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The first time it happens, there’s a storm. 

Stede has returned to the Revenge. Brought the old crew with him and everything, like a book of bad memories. And Ed’s fucked in the head, sure, but he’s more fucked about Stede Bonnet than anything else so he just – lets them stay. Izzy might bitch but it’s not like they can’t use the help, and Jim’s been trying to cut his throat a lot less since the reunion, so. Feels like a win all ‘round.

Now, it’s been weeks. Ed hasn’t killed him, hasn’t touched him (has only broken down and wept at his feet for forgiveness one time and he was very, very drunk so it probably doesn’t count. Stede helped him up and helped him to bed and Ed still isn’t sure if it actually happened or not. Maybe it didn’t, that’d be better. Cooler. Let’s say he dreamt it.) 

Ed knows about Badminton and the panic and the fuckery that brought Stede back to the sea. Stede knows how Ed went wrong while he was away, a long list of things he’ll never recover from and doesn’t deserve to. It can’t be like it was, and it won’t ever be and Ed has to live with it. Lucius may not be dead but it’s all chance and luck and if Stede didn’t love him before, well, he sure as hell won’t love him now. 

But at least Ed knows where Stede is most of the time. That’s better than - than before. 

At least Ed can keep an eye out, make sure no one’s hurting him. That he’s not getting into too much trouble with the Spanish, that he’s keeping his oranges stocked.  Shit like that.

They don’t talk about it.  Stede’s very careful and polite around him, and Ed’s very careful not to clap him on the shoulder or brush against his skin. Stede sleeps with the crew, and his face and shoulders are freckled from working in the sun, and Ed hasn’t forgiven him and hasn’t touched him and hasn’t tried to kiss him again. Fuck no. He won’t ever do that.

But he has watched Stede. Constantly, helplessly. He has wanted to pin him to the main mast (with a sword in his belly if that’s what it takes), and he has woken up aching with his hand already flying on his prick. 

And he wants him. 

That's the fuck of it all, he wants Stede anyway. Still, after everything. This is why pirates should die young. Ed has outlived his usefulness by a decade at least.

Anyway, there’s a storm.

It’s a gorgeous thing when Ed decides they’ll survive it, all thunder and lightning at the horizon, like beautiful letters he couldn't read on paper. The ship holds her own, God love her, and while he’s barking orders in the crush and crash of it all, Ed turns to see Stede laughing. He’s clinging to the rigging and wet with salt water, hair slick against his skin. It’s the first time Ed’s seen him laugh since he came back, and it does something to Ed’s rusted-out heart, lights it up like a handful of candles. He smiles despite himself, stupidly charmed by this madman every day of his stupid life. He must be obvious about it, because Stede looks over and catches his eye (hazel, that’s the colour of Stede’s eyes. Ivan told him there was a word for it, and it’s a lovely word, like light through a window.)

Stede smiles back.  The sky is too cloudy for there to be moonlight but it feels like there’s moonlight. Moonlight and red silk and Ed’s first step off a very high ledge.

After that: the sky clears and the water calms and Ed finds Stede waiting for him outside his cabin. They should talk about it, but they don’t, and Ed would rather die so instead he tugs Stede inside. He slams the door shut and pushes him up against it. 

“Yes. Yes, please,” Stede gasps and Ed’s been hearing those words in his dreams for longer than he’d like to share with the class, so he presses his lips against Stede’s neck, the hollow of his throat, the wealth of skin revealed by the open collar of his soaked shirt.

Ed doesn’t kiss his mouth. That was when it went wrong last time. Stede panicked, and Ed won’t fuck this up, won’t scare him off, not again. He’s gotta do this right. Make it easy.

“Can I touch you?” His hands are tight on Stede’s waist, feeling the shape of his hipbones beneath soft skin and wet linen.

“Yes, God yes.”

“Where?”

“A-anywhere you like.”

That’s not something Stede should be allowed to say, not with Ed so hard in his leather that he hurts, not with Stede flushing like a virgin up against him. Anywhere is too many wheres, so Ed just keeps his hands at Stede’s hips. He digs his fingers in, dry-mouthed by the warmth of him, already breathing too hard.

“What do you want?” Stede asks and how much time does Stede have, right. No point getting into that right now.

“You wanna fuck me?” Ed says instead of answering.

“Oh God,” Stede says, and then he keeps saying it.

The desk will have to do; Ed might not be able to handle hands and knees right now, his bad leg is already biting at him. Besides, this’ll probably be easier for Stede. Can think of Ed like a woman maybe, if he needs to. Ed isn’t shaking as he turns away and bends over, isn’t shaking as he undoes his trousers, pushing the damp leather down over his thighs. 

“Come on,” he hisses, and he feels Stede’s soft palm against his naked hip. 

“Don’t you want –”

“Nah, just like this.” He gropes for Stede’s hand so he can spit in it, wishes he was allowed to do the slicking up himself (bets Stede has a beautiful cock, just like the rest of him. Ed wonders if he’d ever be allowed to touch it. Probably not, but Christ, that’s a thought that will keep him up for the next few nights.)

“Is this – what you like?” Stede asks, and Ed nods desperately, sure yeah whatever. He likes Stede, is what he likes, and who gives a shit about the rest of it. “Perhaps we should -”

“Please. Please.” Ed’s starting to panic a bit – is Stede not into this? Maybe he’s getting in his head, maybe Ed just needs to shut up. 

He hears Stede murmur something, and there’s a kiss on his shoulder (he feels the gentle pressure of it, even if he can’t feel the wet and warmth through the leather.) 

“All right.” Stede tugs Ed’s hair away to kiss the back of his neck, then the side of it, and isn’t that fucking devastating. Ed’s never been kissed there before. Stede’s mouth is touching places no one else has ever touched him. “God, your skin is so –”

“Stede, Christ, get in me before I –”

“All right. Just – oh, okay.”

Because it’s been so long, there’s a bit of a burn. But there always is as far as he remembers, and the pain skirts around pleasure soon enough. Even if it didn’t, the noises Stede makes (tiny little huffs of air, gasps and murmurs against the back of Ed’s neck) have Ed dripping into his own fist in no time.  His thighs are trembling and he spills after only a few tight tugs on his prick.

“Oh! Did you –”

“Keep going.” Ed’s all shivery and sensitive and if it’s a bit much, he can handle it. It doesn’t matter. 

“Sweetheart, you – Ed, you feel –”

Sweetheart. Like Ed might be a candy or something. It makes his mouth open, tongue slide out, waiting for something delicious. 

The first person ever fucked him called him ‘kid’ the whole time (Ed wasn’t a kid, don’t panic) but the guy didn’t know his name and Ed didn’t care for him to know it. He likes sweetheart better. Even though it stings a bit, near his heart. He likes Stede calling him sweet.

The man back then was older, and Ed was young and green and simmering, thought he’d get the sex thing out of the way.  Took it a couple of times, didn’t care for it, and that was that. But the thing is, when you’re Blackbeard you’ve got kind of a reputation to uphold. When you captain a ship, when you lead a crew, when people look up to you, tell stories, build a legend – parts of that legend are always more accurate than others. 

And maybe you just let it slide, some of the things people say. Some of the things they assume. Maybe you swagger around and wear black leather and are a handsy bastard and let the stories tell themselves. 

Maybe you don't want to talk about it.

Anyway. That other fellow seemed to enjoy himself, back in the day, and Ed hopes to Christ Stede will as well. Thinks he must be, judging by the sounds he’s making, the way he frantically kisses Ed’s neck, his jaw, his ears. When Stede finally comes it’s with a gasp of surprise that would make Ed’s legs give out if he didn’t have the desk underneath him. He bites that feeling down, swallows all the longing before it can spill over. There’s a tightness in his throat that could be tears (usually fucking is these days) but he wants to make this easy. Can’t start sniveling now, would totally ruin the mood.

It hurts when Stede pulls out, and Ed can’t help a little hiss of pain. Of course Stede notices, and he better not get all guilty or Ed will throw himself off the ship.

“Are you all right? Did I –”

“Nah, s’fine. Twinge in my bloody back, is all.” Ed wipes his hand on his stomach, pulls his trousers back up. He’ll clean himself later. “Was that – good? Did you like it?”

Stede is flushed and beautiful and looks a bit shy. His trousers are loose around his hips, and his damp shirt has fallen down to hide his cock. He looks well-fucked and ridiculous and Ed’s so in love with him he thinks his ribs might break.

“I should hope it was – fairly obvious that I liked that.” Stede swallows. “Did you?”

“Yeah, course.” I’d like anything you did, Ed doesn’t say. And he doesn’t know what to do now. Should he leave, go back on deck? Is Stede going to leave first? Hell, Stede just fucked a man for the first time, he’s probably having some sort of crisis about it. Maybe Ed should leave him alone to work it all out, or maybe he should – what do posh folks do after they fuck each other?

“D’you wanna?” Ed gestures toward the bed. Ed’s shared a bed loads of times, but never after sex with someone that he – someone like Stede. Stede’s so fancy and soft, probably used to that sort of thing. Probably did it all the time, cuddling and that. With his wife.

“Oh!” Stede looks surprised. “Do you want me to?”

Yeah, okay, that was clearly a bad idea. Over a desk is one thing, but all close and tight in bed, Ed can’t be mistaken for anything other than himself. Stede wasn’t expecting it. Ed shouldn’t have assumed.

“Might, uh, sleep on deck,” he says. “Actually. Now that I’m – that might be. So you could have the –”

“But these are your rooms.”

“Oh, yeah. Yeah, I guess.”

“So I’ll just – I should just –” Stede starts tugging up his trousers, glances toward the door.  Ed’s heart is an old busted-up clock, and every beat of it says: stay stay stay. Don't leave don't leave stay. “If that’s what you want.”

“Whatever you like, man.” Ed turns away so Stede can’t see his face. He hears the door click shut a few moments later.

He wonders why it sounds so sad. It’s just a shutting door. Nothing to get upset over.



 

The next time it happens, the wind has gone out of the sky.

They’ve been drifting for two days, and they’ve got supplies and they’re in no danger, but it’s dull as all hell. Ed gets twitchy about it, as he should. There’s not as much to do, and a bored crew is a dangerous crew and that makes Ed uneasy. He picked up some real rough characters while Stede was gone, the kind of pirates who enjoyed the savagery that Ed was offering at the time and he doesn’t know how far their patience can be stretched.

But Stede’s here now. Ed should’ve known it would be different – that the man would have party games up his sleeve and shit like that. He’s got the crew telling a ‘collaborative story’ and doing some sort of beading craft (where the hell did he get beads) before they can even think of whispering a dream of mutiny. Blokes with missing noses and filed down teeth are telling Stede the meaning of the beads on their friendship bracelets (“My gran’s eyes were brown like this one and the turquoise is for the first sailor I shot in the face”) while Stede tuts and smiles and tells them how well the colours suit each other.

Ed lingers at the edges, prowls the deck like an animal and sweats through all his leather. Maybe the heat is getting to him. 

He and Stede haven’t talked about it.  The sex thing.  Stede might have tried to, but there’s always been something that needed doing on the ship, and fuck you for thinking that Ed’s avoiding the issue or running away from it, he’s just – busy. 

Maybe running a little bit away, but really casually. A stroll if anything.

Stede still goes pink when their paths cross, bites his lip and flushes like rose-petals when Ed passes him in a corridor. Ed wants to put his hands on him, on his shoulders, and hold him in place until he can figure what he wants to do with him. 

Or —  on his hips maybe. Pulling him close, slotting their thighs together. Seeing what —  what happens. 

One afternoon he overhears Lucius asking about it (nosy ass, but still. Every time he hears the kid’s voice it’s a shock and a gutwound and a gift, thank fuck , thank every God Ed’s mum believed in, thank the sea for keeping him safe when Ed didn’t.) He and Stede are on deck, and Lucius might be trying to keep his voice down but he’s doing a shit job of it.

“So you two… is this a thing now?”

Ed’s on the rigging, tightening a knot that’s coming loose, and he leans over, waiting to hear Stede’s answer. Pretends it isn’t obvious that he’s bent clean in half, that his hands are clenched white-knuckled around the rope. 

“Oh, well I –” Stede says, and then says something so much quieter. Ed leans closer, leans until he loses his grip, falls to the deck with an ugly smack that he’s lucky doesn’t break something. As it is, his knee is jarred and he’s got to wear his brace for days after that, until the wind picks up again. 

But before that: Stede tells stories to the crew at night. They’re all of them shining with heat, as undressed as Stede’s pretty manners will allow (“That’s a bit too far,” Stede tells Black Pete, who has taken to wearing some sort of netting wrapped around his waist and nothing else.

“Buttons is allowed to be as bare-assed as he likes!” Pete protests. “How’s that fair?”

“Yes well, Buttons has a - a religious exemption.”)

Stede keeps to his simple white shirt and loose breeches, and Ed wishes there was a closet full of summer linens for him to pick through, try on and wear out and discard (Ed wishes a lot of fucking things, but wish in one hand, shit in the other, as they say.)

Still. Stede’s beautiful in fine things but he’s beautiful in ordinary things as well, and he’s particularly lovely all shining with sweat, the fabric of his shirt going sheer across the chest and back.  Ed watches him in the lamplight, telling some sort of fairy story from memory to everyone’s great fascination, and he thinks it’s a good thing they aren’t sailing anywhere right now. That the ship is drifting where it will. Ed’s so out of his head he’d probably steer them clean off the edge of the world.

There’s a drop of sweat hanging on Stede’s jaw. As he reaches up to wipe it away, Ed’s lips part, like he’s tasting both the sweat and the tips of Stede’s fingers. Of course that’s when Stede looks over at him, pins Ed and his open mouth in his gaze (Ed’s collecting the names of things that can describe Stede’s eyes. Topaz, a handful of it that he took once from a jeweler traveling to the Americas. Tea swirling with milk and fuckton of sugar. Cinnamon in honey.) 

Stede looks at him, and Ed looks back, and want radiates from his body like heat from the deck in the middle of the afternoon.

When storytime is over, Ed finds him. Takes him by the wrist (is immediately fucked up by how soft his wrist is), and draws him hurriedly back to his cabin. 

They don’t talk about it. It doesn’t have to mean anything, it can just be whatever it is.

“It’s okay,” Ed says, when the door is locked behind them. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m not worried about it.” Stede’s hands are tight and everywhere. He presses his mouth to Ed’s throat, and Ed’s fucked, it’s going to be all neck stuff in his filthy dreams from now until his heart stops. How does Stede know how to do this? Is he just - oh - is he just a natural at - oh fuck –

Ed peels Stede’s shirt off over his head, and immediately realizes it’s a mistake, because now there is so much gorgeous skin to touch, a dusting of chest hair that would taste like salt and sunshine, beautiful pink nipples that Ed has the strange, unformed desire to – do something with. The thought makes him need to palm himself through his trousers, fuck . Stede leans back in to tug the neck of Ed’s shirt aside, mouth at his exposed collarbone. Ed makes a noise he’s never made before, broken and delicate.

He’s not fucking delicate. He can’t be.

“What would you like?” Stede asks him. “What do you want?” 

Ed pulls back, turns away, starts working on his trousers. He shoves them down on his hips, braces himself against the wall of the cabin.

“Will you,” he says, and he wishes he wasn’t so desperate. That’ll put Stede off right away. 

“Here?” Stede sounds surprised, but his hands are warm on Ed’s bare hips, pushing his shirt up and running a soft palm up his back. Like he’s petting him, almost. Like Ed’s skin is silk or cashmere, and it’s too much, too soft. Ed feels empty in a way he never does, and hungry in a way he never is, and if Stede doesn’t get his prick in him soon he might just spill over at the thought of it.  

“In me,” Ed says, hands scrabbling at the walls. If this were any other ship there’d be blood and splinters under his nails but not here, not on the Revenge, where everything is polished to a shine. “Hurry, I can’t –”

“Dearest, don’t you want –”

You , your cock, fucking –” The words spill out of him, even though dearest is ringing in his ears like a gunshot. He likes that one too, adds it with sweetheart to his hoard of golden moments (tea and marmalade and sunrise and a kiss on a beach, sharp-edged memories he can take out and cut himself with later, when he’s alone.)

Stede isn’t moving so Ed shoves his hips at him. He doesn’t want to think about what Stede’s staring at back there, his scarred up back and hairy arse and thighs that are trembling and trying to spread further than the leather around his knees will allow. If they’re doing this, let’s do it, come on man

“All right. Just – just let me –”

One of Stede’s hands presses itself over Ed’s mouth and fuck – that’s something. He licks at Stede’s palm, and it tastes like heat and rope, and he can’t help moaning and sucking his fingers into his mouth. Stede gasps behind him, and Ed feels the wet kiss of a cock against his lower back. He gets Stede’s hand as slick as he can, and is almost disappointed when Stede takes it away. That’s stupid, Ed’s not here to make out with his hand. He feels fingers slide between his arsecheeks, Stede’s thumb circling, pressing –

“What –” he says, shifting forward, pulling away.

“Sorry – you don’t like that? Was it not –”

“Don’t need it.” No one’s ever touched him there. Ed hasn’t even done it to himself. Seems a bit unnecessary. “Get your prick in me, it’s fine.”

Fine isn’t exactly what I’m –”

Good, all right? Just –”

When he finally feels the blunt pressure of Stede’s cock, it’s like a blessing. The actual sex part is so much easier than the before and after pieces. There’s more ache than pleasure at first, because his body isn’t used to this, but the sounds Stede makes are worth it (the “oh God,” against his neck, the “Ed, you feel –”, the “I can’t –”)

Ed focuses on his breathing, the in and out of it.  Focuses on the frantic battering of his pulse in his throat, like that time a hummingbird got trapped below decks and Stede had to wrap it in a silk scarf to get it outside. Ed focuses on the wood beneath his fingertips, the dig of leather into his thighs, the burn inside him as Stede moves. He doesn’t touch himself this time, not at first. Wants to feel Stede come when he’s still all fevery and tight around him, and he doesn’t think it’ll be very long. Stede’s taking his sweet fucking time though, slow deep thrusts, almost pulling out entirely before nudging himself back in.  Ed feels every inch of him, and his eyes are all blurry, and Stede’s murmuring such lovely, impossible things against the back of his neck. It suddenly doesn’t feel like fucking – it feels worse.

“Stede,” he says, and his voice doesn’t sound like his voice. “Stede, man, come on –”

Hatefully, horribly, cruel and unjust – Stede stills.

“Is this not –”

Ed almost wails in desperation, rocking his hips restlessly, trying to take more of Stede’s prick. “No, it’s good, it’s good, just more, I need –”

“Oh.” A hot kiss to the side of his neck, to his sweat-damp shoulder. “All right.” Stede puts one hand on Ed’s back, bending him down a bit more before he picks up the pace. Thank God for that. Then he moves, or does something with his hips and suddenly the angle’s different and bloody – fucking hell, fucking Christ, it’s never felt like this before. Stede hits something inside him and Ed’s hand is on his cock immediately, coming over his fist after three fucking thrusts, “oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck,” spilling from his mouth like an exhale.

He’s trembling all over as Stede pulls out, hushes him, kisses his back everywhere he can reach. Ed hears the familiar sound of skin on skin as Stede tugs himself off.

“Can I –”

“Yeah, sure. Anywhere.” My face my chest my mouth my hair, a list of filthy and impossible places that somehow make his bones feel liquid just in the imagining. Stede bites off a sound that Ed would die to hear again and then there’s damp heat spilling over Ed’s back. 

“Oh my God,” Stede murmurs. He wraps his arms around Ed’s waist, and they’re both going to be a mess but Ed doesn’t care. His mind goes quiet for a moment in the aftermath. All his body does is breathe and beat.

“Was that what –” Stede begins, and then there’s a knock on the door. 

“Captain!” It’s Izzy’s voice. “Wind’s picking up. We need our heading."

“Fuck’s sake,” Ed murmurs to himself. He straightens quickly, tugs off his shirt so he can wipe at his back. Stede tries to help but Ed bats his hands away. A gentleman like him shouldn’t have to deal with the mess. “Fuck.”

Ed’s got another shirt, probably on the floor somewhere (he cringes a bit at the state of his room) and when he turns to scan for it, Stede is standing very close to him. Hell on earth, the man has a beautiful throat, a beautiful mouth. It’s enough to put the wind right out of Ed’s mind. Let the damn ship drift forever if it means Ed can stay here and keep looking.

"You're still -" Stede says, looking at his neck. Ed realizes that black scarf is wrapped around his throat, like it always is, like it always will be.

“Yeah,” Ed says, thinking sweetheart, dearest, thinking honey, pearl, thinking all the words he’d like to say if he wasn’t such a fuck up and could talk about this shit. The one time Ed tried he burned it all to the ground, so.

So.

"I suppose I should - leave you to it." 

“Yeah, okay.”

"All right."

Stede finds his shirt where Ed tossed it, pulls it on over his head. Ed thinks dove, like his mom used to call him. Ed thinks jewel , topaz-coloured, the sort of precious thing folks like him aren’t meant for.  Not those kinds of people, were they.

And Ed’s not that kind of man.



 

They don’t talk about it. They keep not talking about it.

So Ed does the one thing he’s really good at (gets pissed on rum and ruins everything.) 

But before that: the wind is back and the skies are clear and the water froths white as the Revenge cuts beautifully through it.  

They’ve been sailing for five days when the cargo ship comes into view. The crew is spoiling for a fight, and they take it well enough, but the fuckers don’t surrender right away (a fun little change.) The Revenge is mostly all right, though her deck is covered in splinters, and Ivan gets stabbed in the foot of all places and Ed takes a bit of a cut to the shoulder from some bloody French kid who has no right being as good as he is with a sword (Ed doesn’t kill him. Probably should, but he’s a fucking kid, and Ed’s trying to be better than he is. The kid’ll probably grow up cocky as shit, come for Blackbeard’s throat and legend eventually, but until then, let him get a few free drinks out of this story.)

Ed’s cleaning himself up in his cabin after it’s done, bare chested except for his black scarf, slumped over Stede’s old desk. He’s got some booze on the wound and more down his throat, and he’s tying his arm up with a bandage since he can’t be arsed to stitch it. He’s still humming from the fight and the rum, and that's when Stede comes looking for him. 

The sight of him in the cabin doorway is almost too much - he's all windswept from the raid, and his face wakes up the gnashing teeth of this thing between them, only and always hungry. Ed just stares for a moment, committing every detail to memory for the day when Stede disappears again and memory’s all Ed’s left with.

“Are you all right?” Stede asks, closing the door behind him. There's a spray of something dark on his shirt. Might be blood or oil or ink. 

“Yeah, man. No worries here. Fightin’ fit, right. Pudding and fucking pie.” Please God Shut Up.

“I checked in on Ivan. Roach says his foot will be fine if he stays off it for a day or two. The rest of the crew is unloading the cargo but I thought – oh, your arm! Do you need help – should I get anyone or –?”

Ed’s arm is doing much better than the rest of him, the starving mess of his hands and thighs and mouth. There is ash on the bridge of Stede’s nose and in his sunlight-coloured hair. 

Ed gets up, knocks the chair over as he does.

“Don’t – don’t get anyone,” Ed mumbles, stalking over to him. "Don't need anyone else."

“You were magnificent,” Stede breathes (magnificent! What a word, all lovely angles like one of those Moroccan lanterns.) “You are–”

As soon as he’s within reach, Ed starts undoing the buttons of Stede’s trousers. If he hadn’t had a bit to drink he might have doubts and worries and second-guesses, but rum is warm in his blood and it makes him think he can have this. He wants to see Stede, to touch him, and when he finally reveals Stede’s cock (as pretty and pink as the rest of him) he thinks he’s going to come before he can even get his hands on it. He wants to know what it tastes like, has seen that sort of thing happen on ships and in brothels but he never thought he’d want it himself. 

His beard would probably freak Stede out though. Fuck. Stede wouldn’t be able to pretend that it was anyone but Ed on his knees in front of him, but a hand could be anybody’s. So Ed touches him, gently, swipes his thumb over the head of Stede’s prick and then sucks it into his mouth to get the taste.

“Oh fuck,” Ed murmurs, because it’s delicious.

“Oh God,” Stede says right back.

Ed pushes Stede toward the desk, pins him there by the hip. His cock is as soft-skinned as his wrist was, and Ed stares at his own rough hands on it, stares at the honey that drips from the tip in slow pulses. He feels dizzy and it’s not from blood loss. Or mostly not.

He’s only done this in the dark before, and only to himself. But there’s lamplight in the cabin, and Stede can see him, and Ed can see every pink inch of him and he wants – he wants –

“You feel so fucking good.” He bites the words against Stede’s jaw. “Fuck me, you feel –”

“Let me touch you, let me –” Stede’s hands are at his waist, but Ed stills them. 

“It’s good.” He’s so hard already, and grinding against Stede’s hip is going to be more than enough. If Stede touches him, he’ll go off immediately, and Stede might not be ready for that yet, the proof all over his fingers that he’s fucking a man, a pirate. “I can, I will – just like this.”

Stede’s voice makes a little broken warble and his cock drips into Ed’s hand. It’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. He used to dream about this, months back – first in his cabin and then drunk on Stede’s velvet chaise and then in Stede’s empty bed, alone and smeared with black paint. But now it’s happening, Ed’s got him in his fist. He’s going to suck his own fingers later until he gets every trace of the taste off them, and he’s going to come against Stede’s hip without even getting his cock out.

“Oh my God.” Stede is looking down at himself, at Ed’s hand surrounding him. “Oh, darling, you’re so –”

Darling, holy fucking shit, that’s a bullet to the skull isn’t it. Ed wants to say as much, but instead he presses his mouth to Stede’s neck, hopes the smell of the man will shut him up. It does, for a while it does, but then Ed needs to taste him, lick the space behind his ear, kiss his throat, his cheekbone, bite the hinge of his jaw, and still he wants more. His heart is aching with how good he feels, but still he wants more.

He wants something he’s never wanted (that’s a lie. Only once.)

Stede noses at his temple, breath coming in wet pants against the side of Ed’s face. And Ed could just turn – just for a second – 

He presses his forehead against Stede’s cheekbone. He breathes in the warmth of his skin and pleasure builds in his gut, rushing forward like cannonfire, ready to blow him to pieces and rum it’s the rum but –

“I know it’s not – I know we don’t – but could I, fuck, could I kiss you?”

Stede stops moving. 

Fuck.

He pulls back. 

Fuck, fuck

Ed’s ruined it by asking. He shouldn’t have asked, he’s never cared about kissing before, he just got fucked up being so close to Stede’s mouth and - no, no, this was a mistake, just his prick was enough, Ed shouldn’t have –

“Ed.” Stede stops Ed’s hips, holds him in place. “What do you mean we don’t –”

“It’s fine. You don’t have to. I don’t need it, I get that you aren’t–”

“What?” Stede says again, “What aren’t I?”

“Like me. Like - like this.” 

Stede looks a bit stunned so Ed waves his hands around, hoping he can shape some sense out of the air. 

“You know – might be weird to kiss me with the bit of beard and that. Haha, can’t really pretend I’m not –”

“Why would I want to pretend you were anyone but you?”

That’s a kick to the kneecap, a knife to the guts. Ed feels his eyes go wide and shiny, and he tries to breathe slowly, calm his racing heartbeat, use those tricks he learned as a lad on a raid for the first time.

Stede just keeps looking at him. Then he steps back, starts tucking away his gorgeous prick (still hard! Fuck Ed’s life.) and rebuttoning his trousers and damn it, this is the worst thing Ed’s ever done.

“I shouldn’t have asked,” he says, desperate, “Fuck me, right? It was fine, it was good, I don’t need –”

“I think we should talk about this.”

No, fuck no. “We really don’t need to, mate.”

“I think that we do, actually. Can we sit down?”

Ed's gonna be sick. There’s no lovely chaise, no pretty armchairs, only the hard-backed chair behind the desk and the rumpled bed. So of course, Stede sits on the edge of that, the bed Ed took from him along with the rest of his pretty things. He pats the space beside him, and Ed wants to roll his eyes but he’s too mortified, so instead he does as he’s bid. He sits beside Stede on the bed, silently making deals with any sort of entity that might be listening: take five years from my life. Fuck it, take ten, just send me a sudden Armada attack, a sea monster, a lightning strike, anything to get me out of this conversation. 

“Why do you think I wouldn’t want to kiss you?” Stede asks, quiet as a knife to the throat while you're sleeping (JIM.)

“It doesn’t matter, fuck, let’s –” 

“Ed.”

There’s an edge of “stand down,” in the way he says Ed’s name, and Ed wishes it wasn’t something he still responds to. But here we are.

“Didn’t want to freak you out, all right?”  Maybe if he says it quickly, it’ll be less unbearable.  “Like – on the beach, right. After I – and then you –” Why does he have to say it - say that he knows that Stede’s never fucked a man before and took off the moment Ed kissed him and if Ed scares him off again he’ll probably maybe die about it? (He won’t actually die, he doesn’t think. Regardless, he wouldn’t tell Stede that because talk about fucking pressure.)

Stede’s expression takes on a lovely little wounded look, and Ed wants to kiss the crease between his eyebrows (also has a mean little urge to press down on the memory, like pressing on a bruise. Yeah, Stede Bonnet, you did freak out and you did fuck off and it hurts, doesn’t it?)

“I didn’t leave because you kissed me.”

Ed shrugs a shoulder, sure, sure. They’ve been over this, all the ins and outs of that fucking night. He doesn’t want to talk about it.

“Just - want it to be easy for you, man. Seeing as I’m – me. And you haven’t –”

“Haven’t –?” 

“It’s new for you. Don’t want you to worry about it.”

Stede’s face suddenly flushes pinker than the sunburn on his nose. It makes Ed want to bite him a little bit, the lovely, distracting, infuriating bastard. It’s really unfair that Ed can be barrelling down a tunnel of embarrassment or anger or grief, and then Stede will just do something small that rattles Ed loose. He’ll fuss with his sleeve, or he’ll look a bit sly, or he’ll blush, and Ed will think: who fucking cares about any of it when you came back .

“Um. So. You seem to have a – misconception about my previous, er, history.”

Stede laces his fingers together. Unlaces them. Ed tries to keep his mouth closed as he watches.

“I’ve had sex.”

“Congratulations.” Ed scrubs his hands over his face. He should’ve put his shirt back on, feels exposed without it. “I mean – yeah, I know. You’ve got kids. Kinda figured.” 

“With men, I mean.”

Ed drops his hands. “What?”

“Many times.”

What?” Ed looks at him and Stede just nods, calmly, his sweet little mouth curved. 

“Many, many –”

“Got it, yeah. When? Someone on this ship?”

“God, no. Present company excepted, of course.”

“Uh. Right. When, then?”

“At school. And after. There were places one could find other gentlemen with similar preferences and – well, Mary didn’t care. She knew that we weren’t – matched.”

“Oh.” Ed’s broken brain is suddenly awash in imagery that he doesn't want to get into. “Oh.”

“It didn’t mean anything, it was just – physical. Of course. You know how that is.” 

Ed really doesn’t, because he really hasn’t. He could tell Stede about his whole thing, probably.  Maybe he should.  Stede would be nice about it. He’s usually nice, unless you’re ruining your life for him, and then he gets a bit dodgy.

But Ed doesn’t want to talk about it.

“I wonder if  – due to this misconception – you’ve been handling me with a bit of a –”  Stede searches for words. “Delicate touch?”

“A delicate – so you don’t like what we’ve been doing.” Here we are: Ed is going to die. He is actually going to die, many people have tried and this fucking conversation will be the thing that does it (the rest of Stede's crew is going to be so pissed when they find out.)

“No! That is not what I’m saying. Absolutely not. But we could do – more?”

They’ve been fucking each other. What more could Stede possibly want to do?

“Like - what?”

Stede reaches across the bed, the bare inches of blankets separating them, and touches Ed’s hand. Doesn’t take his hand, doesn’t lace their fingers together, but traces his fingertips across Ed’s busted knuckles. For some reason that contact makes Ed hiss, like he’s sunk into a warm tub. It feels as intimate as a blade between the ribs, the unexpected piercing touch.

“I would like to kiss you.”

“Yeah?” Ed’s voice has gone high, suddenly. He sounds stupidly young.

“Yes.”

“Yeah, all right.” He clears his throat. Get it together, Jesus. “If you really –”

He doesn’t get to finish the sentence, because Stede’s mouth is on his.

(The first kiss was Ed’s and he was shaking like a baby bird the whole time. Can’t be blamed, he’d never done it before. 

The second kiss is Stede’s, though, and he is impossibly steady.)

Ed’s glad he has his shirt off now. It means that Stede’s hands are on his skin as they kiss, traveling gently up his spine or smoothing down his shoulders. Every now and then Stede’s fingers will catch on a ridge of scar tissue and Ed will wait for him to pull away but instead Stede just pets him, licking into his mouth until Ed opens up around his tongue with a moan. So this is a kiss. This is how it can go when you're not terrified. It’s perfect and gut-wrenching; Stede tastes a bit like sugar and Ed's drowning in it. His hands have ended up in Stede’s hair, and it’s unbearably soft, finer than any fine thing he’s ever touched before. 

Stede kisses him down, down, pressing him into the mattress. Christ alive, if Ed thought kissing was nice before, kissing while lying on a featherbed is a whole other ocean. 

“What do you want, darling?” Stede lies down beside him, tugging their hips together.

“I –” Ed has no idea what to say to this except: more, more please. “Whatever you – you can fuck me if you want or –”

Ed’s tugging his pants open, working on Stede’s buttons again.

“What do you want, Ed?” Stede kisses the question into his mouth, before licking his palm. Then his hand is wet around both of their pricks, tugging them tightly together. Ed didn’t know this was a thing people did, what the fuck, what the hell, how does Stede –

“It’s too good.” That’s fucking embarrassing, but his mouth is out of control. If he isn’t saying stupid shit he’s making the worst noises. Everything is good, perfect, even his buggered knee. Ed feels weirdly open and fragile and he leans over to capture Stede’s mouth again, sucks on his lower lip all wet and messy. Kissing Stede is the best thing he’s ever done. Fuck being Blackbeard. Burn all his ships to the ground, this is better.

“There you are,” Stede murmurs, tightening his hand so Ed can fuck into his grip. “Like that.”

He drags his mouth over Ed’s cheek, Ed’s jaw, Ed’s eyebrow. 

“Please,” Ed begs.

“What do you want?” Stede does something with his wrist and Ed shouts about it, not caring whether the whole ship hears them.

“Fuck, fuck, I –”

Stede keeps doing that ‘thing’ and Ed would hate him a little if he didn’t also look wrecked. There’s sweat dripping down his nose, and his skin is flushed and blotchy and there’s a shine on his lips from Ed’s mouth and fuck, Ed’s got to stop looking at him.

“Wanna kiss you,” Ed begs, voice breaking, “kiss you when I come.”

Stede gives a little hiccoughing sound and presses their mouths together, swallowing the moans that spill out of Ed’s throat. That’s all it takes. Ed comes over Stede’s hand, fucking into his fist. Stede smears the wetness over both of them and then he’s coming too. It doesn’t stop, goes on and on until Ed’s shivering with it, wants to cry and shout and then pass out right here. There’s an aftershock that he feels right down to the soles of his feet, and he arches his back so much his calf almost cramps, finally wrenching his mouth away so he can breathe.

He didn’t know. Didn't know it could be like this. He feels like he’s gone into shock, and has to press his face against Stede’s shoulder to hide for a bit. Calm the fuck down, man. Deep breaths. Don’t make it weird. 

“Oh darling, your arm.”

“Don’t have one,” Ed snuffles into him. “Don’t have arms or legs.”

“You very much do. Damn it, I should never have let you leave it. Ed -"

Ed foggily lifts his head to look at his bandage. It’s soaked through with red.

“Ah fuck.”

“You need to get some stitches in that.”

“Yeah. Guess so. Shit.” He forces himself out of the bed, clumsily pulling his pants back up. Didn’t even feel his arm, wouldn’t have known the wound was weeping without Stede there to notice it.

He’s almost grateful that he’s got to go find Roach now, otherwise he’d want to lie in bed a bit longer. And then it would be awkward, and then he’d have to watch Stede leave first. 

He doesn’t know what to say, because the things he wants to say, he can’t. So he doesn’t say anything. Just leaves, all kiss-pink and wobbly about the knees, hoping that he doesn't see too many people on deck.

Stede isn’t there when Ed gets back, but the blankets smell like him. They also smell like sex and sweat and when Ed presses his face to a pillow, his cock stirs like it's going to try for round two. Best of luck, mate.

(“What do you want, Ed?”)

He wants to pass out, but those words keep him awake. It shouldn’t be so hard to say this shit. If it were about ships or riches or fear or power, Ed would have no problem. If he wanted something he’d just take it, wouldn't need to say it out loud. Everyone would know what Ed wanted because Blackbeard would have it, easy as that.

But when it comes to Stede, it’s different. Ed doesn’t know what’s allowed. Maybe he should ask, but that would mean talking about it, and they don’t talk about it. Fuck that very much.

Worst of all, Ed doesn’t know if this is just – how things are going to go from now on. Do they just fuck each other and pretend that means it’s okay? It’s more than Ed thought he’d get, but he knows it’s a far sight from the easy affection they had before everything went overboard. He’s no good at this, he’s shit at it, but he’s never had to do it before.  Never wanted to.

What does he want? He wants to ask Stede “what do you want?” He wants to hold him in place and say “What does this mean? You want me, or you’re bored or you’re horny or you’re trying to make it up to me or you – you love–”

He’s never going to do that, especially not that last bit. And it doesn’t have to mean anything at all. 

And they don’t have to talk about it. 



 

Ed’s arm has mostly healed up by the time they drop anchor in Barataria for the night. 

The crew has some money burning holes in their pockets, and Stede thinks it will be ‘good for morale’ and Izzy thinks he’d like ‘one evening, just one, off of this fucking ship and away from the rest of you twats,’ and the crew is in favour. Ed wanders the markets a bit but rows back out to the Revenge before nightfall. He always gets a bit dizzy trying to sleep on solid ground. Avoids it when he can.

He doesn’t know where Stede goes. 

One of the new guys is on watch, so Ed has a tepid bath while he’s alone. It’s been far too long, he even scrubs his hair a bit and tucks it up on top of his head. The night air is humid but smells clean, like salt and hibiscus flowers, and Ed doesn’t want to put on his grimy old clothes now that he’s washed. He wraps himself in a bedsheet instead, like some sort of monk. It’s too hot to get into leather and he’s just going to pass out in a few hours anyway. 

Then there’s a knock on the door (Ed bites into the side of his cheek.)

“Ed?” comes a soft voice from the other side. “Are you in?”

Ed opens the door thinking angel, thinking beauty, oh you beauty. All good words that sound even better in reference to the dumb love of Ed’s life, the man waiting outside with a twined-up bundle in his hand.

“You’re here! I hoped you would be. What’s the new fellow’s name – Razorblade Bill? He said you’d returned and –” Stede’s eyes finally take in Ed’s outfit or whatever you’d call it. It isn’t scandalous, Stede’s seen him in less. It’s just a bit silly, but Ed still feels his face go hot at the thought of Stede looking at him.

“What are you doing here?” He stands aside so Stede can come in as if he still owns the place. It’s almost like old times, the two of them always bumping up against each other’s boundaries, no personal space to be dreamt of. “Shouldn’t you be – dunno, enjoying yourself? Getting pissed somewhere.”

“I wanted to bring you something. A gift.”

“Why?” 

“I saw it and – it had your name on it, I know it’s a bit much but –”

“Shouldn’t spend your coins on me, man."

Stede shrugs, hands the package over. “I wanted to."

Ed opens it. When the paper is unwrapped, he finds a bundle of the softest fabric he’s ever touched. It’s silk, has to be, and it’s the colour of plums, a purple that’s almost black. He’s worried that the calluses on his fingertips are going to snag it if he touches it too roughly.

As Ed unfolds it, he realizes it’s a robe, the kind that Stede used to wear. It isn’t as fancy as Stede’s were, all the pretty stuff that’s at the bottom of the ocean now. It’s a lot simpler, and it isn’t lined, so the silk is light and almost sheer, perfect for the climate.

It’s the nicest thing Ed’s ever owned. Let alone been given.

“I thought, given the temperature, perhaps on nights like this you’d –”

“Can’t take this, mate. Don’t need a fancy fucking robe.”

“Clearly you do, since you’ve resorted to the bedding.” 

Ed snorts. Yeah, fair enough, but he’s used to saying no to the things he’s not supposed to want. It’s a hard habit to break. 

“I remember how much you liked – the other ones.” Mine , Stede doesn’t say. So Ed doesn’t have to tell him that the fact that they were Stede’s was certainly a part of it. Sometimes the silk was still warm from Stede’s skin, and they always smelled like lavender, and Ed thought it was the closest he’d ever get to pressing his whole body against him.

“At least try it on. See if you like it.”

Ed rolls his eyes but figures sure, why the fuck not. He lets the sheet just drop to the floor, a little bit satisfied by the way Stede’s eyes immediately fly up to Ed’s face. How fucking proper of him.

The robe against his clean skin is – cool, like water. It gives him goosebumps, makes his breath catch as he slips it over his shoulders, belts it around his waist with its silk tie. It reaches almost to the tops of his feet, and the sleeves are long and fluttery. He’s not used to fabrics that don’t hold him tight and rough, but this is good too. In a different way. He shivers, and Stede notices, and then he shivers too.

“What do you think?” Stede’s voice sounds a bit fragile. “If you don’t like it, I’ll – you don’t have to wear it –”

Ed’s a monster, and a murderer, and a ruin, but he wants to be this too. The kind of person who can wear silk and have Stede Bonnet look at him like he’s lovely. The kind of person Stede might call sweetheart. Darling.

“You look –” Stede starts, and then swallows and shakes his head. 

“How do I look?” Ed straightens his spine, lets himself be studied. 

“Ravishing.”

What a word. Ed wants to lick it. He’s going to say it to himself later, over and over, but before that: he untugs the knot of his hair, lets it spill silvery over his shoulders. He watches the bob of Stede’s throat as he swallows.

“Would you like – tea?” Stede asks.

A laugh is startled out of Ed’s mouth.

“Or a drink? There’s brandy in the stores –”

“Come here,” Ed says. Stede does. “I don’t want a drink.”

Stede nods, looking at Ed’s mouth. 

“I want – your clothes off.”

Stede gets undressed so slowly it’s like a flower opening, petal by petal (that’s a good one, Ed should tell Lucius to write it down.) Ed doesn’t mind, he could watch him undress for hours. He studies Stede’s body, the way it’s changed since he last saw it. His shoulders are stronger, he has more freckles, but his chest and stomach are still soft. His thighs have a gentle curve to them, like a painting of angels Ed saw once on the fanciest ship he’d ever taken. Doesn’t know what happened to that painting, was real drunk at the time. All he knows is that he could dig his thumbs into those thighs until Stede gasps.

“I want you to touch me,” he says.

Stede nods again, frantic. “Where?”

Ed doesn’t take off the robe, just lets it hang open across his chest. He touches his neck, then his breastbone.

“Here.”

Stede is so gentle when he reaches out, dragging his fingertips down Ed’s throat, over his collarbones and down his chest. He leans in and does the same thing with his mouth. Ed’s breath hitches like he’s been stabbed.

“I want –” Ed’s hands are on his shoulders, pulling him closer. “Stede I want –”

“What do you want, love?”

Love. The word is solid and heavy, a cannonball through the chest, and Ed’s guts spill out all over the deck of the ship. That’s it for him, then. Put something pretty on his mum’s grave, something to remember him by.

“I want to take you to -"

Stede’s kissing him before he can even finish the sentence. His mouth is open and hot, and his hands smooth down the silk of Ed’s robe. When their lips part, Ed is gasping, breathless, and his eyes are squeezed shut. Maybe it’ll be easier if he keeps them closed.

“Okay. Darling, yes."

“Yeah?” That’s good, that’s something. Ed holds onto Stede, suddenly needs something to keep him balanced.

Stede kisses him again, clutching him, nodding.

“Wait for me. I’m just going to see if –” Stede leaves him then, goes into the ensuite and bangs around a bunch. Ed feels adrift in the middle of the room, and he could probably be doing – something, but instead he just stands there. He’s only half-hard, but it won’t take much. With Stede it never does.

Stede emerges at last with a small amber-coloured vial. His cock bounces a bit as he walks and Ed likes how comfortable Stede is being naked, not at all what he’d have expected. Learning something new every day.

“What’s that?” They haven’t mentioned the cleared out rooms. Ed doesn’t even know where Stede would have found anything that survived aside from the tub. 

“It’s oil for your skin. I think it smells rather lovely.” Stede unstoppers the vial, and holds it under Ed’s nose. It does smell rather lovely, like some kind of flower. It’s familiar, but Ed doesn’t know the name, only that he catches it in waves sometimes when Stede opens his mouth. “Come to bed with me.”

“Sure,” Ed says, and then “Yes,” because he wants to be clear about this, and the answer is clearly very very yes.

He keeps the robe on.

Stede doesn’t say anything about it, just asks him to lie on his stomach. Right to the point, Ed thinks, and that’s fine. Stede just sits down beside him, though, lifts the fall of Ed’s hair to the side so he can kiss his neck.

“If there’s anything you don’t like –”

“Think I can handle myself, mate.”

He hears Stede pouring oil onto his hands, rubbing them together (“Just going to warm this up.”) Bizarrely enough, the first touch is the press of Stede’s thumb into the sole of his foot. 

“What are you –” Ed’s never been touched there before. Didn’t think it was a thing people did. Ed's feet are mangled looking - broken toes that never healed right, callused heels, everything as scarred up as the rest of him - but Stede doesn’t seem to give a shit. He massages each one, then Ed’s ankles, and oh hell - ankles. Wow, didn't know that would be his thing. Stede slowly inches the silk robe up to Ed’s knees so he can rub his calf muscles. Ed knows his legs are fucking ugly, one of them bisected by a long ropey scar (a sword did that, almost cut the muscle clean from the bone, and Ed was lucky to walk after. It’s why his other knee’s buggered, he got used to putting all his weight on it while he was healing up and ground the bones all down to dust.)

Ed can’t stop making noises as Stede touches him, has to bite down on a pillow to try to muffle the sounds. He feels like every inch of his skin is lighting up beneath Stede's hands, and soon the whole room will be blinding.

“Would you take this off, darling?” Stede tugs on the sleeve of the robe where it kisses Ed’s wrist. Ed’s drifting somewhere warm and foggy, past caring what Stede sees when he looks at him. So yeah, he can take the lovely silk off. He shifts up to undo the belt, and then Stede helps him slide it off each of his arms. “Perfect. As you were.”

His hands move across Ed’s shoulders, tugging his hair out of the way again so he can dig his thumbs into the muscle. Ed makes a punched-out noise, and Stede ‘tsks’ under his breath. 

“Awful lot of tension here."

“What the – fuck are you doing?”

“Touching you,” Stede says, kissing him between his shoulder blades. His thumbs press their way down his spine, and each press is followed by a kiss. Ed feels like a cat he saw once when he was a kid, sprawled out in a sunbeam and just basking.

This is how fancy folks do sex, eh? Seems an awful lot of bother just to get your prick wet. What comes of having too much time on your hands, maybe. 

By the time Stede gets to his thighs, everything feels loose and easy and Ed’s stopped feeling awkward about all the scars and shit tattoos that Stede’s hands are working over.  Which is of course when Stede presses a kiss with teeth in it to Ed’s hip and Ed’s immediately back in his body again.

“Tell me.” Then Stede’s lips are on his tailbone, biting down gently. His lips keep moving and moving and – holy fucking hell.

“What are you – Stede, fuck, fuck, you’re –”

Stede’s licking his arsehole is what he’s doing. Ed’s seen that man fuss about a lack of proper dessert forks and a cake that barely tasted like oranges. Now that man and his mouth are prying him open delicately, tongue pressing and licking and hands on his thighs spreading him wide as if Stede can’t get enough.

It's good, is the thing. It's so fucking good. Ed moans and shifts up on his knees without thinking, wants more of this, wants to rock backwards into Stede’s tongue like it’s his prick, wants to ride his face and bite down on the pillow so he doesn’t make half the sounds he wants to. He’s fully hard now, and he’s making a high-pitched sound that should be mortifying, and would be, if he didn’t feel so fucking perfect.

“Keep going, don’t stop, don’t you dare –”

He feels Stede chuckle, and the vibrations make Ed moan into his fists. This is a thing people do? Ed has the sudden thought of Stede’s white thighs wrapped around his face and has to press his hand against his cock to avoid disaster.

That’s when his fucking knee decides to join in on the fun.

“Fuck, stop, stop fuck –”

Stede stops immediately, pulls back and Ed collapses onto his stomach, stretching his leg out. 

“I’m so sorry, was it –”

“No, it’s my knee. Just – fuck. Moved it weird, fucking hell."

“It’s all right. Can I - here, turn over.”

Ed does, rolling his shoulders and trying not to wince. Stede fusses, setting a pillow under Ed’s knee without a word, rubbing the muscles just above his kneecap and up into his thigh. He does it so casually, as if the gesture’s second-nature, and there are suddenly tears in Ed’s eyes. It’s fine, he’s fine, it’s nothing, it’s just – no one’s ever rubbed his knee before. 

“How’s that? Better?”

Ed just nods, afraid of what he’d sound like if he tried to speak. Stede notices his expression, and looks so beautifully concerned that Ed has to blink, several times, hard.

“Oh, sweetheart. That bad, was it? Should I get –”

“Haven’t done this.”

He doesn’t want to talk about it. The words leave him in a rush anyway. 

“You haven’t –”

“Fucked anyone or – like. That thing you did. Other things.”

“That’s your business, it doesn't matter. I wouldn’t have –”

“For uh, years, I haven’t. Like thirty years? Maybe."

Stede’s eyes have gone a bit wide.  Ed sees him thinking too hard about it. 

“Oh. But not – never?”

“Three times, I think.” Fuck you, stop talking. “That I can remember, I was drinking a lot back then.”

“Oh,” Stede says again. “That’s quite a while to do without.”

Ed shrugs.  He never really felt the absence. Took care of himself, didn’t he. Wanting someone like a fever, an infection, a desperate sunbaked thirst – that was a fairly recent development.

“Did you not – like it?” Stede asks.

“I didn’t.” It’s true. Wasn’t good when he was young, and when he got older he wasn’t about to let his guard down like that, roll over for a bit of action. Take his cock out around a stranger with guns and knives all over the damn place? Yeah, sure, that’ll go well.

“But it’s different with you. I want it to be different.” This has to be the sexiest conversation of all time. Fuck – maybe they should just call it. Ed could track down some tea, Stede could piss off back to land where there were probably actually un-fucked people that would love to sleep with him. “Sorry, this is shit to talk about.”

“It’s different for me too,” Stede says. 

Ed nods, jaw tight. That’s all right. Maybe. If it's different for both of them.

"Ff you want me to do stuff, you might have to like, show me. And that."

Stede considers this. Then he leans down and kisses Ed's knee. He kisses the other one too, looks up at Ed with a curl on his lips.

"Just so they're even," he says.

Ed huffs out a breath that feels like his heart breaking.

“Why don’t we figure out what you do like? And if there’s something you don’t, you’ll tell me.”

“What if - what if it’s not good or I do something wrong or I -"

“Then I’ll tell you. And we’ll do something else.”

“You’d tell me,” Ed says, mostly convincing himself. “You won’t let me –”

“I’ll tell you.” Stede kisses his neck, his jaw, and finally his mouth. “All right?”

“Yeah. All right.”

They stay pressed together for awhile. Stede's on top of him, carefully avoiding his bad knee, mouth gentle and patient against Ed’s. There’s a different tenor to their kissing now, a slow drag that Ed wants more of. When Stede pulls back, Ed leans up to chase his lips, and their hips shift together, a steady grind that feels so good Ed might go blind with it.

“Do you like this?” Stede asks with a bit of a smirk, and yeah, it’s obvious how much Ed likes this. He could stay here forever, his hands would never get tired of exploring Stede’s skin. There’s a place on his lower back that makes Stede jolt a bit when Ed brushes his fingers over it, and Ed is going to exploit this every chance he gets. When he does it a second time, Stede laughs and twitches, and Ed’s cock nudges at the cleft of his ass. 

Stede’s laugh turns into a moan.

“Yes,” he says, rocking against him. “Yes, there.”

“Oh fuck.” 

Stede shifts upwards so he can rub against him, riding the drag of his cock. It feels good, it feels so good, and Ed holds tight to Stede’s hips, moving him over and over again in the same place. 

“I’d like you inside me,” Stede says. “What do you think?”

The thought is – a lot. Admittedly.  Ed can’t imagine using Stede like that, just something to take his pleasure from. On his hands and knees maybe – and okay, that’s really fucking hot. He’s had vague dreams about it but he always felt unbalanced afterwards, like he was being a dick just thinking of it. 

“What if -" Ed chews on his lip, but he doesn't moving and neither does Stede. "What if it hurts."

Stede’s face suddenly goes very grave. “Does it hurt when you – when I –” and Ed can’t have that, so he kisses him, kisses him until Stede pulls back, holding his jaw steady and still. “Ed.”

“Nah. Not like – it’s good with you.”

“It doesn’t hurt me,” Stede says. “Do you want to?” 

Ed thinks about it for a moment, before he nearly dislocates his jaw nodding.

“What do we do?”

“I can get myself ready. I like to start slowly.”

That vial of oil is still on the bed somewhere, and Stede gropes around for a bit before he finds it. Ed watches him pour a few drops on his fingers, until they're shining the way Ed’s skin is. He reaches behind himself and takes a soft hiss of breath, mouth dropping open and eyebrows drawing together.  His hips move. His tongue is wet and pink in his mouth. He's fucking - fingering himself open and Ed gets to watch, good Christ.

“I’m sorry, I told you it’s – been awhile. Ah.

Ed’s hands go tight on Stede’s thighs, knuckles turning white. He remembers Stede trying to touch him like this, how he flinched away. He almost wishes he hadn’t. Stede looks delicious as he works himself open, and his cock is flushed and weeping against his stomach, a bead of fluid at the tip of it like a pearl.

Suddenly, watching isn’t enough.

“I want to,” Ed says quickly, “Can I?”

“Oh please.” Stede shifts up on his knees again, pulls his own fingers free. He pours a few drops of oil on Ed’s hand, and their hands lace wetly together. It’s warm, and Ed brings his hand to his mouth, touches his tongue to the slickness. 

Doesn’t really taste like anything, but Stede’s eyes go dark as he watches, and Ed likes that a hell of a lot. 

“How do I –”

“Start with one.” Stede stays up on his knees, and Ed trails his hand down Stede’s cock, past his balls, until he finds the hot, wet center of him. It’s already slick and open, and Ed’s middle finger slides in easily, like nothing at all. Stede chokes out a breath.

“In and out,” Stede says, stomach fluttering. “Gently. Just like - oh, like that."

It’s so tight inside him that Ed feels lightheaded. He wants to put his prick there and his mouth there and his tongue and his hands, is making soft urgent noises at the thought.  He feels desperate suddenly, and Stede looks so good, and is letting him have this, letting him touch – 

“If you would – turn your hand a bit, oh. Oh, oh, there, Ed. God.” Stede’s eyes slam shut, his face creases with pleasure. His hips jump, like he’s trying to fuck himself back on Ed’s finger, and Ed's travelled halfway around the world, but he's never seen anything as gorgeous as this.

“Really?”

“Yes, yes, yes that’s – please, another one, you can – please.”

Ed adds a second finger, tries to mimic the motion he was making before. It takes a few tries but then Stede keens, leaning forward to press his mouth to Ed’s neck, muffling the sound against his skin.

“Ed, darling, you’re – that’s perfect.”

“No,” Ed says, “Just from this?”

“Yes, this, this, just like this.” Stede is breathing hard, writhing against him. He lifts his face to look at Ed with eyes that make Ed think copper like a bathtub , think quartz like the stones on that bracelet he stole and gave his mum before she died .

Then Stede goes still. “You haven't?” Stede asks, "Never?"

Ed shakes his head, past caring. First time for everything, right? First time for a lot of things.

“Would you like me to?” Stede shifts back, sitting up on Ed’s hips and his hand. He hisses a bit at the change in angle, but in a good way. Ed hopes it's a good way. He wants to make Stede feel good.

Maybe that’s what it boils down to, the dregs of it. Maybe that’s what he was thinking as he watched Stede babble with fever in his little bed by the window, all bandaged up. Maybe Ed saw something fascinating and delicate and thought he was the kind of man who’d take care of it. Who could handle someone like Stede with careful hands. 

“Let me,” Stede says, because Ed’s been quiet for so long. He lifts up, off of Ed’s fingers, and before Ed can say anything, Stede’s settling on his stomach between his thighs. “If you like."

Ed nods, thinking yes, actually. He would like. Funny how he didn't know that before now. 

“Lift up a bit,” Stede says, tapping at Ed’s good knee. What does he – oh, Ed gets it, and he hooks that knee over Stede’s shoulder. “Tell me if there’s anything you don’t like.”

Then Stede’s fingers are between his legs, so slick and slippery that one enters him easily. It’s fine, feels weirdly more intimate than Stede's prick, but the fact that Ed can see Stede’s face as it happens is a nicer gift than eve that silk robe. Stede's licking his lower lip in concentration, glancing up at Ed with a soft look on his face, moving his wrist slightly and then –

“Fucking – hell! Fuck, what are you –” Ed shouts, throwing his head back. It’s like that last time Stede fucked him except more, so much more. There’s something incredible under his skin and he didn’t fucking know about, and now it's going to kill him. Ed digs his heel into Stede’s shoulder, doing whatever he can to get closer, to get more, oh fuck what the fucking –

“There,” Stede murmurs, kissing his stomach and then down, dragging his lips lower. He kisses the base of Ed’s cock and Ed’s hips jerk again, jostling the finger inside him. "You're doing so well, love. You feel wonderful."

“Do another one,” Ed begs. “This is – yeah.”

“Is it?” Stede looks up at him, raising an eyebrow.

“Holy fuck,” Ed says, “yeah, it’s yeah it’s -”

Stede adds another finger, and it’s better and also worse. Ed’s whole body is rocking now, a frantic shift of his hips that feels completely out of his control. All Ed can think is more and his body keeps trying to make that happen, a creature of all appetite.

“Is it - supposed to feel like this?” Ed gasps and swears and arches his back, leaving puddles of sweat all over the sheets.

“It’s supposed to feel good,” Stede tells him, “When I pull out, I'm pressing upwards, you see, like –”

“Fuck, Stede, fucking Christ,” Ed stutters as Stede demonstrates his technique. Ed’s voice is too loud, his whole body is too loud, and here’s Stede going on like he’s teaching him about melon spoons. More pageantry , Ed thinks, then almost laughs. He might be a bit hysterical, he shouldn't be fucking giggling during sex. “You’ve gotta stop, or I’m going to –”

“You can,” Stede tells him, though his hand stills. “If you want to come like this. I can keep going."

It might not be a question of ‘want’ anymore, it might just be a thing that happens. And Ed would love to feel Stede’s prick inside him again; if the man’s fingers can do this much, then maybe Ed should let him take charge a bit the next time they – next time. And he wouldn’t mind Stede’s mouth between his legs, that was good in a sun-warmed honey sort of way, and Ed thinks he could get off like that or like this or from rubbing up against Stede’s hip again or maybe just from thinking about it.

He exhales slow, from his stomach to his chest to his throat to his kiss-swollen mouth.

“I want to come inside you,” he says, and Stede swallows, and turns bright red, and nods.

“Yes, please,” he murmurs, and that answers that.

 

Stede crawls up Ed’s body and rides his fingers for a bit while Ed memorizes every sound that he makes. He hopes that this is okay, all the stopping and starting of it. He doesn’t have much to compare it to, and everything in the past was pretty much ‘get off as quickly as you can and get it over with,’ like punching your fist through a board. Stede doesn’t seem to mind this way though. Ed hopes it’s okay. It’s been kinda – nice.

“I’m ready,” Stede tells him, shifting up on his knees so Ed’s fingers slide out.

“You’ve got fucking incredible thighs, mate,” Ed says, rubbing his hands down each of them. “Sorry, they’re just – fuck.”

Stede shakes his head a bit, glancing away.

“That’s lovely of you to say.”

For some reason that makes Ed laugh. He’s been wound so tight, and Stede sounds like he just complimented his lace cravat or table manners or diction or some shit.

“Stop it,” Stede says, but he’s smiling, and he leans down to kiss the laughter off Ed’s mouth. “Do you want to – like this?”

“I want to be on top of you,” Ed says. It’s a surprise, he doesn’t know where that came from, but apparently that’s what he wants. He just – saying shit like this now, like it’s nothing. Who would have thought?

“Your knee –”

“Bugger my knee.” That doesn’t seem to reassure Stede, so Ed tries a different tack. “I’ll tell you.”

"You'll tell me."

They shift, Stede climbing off him to lie on his back. He spreads his legs and Ed didn’t realize two men could fuck like this, that it wasn’t just a man and wife thing. Fuck, that’s putting thoughts in his head that he shouldn’t have, but he distracts himself by biting Stede’s stomach, mouthing his way up his chest, sucking on his tits and chest hair a bit.

“Oh heaven. Oh God.” Stede’s murmuring and shifting beneath him, and Ed’s started to shake because it’s happening and it has to be good and he has to make it last and make it easy and –

“Ed. Love. It’s all right.” Stede has oil on his hands, and he slides one gently over Ed’s dick, from the base to the tip of it, just a whisper of a touch (good bloody thing, Ed’s barely hanging on.) "Here." Stede gets a pillow under his hips, and wraps his thighs around Ed’s waist. “Now you just –”

“I’ll fucking come,” Ed hisses, afraid to even move. He’s certain the moment he’s inside Stede it’s going to be over. If he even thinks about it, it's going to be over. “I’m going to –”

“Good. I want you to.”

“Stop being so damn – nice.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll stop. Edward Teach, if you don’t get your prick in me this instant, I’ll take you over my knee!”

Ed snorts, and his arms are trembling, but the laughter feels good. “You’re so weird,” he says softly, “I like it so much.”

Shit, now he’s almost crying again. Nope, not happening. He tugs Stede’s hips closer, lines his prick up, holds his breath, and –

Pushes inside. He's inside. He's inside Stede Bonnet's body, he can feel the man's fucking heartbeat, and he belongs there.

“You're - wet.” He’s never felt anything like it, not his fist or fabric or a mattress underneath him. Stede’s hot and tight and slick, Stede’s alive and lovely and he takes Ed like he’s been waiting to, like he’s meant for it.  “You’re so wet.”

“Is your knee –”

“Yes, it’s fine, shut up about it.”

That makes Stede laugh, and it’s his laugh that really gets him. Ed feels that laugh fluttering around his cock, and this man is mad and beautiful, and having sex with him is actually really fucking good, whatever they do, however many times they stop and start. 

“Oh, darling.” Stede must see something in his face because he looks serious, so Ed leans forward onto his elbows, pressing his chest against Stede’s.

He loves him. He can fuck him like he loves him.

“I want you to stay,” Ed says, growling it out like the words have to fight him first. He moves at goddamn last, thrusting forward, searching for whatever his fingers found when Stede was on top of him.

“Yes,” Stede says into his neck. "Y-yes."

“I want to – keep doing this. Want to always be doing this. In the morning and at night and all the fucking time, I want -" His body suddenly knows how this goes, and Ed doesn't have to think about it. His hips move in and in. Stede gasps, tilting his head back, nodding yes yes, like he can't help himself.

“I want to steal shit for you, and books and –” Fucking hell, Ed's mouth is out of control. “I want this whole ship to be yours, and I want to be yours and I want you to call me –”

Love,” Stede says, “Ed. I’m going to come, just keep - don't stop, if you can -"

"I want this to matter," Ed says. His hands are on Stede's hips, tilting him up so he can take more of him, trying to find the same place that Stede played like a harp inside of Ed.

"It does." Stede is touching himself, his fine-boned hand pulling hard at his own cock, and Ed can't stop moving. Every time he pulls out, he has to hold his breath, and every time he thrusts back in, he thinks it's going to be the last time. But it doesn't end, it just builds and builds, and he can feel Stede's body clenching around him, sees Stede's cock pulsing over his fingers. "You do, you do."

"I want - you, just fucking you, I want -"

Stede comes then, Ed watches him spill, and that's all he needs to follow him over the edge. He comes with a shout or maybe it's a sob, and his hips keep twitching, and Stede keeps pulsing around him, and it feels like it last forever. "You," Ed is saying over and over again, "you, just you," and then Stede's arms are gathering him close, and Ed's falling forward, falling into Stede, like he has been slowly ever since the day they met.

It's good, it's good. It's so good.

It's easy.

 

Somehow they manage to separate from each other. Somehow they get cleaned up. Stede must do it, God knows Ed's completely useless.

There are hands in his hair and a cloth on his chest and a glass of water against his mouth. Might not be Stede, could be fairies or something. Good for them. Great folk.

“Was it okay,” Ed slurs into Stede’s chest after they've settled. His mouth is open and he's probably drooling a bit on him (in a really cool, sexy way.)

“Oh, my darling. It was perfect. It was -" He feels Stede laugh beneath his cheek. "I don't have the words, Ed."

“I like that,” Ed says. “When you call me that.”

“Ed? It is your name. I like it too.”

Ed pinches his hip, and Stede smacks his hand.

Darling . Or fucking – any of them. Sweetheart. All of them.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Stede cards one hand through Ed’s hair, tugging the wet strands away from his forehead and his neck. He leans down to press a kiss to the crown of Ed's head.

“Should probably have one of those for you, right?” 

“Only if you want. There's no obligation." 

“Maybe – some kind of flower,” Ed says, “That’s what you remind me of. Like all this stuff you wear, like petals.”

“That’s very poetic, sweetheart.”

“And you fucking smell so good.” Ed lifts his head so he can nose his way up Stede’s breastbone to his throat. “How do you smell this good?”

Stede sighs, smiles, and even his breath is lovely, like – orchids! That’s the flower he was trying to think of, that’s what Stede smells like. Ed pulls back so he can look at him, his hazel eyes and pale eyelashes. Whoever thought he’d give a damn about someone’s eyelashes? 

“I think you’re beautiful,” Ed says. Maybe he can talk about it. “I think you’re - lovely.”

There are suddenly tears in Stede’s eyes. Ed’s never seen him cry before unless he was scared. 

“You -”

“I love you, yeah?” Ed swallows and swallows again. “I did and I do. You know. You know that.”

Stede blinks once and the tears spill over. He wipes them away frantically, but there are more and more besides. Stede's fully crying, shoulders shaking with it. 

“Sorry, sorry. I don’t know what – no one’s ever –”

Ed kisses the tears from his face, tastes the sea. 

“I’ve never –” Stede tries again, “had anyone feel like that. Sorry, this is extremely embarrassing.”

First time for everything, Ed thinks. He traces the paths of Stede’s tears with his fingertips, and then sucks his fingers into his mouth.

“You’ll stay here right? Tonight.”

Stede’s eyes are still shining, but he smiles gently, lips pressed together.  “You’ll have to tell me if I snore or – I haven’t really shared a bed much with anyone. Even Mary would sometimes sleep elsewhere, I don’t want to be a bother so you can always wake me or ask me to go or –”

I will never ask you to go in all my life , Ed thinks. Then he kisses him, sees if he can fit his whole heart into Stede’s mouth.

“Sweetpea,” Ed says, when he comes up for air.

Stede laughs again, turning his face into the pillow. “I sound like someone’s beloved family cow.” 

“Ah, shut up.” Ed tries to think about flowers, remember anything he’s seen ever in his life other than Stede in this bed. “Petal.” 

“Please no. My gran used to call me that.”

“Did she? Huh.”

“Stede is fine, by the way.” Stede kisses him. “Or – captain. Co-captain.”

“I’ll figure it out,” Ed says, thinking rosebud, daffodil, pansy.

Not quite right, but it’s on the tip of his tongue. He presses his face into Stede’s neck, breathes in the golden scent of him.

He’ll find the right word, the right name. He can already taste it, smell it, and it’s sweet.