E P Kitty (e_p_kitty) wrote in naval_threesome,
E P Kitty
e_p_kitty
naval_threesome

Pomme D'Ambre Part 2/3

Same Heading.

Same everything.

Different part.

Pomme D'Ambre 2/3

= = = = =

Two

= = = = =

On the twenty-fifth of December, James Norrington awoke to the sight of a drab silver sky.  He found that he liked for the light to wake him in the mornings, so the curtains were always drawn when he was at home.  His muscles – even his joints – ached as he rolled from bed, and he could have sworn he was too young for such pains.  His feet found the slippers placed at the side of his bed.  His arms found the dull white dressing gown hanging on the bedpost.  He glanced out the window to evaluate the sight of the shore and the fort.  With nothing amiss, he opened his bedroom door.

That was when he remembered it was Christmas.  His man stood there with the tea service on a silver tray, as he had for the past nine years at precisely five-thirty in the morning.  But he also carried a basket.  With a jaunty red bow affixed to the handle.

“Nelson.  What is that?”

“I believe it is your first Christmas present, sir.”  The stolid man with steel gray hair and steel gray uniform brushed by his master with little steps to set the tray upon the ready table where Norrington customarily took his tea.  The basket was set upon the dressing table beside the wig on its stand, for lack of any other flat surface in the austere room.

Norrington watched the aberration in his morning routine with shock.  “From whom?”

“From Lieutenants Gillette and Groves.  They bid you a Happy Christmas, sir, and await you in the drawing room.”

“The drawing room?  My drawing room?”

“That is the drawing room to which I was referring, yes sir.”  While Nelson’s dry sarcasm was always in evidence, Norrington never took offense, and both were content in their roles in the townhouse.

Norrington regarded the basket and then his servant.  “I’ll be down in forty minutes, as usual.”

“Very good sir.  Should I set out two more places for breakfast?”

“Oh, yes, quite.  Good idea, Nelson.”

“Sir,” he acknowledged with a tiny bow before retreating from the small bedroom.  Two young men with skin black as night came into the room then, toting four buckets of water, two hot and two cold, which were poured into the small copper basin in the corner, with a bit of hot water poured into the ceramic pitcher beside it and also in the small standing wash basin by the door.  As they performed their daily duties, Norrington sat at the little table and sucked down two cups of tea, each with generous helpings of sugar.

After they left, Norrington stripped himself to nothing and squatted in the tub.  There was almost enough room to sit.  His knees protested the position every morning, and just like every other morning, Norrington ignored the complaint.  He bathed briskly with a rough cloth and imported soap until his skin was rubbed pink.  Then he knelt naked on the hard wood floor and bent over the basin, washing the waving brown hair that hung almost to his shoulders.  The pitcher of warm water set to one side he dumped over his head to wash away the last of the suds.

A towel hung upon a rod on the wall in the corner that shared space with the basin.  Norrington wrapped it round his head and squeezed and squeezed until his hair was only damp.  Then he briskly rubbed himself down, chasing away the chill wetness of the bath. 

Even as a child, Norrington had shunned any assistance in dressing, stating emphatically to his mother that a man who could not dress himself could not possibly hope to accomplish much in the world.  That was before he was acquainted with the frippery of military affluence.  Sometimes he felt like a knight of old hopelessly attempting to don a suit of armor without a page to attend him.

Away from the window behind a plain white standing screen, his uniform was hung, folded, and laid out in its many pieces.  First, he slung on the white silk shirt that hung low about him and fastidiously buttoned the frilled cuffs.  Then he pulled on white cotton drawers and tied the drawstring and buttoned the flap after tucking in the silk shirt.  Pristine white breeches followed, buttoned into proper place just below the waist.  Then he rolled on the thick white hose that came up over his knees.  He buttoned the breeches at the knees to hold up the hose.  He slipped on the shiny black shoes and adjusted the gold buckles on their tongues.  He tied on the white cravat with barely a thought to the knot.  Then he sat at his dressing table and twisted his hair up into place with pins and pomade and placed the neatly coifed white wig overtop and pinned it in place.  The long brocade waistcoat came next.  His belt wrapped round his waist and snapped together with a gold buckle.  He examined both sword and pistol before they were set to grace his person.  He pulled on the blue brocade coat after a cursory examination that buttons and braid were complete and tightly affixed.  Last, he perched the three-cornered black hat trimmed with white feathers atop his wigged head.

He had never bought into the powders and perfumes popular with the bloated and self-satisfied officers fresh from the Old World.  He only dabbed an ointment on his lips to protect from the wind and washed his hands a final time in the compact, standing basin by the door. 

All the time, the basket stood near, a tantalizing scent spilling forth.  Norrington could no longer ignore the gift and he removed the plaid napkin covering, revealing a half-bushel of small, sweet oranges.  Caught off guard, he froze a moment, but then plunged a hand in to grasp one.  He closed his eyes and held it to his nose for long moments, inhaling. 

He frowned and intended to return it to the basket, but in the end, he tucked it into a pocket, with barely a bulge to betray him.

He left not by way of the hall but through the sliding door to his study, where he checked a new stack of papers.  He signed what was pressing and passed these to the boy that waited in the hallway.  “The first to the Governor, the others to Captain Rooney at the Fort.  Nelson will pay you at the door.”

The boy, who’d been receiving just such duties for years from this man, pulled a quick, inelegant bow and dashed off down the hallway, in a hurry to be done with his duties before the Christmas dinner was laid out on his table at home. 

Norrington descended the narrow steps and at ten after six precisely, he set foot on the first floor.  His black shoes clicked on the white tiles of the small reception room and then thwacked on the dark wood of the drawing room. 

“Commodore!” Groves said with a grin.

“Commodore Norrington!” Gillette said, standing up.

“Happy Christmas!” they chorused.

Norrington halted abruptly at the edge of the old rug that took up most of the fair-sized room.  “Yes… Happy Christmas, gentlemen.  I thank you for your thoughtful gift.  Won’t you join me for breakfast?”

“Be delighted!”

“Very kind…”

= = = = =

Most mornings were quiet.  The only newspaper printed in Jamaica would be waiting beside the single place-setting at the small table in the moderately-sized and minimally decorated dining room.  If there were any papers from England come over on a new ship, he might get month-old news.

On Christmas morning, three settings seemed to crowd the table, and his guests fought over the single copy of the Port Royal Gazette like boys over a new toy. 

The clinking of a single set of silverware was refined and lonely.  With Groves and Gillette added to the scenery, it was a veritable cacophony of clinks, clanks, and chimes.

And the usual emptiness of breakfast was filled with conversation and laughter.

When he first sat down to eat, he felt a stranger in his own home.

By the time the plates were cleared, he was smiling.

When Norrington realized this, the expression drained away, and his guests pretended not to notice.

“So, where are you off to this fine Christmas morning, Norrington?” Gillette asked, dropping the title in the more personal setting.

Norrington considered his watch and said, “My first order of business today is to pay my respects to the Governor.”

“Why that sounds just grand,” Gillette marveled.  “Doesn’t it, Groves?  Doesn’t that sound just grand?”

“Aye,” Theodore agreed sardonically, “grand.”

Norrington eyed both of them critically.  “Hm.  Yes, and speaking of which, it’s gone seven; I should be on my way.”

“Oh, of course!” Groves said, standing at once, carefully pushing his chair in.

“Right-o,” Gillette agreed, also standing, though with a bit more decorum, a bit less puppyish enthusiasm.

Norrington again examined his lieutenants, as though suspicious of their sanity.  Eventually he attributed the oddities in behavior to the nervousness of young gentlemen in a strange setting.  “Would you like to accompany me on the errand?” he offered, as a matter of courtesy, not expecting the invitation to be accepted.

“Love to!”

“Spot on!”

“Great fun!”

“Let’s go!”

= = = = =

So it was, Norrington found himself ordering a carriage instead of for his horse to be saddled.  Upon the arrival of the closed black coach, he led the way down the short steps to the road.  Before climbing the step into the darkness of the device, he turned and once more regarded his lieutenants.  “Don’t… you two have somewhere to be?”

They exchanged conspiring looks and Groves finally confessed, “Actually sir, we were, uh, hoping to be somewhere with you today.  Commodore.”

Norrington quickly turned away and climbed into the carriage, but that was surely not the way to escape the conversation.

Groves and Gillette climbed eagerly in to sit side by side, facing the Commodore with little smiles as the coach jolted merrily along.  “After all,” Gillette took up the thread, “you don’t have any family here—”

“And Gillette,” Groves spoke up, “you have very little family here—”

“And you,” Gillette told Groves, “you don’t have any family at all.”

“Quite right.”

“And in any case,” Gillette went on, “we’re all men of means and men of the military.  We should celebrate somehow, and together as well.  Don’t you think so, Sir?”

“I hate parties and I don’t like Christmas.”

Smiles and excitement fell away from bright faces like snow from heavy clouds.

“Yet you seem unduly motivated to keep me occupied.  And… I have no objection to letting you.”

= = = = =

With Norrington’s admission in the coach, Groves and Gillette knew the first steps of their plan were a success, and it was a true effort to keep their smiles to themselves.

Governor Swann was obviously pleased to see the Commodore, and also received the Lieutenants with open-handed grace, offering a glass of mulled wine to each of his guests and taking one for himself once the four men were settled in the parlor of the Governor’s mansion.  “It is a delight to see you this morning, Commodore, and your friends as well.  It’s so good to see you…” he tried to think of a kind way of saying ‘not alone’ and ended up stumbling over, “out and about…”

“Aye,” Gillette immediately cut in with his practiced pomposity, “we called upon him early to surprise him for Christmas with a basket of fresh oranges, and intended upon a game of cards or some such amusement, for we all know he works too hard and if we didn’t occupy him, his paperwork would.  But when he said he was calling upon you this morning, Groves and I thought it sounded a lovely outing and insisted upon accompanying him. 

“Yes,” Norrington dryly agreed, “though I am unaccustomed to my Lieutenants talking about me as though I am not present.”

At once contrite, a blush rose on Gillette’s fair cheeks and he slouched in his seat.

Groves took over with ease.  “My friend hasn’t a head for wine this early in the day, I’m afraid,” he said as an aside to the Governor, who was immensely amused at the goings on in his parlor.  “But we surely thank you for your generosity,” he said, lifting the delicate glass in acknowledgment.  “Not every young officer has the privilege of sharing his first Christmas drink with the Governor!  And the Commodore as well,” he added, lifting his glass in Norrington’s direction.  “I say,” he exclaimed, “you can’t know how we look forward to the ball tonight, Governor Swann.  You have made a friend of every bluecoat in the Navy by extending the invitation to all the officers!”

“I am glad to hear it,” Governor Swann said with a smile.  “I’m not young anymore,” he said as though the confession was a secret, “but it gives me great delight to see so many young people happy, especially during the holidays.  I’ll admit I miss the English winters, but even the Caribbean heat cannot spoil our celebrations I think.”

“No indeed,” Gillette found the nerve to speak up again.  “The seas have been quiet, the ports equally so, and all society worth mixing with longs for the release.  A bit of dancing, a fine dinner… nothing could be better for this Christmas, Governor, than your holiday party!  I hope you’ll be passing the pomander tonight.”

“Passing the pomander?” Norrington asked.

Finding three confused looks aimed his way, Gillette smiled and relished displaying his knowledge, as usual.  “Yes, from the French for pomme d’ambre or apple of ambergris, the clove-studded oranges you know as fashionable trimmings have been adapted into a new tradition in America.  Have you not heard?  They pass one from hand to hand around the room at a party from boy to girl, each exchange including a kiss.  When you pass the kissing ball, you eat one of the hundred cloves from it and the person who gets the last kiss and last clove gets a wish!  Which will come true, of course.”

Norrington still looked confused, Groves looked worried, and Swann looked delighted.  “How charming!  What an idea!  I’ll have one of the servants attend to it at once.  I say, Sellers,” he said, turning to address the man standing at the door.  “Did you hear that?  Have them make a kissing ball for tonight.  What a lark!  What a grand idea!”

= = = = =

Gillette and Groves skipped down the steps from the mansion, Norrington following them at a more sedate pace.

“I hope we didn’t embarrass you, Sir,” Groves said with a bemused smile, looking over his shoulder to address his commander.

“Not excessively, Mister Groves.”

“Oh good,” Gillette piped up.  “So where are we off to next?”

Norrington halted and the three men stood together just before the black carriage.  I” he stressed the word “am going to pay a visit to the Turners.”

Groves and Gillette just looked at him.

In his greatest show of emotion of the day, Norrington sighed, rolled his eyes, shook his head and said, “You, of course, are welcome to accompany me, if the idea appeals to you.”

“Indeed it does,” Gillette agreed.

“I was planning on offering them a ride to church…” Norrington hinted.

“Oh, we can ride on top,” Groves suggested at once, gesturing to the seat atop the black box.  “Not a problem at all.”

“Not at all,” Gillette agreed.  “Shall we, then?”

= = = = =

“Commodore!” was Elizabeth’s shouted greeting of glee and astonishment.  “Misters Grove and Gillette as well, oh do come in; you are most welcome.  Will!  Guests!”

The three men ducked into the small home attached to the smithy, removing black hats to reveal white-wigged heads, which seemed bright in the dark, fire-lit room.

Will stepped into the front room from the back with a white bundle in his arms.  “Welcome, gentleman,” he said with a smile.  “Please have a seat, if you can find one…”

“Will!” Elizabeth chastised, taking the baby from his arms.  “Of course there’s room.  It is good of you to visit; you must be so busy today.”  She sat in the rocking chair Norrington had given them upon the birth of their child and the Navy men sat in the plain, sturdy chairs for which Elizabeth had stitched covers.  That left Will without a seat, but he didn’t mind and stooped to stoke the fire that crackled happily in the hearth. 

“Oh James,” Elizabeth said, unable to stop smiling, “thank you so much for your gifts.”

Norrington visibly blushed but didn’t have the heart to ask her to call him anything else, and his two companions regarded him with interested looks.

Will glanced up from his place at the hearth and caught the lieutenants’ expressions.  “The beautiful chair my wife sits in was a gift from the Commodore.”

They looked at the delicate carving upon the back of the chair over Elizabeth’s neatly coifed head.  They hmmed and ummed their approval and Elizabeth immediately stood up and plopped the baby down in Norrington’s arms.  “Hold her, won’t you, James,” she asked far past the point when Norrington could protest. 

He swallowed thickly and tried to cradle the thing without crushing it.

“Oh, you’ve got to pull her closer to your chest,” Gillette advised, leaning forward to adjust blue clad arms.

“You should have taken your coat off first,” Groves suggested, despite Norrington’s inability to have done so. 

He shot a dirty look at them and paled when the thing began to cry.  “O-O-Okay, you’d better take it back,” he said, standing.

But Elizabeth had disappeared to collect tea from the kitchen.  Taking pity on him, Will stood, ready to retrieve the child.

“Oh, may I hold her?” Gillette interjected.

“Of course,” Will answered, stepping back, watching with curious amusement as Gillette stood and threw off his coat to easily take the child into his arms.  “I’ve had dozens of babies in my family over the years.  Younger brothers and sisters, cousins, and now nieces and nephews.  We’ve always had babies around… but not in the Fort,” he was now addressing the babe, “do we?  No!  No babies in the Fort… and a shame it is, too.”

Elizabeth pushed past the curtain into the main room.  She set the tray upon the little table and began pouring out tea, smiling at the scene in her living room.

“Tea!” Groves exclaimed.  “Thank you very much!” he praised, as though tea were the most thoughtful and precious gift she could have given.

“You’re welcome, Mr. Groves,” Elizabeth said.

Gillette retook his seat close to Theodore and asked, “Would you like a go?” as if the child were a rare amusement.

“Yes, indeed, if the lady permits…?”

“Oh yes,” Elizabeth said, handing a cup and saucer to the Commodore.  “Go right ahead.”

So the babe, no longer crying, was handed over, and Groves cooed and fussed as much as was appropriate.  “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Jacqueline.  And a Happy Christmas to you.”

The child was then back in her father’s arms as the rest took their tea.  Once everyone had settled, Norrington said, “Mr. and Mrs. Turner, I would like to invite you to ride with me to church this morning in the coach I’ve ordered.”

While Will looked hesitant, Elizabeth agreed at once, “Oh that’s too kind of you; we’d love to!”

“Won’t your father—” Will began but Elizabeth hushed him at once.

“No, he’s grown absent-minded; he’ll have forgotten all about us.”

“We should send word anyway,” Will insisted.

“Of course,” Groves agreed.  Being closest to the door, he set his tea down and approached the entrance.  “I’ll send a man,” he offered and stepped outside to the coachman, who rode with a boy to attend the horses and baggage and who could be sent with a message to the Governor.

= = = = =

By virtue of their distinction, the Governor and his family sat in the first pew of the small church, with just enough room for Norrington and his two companions, who managed to situate themselves either side of the Commodore despite Elizabeth’s obvious machinations to gain a seat beside her former fiancé.  Groves, who ended up between Norrington and Mrs. Turner, could tell that Elizabeth still felt guilty and wanted to remain a friend to the Commodore, but he could also tell that such attentions only embarrassed Norrington, who would just as soon keep a friendly distance.

Theodore felt bad for both of them, but couldn’t make out a ready way to help the situation.  He could see that Will Turner and even the Governor tried to rein Elizabeth in, but there was no holding that woman back when she was determined.

Baby Jacqueline was quiet in her mother’s arms for most of the hour, and the Governor finally seemed to have embraced young Will as a son-in-law, bonding over the little child.

Norrington was disenchanted with the service, standing and sitting by rote, mouthing the words in a barely audible voice, and singing as quietly as possible.  Andrew Gillette, who’d had formal training in years gone by, belted out the old Christmas tunes in a stunning baritone, while Groves sang just as loud and only slightly off-key in a charming tenor.

Norrington – who often felt out-of-place at church – found himself buffered by the two men who stood firm to either side, men who passed no judgment and who enjoyed the service with quiet appreciation. 

By the time the congregation filed out into the afternoon sunlight amidst joyous calls of Happy Christmas and rollicking renditions of songs about figgy pudding, Norrington felt a strange and welcome calm that he hadn’t known in a long time.  He let his lieutenants usher him out a side door, thereby avoiding the Turners and most everyone else, and down the street to where their carriage waited.

The inside was hot due to the black exterior, so Gillette opened the windows while Groves surreptitiously ensured that Norrington was comfortable with a pillow to prop him up as he leaned unconsciously against the side of the coach.

“So, where are you off to next?” Gillette wondered in a voice quiet enough not to disturb the calm.

“The Fort.”

Groves leaned out his window and knocked the side of the coach.  “Fort Charles.”

The carriage lurched into motion and Norrington sightlessly watched the scenery pass by.  “I don’t know if you care to come with me,” he told them, “but I’m sure your input would be invaluable.”

“We’d be glad to attend you, sir,” Groves assured him.

= = = = =

They walked the ramparts, pulling their hats low on their heads to combat the wind that blew off the ocean.  The seas were frothing, but not dangerous, and they spent some minutes watching the merchant ships at work.  They inspected the guns for signs of wear and greeted the skeleton of men distributed throughout the halls and upon the crenellated towers.  The redcoats worked short shifts on Christmas, and all would get a chance to spend time with friends or family on Christmas day.  Still, for all the spirit that infused them, none shirked their duties.  All the men they encountered were sober and alert, eager to wish a nervous Happy Christmas to the Commodore, whose respect and admiration they worked so hard to obtain.

As usual, there was nothing out of place, nothing detrimental to the running of the Fort, but there was always work to do, and Norrington busied himself for an hour in his office, accomplishing a good deal with the aid of his eager helpers. 

A bell tolled in the Fort, and Gillette was eager to pipe up with, “The party starts in two hours, Commodore.”

“Don’t remind me,” he muttered, pushing aside the last bit of parchment.  “I bloody well wish I didn’t have to bloody well go.”

Theodore and Andrew exchanged looks at what – for James Norrington – was an outright temper tantrum.

“We don’t have to stay long,” Groves suggested.  “Just put in an appearance, say a few hellos, drink a glass of champagne and retreat.  No one will even notice.”

“Oh?  Are you to hold my hand all the way through the ball as well?  Don’t think I haven’t noticed what you’ve been doing.”

Nervous hearts fluttered at the accusation.

“And what have we been doing?” Andrew asked.

“I don’t need looking after,” Norrington said, standing from his chair, radiating the authority he seemed to have been born with, like all good officers.

“You do,” Andrew said.  Calmly.  With his own understated authority.  For the first time, he refused his commanding officer outright.  “You need friends, I think.  And we like you.  Theodore and I.  And we worry about you, tucked up alone in your little house with no one to cheer you.”

Norrington’s face darkened, like clouds scudding over the sun.  “So you pity me.”

“No,” Gillette insisted.  He knew the words that wanted to follow this denial were inappropriate, and that no one in the room was ready to hear them, even if they longed to be said.  Instead, he declared, “I said you need friends.  That was incorrect.  I meant to say we already are your friends, James Norrington, and this is what friends do.  Come on, Theodore.”  His last address to Norrington was, “We’ll pick you up in an hour and one half.”

Norrington watched them darken his door and disappear into the gray of the Fort beyond.

= = = = =

Back in their shared dorm room, Andrew and Theodore freshened themselves by stripping to the waist and wiping away the sweat of the day.  They changed into fresh shirts, had their wigs powdered by one of the servants, and were nervous the whole time.

“We can’t do this,” Andrew finally muttered, despite his earlier bravery.  “It’s too soon.  I know you want to crack open that exterior, Teddy, but we can’t break him.”

“You think we’ll break him?” Theodore asked.  “He’s not so weak as all that.  He might toss us out on our ears tonight, but he won’t string us up.  And if he lets us into his bed, I don’t think he’ll be stupid enough to regret it in the morning.”

“Do you love him?” Andrew asked then, outright, not holding anything back as his bright auburn hair curled haphazardly over his brow, dark brown eyes hard and shining in the lamplight, mouth tight and nervous.

Theodore regarded him carefully, evaluating.  “Do I love James Norrington?” he asked, casually tucking in his white silk shirt and eyeing the flickering shadows cast on the ceiling.  He laughed, not harshly but with self-deprecation and resignation.  “I suppose I do,” he admitted.  “Just as much as I love you, Andrew.  Do you think that’s possible?  To have enough love for two people?”

“I should imagine it is, oui,” Gillette said softly, “for I feel the same.”

“I thought as much,” Groves said.  He smiled and went on, “I thought you might betray us too early, there at the Fort.”

Gillette finally laughed and said, “Moi, aussi.”

= = = = =

End Part 2

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