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It was more than just the way Ed looked at him, Stede Bonnet would realise that quiet morning on the dock. 

Not even the faint light of dawn could shadow the smile that broke across Ed’s clean-shaven face at the sight of Stede emerging from the foliage. He didn’t wait, dropping the heavy-looking sack he was carrying onto the wooden pier and bounding over to meet Stede halfway.

‘Well, that went easier than I expected. Dreadful security around here,’ Stede began with a grin. ‘Were you able to get that ding—?’ 

His last word was cut off by a pair of lips covering his, a kiss long and eager that took him by surprise. Just like earlier that day on the beach, when Ed had silenced his stammering with his mouth and held him close. Even now he was winding his arms around Stede, one holding his waist while the other cupped the back of his neck. Still gentle, almost careful, pulling Stede fully against Ed for the few precious seconds the kiss lasted. 

‘There you are,’ Ed muttered, a low rumble between their lips when they broke apart. His hands remained where they were while his dark eyes flicked over Stede’s face. Stede could read the sheer relief in them. 

‘Of course, here I am,’ he returned, voice faltering slightly at the unexpected expression. ‘Where else would I be?’

There was an odd movement, caught between a half-hearted shrug and squirm. ‘You’re late. Almost thought you’d —’ He stopped talking abruptly, jaw going tight.

It wasn’t terribly difficult to deduce the rest. Stede’s eyes widened. ‘You thought I’d changed my mind?’ 

The not-quite-a-shrug returned, accompanied by a slight quirk of the mouth. Brushing off the whole thing. And yet all of it was there, laid bare in the burning depths of his eyes, which drank in Stede with a kind of joy he’d never been subjected to in his life —

Not until that fateful moment when he’d recognised what was in his heart the whole time and he’d bravely whispered, Yeah

Swallowing, he repeated it now, as breathlessly as then, ‘I said, didn’t I? Yes.’

Ed’s smile was no less blinding the second time. Stede had no time to process it before he was being kissed again, and once more those strong arms were around him, holding him flush against Ed’s body; as close as they could possibly get without being one and the same. No. It already felt like being one and the same. The intimacy was entirely strange to him.

Until Edward Teach, no one had ever looked at Stede Bonnet, touched Stede Bonnet, like he was anything worth seeing, holding. Wanting. 

The impact of his revelation knocked the breath out of him so thoroughly that he gasped into Ed’s mouth. He almost regretted it when it inadvertently broke the kiss, desirous of feeling that foreign, thrilling touch again.

Ed was grinning, a twinkle in his dark eyes. ‘Yes?’ he repeated quietly. 

An echo, but this time seeking a final reconfirmation. No room for regret or turning back after this.

Stede exhaled, letting himself relax in Ed’s arms. Arms he could trust not to drop him. They’d reached for him first, where none other had.

This time, there were no doubts to blur his reply. No I think so ’s or mm-hmm ’s. 

‘Yes,’ he said, voice firm and strong.

‘Yes!’ Ed laughed jubilantly and he was kissing the breath out of him again before tugging him towards the little dinghy that would lead them to freedom. To the rest of their lives.

Ed wanted him, Stede, for the rest of his life. 

Well, how about that, Stede thought dazedly as he took Ed’s hand and jumped, not very gracefully, off the pier.

~***~

Stede couldn’t stop thinking about it all the way back to the ship, during the deep comfortable silences that fell between them during the long hours of rowing.

He thought about the inner side of Ed’s right foot pressed to the outside of his left, a deliberate placement to maintain constant contact even as Ed rowed tirelessly into the blue. And he thought about those eyes scanning the horizons, that unfailingly returned to Stede’s, and the soft curve of his mouth that spoke volumes where words weren’t needed. 

Affection. And desire, Stede was starting to recognise. It was more than the way Ed looked at him. It was in his touch.

With Mary, there had been at most a look of resignation, where the duties of marriage had been perfunctorily and swiftly carried out, no more. No lingering looks, no reaching hands. On the high seas, he’d known tolerance and eventually friendship with his crew, where the occasional touch was purely in camaraderie. 

But this was new. And frightening. And, Stede thought while Ed hollered at their ship that had appeared in the distance, it was something he positively, desperately wanted to know more of. Immediately.

‘Finally!’ Ed grunted, looking over his shoulder at the Revenge. ‘First thing I want is a cuppa tea. With seven fucking sugars.’

‘A proper cup of tea.’ Stede nodded fondly.

‘It’s the only problem with the academy. All that soap and not one sugar? Hmm, might pair some of that soap with tea, come to think of it.’ Ed cackled at the look of horror on Stede’s face. ‘What about you, then?’

‘Me?’

‘Yeah, what do you want first? When we get back.’

The answer rolled off Stede’s tongue without thought, so soft it was nearly one with the lapping of water, ‘You.’

Ed blinked, his arms stilling for a moment. Stede drew in a sharp breath, face warming as he realised what he’d said. Then Ed grinned, his eyes crinkling at the corners, and oh, had Stede ever seen him smile this much in such little time? 

‘Tea later, then?’

The warmth was spreading, and Stede tugged at the neck of his shirt. ‘With seven sugars.’

~***~

It turned out that nothing would get in the way of Ed delivering Stede’s request posthaste. Not even a mutiny.

‘Upon my word,’ Stede gasped when he stumbled onto the deck of the Revenge after Ed, to find the other gaping at their whole crew looking about five seconds away from hurling a tied-up Izzy into the ocean. 

A jolly good idea, if Stede were to be honest. He almost said so when the surprised crew recovered and, following a round of excited shouting — the warmest welcome he’d received, though he supposed a good fraction of it must be for Ed — asked if they should continue with the mutiny or leave Izzy’s fate in their captains’ hands.

But before he’d even opened his mouth, Ed was taking his hand. ‘Nah, you know what, just throw him in the brig. I don’t give a shit right now, got better things to do.’ 

With that, he was pulling Stede away to lead him inside. It wasn’t more than two beats before cheers and hollering (and one enraged ‘Are you fucken serious?!’ from Izzy) erupted from behind them. For once in his life, none of those hoots was in jest or mockery, Stede realised with a smile he couldn’t hide.

‘Or a better man to do,’ sounded Lucius’ smug voice. 

‘Fuck you too,’ Ed yelled back over his shoulder.

‘Right after Bonnet, go ahead!’

The laughter followed them all the way inside and Ed grumbled, ‘Ruddy pillocks.’ But without the beard, there was no hiding his pursed lips fighting down amusement. Stede beamed at the thought of getting to see that more from now. The rest of their lives, the thought gripped him again.

~***~

The door of the captain’s cabin hadn’t closed behind them before Stede was backed against the wall with an armful of pirate — retired pirate, perhaps? Were they retired? — and he was being kissed even more thoroughly than back on the pier. 

The length of Ed’s body pressed into him, as Ed’s hands found purchase on his hips and neck. Holding him close and holding him still, like Stede was an offering for the fearsome Blackbeard to take his time and devour.

He made a muffled noise of question and pleasure into Ed’s mouth. Did people kiss like this? This often? Oh of course they must, not everyone shared his own stilted experiences with intimacy, his rational mind supplied even as his attention was kept split between what was happening and his own racing thoughts. 

They were warm, Ed’s kisses. That had been his first thought back at the beach as well, after he’d gotten past the joyous surprise of it. Everything about Ed was warm, when he was near Stede.

That exciting thought had just taken root, holding him as tight as Ed’s arms around his, when the kiss changed. A tongue pressed between his parted lips, gliding over the seam of his mouth before dipping in. The boldness pulled a shudder out of Stede and he clutched at Ed, bunching the rough fabric of his shirt in his fists. Ed responded by grabbing his left thigh, hooking Stede’s leg around his hip, and oh , that was, that was —

‘First thing you want, yeah?’ Ed said gruffly against his lips. He rolled his hips slowly, and there was absolutely no mistaking the state either of them was in. ‘Me?’

Stede bit his lower lip, resting his head against the wall. It was near impossible to think, not when he could so easily feel Ed’s cock against his; the cheap fabric of their breeches made for a flimsy barrier. 

‘Stede?’ Ed had begun to mouth along his jaw. His teeth nipped, leaving the slightest sting that made him jump a little.

‘Yes!’ he gasped, finding his voice. ‘I should — should like that very much. Unless, ah —’ 

Ed was marking a lazy trail down the side of his neck now, licking at his heated skin. It abruptly occurred to Stede that their standard academy outfits left his throat completely bare, the open neck of his shirt easily tugged aside to make way for Ed’s mouth, and good god above, was it a greedy thing. A hungry, devouring thing. 

‘— unless you’d rather have that cup of tea first,’ he finished in a rush, latching onto the first coherent thought he could decipher amidst the sheer clangour in his head.

‘Oh shut up,’ Ed chuckled, right there into his skin, and the waft of hot air had gooseflesh breaking out over his neck. ‘C’mon.’

There was no telling how they eventually made it to the bed. Stede had always prized his sizeable cabin, but never had the journey felt so long, hindered at every step by Ed’s lips seeking his while his hands roamed Stede’s body, pulling at his shirt until it was free of his breeches. Then those hands were under his clothes, and it was all calloused warmth, trailing fiery paths up his back and around his sides. 

It was already so much, so much new and want , so much of the things he hadn’t thought to dream he could have. Too much. And Stede found himself grappling again for any thought to hold onto, because all this felt like being caught up in storm-tossed waters with nothing but the horizon around him.

‘How about, ah, Thomas?’ he stammered just before the back of his calves met his bed and Ed was pushing him down.

‘Really, mate, if you’re going to shout another man’s name while we fuck, I’m throwing ya overboard,’ Ed drawled with an impish grin as he crawled up to kneel between Stede’s legs.

While we fuck . The words sent heat flaring through him, as thrilling as they were devastating.

‘Oh no, I meant how do you like the name Thomas? For me?’ Stede said as Ed resumed kissing his neck.

‘That the name you want me to shout while we fuck?’

‘Ed!’ Stede’s laugh petered out to a gasp when Ed fingered the hem of his shirt, skimming his fingertips over his lower belly. Licking his lips, he tried again, ‘You said to pick new names. Cool ones, were your exact words I believe. I think Captain Thomas has a nice ring to it.’

‘I like whatever you like, darlin’.’ Ed pushed up his shirt, bunching it up under Stede’s armpits to expose his torso entirely. His eyes darkened as he gazed down at him, splaying his palm on Stede’s chest to caress a line down to his stomach.

‘Oh, oh, good,’ Stede went on breathlessly, following Ed’s touch with wide eyes. ‘That’s settled then! I shall be Thomas. Retired captain, I suppose. I’ve yet to figure out a backstory, however, and —’

Ed’s hands on him stilled, his eyes snapping back up to meet Stede’s. Understanding dawned, twisting his expression into one of contrite uncertainty. ‘Oh shit, should we stop?’

‘What?’ Stede gasped, voice going shrill with sudden panic. No, no, what was wrong?

‘You’re nervous,’ Ed stated, watching him. He pulled away until he was on his haunches. ‘We — look, we don’t have to do anything. Sorry I just pounced on you.’

‘No, no, Ed.’ Stede reached for him, grasping his hands to pull him close again. In that moment, it occurred to him that he was touching Ed, properly touching him back, for the first time. Since yesterday he’d let Ed hold him and kiss him, but he himself had been so overcome with it all that he hadn’t quite … Oh dear. 

Stede rectified that now, gently cupping Ed’s face when the man leant over him again. There was the slightest scratch of stubble under his palm, and warm skin. Sun-tanned and weather-worn, the wrinkles of a lifetime Stede could only imagine; Edward Teach was the handsomest man to have sailed the seven seas. Stede vowed to tell him that one day.

But now, he had to explain. ‘This is all wonderful, Ed. It truly is.’

‘Yeah?’ Ed’s brows were furrowed, lips turned down.

‘Yes. It’s all just a bit … you see, I’m rather overcome because …’ Stede had to take a breath. Ed hovered above him, concerned and, even while in the dark, already accepting of whatever Stede would say. It made him brave. ‘I’ve never … you know.’

‘Never been with a man?’ Ed supplied, quiet and patient. No judgement. Good heavens, was there nothing about this man that Stede wouldn’t find utterly unprecedented? 

‘No, I mean, well yes, that too. I’d never even kissed a man before you, actually.’

‘I’m bloody honoured.’ The corners of Ed’s mouth curved up.

‘But I mean,’ Stede exhaled, sliding his hand up to twine a wayward curl of salt-and-pepper hair around his fingers. ‘It’s never been quite like this. It’s the way that you … I’ve never known that before. What it’s like with someone that actually …’

He saw the moment Ed made the connection, the twitch of his brow, the hardening jaw. ‘Wants you?’ Ed finished for him, and the fierceness in his low voice made Stede hot all over again. ‘Fuck ’em all. Their stupid loss, innit.’

‘That’s not really the important thing here.’

‘No,’ Ed agreed. ‘Important thing is what you want. Or don’t want. We don’t have to —’

‘Do this, I know,’ Stede interrupted. ‘But…’ He cupped the back of Ed’s head to bring him down, kissing him softly on the lips. A first again, it had been the other way around so far, hadn’t it? 

‘I said before, didn’t I? The first thing I want when we’re back?’ He smiled at Ed’s sharp inhale. ‘Now, are you going to keep being like this and make me repeat myself again , or will you get on with it?’

The tension drained out of Ed, his stiff shoulders slumping. ‘Right then.’ He leaned down for another kiss, returning his hand to Stede’s belly, but then froze. ‘What do you want, exactly?’

Stede wrinkled his nose. ‘So you are making me repeat myself, after all?’

‘No, you little lunatic.’ Ed snorted but then turned serious again. ‘How do you want me?’

‘Very much.’

Ed began to laugh, and Stede grinned to see the return of his lighthearted joy. ‘I swear upon Davy Jones’ fucking locker, if you don’t tell me —’

‘Touch me.’

Ed fell quiet, eyebrows raising. The weight of his palm on Stede’s stomach felt like a branding. ‘Where?’

‘I don’t know, Ed, just … just touch me. Please.’

And he did, slowing down the frenzy from earlier to kiss Stede deeply, leisurely, touching him with curious hands that swept over his chest and his stomach, mapping a path that his mouth followed. It drove Stede’s thoughts wild again, but he was no longer drowning, instead relaxing under Ed and absorbing the fire of his touch.

Ed’s lips found his breast, closing around a nipple, and Stede arched up involuntarily with an ‘Ooh!’. With a chuckle, Ed swirled his tongue over the little nub, sending sparks of pleasure through him.

‘Nobody’s played with your tits either, then?’

‘Well um…’

‘Pity. A right feast you are.’

‘A feast?’ Stede echoed with a disbelieving wheeze.

‘And lucky for me, I don’t need twenty fancy forks to eat you up.’ There was a flash of teeth, an infuriating grin. ‘Can just dig in with my mouth.’

Stede’s bout of laughter morphed into a mortifyingly loud moan when Ed returned his mouth to his breast, sinking his teeth in lightly while his tongue did something utterly sinful to his nipple.

‘You incorrigible man!’ he groaned.

Ed looked entirely too satisfied as he slid further down Stede’s body, almost slipping off the bed as he kissed him, tasting along the curve of his stomach. ‘So what cool name did you have in mind for an incorrigible cur like me?’

‘Hmm? Ah … hmm mmm Captain … Foliage?’ Stede mumbled, his focus entirely on Ed’s fingers down there, idly unfastening his breeches. 

Ed snickered, burying his face in Stede’s lower belly, enticingly close to his arousal. Stede squirmed, trying to nudge Ed just a little inwards.

‘Foliage, eh? But only if my good Christian name is Insane.’ Ed grinned broadly up at him. 

It took him a moment. ‘Well then, I’ll just call you retired Captain Learn!’

Learn ? Did you just flip my surname to — to — ugh, the opposite?’

‘Antonym?’ Stede offered helpfully.

‘Come on, mate, you’re more creative than that.’

‘Look here, I can’t be blamed! You’re being … dreadfully distracting right now.’

The curve of Ed’s mouth softened and his gaze grew heavy. ‘Good,’ he whispered, a promise in his voice. ‘Don’t want you thinking of nothin’ but me.’

And how could he do anything but, Stede thought as he was promptly reduced to a shivering mess under Ed’s mouth. The man had given his freed cock a cursory tug before he was on him, taking Stede in as if he truly were a feast. Nothing like the perfunctory consummation of his wedding night or the touch of his own hand on rare evenings. 

That was when the racing mess of Stede’s thoughts came to a crashing halt, like a vessel wrecked upon rocks in the dark of night. It was obscene to see the stretch of Ed’s lips around Stede’s cock, sinking down to swallow him whole, and the shock of it was as good as the scorching wet heat of his mouth. 

‘Oh good god, Ed!’

‘I’m not.’ Ed pulled off with a filthy sound, and swiped his tongue over his lips. Like he was savouring it, savouring him . ‘Not a good one, at least.’

The casual blasphemy made Stede chuckle breathlessly. Grinning, Ed wedged his fingers into the waistband of his undone breeches.

‘This all right?’

Stede hesitated for only a heartbeat. He nodded and Ed immediately pulled down his breeches, proceeding to strip him until he was entirely naked save for the loose shirt still bunched up to his neck. 

‘Fucking beautiful,’ Ed muttered, nuzzling into the side of Stede’s hip before his lips returned to his cock, which was flushed and dripping now. ‘Tell me if I’m doing anything you don't like.’

‘What do you like, Ed? I mean in bed.’

‘Like having you in my bed,’ Ed chuckled. When Stede slapped lightly at his hand, he added more seriously, ‘I like this. Listen, it’s new to me too.’

‘But you have —’

‘Not like this, no.’ The echo of his own words shut Stede up. Ed was gazing into his eyes, unblinking and intense. ‘Before, with any of my lot, it wasn’t … wasn’t …’ He heaved a sigh, giving a slight shake of his head. ‘Can’t think of a word, but fuck, nothing came even close to this, Stede.’

The magnitude of that confession hung heavy in the air between them. 

Stede’s mouth was dry. ‘Will you show me what you like?’

‘I like this, getting to touch you, making you feel good. Without there being any other…’ Ed trailed off, shrugging one shoulder. 

And Stede was left with the memory of Calico Jack’s lewd words about their dalliances , Izzy’s ceaseless hissing about Blackbeard , the most monstrous pirate to curse the seas. The words Ed couldn’t, or wouldn’t, find weren’t hard to suss. 

‘Go on, then,’ he murmured, and he slipped his fingers into Ed’s thick hair again; a gentle, soothing brush to convey what he was offering.

Ed took it gladly. His mouth was back on Stede, hot and mind melting, fingers digging dents into the soft flesh of his hips. He wrapped a hand around Stede’s cock, stroking him steadily, while his lips took up the exploration, biting marks into the insides of his shaking thighs, sucking languidly on his balls, and then even lower, his tongue hot and slick on Stede’s —

‘Oh fuck!’ Stede yelped and immediately clapped a hand over his mouth.

Ed stared at him, wondering. ‘You liked that…’ His hand slid down to graze his thumb delicately over where Stede had never been touched before.

‘I…!’ 

Stede swallowed. He wasn’t entirely unaware of these things despite his empty marriage. He was the captain of a pirate ship, packed with libidinous persons who were stuck out at sea for months at a time. Walking in on Lucius (at the very least), more than once, with one or another man, in a number of compromising positions, had been an inevitability. Stede knew the mechanics of where this was headed.

‘I never thought it could feel like this,’ he admitted in a hushed voice. Ed’s thumb was still resting right there, and he shivered.

‘We really don’t have to do this.’

‘Oh, so now you’re intent on repeating yourself? After putting me through the same?’ Stede tried for a jesting tone, but his voice still shook.

‘Or we could do it the other way around,’ Ed continued persistently. ‘I’m down for that. Or other things. There’s so many things we could do together. I could show you.’

Stede considered it. The offer was tempting, to remain in relatively safer waters that weren’t so far off from what his prior experiences had been. And yet, this was not about clinging to what he’d always known. Not since the moment he’d said yes . That wasn’t what the way Ed looked at him, touched him, made him feel was about.

They could do other things another time. ‘I want it, Ed. I want you inside me.’

The dramatic jaw drop he received in response was a reward all its own. Before Ed could gather himself, Stede flicked a hand in the general direction of one of his cabinets, and said with a bright smile, ‘I should have some oil-based ointments and whatnot tucked away. If you’d be so kind, darling.’

The endearment doubled the effect Stede’s earlier declaration had, and it took all of his effort not to giggle while Ed, still in a daze, slipped away to complete his errand. He recovered a little upon finding Stede’s precious collection, holding up a bottle of oil to the light as he stumbled back to the bed. His breeches were, Stede was pleased to notice, prominently bulging.

‘Why on earth do you have this lying around?’ Ed asked as he settled between Stede’s legs again. ‘Use it a lot, do you? Good choice.’

‘You presume too much,’ returned Stede, lying through his teeth.

‘Show it to me later, how you use this on yourself. I want to watch.’ Coating his fingers in the oily substance, Ed smirked at Stede’s reddening cheeks. ‘Right now I just want my hands on you.’

‘Excellent. At long last we appear to be on the same page.’

Stede was expecting the process to be swift, a clinical preparation for something greater. It was anything but. Ed crawled up, pressing Stede down into the bed with long, sweet kisses, while his hand worked between his legs. The kissing was as distracting as the feel of his fingers teasing over his opening, rubbing the oil over his hole. Those first sparks of pleasure were nothing compared to the moment Ed finally slipped a finger inside, stretching Stede around the dextrous digit that moved nimbly within him. 

‘This isn’t even the real deal, love,’ he said roughly when Stede whimpered. ‘I’m just getting you used to having something in there.’

Stede didn’t have the wherewithal for repartee. He was more aroused than he’d ever been, his body burning where Ed was rubbing inside him. His cock throbbed, smearing fluid over his lower belly.

He had no sense of time to tell how long it went on for, only the moment when Ed finally withdrew and, cursing under his breath, hastily undid the front of his breeches. Only then did Stede fully appreciate the disparity between them.

‘You have entirely too many clothes on!’ 

A right travesty it was, the loose neck of that shirt revealed a glimpse of the ink curling in intricate patterns across his chest, peeking out from under the long sleeves. Stede wanted to rip it open, leave the fabric in tatters so that he could glut himself upon Ed, with eyes and hands and mouth; to trace every curving line of ink and know their taste, their stories.

Ed gave a grunt as he battled with his breeches, pulling them open just enough to free himself. ‘I’ll be starkers next time. Can’t wait now,’ he said hurriedly as he snatched up the oil to slather a generous amount over himself. Stede followed the movement, entranced by the shape and size of him. He’d never thought of a penis as particularly beautiful before. But as with everything else, Ed’s was a first. 

Ed grabbed him by the hips, trying to urge him onto his stomach. ‘On your hands and knees, come on.’

‘No, wait, wait. Can we, like this?’

Ed paused. ‘You sure? It’d be a bit uncomfortable.’

‘Well, you see, you’re hardly the most terrible thing to look at during coition.’

‘Do not call fucking coition ,’ Ed groaned, but his lips were twitching at Stede’s gentle tease and roundabout compliment. 

They ended up chortling anyway while Ed tried to manhandle Stede into a more comfortable position, urging him to lift his hips to wedge a pillow underneath him and nearly getting kicked in the face for his efforts. He grabbed Stede’s wayward legs with a laugh, and next thing Stede knew, one was guided around Ed’s hip and the other slung over his shoulder, spreading Stede to expose him completely. 

The laughter settled into something quiet, a look of such intense fondness it made Stede blush even harder. 

‘Stede.’

He smiled. ‘Yes, Ed. Go on.’

It burned, that first push. A good burn, one that punched the breath, and perhaps all of his senses, out of Stede. He was helpless to not cry out when he felt Ed press inside him, his cock stretching Stede open around him in a way his fingers couldn’t hold a candle to. 

‘Oh god,’ he gasped, throwing his head back, hands scrabbling for purchase on the soft, expensive sheets. Ed was moving, ever so slowly, with gentle shallow thrusts, his cock rubbing deliciously inside Stede where he was making room for himself, sinking deeper and deeper until they couldn’t be more joined than they were.

‘Fuck, fuck,’ Ed swore, his breaths ragged. ‘Fuck, Stede, you feel so…’

‘Yes,’ he rasped back, shaking. ‘Yes, don’t — don’t stop. Keep going, ah…!’ 

Stede clapped his hand over his mouth at the blinding rush of pleasure that filled him in the wake of fading discomfort. It built through him, like a rippling wave that gained height with every passing second. The sensation burned through him until all he knew was the feeling of Ed moving inside him, his cock thrusting hard and steady now, hips slapping against Stede’s arse in a staccato that matched the pounding rhythm of his heart. 

It was nothing like he’d ever known before, every thrill sending a jolt directly to his cock leaking between them. Stede tightened his palm, struggling to muffle the wails trying to escape his lips because, oh how very vulgar would that be of him, to be anything but courteous and courtly in his marriage bed —?

‘No no, love.’ Ed’s fingers had closed around his wrist, guiding his hand away and knocking his thoughts away from the memory. ‘None of that between us, all right? Don’t hide yourself from me. Let me hear you.’

Stede’s eyes stung. He opened his mouth and allowed every shout of pleasure and want and love to sound out between them. They would only be silenced by Ed’s mouth descending on his, dropping Stede’s leg from his shoulder to gather him close and kiss him sloppily as he fucked into him. 

‘Shit, I’m getting close. I want you to come first. Touch yourself or something, fuck!’

Wordlessly, Stede took Ed’s oiled hand and guided it to his cock.

A breathless chuckle escaped him. ‘Ah, shoulda known,’ he teased, panting. ‘Just lie back and think of England while I do all the work, eh?’

Stede wrapped his arms around Ed’s neck, burying his hands in his thick mane. ‘I like it when you touch me,’ he admitted quietly.

Ed’s eyes widened. ‘Fuck.’ His slick fingers slid along Stede, tugging at his cock with a sure grip that had Stede sobbing his praise again. 

The force of his pleasure’s crest nearly took him by surprise, his body arching up as he came all over Ed’s hand and his own stomach. Ed didn’t let up, stroking Stede through his orgasm until he’d wrung every drop out of him, leaving him boneless and panting in the sheets. 

Stede’s eyes flew open when he felt Ed withdraw from him. He found the man knelt over him, his head bowed and long curls in disarray while he took himself in hand, frantically jerking at his cock — that had just been inside Stede, he thought with sudden shyness — until he finally came, spilling his spend over Stede’s stomach in thick splotches that mixed with his own.

The act was so unexpected and arousing it made Stede’s toes curl.

There was silence then, long and peaceful, between the two men who lay curled up together, side by side on the bed that was just a little too small for them. Stede liked it, the length of Ed’s body completely pressed up against him. And he liked the odd feeling pulsing through him too, the aftermath of his pleasure spreading warmth and ease through him. 

Idly, Ed ran his fingers over Stede’s stomach, tracing lazy patterns through their semen, mixing them together. Marking him.

‘I’ll clean you up soon, swear, but shit, I need a moment.’ He nuzzled into Stede’s shoulder, dropping a kiss. ‘Haven’t enjoyed a buggering like that in, dunno, a fucking long time. Not ever.’

‘I suppose there is more of that awaiting us in the future.’ Stede glanced at his lover. ‘That is if you still … still want to … well.’

Ed met his gaze. ‘I do, still.’ His voice was firm, almost as if he recognised what Stede was checking. ‘For all the time we have left.’

Clearing his throat, Stede finally dared to voice it. ‘It’s an awfully long time, you know. The rest of our lives.’

‘Oh mate.’ Ed propped himself up on one elbow, leaning over to kiss him. ‘Not long enough.’

Stede laughed, joy and relief bursting forth. ‘Hopefully long enough to grow out your beard again.’

Ed raised his eyebrows, reaching up to scratch a bare cheek. ‘My beard?’

Stede shrugged, affecting nonchalance. ‘It’s a pity I never got to know what it's like to kiss you with your beard on.’

‘Fantasised about that, have you?’ Ed waggled his eyebrows at him. Infuriating, perfect man.

‘I shall fantasise about any damned thing I please.’

‘Fine, I’ll grow it out again. For that kiss.’

Stede leaned into Ed, smiling, his mind — his very heart — no longer caught in a storm or dashed about upon rocks, but afloat on still waters.