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a laughing matter

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We talk it through, as a crew!

That’s the rule on mental devastation. It’s easy to follow. Simple. A rule Stede established on day one and has done his absolute best to uphold, despite the crew’s initial reluctance.

When it comes to talking about…about this, though. Him and Ed. It’s difficult. It’s a language he isn’t fluent in. Maybe that’s why he ran, after that first kiss. And why it took them so long to reconcile after he came back.

But now they’re here. They’re together. Co-captaining? Dating? Stede hasn’t asked what they’re doing, really. In his head, they’re happily married and have been for weeks. But how does he tell Ed something like that?

The answer is, he doesn’t. He bottles it up. The exact opposite of Stede’s philosophy on life. It’s not ideal, not ideal whatsoever, but he can’t help it. Everytime Ed catches his eye, his tongue twists in his mouth and his heart leaps and his throat swells shut and…well. It’s not easy to form words in those conditions.

All of this is so new. This isn’t arranged. This is the opposite of arranged. This is the happiest accident Stede has ever found himself in. But he’s not used to such things. Not used to talking about such things.

So they fall into a gentle rhythm. Stede adores it. A rhythm of shared beds, shared meals, and shared kisses. Nothing more. Not yet. Stede wants more. He just can’t say it. If he and Ed are just going to stay in this lovesick and sexless tizzy for all of eternity, that’s fine with Stede. It’s all he needs. Ed is all he needs.

They’re on the deck of the ship tonight, where they often find themselves. Some of the crew lay nearby, long asleep, clutching one another. He and Ed, they’re up late. It’s dark. The stars shine, closer than usual, and Ed is lazily pointing out constellations. Stede stands close to him, their shoulders touching. Stede is always touching Ed. A passing hand along his lower back, a kiss to the forehead, dancing his fingers along his forearm. Maybe it’s the possessive part of him. He sips tea now, too, a lovely blend they’d picked up on their last trip to shore.

“And that one there,” Ed says, gesturing upwards. “Well, you know that one.”

Stede squints at it. It’s a star. Like all the other stars. Maybe a bit brighter?

Ed side-eyes him. “If not, you should probably learn.”

“Oh,” Stede says, realizing. “Polaris?”

“Mm,” Ed hums. “Don’t want to forget that one. Useful for navigation.”

Stede shrugs. “Already have.”

“Ha.” Ed pecks him on the cheek, and Stede leans into it. “Then I’ll remember it for both of us.”

Stede thinks of a few things to say. Things about how Ed makes him feel. Things about how that kiss makes him feel. Things about how he wants Ed to kiss him like that again, and again, and always.

Stede says nothing.

“‘s rather cold.” Ed pulls his dressing gown in closer around himself.

“You need better outerwear,” Stede says, although he enjoys the sight of Ed in that soft fabric. “Pretty thin silk, that one.”

“But I like this one,” Ed responds. It’s the pink floral one, one that’s technically Stede’s, but Ed has slowly but surely adopted it as his own. “Smells like you.”

Stede glows. “Ah. Well.”

“Say,” Ed says. “Do you ever want to have sex?”

Stede chokes on his tea.

“Sorry to startle you.”

“St—well, I’m not…startled, per se—”

“It’s just,” Ed continues, “we’ve been together for a while now without formally talking about it. We don’t have to. Tonight, or ever, or otherwise. But I thought I would ask.”

“I—Edward, I, well, I just—”

“Look at you,” Ed says fondly, placing a hand on Stede’s cheek, looking into his eyes. “You’ve gone red.”

“Yes, I imagine I have,” Stede stammers. Those goddamn eyes. “It’s just—”

“You can say no,” Ed says. “I like what we have. Don’t feel like you have to say anything to appease me.”

Edward,” Stede gasps. “I—” He trails off again.

Say it, Stede. He’s right in front of you, goddammit. Say it.

“Take your time,” Ed says, leaning forward to press a chaste kiss to his lips. He turns back to the stars.

Ed’s side profile. Now that’s something Stede can talk to.

“We don’t—” He begins, kicking himself. “I’ve never—talked about…that. This. Really. With anyone.”

Ed, sensing that Stede has grown bolder when he doesn’t have to look at him straight on, continues looking upward. “What? Sex?”

“Yes,” Stede mumbles. “That. It’s not…polite to speak of. At least, with my wife, it wasn’t.”

“Of course it wasn’t,” Ed sighs. “How you two managed to get anything done with the need to be ‘polite’ all the time is quite the mystery to me. Sometimes things need to be discussed.

Stede nods. “So I apologize that I’m—quite flustered.”

Ed’s eyes twinkle in the light. “Doesn’t bother me, mate.”

“It’s just—Edward, there’s lots I want to say. I’ve never…I feel like I don’t have the words.”

“Mm.”

“It’s very. Unfamiliar to me. These conversations.” He swallows. “And, I must admit, the…the act itself.”

“I see.” Ed inches a hand closer to Stede’s. “Well, like I said. No reason to rush into things, if you’re unsure. I’d be happy if we stuck to kissing for the next fifty years. I’d be happy with anything. I like this, if you like this. I like what you like.”

“I like—” Stede blurts suddenly, a bit too loud, “you. Very much.”

Ed grins, deciding to look at him. “Do you, now?”

“I do,” Stede says firmly, meeting his gaze. “And…yes.”

Edd furrows his brow. “Yes?”

“Yes.”

“Um...yes.”

“I’m trying to say—” Stede’s expression has twisted into a strange variety of emotions. “I’m trying to tell you, yes.”

Ed’s eyes widen. “Oh.”

“Yes.”

“You mean…well, you mean yes.

“I do.”

Ed can’t hide his growing grin. “Really? You’re sure?”

“I’m quite inexperienced,” Stede says, setting his tea down.

“That’s fine.”

“Of course, I’m not a…I’m not a blushing virgin.” Stede’s body betrays him by blushing rather profusely. “I’ve…reaped the benefits of my previous marriage. But—only that, and not for a while now. I’m quite…well, I’d imagine I’m quite a bad lay.”

Ed smiles wider. “I’d love to find out.”

Stede whimpers.

“You’re not,” Ed confirms, “just saying this to please me?”

“No. In fact, I think I may…may be saying this to please myself.”

Ed is the one who warms a bit at that. “Mm. Well, then. We can…we’ll set a date. Maybe when we hit shore next? Could rent a room.”

And Stede looks at him.

He doesn’t have the words. Why doesn’t he have the words?

Spit it out.

It’s Ed. It’s the same old Ed. You can talk to him.

Ed’s nervous at his silence. “You okay? Second thoughts?”

“No—it’s not that. I was just thinking…” Stede slaps a hand over his face. “‘s nothing.”

“Stede.”

“It’s—I’m not sure that I can—”

“Stede,” Ed repeats. “You can tell me what you need.”

“I need…I think, tonight.”

Ed freezes. “Tonight?”

“I’ve been wanting,” Stede manages to say, and he planned on saying more, but the words caught in his throat. So he leaves it at that. “I’ve been wanting.

Ed turns to him, smiling, a bit devilish. “Have you?”

Stede nods once, short and quick. “Very much.”

And Ed…Ed laughs.

Bright, loud. Fond, undeniably fond. He laughs, tossing his head back, his throat exposed. He shakes with the effort of it.

Stede’s… Not sure what to think. He deflates a bit. “Hey.”

“Stede, darling, come here,” Ed says through his laughter, and he drags Stede in by his hips.

It’s shocking how quickly the kissing seems different, now that Stede knows it’s not the only thing they’ll be doing tonight. It’s deeper, for one. Ed kisses him like he’s searching for something. Stede wants him to find it. He can taste Ed smiling against his mouth, sickly sweet, so he parts his lips, moaning a bit at the feeling of Ed’s tongue in his space.

It’s new. It’s invigorating. It’s rapidly making Stede’s breeches uncomfortably tight.

Stede’s suddenly unsure of what to do with his hands. They’d normally wrap protectively around Ed’s hips, maybe, or rest on his face, on his scruffy beard, which hasn’t quite grown in yet. But that’s not tonight’s mood, is it? Stede’s arms freeze at his sides as Ed noses up against him. He’s sure Ed can feel his growing arousal, as well as the tense muscles of his arms and back.

“It’s okay,” Ed whispers into his neck. His hands slide up and down Stede’s front, down the swell of his stomach. “It’s me. Relax.”

Relax.

Stede suddenly makes a decision and grabs the front of Ed’s pants.

“Oof,” Ed gasps, and then he laughs again as Stede’s hand cups him. “That’s relaxed? You should relax more often.”

Stede clocks the laugh, but he can’t pay it much mind now because Ed is…he feels nice. Thick. Hard.

“You’re hard,” Stede stutters. You’re hard, too.

“Very astute,” Ed giggles, canting just a little into Stede’s touch. He wraps his arms around his neck and presses in. Stede’s back hits the ship’s mast - he hadn’t realized Ed had been pushing him backwards until this very moment. Stede stills as Ed pushes forward, once, just to demonstrate how hard he really is. Stede gasps and parts his legs, not of his own accord. A rush of arousal passes through his stomach like a wave, making him seasick. He whimpers a bit, and Ed again laughs.

“Maybe,” Stede whispers, a bit bewildered, “we should try to be more…quiet?”

“I’d like to see you try,” Ed says, and he presses in again. The moan ripped from Stede this time is embarrassingly loud.

Someone on the deck shifts in their sleep, and Stede slaps a hand over his mouth. “Oop.”

“Bedroom?” Ed murmurs, smiling. “You still up for it?”

Stede nods quickly.

“Beautiful,” Ed says in an undertone, and he wraps the end of Stede’s tie around the flat of his palm. “Follow me.”

They tiptoe around the crew and down to the captain’s quarters. Ed giggles the whole way.

When the door’s shut behind them, Stede tries again to take the lead. It’s hard for him, but he wants so badly and consciously tries to let go. The first thing Ed does is drop the silk dressing gown, allowing it to crumple on the floor. Stede glances at it, once, wistfully, before focusing again on the task at hand—Ed, looking lovely in that simple cotton shirt. He wraps his arms around Ed’s back, lower than he normally would, and kisses him hard, his eyes screwed shut. Ed accepts the pressure, opening his mouth to invite him in. He drags him closer to the bed by his tie, but Stede doesn’t push him onto it. They stand for a while longer, feeling each other, Stede’s hands dancing along Ed’s lower back.

“You can touch it, you know,” Ed says.

Stede detects a familiar joking tone in his voice. “I can touch—?”

“My ass. Could even squeeze it, too. If you’re feeling bold.” He grins.

Stede is feeling a bit bold. His hands move lower.

“There you go,” Ed murmurs, pressing their foreheads together, “making me fucking—blush,” but when Stede squeezes, Ed fucking laughs again—

“You’re laughing,” Stede blurts, sweating.

“I suppose I am,” Ed says nonchalantly, and he collapses backwards onto the bed.

Stede stands for a moment longer before flopping down next to him.

“Right,” Ed says. He pats the blankets and looks around like he’s surveying the landscape. “This is it. The bed. We’ve never gotten this far before.”

“I’ve kissed you in bed before.”

“You’ve kissed me goodnight before,” Ed jokes. “We’re not sleeping tonight.”

Stede fusses with the sleeves of his shirt. “I suppose you’re not wrong—” But Ed pulls him in before he can finish his sentence.

Stede finds himself on top. He worries in the back of his mind that he’s too heavy, but Ed doesn’t complain; he parts his legs under him, wrapping them around him. Stede trembles at the new sensations, at the feeling of Ed pulling at his shirt.

“Get this bloody thing off,” Ed says against his skin, yanking the cloth. Stede obliges, carefully untying his tie followed by his shirt, before moving tentatively pulling at Ed’s own clothing. Ed completes the task, pulling his shirt over his head and exposing his chest. Ed flops back again when the deed’s done, his hair gracefully framing his head.

Stede swallows. “Pretty.”

Ed drags his hands up and down Stede’s chest. “You are.”

Stede warms. “Oh, God. Stop.”

“You are,” Ed repeats, “the prettiest man I have ever seen.”

“Well, that, that logically cannot be true…because you…have seen a mirror?” Stede cringes.

Ed’s face suddenly falls. “Is that your idea of dirty talk?”

Stede swallows. “I—I think it was.”

“I’m so in love with you,” Ed moans, and he suddenly surges forward, crashing their mouths together.

It’s more charged than before. Maybe it’s because of the skin-on-skin. Maybe it’s because of the position that allows their clothed cocks to brush against each other in an oh-so-delicious way. No matter the reason, Ed’s sounds grow steadily more urgent, interspersed with an occasional giggle, clear as day. Stede tries to keep his own sounds to a minimum, mostly failing. Before long, Stede again lets a hand drift again to the front of Ed’s pants.

Ed’s breathing comes out soft and fast when he feels Stede’s presence there. “You can, if you want.”

Stede wants. Stede pulls the garment down, just enough. Before long, he’s got Ed’s cock in his hand.

It’s heavy. Warm. Stede gives it an experimental tug, and Ed chuckles, shutting his eyes.

And Stede tries to channel the images he’s imagined late at night, tries to recollect the movements he enjoys on the rare occasions he pleasures himself, tries to make it good for him, and Edward’s panting, he’s making sweet little whimpers, and Stede loves, he loves those sounds, and he twists his hand, hoping to hear it again, and Ed does make another sound, but it’s not a moan this time, it’s a fucking—

“Now you’re—” Stede babbles, going absolutely pinkish. He stops the movement of his hand. “You’re laughing again!”

Ed nods, still giggling. “I’m just—I’m sorry, it’s not because—”

“Am I doing something wrong?”

“Stede, darling,” Ed says, cupping Stede’s face. “Don’t be foolish. It’s because you’re doing something right.”

Stede sits back on his heels before pushing off of Ed’s torso completely, sequestering himself to a corner of the bed. Ed scoots forward to follow him, but Stede doesn’t look back. “I don’t understand.”

“What, darling?” Ed puts a hand on his shoulder. “Why I’m—why I laugh?”

“It’s—puts quite the damper on my confidence, if I’m being completely honest—”

“Stede, no,” Ed pulls at his shoulder, trying to turn him around, but Stede resists. “It shouldn’t. I’m not laughing because something is funny. It’s more complicated than that.”

“Complicated, how?”

“It’s a compliment, Stede. Swear on my life.”

“Laughter? How can laughter be a compliment? In a…” Stede gestures vaguely. “In a situation like this?”

“You’ve got a lot to learn about sex,” Ed says, smiling. “Not the mechanics of it. God, no. Intuition appears to be working on that one.”

“Then what—”

“Sex can be fun, Stede. You know?” He raises his eyebrows. “Do you know?”

Stede’s mouth opens, then closes again.

“It can be a joyous occasion, even.”

“It’s—well. With Mary—I will say we had, well, duties to uphold and the like. Wasn’t much room for—fun. Much less laughter. It was quite the solemn occasion.”

Ed laughs. “I can imagine.”

“Please don’t imagine,” Stede says, growing ever redder. “Not very pleasant to think about.”

“I’m not Mary,” Ed reminds him gently. “Are you doing this because you have to? Any sacred duties?”

“No,” Stede mumbles. “It’s because—I want to.”

“And I do, too. That’s not solemn. That’s a happy thing, Stede.”

“But laughter—”

“Do you ever,” Ed interrupts. The moonlight from the window dances across his face. “Do you ever just feel so happy that…you can’t keep it in? Physically? Like you just have to dance. And sing. And jump around like a fool.”

Stede thinks about the various times he’s done just that in the privacy of his room while thinking about Ed. “Yes.”

“It just bubbles out of you, these emotions. So many emotions. So many good emotions that you just can’t keep it in. It has to manifest physically.”

Stede recalls nearly tripping over himself when rushing to greet Ed after a particularly long time without him (one hour). “I suppose.”

“That’s why I laugh,” Ed says. Stede turns towards him now, slowly. “It’s just—you’re just so much. You make me feel so much. I need to let it out. I need to laugh. Not because it’s funny. Because it’s you.”

Stede feels himself growing warm. “Hmm.”

Hmm, indeed. C’mere.” Ed pulls him forward, into his lap, and Stede doesn’t protest. “I’ll try to stop if it bothers you. No promises, but I can try.”

“Actually—” Stede gathers his thoughts for a moment. “Actually. Don’t try.”

“No?”

“No,” Stede echoes, considering. “That’s—well, maybe I should be flattered.”

Ed grins. “You should be.”

“Thanks for—clarifying.” He hides his face in Ed’s neck. “I’m sorry, it’s just—God, I’m nervous.”

“Oh, Stede,” Ed murmurs, petting through his hair. “No need for nerves.”

Stede hums.

“You’re so,” Ed breathes. “You’re so fucking wonderful, Stede. I can’t believe that you’re so…listen. If this has been too much for you tonight, we can just sleep. We’ll get tucked right into bed, and we can sleep, and we can try another time.” He kisses the top of his head. “How’s that sound?”

Stede closes his eyes. “I actually think—I can’t wait any longer.”

“Really?” Ed shifts. “You’re sure?”

“I’m certain. I actually think I might burst.”

“That’s actually called an orgas—” Ed starts to tease, but Stede kisses that smart reply right out of his mouth.

Another thing about kissing Ed in a situation like this: he’s surprisingly verbal. Not just the moans, but the words of encouragement, the jokes, the little comments on what he sees.

That curl on your forehead, Ed gasps at one point. I’ve always loved that curl. This one, here.

Like that. God, like that.

More. Please. Please.

Your, your fucking eyes, mate.

Giggles against Stede’s cheek as he strokes him that eventually become moans more wanton than Stede’s ever heard in his life.

Then: “Ah, st—stop. Stede, you’ve got to—”

Stede pulls his hand back. “Are you—”

“I nearly came. It’s too early, for my liking,” Ed says, panting. “Where the fuck did you learn that?” He laughs.

It’s still weird to hear his laughter, but Stede brushes it off more easily. “I guess I’m not sure.”

“Intuition again, huh? Let’s see if intuition can carry you any farther.”

“I’d like that.”

“How would you feel,” Ed says, regaining his breath and propping himself up on his elbows, causing he and Stede’s nose to touch. “If I were to—were to get up and fetch one of your fancy oils, hm? See what sort of fun we can conjure up with that?”

“Yes,” Stede gasps. “Yes, I’d—”

“Be right back, then,” Ed says excitedly, pushing Stede off him to prance towards his chest of drawers.

“Not the—not the green container, please.” Stede sits up, pulling blankets into his lap, admiring the view of Ed in nothing but his undergarments. “My facial moisturizer, very important—not the rose-coloured one either, that’s important for my hair, as is the purple—many of those are quite important, in fact—”

Ed roots through the drawers, tossing bottles to the side as he goes. “Not the green, the…the purple, the…how about this one? The light blue?” Ed holds it up.

Stede considers for a moment. “A rather generic lotion. For sensitive skin. Yes, I think—I think I could afford to part with it.”

“Thank goodness,” Ed says, chuckling as he walks back to him.

Ed sits next to Stede on the bed, taking the lid off the jar. He glances at him. “Stede, darling—have you given any thought as to how you want to do this?”

Stede feels sweat beading on his forehead. Has he thought about it? Of course he has bloody well thought about it. “Erm, yes. I have.”

Ed crosses his legs and inspects the jar like it’s suddenly incredibly interesting. “Hm. Care to share any of the specifics?”

Stede covers his face. “Aw, Ed—”

“We talk it through,” Ed parrots, grinning. “As a cr—“

“Ahg, yes, I know—I know the rhyme. It’s my bloody rhyme. It’s just—if you haven’t noticed, I’m not very eloquent concerning—matters of the flesh—“

“Matters of the flesh?!” Ed tosses his head back. “Ha! Listen, mate, you’re gonna have to get over that if you want a piece of me.”

“I do, and I’m trying, it’s just kind of embarrassing.”

“Embarrassing?” Ed looks genuinely confused. “How?”

“Embarrassing, like—” Stede runs a hand through his hair. “Like, they’re my private fantasies. I never expected to share them.”

“Understandable, I suppose, but there’s no better time to share them than now, given you’re sitting with the object of your fantasies, and he’s rather interested in fulfilling them for you. Unless, of course, I’m not the object of your fantasies—“

“Edward, of course you are—“

“Well, then, I see no reason to be shy.” Ed sets the jar on the nightstand and leans back on the headboard, grinning up at Stede. “We’ve got to talk about these things before we get too far. So I know what you want, what you expect. So, go ahead. Lay them on me.”

Stede’s mind cycles through a few. “I’m not sure if I—”

“How about this,” Ed says thoughtfully. “I share one of my own fantasies with you. So you can see it’s not that scary. How’s that sound?”

“That sounds…” Exhilarating. Enticing. Goddamn erotic. “Nice.”

“Good.” Ed lays all the way back now, maneuvering himself so that he is again resting his head on the pillow. He crosses his hands in front of himself and murmurs thoughtfully. Stede cannot look away, even for one second.

“There’s—oh, that’s a good one,” Ed mutters, seemingly counting on his fingers. “And that one’s—rather fun, we can save that one for another time—and that one, ooh, that’s a crowd pleaser, for sure, but it’s not the mood for tonight—oh, I know. I’ve got one.” He opens his eyes. “A nice one. A tad bloody, perhaps.”

Stede gapes. “Bloody?!”

“Not our blood,” Ed swiftly clarifies, laughing. “The blood of some—some dickhead, I suppose, the specifics don’t matter. It goes like this:” And Stede holds his breath, his cock already trembling and Ed hasn’t even elaborated on the details yet—

“We’ve just completed a raid. A bad one, a dangerous one. A warship of some sort. The fighting was brutal, many men wounded, yadda yadda, you know the rest. The important bit is—the important bit, it’s that you saved my life at one point, you—I was faltering during a bit of swordplay, perhaps, took a misstep, and it looked like that was it for me, rest in peace, Edward Teach.”

Stede swallows. “Oh, my.”

“But you swooped in, last minute, you swooped in and saved my life. Cut the guy to pieces, brutal, truly, it’s honestly a tad excessive, you maybe should have showed some restraint—”

Stede smiles, a bit, despite himself.

“But you saved me. And afterwards, you’re all bloodied and sweaty and your hair’s sticking up all over the place—” Ed’s expression has grown a bit scattered, and Stede notices his hand shifting lower to cup himself. “And, it’s, you’re just bloody beautiful, mate, and so I tell the rest of the crew to loot the upper decks, and I drag you below deck to some posh Captain’s quarters, and there’s—there’s a desk in there—” he’s full on stroking himself now, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration— “and we kiss for a bit, and then you get a bit rough, from the, from the—thrill of the battle, I suppose, the thrill of being alive—” he’s cut off, momentarily, by a groan, and Stede can barely contain himself— “and you, you shove me over the desk, bend me right over it, like I’m a ragdoll or something, and you take me, right there, like that.” His eyes pop open and his hand abruptly stops moving as he makes eye contact with Stede. “It goes something like that.”

“Good Heavens,” Stede whispers, more turned on than he ever has been in his life.

Ed laughs. “Good Heavens is not the reaction I expected, but I suppose it works.”

“That’s—very—” Stede drags his eyes over Ed’s body, licks his lips. “That’s appealing.”

“Good to hear. Now it’s your turn to share.”

“You—in your fantasies, it’s me? Taking you?”

“Some of them,” Ed shrugs. “Some of them it’s switched. Oh, I got this great one where you’re fussing over your books in the library and I come in and I—well. That’s neither here nor there. It’s your turn, Stede.”

Ed did make it look pleasurable, to let it all out in the open like that. I mean, now that Stede knows about Ed’s post-battle fantasy, he’s quite excited to play it out, someday—perhaps with fewer near-death experiences. And if Stede shares his own thoughts, Ed would probably want to do the same.

“Okay,” Stede begins slowly, glancing at Ed only briefly. “I, too, have a few different…scenarios. That I’ve enjoyed…pondering.”

Ed chuckles. “Go on, then, Captain Bonnet.”

“There’s one I’ve been…particularly fond of, recently. It’s a tad less dramatic than yours.”

Ed’s hand shifts, covering Stede’s. “That’s alright.”

Stede clears his throat. “It’s…it involves my silk dressing gown. The pink one.”

“Oh?” Ed props himself up on his elbows and looks towards the door, where the garment in question remains crumpled up on the floor. “That one?”

“Yes. You’re—wearing it. In the fantasy.”

“Am I?“

“You’re wearing—” Stede steadies his breathing. “Only it.”

Ed’s mouth falls open in faux-shock. “Scandalous! Now we’re getting somewhere.”

“It’s—a bit ridiculous—” Stede qualifies, but Ed’s already off the bed. “Oh, Edward, if it’s weird for you, you don’t have to do it—”

Ed says nothing. He just stands over the gown for a moment before chancing a look at Stede, who already looks a bit wrecked. He then winks and sheds his undergarments in one swift movement.

Stede squeaks.

“I’ve told you that I really do enjoy this one,” he says conversationally, picking up the garment and pulling it over his shoulders. He leaves it untied, open.

Stede’s basically drooling at this point.

“Continue, then,” Ed says, walking towards him. “What happens next?”

“Next—next, well, there’s not too much…detail,” Stede lies, letting his eyes drift in between Ed’s legs. “Just—standard buggering, I suppose.”

“Mhmm,” Ed hums, but then goes quiet. He stills, just feet from Stede now, and crosses his arms. Stede’s hands twitch at his sides, aching to touch, but he doesn’t move from his spot on the bed.

“Yes. It’s—nice. It’s in the bed, here. You’re…on your back. Under me.”

Ed sways a bit. “Go on.”

“Very…warm.” Stede sucks in a breath and averts his eyes. “It’s very warm. Tight. You hold on to me, through it. And I hold you. You look ravishing, under me, your hair—my fingers are all tangled in it. We take our time. It’s…slow. Just, listening to each other, you—you make some…nice sounds. And you say some nice things. And I say some nice things to you, too, and you like it. It makes you flush all over. I like it when you—when I make you squirm like that. And—well, we finish, and we sleep in each other’s arms, and that’s that, I suppose. I’m sorry it’s not very…” he trails off and sighs.

There. He’s done it. He’s shared a part of him he’s never thought he would ever share. He talked more openly about sex than he ever has in his entire life.

It felt…it felt good.

He can’t look at Ed, who hasn’t spoken for a bit, now. He squeezes his eyes shut.

Ed still says nothing.

“Ed?”

Nothing.

“Edward?” Stede opens his eyes to find Ed standing right in front of him, now, and Ed’s looking at him, really looking at him, his face warm with emotion and his eyes big and watery, suddenly looking a bit wrecked.

“Fuck,” Ed says, his voice cracking with arousal, and he drags Stede in by his collar.

“You’re into that?” Stede whispers when he gets a brief break from the onslaught of kisses.

“Of course I’m fucking into that,” Ed growls into his mouth, straddling Stede on the bed. “I’m so fucking into that that I almost lost myself just listening to you describing it to me.”

“It’s just that—your story, your fantasy—”

“That’s just one of the many fantasies I’ve got,” Ed explains, pulling Stede on top of him, letting him press him into the mattress. “I’ve got a fair number. And some of them are—some of them look quite like yours. Just like yours.”

It’s not long before Ed moves the situation along, slowly pushing Stede’s trousers off and down his legs. Stede does the work of his underpants on his own, feeling exposed and not entirely hating it. Ed unabashedly stares at Stede’s cock before grabbing it.

“And of course you’re fucking huge, mate,” he mutters. “As if I needed any more reason to be obsessed with you.” He laughs and cranes his neck to kiss Stede again, missing and hitting his chin.

Stede sighs into it, anyway, before dipping his head to kiss Ed properly, dirty and slow. Ed gathers them both into his hand and gives them a long stroke, provoking simultaneous hisses into one another’s mouths.

“Lovely, Ed, you’re just lovely,” Stede murmurs.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Stede repeats, looking at him. His hair is fanned around his head like a halo, and he’s still draped in the silk gown, growing damp in some places from the sweat. “Just gorgeous. Better than the dream, Edward, you’re the the only thing I’ve ever wanted, you’re—oh, fuck.”

“The—” Ed breathes, looking extremely flustered, now, not unlike Stede’s fantasy— “Fuck, the lotion, pass me it. We need—I need you now.”

Stede reaches blindly for the nightstand before finding the jar. Ed grabs it from him immediately, popping it open hastily.

“If you don’t—if it’s not a terrible bother,” Stede suddenly says, snatching the jar back. “I’m not entirely aware of my role here, but if you need prepared, I’d like to do it.”

Ed moans, shutting his eyes. “Fuck, mate. Yes, please. I’ll—I’ll help you through it.”

“Thank you. You’re sweet.”

“I’m sw—” Ed whimpers, peering at Stede. “Careful with your words, Stede, or I’ll come right now.”

Sweet. Stede grins and files that one away for later.

“It shouldn’t be too complicated; I’ve been preparing for this. Just—start with a finger. Just one, we can work up to—let’s say three. And the lotion, be generous with it.”

“Right,” Stede says. He warms the stuff between his palms before scooting down the bed a bit, trailing a kiss on Ed’s stomach as he goes. The muscles there flutter, and Ed squirms against the silky fabric of the dressing gown.

Stede starts slow. One finger, as Ed said. Shallow thrusts that still make Ed make high-pitched sounds on the back of his throat. When he makes the decision to add another finger, Ed starts pushing himself onto it. Stede steadies him with a hand.

“Shh, I’m doing this right,” he says, placing a kiss on his hipbone.

“I’ll say you’re—Stede, fucking hell.” He giggles, but it’s cut off abruptly when Stede picks up the pace.

Nothing but moans and heavy breathing for a minute or so, until—

“Stede, would you—”

“Yes?”

“Try, bending your finger, like—” Ed weakly lifts a hand to demonstrate. “When you’re inside, just bend a bit, and—”

“Like this—”

Edward fucking screams.

“Oh,” Stede says.

“Fuck you, ’oh,’” Ed groans, his hands fisting in the sheets before crying out again. Stede’s found his target now, and seems intent on exploring it, moving his finger in an experimental circle. “Fuck me.

“Is that a—standard expletive, or a request—?”

“Stede—you bastard—a request, now fucking kiss me—” he hauls Stede up roughly, the kiss more teeth than anything else.

“Shh, calm,” Stede whispers into the cavern of Ed’s wet, open mouth. “I’ve got it. I’ll take care of you.”

Ed shutters, whimpers.

“Edward, I’ve got you,” Stede says, feeling in control of the situation, and absolutely dizzy with it.

“Please, I’m ready—I’m—” Making his point, Ed hooks his legs across Stede’s back.

Stede reaches between them, his hands slick with lotion, and grabs himself. He gives his cock a few quick tugs before lining himself up, inching closer but not yet entering.

Stede.

“Patience,” Stede mumbles, steadying his hips, and then, “let me look at you. Open your eyes, will you?”

Ed opens his eyes, a bit reluctantly, looking at Stede through his eyelashes, wet with emotion. Stede runs a hand through his hair, committing the feeling to memory, committing the image of Ed donned in his pink silk dressing gown, of his skin flushed and hot against him, of his breath, shuddering and high-pitched.

He pushes in.

Ed’s eyelids flutter shut with the sensation, but Stede resists the urge to close his own. He wants to see. He wants to see himself enter, and he wants to see Edward’s face when it happens, the way it twists between relief and wanting, the way his mouth parts and he whines, such a nice sound, and Stede—he’s overwhelmed with it all, with his love for him and his love for this life together and for that stupid pink gown and for these feelings, so many feelings, bubbling up and over like a boiling pot, and—well. He laughs.

Couldn’t even hold it in if he tried.

A bright laugh that Ed’s heard many times before, but warped a bit, rough at the edges, suspiciously close to a weep but not quite there.

“Stede,” Ed smiles wide, grabbing his face. “Now you’re laughing.”

“I—I am—it’s—I’m so sorry, I’m—”

“No apologizing. Not for that.” He kisses him. “I’m glad.”

“I think I—I think I get it now—”

“Okay, mate, that’s wonderful, I’m so happy you’re enjoying this, but—” Ed moves his hips pointedly. “If you don’t move, I’ll die.”

“Oh.” Stede giggles. “Okay. Okay, okay, okay—” He pulls out, gently, and then thrusts back in, less gently.

Stede imagines it as though he is digging for treasure. It’s a silly metaphor, but he finds it works. He tangles one hand in Ed’s hair and another on his hip and he moves, sharp and sweet, searching and searching. Ed’s needy beneath him, nibbling the skin he can reach and whispering nice things in his ear.

One of those nice things: “My hair—ah—you can—pull it harder—if you—”

Stede does. A jolt shudders through Ed’s body and his back arches off the bed. Stede takes the opportunity to get a hand under him, lifting, angling, searching, searching—

Ed makes a sound like he’s been hit. “Uh. Oh, fuck. There—that’s it—there—”

“Fuck, Edward, you look so good like this—so good, tight—”

“Stede, ohmyfuck, Stede—”

Stede’s never seen a man other than himself climax, but he can recognize the signs. Ed’s pinched-up face is one of them, and his words of encouragement steadily falling apart into incoherence is another. He wants to get a hand on Ed to help him finish off, but he honestly can’t spare the limb, so he elects to lean in instead, hoping the pressure of his stomach against Ed’s leaking cock will be enough.

Fuck, Stede, baby, I’m nearly there. Are—are you—?”

Stede realizes with a start that he is. “Yes.”

“Let’s—the same time—can we try for—?”

“Yes, fucking yes, Edward—”

Ed moves quickly, grabbing his cock and fucking into his fist, timing himself to Stede’s thrusts. His other arm he hooks around Stede’s neck, holding their foreheads together, and Stede presses in briefly for a kiss.

“Edward,” Stede says against his lips, “sweetheart.”

That’s all it takes. Ed whimpers and comes, the sound long and pained. Stede peaks at the same time, the stuttering of his hips mirroring the way Ed’s hand falters as he pulls through the aftershocks.

Stede whispers to him through it: sweetheart, sweetheart, my sweetness.

When the movement’s died down and Stede pulls out, there’s silence, but only for a moment.

It’s laughter that breaks it. Two harmonizing laughs, giddy and wrecked, muffled against skin and lips when they press their mouths together again. Stede tastes salt in Ed’s skin, and Ed swears he catches a hint of tea.

“‘M glad,” Ed mumbles, still giggling as he comes down from his climax. He pulls Stede close to his chest, holding him. “That your little fantasy ends with us sleeping. You tired me out. I’m fucking exhausted.

“Is sex always—is it always that—” Stede doesn’t think there’s a word in the English language that encompasses his meaning. He picks the next closest one: “Lovely?”

“With you, the answer’s yes.” He taps the tip of Stede’s nose.

Stede blushes. “I think Mary would disagree.”

Ed snorts. Stede rests his head against Ed’s chest, catching his breath.

“Your dressing gown might be a tad ruined,” Ed says, shuffling his legs. “Bit of a mess down there.”

“You’re lucky I’m quite skilled at the art of laundering.”

“Skilled at quite a few other things, mate.”

And Stede laughs. Again. Again, again, again.

It’s easy. It’s natural. It feels good.