DISCLAIMER: This story is based on
characters and situations created and owned by Disney. No money is being made
and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Come on, if it were
mine, do you honestly think we would have gotten all the way through the movie without
ever seeing Jack shirtless?
Posted By: Elspeth, AKA Elspethdixon
Ships: None really, but feel free to imagine Jack/Will if you want to ^_~.
Warning: This story contains profanity, drinking, and references to slavery and rape. It does not contain hot sex. Sorry.
Author's notes: This was originally intended to be a short little drabble about Jack getting a tattoo, but it ended up much longer, angstier, & creepier than I'd planned on. The idea of Jack's hand being bandaged by Will came from permetaform, and the voodoo information came from several random websites (some of 'em were French, since voodoo is a legitimate religion in Haiti, so I might not have translated everything correctly).
Skin and Bones
The Moon was waning, its truncated shape hanging over the water like half of a broken plate. Watching it, Anamaria couldn't help but wish that it were a little narrower, a little dimmer. The Black Pearl was still a good two days out from Tortuga, and the darker the nights were, the less chance the British man o' war they all knew was somewhere behind them had of catching them.
The Pearl had been lucky so far, sailing through several days of bad weather that had covered her escape nicely, but now the wind had turned, and the sky was clear again, making for smoother sailing, but increasing the risk of pursuit. It had everybody a little edgy. After that business with Barbossa's men, she suspected that none of them would be able to look at moonlight in quite the same way again. At least, not for a long while.
She could still see them, sometimes, when she walked the deck at night. All it took was a little imagination, and the solid, ordinary forms of Cotton, Twigg, Hopkins, and McTaggert were replaced by shadowy, bone-y figures, grinning skeletal grins at her like Baron Samedi's troop of guédé come to collect the dead. Moonlight made it worse, which was why she had jumped at the chance to leave Gibbs at the helm and drag Jack inside his cabin for a quiet drink or three. Three days straight through bad weather and rough seas and still they'd had to practically pry the idiot's fingers off the wheel.
"Did you tell Gibbs put her close hauled if the wind shifts?" the idiot asked her. "She'll go at least two points closer into the wind than anythin' the navy's got, but only if she's handled right."
Anamaria pulled her attention away from the wide glass windows of the captain's cabin to glare at Jack. For the first day or so, this obsessiveness had been cute. Now, it was quickly approaching annoying. "Gibbs and I got the Pearl from the Isla del Muerte to Port Royal without sinking her. I think he can manage to sail her unsupervised for one night." Gibbs was a perfectly competent sailor, even if he was a bit fond of drink, and he didn't need Jack telling him what to do every five seconds.
"Well, yes," Jack agreed, "but-"
"But nothing," she cut him off, pointing a stern finger across the cabin to where he sat on the deck planking, leaning back against the bulkhead with an arm resting across one drawn up knee. "Let the man do his job. We've earned a break and a drink." She held up the bottle of rum she had liberated from the ship's stores and waved it suggestively. The amber liquid gleamed in the dim light of the lantern, which had been turned down as low as possibly to avoid the risk of fires.
"Well, since you're offerin'." Jack stretched forward and snagged the bottle out of her hand, settling back against the side of the ship to work the cork out. The cabin was flooded with the smell of spirits.
"How's your neck?" Anamaria asked, catching Jack's slight wince as he tipped his head back to drink. The moonlight pouring in through the window fell across the floor between them, leaving Jack in shadow, but there was enough light for her to make out the dark discolouration that stretched around his throat. Above the collar of his coat, Jack wore a necklace of bruises, a purple and red ghost of the rope that had made them. If he'd been a larger, heavier man, that drop would probably have snapped his neck. Even unbroken, it had to be painful.
"Fine," Jack said, sounding slightly irritated. "Why does everyone keep askin' that?"
"If you had a mirror, you'd know."
"Well, unfortunately, Barbossa got rid of the mirror," he told her. "Maybe his reflection was all skeleton-y."
Anamaria shook her head. "It probably broke," she said, treating the remark seriously. Mirrors were fragile little things, and tended not to survive broadsides or heavy weather. "It must make it very difficult for you to put on your face paint in the morning," she continued, in the same serious tone.
It was a measure of how tired Jack must have been that it actually took a second for the jab to register. "It's not face paint, love," he said after a moment, sounding slightly more indignant than she suspected he really was. "It serves a purpose. Protects my eyes from the sun. A man has to take proper care of his eyes."
"Don't worry," she said reassuringly. "Even without a mirror, it's still very pretty."
"Face paint," Jack continued, sounding deeply disgusted. "Women wear face paint." He hefted the rum bottle in one hand, gesturing threateningly with it. "If this was empty, I'd throw it at you."
Anamaria smiled at him, eyes locking onto his. "I duck very quickly," she said steadily. "And I have excellent aim." It wasn't—quite—a threat, and Jack didn't treat it as one. He handed the rum back to her, seeming, bizarrely enough, to hesitate slightly before passing his hand through the bar of moonlight that lay between them, and leaned his head back against the wall again, looking tired. Give it a good fifteen minutes and a bit more rum, and he would probably fall asleep where he sat.
"I'll remember that," he said. "The aiming bit."
"See that you do." She nodded at him, and then tipped the bottle of rum back and drank. It was not very good rum. Then again, the nice thing about rum was that the more of it one drank, the better it tasted. Usually. This rum might be an exception to the rule. She handed it back to Jack, vowing silently that next time, she would leave the Pearl's stores alone and steal a bottle from Gibbs.
Jack didn't seem to have any problems with the rum's inferior quality. He pulled the bottle out of her hand with a nod of thanks and took a long swallow, then settled back against the side of the ship with the poorly blown glass container cradled between his hands, staring down meditatively at the cloudy amber liquid inside. Or maybe he was staring at the pale blue-white moonlight striping the deck planking a few inches away from his foot. It was hard to tell.
Watching him, Anamaria was suddenly aware of the crude bandage he still wore tied around his left hand. It was torn and beyond filthy, and she had a sneaking suspicion that it was the same bandage he'd been wearing when they had pulled him out of the water three days ago. She still didn't know what was wrong with the hand—though, whatever it was, it couldn't be very bad, or he wouldn't have been able to spend the past three days with a deathgrip on the Black Pearl's wheel. No one had asked about it. Compared with the disturbingly-almost-fatal bruises on his neck, it just hadn't seemed worth mentioning.
"What happened to your hand?" she asked, pointing at the bandage.
Jack lifted the appendage in question slightly and regarded it as though he'd never seen it before. "My—Oh, that." He shrugged, and waved a hand—the unbandaged one—dismissively. "Cut it fightin' Barbossa. Will bandaged it for me." He displayed the filthy, frayed wrappings proudly. "Didn't do that bad a job, either, for a blacksmith."
Anamaria said nothing. She simply raised her eyebrows.
"Well, he's young yet. He'll learn. Anyway, it's the thought that counts."
"Do you want me to have Gibbs take a look at it for you?" she offered. Not only was it the same bandage he'd been wearing for the past three days, it was apparently the same one he'd been wearing for the past week. All men, she decided, eying the grimy piece of linen, were idiots.
Jack balled his hand into a fist and pulled it in toward his chest. "What's he goin' t'do? Throw a bucket of salt water on it?" She must have looked blank, because he took pity on her and elaborated. Sort of. "S'a long and painful story. The important thing to remember is that it wasn't my fault. An' that the part about me passin' out is completely made up."
Anamaria thought about asking for a real explanation, but decided against it. It would take too long, and she could always get the story from Gibbs later. It probably involved Jack making a monumentally stupid mistake or having some half-baked plan blow up in his face, in which case she'd never get a straight answer from him. Jack only told stories about his glorious and inspired successes. Things such as getting injured and being patched up by Gibbs tended not to make it into the repertoire. "Never mind. I don't even want to know."
"And it didn't work anyway," Jack continued, not listening to her, "because me back still got all inflamed."
"I said I didn't want to know," she repeated. "Your damn hand is probably all inflamed. Let me have a look at it."
With an ostentatious air of reluctance, Jack extended his left hand toward Anamaria. She grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him to his feet. "We're doing this under the lamp, where I can see." A few moments later, when they were both settled at the scarred wooden table, the now brightly burning lamp casting swaying shadows around them, Anamaria discovered another benefit to this change in position. Turning up the lamp had banished the moonlight, pushing thoughts of grinning skeletons that much farther away.
Pulling the disgusting bandage off took a little work; dried blood and salt water had left it stuck to Jack's skin. Underneath the fabric, however, the long, straight slice across his palm was amazingly healthy-looking. It had dried out and scabbed over, and the edges were already beginning to heal into livid purplish scar tissue. She had more than half expected to find a festering wound oozing with foul-smelling fluids. She was once again reminded just what a lucky bastard Jack was.
"What did you try to do, grab a sword?" she demanded. "You could have crippled yourself."
Jack shrugged, somehow managing to make the gesture involve his entire upper body. "I was careful. I always know what I'm doin'."
She snorted in disgust and started to tie a new length of—much cleaner—linen around his hand. This was ridiculously easy. Someone could have done it days ago. Either Jack had some sort of odd sentimental attachment to Will's crude attempts at bandaging, or he had been even more fixated on his ship than she had realized.
"There." Anamaria gave the knot one last yank, and replaced the hand in Jack's lap. "All done."
"Thanks." Jack nodded at her, and then opened and closed his hand, testing the new bandage. Then he wriggled his fingers, staring at the digits as if suddenly hypnotised by them. "Do you know how many bones there are in your hand?" he asked, almost absently.
"No, how many?"
"Don' know, but there's lots of 'em. Dozens." He held his left hand up before his face and flexed it, watching the fingers move. "Long, thin ones in your fingers and little round ones in your wrists, like pebbles, slidin' over each other. Right there under your skin, with little strips of flesh holdin' 'em together."
Anamaria shuddered, remembering the skeletal hands that had poked at her in the Pearl's brig, pinching her flesh like hard twigs as their owner reached through the bars to grope at her. She'd snapped two of those groping fingers right off, and they'd gone crawling back to their owner, who had stuck them back on again like a man replacing a signet ring. Fingers shouldn't do that.
"Sort of pretty, really," Jack continued, still staring almost dreamily at his hand. "Gold and bone, all shiny and gleamin'. Make good jewellery."
"They say there's powerful luck in human bones," she offered in spite of herself. "Fingerbones make strong charms, but I wouldn't want to wear one." She thrust the bottle of rum at Jack again, knowing it would distract him, for a moment, at least. "Can we talk about something else?"
Jack pulled his gaze away from his fingers and gave her an almost speculative look. "How do you know fingerbones are lucky?" His eyes gleamed in the lantern light, the little flame sparking gold glints in their depths, and the beads and medallions in his hair glittered.
"Not lucky. Powerful." She held up a hand to emphasize her point. "Power doesn't always bring good fortune. Why? Thinking of adding some to your collection?"
Jack shook his head, beads and metal clicking together. "I've already got more bones than I really want to see."
Anamaria shuddered. She knew exactly how he felt. The way some of Barbossa's crew had eyed her… Assessing looks. Possessive looks. Looks that said: you are meat, you are no one, you are a thing for me to own. It didn't matter whether they saw her skin or her breasts first—one of the two always seemed to call up those sorts of looks. Getting them from men whose eyes sat in hollow sockets of white bone had been a new and even more frightening feeling, as if Death itself were sizing her up. Wondering what her soul would taste like. If she'd be useful cutting cane in Hell.
"The curse," she began, tentatively. "I've, I have never seen anything like that." She looked down at the wood of the table, not at Jack, studying the grain that ran though the varnished planks, uncomfortable with revealing vulnerability. A woman at sea had to be twice as strong as a man, twice as hard; any weakness would be pounced upon. "They, they kept grabbing at me, poking at me. Telling me what they would do as soon as the curse was lifted. How they hadn't had a woman in so long. How good I was going to be. All the time touching me with those bone fingers." She kept looking down at the table as it all came spilling out, tracing a knot in the wood with one hand. "I don't think I like moonlight anymore."
Jack's hand closed over hers, trapping her fingers and stilling their motion. "They shouldn't've done that," he said. It was a simple, flat statement, more sad than angry. "I didn't exactly do a brilliant job of pickin' a crew, last time 'round, did I?"
Anamaria blinked, and tried to shake off the memories of bare-toothed leers. She was supposed to be taking care of Jack, tricking the stubborn fool into getting some sleep, not unloading all of this onto him. Instead, he was cradling her hand between both of his, and looking at her with dark, concerned eyes, made larger and darker by the smudges of black around them.
"I'm much better at recruitin' people now," he said, "an' if anyone on this ship bothers you, tell me an' I'll have him thrown overboard to feed the fish, savvy?"
She nodded, and pulled her hand away. Not violently enough to cause offence, but firmly. The moment of weakness was over. "He'd be dead before you ever got near him, Sparrow. I can take care of myself. Well, when they're not unkillable shades."
"Yeah." He grinned, a slightly lopsided grin, with a flash of that mad gleefulness that filled him sometimes in it. "Unkillable shades can be hard to kill, even with special bullets. You have to cheat. Even the odds a bit. Only proper thing for a pirate to do."
Anamaria found herself nodding agreement, even though she wasn't exactly sure what she was agreeing with. She drank another sip of the bad rum. It was still bad.
"I should get back on deck," Jack said after a moment. He didn't move, though, staying sprawled in the chair across from her as if all of his bones were gone. "Take the helm back from Gibbs."
Damn. Obviously they had done too much talking and bandaging and not enough drinking. Jack was supposed to have fallen asleep by this point. "Can we stay a few minutes longer?" she asked. "I'm tired." 'And you must be even tireder,' she added silently.
Jack, ever the gentleman unless it was more profitable not to be, shrugged. "Couple more minutes. Are you all right, love?"
"I am fine," Anamaria assured him, subtly nudging the rum closer to his elbow. "Just tired. You get tired when you don't sleep."
If Jack picked up on the not-so-subtle hint in that remark, he didn't show it. "Are you sure? No visions of skeletons runnin' though your head?" His eyes flicked briefly to the windows, where the moon was still visible, its shape slightly distorted by the thick glass.
"They're not bothering me any more that they're bothering you," she told him, not quite challengingly.
Jack gave her a little saluting gesture, as if she were a swordsman who had scored a hit on him in a duel. "It's… interestin'… seein' what you look like under your skin. Difficult to forget."
It most certainly was. She'd never thought of Jack as the type to be bothered by curses or death before, but then, he'd probably never seen a walking skeleton before. She certainly hadn't. It made the stories from her childhood seem uncomfortably real. If the dead could walk, then perhaps dark things really did lurk in the cane fields at night. Maybe spirits really could be lured with dancing and summoned with rum and blood.
Maybe it was time to change the subject.
"I think you have enough to look on top of your skin without worrying about what's underneath it," Anamaria said, indicating Jack's forearm, where she knew a tattoo and a pirate brand lurked underneath his coat sleeve.
"Maybe." Brown eyes travelled slowly over her. "Do you have any? Brands, tattoos, that sort of thing?" He smiled, not quite smirking. "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
"Deal," she said, offering him a smile of her own. "But you strip first."
"That was meant in jest, by the way," Jack commented, even as he shrugged out of his coat and started unbuttoning his vest. "You weren't s'posed to take me up on it. A man could think you were tryin' to entice him into" a waggle of eyebrows "bed."
'Yes. Bed. Wonderful idea, you idiot,' she sighed inwardly. At least getting the coat off him was a start. "You never know," she grinned, "maybe I'm planning to seduce you and steal your ship. You still owe me one, you know."
Jack's smirk faltered, vanished, and came back slightly more exaggerated, like a mask slipped over something else. "I said I'd get you a new one. It's just… takin' a bit of time."
Anamaria, seeing that less-than-heartfelt smile, suddenly remembered whose cabin they were sitting in. And how Barbossa had gotten it. "I want a brig," she announced, as if she were ordering something from a shop keeper. "Something smaller than this giant hulk, better for smuggling. I won't settle for some battered frigate, especially not a cursed one."
"She is not battered," Jack said indignantly. "And the curse is gone." And so was the tension, just like that.
"The sails were rags," Anamaria told him. "And the hull needs paint. And the brig still leaks." He glared at her. "Well, take off the vest and shirt, Sparrow," she prompted. "Unless you really don't want to find out where my mermaid tattoo is."
"It'll be someplace borin'," he predicted, "and I'll have gone to all this trouble for nothin'." He pulled the shirt over his head and twisted slightly in his chair to display his shoulders and back. Covering his right bicep was one of those designs people drew in the corners of maps, with the four cardinal directions. It even had letters around it, fancy, ornate ones. A sea serpent looped around his left shoulder blade, biting its own tail. Below and to the side of it, a scattering of long, thin scars criss-crossed his skin, one of them stretching up through part of the serpent's scaly body. Yet more proof of Jack's uncanny luck. Anamaria had seen slaves flogged to death before, in Haiti, and had seen the mass of scarring McTaggert wore from his time in the Royal Navy. Jack had gotten off lightly. Having Gibbs throw salt water over those strips must still have hurt like the very devil, though.
"I like the snake," she told him, "it's very colourful." It was, like a little rainbow wrapped about his shoulder. It probably didn't mean anything to him, not the way the sparrow on his forearm had to, but if she looked at it just right she could see the rainbow serpent, winking at her and promising fertility and wisdom.
"I got it in Singapore."
"Ah. I did mine myself." Anamaria lifted the end of her shirt up and pulled the top of her breeches down just enough to display the black drawing of a mermaid inked over her left hipbone.
"You win." Jack bent forward and peered at the little tattoo. "You did that upside-down? You're very good."
"I know." She re-adjusted her clothing, hiding the little sea witch from view. "If you ever want another tattoo, just ask. Your left arm is still empty."
"So it is." Jack yawned, and picked up the rum bottle again. "A skull," he announced a minute or so later. "In red and black. Right there." He pointed with the bottle to a spot on his left forearm, roughly the same place the sparrow and sunburst occupied on his right arm. "Later though. I really do have to get back on deck." He pushed himself to his feet, swaying ever so slightly, and picked up his shirt.
"I'll do the damn thing for you now if you just go to bed." The words came out in an exasperated snarl. "You've been at that bloody wheel for three days, Jack. Get some sleep." She stood up, pointing at him almost accusingly. She was out of patience. For a time, when she had been a girl, right after she had escaped, she had been afraid to sleep too, afraid she would wake up and find herself back on that French plantation, her freedom nothing but a dream, or that someone would come and capture her while she slept, and she would open her eyes to see chains on her wrists and ankles. Nothing had ever happened. All staying awake had done was make her exhausted and sick. "The boat will still be here when you wake up. The Navy will not catch us, and Gibbs and I won't make off with her."
Jack sat back down. "I want it to be this big," he said, holding up his fingers to measure a length in this air. "With a scarf around its forehead, so it'll look all piratical-like. A red scarf."
Anamaria sighed, and suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. She should have resorted to yelling at him a half-hour ago, thus avoiding all of the heartfelt confessions and slightly awkward conversation. Sometimes, it seemed that yelling was the only tactic that worked on Jack. That and throwing things. She fetched the tightly stoppered containers of red and black ink out of the chest in the corner—Barbossa had apparently used two different colours of ink to keep the Pearl's logbook; Jack said he'd used the red to mark down co-ordinates—and pulled out the needle she kept tucked away in the waistband of her breeches. Within minutes, she had Jack's arm stretched out across the table in front of her, and was inking in the design.
It was probably one of the fastest tattooing jobs she'd ever done. It wasn't a very complicated design—mostly just an outline, with only the pirate scarf Jack had insisted upon filled in with colour—and she had it drawn and the needle ready and covered with ink as quickly as was humanly possible. The sooner this stupidity was over, the sooner Jack would go to sleep. And once he was asleep, she could go to sleep.
She ignored the little hisses and grunts of pain Jack made in-between gulps of rum and pricked the design into his skin, one little stab at a time. In less than a quarter hour, Jack had a new, slightly raw-looking skull permanently inked on his right arm. If he complained tomorrow morning, she was going to shoot him.
"It's perfect." Jack grinned, gold teeth glinting. "Bones on the outside o' my skin so I don' have t'see the bones under it anymore. A little… memento." He yawned. His voice sounded slightly more slurred than usual, more than a third of a bottle of inferior rum should have made it. Then again, lack of sleep probably wasn't helping. "Thank you."
"It was nothing," she said, getting up again to put the ink bottles back in the chest. She had a feeling he was talking about more than just the tattoo, but what, she wasn't sure. "How did you hurt your hand?" she asked again.
"Needed blood t' break th' curse." Jack's voice came from behind her, slightly muffled. "Like I told you, unkillable shades are hard t'kill. You have t'cheat, savvy? So I did. 'Sides, the coins were all nice n' shiny." His voice trailed off into another yawn, as Anamaria stood frozen in shock.
"Jack," she began, turning around to face him, "tell me you didn't do what I think you just said you did."
He was asleep, head resting on the table next to his outstretched arm, on which she had just finished tattooing a portrait. Little beadlets of blood were beginning to ooze from some of the needle pricks.
"Jack." She shook his shoulder. "I'm not going to take your boots off and put you to bed."
Jack didn't even twitch. His breathing deepened into something that wasn't quite a snore.
Anamaria pulled his boots off, slide his arm over her shoulders, and hauled him across the cabin to his bunk. Then she left to find her own bed. She took the rest of the rum with her.
Baron Samedi Voodoo lord of the dead, also called Baron La Croix and Baron Cimetière. He is frequently represented as a skeleton. Intriguingly enough (from a PoTC point of view) he is often viewed as a kind of trickster figure, and like most voodoo spirits, is fond of rum.
Guédé: Or ghede, spirits (loa) of the dead. Also used as an alternate name for Baron Samedi.
Close-hauled: bracing one's sails about so as to sail as close to (into) the wind as possible.
Frigate: A mid-sized ship, three-masted and square-rigged like a ship of the line, but much smaller and with only one and a half gun decks (20-40 guns). The Black Pearl isn't exactly a frigate in the movie (she's some weird mutant ship that Disney made up), but it's the closest real ship type I could come up with.