First in a tentative "Five Ways James Norrington Never Married" set. Thanks to woolymonkey and the_stowaway for comments on the draft. (Apologies to Margaret Mead for the title.)
Sex and Temperament in the Primitive World
James Norrington's sole consolation, as he reflected on the exceedingly sorry state of affairs in which he seemed to have found himself, was that a marriage ceremony performed against one's will by the chief of the Bugaluru tribe was unlikely to be recognized under British law.
As far as consoling thoughts went, however, this was rather a poor one. He was contemplating potential avenues of escape — none of which appealed greatly, and several of which involved his probable death, which was arguably still preferable to the alternative — when his putative spouse arrived on the scene.
"Now, then," came a cheerful and all-too-familiar voice from the doorway of the palm-frond shelter, and James groaned as Jack Sparrow's dreadlocked head swayed into view. "Where's me blushing bride?"
Apparently Jack Sparrow objected to the idea of his new "wife" departing this charming little lovenest before their honeymoon had properly commenced. Apparently, for he was making himself a nuisance as only he knew how — chattering and leering in his usual disgusting fashion — not to mention standing squarely in the doorway to block James' egress. He began to wonder how deep the wall-posts were driven into the ground — whether tunnelling out was a viable possibility —
Sparrow seemed to be changing tacks. He gave an exaggerated sigh, and slung an arm around James' shoulders. "Where we headed, then, love?"
James attempted to shrug off the offending arm. "I, not we. I am going out," he replied, gritting his teeth.
"Indeed. As in, away from this place. As in, anywhere but here."
"Where's to go, pet? Those young gentlemen out there with the pointy sticks aren't just for show, you know. They mean to see that we stay here for the week, that we" — his eyes flashed as he hit upon the perfect metaphor — "that we do our duty."
"Our duty." He can convey a world of disdain with a single eyebrow. It is an art.
"So to speak, yes."
"Well, when you put it that way — no."
Sparrow threw up his hands. "Really, Commodore, I can't believe an upstanding young officer like yourself would begrudge these fine people a little well-deserved rain. Where's that sense of brotherhood with your fellow man, eh?"
"I must have left it in my other uniform," he retorted. "Besides, you can't honestly believe any of this primitive nonsense. A sacred marriage to bring rain, indeed. You're about as sacred as old cheese, and I — I am an officer in the King's Navy, and will not dignify this exercise in idiocy by my participation."
The pirate was about to say something, but James knew better than to make the mistake of letting him speak again. "And if I cannot go out, I can go to sleep, and I will thank you not to wake me before morning." And so saying, James curled up in the corner — he had to admit, the soft heaps of skins and pillows were rather more comfortable than his bed aboard the Dauntless — and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.
The second day of their honeymoon dawned hot and bright, as had every other day of the two weeks since the Interceptor had made landfall at this godforsaken isle. James was still berating himself for having allowed himself to be captured by these wretched people. God only knew what they had done with the rest of his watering party; eaten them, probably. He'd managed to send one man off with a message for Lieutenant Gillette — sail for Port Royal, and return with the Dauntless and proper reinforcements. As he had not been freed yet, he preferred to hope that the man had made it. The alternative — that Gillette and the Interceptor's crew had tried to mount a rescue themselves, and been captured, or worse — did not bear consideration. At any rate, James had enough misery to contemplate, and it was far nearer and far worse-smelling than Lieutenant Gillette.
How Sparrow had come to be these people's prisoner he did not know, nor had he cared to ask. The pirate did, however — yet another in his endless panoply of infuriating qualities — appear to understand the language, and that was how James knew that the smoky, chant-heavy ritual yesterday had been a wedding ceremony. Sparrow, helpful as ever, had provided both running translation and commentary — quite truly helpful, for once, as it had enabled James to dodge the "kiss the bride" moment in the nick of time.
He still couldn't pretend to understand exactly what the situation was, and most of what he had gathered had been filtered through the dubious orifice of Jack Sparrow. They had been married, yes; the marriage was somehow designed to bring rain (the mechanics of this were, needless to say, somewhat hazy); the marriage had to be consummated to bring said rain; the marriage was to be consummated several times over (always good to be cautious, he had to allow that much); they were, in consequence, not to leave this miserable hut until the week was out. He supposed that after that they would be released, but had to admit this was more of a hopeful supposition than a particularly reliable one. All he knew for certain was that living in close quarters with Jack Sparrow was filling him with the near-uncontrollable desire to hit someone over the head with a heavy and blunt object. Himself or Sparrow, he wasn't entirely sure: all he knew was that he had to get out.
Sparrow, of course, was still fast asleep; he could have sworn there was no rum to be had on the island, and yet the man still reeked of the stuff, and seemed to be in a deep, temulent slumber. Perhaps he could make himself understood to the guards, at least escape for a few hours. The tribesmen were feeding them and bringing them water twice daily, after all, and they were counting on James and Sparrow to free them of their drought; whether James believed they could do so, or whether he was willing to try, was frankly immaterial. They believed they needed him, and that meant he had some degree of leverage in this situation. And leverage, he knew, was everything.
There was no door, but long clicking strands of beads and shells filled the shack's entryway, giving the impression of privacy and blocking some of the sun's searing rays. Of course, privacy from the outside world meant rather little when the inside of the hut contained one Jack Sparrow — but that was neither here nor there. James parted the strands and ducked through the doorway.
"I say — you there —" It was somewhat disheartening, trying to address a man when one was well aware he would have not the faintest idea of what one was saying. James wasn't quite sure how to communicate what he wanted, but at least he had the guard's attention now. He was barely more than a child — perhaps sixteen, with an impassive brown face — and quite naked but for a loincloth, several piercings, and the impressively pointy stick he now hefted.
"Listen, I know you haven't the foggiest idea of what I'm saying, and I know we're meant to stay in this charming little hut of yours and all that, but I was rather hoping I might go for a swim." He realized he was shouting a bit, which he logically knew wouldn't help the boy to understand him, but it felt like the thing to do.
"Exercise, cool off, and all that. You know. Swim?" He pantomimed a breaststroke, but this did not seem to make much of an impression on the young guard.
Perhaps they understood French. "Er… nager? Je voudrais nager, s'il vous plait?"
Spanish? "Nadar?" He tried a wave-like motion with his hands, for good measure. Still nothing, although his antics had now attracted the attention of the other guard as well.
James dropped his face into his hands, clenching his fingers in his hair with frustration. He was considering lying on the ground to mime a dog-paddle when he heard a cough behind him, and turned to see Jack Sparrow lounging in the doorway.
"How might I render assistance, O Commodore of mine?"
James rolled his eyes heavenward, as though to ask the Divine just what he had done to deserve such punishment. "I was trying," he began slowly, "to ask — to communicate to these fine young men my desire to…"
"Desire sounds promising," Sparrow prompted. James shot him his best glare, the one he normally reserved for men caught sleeping on watch.
"My desire to go for a swim," he finished. "My desire for some relief from this blasted heat, not to mention my desire to remove some of the filth which has accumulated on my person as a consequence of being marooned on this godforsaken island with you, Sparrow."
He was shouting again. It felt rather good.
"Well, I think a swim sounds like a jolly idea, pet. I, for one, am quite starving for a good frolic with the mermaids." He turned to the guards, delivered a rapid stream of vowels, received one in exchange, made a funny sort of bow with one hand on his head — native custom or residual tipsiness, hard to tell — and turned back to James with a look of triumph. "Our good hosts have agreed to accompany us to the beach for the duration of one hour, said interval being customarily defined as sixty minutes by the clock, no more and no less." He paused. "Not that they have clocks, of course. So I suppose—"
"Yes, thank you, Sparrow, I am familiar with the concept of an hour," James interrupted. "Now?"
"No time like," the pirate nodded cheerfully, making some complicated gesture to the guards which James supposed communicated the intent to depart.
"Besides," Sparrow said as they set out, slinging his arm around James' waist companionably and dropping his voice to a whisper, "I hear it's more fun underwater." He punctuated this suggestion with a lascivious flick of his tongue against the shell of James' ear.
James, who certainly did not feel a shiver travel the length of his spine at that touch, groaned and shoved him away hard enough to send him stumbling into one of the guards. A swim with Jack Sparrow was most decidedly not what he had had in mind — but then, none of this was.
By the third day, he had started to get used to the smell.
He had to admit, the swim had been a blessing in that regard. Sparrow still seemed to reek of rum most of the time, but rum alone was infinitely more pleasant than the aroma which had previously wafted from his end of the hut. And on his third afternoon in this private hell, James discovered the source of the rum-smell as well: to his great surprise, it was rum.
Jack Sparrow, it turned out, was even more devious than James had given him credit for. The Bugaluru, who traded fish to the rum-runners who passed their island each month, had been bringing them a daily ration of spirit along with their afternoon meal — and Sparrow, the crafty devil, had for the past two days managed to intercept both of their rations and hide them. He had, at some time when James had been sleeping, perhaps, dug a cool hole in his corner and covered it with palm fronds; and, whenever the opportunity had presented itself, had proceeded to drink up twice his share of the only thing that might have made this week remotely tolerable to James.
After he had finished shouting — it really was quite therapeutic; he'd have to remember that — he had made the quite reasonable point that the entire rum ration for the next two days was to be his, and his alone, excepting the remote possibility that he should feel seized by some unusually benevolent impulse and choose to share with his esteemed husband.
(Jack Sparrow, of course, had never been a man for reason: but James had learned long ago to bolster a reasonable argument with the threat of physical violence for greater persuasive effect. He was not a Navy man for nothing.)
"Besides," he said, as he gathered their meal from the young girl who brought it and secured the spirits on his side of the shelter, "I rather imagine you've still enough rum in your veins to keep you properly intoxicated for the next two days."
The pirate narrowed his eyes and muttered something uncomplimentary, but James could not be wholly sure it was directed at his mother and so did not feel obligated to demand satisfaction. Besides, knowing Sparrow, he would probably eschew both sword and pistol and insist that they settle their differences by tilting, and while James was a born swordsman and a fine shot, he did not feel entirely confident of his abilities in the equestrian arena. They continued to eat in silence for some minutes — James had an inkling that Sparrow was sulking; nothing had delighted him so much in days — but at length his thoughts turned inevitably to the misery of their situation, and there were many points on which he was still not satisfied. Not that he felt a better comprehension would make it any less miserable, not really — but James Norrington was a well-informed man, and ignorance of his own circumstances did not sit well with him.
"The tribe," he began, not quite sure how to phrase his question. "Do you suppose they know?"
"Actually," Sparrow mumbled enthusiastically around a mouthful of papaya, "the supposed ignorance of the savage tribes is a grave and deplorable misapprehension. Some of the most educated men I know are dreadful savages, and some of the most savage men I know are dreadful educated." He nodded solemnly. "Recite 'omer, and all that. 'Μηνιν αειδε θεα Πηληϊαδεω Άχιληος—'"
"Indeed." James rolled his eyes, although he suspected it didn't entirely cover the look of impressed surprise. "Do you suppose they know we aren't consummating the marriage?"
"Oh, that." He looked pensive — quite an absurd thing, on him. "Well, it hasn't rained yet," he said at last. "So I'd say — yes."
This just garnered him another look, then a sigh as James returned to his meal. "I suppose I shouldn't put it past these people to put an aphrodisiac in the food," he remarked idly, contemplating his own piece of papaya.
He shuddered a little as the implications of this idea made themselves clearer. "Ghastly thought." He set the fruit aside.
"If they thought we needed help they'd've given it us already, love. Besides," he went on, grinning and flinging his arms out in a disturbingly expansive gesture, "who needs Spanish fly when he's got Cap'n Jack Sparrow?"
James rolled his eyes. He seemed to find himself doing that a lot, lately. "Do you know, I believe just occupying the same room as you may be making me stupider."
The days passed, undifferentiated. James began to wonder half-sincerely whether the tedium were taking a toll on his mind. He certainly felt different — restless, but unmotivated. Laziness was not a luxury he had ever known before, and he was not comfortable with it now. He itched to do.
He had quietly sized up the guards, made note of when they rotated on and off duty. He had even entertained thoughts of escape, for approximately four hours — how much damage could two adolescent boys with sharpened sticks really do? And if he used Sparrow as a shield, so much the better — four hours, until he had watched the boys practice throwing said sharpened sticks at a target set up at the other end of the clearing. Rushing the guards had not seemed a particularly promising plan, after that. (In truth, he was a little envious of their effortless skill; even wondered idly about pressing some of the natives, when the Dauntless came back. Any man with such an arm would be an asset to a ship's crew.)
They had been allowed another swim, earlier, and he had swum and swum, straight out for the horizon as fast as his strong arms would take him, until Sparrow and the guards on shore had shouted him back. It wasn't as though there were anywhere to go. He just needed — space. Motion. Something.
"I needed — sea," he'd gasped, back on shore with the sand burning his feet and the salt drying on his back. Sparrow had just nodded, sincere for once, no remark offered.
"Do you know any more of the Iliad?"
"Just the naughty bits." He caught James' eye and grinned. "Plenty of those, mind."
"Thank heavens we only have two more days of this absurdity. All you have to do is last two more days without forcing me to kill you, Sparrow, and we can go our separate ways."
Night had fallen at last, and with it came some respite from the sweltering heat. James lay supine, hands folded beneath his head and ankles crossed, on his side of the shack. He had long since given up on his shirt, and even in the relative cool, sweat puddled in the indentation of his breastbone and the hollow of his throat.
Every few minutes, his left hand moved lethargically, bringing the coconut-shell cup to his lips. He wasn't ordinarily much of a man for spirits, but under the circumstances, it did rather take the edge off. Tonight, though, he had to make his portion last: true to his word, he had let Sparrow have his share again today.
Sparrow lay prone, head toward the doorway, chin resting on his hands and feet moving lazily in the air. When he answered he did not shift position to look at James, and his voice had a peculiar quality owing to the strained arrangement of his vocal tract.
"Ah. Yes, well, I'm afraid there's just one thing wrong with that clever plan." He raised one finger, as punctuation.
"And that is?"
"If we don't bring them rain by the end of the week, our benevolent hosts may be inclined to, ah, find a more expeditious manner of appeasing their wrathful gods."
"And how, pray, would they accomplish that?"
"Well, I can't be rightly sure, but I fancy the ritual dismemberment of a couple of captive sailors would just about do it."
"It would, would it."
"Mm. I imagine they'd burn our bodies, too. For good measure." He paused. "Of course, that would be after the dismemberment. More humane that way, y'know."
"A great comfort."
"You did ask," he shrugged. "M'just — relaying the facts of the situation."
James nodded as he said this, then continued to nod slowly as he considered all that had been said. His hand went automatically to his lips as he thought, and he ruefully fingered the stubbled growth along his jaw. What I wouldn't give for a razor, he thought, desperately. And then the hilarity of this struck him — the absurdity of hankering for a shave when he was trapped on a desert island, the captive of a hostile tribe with a fondness for pointy sticks and a stated intent to compel his violation of the laws of God and nature — with Jack Sparrow, no less — and he was seized by helpless laughter.
Yes, he resolved, when this passed: what the situation called for was, most decidedly, more rum.
Silence stretched into the night — probably the longest period Sparrow had been silent while conscious since he had been whelped, James thought, a little uncharitably — a peculiarly warm, almost companionable silence. James turned the pirate's words over and over in his mind; tried to estimate how far they were from Port Royal, the force and direction of the winds and currents at this time of year, how long it would be before rescue could conceivably reach them. More than two days, he knew that much. As he thought, he drank — almost idly, a thing he had not done in years, and he knew he ought to be cautious; spirits affected him strongly, now that he was unused to them — but as he drank he did not find himself any less concerned. In fact, that restless feeling in his bones was only growing more insistent.
"Sparrow?" he asked at last, breaking the pause.
"You don't honestly believe there's a chance of it working, do you?"
"What I honestly believe, Commodore, is that you and I are facing a bloody and unpleasant death in about two days' time, unless a miracle of an impressively rainy nature takes place before said time. And as a man of action, so to speak, I'm naturally inclined to prefer doing anything at all over doing nothing at all."
"That's not all you're naturally inclined to," James snorted.
It occurred to him that he was quite drunk.
Jack turned to look at him, and that slow, dangerous smile was spreading across his face — that delighted look, that look that said he knew a secret. Oh, James was in trouble now.
"Do you know, Commodore," he said at length, slurring a little, "I fear you may be slightly in— inbr— ineb— inbred? no, no— although—" He paused, eyes a little unfocussed; seemed to be looking for the correct word; hit on it at last, with a look of triumph. "Drunk."
Quite badly drunk, indeed, as evidenced by the way he couldn't quite bring himself to care. "You're one to talk," he shot back by way of deflection, not altogether surprised to hear the echoing slur in his own voice. Yes; decidedly drunk.
"And what do you suggest I do about it?" Jack asked. His voice had turned considerably less slurred and considerably more throaty, and he had moved so that he was facing James — and when James didn't answer, he began to crawl across the floor. Their conjugal abode did not run to spaciousness, and if he came any closer he would be — yes, and there he was. Half in James' lap, with one hand planted on the far side of James' waist and a disturbingly predatory glint to his smile. He leaned in to whisper, darting his tongue into James' ear the same way he had the other day and sparking the same tense shiver.
"Something like this, perhaps?" He bent his head to James' chest, and it was hot where his mouth moved, then cool as the air breathed over the wetness left behind, and as he mouthed his way from sternum to clavicle James just watched him, too stunned to do anything at all. He hoped the look he had fixed on the pirate was dangerous and cautionary, but suspected it might run more to lustful and wanton; worse still, he couldn't quite remember why he should care.
Jack was fairly crawling up his body now. James' crossed legs had fallen apart at some point, and a foreign knee had insinuated itself between his; the hand which had been by his waist had moved to his right shoulder, and the other was inching its way up his left forearm, gripping the muscles there — and still he was paralyzed, though he could feel his breath growing shallower and his blood rushing harder. All he could think of was how he must look: eyes dark and wide, fixed on the darker head bent to his pale chest; his brazen bare skin, sheened with sweat in the heat; his hair coming loose from its rough queue, beginning to curl with the moisture in the air. He did not know what to be more alarmed by: the thought that he looked like a cheap whore, willingly being ravished — or how inflamed he was by the thought.
Jack's mouth continued its exploration as he maneuvered himself atop James; as he bit along the corner of James' jaw he shifted his weight to that intrusive knee, and James felt something quite shocking brush his hip. This seemed to be the impetus he needed to move, and his hands came quickly to Jack's shoulders — narrower than they looked, but stronger, too — but still didn't seem sure of their purpose. He knew he meant to push him off, but some treacherous impulse whispered that this was not at all the thing to do, and to his horror he found himself sorely tempted to listen. For some moments all James seemed able to do was clutch; and then Jack's questing mouth found his, Jack's tongue slithered against his lower lip — and his hands knew what to do as surely as if they had been ordered to it. He tensed and moved in one fluid motion, flipping Jack to lie beneath him, and paused only long enough for a grin at the pirate's look of utter surprise before setting about his work.
He was, after all, a man of action himself.
Whatever fate Commodore Norrington had anticipated when he had found himself captured by tribesmen on a savage island, this was most decidedly not it.
He was not, somewhat to his shame, entirely new to this exercise: but his brief and fumbling experiments with other midshipmen had not included the sort of sluttish moans Jack Sparrow gave in response to the action of James' fingers, nor the sloppy, intolerably hot way he had sucked James down by way of preparation. Jack talked, always, always, and trust him to talk just as much now, nearly as infuriating but three times as filthy, begging and coaxing and forever suggesting another lewd act before James had half finished the one before.
Jack was on his knees now, hips back a little, back arched; his hands gripped two of the sturdy upright staves of the hut's wooden frame. From behind him James could watch as the muscles in his forearms tensed with each thrust, bracing Jack's lean body against the wall. His own larger hands were braced higher on the same staves, but as Jack rutted back against him James' hands slipped down and down, until his fingers caught on Jack's. Again he could not help but picture himself: the way his lips fell apart, gasping like thirst in the desert; the carnal, brutal, inexorable thrusting motion of his hips; the way his left hand came away from the wall and fell to Jack's hip, pulling him back even more sharply and drawing forth still more desperate sounds. Time began to lose significance; it would have felt as though they had been locked in this rhythm forever if not for the feeling of mounting urgency which seemed to well up from James' very bones.
He could feel it, incipient, and knew Jack could too — could hear it in the changed timbre of his moans, his wordless pleading. This part, he did remember: the clumsy shameful thrill of another man's cock in his hand, how easy it was, years of silent habit coming to the fore — easier still from this angle, and just like on himself but so very different — matching the rhythm automatically. Jack, wanton creature that he was, didn't need much at all, and soon he was tense and clutching, tense and spurting hot over James' hand.
James let his hand fall, dangling by Jack's hip, but Jack caught it up with his own — brought it to his mouth — licked — and that was it. He could not see, but the simple knowledge of what Jack was doing, what they were doing, the unimaginable filth of it all — James was overcome. He had necessarily trained himself to perfect silence over his years in the Service: but he cried out now in a voice loud enough to drown out a clap of thunder.
It began to rain.
Several hours later, as a torrent raged upon the palm fronds above his head, a sticky and outrageously relaxed James Norrington re-evaluated his original position.
Perhaps this wasn't quite the worst temporary marriage he'd ever been part of, after all.
"You know," he said, in a low, thoughtful voice, "I believe I resent the assumption that I'm the woman in this relationship. Ignoring the obvious," — at this the pirate smirked obligingly — "you're the one who paints his face and braids his hair."
He paused for a spectacularly contented yawn. "Not to mention," he continued, "you've the more girlish figure."
The figure in question raised an eyebrow, as though to dispute this, but James was insistent. "Those hips, at the very least, are quite indecent. In fact I believe they may contravene the Articles of War."
"Mmm. And what would that mean for me, in the hypothetical case I was to find myself subject to the dubious honour of being one of your dolly toy soldiers?"
"Setting aside the fact that the Navy wouldn't have you if you were the last sailor on Earth?" James furrowed his brow deliberately. "Flogging. Definitely flogging," he pronounced at length.
Jack's eyes darkened even further, if such a thing were possible, and James felt himself tense anticipatorily as the other man leaned dangerously close. "Is that a promise?"
"I suppose the rain means we won't be horribly murdered, at least," he observed, later still. The quality of the gloom said dawn was not far off, but the downpour proceeded apace. The hut itself was surprisingly watertight.
"No," Jack agreed.
"That's a comfort, then."
Jack nodded. James' eyelids were heavy, but he wasn't quite ready to sleep yet. He wasn't about to admit it to the pirate, but lying here like this, Jack's head on his chest, playing idly with one of his braids, was — comfortable.
"Lieutenant Gillette will be back soon," he said, in quite a different voice. "He'll bring the Dauntless."
"Ah," said Jack significantly.
"You speak the language, and these people are in our debt. Or think they are," said James with a slight frown. He didn't like to think too hard about the timing of the rain: it had been a little too neat of a coincidence. "At any rate, I imagine a resourceful individual such as yourself could find his way off this island and back to making trouble for decent people in no time at all, provided he were to remain well out of sight when the Navy came to retrieve their men."
"Really, Commodore, you amaze me," Jack said, lifting his head from James' chest to fix him with a reproachful look. "I save your life, and you can't even find it in your great and magnanimous heart to give ol' Jack a lift to Tortuga?"
"Don't think I won't hang you," James warned. "I almost did it once. I'm not afraid to try again."
"Shocking," Jack said with a shake of his head, "Simply shocking. I can't believe you hold our sacred vows in such low regard. I meant it when I said I would love and cherish you forever, you know." He batted his eyelashes to emphasize this point.
"Oh, is that what we agreed to? I thought I was trading you to the natives for a cargo of fruit," James replied levelly. He sighed. "Well, that explains why I never saw any of those bananas. Regardless, you most certainly did not save my life. I saved yours."
"Ah, so that's what they're calling it these days," Jack replied with a wink. He turned half-over to plant a kiss on James' chest. "Very well. If you insist on being inhospitable, I suppose I can keep myself out of sight when your Lieutenant Giblets arrives. Only for your sake, mind," he added, pausing to give the indentation of the sternum an experimental lick. "I'd hate for your men to have to witness that scene," he explained, with a kiss just above James' navel, "seeing one's commanding officer reduced to tearful entreaties" — mouthing down the slight curve of his belly — "never a happy sight." He punctuated this remark by applying his mouth to a location which brought James, who had not been listening to more than half of this soliloquy, back to his senses with alacrity.
He raised an eyebrow at Jack, who was hovering at a dangerously southerly latitude on James' person.
"Your lord and master demands it," Jack replied solemnly.
"Oh, very well," James sighed. "If we must."
And, being a dutiful wife, lay back and thought of England.