Summery: The East India Trading Company shall be promoting a young officer to his first captaincy. The question is, will it be Lieutenant Beckett or Lieutenant Sparrow? Both are young rising stars in the company, both hate each other's guts.
Disclaimer: I don't own Pirates of the Caribbean.
"The letter could come at any time!" exclaimed Anne excitedly, fanning herself as she spoke. The tall fashionable girl was standing by the punch bowl speaking to Miss Genevieve Garner, whose father had hosted this magnificent garden party.
"I heard!" answered Genevieve knowingly, "They may even deliver it here!"
Anne gave a small gasp, snapping her fan shut. "I'm sure Jack shall get the captaincy! He's just too brilliant a seaman for the company to pass by. Besides," she added meaningfully, "His uncle, Lord Sparrow, is making the decision." She tapped her fan importantly.
From behind a tree, Jack smiled smugly. He was enjoying the gossip that he was eavesdropping upon. He knew, however that there wasn't the slightest chance his uncle would ever be bias in favor of his wild nephew. Still, it was quite satisfying to hear his praises from sweet lips.
Jack's face, young and carefree, looked darker than ever beneath his ridiculous wig. Because Jack refused to cut his real hair, the powdered wig was always getting crooked. Locks of his own dark hair poked out below the curls, and this, along with the fact that his uniform was never straight and seldom completely buttoned, gave him a wild, comical look. His charm, however seemed to turn it all to his advantage. Young Lieutenant Sparrow was very popular, so it didn't matter that he, along with the rest of the Sprite's Laugh officers, had crashed this party.
"I'm not so sure," Genevieve was saying, "I heard 1st Lieutenant Beckett expects the promotion."
"Tut, tut, he's hardly more than a boy! He won't be the new captain," replied Anne dismissively.
"He's older than Jack and higher in rank. You're only saying that because, well, because he's so short."
Jack chuckled. Beckett may be higher in rank, but that didn't stop Jack and the other midshipmen from continuously making Beckett the butt of all their jokes.
"Well," sniffed Anne, "Jack's ten times the man Beckett is!"
Boldly Jack sauntered out from behind the tree. "Couldn't agree with you more, Luv! And, if you ladies care to follow me behind the greenhouse, I'll prove it to you." He leaned cockily against the tree and smiled teasingly, his gold tooth glinting, and his brown eyes sparkling mischievously.
Anne started, hopping away from him. "Lt. Sparrow! I swear! What a start. I could faint."
"I'd be happy to catch you," Jack offered and Anne blushed.
The corner of Genevieve's small mouth twitched and her eyes snapped with amusement. "Jack Sparrow," she drawled, crossing her arms, "You deserve to be slapped."
"Go ahead, try it," he challenged, sending a quick air kiss in her direction. The amused spirit in his eyes was only matched by the witty spunk in Genevieve's. She looked like she was just about to take him up on his challenge, when Anne piped up. "Are you really to be made captain of the Sprite's Laugh, Lieutenant?" she asked.
"No doubts, Luv. I shall soon be introducing myself as, Captain Jack Sparrow." He took off his hat, almost taking his wig with it, and gave a showy bow.
"Oh, really?" asked Genevieve, raising her eyebrows, "You wouldn't be exaggerating now, would you?"
Jack made a show of looking affronted, and then gave a consenting shrug. "Maybe, just a little," he said, with a cock of his head.
Anne bit her lip, but Genevieve spoke up. "I heard that it was Lieutenant Beckett who was favored for the captaincy."
Looking aghast, Jack waved his arms. "I can assure you, Miss Garner, Cutler Beckett can't possibly measure up to the position, his shortcomings are far too obvious! And trust me, no amount of compensation can make up for them."
Anne burst into giggles and even Genevieve looked like she might laugh. "You know, Sparrow, the 1st Lieutenant is only just down the path." She gestured to where, a short distance away, Beckett was engaged in conversation around a garden bench, a large rosebush nearly blocking the group from view.
"Ah," said Jack, "So he is." The three of them stared at the group for a moment.
"I wonder what they're saying," mused Anne. Jack looked mischievously from girl to girl. "There's only one way too find out, luvs," he said and beckoned with a ringed hand for them to follow, as he snuck toward the rosebush.
Anne and Genevieve hesitated, looking at each other, then tripped after him.
"Is eavesdropping on respectable people a habit with you, Jack Sparrow?" whispered Genevieve, as she kneeled in the grass, at his feet, to peer around the leafy hedge.
"I think it's exciting!" whispered Anne, looking over Jack's shoulder and between two red blooms.
"Shush," breathed Jack, putting a brown figure to his lips, and the three eavesdroppers concentrated on the garden bench conversation.
"I am quite sure Sparrow doesn't have the slightest chance. While I won't deny that Captain Reynold, (God rest his soul,) had an inexplicable liking for the boy, it is inconceivable that any truly respectable gentleman would even consider making Sparrow captain. He's undisciplined, shows absolutely no respect for authority and his manners are far more suited for a pub or whorehouse than high society," Beckett was saying, to a group of sympathizers.
"I quite agree, Lieutenant," said Lady Gerard, her chins wobbling, "The lad's half heathen! They say," she whispered, savoring the juicy, well-known gossip on her tongue, "That he's the son of an East Indies pirate and a pagan witch, and so is absolutely of no relation to Lord Sparrow at all!"
Her husband nodded, his large wig looking heavier than usual with the movement. "I don't understand how the man puts up with the lad, whether he be his nephew or not," he said.
"To be sure, I don't understand it," echoed foppy Benjamin Butter, making a hole in the turf, as slammed his cane down, "Jack Sparrow is a black spot on the good name of his uncle and the company!"
"Aye," agreed his Uncle Carlyle, fierce, old eyes snapping from the midst of wrinkles, "In my day, no heathen witch's spawn would be allowed to touch an English ship. In fact, we would have burned him on sight!"
"Jack," whispered Anne, horrified, "Are you just going to let them talk about you like this?"
Jack's eyes were hard and angry and his fierce grip on the rose bush must have been impervious to the thorns. His voice, however, was calm, if somewhat tighter than usual. "Don't worry, Luv. The comeuppance is on its way."
Genevieve looked up at him afraid he was about to do something stupid, but Jack merely looked fiercely through the roses, unmoving, as he listened to the conversation.
"Jack, couldn't possibly be a witch…" said Lady Gerard's petite daughter, in a wavering voice, "I know he's wild and uncouth, but he seems to be an overall good man. Most people like him, I heard Genevieve Garner say…"
"Oh yes," interrupted Beckett, "Most people do like him. I won't deny that Jack Sparrow has an unique charm, with which he has ensnared many innocent young ladies and gained the indulgent favor of our late captain and his respected uncle, by who's favor he has managed to bring his career as far as he has. However, once I am captain, he shall, at long last, learn the meaning of respect and discipline."
Just then, Jack turned and looked up the gravel path behind them, a smile breaking across his face. Genevieve followed his gaze and thought she heard the sound of a man running down the path. Suddenly Joshua Bennett, one of the Sprite's Laugh's midshipmen rounded the bend, holding a thick, sealed letter above his head and followed by the rest of the ships middle officers.
"It's come," said Jack, mischief practically radiating from him.
"It's here!" shouted Bennett, running toward the garden bench group and it's eavesdroppers, "It's come! It's…"
"The letter!" finished Jack, stepping out from his hiding place and meeting Bennett. Beckett opened his mouth in surprise his face darkening in anger, as he realized Jack had been spying on him.
Grabbing the letter from Bennett, Jack seemed already to have the swagger of captaincy, "And it's addressed to…" he looked down at the letter, as Beckett stepped up beside him.
"It's addressed to, me, Lieutenant Sparrow," said Beckett, slipping his letter out from Jack's hand. Seemingly stunned, Jack didn't say anything, as Beckett quickly broke the seal and unfolded the paper. "If you wouldn't mind stepping back, Lt. Sparrow, you're blocking my light," he said condescendingly. Jack glowered, but stepped away from the short man.
The large crowd of onlookers watched, with hushed expectancy, as Beckett's eyes skimmed the first page of the letter, his round face growing smugger and smugger. Finally, the buttons on his uniform on the verge of busting with his self-satisfaction, Beckett slowly folded the letter and tucked it carefully in his coat pocket.
"It seems, Sirs, that the Sprite's Laugh has chosen her new captain. I'll will be taking the post immediately."
The crowd erupted into congratulations. Beckett's garden bench sympathizers shook his hand vigorously, wishing him the best of fortunes in his new post. His midshipmen slapped him on the back, offering congratulations, with unnoticed mischief in their smiles. Genevieve shook his hand delicately, wishing him the best of luck and Anne pouted, biting her lip. Only Jack said nothing. He seemed to have got over his shock and was leaning nonchalantly against a tree on the edge of the crowd. His wig and uniform were more crooked than ever and he wore a cocky, amused expression. He could have been the poster child for undisciplined arrogance and Genevieve was sure he was just trying his best to annoy his new captain. It worked. No sooner had the crowd cleared and given Beckett some space, than his dark eyes fell upon Jack and his face reddened with anger.
"Mr. Sparrow," he snapped, "Straighten your wig and uniform, sir. The time of laxity and unruly behavior is past. Your blatant disrespect and unruliness will no longer be tolerated by me, or anyone else!"
Jack looked from side to side in mock confusion. "What? You talking to me? I can assure you, I am all gracious respectability. Am I not just the model of British decorum, ladies?"
Anne giggled at him and Genevieve shook her head in amusement. Beckett seemed to wrestle with subduing rage. "You will speak to me with the proper respect," he said, with very forced calmness.
Again, with mock confusion, Jack stood, and put a ringed hand on his chest, "Who, Sir? Me, Sir?" he said, with exaggeratingly wide, unbelieving eyes.
"Yes, Lieutenant…" began Beckett, but Jack interrupted.
"Yes, Sir" he exclaimed, lunging forward eagerly, ejaculating with his arms and then paused, putting a finger to his lips in thought, "Er, no, Sir! What'd you say, Sir?" Jack began to zigzag toward Beckett, the image of sarcastic idiocy. "When, Sir? Now, Sir? Are you quite right in the mind, Sir?" By now, Jack was right in Beckett's face, leaning over him and emphasizing the difference in their height.
There was a bit of a stunned silence, in which Beckett opened and closed his mouth like a landed fish and Jack's precarious wig toppled off and bounced off Beckett's head to the grass, revealing Jack's messy dark hair. Then Anne giggled and everyone spoke at once exclaiming either indignation or smothered amusement. Finally Beckett found his voice. "Men," he said to his midshipmen, "Remove Lt. Sparrow immediately. Take him back to the ship, where I shall deal with him appropriately."
Still smothering laughs Bennett and Jim Haddly another of the midshipmen, grabbed Jack by the shoulders and began to pull him toward the path. Jack seemed completely unconcerned. In fact, his eyes were still laughing at Beckett. Anne however, began to really get upset. "Oh, Jack!" she cried, biting her lip and stepping concernedly forward.
Jack glanced at her and then winked at both Anne and Genevieve, before speaking with a causal commanding tone to Bennett and Haddly. "Stand down, men. I'm not so sure I'm ready to leave this fine party."
Immediately, Bennett and Haddly released him and stepped aside. Beckett stepped forward, his eyes flashing in angry confusion from Jack and the midshipmen. Jack smirked.
"Mr. Bennett, Your captain gave you an order!" pointed out Lady Gerald shrilly.
"He did indeed," Agreed Jack, giving Lady Gerald a polite bow of acknowledgment, "And Bennett obeyed admirably."
"Mr. Bennett," started Beckett angrily, striding toward them.
"Just a moment, 1st Lieutenant," said Jack stepping in front of Beckett, stopping the short man in his tracks, "Before you begin abusing my men, I suggest you take another look at the seal on your letter. I think, perhaps a mistake was made." There was no mistaking the humor in Jack's last line, nor did anyone miss the joking glances he exchanged with Bennett and Haddly, as he said it. Jack gave Beckett a little shove in the chest, which nearly knocked the fuming man over, and then looked expectantly at him, as he and everyone else waited for him to reexamine the letter.
Beckett glowered sourly at the expectant crowd, before taking the letter back out and studying the seal. At first glance, it appeared to be the East India Trading Co. seal, but if one really looked at it, it obviously wasn't. Instead of the usual E, I and C there was a C, J, and S. Besides this, the mold had obviously been roughly cut and poorly made, probably with a penknife.
"That," said Jack leaning over the letter and completely ignoring Beckett's personal space, as he pointed to CJS on the seal, "Stands for Captain Jack Sparrow. The fine print on the second page of the letter explains it all."
Beckett just stared at the red seal, seemingly unhearing and disbelieving.
Jack patted him on the back, "Oh, don't worry, Lieutenant, as your new captain, I'll be sure to keep my expectations low, so even you will be able to measure up to them."
At this, Bennett, Haddly and the other Sprite's Laugh's officers fell into raucous laughter. Slowly Beckett looked up hatred burning in his dark eyes from the midst of a face flushed scarlet. "Oh, 1st Lieutenant, if you could only see you face!" cried Haddly, between fits of laughter.
Deliberately, Beckett crumpled his letter and threw it aside, without taking his eyes off Jack. "This isn't possible. They can't have made you captain!" he said heatedly.
Jack raised his eyebrows, "Isn't it? Well, I happened to have this letter," he took a letter out of his coat pocket, "Which I received this morning." He displayed it to Beckett and the crowd, "As you all can see, this letter is quite official, so not only is it possible, but it's an obvious, nearly undeniable and irrefutable fact."
Sure enough, even though the seal was broken in two, it was clearly the EITC seal. Jack shook the letter open and pointed to the official signatures at the bottom. "As you can also clearly see," he said, "It's been signed by my uncle, Lord Sparrow, as well as Commodore Graves, and not even I could hope to forge Commodore Graves' curly excuse for a signature."
Beckett made to grab Jack's letter, but Jack jerked it up out of Beckett's reach. Grinning, Jack waved it teasingly over the short man's head, daring him to jump for it.
Beckett clinched his fists. "But why? Why would he do that?!" he cried, stamping his foot and sounding more like a spoiled child, than a ship's officer.
"Because he's a lummox, that's why," stated Benjamin Butter stoutly.
"Indeed," agreed his uncle, "I always said John Sparrow didn't have much sense. This proves he's crack-brained!"
Jack tucked his letter away and walked over to stand between Anne and Genevieve. "The captaincy and my uncle's brain aside," he said, putting an arm around both girl's shoulders, "We're having a magnificent garden party, and you're not invited, Lieutenant Beckett."
Still standing where Jack had left him, Beckett looked up very icy, despite his hot anger and disgrace. "Very well then," he said smoothly, "I'll be going. Miss. Garner, please give my compliments to your father." He took off his hat and gave Genevieve a small bow, before replacing it with perfection and departing for the gate. With many a "humph," "I'll say" and other comments about rude company, the garden bench sympathizers followed suit, leaving Jack, the Sprite's Laugh officers, and Anne and Genevieve to themselves.
As soon as they were out of hearing, Jack and the other shipmen fell into fits of laughter. "Oh, that was priceless!" exclaimed Haddly, "Beckett's face!" he sat down on the grass to keep from falling down and laughed harder.
"I'll never forget it!" agreed another man.
"Jack Sparrow!" exclaimed Genevieve angrily, throwing his arm off of her, "That was the rudest, most spiteful thing I've ever saw! You know, you weren't invited to this party either, and I a good mind to have you all thrown out!"
"But, Gen, he's a captain!" Exclaimed Anne. At her words the men's laughs gained renewed gusto. Anne glanced about a bit confused and then followed along with her own little giggle. "And it is rather funny don't you think," she suggested.
Jack swooped down and snatched his hat and wig from the grass. "That's right, Gen," he said, still laughing as he carefully replaced his wig and hat, "I'm a captain! Captain Jack Sparrow. I quite like the sound of it."
"Oh, knock it off, Jack," said Bennett, "No reason to deceive these lovely young ladies."
"What?" squeaked Anne.
Genevieve crossed her arms, "Are you men going to tell us what's up?" she demanded.
"Jack's no more captain than Beckett is," laughed Haddly from the grass.
Jack pretended that he hadn't heard Haddly, and that he couldn't see Genevieve's glare, or Anne's befuddlement. Instead, he concentrated on adjusting his wig to the correct crookedness.
"But, the letter…" said Anne meekly.
"Oh, I'm sure it wasn't official, Anne," snapped Genevieve.
Jack looked up. "I assure you, Miss. Garner, It was completely official, authorized, certified and in all other way legitimate and unforgedified." He smiled, revealing his golden tooth and walked over to sit on the bench, taking out the letter and a flask. "It is indeed sent and sealed by the EITC and the commodore really signed it, as did my honorable uncle."
"Oh, yes they signed it alright," laughed Haddly, "But…"
"But, this isn't a letter of promotion," finished Bennett, snatching it from Jack's hand.
Jack glared at the thief, but only shrugged and pointed saying, "That's not quite true, Mate," before taking a swig of whatever was in his flask.
"Well, you haven't been promoted to captaincy that's for sure," responded Bennett, then turned to Genevieve. "This is a letter of transfer," he explained, "Jack's being moved to a different ship."
"And getting promoted to second mate," called Jack, from the bench.
"Yes, the scallywag has also been promoted to second mate," conceded Bennett, handing Genevieve the letter.
"I'm to leave tomorrow," said Jack, getting up and screwing the lid back onto his flask, "So, when Beckett finds out, he's been deceived, he can just sit his on his revenge and respectability till Kingdom Come, cause I don't plan on seeing that short peacock's ass again."
"But, I don't understand," said Anne, peering over Genevieve's shoulder at the letter, "If you're not captain of the Laugh, then who is? Surely not Beckett?"
"Oh, no he's not captain," said Bennett quickly.
"I should say not," agreed Jack and Haddly, in unison.
"Well, then who is?" asked Genevieve.
"My Uncle told me yesterday that they're bringing in some Irish bloke to captain the Laugh. Jeremy somptemibobble, can't remember 'is name," said Jack, waving his ringed hands dismissively. "But look here, luvs, seeing as this is my last day here, maybe the last day you'll get to see me, I think we should quit wasting time and get on with this party!"
"Oh, yes! Do let us get on with the party!" squealed Anne, hurrying to take Jack's arm.
As Jack and Anne led the rest of the group toward the rum-punch bowl, Genevieve stood, shaking her head, as she slowly folded Jack's letter. Jack Sparrow might just be the most uncouth and annoying man she'd ever met, but one thing was sure, he was a character she wasn't likely to ever forget.