It doesn't bother Flint at all. Not really. And it keeps not bothering him right up until the point it becomes fucking unbearable.
Silver has been steadily growing his beard since he lost his leg. Flint knows this. It’s in an effort to live up to his new name, the visual confirmation of his slide into something monstrous; wild. Flint knows this, too. Knows the importance of looking the part when one is playing the part. He’s been doing it himself for years, after all.
And Silver, he looks—well. Certainly a fearsome thing now. An entangled moss of hair has darkened his features; the only spot of light remaining is his knife of a mouth and sharp eyes. He's a far, far sight from the fresh-faced cook he used to be and Flint gets it. Really, he does. The restless need to look into a mirror and see a stranger there. It's all achingly familiar, ringing through him clear as a bell every time he sees Silver walk the deck, his countenance grim and his gait heavier than what his leg demands.
Still, he thinks—as Silver leans over the desk and Flint has to watch in horror while his beard almost touches the surface—there's got to be better ways to disappear than this.
"Enough," he snaps, and Silver turns, bewildered. It must be a testament to something that Silver no longer flinches away from him in fear.
Instead he draws closer. "I beg your pardon?"
“Your beard," Flint says, and Silver's dark eyebrows rise.
Abandoning his mission to retrieve the caliper from the other end of the desk, Silver straightens up and pins Flint with a look. "What about my beard?"
"It's—ah—" Flint clears his throat. This is not the right time for this conversation. “It’s very long.”
"Yes, it is," Silver nods. "And?"
Somehow he manages to make that single, tiny word sound infuriating. "And, I've been wondering whether or not you were thinking of trimming the damn thing any time soon."
"Huh," Silver says, after a beat. He runs a hand through the overgrown forest attached to his neck, scratching upwards with his nails like a rake. "I was planning on letting it grow out, actually. I didn't think I needed to trim it. You don't like it?"
That's not the point. "You didn't think you needed to trim it."
The frown grows a little affronted, at that. Silver crosses his arms over his chest. "What, are you telling me you trim your beard?"
"Of course I do!" Flint says, gesturing at his own face. "What the fuck did you think? That it just grows like this naturally?"
"I don't know how it grows!” Silver counters, defensive, “Besides, I didn't think you had the time to tend to it like a fucking houseplant—what are you doing?”
"Sit," Flint says, firm.
All this time he'd been hoping. He’d been hoping Silver would emerge from one of the huts on the island—sometime, sometime soon—groomed at last and taken care of. He’d assumed at the very least that Madi would grow tired of it, the black moss steadily swallowing Silver whole; that she would put her foot down and Silver would have to surrender his neck to a blade. But now that Flint knows there's no reprieve in store he's going to have to take matters into his own hands.
So be it.
Under Silver's watchful gaze he rummages around in the drawer he's just opened and repeats, heatedly, "Sit. We're going to take care of this."
“Take care of—?”
“This. You. Specifically that awful thing on your face.”
Silver sighs, sounding oddly resigned. “I appreciate the gesture, Captain, really I do, but I don’t recall asking for your help on the matter—” Still, Flint can hear him sink heavily into the empty chair on the other side of the desk. "Besides, we’ve more important things to be tending to than my beard, surely. Billy is concerned that there is growing discontent among the men and I really think we should address—ah." The chair creaks as Silver leans forward. "My, my. Those look valuable. And very stolen.”
Flint snorts and shuts the drawer, straightening up with the gold clippers in hand. "That's because they are. You think I'd spend coin on this?"
"You mean to tell me you left some rich prick out there disheveled forever?" Silver makes a face like he’s positively appalled, save for the twitch to his likewise overgrown mustache. "That's just not right, stealing a man's tools."
"He would be disheveled if he were still alive," Flint says, rounding the corner of the desk. He drags the vacant second chair around as he goes, and after a moment’s hesitation sits between Silver's spread knees. "Unfortunately for him, he isn't. Take this—tie your hair up."
With a surrendering final sigh, Silver takes the leather band sitting in Flint's outstretched palm and suddenly his hair is an unruly knot atop his head. Every piece of him usually enshrouded in darkness is unceremoniously revealed; the gentle curve of his neck, the dip at the base of his throat where his necklace still rests, snug. The hard slope of his wide shoulders. The pale expanse of skin beneath his ears, untouched by the sun and shining with sweat. It occurs to Flint that he's never seen Silver like this, even in the before, back when they first met. The whiplash he feels has nothing to do with history.
Under the scrutiny Silver flashes his teeth at him. "Good enough for you?"
"Hmm," Flint says. His tongue feels too inelegant in his mouth to do much better. Honestly, he’s beginning to regret the course of actions that have led him here—here, sitting between Silver’s thighs with nothing but hot air between them—and that, that is a very familiar feeling where Silver is concerned.
When he takes a hold of Silver's chin, it’s warm and scratchy under his thumb and Flint is more than ready to get this thing over with, quickly. Except Silver is now giving the tortoiseshell comb in Flint's other hand a sad, long look.
Flint tries not to grit his teeth. "What now?"
"I wouldn't use that if I were you," Silver says warily. "I tried to comb my hair once. It didn't end well. For the comb, that is. I don’t imagine my beard will be any more forgiving.”
Heaving a sigh, Flint sets the comb on the table. "All right, I'll use my fingers. Stay still. I’d rather not hurt you.” Silver's mouth puckers suspiciously, then, and Flint raises an eyebrow. "I’m sorry, is something funny?"
"No," Silver says, and Flint uses the leverage he has on Silver's chin to catch his gaze. His eyes are crinkling at the corners, amused and full of light; Flint is reminded of a cloudless sky. "I'm just thinking about how things have changed."
That is a loaded statement. "How do you mean?"
"Well," Silver says, and his tongue darts out to wet his lips, once; Flint can feel the motion under his fingers. "It wasn't so long ago that you held a blade to my neck for that exact purpose, was it?"
It hasn't. It hasn't been that long, but in some respects it feels like years, to Flint. Decades. "If it makes you feel any better," he says, tipping Silver's chin up and running his fingers once through his beard to get it to hang evenly, "I haven't thought about killing you in months."
Silver laughs then. It’s wonderful and deep and it echoes in the floor beneath Flint's feet. “That’s good to know, Captain. Death is so final. But life?” He hums contemplatively. “Life is full of possibilities.”
It is uneventful work, at first, getting the general length down to a manageable level. Thankless, too, with the way Silver keeps fidgeting under Flint’s hands like he’d rather be elsewhere. The feeling is mutual, truly, but Flint has never been a quitter and he isn't about to start now.
Once there is a decent pile of wiry hair on the floor between them Flint finishes up beneath Silver’s chin and moves onto his jaw, right below his ear. Not for the first time Flint notices they are endearingly small, his ears. Maddeningly so. There’s hoops through both of them now—thanks to Madi’s efforts last week—and the pink tenderness still present in his skin serves to make them even more charming. Flint hasn't felt charmed by anything in years. He finds the sentiment unfamiliar though not entirely unwelcome.
“Admiring Madi’s handiwork?” Silver asks, and when Flint looks up he’s watching him intently out of the corner of his eyes. His lips are quirked in a little smirk; a curl of smoke Flint can feel swirling in his own restless gut. “What’s the verdict? Do I look like a pirate yet?”
“They still haven’t healed,” Flint says, returning to the task at hand. "Have you been caring for them properly?"
"Er—" Silver says, and Flint rolls his eyes.
He'd noticed Silver's new habit of playing with them while thinking, pinching the hoops idly between the pads of his fingers as if they might grant him some special insight. At this rate his ears were likely to be pink and sensitive forever. The thought is—distracting; Flint takes Silver by the chin again to free himself from scrutiny.
Instead he tries to focus on getting an even trim over the sharp curve of Silver’s jaw. He has to press a palm to the side of Silver’s warm neck to get the right angle for it which is—fine. Silver complies easily, moves as if he’s boneless for a beat, right up until he gives a sudden, full bodied twitch. Flint has to jerk his hand away before the blades can catch Silver’s skin.
“I thought I told you to sit still.”
Silver is—for some reason—staring hard at nothing. His eyes are fixed over Flint’s shoulder. “Sorry,” he says, not sounding it. “I’m just ticklish."
“Is that right?” Despite his annoyance Flint bites back a smile. “It’s probably best not to let word of that get around.”
There is a dangerous spark in Silver's eyes when they slide over to meet Flint’s again, slow. "Why? You think it would tarnish Long John Silver’s reputation if Whitehall learned of his tendency to giggle when his neck is caressed?"
Flint sputters, "I wasn't caressing—" but Silver grins at him, then, quick and sharp, so the rest turns to ash in Flint’s throat. "For fuck’s sake, just sit still and be quiet. Can you do that?”
"I mean it," Flint stresses, mostly to be an arse, but all of a sudden Silver grips him by the knee and uses the leverage to shuffle forward in his seat; leaning into the light, baring his throat to Flint completely in the process.
"Aye, Captain," he repeats, and now Flint feels as though he's swallowed his tongue whole.
It doesn't help in the slightest that Silver's hand doesn't leave him, his knee. Flint wants to shake it off, but feels as though he might fall through the floor if he does. In an effort to save face he hastily finishes up around Silver's neck. True to his word Silver doesn’t move a fucking muscle or say a word again, but Flint can feel his skin practically thrumming under his hands. Or maybe that’s Flint’s own nerves, frayed and splitting at the seams.
At any rate he moves on, faster than he should. Silver’s beard is still a little long in some places but it’s a vast improvement regardless, and all things considered, Flint thinks that’s fucking good enough. The final test of his resolve is Silver's mustache, and without much other thought than seeing this entire endeavor safely to the end Flint begins to clip its corners, following the edges up to Silver’s broad nose. Once that's done he plants his thumb at the dip of Silver's chin—and it’s only because he has to; Silver's lips are almost entirely obscured and Flint isn’t in the mood to slice into them accidentally.
Unfortunately his thumb is on Silver for no time at all when Silver's mouth parts with a gentle wet sound. A new challenge is revealed thus; Flint tries not to stare at the run of his inner lip; tries to watch the motion of the clippers instead. It works. For a good stretch he feels removed from sensation—Silver's breath against his finger, the oppressive run of Silver's thighs around his own, Silver's hot hand still on Flint’s fucking knee—they all give way to the kind of focus Flint has always been able to channel at will. He is quietly very thankful for his years in the Navy.
Though it all comes crashing down quite spectacularly when the tip of Silver's tongue darts out and brushes against his finger without warning. The cabin tilts on its axis. A hundred Goddamned years in the Navy would not do a thing to prevent the tremor Flint feels in both of his hands, then, though he swears he feels a matching one in Silver's breath when his teeth graze lightly over the top of Flint's thumb. Transfixed, Flint can only watch as the tip of his finger disappears into the heat of Silver's mouth.
Before he knows it he is standing and moving around the back of Silver’s chair. He feels Silver’s hand slide off, feels the wet drag of Silver's tongue on his thumb, and the combination of fucking relief and crushing disappointment that hits him is headier than any drink. Roughly, Flint wraps a hand around Silver's jaw so that he can go back to work, and this, this is a better position. A safer position. He doesn't look at Silver's mouth. Doesn’t look at Silver’s eyes, either. Nor his neck or hands. The cabin has started to feel alarmingly fucking small.
There is relief again for a few moments. It lasts precisely until Silver’s breath hits the side of Flint's neck and heat surges all the way down his body, down to his fucking toes. The clippers slip clumsily out of his fingers and he doesn't hear them land on the ground; he can't tell if it's the blood rushing in his body or his heart roaring in his ears but there's nothing, suddenly; nothing but the sound of Silver breathing under him, shallow and unsteady like a fluttering sail in the wind.
It must be the incoming tide, Flint thinks, when he feels himself sway. The side of his face meets Silver's and if he thought he was warm before he was a fucking fool—now he feels as though he is catching at the edges, singeing inch by inch with every scrape of Silver's shorn beard against his own—and it is Silver that turns, at last, keening, searching. He bumps his nose into Flint's, just once.
“Come on,” he whispers, haggard. His hand comes up to land over Flint’s jaw and he squeezes, leaning into Flint’s side in defeat. “Come on, Captain, please—”
The search for Silver's mouth is short, in the end. It's funny, in some ways Flint feels as though it has taken him months to get there. Months of wanting and lying and wanting, anyway. Silver's broad hand cups the back of his head, and Silver's bottom lip slides between Flint's own, and it feels like a lock clicking into place, like a seal over a heart, like the turn of a page. The hum in Flint’s chest grows until Silver is humming too, until Silver's devil of a tongue is swiping hungrily against Flint's teeth, until Flint's legs are trembling and he’s opening his mouth and Silver is panting into it;
"Sit—fuck, come here—sit—"
Feeling formless, thoughtless, swirling inside his skin like molten fucking lead, Flint moves. He never gets to the chair. Silver leans over and tugs at him by the front of his shirt until Flint finds himself in Silver’s lap, knees spread and straddling, eye to eye. The haze clears only when Silver grins at him, sharp and fond all at once, and Flint knows they are standing at the edge of some uncharted precipice again, one from which they could still turn back.
Suddenly, Flint is tired of it. All of it.
He rolls his hips. Silver jerks under him, and the precipice flutters when Silver sways forward to kiss him again, disappears out of sight entirely when Flint drives a hand into Silver’s hair. The leather tie comes undone and Flint twines his fingers into the locks, eager; greedy; immediately Silver hums against his mouth in approval. Encouraged, Flint tugs harder on Silver’s hair and with his free hand begins to palm at Silver’s half-hard cock at the same time, and that is when Silver makes a sound like he’s fucking dying. That is also when Flint knows that he never wants to go back, to the before where he wasn’t allowed to do any of this, where he wasn’t even allowed to want it. Every little noise that leaves Silver’s throat after that burns like a brand, carving themselves into Flint’s bones, and he finds that he wants to be smothered in it, in him, Silver; wants him inside and wants to be inside of him, like a wild thing looking for a home for far too fucking long.
"Do you—” Silver breathes, harsh, right into his ear. His deft fingers slide eagerly down Flint's back, slipping under the waistband of his trousers, and when he tugs sharply to increase the friction between them, Flint sees stars. "Do you have anything—"
Somehow Flint manages to nod before he drops onto his foot and begins scrambling through the mess on his desk. He can feel Silver's open, eager mouth on the side of his neck the whole time, his teeth and tongue and hands everywhere, the soft groans pulled out of him every time Flint moves half-muffled into Flint's skin. When Flint at last shoves the vial into his waiting hand Silver wraps an arm around Flint's waist and kisses him hard, like a thank you, like a reward. He keeps kissing Flint as he helps him tug his trousers down, as Flint steps out of his breeches and his boots besides, as he settles once more over Silver's lap, bare from the waist down, one foot planted on the ground to keep his weight off of Silver’s left leg.
Silver lets loose a low sigh at the sight of Flint’s cock, flushed and curving towards his belly. He uses the hand he has on the back of Flint's damp neck to get him to watch what happens next. He makes Flint watch as he presses his thumb to the head Flint’s cock, as he pumps the shaft languidly, once, twice, as he brings his fingers to his mouth, sucks them down, humming softly around the taste. As if possessed, Flint’s hips cant forward on reflex; he feels as though he’s flying, now. Like he’s stumbled into the white of a dream, like he's going to wake up if he stops staring at the way Silver's tongue is moving. Silver cuts through the haze again. Effortlessly he parts it with a grin, smug and far too pleased with himself. In retaliation Flint takes Silver’s thumb and pulls it into his own mouth, rocking forward in Silver’s lap until his cock drags across Silver’s stomach, until Silver’s grin slips, dropping into a quiet, breathless O.
That is the sight Flint wants seared on the insides of his eyelids forever; Silver, slack-jawed and honest and perfect. Bright like a sun flare.
They both groan when Silver's slicked finger slips into him at last. It’s tight and uncomfortable, burning straight through Flint's gut until Silver slides his other hand down to his arsecheek. Gently he spreads Flint open, holds him there, and Flint feels his eyes roll into his fucking skull; he throws his head back, starting to fuck himself against the intrusion. Desperately looking for purchase of some kind he grips the back of the chair with one hand and fists the other into Silver’s hair, and Silver moans, loud and long, before tipping forward into Flint’s waiting throat.
“God,” Silver pants, kissing Flint’s neck wet and messy, slowly sliding a second finger in once Flint relaxes enough. Flint rocks back and forth with renewed gusto as Silver's awed voice rumbles against his heart, “Do you know how perfect you look, Captain? Do you—ah—know how good you feel right now? How good you always feel—fuck—do you have any idea how ruined I am for you? How completely fucking ruined I've been for so Goddamned long that sometimes I can't even remember what it was like—what I was like before you—I can't remember what it was like not to love—”
Silver hisses a breath and bites down hard on Flint’s collar-bone, and Flint soars far beyond speech, as if he’s ruined himself. Ruined and ruining; burned and burning; he clenches around Silver’s fingers and knits both of his hands around the back of Silver's head, grinding his cock deliberately against Silver’s through too many fucking layers of clothing—Silver shouts a curse into Flint's chest, at that, curling his fingers inside him at the same time, relentless, pumping. Blindly, without a shred of fucking grace, Flint tips Silver's head back and bumps their noses together until he finds Silver's mouth, sucking on his tongue hungrily by way of an answer. It is easier this way. It is easier to convey that sometimes Flint forgets, too; he forgets the Flint who never knew John Silver; forgets the Flint who thought he was all alone in the world.
“Touch yourself,” Silver demands, thrusting his fingers in and out, adding a third, speeding up while Flint fights not to shout, “Touch yourself, Captain, I want to see how you look when you come—I want to see your face—” he abruptly squeezes Flint’s arse hard with the hand supporting most of Flint’s weight and begins to rut his hips forward faster. The angle changes and Flint can feel him now, under him, the rigid length of him right up next to his own cock, searching helplessly for friction. It’s too much and somehow not enough; Flint feels as though he’s about to split in half, like he’s about to die. He wraps his own hand around his cock and no, this is how he’s going to die after all, just like this; fucking into his own fist with Silver’s thick cock right under him, with Silver’s thick fingers deep inside him, with Silver’s reverent eyes on him as he leans forward to whisper low into Flint’s ear; “I want you to come for me, that’s it, come on—come for me, darling—oh—”
There’s a loud knock, suddenly, and the world barrels sharply into focus. Flint remembers he hadn’t had the foresight to bolt the door. Silver’s fingers go still and Flint wants to whine, though manages to reign it in by virtue of some small miracle. He feels a sharp intake of breath against his mouth. Clearly Silver hadn’t thought to bolt the door, either.
Well, Flint thinks. That’s great.
Funnily enough, he finds he can’t actually bring himself to regret any of this, come what may. Know no shame, he thinks, with a bright jolt of surprise: he hasn’t considered himself worthy of the thought in months.
“Captain?” De Groot’s voice floats in. “Billy’s here. He’d like a word.”
Senselessly Flint opens his mouth—though truth be told he cannot for the life of him imagine how he’ll be able to make a single fucking sound without blatantly expressing the fact that he’s a little busy taking three of his quartermaster’s fingers up his arse currently—but then the free hand Silver has on him slips up his back, to his neck, snakes over his ear until it covers Flint’s mouth.
They stare at each other for a tense moment. Silver’s eyes have that glint in them again. It's one Flint has seen before—the one Silver gets right before he does something completely mad; like hunting a shark starved to death; like betting an entire fucking war on a damned hunch—and Flint feels as though he’s tripping into something. It is how he has always felt whenever Silver looks at him, lately; the sensation of helplessly falling. He nods, not even knowing what he’s agreeing to—feeling freer than he has in years for it—and Silver nods, too, before tugging Flint forward into the jut of his shoulder.
“It’s just me, Billy,” Silver calls, loud, and his voice is so fucking steady Flint’s head spins—he bites into the sweaty dip of Silver’s throat just to feel him squirm a little; “I’m—ah! A little indisposed at the moment caring for my leg. I’ll be out in a minute. I believe I last saw the Captain in the mess hall, you'd best try your luck there.”
There is a moment when nothing moves. Nothing breathes. And then Billy is saying, “All right,” and stepping away from the door, and Silver is exhaling, and Flint is laughing, and Silver’s fingers begin to move again.
They are kissing, messy and high when Flint comes at last. He doesn’t have to touch himself in the end. All Silver has to do is bite down hard on his bottom lip, all Silver has to do is curl is fingers deep inside him and Flint is arching and coming, his shout swallowed by Silver’s eager mouth. He ruins Silver’s jacket, his shirt, and most likely the floor in one fell swoop, but honestly? Flint doesn't care. Because Silver fucks him through it, holds him tight around the middle and doesn’t let up on the rhythm they’ve built until Flint returns to the living world, until Flint slumps against him, pliant and groaning.
“Fuck,” Flint says as Silver gently removes his fingers.
He can feel Silver’s low laugh in his own chest. He is not sure anymore where he ends and where Silver begins, and this is also a way of disappearing, Flint thinks. One that he likes much better than any other kind.
“That’s the plan,” Silver hums, and Flint rears back a little to look at him. Silver is flushed and sweaty; his damp hair is sticking to his forehead and his chin is a little spattered with Flint’s come, but he’s smiling, like he’s just won some big prize. In a daze, Flint stares at him so long that Silver’s grin begins to slip. “That is, of course, if you’re up for it,” he adds, quickly backtracking, “This really doesn’t have to change anything. We don't need to—”
Flint tips forward to kiss him again, sliding his tongue straight into Silver’s open mouth.
“Shut up,” Flint sighs, when they finally part. He presses their foreheads together; grinds down a little just to feel Silver still hard under him, just to hear Silver's wonderful, stuttering moan. “I’m up for it, all right?” He rubs his palm over Silver's jaw, his freshly shorn beard prickling against Flint's skin in a way that makes him shiver. He takes Silver's earlobe between his fingers next and kisses the earring, once, just to feel Silver shiver, too.
Honesty comes easy as breathing when he says, "I'm up for anything."
“Good,” Silver says, after a tremulous beat. From this angle Flint can see his mouth curve up into a smile. One that sticks. “That's—that's good. And likewise, Captain.”
"My name is James.”
It feels as though he’s shed his skin. Like he's brand fucking new. Silver is the one that pulls back to look at him, then, awed.
"James," he repeats. The name sounds sacred in his mouth, somehow—bloodless and worthy and good—and Flint can't tell which one of them closes the gap, after that.
Not that it matters.
It goes without saying that Billy doesn't find Flint in the mess hall. He leaves the ship cursing at the sky.