then nodded his thanks, heading towards the wooden door that led to it. As he grasped the handle, however, the priest (the Reverend Dawson, James recalled) murmured "Remember to duck." He'd probably heard that wrongly. Frowning, trying to permutate a more comprehensible meaning, James stepped out onto springy, neatly trimmed turf marked with white and gray tombstones of varying shapes and age. Jack Sparrow sat on a sandstone marker in his dress coat and hat (still no wig, though—James often wondered what Jack had done to his wig), his back to the church, facing a plain white stone cross. From this distance, James couldn't make out the inscription. "Ye know, Lieutenant, I shot at the last man who disturbed me on this day," Sparrow said quietly, without turning around. "And who was that?" James asked, blinking. He had never seen the Admiral like this—so quiet, still, and serious. "And how'd you know it was me?" "The Reverend, quite a few years back. Thought I would like some tea," Sparrow said wryly. "He's never forgiven me, I think. As to yer other question, I don't know anybody else 'round hereabouts who'd dare t'come lookin' fer me this day." "Priests forgive, sir." James said, aware that his replies were getting more and more puerile. Honor dictated that he leave Sparrow to what was obviously an intensely private moment, but curiosity and wounded pride over the issue of his ship won over. Still, he approached with caution, at least until he could make out the name on the marker that the Admiral was facing. Mary Anneline Sparrow. The date of birth and death suggested a mother, rather than a wife or sister. Sunflowers lay in vibrant contrast at the base. James dipped his head, honor allying with guilt to push back the issue of the dispatch. "Sorry. I'd come back later." Sparrow murmured, "What did ye want? Important enough t'get one of me men t'tell ye where I was?" "No, I suppose not," James hid the envelope a little belatedly behind his back. Sparrow slipped off the marker, stepped to his side and took it from unresisting fingers, pulling out the first piece of paper from the sheaf in the envelope and glancing through it. "Ah. S'pose I could get a quill from the Reverend," Sparrow started towards the church. "Uh... no, it's quite all right, I'm sure it can wait a day," James said, making a grab for the paper, which was held out of his grasp. "I mean..." He inclined his head at the cross. Sparrow smiled faintly, without humor. "Eh, well, sometimes I wonder if she'd be proud of her son, runnin' away from work all the time." "Any mother would be proud of..." James trailed off lamely, again far too off balance, and this time via fault of his making. "Of a son makin' Admiral? I s'pose." Sparrow shrugged. "Guess I thought it'd would'a been what she wanted." A sigh. "S'pose ye'd be wantin' t'know why I take after her surname." James was indeed curious, but one didn't need to be well versed in court etiquette to know that it was the wrong question to ask at this moment. "No, sir." "Ye don't have a face suited t'lyin'," Sparrow leaned, for a brief moment, too much into James' personal space, making his heart skip a beat, peering at green eyes with unreadable dark ones, then wandering back and seating himself on the stone he had previously vacated, using the dispatch to fan himself. "I'd get this t'ye later." Recognizing a dismissal when he heard one, James retreated.
Sparrow wasn't in the Red Scabbard, which seemed far more subdued than usual—even conversation at various tables was muted. Following James' glance towards the counter, Groves said, "He doesn't come here today. Sits in the graveyard until midnight. Day-long fast." "His mother." James glanced at the midshipmen. "Guess we could tell you, since, well, you sort of escaped unscathed," Groves said slowly. "See, Port Royal used to be raided a lot, by pirates. Privateers. And pirates treat women... well they... uh..." "I see," James said flatly, before any sordid detail had to be voiced. That explained the maiden name. Sparrow likely recognized no father. "The older folk around here, some of them remember him," Gillette said, a little self-consciously, as if embarrassed to admit that he had been asking after private details of his commander. "Most people forget or don't really want to align him as he is now with the silent, pale son of the seamstress that used to have things thrown at him for having no father in, uh, the worst way. When his mother passed away on a seventh of April he joined the Navy and took a commission in Bombay. Suppose everybody knows the rest." An illustrious career marked by ingenious strategy, cunning and unassailable luck. Running away from his past, perhaps—then—and after that, inexplicably returning to his hometown and setting it up into the base of operations of the Royal Navy in the New World. "'Course, the official version nowadays seems to be between the Admiral being an illegitimate love child of the Duchess of York and a prince from the Continent, to a fey child born of a nun and a merman," Groves said absently. "Don't know where the last idea came from, but it was pretty popular last month or so." "He only grins when anybody asks him about it, though," Gillette added. "But he... the stories," James blinked. "Here, nearly every night. To the citizens. And I've seen him play with the children of the townsfolk—they follow him around if he happens to walk in the street, in daylight." Pulling at his coat, laughing and chanting 'Admiral Jack Sparrow! Admiral Jack Sparrow! The Luck of God! Find you pirates today?' A strangely endearing, warbling mantra that never failed to make Sparrow flash his gold-toothed smile. Children with skirts and trousers hiked up to their knees, crouched over rockpools, browned fingers always quick to grab any inquisitive little palms that may reach towards the more dangerous creatures. Staging cake heists so complicated that no doubt the baker would have been aware of the machinations, even if children could be persuaded to stop giggling in the act of mischief (turning a blind eye). Never any children aboard the Pearl, though. "I don't think it's really in his nature to, well, resent," Groves shrugged. "Maybe if someone did something to his Pearl—he's a little too obsessed with that ship—but things done to him personally? Never seen it. Also, he may hunt privateers, pirates, but he doesn't seem to... hate them. They're treated like any other prisoner, no torture or deprivation, up till they hang." "But he does take one day off every year to sit there and... think," Gillette nodded. "About the past, maybe. It's really a hot topic of speculation in the barracks." Dryly. "Used to be you could even bet with rumors over braag." James nursed his tankard of ale as he half-listened to the midshipmen reminisce over card games, and knew that every aspect of his personality dictated that he find a way to apologize more thoroughly to the Admiral.
Sparrow blinked owlishly when he saw James leaning on the section of lichen-conquered wall next to the gate of the church. It was shortly past midnight and the toll of the church tower's single bell. "Lieutenant?" Uncertainly. James held out a small hamper from the Cook at the fort kitchen, and a bottle of rum. Sparrow blinked again, more slowly, then carefully half-rolled the dispatch in his hands and stuck it into a coat pocket. He took the hamper, grinning when he unwrapped it to see a slice of cooling pie. Chicken, from supper. They strolled down towards the docks—James knew that Sparrow had no residence in Port Royal, and slept on his black ship—something that the marines and the citizens simply accepted as part of his innate eccentricity. "Ye didn't have t'do this." "I wanted to," James replied, listening to the slosh of the rum in the bottle he held echo every step. "I'm not angry at ye or anythin' for lookin' for me today," Sparrow continued, slightly muffled by mouthfuls of pie. "Just so ye know. I know how important a ship can be t'her Cap'n. In case those two midshipmen put any strange fancies in yer head. Worse than hens, they can be." "I know." A snort. "Yer an odd sort, Norrington." That got a faint grin. "I know. Sir." Silence until they walked into the deserted main street. Sparrow finished the pie. "Give that here," Sparrow took the rum from James—the lieutenant watched the other man's throat work, outlined by the dull amber from lamps hung intermittently along the road. When a quarter of the rum was gone, Sparrow spoke again. "Ye want me t'forgive ye." James nodded. "Nothin' t'forgive, is there?" A shrug. "Can see yer the sort who'd need to feel suitably penitent, aye?" A ghost of a mischievous grin that seemed far more like Sparrow's usual self. "Be as that may, Admiral," James arched an eyebrow. Sparrow's grin verged on a roguish leer. "An' ye'd do anythin' I want ye t'do? In the way of an apology?" As much as he was sure the other man was merely playacting to make him uncomfortable—perhaps to affect his resolve—James felt a frisson of warmth in his abdomen that had little to do with issues of honor. He nodded, not wanting to trust himself to speak. It was ridiculous, anyway, his sudden apprehension—Sparrow's manner about the fairer sex spoke loudly of the other man's preferences, at least on shore. Sparrow seemed to deflate, pouting. "'Tis no fun at all when ye agree like that. Could be I'd subject ye to all manner of indignity." "Anything you want, sir." James arched an eyebrow, steeling himself to agree to any outrageous ideas that the Admiral could come up with. "Ye have no idea what I may be referrin' to, d'ye," Sparrow asked mournfully. "That makes it even less fun." "No doubt if you explain what you want me to do..." James began patiently, but stopped when a finger was waved under his nose. "An' then ye go 'bout temptin' me," Sparrow said reproachfully. The scent of rum was beginning to wreathe the slighter man's swaying form. The Lieutenant closed his eyes and took a deep breath, for fortitude. "Admiral, as you said, I have no idea what it is you're trying to tell me to do." "Aye, aye," Sparrow took another deep draught of the rum. He pouted again, as if deciding between several options, then his shoulders slumped slightly—no doubt settling on one that wasn't his preference. James watched, uncomprehending, expecting to be told to engage in some sort of suitably eccentric prank. "An' ye did bring this food all the way. S'pose I'd let ye off easy. Say, storytellin' at the Red Scabbard for a week." "A week? I don't have that many stories!" "Anythin' I want, eh?" "... fine." James sighed. He supposed that he could really just talk to Gibbs whenever he started running out of tales. "Of things ye did in the Barbary Coast." "I don't have that many stories of..." James stopped when Sparrow arched an eyebrow. "...fine." "Getting late, an' I can make it t'me ship wi'out fallin' into the water," Sparrow paused once they were in sight of the harbor proper. "Where'd ye be bunkin'?" "There are spare rooms at the fort, it's close," James said, frowning when Sparrow pouted again. "What?" "Aw... nevermind," Sparrow flapped a hand at him absently. "Off wi' ye, then." Just as James had walked nearly out of earshot, he thought he heard, barely audible over the waves, a muttered "Anythin' I want, aye? Bugger."
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