Response to the Father's day prompt by FreedomOftheSeas at the Broken Compass forum.
Summary: Will Turner, newly appointed captain of the Flying Dutchman, is having a difficult time coping with his solemn responsibilities until his bride gives him a reason to see his purpose in life again.
Three Williams ~*~
If there was one thing that was true about William Turner, it was that guilt was his constant companion. For although the new captain of the Flying Dutchman was an honorable, well-intentioned and steadfast young seaman, his conscience ruled his world, and he could not escape the angst that constantly plagued him.
True, in time it got easier to weed out the feelings of guilt associated with leaving Elizabeth behind, his repeated deceptions and schemes of the past two years, and the deaths of so many men at his own hand. He was able to sequester those feelings away in order to function on a daily basis and perform his duties admirably, but still they remained, hidden yet gnawing at his heart, even though it was hundreds of leagues away at times.
Guilt tore at him too, while he guided the Dutchman through her reclaimed responsibilities – the renewal of the purpose for which she had been intended. It was difficult to see the scared and bewildered faces of those he would ferry on their last journey, and it ate at him that there were those to whom he could provide no comfort.
He tried his best to focus on the balance that had been restored and the innumerable backlog of souls who had been damned unjustly, left to a bleak and watery limbo because Davy Jones had turned his back on them for so long. Why it was that he should experience any remorse at what their fate had been was a mystery to him, but yet there it was, pervading the corners of his mind and rising unexpectedly and unbidden.
How Jones could not have felt anything for them was also an enigma to Will, for although his heart was not within his chest, it still was capable of feeling every joy and every sorrow that was his, aching when the sorrow became too great. But Jones' heart was a corrupt one, wounded beyond repair, and Will supposed that with the devastation that the man had experienced, the outcome would have been the same even had the heart remained within Jones' breast.
Will tried to take comfort in the good he did, and in the fact that the crew of the Flying Dutchman, also plagued with guilt, had, for the most part, kept to the ship, anxious to serve her new master and those they had previously forsaken. For them the guilt lessened with each soul delivered to the other side – a luxury Will did not find he enjoyed.
Even his father had seemed to find relief from guilt, likely from the chance to make amends to the dead and to the living, if indeed, Will could be counted among the living. Bootstrap, having suffered the curse of the Aztec gold, and then that of the Flying Dutchman, was quite content with doing an honest day's labor and easing the burden of the deceased. It was enough for him to spend an eternity doing good work and enjoying the company of his son, once forsaken and lost for so long.
After some months of getting re-acquainted, Will was able to ask his father how he managed to eradicate his guilt.
Bootstrap had given him a long appraising look and then smiled, asking whatever had led Will to believe that he had been rid of it.
"It's there, Will, every day," he'd said in that gravelly soft voice. "I've just had a bit more time learning how to bury it a little deeper, so I can enjoy a moment here or there now. You'll do the same in time.
"After all you've been through…" the elder Turner had said, looking momentarily like the guilt was not so deeply buried, "well, if anyone should take joy in just being alive, with what you can still look forward to..." He hadn't lectured; he knew that was the last thing his son and captain needed.
Will had considered his words carefully, knowing full well that his father was right. He missed Elizabeth so desperately, and wondering how he was ever going to wait an entire decade before seeing her again, had made the decision not to wait.
And so, risking the displeasure of the goddess he served, he had snatched a few brief moments during his duties, bringing the Dutchman within sight of the island's cliffs, hoping for one glimpse of his pirate bride. Each time he had seen only endless grass rippling in the wind atop the bluffs, and he had returned to his charges with a heavier heart in her keeping.
Bootstrap said nothing, despite the fact that he regretted seeing his son's torment. It wasn't his place to question his captain, or to tell Will how to live his life. He merely raised a questioning eyebrow when the Flying Dutchman once again would erupt through the tranquil waters of the island's cove, hoping that she might be there for Will's sake, and unable to bear the thought of the pain in his son's eyes as they left again without glimpsing her.
Sure enough, perhaps two or three months into their endless voyage, they waited patiently on deck, all the eyes of the crew already trained along the cliff tops when she'd appeared in the distance, walking slowly through the fields near her home. It was the distant spontaneous cheer that went up from the crew that caught her attention, and her gaze had swept instantly out to sea.
Will, immobilized with the shock of actually seeing her for a moment, suddenly threw himself into the nearest shroud, hauling himself up quickly to be able to better see Elizabeth, who had clapped one hand over her mouth to stifle a sob of joy, and had caught up her skirt with the other, so that she could better run to the cliff's edge.
A distant wave was all that they could share, each of them laughing and shedding tears at the same time. Knowing that he could only stay for a moment, Will pointed deliberately at the spot at which the Dutchman was berthed, held up three fingers, and then pointed to the sun –this spot, three weeks, same time of day. He hoped she understood.
Three weeks later, as the sun was sinking low in the sky, it became apparent that she had, for she stood atop the cliff, eagerly scanning the water already when the Flying Dutchman burst from the depths in all her otherworldly glory with her young captain at her helm. A few stolen moments of waving to each other later, he held a hand over his chest, conveying to her the message of love, despite the fact that his heart was already hers in so many ways. A moment later he held up three fingers, and then waved in farewell and strode to the helm.
The first three visits had been enough for Will, and for a time Bootstrap had felt relief at the glimmer of hope that had appeared in his son's eyes, but by the end of the third visit, when the ship had been summoned to the scene of a burning wreck, likely sunk by pirates, it started to become apparent that those precious few moments of seeing her alive and thriving were not enough to see him through ten years. The next visit left Will more despondent than ever when he'd turned away from her, and he'd barely been able to give them a heading.
Worry and concern for his son foremost in his mind, Bootstrap watched Will like a hawk as they stole time for the next visit, bringing the Dutchman in dangerously close to shore. Her captain pressed himself against the rail of the bow, as if the few inches it gained him made a difference in the hundreds of feet that separated the lovers. Bootstrap knew the elation evident in Will's eye would turn to despair the moment he turned away from her, as did the crew, and he was the only one who remained nearby as that moment approached, as the others had discreetly moved aft.
Barely able to keep up appearances long enough to hold up three fingers to reassure his bride that he would be back as promised, Will turned away, unable to watch her go this time. His eyes met his father's briefly, and Bootstrap would have been wounded with every bit of angst he saw in Will, if it weren't for what happened next.
Atop the cliff, desperately trying to get Will's attention, Elizabeth had been shouting and waving both arms, unheard over the distance and unseen by her retreating husband. Bootstrap saw her though, and when she realized the elder Turner was looking at her from the deck, she drew back the long overcoat she wore, and supporting her lower back with one hand, gestured pointedly at her very prominent belly.
Bootstrap squinted for a moment, trying to discern what his daughter-in-law was saying, and then his eyes went wide as he realized what her message was.
"Ha!" he cried out in surprise and elation, grabbing a startled Will by the shoulder. He began to laugh, and turned Will abruptly around. "Ha! Look!"
Will, unprepared for his father's outburst, was even more unprepared for what he saw when he turned around. There, contentedly patting her very swollen middle, was Mrs. Turner, obviously with child and quite some ways along. What he was seeing took a moment to sink in, and Will was very glad that his father hadn't taken a steadying hand off his shoulder yet when it did.
"When?" he called, as loud as he could, which wasn't very loud as his voice was becoming choked. Quickly Will pointed to the position of the sun, their impromptu signal for time, and then spread his hands wide in a gesture of askance.
Elizabeth held up three fingers, and Will laughed, for one of the first times since being charged with responsibility for the Flying Dutchman. Three months; it made sense, for it had been six since he had held her in his arms.
If leaving had been harder for Will that visit, being away, oddly enough, did not seem so terrible, Bootstrap noted. Indeed, his son seemed to have acquired a new spring in his step, and a smile often followed on the heels of any orders he gave. He has a purpose again, Bootstrap thought, like this ship. His perspective got rearranged. Funny thing that, perspective.
While it had been apparent that the thought of Elizabeth waiting for him had been enough to sustain Will through his duties, it was the additional thought that there was going to be another Turner in the world that gave him the will, not just to exist, but to live. Oddly enough, while the thought of being a father had obviously inspired Will, the thought of being a grandfather had likewise buoyed the elder William's spirits as well.
If Elizabeth had seemed sizably pregnant at six months, it became apparent, several visits later, that that had been nothing compared to the way her midsection swelled now. When Will stood grinning on the Dutchman's deck and signaled her the question for how long, Elizabeth, supporting her lower back more than ever, had smiled and held up three fingers.
Sure enough, three weeks later, when the Flying Dutchman ripped through the surface of the cove and lay there becalmed, sparkling in the sunlight as she dripped dry, it was obvious that Elizabeth's prediction had been precisely right, and she was no where to be seen that afternoon.
Bootstrap knew how terrible it must have been for Will to have to tear himself away from the cliffs that visit, not knowing the fate of Elizabeth and the child. For the next three weeks, they threw themselves into their duties with a vengeance, neither of them able to voice the worry that plagued them.
The Flying Dutchman had likely never known such haste as on her journey three weeks later, with the crew coaxing every last ounce of her great speed from the noble ship as they raced toward that distant cove. Will was running across the deck even as the ship was finding its balance upon the surface, and he slipped and slid along its deck with Bootstrap not far behind. Both men skidded to a halt at the bow, in awe at what awaited them.
There, standing proudly on the cliff with her hair blowing in the wind and a smile on her face, was Elizabeth, holding Will's son in her arms.
Once again, Will was thankful for the steadying hand from his father on his shoulder as he was overcome at the sight he beheld. He might have broken down if it weren't for the rowdy cheer that went up across the deck as all hands bellowed their approval.
Knowing that Will only had a few stolen moments to spend in the cove, Elizabeth very carefully held the babe up for his father to see, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks as she did so.
Will laughed aloud, while his father clapped him heartily on the back again. He cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted up to the cliff top. "What's his name?"
Elizabeth put a hand to her ear, signaling that she couldn't hear his question clearly, but just what Will had been asking became clear a second later, when the entire crew shouted the question to her in chorus, and she laughed.
A moment later Will turned away, heading determinedly for the helm as the crew made the ship ready to leave, the image of his lovely bride and his son burned in his mind to get him through the next three weeks.
In answer to his question she had pointed purposefully at Will, and then his father, and then she had held up three fingers...
A/N: It's never made sense to me that Will and Elizabeth wouldn't have any sort of contact for ten years, despite the fact that he can't set foot on land for a decade. I think two determined, clever, resourceful young people like Captain and Mrs. Turner, who have matched blades and wits with the likes of both Hector Barbossa and Jack Sparrow, would probably find even more ways than the one I've suggested for their first few months, to have time together.