A/N – Endless thanks to Rowena for all her help.
Chapter Two : Exodus
Everyone greets Jack Sparrow when he walks down the street. The shop vendors wave food that he can't afford in his direction; on a good day they might pity him and give him a loaf or a steak or an apple. The sailors make him jealous with their latest tales of high seas adventures, so he makes up his own, more daring and glamorous than any they could imagine, and scoffs in their faces when they cannot match his stories of princesses and pirates and untold riches. The whores flutter their fans at him and giggle coyly when he winks and tips his hat.
Everyone greets Jack.
But none of them know him. Not really.
They don't know Jack barely has the means to clothe and feed himself. They don't know that his deepest desire is to be rid of this town and to sail on the open waters, free. They don't know where he got the ivy fang he keeps strung in his hair. And they don't know that he waits every night on the shores for another man who doesn't know him.
Jack sighs deeply. It's been three weeks since that night at the inn, and no sign of his elusive lover. No letter, nothing.
He walks slowly down the streets, his head down, his hands pushed deep into his pockets. Just out of the corner of his eye, he can see the off-white blur of the fang. He had stood outside the jeweller's for near an hour, but couldn't really see the attraction of getting a bloody great hole drilled into his ear, so he'd tied a piece of string to the ring at the top of the fang and tied it to one of his braids. He can always see it, but never really look at it. A constant reminder.
Jack often walks with his eyes down these days. He often bumps into people. At least, it's not uncommon. So when he walks straight into someone in the street, he mumbles an apology and walks around them.
"And where d'ye think you're goin', lad?"
Jack stops. The first thing he feels is anger. Questions race through his mind: why did you leave me? Where did you go? Why do I need you so much? Then he feels helpless. All he wants to do is kiss the man behind him (he hasn't turned around yet, he can't) and let himself be whisked away into blissful oblivion. Only when he finally spins around, grinding the heels of his boots into the gravel, he can only grin widely.
"Barbossa." He says, trying to hide the awkward, boyish tint in his voice. He finds he cannot call him by his first name; it feels too familiar, which is ridiculous considering their previous 'bedroom activities'. Jack cocks his head to one side, trying to look arrogant, trying to instil even a little trepidation in his seemingly fearless seducer. But his voice betrays him as he utters a subjugated, "You were gone long."
Barbossa laughs openly. Jack laughs with him, though it is hollow and he only does it to make him seem less of a fool. "Indeed. Well, for your pains, I've brought ye a gift." Jack looks on curiously as he pulls something out of his sash. It shimmers iridescently in the Caribbean sunlight.
A beautiful, Indian dagger.
He slips it into Jack's palms. "This is for you." And his expression betrays that he's beginning to take Jack seriously.
Jack feels like a child again. So easily pleased, an earnest smile from Barbossa sends him into fits of happiness, sometimes for hours. Yet he feels belittled. He knows full well Barbossa has him like a dog to its master, rewarding his obedience with kisses and attention.
Jack doesn't like this. He has always felt the need to assert his authority and hasn't felt himself for weeks. Since he met Barbossa. But...in a way...well, he loves the attention he's being paid, from people around him too. And he feels a little ashamed at this.
He decides to confront him on something that's been playing in his mind for some time now.
They are in a busy pub. As usual, they are the centre of many people's attention, mostly because Barbossa is so open in his affections for Jack, often playing with his hair or leaning in so close that Jack can feel his warm breath on his neck, and always keeping an arm draped around his shoulders. Jack feels daring and glares at those who are staring at them in disbelief or disgust. He knows none of them will do anything about it though. Barbossa is taller and more threatening than all of them combined, in his view.
His defiance gives him some kind of bravery; enough so to say quietly, "You're a pirate, aren't you?"
Barbossa does not look at him, but says off-hand, "That bothers you lad?"
Jack had had friends, when he was younger, and they'd all promised one day to go out to sea and make a life for themselves. They all slipped away one night, on a merchant ship to New Orleans to find a pirate crew to join. Jack knew that one of them was dead, and he didn't know nor care to know what befell the rest. But his longing for the open seas still lingered, and being with Barbossa, especially now, sparked a hope in him that soon he's leave the land that in all his twenty two years he still felt so unaccustomed to.
"Take me with you next time?" Jack asks bluntly.
But Barbossa's interest is elsewhere now, watching a young couple at a table a little away from theirs, watching how her face leans into his, how her hair falls across her face, how her eyes dance with light when she laughs. Jack studies her too, with jealously, and presses himself a touch closer to his companion. "It's a terrible dangerous thing, lad. Wouldn't want that sweet head of your gettin' all banged up now, would we?"
Jack knows he's not just a pretty face, but all his former nerve has escaped him suddenly. He tugs on Barbossa's heavily clothed arm. "Come on. I want to go now."
The man shoots him a look of contempt, but it lasts only a second before his features relax into his usual, nonchalant expression. On their way out, Barbossa locks eyes with the girl for a moment longer than Jack would have liked.
Barbossa leaves more often in the months that follow, and his absences begin to lengthen. Jack grows used to him leaving, always without warning, though he worries more now that he knows why Barbossa travels.
His lover always leaves Jack with money and gold to trade, and brings ever more extravagant gifts on his return, but Jack still feels abandoned by him. His life is more rich and plentiful than ever, but he still knows an emptiness when he is left alone in his decadent surroundings, clothed in opulence, with a pristine sword hanging down past his waist. His misses his old life, poor though it was.
Jack finds himself hovering outside the pubs these recent evenings. Not a drop of rum has passed his lips for weeks, as Barbossa insists on him drinking fine French wines when they dine. Jack misses the taste, but still doesn't enter the pub for some unfounded fear that somehow Barbossa will find out and be disappointed with him. So he has to content himself with watching the endless droves going in and out and making Jack feel terribly thirsty.
Coming down the cobblestones now, Jack sees a marine looking around nervously. Jacks stares at him curiously. He has never quite understood the British navy, though he envies them for cruising the sea he yearns for so much. How out of place the boy looks here; the way his emerald eyes dart about reveals his age and inexperience, though he's trying not to show it by standing straight and tall (and he is tall, Jack notes, and strong too, he'd bet). Jack looks down at himself, completely the opposite to this lad, and compares his glossy silks to the dull red of the marine's uniform; observes the way the boy holds himself, so different to Jack's own swaying stagger. But Jack realises something, almost at once.
They are the same, because they are both alone.
And it is that fact that makes Jack get up and follow him into the pub.
The smell and sheer atmosphere inside swells recognition inside Jack, and he has to stop a moment to take it in. In his reminiscence, he finds he has lost his marine, and the pub is so crowded and dim, he can barely distinguish anyone, so he pushes his way into a relatively empty corner and gazes into the mass.
"James! Over here!" A voice ringing out over the rest turns Jack's head, and there is his boy, laughing as he is pulled into a chair by two others. Two of his friends.
And it is Jack who suddenly feels so horribly outcast; an obvious speck of gold in this comfortable russet sea.
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