Title: Correspondence of the Heart

Summary: Having spent over a year as captain of The Flying Dutchman, Will finds himself missing Elizabeth. Blaming himself for his inability to be with his beloved, and wanting to ensure her happiness, Will comes up with a plan that he hopes will allow her to have a good life.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. No copyright infringement is intended. Just a harmless piece of fun, but please don't reproduce this without asking me first!

Pairings: WillxElizabeth, obviously!

A/N: My first attempt at a POTC fanfic, so please be kind. Any constructive criticism is welcome, I can't get any better at this unless you tell me what I'm doing wrong!

The discordant plunking of the organ had started up again. The crew of The Flying Dutchman winced as their captain played his instrument with a less than competent hand. It had been well over a month since they had ferried their last soul to the other side, and every man among them was bored. Whatever was happening in the world of the living, it was severely limiting the activities of the legendary ship. The lack of purpose gave every man time, and most of all her captain. The entire crew respected William Turner, he had saved them all from the clutches of the infamous Davy Jones and returned to them their humanity and a purpose in death. However every man among them was keenly aware that the young captain had paid a terrible price when he took command: forced to leave his one true love behind, and only able to see her once every ten years when he could once again set foot on land.

During the first year of his captaincy, this had not been an issue. Clearing the backlog of souls left by centuries of neglect by Jones had kept the Flying Dutchman constantly busy, and her captain most of all, since it was his personal duty to ease each soul's passing into the Land of the Dead. Now however, a bare four months later, with little to do except sail aimlessly across the sea, the young captain had sunk into what were evidently depressing thoughts. Every man in the crew had seen it, had watched with dismay as the vibrant and energetic young man had become increasingly disheartened and withdrawn. None of them, however, knew what to do. The only remedy any of them could think of was a certain blonde lass living alone on an island, whom Will was bound not to see for another nine years yet. Three days ago, Will had withdrawn entirely into his cabin, leaving the crew to their own devices. Since about half way into the first day, young Turner had intermittently attempted to play his instrument, the ragged tunes becoming increasingly mournful and incoherent. The crew dared not violate the sanctum of their beloved captain, but they were becoming increasingly worried. The organ fell silent once more, and the crew gathered together on the deck to consider their options.

"Something's got t'be done," one sailor said, "Cap'n's been holed up in there for three days now. We canna' carry on like this. Ship should have a captain what does his duty, not one that hides from the world."

"What are yer suggesting?" another asked, "Mutiny? After all that Cap'n Turner's done for us?"

"O' course not mutiny!" the first exclaimed, "But we canna' let him stay in there! Does him no good to be holed up in there thinkin' on his lady love. Jus' makes things worse, it does."

"Aye!" said a third sailor, "What we need is a nice hoard of souls for the cap'n to shepherd. Take his mind off the lonesomes a bit."

"And how exactly do ye suggest we find such a cargo?" another demanded, "Jones' handiwork was all taken care of already. And whatever's goin' on up in the land of the living, it ain't sending anything our way."

"What about the Western Sea?" asked a fifth in a hushed voice.

That brought every man present up short. The Great Western Sea, the expanse of water that lay beyond the Land of the Dead, was the only true unknown for the crew of the Flying Dutchman. They had sailed all the seas of the living world, and all the waters that lay between the lands of the living and the dead, but beyond the Land of the Dead was a place that even Jones had never dared to venture. What lay there only the gods knew, if any. That the crew, who had always privately agreed with their captain's reluctance to sail there, might suggest now that they venture into such uncharted waters was a mark of the lengths to which they were willing to go to help their captain. It was a suggestion that warmed old Bootstrap Bill Turner's heart in a way that he had not felt since his time aboard the Black Pearl. Only there had he previously witnessed a crew so loyal to its captain that they were willing to risk that which they had always feared for his well-being. The fact that this captain was his own son only intensified the feeling, if only William could see the crew now, deeply concerned for their captain. Coming fully up the stairs to join the discussion, he placated the men.

"Now, now shipmates, no need to be going quite that far just yet. None of us has ventured to speak with Captain Turner yet. For all we know, he could just be frustrated with his organ."

"You don't seriously believe that, do ye Bootstrap?" one of the sailor's scorned, "Cap'n's mind is only on one thing, and it ain't no bleedin' organ. It's his lass, and who can blame him really? She's a fine lass, spirited too. Easy to see why he went for her."

"Aye," Bill agreed, "Very easy, but my point still stands. Until one of us speaks with the captain all we have is speculation as to why things are as they stand. Well founded speculation I think, but that's all it is."

"Well he's your son, Bootstrap, you go talk to 'im. He might listen t'ye."

"Aye," another agreed, "Ye've got the best chance of all of us of convincing 'im to see the brighter side of it."

There were murmurs of general agreement from the other crew.

"Well, mates, if that's what you all think then I'll see what I can do. Pray, all of ye, that together we can break him out this, else it looks t'be a long nine years ahead of us…" another discordant plunk emanated from the organ, "and particularly hard on the ears too." Bill added to the general amusement of the men.

Making his way aft he knocked perfunctorily on the door of the captain's cabin before twisting the handle and opening the door. His quick reflexes prompted him to duck instantly, narrowly missing the bottle that had been expertly thrown at his head by the sole occupant of the cabin. Instead the bottle shattered against the doorpost, splattering its dull brown contents over the wood and also splashing Bill as well. Swiping some off with his finger, Bill tasted it, and found the sharp taste of rum on his tongue.

"At least that explains the playing," he muttered to himself.

He surveyed the room and judged by the number of empty bottles that Will had probably spent most of the last three days drunk virtually into insensibility. Of course being immortal this did him no harm physically, but it did serve to confirm the crew's suspicions. Only one thing could possibly drive William to attempt to drown his sorrows in rum: Elizabeth Swann Turner.

William himself was sprawled in the chair that usually faced the organ, but was now turned at right angles so that he could easily face either the instrument or the door. He was looking at his father with some annoyance, as though trying to work out why he was still standing there, which was probably precisely what he was doing. Will's eyes then turned to the dark stain that marked where the bottle had actually struck.

"Damn close thing," he slurred before turning back around. Bill watched as Will fumbled amongst the empty bottles until he finally found one that still contained some rum. He held it up triumphantly, and then, after a few more moments of scrabbling, produced a glass. Holding the two up he turned back to Bill.

"Drink, dad?" he asked, only really managing to ask the question coherently because it was a short one.

"No thanks, son," Bill said calmly, as though finding his son well into his cups was a perfectly normal occurrence. He moved into the cabin and closed the door firmly behind him. Loyal the crew might be, but it would not do for them to see Will in this state. "Might I inquire as to the occasion though?"

"Would have been our second anniversary," Will stated with the air of a man confiding a great secret. It took a moment for Bill to work out what exactly his son meant, until he remembered that he and Elizabeth had in fact been due to marry before being unceremoniously dragged away from their impending joy by Lord Cutler Beckett.

"I see."

"Exactly," Will said, "If we'd been married then, if we'd been able, then we might have lived happily. I might actually have been a good husband to her."

"You're not a good husband?" Bill asked with the intention of provoking a response and hopefully finding out what was really wrong. Will tugged slightly on his goatee.

"Weeeeelll," he said, with the air of a man pretending to think about it in some depth, "I abandoned my wife in order to captain this dinghy of a ship with its not-quite-dead crew. I can only see her once every ten years, and then only for one day and one night, and in the between-time I can't even send her messages or trinkets from my voyages. Even you managed better than that, dad."

Bill was impressed that Will had managed to string so many words together considering his current state, and he brushed off the remark concerning his own absence from his family, it was a regret he had long since come to terms with.

"Son," Bill said carefully, "You do realise that had you not taken up this post, you would in fact be dead, and would therefore have abandoned Elizabeth permanently and completely."

Will thought that one over for a second, or two…or possibly a minute, he was, after all, rather drunk.

"That's as may be," he allowed, "But then at least she would have been free to move on, and I would feel better about it. As it is, she's stuck, bound to an absentee husband by a spur of the moment marriage. Who could be happy with this?" he spat the last word as though it were something foul and bitter.

His expression became even more mournful.

"All I want is for her to be happy, dad. You can understand that, can't you?"

"Aye, William, I can understand that, but have ye stopped to consider that perhaps she's happier with ye than without? That however painful the separation may be, at least she holds on to the hope of seein' you on tha' one day every ten years."

"Aye," Will said, "I thought of that. But tha' jus' makes it all the worse."

"Why's that?" Bill asked, confused since he did not see his son's logic in this.

"'cause I'm still here."

"William, of course you're still here, there's nowhere else you can go for another nine years. The captain of the Flying Dutchman cannot abandon his post."

"Jack woulda' found a way off by now, if he 'ad to con Calypso herself into it!" Will bellowed drunkenly, becoming less and less coherent as he became more agitated, "Hell's teeth, even tha' Norrington woulda made it off by now to get back to 'er! In fact jus' abou' any man woulda figured his way off here by now to get back to Elizabeth. Any man 'cept me, what's actually her husband." He added morosely, "I ain't good enough for 'er really. She shoulda married one o' them."

Bill had nothing to say to that. What could he really say? After all there was no way he could prove that any of what Will had just said was wrong except to have Elizabeth come out here and set him straight and that was no more possible than Will going ashore to see her himself. Will, however, saved him the trouble, continuing to talk.

"S'ok though, I've got a plan," he slurred, "Can't get off the ship, and can't get 'lizabeth on it. Can't live with meself if I force her to stay with me, so I got me a plan."

Suddenly Bill was worried, Will might be immortal, but he only continued to exist at the whim of Calypso, who could conceivably strip him of his captaincy and thus his immortality if he strayed too far from the rules. Besides which if Will had found this plan at the bottom of one of the many bottles of rum that littered his cabin, then it might not be the most well thought out plan in existence. He promised himself there and then that he would do everything possible to safeguard his son, both for his own sake and the sake of Mrs Turner, who was, despite Will's apparent doubt, certainly counting down the days even now until her husband's return.

"What's your plan then, son?" he asked cautiously.

"I was hoping you'd ask that, dad," Will replied, "See to furlfurl…I mean furlfirl…I mean ful…oh just to carry it out! it I need you to do something for me. Can't set foot on land meself, s'not allowed, so I need you to do it for me."

"What's that, William?"

For a while Will did not answer, he simply turned back around and started rooting through the many bottles and papers once again. For a moment Bill thought that he had lost interest in the line of conversation. Not so, however, for a moment later he turned back with a triumphant expression that matched the one he had had earlier on finding the rum, except this time he clutched in his hand a square of parchment. Bill could make out the lines of writing on it, and assumed it was a letter of some sort. Will extended the parchment to his father.

"Tell me what you think, dad."

Bill took the parchment from his son. Considering the state Will had probably been in when he penned it, it was impressively coherent, and intensely noble. Will had clearly composed this missive carefully through his drunken haze. Naturally it was to Elizabeth, so undoubtedly Will had wanted each word to be perfect, to convey as much meaning as he could possibly get across to her. Reading the letter, Bill was dumbstruck. How exactly he had produced such an unselfish child, he would never understand, but Will was always more than willing to sacrifice his own happiness for that of others, others usually meaning Elizabeth since her happiness was his chief concern, but this letter went well beyond anything he had ever seen from his son. Suddenly he was inexplicably and incredibly proud of his son for nothing more than the fact of his existence.

"I think you're a brave man to take a chance like this with a woman's heart, son," he said, but then added in a dry voice, "I also think that if Elizabeth reads this, the first thing you're going to get when you set foot on land in nine years time is a slap upside o' the head for being such a fool."

"I hope you're right dad," Will sighed, now sounding almost sober, "Nothing would please me more. But in the meantime it'll make me feel better, knowing that Elizabeth has the choice and the freedom to make it, at least as far as I'm concerned."

"Then I guess there can't be any much harm in this. If you're sure it's what ye want."

"Aye, it's the right thing to do," Will said with conviction, "I just couldn't live with the thought that she might have wanted to move on but couldn't because of obligation to me."

"Then with your permission, Captain Turner, I'll get the ship under way."

"Very good, Mr Turner," Will said with a smile. That joke never got old between them.

Bill exited the captain's cabin to find close on half the crew standing a respectful distance from the door, waiting with baited breath. Deciding to have a little fun with them, he paused for a moment, folding up the letter and placing it safely in one of the inner pockets of his shirt.

"Well, Bootstrap?" one of the crew demanded, unable to contain himself any longer, "What news?"

Bill held his peace for a moment longer.

"Mates," he announced grandiosely, "We got ourselves a heading!"

The rest of his announcement was drowned out by a roar of approval from the assembled crew, so he was forced to repeat himself once they had quieted.

"String more canvas, we'll need all speed! This here's an errand that can't wait. Prepare to make for the surface!"

The crew leapt to obey his orders while he himself strode to the quarterdeck and took the wheel. Soon the Dutchman was sweeping across the waters with all of her considerable speed, racing to reach a certain point on the trackless waters of the world of the dead that would correspond to the shore of a particular island in the world of the living. The sun dipped lower and lower in the sky, and as it touched the horizon, the flash of green light overtook the entire ship, transporting it into the world of the living.

They emerged in the deep blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, not a hundred miles from their destination. In fact the traffic that daily passed in and out of Port Royal was visible on the horizon already. Since the Dutchman no longer had its nightmarish appearance, it blended perfectly well with the other merchant ships, even if it did look a little dated. The rest of Port Royal went about its daily business, completely unaware that a living legend had anchored some distance off shore. The dock-masters shook their heads at what they perceived as a merchant ship attempting to avoid the tariffs of the port and passed word to the suppliers that only crew of the registered charters docked at the port should be allowed to purchase supplies, but otherwise the Flying Dutchman went completely unheeded. Around mid-morning, Bill and the rest of the crew prepared the longboat, and he and two others rowed up to the docks. They tied up at the docks, paying the shilling fee to do so. The coin they used was rather older than the harbour-master was used to seeing, but the silver was real enough so no questions were asked concerning the Dutchman. Bill had the letter, now safely folded and sealed with wax stamped with the emblem of the Dutchman, in his hand. A second shilling to the harbour-master got him the location of the current residence of the old governor's daughter and he set off at once.

He did not realise that he was on the path to the old governor's residence until the house came into view. It would seem that Elizabeth had done very well for herself somehow. Suddenly Bill had cause to hope fervently that it was her inheritance that had done so well for her and not anything else, meaning chiefly marriage to some wealthy man. Willing his son might be to give up Elizabeth for her own sake, but to find that she had left him already might well break him altogether. Undead as he was, Bill did not bother opening the iron gates that fronted the estate, but simply passed directly through them. He repeated the trick on the door, trusting to hope and luck that his presence would not be too inopportune. After all, should he be met with a doorkeeper of any kind, there was simply no earthly way that he could possibly talk his way into the mansion to see Elizabeth.

He wandered aimlessly in the large house for a bit, until his ears picked up the sounds of crying. Moving towards the sound, he could also discern a woman's voice singing softly to the babe. Moving quietly in the way that only those who are dead can, he walked without sound to a door that was ajar. Within he found a brightly painted room, modestly appointed but with a cradle in the space wear a bed ought to be. Sitting in a chair beside the cradle was Elizabeth Swann Turner, singing softly to what was evidently her child. The child quieted gradually and went back to sleep and she laid him gently in the cradle once again. Bill ducked back around the door as she did so, and so was out of sight by the time she came to the door, closing it quietly behind her.

Bill was frantically running over the possibilities in his mind. The babe had not looked much more than a year old, which meant that it was conceivable that it was William's child. But what were the odds of that? They had only had one day together, although knowing his son and the little he did of his wife, it had probably been a very passionate day and night. Nevertheless, weren't the odds much better in favour of another father? Was there any point in delivering his son's letter if Elizabeth had already moved on? The unfavourable signs loomed large in Bill's mind, and that angered him on his son's behalf. But orders were orders, and his son was his captain. He would deliver the letter after all, but it would be accompanied by a piece of his own mind if it turned out that Elizabeth had so quickly cast aside his son for another man.

"Good morning, Mrs Turner," he said in his gravelly voice, and was rewarded by watching Elizabeth jump about a foot in the air. He then had to duck quickly to avoid the small throwing dagger that blossomed from her outstretched hand. Of course the dagger would not have done any damage to him, but old reflexes were hard to break. Straightening, he examined the small dagger that was now embedded in the wooden doorframe he had been leaning against.

"Why is it," he asked rhetorically, "that both my son and my daughter-in-law feel the need to throw things at me recently when I announce meself? Maybe I should simply stop doin' it."

He did not get a chance to turn back to Elizabeth, however, for he suddenly found himself engulfed in a surprisingly huge bear-hug for such a slip of a girl.

"Bootstrap!" she called out happily. Then, as quickly as she had hugged him, she released him and stepped back as the possible implications of his presence dawned on her. "Is something wrong? Is it Will?"

"William is the reason I'm here," Bill acknowledged, "As to whether something's wrong, methinks the answer to that depends rather on you."

"On me? Why on Earth…?"

"Before ye say anything further, Elizabeth," Bill interrupted, holding out Will's letter, "I think perhaps ye should read this."

Elizabeth took the letter, broke the wax seal and unfolded it.

Dear Elizabeth,

Please forgive my absence, you know that if it were at all possible it would be me presenting this to you in person rather than sending a member of my crew, but as you know I can no more set foot on land than you could walk on the surface of the water.

Life aboard the Flying Dutchman has quieted considerably. Initially we were kept busy ferrying all the souls that Jones had neglected for centuries into the afterlife. It is for that reason that I have not been able to write before this. Now however, all is quiet. We are of necessity cut off from news of the world, save that which is brought by the souls of the newly departed, but no new soul has taken passage upon our ship in almost a month now, so what causes this lull, I cannot say. What I can say is that in the time given to us, while wandering aimlessly across the oceans of this world and the next, I have done a great deal of thinking, thinking of you, and of us, and of the way things are between us and to me it seems most unfair.

I remember well how it was for my own mother to have to live without my father for years at a time as he was at sea, but she at least had the comfort of many letters and trinkets from my father, whereas I will not be permitted to do so, even writing this is stretching the rules by which I am bound and I shall probably not be able to do so again. My love, you deserve far better than an absentee husband, which is what I am; even if it is not by choice, it does not change the fact. The failure is mine, not to have found a way to be with you, and I do not think it fair that you should pay the price with me. So I am writing to tell you that if you wish it, your life is yours to live. You should not feel that you have to wait for me for the next ten years. If another man should catch your eye and your heart, I beg you, for your own sake, to forget about me and make for yourself a happy life. Your happiness means more to me than anything in the world and if it means that you must leave me to my fate on the seas to be happy then so be it.

Even as I write this, I will not lie to you, a part of me hopes that in ten years I shall find you standing on the shore, waiting for me to return. But if it is so, then it should be by your choice, not because of a marriage vow which I, as a husband, have failed utterly to uphold. Therefore I leave to you that most wonderful and terrible of gifts: the power to choose your own way in life. I understand now, from the stories of the dead, exactly how much of a double edged sword the power of choice can be, but in this case it is right that you should have one.

Stay well, my love, and if you choose to move on, then I wish you all the happiness that life has to offer. No one deserves it more.

With All My Love

William Turner

As Elizabeth read the words that must surely have cost William so much to write since he truly loved her, she felt tears well up in her eyes. She had always known Will to be a courageous and noble man, it was one of the many reasons why she loved him, but she had never believed that he really meant it when he had said that she meant more to him than anything. It was one of those phrases that every wife expects to hear from her husband, but now she held in her hand proof that for Will it was the literal truth. He was more than willing to sacrifice his own day of happiness if it meant that she would have a good life. Never had she loved Will more than she did in that moment. Her love was tempered, however, by a strong urge to go out to the Dutchman and give him a swift slap across the face. How could he ever think that she would want anyone but him?

It was then that a very ugly thought reared its head in her mind. Had Will met someone else? Was this letter nothing more than a fob, to salve his conscience while he pursued some attractive member of his crew? The moment she completed the thought she was disgusted with herself for even contemplating it. How many times had Will proved his love and devotion to her over the years of them knowing each other? She had more than ample proof just from what she personally had witnessed, that the only woman Will had ever had, or would ever have, eyes for was herself. Still the thought would not go away. It merely retreated to the dark corners of her mind, where it lay, muttering darkly at her about betrayal and unfaithfulness.

"Oh Will," she muttered, half-sobbing, "What did I ever do to deserve you?"

"I believe my son often wonders the same thing, Miss Swann."

She wiped her tears away as she looked up at her father-in-law.

"Actually, Bootstrap, I do go by Mrs Turner here, but please call me Elizabeth."

"Ah so am I to believe that the child in that there room is my grandson or daughter?"

"Grandson," Elizabeth confirmed, "William Weatherby Turner."

"Another William eh?" Bootstrap asked, grinning now, all his previous misgivings over the child forgotten, "That makes four in a row y'know."

"Really?"

"Aye, my father was called William too."

"Well in that case if you can stay, would you like to spend some time with William Turner the Fourth, while I compose a reply for my husband?" then a thought struck her, "I can give a reply, can't I?"

"As far as I know," Bootstrap said, "Nothing happened to William for sending you this, so I don't suppose a reply will be breaking the rules, and it might make all the difference."

"Difference?"

Deciding to protect his captain's reputation, Bootstrap was deliberately vague in his explanation.

"To be honest, Elizabeth, my son has not been best pleased with his command lately. He misses you very much."

"Then I had best not keep him waiting too long on my reply," she said decisively, heading off to her study to find some writing materials.

Roughly an hour later she returned to the room, clutching in her hand a letter bearing the seal of the Governor of Port Royal. Composing this letter had not been easy, and she had had to start over several times. But she wanted it to be perfect, to leave no doubt in Will's mind that there was only one man in the world for her, the current Captain of the Flying Dutchman. Then on impulse she had gone further than mere words. Taking the letter, she had lightly dabbed on it a few drops from one of her old perfume bottles, one of the ones left over from her childhood so that it was a scent Will would remember from their time together then, and taking a single small red rose from one of the many bushes that were in her garden, she had pressed the flower between two books to flatten it before folding it up within the letter.

Opening the door, she beckoned Bootstrap silently. The grim pirate took one last look at his grandson before getting up. He took Elizabeth's letter and said farewell to her. Then he made his way back down to the port, declining her offer of a carriage. At the port he did not bother rowing the boat all the way back to the Dutchman, he simply willed it back and the boat covered the small distance instantly.

Will was waiting for him as soon as he climbed aboard, only one question on his lips.

"Was she well?"

"Aye, William, she was well. She's living at her father's old house now."

"With someone?" he asked, doing his best to keep his voice steady, although Bootstrap still heard the slight tremor in his voice. Bootstrap sighed to himself and took out the letter Elizabeth had given him.

"I think this will answer all your questions far better than I can, William."

Will took the letter from his father and made to return to his cabin to read it.

"What orders in the meantime?" Bootstrap called after him.

"None," Will called over his shoulder, "We hold here for now."

Then he was below.

Will's hands trembled as he turned Elizabeth's letter over in them. He could smell her scent on the paper, a perfume he had not lost himself to in over a year. To smell it now was almost intoxicating. He even fancied that he could feel the warmth of her touch on the paper. However, he was almost afraid to read its contents. Would she condemn him, as he so richly deserved? Would he discover that she had already moved on with another man? Or would it be as he dared dream, and this letter was promising him that she would be waiting for him in nine years? There was only one way to find out. Swiftly he broke the seal and unfolded the letter. At once the rose that had been folded up within it fell out. Will stooped to retrieve it, and, seeing what it was, hope surged within him. A rose would hardly accompany a scathing condemnation, would it? He set the flattened rose aside reverently on his desk. Then he proceeded to read.

My Dearest Will,

I am so happy to have received your letter. The last year has been a difficult one. Every minute seems like hours, every day like a month or more. At last I can understand those lines we read together once from Romeo and Juliet all those years ago!

What you wrote, however, made me at once both joyful and very sad. Joyful because it expressed the kind of caring that most wives can only dream of having from their husbands, but sad because it hurt me to think that you could ever believe I would want to be with someone else. My love there is no one, in this life or the next, that I could love as much as I love you, and there is no chance that I would take ten years of company with any other man over a single night and day with the man that I truly love.

You offered me the power of choice, but I already made my choice many years ago, when a Royal Navy ship on its way to the Caribbean picked a dashingly handsome young man out of the water from the wreck of a merchant vessel. From that moment, my heart was with you as surely as your real heart is now with me. Now I offer you a promise, that in eight years, seven months, one week and three days, I shall be waiting to see the sails of the Dutchman appear on the horizon, and on that day I shall have a very special surprise to give to you.

In the meantime, I shall miss you terribly, but I am comforted by the knowledge of your love for me, so clearly expressed in your letter, and I hope you will take comfort in the knowledge that I love you with all my heart and will continue to do so for the rest of this life, and all of the next.

With All My Love,

Elizabeth Turner.

When he was finished reading, Will's reaction was a mixture of joy and pain, just as Elizabeth's had been, according to her letter, and for much the same reason. The joy stemmed from his relief. She still loved him! She had promised to wait for him! Although, he reminded himself, he should not count on that promise fully, things could change in nine years, and the choice was still Elizabeth's, a choice he had given her. His pain stemmed from the longing so keenly expressed at the very outset of her letter. He felt it too, but it was he who had failed to return to her, not the other way around, and so the blame fell squarely on his shoulders for this suffering she was undertaking.

Overall, however, the letter lifted his spirits in a way that nothing else could. He felt happier than he had for months now, and to think that such a simple thing as a letter could do him so much good. Perhaps he would inquire from Calypso whether further correspondence might be permitted. He practically bounded out of his cabin and out on deck. At his appearance the crew instantly stopped what they were doing and looked to their young captain. Seeing him renewed in this manner brought a sense of pride to each man. As long as Will was their captain they respected him, and now that he had his old fire back, they were likewise inspired with eagerness. Will barely noticed their stares as he made his way up to the poop deck, to stand with his father by the wheel. Leaning against the rail, he surveyed the island that he had called home for much of his life, certainly the years he would call his best, for he had spent them with a certain fiery governor's daughter, loving her from afar and watching her grow from a young girl into a beautiful lady.

He would never know how it caught his eye, by all rights he should not have ever seen it, but his gaze was drawn to the cliffs that formed one side of the harbour bay. There a lone figure looked out across the sea, a figure that even from this distance was obviously female. He took out his spyglass, opened it up and pointed it in the direction of the figure, but even before he looked, he knew exactly who it was. Sure enough the spyglass brought into sharp focus the entrancing face of Elizabeth, looking out at the ships in the bay. He raised an arm in salutation to the woman who held his heart, who was the centre of his world. He was, however, most surprised when she waved back, her slender hand making graceful sweeping motions over her head in his direction.

For her part, Elizabeth felt certain that the figure waving from the stern of the Dutchman, which she recognised easily, was Will. She continued to watch that figure as the great ship hoisted sails and put out to sea again. Never once did the figure move from the railing at the stern, until the ship moved too far away for her to be able to discern such things. She turned away at last as the ship disappeared from view. Only another eight years, seven months, one week and two days separated her from the day she would hold Will in her arms again, and introduce him to his son. She could scarcely wait…

Finis

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