How To Be A Pirate. Ahh, yes, that was the book Barbossa was looking for. In fact, it was the sequel written by Jack's father to The Code (a cross between the Declaration of Independence and The Great Gatsby). Grinning so that his perfectly yellowed teeth were on full display, he slid a broken fingernail under the cover and opened it. Dust caked the first page, much like how dust caked his comb and any other item he used once in a blue moon.
If truth were to be told, Barbossa was troubled. Morally troubled. Yes, it was remarkable, but every pirate in any great legend had morals. That's what got them into history of course. Pirates with morals were, ahem, rare.
And no one was like Barbossa. He, with his great plumed hat and swashbuckling overcoat, wanted to make himself a name so fearsome, that everyone would quake when they heard it. Anyhow, he didn't want to be known by his annoying, old nickname: Barbie. What mother named their kid Barbossa? The good news was that no one called him Barbie more than once, because by the time the nickname had exited that poor soul's mouth, Barbossa's trusty sword was stuck deep in their gut. Everyone except Jack.
Well, Jack Sparrow, a man he had secretly admired and felt honored to have mutinied, was the reason why he was opening this book: How To Be A Pirate. He hardly read. After all, Rule #402 said that 'a pirate should never read for enjoyment.' Yes, pirates understood irony.
"Jack, you are a bugger," rumbled Barbossa as he turned to the first page and studied the laws he knew so well. "What would your father do if he knew his own son broke the rules?"
Now, he himself had followed the rules religiously, much better than he had to its prequel (Elizabeth was a nasty work, and so some rules were made to be bent). The first page consisted of thus:
Number One: A pirate must don a hat to prevent lice from spilling from his ears. You do not want your enemy to die laughing.
Number Two: A pirate must protect his ship at all cost, whether it be a rowboat, toy boat, or an accursed pirate ship that you'd rather sell off the market than be captain of.
Number Three: A pirate should have no friends. They're cumbersome.
Number Four: A pirate should not keep their allies for more than an hour. It's best to rotate.
Number Five: If sick, a pirate should not seek help. He should seek rum.
Number Six: A pirate should avoid any suspicious chests of Aztec gold. (This was the rule Barbossa had proposed to Jack's father AFTER his curse, so technically, he didn't break it)
Number Seven: A pirate should not fall in love. See Davy Jones on Chapter 4.
Number Eight: A pirate must be able to pronounce the word 'parley.' For the reason, refer back to Rule Number One.
Number Nine: When a prisoner walks the plank, it is necessary for the plank to be a nine by eight plywood piece.
Number Ten: A pirate's first priority is himself, second being his ship and third his rum.
And in the course of a week or so, Jack, his esteemed colleague and former mate, had broken every single one of those rules except for Rule Number Five. The little rebel.
Barbossa spun around, the hilt of sword tight in his fist when he spotted Jack stumbling in, his breath reeking with rum. "How'd you find me?" he asked dumbstruck. "I stole your ship! You were off looking for immortality!"
"I'm Captain Jack Sparrow," Jack grinned back, swigging a bottle in his hand. "Can't I visit an old friend?"
Friend? There went Rule Number Three.
"What've you got there in yonder hand?" he questioned, swaggering forward and slipping the book out of Barbossa's palm. He glanced at the title and recognition lit on his face. "Ah." Silence ensued, and Barbossa could feel the tension prickle under his hair. Or perhaps that was just the lice.
Finally, Barbossa cleared his throat. "That's right, old Jack. The guidebook. What did you do with your copy? Use it as toilet paper?"
"Something like that," said Jack, a smile bristling under his mustache. "I find it outdated."
"It's like the Pirate's Bible! And your father dedicated it to you!" he shot back, his eyes widening until Jack could see the yellow whites of his eyes. He opened to the page with Jack's name stamped on it and gestured to it meaningfully. For a reason he couldn't quite place, he felt much more agitated.
"Could I have a bit of your rum?" he asked at last. "It might calm my nerves."
"Not rum," said Jack, sloshing the bottle around so that a dark purple liquid spilled out of it. "Merlot."
Barbossa couldn't hold his temper anymore. "What are you? How can you have changed? Has the pirate inside you died?"
"It never will. I've got it branded in my heart." On an afterthought, "And on my wrist."
Barbossa threw the book at Jack, who managed to block it with the bottle. "Shut up!" he hissed. "I thought anyone other than you would have been the one to betray us all. Our ways, our life, like a civilian! When Will became a pirate, you became a jackass. Elizabeth, the swanky little lass, makes a better pirate than you!" Fuming, he watched Jack silently pick up the book and closed it, placing it back on the rotting shelf.
"How am I not a pirate?" he asked quietly.
Barbossa could feel the answer bubbling in his skin. "Jack. Jack, who are you kidding? You fell in love with Elizabeth, which was headache enough. Then you became friends with the little weasel Turner. And then lastly, instead of keeping Elizabeth for yourself and saving a small amount of grace, you spin around and hand her off to the nancy-boy as a present. And to top it all off, you saved him! Someone who betrayed you and used you! Someone who took away your immortality! If you're not a pirate, who is?"
There. His fear had been blurted out. Jack Sparrow, something so solid and dependable, had disintegrated into the whisper of who he was. In the words of Beckett, or whatever fancy-panted British boy it was who said it, the era of pirates was coming to an end. And Jack had proven him true. Traitor.
"It's true," said Jack slowly. "I did do all those things." But then his dark eyes met Barbossa and he said firmly, "I am a pirate. But I'm human too. You would have done the same thing."
No bloody way. No rotten, bloody way.
The way this conversation was going, Barbossa was sure a touching ballad was to be sung. When had there been such concealed emotion behind Jack's eyes? "And what's that supposed to mean?"
Jack sighed. "What I mean, Hector, is that even though I like to steal the occasional ship and maybe stroll on a few uncharted islands does not mean I don't care. Something about Will and Elizabeth called me. I didn't understand before, like you. But they're pirates, one a pirate king—pardon me, queen—and another a captain, and yet they care. Immensely. Savvy?"
"Not savvy," blustered Barbossa. "I don't care. There's no one I need or want to care about. That's how a true pirate should be."
"It was Will and not you whose heart has been cut out," said Jack sharply. "Where's the human inside you? A pirate is a human with a heart. You don't want to be a monster of the sea."
"Like Tia Dalma," he said suddenly. They both shivered, recalling the overly strange transformation of island girl to crab. Trying to change the subject, he asked, "Have you seen Will? He should be kissing the land you walk on."
"Nope, and it's not likely the time is coming anytime soon. He's got ten years, and I'm pretty sure he'd spend the golden day with the little lady than with old Captain Jack Sparrow."
So he wouldn't even receive thanks for his sacrifice. "What about that immortality quest? How's that going?"
Jack paused for a moment. "A fluke. I got there fast, but it turned out to be nothing more than the name of a tourist inn. Pretty lousy mistake, I must say."
That meant Jack wouldn't live forever after all. His legacy might chance to disappear into the horizon. And the next time, it wouldn't come back.
"Why?" he asked simply.
Jack took the book back out and tossed it up in the air. Catching it, he smiled, "Humans' Code."
"But those are just guidelines," protested Barbossa.
"Which is why I'm a pirate," he smiled, handing the bottle of merlot to him.
Barbossa took a long drink and thought about it. He didn't fully understand it, but Jack's explanation was beginning to dawn on him. Maybe the fine lines between pirate and human were blurred. After all, Will and Elizabeth had no problem jumping from one side to another. And it wasn't like Jack to stick with any rule, whether pirate nor society, for long.
A little rule breaking never hurt anyone. He lifted the bottle to his mouth, hesitating for a moment, before gulping the rest in. Perhaps Jack might have a point. After all, merlot tasted much better than rum.
At first, this was supposed to be a story about Barbossa wanting to be a good pirate, like Captain Hook, but after it morphed by itself into something completely different…well, I think I liked the outcome! Thanks for reading, and please review!