Disclaimer: Disney's. I write 'cause I love.
Rating/Warnings: PG. No warnings so far. I expect violence will show up later.
Pairing: None that I know of.
Notes: This was inspired by a few things, but one of the main ones was the mention someone made recently of the original idea the PotC writers had for Norrington to be a scumbag who allied with Barbossa. Also, there was that little clip of the monkey that happened after the credits. Also also, I had a bit of a hankering to write some gen-fic.
Summary: Barbossa has unfinished business. It happens to coincide with Norrington's.
A shard of sunlight stabbed his eye. He stared at it blindly, uncomprehending, feeling the overbrightness as something like pain but not exactly, like injury but not like enough to count. The sun crept hot and heavy through fissures in the cave's ceiling, and all he could think to do for the first several long minutes was wait for it to move on its way and leave him be.
Then something in his brain - connected. Sparked. And something else responded, and more somethings took notice. Before he understood what was happening the unthinkable occurred: he blinked. Momentarily dimmed the sun that burned an impression of itself into his cornea.
With the motion came the comprehension that motion was possible. With the comprehension came the notion that movement was desirable. With the notion came the sense that a very dark thing had occurred, or was occurring, and that he'd been party to causing it, and that others watched him even now. Watched and evaluated. Watched and expected.
Expected him to roll over, out of the sunlight.
Worth a try. He sought out his muscles. Felt the distant echo of their response, like the memory of a sensation lending an almost-real tingle to the present, and counted that sufficient. Concentration. Focus. Another blink, just for practice.
He rolled. Underneath him, coins and pearls and things of bright metal shifted and skittered and dug into his flesh. His face pressed awkwardly against a clunky silver candlestick. He concentrated harder, took a breath and moved a hand. Braced. Pushed. Slid down the mound of swag until one knee struck cold, unlit stone, arresting his movement.
"Hah," he said, for no particular reason but that it felt appropriate. And then, "Hah!" with the realization that he'd just accomplished a rather remarkable feat for a dead man. Not so notable for an undead one, but he was fairly certain that it had been, at least for a while, true death that had him, that held him, that took him down into...into a place that...a place that he...
No. No memory of it. Only an impression, vaguer than a nightmare, seizing the withered black thing in his chest and making it thud with an unliving imitation of terror.
Someone chuckled. Something. Deep in his mind and in his ears and echoing all about him, reverberating in his marrow. Malicious amusement came at him in palpable waves from all sides, from inside, enjoying his fear and wanting him to know.
He took an unnecessary breath into rusty lungs. Despised the unevenness of it as he exhaled. "I invented that," he told the unseen thing.
The amusement felt heavier. Colder. Older, and he knew that no, he'd not invented it at all.
His head came up jerkily. He blinked several times, trying to ungum his eyes, trying to clear lingering sun-dazzle, trying to...see...
An oar. Well above him, topping the treasure pile, an oar was jammed shaft-first into the mound, its blade standing upright, facing him. Someone had painted words onto the thing, in black. Legible words. Reasonably spelled words.
Thoughts swirled. Coalesced. Acquired shape. Slowly he swiveled his head. Took in the rest of the cave, the scattered loot, the sorely diminished state of it all.
Voices. In his head, he thought at first, but then the pattern of their echo changed as the source of them moved closer and he understood that he wasn't alone in here. Not even alone with the looming presence that took such pleasure in his alarm.
He pushed up. Turned, slipping more on the loose stack. Resettled against the swag, lying back.
Several pairs of feet. Five men at least, perhaps a few more that walked softly. They moved together, not scattering immediately to explore the remains of the hoard as free men would have, and he decided they weren't pirates. Which left...
...buried on an isle of the dead what cannot be found, except by those who know where it is...
He stared upward, unblinking. Unmoving. Listened.
"...for any sign to indicate what course they might have taken."
"Surely you're not expecting them to leave a trail of gold to the new hiding place."
"Obviously not. As this is the last place we can say for certain Sparrow's been, however, it behooves us to investigate. Keep a sharp eye."
"What exactly are we looking for, sir?"
"Look for nothing; look at everything. Take note of anything that seems unusual, out of place."
"Beggin' your pardon, Commodore... We're on a cursed island, in a cave filled with riches stolen from all over the world. What's in place here?"
Barbossa couldn't help a lip-twitch. What was in place was the invisible, malevolent watcher. What was in place was the stone chest with its poisonous bounty. What was in place was his corpse, which wasn't a corpse any longer so didn't really belong.
"Commodore!" Nearing him. "He can't have been here long. He's not rotted."
Oh yes he was.
"One of Sparrow's crew, perhaps? Sir?"
They stood close. He could just make out the shapes of three of them at the lower right edge of his peripheral vision. The tallest stepped a little closer, looking up. Barbossa had an impression of blue and gold and white, though it was more height and posture that his eyes fed him.
The tall one drew in a breath. Looked down at him, stepping closer still, into the range of good vision. A pale aristo's face, surprised green eyes, white wig, military tricorne. "Barbossa."
"But he's been dead a month!"
A month? That quaver started up in his chest again. He couldn't remember a second of it, yet knew that Elsewhere time had stretched longer than a month, longer than a year, longer than a lifetime.
The presence stirred restlessly around them. Prodded him. Demanded a service he could almost just recall swearing to.
Find it. Return it. Bury it forever.
Tired, angry gods, roused from ancient slumber. They sought their rest.
"Clearly there are unnatural powers at work here, Gillette. Keep your distance."
He had to get off this island. The presence insisted upon it.
Another face entered his field of vision from the other side. Rounder. Younger. If possible, paler. Wearing an expression of disgusted fascination. "He's quite the fearsome figure, isn't he? Evil enough for hell to spit him out, like they say."
The first -- who had to be the renowned Commodore James Norrington, if he didn't miss his guess -- frowned at the other. "He's only a man, Lieutenant. There's no call to grant him mythic status."
A quick, shamed nod. "Of course, sir."
"Direct the search of the cave. If Sparrow left so much as a hair here, I want it found."
"Aye, sir, immediately."
The lieutenant vanished from Barbossa's sight. His superior lingered, gazing down. Those eyes held definite discomfort that belied the man's ready dismissal of the sight of a legendary pirate who refused to decay as mortal men would.
Find it. Return it.
Jack had the missing medallion. Loyal, wicked little beast, too smart by half yet too stupid to fear the wrath of gods. His pet. His responsibility. And if Jack Sparrow had been here recently, chances were Jack the monkey had crept aboard the Pearl, his only home for near ten years. Perhaps the little devil was even wreaking some havoc for sake of his dead master.
Bury it forever.
Norrington began to turn away. Before his eyes had fully shifted, Barbossa deliberately, distinctly - blinked.
The most feared Royal Navy officer in the Spanish Main stumbled back with a blurted exclamation just one note off a cry.
A smile stretched Barbossa's lips -- almost a real smile, like in the old days, the glory days, when he walked nowhere without fear and awe surrounding him, a little god in his own right.
There were running feet and shouted queries in response to that one brief sound from the commodore. Calmly, grinning ear-to-ear, Barbossa sat up. Eyed the suddenly drawn sword in Norrington's hand with laughing contempt. Completely ignored the half-dozen other men surrounding him with horror-filled eyes and leveled weapons.
"Would I be mythic now, Commodore?"
Norrington's jaw was clenched desperately tight. Wide eyes flickered up, marking that oar again and its charming message. Back down to Barbossa. Nostrils flared on shaky, startled breathing.
Barbossa let the grin taper down to a smug smile as he surveyed the other faces, meeting each frightened gaze, marking every one of them and making them see that. They were a brave lot; he saw no telltale darkening of breeches, heard no audible, muted prayers. But bravery meant little to him. Same with loyalty. Same with honor. None of the things these soldiers valued mattered a whit, and he meant them to know that. Courage crumbled when faced with its own impotence.
He made a show of glancing back at the oar. Smirked. "Quite a tribute Jack Sparrow leaves a man, innit? Must say, I'm flattered. I'd have left him to rot with no marker 'tall. Unremembered in life, anonymous in death, that's the way of it."
No one replied. He swept a look to the commodore, studying him. "So you've not caught the rascal yet, Norrington? It is 'Norrington,' isn't it? James Norrington? Port Royal? You made a name for yourself when you hanged that Irish boy. Paddy Pete, as I recall."
The man swallowed visibly. Managed to say, rather steadily, "I'm Norrington." Sword not wavering an inch.
Barbossa leaned forward companionably, arms resting on thighs. "And you're hunting the Black Pearl."
"I am hunting pirates."
A laugh escaped him, gritty and grainy and full of venom. "Think ye to be hauling me to the gallows, Commodore?" He sent a slant-eyed gaze to one side, the other, reminding each of those soldiers that he'd seen them and noted them and wouldn't forget them for a moment. "Think ye that any of you would survive the effort of capturing a man that hell itself couldn't contain?"
His empty, aching stomach turned over. Hell itself? Was that the place that had him? Would he be returning there when he'd accomplished his task and appeased the smothering gods?
The presence swelled. Built. Weighed with the pressure of the never-born on his undying husk.
He had to move forward. There would be no remaining in place here, battling the gods with no weapons at hand and no leverage to bargain with. Just move forward, study, think, find a way to avoid that incomprehensible fate that his memory shuddered away from.
And visit unholy retribution upon Jack Sparrow, if the occasion presented itself. Oh yes. That was it exactly.
A twist, and abruptly his vicious smile turned congenial. "There's no use hanging a dead man. And there are your lives to consider if you try. But as it happens, I've no interest in your lives or your deaths or anything to do with you." He leaned more. "But we share an interest in Jack Sparrow."
He waited. Norrington's eyes narrowed speculatively as he considered words, options, whatever else a man like him considered when confronted with impossible reality and unpleasant choices.
Norrington's chin lifted slightly. "What are you proposing?"
One of the other soldiers -- an officer -- made a muted noise of protest. Norrington slid the man a silent glare, to which he fell silent. Quite suitably commanding, this commodore, and a corner of Barbossa's mind began musing over the myriad ways he might be utilized, put to service, employed in the interests of irritable pagan deities (and one very irked pirate). Anything to quiet that discontent being that curled in his bones and the air and those damned, cursed pieces inhabiting the stone chest.
"I'll help you find Jack Sparrow, provided you give me your word he'll die a dog's death."
Norrington, if possible, straightened even more. "You expect me to help you escape this island under that pretense?"
He laughed. Hard. That special, grating laugh that had quailed so many fierce hearts. "Nothing holds me to this isle. And nothing keeps your pretty wigged heads perched safely atop your bodies save the chance that you'll save me some small effort in tracking Jack down. We can help each other, Commodore Norrington. Or I can help meself. It's entirely up to you."
Norrington took a step closer, which must have taken bollocks of steel. "What proof do I have that you're so unkillable as that?"
Still pointedly ignoring the threatening circle around him, Barbossa stood -- not in a hurry, but lazily, arrogantly -- and patted thoughtfully at his waist. Found his dagger, untouched. Unsheathed it, holding the blade up, offering it for inspection.
Norrington nodded stiffly.
Without rushing, Barbossa turned the knife against his chest and buried it in his heart. Spread his arms. Spun a slow circle, meeting each pair of eyes again. A few of those swords and bayonets wavered noticeably. The Royal Navy's bravest lads. How precious.
When he rounded on the commodore again Norrington had schooled his face to an impressive veneer of impassivity. He hadn't lowered the sword, either, but his stance showed less aggressive readiness to strike, more cautious defensiveness. He'd not be lunging carelessly, nor soon.
Barbossa withdrew the dagger and cleaned it on his already bloodstained shirt. "You are, of course, welcome to try."
No one made the ghost of a motion toward trying.
The dagger slid home to its sheath. "I'll be finding Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl with your help or not, whether you live or whether I kill every man of ye here. You might choose to help me, and let me be of assistance to ye. Save me a few weeks' cold walking on the ocean floor." He studied his overgrown, yellowed nails. "But then, can't say as I really mind walking. There's interesting things to be seen down there. Have you ever seen sharks swarm from below?"
"After we find Sparrow," Norrington said, not quite steadily, "what--"
"After we find Jack Sparrow, I'll be no concern of yours. And you and yours will be none of mine." A glance. He saw uneasy contemplation on that pedigreed face. "Have we an accord?"
The watcher seemed to exhale, an otherworldly fetor breezing through the cave. Heat strengthened. Air thickened. The commodore and his men stirred a bit, each one of them, as though feeling the brush of that breath themselves.
Norrington sheathed his sword and held out his hand. "Until we apprehend Sparrow."
This time none of his subordinates dared voice a peep as Barbossa caught his hand in a firm, binding clasp.
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