It’s one of those things where you don’t know how much you’re missing until you’ve had it, and then it’s like—like the world’s got colors you had never imagined, and you’d been living in shades of gray. Like you can’t imagine living like you used to. Like you never want to go back.
Ed knows what that’s like, because it happened when he’d lost Stede. Hollowed him out and yet he was still fucking there, like Stede was the light illuminating all those brand new pretty colors and he took it when he went, leaving Ed horribly, freshly aware of the storm-cold thrall of the dark.
And now he’s back and Ed’s nearly blinded with the brightness of it, gasping for breath as Stede yanked him from the depths and into the sun. The dizzying, dazzling thing that it is to be the object of his tender affection.
You wear fine things well.
So that’s—ah. That’s what it’s felt like with Stede’s praise.
It’s alarming, really. Better than any weapon, the effect it has on Ed. Brings him to his knees, disarms him and leaves him desperate for more. He didn’t know , how could he have! Everyone praises Blackbeard! Oh aye Blackbeard’s the greatest, rah rah, everyone loves Blackbeard and his floating eyeballs and his awesome killing ways, the scourge of the seas, terror to end all terrors and so on and so forth— sure. Whatever.
But no one’s ever praised Ed before. And never for anything soft, or good, or—
“God, you fuck me so well.”
Stede moans it the way he moans about really good jam, only more so. Ed’s brain buzzes with it, his entire body flooding with pleasure at Stede’s words just as much, honestly, as at the tight, perfect clench of him.
“Yeah?” he prods, giving another gentle thrust. Because he can, because Stede’s wild grin broadens at the prospect of it, because that’s the thing—Stede, for some bizarre, spectacular chance of a reason, seems to enjoy doting upon Ed just as much as he loves being doted upon.
“Fuck yes,” Stede whines, stretching his arms above his head. He’s so beautiful Ed forgets to breathe sometimes. “You make me feel—God, Ed, nothing’s ever felt so good. You’re perfect, you know that? You’re handsome and wonderful and you know exactly how to use that lovely cock of yours to—to best—oh!”
Stede loses his words after that, but Ed can’t blame him. Pride flares warm in his chest as he watches Stede laugh through his orgasm, nose crinkling as his back arches.
“Oh wow,” Stede says at last, beaming at him.
“Was that—all right?” Ed asks. He stills his hips, but Stede wriggles his, clenching wickedly, and Ed gives a little gasp.
“Marvelous,” Stede smiles. He raises a brow, rocking a bit. “Go on.”
“It won’t be too much? I can just—”
Stede drags him into a kiss, moaning indulgently as Ed slips deeper inside him.
“Fuck me,” he says, “until you come.”
Ed groans, and sets to do what he’s told. He hides the pinkness of cheeks in the crook of Stede’s throat and whines, thrusting harder.
“That’s it, there we go,” Stede whispers. He threads his fingers through Ed’s hair. “Good boy,” he says, and fuck, that does it.
Ed shudders through his release, that warm, deliciously fuzzy sensation filling his brain and flooding his senses.
“Good boy,” Stede says again, grinning knowingly.
Ed slips out of him but doesn’t go far, indulging in Stede’s soft embrace as their breathing steadies.
This part is always as flayingly intimate as sex itself, maybe more so. Ed has had plenty of sex before—there are few sorts of sex he hadn’t tried, really, first out of interest and then out of a sort of numb desperation to feel fucking anything new.
It had never been like this.
Any of it, but especially right after. No one had so much as reached out, there had been no cuddling, no fetching a soft, damp cloth to clean them up, punctuating it with kisses and then welcoming Ed back into his arms.
Rosy as dawn, gentle as eventide. What do you call steadiness without an anchor? Harbor, perhaps.
Ed shivers, his heart hammering in his chest. Stede kisses him wherever he can reach, petting his soft hands over Ed’s bare back.
“Just wonderful,” he’s saying, a helpless smile in his voice. “My favourite thing. So very good to me. That thing where you sort of canted my hips up? Mm. Shoulders will be sore in the morning, I suspect, but you’ll just give them a bit of a rub before breakfast, won’t you? I don’t regret it, no, not in the very least…”
“‘Course I will,” Ed murmurs, kissing one. Stede beams again.
“Lovely. Perhaps we can put a pillow underneath next time, because I liked it very much.”
“All right.” Ed feels foolish with it. Smitten beyond imagining, smote if that’s a thing. Like a god with a lightning bolt, hollowed out and reshaped by the decadence of Stede’s love.
We’re just not those kind of people.
And now…now it’s not just that Stede makes him feel he deserves softness, tenderness, love.
It’s that Stede makes him feel like something precious himself.
They fall asleep easily, tangled in each other’s embrace.
When things started a few weeks ago Ed hadn’t known it would go this way. Wasn’t sure where Stede fell on the whole sex thing to begin with, he’d expressing disliking the affair when it had come to Mary, and Ed, for his part, just wanted Stede, whatever way he offered.
Presently Stede had suggested he wouldn’t mind giving at least a thing or two a try together, and when Ed got on his knees for him, well, turns out Stede liked it very much. It would have been enough, more than enough, for Ed to be allowed to suck him. To feel his thickness stretch his jaw, the sweet-salt weight of him against Ed’s tongue.
But Stede didn’t take his pleasure quietly.
He pet his fingers through Ed’s hair, cupped his cheek with terrible affection, gasped for him yes, darling, I love it when you do that. You’re so good for me. Please.
It set Ed’s head spinning with a delicious sort of fog. And when Stede pulled away as he came, painting Ed’s cheeks with spend, spilling into his open mouth, his outstretched tongue, Stede had said, you wear me so well, and Ed had nearly come right then and fucking there. He did a moment later, before Stede had gotten the chance to suck him properly, but they’ve more than made up for it since.
And Stede, well. Noticed.
All of it.
Now Stede asks to be fucked, and praises Ed for every thrust, and it’s better than anything Ed could have ever imagined.
He doesn’t expect the offer to come, much less so soon, but it does, that following morning.
These past few weeks, Ed wakes and feels like he’s dreaming. Or he would, except his dreams used to be shitty, stressful weird things, so it’s more like the good kind of dream he heard other people get. He’s warm, wrapped in lovely soft blankets, and he’s got Stede’s sleep-drool on his cheek and Stede’s elbow jabbing his ribs.
It’s fucking awesome.
It’s enough, it really is. The bright eyes and the soft kisses, the half-shy acknowledgments that last night was very good indeed.
“I’ve been thinking,” Stede says. “Would you ever be—that is, ah.”
“Spit it out, man,” Ed says, petting his fingers through Stede’s curls. God, his hair is fucking soft.
“Would you like me to fuck you sometime?” Stede says in a rush.
Ed nearly chokes on nothing. Stede’s eyes are wide and shining with hope, and Ed’s chest suddenly feels like thunder.
“Only if you do!” Stede says. “But, ah. Yes? Rather very much, actually.”
Ed’s mind goes fuzzy. Dangerously fuzzy, really. He can hardly hear Stede for the thoughts of that thick cock, those strong, soft hands, you’re so good for me…
“I’ll be a bit of a novice at the mechanics, I’m afraid,” Stede’s saying nervously, and Ed loves him so much he really can’t think straight, “but I think I’ll cotton on quick.” He gives a shy smile. “I’ve been, ah, observing. How you do it. And I think I’ve got a good chance of getting it right.”
Ed swallows, hard. Nearly all of him is screaming yes, God, take me right the fuck now, bugger the plans for the day, the crew can do fuck all if I care, because fuck if I haven’t wanted this since the moment you tucked my silk into my pocket and told me I wore it well. Since the moment you told me to stand down and I listened because obeying you feels better than killing ever did. Since you smiled at me for the first time.
“D’you,” he starts. He clears his throat. “Is it because you don’t…you’re not satisfied with how I fuck you?”
Stede’s eyes widen in such dismay Ed immediately feels guilty.
“Edward!” he gasps. “No, no, no, quite the opposite, my dear—it’s because I love the way you fuck me so very much.”
“Oh,” Ed says, his heart in his throat.
“And I’d like to try and make you feel the way you make me feel.” Stede’s blushing now. “If I can.”
“Y’know, you’ve got no right to be that cute. Especially when you’re talking about fucking me up the arse.”
Stede grins, which doesn’t help the cuteness thing. Makes it way worse, in fact.
“Is that a yes?”
Ed knows he’s blushing too. Somehow, though, he doesn’t mind it.
“Yeah. Yeah, it’s a yes.”
Stede draws him a bath that night for the occasion. Gives him the privacy to enjoy it and clean himself up properly, which makes Ed feel simultaneously distressingly vulnerable and cared for. A common Stede experience. He blows bubbles in the water, trying to calm his nerves.
There’s the usual nerves of just wanting to be good enough for Stede, a good fuck, a good lover, a good partner. And then there’s also, well.
Shouldn’t let go. If I let go. All will fall.
Every time Ed’s gotten fucked in the past, it’s always been some sort of mutually assured destruction. Something of a dare in it, with Jack and the rest. One-upmanship and shame, not really from the act of it, but from craving such extreme closeness. Desiring to be known in that way, penetrated.
Giving up control usually means giving up. And Blackbeard doesn’t surrender.
But…but thinking about doing it with Stede doesn’t feel like that at all. It’s falling, yeah, but into his strong, sure arms. Unclenching his fists to hold his hands. It’s everything Stede is—comfort and pleasure and the fucking relief of earned and total trust.
And that’s nearly as terrifying as the alternative.
Ed groans into his soapy palms, gives himself one last thorough rinse, and steps out of the bath.
Stede starts slow on purpose, clearly trying to ease him into it. And yet it’s still rather a fucking lot.
“You smell so good,” he hums. He takes a deep breath as he eases Ed out of his silk robe, pressing him into the pillows. They’re fresh, Ed notices, just like the sheets and blankets, and that little gesture alone makes his gut twist.
“Lavender soap,” Ed says weakly.
“You’ve picked a good favourite,” Stede grins, doffing his own clothes. “Suits you very nicely.”
“Gnhgg,” Ed manages. Already his head is fuzzy with anticipation and Stede’s godforsaken praise.
“You all right for me to begin?” Stede asks, cupping his cheek fondly. Stede’s half-hard already, which definitely helps Ed’s confidence. Ed jerks a nod, eyes wide. Stede’s smile broadens, warms, and Ed melts at it. “Now, like I said before. You tell me if there’s something you don’t like, yes? It won’t mean I’ll stop—unless you want me to—so you don’t have to worry about that. We can adjust anything, yeah? We’re just figuring things out!”
“Got it,” Ed says. One of Stede’s hands is on his chest now, teasing lightly at his nipples. The other is at the cut of his waist.
“I love you,” Stede tells him, and Ed can tell it’s both because he means it and as a reassurance. I love you, he’s saying, no matter what.
“I love you,” Ed says, and gasps as Stede drags his tongue over his nipple.
He’d expected them to get right to it, which was, in retrospect, very silly. He takes his time with Stede, worshiping every inch of that lush, perfect body, so it would make sense that Stede knows to go slow, but he still isn’t prepared. Not for the way Stede sucks perfect, possessive bruises into his throat, caresses the curve of his muscles with something like trembling awe, brushes his mouth over Ed’s every single fucking scar. By the time he’s between Ed’s legs Ed’s nearly mad with it, a sweaty, panting mess, his erection terribly obvious and dripping.
Stede reaches for the oil. He looks to Ed for confirmation and Ed can only manage a nod.
He does this slow too, with awful focus. He brings two fingertips to Ed’s entrance, circling, petting.
“I’ve got you,” he murmurs, and Ed struggles not to bury his face in his hands. He slowly presses inside and Ed can feel himself parting for him. It’s always been rough, the prep perfunctory, and as Stede breaches him Ed thinks wildly that perhaps he’s never really been properly fucked at all, because already this feels like something else entirely. “There we go. Lovely. You’re doing so well, Ed. I—er. I’m very eager.” Stede gives a crooked grin, and Ed does clap his hands over his face this time. He groans, but it turns into something higher and far more demonstrative as Stede’s fingers reach a spot that makes him light up inside. “Ah,” Stede says, rougher now. “There.”
Everything goes warm and sweet. Ed reminds himself to breathe as Stede carefully works him open, and before long, he’s wriggling, grinding down.
“Get your cock in me,” he pants, his own throbbing against his belly.
Stede lunges forward to kiss him first, and Ed feels a twist of satisfaction at how his control seems to have frayed at the edges. He strokes himself lazily as Stede fumbles to slick himself up, preening beneath Stede’s heavy-eyed gaze.
“God, you’re too fucking enticing,” Stede says through clenched teeth.
“Come and take me then,” Ed mutters, tilting his head to the side.
Stede makes a strangled sound and lines himself up, and then oh.
Everything else disappears. Stede gazes into his eyes, those perfect pink lips falling open, and Ed lets him in.
Stede holds himself just there for a moment. He’s letting Ed adjust, but it’s torment. Ed wants him deep, fucking now.
“God,” Stede says, and his voice is rough in the best way. Ed’s doing that. “You feel incredible. Can I—?”
Ed groans, digs his heels into Stede’s lower back, and pulls him in.
They both gasp as Stede bottoms out. Ed’s eyes roll back. It feels like Stede is fucking everywhere, filling him up, every single secret, intimate part of him laid bare within Stede’s light. He’s thick and big and perfect, heavy in a way that makes the stretch of him feel right. It’s unmistakable, now. All the ways Ed has let him in.
And then he starts to move, and Ed cries out. His hands go over his head and find soft pillows there. He clutches them hard as Stede moves his hips, finding a rhythm. He’s slow on the withdraw and then he snaps back in, hitting that spot every time.
“Am I getting it right?” Stede asks, and Ed half-laughs, half-sobs.
“Yes.” His own voice is nearly unrecognizable, high and ragged with bitten-off breath, and through his haze he can see Stede smiling.
“Oh, good,” he says, fucking Ed better than he’s ever been fucked in his life. “I thought I probably was.”
Ed does laugh at that, and that’s goddamn new too, laughing like this in bed. He feels warm with it, lit up and tended to. Pleasure builds in him steady as the tide, instead of a race to a finish line. Stede reaches for his hand, presses messy kisses to each finger as he thrusts deep and true.
“You look so good when you’re fucking me,” Ed murmurs. “Like a god.” Gleaming gold, the lines of his muscles sharp in the lantern-light.
Stede makes a low sound, cupping Ed’s cheek.
“You do, you gorgeous, perfect man,” he says, and Ed didn’t think he could go even pinker but he does. “Look at you, fuck. You feel so fucking excellent, you know that?”
“God yes,” Stede groans, thrusting that much harder. Ed shivers, bites his lip as he takes it. “So good for me.”
Those words set off something in Ed’s brain, something animal and starving. Not even a fucking predator animal or anything cool though. Like a fucking cat, begging for pets and a sunbeam. Only when it’s Stede, that doesn’t sound so bad.
“You are,” Stede tells him firmly. “Oh, you are, so good for me. Opening up so nice, darling.” He squeezes Ed’s hand. “Mm. Would you like to turn over? I reckon I could get at a better angle that way…”
Something twists in Ed. Doesn’t disrupt the fuzzy feeling, but it does punctuate it a bit.
That’s new, too. Blackbeard doesn’t turn his back on anyone. Especially not in situations like this, vulnerable as all hell. Baring the soft part of his throat. That’s a level of trust he didn’t lose at sea, he’d simply never had it.
He looks at Stede, whose hips have faltered just a bit in Ed’s hesitation. Those sunbeam eyes of his, the gentle care in his touch.
“Yeah,” Ed says. “Yeah, I would.”
He feels shockingly bereft when Stede pulls out of him, but then he’s being thoroughly kissed, and eased onto his stomach. Stede finds one of the flatter pillows and sets it beneath Ed’s bad knee, and goddamn it that tenderness makes Ed’s thundering heart twist. He balances on all fours, presenting, and Stede gives him what he’s looking for. Lets his palms caress his back, his thighs, his throat. Soothing him and teasing at once. And when he sinks back inside, the angle is, indeed, fucking better.
“So handsome,” Stede coos, his thrusts coming harder now. “So tight. So pretty for me. Love when you arch your back like that, wow, oh, Ed.”
He’s fucking good at this.
Ed knew he would be. He’s good at everything he does in the service of making Ed feel good, and it blows Ed’s fucking mind every time. Stede can go faster like this, harder now that Ed’s opened for him, his cock hitting that spot every time.
Ed realizes, dimly, that he’s sobbing. Bearing back at him, bracing on the soft sheets and pillows to take him as deep as he can. Stede drapes himself over Ed’s body, getting even deeper somehow, and then one soft hand wraps itself around Ed’s throbbing cock, stroking in time with his thrusts. Sweat pools at Ed’s temples, more pleasure than he thought possible spreading through his entire body, and the best man he’s ever known is putting every ounce of focus he has into making Ed feel good.
“Fuck. Good boy,” Stede murmurs, pride bright and rich in his voice. “You take me so well.”
And that’s it. Fucking hell, Ed’s coming, screaming, his whole body shuddering in wave after wave of perfect, indulgent bliss. He’s never rode out an orgasm like this before, letting himself writhe with it, bask in it, but Stede’s gasping praise in his ear, stroking him through it, and Ed—Ed surrenders.
He’s still in the midst of it, this floating, magnificent, full-body pleasure, when Stede makes a familiar breathy sound and fills him up. He’s hot and deep, hips stuttering, fucking Ed into the pool of his own come, and it’s messy as fuck, and Ed never, ever wants him to stop.
When he finally comes to himself again, there is no shame in it.
He let himself be vulnerable, and he didn’t just not get hurt.
He got to feel better than he’s felt in a long, long time. Maybe ever.
Stede’s kissing him, his shoulders, his back, all the way down to the curve of his hips, halfway to the warm, damp cloth yet reluctant to move away. He cleans the two of them up with the same sort of care he used to take Ed apart, and it doesn’t feel so flaying anymore. It feels… nice. Like they’ve crossed a bit of a threshold, and Ed finally can let himself fully like where he is.
“I got it right, didn’t I?” Stede asks, settling back into bed with him. Ed laughs, and drags him in for a kiss.
“Yeah, you fucking did.” He nuzzles Stede’s nose, and Stede grins, toothy and pleased.
“I’d like to do that again sometime,” Stede says, tracing Ed’s mouth with his thumb. “If you’d like.”
“You’d better,” Ed growls, and kisses him again.
We’re just not those kind of people. We never will be.
You know what? Fuck that. Fuck that! If Ed gets to have this, is the thing. If Ed gets to have this, then he can’t be so bad. If someone like Stede can see the good in him, and want to tell him about it, to take care of him and make him feel good like this, to let Ed take care of him in return—
He’s richer than he’d ever hoped, in ways he never dreamed he’d get to be.
He’s been in the deep for so long. But dawn will come tomorrow, bright and pink with promise. Ed will spend every moment of that day knowing he is loved, and every day after that.
“You did so well,” Stede whispers. Ed grins at him.
“Yeah,” he says. “I think I did.”