The boat rocked unsteadily beneath her stool, and Elizabeth Swann smiled at the sound of thunder in the distance. A storm was on the way, or perhaps they were on the way to the storm. Either way, the eleven-year-old was thrilled by the prospect of a rocky evening.
She checked her smile quickly, pressing her salt-chapped lips together. If her father came into the room to see her smiling that way he would surely ask her what she had found so amusing. She would be forced to confess her excitement for the storm, at which time she would surely be subjected to a tiring lecture on the importance of lady-like propriety.
Her stern facade broke with a sudden, irrepressible giggle- being told not to act a certain way, even by herself, made the prospect of doing so all the more exciting. Governor's daughter or not, Elizabeth Swann was none to fond of the concept of "propriety." Her father often sighed and suggested that this was because she had no mother to look to and learn from. Elizabeth thought it more likely just because she had a pulse.
Her laugh sounded again, high and far too mischievous for her station. The boy in the bed before her stirred, sighing, and she clapped a hand over her mouth, eyes wide. When he did not wake she lifted her hand and breathed, "I'm sorry, William." Then, after a pause, "Will."
Her father wouldn't like that either, surely. Boys her age could go around calling each other by whatever names they saw fit without being seen as at all unrespectable. Girls, however, were supposed to curtsy and call them by their full first names, or even by a proper title. Imagine, calling the sleeping boy before her "Mr. Turner."
"Will," she said again, just for the sake of saying it.
Rain began to tumble from the heavens down onto the deck of the ship, and Will shifted again, eyes shifting left and then right again under closed lids. He looked positively terrified, but still too tired to wake.
Elizabeth wished that he would. She wanted to take his hand and walk right out into the pouring rain on the deck, to show him that it was all right now, that he was safe. That nothing could hurt him anymore. Her right hand slipped into her dress's large, lacy pocket, and brushed against the cold metal of the boy's golden medallion. The medallion with a skull... the medallion of a pirate. She wanted to hold it up in front of him and ask if he truly was a flesh and blood pirate. She wasn't sure if she would be more frightened for him or excited if she found out he were.
But the boy seemed utterly exhausted so, led more by compassion than the thought of propriety, she chose to let Will Turner sleep on.
Elizabeth stood from her stool and straightened her skirts absently, savoring the feel of the floor swaying beneath her feet. This was her first real sea voyage and, if her father had any say in the matter, it would surely be her last. The encounter with Will's sunken (pirate?) ship seemed to have shaken him, and he was likely sitting in his cabin this very moment counting the seconds until he could secure her in their safe, guarded mansion for the rest of her life.
Elizabeth would have to enjoy the thrill of the sea, the storm, and the mysterious Will Turner as long as she could manage to hold onto them. When she reached shore she would have to be a lady once again.
Will... a crash of thunder made the boy shudder. It was so loud that it could well have sounded from the deck of the ship itself. As though cannons had begun to fire. Elizabeth shivered, and pressed her lips together, waiting for the violent toss of an impact. Perhaps they were under fire, after all. Perhaps the black ship she was sure she had glimpsed had followed them, to finish what it had started when it had attacked Will's ship.
Then she giggled again, and this time she didn't bother to stifle the sound. She had allowed her imagination to get away with her.
"It's only thunder, Will," she announced, pressing a hand to her chest. Her heart was racing. "Mr. Gibbs says that he has sailed through dozens of storms in the past, and he's all right." She took in a small breath, nervousness again being replaced by excitement. "After all, this is a ship. If it cannot withstand a bit of water we are all in trouble anyway, aren't we?"
She glanced to the boy as though expecting a response. He slept on, but his head seemed to shift in her direction, urging her to continue. She smiled, took her place on the stool once more, and decided to indulge him by continuing.
"It really is rather exciting, isn't it? I have read story after story of adventures at sea. My mother used to read them, you see, and that makes me think that Father isn't always quite honest with me when he says that she was proper and respectable and never bothered with silly ideas like adventures the way I do. If she read all of those books she must not have been entirely dull, don't you think?"
She giggled again, softly. It wasn't often that she had the chance to confess her inner thoughts aloud to another. The maids always shook their heads disapprovingly when she spoke this way, and her father would never suffer hearing his late wife being called "dull."
"In any case," she went on, raising her voice a bit to hear herself over the now-deafening rain, "the stories always seem to have storms in them, Will. It's very important to the adventure. Storms, and lost treasure, like perhaps a golden medallion. And the hero falls in love with a beautiful maiden and..." Elizabeth paused, eyes shining with excitement as she stared past the opposite wall and into the depths of her own imagination. "And, oh, Will, there are fabulous sword duels between the hero and wicked pirates. And they dance back and forth for ages, trading blows, just until you are sure that the hero is going to fall to his doom in the shark-infested waters. Then, with miraculous brilliance he fells his foe, and he and his new bride sail through the sea, hailed as heroes for all of time. It is so..."
The girl trailed off, realizing that she had gotten carried away with herself. Lowering her eyes to the fingers twined together on her lap, she murmured, "In any case, Will, the storm is nothing to fear. It is just a part of the adventure. My only adventure, in all likelihood, so don't you ruin it for me by being frightened by a bit of water, is that clear?"
She had tried to put on her father's "final word" voice during that last sentence, and though her voice had shaken a bit she was still quite sure that she had managed it better than he usually did.
The thunder crashed again and she shut her eyes. Her hands darted out and caught Will's, which remained warm and still.
"Didn't you hear me, Will?" she chided, frowning. "I asked you please to be brave right now. You aren't making a very proper hero by cringing and panicking so over a few thunderclaps." The ship swayed unsteadily, and Elizabeth's stool slid several inches across the wooden floor. No smile came to her face now at the violent rocking beneath her. She closed her eyes briefly and, upon opening them, reached out to brush a lock of damp brown bangs from her companion's forehead. "And without a proper hero, Will, how can you ever expect us to have a proper adventure? Unless," she made a face, crinkling her freckled nose, and then leaned in to continue conspiratorially, "unless you are trying to suggest that Mr. Gibbs is meant to be this story's hero. Or... or Captain Norrington." She paused, examining her companion's soft, sleep-smoothed features, mussed brown locks and thick, dark eyelashes before shaking her head. "That kind of talk, Will Turner, is just completely unacceptable. I have chosen you as the hero of this voyage and will accept no substitutes for the role. And," considering momentarily, "as the only woman on-board able to take on the role of the beautiful maiden, I am really the only one with the right to choose who I want my hero to be, aren't I?"
She peered at him for confirmation. The sound of the rain lessened, as did the violent tossing of the ship. Everything around Elizabeth seemed to quiet, waiting, as she was, for the boy's response. In his sleep, Will Turner untensed. His lips twitched in a momentary smile.
"All right, then." And then- it must have been all the talk of adventures getting to her- the governor's daughter leaned forward and brushed her lips right across those of her sleeping charge. She pulled back quickly, heart pounding as she watched the boy for any sign of awakening. When he did not stir the girl smiled again, and again brushed her fingers through her charge's coarse brown hair.
"My hero," she confirmed warmly. Outside, the storm was beginning to clear, carrying itself off to the north as quickly as it had come in.
Elizabeth was not concerned by the loss. She had survived her storm, and she had discovered her hero, but she suddenly felt certain, gazing down at Will, that her adventure was far from being completed.