Thanks to Conni, Lizzie, Consuela, SilverCaja, and Longbow70! :)

Chapter Fifteen


As dawn arrived, Elizabeth found herself with another turn rowing, Barbossa once again sharing the shift by her side. She was thankful that Will remained up front, so that she didn't have to worry about inadvertently meeting his eyes as she pulled at the oar. She had a difficult enough time when things were busy on the ship, never mind when there was nothing else to do but row, and after the comment he'd made as he switched places with her, she wasn't sure she could look at him.

"Have a nice nap?" he'd asked her very quietly, and while she had been poised to give him a quick smile and reply that she had, his eyes had held that accusing, pained look that they did so often as of late, and she had realized what he meant.

To her chagrin, upon wakening she'd found herself with her face plastered firmly against the pirate captain's shoulder, and she was sure by the way her skin felt that the imprint of the pattern from his frockcoat was still pressed upon her cheek. She thanked God that she'd woken seconds before Barbossa did, and managed to bolt off his arm before he realized. He'd never let her live it down if he knew she was snuggled against him, however unintended and unconscious her proximity to him had been.

It was bad enough that Will, and likely the others, had seen, and she bit her tongue and said nothing in reply, taking up the oar opposite the pirate captain once again. She did her best to ignore him, and he, thankfully, did not seem inclined to strike up conversation either; apparently he wasn't at his most gregarious this early in the morning.

Not that he was ever gregarious, she thought to herself, glancing out of the corner of her eye at the pirate rowing next to her. How the man managed to seem to keep to himself so effectively in such a small space as the boat was beyond her, but there was no doubt that he had mastered the art of being unapproachable when he chose.

Not that she had the desire to approach him, especially after what he'd done to her. Elizabeth set her chin stiffly when she thought about the fact that she'd been bartered away to the Dutch smuggler as fast as the old farmers back in England would haggle away their sheep; a ewe to slaughter she might have well as been.

Or more likely a sacrificial lamb, she thought, glancing stonily at Barbossa. Exceedingly crafty, wicked and smart, he was probably the most dangerous man she'd ever met, and that opinion solidified daily despite the fact that he was once again quite mortal.

With mortal needs and wants and the ability to now pursue the same.

Elizabeth found herself scowling at him, resentment gathering about her like a storm cloud as she recalled how foul Florisz had been, and how indelicately he'd manhandled her, even if it had been only for a few moments. And now Barbossa had the audacity to think that somehow she still owed him…

Barbossa halted in mid-stroke and swiveled his head her way, his piercing blue gaze meeting hers for a moment, and then he raised an eyebrow at her, making her realize that she had been openly glaring at him during her irritated musings. Quickly she looked away and went back to rowing, trying to lose herself in the rhythm of her work.

"I'm curious," he said to her after a moment, and instantly she could feel her hackles rise. She'd traveled with him enough by now that she recognized the subtle, if not sly tone of amusement in his voice.

She set her jaw again and made it a point to determinedly look anyplace but at him. "About what?" she asked, trying to affect disinterest.

"As to whether or not ye've come to a decision," he continued.

"A decision?" she asked, looking out at the horizon they were headed for.

"Aye," he said softly, "about how 'tis ye'll likely do me in."

She knew he was watching her, but his question had thrown her off guard, and she fought a losing battle for nearly half a minute to unsuccessfully suppress a smile, and reaffirmed to herself that he was dangerous indeed.

At last, managing to keep the smile down to a tiny smirk, she answered. "I'm not quite sure, actually. I suppose I had been fantasizing over something rather prolonged rather than something hasty."

"Ah, well, we be one of the same mind, Miss Swann, fer the very same thoughts had been occurrin' to me," he said slyly.

Frowning over why he'd say such a thing, she quickly turned to give him a questioning glance, and then realized by the smirk he wore, that he was not at all speaking of the manner in which she might perpetrate his demise, but of the way he might extract his payment from her.

Once again, she found that her jaw had come unhinged of its own accord, but quickly snapped it shut as the pirate chuckled to himself and returned to his rowing.

"You!" she began, getting the attention of everyone in the boat while he ignored her. She bided her time for a few moments until the others were lost again in their naps or their thoughts during the monotony of rowing.

"You," she repeated, sotto voce, "are the most infuriating, contemptible, despicable…"

"Ye've overused 'despicable' methinks," he said, interrupting her and smiling to himself as he rowed. "Surely ye can do better."

Poised to sling yet another epithet at him, Elizabeth was once again disarmed by the pirate's wicked sense of humor, and had to bite her lip to keep from smiling. She went back to rowing for a few moments, and at last offered a single word without risking a glance at him and therefore losing her hard-won composure. "Loathsome," she pronounced proudly.

"Loathsome? Hold ye such a low opinion of me?" he asked, still amused.

She doubted that he really cared one way or another. A bit of self-righteousness infused her answer. "And just what sort of opinion should I hold of the man who condemned me so readily to such an unpleasant fate?"

"I think," he said very softly, "that here the pot be contemplating how black the kettle is."

The pointed look he gave her drove his message home, and Elizabeth found herself speechless at how quickly he'd turned the table upon her.

"If a man's attempts to make amends don't redeem him in your eyes, then ye'd best hope that Jack Sparrow isn't as heartless as yerself," he said in an even whisper.

Elizabeth turned away quickly, stung by Barbossa's words. True, she'd thought to hold the incident with Florisz against the pirate, despite the fact that he'd orchestrated her rescue. Was that fair, when she herself was going to such great lengths to put to rights the even worse fate she'd handed Jack, hoping that somehow he'd not hate her in the end?

"Ye'll be angry with me fer sayin' it, Miss Swann, but only because it be true," he added under his voice. "You an' I are more alike than ye'd think."

He expected the defensive look that sprang into place, and was prepared for the sharp retort that she was about to give him, when Marty's voice caught their attention and cut off anything she might have said.

"Captain! A ship!"

Quickly everyone in the boat looked to where the diminutive pirate was pointing off the starboard bow. There in the distant, was a slowly growing speck that could be nothing else but a ship.

"Cap'n?" Gibbs asked, looking askance at Barbossa, as did the others.

Barbossa thought things over for a long moment and then addressed his small crew. "Well, gents …and me fair lady," he added with a nod at Elizabeth, causing Will to roll his eyes in disgust, "we have a predicament at hand which we need solve." He then turned his attention to Gibbs. "How far say ye it be to land, Master Gibbs?"

"By my figurin', Cap'n, with the progress we've made so far…I reckon two more days…maybe two and a half on this headin'."

Barbossa nodded in agreement. "As do I. So the question be this: do we avoid the ship and row fer another two days, knowin' that we'll make landfall, although where, I can't rightly say. Or, do we row like the devil and try to flag down that ship, hopin' that she'll be more agreeable than our last berth?"

"How do we decide?" Will asked.

"We vote," Pintel answered.

"There are eight of us," Will replied to Pintel's answer. "What do we do if it's a tie?"

Pintel answered him again. "The cap'n gets an extra vote, same as 'e gets an extra share of swag."

"I see," Will said coolly. He knew there was nothing more to be said about those terms, as they'd already agreed that by land or by ship, theirs or another, Barbossa was to be in charge of their party, until at least as far as them making it back from Davy Jones' Locker. Tia Dalma, who was to meet them in Singapore, surprisingly enough, had been even more adamant on that point than Barbossa himself.

"So," Barbossa said, "we vote."