B is for brocade, gold and gleaming in the sun

He really had been practicing the maneuver all morning. He'd nearly decapitated Gillette a few times, who had fainted after the last close call and, even for the sake of their age-long friendship, could not be persuaded to return, so Groves had to be called in as a replacement for him, likewise not terribly enthused with his new position. Still, the captain couldn't be allowed to mortally wound the governor in front of a large crowd tomorrow. It would most probably result in a hanging somewhere as well as severely hamper his aspiration of wedding the governor's daughter.

"Alright, let's have another go."

Groves swallowed, filled with dread.

The captain had also insisted on doing all this in his ceremonial outfit, brocade and all. He'd been deadly close to snapping his feathery pen in two when he found that the governor was having some trouble obtaining the sword early. A swarm of letters (devoid of naval tactics, as far as Gillette could spy) was sent out over the course of the following week: inquiries to the governor, fort reports, several harrowing messages to the blacksmith, a request for more brandy this week, etc. And at last, the blade had come.

Norrington twirled the sword expertly, in mock battle. Groves had difficulty believing that the official movement could be so bothersome for him: after all, this was the same man who was capable of cutting down legions of pirates at a time-- how was it even possible that he could mess something as easy as this?

He was reading his blade for another strike.

Oh good Lord.

"Very well, then. Groves, you hand me the sword just as Governor Swann will and we'll go from there."

And my head will go where...?

"Aye, sir." The reply was hoarse as Groves accepted the weapon. Oh, how cruel, to be made to hold the steel that might, in a fleeting, too soon half-second, take his life...

Norrington exhaled in preparation, then marched through the line of barrels he'd aligned for such a purpose. If he wasn't in such gloomy humours, Groves might have found the situation laughable. Here was the captain, having sworn his comrades to absolute secrecy about his rehearsing, going through the ceremony that they would all be sweating through the next day. At least the captain hadn't insisted that they all wear the brocade-laden jackets to this farce. Groves considered that perhaps the captain was a little too fond of his own brocade now. Absentmindedly, he pictured his superior wearing the ornate cloak to bed and chuckled darkly. A cough followed hastily after several disturbed looks from his fellows.

Norrington was quite enjoying the marching bit.

Walk, walk, walk, turn, and halt. Very easy, very stylized.

Yet, he worried about it, too. Should he look more stern, like the weight of the responsibilities he now tended to was woven into the heavy gold brocade, drawing his shoulders down? Or should he look confident and optimistic, ready to accept the coming challenges regardless of their strain on him? A beat. What would Miss Elizabeth prefer?

Well, a pirate. That was obvious.

But pirates did not receive naval honours, so that was understandably out of the question. Besides, he despised pirates.

And how would a pirate walk an aisle of honour? It was absurd.

Still, though, just to see...and this was only practice, was it not? It was a time to try new things out, rehearse for the grand spectacle tomorrow.

He cocked his hat at a jaunty angle and strutted down the barrel row, a saffron stream of brocade flashing in the warming sun, coat tails snapping at the air behind him. He continued this striding until he reached the governor, where he bowed in a mock courtly fashion, ignoring Groves' look of utter confusion and disbelief, and accepted the sword from his outstretched grasp.

The metal flew through his hands in a graceful, loping arc, drawing perilously close to the lieutenant's nose ("Oh, Lord in Heaven!") then coming to a quivering halt abruptly before the captain's own face. He brought his heels together as Groves sank to the ground.

The other officers stared.

Norrington cleared his throat and relaxed, sufficiently satisfied. "Well, I suppose that's enough for today. I think I've got the gist of it now, thanks."

Gillette spoke up. "I wouldn't recommend the walk, but the swordsmanship was excellent. Pray remember that Governor Swann will be wearing that hat of his with the plume, so perhaps withdraw the stroke toward the end or you'll end up cleaving the blasted thing in two."

Concurring, Norrington nodded thoughtfully. "Duly noted, lieutenant."

Groves slumped to the side. Gillette tisked. "Oh dear."

The captain turned and faced his fallen officer. "What happened to Groves?"

Gillette shrugged the question off. "Probably a case of heat exhaustion in the process. It is starting to turn towards midday, captain."

"Ah, I see. See to it that he's cared for properly, Gillette."

"Yes sir."

And on that note, he left for the barracks, probably off to practice the rest of the ceremony.

"Don't know what got into him at the end," Gillette muttered as he strung an arm under Groves' shoulder and helped him up, "I'd swear he was trying act just like a..." His voice trailed off as he noticed the palour of his comrade's face. "We'd better get you to the doctor, then. Sunstroke. Too much exercise in the yard. Remember that."

Groves nodded weakly, and off they went.

Author's Note:

Cheorl -- Ooops! Jeez, I should go back and fix that. Except that I think I lost file and I'm being too lazy to cut and paste the entire thing. Thanks for catching the gender swap; I can't help wondering if it was subconscious or something? (lol)

Queen Akasha -- Thank you! I just randomly started writing this again, so here's hoping I can keep it going!

Watermelon -- Me too! I'd totally love having a 26 chapter fic under my belt.

Thanks everyone who reviewed! I love reading what you guys think (or if I make a stupid error, like making Gillette a girl out of the blue, feel free to laugh :) ) so review! Hope you liked it.