Title: Burn Your Bridges Down

Author: Dala

Rating: hard R for sexual situations. Involves two men. If you've got a problem, get over it.

Pairing: Jack/Norrington

Disclaimer: Neither pirates nor commodores belong to me.

Title from "Ship Song" by Nick Cave, though I was listening to Heather Nova's version when I wrote this.

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They find Norrington clinging to a piece of wood amid the burning wreckage of the Dauntless, barely hanging on. Jack orders him hauled aboard and he's passed out by the time they get him on the deck, no doubt because of his mangled left leg and the blood lost from a deep gash down his right side. Gibbs, who has enough quick and dirty medical knowledge to cover as ship's doctor, takes him below while Jack carefully guides the Pearl through the floating graveyard, looking for other survivors. He finds none. Later he will hear this incident, a skirmish between the Dauntless and a heavier Spanish galleon, referred to as a 'misunderstanding.' Now, however, he knows nothing about how the battle came to be; all he knows is that he's got a badly wounded commodore on his hands.

Turning the wheel over to Cotton, he makes his way to the hold. Gibbs and Anamaria have Norrington laid out on a table. His wound has been cleaned and bound. The seawater has been coaxed from his lungs and is soaking into the wood beneath their boots. His leg, broken in three places, has been set as best they can manage. Gibbs says that he'll live, if he can fight the fever and infection. As they move him to a more comfortable station in Jack's own cabin, Anamaria argues stridently with him. Why should they save him? Why not drop him back over the side, or let his wounds fester and rot in the brig if Jack doesn't want to be killing him outright?

Her points are valid. Norrington has been responsible for the deaths of many colleagues, companions, friends, lovers. Years ago, he signed the warrant for Jack's own death. He might pass on anyway, weak as he is.

Jack listens patiently to her until she breaks into Spanish, and then he says one word: "No." She opens her mouth to continue and he repeats, "No, Anamaria. And no, and no again, and no until I have no breath to say it. Even then, my lips'll move and you'll see them form the word."

Her face tightens and her mouth thins out dangerously, but she falls silent, slamming the door behind her as she goes.

Gibbs looks conflicted, but he asks if there's anything further he can do.

"No, thank you," says Jack. "I'll look after him."

For hours he watches Norrington sleep, watches his chest move in shallow breaths, watches the color slowly rising in his cheeks. He holds a cool cloth to Norrington's brow and the back of his neck as the man twists his head around on the pillow. When his dreams seem to settle and his face loses its pinched look, Jack stands, works the kinks out of his spine, and goes off to find something to eat.

Most of his crew is gathered in the galley, taking bets on whether Norrington will live or die. The general consensus is that he'll survive, but will never walk again. One, a young man from Wales, falls to the ground in an interpretation of Norrington crawling across the deck that causes most of the crew to break into peals of uproarious laughter. Jack says not a word as he approaches, drags the man to his feet, and backhands him hard across the face. The rest, save a few from the early days, recoil in surprise; it is well known that Captain Sparrow is slow to anger and rarely strikes a man. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Anamaria come to stand behind him – she may question him in private, but he can always count on her support in front of the men. Most of them are more frightened of her anyway.

He sends the prankster out to relieve the man on duty and snaps, "Am I running a pirate crew here or a tavern? Get to work!" They scramble to get out of his way. He snags a bottle of rum, his stomach forgotten, and returns to his cabin.

Norrington is unconscious for the next three days. Someone is with him at all hours, usually Jack himself. The crew grumbles, but Jack isn't worried. He's seen what mutiny looks like, and this ragtag bunch isn't likely to attempt it. The few of them who've been shipwrecked or stranded before even respect him a bit for rescuing the commodore.

When he opens his eyes on the fourth day, Jack's face is the first thing he sees. Jack watches and waits as the emotions flicker across his eyes: surprise and confusion, then fear, then sharp pain.

"Mornin'," says Jack. He answers desperate questions without being asked. "We picked you up four days ago, mate. Mended your leg and kept you dry. 'M glad to see you're awake."

Norrington still says nothing. His face has gone blank after the initial roil of feeling.

"You want to tell me what happened out there?"

Silence is all that greets his ears.

"I could make you talk, you know," Jack reasons. "Torture you."

Defiance mingles with skepticism in Norrington's glare.

Jack shrugs." Fine with me, though, if you don't want to. I've always had an appreciation for the silent type, though I've never been it meself. You want water, food?"

Norrington hesitates, wary, and Jack says, "If I was going t'kill you, don't you think I'd've done it already?"

With an expressive purse of his lips, Norrington finally nods.

Pausing at the doorway, Jack turns back as he says quietly, "She was a fine ship. I'm sorry for your loss, Commodore."

He sees the tears in those pretty green eyes before Norrington turns his face away.

Time passes – days, weeks, finally months – and still Norrington will not speak. Jack tries to spark debate with his more outlandish opinions regarding the British navy, the Crown and its colonies, and various sexual practices. It doesn't work. Norrington can expertly convey his meaning with an eyebrow or a twist of his mouth, but that is all he'll offer.

At first he sticks close out of fear, fear for Norrington's fragile health and for the looks he casts at Jack's weapons when he thinks Jack isn't looking. He's not nearly strong enough to threaten Jack or his crew, but he's more than capable of doing damage to himself. After the more immediate danger passes, though, he spends his time in his cabin – Norrington's makeshift sickroom – for more complicated reasons. Partly it's become routine, and partly because there's a peace in Norrington's silence, taciturn and judgmental though it can be, that Jack isn't able to find elsewhere on his ship. He sits and reads aloud whatever books are lying around(and he will always treasure the memory of the look on Norrington's face when he discovered that Jack could read, and in several different languages too, thank you very much), or he makes up his own tall tales to amuse the dry wit of his audience. Sometimes Jack says nothing at all, only sits and shares the quiet, with a bottle or without. He even gets Norrington to take a sip of his best rum one day, which is entirely wasted on the lemon-sucking face Norrington makes.

He doesn't cry, ever, which surprises Jack. He knows this because he sleeps in a hammock in the cabin, and he's prone to lying awake and watching Norrington breathe in the scant moonlight. Norrington suffers from his fair share of nightmares, considering what he's been through, but he never cries out. Jack goes to him and holds on tight to both his hands as his shaking recedes, the only contact he is permitted. He thinks to bend down and kiss Norrington's cheek once he's fallen back asleep, but never finds the nerve.

When he finds Norrington up one day, hopping cautiously about on one foot, Jack scolds him like a hen and bullies him back into bed. The next time it happens, he sighs in annoyance, but secretly he is pleased at the commodore's tenacity. It's the only way that leg of his is ever going to be any good to him. Jack has a crutch whittled for him before the day is out. By the time Norrington emerges from the cabin, he's very handy with it, and Jack knows he practiced until it was second nature.

Jack, standing nearby and studying his compass, looks up to watch Norrington blink at the sun. His eyes close and he sways slightly as he acclimates himself to the rhythm of the Pearl's swells. For the first time Jack sees the born seaman in him and he can't help but grin. As Norrington opens his eyes and meets Jack's gaze, he offers a small, sweet smile in return, and for a moment they are only two souls converging in the heart of the great ocean.

Jack breaks the spell. "Suppose you're looking for something to do?"

Norrington waves the crutch expansively, as if to say he's up for anything Jack can throw at him.

The crew is staring and Jack can feel it, but Norrington doesn't wilt under their eyes. "Weee-lll...we've some sails that need mending," says Jack thoughtfully.

In Norrington's eyes, he can see indignant pride warring with boredom and the need to prove himself useful. That's the sort of work reserved for jack-tars, he is no doubt thinking, not senior officers who've been proven time and time again

Jack lifts an eyebrow. "If you're feeling up to it."

Norrington swallows, tucking his station away somewhere deep inside. He lifts his chin and nods sharply. Jack has to turn his head to hide a snicker.

The display impresses the crew, as he knew it would. So does Norrington's willingness to do anything he's capable of, which isn't much at this point. He works both his arms carefully, to keep the muscles of his right in check with the arm handling his crutch. Thankfully, he isn't stupid enough to try and walk on his bad leg yet, though Jack no longer has any doubt that he'll get there eventually. He is sequestered in his cabin when they make their raids. He never asks any questions, and after the first few times he deigns to eat the food they capture. Jack doesn't know what is changing inside him, because Norrington will not tell him. But he thinks it must be something significant, because Norrington no longer flinches when Jack puts a hand on his shoulder or his arm, and he lets Jack pull him close when he awakens from his nightmares. Jack treads this line carefully, afraid of seeming too eager and thereby pushing him away.

More than half a year after his rescue, Norrington hobbles down to the galley one day. Jack is sitting with his feet up on the table, cutting bits of cheese and feeding it to the mangy cat beside him.

Norrington throws a map onto Jack's lap. Jack looks down to see Jamaica, Port Royal clearly marked on it in his own handwriting.

"Yeah, that's where we're headed," he says in answer to Norrington's raised eyebrows. "In point of fact, we should reach it early tomorrow morning."

Norrington looks at him steadily and Jack can't quite read his expression. There's some edge of anger there, some sadness, a bit of regret – a great deal of confusion and indecision.

"Don't you want to go home, Commodore?"

He's unprepared for the sudden flare of hurt in Norrington's eyes. The other man snatches the map away and stomps back up the stairs.

Jack waits until he is most likely asleep before he returns to the cabin. He undresses quietly, shooting quick glances at the back of Norrington's head. He hears Norrington shift in the bunk, but he doesn't turn until he hears his own name.

"Jack."

His voice is rough and husky from disuse. He clears his throat before he says again, "Jack."

Jack turns around slowly. He didn't realized that he's forgotten what Norrington's voice sounds like.

"Yes, Commodore?"

"You must know my first name," says Norrington softly. "Why don't you ever use it?"

"I didn't think you wanted me to."

Jack's hands lay his shirt aside; he stands in just his breeches. Norrington looks at him with eyes of shadowed jade, not quite a dare.

"James," he says, the name falling from his lips as easily as it does in his dreams.

At that, Norrington's fingers tighten on the sheets as though he's been poked.

"Why?" he asks suddenly, harshly.

"Why what?" Jack counters. "Why this happened to you, or why I'm doing what I'm doing? Because I don't know the answer to one any more than the other."

Norrington – James, James, he reminds himself; he has permission now – looks as though he doesn't believe at least half of that quick reply, but he lets it go. Jack pointedly ignores the clear offer in his eyes. If he's going to start speaking now, he's bloody well going to keep speaking.

"Please," he says, understanding, dropping his gaze to his lap. It sounds like the word pains him. Jack beside with him before it can hurt him any further, kissing him with all the urgency he's spent all this time repressing. James' lips part under his with a little moan and he holds Jack to him like he's held his speech, resolute and unmovable. Jack wriggles out of his breeches, delighted to discover that James is already naked beneath the sheets.

"Jack," he breathes as Jack trails wet kisses down his neck, then, a bit sharper, "*Jack*."

Pausing, he realizes that James is pressing a small stoppered jar into his hand, one he hasn't seen for quite some time. Off of Jack's raised eyebrows, James blushes. "Found it in your trunk. I trust I've guessed its purpose correctly?"

Jack nods absently, fingering the jar of oil. He makes a quick decision and rolls onto his back, pulling James atop him.

James blinks down at him in confusion.

Wrapping his legs around him, locking ankles at his back, Jack says in a low voice, "Your first act of piracy, James, and your last."

A hand drifts down his belly as James' eyes go smoky with desire. "Plunder," he murmurs, gently closing his teeth on Jack's earlobe.

"Take," Jack affirms, gasping a bit as he grinds his hips upward against those long fingers.

"What you can. Give nothin' back," says James in a surprisingly good imitation of Gibbs. Jack laughs, pleased that he can do it despite the tightness in his chest.

"Can you forgiven me what I've taken from you?" he asks, sobering. "Most important, can you forgive yourself?"

James kisses him again, lightly this time. "Yes to the one. As for the other..." One hand slides up and down Jack's arm, stroking in time with the other. "Perhaps...someday."

"Good enough," says Jack, threading his fingers through loose dark hair.

James stops suddenly, worry crossing his face. "My leg," he says, biting his lip. "I don't know if –"

"I'll hold you up," Jack says.

The oil is slicked against his backside as James prepares him with one finger – two – three.

"You haven't just taken, you know," says James. "You give, too."

And he does, he gives as best he knows how, arching up as James presses against him, into him. He keeps one hand anchored on James' hip and the other on his shoulder, holding him there, as he promised. James whimpers above him, his eyes closed and his face twisted in what is almost pain. In some way, Jack knows, it is – and he's grateful that he can do this for James, that he can let him reach that pain without breaking apart.

"Let go," he says, around a keen James tears from his lips. "Let it all go, beloved."

His own eyes are closed tight now as he nears his crest, but he forces them open as he tastes salt on his lips. Not seawater, and not sweat either – tears. James is staring down into his eyes, open and aching in a way that makes Jack a bit afraid of how he responds. But he holds his gaze and lets him look, lets him love, lets him cry out as James does let go inside him. He follows, follows without a look back, shuddering against the body that soon collapses upon him.

James starts to weep in earnest, his breath hitching painfully in his throat. Jack tightens his grip and takes this too, waiting until the sobs grow quieter and inconsistent before he starts to soothe. It takes a long time, but eventually James calms, kissing him gently before burying his face between shoulder and neck.

Jack lies awake a few minutes longer, knowing that what has been taken tonight can never be given back.

In the morning he dresses and leaves without waking James, who stretches out in the warm place Jack has left and pulls the pillow over his face. He stands at the helm for a good half-hour before James finds him, the tap of his crutch on the deck giving him away.

Coming up beside him, James takes in the sight of Gallows Point, shimmering against the horizon. Port Royal lies just beyond.

Without looking at him, Jack reaches out to take his hand and guide it to the wheel. He can feel James' curious glance.

"Choice," he says, "is something that no one can take from you."

He watches as James brushes his hand over the grain of the wood.

The last destination for a couple of unlucky pirates draws much nearer before James pulls the wheel to the left. He drops his crutch and slides an arm around Jack's waist, leaning against him.

"Change of destination," Jack calls out to whoever is listening.

"Indeed," James whispers. Against the skin of his neck, Jack can feel him smile.

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