I started off trying to write a drabble for the 'mistletoe' prompt from the current challenge thread at the Broken Compass, and as you can see, I failed miserably.

Not anywhere near 100 words.

Barbossa/May moment, in a dream he has while still cursed aboard the Black Pearl. Don't ask, I don't know exactly where this came from either! Cheers!

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Of Aztec Gold and Mistletoe

--

Nine years, three hundred and thirty-two days, eight hours and fifteen minutes...give or take.

Hector Barbossa knew exactly how long it had been since he had taken the very first coin out of the chest of Cortez, setting in motion a curse that had plagued him and his crew all this time.

He always knew. At any given time they all did -the same way at any given time over the past ten years they knew the precise tally of the coins they'd returned so far to the blasted Isla de Muerta. It wasn't hard to keep track of when there was nothing else to do but search.

They had no need to procure or prepare food or acquire drink. Being cursed as they were, they had little cause to keep company with anyone save themselves, and of course pleasurable company was completely out of the question.

It had been for nine years, three hundred and thirty-two days and eight and a half hours now, he realized, having been lost in his thoughts for several more long moments, as he stood with his arms folded across his chest, and watched the moonlight sparkle on the ocean beyond the windows of his cabin.

It was lovely really, the way the light scintillated across the tops of the swells; captivating, enchanting, romantic even, and he cursed it with all of his being. It was the same way he cursed himself whenever he had occasion to ponder if it had all actually been his fault –which was often, given the deficit of other activities to occupy his time.

Nothing to do other than wait and search, search and wait.

One could only read so much before the mundane activities of the most ordinary characters in any book set off pangs of longing for an average life such as theirs –one full of average food, average drink and average sex. To anyone but his crew it might sound uninspired and unappealing at first glance, but when faced with the choice of no food, no drink, and no sex? Forever? Funny how quickly one's perspective could change, and all it took was the toss of a coin...a cursed Aztec coin.

One also could only spend so much time conversing with the same people for nearly ten years, before the conversation turned, as it always eventually did, to 'what if?'

What if you could taste food...what would you eat first? Cake? Pie? Bread?

What if you could drink again...what would you drink first? Rum? Brandy? Ale?

What if you could once again feel the silken skin of a woman? Would you have a blonde? A redhead? Both?

He thought of how bone-weary he was of those conversations, and he snorted once at the thought, darkly amused by his own unintended humor as he contemplated the hand he held into the shaft of moonlight that was streaming in the great cabin windows before him.

He didn't need to speculate repeatedly about what he would want if the curse were lifted – at first it had been fine French wine and a piece of apple pie like his mother used to make, but after ten years he had begun to long for even a drink of fresh water, and just a bite of one of the apples she'd made her pies with.

And as for a woman? He sighed heavily as the thought crossed his mind. That answer had never changed. It would be a blonde for him, given the opportunity, but not just any blonde. No painted harlot or paid-for strumpet - no, there was only one golden-haired lass that he desired to be with.

The longing for his lady doctor had become an obsession with her, with which he had eventually become consumed, but of course that had been even before he'd first set foot in the cave at Isla de Muerta, he thought wryly to himself, admitting how smitten he'd been.

His lady doctor….had it been long enough that that was no longer true? How long had she waited? A year? Two? Eight?

Ten?

Perhaps.

Unlikely.

But perhaps...

The smile faded as he glanced again at his hand –the rings upon shriveled alabaster digits instead of his own strong, elegant fingers, and he withdrew from the window and the moonlight once more, pacing the cabin in thought.

Nine years, three hundred and thirty-two days, and nine hours.

Eight hundred and eighty-one coins.

The last one had eluded them for an eternity it seemed, and he began to wonder more and more if he would be able to carry on much longer.

Not that he had a choice, really. None of them did, but occasionally he liked to flirt with the idea that he could just give up and leave the nightmare behind.

At the thought of the word nightmare, he realized that it had been nearly two days since he'd slept again. Insomnia was something that had always plagued him in bouts, and that hadn't changed at all with the curse.

Feeling defeated and tired at the thought that the end might be another eternity away, he decided that he would take what refuge he could from the nightmare and get some sleep. If he was lucky, with as tired as he was, he might actually dream a bit –the one escape he had from the curse, at least for brief periods of time.

He lay down on the pillow he couldn't feel under his head, and quickly drifted off to sleep, his last thought a tiny prayer that he might yet dream and escape.

--

The dream came later, after he'd been asleep for quite some time, and as with so many dreams, he later wouldn't be able to figure out just what had made him envision the scenario he had.

It was cold and he was on foot, walking through darkened snow-covered streets with large snowflakes settling on his hat and shoulders. He surmised this was England, somewhere, as he passed other people hustling to and fro around him, and he wondered just when the last time was that he had actually seen snow.

Or felt it. Even had he not spent so much time in the Caribbean where snow was unknown, he still wouldn't have been able to feel the tiny cold prickles of the flakes that fell against his cheeks as he walked. The sensation was vivid and invigorating, and something that he cherished about his dreams; they were the only way in which he felt anything now.

It soon became apparent to him as he continued on, that this was in fact England at Christmas time, by the way the houses in the small town all had their doors bedecked with evergreen, and their windows brightened with candles. He couldn't remotely recall the last time he'd even given the holiday any thought.

A small gust blew up and swirled the snow around him, and he smiled to himself as he felt the sting of cold flakes, and the rush of the winter breeze that tingled his skin, and he held out a hand to catch the falling snow, exalting in the tiny sensation of the snowflakes melting in his palm and leaving it damp. He would have stood there longer savoring the feel of any sensation at all, if it weren't for the laughter of a young couple that passed nearby and caught his attention.

They were arm in arm and heading for the house at the end of the lane, and he followed them at a distance, unsure why he would do such a thing, but he didn't always have control over what it was he dreamed.

He watched them from a corner in the shadow cast by anther house as they knocked on the front door of the home they'd intended as their destination, and it was only a moment before light spread out across the steps from within, as the door opened to admit them.

Warmth and cheer and muffled laughter spilled out onto the stoop with the light, and as the young couple made their way inside, it became obvious that there was some sort of gathering taking place – most likely one celebrating the holiday.

Curious about what was taking place inside, he made his way around the side of the house to peer in a window from a spot in the shadows where it would be unlikely that he'd be seen. Sure enough, as he'd suspected, the large room he looked into was decked out in festive greenery and red ribbons, with a great Yule log ablaze in the hearth and a gathering of two- dozen people or more, all indulging in food and drink and Christmas cheer.

They were all dressed in their holiday finery, and it appeared as though someone had gone to a lot of trouble to burden a long table with all manner of refreshments for the guests. Everything from a large carved goose, to Christmas cake, mince pies and hot chocolate lay spread out invitingly next to bottles of wine and brandy and a great bowl of spiced holiday punch.

Had he the chance to find his way inside at that point, he would have done his best to sample anything and everything upon the table, for in his dreams he could always vividly recall the taste of cake and wine, as well as he could recall the feel of cold and snow. But at that moment, peering in the frosty window as he was from outside in the snowy night, he caught sight of the hostess of the party, and he completely forgot about the offerings on the table meant for her guests.

There she was by the hearth, dressed in a pretty dress of evergreen, with both firelight and candlelight setting off the highlights in her golden hair, where it cascaded in large curls tonight over her shoulders. She stood with a glass of wine in her hands, and tossed her head back and laughed at something one of the people in the group she was standing in had said, looking as lovely to him as ever he remembered.

One of her companions shifted position, blocking his view, and he was forced to move to the next window in order to see her more clearly again. He was focused more on the gathering inside than the weather outside, and not paying much attention to where he was walking, slipped on the icy snow covered walkway that ran next to the house, and instantly found himself watching the snowflakes tumbling down at him, landing on his face as he gazed up from where he'd landed ungracefully flat on his back. Unfortunately in his dreams, he also was able to feel pain, and he let fly a string of irritated curses under his breath as he groaned and then regained his feet, picking up his hat from where it had landed and banging it against his thigh to knock the snow off it.

She moved again, making her way to different groups, seeing to topping off drinks or shooing them over to refill a plate at the refreshment table, and once more he lost sight of her. He waited several moments, his feet starting to grow cold where he was standing in his dream, and he decided to move once more.

Making his way carefully around the side of the house so as not to end up on his rump again, he at last came to a window where he had a view of her, stooped down to the level of a small boy and sharing a laugh with him as she tousled his hair. From his vantage point at the window he had an excellent view down the front her dress where she was bent over, and while he craned his neck to seek just a slightly better angle, the wind howled by again, and the next thing he knew he was buried in a small avalanche of snow that had cascaded without warning off the roof over his head.

Sputtering and swearing loudly, he managed to extract himself from the mound of snow, dusting himself off in irritation, and once again banging the snow off his ill-treated hat.

He jammed it back down on his head, huffing the bedraggled ostrich plume out of his eyes and returned to the window in time to see her making rounds of the room once more to ensure that all her guests were indulging to her satisfaction. She came to speak to the young couple he had followed to the house, and were it not for the panes of glass that existed between where he stood in the dark, and she in the light, he could have reached out and touched her.

If only he could touch her…he knew in his dream he would be able to recall just how her skin felt, and he wondered if he dared go inside. Of course it was his dream and he could do as he wished, but he never knew how these things would end up.

He'd had more dreams about her than he could recall over the years; sometimes he watched her from afar, sometimes he spoke with her. There were times when she knew exactly who he was, and others when he seemed a total stranger to her.

There were moments in his dreams when he'd reached out to touch her or kiss her, and been met by her willingly, and yet others where she'd rejected him, angry or afraid of him from bitterness or lack of recognition.

And then, he thought, there were those rare dreams in which she sought him, approaching him with a willingness and abandon that made his heart race, and she'd kiss him hungrily, tearing at his clothes and pulling him down to the floor with her, wanting then and there to...

The sound of singing pulled him from his distracted musings, and he shook off the thought and watched her enjoying where several of her guests had taken to singing impromptu holiday songs. He smiled to himself, watching her laughing at the quartet of men serenading the room, and reminded of how fetching he found her when she laughed or smiled, decided that he would risk heading inside on the chance this would be one of those dreams when she remembered who he was.

He cautiously slunk around the house once more, wary of ice below or snow above, and he paused at the window next to the front door, checking to see where she was before he entered. He found her being embraced lightly by a handsome dark-haired man, and a flash of jealousy fiercely swept through his heart as she planted a small kiss on his lips.

This sort of thing was not supposed to happen in his dream, and preoccupied as he was with thoughts of just what he'd do to the man who'd kissed her, he almost didn't notice the dog sniffing around the ground near his feet.

It was a scraggly medium-sized mongrel of indeterminate origins with one pricked ear and one flopped, and just as he became aware of the fact that he was not alone under the windowsill, the dog lifted a rear leg, intent it seemed, on relieving itself on his boot.

It paused just before letting fly as it found itself with his pistol pointed at the side of its head, cocked and readied, and the two stared each other down for a moment. Reluctant to shoot the dog just outside the Christmas party, Barbossa found himself at a standoff with the mutt, and very slowly and carefully, each retracted their weapon.

He said a few unkind words to the dog as it made to move past him, but determined to have the last word, it kicked up its back feet in an alternating manner, digging up a few clods of snow and ice and flinging them at him before holding its head up high and trotting off down the road.

He sped another few choice words after the dog, turning back to the window in time to see yet another male guest kissing his woman, and before he could lay a hand on the pistol he'd just tucked back in his belt, he realized what was happening –she'd been standing under the mistletoe she had hung from the ceiling next to the fireplace while conversing with a much older woman, and several of her guests had taken advantage of the moment.

He went to stand then on the front step, about to enter, but before he could bring himself to venture inside, the door opened, and once again light swept across the stoop as a family of three, parents and a young daughter, took their leave from the party for the evening.

All three, full of good cheer and oblivious to the fact that they'd come face to face with a pirate, merrily wished him Happy Christmas before continuing down the steps. He nodded once in return, wondering when the last time was that he himself had wished anyone Happy Christmas as he found himself in the doorway, watching her cheerfully tending to her guests. People conversed convivially throughout the room, and several young boys were laughing and chasing each other, darting through and around the guests, chasing one who fled and was in possession of a red ball.

He'd just gathered the courage to cross the room to speak with her, when the lad with the ball chose that moment to throw it across the room to a companion who stood next to him, but the boy's aim was poor, and he nearly sank to his knees in agony after the toy had stuck him just below the belt.

Biting his tongue and making a supreme effort to keep himself composed, as he decided that tossing the offending child out the nearest window into the snow bank was likely not the best way to make a good impression on her, he counted to ten, waiting until the wave of intense pain passed.

It must have been the icy breeze that swept past him through the open doorway and across the room, which alerted her to the fact that the door had opened once more, and she turned to glance at where he stood as he debated whether or not he really wanted this dream to continue.

The look of surprise and recognition that crossed her face at that moment was almost instantly replaced with one that held great affection and emotion, and he decided at that moment, that he certainly didn't want the dream to end. He went to where she stood near the fireplace still, one hand pressed over her heart as she was overcome at seeing him.

Neither said anything for a long moment, and at last he gave her a small roguish smile. "Have ye ever been kissed by a pirate under the mistletoe, M'lady?" he asked her softly.

"No," she said, smiling shyly, as she evidently knew where he was headed with his comment.

"Ah, 'twould be a shame if ye went all yer life without such an experience," he replied, glancing meaningfully overhead.

"I'm sure you're right," she said, taking a step closer and laying a hand against his scarred cheek.

He reached for her and drew her in, leaning down to press his mouth over hers, and at that moment he was intensely aware of the her warmth and softness, and the way her lips tasted ever so slightly of the wine she'd been drinking.

He was reluctant to let her go, but did so after a long moment of being intimately engaged that way, and she smiled fetchingly at him once more.

"I have a Christmas present for you," she said softly.

He raised an eyebrow at her, wondering how she could have possibly known he would be at her party. Well, stranger things had happened in his dreams, and he watched her as she drew near again to whisper in his ear.

"Sail west," she whispered, and then she lightly kissed his ear.

"What?" he asked, unsure just what it was she was saying.

"West," she repeated, withdrawing and touching his face lovingly once more. "You must sail west."

He had no chance to ask just what it was that she meant by her words, as the room suddenly brightened, and he found himself sitting upright in his bed, blinking at the midday sun that shone in the cabin windows as an urgent knock came at his cabin door.

The disorientation he felt upon waking was immediately replaced by the familiar feeling of being summoned. He recognized instantly the sensation he couldn't ignore as he leapt to his feet and yanked open the door, jamming his hat down on his head as he did so.

Ragetti met him as he went on deck. "The Call," he said reverently, confirming what Barbossa already knew, "only a minute ago. We ain't sure which direction it came from, but it's close, Cap'n."

"Aye, real close," Pintel added, from where he stood next to Ragetti and the remainder of the crew who looked expectantly at Barbossa.

Barbossa smiled to himself and then spoke. "She knew," he said, knowing without a doubt it which way to go.

"Sir?" Ragetti asked, unsure of just what his captain was talking about.

"Set us a course due west, Master Ragetti," he ordered firmly, and he resolved that once they found this last coin, that he would take the first opportunity he had to find Madeline and wish her a Happy Christmas.

~*~