A Pirates of the Caribbean Fanfic
By Lena (Airelle Vilka)
Summary: Who is the true owner of Barbossa's mysterious silk dress? A Pirates of the Caribbean fanfic to please all ages and walks of life, brought to you by a hefty dose of Cuba Libre. (Note: Revised. Again. :))
Disclaimer: I own nothing that you recognize.
"Dare I ask the fate of its previous owner?" Elizabeth, indicating dress
"Now, now, none of that." Barbossa
(from deleted scene on the DVD)
The Caribbean Sea, 1666
The Black Pearl was a magnificent ship.
Her beauty and strength rode in the waves, thick and powerful like the fog that enveloped her from stem to stern. Black sails hung from her masts like torn spider-webs, now concealing, now exposing her skeletal crew as the moonlight pierced them. Her bowsprit thrust into the night, directing her without need for a steersman. Poseidon himself, with his chariot and conch-trumpeted mermen, dared not cross her path.
The Pearl was magic. She was freedom, said her former captain Jack Sparrow.
Hector Barbossa had desperately wanted to taste that freedom. Perhaps that was why he never regretted holding a mutiny against Sparrow and leaving him to die. Especially now that Sparrow had proven his mettle and somehow escaped the island Barbossa had marooned him on (Should've followed the Navy's example, he thought, and keel-hauled that smarmy bastard). But Sparrow would not escape again; no mortal was so fortunate.
Barbossa sighed and twisted the stem of the apple he held. It rotated like a child's top, candlelight dancing on its green skin.
"Per'aps yer more fortunate than you think, Jack," he muttered, staring at the apple as if it held the world within it. "At least yer demise is certain."
The sea lapped idly at the hull; Barbossa heard every board strain against its weight. 'Only a few centimeters of wood stand between you and death,' the mariners said, and it was true for everyone but the Pearl's crew. Barbossa shuddered at the thought of wandering the bottom of the ocean for eternity, unable to die, to find peace. He did not feel his own shudder, however; that was reserved for mortal skin.
As if to verify that the curse had not lifted, he held his hand above a candle. The fire burned him; smoke rose between the cracks of his fingers, and still he felt nothing.
Damned, like his crew and his beautiful ship.
He reached inside his vest and lovingly cradled a gold coin in his palm. The eyes of the skull, hollow and cold like his own blue ones, burned fiercely.
"Soon," he whispered. "You will have Bootstrap's blood, and then you will free me."
A knock rattled the table, and Barbossa steadied the candle. "Enter."
The door admitted a tall, ratty-looking pirate. He stood in shadow, but said nothing; his hand seemed to be clawing at his face.
"Well, Ragetti?" Barbossa demanded. "What d'you want?"
"Cap'n, sir," said Ragetti, ceasing to fiddle with his false eye. "The crew thought you'd want 'is back."
"I see," said Barbossa. "Bring it 'ere, and go if you've nothin' else t'say."
Ragetti handed over his load and scurried out. As soon as the door closed, Barbossa's nails dug into the dark silk.
He had wisely declined to ask his men to return the dress after he'd thrown it to them. He knew too well the way of mutineers, and showed no signs of attachment to anything, lest they believe he'd gone soft.
But this was an exception.
Barbossa bit into the apple and chewed past his disgust. He'd had the good sense to ask the woman, Elizabeth, to give back what she'd borrowed. The dress was still warm when he'd held it, and for a brief moment, he'd reveled in its comfort. It felt the way it did ten years previously, when another woman had called it her own.
Determined not to dwell on sentiment, Barbossa gave the candle his darkest scowl. The small flame didn't seem unnerved.
"S'cruel, life is," he muttered as his pet monkey leaped on his shoulder, perfectly aware of his master's displeasure. "Hate t'admit it, but…" He trailed off, and snuffed the candle. His thoughts had already wandered into dangerous territory, and to go further would invite memories he'd suppressed for years.
Some time passed. Barbossa's mind withdrew into a daze, hovering between life and death like the rest of him. He watched his soul rot away and wondered which level of Hell was reserved for him. The curse had closed some paths and opened others; Barbossa had enjoyed the power it gave him once. But somewhere, amidst the battles and plunder and endless gold, he'd grown weary; he longed to live again, to taste the damned apples that seemed to fall through him.
The hull creaked. Fog came through the cracks in the door, and momentarily, all the lamps flickered. Barbossa raised his head and cursed.
Then, inevitably, came the whisper. Softly, it seemed to echo in his head.
Hector… give it back…
Jack the monkey screeched and bolted underneath the table, as he had a dozen times before. No amount of repetition would accustom someone to that voice.
Give it back to me…
"Damn," Barbossa spat, and threw open the cabin door. His crew seemed to have disappeared, or perhaps he was just dreaming. The fog spilled across the deck, thick as cream, and the voice sliced through it.
Alone, he fought his way toward the bow. The Pearl, usually so obedient, now grew recalcitrant; a treacherous silence gave away the cursed spirit of the ship—cursed in more ways than one. Someplace past the fog, Barbossa heard labored breathing; perhaps his crew had finally fallen asleep. Or as asleep as the undead ever fell.
Three more steps…
He emerged from the fog like a ghost, into the shadow of the foremast. The air was incredibly clear; the black sky, littered with stars, yawned above him. The bowsprit jutted into the sea, its carved frontispiece smiling eerily; and on its base, feet hanging into the darkness, sat a woman.
"Give it back," she said loudly.
"Why?" asked Barbossa. His hands had grown colder each moment, but he did not fear her any more than she feared him. "You betrayed me."
She turned. Her eyes, cold as the ocean, had not died with the rest of her; they shone from her white face like two beacons, pulling sailors to their grave.
"I betrayed you for the code's sake," she said. "Y'know that, an' still you won' let me go."
"Lying wench. You said you loved Sparrow, and what good did it do ye?" Barbossa snapped, walking closer. The dress rustled in his arms, feeling the call of its mistress, but the captain held it tightly. "He couldn' save you, not then, and not now."
"He shall return what you've taken," said the woman with a nod, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. This enraged Barbossa, not only because the thought was absurd, but also because she had done the same thing while alive. Her hair was pale then, her skin tanned brown by the Caribbean sun and shining with the sweat of her daily labor.
"Sparrow will die," he retorted through clenched teeth. "An' you won' have this back, not till my curse is lifted."
"'Course," she sighed. "Y'need me to keep you company till then. We're similar, y'know… you're not quite alive, and I'm not quite dead. In the same boat, eh?"
"Damn you, Catherine."
"Too late for that. Should've cursed me while I lived; but now, I won' share your fate. Not I, and not Bootstrap Bill. We both escaped, but Bill had luck enough not to fall victim to your selfishness."
"My selfishness?" Barbossa seethed, his hands in a vice grip on the silk. "You oughta haunt the Pearl til Doomsday."
"For what?" she asked coldly. "You talk of betrayal as if you hadn' mutinied 'gainst Jack…"
Or don't you remember, Captain?…
"We have it," said Barbossa, sinking into the chair, his blue eyes blazing with delight. "Sparrow's giv'n up the location of the Isla de Muerta."
Catherine fingered the pistol at her side, and looked away. She had expected this, but not so soon. "So you plan to go through w'this?"
Barbossa's smile faded slightly. "Certainly. We don' need him now, and the crew's loyal t'me. Sparrow's life'll only mean extra baggage."
"It's the ship," she murmured, "isn' it? You want the Pearl tomorrow."
"We've talked 'bout this," he said, moving closer. "What's crawling up yer head now? This 'ere's the best of my plans… the final stretch, love. Imagine… me as Cap'n. I was meant to guide this ship. We're responsible for the plans, the plunder… it's all ours for the takin'… Jack doesn' deserve this. Together, we'll be invincible."
"Yes," she echoed, but her voice wavered. "Invincible."
"Then it's done. We strike in two hours' time," he declared, slapping his hand on the table. "And then, you'll wear yer favorite dress as we throw Sparrow into the sea. It'll be our victory."
"'Tis true," said Barbossa. "I deserv'd the Pearl. I sailed the sea afore Sparrow was a babe in swaddlin' clothes."
"That may be," said Catherine. "But seems now you weren' fit t'sail at all, not after what you did."
"I did what I had to."
"Indeed?" She smiled grimly. "Was killing me part of your plan?"
"Was betraying me part of yours?"
"Give me back my dress. Let me go."
"Now, really, is all this necessary?" Jack Sparrow struggled, to no avail, between two of his crew members. The rest had gathered around to watch; some snickered, while others stayed back, ashamed to betray their captain. None came forward to defend him, however. Jack's face fell; they had deserted him, and now the Pearl, his sweet, beautiful Pearl, was in the hands of his mutinous first mate.
Barbossa stood beside the mainmast, his arms crossed and face steeled. His companion Catherine lingered beside him; she was one of two female pirates on the crew, and a halfway decent pirate at that. Her usual manner had changed, however; her feet didn't want to stay in one place, and she shifted her weight from one leg to another. Something dark floated in her eyes as well, but in the heat of the moment, no one noticed.
"Oh, but it is," said Barbossa. "So, lads, what'll we do with Jack? Ideas?"
And the ideas came, naturally.
"Give 'im Moses's Law!"
"Throw 'im overboard 'n let Davy Jones play with 'im!"
Catherine's weight shifted yet again.
"Now, now, one at a time," Barbossa laughed. "Jack needs to enjoy the suggestions."
"Yer on the losin' end, mate," Sparrow said quietly. "Think yer so high 'n mighty, leadin' yer crew on an adventure, with my ship as yer toy. You'll get what's comin', if not from me, then from someone else. I reckon it'll be this very crew that betrayed me."
Catherine's eyes flew to Barbossa, then back to Sparrow. A decision had been made.
Barbossa leaned closer to his enemy, and smiled; his next words were meant for Sparrow alone. "I won' make the mistake of losing their respect, Jack. Sorry to disappoint."
He straightened up. "Kill him."
The crew closed in.
"Wait," said Catherine, and they stopped. Barbossa's eyes momentarily sparkled with a question, but then his smile widened.
"I see," he said. "Move, gents. Let 'er do it."
The pirates parted like a wave; they might not have liked Catherine, but they obeyed orders, and bewared her blade. It was said she'd learned the arts to compensate for her lack of feminine loveliness. Catherine herself never dwelled on the subject, and her knowledge of the sword remained as mysterious as the scars crossing her back.
Slowly, she walked toward Sparrow, who stared at her in disbelief.
"You," he murmured. "Among 'em all." His brown eyes, lined with kohl to block the sun, seemed possessed now. Catherine took one look at him, and knew his thoughts were of his ship, not his life. It tore at her soul, because she knew how he felt. Knew it, and hated him for it. Sparrow wasn't even giving thought to himself… much less to her.
"Look at me," she said, more softly than she'd intended.
He did. His gaze slashed into her and buried her in its wake. Catherine wanted him to say something… to reveal the fact that she'd betrayed Barbossa long ago, that she'd invited Jack Sparrow into her bed and not regretted it.
He didn't speak, to her dismay.
Giving her away would have been fitting punishment, a last stab of revenge. Catherine knew about Barbossa's plot, and never warned Jack as they set off for the Isla de Muerta. She saw the dull ache in Jack's eyes, the hopeless anger. She could have saved him, and she hadn't. She had subtly suggested that Jack keep the location to himself, but that was all; she was, after all, faithful to Barbossa, and a small part of her hoped he would abandon his plans. After all, she'd reasoned, Jack was a good captain, and too important for the crew to lose.
But apparently, the crew had other ideas. They were not as loyal to Jack as Catherine had imagined, and Barbossa's power floated over them, easily swaying them to his side. Catherine had realized her mistake too late, as they sailed toward their destination. But she should have known that Barbossa would be relentless; she, of all people, knew the full extent of his jealousy and his desire to gain the Pearl.
In the end, her stalling had failed them all. She could do nothing to rectify her errors now. Her life was forfeit if she resisted… but she had no other choice. If it came to dying here or living with the responsibility for Jack's demise, she'd made her decision. Not even Barbossa could stop her, enamored with him as she'd been; she'd brought death to the world for far too long.
It didn't hit Catherine that loving Jack Sparrow had dulled her instinct for self-preservation, the instinct that had kept her thriving as a pirate for years.
She drew her sword.
"Captain," she said, "I am prepared to fight for you."
"Good," said Barbossa, "so kill 'im already. One clean sweep, and head's off. Do it!"
"I wasn't addressin' you," said Catherine slowly, turning to him. Barbossa's grin faded.
"Care to repeat that?"
"I may be many things," she said, stepping in front of Jack to shield him, as it were, from the crew. She looked pointedly at them all, and few met her gaze without flinching. Her eyes belonged to a dead woman. "I'm a pirate, a thief and killer. A whore, even…" She glanced at Barbossa, willing him to know what she knew. "But I'll ne'er be a mutineer."
"What?" Barbossa's eyes, usually protective of her, had now narrowed in cold fury. "You desert me, in our moment of glory?"
"I see no glory in this," said Catherine icily, although her fingers shook in an effort to maintain their grip on the sword. Barbossa hesitated. How could his most trusted confidant abandon him, when she'd done many a worse thing on his behalf?
Then, her words sunk in, and he understood.
"You stole her," he whispered in Sparrow's direction, right through Catherine. "You—"
"I love him," said Catherine, and the words felt bitter because she knew Jack did not return the feeling. "But that 'as no bearin' on my actions."
"Then," said Barbossa, drawing his own sword, "you leave me no choice."
Catherine did not look at Jack. Everyone, including him, knew her last words to be a lie.
They fought fiercely on the main deck, exchanging blow for blow and blood for blood, moving to the bow of the ship. Catherine had been right; Barbossa weakened her, and she could barely block him. Her only chance was to lunge closer and aim to kill. When their fight had reached the bowsprit, she stopped for a moment, weighing her options. When she decided to dive forward, Barbossa moved to the side, catching her off guard, and drew a dagger from his belt.
A flash, and it sank to the hilt into Catherine's stomach.
She did not realize what had happened, because she felt no pain. She tried to maneuver her sword again, but her hands did not move; instead, they seemed to coil around an elaborate handle protruding from her body. Blood leaked between her fingers, and she looked, incredulously, up at her killer.
Barbossa's belligerent stance had slackened. His blue eyes stared into hers, horror seeping through anger, as he released the dagger.
Catherine blinked and fell, hitting the deck with a soft thud.
Silence reigned on the Black Pearl.
"Should've killed 'im," said Barbossa thoughtfully.
"It wasn't fated," smiled Catherine, swinging her feet from the bowsprit. "Sparrow lived to see another day."
"I don't believe in fate, lass."
"Nor do I. But coincidence has a sense of humor, doesn' it? What's the chance your most hated enemy would escape the curse by bein' marooned?"
Barbossa looked at her intently. "Why'd you do it, Catherine?"
"Don't bait me," he growled. "Why Jack Sparrow?"
"Because I drank too much, and Sparrow was a han'some man," she said simply. "I didn' expect to love 'im, truly, not as I loved you… nor to risk my life for 'im, till it was too late."
Barbossa's next words were harsh enough to mask a lifetime of pain. Catherine knew he'd cared for her as much as a man of his demeanor could, as one would treasure a prize. Perhaps he'd even loved her, saw his younger self in her, who was twenty years his junior. But most likely not.
"You were mine, Catherine. I raised you to yer status… I made you."
Her thin lips stretched into a wry grin, something she'd learned from him long ago. "And still you couldn't 'old me back."
"I hold you now."
"Only 'cause you're a coward."
"Yer as cursed as this ship," said Barbossa.
"I'm no more cursed than Sparrow. Return my dress to me. Only then will I find peace."
"Peace?" he laughed. "Not after this long. You don't deserve it."
With that, the captain turned and walked through the fog, leaving Catherine's spirit to linger beside the bowsprit. The same scenario took place every time the Pearl sailed to the Isla de Muerta; her voice coaxed Barbossa from his quarters and demanded the dress symbolic of their victory, the dress she never received as her body was thrown into the depths of the sea. But this time, the voyage was different, because Catherine knew what lay at its end.
"The curse is still on you," she whispered to his retreating back. "But it won't be for long. And soon, we'll see who of us deserves peace."
Some Weeks Later
The material soaked immediately upon contact with the water. Helped by its bulk, it sank into the sea in the wake of the Black Pearl.
Captain Jack Sparrow stood at the stern, watching the receding shadow of twilight. A new sun rose above the horizon, thick and crimson like blood.
"You a'right?" Ana-Maria placed a hand on his shoulder, a rare gesture from an appendage that usually slapped him. The glaze lifted from Sparrow's eyes, but he did not turn.
"Aye, I will be," he said. "And now, so will she."
His companion wisely decided not to ask, and left.
"Cheers, Catherine," Jack finished, raising a bottle in toast as the last silken sleeve disappeared into the water. "Here's hopin' it still fits."
No one heard him, of course; but from that day forward, fog never touched the Black Pearl's deck, and a voice never rang through the cracks in its hull.
A/N: So, there's a sappiness factor. And it's unrealistic. And it started out so nicely, too.