This Beautiful Skin
By: Missfortune
Disclaimer: I do not own them, 'cause if I did they'd be wearing collars with my name on them ^_~!
Rating: PG13
Pairing: sweet and awkward Norri/Will, platonic Jack/Will
Notes: Happy Mardi Gras and Welcome to the Ball.

The carriage ride to the Governor's mansion was quiet, but for the creaking of the carriage itself. Will spent much of it staring down at his hands in his lap, occasionally sneaking a glance up at Norrington, who sat across from him. He looked up as they approached the mansion, staring out at the long line of carriages. Slowly, they moved through the traffic, but as they neared the mansion, Will's anxiety increased. He fiddled with the bracelet that Jack had given him. Norrington coughed lightly.

"Is everything all right?"

Will shook his head. "No. I can't do this. I just can't!"

"Yes, you can. You are very courageous. Do not let your nerves defeat you." Norrington said, leaning forward to take Will's hands in his own.

"Fighting off a few cursed pirates is a far cry from facing a room full of people and pretending to be something you are not." Will argued.

"You are not pretending to be something you are not," Norrington countered. "You are trying to be beautiful and it is something you do effortlessly. That is all you have to be tonight. Beautiful."

Will frowned. "You are flattering me. I do not know how to take this."

"Take it as truth. That is all. Now take a deep breath, we are about to get out." Norrington squeezed his hands as the carriage moved forward, stopping at the steps of the mansion. A footman stepped up and opened the door. "Just be what you are," Norrington said softly as he stood and stepped down from the carriage. He stopped and held his hand out to Will.

Will had to stop and take another deep breath before hesitantly reaching out and taking Norrington's hand. Norrington’s grip was firm, grounding him as he stepped out of the carriage, facing down the curious eyes all eager to get a look at the Commodore's companion. They stood for a moment as the carriage moved away behind them.

"Just breathe," Norrington murmured as Will clung to his arm like a shipwreck victim to a piece of driftwood.

Will nodded slowly, training his eyes in front of him as Norrington began to walk towards the mansion. He could feel curious stares trying to burn through his gown, but he tried his hardest to ignore them. Norrington's solid presence at his side was really the only thing that was keeping him sane and they had yet to even step into the ballroom. They walked up the steps and into the house. People were milling about everywhere and Will felt as if every eye in the room turned to look at him as they stepped through the doors. Everybody was dying to get a look at the Commodore's newest love interest and they weren't even trying to hide their burning curiosity. Whispers circulated as Norrington led Will towards the ballroom. Will felt a little dizzy as the whispers buzzed around them, racing ahead and spreading through the ballroom like wildfire. By the time they actually entered the large room, almost everyone was straining to get a good view of the door.

Will felt as if time stopped when they entered. The music still played on and people still whirled across the dance floor, but for Will, everything was frozen in place as hundreds of eyes seemed to pin him down. Norrington put his hand on Will's arm, glancing over at him before continuing into the room. Will allowed himself to be led, trying to simply breathe under the weight of so many stares.

"Ah! James, you've finally decided to grace us with your presence. I see you've dressed down tonight and you have the lovely Miss Blackwell with you too!" Governor Swann swooped down upon them, his voice seeming overly loud in the already noisy setting. At the loud proclamation of Will's assumed name, another waves of whispers spread through the ballroom.

"Governor Swann," Norrington bowed politely. "I'm sorry that we are somewhat late, but there is much traffic at your door. It seems that you've invited the whole island."

"Nonsense," The Governor smiled, "I've only invited half of the island!"

Norrington chuckled obligingly, while Will offered the Governor a small smile. "I see that the Commodore managed to find a lovely gown for you Miss Blackwell."

"Yes," Will said softly.

"Try not to break too many hearts tonight young lady," The Governor instructed. "Please excuse me, there's someone I must go greet." The governor hurried off, leaving Will almost sagging against Norrington's side.

"Come, let's get you a drink," Norrington said as he guided Will through the crowd towards a refreshment table.

The table was filled with food and a servant behind the table handed them each a glass of punch. Will gratefully accepted the glass and took an experimental sip. It was a mixture of wine and fruit juice that was really quite pleasant. Will took a few more sips and felt himself relax a bit. Norrington watched some of the tension flow from Will and quietly suggested that they collect some food and move outdoors to the torch lit gardens. Will nodded eagerly and soon they had collected plates of fruits, cheese, sliced meats and fresh bread and maneuvered out of the stuffy ballroom and into the warm night air. Norrington managed to find an unoccupied bench that was somewhat sheltered from view by a large rose bush.

"Is this better?" Norrington asked as they settled themselves on the bench.

Will nodded. "There are too many people in there and they’re all staring at me."

Norrington sighed. "That is because you are a mystery to them. It is not often that beautiful girls pop out of nowhere. The life of aristocracy can be quite dry, as many of them have nothing better to do all day than create new rumors and intrigues. You shall probably be the talk of the ball. People will want to know your name, where you come from, who your parents are, how rich they are, how we met....Their curiosity will be endless."

"Let's just hope that my patience is as well," Will commented as he nibbled on some bread with meat and cheese layered on it.

"Do not worry. I shall stay by your side. That should cut down the number of people that approach you."

"And if you are called from my side for some reason?"

"We will simply have to deal with it as it comes to us my dear."

Will ate an apple slice, stubbornly avoiding Norrington's gaze. Norrington allowed the silence to continue as they both ate. Norrington was sipping his punch when their quiet meal was interrupted. A loud moan sounded from somewhere nearby and both of them looked up, startled. Another moan followed and Will shifted, unsettled. Norrington stood, holding his hand out to Will.

"Let us return before a search party is sent for us and they find our amorous neighbors."

Leaving their plates and glasses behind, Will allowed himself to be led back to the ballroom. If anything, the eyes upon them seemed even more piercing after their interlude in the garden. Norrington belatedly realized what conclusion the people had jumped to. He had never before engaged in such trysts, but that didn't stop people from thinking that he had tumbled Will in the garden. He really didn't feel like engaging any of these people in conversation and having to put up with their veiled hints. Instead, he looked at Will, who was shifting nervously.

"Would you care to dance?"

"I'm afraid that I'll make us look like fools," Will frowned.

"I will take that chance." He led Will to the dance floor where they joined the other dancers in a rather slow waltz.

"I only learned to dance this afternoon," Will admitted quietly.

"Don't tell me that he taught you how," Norrington murmured.

"He did," Will inclined his head.

"He is such an enigma. I suppose that I shall never understand." Norrington shook his head in amazement.

"I find that it is better not to question."

"Yes, I'm sure."

Conversation ceased as the next dance was more involved, requiring more concentration. Will made a few missteps, but Norrington was there to guide him through the dance. To Will's surprise, he found it to be quite enjoyable. He hadn't thought Norrington to be such a capable dancer, but it was a rather pleasant discovery as Norrington led him through several more dances with fluid grace and ease. Will felt as if he they were floating across the dance floor, and for a time, the eyes upon them were forgotten.

Eventually, Will began to tire. The third time he stepped on Norrington’s foot, he looked up sheepishly. "I'm getting tired. Can we please stop for now?"

"Certainly, let's get you another drink." They walked back to the refreshment table, each receiving a glass of punch. Norrington steered them to a relatively quiet corner and even managed to find a chair for Will to sit on.

"You dance very well," Will said, trying to sound nonchalant as he looked out at the dance floor.

"Thank you, I had a wonderful partner," Norrington returned.

"If you discount all the times that I stepped on your feet and tripped us up."

Norrington shook his head. "Do not dwell on it."

"I cannot help but feeling like a duck among peacocks." Will looked down into his punch.

"You are not a duck, you are a swan. Different, but with a quiet beauty and grace that sets you apart from the prideful peacocks."

Will looked up, disbelieving. "I am a swan?"

"Would you rather be something else?"

"No! No, I suppose it is fitting." Will smiled shyly.

"Yes, I think it is." Norrington smiled in return.

"There you are James!"

Norrington silently groaned at the Governor's appearance. Sometimes that man had the worst timing. He turned, putting a pleasant smile on his face. "You were looking for me sir?"

"Yes, I was wondering if I could take up a few moments of your time to talk business."

"Of course you may have some of my time, but what of Miss Blackwell? I do not want someone to come along and steal her from me." Norrington gestured to Will.

"Elizabeth can keep Miss Blackwell company." The Governor suggested.

On cue, Elizabeth appeared at her father's side, wearing a gaudy red dress better suited for a resident of Tortuga than the Governor's daughter. He hair was up and she wore a large gold pendant in the shape of a heart. The overbearing gold jewelry combined with the bright crimson and crisp white lace reminded Will of a fancy pillow in the Governor's waiting room. He had to stifle a laugh as he politely stood to greet her.

"Miss Blackwell, this is my daughter, Elizabeth. And this is the Commodore's guest this evening, Miss Blackwell. I do hope that you can entertain her while I borrow her escort."

"Of course father." Elizabeth smiled at Will with a false sweetness.

"I shall return shortly," Norrington informed Will. He nodded politely at Elizabeth before allowing the Governor to drag him off.

As soon as the two men were out of sight, Elizabeth turned to Will and frowned.

"Is there something wrong Miss Swann?" Will asked nervously, afraid that Elizabeth had recognized him.

"Yes, I think there is Miss Blackwell." Elizabeth said, as if his name left a bitter taste in her mouth.

"What is it?"

"I don't know who you are, or where you've come from, but the Commodore is my intended. It would be in your best interest to leave him be."

To Be Continued...

Why do I have the sinking sensation that this fic is going down fast? Good? Bad? Ugly? Let me know.