By ErinRua

He dreamed her.

Sometimes he thought he had always dreamed her.  From the day he awoke from fire and drowning to stare into her wide brown eyes, Elizabeth never left his thoughts.  Upon awakening into her gentle care, he had clawed desperately for every shred of good manners his mother had taught him.  He knew in an instant that she was of the gentry.  Her dress, her manner and of course the imposing yet curiously-gentle figure of her lordly father rendered that fact beyond all doubt.

"I'm watching over you, Will," she had said.

With perfect, albeit miniature, precision she did just that.  Child though she was, she had primly demanded that the ship's cook prepare foods fit for a wounded boy.  She called on his sick room - such as it was; a berth among the midshipmen's bunks - ten times a day if she came once, each time inquiring after his health, was he thirsty, did he hurt.  There was little wrong with him besides the expected wallops of having a ship blown out from under him, but Will was thirteen years old and when he looked at her pixie face he lost something to her forever.

There had been a brief, wonderful season when she and he were friends.  He stepped ashore into the marvelous green chaos that was Port Royal, Jamaica and Governor Swann's own grand coach had wheeled him through streets teeming with wonderful markets and strange folk.  For those short days he was a guest in their grand house, and he scarcely dared speak for fear of committing some impropriety.  Yet Elizabeth would breeze into a room like a floral-scented whirlwind and whisk him off to some childish adventure in the garden.  She was like no other girl he had ever met, bold yet proper, clever yet maidenly and she seemed to fear absolutely nothing at all.  He wanted, much to his own confusion, to ensure that nothing bad ever, ever happened to her.

But that was taken from his grasp and out of his reach, on the day he was introduced to blacksmith J. Brown, the man to whom he would be apprenticed for the next seven years.  Will just had time for an awkward farewell before he was bundled off, with what few second-hand belongings he now owned, to his new estate in life.

However, he found he had an aptitude and love for working in metals, and when sober Master Brown was indeed a master at his trade.  In soot and sparks and glowing steel, Will Turner found himself and his craft.  He remembered the first time he completed a job all by himself, only some iron hardware for a wagon, but the work had been done by his hand, alone.  Granted, the credit went to his master, but to Will that mattered not.  Learning the art of swordsmithing …. Now that should have been the highest step he could attain.  And it was.

Until he saw her again.  Elizabeth was fifteen and beautiful and in the face of her enchanting greeting he found himself stricken mute as a stump.  She was long gone before he could crush the savage horde of butterflies in his stomach and he silently cursed himself for a lout.

And he dreamed.  As his craft had grown and indeed exceeded his master's, particularly in matters of reliability and punctuality, Will worked at the forge even more.  Often he was called to some job for the governor's estate and sometimes he saw her.  She was a Lady now, refined as a lily and cool as the tall glasses of lemonade he saw them drinking on the porch.  Her beauty made his throat seize shut and his heart do all sorts of strange gymnastic feats.  When she smiled and spoke, all he could do was retreat into smilingly-befuddled courtesy and pray he did not trip and break anything.

"Elizabeth," her father would gently reprimand, "do remember your manners with the boy."

Next to her delicate poise, before her liquid eyes and dazzling smile, he felt awkward as an ape and clumsy as a brick, and he wished desperately for something clever to say.  But he was a blacksmith and she was a Lady, and too often he stood in his homespuns and watched her glide serenely away.

But he dreamed.  Of saving her from peril and rescuing her from danger, of battling villains and fending off pirates.  Yes, especially pirates, for he would remember always a black flag in the fog, just before his own ship blew up.  Yet there would of course be no deeds of derring-do, not for a blacksmith's apprentice and certainly not for the governor's lovely daughter.  Thus Will's swordsmithing turned to practice and practice turned to stifled fury, each slash and parry a strike against cruel Fate.  What he most dreamed of was forever beyond his reach, thus if he could only be a blacksmith, he would by heaven be the very best blacksmith he could.

Still he dreamed.  It was not until he saw her standing defiantly amidst a king's ransom in gold, Barbossa's would-be sacrifice to heathen gods, that Will knew he loved her.  It was not until he saw her striding fire-eyed on deck amidst musket fire and cannons' roars that he knew how much.  To save her he would have died having just one regret: that he had never revealed his heart to her.

Now, the wheel of Fate had turned full circle and they stood together at last.  Her hands were cool and trembling in his and he thought his heart would break.  This day his dreams and regrets would pass away, banished amidst a blue Caribbean sky and the fragrance of hibiscus blossoms.  Here in this place where bells pealed out their songs of joy, all dreams were answered at once.  In two words only, the waiting and wanting was through, and the answer shone in her eyes:

"I do."

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A/N: Written in response to Biz's Valentine's Day challenge on our Yahoo group The_Black_Pearl_Sails_Fanfiction.