Fandom: Pirates of the Caribbean
Characters: Elizabeth Swann Turner, Hector Barbossa
Summary: Bored and lonely in England, Elizabeth receives an unexpected visitor.
Notes: Thanks to celandineb for this fest, and for beta-on-demand.
England was as cold and wet as Elizabeth had remembered from her childhood. No one in London had been particularly happy to see her -- her elderly grandmother, who had written begging her to come upon learning of the death of Elizabeth's father, had been unable to hide her shock at the arrival of a bronze-skinned, pregnant granddaughter with no husband in sight, not even the common blacksmith of whom she had been warned.
Though Grandmother Swann's mood had improved somewhat when Elizabeth revealed the large cache of treasure she had brought from Port Royal, she was a proper English lady who had never crept from her home to visit a lover, let alone spent a night on an island with a drunken pirate. She was unable to hide her disapproval at Elizabeth's manner of dress and penchant for going about without an escort, so few tears were shed when Elizabeth quickly succumbed to the call of the sea, moving to Plymouth in sight of the Sound.
Elizabeth wanted Will's child to be born by the water, where perhaps Calypso or some benevolent sea-creature might bring him word on the sea between the worlds. Still, it was not easy to watch the sails come and go while she remained trapped in her home, her belly grown too big to steer a ship's wheel or climb a mast. She had brought a pair of servants from Jamaica, but she had few visitors. Her childhood friends had long since grown into proper ladies like her grandmother, and the women who worked on the docks regarded her with amusement and scorn.
She might have amused herself listening to tales from sailors, but she found that her reputation had preceded her. Sailors knew of the pirate lords and the woman who had sailed with them, bringing down the East India Company's finest vessel, though official records of the battle seemed to have vanished along with the Endeavour. Men like Cutler Beckett were everywhere.
So the knock at her door on Christmas morning came as a surprise.
"Captain Barbossa! I don't believe it!" Elizabeth could not quite believe her eyes, regarding the face of a man who now seemed more a character in a dream than someone with whom she had traveled to the end of the world, quarreling all the way. "What are you doing in Plymouth? How did you get to Plymouth across the winter sea? Where is your crew?"
Barbossa held up a hand -- to silence her, thought Elizabeth, until she saw that he was holding a tiny wrapped package between his thumb and forefinger. "I've brought ye a gift, Mrs Turner," he said.
She bit back the urge to correct him -- she was not a captain now, she had no ship, and she certainly couldn't summon the authority of the King of the Brethren Court, since she had passed on Sao Feng's piece of eight and command of his ship to Tai Huang. "That's very kind of you," she said instead, gesturing him inside and waving at her servants to make themselves scarce. Barbossa had arrived armed -- he wore only a sword openly, though she had no doubt that he carried a concealed arsenal elsewhere. Yet she could think of no reason to fear him; she now possessed nothing that he might want, or at least that he could not get for himself during a quick raid.
"Please, sit down, Captain. What are you drinking these days? Wine? Rum? The water of the Fountain of Youth?"
Barbossa's teeth were as yellow as Elizabeth had remembered. "A strange thing, when the goddess of the sea brings a man back from the dead," he said. "The Water of Life offers no magical change. As you can see, I'm no younger than I was. And the pleasures of rum are faint indeed. Though I'd not refuse an apple."
"You might just as well have kept your cursed Aztec gold and lived forever," said Elizabeth, smoothing her skirts on either side of her belly as she sent for her maid to fetch one. "But you haven't answered any of my questions. What brings you to Plymouth? And how did you know where to find me?"
Sitting back, Barbossa crossed his legs and folded his hands, as if settling in for a long story. "You recall that I left Tortuga with a destination in mind," he began.
"Yes, you and Jack were planning to follow de Leon's trail," replied Elizabeth impatiently. "Though I did have the impression that you intended to steal the Pearl, and Jack intended to steal the map."
Guffawing, Barbossa nodded. "That's exactly as it happened. I was forced to turn around and retrieve Sparrow. No sooner had I generously brought him on board than he tried to lead a mutiny against me, which naturally failed..."
And on he talked, eating the apple her maid had fetched, while Elizabeth hid her smile behind one hand. She envied Barbossa his freedom, yet at the same time, she was not sorry to have avoided a chase with a sea monster in the Bermuda Triangle, nor the loss of nine men to angry natives who did not wish to share their treasure. She stroked her belly, feeling the child practice swimming in the sea that now encircled it. None too soon it would be born, and perhaps that would make the time go faster -- the long years until she saw Will again.
"...singlehandedly fighting off the men guarding the entrance. And there it was -- the Fountain of Youth." Barbossa held out the package in his hand. "And here it is."
For a moment Elizabeth merely sat blinking at it. "This -- this is the Water of Life?"
"The very same." Barbossa leaned forward, and when Elizabeth raised her hand, he pressed the wrappings into her palm. Inside was a small wooden box, and inside that, a tiny vial sealed with wax. "Use it sparingly," he told her. "Only a few drops, once a year. It will keep you exactly as your husband remembers you. Some of the men got greedy, and drank their fill, and the consequences...let's just say I would not wish them upon any but my worst enemies."
Elizabeth remembered when Barbossa had been her enemy, ready to spill her blood to break a curse. "Did you come all this way just to bring this to me?" she asked.
The pirate was still leaning close, letting her see every scar and discoloration in the skin of his face. When he laughed, she could smell his breath. "It's Hector," he said. "There be no captains or kings here, Elizabeth. But don't be thinking it was generosity the brought me across the sea for ye. I've come about a treasure."
For a moment she thought he must mean the chest containing Will's heart, buried in the middle of the night in the small chapel she'd had built as soon as she arrived at this house. But Barbossa couldn't possibly know about that, no more than she could admit that it was the need to safeguard that chest, rather than her growing belly, that kept her grounded on land. If she were to die at sea, or if her ship were to sink and take the chest with it, Will would be trapped forever in the same purgatory that had driven Davy Jones mad.
"Are ye not even curious?" murmured Barbossa, waggling an eyebrow.
As it transpired, Barbossa had no interest in trying to control the Flying Dutchman or its captain. He was merely in search of an icon said to have been carried by the Spanish Armada when its ships sank off the coast of Ireland -- an icon that Barbossa believed would lead him in turn to the vast hidden treasure of the Templar Knights, smuggled across Persia to Barbossa's own territory on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
The fact that the icon lay buried in fathoms of water seemed only a minor difficulty. After the things she had seen, Elizabeth had no difficulty believing that the treasure was real, nor that Barbossa would find it. Yet after the things she had seen, Elizabeth also thought that the journey sounded rather mundane. She said so.
"Perhaps the wrath of God will descend upon us all. Or perhaps God has long since abandoned this world, if He ever existed at all." Again Elizabeth covered her mouth. The God she had been taught to fear as a girl had never put in an appearance when the sea goddess churned the waves. "No matter. Uncovering the treasure will infuriate the Pope in Rome."
"Like Doctor Faustus? Then I suppose it's fortunate that you've already given away your soul." Barbossa grinned at her approvingly while Elizabeth took a breath to ask the question uppermost in her mind. "Is Jack with you?"
"I'm afraid that Jack tragically failed to reach the ship when we made sail from Florida. He had discovered the local drink and the local women."
"You abandoned him again!" Elizabeth felt a pang of disappointment. She had thought that perhaps Jack had directed Barbossa here, to bring her the Water of Life before they sailed north. In her belly, the babe kicked.
"Not 'abandoned' so much as 'left to explore,'" Barbossa said with a wave of his hand. "I wouldn't worry too much about Jack. Marooned, mutinied, fed to the Kraken...he's always survived. Besides, a man can't have everything he wants." Again Barbossa smiled, showing her his yellow teeth.
"I'm not certain I -- oh! Surely you don't mean me?"
That made Barbossa laugh long and hard while Elizabeth sat blushing. "I mean no insult to your beauty or character," he said, "but Jack's one true love is the Black Pearl." Barbossa's hand twitched in the direction of his sword. "And she's mine."
"And is that everything you want?"
It was as if a sudden fog had risen between them, for Elizabeth could no longer read the pirate's expression. "When a man has been dead, and what some would call worse than dead, and returns, he becomes greedy." Barbossa not looking at her, but past her, out the window in the direction of the sea. "If he isn't careful, he forgets..."
Then it was as if someone had lit a lantern, for Barbossa's face cleared. "Remember, only a few drops," he said, standing more quickly than she would have expected from any other man of his age. She had to struggle to follow, weighed down by her belly.
"I must thank you for your generosity, nonetheless. You had no obligation to come here. I'm -- it's good to see you again."
"It's good to see you too, Mrs. Turner." For an instant Barbossa gazed at her as no man had since her arrival in England -- not as an outcast, not as a woman with no husband and a growing belly, but the way Will and Jack and sometimes James Norrington had looked. "I feel certain that we'll meet again."
Elizabeth returned his smile. This was a man, after all, who had been so unable to speak as a lover to the sea goddess that that fool Ragetti had had to do it for him. "I feel certain that you'll see to it," she said, tossing her hair, enjoying his glance of appreciation. "Who else can I talk to about the things I have seen? Who would believe me? I do hope you'll visit. But next time, please bring Jack with you." She waited until Barbossa looked distinctly unhappy before continuing, "Don't tell me you've lost the monkey?"
"That monkey will outlast us all," Barbossa assured her, flashing his teeth once more. "I'll bring him your love, shall I?"