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“What?” Izzy stops dead in the middle of the street. 

Edward looks at him like it’s annoying to have to repeat himself. “Married. Me and you.”

There it is again. It’s a funny set of noises. They’re doing a funny set of things to his heart rate.

“Think you’re standing in a puddle there, mate,” Edward notes, gazing down at his feet.

“I–” Izzy blinks, trying to make the world make sense again. “... What?”

“Look, shit–” and then Edward’s rolling his eyes, lolling his head back as he does. He’s drunk. Izzy supposes they both are. “C’mere, just– come on,” and then he's grabbing him under the arm and pulling him in and “Here, here — open your fucking hand.”

Izzy’s brain isn’t cooperating. He’s just staring at Edward, the words he thinks he just said knocking around his brain like luffing sails. And his boots are wet, aren’t they? When did that happen?

“Fuck’s sake–” Edward pulls Izzy’s limp arm up, wrapping a hot hand around his wrist, pushing his fingers open with a thumb to Izzy’s palm.

Edward smells like rum and ale and smoke, but that’s not important right now. What is important – so important he’s suddenly not sure the rest of the world even fucking exists – is how Edward is popping one of his own fingers into his mouth, pulling off one of his rings, and holding it between his teeth with a wink.

Izzy doesn’t blush. He’s too drunk, and frankly, too fucking stunned to blush. Plus, he’s actually starting to believe this is some sort of insane dream; any minute now he’s sure he’s going to wake up – he’ll wake up, and stare at the ceiling of his corner in the belly of the ship, and definitely, absolutely not think about this way too long and way too hard.

“HrM?” Edward manages, teeth still bared around the ring as he raises his eyebrows suggestively.

Izzy is frowning at him. He’s frowning at him very deeply and he doesn’t think he’s blinked in quite some time. He probably looks like some furious fucking ghost, but there’s really not much he can do about that, is there?

Edward pops the ring out of his mouth with a little manufactured sound. He plops it into Izzy’s hand, the hand he’s still holding without really holding: thumb at the point where Izzy’s palm falls into his wrist, two fingers just looped around Izzy’s, easing them back, encouraging his hand open. 

“There,” Edward says. He looks so bloody proud.

Izzy looks at the wet ring in his hand.

“Oh shit–” Ed suddenly swears, “Supposed to be the other one, isn’t it?” He grabs Izzy’s other hand and pulls it up, crisscrossing Izzy’s arms like some very lame knot. Edward’s giggling again. He always giggles when he’s drunk. Until he doesn’t. “’S this one. The left one. Here– put it on this one, mate.”

Izzy wants to say something, Izzy needs to say something, or else he’s really going to be convinced that he’s not going to wake up. 

“I–” And hm. Yeah. Great. That’s about all that he’s gonna be able to manage, isn't it? Because Edward is looking at him with those eyes and his hands are warm and the ring on Izzy’s palm is wet and–

“Put it on!” Ed insists.

Izzy looks at his held, criss-crossed hands. The sounds of the town around them are starting to bleed back in odd bits and pieces: there’s ramshackle doors being slammed open, drunken squeals of fury and joy falling out onto the street, a few horses kicking up a fuss. It’s all fairly standard fair for a night in Nassau, because it is just another night in Nassau, isn’t it? He’s out for drinks, in a muddy alley, with the man he’s been on ships with for the past three years, and that man just happens to be asking him to put on a fucking ring on his finger.

“What are you doing?” Izzy manages, his voice is very strange in his ears, like it’s coming from someone miles and miles away.

“Marrying you!” Ed laughs. Like it’s nothing. Like it’s a great bloody joke. “Don’t worry, you can divorce me once we get the discount on this fucking room. Fuck, just– here–”

He’s leaning forward and something in Izzy’s brain just screams: Run. Run now. Run right fucking now or you won’t be able to run ever again– but it’s that far away voice again, like someone screaming on the other side of glass, and he can’t do anything but stand and stay and watch as Edward quirks his head forward like some curious fucking bird, bites one of Izzy’s leather-clad fingers into his mouth and drags his glove off with a tug, the white sharp of his teeth dazzling Izzy for just a moment.

Alright. So. Definitely a dream then.

Edward just spits his glove down onto the mud and shit of the road, which is almost irritating enough to pull Izzy back to his fucking senses, but then Edward’s lifting the ring back out of Izzy’s hand, “And,” he flicks his hair back from his face, “I,” he’s not looking at Izzy’s eyes, “fucking,” he’s grinning like it’s nothing, like it’s a great bloody joke, like it’s the best joke he’s ever fucking had, “do!” He pops the ring onto Izzy’s finger.

Edward lets him go. Izzy’s staring at the ring. It’s dark, one simple black stone clutched in the middle. It’s maudlin but pretty, well honed, might just be elegant, if it weren’t made out of such common stuff.

“I like it,” he hears himself say.

“‘Course you do!” Ed slaps a hand on Izzy’s shoulder and squeezes. “Oh, shit–” he drops down and picks up Izzy’s muddy glove, chuckling. “’S my bad mate.”

“I don’t care,” Izzy says, shocked at how honest it feels, at how honest it is. He can’t stop looking at the ring on his hand. It doesn’t fit all that well. Edward’s fingers are thicker than his. It might slip off if he’s not careful. He doesn’t want it to slip off. Izzy balls his hand into a fist and drops it back to his side.

“What now then?” Edward’s eyes are dancing as he spins round twice, taking in the street and miraculously not falling right on his ass. “Tattoos?! You should have more tattoos, Iz.”

“The inn,” Izzy reminds him weakly.

“RIGHT! Right the fucking inn ! You’re gonna love it! Heard it’s off the fucking tits, mate. Not from any of these idiots over with us on Hornigold’s, from some proper fucking bastards.” He’s walking now so Izzy follows him because what the fuck else is he going to do? “The ones that were running with uhrmm– what the fuck, the uhhh, whatever– the ship with the big ass dolphin on the front of it. What’s with that anyways? Who puts a dolphin on the front of their ship. Creepy, cheeky buggers. You like dolphins, Iz?”

“I don’t give a fuck.”

“Oh come on, Izzy,” Edward’s shoulder checks into his. “You gotta pretend to have opinions sometimes besides ‘fuck it’, else people will think you’re boring.” He looks back at him, and suddenly the sharp thing is there, that dangerous something that catches Izzy round the back of his stomach every bloody time. “You’re not boring, are you Izzy?” And Izzy knows a threat when he hears one. “That would be a shame.”

The thing behind Izzy’s stomach twists. “Liable to do something deeply not-fucking-boring if we don’t get to this place of yours already.”

Edward barks a laugh, slapping an arm around his shoulders and driving them forward. At his side, Izzy spins the ring on his finger. It’s smooth until the stone spins back and catches under this thumb. Smooth, smooth, stone. Smooth, smooth, stone.

Edward’s drunken loose chatter carries them the rest of the way there. The inn looms out of the dark eventually; it’s a bigger place than Izzy'd been expecting, and nicer besides, which he supposes is, well, the whole fucking point. Music, shouts, and laughter spew out of the windows, bouncing around the muddy streets before escaping like loosed, wild things up into the stars above. The door is large and gaping, a heavy golden light pooling out into the sullen indigo of evening.

Edward doesn’t even hesitate, just saunters in, pulling Izzy right along with him, arm still looped heavy over his sharp shoulders.

The cool breeze of the street is instantly traded for the bustling heat of a lobby. It’s busy, loud - Izzy can’t even see the desk at the front properly, too many other bodies taking their turn between them and it.

The other patrons seem to be in a similar line of work to he and Edward, just more successful at it -  thus far at least. They’ve got good leather (better than any of the shit he can afford), boots that don’t leak (his are still very fucking wet), and flashy pistols on their hips (“Wouldn't mind a pistol” Edward had muttered at him one night while they were on watch: “Not even to shoot really, seems a hassle. Shooting guns. It’s about the look of the thing though, isn’t it? Like a threat you don’t have to say.” “Dunno,” Izzy had said. “I quite like saying my threats out loud.” There’d been something in Edward's eyes then, something that felt like it knew Izzy liked that, something that thought, maybe, just maybe, having a friend like Izzy was rather like having a pistol on your hip).

“We good?” Edward asks and Izzy shivers so hard it’s like a fucking shock. But he can’t help it, he just can’t, because he’s so, very, suddenly close

That voice is right in his ear, close enough that Izzy feels the tip of Edward’s nose nudge at his cheek, close enough that he can smell every drink he’s had on his breath and all the rest of him besides (Edward smells like salt and tobacco and that other thing, the thing Izzy doesn’t have a name for, the thing that reminds Izzy sometimes of when the sun finally vanishes on a warm day and the heat finally starts to bleed out of the sand).

“Hm?” Edward presses, grip tightening meaningfully around his shoulder. His voice is – God, it’s just different . It’s rumbling and low and close and Izzy’s never heard it like this, like it’s meant just for him and no one else in the entire fucking world–

“I’ve been looking forward to this, yeah?” Edward drips. “So fuck it up, and I will break at least two of your fingers.” It’s indulgent; half joking, half the very opposite.

“Speak for your fucking self,” Izzy mutters. He feels the ring press into his skin under the clench of his fist at his side. “Just better be worth the fucking hassle.”

He can feel Edward smile. He’s not going to look at his smile, not when it’s this close, not when Izzy feels like all he has to do is turn and look and then he’ll fall and fall and keep on falling.

That big-bellied, well-paid laughter of the patrons in front of them eases apart and Ed’s pushing them forward, stepping up to the counter with that look that he gets, the one that says “Go on. Tell me no. I’d love to see you try.” He tilts his chin up like easing back the hammer of a pistol. 

“Hey,” Edward says. Shot cocked.

The innkeeper, or at least whoever it is that happens to be unfortunate enough to have pulled this shift tonight, looks up. She’s a younger woman with a mess of orange curls, an ink stains her fingers,  wide, wet blue eyes, eyes that look up and catch and Izzy almost feels sorry for her. She never stood a fucking chance.

Edward smiles. Shot fired. 

Izzy doesn’t look. He doesn’t need to. He sees it hit the woman dead center. She just stares, blinks; opens her mouth, shuts it, which, yeah. Yeah. Izzy gets that.

“Oh,” she says finally.

“Want a room,” Edward sparkles at her, reaching into his pocket. “Heard you’ve got a new couples discount here.”

The young woman’s face is going through a complicated set of emotions quite quickly. “A– I’m sorry?”

“New couples. Discount.” Edward raises his eyebrows. “Am I wrong?”

The woman looks at Izzy. Izzy doesn’t even try to smile, just glares. He’s much better at glaring.

“No. Not wrong,” she manages. “Are you...”

“That’s right,” Edward says, sliding his hand down from Izzy’s shoulder to land it on his hip, like it’s just that easy, like they’ve been doing this for years, like it’s just, fucking, nothing. “Matelotage and all that, innit?”

Izzy glares. He glares at the desk so hard he thinks his eyes might actually pop out of his fucking skull and roll away from him as fast as fucking possible and he would not fucking blame them.

“Show the lady, Iz,” Edward says. There’s that thing in his voice again. That soft close thing that Izzy wants to wrap his hands around, pull it into his mouth, and swallow fucking whole so no one else can ever, ever fucking hear it but him.

“Piss off,” Izzy manages, frustration bleeding out of him in a way that just happens to sell this extremely well.

“Oh come onnnnnnn,” Edward whines . He catches his lower lip on his teeth, grinning like a fucking idiot. “I saved up for fucking months , babe.”

Izzy wants quite badly to just fucking scream. 

He rolls his eyes instead, holding his left hand up. The dark of the ring catches in the golden light. Incredibly, his hand isn’t even shaking. But that makes some sense, doesn’t it? He’s so far beyond shaking at this point he feels like he’s actually just vibrated into a parallel fucking dimension.

“There. Looks good on you.” Ed winks at the woman behind the counter. “Don’t you think?”

The baffled flurry of emotions on her face is starting to settle, creeping inevitably into something giddy, something eager to please, which, yeah. Yeah. Izzy gets that.

“It’s very pretty,” she says

“See!” Edward pinches Izzy’s thigh, sudden and hard. “Told you. He won’t stop fucking whinging about it. Says everything he’s got is black already.”

“Suits you, then,” the woman says. She’s looking at Izzy with something sharp under her eyes, something that might very well be: you lucky fucking cunt . He doesn’t feel like a lucky fucking cunt. He feels a good deal more like fate’s own personal chew toy.

Izzy holds her gaze, because he might well be fate’s chew toy, but he can bite too. “Yeah. Suppose it does, doesn’t it?”

She smiles in a way that doesn’t reach her eyes. Her hands move quickly over the massive ledger spread out on the counter under her. “It’s seven instead of ten, for the couples discount. And you’re lucky, we’re almost booked up for the night.”

“I’m always lucky,” Ed slaps the coin down on the counter. “Oh, and uh, all the rooms get access to the bar and,” he reaches for the word, “amenities, all that shit.”

“That’s right. And couples' rooms come with fresh flowers.”

“Oh, shit! Yeah?” Edward beams, unable to keep from breaking bloody “character” or whatever this even is. He grabs Izzy’s head, tugging him in and kissing him loudly on the temple. “Hear that, Iz? Flowers!” Izzy grunts. He’s dropped his hand to his side again. He can’t seem to stop spinning the ring with his thumb: smooth, smooth, stone – smooth, smooth, stone.

 It’s too big. If he’s not careful it might fall off. He can’t let it fall off.

“Keys then,” the woman smiles, “first round’s on the house, and there’s breakfast in the morning if you get down before it’s all gone.”

“Cheers,” Edward winks at her, snatching the keys, wrapping his arm around Izzy’s shoulders again, and pulling him towards the door that leads into the cacophony of the bar.

“Did you really spend months saving for it?” Izzy hears himself ask.

“For what?”

“The ring.”

“What? Oh, fuck no,” Edward kicks at the door to open it. “Don’t even know where that one fucking came from.” The door shoves open and sound crashes into them.

It hits Izzy like a bloody wave: the light, the heat, the drumming strum of music that has the whole damned room slamming their feet on the ground beat after beat after beat. The place is packed with bodies, bouncing with screams and laughter and life. Edward’s still got an arm around his shoulder, pulling them together tightly as they push through it, forcing Izzy back into the smell of him, into the salt and the smoke and the sand when the sun bleeds out of it. 

Izzy keeps his left hand clenched tight, because the ring can’t fall off, because that would ruin it, wouldn’t it? It doesn't matter that they’ve already gotten the room, that they’ve already handed over their discounted rate, that the keys are weighing down Edward’s pocket, because Edward’s still got an arm around Izzy’s shoulder so it still matters, it matters very fucking much.

Edward slams into the bar, ordering them drinks, shoving a slippery mug into Izzy's hands, and Izzy normally drinks with his left, but he can drink with his right tonight. It’s good booze, goes down easier than it should (“There’s a sort of citrus situation going on here... Pineapple? Is that fucking Pineapple? Iz–” The hand around his shoulders moves to grip the back of his neck. “Don’t you think? Yeah. Yeah me too. Fancy, huh?”)

Izzy realizes he’s getting drunk. Well, drunker. But that’s alright, because Edwards’ getting drunkest. 

The music somehow just keeps building, thrumming, pulsing. Izzy can feel the thud of the feet that slam home with every drum beat vibrating up the counter of the bar, humming through his mug, the mug that’s in the wrong hand, because his other hand is busy turning the fucking ring. Smooth, smooth, stone – smooth, smooth, stone.

The music swells with Edward’s punched out laughter. He’s shouting at the four new friends he’s made in less than an hour, but his arm is still around Izzy’s shoulder. It doesn’t stay there the whole time, leaves, every now and again, to grab a new drink, or slap at another body, or point as the fiddler climbs up onto the bar to play his fingers fucking raw. Izzy doesn’t mind when his hand leaves, because it always comes back, and when it does there’s some new wretched, wonderful surprise every damn time. Edward’ll ruffle Izzy’s hair, or tug on Izzy’s ear, or run a few fingers up the outside of Izzy’s arm. Izzy hates it. Izzy can’t get enough of it. He feels like he’s going to stop breathing if it keeps going. He feels like he’s going to stop breathing if it ever stops. The music is loud and the soles of his cheap boots are wet and his mouth tastes like bitter and citrus and he knows that Edward's mouth tastes exactly the same way. 

The ring on his finger spins. 

Smooth, smooth, stone – smooth, smooth, stone.

Edward’s heartbeat thuds against Izzy’s side as the music catches just right. He swears close and low, breath warm on Izzy's cheek and then all at once he’s reeling back, whooping into the air like a fucking banshee, raising his glass so hard and so fast half of it ends up behind them. Izzy twists to see a sodden wiry looking figure who glares up in anger at the back of Edward’s head. Izzy catches that glance, holds it, and shoves it back with every ounce of the barely contained fury that’s rattling around his body. All the blood leaves the thin face at once. They don’t push the issue.

Izzy tightens his fist, turning away again. Smooth, smooth, stone – smooth, smooth, stone.

Eventually, inevitably, Edward starts to dance. If Izzy were standing a safe distance away from all this madness, maybe leaning comfortably against the back wall, watching as some other set of bastards moved through this cursed night, he might describe Edward’s dancing as something like a crane that’s being attacked by a rather flirtatious weasel. But he’s not a safe distance away, is he? He’s very, very fucking close.

Four months ago, he’d been on deck when Hornigold ordered open fire. They’d been facing a galleon on the broad side, they’d thought they’d had it cornered. The shout to fire had barely sounded before the other ships’ cannons cracked the air apart. It had been strange, how the sound of the canons felt delayed, as if it dragged a beat or two behind reality. A barrel behind Izzy had exploded into splinters, which was when he had realized that the shiver he’d felt in the air, the one that had passed right by his fucking cheek, had in fact been his own death waving hello. 

That had been close. That had been dangerous. This felt worse.

Edward’s body is warm. That’s nothing new. He’s always fucking warm. He’s warm when he’s nudging at Izzy to stay away on a long shift. He’s warm when he’s reaching across him to grab the next bit or rope. He’s warm when they spar, when he shoves a shoulder into Izzy, or elbows his gut, or twists his arm behind his back to make him drop his sword while Izzy just lets him. 

Edward’s body moves different. That’s not new either. Izzy’s never known anyone else who moves like Edward does. He moves like he’s made of something different than the rest of them. He moves the way water looks when the sun is setting over it: loose and bright and overwhelming. He moves like he was just made to move different, like the world loves that he moves different, like it spins a little slower just so he can move the way he does, and does, and does.

So there’s a body next to Izzy, a body that’s warm, a body that moves different, made of rolling hips and stomping legs and gripping arms and he’s pushed so close that Izzy feels like if he just wished hard enough, if he just wanted badly enough, he could just let himself fall apart entirely, vibrate into just a sound that could shake up those limbs and bleed into the fucking heart of him. He thinks he might know now how the barrel that took that hit behind him felt.

His hand is so tight it’s starting to ache. Smooth, smooth, stone – smooth, smooth, stone.

Time’s a strange thing when your world’s collapsing and being reborn on every nudge of a hip, every shift of a hand, every catch of a breath. Izzy’s not sure how long they’ve been here. He knows that the band starts to give up eventually, throwing out their thanks, pleading for mercy, breathless in this room that smells of heat and booze and sweat. But the crowd screams for more, or maybe that’s just Edward – he does yell very loud. The now somewhere close to a dozen new pals he’s made eat it up, pick up the chant he’s started, slam their feet in time with his and don’t let up until the band, with dazzled, wild smiles gives in and gives up three more songs, and then they’re well and truly done.

The music leaves the space like a torch hitting water. Edward sags against Izzy’s side like all his muscles have turned to seaweed. Izzy catches him. He doesn’t have any choice but to catch him. He’s so wrapped around him now that if he falls Izzy will have no choice but to go down with him. So not much different than any other day, really.

Edward’s laughing, but it’s different now that the music’s gone. It’s low and close and he smells like when the sun leaves the sand, like the citrus that Izzy tastes on his own tongue. People are leaving now, bleeding out of the inn like a cut wound, out into the stress, up the steps, falling into nothing, eaten up by the darkness. Some of them call out to him as they go, not him, to Edward, of course to Edward. Edward roars something back to them, but his body is warm and heavy on Izzy as he falls back and then he’s muttering little things, quiet things, things that Izzy wants to swallow, things Izzy wants so deep inside him that someone would have to cut him apart to touch them. 

He flexes his left hand, holding Edward up with his right. Smooth, smooth, stone – smooth, smooth, stone.

The steps up to their room are creaking and long. Edward almost falls once, dropping his fucking knife and purse all over the stairs. Izzy has to prop him up against the wall as he giggles and drags his fingers up Izzy’s back while Izzy scrambles to gather his shit, ignoring the blinding white whining sound that fills his brain entirely when Edward cants his hips forward so Izzy can get his knife onto his belt right, fingers just knitted lazily to the edges of Izzy’s shirt.

Izzy finds their room. Eventually. This place is a fucking rat’s nest in the barely there light of the halls, especially with all this the boozy citrus lighting up his tongue. Pineapple. He thinks it is actually is fucking pineapple.

“Alright,” Izzy mutters, leaning Edward against the wall and getting the keys out of his pocket. They’re warm from his body. “Stay put.” Something funny’s happened to his voice too he realizes hazily. That close thing from Edward’s has gotten its claws into it, pulled it down to join it. “Here we go.” He clicks the lock open. 

It’s only when he kicks the door open, only when Edward falls into the dark of the room chattering and laughing, leaving Izzy behind in the doorway, that he realizes just how hard his heart is actually beating.

It's a simple room, but it’s… nice. It’s so much nicer than the shitholes they usually stay in. There’s a little table off to one side that’s got a porcelain vase filled with fresh flowers on it. There’s a window on the far wall that’s letting in the smell of the ocean. There’s a bed under the window. It’s not a big bed, but it’s a proper one. There’s multiple pillows, and a quilt, and Izzy’s heart is thudding so hard up his throat he thinks he can fucking taste it.

“Oooh nooo, Izzy,” Edward is flitting around the room in the dark, leaving him cold and alone, silhouetted in the open doorway. “Izzy there’s only one bedddd.”

Izzy knows he’s supposed to move. He’s supposed to take just one fucking step and shut the door behind them and that’s it that’s all he has to do.

“Ah, good! Our amenities. ” Edward’s reaching out to touch the flowers. He’s giggling again. He hasn’t stopped giggling for what feels like hours, only Izzy can’t feel it wiggling around his ribs now, not now that he’s so very far away. “Look at this shit Izzy… Christ.” 

Edward’s fingers are slow, deliberate. Gentle. He’s tracing the line of the petals, the curve of the vase, all so fucking delicately. As if they’re made of smoke. As if he moves too fast they’ll drift apart into nothing. 

“Fancy.Something strange shifts in Edwards voice. Twists. Catches. Like a knife in a wound. “Bullshit.”

Edward knocks the vase off the table. It shatters on the floor.

Edward goes still. It feels more sudden than Izzy thinks it is. All that looseness falls away from him like ashes, leaving him standing there, staring down at the flowers scattered over wet bits of broken porcelain. 

He looks up at Izzy, the brown of his eyes catching hard in the light from the hallway behind Izzy’s back. “You coming the fuck in or what?”

Izzy does. He shuts the door. He locks it.

Edward groans from across the room. He’s plopped down, sat on the end of the bed under the window. One of his hands is shoved up an eye, the other screwed shut. “Think I’m drunk.”

Izzy wants to laugh. He wants to laugh so fucking badly because maybe if he laughs that will make this okay. He makes it halfway, voice coming out as a weird snort. “You think?”

It’s hard to see in the dark, but he thinks Edward cracks half a smile.

“You want the bed?” Edward asks.

Ever since he was young, on a fairly regular basis, people have asked Izzy Hands: “What exactly is your fucking problem?” He thinks that question might very possibly have an easier answer than this one.

Edward is looking at him. He’s looking at him like he’s waiting for something. His eyes are so bright, even here, even in the dark. Especially in the dark. 

Izzy’s hand is still clenched tight at his side. He can feel the ring there. He thinks that he could very well hurl the thing into the ocean and he would still feel it there. He thinks he’s going to feel it there for the rest of his fucking life.

“Hullo? You awake?” Edward asks suddenly, the irritation clear in his voice, his hand coming up to wave mockingly into the space between them.

Bitterness surges over Izzy’s tongue. He swallows it down. “No,” he manages, “no, ‘course not. You take the bed.”

“You sure?” Edward asks. There’s something there, something in that tone that feels like an edge, like there’s something that might be sharp if Izzy were to let his hand just slip–

“Yeah, yes,” Izzy says, tugging away from whatever it is before it can cut him. “Knock yourself out.”

Edward huffs, kicking off his boots. “Good. Didn’t wanna fucking share anyways.”


The word hits Izzy’s brain like a knife thudding into a wall. 


It echoes through him, vibrating like stuck steel, like the thud of the music, like the dizziness of booze on his tongue. Because no... No, that's not right. He hadn’t. He wouldn’t–

Share. Share. Share. Share–

Edward sighs deeply as he collapses back onto the bed, one arm thrown up over his eyes. “Stupid fucking pineapples…”

Izzy stares. He stares at the shadowed body that’s not looking back at him. He’s clenching his fist so tight he knows the ring will leave a mark. He’s clenching his fist tight enough that he can be sure the ring is going to leave a mark.

“Here,” Edward grunts. He chucks one of the pillows onto the floor.

There’s a something in Izzy’s chest, a small something, but a very, very heavy something, that feels like it’s falling. It’s falling fast and it’s falling hard and he doesn’t think he’s going to hit the ground anytime soon. He thinks if he were to hit the ground he’d shatter so fully and so completely that he’d cease to exist at all. He thinks that might be better than the falling.

“Stop fucking looming,” Edward mutters into the weight of his own arm. “Lie down.” There’s a steel in the last two words that make Izzy’s feet work when everything else about him won't.

He walks over. He looks down at the floor. Part of him – the smart part, the part he doesn’t listen to nearly enough – wants to pick up the pillow, take it across the room, and curl up in a corner as far away as he possibly can. But the pillow is right there, and he’s sick of standing, sick of walking, sick of a whole fucking lot. So he lets himself hit the floor. 

He lies back. Stiff. He crosses his hands over his chest. Tight. He doesn’t close his eyes. He can’t seem to make himself. Doesn’t matter. It’s dark enough.

It’s very quiet in the room. Outside even the latest of the parties seem to have fallen apart into nothing.

Izzy lets his hands unclench enough to put his thumb back to the ring. Smooth, smooth, stone – smooth, smooth, stone.

“You sleep with your fucking boots on?”

Edward’s voice is gruff in the dark.

“The fuck do you care?” 

Izzy’s voice is softer than he means it.

Edward’s chuckling. It’s not the wild, drunken giggle from downstairs, or the sharp mean thing he uses when he knows he’s got the higher ground. It’s close, and it’s easy, and it’s something that Izzy suddenly thinks he’s not even sure he heard at all until “S’alright, Iz,” comes with it, and a hand falls off the side of the bed, reaching until it can touch him, the knuckles of two fingers can pushing against Izzy’s shoulder, light but warm, as if they just wanted to make sure he was still there. “You’re alright.”

Izzy stares at the ceiling. He stares at the ceiling in this room where he can hear the ocean pushing in the windows, in this room with only one bed, in this room with a broken vase and spilled flowers. There’s something in his throat that feels like a scream, that feels like light on the ocean, that feels like falling.

Smooth, smooth, share – smooth, smooth, share, share, share, share, share–


The wind pushes warm in through the window. Outside a door from a neighboring building slams shut. A horse shifts and snorts somewhere below. Edward’s breathing is low: steady in, steady out.

Izzy shuts his eyes. He shuts them as hard as he fucking can.

He rolls over onto his side with a sharp breath before he can make himself not.

It’s dark, but he can see Edward’s hand there all the same. It’s hanging limp in the air between them, fingers just curled, as if he’s half-heartedly trying to hang onto something, which, yeah. Yeah. Izzy gets that. 

Izzy knows what Edward’s hands feel like. He’s felt them plenty: wrapping around Izzy’s arm to pull him up the ropes, giving him a hand up on the last raid when Izzy’d slipped on the blood of the Spaniard he’d just gutted. He’s felt his hands push a ring onto his finger, drunk and smiling, on a shitty street, in a shitty town, in a shitty fucking world.

Edward breathes in. Edward breathes out.

Izzy wonders what it feels like to breathe without wanting. He thinks that even when he sleeps, he must still breathe like there’s fingers clutched around his throat.

Izzy lifts his hand.

He doesn’t touch him. He stops in the air, fingers just bent, arching over Edwards. Close. Close enough to feel the warmth that pours off of him. Close enough that he could touch if he wanted to. He wants to. He won’t.

Izzy, for one fragile moment, a moment made of such very sharp edges, lets himself imagine. 

He imagines that he could touch Edward’s hand. He imagines that he could push his own thumb to the warmth of Edward’s pulse. He imagines that he could feel the blood running through him, that blood that keeps him running hot, so hot that Izzy thinks, sometimes, he won’t really know what warmth feels like until he’s fucking covered in it. 

He imagines pressing his thumb more firmly into the weight of his wrist. Edward would make a soft sound then, he knows, one of those soft sounds that live now in the hard hollow of Izzy's chest, held and treasured and safe from the whole fucking world. Izzy would slide his hand up Edward’s arm, under the line of his shirt, eating up that heat of him in all the places he’s never dared to touch. Edward might make another sound then, something equally soft, but hungry too, something that’s curious in just the same way his smile is. 

Izzy imagines saying something then, something calm, something simple and gruff and clear, something like “move over”. He imagines sliding into the bed next to him. He imagines Edward rolling over in his sleep, a sleep that now is maybe less than sleep. He’d do it casually but dangerously, like so much of what he does.

Izzy imagines being someone else. Izzy imagines being someone brave enough to fucking try.

He imagines pushing into Edward’s space like taking a ship. He imagines opening his mouth on the hot line of his, winding a hand around the weight of those hips, breathing in the salt and the smoke and the sun when it leaves the sand. He imagines swallowing it, all of it, all of him, exactly, precisely, the way— the way— the way that he wants to, the way he wants to so badly he feels like his bones are made out of it, the way that runs through him so deeply, that makes him up so entirely, that he thinks without it he’d be nothing but foam at the edges of the sea.

He wonders, does having someone else run through you that deep, does that make you brave? Because they are brave, even if you’re not. 

The heat of his fingers is so close. It’s so real. If he doesn’t touch him, how can he ever know if he’s real too? If he doesn’t touch him how can he ever know if being brave is worth dying for after all?

Edward’s hand twitches in his sleep. His fingers bump into his.

Izzy pulls his hand away so fast he slams his elbow into the side table behind him. He hisses around a swear, grabbing his arm back, heart thudding like a fucking rat trying to escape up his throat.

He goes as still as he fucking can: eyes slammed shut, hands tugged tight to his chest.

Edward grunts, snorts. The hand pulls back up over the side of the bed as he rolls over, sighing himself back into an even deeper sleep.

Izzy doesn’t open his eyes. He’s trying  to breathe. It’s coming out all wrong. 

For one genuinely horrifying moment, he thinks he might start to cry. Not the easy kind of crying either – no, the big kind, the kind that bursts out of you like something violent and alien and there’s nothing you can do to hold it back because it bites and it spits and it can’t wait to be rid of you. 

But Izzy hasn’t cried like that in a very long time. He’s gotten used to swallowing it. He’s as used to swallowing it as he is fucking breathing. Sometimes, it’s even easier than breathing. Sure, it means the place behind his ribs that feels like it was made to hold it will get heavier, harder, but he’s used to that too. He’s not even sure what the world would feel like without that weight inside him. If it went away, would he even still be able to keep his feet on the ground? Foam, he thinks again. Maybe he’d turn to sea foam. But that’s not right, is it? That’s just some broken off shard of a fairy-tale he doesn’t even remember. People like Izzy don’t get to turn into sea foam. People like Izzy are made of nothing but honed edges and heavy things and that’s how it’ll always be. 

He clenches his fist. Smooth, smooth, stone – smooth, smooth, stone. He shuts his eyes, and he doesn’t let himself imagine a fucking thing.