Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, written purely for fun.

Dedication: For Diane

Author's Notes: My beta for this was fellow pirate lover veronica_rich. Thanks, my dear! Also, thanks to la_atrevida for the protocol regarding formal Spanish titles. This takes place shortly after James and Jack have become lovers, but not before they are "outed" to Gillette and Groves. Grant was the actual governor of Florida during 1763 (which is the arbitrary date I set this piece, because who in the HELL knows when the movie was set), and he was born at some estate up in Scotland. de Bolea was also Capitán of Cuba as well; I'm not sure he was a Don, but I assume he was. The British sacked Cuba in like 1761, and in a swap the Spanish gave the Brits Florida in exchange for getting Cuba back. The sovereignty over the Florida Keys actually was a bone of contention. The Spanish claimed that they remained theirs and the Brits contended that they were part of the deal when they were given Florida. So this piece actually has some historical fact behind it!

"Blast and damn," I muttered under my breath and threw the letter on the floor in frustration. Then realizing this was behavior most unbecoming to a commodore of His Majesty's Royal Navy, I picked it up, smoothed it out, and then thwacked it with the flat of my hand

The letter was typical of those ensconced behind elaborately inlaid desks with soft hands, whose most onerous task of the day would be to write a few letters. The Admiralty had recently become inundated with these men, who if pressed couldn't have told the difference between a mast and a tree. All their outlandish orders boiled to one thing: we don't care how many men you have or the tonnage of your ships or what sort of armaments you possess, you shall win for crown and king. Saitherwaite was particularly challenged in this regard. The younger brother of an Earl who'd been promoted again and again solely based on his brother's patronage, he had reached the august rank of admiral. If the Admiralty were staffed by buffoons the likes of this man, then the French and Spanish merely needed to sit back and let us hoist ourselves on our own petards.

Raging incompetence aside, by his command I was commissioned to sail to Havana forthwith to assist in the current wrangle over the ownership of the Florida Keys. After our sacking and capture of Havana, the Spanish ceded us Florida in exchange for Havana, but not apparently The Keys. We believed The Keys were part of Florida. The Spanish disagreed. I was to sail into the Havana harbor with the most impressive ship under my command, with the tacit understanding that more cannons the better. The fact that my repeated requests for monies for increased arms and cannons over the past two years had been denied by this very incompetent meant nothing to him. I was supposed to create arms out of thin air.

"Captain Gillette!" I bellowed.

He immediately appeared and saluted like the very fine sailor that he was.

"At ease, Andrew. Have a seat." I said with a sigh. I motioned with my chin to the letter on the desk and rolled my eyes.

"Saitherwant?" asked Andrew, using our pet name for him, as in he wanted a brain.

"Yes. Yet again his stupidity surpasses all my expectations. And I must admit they are rather high expectations, as in, I can't possibly believe that he is that stupid. Yet, he always proves me wrong."

"What's he done this time?"

I brought out two cigars and handed him one. The only benefit as far as I could see from our sacking of Havana was the discovery of their far superior tobacco compared to the rest of Hispaniola. Truly, to smoke a cigar harvested and rolled by their natives was to inhale nirvana. A few puffs restored me.

"He wants us to arrive in full military splendor to add weight to the diplomatic talks currently underway regarding The Keys. The fact that we have limited cannon balls and muskets is immaterial. His letter ignores my repeated requests for monies to replenish our stock. That we have been reduced to actually farming so that I can feed the men…"

Gillette had heard this complaint many a time. This was a sore point. The Admiralty would prefer to stock its ships in Europe, trusting that we had endless bounty to reap here with the capture of Spanish and pirates ships. Although my counterparts in Europe were allowed to personally benefit from capturing French and/or Spanish ships depending on who we were at war with, I was expected to pay for my crew and troops out of the spoils from sacking Spanish, French, or pirates ships that had sacked Spanish, French, or other pirate ships. Saitherwant ordered me to arrive in Havana appearing as if all the bounty of the Admiralty were at my disposal.

Adding to the futility of the mission, the chief negotiator was none other than General James Grant, the current governor of Florida. Despite his less than stellar performance during the Siege of Havana, per the usual, his incompetence was rewarded. It was said that he couldn't successfully negotiate his way from Piccadilly to Westminster, never mind locking successful horns with the formidable and crafty Capitán General de Cuba, Don Ambrosio Funes Villalpando Abarca de Bolea.

I had yet to beg Jack for a loan based on his spoils elicited from the Isla de Muerta in order to bolster my stores, but I had come close.

"Haven't heard anything from that Jack Sparrow recently. He's got a cave full of swag," Andrew noted with envy.

"Yes, he does." I said this without any inflection in my voice.

Gillette was correct on both counts, regarding the amount of his wealth and his disappearance. We, or should I say "I," hadn't heard from Jack in many weeks. I would usually get a letter or a trinket letting me know that he was safe. He was most inventive. Sometimes I'd bite into a bit of custard and there would be ruby or an emerald. Once there was a very charming gold sparrow on a chain. How he inveigled my cooks at both the fort and home into his schemes remained a mystery. One day I found a note in my smalls written in his hand, "Wish I were here." Another time a parrot in a cage miraculously appeared in my sitting room; he'd taught it to say, "Where's my wig?" I retaliated and taught it to say, "Checkmate."

But it had been three months since he'd graced my sitting room and my bed; the longest he'd been away.

"When are we to set sail?" Gillette knew that I couldn't say no to Saitherwant anymore than I could fly.

"A week ago. Ready the men. Make sure they are wearing their best uniforms and that these uniforms are clean." I might not have muskets, but no one could find fault with English tailoring. "I so much as see a hint of stubble on any man's face and they shall be court-martialed."

We pulled into the harbor under full sail, the Dauntless as majestic as English shipwrights could make her, with every man on deck, as starched and magnificent as only His Majesty's Navy can be. There is a reason why the English command the seas, and it was in its full glory that afternoon. I hated to give Saitherwant's policies even a minute bit of credence, but we must have been a formidable sight. Even though the reality was such that I had a total of fourteen cannon balls, and those men with their hands clasped behind their backs were doing so because they lacked arms.

I couldn't help but marvel at how quickly the Spanish had restored what we had destroyed—at least in the main square. Of course, they had done this all with slave labor, a practice I could not abide. Nevertheless, I couldn't fault the beauty of their particularly romantic architecture with its towers and arches, and the inevitable square surrounding a huge fountain gushing water. Growing freely in the heat and humidity, blood-red bougainvillea climbed up iron trellises and wound tight tendrils around wooden balconies. Hibiscus and jasmine spilled out of pots, filling the air with a sickly sweet aroma. Every public building had an overwrought beauty, anchored by the cathedral with its two enormous bell towers. This extravagant yet elegant beauty was at such odds with the Spanish's freely acknowledged brutality.

With Gillette at my side and Groves left in charge of the ship, the two of us made our way to Grant's temporary quarters. I had a decided prejudice against the Scots—which was only exacerbated by Jack's mistreatment at the hands of Jock Ritchie. It was not an unfounded dislike. The Scots under my command were a belligerent lot. Any drop of drink and they were immediately spoiling for a fight. If any of my men were involved a pub brawl, one bob will get you ten that it was usually incited by a Scots midshipman in his cups, which, of course, was ideal in a combat situation, but trying to tether them when unbridled violence was not the order of the day was like trying to herd cats. No commander worth his salt wants to go into battle. Inevitably there will be casualties. You approach a battle with a heavy heart and a sharp sword. The Scots under my command chafed under peace and thrived under war. My limited interaction with General Grant had confirmed that he certainly had the thirst for war. Whether he could be brought to heel and told to bide his time until we were better stocked was another matter. The Spanish only understood "rough wooing." Unfortunately, we currently lacked the wherewithal to rough woo!

"Commodore, how lovely to see you again." Grant's Scottish burr was as pronounced as if he'd only left Scotland ten days ago, not ten years.

I held out my hand and he shook it with vigor. Grant had that reddish bloom spread across both cheeks signaling pending apoplexy, which only looked redder against the stark white of his wig. "General, my regards."

"Have a seat. Captain Gillette? My pleasure." Apparently mere captains didn't rate a handshake, just an imperious acknowledgment. "These Spanish bastards aren't moving an inch." He snapped his fingers twice and an aide-de-camp immediately appeared with a tray laden down with three glasses of fine whiskey. Three very full glasses of whiskey. "The Keys are clearly ours, and yet de Bolea insists that this was merely a misunderstanding based on a faulty translation. Misunderstanding, my foot."

Being that Grant had been instrumental in hammering out the original agreement, it did not bode well for him that the sovereignty of The Keys remained in question.

"I see. We are not in a position to, how shall I say this, convince Don Ambrosio that such a misunderstanding is, sadly, his loss, in other words, that the misunderstanding is all his. However, I suggest we play firm but not bellicose"—I gave him a stern eye—"as we lack the reinforcements to press home our position. Not that he needs to know that."

Grant drained half of his glass. "And?"

"You write for reinforcements immediately. It will take two weeks to cross the Atlantic. It will take another three weeks for them to arrive. I suggest requesting no fewer than four fifty-two-pound war frigates; if you are lucky they will send two, which is all you will need. Meanwhile, you dance, General. You keep him guessing. Be conciliatory one week, bellicose the next. The Dauntless is impressive and that will give him pause. Perhaps five weeks of pause. Of course, there is nothing to say that he won't take those five weeks to order Spanish war ships of his own. However, our ships are much faster, even laden down with cannon." I allowed myself a smirk.

The type of ship necessary to haul all that New World gold halfway around the world had all the grace and speed of a turtle. Having chose endurance and heft over maneuverability, they put all their resources into arms and men, thinking that would suffice. Sometimes it did, but their casualties must have been formidable. Not that I think they cared. In my thirty-five years I had come to detest the French, but I loathed the Spanish.

"The point is to keep him guessing," I insisted.

"I am very bad at being conciliatory," he complained and downed the rest of his glass. His face flushed an even deeper red, and his hand was unsteady as he fumbled to set it on the table. Clearly, his future in the Americas hinged on exactly who were the future overlords of The Keys.

"Shall we set a trap? You act determined for war, and I will pretend to play peacemaker. That should not only confuse him, but buy us some time."

His estimation of me went up several notches. For the first time in our brief acquaintance he regarded me with something approaching respect.

"There is a ball tonight at de Bolea's mansion to fete a new arrival. A French widow with gobs of money looking to establish a sugar plantation on Cuba. The Marquise de Chantal-Lafayette. She has set the town on its ear. Shall we lay our seeds of deceit there?"

I nodded and stood up, leaving the rest of my liquor untouched. I needed all my faculties to outmatch Don Ambrosio.

My professional self demanded that I attend these sorts of affairs on a fairly frequent basis. If I am lucky, the music is decent, a card game is in full swing in the anteroom, and the champagne served will be cold. If I am not, then the violinist sounds like he's killing cats, the only diversion is dancing, and we are drinking inferior claret that burns the lining of my throat.

Being a ball, I would do my duty, forcing myself to do a couple of turns around the floor with the charming Marquise—who was no doubt not charming; I found French woman mercenary and sly—and then spend the rest of the evening horse-trading with de Bolea. General Grant didn't have to play a part. Being belligerent to the Spanish was second nature to him.

Andrew offered to stay with the ship and relieve Theo Groves. Which didn't fool me one bit. I couldn't help but bite out an ironic, "How generous of you, Andrew," as if I didn't know that Theo would decline to attend the ball, and then lo and behold, both of them would have the ship to themselves. Well, them and sixty other sailors. No one had shore leave because I didn't trust the Spanish not to stage manufactured street fights, so perhaps it was just as well. It might require both Gillette and Groves to keep the crew in line. One whiff of Spanish soil riled the tempers of even the most mild-mannered of the crew.

I arrived in state in General Grant's carriage, dressed in my most severe and medal-laden uniform. I presented as the quintessential English officer, and I hoped that de Bolea understood that meant that I wasn't a fool, despite whatever conciliatory gestures I might make.

Although I had read reports that we had reduced the Governor's mansion to rubble, there was no evidence of our destruction. They must have whipped slaves to near death night and day to have recreated this magnificent home. The size of a small palace, it took two footmen to open the front doors. The foyer was beyond grandiose with black and white marble checkering the floor and twin staircases leading to the second story; the balustrades were of the most intricate iron work. William Turner's jaw would have dropped in envy at the fine display of such workmanship. The sweet smell of over-perfumed women and wig powder wafted in front the gigantic sitting room to my right. My posture already picture perfect, nevertheless I braced myself internally for the onerous social demands of the evening and the political maneuverings for the foreseeable future.

My first obligation was to seek General Grant, who would formally introduce me to Don Ambrosio. I had an intimate knowledge of de Bolea through the reports of our spies, but I had yet to lay eyes on him in person. By all reckoning, you underestimated him at your peril. I suspected that Saitherwant and others realized that Grant was out of his ken here. I was the only if obvious choice to accurately assess the situation. If the rebuilding effort were any indication, Don Ambrosio was a man of action. As was typical, Saitherwant played this all wrong. My arrival would signal to de Bolea that we were dead serious about laying claim to The Keys. On the first tide, Grant had to send a message on a fast-moving sloop to the Admiralty with a demand for guns, cannons, and four war frigates.

According to our plan, Grant would begin making demands at once, at which point I would hint that a more cautious approach should be made. Now that I had an inkling of whom we were dealing with, all this faux diplomacy was pointless. I half expected an armada of Spanish Galleons to arrive in the harbor any minute. de Bolea was not one to tarry, obviously.

Nevertheless, we might as well go through the motions. To change tack now would confuse Grant. I searched for a footman bearing a tray of whiskeys and voilá; there was Grant, speaking to a diminutive older man with impeccable posture and what seemed to be a never-ending smile on his face. No doubt he was privately sneering at Grant, the smile merely a cover for his contempt. This infuriated me. It was one thing for me to cast aspersions on Grant; it was quite another to have this Spaniard sniggering behind his metaphorical hands at His Majesty, George III's representative. How dare he.

I crossed the room. Grant's relief at my arrival was all too apparent on his face.

"General, a lovely evening. Would you do me the honor of introducing me to our illustrious host?"

"Commodore Norrington, may I present Don Ambrosio Funes Villalpando Abarca de Bolea. Don Ambrosio, Commodore Norrington is in charge of our fleet at Port Royal."

I clicked my heels together and bowed. I had no intention of shaking this cur's hand. To describe our contingent of ships as a "fleet" was being far too generous as de Bolea's spies would no doubt attest; however, my reputation had clearly preceded me based on the change in de Bolea's demeanor. He bowed in return; the smirk had disappeared. There is an unspoken energy between two men who within two seconds smell a worthy opponent. de Bolea immediately recognized that to underestimate me would be fatal, an assessment that I had of him even before laying eyes on him. To see him was to only confirm the obvious. Perhaps the Admiralty should send five frigates.

"Commodore, welcome to my humble home."

Surely that was laying it on a bit thick given the extravagant furnishings and number of rooms. If there were any fewer than thirty rooms, I'd eat my wig.

"I understand that the previous governor's mansion was destroyed. You have done a magnificent job of rebuilding." I didn't see any harm in reminding him that we had routed his predecessor, and we had confidence that we would successfully rout him.

"Thank you," he said in a brisk tone that told me that he understood exactly what I'd meant. "I am remiss. Please, Commodore, allow me the pleasure of introducing my guest of honor. My dear, why are you standing in the shadows? Such beauty shouldn't be hidden. We are trying to convince her to abandon the grim Brittany coast and live in luxury here among the hibiscus and jasmine. Marquise de Chantal-Lafayette, may I present Commodore James Norrington."

I turned toward the woman who had been demurely standing back, half-hidden behind Grant.

"Commodore," said a husky and voluptuous voice with a heavy French accent, her face half hidden behind an elaborately painted fan. I took her extended hand, elegant in a black lace glove, kissed it, adopted my usual practiced professional smirk, and looked into her eyes.

I knew those eyes and they didn't belong to a French marquise!

Thank God for British nerve. I squeezed her hand before dropping it, and then bowed. While bowing I allowed myself the briefest moment of panic. By the time I faced her again and said, "Madam Marquise, it's my pleasure," my reserve was in perfect order.

The dreadlocks and trinkets were gone, shoved under what had to be wig, a confection of ebony curls that I was sure were the latest fashion in Paris. The kohl had been scrubbed off and replaced with make-up of some sort that hid most of his deep tan. Now he, or she rather, only looked like she'd spent too much time on deck in the sun, as opposed to a near lifetime onboard a ship. The numerous scarves weren't present, although I imagine the amount of knives secreted here and there were just as plentiful. The mouth. His mouth was just as beautiful, delicately tinted with just a soupçon of rouge. That full upper lip. The only thing more beautiful was his full bottom lip. I felt myself beginning to swell at the thought of biting that bottom lip. After all, it had been three long months! There is no room for forgiveness in the tight fit of my trousers, and unless I wished to completely humiliate myself, such thoughts must be banished immediately.

"How do you find our climate, Marquise? To your liking?" I asked in flawless French.

With a saucy tilt of his head he replied in equally perfect French, "Il est délicieux. Sadly, all this sun plays havoc with my complexion. I'm now as dark as your footman, Don Ambrosio," Jack pouted. Even in disguise he was inordinately vain! I restrained from rolling my eyes while Grant and de Bolea protested in unison that she merely looked healthy. That the tropics most definitely agreed with her. She gave them both a saucy, come-hither smile, ignoring my glare. "I have heard tales of pirates. Are these merely wives' tales made-up to frighten women and children? I have yet to encounter any."

Oh, the bastard was enjoying this. I was dying to say, "Then you must have given your mirror a miss this evening."

General Grant took a large gulp of whiskey and then said, "We've captured or hung most of them, frankly. The rest are just criminals masquerading as scallywags."

"Oh really?" The fan went back and forth, close to his mouth, not so much as dispelling the heat as hiding the gold teeth, I'd wager. "I've heard tell of a Captain Jack Sparrow. Is he not still…a force in these waters?"

"Jack Sparrow? That clown? Surely you jest," I chortled.

The eyes flashed. "Hmmm. Ah, the orchestra is playing a minuet. Do you dance, Commodore?"

"With the right partner, Madam Marquise."

Jack held out his arm.

As I led him to the ballroom, I noticed that despite the fact that nature had deprived Jack of actual breasts, a judicious application of many handkerchiefs had addressed nature's want. He looked positively buxom in his burgundy silk, no doubt pilfered from a real marquise.

"You are most lovely. Does the make-up itch?" I noted for his ears only.

"Like the devil. A clown?" Jack hit me with his fan. Hard.

"Don't you think it better if de Bolea thinks of you as insignificant?"


We took our place among the other dancers and nodded at each other in the traditional welcome.

"You're a sight for sore eyes, James. Let me tell you."

I bowed my head.

Such a dance only allowed for snippets of conversation.

"You must have to shave three times a day."

"Four. Bloody nuisance. de Bolea has contacted Spain for…"

"Missed you. Reinforcements? We are sending word…"

"God, the sight of your cock in your trousers. Might be too late…"

"Nonsense. Spanish ships are painfully slow, English ships, however. Sweet Jesus, your mouth…"

"Are fast, but you will need lots of guns. Want you to swive…"

"Three frigates? When are you coming home?"

"Soon. Will be back soon. Make it four, mate. De Bolea won't give up the The Keys without a fight."

"You know this because…"

"de Bolea's aide-de-camp drinks and is madly…"

"In love with you. Who isn't? I need muskets…"

"And cannon. Speak to our Mr. Turner, who has been quietly forging on my behalf…"


"Cannon and arms."

The dance ended. I bowed, Jack curtsied. After he came up he said in his perfect French, "Don't underestimate de Bolea. Nasty bit of goods." We walked back to where Grant was drinking himself into insensibility and de Bolea was quite aware of the proprietary grasp Jack had on my arm. I leaned forward and said into his ear, "Someday, you will tell me how you happened to become a French marquise being feted at a Spanish-controlled colony."

"Soon," Jack responded. "Hurricane season is nigh. Pearl's been nagging me that it's time to weigh anchor."

"No sugar plantation for the dear marquise?" I murmured.

"She's got her eyes elsewhere. de Bolea's got a fortune in gold in the garrison, which he is about to be parted from if Mr. Gibbs and company do their job properly. Sadly, the marquise can't possibly stay in a country where not even the garrison is safe from pirates."

We heard the unmistakable roar of an explosion.

With a hike of his curls, Jack bade me follow him. Dodging frantic footmen and guests fleeing out the front door, he led me to de Bolea's study. Even though it appeared we were alone, we spoke in French and not much above a whisper. Spies were everywhere.

"I thought the garrison was located east of here."

"Tis." Jack trailed the edge of his fan against my cheek. "Mr. Gibbs blew up the government building in the town square, which will leave the garrison for easy pickings. Fancy taking me back to Port Royal?"

"I would be most pleased. Assuming that Miss Clever Boots, or should I say Mlle. Bottes Clever, in her zeal for swag didn't make de Bolea think that it was my men who blew up his newly built square."

I pursed my lips and gave him my the Commodore-Is-Peeved look. This put me in a very bad position. Naturally, de Bolea would assume that our meeting had nothing to do with negotiating the matter of the Keys and everything to do with blowing up his building.

"Don't get all irritated with me, James. I didn't know your very fine arse was sailing in today. Been planning this for months if you must know. I should be the one whose cock is out of joint. Nearly upset my entire plan, you did."

I sighed.

"Be that as it may, how in the hell am I going to explain to the Admiralty why Spain and England are on the verge of war." I began to rub my temple. Jack reached up to caress my cheek. The lace of his glove scratched my cheek.

"Headache? Don't worry. de Bolea will see this as a show of strength. Doesn't take you for the devious sort; you've just proved him wrong. He'll wonder for a bit, and by that time there will be plenty of evidence that it was that clown Jack Sparrow,"—he thwacked me against the groin with his fan—"who sailed off with his gold."

"That hurt!"

"Then let's return to the Dauntless so that that I can kiss it and make it better."

"We need to find Grant," I said weakly. "He's not safe here."

"Absolument," Jack agreed and made for the door. Even in a corset and heels he was as lithe as a cat.

"Your French; it's perfect," I murmured.

"That year with the Comte," he said in a rush, as if that explained everything, when of course it only added to his mystery. I reached out to grab his shoulder and just caught him. Tightening my fingers as the silk slipped through my hands, I pushed him against the door, my body flushed with his, heedless if anyone saw us. The silk of his gown rustled in protest.

"Missed you," I whispered and kissed his forehead.

"Moi aussi," he whispered back.

I stepped back. "Damn Spanish," I grumbled and followed Jack down the hallway in search of General Grant.

Why is it always duty before pleasure?