It was hot enough for hell, yet the man standing scowling in the midst of Jack's victorious crew was chill; poised and private as though a wall of ice stood between him and his captors. A different world, he seemed to occupy, from this scene of splintered wood and spilled gore. Though he'd fought handily enough, nothing but the ropes around his wrists marred the crisp perfection of his uniform. Oh, a scattering of bloodstains on his lace cuffs perhaps, to mark the untimely demise of more than a few of Anamaria's new recruits, though Jack was pleased to note his own had given the man a wide berth and come away unscathed.
"Why if it isn't me old friend, Commodore Norrington, come to make me a present of a brand spanking new ship all agleam with fresh paint and enthusiasm, and a lovely little thing she is."
"Me a present!" Anamaria broke in, her tone barely short of another slap. "You owe me that ship, Jack Sparrow, and don't be forgetting it."
"Would I forget such a thing, m'darlin'... with you bellowing it in me ear all day long? Seems to me you'd better get your men aboard, and such as you don't want to keep of the good Commodore's effects moved out of his cabin, afore I decide I don't want to part with yon fine Navy boat..." He smiled winningly, leaned towards her, "or your delightful company. At all." And she grimaced, spun on her heel, and began ordering her own crew off the Pearl, onto the soon to be renamed HMS Nimrod.
Though the Nimrod - a thirty two gun frigate - was more of an Interceptor than a Dauntless, the Pearl had been running light on powder after an altercation with a Spanish galleon that ended disappointingly with the latter being sunk. This battle with His Britannic Majesty's Royal Navy had been not at all what Jack was looking for, though it had turned out well enough in the end. Fortuitously - as it might be - the Pearl was overmanned. When it came down to hand to hand fighting on the Pearl's black decks, it had been Anamaria's extra crew that'd swung the battle for them, and that narrowly.
Jack - if he had not been the legendary Captain Jack Sparrow - might have been concerned at just how difficult it had been. But he was the legendary Captain Sparrow, and his speciality was snatching triumph from the claws of certain defeat. He was not going to trouble himself with snatching thoughts of failure from a certain victory. Besides, it wouldn't do for the Commodore to know he was becoming a serious threat, the man was insufferable enough as it was.
He paced slightly closer, noting the way Norrington's eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared in disgust. Funny, Jack thought, and annoying in equal measure. It wasn't wise or polite to be so clearly disapproving of a man's walk, when you were a defenceless prisoner on his ship. But it was nicely consistent - it gave him a small stab of homesickness, a feeling that there was still some constancy in this reeling world.
"Now, now, Commodore - no call to be looking like you smelled something bad. I had a proper bath only a fortnight ago."
"That was a month, Jack," said Gibbs over his shoulder, as he motioned with his pistol to keep the captive sailors more interested in getting into the longboat than in the fate of their commanding officer. "If you call being soused in the contents of a horse trough a proper bath."
Jack pouted winsomely, but the expression seemed to do him no good with either Gibbs or Norrington. Probably something they put in his Britannic Majesty's godawful rum rendered all Navy and ex-navy men immune to a bit of honest charm. Dishonest charm, he corrected himself, and paused. Maybe the narrow-eyed look wasn't disgust at all. It certainly wasn't fear.
He swayed even closer, so that his fine velvet coat brushed against all that showy gold braid. Tilted his head to examine the commodore's face, delighted by Norrington's struggle to accept this without stepping back - for stepping back would press the edge of Cotton's cutlass hard against his spine. Who'd have thought it? Green eyes. The colour of Northern sunlight slanting through alder leaves. And maybe there was a little fear after all - but more fury. Disappointment too? Certainty, uncertainty, and resolution. The man was like an iceberg; everything visible was polished and pristine, but by God there was so much going on underneath the surface.
"You will give my men a cask of water and a compass."
"It's to be negotiations!" Jack gave a bright smile and danced a jig around his prize. "How far we've come already. Only our last meeting you were all set to kill me, and now you want to talk? We'll be best o'friends afore the week is out."
As he swung around past the stiff blue shoulders, Jack caught a fleeting glimpse of the clear up. The ship's carpenter was already at work on the holes, and the bodies were being tied with rope and ballast to send them to the kingdom of the dead at the bottom of the sea. Only Anamaria was having problems, trying to peel one of her sobbing recruits away from a casualty. He would get no sympathy there. Them as falls behind gets left behind. A pirate could not afford to waste heartache over the misfortunes of others.
"I am not negotiating with you, Sparrow. Mr. Turner seems to think you are a good man. I am giving you an opportunity to prove it."
Jack raised his eyebrows. Now that was a new one. "A good man," he paused, "and a pirate. So let's say I want to give your little lads a few home comforts - even though they should by rights be able to navigate by the stars, and raw fish is good for a parched thirst, if you're not too picky about drinking fish blood - and who would be after a couple of dry days? Still got to make it worth m'while, savvy?" He took a breath, looked up into the twisted frown that Norrington seemed to wear as part of the uniform. "And it's Captain Sparrow, eh? Specially as I've got the ship and you aint. Mr Norrington."
This was fun! Jack hadn't put too much thought into the decision to send the Nimrod's crew home in a longboat, but keep the Commodore. It just seemed to be happening that way, and he for one was quite happy with it. There probably was some diabolically cunning reason, bubbling away in the dark recesses of his mind, which only required a bit of rum and peril to bring to the fore - he'd learned to trust these things. But in the mean time, standing next to all that chill was making the oppressive Caribbean sun seem kindly on him, and his freedom that much more of a treasure.
The barb must have hurt. Norrington bowed his head so that the brim of his hat obscured the expression in his eyes, and sighed. "What do you want?"
Behind Jack, the weeping man began to shout. Anamaria's voice raised in a tirade against him; and say what you liked, she was a harridan, but she was a bloody good pirate. The sooner her crew learned that, the better. It would not help her authority if Jack was to intervene, so he let it pass, obscurely annoyed that the Navy man should see such slack discipline on his ship. "I'm a gentleman of modest wants, James..." he smiled at the look of disapproval and surprise. Honestly, as though looking a man's Christened name up in the Navy Lists was tantamount to theft! "I can call you James, can't I, since we're going to be such good friends. It's like this. You promise not to kill any more of my lads. I promise not to kill any more of yours. Deal?"
Norrington took a deep breath and let it out through the nose, then he raised his head and gave a small, wintery smile. "From a man as twisted as yourself, Captain Sparrow, I would like something slightly more specific. You provide my men with enough fresh water to take them back to Port Royal, and a working compass. Then you let them depart in safety. And in return I swear upon my honour as a gentleman, I will not kill any of your crew while I am a captive aboard this vessel."
"Ah, you see that's not what I really meant. I meant 'you promise not to kill us at all'. Not by skewer or garrotte or hitting over the head, or any other means accidental or intentional during the course of any - as it might be - escape attempt, nor blowing up me ship, nor taking us captive by cunning plans and stratagems on this or another occasion, and hanging us by the neck till we be dead. Y'have such a fascination for the noose, mate. Y'understand the concern."
There was British weather in Norrington's eyes; a play of clouds and storm. Jack felt, again, a recognition, a nostalgia, at the thought. But he shook it off. No cause to get sentimental over a frigid killjoy who was having so much difficulty with the concept of not wanting him dead.
Truth was he'd meant to see the longboat provisioned adequately all along. Freedom was one thing, cruelty another, and it didn't seem sporting to send his pursuers away to die of thirst in the middle of the mocking sea. But Norrington didn't need to know that, and if some concession could be wrung out of him in the belief that he was paying for his men's safety, more fool him. Could have trusted me to do it. Could've trusted in me essential goodness, like Will did.
Behind him there was the sound of a slap, and a man's harsh exclamation, half mad with rage; "He killed my...!"
"I don't give a leper's kiss what he did! Obey my orders or get off my damn boat!"
Norrington looked up with the same expression he'd worn as he watched them put the rope around Jack's neck. It was funny, now Jack thought of it, how it had been James who looked condemned that day. Himself, he'd known something would come up. It always did. "I cannot..." the commodore began.
And Anamaria screamed "Jack!" just as a sharp crack echoed off the Pearl's black gunwales. The shot hit Norrington in the chest. He recoiled - looking hardly more than surprised - into Cotton's cutlass, and then fell; silently, neatly, as befitted an English gentleman, blood staining his braid and turning his blue coat black. Smoke and the smell of powder expanded against a beat of silence. Then Captain Peyton of the Nimrod - the last to get below into the longboat - was struggling and cursing against his captors.
"Murdering bastards! Pirate scum! I'll see you all hang for this!"
Gibbs manhandled him away, but not before Jack had seen the tale of it; how Port Royal, and every British ship in the Caribbean would shiver over the merciless pirate who waylaid his nemesis and executed him in cold blood, while the brave young officer was trying to bargain for his men's lives. There would be a new, sinister twist to the fame of Captain Jack Sparrow, which would darken his name forever, and might even buy him his peers' respect.
Anamaria knocked out her errant crew member with a left hook, and looked over long enough to say "Good riddance."
But legend and personal misgivings aside, this was not what Jack intended at all. In fact, it was like watching Barbossa make off with his ship again. It was downright unjust. "This wasn't supposed to happen!" he told the universe at large. As usual, it laughed at him. "Oh god, not good. Not good at all."