To any repeat readers: There's a new intro and various tinkerings as of 6/20/07. Nothing essential to the plot has changed, of course, but I'm still fiddling with Barbossa's dialog a bit.

To any new readers: this is a giantly long story. Sit back and enjoy the ride... and if you like it, drop me a line!!

(This takes place immediately after DMC. It is obviously not AWE-compliant.)

Elizabeth didn't much care for her new captain at first. According to the stories he was a terrible person, a thief and a cold-blooded murderer and, lowest of the low even by pirate standards, a mutineer. From her own experience, she knew him to be also a kidnapper and liar, the sort who hit girls and laughed at other people's pain.

So she didn't much like him, and she didn't much trust him either - what was he after? Helping Jack? Fat chance with all the betrayals between them. Repaying Tia Dalma for restoring his life? Not likely - the weasely old thing could probably have cheated her of it without batting an eye.

All that notwithstanding, though, Elizabeth had to admit Barbossa knew his way around a ship and crew. He'd named the boat before they even reached it: "We'll christen her the And Back, gents," he declared, "As a reminder that we're not just sailin to the end of the world - we're sailin to the end of the world and back again." He looked around as though for objections, and there were none. Nods all around, and Will even muttered amen to that under his breath.

Elizabeth didn't say anything, kept her arms crossed, and pretended not to notice the captain's eyes boring into her for the whole way down the river.

They reached the ship and Elizabeth found it distressingly tiny. After what she had just seen happen to the Pearl, legendary fearsome pirate vessel though she was, Elizabeth thought she might not mind never putting to sea again.

But as giving up was not an option, she clamped down on all thoughts of the vast distances they would be covering and climbed aboard. She looked around at the men Tia Dalma had found for them and couldn't stop herself from muttering, "And we're to trust ourselves to this crew?"

To her surprise, someone answered her. "Trust 'em?" It was Barbossa, and he sounded amused. "Course not - I've sailed with most of 'em before. They're not to be trusted, miss, but they are to be sailed with. I can vouch they'll do their part as well as ye will do yours."

She had already leaned away and curled her lip before she remembered how unwise it would be to make an enemy of him - after all, he had both her life and Will's in his hands at the moment. She fell back on all her years of training and produced a nod from someplace. "Yes sir." Barbossa looked her up and down very slowly and she realized he was not at all fooled by her pretend politeness. Her stomach twisted. "Captain, I..."

He nodded as though he had expected it. "Into the cabin, miss. I spose we ought to talk."

"Sit," ordered Barbossa. She sat. She was looking as tough and defiant as he'd had ever seen her, so he judged her terrified and turned away to pour a couple of fortifying drinks. He handed her a glass and sat down opposite at the table.

"Now Miss Elizabeth," he began, then frowned. "It won't bother ye to be called Elizabeth, will it? I wouldn't usually call my crew by their given names, but we've already got a Turner on board and-"

"Elizabeth will be fine, Captain," she interrupted with a proud toss of her head. "Now, what it is you wanted to talk to me about?"

"Miss Elizabeth," he began again, "As one so versed in pirate history you must know I've been captain since long before you were born. I've sailed with crews who like me, crews who're indifferent, and crews who hate me with a burnin passion. I managed it all and lived to tell, so don't think for a second it be fear talkin today." He waited for her to nod. "I expect this voyage to be more difficult than me usual undertakins, and that's why I think it be important for us all to get along. As the lady, it's you everyone'll look to as the moral compass of sorts." He leaned forward and locked eyes with her. "So the question is: I'll need to know where you stand. Now."

"I stand with you, Captain, obviously," Elizabeth assured him at once, then reconsidered under his skeptical stare. "Well, to be honest... I'll trust you so long as I can clearly tell that you're on my side. If your behavior becomes somehow ambiguous… then obviously that could change things. You know I'd be a fool to trust you implicitly."

Barbossa considered her lukewarm response for a moment. "Before you make so bold as to impugn me honor," he said a little snappishly, "Which I've guarded oh so carefully through years much longer and darker than you'll ever know... will ye be so kind as to answer me a question or two?" Elizabeth didn't answer, which he took to mean yes. "As I recall, the last time you were aboard ye came directly from your bedroom. Why is it, then, that you weren't paradin around the entire time in your nightgown?"

"I- you lent me a dress," she whispered.

"Aye. That I did. And did ye think to take it off again when ye were about to…ohhh…to go for a little swim, shall we say?"

"No. I would have drowned if you hadn't taken that dress back," she realized, aghast. "But I thought you were just-"

"Right, next question:" he overrode loudly. "Did any man aboard the ship, m'self included, did anyone so much as touch ye the entire time ye were in my care?"

Elizabeth stared at him. Up til now, not liking to remember her captivity at all, she had never even considered the full extent of the horrors she could have endured aboard the Pearl. Captured by pirates – desperate men whose usual behavior consisted of simply taking anything they fancied – and she had emerged with barely a scratch. She had been so preoccupied with her ordeal at the time that it had not even occurred to her how much worse it could have been.

But why was Barbossa reminding her of it at all? She straightened her spine. "I think I understand where this is going," she said haughtily. "You told me once that as I had taken advantage of you, you thought it only fair to take advantage in return. Is that what you're saying?"

Barbossa flashed her his mottled grin, pleasantly surprised by this turn of events and not at all about to let such an opportunity slip away. "It seems you do owe me something," he agreed genially. "Care to pay up?"

"Pay up?"

"Aye." He raised a grimy finger to his cheek. "A kiss. You owe me a kiss." It was a challenge.

That's it? Elizabeth's jaw dropped but she closed it quickly - she realized he was playing with her and if that was so, then she would play to win. "Captain Barbossa," she began with a coquettish little smile, "I regret to inform you that as a woman betrothed – again – I cannot always afford to pay my debts." She rose, crossed to his side of the table, and bent down by his chair. "What I mean is," she continued, leaning closer to him as though sharing a secret, "I imagine it could be said that I owe you much more than a kiss….But a kiss is all you're going to get." She meant to brush her lips against his cheek, but her behavior had so surprised him that he turned to face her – and she landed square on his mouth instead.

Elizabeth was caught so off guard that she opened up instead of jerking away. He kissed back, and she discovered that despite his repugnant appearance the pirate tasted no worse than any of the other men she'd kissed (Will, Jack, and a stable lad when she was eleven). Knowing no polite way of breaking free, and loathe to offend him by recoiling violently, she indulged in a few minutes of thrust-and-parry of the tongue before finally easing away with a nervous giggle. "All paid up?" she asked brightly. When she saw his pained expression she made her eyes very wide and innocent. "What's wrong – did I do a bad job?"

Barbossa wiped his mouth and looked away. "Don't try to be toyin with me, miss. You'd best get out of here while I'm still bein a gentleman." When she only laughed at him, his eyes narrowed and he clarified: "You have about ten seconds."

"Don't be silly, I know I'm quite safe in your hands," she breezed, having decided to make him pay dearly for what had just happened. She bit on her lower lip - her father always said it was indecent and made the men stare.

Tension saturated his every word and breath. "Aye, tis a promise I wish I could make ye. But you're an unholy little temptress, miss, and it's been far too long."

"Last time we spoke it had been, what, ten years?" She angled herself so that the candlelight danced down into her top a little further. "And as you restrained yourself then, I'm confident you won't do anything to compromise me now either. I think I'll stay."

He was glad to be sailing with a girl bold enough to play such games and mean enough to enjoy it. In the interests of knowing his enemy, he decided to probe the depths of her wickedness a little more. "I can restrain myself, aye... but it's neither easy nor pleasant. I cry your mercy, Elizabeth. You're a torture. Please leave."

She had never forgotten the way his eyes acquired an unnatural glow in candlelight. It was frightening indeed, but if she was to deal with him on a regular basis she would have to get used to it. Besides, he was clearly feeling indulgent today. She found the courage to continue to tease. "You poor thing."

He sat still for a while, hands folded, the picture of innocence, without making any attempt to intimidate her while she smirked at him. "Satisfied?" he asked at last into the silence. Elizabeth hesitated, so he spelled it out for her: "Y'be safer standin with me than against. I'm on your side for true - I wouldn't wish the Dutchman on anyone, even Jack, who we both know deserves it."

"I suppose that's what I needed to hear. So yes, I'm satisfied." Elizabeth touched his arm, smiling when the contact sent a shiver through him. "How about you, sir?" she asked innocently. "Are you satisfied?"

Barbossa was sure he could get one more kiss out of her but wasn't at all sure he could stop there. "Oh, very. Now, you may not go when asked, miss, but you will go when ordered. Out." The glare and the growl might have been playful, but the raw edge to his voice – which he undoubtedly thought he was concealing – was anything but.

Elizabeth got out, feeling very brave for needling him and very wary of what he was going to do back to her. It was shaping up to be an interesting trip.