Mariqah woke to find Vasquez's arm draped across her stomach. His deep breaths made a rumbling sound in his chest and Mariqah could feel it rising and falling against her back. She let a giggle escape her lips. Mariqah moved his arm and sat up, feeling the sand beneath her palms. There was still a sharp wind that made her shiver, but it would disappear soon when the sun came up. Mariqah rubbed her arms and felt how dry how her skin was. Salt water had that effect, she supposed.
She heard Vasquez grunt and get up. He kissed her neck and put an arm around her shoulders.
“Are you sure you haven't...?” she began.
Vasquez laughed, “No. I haven't in many, many years. At least, not sober.”
She could feel one of his fingers scraping the groove of one of her scars and Mariqah sighed.
She couldn't escape it. It was always there - burning as fresh as the lash of a whip and leaving an undying sting.
Mariqah felt vulnerable now - sitting in the darkness of the early morning - with nothing but cold sand beneath her and a frosty wind to caress her bare skin. Her only comfort was the heat that radiated off of Vasquez's body and warmed her.
Mariqah hated heat and she disliked Vasquez - but not much more than she despised the coldness around her and inside herself.
“It happened a few months ago,” she said.
“Hmm?” Vasquez snapped out of his daydream and looked at her.
“The scars,” Mariqah explained, picking up her bodice and holding it against her chest, “I was set-up. I spent a lot of money and took a lot of men and... I was ambushed. Half my army was imprisoned and the rest... were killed on the spot. I was flogged, left in a gibbet from dawn until dusk and... and I was punished in a way that's exclusive to my gender,” Mariqah sighed, she felt the heat of shame burning her cheeks, “I escaped, obviously, and with all my remaining men - but... half of them were already dead, and several others died on the journey home. From illness, from suicide...”
Vasquez paused for a moment, before he said, “They're soldiers. It's what they signed up for.”
“No,” Mariqah shook her head and asked him, “Did you become a pirate to end up mutinied against and marooned on an island with possibly the worst of womankind to keep you company?”
“I guess not. But I knew the risks. I'm sure they did too.”
Mariqah gazed at the empty black sky slowly receding as the light of the sun drove it away, “They're men who dreamed of wealth and honour, men who came from oppression and poverty and crime to make themselves into something better,” she closed her eyes and looked down to the ground, “And I led them to their deaths...”
She expected him to offer some cheap condolence, to tell her that she hadn't meant it, that it wasn't her fault.
Just like everyone else.
But, “I'm sorry,” was all he said.
Mariqah felt numb, but better having told it. She didn't know how to respond, so she just huffed and drew her knees up to her chin.
“Is that why you didn't bring anyone?” Vasquez asked.
Mariqah shook her head, “I don't think they trust me like they used to, Vasquez. I wanted to be alone, to just escape that nagging chill of grief and guilt. I can kill a man without even thinking about it, but at home... I can't turn a corner without fearing for my life.”
“And I guess my welcome wasn't exactly warm.”
“Warm? It was fiery,” Mariqah laughed a little, “But I think I've needed that. To just scream and shout and do meaningless things with crazy people.”
Vasquez kissed her lips gently. She kissed him back and it thawed the numbness from her body. The rays of the resurrected sun reached her in tendrils of warmth. She felt so much better than she had in months.
“So,” Mariqah said, pushing him away slightly, “What now?”
“I was thinking we could take a different position-”
“No, you idiot!” Mariqah laughed, slapping his hands away, “About our circumstance! We need to escape.”
“Unless you have a compass and the ability to swim for days and days and days - through storms and through sharks - we're not escaping, hermana.”
Mariqah raised a brow and crossed her arms, “And you still manage to make it sound like you'd be fine if I wasn't weighing you down.”
“Well, you're not helping me float either.”
Mariqah shook her head and put her clothes on, one by one.
“Ah, no. Not the cold shoulder again. Anything but the cold shoulder!” Vasquez protested, melodramatically slapping his hands on his face.
Mariqah picked up her filthy tunic, and threw it away again, wrinkling her nose at the smell. She just put her jacket over her bodice and strapped on her belts before putting on her trousers and boots. Vasquez was still talking, but Mariqah had sighted something on the tide that took the full amount of her attention.
“Mariqah, are you listening?” Vasquez said, “Mari-”
“Shut up,” Mariqah said, and then pointed out to sea, “Do you see what I see?”
“You see the sea?”
“No, look at the sea.”
“Look at the sea to see what you saw?”
“No, look at the sea to see what I see that's sitting right there in the sea!”
“Mariqah, princesa, you've lost me.”
Mariqah bowed her head and held the bridge of her nose, “Vasquez, there's a fishing boat right there.”
Vasquez looked and nodded, “So there is. And?”
“And, we can use it to go and find Morgan to stake him like a pig - which you've vowed to do at least fifty-six times since we got here.”
“You kept count?”
“It's more of an estimate. My point is, let's go!”
Vasquez shook his head, “I don't think so.”
“What?” Mariqah said.
“Fishing boats aren't made for long, perilous voyages.”
“But you are, aren't you?”
“I thought we agreed that last night was just meaningless fun?”
“Vasquez, put your breeches back on and talk to me using your head, through your mouth - rather than just using your genitals.”
“Oh, like you don't want me to-”
Mariqah threw her fishy tunic at his face and he gagged on the stench as he tried to pull it off.
“Do you have any fucking idea, how rude that was?” he yelled, as soon as he was done trying to breathe properly.
“Breeches. Now,” Mariqah said, turning away.
Vasquez muttered under his breath as he put his clothes and belts on.
Mariqah observed the fishing boat, rubbing her forefinger against her chin, “If we steal that fishing boat, we could make it back to Tortuga. They're bound to have maps and compasses on-board, right?”
Vasquez stood next to her, “I don't think it's worth it.”
“What's not worth it?”
“Robbing that schooner or heading back to Tortuga. Tortuga would be in full control of the British by now.”
“Okay. We'll head for Nassau then. Regroup at Callum's compound.”
Vasquez sighed, “You don't understand...” he muttered.
“What don't I understand?”
“Morgan will be in Nassau!”
“All the better! You can stick it to his gut and get your vessel back.”
Vasquez turned away.
“What?” Mariqah said.
“I'm marooned, Mariqah!” Vasquez said, “I'm disgraced! I can't go back!”
“Have you forgotten who you're talking to? I can get Callum to-”
“Captain O'Brien is not a king! It doesn't work how you think it works! Morgan would have spread stories, the Brethren would see me as the criminal - and I can't say I haven't been one,” Vasquez huffed and sat on the ground, “I'll just be marooned again.”
Mariqah rubbed her forehead. There was no way in Hell she would sit idle in this heat a second day.
“Vasquez, I am not going to listen to your girly whining! Anything is better than dying here,” Mariqah insisted.
“Vasquez... Just, trust me? I have a way of making things work,” she said, putting out her hand.
Vasquez looked at her palm for a moment, “You trying to make friends again?” he said with a raised brow.
Mariqah shrugged, “You're charm is horrendously irresistible,” she scoffed.
Vasquez scoffed with her, took her hand and got up, “So, what's you're plan?”
“I'm still working on it,” Mariqah admitted, “But it definitely begins with that fishing boat.”