DISCLAIMER: Pirates of the Caribbean is the property of Walt Disney Studios. This work was created purely for enjoyment. No money was made, and no infringement was intended.

RATING: T (for violence, language, adult themes)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hi, all! I've received a few requests to repost this story, so here it is. I hope you all enjoy it. Because this was written before Dead Man's Chest, At World's End, and On Stranger Tides were released, it is extremely AU and based solely on The Curse of the Black Pearl. It's a bit of a simpler story, without love triangles and Davy Jones and the East India Trading Company. It's about love and adventure and friendship in the face of danger, suffering, and betrayal. If you've read my other works, you know what I do :-).

No slash. Solidly Will/Elizabeth. Jack and Norrington and most of the original Pirates of the Caribbean cast in support. Please read and enjoy!

THE MEASURE OF A MAN

CHAPTER ONE: A BROKEN SWORD

A fine day had come to Port Royal. The sky was bright and blue, dotted haphazardly by puffs of cottony white, and the sun was warm and cheery in its reign over the land. The sea was calm, lapping at the shores and docks. A cool breeze served to lessen the press of the midday heat, ruffling trees and flowers as it brushed by, weaving its way randomly through the town. It carried with it the scent of the ocean, that lingering tang that eased the spirit and suggested to the heart that life could be pure and beautiful and exhilarating and wild. That there were some things in the world that thankfully did not change and some things that thankfully did. Warm days like this reminded men that there was yet some mark of morality, some lasting fairness inherent in the workings of all things.

The sea, after all, did not judge. It could save or kill. It was calm and invariable yet chained to no fate that could not be altered. It could love or hate, and it did so without question and without consideration to social status, breeding, or riches. It was an impartial thing that simply took as it gave. Before it, all men were equal. Arguably such an indifference to the frivolities that men deemed important could be seen as cold and cruel, but for most it was a simple reminder that the true forces in the world were not blinded by wealth or status. In that, the sea was the best murderer, the best mother, the best lover. She was blind and yet saw all. She caressed with cold currents and warmed with gentle sprays. She was as violent as she was vibrant. She was beautiful. And, on a day like this, she sang to men's hearts, to pirate and lawful man alike. The whistle of the waves upon the gentle wind, the smell of the salty water… these were the things that beckoned and welcomed men into her endless embraces. These were the things that never changed and that saw a soul for what it was, not for what it wanted or for what it couldn't be.

Nestled in the corner of one of Port Royal's many crowded streets, the smithy owned by J. Brown was turned against the wind. Rarely did the smell of the sea reach this dark nook, and even when there were gales strong enough to find their way to it, too often was the pleasant scent masked by other aromas that were less than appealing. Sweat. Refuse. Alcohol, mostly. Moreover, the small shop boasted few windows, and those that it did have were rarely opened to keep the bright rays of the sun from ruining a nap. Consequently, the cool breezes that sped the whispers of the sea to men's hearts never infiltrated the shadowy, little sanctum. There was no calming lull of the waves, nor was there a steady calling to unwavering simplicity. There was no alluring panacea to the woes of a society where a man borne into poverty could never be anything aside poor. There was no promise of an untold future, of a changeable fate as random as the waves striking the shore.

Aye, there was but this one truth, and William Turner knew it with every fiber of his being: if he didn't get these swords done soon, the Commodore would have his hide.

Sweat dripped into the young man's eyes, but he dared not waste a second to wipe the stinging droplets away. He skillfully pounded the rapidly cooling metal into the exact position he wished. His hands moved of their own accord, instinctively applying pressure where it was needed, guiding the weight of hammer without conscious direction. This was just as well, for his mind kept wandering despite the scolding of the little, whining voice within him that insisted upon reminding him of how much work he had yet to do. The Commodore's order was comprised of fifteen swords, and twelve of which now rested upon an old, worn table. The thirteenth was proving to be especially laborious. He'd spent most of the morning struggling to properly balance the blade, the weapon having stubbornly refused to comply with his adjustments. He considered himself to be a patient man, especially when it came to smithing. Long had he learned that the creation of a good blade could not be raced. It was a slow process, tempered by appreciation for the craft as well as a careful eye and steady hands. Each sword was unique, and the birth of such a thing could not be rushed.

A true artisan understood such a thing, and Will always liked to consider himself nothing less than a man loyal to his craft. But at that moment he was beginning to become frustrated. The Commodore had placed this order upon him earlier that month, and he had requested that the weapons be ready for a training session at the fort this coming Friday. It was now Thursday, and Will was worried he would not finish in time. He gritted his teeth in anger. What most people failed to realize was the weathered sign above the door outside that proclaimed this shop to be that of J. Brown was rapidly becoming quite a misnomer. Good Mr. Brown did nothing to run his smithy these days, which vexed Will greatly. A year ago, at least, the old man had participated somewhat in the upkeep of his business. Now he only drank and slept and chased women. Very few of the customers noted that it was Will alone who completed their orders, and of those that did, even fewer were sympathetic. Often the young man would be forced to work into the wee hours to complete a purchase while his master frequented any one of Port Royal's less than reputable establishments. It angered and frustrated Will to no end. At first, he'd been able to brush aside his disdain and rationalize the man's actions. That was before, though, before everything had happened. Now Brown only disgusted him and any familial affection or respect he might have once had for the man had been depleted by too many hours slaving in solitude and too many trips to the local bars and brothels to retrieve his drunken caretaker.

He could scarcely remember the days in which John Brown had been a man he had admired and tried to emulate. When he had first come to Port Royal as a lad of ten years with nothing to his name, the blacksmith had taken him in at the Governor's request. Mr. Brown's wife had been alive then. She had been a good but frail woman who had cared for Will as best as she could. She had loved the boy, certainly, but hers was a quiet, cold sort that rarely showed itself. She had insisted he be schooled, and she had taught him a strong foundation of morals that his own mother had never bothered to instill. She had passed away around four years ago, and with her went John Brown's respectability. It had begun with a simple drink, but as was the wont of such a thing, one drink soon became a bottle and another bottle after that. Affection faded to apathy, compassion to cruel complacency. By the time Will was old enough to fashion blades himself, Brown had completely lost interest in the boy. His grief and addiction had destroyed any speck of propriety, and Will had tried to resign himself to the fact that the work that came into the shop would inevitably fall to solely him.

But it was at times like these, when there was so much to do, when customers were unforgiving and unwilling to understand, when he was exhausted from many hours of heated labor, that he wished the old Mr. Brown would emerge from the slovenly fool that had taken over his stout body. Theirs was the only capable smithy in Port Royal. Mr. Brown had done his duty in that respect, at least. The quality of the work and the beauty of especially the swords were unprecedented, despite the fact that it was no longer Mr. Brown who was making them. Will bristled again, pounding harder as his eyes glazed in spiteful thought. Once, in an extremely intoxicated state, Brown had admitted to him while Will had dragged him home that the young man no longer needed his direction, that Will's skill as a blacksmith had far surpassed his own. Of course, this had not been meant as a compliment or praise, but rather as an excuse to remain inebriated and otherwise attached to the sinful life he had adopted. Still, Will had been pleased with the comment, even if nobody recognized it save Brown, and even then only after the man had imbibed egregious amounts of rum.

The young man grunted, and the hammer slammed down louder and louder. The oaf hadn't even come home last night. Normally Will would have gone out and searched for his master at his most frequented places; after all, the man had cared for him in his youth, and despite all the disgust and disdain he presently harbored for John Brown, a love borne in childhood was hard to extinguish. But he hadn't last night, too swamped with work and too angry to care if the old man got himself into trouble or not. Earlier that morning the proprietor of one of Port Royal's ever increasing number of dingy inns had arrived at his doorstep. The smelly man had informed Will that Brown had passed out at one of his tables, and that the barkeep had been charitable enough to allow him to simply sleep off his alcoholic stupor. Of course, such fine morality and benevolence could not go unnoticed. It was quite a deal, according to this lout, considering he only asked that Will pay half the fee he would customarily charge for a room. And Brown's bar bill, of course. Biting his tongue in annoyance, he had handed over the requested sum of his own pocket and kindly asked the owner to push Brown from the bar upon his return to the waking world. The man had grinned toothily and sworn to do just that, but Will remained sensibly doubtful. Kicking out Brown meant he would have one less hopeless drunk to drop shillings onto his counter in return for spirits and women.

The detestable little scene replayed itself in Will's mind, and his mood grew steadily fouler. He felt so used and ignored. He usually made a point not to despair his status. Yes, he was a commoner, but there were many less fortunate than he, and he always tried to remember that. Of late, though, very few things were promising. A year had passed since his adventure. The days had quickly fled him, and sometimes, when he closed his eyes and tried to remember the smell of the sea, the excitement of battle, the thrill of love and hope for a bright future, he couldn't help but wonder if he had dreamt it all. The recollection had lost its flare, its color, its vivid pleasure. He was afraid to admit it, but he was beginning to believe himself a fool for ever thinking he could be anything more than what he was.

A year had passed, and nothing had changed.

Ire rose up in him, and the hammer came down hard. The minute the head of it struck the blade, he knew he had used too much force on a spot he had inadvertently pounded too thin. There was a loud snap as the stubborn metal shattered. The impact sent the back of the thin rod up, and his lost his grip. The sharp edge sliced into the tender flesh of his forearm.

Will shouted a curse. He dropped the offending hammer with a clank to the anvil and pushed the remains of the sword away. So many hours of work bloody wasted! Breathing heavily from the heat and his own anger, he stepped back. He stood still a moment, fuming and disgusted and berating himself for his carelessness. He couldn't afford to be making mistakes, not when that deadline was drawing ever closer. He waited until his booming heart slowed and the ache in his head receded. Then he felt something warm and wet on the arm of his shirt.

He sighed. In the flustered moment he hadn't noticed the cut, but now it throbbed with stinging insistency. He knew immediately it wasn't serious, but it was staining his white tunic with blood and it hurt. "A fine move, William," he muttered, eyeing the laceration carefully. It had been a long time since he had injured himself while working. He felt like hitting something but thought better of it. He'd managed to mangle himself enough for one day.

He grabbed for the rag on the table with the finished swords. He grunted and tossed it back, finding it full of dirt and oil. Frantically he glanced about, looking for another. Just then the latched door rattled with a knock. Will turned, startled. He was still a moment, flustered enough to be dazed. Then the knock came again, this time a bit more insistent. The young man glanced at his bleeding arm, flexing his fingers and finding the pain significantly dulled. With chagrin he realized he would need to go into the living quarters to properly treat the wound, and there wasn't the time at the moment. He lithely stepped up the stairs to the door, praying it was not another customer or one of the Commodore's lackeys checking on his progress.

He grasped the warm metal handle and pulled. The latch came open easily, and sunlight streamed into the darkened shop. It was not who he had expected. His eyes softened, the creeping scowl abandoning his face. His heart leapt. "Elizabeth," he said softly.

Elizabeth smiled. With the sunlight streaming about her, she was set aglow. Her honey hair bounced lightly in the breeze as she tipped her head a bit. Her face was well-formed and vibrantly striking, her features fine and her cheekbones high. She sported an elegant lilac dress that hugged her slender figure before opening into a full skirt. Her hazel eyes twinkled as she grinned. She was breath-taking, and every time Will saw her, he was taken aback by her beauty anew. She seemed too fine and delicate a thing for the rough likes of a blacksmith. Still, beneath her charm and cheer, he knew there existed a fiery spirit that loved vigorously and fought courageously.

All his troubles were forgotten in the splendor of her presence. "What are you doing here?" he asked breathlessly, shaking his head slightly at her sudden appearance.

Her grin grew wider, her full, pink lips pulling thinly in the motion. "I thought I'd surprise you with some luncheon," she announced. He grimaced ever so slightly, but she stopped him before he could even think to protest. "And don't try to dissuade me, Will. I know you. You rushed to work this morning on an empty stomach, and don't tell me differently."

He couldn't help but flush at what she had surmised, for it was all too true. Knowing the sheer volume of work that lay ahead of him, he had only quickly eaten a bit of honeyed bread before stepping into the forge and delving into the day's tasks. He hadn't thought much of it since. As if to betray his pride, his stomach rumbled ever so slightly just then, and Elizabeth laughed. "See? Your belly will tell me the truth, even if you won't."

He smiled, his cheeks burning brightly. No matter how often they met, no matter how many times they kissed, he could not bring himself to fully accept the wonder of it all. His cynical thoughts of before seemed utterly vulgar now. Some things had changed, the most amazing and remarkable of them being her affirmation of his love. She was the only girl he had ever loved. Even as a child he had felt this connection to her. To this day, opening his eyes and looking into hers after nearly drowning still seemed unreal to him, as if he had awoken from a terrible nightmare and found himself in a beautiful, ethereal dream. He smiled blankly at the idea for its drama, but in all fairness, it wasn't so far from the truth. As time wore on, the horrible attack on the merchant vessel that had left him the only survivor and quite near death faded more into hazy recollection. With it went the cold and lonely memories of England. His mother had loved him, he knew, but she had led a life upon which he cared not to dwell, a life that had denied her respectability, money, and the time to properly raise a child. After she had died, he had, through a scrape of good luck, managed to barter his services as a cabin boy for passage to the Caribbean. He had never known much of his father; if his mother had been aware of Bill Turner's life as a pirate, she had never chosen to burden her son with that knowledge. With nothing left of his family save the medallion his father had sent him, he had left England, hoping to find Bill Turner in the Caribbean.

He never had. But that day, when the Black Pearl had attacked the merchant vessel and left him to die, his life had changed. He'd met Elizabeth, and not a day since then had passed without a thought of her. She was something pure and bright, beyond the reach of a simple orphaned boy. He'd yearned to be by her side as a child simply because she had been so kind to him. As he'd grown, those simple wishes had morphed into a deeper, wondrous infatuation. He'd only been with her for more than a glance and a greeting a scant times since that fateful attack for she had been, to put it bluntly, in a different world. Always aloft and removed from the dirt of the forge and the grime of the street, he had only met her when Mr. Brown's errands had taken him to the mansion. She had never forgotten his name or his face. Even when the servants had talked down upon him, she had always treated him with respect, as her equal. Her simple attention had nourished the love within him, and he had never once regretted coming to the Caribbean. This was not to say that he did not miss his mother at times, or that the nightmares of the fierce fight aboard the merchant ship did not every so often plague him still…

Or that he did not still wonder what had become of his father.

What it meant was that he was contented to merely know he breathed the same air as she did, that he watched the same starry sky at night and listened to the melodies of the same ocean. And now… A distant memory came to him, one of his most cherished. For many years he had thought it to be a figment of imagination as he had been rather feverish after being rescued. But of late he'd convinced himself of its truth. A blurry scene had focused slowly as he had opened bleary, hurting eyes. There was golden light, and it encased the form of a little girl. She wore a pretty dress, and she smiled when he looked at her.

"Are you an angel?" he had asked.

She looked shocked and shook her head. "No. I'm Elizabeth." A small, cold hand had fallen across his brow. "Were your parents on that ship?"

Talking hurt his throat, but he was unable to deny her despite the pain. "No. I came alone."

She had nodded solemnly and then very seriously said, "Well, you're not alone anymore."

And he wasn't. In this last year, she'd made that promise wonderfully true.

"Will?" The sound of her voice pulled him from his reverie, and he jerked as he came free from his thoughts. She was watching him with expectant eyes that shone with the tiniest bit of concern. "Can you let me in?"

"Oh. Oh, right." Ashamed, he opened the door wider and moved aside as she stepped through. Thoughtlessly he dropped his hand from where he had hidden it behind the opened door. She spotted the blood almost instantly and gasped. "You've cut yourself!"

He clenched his hand into a fist and tried to inch it behind his back as though removing it from her sight might make her forget about it. "It's nothing, Elizabeth. I was… distracted."

She was not pleased with his response. Her jaw clenched slightly, and she reached for his arm. "I won't have that from you," she said curtly. She lifted his arm and winced at the blood. He wanted to pull away, embarrassed to have her mother him. Still, he liked the attention. He liked her attention.

In a most unladylike manner she pulled him to the table. "Sit," she demanded, almost pushing him down onto one of the rickety stools. Then with a flash of purple and gold she was walking quickly to the hallway in the rear of the shop that led to the living area. She gave a small sound of discomfort as she disappeared into the ruddy shadows. "How do you live in here? The heat is nigh unbearable!" she declared, her voice muffled by the thin wall that separated them. He smiled, looking down as he rested his injured arm across the table. There was the sound of rustling and then rattling. "And I don't suppose there is a clean basin in this entire sty…" His grin grew wider, and he grimaced slightly at a particularly loud crash. He briefly considered going back there and telling her this was not necessary or at least helping her find what she wanted, but she appeared once more a moment later, her hands full with a roll of linen, cloths, a small basin of water, and a flask Will knew to be Brown's secret store of rum.

These things she set to the table. Then she sat gracefully on the stool across from him. She smiled tenderly, her skin glistening as perspiration began to develop upon it. Long fingers deftly unbuttoned the cuff of his tunic. They did not speak for some time. It had been a few days since they had last seen each other. Though they had been openly courting for almost a year, there was still awkwardness to their relationship. In these moments, Will found himself struggling to conjure up enough courage to simply speak with her at time. The fact they had spent many hours talking of everything and nothing these last months made no difference. Each time was as important and as special as the first had been.

Her fingers were light and gentle as she pushed up his sleeve. She took her eyes from his and set to examining the cut. "It's not like you to be so careless," she commented, a teasing note to her voice. She looked up without raising her head. "Or so sloppy."

Will sighed, wishing she hadn't seen the mess of the back rooms. He'd made a mental note some days ago to straighten the clutter and clean the dirt, but he hadn't had the time. "He didn't come home last night," he finally explained as she dunked one of the cloths into the fresh water. Elizabeth looked up briefly, her eyes narrowing in disgust. She was probably the only person to whom he regularly complained about Brown's dishonorable habits. Carefully she used the cloth to wash the laceration on his arm. "And I wouldn't be at all surprised if he doesn't return tonight, either."

She turned her eyes to her work. Her shoulders sagged slightly as she bathed the cut. "I'm sorry, Will," she finally said.

His callused hand wrapped around hers momentarily, stopping her ministrations. "Why? It's no fault of yours."

Her thumb stroked his forefinger briefly before she pulled away, rinsing the bloody cloth in the water. "I know, but I feel wretched nonetheless. It's dreadful what that man does to you, especially after you've worked so hard to – to –"

He interrupted her flustered stammering. "To make something of myself?"

She paused in wiping the torn skin. "That's not what I meant to say," she amended, her cheeks flushing slightly. But they both knew otherwise. The fact of it was a sensitive subject between them, a constant reminder of why their love had not yet been made public and legal with a marriage. He was blacksmith, and noble ladies did not wed commoners. Especially commoners descended from pirates.

Will managed a smile for her, sensing her distress. The topic never disappeared, though they managed to hide it well with fine aspirations and other pleasant matters. "I'm sorry to expose you to such a mess, my Lady. What must you think of me?" His voice was filled with a mockery of shame and hurt.

She laughed. "You ought to hire yourself some help," she commented. Will smiled softly and shook his head, watching as she went about tending to his arm. He loved her with every fiber of his being, but even he could see her ignorance of poverty. She wore it plainly, as she did her fine dresses and jewelry. To her, every problem had a simple solution, one often catalyzed with money. He did not fault her this mindset; she had no cause to think in any other manner. She had lived her whole life in comfort, and she couldn't be expected to understand anything else, or to suffer it.

Which was the crux of his problem, really.

"Perhaps I could send one of the maids from the mansion to help you tidy up," she supplied, her brow furrowed as she patted the laceration dry. "I hardly have need for Melly any longer. If I asked it of her, she would come and keep the shop neat for you."

Will still smiled, but the grin was slipping from his lips. "I couldn't begin to pay her for her services," he explained gently. "Every coin I manage to save ends up in a fund to save Mr. Brown from his vices."

Elizabeth looked crestfallen a moment, as if remembering she loved a man of limited means. "Surely you wouldn't need to, Will. Father would–" She realized what she was proposing and grew quiet. The young man watched the regret flash in her eyes before she averted them, returning her gaze to the gash on his arm. An uneasy silence came between them, one they neither wanted nor enjoyed. This was another source of silent, undesired contention in their relationship. Elizabeth was of the mindset that planning for such things as their finances could wait, that they together could face such obstacles when the occasion demanded it. She didn't care that he was a simple man with little to his name. To her, love was all that mattered. Besides, if the two should ever need anything, she was certain her father would gladly help them.

Will was a bit more realistic. Love they certainly had. He had no doubt that he could be happy with her and that alone, but in the dark recesses of his heart he secretly feared that she would not be. She had never tasted poverty, never known the crushing grip of being unable to afford wonderful things, never understood the insecurity inherent in one day having and the next wanting. He didn't want to expose her to that, and he had sworn to himself that he wouldn't, no matter the cost to him. He wanted to provide for her, to give her everything for which she wished. He was gentleman, after all, and as Mrs. Brown had taught him, a gentleman did not wed a lady until he was certain he could make a home for her. As of yet, Will had been unable to do just that.

And the one time he had had both money and courage enough to ask for Elizabeth's hand, the Governor had denied him.

Well, not so much as denied but ignored, but the truth of the matter was this: Weatherby Swann did not want his daughter to marry a lowly blacksmith. Will found himself fuming as he recalled the day he had sought the Governor's permission to propose. It had taken months of grueling work, but he had managed to amass funds enough to prove to Swann that he was capable of caring for his daughter. When he had finally been granted an audience, he had steeled himself, rehearsing once more the speech he had envisioned as he strolled as proudly as he could into the ornate office. The Governor had hardly looked up at him; ever since that day, when Will had rescued Jack from the hangman's noose and admitted his love to Elizabeth, the man's once cordial consideration of him had turned cold and curt. The Governor had politely asked him how his business was, and Will had politely responded. As Swann had conscientiously scrawled a letter in elegant penmanship, a terrible, deafening silence had descended. Clearing his throat and forcing confidence into his tone, he'd explained his intentions, defending them with the best of ambitions and his months of hard work. The man had never looked up, even when he had finally found the courage to force the request from his mouth.

"I'd like your blessing, sir. I want to ask Elizabeth to marry me."

Silence. Only after a torturous eternity of fearful doubt had Swann looked up. He had sighed loudly, and then returned to his work. Will's fear and anger had burned within him. "Will you not answer me, Governor?"

Another loud, disapproving breath. The elder man had lifted his quill slightly before raising his head again and fixing the youth with an appraising stare. "Just what is you think you can give my daughter, Mr. Turner?"

Will hadn't known how to respond to that. "I love her, sir."

The quill was then scratching noisily against the parchment once more. "Love has little to do with it." And that had been it. The Governor had refused to even further acknowledge his presence, as though by ignoring him Will and the problems he posed would simply vanish. The young man had stood stiffly, his chin held high despite the kick to his pride and the blow to his heart. When his strength had fled him, obliterated by his fury, he had left. He had never been so hurt, so humiliated and belittled. What a mistake he'd made in thinking he could prove himself worthy when, by default, he could never be anything more than a commoner.

No. That had not been the worst mistake. The most egregious error he'd made thus far was not telling Elizabeth about his failure. At first, it had simply hurt too much. Then he hadn't wanted to hurt her or trouble her. She had been so happy, so excited. Though they had never directly spoken of it, she assumed a marriage proposal was soon in coming. After all, it had been a year, and they did love each other deeply. He couldn't find it within him to admit to himself that he wasn't good enough, much less confess his shortcoming to her. That had been almost two months ago. He had doubted that the Governor had spoken of the matter to his daughter. The change in the man's attitude towards Will had been entirely discouraging. As any good father would, he only wanted the best for his only daughter, for the beauty she was and the love she promised. Swann didn't want to see her hurt, which must have been why he had at first permitted this romance to commence. He probably assumed it was nothing but a fancy, the sort of love that was borne of extreme experiences and that died just as hard and quickly as it had come. But what Will felt for Elizabeth was nothing so cheap or fleeting, and it never had been. Once the Governor had realized this, he had begun to regard Will as a dangerous nuisance, and, frankly, the young man was growing weary of it.

There was a stinging pain on his arm. He gasped, making to yank away as the tender wound burned. Elizabeth's grip on his wrist tightened, and she looked up at him with apologetic eyes. The next time she wiped the wound with a rum-soaked cloth the pain was not so great or sudden, and he only sucked his breath through his teeth and winced, clenching his hand into a fist. The pungent aroma of the alcohol invaded his nostrils. "I suppose that stuff will rot away my flesh," he muttered indignantly.

Elizabeth scowled at him. "Honestly, Will," she said, shaking her head slightly. "If you had proper medicine, I wouldn't have to use this." Will flushed slightly at the comment, chewing the inside of his cheek as she continued to clean the gash. He worried briefly that he had offended her, for the quiet was long and heavy. Then she peered up at him, smiling softly. "Besides every drop spent here is one less Mr. Brown can consume."

He had to grin at that. She took another linen swatch and wrapped it about the reddened laceration. Her fingers seemed to move magically to him, daftly elegant in every motion, every touch. He was mesmerized by it, watching with rapt attention as she worked the long strip of white about his forearm. When she was finished, she tied the bandage firmly. Her hands rested on the warmth of his skin for a moment. Then the tips of her fingers lightly ran down his skin, touching him as though she were feeling heat and strength for the first time. The caress teased Will, the play of her fingers against his flesh maddening, and he watched as well as she dragged her hands to his wrist ever so lightly. Heat rolled over him, and the hairs on the back of his neck prickled.

Her fingers spread his, her skin smooth and white, his bronzed and rough. She traced the pale scar that stretched across his palm. A year had passed since Will had cut his hand and repaid the blood of the ancient curse that had caused them all such trouble. All that remained of his trial now was this small mark. "Do you ever think about him?" she asked.

His lips quirked in a small, rueful smile. "More than I ought to," he admitted.

She looked up, and her eyes seemed misty. She returned his weak grin with one of her own. "I miss him at times. I know that's a dreadful thing to admit, but I truly do. He… he was a terrible man and a horrible scoundrel, but underneath all his swagger, he really did have a big heart." Her hand closed about his, pressing their palms together. Brushing scar with scar. She went on, her voice soft with emotion. "You didn't have to hide anything in front of him. You didn't have to pretend to be anything other than what you were. He never asked that of you, and he didn't act upon pretenses. He saw through all of that, and even though he was nothing but a dirty pirate, I think that makes him a better man than most."

Will said nothing to this, nodding solemnly. He understood completely. Jack Sparrow was an enigmatic man. Though he had had quite an adventure with him and had together faced more than a few perils, Will had to admit he still didn't know much of the renowned pirate. Undeniably he was arrogant, and he played the boisterous fool so convincingly that one began to doubt one's sanity in dealing with him. Even to this day (and Will had contemplated this quite often), the young blacksmith could not be certain what motives exactly had driven Jack in helping him. The cynical side of him that still doubted the goodness in piracy proclaimed that the captain's ambitions had been clear: use Will and his love for Elizabeth to win back the Black Pearl. And at the time, he had believed whole-heartedly that these selfish desires governed Jack's heart. Not much happened in their tribulations that warranted the change in his opinion. Arguably Jack's rescue of him had been only another step in his plan to trick Barbossa and reclaim his ship. But there had been something about it, perhaps the glint in the man's eyes or the tone in his voice, that had cooled the fiery rage in Will's heart. It had been the same touch of nobility, of compassion, that had inexplicably crawled into Jack's demeanor when the man had told him of his father. "The only rules that really matter are these," Jack had said, "what a man can do, and what a man can't do. You can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man, or you can't. The pirate is in your blood, boy, so you'll have to square with that someday."

Until then, Will had never believed there to be anything but dishonesty, villainy, and lechery in the world of the pirate. But Jack had proven him wrong, and while that relieved him, it also bothered him. He still didn't know what he thought of his father. Some days he was almost proud to know Bootstrap Bill Turner had been a good, loyal man by a pirate's standard. On others, he could not find it within himself to forgive a man who had left his wife and son behind for a life of plundering and pillaging, no matter how fine a soul he had purportedly been.

But most often he simply wished to know. He inevitably wondered about his father whenever he thought of Jack. As little as he comprehended of Captain Sparrow, he knew nothing of the man whose blood flowed in his veins. Before the incident with the Black Pearl, he had been willing to let it go and accept the fact that he might never understand what had happened to his father. But when Jack Sparrow had stumbled into his life, all the unanswered questions and unresolved pains from his youth had resurfaced. And now he could not quiet them, not after seeing and hearing and tasting the life his father had led. Will Turner was perhaps a pirate by blood, and maybe a small part of him would always fondly long for the thrill of the sea, but he was first and foremost a son who had lost his father and yearned to learn the truth. Square with it someday, he thought bitterly. You make it sound so simple, Jack. How am I supposed to accept a fact that I don't understand?

Jack Sparrow was a good man, and a good man would certainly know another, right?

"Will," Elizabeth prompted. He looked to her. She smiled, her hand still clasping his. "My, your mind escapes you today. Did you hear what I said?"

Color burned into his cheeks. His thoughts were running rampant, and he'd had enough of it. His brooding had already ruined that sword and had caused him to hurt himself. He wasn't about to let his foul mood hang over the few precious moments with Elizabeth he had. "No. I'm sorry," he stammered, grimacing apologetically.

A mischievous glint came to her deep hazel eyes. "I asked you if you would like me to kiss it," she stated simply. Her hands dropped his, and she stood suddenly. A fake look of hurt and indignant anger claimed her expression. She lifted her chin and turned away from him, making a great show of her vexation. "But since you thought it prudent to ignore me, I shall rescind my offer."

"No!" he gasped, leaping to his feet. He grinned widely when she turned. "I mean that – not that I –" he stammered lamely. She watched him expectantly. Then, with two long strides, he was in front of her. His large hands came to cup her delicate face, and he kissed her.

They were still for a long moment. She parted her lips to him, and he greedily accepted the invitation. Despite courting for a year, the instances in which they could truly express their passion were agonizingly few as she was the Governor's daughter and could rarely obtain both time and permission to partake in a commoner's company. His tongue slid inside her mouth, teasing hers, and, not to be undone, she hungrily returned his desire. Her hands slipped into his hair, pushing free the tie that bound the dark locks and tangling her fingers into the thick tresses. She pushed him back, eager to take control, driving them both clumsily back into one of the wooden beams of the smithy. His back hit the beam and wrapped his arms around her, pressing her tightly to his chest. She tasted of coffee and strawberries and smelled like a warm day in a garden. She was intoxicating.

Finally they parted. Breathless he stood, his heart pounding, decidedly aroused as she proceeded to drop feather-light kisses to his jaw. He groaned softly, her fingers drawing small, tantalizing circles on the planes of his chest through his sweat-streaked shirt. "Now that I have your attention," she said between her kisses. She teased the flesh of his neck sensuously, enjoying his short moan of desire and the control she had over him. "I plan on kidnapping you, Will Turner. You will come with me and enjoy our luncheon, and you will do so without a fuss and without a thought as to the work you are leaving behind."

That soured the moment. He grimaced and attempted to pull away. "You know as well as I that the Commodore needs his–"

Her finger pressed across his lips, silencing him. Pools of glimmering brown twinkled as they gazed into his eyes. "Shhh," she said. "Without a fuss. These are my terms, and I will not accept 'no' for an answer."

As much as he knew he would regret this later, he couldn't deny her. He couldn't even fathom it. He nodded, a small smile playing on his lips. Her face lit up as she triumphantly grinned. Her playful torture of his skin ceased as she planted a light kiss on his lips. "Good. Melly is waiting." Her hand found his, and she pulled him along, pausing only to lift his jacket from a nearby chair and offer it to him. She held it for him, waiting impatiently for him to stick his arms through the sleeves.

He laughed, his black mood forgotten. Elizabeth Swann always got what she wanted, it seemed. And if she wanted him, well, who was he to argue?