Jack's foot slipped on the crumbly slope and he cursed under his breath. "Whose bloody brilliant idea was it to take this route?" he grumbled.
Gibbs, right below him, made shushing sounds. "Quiet, Cap'n," he whispered, "we're in earshot of the place. And t'idea were yourn."
Jack hauled himself up another foot. "Why didn't you stop me?" he whispered back.
A soft snort. "Stop you? How?"
Jack felt around for the next finger-hold. "I'm amenable to reason."
"Mother of God give me patience," Gibbs snapped. "Amenable as any mule."
"Well, I still don't like it," Jack said peevishly.
Gibbs licked dry lips. Negotiating was hard work; perhaps just a drop…
He started as Anamaria's hand clamped onto his wrist, stopping a stealthy reach for his flask. She didn't speak, didn't need to; her glare said it all. Sheepish, he tucked his hand in his belt and turned his attention back to the conversation.
Jack rattled on, hands waving, all sparkle and shine, acting the drink-fuddled fool. The others at the table, as dangerous a lot as Gibbs'd ever encountered, were looking smug; falling into the trap Jack'd set. Now would come the tricky part.
Gibbs wanted a drink.
He was pacing, abstracted, when his friend came in, shaking rain from his cloak. Gillette's greeting died mid-word as Groves looked up. "Good God, what is it?" he cried.
"I made Amalthea an offer today," Groves replied, staring into the fire.
Gillette pushed him into an armchair; obliged him to drink some brandy. "And?" he prompted.
Groves sighed. "No rank below Post Captain has any chance with her."
Gillette winced. Mercenary bitch, he thought, doesn't deserve him. What he said was, "Get your cloak."
They went drinking; but it was many days before poor Groves's spirits improved to any degree.
Walking home from the fort, only pride kept Will from hobbling like an old man. He ached in every muscle. The fencing lessons with Captain Norrington were grueling; pushing him to his limits and beyond.
Each week Norrington pressed him harder, making no concession to his youth, but treating as a man grown. More than that, on the practice floor the Captain treated him as an equal, a gentleman. Will could find no words for how that courtesy made him feel. To the other officers he was invisible, but Norrington…
Such a man's friendship was worth any amount of pain.