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Hell or High Water

Chapter Text

-1752-

 

The cell is humid, yet somehow still chilly, the cold of the stone seeping through the seat of his breeches. Shafts of light filter through the tiny, barred window, and Pete runs a hand through his dreads, twisting one around his finger until his skin begins to redden. He's beginning to worry, just a tiny bit, that he might not get out of this one alive.

"Mr. Peter Wentz," Governor Knowles announces as he trots down the steps and towards Pete's cell. "I wondered when I might witness your demise. Street fighting. Such a pity it wasn't rather more dignified."

Pete folds his arms and refuses to grant the man eye contact. "I do not regret a single moment."

"Of course not. A man like yourself has no concept of honour. You were bound to end up in chains," the governor sneers, straightening his necktie and flicking his gaze to the chains circling Pete's wrists. "I will take great pleasure in hearing the recount of your hanging. It grieves me that I will not be there to see it."

"What is your engagement?" Pete asks, "Has the Devil called a meeting?"

Knowles' eyes narrow. "Alas - your trial is not to be held here. You are wanted by the crown - you will be transported to England. The king himself wishes to watch your neck snap."

Pete's fists clench. He's never been to England, and has no desire to visit. And whilst Saporta's ridiculously long sleeves usually contain some kind of plan, a rescue becomes somewhat less likely when he's halfway across the Atlantic. "Your Empire will fall before I am slain at the hands of an Englishman," Pete hisses. He rather wishes he believed it.

The governor raises a delicate eyebrow. He's old, paunchy - Pete could knock him down with one swing of his fist if it weren't for the lattice of iron separating them. "We shall see," Knowles says, a malicious mocking dancing in his eyes. "HMS Infinity departs tomorrow at noon. I suggest you say your goodbyes to dry land - you've a long journey ahead."

With that, he turns and leaves. The guard watches Pete, gripping his pike tight. Pete stares, bares his teeth, grins when he sees the man creep backwards. His reputation as a blood-drinking savage is not without its advantages.

His bloody knuckles twinge as he flexes them before him, wondering if it was worth it. Fisticuffs have never been his style but it seemed a necessary fight to pick at the time; now, though, he mourns his freedom. Comfort alludes him as he shifts against the wall, his spine already beginning to ache, his wrists sore under the cuffs. It pains him to look at them - he's reminded of a time he's spent thirteen years trying to forget.

The light of the setting sun begins to fade, yet Pete's thoughts burn into the night.

-

"Time to go, Wentz," the guards inform him, opening his cell door and beckoning him into the hallway. There's a nausea brewing in his stomach that he's never felt at sea - he was rather hoping that a nighttime raid might have crossed the minds of his crew, or at least an attempt at getting a message to Pete. He curses Saporta - he and McCoy are no doubt drinking themselves dizzy at some brothel. Perhaps they didn't even notice Pete was gone.

They push him through the passageways, bayonets sharp in Pete's back, their beady eyes trained upon his every move. Pete's fellow prisoners nod as he passes; madmen, petty thieves, drunkards. At any given time, Pete falls into at least one of those categories. Right now, he rather wishes he was the latter - it might make the whole experience more bearable.

The searing Jamaican sky blazes through his skull as he steps out into the open air. He's always liked it here - the warm breeze on his face, the lush greenery, ruined only by the sprawling, grey mass that is Edinburgh castle. It watches over the bay like a harrier, its claws readied in the form of handsome ships of the line.

Settlers, slaves and merchants alike stare as he's pushed through the streets, some shrinking back, others shouting curses. Pete simply looks ahead, his chin high and his eyes stony. They might have taken his belt, his cutlass and his hat, but he'll keep his pride well away from their greedy hands.

The port is buzzing with activity, mighty coils of rope piled on the ground, barrels being tossed from man to man, boots thudding along wooden piers. Goats are led by their muzzles to incarceration or slaughter - Pete pities them. One of the officers points to the nearest ship - a magnificent specimen, golden flanks gleaming in the sun, its masts and rigging casting a skeletal shadow over the dock.

"That is your home for the next few weeks," the officer smirks. "Make the most of the breeze - it'll be your last taste of fresh air."

"How wonderful," Pete says as they move him towards a swarm of men dressed in royal blue. They make for the man bent over a notebook, a tricorn perched on his head. He stands as they near, beckons them forward with a flick of his finger and a tip of his hat.

"The prisoner, captain," the officer announces, keeping a firm hand on Pete's shoulder.

The captain's eyes skim over Pete briefly. Then, he extends a hand. Pete shakes it with caution. "Welcome aboard," he says curtly. "Mr. Wentz, correct?"

Pete nods. The captain is a young man of slight build - a mutiny would not be unfeasible. Pete could toss him overboard with little effort at all.

"I am Captain Stumph. Cause me no trouble, and you'll find your journey comfortable.”

Pete raises his eyebrows. “No journey to your nation could possibly be comfortable.” For that, he gets a jab in the back and a snarled threat from the officer. Stumph simply purses his lips.

“No need to prove yourself, pirate. I ask only for your respect,” he says. Pete hates him already.

“Earn it,” Pete spits.

The captains waves a hand. “Lock him in the brig.” With that, Pete's dragged along the pier and across the gangplank.

The bowels of the ship are damp, dark. Pete's almost missed the musky smell, the gentle sway of the floor underneath him. He misses the Afterlife, misses her chipped black paint and her greying, leathery sails. This ship is too clean, too white. It suits a man like Stumph.

"You are at the captain's mercy," the officer informs him as he's shoved into a birdcage of a cell. "Consider yourself fortunate that he's not ordered a flogging." The door is slammed shut, and the officer draws three bolts across the seams. He then takes a key from his pocket and twists it in the lock. "Have a pleasant trip, Wentz."

-

After a few hours alone with his thoughts, Pete decides that this situation is rather dire. He chides himself for his actions - he's got away with far worse, and yet one slip of his temper got him caught in the street with a red face and bloody knuckles to prove it. They cast off not long ago, and Pete's chances of escape diminished to next to none.

His cell is bare, uninteresting. There's a small bed in the corner, with no bedding. He wonders how on earth he's going to sleep without a pillow. Then again, he has rather more pressing problems - his stomach has begun to grumble. He'll barely make it a fifth of the way through this voyage if he's not fed soon. Leaning his head back against the wall, he tries to ignore the growing emptiness in his gut.

He's woken from his doze by the shuffle of footsteps and the whisper of voices. Slitting his eyes open, he sees several crew members gathered at the end of the corridor, casting stolen glances towards him. He closes his eyes again. he has no interest in engaging with them.

But it seems they are not in agreement; the footsteps creep closer, the voices rise through the damp air. "He don't look like no pirate," one says.

"He would if he 'ad his hat on," another replies. "I heard he's got teeth like a shark - pointy, like."

"I heard he tore a fella's gullet out with his bare hands," a third man says. "That's what they eat - sailor's guts."

"Does he talk English?" the first asks. Pete can hear the prison bars creaking. "Oi, mister," he calls to Pete. "You talk?"

Pete just sits, eyes shut, mouth unmoving. "Nah," another whispers. "Savages like him don't talk."

At that, a spark of hatred ignites in Pete's chest. He opens his eyes, and says in his most proper tone, "May I help you, gentlemen?"

The sailors stare. Pete enjoys the confusion in their eyes. The first man steps closer to the bars, not daring to touch. "You really a pirate?"

"That's for your court to decide," Pete says.

“Did you really rip a bloke’s throat out?” the second, bushy-haired man asks. “With - with your hands?”

Pete decides to humour them. “Not with my hands,” he says, flashing a grizzly smile. The men exchange a glance. Pete revels in their fear.

“You’ll hang for your crimes,” one of them blurts, “pirates always reach a sorry end.”

“We’ll see,” Pete says. “Piracy seems rather better than the alternatives. I can’t imagine much worse than serving someone who believes they’re your better. Have you never thought of freeing yourselves?

One of the men looks nearly convinced, until the other clips him round the head and hisses something in his ear. "Your words won't sway us, pirate," he spits. Pete simply smiles.

"Imagine how easy it would be," he says lightly, "you wouldn't need more than ten men on your side. You could stick that captain of yours right in his pompous gullet."

"I'd really rather you refrained," a voice sounds from the opposite end of the corridor. The captain strides towards them, chin raised and eyes faintly amused. He's short - several inches shorter than the shortest of the three men - and Pete maintains that a mutiny would be as easy as - well, as easy as throwing a small man from the quarterdeck.

"We meant no harm, captain, honest, we was just talkin' to him and he started sayin' things like that, we're not up to no funny business," bushy-hair babbles, holding his hands up in a show of innocence.

"I'll deal with the prisoner, thank you, gentlemen," Stumph says. "Now back to your duties, he is not a circus freak."

"Of course, captain. Our apologies," one of them says, and they all scuttle back down the corridor from whence they came. The captain turns his gaze upon Pete.

"I am not a warden, Mr. Wentz," he says sternly, "I am not a judge. Your crimes are no business of mine, and your fate is of little consequence to me. I will not hold your past against you - do not try to turn my crew against me."

Pete smirks. "And why, pray tell, should I listen to you, Stumph?" he asks, enjoying the way the man's lip curls at the name.

"I suspect I am less of a milksop than you might perceive," Stumph says shortly, his face carefully composed.

"I disagree," Pete shrugs, "I don't suppose I'd have much trouble lashing you to your own mast and spilling your pretty guts all over your blessed boat," he hisses, searching for that familiar fear over the captain's face. It fails to appear.

"What a pleasant sentiment," Stumph observes, smoothing down the fabric of his coat. "Now, if you'll spare me, I must attend to supper. Such a pity you won't be joining us."

As if in protest, Pete's stomach lets out an almighty rumble. He despises the twitch of Stumph's lips as he turns on his heel.

-

A bed of daggers would be more comfy. Pete spends the night tossing and turning with the roll of the ocean, his neck gaining a nasty twinge and his limbs struggling to remain on the thin plank of wood. He’ll be crippled by the time they reach England.

It’s been over a decade since he went to sleep hungry - he’d forgotten how it keeps him awake, aware of the emptiness within him, his body crying out for sustenance. He rather hopes he wastes away by morning - that would serve Stumph right. The watches change twice before he manages to drop into unconsciousness - and it seems only minutes before he’s woken once again, a fist banging on his cell bars.

“Good morning, Mr. Wentz,” the captain says, "I trust you had a pleasant night?"

Pete snorts. "Yes, quite wonderful," he drawls, dripping with sarcasm. "The king himself would be envious of this luxury."

"A pillow might be of use, correct?" Stumph says, removing his hands from where they're clasped behind his back and producing a handful of linen. "I will provide you with one if you do an adequate job of repairing these bedclothes." He opens the small hatch in the door and pushes them through, along with what Pete assumes is a small sewing kit.

"I am not your slave," Pete growls, folding his arms where he sits and glaring up at the captain.

"Of that I am quite aware," Stump replies. "But if you make yourself useful, I will make you comfortable. You are free to sit and do nothing if you wish."

"Fine," Pete growls. He has no intention of darning any of the captain's linen. Stumph tips his hat and turns away. Pete shuffles as far away from the clothes as he can get.

He's able to stay strong for a few hours - he closes his eyes and tries to make up for the sleep he didn't get, listening to the rush of the ocean and the call of the gulls. But the ache in his belly doesn't fade. He curls up closer to the wall as if the pressure of his own ribs might relieve it - to no avail. The sewing starts to beckon him, the distraction just as attractive as the reward.

It feels like a defeat when he finally crawls over to the pile. He finds himself relieved when the fabric smells somewhat clean - he'd half expected the captain to force his own dirty breeches upon Pete - and begins to search for the damages. By the time he's worked his way through the pile, several hours have passed, and he's sewed and patched each garment to almost perfection. Part of him hopes that if the captain can find no fault with his work, he might be rewarded with more than just a pillow.

Stumph comes back when orange light has begun to pour through the limber hole in Pete's cell. He rather hates the smile on the captain's face as he inspects Pete's work - his light eyes dance with surprise, his fingers run across Pete's neat stitches. "This is fine work," he says, "where did you learn such a delicate art?"

Pete doesn't answer - he won't run the risk of rudeness. He simply shrugs, watching the way Stumph's face lights with curiosity.

"The crew will be very pleased with this," he says, walking away. "And don't think I've forgotten your reward."

To Pete's relief, Stumph stays true to his word. He returns with a plush pillow, a blanket, and - much to Pete's elation - a plate of food. He tries not to seem too eager as he reaches for it.

He's been given two cassava flatbreads, four biscuits, three slices of beef and a small cup of peas, and Pete can barely remember seeing anything more delicious. The meat is succulent, the bread fluffy and the peas leave a sweet taste on his tongue. His stomach growls in gratitude - he barely looks up as he eats, tearing the food apart with his hands and sucking the remnants from his fingers.

"I trust everything is to your taste?" Stumph asks, watching him with faint amusement. Pete nods absently, grabbing for the mug of beer and taking a few blissful gulps. "You are allowed a pound of bread per day, a pound of biscuits, and a gallon of beer - and four pounds of beef per week. You may request vegetables and fish, too."

Pete nods his understanding, chewing on the last of the bread and fishing for the stray peas at the bottom of the cup. He's given up on concealing his gratitude.

"Goodnight, Mr. Wentz," Stumph says, "keep this up, and we'll get along just fine."

-

He sleeps infinitely better with the addition of the pillow. By the time he wakes, it’s bright outside, the blazing sun filtering through the limber hole. If he holds his hand near it, he can just about feel the wind.

One of the crew brings him breakfast - a small mug of beer and a few pieces of bread - before skittering promptly away, his eyes wide with fear. Pete grins at his retreating form, revelling in the terror he brings. If they treat him like a savage, he’s sure as hell going to act like one.

The captain doesn’t show his face for the rest of the day, and Pete finds himself strangely disappointed. He wonders what type of captain he is - if he drinks with his crew every evening, or if he hides himself away in his quarters, poring over maps to forget his own loneliness. Pete hopes the latter. Stumph is no doubt a staunch royalist, willing to give his life for his king. It’s a laughable delusion.

He returns the next morning, however - frock coat brushed, boots freshly polished and waistcoat buttoned around his slim middle, a picture of patriotism. Pete imagines what it might be like to sink his sword into the captain’s belly, to see the realisation that his king won’t save him brewing in his eyes. Pete will take great pleasure in plucking them from his skull.

“How are you today, Mr. Wentz?” he asks, his voice reeking of the upper classes.

“Where are you from?” Pete asks without hesitation.

“Is it not rather obvious,” Stumph says. “England, of course.”

Pete rolls his eyes. “Where in England?”

The captain seems rightly suspicious as he says, “Herefordshire.”

“Your father’s a baron, no doubt,” Pete says. The captain’s eyes narrow.

“He is, as it happens.”

“So what, pray tell, is the son of a baron doing on a galleon in the middle of the Caribbean? Youngest son, I imagine?”

Stumph purses those plush lips and glares, steely. Pete smiles, continues.

“You feel abandoned. Unloved, perhaps. Papa sent you off to sea, didn’t he? All alone. You were - what, ten? Twelve? Have you ever found companionship since?”

“Enough,” Stumph says, but Pete just laughs.

“You’re out of your depth,” he snarls, “your crew will turn on you and hang your bleeding body from the rigging. They don’t respect you, they don’t admire you, all you’ll ever get from them is a slit to your throat. Just you wait, captain.”

“Very good, Mr. Wentz,” Stumph says, except he’s not the gibbering wreck Pete hoped for. “You would do well in the theatre. Except - I am the eldest son. I was disinherited.”

Pete’s eyebrows rise towards his hairline. “Oh? Why?”

Stumph simply looks at Pete, his eyes dancing. Then, he walks away.

Pete spends the rest of the day agonising in his own head.

-

He's going to die. He can't take it anymore - he's been climbing the walls for days now, his body screaming for a breath of fresh air and his bones aching with the need to move. What little there is to do, he does in the first hour of the day, the rest dragging past like trawlers in light winds. He dozes in the day and then can't sleep at night, dinner being his greatest pleasure. He's even begun to appreciate the captain's company - if he didn't have anyone to talk to, he reckons he'd go mad.

"Getting restless, no doubt?" the captain observes one morning. Pete nods, having scarfed down his breakfast too fast and facing a day of nothingness. "Would you like me to escort you to the deck? I shan't give you long, but a bit of sunlight might do you good."

Pete's heart leaps. His head wants to say no , he'd rather skin himself than accept the captain's meagre offering, but his body yearns for the wind and his joints desperately need a stretch. He nods stiffly, hating the light that touches Stumph's eyes.

The captain unlocks the door to the cell and steps aside. Pete eyes the sword at his hip - perhaps he could reach for it when Stumph isn't looking, spill his blood over the floorboards. As if in answer, Stumph places his hand lightly on the hilt. If only Pete had his musket.

Walking with purpose is something he didn't know he missed - his knees creak with disuse as he climbs the ladder out of the brig, through the upper levels until he feels the whisper of a breeze against his cheek. Stumph climbs ahead of him - he wonders how easy it might be to hook his chains around Stumph's ankle, send him toppling to the floor. But he sees daylight up ahead; murdering the captain will have to wait until later.

The sun washes over his skin as he emerges, the air humid, gentle. He enjoys the way the sweat beads on the captain's brow - Pete was born for this climate, yet it punishes its invaders. Stumph takes him by the shoulder and leads him away from the wary sailors. The ocean rolls around them, all shades of blue at once and glittering in the sun. Pete shuts his eyes and kids himself that he is free.

When he opens them, the captain stands by his side, staring out at the sea with eyes of matching colour. His hair gleams golden in a waved ponytail down his back, his skin pearlescent, perfect. He's a picture of privilege. Pete wonders if he'll ever wear shackles in his life.  

"What's your name?" Pete asks, when he realises he doesn't know.

"Captain Stumph," he replies. Pete tuts at him.

"Your Christian name," Pete says, "you know mine. It's only fair."

Stumph turns, looks at Pete with narrowed eyes. "Fine," he grits. "It's Patrick."

"Patrick," Pete says, snorting only a little. Patrick glares.

"Utter it again and I shall gut you," he snaps, turning back to the ocean. Pete laughs, staring along the empty horizon.

It's not quite empty. There's a blackish dot in the centre of the water, heading towards them.

Pete doesn't need the spyglass Patrick's pressing to his eye to realise what's chasing them.

Pete knows his own ship when he sees it.


Chapter Text

"Man the guns!" Patrick shouts to his crew as he shoves Pete back towards the steps below deck. Pete grins at the sheer panic on his face.

"You're gonna lose," Pete hisses at him, his cuffs rattling as the wind picks up. He has to hand it to Saporta - the man can pick his moments. "They're gonna tear you to pieces."

Patrick turns on him sharply, manoeuvring him into the grasp of two of his midshipmen. "Take him to the brig - keep watch. They are coming for him." 

The men watch Pete warily, jumping when he turns and gnashes his teeth in their faces. The captain glares, drawing his sword and pressing it to Pete's chest.

"Do not test me, pirate," he says, his arm steady but his eyes skittish. "I do not wish to flog you, but I will have no choice, should you continue to harass my crew."

Pete simply smiles, sweet and laced with vicious mocking. The men drag him backwards, yet Pete keeps his stare upon the captain until the man turns his back. Pete cannot wait to see him fall.

He's of half a mind to start the festivities early as he shimmies down the ladder and back to his godforsaken cell - he'd rather like to spill some English blood before the sun sets. The commotion on deck fades to the scuffle of footsteps and the heavy drag of cannon and shot rumbles through the floor, the panic tangible. He's shoved into his cell and the door is slammed shut behind him, the men fumbling for the key with shaking hands and whispered curses.

They both draw their swords. It won't be enough. 

Pete waits for what seems like hours, propped against the wall and listening intently for the sounds of slaughter. The limber hole shows him very little - he can just about see the row of gun ports above him, the stern obscuring the horizon. When the ship sways the right way, though, he swears he catches a glimpse of grey sails. 

His suspicions are confirmed when all of a sudden, his world lurches, the wood around him letting out a pained shriek and the floor shuddering violently beneath him. Saporta always was a little too trigger-happy. He hears the crack of gunfire followed by the low, rumbling grunt of cannon - he dreads to think what Stumph's men are doing to his beloved ship.

The guards cower with each blow, clutching their swords tight and curling their fingers through the bars of Pete's cell. Pete would bite them off if he knew where they'd been. The shots continue - he wonders how many are dead already. He can't decide whether he'd rather have Stumph's lifeless corpse brought to him on a platter, or run the man through himself. He hopes Saporta's found his sword.

Shouts and pained screams ring from up on deck, the familiar shrieks of swords being drawn slicing through the air. Pete huffs a sulking breath - he feels rather left out of proceedings. They’d better have saved him an sailor or two.

"…this tarnal ship is so damned big , we'll never never bloody - oh," Travie's voice rings through the corridor as he jumps from the ladder and lands with a thud. Pete grins. The guards reel backwards. "Why, good morning, gentlemen." He's easily six inches taller than both of the midshipmen, and his broadsword is as wide as their faces.

"Avast!" the mousier guard squeaks, a valiant attempt that's rather ruined by the abject terror on his face. When Ray jumps from the ladder behind Travie, an axe held steady in his hands, the guards exchange a knowing glance. They're going to die.

Travie acts fast - he lunges forward and runs his sword through the mousy guard's chest as if it were butter. The other manages to parry a few blows, stepping over the body of his fallen comrade before Travie's blade slices through his throat. Travie searches his coat for the key, then lets him fall to the floor, bright red spreading rapidly across his uniform.

"About time," Pete says as Travie sticks the key into the lock.

"You're lucky we didn't abandon you, you damned Nancy-boy," Travie spits, pulling the door open and striding inside. Pete gets to his feet just in time for Travie to rush at him.

Before he knows it, Travie's sword has clattered to the floor and he's scooped Pete up in a bone-crushing hug, Pete's feet lifting slightly off the ground and his face squashed to Travie's shoulder. He laughs as hard as he can with his restricted lung capacity, the smell of sweat and rum filling his nostrils. He's missed it.

As Travie releases him, Ray claps him on the shoulder, baring his yellowing teeth and offering Pete his axe. "No, thanks," Pete says, but gives Ray's arm a squeeze of gratitude. "I want my bloody sword back."

"I'm surprised you can still walk," Travie remarks as they stride from the cell, Pete sandwiched between them, "did they flog you, at least?"

Pete shakes his head. "Captain's a lily-liver. Wouldn't lay a hand on me."

Travie snorts. "I doubt that very much. Saporta nearly lost an arm to the little bugger. He's a dab hand with a sword, I'll give him that."

"Is he, now," Pete muses, "not dead yet, then?"

"I believe we agreed to let you do the honours," Travie says, his smirk audible. Pete throws him a hungry grin, then follows Ray up the ladder.

The upper levels are wrecked; beams lie in splinters or in the heads of unfortunate crew members, a laughing wind whistles through gaping, gnashing holes in the opposite flank. The cannon are devoid of movement, bodies strewn over them like desperate lovers, chests split and skulls splintered.

The deck is a graveyard. As he emerges, Pete comes face to face with the glazed eyes of a man whose body is nowhere to be seen. When he steps into the fresh air, he kicks the head across the deck and takes a deep breath.

"Pete!" a familiar voice cries, "hermano, at long last!" Saporta bounds across the corpse-strewn deck, brandishing his sword and a set of sharp teeth. "We thought you'd dropped off the perch!"

"You're bloody late, Duke of limbs," Pete sneers, but it's all in good faith - he's never been so relieved to see Saporta's awkward frame galloping towards him.

They've made an utter mess of the deck - a large number of Pete's crew have pinned down the blue-coats or have them at gunpoint, killing those that struggle. Grappling hooks have bitten into the fine varnish of the ship, shackling the two ships together. The staircase is in pieces, scattered with dying flames - the mizzen-mast has collapsed, taking the rigging with it. Pete's rather impressed that their comparatively small vessel was able to do so much damage.

But Travie was right - sure enough, a trail of red seeps across Saporta's left sleeve, and he keeps the arm close to his body even as he chatters to Pete. Pete feels a flash of anger at the man who did this, and scans the boat for its blessed captain. He rather hopes Saporta got the better of him.

"Where is our host," Pete asks, and as if in answer, a shout carries from across the deck. The captain is struggling in the grasp of Jones and López, his legs kicking frantically and his weaponless arms flailing until Jones gets an arm around his neck and a sword across his chest. It's a rather amusing scene.

Saporta shakes his head, motioning towards his injury with the hilt of his sword. "Have you seen this? Little rascal," he spits, "I look forward to seeing him disembowelled."

"I look forward to doing the disembowelling,"Pete replies, raising the cuffs around his wrists. "He's had it coming."

Pete can feel the eyes of the captured crew upon him as he approaches their squirming captain flanked with Travie's broadsword and Ray's axe. Terror flashes across Stumph's face, his polished boots scuffing the deck as he attempts one last valiant escape before Travie presses the tip of his sword to the centre of his chest.

"Where's the key," Travie grunts, gesturing to Pete's cuffs. Stumph pointedly snaps his mouth closed. Pete has to laugh at his sheer tenacity.

"Patrick," Pete says, "this is not the time to be honourable. Look around you, captain. Look what's become of your ship, your crew."

Stumph does look. The sails of the broken mast are curled and blackened with flames, dozens of Patrick's men lie dead, dozens more stand with swords to their throats, their gazes trained upon Pete.

"The key, Stumph," Pete says, holding out his palm. Patrick spits into it. This earns him a crackling twist of his shoulder and the bite of a blade into his neck. Pete smiles. He supposes that this will be rather enjoyable. "Search him," he orders his men, and they pounce upon Patrick, their hands disappearing into his jacket and wrestling with the belt at his waist.

López emerges triumphant, throwing the key towards Saporta. Pete's wrists ache with the need to be freed as Gabe fumbles with the clamps, pushing the key into place and letting the bar spring free. His skin is purplish where the cuffs have rubbed, blisters beginning to puff up around the bones. Memories he'd much rather forget stir in the back of his mind.

He decides there and then that he'll show no mercy. He turns back to Stumph, bares his teeth in the man's face until he winces. Patrick probably thinks Pete hasn't noticed the way his eyes keep flicking to the writhing form of his first mate, propped up against a length of mast with a scarlet gash across his chest.

"Saporta," he muses, pointing to the man lazily, "take care of that one, would you?"

"No!" Stumph cries all of a sudden, surging forward in the arms of his captors. "No more."

Saporta draws his sword and brushes it underneath the first mate's chin. "What's it worth to you," Pete growls, watching Patrick squirm.

"You have murdered enough innocent men," Stumph says, "leave us be."

Pete barks a laugh at his audience. "Oh, the hypocrisy of the British Empire. I suppose you're expecting mercy, Patrick?"

The captain blinks those big blue eyes at Pete, eyes that no doubt got him whatever he wanted back in England. "Take what you wish from us - leave our lives intact."

Pete pretends to consider it. "How tempting. But - methinks that would not serve our reputation."

"A duel, then?" Patrick blurts, his gaze shifting from Pete to the blade at his first mate's throat. "If you are vanquished, you shall leave us be."

"And if I win?" Pete asks, the prospect of a challenge piquing his interest, "I can do whatever I want with you and your pathetic crew?"

"I - uh," Patrick stammers, and Pete can almost see him weighing up the risks, when in fact the biggest risk posed is Pete's ever-present desire to throttle those who waste time. "Fine. As you wish."

Pete grins, waving a hand at Saporta. He gives the first mate a snarl and a kick, but removes his sword from the man's throat. That reminds Pete - "Where are my effects?"

"His office," Williams calls from behind Pete, her arms full of what looks like all the gold she can carry and Pete's hat perched on her head. She shakes it off her head in front of Pete and lets his belt drop from her grasp. "Good to see you, captain."

"And you," Pete says, brushing the dust off his beloved hat and placing it on his head. He grabs for his sword with greedy hands, unsheathing the blade and gazing at the way the light bounces from its flawless surface. It fits perfectly in his hand - he feels alive once more. "Well, Mr. Stumph. Shall we?"

With caution, Jones and López release Patrick, who brushes a strand of loose hair behind his ear and smooths down his jacket. His sword lies a few feet away, bright with blood and boasting ornate patterns on the hilt and engraved in the blade. Pete looks forward to taking it for himself.

A hand grabs his shoulder, and Saporta's tall frame leans over him. "You sure you wanna do this?" he whispers, "he's nastier than he looks."

Pete rolls his eyes. "If he wins, we kill him anyway," he shrugs, and Saporta smiles. He won't win, though. Pete tests the weight of his sword in his hand. At last, he feels complete.

But Patrick's sword still lies abandoned - the captain has instead turned his attentions to his first mate, pressing a large piece of the topgallant sail tight to the wound. He helps the man sit himself up, guiding his hand to the fabric at his chest. They exchange a few words that Pete cannot hear, and then Patrick stands, making for his sword.

He's nervous - it's written in his body language, in the way his eyes flash from Pete to the audience, the way his hand fidgets around the grip of his sword. Pete relaxes his shoulders and lifts his chin - nothing spooks a coward like confidence. A bold attack and Patrick will crumble.

"We fight 'til first blood," Pete says, adjusting his hat and putting his right foot forward. Patrick touches his fingers to his forehead, chest and shoulders in the sign of the cross, and does the same. Pete smirks at him - his God won't save him now.

Pete makes an elaborate show of bowing to Patrick, bringing his sword to his nose in mock-salute. Travie and Saporta grin from the sidelines - members of Patrick's crew struggle in the grasp of their captors. Patrick's bow is stunted. Pete places his left hand behind his back.

"Preparados," Saporta calls, and Pete takes a deep breath, meeting Patrick's fluttering gaze, "listos - ya!"

Pete dives forward, aiming a heavy strike at Patrick's non-dominant side, expecting a simple quarte block which will leave Patrick's right side unprotected. Instead, he's met with thin air - and Patrick's sword is swinging for his head.

He parries just in time, his arm jarring with the strength of the strike, his strategy falling to pieces as he considers that Patrick's actually rather good at this, another blow coming at him in the next half second. He's driven backwards as Patrick dances across the deck, his hand steady and his eyes sharp.

Pete lets out a growl as he redoubles his attack, aiming a strike at Patrick's gut and another at his chest when he jumps backwards. The snap of swords through the air creates a strange rhythm with the sounds of their feet against the floorboards, their spectators silent, waiting.

Pete's limbs begin to tire as they fight, his arm burning with the strain of endless parries and his blistered wrist beginning to scream with pain. He won't lose, though - he can't lose to the man who locked him up, who fought battles against his kin, who stands for the enslavement of millions.

Their swords clash close to the hilt, and it becomes a battle of strength; Pete pushes forward as hard as he can, hoping to throw Patrick to the ground, but Patrick stands steady, his arm rigid, unmoving, their faces close enough that Pete can feel Patrick's hot breath on his face. His bottom lip is clasped tight between his teeth, his light eyebrows knotted across his forehead. He still thinks he stands a chance.

But Pete's growing tired of the games. He's been beaten by far too many white men - he won't tolerate another. Without further ado, he brings his left hand from behind his back and drives his fist into Patrick's face.

The effect is dramatic and immediate; Patrick cries out, his hand flying to his face and his footing faltering. Pete takes this chance to hook his ankle around Patrick's calf and send him tumbling to the floor, his body collapsing like that of a rag doll. He kicks his feet like a child having a tantrum until Pete steps on his right wrist and jabs the tip of his sword into Patrick's shoulder.

"I win," he grins, pushing down on Patrick's wrist until he winces and lets go of his sword.

"You cheated," Patrick spits, writhing at Pete's feet, "that was not fair, I-"

"Do not speak of fairness, coloniser," Pete snarls, sweeping Patrick's sword from the ground and hovering the tip over Patrick's throat. "You lost."

Pushing himself up onto his elbows, Patrick takes a breath, his eyes falling shut. "Please - make it quick," he says softly, raising his chin to expose his neck to Pete's blade.

Pete snorts a laugh, gesturing to Patrick and gazing around at his captive crew. "Sailors!" he cries, "Look to your captain. See how he cowers, how he begs. He would rather offer himself to my sword than face living with his shame. But my terms were clear - I may do as I wish. Jones - seize him."

The large, muscled man pushes to the front of the crowd and hooks his hands under Patrick's arms, hoisting him up and holding him in place. Patrick barely struggles - instead he simply glares, defeated. "What are you going to do to me?"

Pete grins, grabbing Patrick's hat from his head and running his hand over Patrick's hair. He knows how these Navy men think - Patrick's long hair is his status, his honour. Throwing Patrick's sword to Saporta, he takes a dagger from his belt, yanks Patrick's head forward and drags the blade from the nape of Patrick's neck to his crown. Patrick's eyes widen in horror as his pony-tail comes away in Pete's hand.

He holds it aloft amidst the cheers of his crew, watching it gleam in the sunlight, fastened in the middle with a black ribbon. "This -" Pete shouts, "this is your proof! Men of HMS Infinity, may this remind you of your captain; for he will not be with you for many moments longer."

Pete turns upon Patrick, who's cheeks have blushed scarlet, "I will, in fact, be merciful," Pete says, "I will not spill your blood over this deck. I will not snap your bones and feast upon your insides, no - I will sell you. Perhaps back to the Navy, if you're lucky - to a brothel if you're not. May your crew spread the word that their captain is stolen. I will accept only the most handsome of prices."

He throws the pony-tail towards Patrick's first mate, then beckons to his crew. "Enough theatrics - take him aboard the Afterlife!"

-

Pete's crew are not kind to white men. They wrestle Patrick across the gangplank and shove him to the floor in the centre of the deck, their hands grabbing for his belt, his jacket. Their dead are passed across, a bitter reminder of Patrick's sins, and Patrick pays for it in nails raked over his skin and kicks sunk deep into his gut. Pete follows, preoccupied with the feeling of renewed freedom and the deck of his own ship underneath his feet.

She feels like home. Pete strokes his hand along the billowing fabric of her mainsail, raised high to push them further from the wreck of Patrick's ship. She took a few hits herself - her flank is littered with holes but her deck remains unscathed. The same cannot be said for Patrick.

They each take a scrap of Patrick's hair for themselves, raking daggers across his scalp until Patrick's head resembles an unkempt lawn. His frock coat is cut from his back and his shoes are pulled from his feet.

Williams aims a sharp kick at his crotch and he screams with the pain, curling his knees to his chest and hiding his head in his arms. Pete allows them their fun for several moments more, until he hears a sword unsheathed and shoves his way into the mob.

"Stop, now," he commands, and several disappointed arms are lowered. He nudges Patrick with his foot, and the groan he receives confirms that the man is, in fact, still alive. "We must keep him relatively intact."

"He don't need his teeth," Jones snarls, "or his tongue."

"Pull his eyes out," Williams spits, "make him eat them."

Maina points to his hook. "I am owed a hand," he says, "but I will settle for a foot."

Pete simply shakes his head. "I'm not cutting any bits off him," he says, and when the group begins to protest, "anyone who does shall face the cat."

"Make him face it!" someone shouts, and the crew murmur their agreement.

Pete considers it for a few moments, looking down at Patrick, who is slowly uncurling himself. His nose is bloody and his lip is split - the red is stark against his porcelain skin. Without his coat and shoes, he's dressed entirely in white. It would be an awful shame to stain such fine cloth.

He thinks he knows how to satisfy his crew. "What lovely stockings those are," he cooes, pointing at Patrick's calves. Patrick looks at Pete in alarm, and the crew leers.

"Take them, if you must," Patrick spits, kicking his legs out. "I care not."

Pete's crew waste no time in stripping the fabric from his legs and fighting for it among themselves. "And that shirt," Pete says, "also rather lovely."

Patrick glares. "I am not giving you my shirt," he says, folding his arms tight across his chest. Pete simply smiles.

"The shirt or the breeches, the choice is yours," he says sweetly, and behind him, his crew jeers. Stumph's eyes are stony and his jaw set - but nevertheless, he begins to unbutton his shirt. He's barely got to the final button before it's wrestled over his shoulders, and he struggles to pull his arms from the sleeves before the crew claim them for themselves, too.

"Feed him to the cat!" Jones shouts, and the crowd howls with agreement. Pete looks up, catching Saporta's eye. The man shrugs, taking a bite of his apple. Stumph's health is of no odds to Pete - Pete would take great pleasure in slashing the man's back open in front of his crew. Pete opens his mouth to give the order.

"I showed you mercy," Patrick says suddenly, not looking at Pete but hunched over his own knees. "I did not punish you unjustly."

Pete looks upon his dishevelled form - his fingers are clasped tight around the delicate crucifix at his throat, blood oozes from the grazes over his scalp. He's a pitiful sight. And so, Pete takes pity on him.

"Fine," Pete says, getting to his feet and addressing his crew. "He will not face the cat."

The crew boos and hisses, shouting curses in their various languages, but Pete waves a hand, motioning for them to withhold their judgement.

"However - men who act like boys must be punished accordingly. A caning, methinks - a caning across the behind."

At this, the crew roars with laughter, surging forward as Pete steps back. They lift Stumph as if he were made of cloth and drape him over the nearest cannon, his limbs flailing and his face a tasteful fuchsia. Pete may not have the heart to truly hurt Patrick - but good God, he can humiliate him.

"Saporta," Pete calls, "fetch the cane."

The man grins and nods, tossing his apple core out into the ocean and making for the stern. The crew have pinned Patrick down and tied his body to the cannon with a length of rope, shoving and pinching and caterwauling at the captain as he squirms. Pete watches them in amusement for a few seconds before he calls for them to back away. Not without grumbling, they do so, pointing and smirking when they spot Saporta with the cane.

Pete wanders towards a struggling Stumph, pushing to the front of the group and crouching down next to the man's reddened face. "Comfortable?" he asks, watching Patrick's eyes darken as Saporta rounds on him.

"Rot in Hell," Patrick snarls, his shoulders straining as he attempts to look Pete in the face. Pete just laughs.

"My darling crew," he says to the group, extending his gaze even to those who have kindly decided to do their jobs during the commotion, "I'd first of all like to thank you for risking your lives to fetch me - without you, I would be hanged. Secondly - those that lost their lives will not be forgotten. Tonight, we shall honour them - with praise and drink and luck for their final voyage. Finally, I'd like to thank Captain Patrick Stumph for providing us with a fine afternoon's entertainment - may his shame slake your bloodlust," Pete finishes amidst the crew's roars of encouragement.

Pete looks towards Saporta and nods. When he lands the first blow, the crowd cheers.

With each hit, they seem to become louder, shuffling closer to Stumph, spitting curses and insults. Pete watches, lounging against the taffrail and enjoying the way Patrick's face squeezes in pain with each crack of the cane across his behind. His blush has somehow extended to his shoulders, too.

Saporta gives him sixteen strokes, the final six cracking around the deck with the force of the blow, the crew growing ever more frenzied as they count them off. Stumph twitches, hisses, but keeps from crying out as the last few hits are dealt, his hands knotted tight to the cannon and his knuckles bleached stark white. Pete admires his composure - he'd half expected the man to blub as soon as a single dirty pirate laid hands on him.

When it's finally over, Saporta pulls him upright and the crowd begins to dissipate, a few pausing to shout insults into Patrick's face and another landing a stinging smack to Patrick's behind. Saporta has to wrap his good arm tight around Stumph just to keep him from jumping on the assailant, his limbs flailing and his teeth gnashing. He looks utterly pathetic.

"Enough of that," Pete tells him, unhooking the cuffs from his belt and grabbing hold of one of Patrick's forearms, "you have humiliated yourself quite enough for one day."

He takes great pleasure in clapping the irons around Patrick's wrists - he tightens them until Stumph winces, his fingers coiling with pain. "Let's see how you like it," Pete hisses, letting Patrick's wrists drop and watching his face burn with shame. His cheeks suggest he wishes for death - his eyes wish it instead upon Pete.

Pete simply bares his teeth. "Lock him in the brig."

Chapter Text

Patrick is miserable. The bowels of the ship are shadowed, candle-lit, suffocatingly humid during the day and with a chill in the air at night. It's no HMS Infinity - his cell is barred, barely big enough for him to stretch his body out on the floor. He sleeps, when he can, curled in the corner between the bars and the walls of the ship, listening to the sounds of the sea and convincing himself that he's back in his bunk with only one pirate to worry about.

He's surrounded by them. They bring him a meal or two every so often, gangs of them mocking and laughing and attempting to provoke him. He hates them - every single one of them.

The captain is insufferable. He shows his face every few days, throws a few gloating lines at Patrick and then turns on his murderous heel, his dreads swinging behind him as if in smug farewell.

"How is the backside?" he asks on one such occasion, grinning through the lattice of bars at Patrick.

Patrick grimaces, his behind stinging as he shifts where he sits. "Fine," he says, maintaining steady eye-contact with the captain. "And yours?"

"Positively blushing," Pete leers. "I must say, you fulfilled a personal fantasy of mine. I've never seen an Englishman quite so red in the face. Or, indeed, the arse."

"To Hell with you, pirate," Patrick hisses, "the Navy will hang you."

"Will they, now," Pete says, glancing around the room as if searching for something, "strange - I don't see them anywhere. They're clearly eager to get you back."

Patrick scowls. "They will not forsake me," he states, willing himself to believe it.

Pete simply scoffs. "Do inform me when you give up hope."

He leaves. Hours of silence stretch like the ocean in front of Patrick.

-

Pete is not a kind man. He gives Patrick the bare minimum he needs to survive - a small portion of bread, the occasional slice of meat, a cup of rum - and nothing else. Patrick aches from the lack of bedding, his neck twinging something chronic. He won't ask for any, though. He's grown rather attached to his last shred of dignity.

The quiet drives him mad. He thrives off human interaction, it seems, contrary to his former opinions of himself. The solitude is not secure, nor peaceful - it's aggressive, pushing at him, enveloping him. He thinks of his nights on the Infinity, playing cards and drinking until the stars revealed themselves, his heart as full as his belly.

Now, he feels like a wretch. They've not given him any more clothes - he sits only in his breeches, his spine grating against the wall. He feels weak from lack of movement, his arms cracking as he stretches them. Running his fingers over his head, he feels the remnants of his ruined hair - his scalp is scabbed and tender, stubble beginning to creep through alongside pitiful tufts of red-blond. He mourns its loss - he's practically a commoner, now.

The captain says so on his next royal visit - he seems to take pleasure in seeing Patrick in such a state, his eyes glinting with something akin to greed.

"Tell me how it feels," Pete says, "describe it."

Patrick glares at him. "You cannot force me to humiliate myself."

"Would you like me to leave?" Pete says, a smile gracing his lips as Patrick's glare fades. He considers the rush of panic that leapt to his chest as he considered the prospect of this being his only interaction for the rest of the day. "You'd like the company, correct? These little conversations are the highlight of your day. I know exactly how you feel, Patrick. Or have you forgotten that this is precisely how you yourself treated me?"

"I was merciful," Patrick protests, "I gave you bedding, a full plate, a breath of fresh air. You have not done the same for me."

Pete raises an eyebrow. "You have a twisted idea of mercy. What happened to your teachings, believer? Love thy neighbour. Unless thy neighbour looks like me, yes?"

Patrick shakes his head. "I am concerned not with how you look, nor the colour of your skin. I did not judge you - do not presume to judge me."

"You think I do not know the white man as I know my own ship?" Pete spits, his hands tightening on the bars. "You think I have not felt their anger, their hatred, their leather and iron? Pardon me for not granting you your precious forgiveness - I have been punished with far more malice for far lesser crimes by men who look like you. I will tell you what I told you on the morning we met - if you would like my respect, you must earn it."

With that, he steps back from the bars and leaves Patrick alone. Patrick spends the night asking God his questions - God does not answer.

-

"Let me out," is the first thing Patrick says to Pete as he arrived for his daily gloat. Pete chokes out a laugh, his face creasing.

"What?"  he says, leaning against the bars.

"You say I must earn your respect - let me assist the crew. I can do the work of ten midshipmen."

Pete looks at his small frame, his skinny chest and his knobbly knees. "I think not," he says.

"I may not look strong," Patrick says, squaring his shoulders, "but I held my own against you. I may have won, had you not cheated."

Pete scoffs. "I was never going to let you win," he says, "besides, you made your ignorance clear before we'd begun. You asked a pirate to duel."

Patrick snaps his mouth shut, turning his nose up at Pete. He would have won - he's sure of it. Pete is simply a sore loser.

"Besides," Pete continues, "I fear the crew would gut you within the hour."

With a scowl, Patrick admits that he may have a point. The crew were prepared to put their own lives in danger for the prospect of ending his. Patrick wonders what exactly they would do to him if given their way.

"You may darn their clothes, if you'd like?" Pete grins maniacally, and Patrick sees a glint of a gold tooth at the back of his mouth. It rather suits him.

"I fear I am not nearly as talented with a needle as you, dear Pete," Patrick replies, his flattery dripping with mocking.

Pete's eyes dance with amusement, and he leans closer to the bars, shifting his limbs as if to make himself more comfortable. "Alright, Mr. Stump," he says curtly, "I shall fetch you a blanket if you tell me why you were disinherited."

Patrick's hands tighten in his lap and he feels himself close up a little. It was foolish of him to mention this fact to a pirate - it was foolish of him to engage with a pirate at all. He would not tell a living soul on his own boat - instead he whispers his secret into his own clasped hands after a night spent laying with those whom he should not.

But as he looks at Pete, he knows what the man sees. A snobbish white boy who has never known suffering, never known insult. Pete's opinion of him does not have much lower to sink. There is very little Patrick has to lose.

"I would like a pillow, also," Patrick states. He may as well push his luck.

Pete hums a noise of uncertainty. "That depends on how well you tell the story."

Patrick huffs, his wrists clinking in their chains. "As you wish," he says, "I have said I was the first born. I was doted upon. I was set to receive all my father's lands. My life was as you'd expect - easy, privileged. Until the summer of my fifteenth year."

"Oh?" Pete says, a smile creeping over his lips. "What happened?"

Patrick sighs. "I had known for a while that there was something a little different about me. I'd ignored it, told myself I simply needed to find the right girl, but - alas. There was a young cook at our home. I spent the summer with him. One morning, my father walked in on us in bed together, and drew all the correct conclusions. I was sent off to the Navy less than a month later."

The grin on Pete's face is positively glittering. "You're - you're a molly?"

"I suppose I am," Patrick says, folding his arms as best he can in the confines of the cuffs.

"You were sent to sea for buggery?" Pete says, a laugh at the tip of his tongue. Patrick scowls.

"Will you fetch me a blanket or not," he says, his eyes stony.

""I think you've just about earned it," Pete replies, "perhaps the pillow, too."

He begins to leave, but Patrick calls after him. "Please - don't tell the crew. They've enough cause to hate me."

But Pete simply waves a dismissive hand. "They're no stranger to those who prefer a man's touch. After all, they could not hate their own captain."

Pete walks away. Patrick stares after him.

-

Things appear to change between them after this. Patrick's hair grows, as does his anticipation of the captain's visits. Who would have thought it - the most feared pirate in the Caribbean, lusting after the contents of a man's breeches. He feels an empathy for Pete that was not there before.

Nevertheless, he is cautious. He has heard the rumours, everyone on the ocean has. His sore backside is a constant reminder of the pain Pete is capable of inflicting - and Patrick was one of the luckier of his victims. Pete could still march him to the quarter deck and slash his back open, could still slice his feet from his legs and dangle him from the rigging. The idea makes Patrick careful, wary, hostile.

He hates Pete, of course he does - Pete is everything the Navy seeks to obliterate, a disruption of order, a menace, but Patrick would be a liar if he were to say it didn't pique his interest. Pete does not talk about his past - Patrick suspects it was not a pretty sight.

A crew member arrives every evening at half past six and gives him a small plate of food, taking away the bucket Patrick must use as a lavatory to be emptied. He says grace, as always, touching his fingers to the cross around his neck. He's grateful they didn't take it - it's become his only possession.

Later that night, he lays out on his blankets and presses his hands together in prayer. He prays he'll be released from this gang of tyrants, he prays that he'll get to see the light of day again, feel the wind on his face. He whispers into his hands even as the candles are snuffed out and the men snigger at him. When they have left, he prays for forgiveness, for he has sinned.

He cannot help it. He decided that long ago. Every man has his vices - some are drunks, some adulterers, some thieves - and Patrick's is his unnatural desires. It seldom bothers him, and he prays as any other man would. Tonight, he confesses his thoughts about the captain, his hesitant joy at the revelation that he, too, shares Patrick's vice. He has wanted things he should not.

-

A beard isn't one of them.

It clings to his chin, itching and bristled and driving him mad. He can't help but scratch at the patchy hairs, loathing the feeling of it, dreading the appearance. He must look like common muck. His hair is now at a such a length that he can nestle his fingers in it - yet there are still unsightly scratches and uneven tufts.

He envies Pete's hair. It falls around his face in long dreads, coiled like fine rope and decorated with beads and charms. Pete's beard is well trimmed, short, framing his jaw and peppering his top lip. Pete, therefore, must own a razor. Patrick decides he must gain access to this at all costs.

"Dear captain," Patrick says when Pete strolls to lean in his usual spot against Patrick's cell. "What must I do to be granted another favour?"

Pete raises an eyebrow. "That depends on what it is you desire."

Patrick scratches his fingers across his chin. "A razor."

Pete barks a laugh. "Very good, Mr. Stumph. You would have me fetch you a blade. Why of course - I've been meaning to let you slit my throat."

Shaking his head, Patrick tries to explain himself. "It's this blasted beard! It will be my only victim! I simply cannot stand its presence on my face."

Pete hums uncertainly, eyeing Patrick through the bars. "What is it worth to you?"

"I'll tell you anything you like."

"Very well," Pete says, amused. "If you try anything at all with the razor, I'll tell my entire crew your answers."

"Understood," Patrick says, wondering what exactly those questions will be.

"Ever slept with a woman?" Pete asks.

"No," Patrick says, shaking his head. He's never seen fit to attempt it - he rather thinks he'd make a fool of himself.

"Do you have a lover on land?"

"No." Everything that happens at sea, stays at sea - including any lasting affection. Patrick pretends it does not bother him.

"Did you fuck your first mate?"

Patrick chokes on the breath he's taken. "No, no, of course not. William and I were close friends - nothing more."

Pete doesn't look convinced, but continues invading Patrick with his questions. "What do you like in a man?"

Narrowing his eyes, Patrick wonders what exactly Pete is angling towards. "I like courage. Intelligence. Wit. A strong mind that is not bullish, a gentleness that is not weak. Quite the opposite of yourself, if that's what you are wondering."

"You wound me," Pete says flatly. "I have one final question - are you attracted to me?"

Patrick leans back where he sits and lets his eyes flit over Pete's frame. He's short, stocky, his cheekbones high and angled and his eyes playful. "I would not choose you freely," Patrick says, "but at this moment, on a godforsaken boat and surrounded by godforsaken men - I would say my options are rather limited. You are passable."

"How very flattering," Pete says, but there's a smile on his face and he does not seem close to slitting Patrick's chest open. "Is that what you say to all the gentlemen?"

"Only those so bold as to enquire into private matters," Patrick says. "Are you satisfied?"

"Far from it," Pete says wolfishly, "but I shall fetch you a razor. Don't move."

Patrick scowls - he hasn't moved in over a week. He sulks as Pete strides away, resenting the information he shared but foolishly excited about what Pete might be planning to do with it. The man is both as plain as day and a complete enigma - his hatred of Patrick seems both exaggerated and deeply ingrained into Pete's soul.

He returns with a shaving kit and a small bowl of water, the keys to the cell dangling on his wrist. As he opens the cell door, Patrick thinks about making a run for it, pouncing on Pete while he has his hands full - but the likelihood of him making it to the deck unscathed is slim, and besides that, he'd still have this cursed beard.

"I would let you do it yourself, but alas, you'd have no mirror. Plus - I think we've established which of us is better with a blade."

Patrick scoffs, giving Pete a haughty sniff and looking away as he sits down opposite Patrick. Patrick considers that this might be a ruse to get his neck within range of a blade - then again, Pete's had ample opportunity to kill him in the last few days, hours, minutes. Pete takes the candle from outside Patrick's cell and places it on the floor next to him, casting a warm light over the two of them.

Pete sits opposite him, cross-legged, rifling through the shaving kit until he finds a small pair of scissors. "First of all, I think we should do something about that godawful haircut, don't you?"

Nodding profusely, Patrick runs a self-conscious hand through his ragged hair. "Someone stole my pony-tail," he says flatly, cocking his head at Pete.

"It looked ridiculous, anyway," Pete replies, snapping the scissors and shuffling closer to Patrick. Patrick watches his eyes narrow in concentration as he leans in, running his hands over Patrick's head and picking out the remaining long strands. The noise of the scissors fills Patrick's ears and the rush of Pete's breath warms his skin.

Pete works quickly and quietly, moving around Patrick's body to reach the wisps of hair at the back of his head. He trims the fine hair at the back of Patrick's neck short, and cuts the tufts around his ears short, leaving the hair on the top of Patrick's head and combing it to cover the ugly scratches over Patrick's scalp.

"Much better," he says, playing with the beginnings of Patrick's fringe and admiring his work. "You're nearly passable, now."

Rolling his eyes, Patrick smooths his hand over his freshly cut hair. "Have you done that before?"

Pete nods, but doesn't elaborate. Patrick daren't push him.

"Now for the beard," Pete grins, fumbling for the folded razor in the box. He pulls it open and looks at it in the light, then places it to one side. His eyes flick to Patrick's as if to test him, to see if he will reach for it, break his word. Patrick remains in his place.

Once he seems satisfied, Pete dips a stout brush into the bowl of water and lathers it with soap - it smells foul but feels silky as he strokes it over Patrick's skin in small circles, tilting Patrick's head up to get to the haze of scruff on his neck.

Pete sharpens and strops the blade, raising it slowly to the left side of Patrick's face and holding his head still.

Patrick feels the chill of the steel on his skin as Pete drags it a short distance, then moves down a little, scraping the soap suds away inch by inch. His fingers pull Patrick's skin taut, his eyes deep in concentration.

Patrick tries to keep his mind away from a place of sin - he looks away from Pete's face, flickering golden in the candle light, and focuses on the roll of the ocean, the chill in the air. "Tilt your head up," Pete purrs, his voice low, and Patrick does so, pointedly ignoring the thrill that shoots through him when Pete touches the blade to his throat.

There's something about the darkness, the wrongness of it all that makes Patrick's nethers tingle - here he is, in the middle of the ocean, his life in the hands of a pirate. Pete's a tyrant, a sinner - Patrick's father would hate him. Patrick hates him - but perhaps not quite enough. He lifts his gaze to meet Pete's as the captain pulls Patrick's face into place once more, reaching for the right cheek.

Pete's lips hang so near, plush and slick with spit. Every so often, his tongue flits over them, occasionally being caught between his teeth as he drags the blade over the contours of Patrick's face. It's been many months since Patrick felt another's lips against his own - many months more since he committed more sinful acts. He feels his cock twitch in his breeches. He moves his hands over his lap.

"Now, the mouth," Pete breathes, manoeuvring Patrick's face to look straight at him. "Bite your lip," he asks softly, and Patrick does so, sinking his teeth into the soft flesh as Pete strokes the razor up his chin. Patrick's cock begins to harden as he sees the way Pete stares at his mouth, his eyes full of concentration and something else.

Pete finishes with Patrick's top lip, then pulls back a little, inspecting Patrick's face before handing him a scrap of cloth. He dries his face with it, running his fingers over his blissfully smooth chin and smiling faintly. Pete strokes his knuckles over Patrick's cheek, squinting as if looking for stray hairs, but his eyes glow with fire and Patrick wants to get burned.   

He leans and touches their lips together. Pete's reaction is instant - he kisses back, his hand fastening tight around Patrick's chin and holding him in place as their mouths open and their tongues waltz. Patrick's cuffs clink as he lifts his hands and strokes through Pete's dreads, feeling the intricate patterns under his fingertips.

Pete's beard is rough against Patrick's freshly shaved chin and Pete's teeth bite into his bottom lip. Patrick lets out an undignified moan, a shame on himself and his family, an offense to his God, but he has been led into temptation, and he is nought but a man. When Pete presses a hand between his legs, he gasps like a whore.

His pelvis lights with feeling as Pete's hand finds the hard line of his cock through the soft fabric and begins to stroke. Patrick grabs at Pete's hair, the chain of his cuffs tight to Pete's neck as Patrick clasps his head, Pete's teeth still nipping kisses into the tender curve of Patrick's lip.

He wants everything he should not - he wants to be ravished, to be owned, to be loved, and in this moment, he would not deny himself this pleasure. Pete's thumb finds the sensitive head of Patrick's cock and rubs at it, Patrick's own wetness beginning to soak through the white fabric. Patrick moves his hands to clutch at Pete's shirt, his fingers brushing the warm, toned flesh underneath. Then, Pete pulls away.

Patrick stares, his lips hanging open as Pete carefully packs away the shaving kit, tips the bowl of water into Patrick's bucket and stands up. "Pete," Patrick says, "what are you -"

"Goodnight, Mr. Stumph," Pete says curtly, carrying the candle out with him and locking the cell door behind him. He flashes a wide, glittering grin at Patrick. "See you in the morning."

Chapter Text

The ocean rolls in time with Pete's heartbeat. He wraps his hands around the wheel, feeling the smooth, glossed wood underneath his fingertips and stroking his thumbs along the intricate grain. He's missed his ship, his crew, his freedom. The sea wind whips through his hair and peppers him with salt spray.

"What's on your mind?" Saporta calls from behind him. His tall frame leans against the railing, his arms crossed and his eyes trained upon Pete. Pete shrugs his shoulders.

"I appreciate the view," he says, gazing out at the sea, the blazing sun turning the water to writhing diamonds.

"Pete," Saporta says, his footsteps thudding closer until Pete feels the man hovering beside him, "I am truly sorry about - what happened."

"There's nought to apologise for," Pete informs him, "I'm fine, now."

"We should have acted sooner," Saporta sighs, "I am sorry you had to endure imprisonment."

Saporta knows how Pete loathes the chains. He's seen Pete break the necks of white men who suggested he should know his place, he's seen Pete's wrath and his pain and his fear of a life of cuffs and iron bars. Pete's grown; he's no longer so susceptible to provocation, he's translated his rage into something rational, cunning.

"Listen - what are you planning to do with him?" Saporta asks. Pete hasn't quite got around to answering that particular question yet. "Because the crew are becoming restless. If you're going to kill him, I suggest you do it sooner rather than later."

 

Pete nods. He's been toying with Patrick's life ever since he clapped the irons over his wrists - he's feeding Patrick the story that he's holding him for ransom. In reality, the attitudes of the crew won't spare him long. "He is not as insufferable as I first imagined."

Saporta frowns, leaning against the wheel and looking Pete in the eye. "I'd advise you against befriending him, but I fear you've done exactly that."

"He is not my friend," Pete says, waving a dismissive hand. "I pity him, is all. He is starved of conversation."

"Be wary of satiating him," Saporta warns, "he seems a slippery fellow."

Pete purses his lips. He plans to sate Patrick in more ways than one. "He's not dangerous. I need not worry."

Saporta hums a noise of uncertainty, gesturing to his steadily healing arm. "I beg to differ. They think you weak for keeping him alive. The sooner you're rid of him, the better."

"How do you propose I do it?" Pete asks lightly, "Do I simply let the crew rip him limb from limb?"

"By your own hand," Saporta says, "win their respects. Perhaps a lick of the cat beforehand."

"I shall think on it," Pete says absently, his mind wandering to the depths of the ocean. "For now, he lives."

-

The prospect spins through Pete's head that night, the thought of drawing a knife across Patrick's throat, of ripping his back open with the whip. It's not as enticing as he once thought.

Against all the odds, Patrick interests him. There's a spark within him, a fighting spirit that Pete admires. Pete also admires the contents of his breeches.

What happened the night before was not quite unexpected - Pete had seen the way Patrick looked at him,  the light in his eyes when Pete had confessed his love for men. Pete himself had thought about it - about trailing his lips over Patrick's chest, running his hands along those toned thighs - it was, perhaps, inevitable.

Pete thinks he made his feelings clear. He's always had a flare for the dramatic - he remembers the thrill of holding the blade to Patrick's throat, the power he felt at the sound of Patrick's wanton moans, the feel of his hardened cock through his breeches - and now it is Patrick's turn. A duel is only enjoyable if one's opponent puts up a fight.

Patrick delivers.

The next evening, Pete swans towards the man's cell. Usually, he's eating, or praying, or curled in a neat ball under the blankets. Tonight, he is simply propped up against the wall, his eyes following Pete as he leans up against the bars. Candle light dances over his cotton-pale skin - so easy to stain.

"Good evening," Pete says, "I trust you had a pleasant afternoon?"

The look in Patrick's eyes suggests he had quite the opposite. Pete wonders if he spent the night committing sin after sin under the blankets. Perhaps he whimpered Pete's name, perhaps his head was filled with desperate imaginings of Pete in a state of undress, Pete's cock nestled inside him.

"I did," Patrick says. His eyes don't stray from Pete's face, yet his hand, if Pete's not mistaken, drifts towards the buttons of his breeches. “I spent the vast majority of it sound asleep.”

"Any nasty dreams?" Pete says, his voice soaked with mocking. Patrick simply shakes his head.

"A rather enjoyable one, actually," he states. His fingers reach between his legs and press down lightly. Pete leans a little closer to the bars, his hands wrapping around a rung of warm metal lattice.

"What was it about?" Pete asks. He can see the faint impression of Patrick's cock in his breeches and feels saliva rush to his mouth.

"I dreamt that I was here, on this ship," Patrick says, his thumb beginning to stroke over his crotch, "yet I was free. I was unbound - I slept in my own bed. And I was not alone," he trails off. Pete feels his own cock fatten between his legs as Patrick tips his head back and exposes his clean-shaven throat.

"Who was with you," Pete grunts, his nose brushing the bars as he watches Patrick undo the top button of his breeches, his cuffs clinking sharp through the honeyed atmosphere.

Patrick shrugs - his chest glows pale in the low light, the fuzz of golden brown hair gathering between his plush pink nipples and trailing into his breeches. More is revealed with each button Patrick pops open - Pete wants to trace it with his fingers. "A man," Patrick says lightly. He gives his crotch a squeeze and Pete can see a bulge, now, the hard line of Patrick's cock stretching along his thigh.

"What - what were you doing?"

With a blissful sigh, Patrick lets his eyes fall shut. "Things for which I will pray forgiveness," he says, his tongue slipping over his lips. He slides a hand into the open waistband of his breeches and takes a sharp breath. Pete crotch tingles with the anticipation.

Patrick's cock is red, slick, throbbing as he takes it from his trousers and toys with it. His fingers are long, elegant - Pete wants to see them pushed into Patrick's arse, between the cheeks of his behind. He's stroking himself slowly, hypnotically, his head tipped back and his eyebrows pinched with concentration.

Pete reaches for the keys at his belt, the brush of his hand over the crotch of his trousers making his cock twitch and his pelvis tingle. He wants to touch Patrick, wants to wrap his hands, his mouth around the length of his cock and taste the pale fluid bubbling from the head. He presses the key into the lock - but it won't fit.

When he looks up, there's a faint smile on Patrick's face. He's absently fondling his balls, his eyes slitting open as Pete attempts to hammer the key home, to no avail. There's the bent end of a fork shoved into the other side of the keyhole, twisted and unmoving. Pete tries to snake his hand through the bars, but the frame of the door blocks him and his fingers barely catch the metal. His cock aches with want.

Meanwhile, Patrick is putting on a show. His hips thrust slowly into his fist, the blood-red tip of his cock poking rhythmically through his fingers. His chest gleams with sweat, the pale expanse of it writhing with lustful breaths and exaggerated gasps. Pete gives one last shove at the lock and gives up, choosing instead to simply stare at the man, the gentle English prude, fucking himself rapidly on the floor in front of him.

Pete's lip is slick with saliva where it's caught between his teeth, a soft growl rumbling from his throat as he slips a hand between his legs and begins to touch himself, imagining his cock resting in Patrick's mouth, those blue-grey eyes gazing up at him. He wants to strip Patrick of his breeches and grab at his arse, shove him to the floor and fuck him senseless.

Patrick must be close, his breaths escaping as low moans and his cock swollen fit to burst in his hand, his fist speeding its strokes, bouncing against his balls. It's a cruel trick he's playing - look but don't touch, hear but don't feel - and Pete hates him for it, the frustration coursing straight to his trousers as he humps against his own hand.

He swears he feels the moment Patrick begins to come - he watches the man's shoulders pull taut, his hand stroking hard and fast and his mouth falling open in pleasure. Pete wants to grasp at Patrick's pushed out hips, sink his teeth into the elegant line of his throat, and Patrick knows it, playing the part for Pete and torturing him with it.

His release spills across his pale stomach, oozes over his fist as he squeezes the last few drops from himself and breathes a long sigh, his torso relaxing and his expression blissful. Pete's never hated him more. He wants to touch , it's not enough simply to see, he wants to bury his cock inside Patrick instead of his own fist.

Pete hopes it isn't over, hopes that Patrick might crawl to the bars and reach for Pete's cock, take it into his hands, his mouth, but it's all too obvious that this isn't Patrick's plan when he opens his eyes and looks steadily at Pete.

"Did you want something?" he asks. His gaze flicks to Pete's crotch - Pete is so obviously hard, so clearly desperate, and Pete's face heats with the humiliation of it all, the want that must be written across his face.

Pete struggles for words - he has yet to understand how a man with his fingers curled around his limp cock and coated in his own come has retained the upper hand. "No," Pete manages to growl. The only move he can think to make is to turn sharply on his heel and walk away from Patrick.

As he hurries towards his quarters, a hand slung casually over his crotch, he vows that he will have his revenge - just as soon as he has seen to the problem in his breeches.

-

"Good morning, Mr. Wentz," Patrick says brightly as Pete strolls into view, a plate of biscuits clutched in one hand. "Did you have a pleasant night?"

Pete keeps the scowl from his face. He finds it rather difficult to believe that the man sitting in the cell before him, the perfectly proper Christian gentleman, had the nerve, the audacity to perform such an act in front of a pirate. Pete feeds himself the illusion that it doesn't send a throbbing sensation to his nethers.

"I did indeed," Pete says, removing the keys from his belt. "I've been informed you have had an issue with the lock. Has it been resolved, or must I feed you through the bars like a beast?"

"As much as I might enjoy that, I do believe the fault has been corrected." Patrick's face is filled to bursting with an insufferable smugness. Pete leans closer to the bars, slipping the key into the lock. It fits - Pete turns it with a creak of metal.

"I will not tolerate such antics again," Pete says firmly - but he's a poor actor, and Patrick simply smirks.

"Of course not. It would be - improper."

"I'm quite surprised that a God-fearing soul such as yourself would think it wise to - to pleasure himself in the presence of another man."

"I do not fear God," Patrick says easily. "Men more honourable than I have done far worse."

Pete hums cautious agreement as he hands Patrick the plate, their fingers brushing for a split second. Their eyes meet briefly, and Pete swears he sees a dash of mocking on Patrick's face. He thinks he's got the upper hand; he thinks he's won. Pete will wipe the smile from his lips before the day is done.

Patrick eats quietly as they exchange polite conversation, his cuffs clinking with the movement. Pete lounges against the bars of the cell, and then comes to him an idea.

"Sit closer, Mr. Stumph," he says gently, beckoning Patrick towards him with a finger, "those chains must be uncomfortable, are they not?"

The man's eyes narrow, but he places his empty plate to one side. "A little."

"Why don't I relieve you?" Pete says, and Patrick lips quirk into a sly smile. He shuffles to Pete on his knees and looks up at him fondly - he knows exactly what he's doing. Pete refrains from running his fingers through Patrick's hair. A flash of pride slips through him; for years, he's dreamed of being in this position, standing over a chained white man with a sword at his side.

Patrick holds his shackles up as Pete unlocks one, bringing Patrick's hands high above his head. The metal falls from his right wrist, a red mark left in its wake. His wrists aren't cut or bruised - he hasn't struggled a great deal. Pete hopes it's a sign that he wants this as much as Pete does.

Tugging Patrick towards the wall, Pete locks the chain of the cuffs around a bar in the lattice. He leaves the shackle open, his eyes flicking back to Patrick's and his eyebrows rising expectantly. "Are you too proud to let me have my revenge?" Pete asks.

"I suppose it would be dishonourable to refuse," Patrick sighs, wistful.

"It is only fair," Pete reasons, shaking the empty shackle and grinning when Patrick finally raises his other wrist and lets Pete lock his arms to the bars. Patrick's wrists look so pretty bound in iron.

The man shifts himself until he's sat against the bars, his wrists secured over his head. The very sight of him sends shivers down Pete's spine - he's a picture of submission.

Pete kneels in front of him, the floor hard against his knees, reminding him of his time in the bowels of Patrick's ship. He hasn't missed it. "What are you going to do," Patrick says softly, his eyes dark as Pete leans towards him. Pete answers his question with the kiss he presses to Patrick's lips, rough and pushing his tongue into Patrick's mouth. When he pulls away, Patrick's lips gleam pink.

Patrick's skin is warm, salted under his mouth as he works his way down Patrick's body, pausing only to wrap his mouth around Patrick's nipple, feeling the gasp Patrick lets out under his roaming hands. What little paunch Patrick carried when he arrived has melted away, leaving stretches of muscle coiled around bone, ribs that show when Patrick breathes in. Pete makes a note to increase Patrick's rations.

Dragging his hands across Patrick's hips, he does all the things he wishes he could have done when he was locked away from Patrick the day before - he presses a hand between Patrick's legs and squeezes until Patrick lets out a small moan, he drags his tongue over the fuzz between Patrick’s nipples. He smells of dirt and sweat and come. It's not entirely unpleasant.

Patrick's already semi-hard when Pete reaches for his cock and pulls it from his breeches. He rubs at it slowly, watching the way Patrick's breath hitches when he swipes his thumb over the head, the way the muscles in his thighs twitch. He waits until Patrick is fully aroused, his cock thick, throbbing in Pete's hand, before he releases Patrick's cock and gets to his feet.

"What are you doing?" Patrick says, and Pete can only smile at the anguish in the man's eyes. "You are not leaving again , you cannot -"

"I must breakfast. All this talk has made me rather peckish," he says gently, cupping Patrick's chin in his palm. His cock juts obscenely from his trousers, still leaking steadily.

"Do not leave me like this, I-"

"Shh," Pete says, pressing a finger to Patrick's plush lips. "We wouldn't want the crew to hear you, now, would we? What on earth would they think if they saw you, shackled to the wall and your manhood bared for the world? I daresay you'd die of pure humiliation."

When Pete takes his finger from Patrick's mouth, Patrick remains quiet, his eyes raging but his cock sending quite the opposite message. He glares but does not protest further as Pete backs away from him, stepping out of the cell.

"Sit tight, my love," Pete says, shutting the door with a sharp clang, "If you are fortunate, I may return."

Chapter Text

Patrick is not sure it's possible to die from lack of release, but reckons he's close to proving himself wrong. He should be terrified, tied up and exposed by a pirate - instead, the excitement brews low in his belly.

His hands are beginning to go numb, this fingertips tingling as the blood drains from them, rerouted entirely to his cock. It juts from his trousers, bouncing when he tries in vain to create some friction, as engorged as ever and buzzing with each breath of warm air that blows over it.

Each time he hears footsteps nearing, he freezes - his cheeks heat at the very thought of one of the crew seeing him like this, utterly powerless and laid out for anyone to do whatever they might please. It only makes his cock fill further; perhaps that's Pete's plan, perhaps this is all some elaborate punishment to put Patrick in his place. Patrick can't say he very much minds.

The sounds and smells of breakfast drift down to him as he sits, waits, wonders. He rather hopes Pete still plans on feeding him - his stomach grumbles at the thought of fresh bread, succulent meat. Perhaps Pete will save him a slice.

He stares uselessly down at his cock, his very soul aching for contact, his fingers wriggling where they’re bound. The cuffs cut into his wrists, the open waistband of his breeches digs into his balls; he must be a picture of discomfort, squirming on the cell floor with no way to relieve his throbbing cock. His arms begin to whine with pain, his hips twitching as if he might find some relief in thrusting at thin air. He doesn't.

When the thud of footsteps rings through the air, he stops dead, squinting towards the shaft of daylight at the end of the corridor in search of a figure. He glimpses a bucket and panics, attempting to shift his legs to hide his cock, to no avail. The man approaches fast.

"How are you faring, captain?" Pete's voice calls, and Patrick lets out a breath, a trail of excitement blazing down his spine. Pete grins as he unlocks the door, placing the foaming bucket on the floor beside Patrick. "I see that you are in no way - bored," he smirks, gesturing towards Patrick's thoroughly neglected cock.

"On the contrary, I thought you might present me with more of a challenge. Clearly, you could not keep yourself away."

"You are mistaken," Pete says lightly, his eyes gleaming and his hand reaching into the bucket to retrieve a flannel, "I am simply here to bathe you. The crew are rather sick of the smell."

Patrick scowls, shuffling back as far as he can manage when Pete brings the dripping cloth towards him. "If you are intending purely to insult me, I'd rather not play this little game."

"If you are intending to receive pleasure, I'd rather you did not stink to high Heaven. I might be a pirate, but I prefer my lovers clean," he states. Patrick hopes his thrill at the word lovers does not show on his face.

The water is cool over Patrick's chest, his stomach twitching at the sensation. Pete is just gentle enough to be utterly infuriating - yet he avoids the patches of fading bruises over Patrick's ribs, scrubbing instead at his thighs, his calves, making him jump when Pete drags the cloth across the sole of his foot.

Trickling between his toes, the water feels wonderful, and Pete's fingers push blissfully at his arches, massaging the tender muscles until they relax. He pays particular attention to the insides of Patrick's kneecaps, wiping the pocket of sweat from paper-thin skin and watching Patrick with dark eyes as he sighs under Pete’s hands.

Pete tugs at the hem of his breeches, motioning for Patrick to lift himself off the ground. He does so with great effort, his arms straining and his feet skidding on the floor - he feels Pete's hands on his behind, dragging down the fabric until the air sweeps between his cheeks. The floor is cold, stinging against the still-tender skin of his arse. Pete pulls Patrick's breeches over his legs until he sits, fully naked, at the mercy of a pirate. His cock hasn't softened.

Time is clearly not of the essence for Pete - he washes inch by inch over Patrick's thighs, grazing the delicate insides and pausing only to scrub at the crease where hip meets groin. Patrick gasps when the fabric touches the skin of his balls, and Pete throws him a lecherous grin.

"Perhaps you are enjoying this a little too much," Pete says, moving away from Patrick's hips and dunking the flannel back into the bucket. "A penchant for punishment."

Patrick shakes his head. "Not punishment. Excitement."

Pete looks up. "You do not fear me in the slightest?"

"Do you wish I would cower?" Patrick asks, tipping his head to one side and catching Pete's gaze, "Do you wish I did not want this?"

"Not at all," Pete shrugs, "I am simply - intrigued." He shuffles closer to Patrick and places a hand on his chest, sliding it across his skin until it rests on his collarbone. Pete's lips hover inches from Patrick's and his leans towards them, brushing their mouths together before Pete moves away. "You may kiss me if you beg for me."

Patrick snorts. "In that case, you overestimate my want. You shall have to try rather more than that if I'm to be reduced to a beggar."

Pete's eyes narrow and his lips stretch into a smile. "I intend to," he whispers, his breath hot over Patrick's cheek. He reaches for the flannel once more.

He rubs over Patrick's face, his hair, his armpits, a concentration on his face that suggests that this is more than a stunt - he really does intend to clean Patrick, and Patrick revels in the contact, his cock losing a little enthusiasm as he focuses on the sensation of being clean, fresh, new. Pete may be a pirate, but he's cared for Patrick like a friend - and so much more.

It's with mischief dancing in his eyes that Pete finally moves the cloth towards Patrick's cock and squeezes water over it. Patrick's hips twitch, his cock longing for the wrap of Pete's fingers, the tight heat of his mouth. Pete rubs the cloth over Patrick's balls, teasing at the delicate skin, drags it around the base of his cock and lets his fingers close briefly around the base. He strokes slowly along Patrick's length, Patrick's mouth dropping open at the cruelty of it all, the way Pete allows him only an inch of pleasure before whipping it away.

"Are you ready to beg?" Pete asks gruffly, throwing the cloth back in the bucket and turning his flaming gaze upon Patrick.

Patrick's hips shiver with want and his mind spins with something like hunger; he cannot think of sin, only of the divine touch of Pete's mouth, the press of his cock. Still - he shakes his head.

"As you wish," Pete says, then leans to close his mouth around Patrick's nipple, pinching the other with rough fingers. Patrick gasps like a whore, his wrists straining in their chains and his feet scrabbling for purchase on the slippery floor. Pete's hands roam over his torso, his teeth dragging over Patrick's chest until they sit over Patrick's heart.

Pressing a fleeting kiss to it, Pete pulls away, his fingers slipping from Patrick's waist and leaving searing trails in their wake. Then he bends, hovers his lips close to the quivering head of Patrick's cock, his hot breath sending torturous tingles through Patrick's thighs. Patrick fixes his gaze upon Pete's lips, the way they shine with saliva, the way they part as if to receive Patrick's cock.

Alas - they do not open. Pete does not sink this mouth over Patrick, does not allow Patrick to fuck into his throat. Instead, he licks a stripe of white-hot pleasure over Patrick's cock, his tongue delicate, careful, as if taking a taste of fine wine.

Patrick wonders the extent of Pete's arousal - he can't see Pete's crotch from this angle, but he sees the fire in Pete's face, the twitch of his fingers where they long to grab at him. He wonders how much Pete wants him, how long it has been since he enjoyed the offerings of the flesh, whether he will simply sink his cock into a loyal midshipman when he inevitably abandons Patrick once again. A shot of jealousy flares in Patrick's chest - he wishes to be the only one.

A touch is all he gets. Before Patrick can cry out at the burst of sensation at the tip of his aching cock, Pete is getting to his feet and gathering his things. "Enough for now, I think," he says, regarding Patrick's helpless form in front of him and lingering between Patrick's legs. If Patrick's not mistaken, he lusts for the power more than anything else - perhaps Patrick, squirming at his feet, is enough to pleasure him.

Pete leaves without another word.

-

A few hours later, Patrick's verging on bored. His cock wilts with each second Pete does not return, yet his mind reels at the thought of what may happen when he does. If he's careful, if he focuses only on the hush of the waves or the shuffle of movement on the upper floors, he can drift into a state of obliviousness and convince himself that he's not naked nor chained to a wall.

He cannot help but anticipate, though. He wonders what exactly Pete is planning, if he'll give himself freely to Patrick by the end of this ordeal, or if he will proclaim himself the winner. For all his treachery, the nuisance he has posed to the progress of the British Empire, Pete is quite lovely, in body if not mind. Patrick hasn't yet decided about his soul.

When Pete appears at the door to his cell, Patrick cranes his neck to look up at him, Pete's hand hovering at the lock. "Will you beg?"

Patrick smiles and shakes his head. Pete wants a fight, and Patrick intends to supply him with one. "I'm afraid my interests are waning," he sighs, nodding towards his semi-hard cock.

"We can't have that, can we," Pete says, entering the cell and sweeping his gaze over Patrick's naked form. His hands reach for the cuffs around Patrick's wrists - he clutches a bottle of whale oil in one, and Patrick's mind bounds ahead. "Turn around."

Patrick does so, a shiver running across his skin as he exposes his behind to Pete, still a little sore from the cane. His hands are locked up once again, his nose pressed to the bars of the cell. He raises himself to his knees and rests his forehead on his wrists. The air behind him shifts with Pete's movements, and Patrick's cock grows hard once again. He prays that this time, perhaps, he will be allowed his release.

"How lovely you are," Pete whispers, his hands sliding to Patrick's cheeks and stroking slowly across them. He parts them gently and brushes his thumb over Patrick's entrance. "Have you been with men in this way, Patrick?"

"Yes," Patrick says, his face flushing with the admittance, the remembrance of being held down by captains who made him swear never to utter this sin aloud, who would use him night after night and run home to their wives the moment they reached port. Now, he chooses carefully - the men with whom he lays are gentle, fleeting. Attachment, he's realised, is not an option.

"Do they touch you here, Patrick?" Pete coos, the slick of whale oil suddenly dribbling between Patrick's cheeks. He's grateful for it - many men would not be so considerate. "Do you let them inside you?"

The humiliation begins to creep over Patrick's skin once again, the knowledge that he's utterly exposed, that Pete is treating him as a game, a toy. His arousal blurs his thoughts - his cock strains for release, for contact, for anything. He nods slowly.

"What is it that you like," Pete purrs, a fingers nudging inside Patrick and Pete's other hand stroking lightly over his hip. "Do you like pain? Disregard? Or something sweeter, something softer?"

Patrick peers over his shoulder, looking Pete in the eye. He's close to Patrick, fully clothed, yet his crotch hovers an inch or so from Patrick's behind and Patrick's mouth fills with saliva at the thought of seeing Pete's cock, fat and wet, spring from his trousers.

He considers the question - if he were to be granted precisely what he wants, the resulting relationship would surely include both. Patrick knows his own greed, his desire for roughness, beast-like passion coupled with slow kisses and whispered declarations of love. It's a prayer he knows will never be answered.

"Do not restrain yourself," Patrick says eventually. "I am not as delicate as you might think."

He hears a laugh from Pete's lips and fingers pinch the extra flesh at his hips. "As you wish," he says, pushing a second finger inside Patrick. Patrick had quite forgotten what it felt like to give himself so completely - his antics on the Infinity had been somewhat limited to fumblings over too much rum, simple blunders that could be blamed on too long at sea. His heart sinks a little at the reminder that he is not, in fact, a captain anymore; he has been reduced to a pirate's plaything. He's yet to decide how much he minds.

Pete's fingers begin to thrust in and out, working Patrick open and reaching pleasurable places inside him. He looks down at his cock - it shines with precome, red-tipped and throbbing. He's not sure what Pete may do if he gives in to release without his permission.

"Look at yourself," Pete hisses, giving Patrick's arse a soft slap, "look at what you have become. Once a man of status, of class - now my poor, chained pet."

Patrick lets out a sigh at the words, rearing back onto Pete's fingers and letting the humiliation wash over him.

"What would you crew think if they saw you taking it from a pirate? You'd never gain their respects again," Pete says, pressing his chest to Patrick's back and whispering the words in Patrick's ear. A third finger pushes inside Patrick and he groans, Pete's mouth sucking a bruise to his shoulder.

Patrick turns his head towards Pete's, hoping to catch Pete's lips in a kiss, but Pete simply moves away, sinking his teeth into the bumps of Patrick's spine. He grinds his crotch into Patrick's behind, and Patrick can feel his arousal through his trousers, the want for Pete inside him rising with each second Pete wastes.

He hears the pop of a button, the buckle of a belt. "Is this what you want, Patrick? Do you want my cock?"

Patrick nods, resting his forehead against the cool prison bars. "Yes. Do hurry up."

Pete snorts, removing his fingers from Patrick's arse and leaving trails of oil over his skin as he rubs over Patrick's cheeks. "I'll do no such thing. Unless you’re going to beg, of course.”

Patrick remains pointedly silent. Pete’s hands cup his backside and Patrick chances a glance behind him, watches as Pete takes his cock from his trousers and pushes them down to his knees. He's big, thick, and Patrick whimpers his excitement into his own forearm as Pete touches the head of his cock to Patrick's arse, smoothing remnants of oil over its length.

"Ready for me?" Pete whispers, his thumb dug deep into the swell of Patrick's rear and parting his cheeks to make way for Pete's cock.

"I've been ready for hours," Patrick grits out, closing his eyes in anticipation. He feels the head of Pete's cock against his hole, breaching him slowly, painstakingly, the head slipping inside him and giving him nothing but desperation. Pete leans to press his lips to Patrick's throat, and Patrick considers kicking him in his magnificent manhood if he does not show Patrick some haste.

"Patience," Pete purrs, nibbling the shell of Patrick's ear as he pants against the wall. "I believe you Englishmen are well-practiced in restraint." He digs his nails into Patrick's arse and squeezes hard enough to chase a whine from Patrick's throat. Patrick breathes steadily, his eyes shut tight as his mouth. If he opens either, he fears he may burst into sobs.

Pete laughs wetly into Patrick's ear, then shoves his hips forward, and Patrick is suddenly so, so full, so complete. He can feel Pete's hip bones pressing into his backside, Pete's balls tight to his own, and he's missed this, the beat of another man's cock so deep inside him.

Hands grab at his hips, his nipples, his stomach, roaming everywhere but the place he needs it most - his cock is so impossibly hard and he's not sure he can take much more of this. He'd promised himself he would not break yet, that when he did, it would be on his own terms, but Pete's cock fills him and his hands send tingles over Patrick's skin and his willpower is shaved paper-thin.

But then Pete starts to thrust and Patrick cannot find the words to beg, instead crying out with each snap of Pete's hips, each smack Pete lands to the sensitive skin of Patrick's backside. He keeps a tight rhythm, never pulling all the way out, the head of his cock staying nestled inside Patrick, keeping him open, exposed.

Patrick's spine arches towards the bars, and Pete's suddenly deeper, waves of pleasure washing over Patrick as Pete pounds into him, his hands so vice-like around Patrick's hips that Patrick swears he could lift his knees from the ground and remain in place.

"Open your eyes," Pete growls, a hand fastening tight to Patrick's hair. Reluctantly, Patrick does so, the wetness of them plain to see and bringing a lustful smile to Pete's lips. "Gonna beg, yet?"

He's so close. One little lapse, one defeat, and he could have exactly what he wants - Pete's hand around his cock, Pete's fingers allowing him the release he's needed since he awoke. His hands writhe in their cuffs, his toes curl as Pete pushes himself deep inside Patrick and holds himself there. Patrick whines at the loss of friction, but says nothing. Pete gives a growl of frustration and resumes his brutal pace.

Pete's grunts mingle with his own laboured breaths, his chest heaving and his backside beginning to sting. Pete must be close - he's rock hard inside Patrick, his hands tight to Patrick's hips and his thrusts becoming erratic. Patrick needs him, needs to feel his release deep inside him, wants to leave Pete satiated in the hope that Pete may return the favour.

Patrick cries out when Pete begins to come, his hips tight to Patrick's and heat bursting through Patrick's body. Pete pulls out at the last second and paints the rest of his release over Patrick's arse, marking him with sin. It only makes Patrick more desperate, his cock fit to burst, his balls drawn tight in anticipation. Then, Pete pulls away.

Craning his neck, Patrick watches in horror as Pete wipes his cock on his jacket and tucks it back into his breeches, pulling his trousers over the top and buckling his belt.

"What are you doing," Patrick says, his voice high with need, "you - you promised, this isn't fair, I've - I've waited hours -"

"I believe I've stated my terms," Pete says curtly, his eyes flicking to Patrick's engorged cock. Pete's come has begun to drip from between his cheeks, his hole stretched wide and his thighs shaking. He looks down at himself, his flushed chest and his leaking manhood, and decides he can't take it anymore.

" Please !" Patrick cries, the chains clanging as he tugs at them, "please, please let me have my release!"

Pete makes a face, wandering out of the cell and taking the keys from his belt. He's going to leave Patrick again. Tears heat behind Patrick's eyes - he cannot take another moment of this frustration, resorting to humping uselessly against the bars, the metal cold and pleasureless against his aching cock. Pete locks the door slowly.

"Get back here!" Patrick shouts, his voice shaken with need, " Please ! There! What more do you want from me?!"

Pete stops, and turns lightly on his heel. There's a pity in his eyes that Patrick loathes, but he knows it's all part of the game, knows he will, somehow, get his own back. Pete walks towards Patrick and peers down at him. "I'm sorry? What is it that you want?"

"I want - I want to be satisfied!" Patrick says, resting his forehead against the bars and watching Pete through them.

"How exactly do you wish me to satisfy you?"

Patrick huffs, ruts his cock through the bars as if it isn't obvious enough already. "Touch me. Please."

Pete gets to his knees, his face level with Patrick's. He snakes a hand through the bars and touches his fingers to Patrick's tear-stained cheek. "Where would you like me to touch you?"

"My - my -" Patrick stumbles, his Christian vocabulary searching for the word, "my - cock."

Pete grins wolfishly and presses a finger into Patrick's mouth. Patrick sucks on it simply to distract himself from his arousal, swirling his tongue around Pete's finger as he would if it was Pete's cock. Pete's other hand hovers near Patrick's prick, and no matter how Patrick angles his hips, he cannot quite meet Pete's knuckles with his cock.

With a hum of something like satisfaction, Pete grazes his hand over Patrick's balls where they rest on the metal. "Please," Patrick whispers as Pete's finger slips from his mouth. " Please ."

"As you wish," Pete says softly, finally, finally taking Patrick's cock lightly in his hand and leaning down to press his lips to the head.

Patrick cries out with bliss, the remnants of tears spilling down his face as he closes his eyes and simply feels , the length of his cock aflame as Pete's mouth closes over it and sucks on it delicately. Pete's hand cups his balls, squeezes just so, pushes moan after moan from Patrick's lips.

He has not seen Heaven, but he's convinced this must be it; Pete's tongue sliding down his cock, Pete's throat closing around him, the slick noises of Pete's mouth filling Patrick's thoughts. Patrick's fingers tighten in the cuffs, his eyes slipping open to watch Pete work over his cock, a white-hot tingling spreading through his belly as he approaches orgasm.

Pete must know how close to the edge he is, but doesn't cease his sucking, his mouth so tight, so warm, the shine of saliva and precome slicking Patrick's cock. Patrick feels it building in the back of his skull, across his forehead, in his chest and his thighs and the tips of his toes. When it finally hits, his vision flashes bright white.

He must be floating. His limbs are light as air, his brain buzzing in his head, his eyes slammed shut but his mouth wide open. His wrists sting as he leans his weight on them but Patrick can't find it within himself to care. He rolls on waves of pleasure, his body shaking and his mind no longer at the wheel. He wishes it would never end.

Alas, his vision returns to him and his limbs begin to regain their feeling, his cock sensitive where Pete still sucks on it. Patrick breathes deeply, drained and increasingly sleepy. He rests his head against his hands and lets his eyes fall shut, his body growing heavier by the second.

Pete lets Patrick's softened cock fall from his lips and Patrick feels him move away. Then there's fingers on his face and he opens his eyes, blinking when he meets Pete's gaze. His lips form a soft smile and he leans towards the bars, feeling Pete's lips against his own in the next instant.

He kisses lazily, the bar pressing awkwardly against his nose but the warmth of Pete's lips breathing life into his tired frame. When Pete pulls away, he lets himself sink to the floor, his arms pulled above him and his chest bent against the cell.

Pete breathes a small laugh and reaches for Patrick's cuffs, unlocking them with a crack and letting Patrick's numb, aching arm fall to the floor. Pete doesn't try to re-cuff him, simply unlocks the other and takes the shackles away. Patrick curls them into his lap and shifts his back to the bars, stretching out his twinging spine.

"Are you alright?" Pete asks, touching Patrick's shoulder.

Patrick can't help himself as he begins to laugh, his lips spreading into a smile and his head lolling to rest against Pete's hand. "Yes," he says, breathless and giggling, "quite alright, thank you."

Pete's grin is audible and his finger twitches to stroke Patrick's cheek. "I shall fetch you some food," Pete says gently, "and - perhaps another flannel."

With a hum of contentment, Patrick casts a glance at Pete. "That would be lovely."

Pete gets to his feet and lets his hand slip from Patrick's shoulder, his boots echoing around the corridor as he strides away. Patrick watches him, still drifting slightly and fighting the desire to sleep.

Pete's barely out of sight before Patrick begins planning his revenge.

Chapter Text

"You must make a decision," Saporta tells him over rum and bread. The ocean rolls around them, the air hot and oppressive but the encroaching night bringing a cool breeze that soothes Pete's brow. "He cannot stay down there forever."

"I know," Pete sighs, ripping the cassava bread in half and chewing on the crust. "I cannot deny I've grown fond of him."

"Perhaps too fond," Saporta warns, and Pete wonders if perhaps the man knows, sees the look in Pete's eyes when he talks about Patrick, notices when Pete spends far too long in Stumph's company. "I daresay you'd rather not harm him."

"He did not harm me," Pete shrugs, "slaughtering him seems - dishonourable."

Saporta scoffs. "Might I remind you that we are pirates. I've never seen you spare a white man so readily. Unless, of course, there's something you are not telling me," he says, taking a slow sip of his rum.

Pete purses his lips. "I - he has a sharp tongue, is all."

"Ah. You have fucked him, then."

"I would not - I'd never do such a thing! He is repulsive to me, I -" Pete starts, then sees the look in Saporta's eyes. "Alright. Yes, I have."

Saporta shakes his head. "Are you incapable of keeping your rampant manhood at bay?"

A blush makes its way across Pete's face. "He is surprisingly seductive," Pete mumbles. "He is willing, also. Do not think I am forcing myself upon him."

"So - he started it, is that what you're saying?"

"Indeed," Pete says, "I - he too enjoys the touch of a man, and would choose it freely. Such men can be hard to come by."  

Saporta chews on a hunk of bread. "So that is why you spare him. I daresay the crew will not lend you their sympathies. Unless, of course, you're planning on giving them their turn."

"No," Pete says quickly, the thought of lending Patrick's body to the crew sending a twist of disgust to his gut, "no. He would prefer death."  

"It is more than basket-making, then," Saporta says, raising an eyebrow. "Do you love him?"

"Of course not," Pete snorts, "I simply take pleasure in using him."

"I cannot say I believe you," Saporta says, "but I trust you know what you are doing. Do not allow him into your heart - he will only manipulate you."

"He may have my affections, but he will never have my trust. I will dispose of him when I am through with him."

"When will that be, Pete?" Saporta says lightly, watching Pete across the rim of his glass.

Pete can barely bring himself to answer - but he supposes it is better to sever the tie before it becomes too strong. "Soon," he says curtly. "Soon, I shall cut his throat."

-

The night drags on, slow and restless. Pete had planned to go to Patrick, perhaps to fuck him, but he could not be sure he wouldn't spill the details of Patrick's fate. Instead, he lays awake, considering his task, the fear that will stain Patrick's face and the blood that will drain from his neck. Pete has taken countless lives - but none have been his lovers.

Yet to call Patrick his lover is perhaps too generous. They are hardly husband and wife, they have enjoyed each other's bodies barely a handful of times, Pete should have no issue with drawing a blade across Patrick's pretty neck. He is but a vessel for Pete's pleasure, a pet Pete has grown a little too fond of. Patrick's life is not worth the respect of Pete's crew.

But the next morning, Pete brings Patrick his breakfast as usual, adding another piece of bread and a slice of meat to his plate. Patrick's been looking healthier in the past week - he's gained enough weight to hide his ribs and his cheeks have regained their colour. Pete figures if Patrick's death must come so soon, he can at least make Patrick comfortable for the remainder of his life.

Patrick's sound asleep when Pete peers into his cell - he's curled under the blanket, his pale feet poking out from underneath it and his hands wrapped around its corner. He doesn't stir as Pete unlocks the door - he breathes deeply, steadily. The sword hangs heavy at Pete's side.

He wonders if if would be kinder to do it now, to save Patrick the trauma of being displayed to the crew as his throat is slashed open. He could do it quickly, quietly, without pretence of apathy. He places the plate on the floor and rests his fingers on the hilt of his sword. Then, Patrick wakes.

"G'morning," he slurs, lifting a hand to rub at his eyes. Pete clears his throat.

"I - brought you breakfast," Pete blurts, pushing the plate towards Patrick and his thoughts away from blood and blades.

Patrick mumbles his thanks and sits up, running a hand through his slowly growing hair. Pete wonders if to kiss Patrick would only make this a good deal more difficult, but he does so anyway, pulling Patrick's forearm towards him and drawing their mouths together.

He kisses Patrick roughly for a few seconds, biting into Patrick's lip simply to sap the moment of its sweetness. He ensures that the look in his eyes as he pulls away is lustful rather than loving, dropping Patrick's wrist into his lap. Patrick quirks a smile at him.

"Have you anything more in store for me?" Patrick asks, his voice sultry. Pete looks up at him, holds the gaze of those blue eyes tight, lets his thumb trail to the plush pink of Patrick's bottom lip.

"Scrubbing," Pete says shortly, pulling his hand away and grinning brightly.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Scrubbing the floor," Pete clarifies. "It's time you pulled your weight, methinks. When you have finished eating, I shall fetch you a cloth."

Patrick seems a little lost for words as Pete stands and backs away, but perhaps if Pete can keep him useful, his crew may not pursue their bloodlust so readily.

He sets Patrick to work right away, watching him drop to his knees and letting his mind wander to imaginative places. The floor is hardly in need of cleaning, but he rather enjoys watching the white man labour. He'll put him to work in the bunks, later - that's where the real filth is.

Pete instructs a crew member to watch over Patrick, a sword and pistol at his side should Patrick attempt to escape, and throws Patrick a mocking grin before disappearing up the ladder and towards the deck.

"Is he dead yet?" Travie asks him once he emerges. Pete scowls - he rather wishes Saporta's mouth wasn't quite so eager to share.

"What else did Gabe tell you," he asks, striding towards the quarter deck as the worry begins to wash over him.

"Nothing," Travie shrugs, "just that you'd never been so reluctant to stick a knife in a white man."

Pete tries to decipher whether he knows about the fucking. Travie's face gives very little away - his straggly beard conceals most of it. "I've put him to better use," Pete states, folding his arms and leaning against the taffrail, "the floors needed a clean."

"May I suggest keelhauling? I rather miss the screams," Travie says with a sigh. Pete grimaces.

"I am not open to suggestions," Pete informs him. " I shall decide when and how."

"May I take his eyes? He is Royal Navy, after all," Travie says gleefully, "he deserves something - special."

"I shall not tell you again," Pete warns, "he is mine to do with as I please."

"Understood," Travie says with a wink, "you have something else planned. A skinning, perhaps? A burning? I heard a tale that Blackbeard would place a flaming rope between his victim's bound hands and make them watch their own flesh melt -"

"Travis," Pete says with finality, "I will not discuss this further. However - I do believe we must plan our next journey. Can I expect you in my quarters later today?"

"Very good, captain," he nods, "we shall come to an agreement on the eyes."

Pete shakes his head. "We shall not."

-

"Caracas," Pete says to Travie as he lays the weathered map out on the desk. "That is my proposal."

"We've been there," Travie says, "it was hardly a spectacular trip."

"There's a new port," Pete says, "or so I've heard. It's more - suited to our methods of trading."

"Full of toffs?" Travie asks, and Pete nods, grinning.

His quarters are luxurious - Pete was quite adamant about it, that a life at sea did not have to mean a life of squalor. His bed sits behind a curtain, small yet extravagant by ship standards, and the desk in front of him is ornate, engraved with intricate patterns and littered with globes, nautical instruments and other pretty things he's stolen. He sits back in his armchair and surveys the map.

"I simply think it may be a viable option - but I am open to suggestions," Pete says. "Not about the prisoner," he adds when Travie opens his mouth.

It's then that he feels a shift under the desk. He glances down between his feet - but there is nothing to be seen. Perhaps he imagined it.

"For instance, Cuba," he says. "I made some rather good friends there, last time," Pete says. Something touches his leg. He shifts back in his chair slightly to catch a clearer glimpse. A hand disappears into the shadows at the enclosed rear of the desk, a bare shoulder shifts in the half-light. He suddenly knows exactly what's going on.

"Cuba would be enjoyable, no doubt - those cigars were divine, do you remember?" Travie asks, smoothing his hands over the map. Pete feels a hand touch his leg. He shifts his chair closer to the desk lest Travie catch a glimpse.

"Yes, yes, quite divine," Pete says, not fully remembering what it was they were talking about. He chances a glance to his lap, and sees Patrick's honey-coloured hair rise between his legs. His heart sinks as he realises what is about to happen - yet he has no desire to prevent it. Patrick presses his fingers to the crotch of Pete's trousers and squeezes.

"We could stay for few days, give the crew a rest," Travie suggests, and Pete nods, unable to prevent Patrick's dexterous fingers undoing his belt. He can feel himself already growing aroused, his mind wandering to the activity in his breeches and away from the conversation at hand.

"I agree," Pete says, "they have earned a break from their duties. We could trade, replenish our stores with fruit and - uh, meat."

Patrick's fumbling with the button of his breeches, his wrist resting upon Pete's hardened cock. Pete decides that perhaps he will allow Travie to remove Patrick's eyes - he deserves no less after this.

"We are fine for meat," Travie says, "but it's been rather a long time since I've eaten mango."

"Uhuh," Pete hums. His breeches are open, now, the air cool against the heat of his crotch. It's a great challenge not to groan as Patrick's fingers wrap around his cock. "I couldn't agree more."

"About the mango?" Travie says, his thick brows creasing. Pete struggles to follow what he's asking - he makes the mistake of looking down to see Patrick's white fingers wrapped tight around his cock, his devilish eyes staring up at Pete and his lush lips hovering inches from the blushing tip of Pete's cock. Pete shoots him a glare.

"Y-yeah," Pete stumbles, forcing his gaze to the map and reading the words West Indies over and over to distract himself from the wash of hot breath over his cock. "Uh - Mayaguana?"

"Is there a port there?" Travie asks, "Or - one large enough to pillage?"

"I - oh," Pete blurts as something warm and wet touches his cock, "I - I'm not certain."

"I am not risking my life for one goat and a watermelon," Travie asserts, "we did that in Anguitta and I damn near lost a leg."

"Good, yeah," Pete says. Patrick's mouth is searing around his cock, sinking over his length until he feels Patrick's nose nudge into the coarse hair at the base of his cock. Then he's sucking and he's good at it, far too good than any gentleman has right to be and Pete's mind fumbles for images of Patrick on his knees for countless men, his lips stained red and his face covered with come. He has to drag himself back into the room simply to avoid reaching his climax that very moment.

"Good? You're mistaken," Travie scoffs, "that farmer was most upset."

"Lord, yes," Pete groans as Patrick drags his lips from Pete's cock and ducks to take Pete's balls into his mouth, one after the other. Pete feels as if he might cry - his poor mind is struggling between the lines of the map and the waves of sensation that Patrick's lips are sending over him.

"Are you quite alright?" Travie asks all of a sudden, and Pete looks up fast.

"Yes, of course - I, uh, perhaps something in the stew did not agree with me," he says, snaking a hand into Patrick's hair and gripping hard. He will not be humiliated any further - he's the captain, damnit, he will not allow himself to be reduced to a jabbering animal. He shoves Patrick's head down on his cock and holds him still. "I'm fine, now."

"Alright," Travie says with uncertainty. "So - Cuba?"

"Perhaps the South," Pete suggests. He can feel the tension in Patrick's body, the harsh rush of air through the man's nose. "Santiago. I've heard good things."

Patrick makes a pained noise around Pete's cock, and Pete coughs to cover it but doesn't feel the satisfaction he thought might come with choking Patrick. He releases his grip on Patrick's hair and lets him pull away, his harsh breaths clearly audible to Pete - Pete prays the same cannot be said for Travie.

"Indeed," Travie says, his gaze thankfully fixed on the map. "Anywhere with some good brothels," he grins.

Pete nods furtively, his cock aching between his legs and filling once again with excitement as Patrick's hands cup his balls, his breathing no longer laboured and his mouth no doubt preparing to torture Pete further. "It seems like months since I got my cock sucked," Pete says.

Travie raises an eyebrow. "Did you know that there's a rumour you're fucking the prisoner?" he says. Patrick's mouth stills on Pete's cock, tight and excruciating.

"I did," Pete replies, as calmly as he can muster with Patrick's tongue twitching against his cock. "I trust only the most foolish of you believe it. My preference for men does not mean I must have my way with every man I bring aboard this ship."

"Oh - of course," Travie says. "I meant no disrespect."

"I do hope not," Pete says with disdain. Travie is a skilled navigator, a loyal friend and an entertaining colleague - but he does not have Saporta's eye for lies. Patrick's fingertips burn spots of heat into the base of Pete's cock - Pete swears he can feel Patrick's pulse through his skin.

Travie nods, sheepish, and just as Pete opens his mouth to say something stern, authoritative, perhaps enlightened, Patrick bobs his head and pushes an obscene groan from Pete's lips.

Travie's eyes flash with alarm. "Are you sure you're alright?" he asks, and Pete coughs, nods, bites hard on the skin of his thumb as Patrick licks at the head of his cock, his fingers jerking to a slow and agonising rhythm. "Are you in pain?"

"I - uh," Pete blurts, vowing to strangle Patrick once this is over with, "perhaps my stomach has not yet settled. If I could have a few moments to my - ah, self, I would appreciate your patience."

"Of course," Travie says, standing with a clatter of his various weapons and casting a concerned look at Pete. "I hope whatever it is passes swiftly."

His walk towards the door seems to take an age as Patrick continues to suck Pete insane, wet noises emanating from beneath the desk and echoing around Pete's head. Travie gives Pete a final nod before steps out of the door and closes it behind him.

Pete breathes out gratefully, pushing his face into his hands as the pleasure builds in his belly and brews behind his eyes. Finally, he is able to look down, to see Patrick's red lips wrapped around his cock, his eyes wet yet taunting.

"I ought to hang you," Pete pants, leaning back in his chair and sliding a hand to Patrick's labouring jaw. "You could have - ah - utterly undermined my authority."

Patrick simply blinks his unholy blue eyes and continues to suck Pete's cock as if he has not tasted anything but water in a week. He is able to take Pete to the back of his throat, to swallow around his length, to make tiny humming noises that send waves of pleasure across Pete's skin. Pete is barely able to remain angry, his head light with his approaching release and his mind commanded by the wants of his cock.

"Good God," Pete gasps as Patrick's tongue scrapes over his length, drool beginning to drip down the man's chin and the sound of his working mouth driving Pete's cock to bursting point. Pete cannot keep himself from crying out as he begins to come, thrusting his hips forward and pumping into Patrick's waiting mouth.

Patrick swallows every last spurt, licking his lips as he pulls away before ducking to lap Pete's cock clean. Pete thinks he must have kidnapped an angel - although there is nothing angelic about the way Patrick's mouth parts, cherry red and whoreish, between Pete's legs. "That was - you are - how did you get in?" Pete finally blurts, staring down at Patrick as he catches his breath.

Shrugging, Patrick wipes at his lips. "You left the door unlocked."

"I - you were guarded, you -"

"Now now, let us not ruin the mystery," Patrick smirks, fiendish mischief glittering in his eyes. "So - am I to simply sit here?"

Pete pretends to think, stroking his thumb and forefinger over his beard. "I cannot deny what a pleasure it would be to keep you down there permanently," he says, but stretches out a hand and guides Patrick into his lap. Patrick’s knees straddle Pete's thighs and his chained hands loop around Pete's neck. His arousal is obvious through his breeches.

"What would you have me do?" Patrick asks, his delicate eyebrows raised. Pete slides a hand to the line of Patrick's cock and strokes it affectionately.

"I would have your mouth on my cock," Pete purrs, "I would have you hold it between your lips and command you not to suck. I would let you endure hour upon hour of my conversation with the crew before I allowed you to move - by then, you would be begging for the taste of my release."

"I would," Patrick whispers, his mouth twitching as Pete unbuttons his breeches and pulls his swollen cock from his trousers. "Or - I would bring you to your climax regardless of your company," he smirks.

"In which case I would be obliged to punish you." Pete strokes Patrick's cock slowly and with relish, his thumb smearing the delicate pearls at the head. "Perhaps I would bend you over my desk - fuck you in front of my crew. Such a dignified gentleman - reduced to a common whore."

Patrick breathes hard as Pete strokes him, his cuffs digging into the back of Pete's neck. "On the contrary," he whispers, his lips but an inch away from Pete's own, "a captain - a pirate captain - buried in the arse of that which he despises. Your own dignity is in poor shape."

"Watch your tongue," Pete smirks, "or I shall have to claim it for myself."

"I rather wish you would," Patrick breathes, then presses his mouth to Pete's, his tongue pushing past Pete's lips. Pete lets his eyes fall shut, lets Patrick feast on his mouth as he jerks Patrick's cock in his hand.

The noises that slip from Patrick's lips course through Pete's skull as Patrick writhes in his lap, his release hitting him in a flurry of tensed limbs and wanton gasps, spilling over Pete's hand. Pete kisses him hard as their bodies melt together, and the sounds of their lips sing through the room. Pete was not previously aware that kissing could be quite so pleasurable.

"I scrubbed the floors," Patrick mumbles, and Pete laughs, sliding his hand to the back of Patrick's neck.

"I'm glad," Pete says, "they were exceptionally dirty." When he kisses Patrick once more, he savours the softness of his lips, the way he sighs into Pete's mouth and his chained hands move to cup Pete's jaw. On pulling away, Pete watches Patrick's eyes flutter open, his cheeks dusted pink and a smile touching his lips.

But something behind Patrick catches Pete's eye - the glint of an encrusted hilt where the sunlight pours through the window, the shine of brass buttons and polished boots. Patrick’s effects lie in an unguarded heap in the corner of the room, precisely where Pete left them. He could have taken back his sword and sliced Pete in two. Instead, he sits in Pete's lap, a puzzled smile on his face and brightened blue eyes following Pete's gaze.

"There are - too many of you," Patrick says. "There would have been no victory in trying."

"Of course," Pete nods. "It would have been foolish. And you are no fool."

"Not in battle, no," Patrick muses, then turns back to Pete. "In romance? Perhaps."

"Perhaps," Pete echoes. He leans to kiss Patrick once more, but the weight of his own blade does not leave his side.


Chapter Text

Pete's awakes to the shouts of his crew. He rolls over, staring towards the doors of his quarters, at the figure of Saporta as he charges through them.

"If we're being attacked, please keep the noise down," Pete mumbles, pulling the blankets over his face and letting his eyes fall shut once again.

"Your bloody deviant is getting himself strung up by his ankles. If you don't slit his throat in the next thirty seconds, I assure you that they will."

Pete's out of bed like a shot, tripping over himself as he tries to pull on his trousers and reach for his sword at the same time. Saporta grabs him by the forearm and drags him from the room, his open belt flailing and his hat abandoned on the desk.

The commotion is garish, vibrating through the lower levels and spilling through the hatch, the stairs echoing with footsteps. Pete manages to get his belt done up just as Patrick's limp form is thrown onto the deck, limbs flailing. Pete's stomach turns.

"What the devil is going on?!" Pete shouts, drawing his sword as a few of his crew emerge from the ladder.

"Enough waiting," Jones growls, his face contorted with rage. "We want him dead."

Patrick's body stirs, his pale shoulders gleaming in the sunlight as he attempts to push himself up. He fails. When he looks towards Pete, his lip is bloody and his ribs are blooming with red marks - Pete stares just long enough to watch the way Patrick's face crumples when Jones drives his boot into Patrick's stomach.

"I shall say what his fate is!" Pete cries above the commotion, pushing through the growing crowd and towards Patrick's curled form. "Do not harm him."

"Why not," Maina spits, "he has harmed us. He and his kind. My family - your family, captain, he has taken, he has enslaved. He doesn't deserve another bite of our food or breath of our air. Let me kill him."

"Let me !" Williams shouts, her sword already drawn and aimed at Patrick's chest. "I want his manhood, too. Roasted on a spit."

"He pays for the sins of his kind just as he would have us pay for the sins of ours!"

"Enough!" Pete bellows, gesturing for the crowd to dissipate, "He is but one man! He alone is not responsible for the actions of the Royal Navy. Slaughtering him will not bring back our brothers and sisters. Surely, more bloodshed cannot be the answer."

The group murmurs for a few seconds, until Jones shuffles forward. "Uh - it's good enough for me, captain."

A rumble of agreement. Pete looks down at Patrick - his eyes are fearful, flitting between each of the blades turned upon him, flinching with each shift of his torso. He is forlorn, cowering, powerless. Pete cannot justify taking the life of someone that poses so little threat, who harbours so little hatred. "This is a matter my first mate and I shall need to discuss. Get up, limey."

The flash of hurt in Patrick's eyes shouldn't make Pete regret himself, and yet he stretches out a hand to compensate, helping Patrick to his feet as his crew jeer and hiss. Patrick leans into him, his bare feet stumbling over the floorboards and his hands clutching Pete's arm far too readily - Pete has to push him away to avoid arousing suspicion.

Saporta follows as they make for Pete's quarters, his eyes dark. Pete's not sure what he's expecting Saporta to say - he's stalling for time, for excuses, apologies. Perhaps if he can explain to Patrick why exactly he must kill him in front of his crew, Patrick will not look at Pete like he does when Pete thrusts him through the doors and shoves him away.

"What is this about, Pete," Saporta growls, "what is the purpose of delay?"

"I simply needed to regain control," Pete says with a breath, retrieving his shirt from his dresser and shrugging it over his shoulders. "I will not see him pulled limb from limb."

"Then what will you see," Gabe says flatly, his gaze resting upon Patrick. "They expect a show. A burning, perhaps."

Disgust flickers across Patrick's face. "Pete - Captain. Have I not shown you my loyalty? Have I not your trust?"

"Trust doesn't matter," Saporta snaps. "I don't care what you two have been up to - you are still a prisoner, and this is still a pirate ship."

"I believed I was more than a prisoner," Patrick says. "Perhaps I was wrong."

Pete can barely meet his eyes. Both Patrick and Saporta glare, pulling him in opposing directions. "He is not dangerous. He is more use to us alive than dead."

"Your crew does not agree. Might I remind you that they are the priority - not your Royal whore," Saporta spits. "You will not remain captain if you go on like this."

"He's not hurting anyone!" Pete exclaims, "He's a human being, not a scare tactic! I will not take his life to slake their momentary bloodlust. They will not remain satisfied, whether Patrick is dead or alive."

"You've killed hundreds of white men to slake your own bloodlust!" Saporta retorts, "What is one more? Do not tell me the others didn't have wives, families, children too?"

"But he -"

"Oh, but he likes you, does he?" Saporta interrupts, "He let you fuck him in exchange for food, did he? Perhaps he has fed you lies, perhaps he feigns love for you - I have not met a single white man who would not do the same to save his own skin. Do not tell me he is different from the rest."

"He showed me mercy," Pete says. "When I was his prisoner, he did not beat me, or ridicule me, or allow others to do so. It is only fair I show him that same mercy."

Saporta steps in front of Pete and cuts Patrick from the conversation, lowering his voice to a murmur. "You are not an honourable man, Pete. Moreover, if you walk out of this cabin without a blade to this man's throat, your crew will slaughter you both. Their loyalty is not unconditional. You must make a decision now ."

Pete's heart begins its slow shrivel into nothingness. He's known where this will lead for some time - only now does he feel the crushing weight of it over his shoulders. He casts a glance at Patrick and pictures him with Pete's sword in his chest, eyes wide with betrayal before he crumples to the floor. Pete shakes his head.

"I cannot do it," he says. "If he must die - could you -"

"You're the captain!" Gabe snaps, "You must show strength!"

"I have none left in me," Pete confesses. "Please, Gabe."

Saporta gazes at him for a few, slow seconds as his expression softens and his fists relax. "Fine. Alright."

"Pete?" Patrick says. His eyes are wide with dread - Pete suspects he knows precisely what's been decided. Saporta turns on him.

"He has not the guts to finish you off," Saporta growls. "I, on the other hand, am glad to carry out the deed."

"No - Pete, please ," Patrick starts, his voice becoming frantic as Saporta's fingers close around his arm. "I thought you a better man than this, I - I have done you no wrong, please -"

"Quiet," Saporta orders, "begging will affect nothing but your dignity. Have some pride." He grabs Patrick's jaw and pushes his chin up. "Death is but another voyage."

"How will you do it," Patrick says quietly. "I fear death, as any creature does - but I fear pain above all else."

Saporta's eyes darken and his mouth quirks into a malicious smirk. "What a pity. I'm not sure you're going to enjoy the next hour, in that case."

Patrick seems seconds away from either crying or vomiting. "Are you not content to slit my throat? Must you grant me no mercy?"

"We prevented the crew from tearing you apart - I think that's mercy enough."

Saporta takes hold of the chain of Patrick's cuffs and drags him towards the door, ignoring his incessant struggles. He pulls and kicks and screams like an animal - Pete remembers doing the same. He can barely stand to watch it.

"Captain - a hand, if you please," Gabe growls as he attempts to wrangle Patrick. All Pete can think to do is place his hands on Patrick's thrashing shoulders. Patrick jerks away from him.

"Get off me," he spits. "You do not have permission to touch me anymore. I am not your plaything."

Pete nods, steps away from Patrick. He goes entirely still when Gabe opens the door to reveal an expectant crew, all peering at Pete for the verdict. Saporta gives it instead.

"Now - as you all know, I have been an exemplary first mate," he says with a flourish, "and as a reward for my years of service, the captain has allowed me," he grabs Patrick and shoves him forward, a hand clamped around his wrists, "to kill the prisoner myself."

The crowd roars with glee, surging towards Saporta and dragging him and Patrick towards the centre of the deck, where they form an arc around them and await the morning's entertainment. Pete follows slowly, every pulse of his heart thudding through his skull. It's wrong, so wrong - this isn't a battlefield or a courtroom, this is murder.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Saporta announces to the crowd, "you have been heard. This simpering excuse for a man has lived long enough. Today, he shall pay for the evils he has committed.

Pete positions himself near the rise of the quarter deck, leaning against the rock-taut rope holding the yardarm of the mainmast in place. Patrick stands a few feet away, anchored in place by the grasp of Gabe's hand at the back of his neck and the blade of Gabe's sword across his chest. He's stopped struggling and simply stands, staring straight ahead, his arms limp at his sides.

"How, pray tell, do you wish to perish?" Saporta asks sweetly. "Perhaps we should douse you in oil, watch the flesh burn from your bones," he hisses, his face close to Patrick's and his eyes narrowed. Patrick flinches, but says nothing, his chest rising evenly and his gaze averted. His composure somehow makes this even more excruciating. "Or perhaps we simply slice you open, and let everyone take a piece of you for themselves."

The crew jeers, cackling as Saporta traces the blade of his sword across the curve of Patrick's stomach. Patrick's hands jump to his own throat, clutching at his crucifix. His lips begin to move in whispered prayer.

"He thinks his God will save him!" Saporta mocks, "He thinks he is headed somewhere other than the arms of Satan! You have sinned, prisoner. And now you shall feel our wrath."

The attentions of the crew are captivated by the scene. Not one of them notice Pete drawing his sword and resting it against the rope. Under the blade, a few threads fray.

"But - your eyes first, I think," Saporta says with a grin. "On your knees, Englishman."

Patrick's expression sinks to one of pure horror. When he falls to his knees, Pete swears he can see tears on Patrick's cheeks. He shoves his sword against the rope - he's nearly halfway through it.

Gabe grabs Patrick by the hair and yanks his head backwards, flexing his fingers in front of Patrick's face. Patrick's eyes are squeezed shut, his knuckles white around his crucifix. "Open up," Gabe purrs, "it'll only hurt more if you don't."

Pete begins to actively saw at the rope, watching the threads break under his blade. A cry of pain spills from Patrick's mouth and Pete looks up, prays he's not too late - but Patrick's cheek glows with the mark of Saporta's hand. "Be a man," he growls at Patrick, "men do not weep like children."

Saporta's flare for the dramatic works in Pete's favour - he takes the time to stroke his fingers across Patrick's face, lift his brow with a thumb and gesture for the crew to come closer, to count the seconds before Gabe sinks his fingers into Patrick's skull. "Five - four - three - two -"

The rope breaks with a mighty groan, flying across the deck as the yardarm swings and the ship lurches. Shouts sound from the crew - several lose their balance and fall to the floor, others make for the taffrails or cling to the cannon.

Pete simply runs, shoving his way into the chaos until he all but steps on Patrick - he pulls him to his feet and shoves him towards the taffrail, praying to Patrick's God that this won't get him killed. Saporta's incredulous shouts ring in his ears.

"We're not far from land - swim West, you'll reach port soon enough," Pete babbles as Patrick's back hits the rail and he loses his balance, his hands flying to grasp Pete's shirt before he's lost to the waves.

"Pete, no -" Patrick starts, frantic and clinging. Pete prises his hands away, pushing them back towards Patrick.

"You have to jump - go, now."

"No - look !" Patrick exclaims, pointing towards the mainsail. A body flails, caught in the tangled rigging and dangling a hundred feet in the air.

Pete's crew are pointing, staring too, a few attempting to negotiate the mess of rigging and failing miserably. The next thing Pete knows, Patrick's shoving past him and sprinting for the mast.

"Hey - wait!" Pete shouts, but Patrick doesn't stop, his bare feet flying across the deck until he reaches the pillar of the mast.  Pete can only watch in awe as Patrick wraps his body around its width and begins to scramble upwards, the cuffs limiting his hands but his feet locked tight around the wood.

He begins to gain the notice of the crew - a small group are holding tight to the end of the snapped rope but gazing up at the spectacle. Patrick barely stops for breath at the first yardarm, using it only to launch himself a few feet higher.

"Is this your doing," Saporta hisses as he approaches Pete.

Pete shakes his head. "I'd planned to cast him out to sea."

"Agile little bugger, isn't he?" Saporta observes as Patrick nears fifty feet, using the coils of rope around the mast as his ladder.

The flailing man screams, his hands scrabbling for the rope knotted around his leg but unable to reach it. Travie's calling out to him while others attempt to disentangle the rigging, to no avail. All eyes eventually crawl to Patrick.

He's slowing - he stops to cling to the mast at intervals, his bound hands scrabbling for a secure hold. Pete's heart beats high in his throat, almost choking him when Patrick's foot slips and he falls a few inches. He's a white smudge against the dark wood, a spider scuttling towards the skies.

Finally, he reaches the topmost yardarm, swinging his legs over the beam and pushing himself upright. "Crawl," Pete pleads under his breath, "don't stand, you bloody idiot, crawl ."

As if in direct contempt of Pete's words, Patrick lets go of the mast and runs along the yardarm. Pete grabs Gabe's forearm as if it might aid Patrick's balance - but Patrick needs no such help, dancing to the end of the beam and letting himself topple lightly to his knees just above the panicked sailor.

Watching it is making Pete's stomach ache but he's unable to tear his eyes away as Patrick gets ahold of the entangled rope and slips down towards the man, one arm outstretched. The man - Pete thinks it's Toro, judging by the mop of curls swinging in the breeze - lets out a cry as he surges towards Patrick, fastening their hands together and relieving the pressure on the rope holding him up. As it loosens, his leg falls free.

Pete doesn't take a breath until Patrick's scrambled back to the yardarm, Toro close behind. A few seconds later, Patrick's wrapping his legs around the beam and falling sideways, hanging upside-down until he gets ahold of the tangled rigging and begins to untwist it as best he can.

Slowly but surely, he and Ray edge back towards the ground. Pete feels an ebb of pride as he watches Patrick guide Ray to secure footholds, tapping the ropes beneath him and pausing when Toro loses his breath. The sense of utter, blissful relief that fills his chest as Patrick's feet land upon the deck tells Pete that it must be love.

Travie sprints to help Toro to the ground, lowering him gently and inspecting his injured leg. Pete hurries towards the gathering crowd, saddened that he cannot scoop Patrick in his arms and celebrate his courage. However, it seems Travie is doing just that - he barrels towards Patrick and lifts him off the ground, shouting thanks and spinning like a ballet dancer. When he finally scampers back to Ray, Patrick looks vaguely dazed.

The crew seem unsure as to how to react - their eyes rest upon Pete as he approaches, awaiting his verdict. Patrick watches him warily, his limbs red with rope-burn and his chest heaving with exertion. Pete supposes a hug would be unprofessional - though he wants nothing more than to hold Patrick, to kiss his lips and feel the pulse of vital blood in his veins. Instead, he extends a hand.

Patrick shakes it with apparent relief, squeezing Pete's fingers tight. "That was quite something," Pete tells him, loud enough for the crew to hear, "you have great courage."

"Thank you, captain," Patrick says with a curt nod.

"I suppose you have done this deed in exchange for your life, correct?"

"I think I will be of greater use with both my eyes."

"I agree," Pete says, turning to face his crew. "Has he redeemed himself?"

A murmur rumbles around their audience. Travie pushes forward, pointing urgently at Patrick. "Yeah. God, yeah, he saved Ray's life!"

"To save his own," Williams spits, "this is no show of loyalty."

"He could still murder us in our beds," Jones points out, but Saporta snorts.

"He is a man, not a navy," he says, "he is not armed - he's lost even the shirt on his back. He is no threat."

"I've not seen a man scale a mast like that in many years," says Maina. "He could be useful."

"Well - I think he deserves a second chance," Pete says finally, the discussion sinking with a wave of Pete's hand. "I am not devoid of mercy - he will keep his eyes and his life. Now for God's sake, enough frivolities, get back to work!"

Begrudgingly, the crew begin to scatter, a couple moving to shake Patrick's hand and others casting glares at him from afar. Porter, the ship's surgeon, tends to Ray's leg, with Travie hovering behind, his hand tight to Ray's shoulder. Pete looks back at Patrick. "We can discuss bedding arrangements at a later time - for now, I shall escort you to your cell."

Patrick purses his lips. "I would prefer Mr. Saporta."

Pete blinks, blood rushing to his cheeks. "Excuse me?"

"I do not wish you to escort me, captain," Patrick spits.

"Alas, I shall do so whether you wish it or not," Pete says, but Patrick simply strides past him, heading for the open hatch. He increases his pace when Pete hastens after him, disappearing below deck. In the corner of his eye, Pete glimpses Saporta's disapproving frown, but hurries forward all the same, desperate to keep Patrick within his sights.

"Patrick," Pete calls as he steps down the ladder, "Patrick, I must explain myself -"

But Patrick's pale form is already lost to Pete, the clang of a cell door echoing through the depths of the ship. Perhaps he'd like to be left alone - Pete's not quite sure when Patrick's opinions began to matter, but he cannot bear another second without Patrick's affections.

"Patrick - allow me to explain," Pete pants as he reaches the door to Patrick's cell. Patrick's curled in the corner, a thunderous expression across his face and his cuffs strung tight around his knees.

"I do not require an explanation," he says, "leave me be."

"No - Patrick, I - I am so sorry, I did not intend -"

"I was terrified, Pete!" Patrick cries, "I was beaten first by your wretched crew and next by your cruel words. You would have me dead so long as it was not by your hand, you would have my eyes plucked from my skull, you would have my body torn into pieces whilst I was still breathing! I thought you honourable, kind, perhaps - but you were content to watch me perish. You are a coward."

"I had no choice," Pete says in weak defence, "they had wanted you dead for weeks. They were suspicious of me."

"And trying to throw me overboard would have put their suspicions to rest?" Patrick asks, eyebrows raised and eyes red-rimmed. "I was cuffed, I'd barely have made it fifty feet."

"I could not do nothing. Had I not cut the rope, you would not still be living," Pete points out. This does not seem to improve Patrick's mood.

He lets out something like a sob, dropping his head to his knees. Pete pushes the door open, creeps towards Patrick with fingers itching to hold him, to comfort him - but as soon as he lays a hand on Patrick's shoulder, Patrick twitches away from him.

"I told you - do not touch me," he snarls.

"My apologies," Pete concedes, backing away. "I was a fool. In fact, I was foolish to think I'd - I'd be able to simply fuck you. I care for you immensely, and today - when you displayed such bravery - I was proud to call you my equal and my friend."

"How noble of you," Patrick replies. "Now leave me be."

Pete nods, shuffles from the cell and pulls the door shut behind him.

-

Pete spends the remainder of the afternoon steeped in melancholy, confined mostly to his study. Their route is well-planned, yet he pores endlessly over his maps, counting the hours until Patrick's temper may have subsided. He orders a midshipman to fetch Patrick an afternoon meal and eats his own alone in his quarters, his mind dwelling solely upon matters of the heart.

By early evening, he is stewing, and he cannot bear it any longer. He gathers the things he's prepared for Patrick and hurries back to the cell, his tongue itching to form better, more dignified words and his hands desperate for permission to touch.

Patrick has barely moved from the corner of the cell - his empty plate lies abandoned beside him, his eyes drooping where he rests. When Pete enters, he looks up, his face curling into something angry and unforgiving. Pete hopes he can drain Patrick's eyes of their malice.

"I am not here to talk," Pete says as he enters the cell, setting his tray of objects down on the floor. Patrick watches him curiously, but remains silent.  Among the objects is a bowl of salt water and several lengths of cloth - Pete takes the set of keys from his belt and reaches for Patrick's hands. "May I?"

Slowly, Patrick leans forward and lets Pete take his hand, turning his wrist so that Pete can fit the key into the rusted lock and loosen the cuffs. Underneath, Patrick's wrist is bruised and bloodied - Pete's careful not to touch the wounds.

Once both of Patrick's hands are freed, Pete dips a flannel in salt water and drapes it lightly over the scabs, washing the dried blood away and cleansing the cuts. Patrick winces but doesn't flinch away - he allows Pete to soak both his wrists in turn, his fingers twitching in Pete's grasp. Pete wills himself not to look up from his work, attempting to read Patrick's emotions through the tensing of his muscles and the rhythm of his breathing.

Bandaging Patrick's wrists is strangely intimate - it's unlike his previous experiences with Patrick, it's soothing, gentle, devoid of sexual tension and filled instead with a serenity Pete has seldom experienced as captain of a pirate ship. He knots the frayed ends with care and admires his work - it's neat, clean. When Pete finally looks up, Patrick's gaze has softened.

Pete picks the folds of white from the tray and places it in Patrick's hands. "It is not the one you arrived in, but it's clean and should fit."

"Thank you," Patrick says, smoothing his hands over the cotton. He pulls it on, buttoning it carefully and rolling the cuffs to his elbows. He's already eyeing the shoes and stockings Pete's brought, and Pete pushes them towards him. Seeing him dress makes Pete regret depriving him for so long - he seems so much more human, more healthy, more alive.

He leaves the top three buttons of his shirt undone - the fuzz of his chest peeking from the neckline and his crucifix gleaming. It does not offend Pete as much as it once did - Patrick's beliefs were there to comfort him when Pete was not. It suits the marble-white of his skin, and Pete longs to touch it.

"I wondered if you'd like to dine with us," Pete says, "I cannot promise some will not resent your presence - but I will not let them taunt you."

"I can handle taunting - but I would prefer to keep both my eyes," Patrick says, and there's humour in his tone, yet his mouth wavers and he swallows hard.

"I guarantee it," Pete replies, frowning as Patrick's breaths sharpen. "Are you alright?"

"Fine," Patrick says, getting to his feet and rolling his shoulders back. Pete does the same, unsure as to whether he should touch Patrick - and then Patrick's arms are wrapped around him, his face dropping to Pete's collarbone.

Pete squeezes him tight, stroking small circles into the ridge of Patrick's spine until Patrick pushes him away, his face arranged into a determined frown.

"I'm fine," he says dismissively, "a little shaken, is all. Now - let us dine."

-

"May I present to you Mr. Patrick Stumph," Pete announces to the table, a hand clasped to Patrick's shoulder, "he shall be dining with us tonight. I ask you only to be civil - he is not our enemy. Patrick - do sit down."

Patrick does so, his eyes flicking to each of the staring crew members. Pete sits opposite him as plates are placed in front of them both - the smell of roast meat heavy in the air. There are murmurings, as Pete knew there would be, but Patrick pays them no mind, staring only at his plate as he begins to dig in.

"So, Stumph -" Williams growls from the other end of the table, "how many slave ships did you captain?"

Pete opens his mouth to scold her, but Patrick interrupts him. "None," he says shortly. "I fought the Spanish at Cartagena de Indias."

"Defending the empire?"

Patrick shrugs. "It was a poor defence. We lost twelve thousand men."

"Good," Williams spits, "a pity it is that you didn't perish with them."

"I did not choose it," Patrick says, "I would not, given another chance."

"Liar," she retorts, "you have not known hardship as we have endured by your hand."

Patrick nods. "I had not claimed to."

Williams does not let up. When she has taken her pound of flesh, Jones takes his turn, each dose of anger around the table inflicted upon Patrick like lashes of the cat - and Patrick simply listens. Pete need not jump to his defence - Patrick is not in need of it, nor does he defend himself. The catharsis in the atmosphere by the end of the evening is far greater than it may have been had Patrick's throat been cut.

"I don't like you," Jones says outright as the crew begins to disperse, a large finger pointed straight at Patrick, "but I will tolerate you."

"Thank you," Patrick says, nodding his appreciation and sipping the last of his rum from the cup.

"That was - exceedingly well handled," Pete says once they're back in Patrick's cell. "You must get some sleep - it has been a trying day."

Patrick nods, running his newly freed hands through his hair and slumping onto his makeshift bed. His playful streak seems to have jumped ship - he looks tired, not in the mood for the pleasures Pete had thought might ensue.

"May I kiss you goodnight?" Pete asks.

Patrick purses his lips. "I think not," he says. "I have not entirely forgiven you, Mr. Wentz."

"I could suck you, then?"

"Perhaps not tonight," Patrick says. He's being prudish simply to punish Pete, surely, but nevertheless, he beckons Pete forward. "You may lie with me."

"I was under the impression that you -"

"Damn it all, Pete, I have seen the face of death by your hand, the least you can do is hold me!" he snaps, smacking the space next to him and folding his arms.

Pete smiles, slips down beside Patrick and gathers his grumpy form in his arms, pressing his nose to Patrick's neck and breathing him in. "Am I forgiven?"

Patrick makes a noise of uncertainty. "Ask me in the morning."

Pete laughs, his hands finding the warmth of Patrick's hips and squeezing. "I shall rush from my chambers."

"Your chambers?" Patrick snorts. "You shall be sleeping in my chambers. Then I shall consider granting you forgiveness."

The floor is hard, lumpy underneath him as he lays down with Patrick, breathing a sigh across the back of his neck. "You are a devil."

Patrick turns in his arms, ghosting his lips over Pete's, his eyes bright in the darkness. "Perhaps," he breathes, "but it would seem I am your devil."

Pete lets out a sigh of contentment, bringing a hand to cup Patrick's face and stroking his thumb across Patrick's cheek. There is so much he wishes to do to Patrick, to do with Patrick, so much he had yet to explore and so much more to be discovered. The morning cannot come soon enough.

Chapter Text

Patrick wakes to Pete’s arms around him. He’s dreadfully warm, the muggy Caribbean air casting moisture over his face and sweat soaking through his clothes where Pete’s body is pressed against his own. He can’t say he enjoys the heat, but it’s infinitely more bearable now that he’s not obliged to wear a uniform. Still, he shifts away from Pete, peeling himself from Pete’s grasp and sitting up, rubbing his sleep-blurred eyes.

Pete makes an unhappy noise where he lays, reaching out to Patrick before rolling onto his back. “Whr ya goin’,” he mumbles, and Patrick almost leans to kiss him - then remembers he is still furious at the captain for, oh yes, letting Gabe pull Patrick’s eyes out.

“Get up,” he snaps, pulling on one of Pete’s dreads, “the crew cannot see you with me.”

“‘S early,” Pete groans, “stay a while longer.”

“You are the one that must leave,” Patrick corrects, “and I should fancy some breakfast, while you’re at it.”

“Piss off,” Pete spits, “lay down, c’mon.”

“Would you like my forgiveness or not?” Patrick asks lightly, shifting away from Pete’s groping hands.

“I’d like your arse,” Pete says, and Patrick narrows his eyes. Perhaps he really is just a body to Pete, a willing hole to fill the time.

“Then you had better earn it,” Patrick snaps. “I am not your plaything.”

At this, Pete stirs, propping himself up on his elbows and sighing. “I did not mean it like that.”

“I rather think you did,” Patrick tells him. He’s determined to make Pete feel as guilty as possible - Patrick will never forget the abject terror he felt with Gabe’s fingers pressed to his eye.

Pete sits up to look at Patrick, his hands twitching in his lap and his teeth gnawing on his bottom lip. “Is it wrong for a man to appreciate the body of another?”

“Of course not. But the other should not be appreciated in body alone. Unless perhaps they are a whore,” Patrick reasons. “But even then, they are not only flesh and blood.”

“What else are they, then,” Pete asks, “ are we not all simply bodies?”

Patrick touches his fingers to the crucifix around his neck. “We are souls, too.”

He waits for Pete to roll his eyes, to scoff at Patrick’s beliefs as he so often does, but Pete’s face remains neutral. “Even I?”

Patrick frowns. “Of course.”

“And - my soul is good?” Pete asks. “Honourable?”

“I - that is not for me to judge,” Patrick says, “only the Lord will decide.”

“What if I do not care for the Lord’s judgement,” Pete responds, “and only for yours?”

Patrick supposes he knows what Pete is doing - yet there’s a sincerity in Pete’s eyes that Patrick has not often seen. “As I said when we met - I am no judge,” he says, “but - I think you of kind heart.”

“Even though I tried to throw you overboard?”

Patrick can’t help but breathe a laugh. “Even though you tried to throw me overboard.”

“In that case - I shall fetch us both some breakfast. Perhaps you would like to dine in my quarters?” Pete asks, getting to his feet and raising his eyebrows.

“I would like that very much,” Patrick says. “I shall meet you there.”

-

They eat at Pete’s desk like gentlemen, and for once, Patrick doesn’t feel like a prisoner. They laugh like old friends and dine like kings - Patrick suspects Pete has increased the rations he allows Patrick, as Patrick feels distinctly more full now than he did a few weeks ago. He stands by his words - Pete has a kind heart. And, as Patrick has learnt time and time again, a filthy mind.

“It is a hot day,” Pete observes, leaning back in his chair and glancing out of the sweeping window. “And a fine day to make port. What delicacies we shall bring back.”

“What are you suggesting,” Patrick says, the false nonchalance obvious in Pete’s tone. “I doubt it would be safe for me on dry land.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Pete replies, “but - it is awfully hot. Is there much need for clothes?”

Patrick shrugs. “I see no use for them.”

“Perhaps we should move to my bed. It is cooler behind the curtain,” Pete reasons, and though Patrick would love to hold out for a few hours longer, his cock wants quite the opposite.

“I cannot fault your logic,” Patrick muses, and gets from his chair, following Pete towards the drapes.

The feel of a bed beneath him is one Patrick sorely misses - he has slept on nothing but floorboards for weeks and the softness of the mattress seems to embrace him as he sinks into it. Pete shuts the curtains behind him and makes for Patrick, a smirk smudged over his face.

“It would seem that I am indebted to you,” Pete says, sitting lightly on the bed beside Patrick. “You have no use for money, and possessions do not seem of importance to you - however could I repay you?”

Patrick raises an eyebrow and shuffles against the headboard, his legs spread wide. “I can think of something,” he grins.

Pete bites his lip, shifting towards Patrick and stroking his hands up Patrick’s calves. He’s sure his cock is already visible, each touch of Pete’s hands sending heat to his crotch. Pete knows exactly how to be excruciating, trailing his fingers along the buttons of Patrick's breeches and pressing just so into the line of Patrick's cock.

"No teasing," Patrick breathes, "just suck me, if you would."

"Yes, sir," Pete grins, kneading Patrick's crotch with his palm before reaching for the buttons and casting Patrick a lustful glance.

Pete's hand around his cock feels heavenly - but not quite as heavenly as his mouth. Pete hovers his lips over the tender tip, his breath ghosting over Patrick's skin and his hands sliding to the inside of his thighs. When he presses his mouth to the head, Patrick's heart begins to race. The sight of Pete sinking down over his cock is one he doubts he'll forget.

He feels himself swelling between Pete's lips, tipping his head back against the headboard and revelling in the sensation. The power he feels is one he's chased after for weeks - he is no longer Pete's inferior, they are equal, perhaps even equally committed. Patrick sorely hopes that is the case. Even as Pete drags his mouth over Patrick's cock, fondles his balls gently in his hand, Patrick feels something more than lust, more than convenience.

Still, he begins to thrust into Pete's mouth, feeling the tip of his cock hit the back of Pete's throat and crying out with the sensation. Pete moans around his length, and Patrick is so, so close, the sight of his cock slipping between Pete's lips almost too much to bear. Patrick's half expecting him to stop, to leave Patrick locked in the cabin with a raging erection, but for once, he seems determined to make Patrick come as fast as possible. His mouth is so tight around Patrick, his fingers stroking all the places where his lips don't reach, and in a matter of minutes, he tips Patrick over the edge. Patrick releases deep in Pete's throat, his eyes shut tight and his hands fisted in the blankets.

Pete gives Patrick's softening cock a few fleeting licks, letting a ribbon of Patrick's come drip from the corner of his mouth. He looks divine; Patrick places a hand to his jaw and brings him closer. Pete wipes his mouth with a grin and sits between Patrick's legs, a hand placed flat on his chest as he leans to kiss Patrick.

"I suppose you're forgiven," Patrick mumbles into Pete's mouth, and Patrick feels the smile Pete breathes over his face.

"I am glad to hear it," Pete says, his hands blissfully rough on Patrick's face and telling of more pleasures on the horizon. "I should be going, soon."

"How long will you be?" Patrick asks. his fingers clutching at Pete's shirt. "I might get impatient."

"A few hours," Pete replies, "I have some business to attend to."

"What business is that?"

"None of yours," Pete smirks, pecking Patrick on the lips once again. Patrick simply frowns, watching the mischief dance in Pete's eyes. "I shall take you back to your cell."

At this notion, Patrick glares. "Do I not have your trust?"

"Well -" Pete falters, "I simply wondered -"

"Am I banished from the captain's quarters lest I murder him in his bed?"

Pete looks at him closely, then sighs. "I suppose I could leave you. But - do not let slip that you are allowed in here, it will anger the crew."

"Understood," Patrick says, touching their lips together for a final time before Pete slips from the bed and pulls open the curtain.

"I shall return swiftly," Pete says with a smile, "Do not cause trouble."

"I wouldn't dream of it," Patrick replies.

-

Within the hour, Patrick's bored. He's studied the map on Pete's desk, the patterns on his drapes, the notches in the headboard of the bed. He wonders how many Pete has had in these very sheets, how many he's grown tired of and moved on from. Patrick supposes a pirate captain could have anyone he wanted.

The distress that this thought casts through Patrick's chest is one Patrick dwells on for a few moments - would Pete ever settle? Could Pete bring himself to lie with only one person, could Pete ever give himself entirely without cheating his own nature? Patrick has known the joy of promiscuity, the freedom of laying with whomever he might choose - he would understand if Pete would not give this up.

Perhaps Patrick is too much a romantic. Perhaps his want for the affections of one true partner are frivolous, perhaps they even spring from a place of jealousy - but if he can allow Pete his nature, he can allow himself his own. The warmth of Pete's mouth still lingers on his cock, the press of Pete's tongue still rests in his mouth. Perhaps there is no point in protest - he has fallen for a pirate. There is nought to be done about it.

With this in mind, Patrick's eyes slide towards the doors, sunlight streaming through them. The crew buzz over the decks like ants, each carrying supplies or rolling barrels. Patrick watches them for a few moments, wondering if he'll ever truly be a part of the crew, or if he's destined for life in the peripheral, as an outsider. The thought doesn't entice him.

A few moments later, however, he spots a small group of men heading for the cabin. They carry many items with them - Patrick wonders if they plan to kill him, once and for all. He casts a glance towards his sword - it would be so easy to betray Pete's trust. Then again, Pete had ordered Patrick to remain unseen - he's clearly failed. The men burst through the door.

Ray is among them. His leg is somewhat better - he walks with only a slight limp and there's no splint in sight. In his arms, he holds a bucket, which he places on the floor in front of Patrick.

The others deposit clean flannels and a second shirt, along with a box of soap, before dispersing, leaving Ray stood awkwardly in front of Patrick. Patrick looks at him, brows crossed and eyes expectant - before remembering that Ray cannot talk. Ray simply shrugs, gesturing at the supplies and then to Patrick.

Patrick smiles slightly, crouching to pick up the soap and turning it over in his hands. "Thank you," he says, enunciating carefully.

Ray seems to understand - he grins, putting his hands together in prayer and extending them towards Patrick. All Patrick can think to do is continue smiling; but Ray seems happy enough with this, and backs from the room, waving a farewell to Patrick before he shuts the door.

It's freshwater - Patrick takes a grateful sip from cupped hands as he kneels beside it, spreading it over his face and neck. It's cool - it's been kept in some underground cellar, perhaps it cost a great deal. Patrick quickly strips his shirt from his back and immerses his arms in the water, spreading it across his torso and letting it drip down his back.

He removes the soap from the box and slides it over his skin, watching it foam and using the flannel to wipe at the excess, his blood cooling with each rush of cool water across his veins. His hair has somewhat grown back - it's no longer the tufty mess it was, it's long enough to sink his hands through and let the water run into his scalp.

He wipes the sweat from his face and scrubs at his underarms, eventually giving in and stripping off his breeches, too. The water is blissful between his toes as he steps into the bucket and begins to wash himself from head to toe, paying particular attention to his crotch - he never knows when it might be needed again.

As he dries himself, he eyes the bed in the corner of the room. What would be the point in dressing himself again only to have Pete wrestle him naked as soon as he returns? Besides - he feels cool and refreshed for the first time in weeks, he should make the most of it.

The curtains are tied at the wall with a rather beautiful length of cord - intricate and golden, it feels soft under Patrick's fingers, yet strong when he tugs on it. There's another at the opposite wall - and Patrick finds himself with a brilliant idea.

He ties both cords to each bedpost with a rolling hitch, then loops the excess into a midshipman's hitch, the rope moulding easily in his fingers and weeks of early naval training finally coming in useful. He shall give Pete a surprise - he jumps up to pull the drapes closed before hopping back to the bed and regarding his own naked form.

His ribs are a little bruised from the beating he received, and the inside of his knees still burn with the sensation of shimmying up a hundred-foot mast, but other than that, he's healthy enough. He's gained back enough weight to hide the shadows of his ribs, his stomach just slightly rounded and his hip bones protruding. He wonders if Pete thinks him beautiful - if that matters if Patrick thinks himself beautiful.

He thinks about touching himself, pleasuring himself a little more before Pete returns - he could be hours, after all. But Patrick cannot deny that it is the anticipation that he loves most, the thought of restraining himself, controlling himself until he cannot contain himself any longer. He slips his wrists into the loops of rope and pulls - the bonds tighten beautifully. There's no going back now - and that rather arouses him.

Sinking into the pillows, he revels in the softness of the sheets against his naked body, the luxury of blankets between his toes. He brings himself half-hard through imagination alone, thinking of hands between his thighs and mouths over his torso.

The bonds are tight around his scabbed wrists, yet he appreciates the friction, the burn of the rope over his tender skin. When he closes his eyes, he feels raw, each brush of thread tickling his mind and twisting with his senses. Blood rushes to his cock and it stirs, twitches against his thigh. Every so often, he glances towards the door, hoping to catch Pete’s expression when he returns.

But when the door opens, it is not Pete who walks in - it is Saporta, no less, fully clothed and sporting look of horror when he lays eyes on Patrick, sprawled bare on the captain’s bed.

Patrick starts, curling up tight in an attempt to cover himself and pulling uselessly on the knots, which only tighten further. “I can explain, I -”

“I’d really rather you didn’t,” Saporta winces, averting his eyes. “Where is dear Pete?”

Patrick frowns. “I - do not know. He had business ashore.”

“Ah,” Saporta hums, “that would explain it.”

“Why?” Patrick asks, “Do you know where he was going?”

Gabe snorts. “Oh, I know. Never is any man so amiable than when he is headed to a brothel.”  

Patrick’s heart drops, as does his cock. “Are you sure that was his business?”

“Quite sure,” Saporta says curtly. “So you will forgive him if he has had enough whores for one day.”

Patrick’s skin begins to crawl as a blush floods his cheeks. All of a sudden, he feels ridiculous, delusional. He has wildly misjudged the nature of Pete’s affections - perhaps he will scoff when he sees Patrick, untie him with a roll of his eyes and tell him to be on his way.

Saporta’s eyes sweep over Patrick one last time, and Patrick rather wishes the sheets would envelop him. “Good afternoon, then, Mr. Stumph,” Gabe says with a smirk, before turning on his heel and marching out of the door.

Patrick’s arousal withers into misery as he contemplates his own idiocy. He could never have been the only of a pirate captain, and never would a pirate captain settle for just one lover. Pete sucked Patrick’s cock simply to settle his debt - he did not intend to devote himself to Patrick after all. How tremendously stupid love has made him.

He wishes he could reverse the knots he tied, both those around his wrists and between he and Pete. Perhaps it should not matter, perhaps Patrick could learn to be Pete’s second choice, his last resort, as he has been for so many other men. Perhaps it is his own fault for being so bold as to think himself different.

And so he lays, uncomfortable and dejected, in the bed of his own making. Several hours seem to pass - the chill of the water becomes a distant memory and his stomach begins to rumble. His own lust has led him into helplessness - there is little he can do but wallow in self-pity as the minutes drag by.

The crunch of the door handle sends a thrill of nerves across his skin - how will he explain himself, how will he let Pete know that his exploits are no longer secret? He brings his knees to his chest as if he has any modesty left to preserve, steeling himself before he glances towards the door.

“Bloody hell,” Pete says. He’s holding a box of - well, something, which he places on the desk without taking his eyes off Patrick. “Look at you.”

He’s grinning in precisely the way Saporta recounted, even as he makes his way towards Patrick and leaps onto the bed. “I seem to have found myself in a spot of bother,” Patrick says, pulling on the cords once more.

Look at you,” Pete breathes, and Patrick is powerless to prevent him raking his gaze over Patrick’s body, taking what he has already received perhaps multiple times over. “You are quite something, Mr. Stumph.”

Patrick simply stares down at the sheets. “I have made a mistake. Please - untie me.”

Pete laughs. “Nonsense - I intend to ravish you. That was the idea, was it not?”

“It used to be. But I think I’ve changed my mind,” Patrick says. His skin crawls - he wishes for the safety of clothes, of shoes.

Pete frowns, a hand placed lightly on Patrick’s knee. “Is something the matter?”

Patrick shakes his head. He’ll not embarrass himself further by weeping in front of Pete. “I was under the impression that our relationship was - exclusive in nature. It was my mistake. I simply need a little time,” he says.

Pete’s face creases. “What on earth are you on about?”

“I know you went to a brothel, Pete, Gabe told me,” Patrick sighs. This seems to do nothing to aid Pete’s confusion.

“I - pardon?” Pete says.  "I went nowhere near a brothel."

Patrick shakes his head. "Perhaps it is not my business. I just feel a little foolish, having - prepared myself as such."

Pete laughs, his thumb stroking over Patrick's knee. "Patrick - my dear, I went to fetch you - us - some gifts. I shall show them to you if, you'd let me."

"But - Saporta, he said you looked happier than any man -"

"Saporta is a scoundrel. He seeks only to antagonise you. Why on earth should I seek company ashore when I have the perfect bedfellow right here on my ship?"

"Well - I could only assume you sought female company," Patrick says. So many of his previous lovers have.

"Patrick," Pete says, shaking his head, "Thou art more lovely and more temperate."

Patrick smiles at Pete's mock-theatrics, lowering his knees and letting Pete shuffle closer to him. "I am certainly more temperate. It's fiendishly hot in here."

"Then allow me to impart my gifts," Pete smiles, leaning to peck Patrick on the lips.

"Is that a euphemism?"

"If you'd like it to be," Pete says, his hand sliding to Patrick's jaw as he deepens the kiss. "I want only you," he whispers, "be sure of that."

Patrick chases Pete's lips as he pulls away, his hand lingering on Patrick's chin. His thigh brushes excruciatingly against Patrick's cock - it is surely not by accident. Alas, Pete prances from the bed and towards his desk, where the box of so-called gifts lays. But instead of bringing it towards Patrick, he takes a length of silk from his drawer.

"Would you allow me," he asks, smoothing his hands over the swimming red fabric and sitting himself down on the bed once more. "I have heard it makes the experience more - enjoyable."

A rush of excitement ripples down Patrick's spine as he considers what Pete may have in store, and so he nods, allowing Pete to gently pull the fabric over his eyes and secure it at the back of his head. The world is thrust into darkness - all Patrick can make out are shadowed shapes in the sliver of light where the fabric fits his nose.

"Comfortable?" Pete asks from somewhere close to Patrick. Patrick responds by sinking into the pillows and resting his head against the headboard, his wrists still hanging by the ropes. He is beyond comfortable - he is in his element.

He feels the bed spring back when Pete rises from it, and hears his footsteps across the room. There is the sound of metal against metal, of the paring of flesh, and Patrick's breaths begin to hasten as he awaits some form of sensation. None comes - instead, the bed dips once again and Pete's suddenly shifting to straddle him, his arse just brushing the curve of Patrick's cock.

The first thing placed in his mouth is Pete's tongue - the kiss is dirty, biting, yet fleeting. Patrick's mouth is left hanging open, his lips slick with saliva. Pete's weight shifts sideways, an odd scuffling sounding from somewhere to Patrick's left, before something hard presses against his nose.

"Don't taste, not yet," Pete whispers, cupping Patrick's jaw and tilting his nose upwards. A sweet, musky smell fills his nostrils, The rind is rough under the tip of his nose, yet the scent is that of strawberries, perhaps pears. His tongue darts from his mouth - Pete breathes a laugh across his face. "Impatient."

"Always."

"Take a bite," Pete says, "skin and all."

With caution, Patrick opens his mouth, feeling Pete push the object to his lips. His incisors catch the skin and a sweet, mild taste floods his mouth, juices spreading over his tongue. He tightens his jaw and sinks his teeth into the soft flesh, feeling the feathery insides fall behind his teeth and flavour fill his mouth.

He hums his appreciation - he's not tasted the like of it before. It has not the sharpness of raspberries nor the sweetness of them, soft as banana yet vastly opposite. He chews on the thin rind until he's able to swallow it, and Pete pushes the remaining half between his lips. It's only small, the flesh melting away until only the tiny seeds are left on his tongue. He's gifted another kiss once he's swallowed.

"Good?" Pete asks, nipping at Patrick's bottom lip. Patrick nods, licking the remnants of the juice from his lips. "Any guesses?"

"Uh - no," Patrick admits. "I truly have no clue."

"Guava," Pete says. "From Mexico."

"Delightful," Patrick replies. "The Navy starved their crew of true riches."

"Perhaps this one will be unknown to you, too," Pete says, once again leaning to retrieve another fruit as if unaware of laying the cold metal of the knife across Patrick's chest. Patrick squirms, the touch of the hilt against his nipple rushing straight to his cock. But it is soon gone - replaced with Pete's trailing fingers, his nails flicking the tender nub and thoroughly ignoring Patrick's wanton cry.

"This is a favourite of mine," Pete says, the soft squash of fruit flesh filling Patrick's ears. "Although - messy." Fingers suddenly push at Patrick's lips, easing a chunk of something inside his mouth. Patrick sucks on it eagerly, feeling it melt into a smooth cream.

It is not sweet, yet it is not quite savoury - Patrick cannot pin it down. He chews what can be chewed, the flesh crushed easily between his teeth and the strange butter filling his mouth. "I have not tasted a fruit like it," Patrick says, swallowing. Pete takes the opportunity to push another slice past Patrick's lips, and once again, he attempts to place it, to attach the leafy flavour to something he may have tasted before. Nothing springs to mind.

"Avocado," Pete says, his hand brushing over Patrick's cheek as he chews. "It's an aphrodisiac."

"I'll say," Patrick mumbles, his cock growing harder as Pete's thumb sits upon his bottom lip. "The texture is quite divine."

Fingers suddenly brush the inside of his thigh, creeping towards his cock. "Avocado," Pete purrs once more, "it means testicle."

Patrick lets out a whine as Pete's fingers move to cup his balls, kneading gently, a thumb just nudging the base of Patrick's cock. Pete strokes and squeezes, pulls ever so slightly, reaching delicate, hidden places and sending inexplicable sensations over Patrick's tender skin. All Patrick can do is pull uselessly on his bonds, his thighs pulling tight as he attempts to thrust his cock into Pete's hand.

But Pete simply lets go, his hand lost to the air and leaving only a faint tingling in Patrick's crotch. "You will have seen this one," Pete says, a strange grinding noise filling the air. "You may not have tasted it, though."

He grips Patrick's chin between his fingers and tilts his face upwards - Patrick feels something coarse against his lips, rough yet grassy. A cool liquid invades his mouth, flowing across his tongue and down his throat, a little spilling over his lips. It's sweet, yet not quite sickly - it is light, refreshing, and Patrick gulps it down, humming his approval.

When Pete removes the object from his lips, he's quick to mop up the excess, licking lightly along Patrick's neck and bending to catch the few drops that slide down Patrick's chest. Patrick giggles at the sensation, smacking his lips around the sweetness and opening his mouth for Pete's tongue when Pete drags him into a kiss.

"I liked that," Patrick says softly, "I would say - from texture alone - coconut, perhaps?"

"Correct," Pete says, "a rich man's rum."

Patrick's beginning to feel the desperation in his bones. His cock rubs the fabric of Pete's trousers, glorious friction causing Patrick's head to spin. Fingers stroke him lightly, a thumb swiping over the moistened tip of his cock. He wonders how long Pete intends for this to last, if he has hours of this torture lined up for Patrick or if he'll take pity on him.

A sweet smell fills the air - intoxicating and syrupy, something cool and round placed upon Patrick's chest as Pete cuts into it. "Now," Pete says, as a cool trail of juice slips across Patrick's chest, " this is treasure. Taste before you bite."

Something flat and sticky rests against Patrick's bottom lip, and Patrick slips his tongue out to taste. It's as sweet as it smells, a touch of citrus tingling at the tip of his tongue. "Peach?" Patrick asks, but Pete simply laughs.

"Good guess," Pete says, "incorrect. Take a bite."

A large cube is pushed between Patrick's lips, Pete's slick fingers following. Patrick sucks on them as he would a cock, swirling his tongue around the tips and hollowing his cheeks. He's rewarded with a sound rather like a purr as Pete's fingers slip from his mouth, settling on his chin as he begins to chew on the fruit.

It's firm, yet soft, fibrous, juice oozing over his lips as he chews. Pete's fingers begin to play with his cock again, running along his length and squeezing the swell of his balls. It's all Patrick can do not to choke.

"Keep eating," Pete says, pushing another cube of fruit into Patrick's mouth, "don't get distracted, now."

Patrick swears he'll give Pete a smack in the mouth once this is over, but for now, all he can do is writhe underneath Pete, the taste of the fruit overwhelming when coupled with the feeling of Pete's fist around his cock. "Pete," Patrick gasps around his mouthful, "more, please - more -"

"More mango?" Pete says brightly, his hand slipping from Patrick's cock, "certainly."

Patrick hopes his glare is still visible despite the blindfold as Pete places another slice between Patrick's lips, the juice spilling down Patrick's chin and onto his chest. He feels Pete turn atop him, feels him bend and touch his lips to the tip of Patrick's cock in the semblance of a kiss. It's nowhere near enough.

Pete's mouth instead sinks lower, taking the softness of Patrick's testicles into his mouth and sucking lightly. The hum that Pete lets out rumbles through Patrick's crotch, his cock straining against Pete's cheek, aching for friction. Pete's fingers slip between his cheeks, pressing lightly upon his delicate pucker and sending pre-come spilling down Patrick's length. Patrick's so close, one more stroke of Pete's fingers will do it, one more touch of Pete's lips. Pete pulls away.

Patrick whines long and loud, still chewing on the mango and attempting to thrust his hips towards Pete.

"Not quite yet, I don't think," Pete says, his body shifting and his fingers lifting from Patrick's body. They instead begin to stroke across Patrick's chest, tweaking his nipples and scratching lightly over his collarbone, swiftly followed by the sting of teeth.

"I shall beg, if you wish," Patrick groans, swallowing the last of the mango. "Captain."

Pete lets out a growl and pulls Patrick into a rough kiss, licking the taste of mango from his mouth. "I have one more thing for you to taste," he breathes, placing open mouthed kisses to Patrick's neck. "You may be familiar with it."

Patrick smiles briefly before a moan is chased from his lips, the graze of Pete's teeth at his shoulder blazing straight to his engorged cock. He feels Pete fumble with the buttons of his trousers, his knees tight to Patrick's sides as he pushes himself towards Patrick's face.

The heat of Pete's cock rests upon the centre of Patrick's chest, pre-come smudging over Patrick's skin as Pete bites kisses along Patrick's pullet-taut biceps. Then, Pete's hand slides to Patrick's face, his thumb parting Patrick's lips and the weight of his body lifting from Patrick's chest.

The world seems to cease its spinning as Patrick anticipates Pete's next move. Pete's hand is still, as is Patrick's body - he daren't move for fear of breaking the delicate atmosphere, ruining the breath-thick silence. Then, Patrick feels something wet pressed to his lips.

As soon as he parts them, though, Pete pulls away. "Patience, my love," he purrs. A few moments pass before he places the tip of his cock between Patrick's lips once more.

It's all Patrick can do not to swallow it down, to pleasure Pete in all the ways he knows he can in the hope that Pete might grant him that same pleasure, but alas - Pete keeps him waiting.

Then, with excruciating slowness, he begins to push forward, slipping the head of his cock into Patrick's mouth. Patrick sucks on it gratefully, the salty bitterness heightened after the sweet taste of mango. He tries to bob his head, to take more of Pete into his mouth but again, Pete stops him with a hand slid into his hair. "You ought to savour your food," he says, and Patrick can practically hear the wolfish smile on his face.

Patrick allows his jaw to fall slack around Pete's cock, his tongue twitching where it's pinned. Pete shows his approval by stroking slowly over Patrick's hair, the pulse of his cock urgent by contrast.

He pushes in further, his musky scent beginning to catch in Patrick's nostrils. Patrick's a few moments away from bursting into hysterics, such is his want, his mind slowly twisting itself into insanity as he tries not to move, to suck, to moan. He can feel Pete hardening in his mouth, the thick vein on the underside pressing into Patrick's tongue. By the time his nose meets the bristled hair at the base of Pete's cock, there are tears in Patrick's eyes.

He wants to touch, to stroke, to grab but his hands hang uselessly beside him and his tongue is stuck flat to the length of Pete's cock, Pete's balls pressed tight to his chin. But it's a challenge, an endurance test, and Patrick refuses to back down, so he simply sucks in a shaking breath and relaxes his aching shoulders.

With a gentle pat to Patrick's hair, Pete begins to move, sliding his cock from Patrick's mouth with relish. He doesn't protest when Patrick begins to move his head, sucking Pete like he knows he's good at and letting small, satisfied noises creep from his lips. He knows he's victorious when Pete lets out a broken moan above him.

The cock is pulled from Patrick's mouth and Pete breathes heavily, his hand still resting in Patrick's hair. "I think I preferred the mango," Patrick smiles.

"As if," Pete scoffs, but he's yet to catch his breath and his voice sound strained, fragile. "You are rather good at that."

"Thank you," Patrick says, "I've been told."

"Now - I am sick of patience," Pete says, shifting himself from Patrick's body and sitting instead between his spread legs, his cock still aching. Fingers probe between his cheeks, slick with saliva and something thicker, colder. Patrick cries out with each twitch of Pete's fingers inside him, each sting of the stretch and each nudge of Pete's nails into the nub of nerves inside Patrick. "Tell me what it is you want, Patrick."

"You," Patrick breathes, "inside me, you."

"And how do you like it," Pete asks.

"Rough," Patrick blurts, "do hurry up." He can practically feel the heat of Pete's cock near his arse, and Pete's fingers are no longer enough.

"Rough - yet tender?"

Patrick ceases his squirming. He rather wishes he could see Pete, see the look in his eyes. "Are you mocking me?"

"Not at all," Pete says, "I simply doubt that you'd resist a little tenderness, especially given the exclusive nature of our relationship..."

Patrick cannot deny the squeeze of his chest at Pete's words, the warmth that rushes from the back of his skull to the tips of his toes. "Ah. Well, in that case - a little tenderness mightn't go amiss."

Pete lets out a girlish giggle and shifts along Patrick's body, kissing him softly. Patrick feels a blush upon his cheeks, the dense air seeming to lighten around him as he feels Pete smile into his mouth. Patrick's grateful for the slight dissipation of intensity, the pressure to perform lifting from his body. Pete's cock slips easily inside him, and he kisses Pete deeply as Pete begins to move.

He wraps his legs around Pete's hips and Pete's suddenly deeper, catching all the pleasurable places with each thrust and sending moans cascading from Patrick's kiss-raw lips. Patrick won't last much longer, he's been on the brink for what seems like hours and the harsh snap of Pete's hips will be the death of his self-control.

"More rough, less tender," Patrick gasps, and Pete doesn't need to be told twice - he almost doubles his pace, hitching Patrick's legs higher and digging his nails into Patrick's thighs. "Yes - Pete, yes."

The bonds bite into Patrick's wrists as he strains back, his eyes squeezed shut behind the blindfold and his bottom lip caught between his teeth. It builds with perfect intensity, rising from the brush of Patrick's toes against the small of Pete's back and to the scrape of Pete's fingers through his hair. His release blazes across his skin, behind his eyes, ringing in his teeth and through his ribcage, an exorcism, a step closer to Godliness.

It seems to sap all the strength from his muscles, his arms falling slack and his head dropping to the headboard. For a few moments, he floats, barely aware of Pete moving above him, his mind drifting far away.

He begins to slip back to reality as he feels Pete slump on top of him, distantly aware of Pete's cock pressed into his arse. They lay together as they catch their breath, Pete's hand sliding over Patrick's sweat-slick torso and tracing the lines of his ribs. "You are quite something," Pete mumbles, and then his lips are pushed to Patrick's, soft and chaste.

Fingers slide to the back of his head and tug the blindfold loose - light floods Patrick's vision and prods at his brain, stinging the corners of his eyes. Pete struggles with the cords around Patrick's wrists, but eventually gives up attempting to untie the knots and takes his knife from the box of fruit and hacks at the tie until it breaks. Patrick doesn't realise how strained his arms were until he pulls them back towards his body and a sharp pain rushes through them, coiling in his shoulders.

He shuffles forward until he can collapse into the pillows, his neck grateful for the softness. He watches Pete with wet, half-lidded eyes as he strips his shirt off and lays down beside Patrick, his torso pressed to Patrick's back. Patrick feels the warmth of tenderness as Pete slips his arms around Patrick and holds him close, a careful kiss pressed to the back of his neck.

Patrick joins their hands and closes his eyes, his body utterly exhausted and his mind blank. "I rather enjoyed that," he sighs, and Pete breathes a laugh into his hair. "The mangoes, especially."

"There's plenty more where that came from," Pete says, pointing to the large box of fruit at the foot of the bed. Patrick smiles, thinking of all the things Pete might have in store for him in the future.

For now, though, he simply sleeps.



Chapter Text

The sunset glows gold through the windows of Pete’s cabin as he stirs awake, the edges of each object outlined with deep orange. Patrick’s face, too, is illuminated, his eyelashes fluttering in the light and his hair swept across his brow. The revelation that such a creature has somehow ended up in Pete’s bed is quite wonderful.

Pete daren’t move, daren’t wake him from his slumber, and instead simply stares, watches the rise and fall of his chest, the twitch of his lips and the drift of fine hairs with the sway of the ship. He’s naked and totally at ease, his skin bright as the wisps of cloud across the sky.

Looking past the colour of a person’s skin was not something Pete had thought himself prepared to do. Perhaps he should have thought on it, turned the arguments over in his mind as to whether a white man could ever be devoid of the hatred Pete and all his crew have been the victim of, whether a case could be made for their redemption - but perhaps all that needs to be made is an exception.

Because no matter what Gabe might say, Patrick is different. There is something gentle about him, something kind under all the bravado. Pete feels no threat from him, none of the condescension or supposition or downright rage that embodies the Navy. Pete’s seen Patrick terrified, furious, frustrated and heartbroken and his feelings remain unchanged. Pete will never let go of his anger, his pain, but he can find some solace in love.

Pete doesn’t know what the future may hold. They cannot keep themselves a secret forever - and when that secret is laid bare, the crew may no longer tolerate the beating of either of their hearts. It seems ridiculous that one man could make such difference to Pete’s mindset, Pete’s priorities, but it goes without saying that Pete would lay down his life for Patrick.

Yet they can’t doze forever - as much as it pains Pete to admit, he is still captain of a ship. He runs a hand over Patrick’s chest and leans to press a kiss to his jaw, moving his mouth along the curve of the bone until he’s close enough to peck Patrick’s lips, soft and sweet. Patrick wakes slowly, gradually, his mouth twitching and his eyes fluttering open several times before they rest fully upon Pete.

“Good evening, my love,” Pete whispers, “we cannot lay here all evening.”

“...Whyever not,” Patrick mumbles, his body shifting beneath the sheets and his hand lifting to rub at his eyes.

“I have duties to attend to,” Pete says, “dinner, for instance.”

“There is a feast between my legs - tuck in,” Patrick slurs, his knees falling open and his eyes falling shut.

“Why, Mr. Stumph, how lewd you are,” Pete scolds, then taps Patrick’s cheek until he wakes once more, “now - I will allow a few moments of intimacy before we rise, provided that you stay conscious.”

Patrick groans. “I do wish you’d quieten down, I’m trying to sleep.”

Pete snorts, sliding an arm underneath Patrick and hauling him closer. “Don’t make me take drastic measures.”

“Are you threatening me, pirate?”

“Yes.” Pete dances his fingers along Patrick’s ribcage and the effect is dramatic - Patrick convulses, an emphatic squeak slipping from his lips and his knees lifting from the bed. He lets out what can only be described as a cackle when Pete pushes his fingertips into Patrick’s sides, wriggling them around before moving to Patrick’s armpits and tickling with glee. Patrick’s laughter is hysterical, his body squirming and his hands flailing against Pete’s.

“You rascal - have mercy!” Patrick cries, his body flopping to the bed and vibrating with giggles even as Pete lets him go.

“Never,” Pete grins, leaning to nip at Patrick’s bottom lip and enjoying the low moan that rumbles from the back of Patrick’s throat. “But we must get up. I have a boat to sail.”

With a groan of compliance, Patrick pushes himself to his elbows and shuffles his legs over the side of the bed. Pete does the same, reaching for a fresh shirt and his trousers. He rather loves this new life - waking up next to the same person, learning his habits and his qualms, feeling their bond strengthen with each burst of laughter, each disagreement.

He watches Patrick dress simply because he can, admiring the curve of his arse as he bends to pull up his breeches and the flex of his shoulders as he shrugs on his shirt. When Patrick catches his eye, he smiles slyly. “Come come now, Pete, you can’t sit there gawking all evening.”

“Yes, sir,” Pete says with a mock salute. He slides his shoes on, takes his hat from the bedpost and places it lightly on his head, holding a hand out for Patrick to take. For a few seconds, Patrick simply looks at him, a sad longing in his eyes.

“I do wish we didn’t have to hide,” Patrick says softly, placing a hand on Pete’s hip. “I should like to kiss you under the sunset.”

“You’re quite the romantic under that devilish guise,” Pete observes, bringing Patrick close enough to brush their lips together. “But - I fear they would not take kindly to their captain fraternising with a white man.”

“I understand,” Patrick says, although he sounds as though he’d rather not. Pete lifts a hand to his chin and brings his lips to Pete’s, kissing him deeply.

“No matter,” Pete mumbles, “we shall be alone again soon enough.”

“I am looking forward to it already,” Patrick smirks, running his fingers down Pete’s chest and gazing up at him steadily. The playful look in his eyes will be the death of Pete.

Pete keeps his hand clasped to Patrick’s hip until the last second, letting it slip from the warmth of Patrick’s skin only when Travie appears in front of them. They eat with the crew as the stars begin to emerge around them, exchanging jokes at each other’s expense and swigging perhaps too much rum.

Slowly, Patrick is being accepted. Travie throws an arm around him with ease, squinting at his blue eyes and picking at the red-blond hairs on his forearms. Patrick’s a wonderful sport, taking the teasing with a smile and occasionally plucking up the courage to throw harmless mocking back at them. Pete’s proud to call Patrick his lover - he only wishes he could hold Patrick close under the stars, press a kiss to his cheek as they laugh and drink.

The tranquility doesn’t last.

When Saporta storms across the deck, Pete knows something’s wrong. “Gabe?” he asks, “What’s the -”

“Put the fucking light out,” Gabe spits, then grabs Patrick by his shirt collar and shakes him hard. “When did you do it, huh?!”

Patrick struggles in Gabe’s grasp and Pete’s on his feet in an instant, sword drawn and placed lightly upon Gabe’s arm. “Let him go. Tell me what is going on.”

“He’s a rat,” Gabe growls, his hand fisted tight in Patrick’s shirt - he sits between them, wide eyes flicking from Pete to Gabe. “When did you contact them?! Cuba?!”

“I’ve no idea what you’re -”

“Let him go, ” Pete says firmly. “That’s an order.”

Gabe’s stare bores into Patrick for a few seconds more before he curses and releases his hold, stepping away from Pete’s sword. “Put the light out.”

Pete nods towards Jones and the deck is plunged into bluish moonlight. Slipping from the barrel, Pete pushes Gabe to one side and keeps his voice to a low whisper. “What the devil is going on?”

Gabe simply points out at the ocean. A ship sits on the horizon - and even in the halflight, Pete can see its white sails. Pete’s stomach squeezes tight. “They’re heading for us,” Gabe hisses. “I wonder what we’ve got that they could want.”

“Could be a merchant,” Pete reasons, “could be prisoners. Civilians. Spaniards.”

“That’s a navy ship and you know it,” Gabe retorts. “They’ve probably been after us since we took your little friend. We can’t outrun them.”

“Then we’re in for a fight,” Pete says, “wake the crew. Man the guns, we need -”

“Pete, you know what they want, we could use him as a bribe, we could -”

“No,” Pete says, “he didn’t contact them, he wouldn’t -”

“Are you certain of that?” Gabe asks icily.

Pete looks him in the eye. “Yes.”

Gabe raises an eyebrow. “He’s clouded your judgement.”

“And hatred has clouded yours,” Pete replies. “I am not handing him over.”

“Not even for the lives of your crew?”

“They would likely kill us anyway,” Pete snarls. “Patrick is not a bargaining chip.”

“Then I suggest you prepare your men for battle,” Gabe says curtly. “And lock your whore out of sight.”

“Don’t call him that,” Pete spits.

“I am simply stating facts.”

“Saporta,” Pete says, gripping Gabe’s shoulder. “I am the captain of this vessel. I have made it quite clear that we leave no man behind. You will treat Patrick as you’d treat any other member of this crew. He is a colleague and an asset.”

Gabe purses his lips. “Fine. What do you propose we do when that ship catches up to us?”

“We blow it to oblivion, of course,” Pete smirks. “Don’t tell me you would not appreciate some Royal spoils?”

A small smile graces Gabe’s lips. “Alright,” he concedes. “Captain.”

“Now - ready the crew, if you please.”

“Aye, sir.” Saporta steps away from Pete and hurries towards the steps.

“Pete,” Patrick says, touching a hand to Pete’s forearm. “I didn’t contact anyone, my right hand to God, I -”

“I know,” Pete says quietly, aware of the crew’s eyes upon them and steering Patrick towards the stern of the ship. “I know - everything is going to be fine. I’m going to lock you in my quarters. That way, you’ll be safe from harm.”

“I - what?” Patrick says as they near the double doors, “I can quite easily fend for myself, you cannot -”

“Patrick, they’ll take you,” Pete says, panic slicing into his tone, “they’ll - they’ll try to save you, and I can’t - unless - unless you want to be saved?” Patrick was practically born into the navy, who is Pete to say he would not want to return? He was a captain, he had prospects, he could have made admiral and had any man he could ever want in his bed.

But Patrick’s expression turns thunderous. “Unless I want - what?!”

“Well - you were in the navy for so long, you might -”

“I might want to go back?!” Patrick exclaims, loud enough that Pete is compelled to drag him into his quarters and shut the doors behind him. “Are you quite mad?”

“I’m not -”

“Pete, this is so much better,” Patrick says, winding his hands into Pete’s shirt. “ You are so much better. Now for goodness’ sake, let me fight!”

“No,” Pete says, shaking his head. “I will not put you in harm’s way again.”

“We are on a pirate ship! What in tarnation did you expect!”

“No, Patrick, I - God,” Pete sighs, bringing his hands to Patrick’s jaw. “You have come close to death by my hand far too often. I cannot lose you again. I will not.”

Patrick’s expression softens slightly. “I can look after myself, you know. Surely I have proved that to you.”

“I don’t question your strength or your courage,” Pete says, “but this is different. They are looking for you, they’ll try to take you back, and when you don’t comply they’ll kill you.”

“Then my life is hardly in any more danger than yours,” Patrick replies. “We will fight together.”

Pete shakes his head once more. “Please. I have put you in so much danger, just this once, let me protect you.”

Patrick’s hands slide to Pete’s neck and his eyes dart between Pete’s. “Be careful,” Patrick says finally. When he brings their lips together, it’s devoid of their usual teasing and filled instead with a desperation, a panic that it might be their last.

“I love you,” Pete whispers. He rests his forehead against Patrick’s and closes his eyes, feeling Patrick’s breath over his face and Patrick’s hands in his hair. He’s everything, all of a sudden.

“I love you too,” is Patrick’s reply, and exactly what Pete yearned to hear. He touches their lips together once more and lets his fingers slip from Patrick’s cheek, taking hold of Patrick’s hand as they part.

Pete places a soft kiss to Patrick’s fingers as he walks away. It’s never been so difficult to tear his gaze from Patrick’s, to let Patrick’s hand fall from his grasp. He can think of nothing else to say, so he simply walks from his quarters and shuts the door behind him, locking it swiftly before turning to the chaos on deck.

Midshipmen run after rolling cannonballs and walk with barrels of gunpowder thundering in front of them. “Attack from windward,” Pete shouts at the scurrying crew, “we cannot run, we must retain the advantage. Use the long nines - fire a warning.”

The round guns are loaded with grapeshot in readiness for a fight, and Pete can only watch as the enemy ship drifts nearer, no white flag yet flown. The warning rings out over the ocean.

“What’s the strategy, captain,” Saporta asks as he appears beside Pete. “Do you plan on looting?”

Pete shakes his head. “Not this time. Don’t let them board. Burn it down if you must. We take no prisoners.”

“Understood.”

“But - arm yourself, too,” Pete calls after him, “their intentions are clear!”

The response to the warning shot is a triplet of cannonfire - their flank is grazed and the ship shakes under the impact. Pete takes a breath - they are in for a long night. Or, perhaps, a very short night. He casts a glance towards the stern. He will keep Patrick safe at all costs.

The wheel is smooth as cream under his hands, the spokes fitting to his palms as if they were moulded to fit. Their hull is nearly exposed, so he guides them until their guns are bared at the enemy like teeth waiting to tear.

Pete orders them to fire on the downward roll and the ship ripples with the force of it, sparks firing on deck and the lower decks vibrating as the guns crack. They’re met with the thunder of enemy guns, shot ripping through the starboard side and sending splinters over the fleeing crew.

The ship draws nearer. The Afterlife’s reload is too slow, too cumbersome - they won’t get away from this. Pete hears the clunk of a grappling hook before he sees it. The Royal Navy are intent upon boarding.

“Cut the grapples!” Pete roars, and Ray slashes his sword at the rope until the hook drops to the deck. More fly over their heads, lashing the two ships together too fast for them to cut. Their cannonfire plunges into the enemy flank, but it’s not enough.

They swarm like ants, the blue of their coats glowing in the moonlight. The grapeshot cuts through them, sending many tumbling to the depths below, but more emerge, sabres raised and white skin gleaming. Pete draws his sword.

One makes for him and Pete readies himself, his sword steady in his hand. He remembers when it was Patrick facing him, Patrick’s blade notched with his own. He shakes the comparison from his mind as he slashes a dark red line across the sailor’s chest. Once the man falls to the ground, Pete makes for the deck to fight alongside his crew.

“Pete!” Saporta shouts, pointing over Pete’s shoulder. Pete whips round to see an officer with sword raised and plunges his own blade into the man’s stomach, shoving him to the floor. The sound of grating metal is thick in the air, as is the slick crunch of human flesh. Pete rather hates battles.

He sees a blue coat flash behind him and turns to face the offender, but no-one is there - then a sword snakes across his chest and a voice whispers in his ear, “Good evening, Captain.”

Pete’s blood runs ice cold, his hands freezing where they hover and his breath catching in his throat.

“Surrender,” the man snarls, “and perhaps I will not spill your guts.”

The blade bites into his skin through his shirt. He cannot move, can barely breathe. He can’t shout for Saporta, the shadow of the mast enveloping him as the man pushes him forward. Then, there’s a sharp clang.

The sword disappears and the man with it. Pete turns and sees white, sees the enemy, brings his sword high to slash at the offender and is met with the dull thunk of metal against one of his finest golden candlesticks. “Patrick?!”

Patrick’s hand is locked around his weapon and his eyes swim with alarm. He nods to Pete’s sword. “Do be careful where you point that thing.”

“I - you - how did you get out here?!”

“Oh, please,” Patrick snorts, “you didn’t think I’d let a silly lock keep me from battle, did you?”

“You bloody -

“And it’s a damn good thing I come to your rescue, captain,” Patrick says, nudging the limp form of the officer laying between them. “You must stay out of harm’s way.”

“Oh, to Hell with you,” Pete says, shaking his head and running his sword through a blue coat who drifts too close. “You cannot win a battle with a candelabra.”

“Perhaps not,” Patrick says, his gaze resting on something behind Pete. Before Pete can hope to look, a sword flies over Pete’s head and Patrick catches it easily, dropping the candlestick to the floor and adjusting his grip. When Pete finally does turn, Saporta throws him a shrug and a smirk.

“He’s a sly little bugger,” Gabe calls, “he might be of use.”

The grin on Patrick’s face is infuriating, but nevertheless, Pete sighs his defeat. “Very well, you may fight,” he says, but Patrick’s already pushing past him.

“I did not ask your permission,” Patrick says sweetly, before disappearing into the fray, sword clasped tight in his fist. Pete’s never loved him more.

The gunfire has stopped, so Pete heads for the ladder, hoping to Patrick’s God that they haven’t infiltrated the lower decks. The quicker this ship is sunk, the better.

He’s met with an officer, whom he promptly slices open, and several of his crew lie dead at their guns. Those that remain stand as Pete approaches, busying themselves with the shot. “Fire at will,” Pete orders, “sink them, and fast.”

The men nod, quickening their movements as Pete strides past them. He orders the same in each sector of the gun deck, and soon, the echoing rumble of cannonfire fills the air. They have won bloodier battles than this - all is not lost.

It seems to last hours. Each crack of Pete’s sword against the enemy’s drags it out further, each risk laid bare in front of him as he dodges and parries. He’s fought in many battles, risked his life far more readily, but now there is something else at stake, some one else. The worry gnaws at his mind, the anxiety that when he gets back to the quarter deck, he will be greeted with a small, pale body wrapped around an enemy blade.

With this thought sharp in his mind, he makes for the ladder, scrambling towards the moonlight and keeping his sword across his chest. He tries not to look at the faces of his own crew that lie dead on the deck, nor too closely at each pale corpse.

The enemy ship is littered with gaping holes, the deck splintered and the mast leaning at an odd angle. They’re winning - the men on deck are panicked, the enemy captain floundering amidst the chaos. Pete sticks his sword through yet another blue coat and tries to assess the damage.

Unscathed is perhaps not quite the right word - the taffrail is in pieces, the mizzen-mast is on fire and the deck resembles a maggot-ridden seabiscuit, but they’re still afloat, and this is more than can be said for their enemy. The panic is rife in the air as the blue coats see their stern rising before them, the masts tilting, falling. The clarity begins to return to Pete’s vision, though his eyes sting with smoke.

Pete orders a few midshipmen below deck to board and tar the damage before they, too, are lost to the waves. They scatter like ants, weaving between the unmoving bodies of their enemies. Pete watches Saporta slice the head from the last sailor standing and breathes a sigh of relief.

“Another victory, captain,” Travie announces as he claps a hand to Pete’s shoulder. “A bloody mess, though.”

“Indeed,” Pete says, nudging the bloodied face of the corpse at his feet. “Did we lose many?”

“Jones is injured - doc’s seeing to him,” Travie says. “Maina would have lost his other arm if it weren’t for yours truly.”

Pete nods, watching with gratitude as the majority of his closest crew mates emerge from the chaos, some crawling to their feet and others striding through the clearing smoke. There’s no sign of Patrick.

“Where is Mr. Stumph?” Pete asks as lightly as he’s able, “Not run off, I hope?”

“No idea,” Travie shrugs. Pete looks towards the sinking ship - could they have taken Patrick for themselves? Most of the taffrail is shattered but Pete runs to the edge of the splintered deck all the same, squinting at the enemy ship. Men scurry and shout, but he can’t hear any cries for help - perhaps Patrick’s already drowned.

He scans the deck once more, glimpsing each white face, listening for each groan of pain. Saporta has already begun stripping the corpses. “What’s the matter,” he asks, “we won.”

“Patrick,” Pete says quietly, “I haven’t seen him.”

“Have you checked the bodies?” Saporta says brightly. Pete feels a chill from his eyes to his heart and blinks rapidly. Gabe’s expression falls. “He’s a fine swordsman, I’m certain he’s perfectly well.”

“Do you think they may have taken him?”

“I should like to see them try,” a voice calls from the quarter deck.

Patrick walks through the smoke, sword still in hand but knuckles bloody. Pete feels as if the sun has risen already. “Patrick,” he says, picking his way over the bodies, “you’re alive.”

“It would seem so,” Patrick replies, light on his feet and grinning widely, “I shall live to see another -”

He’s cut off when something heavy and metallic rolls across his path. Pete thinks, at first, that it’s a loose cannonball - until he sees the spark of the fuse.

“Grenade!” is all he manages to cry before the explosion cracks through the air.

Pete throws his hands over his face as the deck shatters before him, smoke and fire bursting through the air, the heat rushing over Pete’s skin. He lets himself fall to the floor, bracing his arms around his head. Splinters spatter around him like raindrops.

His ears ring and his body trembles, the force of the explosion still shuddering through the ship beneath him. When he chances a look over his shoulder, he sees the remnants of the deck, the large, jagged bite in the side of their flank. Patrick is nowhere to be seen.

“...Captain,” a voice suddenly snaps into focus, and it’s Gabe, crouching beside him. “Are you hurt?”

Pete tests each of his limbs and none seem to have detached themselves from his body, so he attempts to stand, taking Gabe’s outstretched hand and pushing himself onto trembling legs. “No - no, just a little shaken.”

“Perhaps you should see the surgeon, calm your nerves. Williams! Fetch some rum,” he calls over his shoulder. Pete shakes his head.

“Where’s - where’s -”

“Pete,” Gabe says firmly, “look after yourself first and foremost.”

“Patrick,” Pete says in response, stumbling away from Gabe and shaking his spinning skull. The wood beneath his feet cracks as he nears the gaping hole - he can see through to the gun deck, the taffrail has vanished. Patrick had been near the edge, he would have been thrown sideways, which means - Pete looks down into the blackened water.

“Captain,” Gabe says quietly, hovering behind him, “I’m so sorry.”

The ringing in Pete’s ears spreads to his brain. Fury ripples through him as he thinks of whatever evil soul sought to deal them one last wound, yet he can’t look anywhere but into the waves between them and the sinking ship, the rubble-strewn water, the trails of smoke drifting from each broken slab of wood. Among it all, he can see a smudge of white.

Thinking is not his priority any longer, so he simply takes his hat from his head and begins to shrug his coat from his shoulders.

“Pete - no,” Gabe tells him, “you can’t, it’s too late -”

“I see him,” Pete says, “I swear it, I see him.”

“It’s not worth the risk -”

“It is,” Pete says with certainty, “it is. Get a boat ready.”

“Pete -”

“That’s an order, Gabe,” Pete snaps, dropping his coat to the ground and taking off his shoes. Without a second thought, he runs to the edge of the deck and launches himself into the ocean.

The fall seems to last forever, his body arranging itself into a graceful dive as if out of habit. Perhaps he’s delirious, perhaps he’s been driven mad, but when the water hits, he feels nothing but clarity, its cool arms enveloping him.

He tries to open his eyes, but is met only with darkness, the moonlight filtering through only the first foot of water before it’s sucked into nothingness. Pete thinks he might see a flash of white fabric before his eyes begin to sting and he’s forced to resurface.

He shoves himself through the water as fast as he can, ignoring the splinters that jab at his skin and the smell of burning in the air. The white drifts just below the surface. As Pete nears, he knows it’s a body.

It could be any one of the sailors on their ship. It could be a corpse. It could be Patrick’s corpse. Pete could grab at the figure and be faced with the mangled remains of his lover - perhaps that would be even worse than never seeing him again.

But Pete reaches for it all the same, taking a deep breath and plunging his head under the water, his arms outstretched. His hand closes around fabric, his knuckles grazing still-warm skin as he hauls both himself and the body to the surface. When he gets both arms around it, he holds it close, kicking at the water to keep himself afloat as he builds up the courage to open his eyes.

With the singe of salt, he finally dares to look. Patrick’s pale face is dropped to Pete’s shoulder, his eyes closed, unmoving. He seems unscathed, at least from the neck upwards - no red seeps into Pete’s shirt, no burns marr his porcelain skin. Pete can’t feel him breathing, but he has not the heart to dwell on this - he drags them both through the water and towards the ship, where a small boat is being lowered down beside them.

When it rests gracefully on the water, Pete grabs at its edges, catching his breath before he heaves Patrick onto the boat, dragging himself in after. Pete’s muscles ache as he collapses beside Patrick, his clothes sodden, smoke curling around them. The ship before them is nearly sunk, its broken mast aflame.

Pete can barely bring himself to raise his eyes, to see the body of the man he loves, and yet once he looks, he cannot help but stare. He lies so still beside Pete, limp as they’re jolted with the boat’s movement. The shadow of the boat envelops them, so Pete simply throws an arm over Patrick’s chest and holds him close, savouring the remnants of his warmth.

“Captain!” he hears someone cry, but Pete doesn’t care, can’t think straight as they judder level with the deck. Patrick cannot be dead - a light so bright could not be extinguished so easily. A loud thunk echoes around them as they land upon the deck. Pete scrambles to his knees, snaking his arms underneath Patrick’s body and lifting him from the boat and onto the floor.

He places Patrick’s arms by his sides and cups his face, lifting Patrick’s head into his lap. He can barely see straight as he gazes at Patrick, his features glistening in the moonlight and his hair slicked to his forehead. His shirt has been burned from his right hip, the edges off the fabric blackened and flaking away to reveal seared skin - but all his limbs remain intact and the splinters littering his body are small, non-fatal.

Pete tries to feel Patrick’s breathing with a hand clutched to his chest, searching for movement. He cannot tell if the twitch beneath his fingers is due to Patrick’s vitality or the thud of Pete’s own blood through his veins. “Patrick,” he says softly, cradling Patrick close, “can you hear me?”

Patrick lays still. Pete blames the smoke and the salt for the tears that spring to his eyes. He reaches for Patrick’s hand and squeezes it tight, searching for a sign that all is not lost. He feels none.

He bows his head over Patrick’s body in defeat. The cross glistens at Patrick’s throat - perhaps he has met his God, now, perhaps he is somewhere better. Still, Pete mourns, gathering Patrick to his chest and pressing a kiss to his forehead. The sob that escapes his lips is muffled by the collar of Patrick’s shirt.

When he hears a cough, Pete thinks it must be his imagination.

But another follows, and in his arms, Patrick stirs, his chest heaving with spluttering chokes and his mouth falling open as he breathes. Pete thinks this must all have been a dream - it’s the only explanation.

Yet a dream could never be so vital, so crisp as the sight of Patrick’s eyes blinking open and face spring into life, his brows furrowing and his throat convulsing as he coughs. His hands regain their movement, reaching to rub at his eyes and scrape the wet hair from his face. “Did -” Patrick starts, his voice scratched hoarse but still music to Pete’s ears, “did I nod off?”

Pete lets out an entirely different kind of sob, hugging Patrick tight and letting the nightmare rise from his skin. “You scoundrel,” he chokes, “you utter scoundrel.”

Patrick frowns as he pulls back and takes Pete in, his wet hair to his bare feet. Perhaps he is about to ask questions, but there will be time for that later and Pete cannot restrain himself any longer.

He kisses Patrick hard, stroking a thumb over Patrick’s cheek and feeling Patrick’s arms flung around his neck, pulling him closer. The panic of loss has made him desperate, devoted, and he savours each touch, each press of Patrick’s lips against his own. They kiss until Pete feels himself wilting, feels Patrick tiring in his arms. It’s been rather a long night.

It’s only when they break apart that Pete looks across the deck - his heart skips when he sees a crowd of his crew, all eyes trained upon he and Patrick. This is it, he supposes - this is where he must step down. He slides a hand around Patrick’s waist for moral support.

“It’s true,” Pete announces as steadily as he can, “I - I have fallen in love. I understand if you no longer wish me captain, all I ask is that you spare us both. I apologise for my acts of deceit - it was merely in the interests of Patrick’s safety. I am sorry I did not find a more graceful way to break the news.”

“Break the news?” Travie scoffs. “How stupid do you think we are?”

Pete’s mouth flaps with confusion. He swears he sees Saporta snicker. “You - already know?”

“You have many talents, dear captain - subtlety is not one of them.”

“...Oh,” Pete says. Patrick shifts beside him. “Whenever did you guess?”

“The hours spent alone in your quarters were a good indication,” Williams tells him. She doesn’t look as furious as Pete feared. “And you are both the biggest mollies we know.”

“I - uh, well,” Pete stammers. “I had not considered that you might - are you not angry?”

There is a murmuring from the crowd, a few shaking heads and a few that scowl. Others simply smirk. In the end, Travie shrugs. “It takes all sorts, captain.”

With that, the tension seems to dissipate, and Pete feels Patrick relax in his arms, his head dropping to Pete’s chest. Pete strokes affectionately through his wet hair as Saporta and Travie approach, rolling their eyes yet stretching out their hands to help Pete and Patrick to their feet.

Patrick winces as he stands, and Pete hastens to help him, careful to avoid the burn that stretches over his stomach.

“Now, you should both pay the surgeon a visit,” Saporta instructs. “You look positively vile.”

-

Once they’re patched up - Patrick’s splinter-ridden legs cleaned and his stomach carefully bandaged - Pete heads to his quarters. The bed calls out to him - he’s exhausted, the aches of battle beginning to settle in his bones and his head still whirring with emotional turmoil. Still - he has one more duty he must carry out.

Patrick’s hat and belt still sit, collecting dust, in the corner of Pete’s chambers. Pete picks them up carefully, brushing down the fine naval hat and admiring Patrick’s sword. Pete never used it himself, despite his promise when he and Patrick first crossed paths. He had planned to run Patrick through with his own blade, see the terror on his face as he collapsed at Pete’s feet. Now, the thought fills Pete with disgust.

The air still carries a slight chill, but pink is beginning to streak the horizon. In the morning, they will honour their dead, cast them into the ocean with songs and prayers. But for now, the ship hangs in a purgatory, many sitting, drinking, others drifting aimlessly. Pete, however, drifts with purpose.

He finds Patrick on the highest deck, above his own quarters and overlooking the dark expanse of ocean ahead of them.

“What’s troubling you, my darling,” Pete says, the term of endearment rolling off his tongue. He is glad to say it in the open air.

“I am not troubled,” Patrick replies, “far from it, in fact. I am not sure I have ever experienced freedom such as this.”

Pete suspects he is not only referring to the world before them. It’s a different kind of freedom that compels Pete to touch a hand to the small of Patrick’s back, to press a kiss to his shoulder as he moves to stand beside Patrick and take in the view.

“Thank you,” Patrick says quietly. “For this. And for saving my life.”

“You saved mine,” Pete shrugs.

“I suppose we’re even,” Patrick reasons, but Pete shakes his head.

“Not quite.” He produces the hat and sword and offers them both to Patrick. “I believe these belong to you, captain.”

The smile that graces Patrick’s features outshines the growing glow of orange around them. He takes the sword carefully, weighing it in his hand and tracing his fingers over the intricate patterns. But when Pete offers him the hat, he hesitates.

“It’s yours,” Pete says, “I couldn’t salvage your coat but -”

“No, no,” Patrick says, taking it in his hand and touching the red and blue rosette at the rim. Then, he throws it into the ocean.

Pete watches it fall, disappear. When he looks back at Patrick, there’s something sombre about his demeanour.

“I am no longer the man I was,” Patrick says simply. The same could be said of Pete himself. “There are greater causes than king and country.”

“And what might those be,” Pete says softly. Patrick smiles - then kisses Pete hard.

Pete revels in him, feeling Patrick’s breath over his skin and the life in his veins. They stay close even as they part, Patrick’s arm caught around Pete’s waist and his forehead resting against Pete’s cheek.

The sun rises ahead of them, casting a tapestry of red, amber and pink across the sky. Their past does not seem to matter in face of their future. Patrick’s eyes hold all the colours of the heavens and more. The expanse of the globe may lie beyond the horizon - but Pete’s world stands right beside him.

 

~fin~