Title: Chasing Shadows (1/?)
Disclaimer: But that still leaves Disney with the problem of me standing on some beach holding this fic with naught but my word I'm not profiting.
Summary: After all the commotion of sequels is over, two souls sail together at last. Set after DMC, AWE, OST and anything else they come up with, so it can't really be AU, eh? For Aletheiafelinea who requested Jack/Anamaria with Cat o' Nine embellishment.
Thank you Geekmama for betaing this.
1 Chasing Shadows
The light of every lantern and candle in the great cabin of the Black Pearl turned the dark mahogany to gold. Echoing flames flickered in polished surfaces and the thick glass windows arching around her the stern. Heavy silver trays loaded with fresh bread and aged cheeses and the delicacy of ripe fruit lent an air of festivity to the elegant chamber. The decadence was only enhanced by the wanton scatter of oriental cushions and elaborate pillows on the intricate rugs.
The ship rocked almost imperceptibly in the calm waters, as though enjoying her new finery.
In the center of the room, Anamaria surveyed her handiwork with satisfaction. It was overdone. It was absurd. It was exactly perfect.
She'd even succeed in expelling Cat o' Nine Tails from the room with a minimum of bodily harm, mostly thanks to a thick rug and a sneaky and underhanded pounce. Cat o' Nine had transformed from a mangy, scrawny, tattered adolescent cat into a mangy, scrawny, tattered great-grandmother cat, whose temper old age and arthritis had done nothing to improve. Anamaria had decided the evening would not be enhanced by the addition of Cat's occasional yowling profanities and her violently enforced insistence that all food was intended for her and all fabric was her personal domain. Besides, Anamaria preferred not to conduct this night under the disapproving stare of those slightly askew yellow eyes.
Anamaria was finally feeling clean, having taken advantage of being in port by bathing in easily replaceable fresh water. Her hair hung in long wet spirals down her back, leaving a dark trail of dampness in the rich maroon of her vest, her breeches were silk, and her black leather boots shone. The white froth of her shirt was unlaced to an indecently low level to reveal a heavy gold amulet nestling between her breasts. She knew she looked dashing and dangerous tonight—a pirate queen in her rightful domain.
Only one thing was missing, but she expected he'd be along soon.
While she waited, Anamaria perused the small collection of books Jack kept out for easy access. Now that she could read—slowly—she and Jack had been picking their way through the works of an English playwright, and tonight the words of the play they were reading (Jack wouldn't ever let her say the name of it—said Gibbs would never forgive him) kept slinking about the back of her head. It was a play about how a murder had undone a man and a woman, a topic that was mildly appropriate at the moment.
There was a dead body being disposed of somewhere in Port-au-Prince. And Jack was responsible for it.
What was done could certainly not be undone, but this had not been an unholy murder. More self defense, really—or at least Anamaria defense. She'd run into trouble in the form of a man who'd thought a woman alone would be an easy mark. When the matter had progressed to drawn steel, she'd discovered he had friends. Things had been looking ugly, with blood let on both sides and one man down, when Jack had wandered into the melee—disturbances were magnets to his iron filings.
In the end, he'd had no choice.
The two of them had walked away from that fight, she pressing a hand hard against her ribs where blood welled between her fingers. Of her assailants, one had run, one had been carried off, and one had not risen again. She had not met Jack's eyes, after—never did like to glimpse the place he had to go in order to do that kind of work.
He was swimming now, not cavorting as he sometimes did, part fish that he was, but making steady, sure laps around the Black Pearl as though he were racing something—or outracing it. As soon as they'd returned silently to the ship, he'd stitched up the bite of the blade she'd taken, his hands sure and swift while she'd left a permanent carving of her teeth in the leather of her baldric. Then he'd shed his bloodstained clothing like it was poison against his skin. He'd dived off the ship's rail like a penitent seeking baptism—as though he sought to wash away the events of the day in an ocean full of salt water.
The sunset sea had slowly been dyed from guilty incarnadine to a rich, dark violet and then a velvet indigo. Tomorrow it would be turquoise again. Absolution indeed. And surely the perfumes of Arabia could drive off the smell of blood for them tonight.
Carefully Anamaria lit the candles scented with pomegranate that she'd picked up in Bandur Abbas when they'd made port in the Persian Gulf on one of Jack's mad flights around the world. As she cradled her hand around a young flame, she wondered briefly what her life would have been like had she spent it in the small fishing village on Tortuga. Certainly, this would be a smell that would never have brought back memories. Come to think of it, she and Jack and Marty had been forced to flee that particular market just ahead of some very nasty action, thanks to some taboo the perpetually inquisitive Sparrow had managed to trespass upon. Or had it been some forbidden female he'd been making eyes at? She couldn't remember which. Some things never changed. The scolding she'd read Jack Sparrow over that incident had been epic. At the recollection, her smile caught and flickered brighter than the candle.
The incense fragrance began subtly to touch her senses, adding to the intensity of the cabin. Everywhere bright lights danced and colours swirled. No dark corners remained where ghosts could lurk. A pirate, even one as peaceable and canny as Jack, had too many ghosts following him around—the memories of lives he'd taken. Anamaria had a few too many of her own.
Those newly-made specters perched the heaviest on your shoulders, Anamaria knew. Still so used to life they couldn't stop their frantic gibbering at the living. That first night they never let you sleep. You could see their eyes in the darkness, accusing. Why should you have life and they not? They worked their claws into your soul and ripped.
Such a rat bastard as that man who had died today did not deserve to give Jack Sparrow a sleepless night.
So Anamaria would give him one—she smirked to herself. He did deserve that and so did she. Sometimes virtue was its own reward. Of course that depended on one's definition of virtue. But she would most certainly be doing unto others as she would be done by. Oh yes.
She heard his footsteps. Not the firm booted stride of the captain, but soft and light steps, barefooted, just Jack. A smile curved her lips for an instant at the comfort of knowing the tread of a pair of feet.
Then he was leaning braced in the doorway, wearing only his wet breeches, the drops of seawater clinging to his hair and body catching the flicker of candlelight.
He met her gaze as she searched his face. He was back to himself now, she saw. His eyes were alive again. But all great Neptune's ocean could never quite wash the blood off his hands. Jack Sparrow never let the calluses grow over the discomfort he felt when all else but killing failed him. Today's work would have left him raw. Even yet he did not look quite at home in his own skin. The smoke of painful thoughts still obscured the fires of his eyes.
She wanted to burn off the shadows, to let in so much light the darkness must flee, just as she had done to this room.
Sweeping up the wine and one of the crystal goblets from the table, she went to Jack.
He took the bottle from her, turning it in his slender hands. "This is the good stuff!" An eyebrow crept up to brush his red scarf.
"It is," Anamaria said, holding out the goblet for him to pour.
Jack took the glass from her and rotated the stem between thumb and forefinger, staring into the dark depths. "Do you have any of the not so good—for when it doesn't matter?" he asked, with forced insouciance.
Anamaria dipped her fingertip into the sweet liquid and touched it to Jack's lips, feeling the sudden cooling of his caught breath over her wet skin. "You might not want to be that numb tonight, Jack Sparrow."
And now the smoke in his eyes did nothing to conceal the dark flame of them. Something coiled tensely at the base of her spine twitched. Dear God, he was so bloody beautiful.
"Let me guess, love," Jack smirked, swaying provocatively into the room. "I'm not getting my face slapped tonight."
And so bloody annoying. Let us not forget that.
"That depends," she said acerbically.
"On what?" He opened his eyes in feigned innocence.
Anamaria felt a tickle of laughter itching at the back of her nose.
"On whether you can behave yourself." She tried to stay severe.
"Well then, I'm scuppered," Jack said cheerily. "I've never been a success at that."
"What?" Anamaria challenged, hands planted on her hips. "Captain Jack Sparrow is admittin' there's somethin' he can't do?"
Jack's gaze traveled down her body, lingering on the open neckline of her shirt and the curve of her thighs thinly veiled by her breeches, then drawing slowly back to her face, sending shivers like small claws skittering over her skin. "I can certainly die trying," he said huskily, his voice like the sound of waves caressing the shore.
Then he caught her hand in his and let her lead him into the room.
TBC is a possibility