A Kettle of Hawks

Disclaimer: Recognizable characters belong to the Mouse. Strictly for fun, no profit is involved. Not beta'd. This is my first attempt at a longer story. Constructive comments welcome; flames will be laughed at and sent to the compost heap. The title comes from a term for a group of hawks, if anyone is curious.

Chapter One

Ah, Port Royal in the eventide. It was a quiet mannerly place, at least inland away from the harbour, quite unlike a lively haunt such as Tortuga, favoured of pirates, thieves and others of ill-repute. Even so, amusement could be found through determined perseverance. One such dedicated seeker toddled along, keeping to the byways and shadows; after all, it would not do to draw undue attention to a neck the Crown wished to stretch. It was a roguish figure, with a peculiar uneven gait. A kindly person would consider the walk more reminiscent of the sea than terra firma; one less kind would assume a proclivity for strong drink or other tastes. A keen observer might also have noted a faint musical jingle and a raspy, not so musical, singing accompanying the figure as it minced by.

The dark garbed man came to a halt by the former establishment of the blacksmith Brown, the sign overhead now proclaiming the services of Wm Turner, Swordsmith. The clash of swordplay and laughter inside drew his attention and he tilted his head curiously as he listened. He paused to refresh himself from a bottle hauled out from a capacious pocket in his worn justaucorps coat, adding the sweet fumes of fine rum to the odours of the lane. Carefully stowing the bottle away against future need, the slender man swayed up to peer through the gap in the shutter, hoping to find something to entertain him on a dull winter's night.

The inquisitive brown eye swept across the interior of the smithy. The space was fairly well lit with lanterns, candles and the fire in the forge, the light concentrated around the open space in the middle of the smithy floor. The smith's donkey was not at its work station, likely in its shed for the night, but there were other figures to catch the roving glance. At the rear, perched out of harm's way on the steps leading to the quarters upstairs, was a tall fair young woman merrily calling out encouragement and advice equally to one or the other of the two at swordplay below her vantage point. It appeared the Governor's headstrong daughter had slipped her jesses again.

The watcher then turned his discerning eye upon the two combatants. The younger of the two was facing the street entrance, easily recognizable as the proprietor of said establishment, his curling light brown hair and quick distinctive movements perfectly familiar to the man outside. The other figure, with his back to the observer, was some years older and taller than Turner, with straight dark hair falling messily out of its lacing at the nape of his neck. Both were in breeches and shirt sleeves and sweat soaked as they fenced and played, intense concentration clearly evident in each form. The ringing clash and hiss of the fine blades accompanied the flashes of light glinting from the steel as the swordsmen practiced their elegant craft, along with the laughter and taunts to be found between friends. They paused and the older man demonstrated a point of technique while Will and Elizabeth both watched closely then Will repeated the action several times with an added variation of his own. Satisfied, the men faced each other and put the moves into execution.

Outside, the observer's curiosity won out over common sense and he slipped along to the rear of the building, making his way in through the back entrance to the upper quarters. He stealthily crept down the stairs to join Elizabeth, first drawing her attention so as not to startle her, and grinned broadly in greeting, the light catching on a couple of gold teeth only partly obscured by the finger held to his lips requesting her silence. She smiled back at him in surprised welcome then her eyes opened wide in shocked consternation as a possible outcome of his unexpected arrival occurred to her. She rolled her eyes and jerked her head slightly several times to direct his attention to the men on the smithy floor. He obeyed her direction but was unable to understand her concern at first, raising an eyebrow in query. The lass's concern abruptly became clear when the elegant clipped tones of the warm baritone voice triggered the memory of a tall man, a white wig and a fancy brocaded blue uniform, along with a truly nasty memory of a hempen cravat and a sudden drop.

Jack's dark rimmed eyes opened very wide as he looked more closely at Will's fencing partner and recognized in disbelief one of the most notorious pirate hunters in the Caribbees. He kept very still and quiet as he and Elizabeth watched the practice continue. Jack had already tested himself against Will's prowess and had wondered where the whelp had learned the formal elements of swordplay; the boast of three hours of daily practice did not explain satisfactorily the young man's grasp of classic technique. Of a certainty, it could not have been Master Brown, the smith, a man more at home with a bottle than a fine blade. Jack's fight had been in the treasure cavern with Barbossa and he had not witnessed Norrington battle the undead pirates aboard the Dauntless. Intrigued, he watched the quality of swordplay and recognized some of Will's style in the Commodore; this must be one of those who had taught the boy how to use a sword. The why of it escaped Jack for the moment, what reason would a well-born ambitious naval officer have to teach an orphan boy the finer points of fencing?

Norrington's fencing was another surprise to Sparrow. He would have thought the officer would use a rigid, unimaginative style, as stodgy and stiff as the uniform he wore. Instead the man's formal training was evident but his rapid adjustment to obstacles and use of terrain and serendipitous objects was far more useful in the real world. He did not indulge in the acrobatics that had had both Jack and Will tripping merrily along the rafters overhead but was agile enough for all that. Jack recognized elements of the newer French style as well as the classic Italian school, the latter form emphasized the down and dirty practical fighting for survival sword work, not just pretty posturing. Not merely a pretty figure then in fancy plumage but a veteran of many skirmishes at sea and on land, the naval man was formidable. Jack felt a growing itch to try Norrington's mettle for himself, not the wisest of temptations given his past experience with the man.

Thoughtfully stroking his beard braids, Jack considered the man who had so nearly succeeded in hanging him, save for the intervention of the two young persons in the smithy. The Commodore was a good man, evidenced by his releasing the fair Elizabeth to follow her heart even though it would break his own. His tolerance of the whole farce of Jack's escapes and hanging, the generosity to allow a condemned pirate a day's grace before resuming pursuit, even the kindness shown to Will afterward all bespoke a depth of character that intrigued Sparrow. Jack had to admit to himself that Norrington's dry sardonic humour was also entertaining, when circumstance permitted the indulgence.

The spectacle of the figures at loose play fascinated Jack and at a lull in the action, to Elizabeth's horror, he coughed loudly enough to draw the attention of both men below. When Will glanced over, his sweating face showed outright shock at their visitor's identity and he looked to the Commodore, hurriedly preparing to block him from attacking Sparrow. Norrington's reaction was more restrained but he had a dilemma of his own to address. His initial impulse was to go after the outlaw who had escaped him but he realized how impolite it would be to lose two friends by trying to slaughter their damned pet pirate under Will's own roof.

The tableau was held for several moments as four minds rapidly ran through possible solutions, actions, or disastrous outcomes. The Commodore looked at the expressions on the two young faces then met Sparrow's gaze as he too finished inspecting Will and Elizabeth. Their eyes held. Jack's face broke out into a wicked sly grin as he bobbed his brows and quirked his eyes, luminous against the kohl, at the young lovers. Norrington was able to maintain a suitably stoic visage but his eyes revealed his appreciation of the absurdity of the situation, the crow's feet at their corners crinkling deeper.

Taking Norrington's restraint for tacit encouragement, Jack stood and sashayed down to the dirt floor, not so fast that he would startle the wary naval man into action. Watching Norrington's eyes intently for signs of reaction hazardous to his person, Jack stepped up so that he was a bit behind Will's left side, keeping him as a potential shield, and pressed his palms together, bowing gracefully in an oriental fashion. Will remained tense with surprise and indecision. Norrington stood calmly during all this, his sword held point down, making no comment other than to raise a brow in gentle inquiry.

"Your pardons, Commodore, and Young Bootstrap, for interrupting your practice this fine evening. I was merely coming by to see a man about a sword and chanced to hear something what intrigued me and couldn't resist 'aving a little look-see... you see," Jack explained. "When I observed the whelp was practicin' his fine swordplay, with the fair Elizabeth shouting advice, I wished to see who was doin' the honours, as it were. I know Will here told me 'bout practicin' three hours a day, unbelievable as that did seem, but he never said who had taught him as it was clear to me that some one, or some ones, had."

"So you think you know, do you, Sparrow?"

"Captain Sparrow, if you will. After all, I do have my pretty Pearl back so there's no need to be discourteous, Commodore."

By this time, Elizabeth had joined them, flanking Jack on the other side. She and Will exchanged rapid looks and both turned to Norrington to plead for Jack's safety. The tall man looked down his nose at the picture the three of them made, the two worried faces with the puckish visage of Jack Sparrow peeking out mischievously as disjointed sentences flew about. Norrington's lively sense of the ridiculous could not be held back any longer; the corner of his mouth quivered against his best efforts to prevent it. Turning aside to conceal his smirk whilst he regained control of his face, he took out a piece of cloth from his pocket and studiously wiped down his blade as he inspected it for damage. He looked up from under his brow at the bemused expressions of his two young friends. Jack caught Norrington's glance and easily discerned the laughter lurking there and winked conspiratorially, both men beginning to chuckle. They laughed outright as Elizabeth and Will looked first at each other, then at them, matching expressions of confusion on each countenance. Relieved, the young pair relaxed though still uncertain how events would unfold.

"James," Elizabeth asked, "for this evening, would you just be yourself, not the Commodore or the Great Pirate Hunter? You are both our friends and we would not see either harmed, especially here."

"Yes, James, after all you did give Jack a day's head start when he fell off the fort's wall. He's not raided an English settlement or taken an English ship, just the French and Spanish and others, since then. He did what he could to stop the undead pirates and remove the curse, even if he was not able to prevent the attack on the Dauntless that night." Will added his share to the argument for clemency. "Both of you are good men and there's no reason to try to kill each other tonight. Jack's just come by to pick up the sword he commissioned a while back and then he'll be on his way and out of Port Royal."

Jack raised a rather grubby finger to draw their attention. "For the record, I jumped off the wall of the fort that day. Jumped. I did not fall. After all, I am Captain Jack Sparrow. Please be remembering that, eh?"

"As if anyone would be allowed to forget," Norrington sniped back. Jack drew his brows down at him in reproof. Elizabeth tried to hide a snicker behind her hand but Jack saw it anyway and frowned at her for good measure. Will snorted at the comment, drawing his own rebuke from the offended pirate.

"Should I agree to this outlandish notion and forget for tonight that Sparrow is an escaped felon and neglect my duty to bring him to his appointment with the hangman, what do I get for my part of the bargain?" Norrington inquired, meeting Jack's eyes directly while he waited for an answer.

"Ah, a parley is it? "Jack asked brightly.

"So it would seem," Norrington answered primly.

Negotiations were good, the pirate thought to himself. As long as they were talking and arranging suitable terms, Norrington was not going to be attempting a certain pirate's sudden demise. To demonstrate his good will, Jack rooted around deeply into his pocket and brought his rum bottle to light again, sensibly keeping it away from the lassie. He did not entirely trust her so near to his precious rum, considering his previous experience with her; the forge had a good fire burning in it and was far too close for his peace of mind.

Norrington looked down at the bottle, then up at Jack, remarking dryly, "You could at least have brought some decent brandy, considering you were coming to visit a civilized town. One would think that you would have been able to acquire some from at least one of the French ships you've taken lately. Surely they at least would have something aboard fit to drink."

Looking affronted at this commentary on his pirating ability, Jack refrained from answering the insult immediately. He had in fact taken some very fine brandy off a French sloop not a month back but he saw no need to mention this minor detail. Lurching in to Norrington's personal space, Jack smiled engagingly up at the taller man, saying, "I'm surprised at you, Commodore, you being a naval man here in Jamaica itself, source of the finest rum to be had. Rum is a sailor's proper drink, or a proper sailor's drink, as well you know for under all that weight of wig and braid, you are a proper sailor." Jack's hands fluttered about in descriptive counterpoint to his speech.

"That almost sounded like a compliment, Captain Sparrow. Are you certain you are feeling quite well tonight?" Norrington inquired wryly, if not altogether solicitously.

"Perfectly fit; in fact, never felt better. Thank you for asking. A lovely new sword all for me own self, good friends and entertaining sport. What more could a man wish for, eh, save perhaps an opportunity to try out said new sword in good company?"

"Hm, it would appear you consider me to be entertaining sport, do you? We certainly do not qualify as good friends."

"Perhaps not good friends, yet, but I do consider the company good. I've not forgot the head start you gave me that day at the fort nor have I forgot how you and your men fought Barbossa's crew that night on your Dauntless, or at what cost. Had it not been for you, the Black Pearl would have been much harder to save from that cursed crew. Had it not been for you, the whelp and the spitfire here would not have been able to follow their hearts."

Jack's serious words had stripped the humour from the faces of all three of his audience. Norrington in particular understood the underlying message of what had been said, an acknowledgement of action and loss and gratitude. His vivid green eyes held Jack's dark amber ones in a penetrating gaze for a long moment, while each man contemplated the other then he nodded, accepting the pirate captain's words.

"I suppose, under the circumstances, that I shall have to rein in my natural inclinations and permit you an evening's visit."

"That would be most kind of you, Commodore. It's not often that I can get in for a visit."

"Surely that is something of a mis-statement, Sparrow; you seem to come and go in Port Royal as you please, despite all our efforts to keep the undesirables out of the town."

"Commodore Norrington, if you cannot manage the Captain, p'rhaps you should just call me Jack and be done with it," Jack sighed, growing tired of the constant reminders. "We are attempting to have a parley here and the night is not getting any younger. I propose that we four of us have a nice simple evening between friends. No pirates. No Commodores. No soldiers. Just a pleasant opportunity to visit and play with Will's pretty swords." Jack looked up at Norrington, hiking his brows in inquiry nearly to the faded red head scarf, hopeful that the man who could forgive the two young people the heartbreak they had caused and become close friends with them could find a little faith for a pirate who was also a good man.

Norrington looked over the three sets of brown eyes, all three abruptly reminding him of puppies with their innocent (well, one not so innocent) and hopeful expressions. He came to a sudden realisation that he was enjoying himself far too much this evening and actually wanted to try out Sparrow's expertise for himself. He had heard about the battle in the treasure cavern but had not seen the pirate in action with a sword. The escapes from the dock and the gallows and the brazen thievery of his fastest vessel had shown Sparrow to be a man with a quick intelligence and an apparent lack of the brutality shown by most common pirates. Yes, Jack Sparrow was indeed an uncommon pirate, if a confounded pest and Norrington deemed he was owed something for the theft and subsequent loss of the Interceptor. He smiled benignly at the trio, raising a somewhat leery grimace on Sparrow's bronzed face and tentative smiles to the more trusting faces of Elizabeth and Will.

"Very well, Jack, we will keep this evening between friends, as it were. Tomorrow noon then we will return to business as customary."

"Thank you kindly, Commodore. I was sure you had it in you, if only to satisfy your own curiosity. Must admit I hoped you wouldn't go trying to slaughter me in front of our young friends here. Now that we've an accord here for tonight, how about a bit of practice with the blades? You must have wondered what it would be like to cross swords with Captain Jack Sparrow, eh?" Jack asked, arms gesticulating extravagantly, causing Norrington to ease back out of harm's way.

"I'll admit curiosity, certainly. I've only heard descriptions of your prowess from Will and it's always useful to find a new opponent to practice against. One never knows when the knowledge will prove beneficial," Norrington commented straight-faced, looking at Jack pointedly as he spoke.

Jack stared back at Norrington, running over possible meanings to the last sentence, not entirely sure that the naval officer was jesting or if he was serious. The Navy man was proving to have a wicked sly sense of humour but the difficulty was in determining when the man was employing said humour. Jack decided that the man was having him on and glanced over to the children to see what their reactions were. Elizabeth was hiding her mouth behind her hand, a muffled giggle escaping; Will didn't even bother to try to disguise his laughter, chuckling at the exchange between his two unlikely friends.

Stepping back to the stairs, Jack removed his baldric, sword hanger and scabbard, his coat, and silver-mounted pistol, piling them neatly on a step and crowned the heap with his beloved battered old leather tricorn hat. The rum bottle was carefully set down beside them, not without a cautionary look and gesture with a long forefinger to Miss Swann to keep her distance from the rum. Now unencumbered from restrictions to free movement he took his place across from Norrington in the open space on the floor. He began to raise his sword in a salute when the Commodore looked at the old blade and inquired politely, "Was not the purpose of this visit to take delivery of your new sword, Sparrow? If so, would you not prefer to use it instead of your present weapon?"

Jack halted, opened his mouth to remind the man yet again regarding his proper title then shut it, realizing he was correct. He had come to pick up his new Turner blade. Turning to Will, Jack said, "He has the right of it, William. You did say that it would be ready by this date and really, would you have let me fence against the blade you made for the Commodore without my own fine new sword?"

Will shook his head in disbelief, grinned and went to fetch Jack's new blade. He brought it over and slipped it out of its sheath and displayed the superb craftsmanship to the others. The blade was of a similar pattern to Jack's old sword but made for his particular hand and reach. The basket guard had enough substance to protect the hand but without excessive projections which could catch at inopportune moments. There was sufficient gold filigree inlaid into the guard to please a pirate captain, the initials J S done in an elegant arabesque with a chasing showing a sparrow in flight over the waves above the lettering. The handle was wrapped with shagreen and gold wire for a secure grip and finished with a large cabochon sapphire set deeply into the pommel, the star's rays within catching the light. The scabbard was rather plain but well-made of quality materials, a tasteful silver mount extending the guard's design part way down the dark wood shaft and completed with the matching end piece..

Jack took up his new sword in his right hand and compared it side by side to his old blade held in his left. The old sword had been a true companion for many years, its fine Toledo steel a testament to the sword makers of Spain and the skills that had come from Damascus and far away India centuries before. The old sword was of a plainer design and he would not forsake it altogether. The balance of the new sword in his hand was even better than the other; after all it had been made for him alone. Well pleased, Jack moved back a bit and gave several thrusts and parries with it and finished with a flourish, a broad smile glinting silver and gold in pleasure at his new acquisition, resting the blade over his shoulder. Will and Elizabeth looked very pleased with themselves at their friend's smugly satisfied expression; even the Commodore let his humour show with a quirk of a smile at the disreputable pirate's antics.

"You need to have the rest of the furnishings to go with it, after all, it is a Turner blade befitting the Captain of the Black Pearl," Elizabeth stated as she brought forward the new baldric and hanger to go with the sword, both in fine well-oiled black leather. Jack stroked the leather in sheer delight, the new sword and accoutrements had been well worth the cost and the risk of coming in to enemy territory under the very noses of the Royal Navy. He held out his new sword and Will pointed out some of the differences between Jack's blade and the one he had made for James. The two blades were similar, sturdy enough for life and death battles on a ship but finished with a refinement suitable for dress occasions. Each owner was well satisfied with his custom sword and admired the master craftsmanship that had created it.

Stepping into the open area of the floor, Jack beckoned to the Commodore to join him. Norrington smiled in anticipation. He had had a bit of a breather so he was ready to try out Jack's prowess for himself. He took his position the correct distance away from Jack and took a ready stance.

"Before you begin, Jack, James, we should establish the rules of engagement here. No killing. No serious wounding. Try not to injure each other. Those blades are not practice ones and they are both well sharpened. This is for pleasure only, so please don't forget yourselves and fight for real. If you think that you won't be able to restrain yourselves, I have practice blunted blades over in the rack." Will wanted everyone to be absolutely clear on these points and he waited until each man acknowledged the conditions he set. Elizabeth seconded him and first Jack, then James, gave his consent to her as well. The young people stepped back and found places to sit that were close enough to see well but would be out of harm's way.

Jack grinned cheekily and drew himself up into a formal posture, intriguing James who loved the dance of the swords as well. The Commodore moved into position, mirroring Jack and they saluted each other and engaged. Testing each other cautiously at first, the men followed the circle taught in the classic forms, their formal training showing clearly. Stepping with deliberate precision, move and counter move, they worked through several series, watching each other like the hawks they both were. Each man's eyes were alight with gleeful delight at finding a kindred love for the sword in the other, both quite happy to suspend their customary enmity for the time being. They were evenly matched; James' longer reach compensated for by Jack's quickness and more flashy style.

As they became more familiar with each other, James noted that his opponent had set aside his customary drunken sway and slightly mad gestures and was now focused on the task at hand. Jack's typical flamboyance had been abandoned for the more structured style of the ecole. His shoulders were properly squared, posture was correct and the footwork was neatly executed. Will's latest masterpiece was controlled by Jack's wrist and forearm, totally unlike the usual hacking methods employed by the majority of pirates. Fascinated, James began to test Jack's training with moves from his own schooling, his eyes intent on seeking clues to the puzzle the pirate presented.

Jack parried and counter-thrust James' attack and feinted to his left to draw the other open. James did not fall for the ploy and made his own rapid series of cuts. The swords met, sang and hissed as the two swordsmen pushed each other back and forth across the smithy floor. Both fencers were careful to avoid blows that would harm, neither forgetting in their enthusiasm that the blades they fought with could deal lethal strikes. High ward, low ward, thrust, parry and riposte, feint and lunge, each countered the other's moves with precision, increasing speed as they became more familiar with each other.

Breathing harder, the swordsmen stepped back and saluted, ending this initial bout, a look of satisfaction on each sweating visage. Elizabeth and Will applauded, relieved that their two so disparate friends could meet on common ground.

"Thank you for your approval, you two," Jack responded, panting. "That's the best round I've had since I last practiced with you, Will. The Commodore here is a cut above the usual run of Navy types."

"Good Lord, Jack, a second compliment in one night? This should be recorded for posterity, though it escapes me precisely where one would make such an entry." Norrington could not resist jibing the pirate, in between a few gulps of water. "By the by, it seems appropriate if you would call me by my name. I think we can leave the Commodore out of this evening's activities," Norrington suggested to his unorthodox fencing partner.

"Why, thank you, James. I'm perfectly happy to leave the Commodore and his stiff neck out of such a pleasant evening," Jack wasted no time in taking advantage of the offer and teasing the Navy man to boot. Norrington merely raised his brow in silent commentary at Jack's comment, a hint of unexpected mischief lurking deeply in the green eyes.

Will had wondered where Jack acquired his skills; it was uncommon enough for pirates to use a sword to do other than chop away at anything in reach. When they had first fought a year ago, Will had not appreciated then how unlikely it was for Sparrow to use such formal techniques. His curiosity grew and when the two men had paused for a breather, Will asked his piratical friend where he had learned to fight in such a fashion.

"Oh, over the hills and far away, whelp," Jack avoided answering directly. "I picked up a bit here and a bit there. There are a great many men out there bigger and stronger than I am so I had to learn to use whatever I could to gain the advantage." Jack's attention was on his new sword as he inspected it after its inaugural use, satisfied to find it sound.

"That doesn't explain the styles you were using, Jack," Will replied, "I know I picked up quite a bit from some of the officers here at the fort and from whatever fencing master I could find whenever I had any money to pay for lessons. James took an interest when I was just a boy, after they had rescued me from the explosion that destroyed the ship I was coming out from England on. He helped find me a place with Mr. Brown so that I could learn a trade."

"At first I wanted to learn to use a sword so that I could kill the pirates that had killed my father, at least as my mother told me. Then I wanted to learn how to make the best blades that I could to kill them with. James started me out and then encouraged me to practice with any others that I could, to experience other styles and opponents, both the good ones and those not so skilled. Since Barbossa and the cursed pirates, James and I have begun to practice together again, when his duties permit time away. It's quite different practicing with him now than when I was a lad, and I've learned to appreciate the privilege more."

"The thing is, Jack, I've picked up a lot of my instruction from the people here at Port Royal and practiced every day with only one thought in mind all that time; your style though is different tonight than I remember it when you fought Barbossa in the cavern. In fact, you and James seem more alike in your fencing than ever I would have guessed." Will looked at his extravagant friend speculatively.

Elizabeth had stepped up beside Will whilst he spoke. She too looked at Jack with a good deal of consideration. "It's not just your fencing style that seems to have changed, Jack. When you arrived tonight, you spoke with your usual accent but you appear to have left it behind as well. Just now you sounded much more a gentleman like James or Father, or even some of the officers at the fort. Not at all like your pirate speech we have come to expect. Perhaps I should not be surprised; after all, you did use words like ecumenical and such to Father that day when you escaped the hanging.

During this exchange, Norrington had inspected his sword and sheathed it after wiping it down. He was quite intrigued by the direction the evening was going and more than a little amused at the two on one interrogation that the pirate was being subjected to. Sparrow was an enigma; with all the outrageous stories that circulated about him and his escapades, unearthing any crumb of truth was an advantage in the pursuit. James was content to remain quiet for the nonce, a fly on the wall as it were, as Will and Elizabeth prised answers out of Jack. He really didn't wish to draw attention to himself and break their line of questioning as it progressed. An idle thought crossed his mind as he wondered how much Jack had manipulated the wilder stories from whatever the truth actually was. He knew from reports that some of the tales had basis in fact, but others were as wildly fanciful as their subject. He had noted both the fencing style and the shift in accent and grammar which tallied with his own speculation that Sparrow had had some level of education above the common run of criminal.

As the pair questioned Jack, they moved closer and closer to him until he felt constrained to step back a bit. Relentless, they followed gradually shifting him across the smithy floor until he ran out of retreating room when he backed into the edge of the forge. Swaying back a little, Jack peered up at them in disgruntlement, not at all pleased with the teamwork the courting couple displayed, at least not when they directed it at his person.

Slipping away from his pursuers, Jack sidled around until he had Norrington to shield him. The notion that Jack Sparrow would resort to using the commander of the Jamaican squadron to protect him from the two rash young persons who had saved him from a short drop et cetera tickled James' humour.

In fact, he found it hilarious and tried desperately to keep a straight face, his lips clamped tightly to keep the smile from surfacing. Unfortunately a slight quiver across his shoulders gave the game away and the pirate glared up at his back and huffed in disgust. James made the tactical error of looking around at that moment and was unable to restrain himself any longer, a snort of laughter inexcusably escaping his control. Jack scowled even more fiercely, opened his mouth, drew a deep breath in preparation to give the man a piece of his mind and was wholly disgusted when Norrington lost his battle and began to snicker outright, a broad grin displacing the stern official face Jack was more accustomed to seeing.

"Fine lot of help you are, pride of the King's Navy that you're said to be. I would have expected that you at least would have more decorum than to laugh at a man like this." Jack made his displeasure with Norrington perfectly clear. The Commodore's response to the accusation merely added more fuel to the fire as he sniggered again and drew first the Governor's daughter and then her blacksmith into laughing with him, thus compounding his transgression.

In disdain, Jack stalked over to his effects and took a goodly swig of rum to restore his ruffled sensibilities. The fresh laughter this drew from the trio disgusted Jack so greatly that he plopped down onto the steps and proceeded to sulk, looking for all the world like a sullen tomcat that had had its whiskers pulled.

He had more rum, contemplating his ridiculers as he enjoyed the burn of the lovely stuff down his throat. The three jesters stood shoulder to shoulder across the floor from his perch, enjoying themselves altogether too much at his expense. Jack had not really had a good opportunity to study Norrington when not in uniform and was somewhat surprised to note that the Commodore was quite a bit younger than he had assumed. The wig and braid had worked with the man's customary authoritarian manner to leave an impression of an older man. Tonight the man had relaxed enough to laugh with his friends and belay his pirate hunting nature to fence with one of said pirates. The world was indeed a funny place.