A/N: Thanks to Intrepid Bandicoot, also an intrepid Barbossa wench, for reading things through to tell me if the story seemed to work, and very special thanks to FreedomOftheSeas, as ususal, for all her beta reading efforts. Thankee muchly, darlin'!
It's clear in AWE that Elizabeth and Barbossa now have a greater level of trust than was probably present at the end of DMC, but why? There was a very long period of time that we never see from the night in Tia Dalma's shack when Barbossa returns, to when they arrive in Singapore, and a lot of things could have happened along the way...
First to the Finish
Chapter One ~*~
I do swear from my heart and declare in my conscience before God and the sea that I shall bear faith and true allegiance to this company and the articles I have signed.
-Elizabeth Swann, one night before sailing for World's End
Barbossa had never been a patient man in his youth, wanting what he wanted and wanting it now, taking it when he felt like it and when he could. But all that had changed. Spending ten years searching for cursed Aztec gold and returning it one excruciating coin at a time to the Chest of Cortez had seen to that.
Not that he wasn't inclined to have what he desired, and to snatch it if the urge came upon him, but the benefits of biding his time just a little in certain situations had become painfully clear in that cursed decade.
He mulled over that sentiment as he stood at the rail of the fluyt, absently watching the moonlight play off the ship's wake and illuminate his hands as they rested on the rail. Odd that he was still becoming accustomed to them no longer transforming before his eyes –especially when he'd thought for ten years that he'd never get used to seeing his flesh melt away.
Groene Draeck the ship he stood upon was called, and her captain, Pieter Florisz, was a Dutchman who professed that he was trading spices for the VOC, but Barbossa knew what else was in his holds; Florisz might be carrying goods for the Dutch East India Company, but the opium he planned to sell in Singapore was for his own benefit.
And while bartering passage aboard a smuggler's vessel had not sat well with the young blacksmith, eventually Turner had deferred to Barbossa's judgment in the matter and had reluctantly agreed that their small company shouldn't pass on the opportunity. An accord between Barbossa and Florisz had been reached, the terms being that the Dutch smuggler would see that their crew would arrive at Singapore well-fed and unharmed; in return their small company would pull their weight aboard the Draeck, and not interfere with the captain's business, either official or unofficial.
The fact that the labor of Barbossa's crew was accompanied by a purse of gold doubloons, and that Florisz discovered Barbossa to be an experienced navigator who spoke a smattering of Cantonese and fluent Portuguese didn't hurt their arrangement at all either. It was often that Dutch and Portuguese ships clashed in the Orient, and having someone to translate potential negotiations and avoid bloodshed between the two rival countries made Barbossa's presence and that of his crew slightly more welcome aboard the Draeck.
True, Florisz had quietly hinted, in very broken English, that he'd also be interested in the woman who traveled in their company, but whether it was for his own personal pleasure, the opportunity to sell her or barter her away later, or both, Barbossa didn't know. He'd merely smiled wryly at the Dutch captain, his hand upon his sword hilt the whole time, letting him know that an arrangement involving Miss Swann was out of the question. Florisz had glanced at the woman waiting with the others across the dock one more time, looking thoughtful, and then had finally shrugged and shaken Barbossa's hand.
Barbossa glanced down again at the ship's wake and sighed heavily. His hard-won patience he needed now, for while the Groene Draeck was a sturdy and sea-worthy craft, capable of efficiently carrying an impressive amount of cargo, contraband, and a large Dutch and Chinese crew, she was as slow as a lame cow, lumbering along at a pace that made him long even more to have the Black Pearl back under his hands.
Movement at the corner of his vision caught Barbossa's attention, and when he turned to see what was responsible, he could tell, despite the ragged attire she wore, that it was the woman he had just been thinking about who was now leaning on her elbows on the same rail as he, much further aft. He'd noted that while she worked as hard as any of the men aboard the ship, never complaining despite the aches, and bruises, and sores on those fragile governor's daughter's hands of hers, it was often that she could be found at that spot, staring blankly at the waves, be it midday or midnight.
He knew what plagued her –it was serious business to kill in cold blood, to knowingly send a man to his death with malice of forethought, and he knew it was going to take more time than it had on the first legs of their voyage for her to come to terms with it. Perhaps she would never completely get over it, although the journey she was willing to make now was obviously her attempt at assuaging her profound guilt.
Barbossa ignored her and returned to his own thoughts. He'd left her be for the most part this far, knowing that any attempt at prolonged interaction just resulted in her walking away with tears in her eyes, or at the most, sullen one word replies to questions asked of her.
More movement caught his attention, and when he looked her way he saw that another figure was approaching Elizabeth where she leaned on the rail. Barbossa rolled his eyes; there again, was the Turner whelp, who clearly didn't understand that the time had not yet come to try to bridge the gap between the two young lovers. That timeframe was easily going to be measured in months and not days or weeks as Turner appeared to hope.
Some sort of hushed and abbreviated exchange took place between them, and Barbossa made an attempt to ignore it, for it was not the first of such exchanges, nor would it be the last, he surmised. While Turner had the dogged persistence of a terrier, he needed to learn just when to utilize that determination and when to keep his mouth shut.
Barbossa grinned as he stood at his vigil. Another twenty years of dealing with women would teach the lad when to keep his mouth shut, that much was for certain.
"But, Elizabeth," he heard Turner say softly, reinforcing his thoughts.
"I'd prefer some time alone," she answered with quiet annoyance, and when Turner stood there still, undecided whether to grant her request or not, she simply walked away from him, coming forward to stand at the rail only a few feet away.
Barbossa, after watching Will sigh with frustration that was apparent even across the gloomy deck of the Draeck and then head below decks, glanced at the woman standing a few paces away, wondering if she realized he was there in the shadows or not. He decided to speak up, not wanting to risk her drawing a blade against him if he startled her.
"Evenin', Miss Turner," he said quietly. His cordial manner did nothing to dispel the look of instant venom she shot him, and he immediately realized that it wasn't so much that he'd startled her, but that it was because of the unintended faux pas he'd made in addressing her. Probably not the best moment to have made it, either, by the look she shot him.
"Apologies," he said graciously, holding one hand up in a gesture of surrender even before she could attack him verbally. "'Twas but a mistake on my part – still gettin' used to yer real name, Miss Swann. No insult was intended."
"Insult?" she asked, her eyes still hard. "And just why, Captain Barbossa, would I find that an insult?"
He shrugged. "I thought ye might well find it as such, after how displeased y'are with young Master Turner."
She opened her mouth to speak, and then apparently swallowed the sharp retort she had ready, deciding that either she didn't have the energy to instigate an argument with someone else or that he was actually right in his assumptions.
"I just prefer my own name, is all," she said with dissipating annoyance, leaning on her elbows once again.
"I see," he replied, observing her closely. "Nothin' wrong with a woman who knows her own mind, I suppose."
"I'm glad you see it that way," she replied smartly, not sparing him a glance.
He chuckled to himself softly, unheard by the girl, amused by her sharp retort and in the mood to goad her just a little. "Nothin' wrong with a woman who knows her place, either," he said casually, purposefully looking out over the waves and not at her.
She turned to stare icily at him. "And just where would that be?"
"Well, that'd be fer the woman do decide," Barbossa replied, facing her and leaning casually on one elbow as he gave her his most innocent smile, which apparently projected little innocence, for she still gazed at him sternly, unsure whether she should feel insulted or not.
"Are you patronizing me or is that what you really think, Captain?" she asked haughtily.
"Oh, aye, 'tis fer each woman to decide fer herself where she belongs," he replied affably, "but that doesn't mean that I don't have me own preferences in the matter."
Clearly she missed the sly undertones in his words.
"And just what would those be?" Her tone carried the slightest defensive lilt to it.
The smirk that spread across his lips was not an innocent one by any means, and he met her defiant look with an unwavering blue stare.
"I fear ye'd think less of me if I were to say, Miss Swann," he said, his words challenging her to try to refute the fact that she probably already thought very little of him, and mocking her with the fact that she knew her opinion was of small worth to him.
Before she could decide which way she should respond to his comment, he headed her off and put an end to the conversation, pleased that he left her off-balance. Maybe her irritation with him would take her mind off the Kraken incident for more than a blasted minute.
"Well, I'll bid ye goodnight, Miss Swann. Ye'll want to retire straightaway, I'll wager," he finished, giving one meaningful glance at a few of Florisz's crew who were on deck, making it clear that she ought not remain alone with them and should keep within the company of the rest of their group.
He walked away, leaving her to her thoughts, her irritation, and her guilt.
A/N: The Groene Draeck was actually a Dutch ship of old, and means Green Dragon.
The VOC is the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or Dutch East India Company.