Chapter 1: Dead Men Don't Bite
The man now known as Long John Silver had gotten used to running--to constantly moving--a long, long time ago. It was commonplace before he could even remember. No home was permanent--there’d never even been a house--and no friendships lasted very long. No name lasted long either. Except John, though even that was twisted into different languages now and again. John was a plain enough name that he could keep it. He’d thank his mother for her foresight in bestowing the name, but he didn’t actually know if she had. He seemed to have some vague memory of her calling him something else, but as the years passed the memory felt more and more like a fantasy.
He remembered tents and forests and crackling fires. He remembered brightly colored fabrics and dancing and laughing. He remembered screaming and crying and foreign cursing. He remembered loss and heartbreak and a hard truth. A hard truth that told him he needed to adapt. That he needed to make people forget, to make people not notice. That he needed to be loveable but also forgettable. To be able to work his way out of situations just as easily as he worked himself into them.
Now he has a home--a house. His name is known--throughout the Caribbean in one manner, in Bristol in another. He has people--he wouldn’t exactly call them friends, but they’re about as close as he’ll ever get. (He had real friends once. They were all dead and forgotten now.) He has a wife. And his leg makes him easily recognizable to anyone who’s so much as heard of him.
So when news reaches his ears that an old seadog who drank too much rum and had a spectacularly gruesome scar above his eye was talking about a map that led to a treasure of untold fortunes, there’s a confliction inside of John that he hasn’t felt in almost twenty years. Before the confliction had been his wandering self being pulled into permanence. Now it was his almost sedentary lifestyle being tugged on insistently by the young, bright-eyed boy he used to be.
Madi tells him to go. She’ll find him in New Providence afterwards, she says.
But after The Hispaniola , after the boy, John steals as much as he can and runs again. He runs to New Providence--to Madi.
And she’s not there.
He waits. He waits, and he hides--inland where no one can simply pass by and recognize him. He finds an old abandoned house, and he hides himself and the treasure there. And waits.
He does this for two months before he allows himself to face reality. Most people who knew who his royal persona in Bristol had accompanied him on The Hispaniola , but not all of them. Somehow, something had gone wrong, and Madi hadn’t been able to escape England in time. Whether she was alive or dead, John had no way of knowing.
So he digs a hole and buries the treasure--or most of it, anyway. Let someone, someday, find it and have their life change overnight. It didn’t matter. Not anymore.
He has only one place to go. He doesn’t know if he’ll be welcomed there--in fact, he strongly doubts it--but he’s had men keep an eye on the place for the past two decades, and it was high time he saw it for himself.
As soon as John sets foot in the small little village, the bird on his shoulder goes quiet. John readjusts the rucksack sitting underneath her claws, and she shuffles in compliance. Here he is. In a tiny village a couple hours inland. Somewhat deliriously John wonders if anyone here would mistake an oar for a shovel.
Though the house is on the edge of the village, it only takes about twenty minutes to walk there. It’s a simple house, big enough for two, with a modest garden in the back. It probably produced just enough for trade. It’s dawn, the sun rising behind him, giving the house a strange sort of glow. John stands outside, staring at the house uneasily. He wonders if coming here was a bad idea. The bird on his shoulder tugs impatiently at one of his curls, and John gives her a brief glare. It’s like she knows, somehow.
Before John can work up the courage to walk up and knock, the door opens. John holds back the sharp intake of breath and stares. He looks better than John remembers, even with twenty years added. His copper hair is long again--longer than John’s ever seen it--and streaked with grey. He still stands as tall and straight backed as ever, but the look of shock on his face is new. John grins at him, shoving down the awkward, and waggles his fingers.
“Hi,” Flint says. After a moment, he looks at the bird. “The hell is that?”
John’s grin grows a little strained. “Don’t be mad.”
Flint raises an eyebrow.
“Her name’s Captain Flint.”
“James, what’s going on?” The new voice is unfamiliar even though John’s been imagining it for years. He doesn’t sound quite as aristocratic as John had anticipated. Though, ten years in servitude and twenty more as a commoner would probably do that to a person.
Lord Hamilton appears next to Flint, peering out the door. His eyes widen as they fall on John. He’s nothing like John had imagined, but he keeps forgetting the man isn’t really a Lord anymore. Unlike Flint, his posture is stooped, like maybe he spends too much time writing at a desk. He glances at Flint before pushing past him and walking up to John, hand outstretched.
“Thomas,” he says. “I assume you’re John Silver.”
John’s smile turns wry as he takes the proffered hand. “What gave it away?”
Hamilton actually chuckles before gesturing to the house. “Will you come in?”
“Uh…” John says, glancing at Flint who’s still standing in the doorway, looking suspiciously between John and the parrot on his shoulder.
“He’s on his way out,” Hamilton says dismissively. “Come on in.”
“I think I’ll delay going to the market this morning,” Flint says slowly, stepping to the side as Hamilton leads John inside. John’s entire being wants to keep looking at Flint, partially to convince himself this is real and partially to not show any weakness, but he finds himself fixing his eyes on Hamilton’s back as he follows him into the house. Hamilton pulls out a chair from the table and smiles at John.
John catches the glance at the empty space below his hip, and he would refuse the request, but, god, he’s tired. He sets his crutch against the table as Captain Flint flutters to a piece of bread sitting on the table, picking at it immediately. John sets down his rucksack quickly, shooing her away. Hamilton chuckles again.
“It’s all right. She can have it.”
“What is that?” Flint askes, closing the door behind him, gesturing at the rucksack. John rummages in the pack for a second and tosses a bright red ruby in Flint’s direction. Flint catches it and looks at it with a frown. His eyes flick up to John.
“You found it?”
“Billy Bones got off the damn island somehow and made a map. The curr finally kicked the bucket, and the map made its way to the hands of a squire. This squire decided he wanted to follow the map, and I made sure I and a number of my crew were on that ship. We found Ben Gunn on the island--he’d been marooned there and had found where you hid it.”
“The fuck,” Flint breathes, staring at the ruby between his fingers. A small huff of laughter slips past John’s lips.
“Have you eaten?” Hamilton asks after a moment. “Would you like something to drink?”
“I don’t suppose you have any rum?”
Hamilton laughs. “No. We do have brandy, though.”
John can’t help but look at Flint who’s still looking at the ruby.
“That’ll be fine.”
Hamilton nods and turns to fetch a cup. Flint looks up suddenly, the suspicion back in his eyes.
“How did you find us?”
“I’ve known where you were this entire time.”
Flint scowls. “How?”
Hamilton hands John the cup. “Oh,” he says quietly. “I like Carlos.”
Flint looks positively murderous, and John has to hide his smile. He’s missed that look.
“Why are you here?” Flint growls. John shrugs, taking a sip from his cup.
“Didn’t know where else to go.” I wanted to see you again.
“Where’s Madi?” Hamilton asks. John looks up in surprise. Hamilton glances at Flint. “That’s her name, correct?”
“I--I don’t know,” John admits quietly. “We were supposed to meet in New Providence. She never showed.”
“I’m sorry,” Hamilton says gently.
It’s quiet for a few minutes. John keeps his eyes on Captain Flint and the cup in his hands, all to aware of Flint’s constant stare. He wants to know what’s going on in that head. Is he still angry at the betrayal? Is he angry John found the treasure? Is he angry John has reentered his quiet life with Lord Hamilton? Coming here very well may have been a bad idea.
“I need to go to market,” Flint announces suddenly. “And I’m not leaving you here with Thomas. Leave the bird.”
John glances at Captain Flint, but she’s still happily pecking at the piece of bread so he shrugs and pushes himself back up. Flint nods curtly and turns, opening the door.
“Thank you,” John whispers to Hamilton and follows Flint outside.
They walk in silence, though John is dying to say something. He used to know this man’s mind so well, better even than he knew his own mind, and now he has no idea what Flint is thinking. So John stays quiet. Just as the bustle of the market comes into view, Flint stops and turns to John.
“I would prefer it if you would stay here while I run my errands.”
John blinks at him. “Are you kidding me?”
“I’m not prepared to answer all the questions you’re bound to inspire.”
John stares at him in indignation, but Flint’s expression stays stubbornly impassive. John sighs. “Yeah. Fine. Sure.”
Flint nods at him curtly and turns back to the market. John looks around to find a stone half-wall leading into a church and limps over to sit down and wait. So Flint didn’t want him alone with Hamilton, and he didn’t want John with himself. Coming here had been a bad idea. John looks east longingly, tempted to just leave, but he won’t leave Captain Flint here, and he’s not willing to invoke Flint’s wrath by going back to his and Hamilton’s home without Flint.
So instead he waits.
That evening Flint makes dinner for the three of them, and Hamilton asks if John has anywhere to stay before offering their second bedroom. John accepts gratefully and takes Captain Flint back with him as soon as he’s finished eating. The tension is stifling, and he can tell Flint and Hamilton are wanting to speak without him there. To figure out what to do with him, probably. Maybe John will wake up in the morning and they’ll have abandoned their home, finding somewhere out of his reach.
Coming here had been a bad idea.
The next morning John wakes as the sun peeks through the window. Captain Flint is still sound asleep on the set of drawers, and John sits up with a groan. His stump is killing him.
There’s a soft knock on the door and in walks Lord Hamilton with a bowl of water and a clean rag. “Good morning,” he says with a smile. John nods at him.
Hamilton sets the bowl on the bedside table and holds the cloth out. “Do you mind if I help?”
Silver stares at him for a moment, his throat closing. Did he mind? Fuck yes he minded. The only people who’d seen the ugly scar since the second amputation were the doctor and Madi, and he hated that much. But Hamilton was looking at him with such sincerity, and if it had been Flint asking Silver would’ve barely hesitated. He didn’t know Thomas Hamilton for himself, but Flint did and that… that was enough for Silver.
Still Silver didn’t quite trust his voice so he just nodded and rolled back his trouser leg. Hamilton pulled over the chair in the corner of the room and sat down, dipping the cloth in the water and gently cleaning the stump. His administrations were careful and soft, making Silver wonder if he’d ever cleaned Flint’s wounds. From what, Silver has no idea, but he wouldn’t be surprised if Flint had at some point gotten into a bad scuffle in the past few years.
“Do you mind my asking…?” Hamilton says after a brief moment.
John stares at him for a minute. “You give up a few things… chasing a dream,” he says.
“James told me what happened,” Thomas says, “but in his stories the amputation was right below the knee.”
John’s smile is tight. “After… after Savannah,” he says awkwardly, “I started wearing a boot again. I was always warned about the dangers of not taking care of it, but… well, it became infected. I was out at sea at the time. By the time I got home, the decay was so much the doctor had to practically cut the whole damn thing off.”
“Did you learn your lesson?” Hamilton asks with a small smile.
“Well, I don’t--I can’t wear a boot anymore. And my wife forced my hand. Besides, by now it’s such an old wound…”
“It still needs care.”
John hesitates. “Yes. Thank you.”
Hamilton inclines his head slightly, keeping his attention on the stump.
“Where’s Flint?” Silver asks after a few moments when the silence becomes too much.
“His name isn’t Flint,” Hamilton says, the ghost of a hard edge in his voice. “And he’s gone to work already.”
“Sorry,” Silver says, a little taken aback. Flint had left him alone with Hamilton? And work… What sort of work does a retired pirate captain do? “Does he go by McGraw again?”
For some reason, Hamilton pauses, hand hovering over the bowl of water. He lets the cloth sink into the water and lets go of Silver’s leg. Silver starts to roll the trouser leg down.
“He goes by James Cooper.”
Silver freezes and looks up at Hamilton, who’s looking back at him with chagrin, leaving no doubt in Silver’s mind. Flint had chosen that name on purpose.
“How did he…?”
Hamilton shakes his head. “You’ll have to ask him for yourself.”
Silver swallows thickly, finishing with the trouser leg and leaning back on the bed. “And you?” he asks.
“Thomas Barlow, at your service. But, please. Call me Thomas.”
Well, that makes sense, considering the man’s wife had gone by the same name for over a decade. Against Silver’s will, though, he wonders if there’s any significance in the same vein in Flint using Silver’s real last name.
Hamilton--Thomas--looks over to the bird on the drawers who’s blinking awake slowly. “Would she like to fly around in the yard for a while?”
“She’s actually rather sedentary,” John says hoarsely after a moment. “But thank you.”
“Were you the one who taught her to talk?”
John looks between the bird and the former lord sharply. Dammit, she’d been so good around him… Thomas laughs, a true, genuine laugh, and it hits John how Flint must’ve fallen in love with him.
“She has got quite the mouth on her.”
John winces. “I’m sorry about that. She’s spent too much time surrounded by pirates and other such degenerates.”
Thomas smiles, petting Captain Flint with a single finger. John watches in awe--she usually only allowed himself and Madi to touch her.
“I imagine so.” He turns back to John. “Breakfast?”
John pushes himself up from the mattress. “That would be wonderful.”
“Do you read Mr. Silver?” Thomas asks as he leads the way to the kitchen.
“Some,” John says. “Nothing like Fl--James does.”
“I don’t think many people read like James does,” Thomas says with a chuckle. He pauses at a tall bookshelf, filled to the brim with books of varying sizes and languages, and pulls out one. It’s interesting, but he doesn’t even seem to have to look for it--like he knew exactly where this particular book was before grabbing it. He turns and hands it to John.
“I think you might like this one,” he says before turning back toward the kitchen. John follows him more slowly now, frowning at the book in his hand. On the spine it reads Meditations .
“What’s it about?” John asks, sitting in a chair by the table and cracking the book open.
John gives the former lord a raised eyebrow. Thomas grins.
When Flint comes home Thomas and John are long finished with breakfast, but John hasn’t moved from his spot, transfixed by the book. He looks up at the sound of the door opening, and there’s Flint, staring between the two men like he expected to find some other gruesome scene. His eyes flick to the book in John’s lap and his eyes widen in recognition. He shoots Thomas a glare but closes the door quietly behind himself.
“He’s got you reading,” he says to John in the same impossible to read tone he’s had since John’s arrival. John shrugs.
“He asked me to trust him.”
Flint’s eyes settle on Thomas with a look that was somewhere between fond and exasperated. “Yes. He does that.”
Days pass. John finishes Meditations with a new perspective on Thomas Hamilton and how Flint fell in love. Of course, he’s also been spending a great deal of time with the former lord and that’s revealed a lot as well. He helped Thomas prepare meals, pick fruits and vegetables from the garden, and do laundry. Thomas was easy to talk to and was honest, brave, and true. And, other than that question the first morning about John’s leg, he doesn’t ask questions that are too personal. Even when he asks about Madi it’s with a gentleness that doesn’t make John grieve too horribly.
A week after arriving, John wakes to the usual gentle knock on the door that signals Thomas is getting breakfast ready. John bids him enter, but instead of Thomas it’s Flint standing in the doorway.
“I imagine you’re feeling rather cooped up,” he says, still impassive as ever. “Would you like to come with me to market?”
John frowns at him suspiciously. “Will I have to wait by the church again?”
“No. You should probably come up with a pseudonym, though. And a story for your leg.”
“And when people ask how I know you?”
“We’re friends,” Flint says. “From a long time ago.”
We’re friends. Were they really? Or was that just the story they were telling? But John wasn’t prepared to ask that question yet, so he grabbed his crutch and got dressed for the day before following Flint out the door. Thomas gives him an encouraging smile as they pass him in the kitchen. John smiles back. Maybe coming here hadn’t been such a bad idea after all.
Chapter 2: The Devil Had Done For The Rest
This chapter is short and not much happens, but that will change next chapter, I promise.
There’s a quiet buzz in the town square when Flint and John arrive. John catches a few looks, but he doesn’t pay them any mind. He’s long used to it by now. Flint leads--well, really he just walks and John follows--the way to a shop with beautiful golden brown bread and buns in the window and enters. Inside is a middle aged man and a young boy right on the cusp on puberty, just about the same age as someone else John knew.
“Mr. Cooper!” the man greets with a toothy smile. “How are you this fine morning?”
“I’m just fine, Mr. Jones. Yourself?”
John looks sideways at Flint. He almost sounds amiable.
“Wonderful as always,” Mr. Jones responds brightly. “Who’s your friend?”
John steps forward with a hand out. “McGraw,” he says, reveling in the sharp look Flint shoots him. “John McGraw.” It was only fair since the bastard was using Cooper. At least Flint had told John about McGraw.
Mr. Jones shakes John’s hand enthusiastically before turning his attention back to Flint.
“How’s your cousin?”
“Doing well,” Flint says with a slight nod. “I’ll let him know you asked.”
Mr. Jones turns to his counter, and Flint follows, immediately deep in discussion about the selection available today. John hangs back, watching the interaction with something between amazement and amusement.
John looks down to see the boy has stepped out from behind a shelf of buns to stare at him. Or, more specifically, the space below his hip.
“What happened to your leg?”
John waves Mr. Jones off with a smile. “It’s all right. It’s only natural to be curious.” He leans on his crutch and gives the boy--Christopher--a crooked grin. “It’s a gruesome tale. You sure you want to know?”
Christopher seems to think this over for a minute before nodding. John glances to Flint, who’s watching carefully, before diving into the story. “When I was a much younger man I was enlisted in the Navy. It was an exciting life on the sea, fighting pirates daily. It was dangerous too. Pirates may sound interesting to you, but, believe me, they’re horrible, terrifying creatures who’ll sooner slit a man’s throat than say a single kind word.”
Flint’s snort is poorly concealed by a cough. John bites back a smile in response but pushes forward with his story. “One day we were attacked by a whole fleet of pirates. Me and my crew were able hold them back eventually, but during the fight an explosive cannon shot took my leg clean off. You know I didn’t even notice at first? I just found myself staring at the spot where my leg had been just seconds previous.”
“Weren’t you in the Royal Navy, Mr. Cooper?” Mr. Jones asks. John looks up in surprise to see Flint nodding. So he’d told some truths to the people of the town.
“That’s where John and I know each other from.”
“Were you there at the pirate attack?” Christopher asks eagerly.
Flint meets John’s gaze briefly, but John doesn’t say anything. Let Flint take the reins on that question. If he’d given any sort of time table on his days in the Navy, that might influence the answer.
“I was, actually,” Flint says. “And you should know Mr. McGraw here exaggerates terribly.”
John rolls his eyes, but he doesn’t argue. The boy will believe whatever he wants to believe, and a great story is more fun.
Flint turns back to Mr. Jones and exchanges a few coins for a loaf of bread before leading John back outside. John follows but not before giving Christopher a wink and a wave goodbye. They continue on to various shops for more goods. Each time Flint introduces him as McGraw John watches his reaction. It keeps varying from irritated to exasperated to maybe even amused. John loves every second.
When they’re finally through with the market and on their way home, it’s quiet for most of the walk until Flint asks, out of nowhere, “Do you and Madi… have any children?”
John nearly trips on the cobblestone, befuddled. “What? No. God, can you imagine?”
Flint seems a little too interested in inspecting a piece of fruit in the bags he’s carrying. “You just… You seemed to know exactly how to interact with Christopher.”
John hesitates. Honestly, he’s not ready to tell the story. He’s been grateful to Flint and Thomas for not asking for more details of how he found the treasure because there are certain aspects… well, one particular aspect… that John was not prepared to talk about.
Flint seems to get the point, though, without John anything and changes the topic. “McGraw, huh?”
John shoots him a look. “James Cooper?”
Flint huffs a small laugh. “Point taken.”
A couple days later, John is helping Thomas with laundry when Thomas says, “You should find yourself a job.”
John looks up from the trousers he was folding and blinks at him. “What?”
Thomas shrugs. “I know you don’t need the money, but I imagine you’ll get bored with housework fairly quickly. And you seem like the type to need interaction with people. A job could fulfill both of those needs. What are you good at?”
“Other than high seas piracy?”
Thomas smiles. “Yes. Other than that.”
“I’m a decent cook.”
Thomas raises an eyebrow. “I’ve heard otherwise.”
John snorts. “Twenty years is a long time.”
“There’s a tavern on the other side of town. You could see if they need help in the kitchen.”
John pauses. “Okay. I’ll ask.”
Neither of them say anything about the permanence of the idea.
The next day, after lunch, John heads to the tavern. The man behind the bar looks exhausted and entirely unsatisfied with his lot in life. John flashes him a winning smile and strikes up a conversation, discovering the man is, in fact, the owner himself. Within the hour, the man is hurrying out the door in excitement, and John takes over behind the bar. He throws himself into getting to know the few customers who shift in and out of the tavern. People are quite taken with the brightly colored bird who sits amiably on his shoulder. The whole experience familiar and comfortable--how many years had he done just this with Madi at his side in Bristol?--and he quickly loses track of time until a known face sits at his bar.
“James is in quite the state.”
John looks up at Thomas with a frown. “What do you mean?”
“He thinks you’ve left.”
“And he’s upset about that idea?”
Thomas shakes his head with a smile. “Of course he is, John. I told him you probably had just been offered the job here and hadn’t sent us word, but he wouldn’t listen to me. He’s on his way to Savannah right now.”
“Christ,” John mutters, pouring a cup of brandy for Thomas. Thomas takes it with a nod.
“I must say, I am surprised to see you here instead of in the kitchens. What happened to Victor?”
John shrugs. “I bought the place.”
Thomas chokes on his brandy. “I’m sorry, what was that?”
John laughs. “Victor wasn’t happy here, and it was obvious.”
“People are going to wonder where you got the money…”
John waves him off. “Victor wasn’t happy in this town, I mean. I gave him enough for him to start a new life elsewhere. People may wonder what happened to him for a little while, but I’ll distract their attention enough by being new and crippled.”
“And you’re just going to learn how to run a tavern on the go?” Thomas asks, still looking at John like he’s sprouted an extra pair of ears.
“Really bad eggs!”
John glances at where Captain Flint has settled on the bar, pecking at a nut, and gives her a gentle scratch on the head. “Madi and I owned one in England before all this. I know what I’m doing, don’t worry.”
Thomas stares at John for a few more moments before giving his cup of brandy a hard look. “Does this mean James and I get to drink for free?”
John laughs, a loud belly laugh that catches the attention of a couple of the other patrons. “This drink’s on the house. And I’ll feed you for free. But you two are paying for your own damn alcohol.”
Thomas ends up drinking for free for the rest of the night. The dinner rush--though it’s not much of a “rush”--comes and goes, and John sends the kitchen staff home. Thomas is smiling pleasantly and glassy-eyed when John comes back over to the bar to clean.
“Tell me about the first time you met James.”
John looks up with a frown. “He hasn’t told you?”
Thomas waves at him, movements loose. “Oh, he has. I just wanna hear it from your point of view.”
John sighs and pours himself a cup of rum. “I was on a merchant ship that… James attacked. My ship had the schedule for the Urca d’Lima, which I’m sure he’s told you that story. Spaniard named Vasquez and all that. I used to be… well, a coward, so I was hiding below deck and ran into the cook, who must’ve known about the schedule because he’d torn it out of the ledger for safekeeping. It fell out of his pocket, and I knew right away it was valuable. I saw it as my ticket out of the situation, like it was on a fucking silver platter.” He stops and points at Thomas with his cup. “Never trust a silver platter.”
“Did you kill him?”
John stops, finishing off his rum and refilling the cup. “Yeah. He’d made some comment about cooks being valuable on all types of ships so I pretended I was a cook, and they took me onto the crew. We docked in Nassau, and I decided to sell the schedule. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it had to be enough to start a new life. The next day… ah.” John takes a long drink from his cup. How much detail does Thomas know? “The next day there was a man who was trying to take over the captaincy and James… challenged him. That was the first time I really saw him or knew who he was.”
“He killed the man, didn’t he?”
John hesitates. Thomas looks unbothered by the idea, but whether that was the drink or genuine was anyone’s guess.
Thomas nods and gestures for more brandy. “I know who he was, John. You don’t have to tiptoe around me.”
John doesn’t answer and pours Thomas another drink. Thomas takes the cup back eagerly and then waves at John. “Continue your story.”
By the time they get back to the house both John and Thomas are massively drunk. John’s in the middle of giving a very detailed description of Jack Rackham, Thomas wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, when the door opens. Thomas hiccups and grins at Flint. Flint looks hilariously unimpressed. Flint’s eyes land on John and soften for the briefest of moments until Thomas hiccups again.
“Where the hell have you two been?”
“John bought the tavern!” Thomas proclaims wildly.
Flint shoots John a look. John tries to give him a disarming smile, but he’s pretty sure he’s too drunk for it to really be effective.
“Rotten fucks!” screeches Captain Flint. John winces and stumbles, losing his grip on Thomas. Flint catches him before the man can hit the floor, righting him and brushing down his hair with a gentle hand. A few incredibly long seconds pass as John tries to keep himself upright before Flint finally sighs and steps to the side to let them in the door.
“Ludicrous pair of driveling galoots,” he mutters. He leads Thomas back to their bedroom, and John sits at the kitchen table to steady his equilibrium. He just needs a moment. In that moment, however, Flint re-emerges from the bedroom and gives John a long, hard stare.
“What?” John says finally.
“I thought you’d left.”
“I would’ve thought you’d be happy about that. Man who ruined your life, took away your war, taking advantage of your hospitality… Being rid of me should’ve been a relief.”
“Then why didn’t you leave?” Flint growls.
John adverts his eyes, pretending to watch Captain Flint hop down his arm to the table.
“Instead you get Thomas ragingly drunk and spend money that isn’t really yours to buy the tavern,” Flint continues when John doesn’t answer.
“Money that isn’t mine?” John says incredulously. “Then who’s is it? Yours?”
“It was the war’s,” Flint bites.
“The war is long over,” John says. “Most of the players are dead. I think we’re the only two still alive, and I think we have been for over a decade. Unless Bonny is still out there somewhere. They hung Rackham.”
“Max got sick and never recovered. And Madi…” John clears his throat and turns back to the parrot.
“Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum,” she says quietly, nudging John’s hand. He gives her a soft scritch on the chin. There’s a sigh from the master bedroom doorway, and John looks up to see Flint rubbing wearily at his eyes.
“You should get some sleep,” he says. “Especially now that you have a job. You’ll need to sober up.”
John hums his assent, to which Flint nods and turns away. John watches him go, already feeling significantly more sober than when he’d arrived.
Chapter 3: What Blood And Sorrow
There was a little bit added to the previous chapter. Please read that before continuing.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Over the next couple weeks, Thomas gets into the habit of stopping by the tavern every night before closing. Sometimes he manages to drag Flint along with him, but usually he’s alone. If Flint comes along they’ll usually have dinner, but if it’s just Thomas he’ll maybe have a drink and then join John on the walk home. Part of John is a little annoyed by the possibility Thomas is only doing this because of John’s leg, but it’s nice to have the conversation.
One night it’s particularly late when John finally closes up the tavern and heads home with Thomas. The day had been long and hard so John doesn’t speak much except to hum agreeably at whatever Thomas is talking about. Luckily, Thomas doesn’t seem to mind.
They turn a corner near the edge of town, and John stops dead in his tracks. Thomas skids to a halt, looking around in confusion for whatever John had seen. Hiding just off the road is a huddled shape that John recognizes all too well. At the sound of Thomas’s voice a mother’s head looked up, eyes bright and wild. She clings to her child--a young girl about four years old--and tries to retreat into the shadows.
Slowly, knowing he very well might frighten the young Romanis away, John approaches, pulling out a couple of gold coins from the cache that he always kept in his pocket. The bird on his shoulder stays blessedly quiet. The little girl, still too young to mistrust the kind-looking stranger, pries herself from her mother’s grip and waddles forward. John leans down, hand full of coins presented. The mother stares at him, arms still outreached to try to prevent the escape of her daughter, suspicion clear in her eyes. The little girl stares at the colorful bird in awe.
“ Jolie !” she says excitedly. John grins back at her.
“ Comment vous appelez-vous ?” he asks softly.
“Lennor,” she replies brightly. Suddenly she sees the gold shining in John’s hand and lets out a little squeal of glee. She grabs the coins, which is almost too much for her tiny hands, and runs back to her mother with a quiet, “ Maman !”
“ Ê tre prudent, mademoiselle ,” John says softly. The young woman looks between the coins in her daughter’s hands and John, suspicion morphing into confusion. She leans forward to frown at John for a moment, looking him up and down, eyes on the space below his stump for a moment before settling on his face. A small, unsteady smile grows on her lips.
“ Merci beaucoup ,” she rasps, tugging her child in closer.
John nods and straightens. “ Au revoir, Lennor,” he says with a small wave to the girl. She waves back excitedly, hand still clutching the gold.
John turns back to Thomas to see he’s watching with a strange expression on his face. John stubbornly ignores the look and continues home. Hopefully the gold would be enough for the little family to find somewhere safe to live, at least for a little while. It was the least John could do. After a moment, he hears Thomas hurrying to catch up.
“I didn’t know you spoke French,” Thomas says.
“ Sacré Dieu,” Captain Flint declares.
“I speak a number of languages,” John admits quietly. “Though most of them not well.”
John glances at Thomas, waiting for more because, god, if Flint had been witness to that… But Thomas seems satisfied leaving it at that. Thankfully, they kept walking in silence. Thomas opens the door for John, who smiles at him wearily and enters the little cottage. He looks around the living area with a frown.
“Is Fl--James already asleep?”
Thomas chuckles, closing the door behind him. “I already told you--the postmaster asked him to stay late tonight. There’s a man from Savannah with letters and packages from abroad”
John winces slightly. “I wasn’t paying attention. I’m sorry.”
But Thomas’s smile still shines in the dark as he steps closer, a strange twinkle in his eye. “It’s all right. That was incredibly selfless of a hardened pirate to do back there.”
John huffs, turning to the water basin and splashing some of the cold water on his face as Captain Flint flutters to the counter, dipping her beak in the water for a drink. John turns back to dismiss Thomas’s sentiment, but Thomas is suddenly very close. John steps backwards, knocking into the counter and almost losing grip on his crutch.
Thomas raises a hand slowly, like he’s trying not to spook John, and tucks a curl behind John’s ear. John blinks. If he was being honest with himself, he realizes with sudden clarity, he saw this coming weeks ago. He’d ignored it, though, because Thomas and Flint were made for each other. But John still lived in their house, honestly spending more time with Thomas than Flint. Thomas’s eyes flit to John’s lips, and John feels something warm curl in his gut. Thomas must see something change in John’s expression because a practically feral grin blooms on his face and then John is being manhandled up against a wall, crutch forgotten, a hand in his hair, a thigh between his legs, and a pair of lips on his own.
John moans into Thomas’s mouth, knee shaking with the effort of keeping himself upright. Thomas grabs John’s left leg and picks it up, wrapping it around his waist, and pushing John harder against the wall. John wraps his other leg around Thomas’s and lets his weight fall on Thomas. Meanwhile, Thomas’s free hand tugs on John’s hair, and John gasps. Thomas takes full advantage of the opportunity and shoves his tongue past John’s lips, exploring and eager. John hangs onto Thomas by the shoulders, unable to do much more than let himself be ravaged. He can’t remember the last time he was kissed like this.
There’s a sound a few feet to the left that doesn’t register at first. When it does, John pushes Thomas back, wrenching his head around to look. Thomas doesn’t move far, though, still keeping John pressed up against the wall, left leg held steady around his hips. Thomas actually lets out a little laugh and turns to look as well.
To John’s absolute horror, Flint is standing in the open doorway, eyes flicking between John and Thomas before finally landing on Thomas.
“You could’ve warned me,” he says. Thomas laughs.
“It wasn’t planned, was it?”
Flint shakes his head, rolling his eyes, and closes the door behind him, walking to the bedroom. John watches him go, heart thudding heavily in his throat along with other regions. Thomas chuckles again, turning his attention back on John, stroking his cheek. John bats his hand away, staring at him in disbelief.
“Flint--” he starts, feeling sick.
“Is no longer the feared pirate captain you remember,” Thomas says quietly, bringing his hand up to John’s face again. “And we like to share.”
John still can’t believe what happened the night before when he wakes up in the morning to Captain Flint nipping at his nose. John gently brushes her away and goes to leave a small pile of seeds for her on the drawers. She hops over to it happily and starts pecking away. John watches her for a few minutes, mulling over the night.
It was true he’d come here with the hope, however fleeting, that he would be able to make amends with Flint. With Madi missing, John felt the need to be with someone. Twenty or so years ago the idea would have appalled him. He’d operated alone, needing no one and nothing to get by. But he’s become so accustomed to having someone else to rely on. He’d hoped he could somehow convince Flint to forgive him and rely on his friendship for… for however long. He hadn’t considered getting so close to Thomas first.
“We like to share,” Thomas had said. Flint had told him, that night by the fire, that Thomas, Mrs. Barlow, and Flint had all been in a relationship together. But it had sounded like it had been an equal relationship in all directions--for the most part. This, with Thomas… Not that John didn’t want with Flint… Not that he hadn’t always wanted.
But Flint had been wrought with grief over Mrs. Barlow and Thomas those decades ago. And it wasn’t like he would’ve wanted John anyway. He still didn’t understand why Madi had, especially after his betrayal, even after all this time.
Stifling a yawn, John peeks out his door to see if Flint or Thomas were up yet. Satisfied with the stillness of the early morning, John heads to the postmaster’s. Thomas had mentioned a delivery from abroad had arrived yesterday, and there was a letter John was expecting.
John puts one of the kitchen crew in charge of the bar that day and pays another a small sum in order to borrow their horse. In the back of his mind, there’s a quiet voice admonishing him for not telling Thomas or Flint he’s leaving, but he’ll be back, and the news born by the letter John had received that morning was too important. His entire body was vibrating with anticipation. Black Dog was in Savannah.
The sun is setting when John arrives. By some strange coincidence Black Dog had suggested they meet at the old Oglethorpe plantation. The place was a wreck now. Almost two decades ago there’d been a riot from the prisoners, and they’d burnt the place down. Blackened walls still stood in some places. So much time has passed since the revolt, plant life is growing high and wild everywhere. That combined with the waning light gave the plantation an eerie look.
“Tie him to the taffrail when she’s yardarm under!” Captain Flint squawks as they walk into what still stood of the building. John clicks his tongue at her, and she has the decency to look at least a little guilty. From behind a corner came a low chuckle, and John glared in it’s direction. Still chuckling, Black Dog walked out, looking as imposing as always.
“She’s gonna get you in trouble someday, Captain,” he says with a toothy grin. “Don’t know why you keep her around.”
John ignores him. “The letter said you’d found Madi.”
Black Dog’s grin dies, and he nods. “Yes, sir. That I did.”
John doesn’t bother to respond except to raise an eyebrow expectantly. The man sighs and rolls his shoulders, a few loud cracks ringing in the air. There was a reason John had hired him onto his crew. The man was huge and, quite frankly, terrifying. He had a scar that ran down the right side of his head, tearing into an ear, and traveling all the way down his throat, past his shirt collar. His skin was so pale it almost glowed in the dim light. Something about him looked vaguely spider-like, and it didn’t help that he was a bit psychotic.
“Your woman was arrested just days after you left port. Don’t know where they took her, but you can bet she’s been hanged by now.”
John has to tighten his grip on his crutch to avoid falling over. No. He snarls and stalks toward Black Dog. “You said you’d found her,” he seethes.
“I found what happened to her, Captain,” Black Dog replies, unbothered. Don’t understand why you care so much, anyway. Like your bird, there--she’s just an animal.”
John backhands Black Dog across the face without thinking about it. The man’s eyes bloom wide, and he steps back.
“Madi was my wife ,” John hisses. “She was no animal.”
Black Dog is quiet for a moment, then he shrugs, undisturbed. “We was also wondering, Captain,” he says conversationally, “when we’re gonna get the crew back together. I understand we lost men on that godawful island, and all that fucking treasure went to the squire, but we think it’s time we start hunting again.”
The few gems in John’s pocket seem to grow heavy. Keeping his eyes steadily on Black Dog’s, John stands up straighter. “I’m retiring from the account,” he declares.
Black Dog’s eyebrows knit together. “To what?” he says. “To live in a nowhere village and die alone?”
John doesn’t answer, but Black Dog steps forward, in John’s space again.
“Or there something keeping you here?” Black Dog continues. “You always said old Captain Flint died here in Savannah. Maybe he didn’t die after all.”
John forces himself to not react. It was so easy to forget how smart the man was when you were constantly forced to deal with how imposing he was physically. How he could’ve figured this one out, though… Shit.
“But you hated Captain Flint, didn’t you?” Black Dog says. “So why would you come for him now?”
“You’re talking nonsense,” John insists, forced to take a step backwards as Black Dog continues to approach.
“You know what I think? I think you somehow got some of that treasure.”
Fuck. John glances around to see a few familiar faces slinking out from the darkness. Members of his crew that had stayed behind with Black Dog. He can’t name most of them, but he recognizes O’Brien and, of course, Angel Marie. He thanks any god listening that he thought to bring his pistol with him--he’s been leaving it at home since coming out here--and draws it, trying to measure who to take out first.
“Treasure that we’re owed.”
John doesn’t have time to react before his crutch is knocked out from under his arm. He topples, Captain Flint flying away with a wordless squawk, gun going off with no real direction. There is a grunt from a few feet away, so hopefully he hit someone, but he’s got no sword, and the truth is, he’s out of fighting shape. There’s a hard kick to his gut, and he curls in on himself, choking up blood. He tries pushing himself up and grabbing for one of his assailants, but his outstretched arm is yanked back. There’s a loud pop, and John yells as pain blooms from his shoulder. There’s a blow to his face, to his back, to his stump, and then he loses track of everything except the pain.
John has no idea how long the beating lasts. The blood streaming down his face is warm in the cool night air--almost comforting. He knows they’re going to kill him. He knows it without a doubt. He just prays that they’re still too afraid of Flint’s legacy to go looking for him as well. John would never forgive himself if that were to happen. He’s been the cause of too many people’s deaths, now including Madi’s… To be the cause of Flint’s and Thomas’s… At least he won’t be alive to have to bear it. Vaguely he hopes dear Captain Flint got away.
John’s barely aware of it when the beating stops--everything is still pulsing with agony. After a few long years he’s able to move from his side where he’s putting too much pressure on his stump to his back. Tall grasses grow all around him, hiding him from any passerby’s view. It’s a good thing, he supposes. This way he can just die in peace. His vision is hazy and swimming, but he could swear he sees a figure above him with red hair and a brightly colored blob on its shoulder. He tries to reach out, instinct still wanting help, but the world twists and turns black, and John gives into the sweet bliss of unconsciousness.
I'm sure the French is terrible, and I apologize for that.
Chapter 4: We Must Go On
Short ass chapter after a long ass time, I'm sorry. This chapter just... kicked my ass, that's all.
Also the g- slur is used, in a manner that is period typical.
John wakes up in pain and fighting consciousness but alive. After a few long moments he’s able to recognize his room and Thomas hovering, pressing a cool wet cloth against John’s forehead. John revels in the soothing motion while Thomas murmurs quiet nothings. John’s not sure why he’s here, why he’s hurt, but he does remember one thing.
“Madi’s dead,” he says. The movement of the cloth on his brow stops, and John squints an eye open to look at Thomas.
“How do you know?” he asks gently. John closes his eyes again, unwilling to see the sympathetic look on Thomas’s face.
“Got a message. From members of my crew left in Bristol. She’s been hanged.”
“Was that who you were meeting?”
“Mm,” John hums. Thomas voice sounds distant, echoing.
“Why did they hurt you?”
But the words don’t make sense, and John gives in to the darkness.
John wakes briefly a few more times, most of the time with Thomas there, but not much else is said. John doesn’t have the energy. When he finally wakes up and actually feels alert Thomas isn’t there. Instead Flint is sitting in a chair in the corner of the room with Captain Flint on his shoulder and his head in a book. John tries to shift to get a better look, but there’s a sharp pain from his side, and he hisses, clutching at the area.
“You have a few broken ribs.”
“Yeah, I realized that, thank you.”
Flint closes his book and looks up, expression infuriatingly impassive.
“Aye aye, Cap’n!” Captain Flint bursts, seeming to suddenly realize John is awake and fluttering over to him. John chuckles softly, careful of his ribs.
“Hey sweetheart,” he murmurs, petting her head. “Was worried you wouldn’t make it out of there.”
“She’s a smart bird,” Flint says. “Came right to me when the beating started.”
John blinks at Flint. “You were there?”
“I saw you had a letter and when I noticed it was no longer at the postmaster’s I went to the tavern to ask you about it. You were leaving when I arrived so I followed.”
John can’t help the smirk. “Weren’t afraid I was leaving again, were you?”
Flint only glares. “Leaving like that demonstrates a level of ineptitude that borders on the imbecilic. You’re lucky I was there, Silver. They would’ve killed you if I hadn’t been there.”
A memory from that night hits John like a crushing wave, and he has to take a moment to catch his breath. “Did they see you?” he manages to ask.
“Considering they ran off the moment I got close, I would say it’s a safe assumption they saw me, yes.”
John closes his eyes and lays back down. “The main one--Black Dog--he guessed why I was here. He guessed you’re still alive.”
It’s quiet for long enough that John opens his eyes again and looks at Flint, but Flint only seems pensive. “It’s been a few days since then. Seeing as we’re all still here, I’d say we weren’t followed.” He pauses. “Is that why they beat you?”
“They also guessed I had some of the treasure.”
John sits up, hissing. Flint walks closer to put a firm hand on his shoulder, pushing him back down. John glares at him and says, “I have to get to the tavern--”
“Thomas and I have been taking turns tending to things at the tavern,” Flint says, taking a seat on the edge of the bed and running a finger down Captain Flint’s back. “We told them you’ve taken ill.”
“Neither of you have the temperament or the personality to tend bar.”
“No, but you have other staff that do,” Flint says patiently. “I’ve been helping in the kitchen, Thomas has been keeping the books in order. Which, apparently, you’re shit at, by the way. How in the world did you manage to run a tavern in Bristol?”
“I never did the bookkeeping,” John says irritably. “That was all… Madi…”
Flint looks up from where he’s been giving the captain all his attention, and John hates the look on his face. The fucking pity. It’s the exact same expression he’d had when they had thought Madi was dead all those years ago. Back then, John had been too enraged and distraught to care, but now? Now John is tired. He’d still been holding onto hope that the future could bring quiet days in a quiet home, no pirates, no treasure, no sea, just Madi at his side.
“Thomas told me about the gypsy family the other night,” Flint says, seeming to try and change the subject. John closes his eyes, exhaling heavily from his nose. This topic wasn’t much better.
It’s quiet for a few moments, and then, “I don’t understand why you didn’t just tell me.”
“I told you,” John says quietly. “It isn’t fucking relevant.”
“You know half the men on The Walrus at any one point and time were gypsies?”
John’s eyes snap open, and he glares at Flint. “What do you not understand about ‘not relevant’?”
“It may not be relevant to you, but it’s relevant to who you’ve become,” Flint pushes, and John would punch the man if he could.
“I don’t know why this comes as a surprise to you,” John seethes. “Considering you know the name Cooper, I figured you’d already found out. And considering you left the account years ago, I figured you’d found out before you even asked.”
“I found out after,” Flint says.
“I found your father.”
John blinks at him in surprise. “What?”
“It took some hard work, but after we left the plantation, a man who’d been there with us was traveling back to England. Said he owed us a debt so I asked him to find what he could about you. It was easy enough to find what you were doing at the time, but it took him several years to find anything significant about your past. There wasn’t much of a trail, he said. But eventually he was able to follow your aliases back to your father. Or his gravestone, anyway.”
The memories of his father are hazy at best. After his mother had died John had spent a couple years with him. He’d been a stranger and had made no attempt to change that. John had slept and worked with the working boys of the house, despite his tender age. But he still had friends in the camp where he’d lived with his mother and, eventually, he’d left with them. Edward Cooper had been his name. But John wouldn’t have been able to pick his face out in a crowd.
“You followed my aliases and didn’t figure out I was…” He can’t say it. He’s gone so long ignoring that part of his existence that he can’t say it out loud. Honestly, he’s not sure he ever had said it out loud.
“I thought you were running about on your own,” Flint says. “But you weren’t, were you? You had this whole community backing you up.”
“Only for a while,” John mutters. “Long enough to learn how to survive. I left as soon as I could.” He meets Flint’s gaze finally and glares. “This still doesn’t mean it holds any relevance. I could’ve learned how to survive from any numbers of resources. Consider yourself lucky to ever have figured it out. Madi… Madi never knew.”
Flint sighs, standing and placing a hand on John’s leg gently. “You should eat. I’ll boil some soup.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
Both John and Flint look at the bird with chagrin. She looks between them, seeming to wrestle with herself before hopping closer to John and nustling at his side.
“How does she do that?” Flint asks, slightly incredulously. John lets out a huff of laughter.
“You said it yourself. She’s a smart bird.”
Chapter 5: A Pleasant Sittyated Grog-Shop
Oh my god I'm so sorry this took so long. Hopefully the wait was worth it...
It’s a few days before John feels altogether able to get out of bed for more than relieving himself. When that day comes, he feeds Captain Flint (who has stayed by his side the entire time except to say hello to Flint whenever he stops in), and wanders to the window. The view leads into the garden out back where John can see Thomas quietly weeding. Thomas must feel his gaze because he looks up and smiles when his eyes meet John’s. John feels a little heat at the back of his neck and waves at him with a crooked smile of his own. Thomas pushes himself up to his feet, brushing his hands off, and heads inside. After a moment there’s a knock on the bedroom door.
“Come in,” John says. Thomas pokes his head in with a wide smile, a bowl of water and a rag in his hands.
“You’re out of bed. How are you feeling?”
John winces, sitting back down on the mattress. “Like I’ve been keelhauled.”
Thomas nods and then pauses. “How are you feeling otherwise?”
Ah, yes. Of course. John looks away, back out the window, hands fidgeting in his lap. “I had her for twenty more years than I rightly should have. I should just be grateful for that.”
“That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mourn.” After a moment, John hears Thomas move closer. “May I take a look at your leg?”
John looks over to him. Thomas always looks so sincere, it makes John’s heart ache. He nods, rolling up his pant leg. Thomas kneels in front of him, setting the bowl down and dipping the rag in it. Slowly, carefully, he presses it against John’s stump. There’s comfortable silence for a while, until;
“I wish I could do or say something more than I’m sorry,” Thomas says, voice soft. “I know that isn’t enough. I know we didn’t get to talk after the other night, but you should know I don’t expect anything from you. You need time to grieve, and I know that night was rather… spontaneous.”
“It wasn’t spontaneous,” John says without thinking. Thomas looks up at him in surprise, and John feels the heat rise at the back of his neck again. “I developed an… attraction long before you kissed me.”
Thomas ducks his head, but John catches the smile on his lips. Something warm pools in John’s stomach, and he finds himself smiling a little as well. Thomas sets aside the rag and places it and the bowl on the table at John’s bedside before sitting on the mattress beside him.
“Can I kiss you?” Thomas asks.
The night comes quick. John eats supper at the table for the first time in a week, and it would be nice except Flint is too quiet the entire meal. It’s clear to John that the former pirate knows what’s going on and doesn’t like it, but there’s a part of John that can’t be bothered to care. Flint’s attitude has really started to irritate him, and the fact he refuses to actually say anything significant is colosally stupid. John keeps being reminded of how he used to be able to read Flint’s thoughts so easily, and it’s infuriating to no longer have that capability.
On the other hand, Thomas keeps smiling at him and brushing against him, and it makes John feel like a boy again, carefree and… well. In love. Things are going so well on that front that John doesn’t even feel lonely when Flint and Thomas head to their bedroom together. John stays in the living area, immersed in a book, until the candle burns out and it becomes too dark to see the text on the page. He sets the book aside and stands, stretching and wincing at the pull on his mending ribs.
“By ‘tunder,” Captain Flint says groggily when John runs a knuckle down her back. He carefully picks her up and takes her back to his room to let her fall asleep. He looks at his mattress with disdain. He’s slept so much in the past few days, getting back to bed seems silly. So he leaves the room and out the front door to enjoy the fresh air. The moon is full and the stars are bright. All he needs is the sound of the sea and he’d feel right at home.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
John turns to see Flint standing in the open doorway looking murderous. John resists the urge to roll his eyes and looks back up to the night sky.
“Do you ever miss the ocean?”
“Yeah. You know… the big, blue, wet thing?” John can feel Flint’s glare and can’t help but smile. It’s quiet for long enough that John looks over to him again to find Flint now staring at the stars himself.
“Sometimes,” he admits quietly. “Sometimes I can’t stomach the idea of going back.”
“Is that just because of the ocean or because it feels like you’d be going back on the account as well?” John asks.
“I don’t know.” Flint is quiet for a few moments more before glaring at John again. “What are you doing out here?”
“I’ve been cooped up in this house for a week now. I wanted some fresh air,” John says. He frowns at Flint. “Why? Didn’t think I was leaving again, did you?”
Flint doesn’t answer. This time John does roll his eyes.
“Christ, Flint, you have to calm yourself about that. None of the times you’ve worried about that has that been the case. Why do you think that’s suddenly going to change? Why would I leave without saying goodbye at least?”
Flint stares out into the street for a few moments. “Because you left me without saying goodbye.”
Any retort Silver had in mind vanishes, and he finds himself staring at Flint. Flint’s eyes flick over to him briefly, looking away just as quickly.
“You left me behind in Savannah without saying goodbye,” he says, voice low. “The last time I saw you was over a day before we pulled into port. And then you just left me there.”
“With Thomas,” John points out, feeling slightly hysterical with incredulity. Flint closes his eyes, shaking his head, and finally turns back to look at John head on.
“He loves you, you know,” is all he says. John blinks.
“I kn--” He cuts himself off before finishing because, honestly, he hadn’t known love was involved in what was happening between him and Thomas. Flint’s eyes darken.
“If you hurt him,” he says, and, ah, there he was, that old pirate captain everyone in the West Indies feared, “there is nowhere you can run, nowhere you can hide, that I won’t find you.”
John wants to say he won’t hurt Thomas. He wants to say he’ll never leave. He wants to say he hadn’t said goodbye because he hadn’t thought Flint would want to. He wants to say, he wants to say, he wants to say. But he doesn’t. Flint holds his gaze for a moment longer and then turns away, back inside, shutting the door behind him.
Despite Thomas and Flint’s assurances that everything had been running smoothly at the tavern, John is still relieved when he finally returns to see everything still in its place and in working order. In fact, the employees seem happier and a few things that needed mending are now fixed. John asks Thomas about it since he’d accompanied him, and Thomas chuckles.
“It’s amazing how you have more money when your books are actually in order.”
John frowns at him for a moment, then asks, “Would you like a job?”
Thomas is hesitant at first: he’s happy at home, tending to the garden, he says, but John convinces him by saying he’ll only have to come in as often as he likes and John will change the deal to free food and drinks. After that it’s fairly easy to settle back into a routine. Thomas comes every few evenings to work and continues to at least come at the end of the day to walk John home. Sometimes it takes them a little longer to get home as they tend to get distracted by… each other.
One night the dinner rush has just barely started to subside when Flint shows up at the side door. John looks up from barkeeping to see him standing in the doorway, watching John with a troubled expression. John gets one of his employees to take over and hurries over to him.
“What is it?”
Flint glances around the tavern, and then steps to the side, holding the door open for John. John hurries out into the alleyway, eyes still fixed on the former pirate captain.
“What’s going on? Is Thom--”
Something out of the corner of his eye moves, and John turns. The rabble of the tavern seems to die away as his eyes settle on the person in front of him. She looks tired and worn, but that pales in comparison to her beauty. It pales in comparison to the fact that she’s standing there, alive.
He moves as fast as he possibly can with the crutch, and she moves with the same urgency. He drops the crutch in favor of wrapping his arms around her, reassuring himself that Madi is here. In this town. With him. Alive.
“They said you were hanged,” he murmurs, kissing her anywhere he can reach. “They said you were dead.”
“I escaped,” Madi says. “I’m all right, I escaped.”
John clutches her for a moment longer before pulling back and really looking at her. “How? How did you escape?”
Madi’s eyes flit behind John and suddenly John remembers Flint is still there. There’s movement and then Flint is beside them, picking up John’s crutch and handing it to him. John takes it gratefully, but his eyes don’t leave Madi.
“There’s someone waiting for you with Thomas at the house,” Madi says. John blinks.
“With Thomas? Who?”
“I’ll show you.”
The three of them walk in silence, Madi and Flint keeping their pace slow enough for John to keep up. He can’t keep his eyes off her. This is the second time now that everything has told him she was dead and, by some miracle, she survived. He doesn’t know what he did to deserve this, but he sends his thanks to any deity that might be listening.
It’s only when they arrive at the cottage that John remembers there’s still someone waiting for him. Waiting with Thomas. Since Flint was here that had to mean it was someone they trusted, right? Flint wouldn’t just leave Thomas with a stranger or, worse, with an enemy. John wracks his brain, trying to think of who was still alive that they could trust, but he comes up blank. Madi opens the front door, and John limps inside.
“Mr. Silver, sir!”
Jim Hawkins himself, blonde hair and blue eyes, standing at his ridiculous height that rivaled even Flint’s, stands at attention, rising up from where he sat at the dinner table with Thomas. He looks like he wants to salute. After a moment, the rigidness of his posture leaks out of him, and he winces.
“I’m sorry, sir. I shouldn’t’ve betrayed you the way I did.”
John stares between him and then Madi. “You… rescued her?”
“I heard where she was being held, sir, so I helped her escape. I realized I didn’t have anyone left in England after everything that had happened, and your wife, sir, she offered to let me come along to find you. I just wanted to apologize, sir. That treasure was rightfully yours, and Trewlaney and Livesey weren’t going to use it for any charitable means.”
John wants to say something, reassure the boy that he doesn’t harbor any resentment, but he’s still having trouble wrapping his head around the fact that the four people he loves most are alive and all in one place.
“I thought you said you didn’t have any children,” Flint says quietly. John turns to him incredulously.
“Does he really look like he’s mine?”
Flint’s lips twitch upwards into a smile. “He looks like he may as well be.”
Chapter 6: Quit of a Dirty Scoundrel
Look, my only excuse is... Well, okay, I don't have an excuse.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There simply isn’t enough room in Flint and Thomas’s cottage for all five of them, so John sets aside a room in the tavern for himself and Madi. Jim, thoroughly taken by Flint even though Flint barely pays him mind, spends some nights at the cottage and some nights at the tavern. Honestly, Jim is so enthralled by Flint’s existence that John keeps expecting him to ask them to start calling him James.
Life is comfortable, and life is happy. Madi is thrilled to have met Thomas finally and even more thrilled he’s taking care of the tavern’s finances. It gives her more time to spend with the customers, building trust and relationships that she might use to their advantage someday.
It’s late one night and Madi is chatting with the head cook, Mr. Taylor, while John cleans up the tables when Jim bursts through the door and straight to John’s side. He looks like he’s run the entire way from the cottage, his eyes wide and bright, and his hair sticking in all directions, and John thinks he can smell smoke on him. All in all, the boy looks quite alarming.
“Mr. Silver, sir!” Jim pants. John sets the dishes he’d been carrying to the kitchen down on the closest table and puts a hand on Jim’s shoulder.
“Breathe, son. What is it?”
“Men,” Jim manages to get out. “At the cottage. They had weapons, and they hurt Mr. Barlow, sir!”
Something cold twists in John’s stomach. Black Dog. Who else could it be? Him and a bunch of professional pirates had finally found Flint. He turns to where Madi and Mr. Taylor have stopped their conversation in order to hear Jim.
“Taylor, I’m gonna need to borrow your horse. Jim, you stay here with Madi. Catch your breath. Get some water. I’ll be back.”
John doesn’t wait for a response from either one of them, hopping outside to where Mr. Taylor’s horse is tied up. With a little difficulty John manages to mount it and gives it a hard kick in the direction of the cottage. When they get to the final turn, the smell of smoke suddenly hits John like a tidal wave and, a moment later, he sees the cottage--ablaze.
The next few moments are a blur. John has a second of hesitation standing outside the front door, in awe at how loudly the fire is roaring, before pushing his way in.
“Flint!” he cries, trying desperately to be heard over the fire. “Thomas!”
The table and chairs are overturned, dishes smashed. There’s a figure on the floor, mostly hidden by the table, and John rushes to it. Thomas is unconscious, blood dripping down one side of his face, skin covered in soot. John hoists him up, tossing one of Thomas’s arms around his neck. Part of the roof crashes down in front of them as John drags Thomas out, but he manages to get him away from the blaze. Heart thudding in his throat, John checks for a pulse and feels dizzy with relief when he finds it. It’s sluggish, and Thomas’s breathing is shallow, but it’s enough. And Flint’s still in trouble.
John forges his way back into the fire, calling Flint’s name. If this was indeed Black Dog’s doing, Thomas had just been in the way. Flint would be the target. The bedrooms are completely engulfed in flames with no possible way for John to check inside, so he heads for the door out to the garden.
The carefully tended to flowers and vegetables are destroyed, but that mostly escapes John’s notice. There’s a man on the ground--O’Brien, John realizes--who’s slowly getting back to his feet, but Black Dog and Angel Marie are still upright and advancing. Flint’s in front of them, facing the house, and there’s a gash across his chest and blood dripping from his lips. He’s got a garden hoe in his hands, ready to strike, but it pales in comparison to the pirates’ swords.
John slips out the knife he’s kept in his coat since being attacked himself by these villains and stabs it right into O’Brien’s neck. O’Brien falls silently. John hurries up behind Angel Marie, who’s now the closest, and lunges, but Angel Marie turns with her sword, forcing John to jump back. He lands wrong on his leg and crumples. Next thing he knows, Flint’s standing above him, brandishing the hoe and bellowing. He manages to catch Angel Marie in the head with the sharp edge of the gardening tool, and Angel Marie drops like a rock. In that moment of Flint’s distraction, however, Black Dog manages to knock the hoe out of Flint’s hands. Flint trips over John’s forgotten crutch and is suddenly on the ground with John.
“One last chance!” Black Dog barks. “Tell me where the treasure is, and I’ll let you live!”
“Fuck off!” Flint snaps. An ugly snear spreads across Black Dog’s face, and he brandishes his sword.
“It was a pleasure to meet you, Captain Flint,” he yells. “It’ll be a greater pleasure being your true end.”
John looks around wildly for something within reach to save them, but there’s nothing. He looks to Flint, but Flint’s glaring up at Black Dog like he’s daring the man to actually kill him. And then suddenly Black Dog’s face goes slack. Belatedly, John hears a metallic clunk. Black Dog drops and behind him stands none other than Jim Hawkins, a huge ironcast pan in his hands.
Jim looks surprised at what he’s done for a minute, and then he’s grabbing John’s crutch and handing it to him and helping Flint back to his feet. Flint stares at him before kneeling down and checking Black Dog for a pulse.
“Christ, kid. He’s dead.”
Jim gives him a shaky smile which John can’t help but laugh at a little.
“He’s got the makings of greatness in him,” John says, pushing himself up to his feet with his crutch. Flint looks at him sharply, and John shrugs. “His first kill was Israel Hands.”
Flint’s eyes fly wide, and he looks over at Jim again like he’s seeing him wholly anew. John lets out a bark of laughter, accented by sharp coughing. Jim comes to his side, helping him stay upright.
“Thomas,” Flint breathes, suddenly remembering, and he runs back toward the house.
“Wait!” John calls out, trying to keep up, Jim trailing behind. “I got him out. He’s alive.”
Flint stops, relief shining on his face. John grabs him by the elbow, tugging him away from the house that’s more flame than wood.
“Let’s go around.”
Madi is waiting for them with Thomas’s head in her lap, pressing a wet cloth to the cut on his forehead. Her shoulders sag with relief when she sees the three of them climbing over a hedge to meet her.
“Is everyone all right?” she asks. John nods wearily.
“And the pirates?”
Madi breathes a sigh of relief. “Finally. We can move on.”
Thomas finally wakes up when they get back to the tavern. He and Flint share what looks like a rather life-affirming kiss before Madi leads them to a spare bedroom upstairs. Jim goes to his usual room while John gives Mr. Taylor his horse back with his immense thanks. When Madi comes back downstairs John shares a significant look, and they sit down to talk.
In the morning, John puts together a little breakfast before everyone else wakes up. Madi helps, the two of them moving in tandem silently. When Flint and Thomas come down the stairs, following their noses, Madi and John sit them down and serve their food before sitting across the table from them. Flint and Thomas share a look and don’t pick up their forks.
“What is this?” Thomas asks, voice still hoarse from the smoke.
“You’re leaving,” Flint says at the same time.
John closes his eyes and breathes out heavily through his nose.
“We’re not leaving,” Madi answers for him. “We wanted to talk with you about the future. It’s going to take time to rebuild the cottage.”
Flint blinks a little before asking, “Rebuild? We don’t have the money--”
“But we do,” Madi interrupts. “John?”
“The money I brought with me is just a fraction of what I managed to take,” John explains. “I left most of it in the ground in New Providence. And even that is just a fraction of what you buried at Skeleton Island.”
“What are you saying?” Thomas asks.
“I’m suggesting we go get the rest of that treasure,” John says. “And then we rebuild the cottage. And we build it bigger. Enough…” Here he trails off. This part had been Madi’s idea, and he’s not sure Flint will agree to it.
“Enough for all of us,” Madi finishes. Thomas’s face immediately lights up, but that doesn’t surprise John. Flint… Flint looks thoughtful for a moment.
“People will ask questions.”
“Let them,” Madi says. “We deserve to live the rest of our lives together. All of us, Jim included. Happily.”
Flint considers this for a moment longer. Then he nods. “All right.”
Only one more short little chapter after this!
That evening Flint disappears. Even Thomas has no idea where he went. John leaves the tavern in Madi’s capable hands and goes to search for him. He’s not surprised when he finds him standing out front of the ruins of the cottage. Even though he doesn’t speak as he approaches, and Flint doesn’t so much as flinch, he knows Flint hears him. The ghost of a conversation long since past flits through John’s memory.
“You really are getting nimble on that thing.”
This time, however, John stands at his side. Some of the ruins are still smoking lightly.
“It’ll be better than before,” John says quietly.
“I lived there for twenty years,” Flint says, almost like he didn’t hear John. “I never had a place I actually called home before that. And now I’ve grown so used to it. We may rebuild it to be better, but I will always miss what it was.”
John doesn’t know how to respond to that so he stays quiet.
“What decisions have you made about what our tomorrows will be?”
But this time the decision had been mutual. Madi had helped come up with the plan, and both Flint and Thomas had agreed to it. That time John had felt sick with the betrayal because, even though he never would’ve admitted it, betrayal was what it had been. Which wasn’t to say John regretted it. Flint was alive. He had Thomas. And Madi was alive and still by his side. What he regretted was the damage it had done. Because, standing here now twenty years later, Flint still treated him differently. Even after these months living here in this town, there was a tension that had never been there before. Mistrust.
“You were right,” John says suddenly. Flint’s eyes flick to him.
“I told you I didn’t care that civilization would call us monsters. That everything we had done would be for nothing. You said I’d care someday. And you were right.”
John almost expects Flint to look smug, but he doesn’t. He’s still unreadable.
“It’s why I went back on the account. It’s why I went on that voyage to find the treasure. But I still didn’t truly understand until Jim Hawkins was looking at me like I was some awful villain you only read about in books.”
“What changed his mind?” Flint asks, casual as you please.
John huffs a little laughter. “I couldn’t tell you. The men who funded the voyage and the captain--the frog--kept Jim out of the loop constantly so I tried to be as honest as I could be with him. About my motives, about where I’d come from. I told him all I could bear him to know.”
“Yeah,” John agreed with a small smile. “I guess he’s young enough to not know better than to trust me.”
“I always trusted you.”
“Until the end. I knew you were doing what you believed was right. I just…”
Silence falls between them. The noise of people saying good night and heading home creates a pleasant buzz in the background. The tension mounts until Flint actually turns his whole body to John. John makes a point not to flinch.
“Why did you come here?”
John frowns at him. “Just now or…”
“To this village.”
“I told you. When Madi didn’t meet me in New Providence like planned, I didn’t know where else to go.”
There’s a beat, and then: “Why did you really come here?”
This time John does flinch. But then he turns to face Flint, defiant even though he doesn’t feel it at all. No, what he feels is fear. “...Are you really gonna make me answer that?”
Flint’s expression contorts. “I thought… you and Madi…”
John huffs. “You of all people should know that doesn’t necessarily stop a thing.”
Flint’s staring at him with an almost slack look. John holds his gaze, refusing to look away, refusing to be cowed any longer. So the truth had finally come to light. Finally John had admitted it. It was out there, cowering in Flint’s light. So what?
Flint’s quiet long enough, expression unchanging, though, that John starts to feel self-conscious again. “...What?”
Flint moves so fast John can’t stop him. He grabs John by the head and brings him in, lips meeting with a ferocity only Flint was capable of. John grabs Flint’s arms to keep his balance, his crutch falling with a clatter to the ground. After a moment he closes his eyes and returns the kiss, trying to match the fervor. His heart thuds madly in his chest even when Flint pulls away and brushes a curl out of John’s face.
“Someone could walk by…” John says breathlessly. It feels as though Flint has rattled the stars. “Someone could see us…”
James smiles, a beautiful, sincere smile that John hasn’t had directed at him in twenty long, long years. “Let them.”
And then Flint dips Silver like a princess and kisses him again. And, of course, they all live happily ever after as a big polyamorous family.
Thank you all for your support throughout this story! If you want to go back and read it again, keep an eye out for some easter eggs--each chapter has some sort of reference to both Muppet Treasure Island and Treasure Planet. Some are more obvious than others.