Disclaimer: Not mine, but the Mouse's.

Note: I'm using what's explictly stated in the films as canon for this, rather than anything that's been hinted online about the Beckett/Jack previous relationship.

Part 1

Cutler Beckett looked up at the vast black sides of the ship, and down again at the East India Company officer who had recommended her for the new venture.

"Are you quite sure this is the one?" he asked, to be certain. "It looks as though it could fall apart at any moment."

"She won't." The voice came from above, and Beckett looked up again to find its owner.

"Is that a guarantee?" he asked, squinting against the sun and seeing the outline of somebody with far too much hair.

"If you're paying enough, aye."

"Could I come aboard to discuss terms, Mr ┘?"

"Captain," said the man leaning over the side of the ship. "Hop aboard, mate."

On deck, Beckett could not convince himself that things looked any more promising. It was tidy enough, to be sure, but there was a general air of shabbiness about the vessel - and, he observed as its captain approached them, a general air of oddness about him.

The captain stuck out a grubby hand covered in rings. "Captain Jack Sparrow. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl."

"Cutler Beckett, East India Trading Company," Beckett introduced himself, shaking the grubby hand briefly. "I understand you are amenable to doing business, Captain Sparrow?"

"Depends on the business," said Sparrow cheerfully. "And on the funds. I assume there will be funds?"

"You will be adequately compensated," Beckett said.

Sparrow flung out an arm, gesturing towards the stern of the black ship. "Drink, mebbe, Mr Beckett? Then we can discuss your terms."

Beckett followed the man across the deck, through a set of doors, and into a spacious if gloomy cabin. It was strewn with geegaws and trinkets, and a pile of charts covered the table.

"Rum?" suggested Sparrow, going to a cabinet at the side of the cabin. "Or brandy?"

"Brandy, thank you." Looking about him, Beckett noted a well-used sword and pistols hanging from a peg. He brushed sand off a chair and sat down. Sparrow brought the brandy, in a chipped crystal glass, and Beckett tried it. "Hmm. Ten-year Armagnac?"

Sparrow settled down in a chair opposite, and propped booted feet on the table. "Spot on."

"Difficult to come by," Beckett said, eyeing the boots.

"Not terribly," said Sparrow easily. "If you know where to get it from. Now, Mr Beckett, what's your business?"

Beckett met his host's eyes. "The East India Company has some ┘ property ┘ we wish to be moved, discreetly, and quickly."

"The Black Pearl's the fastest ship in the Indian Ocean," said Sparrow.

Beckett smiled his thin smile. "So I have heard. Are you discreet, Captain Sparrow?"

Picking up his glass, Sparrow tipped his head back and swallowed whatever liquor he had chosen. "Do I look discreet, mate?"

"You look the very opposite of discreet, Captain," Beckett observed. "I do not care what you look like, I care what you act like. Can you be discreet?"

Sparrow shrugged. "Aye, if it's needed. What's the cargo?"

"Wouldn't you rather know the price?" asked Beckett, hoping he had judged Sparrow correctly, and that avarice would win over curiosity. He watched the captain for a response.

"What's the price, then?" Sparrow asked in return.

"A hundred guineas," Beckett said, keeping his gaze fixed on the other man.

Sparrow stood up, and went to fetch the bottle of brandy. He refilled both glasses, drank his own down in a gulp, and began to wander around the cabin picking up things and putting them down again.

"That's a lot of money," he observed, straightening an African war mask on the cabin wall. He seemed not to expect an answer, but just as Beckett was wondering if he should pursue the matter, Sparrow halted, and bent down. He smelt rather strongly of clothes that needed a wash, Beckett noted. "So what, I ask, would you be wantin' me and my ship to carry, Mr Beckett?"

"Ah," said Beckett. Evidently more than greed drove this man. "Things we would rather not carry officially."

"And unofficially?" Sparrow's tone was still light, but Beckett rather fancied that the captain was rather less casual than he was showing. He made a decision.

"Opium. Rather a lot of it. And gunpowder. Rather a lot of that, too, actually. And a few smaller odds and ends."

"To where?"

"Singapore, Captain Sparrow. You are no doubt aware that our ships are currently plagued by a man calling himself Sao Feng. A pirate, Captain."

"Shocking," said Sparrow, straight-faced. "Well, I sail armed, as I'm sure you noticed. My little cannon are a match for any Chinese junk."

"I did notice," Beckett said. He had; the Black Pearl might be shabby, but her cannon - those on the main deck, at least - were shiny and well cared for.

Sparrow looked satisfied. "Well then, you need not fear for your goods, mate. I want half the money with the goods, and half when we deliver." He held out his hand again. "Do we have an accord, Mr Beckett?"

After a moment, Beckett nodded. He shook.

"We do indeed, Captain Sparrow. The goods will be brought to you tomorrow, and I recommend you set sail immediately. Can you do that?"

"You know very well we're provisioned and ready," said Sparrow, "else you'd not have picked me ship."

"TouchИ," Beckett admitted. "Very well then."

He rose, brushed his coat down, and allowed Sparrow to lead him out of the cabin into the Indian sun outside. He paused, with a hand on the rail and a foot on the gangplank.

"I look forward to doing business with you, Captain," he said.

"Likewise," said Sparrow, sketching a little bow.

Beckett was left with a nagging doubt that he had missed something about Sparrow, and accordingly went back to the harbour the next day to oversee the loading of the Black Pearl. He was pleased to note that his orders had been obeyed and there were no East India uniforms in sight; the men on the Pearl, while scruffy, were stowing the crates and barrels with swift efficiency.

Sparrow was watching from the poop deck, and greeted Beckett with a nod. "Morning."

"Good morning, Captain Sparrow." Beckett joined him in leaning on the ship's rail to observe the loading. "I trust things are progressing smoothly?

"Aye," Sparrow said, nonchalantly. He turned to Beckett, resting a casual hand on the butt of the pistol stuck in his sash.

"Ah, you want payment," Beckett said. He fished out the bag of coins from inside his coat and tossed it to Sparrow. "Half now, half on arrival."

Sparrow pocketed the bag. "Ta. And who'm I to deliver to?"

Beckett took out the sealed envelope and passed it across. For a moment he wondered whether or not Sparrow could read, or merely make out a chart, but the captain slit the seal with a blackened fingernail, opened the letter and scanned it quickly.

"Very well," he said. He tucked the letter away, and then sharply glanced across at the docks. "Eh - what's that?"

"The rest of your cargo," Beckett returned, after looking in the same direction himself.

The men supervising the loading were eyeing the new arrivals suspiciously, and one of them came towards the poop deck even as Sparrow started down to the main deck.

"Cap'n ┘ apparently we're s'posed to take these on board?"

"Hold it for a second, Mr Turner," said Sparrow. He turned back to Beckett. "Mr Beckett, you never said naught about human cargo."

"Did I not?" Beckett said. "Oh dear. I do, however, recall mentioning additional goods. I don't believe you bothered to ascertain what they were."

Sparrow came back up the steps to the poop deck and leaned in very close, lowering his voice. "Mr Beckett - I don't carry slaves."

"I'm surprised you have such morals," Beckett replied.

"Are you, eh?"

Beckett lifted his chin to meet Sparrow's dark, angry eyes. "Let us retire to your cabin, Captain, to discuss this."

"Aye, p'raps we'd better." They proceeded down the steps to the main deck, where Sparrow had a brief, hushed conversation with the man Turner, before throwing open the door to the captain's cabin and waiting, ironically polite, for Beckett to enter.

Once inside the politeness dropped.

"I won't carry slaves," Sparrow said again. "I'd rather throw all your bloody goods off me ship, and the coin too."

"Yes, but you won't," said Beckett, folding his hands behind his back.

"And why not?" asked Sparrow.

Beckett sat down, comfortable, and secure in the knowledge that what he was doing was the right thing, and that the annoying Sparrow would give in.

"Because if you don't carry my cargo - all my cargo - to Singapore, and deliver it," Beckett said, "there will be consequences for you and your crew. The penalty for piracy, as I'm sure you are all too aware, is death, Captain Sparrow."

Sparrow, to his credit, merely shrugged. "And why should that concern me, mate? I'm just an honest sailor tryin' to make an honest livin'."

"No, Captain Sparrow, you are a pirate," Beckett said. "Our sphere of influence extends far beyond the Indian Ocean. We can disown you like that." He snapped his fingers in Sparrow's face. "You will carry this cargo, or pay the price."

"We may be pirates," Sparrow said, "but at least we don't resort to blackmail." He threw the bag of money at Beckett.

"I prefer to call it manipulation," said Beckett calmly, fielding the bag and throwing it back. "Keep the coin."

Sparrow, tellingly, put the money back inside his jacket.

"Done," he said. "We'll take the cargo. All the bloody cargo."

"I knew you'd come around," Beckett said, standing up. "Well then. Have a safe voyage, Captain."

He left the cabin with Sparrow standing watching him go. Once on the dockside, Beckett watched from a distance as the twenty slaves were ushered on board the Black Pearl and taken below. Shortly afterwards, she cast off her mooring lines as men hurried aloft to let the patched, black sails hang in their gear. The great ship moved smoothly off her berth and out into the harbour, and Cutler Beckett, satisfied, turned on his heel and went off to deal with other business.