The water was cool against his skin. It washed away the blood from his clothes, hands, shredded shirt, tattooed back and dark hair done in dreads.

He rose from the water a few moments later and saw the most beautiful scene he had ever seen.

The sun was rising over the horizon. The tree's fruit reflected a rainbow of colors in his eyes. Best of all, the monster had vanished. In his place sat a beautiful young woman, thin and tan, with flowing blonde-brown hair. A smile tugged st her lips, as she stood and walked to him on human feet, with beautiful, slender legs. Her tail was gone. She was human once more.

He met her on her way there. Embracing her in his arms, her gently kissed her. He looked into her eyes, cherishing the moment. She smiled and kissed his lips.

Hand in hand, they walked into the sun, toward the ship.

She had finally been freed from her horrific curse. Her legs were her own, her voice retrieved. She could speak, she could laugh, she could sing. Her joy was unspeakable.

He delighted in the simplicity of hearing her voice yet again. He caressed her hair, holding her in his strong arms. He gently kissed her soft lips, savoring the taste.

"I love you." she whispers.

He was so precious to her. He was her lover, her friend. He was her true love, meant to be from birth.

Joy had found her at long last.

He knew the hard times were over, the pain was finished. Life would go easily for them from now on, in the typical fairy tale manner.

They would happily live together on his magnificent ship, plundering another ship here and there, raiding a town or two. . . they'd enjoy the simple life of elegant piracy. They could finally embrace life as it was supposed to be.

At long last, they could be happy.

He kissed her tenderly, loving every second.

She kissed him back, loving it more than she thought possible.

"I love you."

She says it again, louder this time. He smiles, his gold teeth reflecting the sunlight.

The words rested on his mind, echoing with every heartbeat.

"I love you."