One Shot: Black Magic
Disclaimer: Damn to the depths whatever muttonhead thought up "copyright!"
Summary: Well now, I haven't written much in this realm but the plot bunny for the drabble challenge "Inspire" at Black Pearl Sails got away in the most severe way. This is no longer a drabble. Jack as a teacher—couldn't resist mate. Set a good many months after the movie.
Much thanks to the ever obliging geekmama2 for beta reading this.
She knocks firmly on the cabin door. One last duty before she turns in for the night.
"'S open." The captain's voice is muffled by the heavy wood.
Cautiously, she presses the door ajar, letting the golden glow of candles escape into the shadows behind her. She has never been able to enter this cabin without a sense of trespass, not even when it was, very briefly, hers.
On the threshold, she stands irresolute. And irresolute is not a feeling with which Anamaria is familiar.
Captain Sparrow is seated in one of the elaborately carved chairs at the mahogany table, writing. About him is spread the paraphernalia of his task—the fine sheets of thick linen paper (trader off the tip of Cuba, her mind supplies), the elegant bottles of India ink (merchantman just out of St. Lucia), the sand and quills (from a little village on Antigua).
He does not look up at her, merely nods his head in the direction of another chair and continues to write. She does not sit, but watches him instead. He is not tricked out like the captain right now. The hat and coat are not in evidence, and he has even shed the vest and boots. That he can relax like this, unprepossessing in his white shirt and gray trousers, is a relief to her. For so long he has been unable to trust them enough to drop any of the trappings of command.
But now he can sit, with his back to her, dark head bent over his work. And she has to fight back a small smile at the honour.
The ink flows out over the paper in incomprehensible swirls and strokes, fine bold lines, a flourish here and there, so evocative of their scribe. Anamaria knows that she can hold her own across steel with Jack Sparrow. She can drink him under the table on occasion, out-cuss him any time, read the weather signs nearly as well, race him to the topgallant yards, with the men cheering and casting bets. But in this, she feels inferior. This art of text and paper reduces her to awe.
That dark lines on creamy white should allow men to read one another's thoughts is a wonder to her—a magic more potent than voodoo. Across time and space the words remain. Who is he writing to? She wonders. What thoughts has he hidden in ink and paper. She watches as Jack sprinkles the sand over the page, blotting the glistening, fresh letters. He tips the sand back into its box, waves the paper with an inelegant flap, then folds it swiftly. With the candle flame, he heats the scarlet wax that drips like fresh blood on pale flesh. It oozes up around the press of his seal. And the ritual is complete.
The captain tips his chair around and faces her, candlelight brushing his face with gold and lighting its flames in his eyes.
"Anamaria," he says. "You've brought the readings for the log?"
"Aye," she nods, ready to recite them for him to record. But instead he pushes the worn, leatherbound ledger towards her. She is to be trusted to record them herself. Her throat is tight with embarrassment.
"No. You do it," she insists, ashamed to explain that she can't.
He makes no further comment. Merely draws the book back, opens it to the last entry, smoothes back the page, picks up the abandoned quill and dips it in the ink. With hand poised above the paper, he looks inquiringly at her.
She watches as the words of her report are translated into black symbols marching across a field of white. When she leaves the room, her voice will remain behind, tucked within warm leather covers. There are so many words she wants to leave behind. But she knows she will never say them.
The log is complete for another watch. Anamaria turns to go.
"Wait." Jack's voice stops her, although she doesn't turn back. "Would you like me to show you how to record the log?"
She should have known she could never keep anything from those eyes. Slowly she pivots back to face him, her face angry and exposed.
He holds up a hand to forestall her. "There's no shame in not knowing what you've never been taught."
Hopping up from his chair, he waves at the seat like a grand lord seating a lady. "C'mon," he urges, a smile teasing the corners of his mouth. "It'll be fun!"
Anamaria rolls her eyes. For Jack, so it seems, fun is more to be desired than wealth. Hesitantly, she approaches the table with its trappings of literacy, desire warring with fear that she is too slow for teaching, that such things are not meant for her sort.
But Jack has never been one to pay attention to convention. Maintaining his parody of courtly style, he seats her at the table, flipping a sheet of the valuable paper in front of her. Gingerly, she accepts the quill.
"Don't be shy, love," Jack grins at her. "The rest of the goose is gone, so it won't bite."
Her fingers shift.
"On the other hand," he grimaces as her grip nearly crushes the delicate object, "you don't have t'kill it, neither."
Anamaria freezes as he leans over her and covers her hand with his own, moving her fingers into a more relaxed and natural position. She can feel every callous, every scar, almost every crease and whorl of his palm and fingertips brushing the backs of her knuckles and fingers. His hands are those of a sailor and a fighter, rough, but shaped as finely as any gentleman's. Damn the man. Does he know what that light touch does to her? Being Jack, he probably does, the bastard. Resolutely she ignores the shiver running up her arm.
At last, Jack is satisfied with her stance and withdraws his hand. Now she can breathe again. She resists looking at him to see if he's smirking. Sometimes slapping Jack Sparrow is irresistible, and she wants to learn this art. Best to avoid temptation. Ignore everything but the knowledge he offers.
Then he picks up a second quill and leans back over her. Apparently she has relaxed too soon. She can feel Jack's shoulder against her hair as he reaches to dip the quill in the ink. He sets the quill to the paper and begins to move it, saying the names of the letters as he writes.
"A-n-a-m-a-r-i-a." His free hand alights on her shoulder. "Anamaria," he says.
"What!" she snaps, trying not to shrug off his hand and succeeding. Her discomfort would reveal more to Jack than she wants him to know.
"That's what it says," he explains patiently. "It's your name."
Anamaria stares at the black marks that are her name. They obviously speak to Jack, but they are saying nothing to her.
Nevertheless, Jack tells her to copy the letters and say their names as she does so. Although the task seems hopeless, Anamaria does as she's bid. For awhile Jack hovers over her, making suggestions, distracting her with his warmth and the brush of his breath on her cheek and the veil of his dark hair that falls alongside her own, but eventually, she is writing well enough that he wanders off to some other chore in the room, leaving her to practice.
She bites her lip and concentrates, repeating, "A-n-a-m-a-r-i-a." By the time she has covered one side of the page, she has blackened the tip of her index finger, smudged her nose, and left a trail of black ink at the corner of her mouth where she forgot and chewed on the quill. This has wrecked the nib completely, and her next word is a blobby black smudge. At her exclamation of disgust, Jack saunters over, takes one look at her, laughs in a most annoying fashion, pulls out his knife, and mends her pen for her.
"Here, love." He hands her the quill. "Let's try something different." He leans over her again and writes, "J-a-c-k. Jack. That's me."
Anamaria scowls at the new word. Trust Jack to think his name is the second most important word to learn. Actually she is surprised he hasn't made her learn it first. She recognizes one letter—"a". But the others are new. She compares her name to Jack's. Hers flows along evenly, all variations of the same shapes, but Jack's is all loopy and prickly and up and down odd shaped. She smirks at it and wonders if his parents knew he'd be the way he is.
She bites the corner of her lip and concentrates on reproducing the lines. "J-a-c-k."
The candles have burned down until they are guttering in their own liquid wax before Anamaria realizes she's been in the captain's cabin for an unconscionably long time. Her back feels like she's been trampled by a team of oxen and her fingers feel like lumps of lead—painful lumps. She looks around for Captain Sparrow and discovers that he is seated in a stuffed chair across the room, his feet up on another chair, a book open on his lap. But he is not reading. His head is tilted back, his eyes are closed, and soft little sleepy snorts are issuing from his open mouth.
Since he isn't awake to see it, she smiles fondly at him. This is the first time he's let himself sleep in her presence. Unguarded. Vulnerable.
But she should probably go--before the rumours on deck get too fierce. She blots her last page, stoppers the ink bottles, and straightens the papers as best she can. She doesn't know where any of it should be stored.
Anamaria looks down at her first writing. The magic words that will always speak to her now—will always say "Anamaria" and "Jack". If she can learn two, she can learn more. She traces her fingers over the letters. Then she folds one page up into a small packet and tucks it inside her shirt, next to her heart.
She looks up to see Jack's eyes on her, a knowing grin on his face. Damn the man. She should have known he would wake to any movement in this cabin.
Holding her head up high, Anamaria stalks to the door. "Goodnight, Captain Sparrow," she snaps.
"We'll do some more tomorrow?" Almost his voice sounds—hopeful?
Anamaria stops with her hand on the door. She nods briefly, not trusting herself to say anything that won't betray her. Then she lets herself out of the room. Through the door, she hears Jack voice drift like a warm breeze.