Ten years. He’d never really thought about in terms of actual time, because what was time to the undead? Captain Barbossa had preferred to view it as a continuous flow of events: hunt, pillage, destroy, hunt, pillage, destroy… Each drop of a coin another grain of sand in the hourglass, another step closer to the discrete horizon.
But after long last, the full extent of the ten years stared at him right in the face, forcing him to acknowledge it.
“Of the two of us, I’m the only one who hasn’t committed mutiny, therefore my word is the one we’ll be trusting.”
Crinkles at the corners of his eyes that weren’t there before. Twin twists adorning the almost-beard. An additional two gold caps to the molars. The longer hair was in dreadlocks – Barbossa wondered perhaps if Jack had had them done on purpose or whether he’d been braided by some savage when out drunk and hadn’t bothered taking them off, because—honestly. Then again, one never knew.
“Although, I suppose I should be thanking you because in fact, if you hadn’t betrayed me and left me to die, I would have had an equal share in that curse same as you.”
Ten years. Hunt, pillage, destroy. Coins in a chest. A ship bearing down on its claims. Jack, nothing more than a forgotten inconvenience, taken care of long ago.
And yet there he was, making himself comfortable at the table, head bobbing occasionally as though to some unheard music. Barbossa may have been undead, but he wasn’t blind. Jack was making himself at home, easing his presence into the Black Pearl as though he’d never truly been gone at all.
Barbossa stroked one hand gently against the aging wood. Don’t forget, darlin’… You’re still mine.
Jack’s eyes lifted to meet his, as though he’d heard the silent claim.
“Funny ol’ world, innit?”
And his lips quirked upward at the corners just before meeting the skin of a ripe green apple, teeth slicing effortlessly through the hard flesh.
Then, as though in careless afterthought, Jack raised the apple in offering. He waved the marred fruit at him, and for a moment Barbosa remembered – sweetness made servant by sharp teeth, rough wetness under a tongue’s caress — as ten years of restrained hunger rushed by with dizzying clarity.
Barbossa wondered exactly how much Jack knew about the curse. Whether he knew that it left numb all senses but sight, and drew upon its bearers a hunger akin to madness. Certainly the crew of the Black Pearl would have gone mad within a year or two had they been left to wander aimless like sheep, but Barbossa had kept them focused. Captain Caleb Barbossa, who had known and understood insatiable hunger long before the curse itself.