Writer's Notes: This story is complete and total fanwank. Even though I wanted Will and Elizabeth together I couldn't make myself believe that in that day and age she'd choose (or be allowed to choose) a blacksmith over a naval officer. The irony that this is the issue I cannot suspend my disbelief for in a movie featuring the living dead is not lost on me.
Thanks to Kelly for the fabulous beta. This story would not have been completed without her. Thanks also to Jessa for the late-night beta and encouragement. And apologies to PG. ;)
Liz, this one's for you, bitca!
The Battle of Will
Will's rough, blacksmith's hands would span her waist, one hand sliding slowly up over her ribs to cup her breast as the other pulled her closer still to him. His lips would go to her neck, nuzzling and nipping until she thought she'd die if he didn't…if he didn't…
The sound of hooves on the pavement out in front of the house snapped her attention back to the here and now. She knew it wasn't proper to think about such things. But when had she ever been proper? Her father often remarked that her wilful ways and keen curiosity were the unfortunate result of having been raised solely by him. Elizabeth could take no joy in the fact that her mother had died giving birth to her, but she was grateful that her upbringing had been less than traditional if that was what resulted in the dull, witless creatures her father called her peers.
A quick look at the clock on her mantle told her it was still some hours until Will would arrive and she chided herself for being the love-sick fool. But if she was honest with herself she knew that was precisely what she was; far worse than Juliet pining over her Romeo.
Three months until the wedding had allowed her and Will only a tiny bit of leeway in their courtship. She knew that on some level her father still hoped that Will was a passing fancy and that she would come to her senses before the big day. That was not going to happen.
The more time she spent with him, the more certain Elizabeth was that her place was with the young blacksmith. Will had been to the house nearly every night for supper and they spent their evenings together, always with her father nearby to keep a watchful eye. They talked of books and their future or played chess or partook of a multitude of other activities deemed proper for a courtship. It turned out that Will did indeed have a lovely singing voice.
From time to time they were permitted to stroll in town without a chaperon. One Sunday afternoon after church she'd even convinced Will to show her where he lived.
The tiny, dingy room off the stable of the smithy had saddened her, with its small cot neatly made with a threadbare blanket. The sparse, spotless shelves contained only smartly folded clothing and a few books, most of which had been gifts from her over the years, she noted with a small smile. Words had poured from Will as she looked around, apologies for his station in life, his inability to provide her with a grand home.
She had silenced him by turning and pushing him against the wall, covering his mouth with hers. He'd tasted of tea and jam, smelled of the soap he'd scrubbed with the night before, but a little of the hay of his bed and the fire of the smithy clung to his hair. His hand had cupped the back of her head as he deepened the kiss and she'd felt weak at the knees. She had reached for his chest, just underneath his jacket and vest, where she could feel the shift of muscle under the scratchy fabric of his shirt. She had pressed herself closer to him, wanting to feel him from head to toe, and he'd moaned softly, the arms around her back tightening before he'd pulled away abruptly, setting her on her own feet. His hands rested on her shoulders, as if to ward her off.
"Elizabeth," he'd whispered, putting his forehead against hers, "we cannot."
"Yes, we can," she'd countered, leaning in to steal another kiss. Will had acquiesced, his tongue twinning with hers briefly before his hands had set her back again.
"I respect you too much not to wait," he had said oh so earnestly, deep brown eyes boring into hers.
"Then respect me a little less," she'd replied, and he'd laughed.
The backs of his fingers had run slowly down her right cheek. "Not possible."
Elizabeth released a heavy sigh and turned her attention again back to the present. Only five minutes had passed. There was an inordinate amount of noise in the house, shoes clattering up and down the stairs, voices speaking in loud, hushed whispers. Elizabeth set the book she'd been pretending to read aside and rose. She opened the door in time to see one of the maids rushing down the stairs. "Bessy, what in heaven's name is going on?" she asked.
The young maid stopped, but wouldn't meet her eyes. "Miss Elizabeth," she replied, with a quick half-bow. "There's been an accident. At the fort. Part of the new retaining wall collapsed."
Elizabeth flinched. The reconstruction of Port Royal after the pirate attack three months ago had been arduous and fraught with such problems. "Was anyone hurt?"
Before Bessy could answer, her father appeared on the steps. The look on his face answered her question. But no, Will, was not scheduled to work at the fort today, was he? Was he?
"Elizabeth," her father said softly, moving toward her as he would a frightened horse.
"No," she replied shaking her head, and backing up slowly. Somehow she thought if she could just make it back to the safety of her room it wouldn't be true. "No."
Her father caught her elbow gently, stopping her. "It's Will. He has been hurt."
Elizabeth shook her head in denial. "No." The walls seemed to be closing in on her, her ears rang.
"They brought him here. He is in the parlour."
Immediately, the world stopped imploding and Elizabeth's head cleared. She pulled herself from her father's grip and ran down the stairs, ignoring his calls for her to wait. She paused at the door of the parlour to take a deep breath before she hurried in. That breath was forced from her a moment later when she saw Will laid on a table in the centre of the room. His face was dirty and covered in blood. A large gash marked his forehead. His clothes were tattered and filthy with blood and dust. His left leg was bent at an unnatural angle just above the ankle. His shoe was missing, and, ridiculously, it was this which almost brought her to tears.
The servants stood starting at her, waiting for whatever reaction was forthcoming. She felt sickly calm. "Has the doctor been summoned?"
"Yes, Miss Elizabeth," the stable boy replied. "He's still at the fort though."
"I want him here immediately," Elizabeth said. "Go and fetch him."
The boy rushed from the room and Elizabeth turned to Bessy, who had just arrived with the sheets. "Go to the kitchen and bring a bowl and hot water." When the maid didn't move immediately, Elizabeth snapped, "Now!"
Bessy hurried from the room. Elizabeth turned to the remaining staff. The two maids stood close to each other. "I shall need cloth for bandages. See to that please," Elizabeth said as evenly as she could and the two women scattered.
Elizabeth closed her eyes briefly, trying to work up the strength to face Will again before she moved back to the table. She leaned over the young blacksmith, brushing her thumb against his forehead. He was breathing, although she could hear it pained him to do so. She pulled her handkerchief from her sleeve and placed it to the cut on his forehead.
"Elizabeth," her father said from her side. "Come away and leave this to the servants."
Not taking her eyes from Will or stopping her effort to quell the bleeding of his cut, she shook her head. "I will not."
X X X
It was the dead of night. Her father, having long since given up trying to talk her into going to bed, had finally retired a couple of hours ago. The house was eerily quiet. Will was sleeping fitfully and Elizabeth tried to ease him by wiping his forehead with a cool cloth and whispering nonsense to him. The doctor had said he would recover, but that the break to his lower leg was very bad. It was set against a board and tightly bound.
She would not soon forget how Will had screamed as the doctor had pulled and twisted the bones until they were deemed to be returned to the correct position. It had been a blessing when he had passed out from the pain. He'd been unconscious ever since. The potion of rum and opium the doctor had forced down him had probably assisted in that regard.
Will began murmuring in his sleep again, something about pirates, she thought, and she reached to smooth the hair across his brow. With a sharply inhaled breath, Will's eyes snapped open and he caught her arm with his right hand.
"Elizabeth," he rasped.
"Shush, I'm here," she assured him, disentangling her arm from his grip and urging him to lie back down. "I'm still watching over you."
He relaxed and with a slight nod, surrendered back into slumber.
X X X
Elizabeth sighed in frustration as she realized she'd read the same paragraph four times and still had no idea what it said. She had barely left the room, let alone this chair, in the three days since Will's accident. No doubt, her father would be along soon to try again to convince her to leave Will's care to one of the maids.
She simply could not find it in herself to be away from him for more than a few hours at a time. He seemed so vulnerable and young, much as he had when they had rescued him from water and a terrible fate all those years ago.
Her eyes turned to Will for what had to be the four thousandth time, only this time instead of remaining lost in an opium induced slumber, he was regarding her with glazed eyes.
"Will," she said with a smile. "How do you feel?"
"Summon the doctor!" he cried. Panic jolted Elizabeth, but before she could respond, he continued. "Her fever does not break."
"Who?" she replied as she gently brushed a lock of hair off his forehead.
"My mother," he said urgently, making to sit up. Elizabeth gently held him down by resting her hand on the centre of his chest. "She needs a doctor!"
These last few days had produced many such strange scenarios, but she'd learned it was easier to play along with him than to try to argue, which only seemed to agitate him more. "It's all right, Will. I've summoned him."
"I'll pay. I swear it. I'll find a way."
"Shhh… he'll be here soon. I promise."
The soft words combined with her hand stroking his brow seemed to calm him. He remained staring at nothing as if seeing things or people beyond her realm of perception. She found it unnerving. She suppressed a sigh of relief when his eyes slipped shut again.
The doctor insisted that keeping him sedated was the best course of action, both to reduce his suffering and to keep him and his leg immobile during these first critical days of healing, but Elizabeth was beginning to doubt the wisdom of this plan. His drug induced dreams seemed to be haunted with memories of his mother's death or of their own recent misadventure. She resolved she would speak to the doctor when he returned on the morrow.
Elizabeth took a fresh cloth and dipped it in the tepid water before bringing it to his forehead. Will was so young to have lost so much. She knew what it was to lose a parent, but to have never had a father and then to have lost a mother? Will had been entirely alone in the world at twelve years old. She was certain she could not have borne it.
As she gazed down at her fiancé, tears threatened. She wasn't sure if they were of pity for the poor, lonely boy or of pride for the man's ability to survive such an inauspicious start in the world. Let her peers whisper about how she was lowering herself by marrying a mere tradesman. She did not care.
With a final stroke of the cloth over his brow she settled back into her chair and retrieved her book.
It was several hours before Will spoke again.
"I killed him." The words were leaden in the candle-lit room.
Elizabeth set her book aside, picked up a damp cloth to wipe his brow. "Shush, Will. You haven't killed anyone."
But he was continuing as if he hadn't even heard her and perhaps he hadn't. "Bootstrap's bootstraps… sent to the crushing black oblivion of Davy Jones' Locker…"
His father then, she surmised. The idea that his father had been chained to a cannon at the bottom of the ocean when the curse had been lifted was something that had tormented Will since their return. No amount of assurance from her could dissuade him from this notion.
His eyes were wide and fearful as he searched the room, again seeming to see things that were not there. "…lifted the curse."
She briefly replaced the cloth at his brow with her lips. "You did what you had to do. To save us all. He would not begrudge you that."
Her words seemed to soothe him and she watched him slip once again into sleep.It was another three hours before he roused again. This time he seemed more lucid than he had in days, which was probably due to it being time for his medicine. She reached for the bottle, but he grasped her arm and spoke so softly she had to lean closer to hear him.
"Please, no more medicine."
"But Will, the pain," she objected.
"Better than this shadowed reality. Please," he begged, gripping her hand. "No more."
She could deny him nothing. "No more," she promised.
X X X
The sound of a rooster's crowing awoke her and Elizabeth found herself sitting in a chair, hunched over with her face buried in the mattress. She mused briefly that she'd like to have the offending bird for supper. Her back ached from the unnatural position and she wondered briefly what ever could have brought her to this situation before it all came rushing back in an instant.
"Will," she breathed, her head snapping up.
He was still sleeping, a bit more peacefully it seemed than he had the night before. He was still paler than she would have liked though. She rested a hand on his forehead, which had thankfully lost most of its clammy feel. The doctor had assured her that he would be well in time, and she was comforted to see even small signs of improvement. She sighed in relief before rising to fetch some water and a fresh cloth.
When she returned she took a moment to study him. Even battered and bruised he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. She relished the chance to examine him unobserved. His unruly hair had escaped its confines and curled around his ears and neck in an endearing manner. She tried to smooth one of the locks only to have it spring back immediately and she smiled. No matter how he tried to tame it, his hair always eventually won the battle to be free. She preferred it down anyway.
She dipped the cloth in the water and began to wipe his face gently. The swelling of the cut on his brow was going down a little, although the welt on his cheek was still looking angry. She'd have to put some more of the doctor's ointment on it when she was finished. She moved on to his neck and then shoulders, pushing the sheet down just a little. All in the interest of assessing his progress, she assured herself. She would have to remember today to borrow a nightshirt for him from her father. His chest was broad and muscled, the tanned skin sporting a smattering of hair that she couldn't resist running her fingers through. It was both wiry and soft, the skin underneath surprisingly smooth. She wondered what it would feel like pressed up against her and wiggled at the thought.
She quickly turned her attention to his ribs, still swollen and discoloured on the left side from where he'd been trapped under the debris, but the doctor had assured her, not broken. She studiously ignored the fact that the sheet was now skimming low across his hips, laying bare the entirety of his stomach. Eventually she couldn't resist any longer, her eyes then fingers following the light dusting of hair that extended from just below his navel to disappear under the sheet. What lie below was one of the great mysteries of the world, her world anyway. She'd heard servant girls whisper and giggle about the male anatomy, and she'd certainly seen male horses and dogs before, but somehow she couldn't rectify that to how it would work on a human male.
Slowly she raised the sheet and peered below, her mouth shaping into an astonished "O". She moved a bit closer for a better look. So enthralled was she that she almost didn't hear the approaching footsteps and only just managed to drop the sheet and leap back before her father entered the room.
"Elizabeth, is everything alright?"
"Yes, of course," she said, hoping her face wasn't as red as it felt.
Her father immediately moved to her side, taking her elbow and guiding her back to the chair. "You look flushed, my dear. Tell me you weren't here all night again."
"I'm fine," she replied, willing her thundering to heart to slow down. She turned back to Will, running the cloth over his forehead once more.
"How is he?" her father asked, leaning over her charge.
"Better, I think," she replied. "Thank you for allowing him to be cared for here."
She was grateful to her father for that and many things. Despite his reservations about her binding herself to a blacksmith, he'd been kind to Will, welcoming the younger man into his home with a grace that humbled her.
"How could I not?" he asked, brushing a lock of hair off her forehead. "I owe him your life."
"Father," she replied softly, seeing the welling of tears in his eyes that appeared whenever he spoke of her kidnapping. "I'm quite all right." Their eyes locked and Elizabeth took her father's hand and squeezed it.
"Elizabeth?" the softly spoken word interrupted the moment and she immediately spun around, all her attention focused on Will.
"What happened?" he asked, flinching as he tried to sit up. A gentle hand to his chest aborted that effort.
"Shhhh, just lay back and rest."
He did settle back against the pillows, but the questions didn't abate. "How did I get here? What happened?"
"There was an accident," she said, taking his right hand in hers. "At the fort. Do you remember?"
His brow crunched in thought for a moment before the dawning of remembrance flashed in his eyes. "The wall. It collapsed. I was up on a ladder."
Elizabeth nodded her head. "Yes."
"It's a good thing, too, young man" the governor said, stepping forward. "Had you not had the advantage of height you would have been buried beneath the entirety of the wall."
Will's eyes widened at this bit of news. "The others. Was anyone hurt?"
"None worse than you," Elizabeth assured him, giving his hand a squeeze, and he relaxed. "How do you feel?"
"I'm fine," Will replied automatically, but his grimace of pain belied the words.
"It was quite lucky, actually," the governor added. "Miraculous even. Though it will set work back on the fort by over a fortnight."
Work. Elizabeth knew instantly what Will's next concern would be. He quickly began to assess himself and his injuries. He looked in dismay at his bound leg, propped on a pillow. "Broken?" he asked, even though his eyes said he already knew the answer. When Elizabeth nodded, he went on. "How long?"
"At least a month."
"A month," he echoed softly and she could see the panic in his eyes.
"You mustn't worry…" she trailed off. Of course he would worry.
Will's jaw clenched as he looked away. "I have orders," he finally said, as if their very existence could change the reality of what she'd told him.
"Not to worry, dear boy," the governor chimed in. "Surely Mr. Brown can look after things on his own until you've mended."
Will looked at the older man with wide, disbelieving eyes for moment before glancing away. "Surely," he said despondently, staring at his traitorous leg.
An awkward silence hung over the room for a moment, and before any more could be said on the topic, Bessy entered the room with a tray of breakfast.
"Right," the governor said, taking advantage of the interruption. "I must be off to the fort. Enjoy your breakfast. You'll be back on your feet in no time, I'm sure."
Will and Elizabeth were quiet as the governor left and Bessy set the breakfast tray on the table. "I took the liberty of bringing your breakfast as well, Miss."
Elizabeth smiled. "Thank you, Bessy."
With a quick curtsy, Bessy was gone, and Elizabeth set about helping Will to sit up, stacking pillows behind him. He closed his eyes and leaned back. "Are you all right?" she asked, noticing that he'd paled further.
"Bit dizzy is all," he replied, taking a deep breath. "It will pass."
Elizabeth squeezed his shoulder and turned her attention to fixing the tea. She marvelled again that Will didn't take sugar, as she added a splash of milk to his as well. He claimed he never had it around, so he had not gotten into the habit. She pulled her chair closer to the bed and carefully brought the tea near his face, where he would be able to smell it. "My father swears that there is no ail that a strong cup of tea cannot cure."
The edges of Will's lips turned up and he opened his eyes. "A wise man indeed," he agreed, gingerly taking the cup.
Will tried to hide the wince as he moved to sit up a bit more. He sipped slowly on the tea, closing his eyes again and savouring it. He had oft remarked that the tea found in the governor's mansion was the best he'd ever tasted. It had taken her a while to draw out of him that it was because it was actually real tea, and uncut with such cost-saving additives as willow or sloe leaves.
"Eat," she said, taking the mostly empty teacup from his hand and replacing it with a piece of bread.
"Doctor's orders?" he arched an eyebrow.
"Mine," she corrected. She supervised as he nibbled at the bread.
X X X
Elizabeth awoke curled awkwardly in a chair and stretched in a vain attempt to straighten out the kinks. Napping in such a locale was not conducive to comfort, but leaving Will's side even for a few hours was something she found she still could not do.
She leaned over her charge. She thought he looked better than he had that morning. There was no sweat lining his brow or grimace of his features, and it even seemed a bit of colour had returned to his cheeks. Relieved, she placed a gentle kiss on his forehead before rising and walking to the wash basin.
A swift examination of herself in the mirror did not prove as promising. She frowned at the dark circles under her eyes and the chaos that was her hair. She poured water from the pitcher into the basin and set about washing her face and rinsing out her mouth. She then turned her attention to her hair, quickly releasing it from its pins and attempting to smooth it with her fingers. Movement in the mirror caught her eye and she whirled around in time to see Will trying to sit up.
"And just where do you think you are going?" she asked as she hurried to his side.
Will stared at her a moment, still a bit groggy it seemed. "Not sure," he admitted, surrendering back into his warm bed.
"How do you feel?" Elizabeth asked as she sat beside him.
"Almost human," he responded and then reached out and brushed his fingers gently down her cheek. "Thank you."
She took his hand and squeezed it. They stared at each other for a long moment. Time stretched out between them. Elizabeth wanted to kiss him or tell him again how much she loved him, but somehow felt shy. Will leaned toward her slowly…
"Tis good to see you looking so well, Master Turner!" Bessy exclaimed as she set down a tray holding two bowls of soup and some fresh bread on the small table by the bed. "How are you feeling?"
It was a long moment before Will pulled his eyes from Elizabeth. "Better, thank you."
"You'll be back on your feet straightaway no doubt," she assured him. "They'll be needing you at the fort to be sure."
Elizabeth saw Will's face fall at that. "Thank you, Bessy. That will be all," she said quickly.
"Of course, Miss," the maid replied with a bow, and was gone.
"Do you think you could eat something?" Elizabeth asked with forced cheerfulness as she set about buttering some bread in hopes of distracting him.
He turned his gaze to the tray. "When have you ever known me to turn down food?" he asked with a wry smile.
"Never," she replied, handing him a bowl of the soup.
They ate in silence for a time, but she noted that he picked at his food more than he actually consumed any. "Will," she finally said, "does it still hurt so much?"
He would not meet her eyes. "It hurts," he admitted.
"But that cannot account entirely for your lack of appetite," Elizabeth guessed.
"Oh, Will," she said, reaching out to brush his hair off his forehead. "It will be all right. Truly."
"How?" he asked brusquely, moving his head out of her reach. "I have orders that I cannot fill. Brown is useless. There is no one else." He set his bowl heavily back on the tray. "I need those orders."
"It's not your fault that you were injured, surely people will understand that."
"Understand, yes, but then take their business elsewhere."
"That hardly seems fair."
He laughed and the harsh nature of the sound caught Elizabeth off guard.
"What does fair have to do with it?" he scoffed.
"Perhaps my father—"
"No!" Will interrupted vehemently. "I will not have your father involved in this. It is bad enough—". He stopped abruptly, his right hand clenching into a fist.
"It's bad enough, what, Will?" Elizabeth asked, fearing his answer.
An uncomfortable silence hung over the room. Finally, Will sighed loudly. "It is bad enough that I will soon be the son-in-law of the governor."
"Oh yes," Elizabeth replied, sarcasm lacing her voice, "I can see how that would be a terrible hardship."
"I cannot have your father interfering in my business."
"Who said anything about interfering?" Elizabeth retorted.
"What do you propose he do then?"
"He could speak to your—"
"How is that not interference?" Will interrupted.
They stared at each other for a long moment, neither knowing how to break the impasse. The anger on their faces slowly faded to hurt. Then they both spoke at once.
"Elizabeth, I'm sorry, I know you are just trying to help."
"I'm sorry. It is not my place."
They smiled at the tumble of words. Elizabeth sat on the edge of the bed, and Will wrapped his arms around her. "I do not wish to quarrel with you."
"Nor I with you."
Despite the placating words Elizabeth still felt an unfamiliar dread in the pit of her stomach. This discussion was not over.
X X X
The faint scent of the sea wafting in through the open window distracted Will from his reading. He sighed heavily and turned his attention from the volume of The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling on his lap to the window. He could just make out sails on the bay and a clear blue sky framed by fine lace curtains.
The irony of the situation was not lost on him. He could not count the number of times he had longed to loll around in his bed all day surrounded by a mass of books. Now that his wish had been granted, with the added bonus of a bed much more comfortable than his own, he found that he was practically crawling out of his skin, longing to return to the smithy. His heart lurched each time he speculated as to the havoc Brown might have wreaked in his absence. He woke many times a night in a cold sweat just thinking of the orders he must be losing.
Resolutely, he returned his attention to his book. Reading was a gift and he was determined not to squander the opportunity no matter what may or may not be happening at the smithy. His hands tightened on the leather-bound book in his hands. His ability to read was another debt he owed Elizabeth. She had been scandalized all those years ago aboard the HMS Dauntless to discover he could not read or write and had spent the rest of the voyage tutoring him. Over the years she'd loaned or given him books, always challenging him and exposing him to a world that a man of his station would normally never have had access to.
He owed her his life. He owed her his soul. And he would gladly spend the rest of his days proving himself worthy of her.
But could he ever be?
He still could not understand what she was doing with him when she could have had Norrington. The Commodore with his refined manners, proper education, respectable career, and, perhaps worst of all, hair that stayed put, even during a battle. True, it was a wig, but that did not lessen the sting.
Will exhaled loudly and turned his head away from the window, startled to find the object of his thoughts standing in the doorway, seeming to be wavering about whether or not to enter. Having been spotted seemed to decide the issue for him. Commodore Norrington pulled at the bottom of his jacket and stepped over the threshold.
"Turner," he said by way of greeting.
Will nodded, and replied, "Commodore."
They stared at each other for an awkward moment. Will took no small amount of pleasure in noting that the Commodore was nervous.
"You are looking well," Norrington finally said.
"If that is so, then it is to the credit of Elizabeth and her father, for I have been well cared for," Will replied.
"Indeed," the Commodore said. "There are few better than the governor and his daughter."
Will watched the other man's Adam's apple bounce anxiously. Yet once again it was the Commodore who found a means of breaking the awkward silence.
"I brought you a book," he said, pulling the volume from behind his back and handing it to Will. "I thought it might help pass the time."
Will examined the title. Gulliver's Travels. "Thank you. I have been wanting to read it."
"So you have not read it?"
"No, but I look forward to it."
Elizabeth entered the room, followed closely by the doctor, heading off the uncomfortable silence before it could descend again. Both men turned toward her.
"Commodore Norrington," she said with a smile. "How lovely to see you."
He bowed to her. "The pleasure is all mine, I assure you, Miss Swann." He turned to Dr. Adams before adding, "Good afternoon, Doctor."
"Commodore," the older man nodded, before turning his attention toward Will. "How are you faring today, young Will?"
Will could not force his regard away from Norrington. The Commodore was gazing at Elizabeth with a look in his eyes that Will very much remembered having experienced for a large part of his life -- the look of a man in love with a woman he could never have.
"Will," Elizabeth prompted. "The doctor is speaking to you."
Will shook himself and turned his attention back to the doctor. "Pardon me, Doctor. I am feeling well, thank you."
The doctor set about unbinding Will's leg.
"I'll take my leave," Norrington said.
"Thank you for calling, Commodore," Elizabeth said.
Will swallowed hard before adding, "And thank you for the book."
"My pleasure," Norrington replied with a bow. "Good day."
Will stared after him, struggling with an odd battle between compassion and jealousy raging in his gut.
X X X
Elizabeth crept silently down the hall toward what she was quickly beginning to consider Will's room, although she was certain that her father would still call it the guest room. Sleep was eluding her this night and she thought perhaps if she could assure herself that Will was all right that she might be able to find her way into slumber.
He'd been so upset after the doctor's visit that afternoon. She knew that not being able to work was wearing on him, but it was the uncertainty of when he would be able to resume his duties that was causing him such distress. If only he would allow her father to speak to his patrons she knew the situation could be resolved. She was determined to speak to Will of it again at the next opportunity.
"Who's there?" he called as soon as she entered the room.
"It is I," she whispered.
"Elizabeth," he replied, surprise colouring his voice. "What are you doing here?"
"I could not sleep and it seems neither can you."
"No," he admitted.
She settled herself on the edge of his bed, and reached out to brush a curl off his forehead. He caught her hand and brought it briefly to his lips. The contact was like a current racing through her. It was the same each time he touched her.
Why, why, why did they have to wait? She ached to be closer to him. To never have to leave his side. Each moment that she could not touch him was a torture.
Will's hands had moved up to cup her head, his fingers gently carding through her hair. The reverence in his eyes humbled her. He gently pulled her toward him, breathing, "Elizabeth."
She was glad she was sitting down when his lips met hers because otherwise she was fairly certain her knees would have given out. His lips were soft and gentle and not nearly enough. She deepened the kiss, sucking his bottom lip between hers, nipping it softly. Her heart quickened at the resulting gasp. His fingers tightened in her hair, pulling her closer.
"We cannot," he protested a moment later, pushing her head away from him.
"Says whom?" she replied, slipping under the sheet next to him. Will inched away from her until the only place left to go was the floor on other side of the bed.
"Propriety," he tried, and seeing what she thought of that answer in the expression on her face, he added, "and certainly your father if he were here."
"Ah," she replied with a smirk, moving so that she was half sprawled over him, her chin resting in the centre of his chest. "But he is not."
Will tried to sit up, but Elizabeth quickly thwarted that effort.
"Elizabeth," he started again, "truly. We cannot. It would not…"
Elizabeth shifted her thigh until it was firmly atop an area that made him gasp and let his head drop heavily back on to the pillow.
"Mr. Turner," she said in a crisp, if quiet voice, "if you think that your wife shall be a proper wilting flower, who merely endures your needs while thinking of England, you are sadly mistaken."
He lifted his head until his eyes met hers. "That you are not a wilting flower is one of the things I love the most about you," he asserted. "But you are not yet my wife."
"Near as," she said, nuzzling the spot on his neck just below his ear that she'd already learned drove him to distraction.
"But not yet," he breathed against her ear, and as she increased the pressure of her thigh, "ahhhh!"
"You're not a eunuch," she whispered with a bit of an impish grin, rubbing her leg against him.
"Oh God, Elizabeth." He reached up and cupped the back of her head, pulling her none too gently to his mouth. His teeth bumped against hers but he didn't stop, with a growl delving into her mouth with his tongue.
She felt heady with power and was all too aware that all that lay between them now were their flimsy nightdresses. She slid her hand down, shifting her leg until Will cried out, the sound luckily muted by her lips.
"Shhh," she whispered, moving her hand slowly over him. It wasn't what she'd thought it would feel like. She hadn't expected it to be this hot or to be able to feel the beat of his heart all the way down here. Will's head fell away from her, his eyes squeezed shut, his breathing harsh.
"Surely you are a siren sent to undo my reason," he hissed. But amazingly, shockingly, his hips began to move in time with her hand, then increasing the pace, as his hand went to the hem of her nightshirt and slipped underneath, tugging it upward. They were an awkward tumble of limbs and linen, but then somehow, miraculously, they were skin to skin.
And just as suddenly she found herself sprawled alone on the bed, Will standing on one foot next to it, struggling to maintain his balance.
"Elizabeth," he said softly. "We cannot."
She climbed to her feet, moving toward him. He hopped back a step. "It is against all decorum."
Elizabeth laughed. "Why are we to be bound to dictates of decorum?"
"That is easy for you to say," Will said. "All your life you have grown secure in the knowledge of your place, while I have struggled on the fringes of polite society. It is bad enough that a union with me will pull you from your station, I would not also destroy your reputation."
"I don't care about such things" Elizabeth declared.
Will caught her by the shoulders, stopping her advance. "But I do." Elizabeth was startled by the fervour in his eyes. "I shan't be able to live with myself if I should drag you further from respectability than I already have."
"Will…" she started, but couldn't find the words.
"It is but a few months till we are wed," he continued. "I am powerless to resist you as you proved so thoroughly tonight, but I would ask you to wait."
As Elizabeth stared up into those intense brown eyes she found she could deny him nothing. "We will wait."
X X X
The next morning Elizabeth found herself having a difficult time getting motivated to leave her bed. After her encounter with Will in the wee hours, Elizabeth had returned her rooms only to toss and turn until dawn before finally falling into a fitful sleep which was haunted by images of Will's earnest brown eyes.
Logically, she could see how his desire to wait was the wisest course. Emotionally was another matter. She had denied her feelings for Will for so long, and after everything they'd been through waiting any longer seemed an agony.
The remembrance of how Will's hands had felt on her bare flesh sent a burning, tingly ache through her that she could not put a name to. She tugged the covers up over her head. Perhaps there was something wrong with her. She was well aware that women, especially of her status, were supposed to be above desires of the flesh. She most definitely was not. She wanted Will. And in ways which were decidedly not proper.
Perhaps even more intoxicating than Will's affect on her was hers upon him. She had never seen him so out of control. And all because of her! That she could affect him so gave her an exhilarating, giddy feeling. Already she wondered how she would find the strength to keep the promise made last night.
There was a knock on the door followed by her father's voice. "Elizabeth? Are you still abed?"
"Yes," she replied, realizing belatedly that the covers over her face would probably render her response inaudible.
The door cracked open. "Elizabeth? Are you ill?"
She tossed the covers away. "No, Father, merely slothful," she replied. "But I am rising now."
Her father entered and sat on the edge of her bed. "You have been toiling too hard caring for Will." He pushed a lock of hair off her forehead. "Perhaps you should spend the day resting."
"Nonsense. I am well, father. Truly."
"I suppose I shall have to be glad that you slept as late as you did."
"What time is it?"
"Half ten!" Elizabeth exclaimed, practically leaping from her bed and retreaing behind her screen to dress.
"I am certain he is fine, my dear. You mustn't fuss."
"I do not fuss," she replied, as she struggled with the strings of her bodice. "I just… well… I suppose I do fuss." She appeared back around the screen, dressed. "It is just that the thought of losing him…"
Their eyes locked for a moment. "I know you do."
X X X
Will sat in bed fiddling with the edge of his sheet. It was much later than when Elizabeth customarily arrived and he worried that she was upset with him about what had happened the night before.
He knew that insisting that they wait until they were wed was the proper decision. It was not that he did not desire her in that way, because he really, really, did. It was the prospect of exposing her to any more scandal that he could not bear.
No, it was definitely better to wait. He knew it with his whole heart. Other than that tiny, niggling, selfish bit that wondered if it would not be prudent to bind her to him sooner rather than later. He knew Elizabeth loved him, yet he could not understand why.
What if she suddenly realized that which haunted his dreams -- that he was a mere tradesman without connections or the fortune to provide her with the life to which she was accustomed? He was neither dim-witted nor was he naïve. One could not have grown up as he had and remain so for long. Wealth mattered. Who one called kin or friend counted.
Will had learned this lesson after his father had disappeared and stopped sending home his wages. He had seen his mother sell everything they owned until they were forced from their small apartments to a tiny room off a disreputable tavern. He watched as his mother was reduced to serving cheap ale and rancid meals to men with wandering hands and filthy mouths. He had borne witness as it slowly and then quickly killed her. No money for a physician and so she had died. The tavern owner had thrown him out the next day. The day after that he had sold himself into indentured servitude in exchange for passage to the New World.
Elizabeth was the strongest woman he had ever known. He knew what her response would be to his concerns. She would tell him money did not matter and that she could be happy anywhere as long as she was with him. And she would mean it. But she did not know. She had always had money and connections and the opportunities they provided.
Will had been laying aside every shilling he could in the hopes it would be enough to support Elizabeth, but after staying in the governor's mansion he knew he could never provide what was so taken for granted here. And now that he was out of work for who knew how long…
Perhaps Elizabeth would be better off with Norrington. If Will were a more noble man he knew he would break off their engagement. Yet, somehow, he knew he could not. As much as he wanted to protect her, he also respected her right to make her own decision. He had, after all, fallen in love with her because of her strength of character.
"Will," Elizabeth called as she entered the room.
Will's breath caught at the sight of her and he gratefully pushed his dark thoughts aside. He never quite became used to how lovely she was. Words were pouring from her about how she was sorry that she overslept and whether he had broken his fast yet.
"Elizabeth, I am grateful that you slept. Do not concern yourself about me," he assured her. "I am well."
She came and sat on the edge of his bed and took his hand in hers. An awkward silence claimed them. Will struggled with whether or not to say anything about what happened the previous night, but before he could decide Elizabeth made the decision for them.
"I do not know about you, but I am famished. Shall we have strawberry conserves or honey with our bread this morning?"
X X X
A couple of days later, over a game of chess, Will asked the question that Elizabeth had been long expecting.
"Would you truly have married him?"
Elizabeth kept her eyes on the board, considering both her next move as well as her response. "Yes," she finally admitted, meeting his eyes.
The pain there nearly undid her. "Did you, do you, love him?"
"I think I could have come to."
Will pursed his lips and looked away. When he turned his attention back to her a moment later there was fire in his eyes. "I don't understand."
She sighed. "He is a good man, Will."
"Indeed," Will acknowledged, his countenance not softening with the word. "But that doesn't explain why you would contemplate binding yourself to a man you do not love."
"On the contrary, I think you know quite well why."
"Perhaps, but I wish for you to tell me."
"It would have been a smart match." Elizabeth stood, turning away from him and moving to peer out the window.
"As ours is not," he countered, the defeat in his voice nearly broke her heart.
"Will," she sighed. "There are…" she paused, fingering the lace of the curtains, while she searched for the right words, "…limited options for a woman in this society."
"Do not presume to tell me about the limitations of this society." His voice was low in her ear and she started. She hadn't heard him get up from the chair, let alone approach her. One arm flattened to the wall to one side of her, the crutch in his hand making a loud snapping noise, as his other went to rest on the sill, effectively trapping her against the glass. His breath was hot on her neck. "All my life I've been expected to pander to my betters; to scrape and bow and be satisfied with my lot in life."
She turned in his arms and pushed him back, but he didn't budge. "A game you oft seem more than willing to play," she replied hotly. "Particularly the other night."
Will flinched, but didn't take the bait. He leaned in even closer, until she could feel his breath on the side of her face, the heat of his body surrounding her. "Why?"
Elizabeth shivered. She couldn't meet his eyes. "Because I was afraid."
She swallowed hard before answering. "You," she replied, attempting to push past him again, and this time he allowed it. She retreated quickly to stand near the bed, putting one of the posts between them.
"Me?" he asked in a whisper.
"I'm not a simpleton, Will," she replied with exasperation, more at herself than him. "That day on the ship. After you rescued me. I could see how you felt about me. It thrilled me." She paused a moment before adding. "And it terrified me."
"How? Why?" He took a couple of awkward steps toward her, leaning heavily on his crutch, but she stayed him with an upraised hand.
"Because it meant all my girlish dreams could become a reality. But the problem with such imaginings is that they often cannot stand up in the harsh light of reality." She saw the dawning of understanding in his eyes and it nearly broke her heart. "A marriage to Norrington would be safe. It would hold few surprises. While a union with you--"
He looked at his feet. "-- is fraught with uncertainty," he finished for her, his voice laced with bitterness.
"Yes," she admitted.
She saw his jaw clench and he turned away, looking out the window at the sea. She didn't know what to say, a state of affairs with which she had little association. They remained in a painful silence for several long moments before there was motion at the door.
"It is good to see you on your feet, young man," Dr. Adams said by way of introduction. "But I do hope you are not overdoing it."
Will turned and gave the doctor a weak smile. "No, sir," he replied.
"Good lad." He smiled as he turned to Elizabeth. "Good afternoon, Miss Swann."
She smiled in return. "Good afternoon, Doctor."
"I suppose I owe it to you that our Mr. Turner remains here rather than already being holed up in the smithy."
Elizabeth didn't know what to say to that so she just looked shyly down at the floor. Will certainly did not seem to be pleased to be in the same room as her at the moment. In fact, he'd not met her eyes once since the doctor had arrived.
The doctor motioned toward the bed. "Why don't you lie down, Will, so we can get a better look at that leg."
Will complied, moving much less gingerly than he had been in previous days, Elizabeth noted. He was definitely on the mend. The doctor carefully unwrapped the binding around his leg, taking the limb carefully in his nimble fingers. "Tell me if you feel any pain."
The doctor seemed satisfied both with what he saw and with the fact that Will did not voice any discomfort; a vast improvement from just the visit before. An observation he confirmed moments later. "Much improvement this week," he stated, as he began to rebind Will's leg. "Another few weeks and we should be able to remove the casting."
"Few weeks?" Will gasped. "Doctor, I cannot possibly be debilitated that long!"
"God and nature determine the speed of our healing," came the same reply as had been issued on every visit. "You are coming along very well, Will. But if you push it and return to work before you are fully healed you will only set back your recovery."
"Yes, sir," Will mumbled dishearteningly.
The doctor ruffled Will's hair. "It's not all doom and gloom, young man. I want you to continue walking using the crutches. And," he paused dramatically, "you may venture outside."
Will looked up, his expression brightening. "Outside?"
"That does not mean you can go back to work," the older man laughed. "Short forays, and only with the crutches and supervision"
"Yes, sir," Will replied despondently.
"Nothing more strenuous," he said to Will, then looked up at Elizabeth, who was lurking near the door. "You will see to that, I'm certain, Miss Swann."
"Yes, Doctor," she replied. "I shall see to it."
X X X
"Of course Benedick would do Beatrice's bidding. He is honour bound by his love for her," Will said, hoping he didn't sound as out of breath as he felt. He was on his first physician-sanctioned stroll and he did not want Elizabeth to get any notions about cutting it short.
"Even though he believes his friend was wronged by Hero?"
"Even though." Will paused, turning his face up and basked in the sun. The crutches were cutting into the flesh under his arms and his palms were getting splinters, but he would not trade it for the world. As it was, they were mere feet from the veranda, the comfort of cushioned chairs, and the promise of tea. And as alluring as all that was, Will was reluctant to give up his hard-won freedom just yet.
"He would do anything for her, just as I would for you."
Elizabeth pursed her lips, considering. "Does it not follow then that I would do the same for you?"
He looked at her with narrowed eyes as if he could sense she was up to something. "I suppose."
"Then you must understand why I wish to speak to my father on your behalf."
"Elizabeth," Will said sharply. "We've been through this. I will not allow it."
"'Allow it'?" Elizabeth echoed.
There was a wildness in her eyes and a strain in her voice and Will immediately realized his mistake. He quickly tried to backtrack. "Perhaps 'allow' is too strong a word."
"I should think so, Mr. Turner."
"I do not wish for you to speak to your father on my behalf regarding this matter."
"Because it is different."
"It is different because I wish to be of assistance to you rather than the other way around?"
"Of course not. I… I…"
How could he explain to her when he scarcely understood it himself? Brown was the closest thing he had ever had to a father. True, in the early years the man had often been harsh, sometimes even brutal, and in the later ones he had been too drunk to be of any assistance. But still, Will knew that as mad as it seemed some measure of his reluctance to allow the governor to become involved was a misguided attempt to protect the man who had taken in him and taught him a trade.
Will opened and closed his mouth a few times trying to find the words to explain this, but they were interrupted before he could formulate what he wanted to say.
The governor's manservant waited hesitantly a few steps away, obviously aware that he had intruded upon a tense moment. "Mr. Turner," he said. "I have a letter for you."
"For me?" Will asked, reaching out to accept the envelope.
"Yes, sir." The servant gave a sketchy bow and departed as quickly as decorum would allow.
Will crunched his brow as he examined the letter. He could not imagine who would have written him. He looked up at Elizabeth, their argument forgotten for the moment.
Their disagreement clearly had not slipped Elizabeth's mind. She huffed loudly. "I'll leave you to your reading," she said before gathering her dress and storming off.
"Elizabeth, wait," he called after her. She ignored him and if anything moved at a swifter pace away from him.
As Will watched her departure he recalled how her many governesses used to scold her for that, telling her that a lady's dress was not to be hauled up for easier mobility. He was grateful it was lesson she had never learned, for then she would not be the Elizabeth he loved.
After a few moments he shook himself from his reverie. Experience told him it would be best to give Elizabeth some time to cool off, so he decided to retire to the veranda with his mysterious letter. It was a slow and arduous process, but presently he found himself settled into an almost too soft chair.
Will peeled the wax seal off the letter reverently. The last piece of post he had received had been from his father and contained the odd gold coin that had so altered the fate of them all. It was the only gift his father had ever given him. Will felt the familiar spasm of guilt when he thought of the father he had in all likelihood sentenced to a horrible death and firmly pushed it aside.
He had no idea who would have written him, so he quickly unfolded the paper and turned his attention to the signature at the bottom of the page -- a rather sloppy scrawl which read "Captain Jack Sparrow". A smiled graced Will's lips when he noted that the word "captain" was underlined twice.
"Dearest William," he read. "Roomer has it that you are to wed the lovely Miss Swan three months hence. Please axcept the most joyous of wishes from myself and the crew of the Black Pearl. We could not be happier unless, of course, we found a chest of swag. Or a stash of rum. Well, perhaps we could, but I digress. If you would be so kind as to settle a wager I shall be ever more in your debt. Gibbs reckons that you shall keep your virtue until your wedding night whilst I am certain that Miss Swan shall rob you of it long before the big day. See you at the wedding. Best Regards, Captain Jack Sparrow."
Colour immediately rushed to Will's cheeks, but before he could do more than fold the letter he heard someone coming out onto the veranda. He stuffed the missive into the sleeve of his shirt just as Governor Swann appeared.
"Good afternoon, William," said the older man.
"Good afternoon, Governor," Will said, moving to rise.
The governor waved him back into his seat. "No need to get up, my boy. May I join you?"
"I would welcome your company, sir," Will replied, finding the question rather amusing considering it was, after all, the man's porch.
His response had been a white lie though. The governor made Will nervous. He was never quite sure what to say to the man and he was certain that the governor did not entirely approve of his relationship with Elizabeth. A slightly uncomfortable silence fell over them.
"Lovely day," Swann commented.
Silence descended again.
"Will, I wish to speak to you on a matter of some importance."
"Of course, sir." Will felt his stomach drop. Was this it? Was this when the governor would tell him that he did not approve of the match between his daughter and a mere blacksmith?
"On my way back from meetings at the fort this morning, I called on Mr. Brown to see how he was faring in your absence. I also wished to discuss some business with him. I suspect you know what I discovered there."
Will's stomach plummeted even further. "I… I don't know what to say, sir."
Will did not pretend not to understand the question. "He has become steadily worse since his wife passed five years ago."
"So you have been running the trade since then?"
"No, sir," said Will. "Really only the last three years."
The governor mulled this over for a few moments. "We have not yet discussed Elizabeth's dowry."
Will blinked at the abrupt change in subject. "Sir?"
"With all due respect, sir, I am marrying Elizabeth because I love her. I do not require, nor do I wish for, recompense for that honour."
The governor laughed softly and muttered, "Ah, the idealism of youth." The words stung, but before Will could speak again, the older man continued. "Elizabeth is accustomed to living in a particular manner."
"I realize that, sir, and I will work hard to --"
"Please, let me finish." When Will nodded his assent, he went on. "The smithy is yours. Even as we speak Brown is boarding a ship bound for England, his pockets heavy with gold."
Will was stunned. "I do not know what to say, sir."
"'Thank you' would suffice," the governor replied with a smirk.
"Thank you, sir, but I cannot possibly – "
"Will," the sternness of the other man's voice stopped the young blacksmith immediately. "Many have suggested that I have run mad for allowing you to marry my daughter." He leaned closer to Will. "Believe me when I say that I gave serious consideration to putting a stop to this. To putting Elizabeth on the first ship back to England or to having you deported from this island to America and making sure she never laid eyes upon you again. Do you know why I did not?"
"No, sir." Will's words were a mere whisper. He could do it. One word and this man could ensure that Will never saw Elizabeth again. Terror gripped Will's heart.
"Because you have possessed her affection for so long now that to separate the two of you would break her heart and her spirit. I could not bear to do that to her. Nor will I allow you to either. Where do you plan to live once you are wed? Surely not in that room you stay in now."
"No, sir, of course not! I have been saving to rent us proper rooms."
"And who will cook and clean for you?"
"I had not considered…"
"Do your washing? Mend your clothing? Elizabeth was not raised to such a life. You are marrying above your station and you will be the one to make adjustments, not her." He pinned Will with his eyes. "You are the new proprietor of the blacksmith shop, you and my daughter will live in a house that I have commissioned to be constructed on the grounds of this estate, and Elizabeth will be provided with five thousand pounds a year to do with as she pleases."
"I… I…." Will stammered. His mind was racing. His pride was wounded. He did not want this man's money. He did not need it. He was perfectly capable of providing sufficiently for Elizabeth.
"This is non-negotiable, young man. At the risk of being uncouth, I have more money that I can possibly spend in this lifetime and I will use it to ensure my daughter's comfort. Do we have an accord or are you interested in Boston? I hear the weather is lovely there this time of year."
Will swallowed hard. "We have an accord, sir."
The governor extended a hand to Will. "I think it would be acceptable for you to call me Weatherby now."
X X X
The governor left a rather dazed Will on the veranda and went in search of his daughter. Conventional wisdom about class and station be damned. Any lingering doubts he had had about whether or not William Turner could make his daughter happy had just been assuaged. The younger man had a strength of character and a sense of honour he found refreshing. Not that he should really be all that surprised. Time and again he had watched as Turner made the most out of any number of less than ideal situations. From illiterate orphan to apprentice blacksmith to the finest craftsman and bladesmith on the island.
Then, of course, there was the fact that he had saved Elizabeth's life. The young man had been willing to sacrifice his own future for Elizabeth. Never an hour went by that Weatherby did not acknowledge that debt in his own mind. A social scandal and five thousand pounds a year were a small price to pay.
Presently, he found Elizabeth in the conservatory playing a rather forceful rendition of a sonata by that young German. Or was he Austrian? He could never remember. He stood in the doorway and watched for a moment. So like her dearly departed mother was his beautiful, spirited daughter. What would his life be without her? Undoubtedly not worth living, he acknowledged.
He listened as Elizabeth repeated again and again a difficult passage before finally, with a muted exclamation of disgust, she closed the lid of the pianoforte with a tad more strength than was warranted.
"Impossible man," she fumed.
"Who?" Weatherby asked, stepping into the room. "Certainly you cannot mean our poor Master Mozart."
Elizabeth started, but recovered quickly, offering her father a weak smile. "I shall never master that second movement."
Weatherby waved away her words. "Nonsense, my dear. I have never known you to fail at anything you have set your mind to."
Elizabeth turned and moved to the window, staring out at the ocean. Her father joined her and together they enjoyed the view of the crystal blue water and a few moments of silence.
Finally Elizabeth spoke. "Some days I find him vexing beyond bearing."
"At least once a fortnight I was certain that your mother would be the end of me."
Elizabeth turned to face him, shock clearly written on her face. Weatherby smiled. "Do not be surprised, my child. One of the many reasons I esteemed your mother so was because she challenged me."
Elizabeth worried her lower lip with her teeth, considering that piece of information.
"I would suspect that it is the same with you and Will," he added.
A small smile briefly graced her lips. "True," she admitted.
"Besides, how dreary life would be if everyone got along famously all the time?"
That drew a laugh from his daughter. "If Beatrice and Benedict did not banter."
"If the Shrew did not need taming."
They both laughed and then silence drew over them for a few moments. "Do tell what young William has done to incite your wrath this fine afternoon."
Elizabeth hesitated before answering. "I wish to follow a course of action of which he does not approve."
The governor raised an eyebrow at that. "And may I inquire as to what course of action this might be?"
She shook her head. "I find that in this matter I must respect his wishes."
"It is just that it is not, specifically speaking, my… dilemma."
"I see," he said carefully. "Then perhaps it is wise of you to respect his wishes."
"Perhaps," she agreed, fingering the windowsill.
He could feel his daughter weighing her options, trying to decide the best course of action. Finally, she spoke again. "It is just that I am certain I could assist him in this matter. That something could be done."
"My dear Elizabeth, you cannot right all the wrongs of the world nor fix every problem."
"I know. It is just that—"
"Stop, my dear. If this is in regard to his business you must have trust in his judgement and his talents."
Elizabeth gaped at him. "How did you…"
He laughed lightly. "How did I know? The grey hairs under this blasted wig must have earned me some wisdom. What do you propose to do? Force his clientele to await his recovery?"
"I do not know. It is just not fair that his injury should cost him business."
Weatherby smiled sadly. "And since when has life even been fair, my dear?"
"He has suffered so much misfortune that I find I cannot bear for him to face anymore."
"Listen to me, and listen well, young lady, because it is not often that I hand out advice, especially in matters such as these. If you love him you must have faith in him. You can support him but you cannot rearrange the world to suit him."
Elizabeth pondered this a moment before nodding. "I do have faith in him. Thank you, Father."
Weatherby hugged her closely for a moment. "No need to thank me, my darling Elizabeth. Now why do you not go and find that fiancé of yours. I believe you have a few matters discuss and it seems that he has received a letter from that Sparrow creature."
"He has?" Elizabeth laughed. "This should be interesting."
"Go," Weatherby said, gently pushing her away from him. It made his heart ache. As much as he wished her all the happiness in the world, the idea of sharing her affections was still wrenching. But even watching her walk away from him he could not help but smile. Yes, he definitely had the feeling that Will was going to make his daughter a very happy woman. He was just glad he was able to assist in facilitating that process.
X X X
Two Months Later
Elizabeth knew on some level that sneaking from her home in the dead of night to visit Will was not the wisest course of action, but it had been three days since he had last called upon her. She did not begrudge him this because now that he was fully recovered she knew he was working extra hard to establish his business. Turner Blacksmithing. It had a nice ring to it.
He sent her daily missives updating her on his progress. Currently he was completing some ironworks and an order of swords and other weaponry for the fort. He had assured her would not soon be climbing a ladder there. Or anywhere else for that matter. Her father had been right. Will's reputation had sustained him through his recovery and with Brown no longer a shackle around Will's ankle, business had actually improved.
Still, she missed her soon-to-be-husband. Pulling her cloak more tightly around her shoulders and making sure her face was hidden in the shadow of her hood, she moved quickly down the alley and let herself into the back of the shop.
"Who goes there?" Will's voice rang out as soon as she shut the door behind her.
"It is only I," she called.
Will put the hammer he was holding down and approached, wiping his hands on his trousers. "'Only' is never a word I would associate with you. But why are you here? Is all well?"
"Yes, everything is fine. I missed you."
He smiled and kissed her briefly. "I miss you as well. But it shall not be for much longer."
"I know. I just could not sleep, and since you cannot come to me, I thought that I would come to you."
"Even though such a trip is ill advised I find I cannot regret it now that it is done."
Elizabeth wandered over to the table where Will's tools were laid out neatly. She picked up one of the hammers and was startled to discover how heavy it was.
Will laughed and took it from her. "I would not advise you to start with that one."
"Oh? And what would you advise should I wish to take up the trade?"
"I shall be needing an apprentice…"
"At your service, my dear sir," Elizabeth said with a bow.
Will smirked at her and pulled a rod from the fire. "In that case, shall we get started?"
He picked up a hammer and gestured for her to join him in front of the anvil. He handed her the hammer and quickly positioned her in front of him. In her left hand he placed the iron rod.
He wrapped his right hand over hers and tightened his grip. She felt the smooth wood handle of the hammer against the soft skin of her palm. It was a sharp contrast to the rough iron wrapped in her other one. His left hand enveloped hers a moment later. She eyed the red-hot metal in front of her nervously. She could now feel the heat radiating from it as acutely as the warmth coming from Will's body where it pressed up behind her.
"Hold on to the rod tightly," he warned as he began to lift their joined right hands. A moment later they came down with more force than she thought possible, slamming into the heated metal. The impact jarred her body and sparks flew. Only Will's left hand wrapped around hers prevented her from releasing her grip. "Push the rod slightly away from us and hit it again," he said in her ear.
He had them repeat the process twice more before shifting them toward the nearby slack-tub of water. Their joined hands plunged the rod into the liquid and steam rose up quickly, hissing its way around them.
It was almost unbearably hot and she could feel a bead of sweat work its way out of her hair and start to roll down her neck. Will kissed it away before pulling the rod from the water.
"There you have it," he declared, with no small amount of pride, holding up the end product, "your first… uh… piece of flat metal." He kissed her cheek quickly. "Well done."
Elizabeth examined the misshapen material in front of her before bursting into laughter. She turned in his arms, wrapping her own firmly around his waist. "I find I am in need of some refreshment now, for indeed, this is hard work."
She wasn't joking about that part. She was stunned at how such a small project could exert so much energy. She fancied herself a strong woman, and marvelled at the strength that Will must possess to be able to do this for hours on end.
"Indeed," Will agreed, setting the rod aside. "I'm afraid I haven't spirits or tea to offer you, but I do have water. Of a fine vintage, I assure you."
"Hmm," she pondered a moment, not releasing her hold on him when he would have moved away. "I had something else in mind."
She leaned up, claiming his lips in a searing kiss, and reaching to tug the tie to set loose his hair. Even sweaty and covered in grime she couldn't get enough of him. If possible, she found him even more attractive this way. Her fingers ran over the muscles of his bare back, scarcely believing he did not wear a shirt underneath his leather apron. Then again, he would hardly have been expecting a caller this late at night.
Deftly, she untied the apron and then tugged the strap over his neck, mildly surprised that he allowed it. He gasped as she ran her hands over his now exposed chest, backing her up slowly until he had her pressed against the wall. His own hands were busy, one tangling in her hair, freeing it to fall around her shoulders, and the other rising up to cup her breast through the material of her dress.
Now it was her turn to gasp. She reached up and nimbly loosened the strings of her bodice before grasping his hand and leading it under the fabric to bare skin. He moaned into her mouth as he began to knead the flesh there, his rough palm driving her to distraction.
Suddenly he jumped away from her and froze. Neither of them moved for a long moment -- her still pressed against the wall, bodice open, hair dishevelled, and him red-faced and wild-eyed, clenching and unclenching his hands.
He took a step back toward her before groaning and turning away, heading immediately for the slack-tub. Elizabeth's jaw dropped as he plunged his entire head and shoulders into its cold depths. When he emerged several moments later he looked much less feral. Elizabeth averted her eyes, trying not to notice the way the water dripped from his hair and rolled down the bare plains of his chest. Failing dismally, she felt her eyes darting repeatedly back to him and her already hot cheeks burn insufferably brighter.
He noticed her discomfiture and a small smile crept across his lips. This could not be good.
"Miss Swann," he said, scooping up a shirt lying on the workbench. He quickly pulled it on over his head. Impossibly, the way the flimsy white fabric hung loosely off his shoulders, open nearly to the waist was just as provocative as had been the sight of his bare chest. "I thought we had an accord."
"Perhaps a renegotiation is in order," she suggested, hating how breathless her voice sounded.
He arched an eyebrow. She swallowed hard and raised her chin defiantly as he approached her. He boxed her in with his arms as he pinned her with his eyes. "I do not generally favour renegotiations."
"Renegotiations are an implied part of any agreement," she offered lamely, unable to break away from his gaze, even as he moved closer still.
"Hasn't anyone ever told you that good things come to those who wait?" he purred, close to her ear.
"Unfortunately, Mr. Turner, patience is not a virtue that I process in abundance," she breathed, as he began an exploration of her neck with his lips.
"Then we are in luck, my lady, for I have it in great quantity," he replied. "Although I feel I must warn you that I have been told when my will is set it is nigh unchangeable."
"Then it appears I shall be forced to adhere to your conditions, fine sir," she said with an exaggerated sigh.
"So it would seem," he agreed, with mock regret. "Although perhaps I can offer you a concession."
"Oh?" she asked, one eyebrow pitched.
"On the night of our wedding I give you my word that we shall continue where we left off," he began softly as he lean closer toward her ear. When he continued a moment later his voice had a low, almost dangerous quality to it, "and I promise to ravish you to within an inch of your life."
A delighted shiver raced through her. "You are a pirate," she exclaimed as she threw her arms around his neck, pulling him into a tight hug.
"And a good man," he laughed, returning the embrace for a moment before gently pushing her away and offering her his arm instead. "Which is why I shall now escort you home."
Thanks for reading!