Elizabeth tries to force Beckett to sign the letters of marque, but he tricks her into firing a warning shot, and she wastes the only bullet. With his threats of imprisonment and death hanging over her head, she has nothing to bargain with. Or does she?

I have several chapters of this written, but I've been posting them at Beckett fan sites. It seems like the majority of FFN dislikes Beckett, so unless I feel that people will enjoy the continuation of the story, I'll leave it as a oneshot. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: I do not own Pirates of the Caribbean, nor do I profit from this story. I play with the characters for my own amusement.

Powers of Persuasion

Elizabeth cocked the flintlock, the click echoing ominously in the silent room, and Lord Cutler Beckett tilted his head away from the cold barrel.

"I call your bluff, Miss Swann," he said after a long moment. "You won't do it."

Elizabeth's jaw clenched and in one quick movement she fired the pistol into the air. Beckett flinched at the deafening blast, and a shower of plaster and wood chips fell and scattered around them. "I would," Elizabeth replied, her voice steely.

Beckett glanced at the pistol, and allowed himself a small smile. "Not anymore."

For a moment, Elizabeth didn't understand the triumphant gleam in his eye. Suddenly she sucked in a breath of realization. She schooled her face into an expressionless mask, but she cursed herself for blindly falling for the man's trap. How could I be so stupid? He had counted on her lack of knowledge of weaponry to goad her into firing a warning shot. In her anger, she had foolishly forgotten that the flintlock carried only one bullet.

"Very clever," she replied, her voice calm but her mind racing in an attempt to jump one step ahead of his train of thought.

Beckett smiled condescendingly, and Elizabeth was sorely tempted to strike him with the butt of the pistol and wipe the smirk off his face.

"It seems you have nothing left to bargain with," he said, raising his hand and pushing the now-harmless pistol away. Elizabeth snatched it back and kept a tight grip on it - she refused to relinquish her hold on it, despite the fact that it was useless. Beckett seemed to find this amusing. "And even more in my favor," he continued. "Even the governor's daughter cannot get away with threatening me with bodily harm."

Beckett turned his back on her, crossing the room and seating himself behind his desk. He smoothed the front of his immaculate waistcoat and regarded Elizabeth as if to see what she could try next.

"I'm already sentenced to hang," Elizabeth spat, despite her inner struggle to remain impersonal and aloof. "You can't do anything else to me."

A ghost of a smile appreared on Beckett's face and his eyes reflected the candlelight. "Oh, but you'll find that I can."

Elizabeth stared at him as he comfortably drummed his fingers on the polished surface of his desk. "Seeing as you are facing the charges for assisting a fugitive from justice, you know what the punishment is. Just think - now your father will have to face that same punishment for freeing you."

Elizabeth's breath hitched in her throat. "You wouldn't dare."

Beckett merely smiled serenely, and rage bubbled up inside her. "It seems that I am holding all the cards, Miss Swann," he replied.

She knew he was right, and tears of anger and frustration welled in her eyes. Her pride would not allow her to grovel and beg for mercy, but she was boxed in and could see no way out.

"Lord Beckett." Elizabeth made her voice as cold as possible. "My father is a good and innocent man. Surely you would not hang him for simply acting out of love for his only child?"

"How good are your powers of persuasion?"

Elizabeth was taken aback by Beckett's sudden interruption. "What?"

He raised his hand and beckoned for her to come forward. Elizabeth drew her chin up. "I prefer to stand where I am."

Beckett raised an eyebrow. "Really, Miss Swann, do you think you're in a position to argue?"

Elizabeth gritted her teeth and took several steps forward until her gown brushed against the desk. "What do you want, Lord Beckett?" She had to force the title off her tongue - it heightened her rage all the more to address him as a superior.

"I believe I asked you about your powers of persuasion."

Elizabeth felt a chill dance up her spine. "What about them?"

Beckett toyed idly with an ivory letter-opener, turning it over and over between his fingers. "Everyone has their price, Miss Swann. And I can see you're the type of devoted daughter who would do anything to save her father... and the kind of person who would do what it takes to save herself." He glanced up at her, and his gaze was somehow both calm and intense. "Come here."

Elizabeth remained rooted to the spot, and Beckett sighed. He gestured smoothly. "Come here, Miss Swann, and put the letters on the desk." His voice had a harder edge to it. After a long moment of delay, she set the letters down, as well as the pistol, and reluctantly moved around the desk to stand before him.

Beckett turned in his chair to appraise her, his eyes calculating and unreadable. She clenched her jaw and tried to avoid his gaze, but found she couldn't.

Abruptly, Beckett reached out and took her by the wrist. Elizabeth jumped, startled, and instantly twisted away, but his grip was strong and she let out a gasp of both pain and indignation.

"Let go of me," she snarled. Beckett merely watched her, still unruffled. "Remind yourself of the situation you're in, and say that again."

After several moments, Elizabeth slowly stopped fighting his grasp. She drew herself up, focusing all her fury into a heated glare. Beckett smiled. "That's better."

She opened her mouth to speak, to protest, but before she could, Beckett had caught her other wrist and was forcing her to the floor. She let out a cry and struggled to remain standing, but her stay in the prison had weakened her and she sank to her knees. Her skirts billowed around her and she stared up at him, a sudden stab of fear piercing her anger.

"What do you want?" she hissed to hide her distress.

Beckett tilted his head to one side, his eyes intense. "The question is, what do you want. And how badly do you want it?"

Elizabeth was silent, but her glare was furious. Her heart sped up as Beckett's gaze traveled over her neck and chest to the hint of breasts at the top of her bodice. She felt suddenly naked in the low-cut gown.

She tried once more to twist away but his hands were tight around her wrists, and she hung her head, staring at the floor as tears of despair and desperation rose in her eyes.

She felt both her wrists transferred to one of his hands, and suddenly his free hand was under her chin, tipping her face up to look at his. She forced herself to look away from his gaze, up at the ceiling, the underside of the table, anything. Suddenly her heart jolted at the sight of the ivory letter opener. The handle was peeking over the edge of the table. She flicked her eyes back to his.

"Lord Beckett," Elizabeth said suddenly, her voice husky. "You know I would do anything to save my father and to get those letters of marque. But I cannot pretend that at our first meeting, I was not... left with a strong impression of you."

She saw the change in his face, a rise of both desire and suspicion at her change of heart. "Is that so?" he queried, his voice calm, skeptical, but with a telltale roughness.

Elizabeth nodded. "I... I was ashamed, you see. I have been brought up an innocent, the way a young lady should be, but sometimes I lie awake at night with these thoughts I cannot control..."

She saw the pulse jump in his throat. She pulled her hands free of his now-loose grip and leaned forward on her knees, running her fingers up his waistcoat. He watched her, unmoving but with fire in his eyes as she reached his chest, sliding her hands along his shoulders. She was surprised to feel muscle beneath the crisp white shirt. She met his heated gaze, leaning closer until their lips barely brushed, extending her hand past his arm for the letter opener...

She snatched it up and jerked away, flicking the sharp point beneath Beckett's chin. He froze at the touch of the cold ivory on his neck. A pregnant pause hung in the air.

"Clever girl."

Elizabeth got to her feet, careful to keep the improvised weapon in place. "Sign the letters," she ordered, her eyes trained on him as she fumbled for the letters, throwing them down in his lap. His gaze remained fixed on her for a long moment. Unnerved, she brandished the letter opener. "Sign them!

He looked away and reached for a quill, dipping it into the ink pot and opening the letters, signing his name smoothly.

"You make great efforts to ensure Jack Sparrow's freedom," Beckett commented as the stick of red wax sizzled in the candle's flame. He pressed his seal into the soft drippings, folding up the letters and wrapping the leather cords around them.

Elizabeth ignored him and reached for the letters, but Beckett held onto them. "I'll still want that compass. Consider that in your calculations."

Elizabeth snatched the letters as soon as he released them. She dropped the letter opener and it fell to the floor with a clatter as she hurried to the doors. She paused, glancing at him over her shoulder before escaping into the night.