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a pirates' guide to breathing exercises

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The scent of sweet orange glaze from Roach’s dessert still hangs in the air, mixing with the sea salt in a way that fills Stede’s head with comfortable drowsiness. His legs dangle over the ledge of the ship, swaying softly. Tonight’s sunset is exceedingly mesmerizing with hues of pink and tangerine melting together, so fine no painter could possibly do its beauty justice. Though, the best part of all of this, Stede wagers, is Edward’s shoulder leaning against his. These times together between the two of them–– the few mellow hours before night takes full hold, only shared between him and his lover makes him feel balanced, stabilized. Loved.

The sound of Edward exhaling breaks him away from his thoughts. The smell of smoke reaches him soon after, and he turns his head to look at the other man. Ed is smiling softly; his eyelids are lowered, unguarded. They had both partaken in some rum during dinner, though Stede suspects his partner to have been a bit more indulgent than himself. Yet the warmth coursing through his body only seems to grow under his partner’s gaze.

“You look a bit lost in thought there, mate. Care to share with the class?”

Stede chuckles at the phrasing. The crew is long gone, continuing the festivities below deck. He can still hear faint laughter and yells if he concentrates, which he is making a conscious effort to not do at the moment. There are far more important things to focus on, he reckons.

“Nothing profound, love. Just enjoying this moment. I hope you are as well?”

The corner of Ed’s lips twitch. He takes another hit from his pipe, eyelids falling shut as he inhales. After a few seconds, his mouth opens with a ball of smoke, and his eyes barely open. “I sure am, darling.”

Stede has to remember how to swallow. His hand falls to the deck between them, palm upturned. Ed’s hand joins his before he can even blink. He returns the favor, leaning over to find Edward’s lips without a beat of hesitation.

Ed makes a soft sound of surprise against Stede’s lips, but chuckles and drops the pipe with a thud in order to cover Stede’s jaw gently. He can taste the remnants of smoke from Ed’s mouth, and suddenly he’s curling his tongue forward to chase it. They both moan, this time, as Ed follows lead, nipping Stede’s lip as he returns the favor.

They break apart with a gasp. Edward’s lips are blushed and glossy, eyes dark.

“You taste good,” Stede admits quietly.

It’s not every day he can get Ed to look genuinely shocked. Stede enjoys it while he can.

“If this is your way of trying to fuck right now,” Ed says, starting to rise, “it’s working.”

Stede laughs suddenly, adoration building in his chest. “Apologies, dear. Didn’t mean to tease you. Not to say I disagree with your proposition,” he continues, looking to the setting sun once more, “but I feel content to stay here a bit longer. You’re by no means required to stay, of course––”

“Oh shut it!” Edward drops back down with an audible thunk. “Of course I want to stay here. I suppose the view is quite nice.” Stede turns, expecting to catch the beautiful twinkle of Ed’s eyes against the sun, but instead of staring out at the ocean, Edward is looking at him.

Stede catches his hand once more, rubbing his thumb across Edward’s knuckles before shifting to lean his back against Ed’s chest. “We’re getting low on beans and lentils. We ought to make plans to restock soon,” Stede says pleasantly. “And you know I’ve been dying to get you a blouse in that soft pink color. That’s the more important errand, I reckon.”

He can feel Edward hum. “We’ll talk to Buttons tomorrow.” He shifts to grab the pipe beside him once more. His chest expands as he inhales, and Stede can feel the heartbeat against his back even stronger. As he exhales Stede falls back comfortably, not at all minding the smoke curling next to his face. His eyes start to close but are stopped by sudden laughter from Edward. He chuckles quietly, bending down to bury his face in Stede’s hair.

“Something funny?” he asks smoothly.

Edward exhales a hot breath against Stede’s scalp and pulls back. “Just feel good, love. Really good.” His tone is a bit different, Stede notices. Slower. A bit deeper, maybe.

His thoughts are brought back to the pipe. Of course he’s smoked tobacco before–– fine, perhaps just once, but in Stede’s defense it was absolutely awful. It burns the throat terribly, and tastes like smoldering ash and dirt. And the fact it made him immediately lose his lunch after is between him and God only. But goodness, did Edward seem to enjoy it, even more so tonight. Could he have done it wrong before, Stede wonders? Maybe if you… inhaled differently, it would be pleasant?

He opens his mouth without thinking. “Reckon I could give your,” Stede hesitates, “uh, smoking device a try?” He curses himself for being so awkward, surely Edward will laugh and see right through him and––

“Oh, this? Sure, mate.” Ed responds, bringing the pipe ‘round to Stede’s hand. Well, he thinks, I guess not. He brings it to his lips, eyes glued to the glowing end just inches from his face. He hesitates, trying to think of the best way to tackle this.

“Here,” Ed suddenly says. “Can I help?”

It takes Stede a moment to realize he’s being sincere and not mocking. Ed’s hand hangs in the air, close to his, waiting for permission. He tries to fight back the blush on his cheeks and nods.

Ed’s hand slowly joins his own on the pipe, gently guiding to his mouth.

“Stop holding your breath,” Ed breathes. “I’ll hold it for you. Breathe it in, easy as that.”

Stede lets his hand fall and accepts the pipe into his mouth. He squints at the sensation, a harsh warmth filling his throat as the embers grow brighter. “Good,” he hears Ed mutter. He inhales deeper.

It’s Ed who pulls the pipe away, and he must drop the pipe immediately after as his hand is there to soothe Stede’s chest with just enough pressure to diminish the unpleasant sensation in his throat. It only helps so much, though, as Stede can’t help but cough as smoke billows out of his mouth as he suddenly realizes that what they’re smoking is not tobacco.

“Good sport,” Ed says, laughing as he pats Stede on the back.

Stede tries to turn over to give a thumbs up but his coughing is relentless, so instead Ed gets a teary eyed and shaky thumbs up.

“Oh fuck,” he faintly hears. Suddenly there’s a jug of water at his lips that Stede doesn’t even take hold from Ed, just tilts his head back to gulp frantically. It’s not until it starts to trickle out of his mouth that he guides Ed’s hand away.

“Christ on a bicycle, what was that?” Stede gasps.

“It’s weed, mate, what’d you think it was?” Ed half-shouts.

“Tobacco!”

“What? I thought you’d know the difference!”

“You think I’ve smoked that before?” Stede asks incredulously.

“That,” Ed says, visibly deflating, “is a good point.”

“I don’t even know what that is!” Stede continues. His eyes are wide and frantic, heart beating so loud he’s scared Ed can hear it. He freezes, waiting for something horrible to happen– seizure, fainting, internal bleeding––

“It’s fine,” Edward quickly assures, placing a hand on Stedes bicep. “You won’t feel anything from one time, love, you’re fine.”

Stede hesitates just a second more, waiting for something to happen, though if anything he feels just a little less… weighed down.

“It’s a plant, usually from the South Americas, I think. Similar to tobacco, in ways. Makes you feel a bit funny.” Edward squeezes his hand, just once. “All you alright, love? I’m sorry.”

Stede feels that familiar burn of insecurity when someone knows something seemingly obvious he doesn’t. Yet, the comforting presence of Edward tames it to a dull spark.

“Ha! Oh, silly me. I do think I’m alright, Ed, just a bit of a surprise, I guess. I didn’t know you were so familiar with this!” He says, impressed.

It’s Ed’s turn to fluster. “Oh, well, you know. It’s a good way to unwind, you get me?”

“Unwind?” Stede questions. “Unwind how?”

He watches as Ed’s lips purse to blow a relaxed breath of air. He brings the pipe up to take another hit, and Stede can’t help but feel like a schoolboy at the punch of pleasure in his gut from seeing Ed place his mouth where his just was.

“I mean, it affects everyone differently, man. For me though… I dunno. Easier to be happy, I guess. Relaxed.” Ed gains a small smile, eyes twinkling in the sunset. He looks a thousand miles away, Stede reckons. “Sometimes,” Ed hesitates, “it makes you horny. In a quite nice way, that is. I’ve had some good times––”

Stede reaches for the pipe suddenly without thought. He takes it to his lips and closes his eyes, though he tries harder to concentrate this time. He inhales slower than before and is less forceful. He pulls away sooner and is rewarded with a smaller burn in his chest as smoke billows out. His pride is burst just a smidge when he can’t help but cough.

“You don’t have to,” he hears Ed mutter, and finds an enchantingly beautiful stare from Ed. Smoke hangs between them like a thin curtain. The feeling of warmth grows a bit more, and Stede’s head starts tingling softly. He smiles and brings it to his lips again.

“Fuck you,” Ed playfully mutters, placing a hand high on Stede’s thigh. One of his fingers twitches upward. “You look positively sinful, do you know that?”

“I mean,” Stede says, trying to aim smoke at Ed, “that’s kind of what I’m aiming for.” Ed chuckles and leans forward to kiss him again, though tamer than before. He doesn’t pull back far, just enough to whisper against Stede’s lips. “Do it again.”

His stomach flips again and he does as told, lighting the flame once more and taking an even deeper breath. He’s shocked when after pulling the pipe away some smoke escapes from his nostrils. The bizarre sensation has him puffing out the rest of it with his eyes starting to water.

“Christ, how do you do that so easily,” he laments.

Edward giggles and takes the pipe again. He twirls it between his fingers as if it were a quill before smoothly taking a hit. He grabs Stede’s hand, as if he didn’t have Stede’s full attention already, before slightly parting his mouth and blowing out a thick ring of smoke.

“Oh goodness,” Stede remarks, entranced. Edward just winks and repeats the trick. Sober or not he’d be impressed, but in his current state it’s even more mesmerizing. The swaying of the ship seems increasingly soothing and the temperature of the air is perfect, a slight breeze feeling like the heavens above on his skin. His body thrums.

Edward hasn’t broken their eye contact. They’re both smiling like a pair of fools, Stede realizes, but damn if it doesn’t feel good.

“Care for another?” Ed eventually asks, bringing the pipe over to Stede.

“Ah,” he considers, taking note of his body and feelings. He feels a type of drunk, almost. Different, but familiar enough for him to be comfortable. “I think I’m rather content for now, but I appreciate the offer.”

“Anytime,” he gets in reply, and Stede knows it’s true.

They return to their comfortable silence, though now Ed’s hand rests on his back, fingers tracing delicate lines in a random pattern. The touch is so soft, yet it amplifies throughout Stede’s body and relaxes his muscles. He just barely lifts his head to place a kiss on Ed’s cheek.

“You look like you’re absolutely melting,” Edward says affectionately, gazing down at Stede.

“In a good way, yes,” Stede says.

Ed grins. He seems to think for a moment before shifting for his back to be against the railing of the ship, facing Stede directly. He raises an eyebrow and spreads his legs.

“Incorrigible,” Stede mutters, a foolish grin and eager shuffling undermining any possibility of malice within his words. He hesitates above Edward’s lap, unsure where directly he’s wanted, and is just about to politely inquire when Edward pushes him down and shoves him into a kiss.

Stede squeaks out of surprise but returns the gesture quickly, wrapping his arms around Ed’s back. He wears just a simple cloth top tonight, cream colored and so soft under Stede’s hands it makes him want to simply roll over and perish. He doesn’t even notice his own hips are shifting downward, but most certainly notices the bulge he’s greeted with.

“Fuck,” Ed mutters, running a hand down Stede’s chest. “Wait,” he remarks suddenly, as if he’s just remembered. “There's still something I want to do.”

Stede stays put easily. Edward could ask anything of him right now, he thinks, and he would do it. A shiver wracks his spine.

He watches the man take another hit, though this time Edward holds the smoke in and makes fierce eye contact with Stede. He leans forward and wraps his hands gently around Stede’s head, and brings him into a kiss.

Stede melts into it before he can really think, and is simply enjoying the feeling of dragging his lips across Ed’s when the other’s mouth opens and smoke pours into his mouth. It’s hot and potent, filling his nose but Stede can’t be bothered to do anything but wantonly lean into their kiss, breathing it in.

It’s not until he starts to feel lightheaded does Stede break away, panting against Edward.

“Fuck.”

“Fuck,” Edward chuckles. “Fuck indeed.”

Stede remains in Ed’s lap, enjoying the view of his partner dazed and looking kissed-silly. Edward seems content to do the same.

“Hey,” he says suddenly, shifting atop Edward. “Remember that, ah, brilliant idea you had earlier?”

Edward’s eyebrows furrow adorably. “To talk to Buttons tomorrow?”

“No!” Stede laughs. “No, please, don't mention him right now. We might accidentally summon him. What I mean,” he shifts again, “was your proposal to, well, to use your own words, fuck.”

“Fuck,” Edward repeats faintly, looking equal parts bewildered and aroused. “Fuck. Yeah, we should— I mean, if you want to I’d love to f- or––”

“Let’s go,” Stede says decidedly, rising from his lap and offering Edward a hand.

“Remind me to remember weed makes you confident in a very sexy way,” Edward says in a daze, taking Stede’s grip.

“And kindly remind me to remember that weed makes you easy to fluster,” Stede retorts, getting an alluring blush in response.