Jack was asleep. It was a good way to be, since there wasn't any rum left among the crew at the moment – and that didn't look to be changing before a new ship, with shiny new provisions, could be requisitioned - and sleeping at least released him from these petty land-based concerns.
Elizabeth, bored out of her rather tired and torn knickers, woke him. "Jack, how well do you know Mr. Gibbs?"
"What? Gibbs?" Jack moaned languidly, feeling around his belt for a pistol which was temporarily stored inside his left boot on the floor. "Never heard of him."
When he made no more effort to wake, Elizabeth shook his shoulder again. "Jack. You know, Mr. Gibbs. Your first mate?"
"No, no, not ringing the old watchbell, savvy?" Jack growled and tried to negotiate the hammock – which had been strung up for him by a sympathetic crew, who knew how unsteady he was without a bit of roll under his feet – and turn on his side away from her.
"The one who drinks rum all the time."
"Rum, you say…" Jack said sadly. "I like rum." The sadness turned to suspicion. "We've not got any rum yet, have we?"
"Not yet… but Mr. Gibbs usually has a flask or two stashed about," Elizabeth said surreptitiously.
Happily, Jack said, "Ah, yes, that Mr. Gibbs. Right, what'll ye need be knowing?"
Elizabeth shrugged, pulling fingers through her hair to keep it from going to dreadlocks. "I was just thinking about him. He's pleasant enough. I knew him when he was in the navy, you know. He was kind to me on the crossing from England, even if he did think that I was bad luck."
"Fascinating," Jack agreed faithfully, coming to terms with the fact that he was not going to get back to sleep anytime soon.
"He was a veritable well of stories about pirates, even then. It was half the reason why I spent so much time with him. The other half was that he was willing to show me how to put my hair in a queue – you know, how the sailors do – and not tell Father."
"Ah, aiding and abetting a future pirate. He's an unscrupulous dog right to the soul," Jack said with approval.
Elizabeth looked down at her hands. More slowly, she continued, "I didn't know that he left the service until a rather rude awakening in the middle of my rescue."
"Oh!" Jack said more loudly than was necessary. "So you'll be wanting to know how Mr. Gibbs came to fall from His Majesty's Navy's grace to cavort, connive, and generally metamorphose into an all-around scalliwag, is that it?"
"Something like that."
Jack nodded enthusiastically. "I've no idea."
Elizabeth gave him a look of both exasperation and incredulity. "What?"
Jack was assembling the five solid pounds of his worldly goods and arranging them appropriately. "An interesting riddle, truth be told, but not one that I've felt the need to explore with his dramatis personae, as it were."
"You don't even have a theory?" Elizabeth pressed.
"A great many things can corrupt a man," Jack said more suggestively than Elizabeth liked. Changing tack, he briskly went on, "A theory, however, is the involvement of a bonnie lass. You and I both know that women are the route of all evil, eh? And the higher-ups frown upon that most carnal pleasure. Even when there's ne'er a girl involved."
She blinked, taken aback. "What?"
Jack shrugged. "What do I know? Hardly met the man. Might know 'im better with the aid of rum, o'course…" he hinted hopefully, holding an invisible bottle in his hand and mimicking the actions to be taken involving said bottle.
Elizabeth sniffed and looked away. "If I were to hazard a guess…" Her stiff posture relaxed somewhat, and she half whispered, "Well, he always did like his rum. Always seemed to have some saved, despite rationing of one tot a day, I mean."
Jack aped her conspiring attitude and said, "And anyone could guess how much your Commodore Norrington frowns upon drunkenness while on duty."
Elizabeth sensed that he was mocking her and snapped, "There's no way that… what you said could happen, so don't take that tone with me, Mr. Sparrow."
Jack tilted his head. "Would the lady like to make a wager?"
Elizabeth glared at him for a moment, and then jabbed her right and at him.
"Alright then," Jack said flippantly, shaking vigorously. "We'll get your man in on this one as well, shall we?"
They found Will attempting to reconnoit the docks for a ship to suit their needs. When Jack's version of events thus far proved fanciful at best – Elizabeth stopped him right about when she offered herself for the third time and his resistance was weakening – Elizabeth explained what was happening.
Once he understood the question, Will said simply, "Being that my experience with Mr. Gibbs has been largely olfactory, I've never wondered why Gibbs became a pirate."
Elizabeth pressed, "I thought that you two got along."
Will smiled, self-conscious. "When I met him, I was going through a sort of phase where a pirate was just about as good as a chunk of impure iron, too dirty to be salvaged." He lost all traces of bashfulness and added somewhat coldly, "Not to mention that recent experiences with Jack had given me cause to distrust pirates even more."
Jack curled his lip indignantly, and then relaxed it and pointed to himself with innocence. "What have I ever done to you?"
"Tried to give me to pirates very eager to kill me in order to get your ship back."
"Obviously I mean besides that," Jack waved him off nonchalantly.
Elizabeth said, "What about Mr. Gibbs?"
Will smiled, and then appeared to think. "Mr. Gibbs, though… hearing him talk about pirates would make you want to be one yourself." He smiled. "If anything, he may have succumbed to hero worship."
Jack nodded sagely. "There's a limit to the number of times a man can be flogged before the open horizon becomes extremely attractive."
Will nodded along with him and joked, "Besides, Gibbs still seems happy to tell his stories to any captive audience."
Jack sidled closer to Will's shoulder. "You know, the lady and I've a wager on it. If you'd like to enter as well, that is."
Will considered it a moment and offered his hand. "Let's find Gibbs and settle this."
Naturally, the first person they ran into actually ran into them.
" Elizabeth?" Norrington called from across the street. His immediately pleased smile vanished as he saw the men. Curtly, he noted, "And Messrs. Turner and Sparrow."
Jack winced and put his wrists together, arms straight. "Is it the irons again, love?"
Norrington looked him up and down, and then said, "Regretfully not. I don't have any of my men with me." He addressed all further comments to Elizabeth. "Why are you here?"
She smiled politely and ignored Jack's wild gesturing to keep quiet over Norrington's shoulder. It was made more difficult by the fact that Norrington was much taller, and Jack had to jump to be seen. Carefully, she said, "We've just run into a spot of trouble. We were looking for Mr. Gibbs. Have you seen him – my God, James, are you alright?"
At the name, Norrington's face had paled dramatically. He studiously took a breath, exhaled, inhaled, and said steadily, "In fact, I have. Is that why he's here? He's joined up with the likes of Jack Sparrow?"
There was a faint, reflexive murmur from behind him. "Capitan Jack Sparrow. I don't see what's so difficult about it."
There was a low grunt as Will presumably elbowed him.
Elizabeth said, "Yes. Actually, we were going to ask him why he left the navy." She leaned towards him, lifting her eyebrows. "He was serving under you, wasn't he?"
"Why does she need to ask like that?"
There was another grunt as Jack returned the favor.
Norrington cleared his throat and adopted the dry tone of a naval ledger. "Mr. Gibbs was an able seaman, but men serving under my command understand that drunkenness while on duty is prohibited. He was given twenty-four lashes, seemed to reform himself, and then absconded straight away when next we made port."
Elizabeth leaned around him to look at her companions triumphantly. "You hear? I was right. Drunkenness."
Jack frowned and then sneered childishly, "We can't be sure unless it's from the horse's mouth."
Elizabeth sighed and straightened up to smile at Norrington again. "Where did you say Mr. Gibbs was?"
"I'll show you," Norrington said, offering her his arm.
Dressed in the dirty and failing remains of a dress fit for a fishmonger's wife in the best of times, Elizabeth took his arm and they began a stately meander. Jack offered Will his arm in mockery, but was refused. Jilted, he followed the pair in a huff. Will followed, too, at the rear and in a sulk.
Jack, ever the entrepreneur, said, "You know, we have a wager between the three of us. Care to make it four?"
They found Gibbs in a bar, drinking rum. He looked up at them, and then back down. "I hadn't expected t' see ye again so soon, sir."
Norrington said, "I am a victim of circumstance, Mr. Gibbs."
Jack immediately sat down across from him and, during Elizabeth's explanation and subsequent questioning, pulled Gibbs' half-full glass closer to one who could truly appreciate it.
Gibbs growled, "Aye, I deserted."
Three sets of eyes slid to Norrington, but Jack said, "I say that it doesn't count, since he cheated."
"Not because of the lashings – I deserved those – but because of a bit of a misunderstanding. An interlude, if you will." Gibbs was now decidedly uncomfortable.
"He means that there was a bonnie lass involved, which means that I've the way of it," Jack intimated to the others, hands out expectantly.
Will asked, "Not because of hero worship, then? Are you sure?"
"'S leading the witness, that is," Jack accused.
Gibbs asked, "What's all this about?"
Elizabeth, after a moment of awkward silence, said, "We've made a wager as to your reasons, Mr. Gibbs."
"I see. No doubt Jack's idea."
"Yes, Mr. Gibbs," she said.
"But that he got all three of ye to enter in surprises me."
"I was sure of my reason, Mr. Gibbs, but now I've been proven wrong."
"I can just about see it," Gibbs said slowly. His eyes drifted to Norrington. "What'd you say it was, then?"
Norrington stiffened and for a moment seemed on the verge of reciting the exact same line. Instead, he said, "Desertion."
"Oh, that was your suggestion?" Gibbs said. "I see it. I see it. And ye'd all like to know what happened?"
"Well, yes," Elizabeth said eagerly.
Slowly, Gibbs drew his quarter-full glass back to him. "It all started when Lieutenant Norrington – weren't no Commodore then, ye know – was transferred onto th' Imp - sorry, Imperieuse, the ship - and given practically all of my same watches to bear down on me."
Very icily, Norrington said, "Mr. Gibbs."
Gibbs ignored him. "An' since he could, he was always on me about somethin'."
"You were frequently inebriated," Norrington said, a warning in the set of his jaw.
"An' then one day I walked past him and, calm as you please, he says 'Mr. Gibbs, I'll see you in my quarters to discuss your discipline deficiencies.' He said exactly that. I know, 'cos I was certain sure that whatever he'd caught me at was goin' straight to the captain's ear and I was t' be flayed until my back was open to the salty air. Thought those were be the last words I'd hear, besides the Articles and the sentencing."
Norrington hissed, "Joshamee."
Elizabeth and Will started. Jack frowned meditatively at Norrington. Gibbs stared unhappily at an empty glass.
Will looked at Gibbs, now. "Is that your first name?"
Elizabeth said, "You have a first name?"
Jack snapped his eyes back to Gibbs and volunteered, "I've a middle name." He lean toward Norrington and whispered, "It's Bartholomew."
"Aye, that's me," Gibbs said gruffly. "It's on account of Commodore Norrington here not wanting this little reminiscence to go on to the good part."
Jack said, "Then by all means. That's why you got out of the navy, isn't it, Mr. Gibbs?"
Gibbs nodded slowly. "So I went below, my knees knockin', all because of a little tripe half my age."
"That 'little tripe' was your commanding officer," Norrington said.
"An' I get down there an' he says – he says…" He trailed off, lost in thought for a moment, and then looked up at his former officer.
Norrington was clenching his jaw and staring at a far wall. Just barely, his cheeks were flushed. Or it was a sunburn from standing on deck for so many hours…
Gibbs shrugged. "I won't tell ye what he said. But one thing led to another and it's better to just say that I wasn't the only one doing things with my knees just then. Not that the lad's knees were shaking, though a fair bit o' shaking was t' be expected, but it's more the spreadin' of them that was at the forefront of my mind."
Will coughed, or made an equally uncomfortable noise somewhere in the vicinity of his nose. Elizabeth put a hand over her mouth. Jack sat still, studying Norrington.
Gibbs sighed. "It's not written anywhere in the Articles, but ye can, in fact, be kicked out of the service for buggering an officer."
Norrington reached very stiffly into his pocket and drew out two coins. "There. Tuppennce. Enough for some rum here, I trust. That was the bet, wasn't it?" He dropped the coins on the table, but the sound was lost in the general babble of the tavern. "Tuppennce," he spat. "The price of my honor." He swooped out in a dark mood.
Jack said quietly, "I suppose that the bet's settled in my favor."
Will accused, "You said it had to do with a woman."
Elizabeth said meekly, "No, he – he didn't."
Jack said, "I only said that it involved copulation in general. 'Even when there's ne'er a girl involved,' I said."
Elizabeth was a deep shade of rouge, now, and fled forthwith.
Will stayed long enough to plink down four coins – to cover Elizabeth, as well, he said – and then followed her example.
Jack and Gibbs were left alone, and Jack signaled for two more of the same.
Gibbs said, "Ye know, I think it's cheatin' if I already told you."
Jack said, "I needed rum. And anyway, what they don't know won't hurt them any."
Gibbs grumbled into the new glass that had appeared.
Jack said sympathetically, "At least you didn't tell them about the repeat performances. Then he would never have forgiven you."
Gibbs grumbled some more, this time taking a sip.
Jack finished, "And besides, how sad can ye be, mate? After having that most carnal pleasure, eh?"
Gibbs grumbled even more, ending on an indistinct word that may have been 'twice'.
Jack laughed. "Good man. I was wondering why he was even here. And then he says he saw you and," he spread his arms expansively, "It all jus' clicked, mate."
" I'm going to remember that heartbroken face o' his for a long time yet," Gibbs said moodily.
Jack raised his glass. "Then I'll race you to the bottom."