My love for you is 98 percent pure
But the two percent that remains
Has fried the circuits in my brain
Oh would that you would kiss me
With the kisses of your mouth
Because your mouth is sweeter
Than wine and has
A more complicated history
Than the American South
As the evening took us in
You could have popped the tension
With a safety pin
- The Mountain Goats, New Chevrolet In Flames
These days, Blackbeard is mostly a costume to be deployed at tactically advantageous moments. Ed likes it. It reminds him of the long-ago time when being Blackbeard was still fun, but now he gets to take him off afterwards and go back to being a person, instead of a bogeyman.
He’s currently playing his part by standing at Stede’s shoulder on the deck of the merchant vessel they’ve apprehended, a silent implied threat behind the silken weight of Stede’s words. Stede is playing a part, too, dressed in full Gentleman Pirate regalia and pushing his posh accent as far as it will go.
“So I think we can all agree that it’s best if you just allow us to relieve you of your cargo, and do pass my condolences on to your employer. The other offer still stands, too - for a small fee we’ll leave all his vessels alone for a whole year!” Stede finishes, clapping his hands together with a flutter of lace cuff.
“I suggest taking the deal,” Ed adds, casually twirling his knife in one hand. “Prevents unfortunate misunderstandings.” To think he used to find this boring, hope for an excuse to do a bit of a maim, but the glint in Stede’s eye is so much better than that.
The ship’s captain swallows, going white. Well, whiter. His crew stands down and even volunteers to help move the cargo from one ship to another. It’s a heartening show of sportsmanship and nothing at all to do with the way Jim and Roach glower at them, bristling with pointy things.
“Pleasure doing business with you,” Stede says and moves to guide Ed back to their ship with a warm hand between the shoulderblades. Ed’s skin tingles, still bracing for a stab rather than a kind touch. “That went well, I think,” Stede adds, once they’re out of earshot of anyone who expects them to be anything but themselves.
Ed just nods and manoeuvres Stede so they’re chest to chest. He loops his arms around Stede’s shoulders, twining his fingers in the silky gold of Stede’s new queue. It makes him look pretty damn dashing, especially combined with the dark blonde stubble framing his jawline. Stede’s hands fall to Ed’s waist automatically, all comfort and familiarity.
“This outfit looks magnificent on you,” Stede mutters, eyes fixed on where his thumbs are insinuating themselves into the gap between Ed’s jacket and trousers.
“I recall it being pretty fucking fetching on you too,” Ed begins, but loses his train of thought when Stede’s thumb finds that cluster of scars on his side and presses, gentle and firm and relentless. Ed bites off an embarrassing whimper but can’t stop himself from swooning into Stede’s chest, eyes smiling and almost drunk with it, just like when the thumb had been a blade. Stede hums and does it again, the warm spread of his fingers pressing back from the other side.
“Why did you make me stab you?” he asks. “I’m sure I would have learned the lesson without such drastic measures.”
“Wanted to know how you’d fuck,” Ed replies, but the breathiness in his voice betrays him. Stede looks at him meaningfully, tilts his chin to let Ed know he’s not impressed with the dodge. Ed sighs and drops his forehead onto Stede’s shoulder. “I thought it was what I could get,” he admits. Stede rewards him with a sharp inhale and presses his face into Ed’s hair.
“You have everything I’ve got to give,” he whispers, voice shaking. Miracle of miracles, Ed believes him.
“Wanna do something weird?” he asks, and is answered by Stede leaning back to give him a bright, crinkle-eyed smile.
They end up in the auxiliary wardrobe like that other time, when Stede had been sweaty and pale from fever and Ed was spell-bound by this weird, brave, stupid little man. That part hasn’t really changed; Ed just also sees beyond the surface layer of weirdness and fussiness into new, unfathomable depths of lunacy underneath.
He goes down on his good knee and starts working on the little buttons at the cuffs of Stede’s breeches. He’s had a fair bit of practice, now, but his hands still feel too big and rough and clumsy on the silk covering Stede’s shapely calf. Stede doesn’t seem to mind his shortcomings as a valet. He just hums happily and scratches behind Ed’s ear like he’s fussing a cherished pet.
Ed draws in a shaky breath and gets up to help Stede the rest of the way out of his beautiful, delicate silk armour. This has become one of his favourite parts of the day, just the soft calm of brocade and silk and a million fiddly fucking buttons. Stede is still, steady and warm under his hands, like a man who is used to this. Ed’s sure his previous manservants have been more skilled (and, if they know what’s good for them, less stupidly in love with him), but he lets himself take joy in this without making a joke. He helps Stede out of his clothes and they part, briefly, to hang the garments in their proper places.
They come back together like the steps of a familiar dance. Stede kisses him on the mouth, silk-soft, pushes his hair over one shoulder, and leans to press his lips to a tender, hidden spot underneath Ed’s ear. Ed reaches for the buckles of his jacket, eager to get this show on the road, but Stede stops him with a firm grip around each wrist. Ed breathes in, out, and puts himself in Stede’s hands.
Stede starts by peeling off his soft leather gloves. (Impractically soft, really - he goes through pairs at quite a clip. If anyone dared comment, he’d say they were kid gloves, made from real kids. No one ever has. Besides, you need to feel what you’re doing in a fight.) He presses a kiss to the vulnerable underside of each wrist, on the star tattooed just below his thumb, onto the split knuckles of his right hand. Ed’s breath goes shaky and strained with emotion. He still struggles to accept this, the way Stede is so gentle and implacable, like he shouldn’t fear for his life being this close to Blackbeard.
Ed has to give Stede a hand with some of the trickier fastenings on the jacket, because Stede seems to want to keep one hand on a bit of bare skin at all times, a feather-light point of contact on his wrist, neck, lower back. It’s driving Ed slightly insane. They manage, though, to fumble him out of his clothes, too. Stede offers a steady shoulder to lean on while Ed undoes his knee brace and deals with the slightly humiliating business of wriggling out of his boots and trousers.
Stede is ready with the red patterned dressing gown as Ed straightens up, swirling it over his shoulders. He follows it, stepping close and winding his arms around Ed’s waist underneath the fabric. Ed sighs, lets his skin get used to softness again. He rests his forehead against Stede’s for a moment, letting their breath mingle in the warm safe space between their bodies. He could stay here forever, except they have plans, and also he would rather like to get railed. He expresses this eloquently by leaning down and biting at Stede’s warm, solid shoulder. Stede’s hand on his back curls, nails digging in just a little. Ed hums happily into Stede’s skin, just resting his teeth there.
“Your manners are appalling,” Stede says, and steps back with a final squeeze to Ed’s waist.
“Then you’re clearly not doing your job right,” he replies. Because he’s not afraid to play dirty, he lets the dressing gown slip off one shoulder and cocks his head to the side with a cascade of silver hair. Stede tries to look unimpressed but dips in for a quick kiss before shoving him towards the door.
“Go get ready, you absolute menace,” he says, voice dropping closer to a growl in a way that makes the back of Ed’s brain sparkle.
“What about this?” Ed asks, tilting his head back a little and gesturing at the cravat still wrapped around his throat, the one he stole from Stede’s rope-bruised neck that first time they swapped clothes and never gave back.
“No,” Stede says without pausing for thought, “That’s yours, not Blackbeard’s.”
Ed is surprised by the intensity with which his breath catches at that, so he just nods and heads back into the main stateroom. He goes to fish out a bottle of oil from its little fucking dedicated goddamn nook by the bed. Stede is a profoundly absurd person and Ed would take up to five bullets for him. He stops to consider the sightlines and decides on the desk. If he turns his head a little, he can bend over the surface and still keep an eye on the door to the auxiliary wardrobe through a mirror, all the better to appreciate Stede’s eventual entrance.
He takes his time positioning and posing himself to the greatest effect. He has to shove the hem of the dressing gown inelegantly under one arm to make it work, but a few wrinkles are far from the worst thing to happen to it. It’s not really fit for even the most impolite company these days, what with the black smudges around the sleeves and the marmalade on the hem and, frankly, quite a lot of come.
Ed’s just started getting to the good part of working himself open when he hears muffled cursing from the other room, followed by the repeated thumping of someone hopping in place to wriggle into slightly too small leather trousers. He smiles to himself, chest tight with affection, and goes in for a bit more oil.
He’s just starting to wonder if Stede needs a hand after all when the secret door swings open and Stede steps out.
He looks spectacular. The leather trousers cling to the muscle of his thighs. Stede’s left the jacket open over the thin black shirt but it still does something to the set of his shoulders. The pale, freckled skin of his arm stands out wonderfully against the black. His hair glows like straw spun into gold in that story he’d just finished reading to the crew.
Stede’s steps falter when he catches sight of Ed. Ed just catches the silly, wonderful, pole-axed look on his face before Stede collects himself and strides over. He walks differently in Ed’s boots, like he expects everyone to get out of his way. Ed just manages to get both hands braced on the desk before Stede barrels into him, leather-clad hips and thighs pressing into his, gloved hands sliding onto his waist.
“Looks like I’ve bagged myself quite the treasure,” Stede says. He’s doing something weird with his voice, like a total loser. Ed smiles down at his own hands, at the painted nails and the lewd shine of oil caught in the hair on the back of his knuckles. Stede leans in close and noses into the soft skin behind Ed’s ear, body pressed into his back in a mix of warm cotton and cool metal. “I think I’m going to keep you for myself.”
“Oh yeah?” Ed says to cover the way his heart clenches at that. “Did the dread pirate Blackbeard buy another treasure map? Did X mark the spot?”
Stede hums and stands back up. Ed’s back feels much too cold.
“Clearly it was a very useful treasure map,” Stede says primly. “I’m sure Blackbeard negotiated a fantastic deal on it, too.”
“You fucking lunatic,” Ed says and presses back into Stede’s warm, solid body. “Just fuck me.”
“I rather think you should ask nicely,” Stede says, because he is an arsehole. At least he has the grace to sound a little winded.
“Most esteemed captain,” Ed begins in his best posh bastard voice, “would you do me the honour of sticking your dick up my arse until I feel it for a week?”
Stede gives his hair a warning yank, which is the opposite of discouraging. “The bloody cheek. Get on the bed and we’ll see what we can do.” He steps back just far enough for Ed to stand up, hands falling away. Ed wobbles to the bed and gets on, first on his hands and knees and then on his back when Stede gives his shoulder an insistent push. The robe is caught underneath him, slightly rumpled. He feels pleasantly engulfed in the soft mattress and pillows and smooth, warm silk. Stede pauses to take the boots off before climbing in after him, casually making room between Ed’s legs and pushing his right leg up and back so his good knee is nearly at his chest.
Stede looks incandescent like that, blonde hair falling out of its normal, neat style around his face, glowing in the light of that goddamn stupid chandelier. His eyes are hungry and intent, even as he presses a soft little kiss to the inside of Ed’s knee.
Ed finds his hand coming up without his permission. It twirls a lock of his own hair around a couple of fingers. It makes Stede smile foolishly at him, which turns into a snorting giggle when Ed realises he got his hair caught on one of his rings, the ones he’d put back on automatically after removing the fingerless gloves. Because Stede is a gentleman, he helps resolve the situation while Ed swears at the stupid buggering thing.
“Yes, I was just getting to that,” Stede says. He fishes one of the many, many pillows from the tangle of their bedding and sticks it under Ed’s hips while he guides his right leg back up. It doesn’t escape Ed’s notice that he keeps the dressing gown between the pillow and where the messy business is about to take place.
“Don’t hold back on my account.” Ed yanks the final loose strands of hair free from the crevices of the damn ring and leans back, trying to arrange himself as invitingly as possible. It seems to work, because Stede lurches forward to kiss him, pressing Ed’s thighs wider in the process. Ed hums happily at the slide of Stede’s dick against the skin of his balls. Stede gets a little lost in the kiss and Ed’s getting impatient, so he knocks his knee into Stede’s shoulder. Stede bites him a little in response and straightens up.
“Come on, Blackbeard,” Ed says, “you don’t have to keep buttering me up.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Stede mutters, and fumbles the oil out from a jacket pocket. See, the get-up can be practical. He goes on to pull out a monogrammed linen handkerchief, too, because he is a considerate and wonderful and weird little man.
“Babe, seriously, I’m good, get on with it,” Ed says, half a whine. Stede just glances up at him with a raised eyebrow.
“Maybe this is for my benefit,” he says, and effectively shuts down any further complaints by sliding two of his well-oiled fingers inside Ed. It’s not what he wanted, but he can’t really bring himself to protest when Stede is looking at him with such soft eyes while simultaneously fucking petting his insides in a delicious, filthy way. “I could do this all day,” Stede adds. He sounds like he’s mostly talking to himself. “You’re so warm and soft for me.” He twists his wrist a little and suddenly Ed can feel the leather of Stede’s, his, Blackbeard’s glove sliding inside him and has to take some deep breaths to collect himself.
Stede takes mercy on him and pulls his fingers out. He takes a moment to wipe his hands on his handkerchief, which really shouldn’t do it for Ed, and yet. He leans in for an incongruously quick kiss, like they’re just about to leave the room in the morning. “Ready?”
“I hate you,” Ed says, which Stede correctly interprets as an answer. He slides in, slow but relentless, still looking down at Ed like he’s the luckiest bastard in the world. Ed feels his eyes welling up from the weight of it all and flops a forearm across his face to hide it. Stede makes a tutting noise and grabs at him, folding their fingers together and guiding their joined hands onto the bed. The leather of that glove is a bit sticky with oil, but Ed’s not about to make a fuss about it.
“I want to see you, darling,” Stede says. Ed nods, bites his lip, and tries to focus on the feeling of his body letting Stede in instead of on feeling self-conscious. It’s easier with Stede beaming down at him and stroking a thumb against the side of his knee.
Stede fucks him slowly but with intent, like the tide rolling up a beach. Ed feels afloat with it, body sliding against the silk of the dressing gown. He’s not quite crying, but it seems to be a distinct possibility. He is definitely making a frankly humiliating little noise with each thrust, but so is Stede.
“That’s it, sweetheart,” Stede says, in between breathing hard and blinking sweat out of his eyes. He presses his left hand onto Ed’s sternum, leather-clad palm over the bird tattoo and bare fingertips brushing against the black cravat. Stops him from being carried away by the current. “You’re so beautiful for me.”
Ed’s knee-jerk reaction is to be a dick in response, so Stede handily cuts him off at the pass by shoving a couple fingers in his mouth. Ed’s left hand clenches in Stede’s right when he tastes salty skin mixed with leather.
Stede’s rhythm is starting to falter as he stares at his fingers rocking against Ed’s tongue. The intensity in Stede’s eyes and the hem of his shirt catching stickily on the head of Ed’s cock wash over him like a breaking wave.
Ed suddenly remembers he has a free hand and drags it down to touch himself. The buckle of Stede’s (their) belt is digging into the back of his thigh, the fastenings of the jacket knocking into his knuckles as he brings himself off. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds. He’s glad Stede is wearing the gloves because he’s fairly sure he accidentally bites down on those fingers somewhere in the process.
Stede makes a choked sound in response. His flingers slide out of Ed’s mouth, catching on his lower lip and dragging a trail of saliva into his stubble. Stede wraps his hand around the knot of Ed’s cravat, fingers hot and close against the hollow of his throat. Ed feels his entire body seize up; he’s pretty sure he kicks Stede with his right heel.
Stede doesn’t seem to mind, if the way he comes with a loud gasp and barely avoids headbutting Ed as he collapses in the aftermath is any indication.
After a bit of mutual heavy breathing and some messy kissing, Stede, ever the gentleman, gets up to get the washbasin and assist in some basic ablutions.
“I still don't understand how you can wear this stuff for strenuous activities,” he complains, struggling to get out of the leather clothing now stuck to his sweaty skin.
“Sometimes you have to suffer for art, mate,” Ed replies. He makes zero effort to move to help, even when Stede is wobbling on one foot to try to kick the trousers off. Stede makes a noise of mild disgust. Once he’s peeled off the gloves, he flings them into a corner like a man who is used to other people picking up after him. They’re probably going to be forgotten there until someone else spots them. Ed hopes it’s Lucius; his screams are very funny.
Stede collapses back into bed, spreading himself over three-quarters of the surface like usual. Ed just rolls on top of him. Stede hums happily with his eyes closed and arranges the robe to cover the both of them before wrapping his arms around Ed’s waist underneath it. His fingers move in little circles, in much the same way as when he’s idly feeling a nice brocade.
“You fuck your wife like that?” Ed asks, because he never could resist poking his tongue into the bloody gap of a missing tooth.
Stede huffs out a laugh against his shoulder.
“Good lord, no, that was only ever purely utilitarian.” Then he looks at Ed with that goddamn twinkle-eyed look he gets when he’s about to say something incredibly sincere, like a total bastard. Ed braces himself for some sappy bullshit and is therefore completely unprepared when what comes out of Stede’s face is: “You take my cock much better than my wife ever did.”
“Fuck off,” Ed chokes out. Stede breaks into undignified giggles, whole body shaking with it. Ed is too impressed with him to complain, so he just buries his wild grin into Stede’s chest and lets himself enjoy it.