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A Rather Exquisite Morning

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Every morning Ed wakes up to the calming sound of waves, dim sunlight beaming through the curtains, and warm, soft skin pressed against him. Ed wakes up to the feeling of arms firmly embracing him and keeping him close, and the chest where he's resting his head slowly moving up and down.

Ed feels a steady heartbeat against his cheek, and every little movement the body under him makes in its sleep. Ed can smell a floral perfume, and the sweet fragrance of marmalade coming from a forgotten jar somewhere in the room.

Every morning Ed wakes up in Stede's arms.

When Stede opens his eyes, the first thing he sees is the first rays of sunshine casting its warm light on Ed's head, making the white of his hair shimmer like starlight, and the first thing he feels is the comforting weight of Ed resting on top of him.

Every morning Stede wakes up to the serene movement of the ship being gently rocked by the ocean, and the distant sounds of birds and the soft crackling of the fireplace. Stede wakes up to Ed's breathing matching the rhythm of his own, and Ed's stubble tickling him slightly when he moves.

Every morning Stede wakes up with Ed in his arms.

His hands tentatively travel across Ed's back, his fingertips caressing the skin ever so slightly, mapping the scars he now knows by heart, and whose stories he's learnt from Ed in sleepless nights. Stede knows the placement of every scar and every tattoo in Ed's body, and sees them whether his eyes are closed or open.

A soft laugh escaping from Ed makes Stede snap out of his momentary trance, and when he looks down he's greeted by a warm smile and those beautiful brown eyes that always take his breath away. No one else had ever looked at him that way, and Stede used to wonder if he even deserved it, but Ed made that fear fade away long ago.

“You're tickling me, mate,” Ed whispers, and Stede can feel the blood rushing to his face.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.” Stede's soft voice sends a shiver through Ed's body, and for a moment Ed is mesmerised by how the morning light accentuates the green in Stede's eyes. He chuckles again and shakes his head. “I was awake already. Don't stop.”

Ed briefly kisses Stede's chin and hides his face in Stede's neck, shifting slightly to make himself more comfortable. It takes a few seconds for Stede to react, the brief touch of Ed's lips on his chin still lingering and overcoming his senses. When he caresses Ed's back again, he feels Ed's skin covered in goosebumps, the quick reaction to his touch making Stede smile with delight. Ed moans very softly and shivers again, his whole body trembling against Stede.

“Did you sleep well, dear?” Stede asks quietly as he places a kiss on Ed's head. “I did,” Ed answers in a lazy murmur, and he realises that he doesn't even remember the last time he had a truly bad night. With Stede, all his nights were filled with tender kisses, soft laughs, conversations that were prolonged until well past midnight, the best sex he's ever had, and usually sweet dreams and the occasional nightmare, but not even those bothered him anymore, because Stede was always there, and his presence was often enough to soothe him, and when it wasn't, Stede always found a way to calm him down. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, I did. Although I think I dreamt with that foul-mouthed parrot,” Stede replies, and Ed's sudden laugh is so contagious that he can't help laughing as well, the memory of that silly little story Ed told him the night before over a glass of brandy coming back to him. “I still don't understand why someone would teach a parrot to say such things. It's mean!”

Ed is already tearing up with laughter as he rolls over to lie next to Stede. “It's funny! Besides, the parrot wouldn't know what it's saying.”

“I suppose you're right. There's no harm done,” Stede says, not entirely convinced. He shifts in the bed until he's facing Ed, who's still chuckling and wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. Ed's laughter always made him feel a wave of warmth washing over him, and Stede relished every time he made Ed laugh. “If I had a parrot, I would teach it to say compliments.”

Ed looks at him curiously, lifting his eyebrows. “Oh yeah? Like what?”

“I would teach it to tell you how beautiful you are,” Stede replies so lovingly that it leaves Ed speechless and blushing. It is little things like this that makes him fall a little more in love with Stede each day. It is unreal how the man could still manage to surprise him, but after all, Stede is a very special man. “And I would teach it to compliment your butt. You have a really nice bottom, Ed. I feel I don't say that enough.”

And just like that, Ed is laughing again, his hands covering his face in embarrassment, but not for long, because Stede grabs his wrists and gently moves his hands away so he can get a better look at Ed's blushed face and his beautiful smile, and he treasures this little moment, like so many others they've lived together.

“That's very sweet, mate,” Ed manages to say, still giddy and giggling softly. “But you do say that a lot. Who needs a parrot when I have you to compliment me?” and having said that, Ed closes the distance between them and, cupping Stede's face with his hands, places a tender kiss on his lips. Stede closes his eyes and kisses him back, and when he opens them, he's once again met with those brown eyes that contain all of Ed's love for him, and Stede almost feels overwhelmed by the sweetness of his gaze, and his heart pumps faster and his whole body vibrates and warms up with excitement, and he realises that Ed has noticed it because his smile widens and he chuckles and kisses him again, this time more passionately, making his way inside Stede's mouth as soon as Stede allows him to, deepening the kiss further. Stede moans softly and moves to get impossibly close, their bodies almost merging together, limbs intertwined, their skins burning with every touch and every caress.

Stede's hands travel across Ed's back again and slowly go further down, passing the multiple scars on his side where Ed always graciously took the stabbings, and go even further down until he reaches his destination and firmly grabs Ed's buttocks, making Ed laugh inside the kiss, much to Stede's delight.

When they break the kiss, they stare at each other breathless, panting for air, their faces flushed from the passion that had suddenly invaded them. Their bodies tremble with excitement, and Stede can't stop moving his legs, enjoying the closeness and the way their skins rub together. Ed touches Stede's cheek with his fingertips, marveled at how warm he is, and moves his thumb to gently caress Stede's lips, still wet from all the kissing. He gently presses his lower lip, and Stede briefly kisses Ed's thumb first, and then licks it with his tongue, making Ed gasp in surprise. Delighted by his reaction, Stede dares to go further and takes the thumb in his mouth and sucks on it for a moment, before he lets go of it with an obscene pop. Ed's jaw drops in shock, followed by a short laugh. “That's dirty, Stede! You're naughty.”

Stede, visibly embarrassed by what he has just done, pretends to be offended, but his smile betrays him. “Oh, shut up,” he says softly, and gets closer again until his forehead is gently pressed against Ed's. Somehow Ed always managed to make Stede feel adventurous and try new things, and even if he felt a little embarrassed or silly afterwards, that feeling never lasted for long, because Ed's overjoyed reactions always made it worth it, and Stede would take note of every little thing he did that caused Ed to explode in elation. “You liked it, admit it.”

“Of course I liked it!” Ed exclaims a little too enthusiastically, making disappear any worries Stede could have. “Although I like it more when you do that with my–”

“Alright, alright! I get it, Ed!” a giggling Stede interrupts him before he could finish, too embarrassed to hear where that sentence was going, and Ed lets him win this time, the surprise caused by Stede's actions still lingering. He would embarrass him further about it any other time, but for now, he stays quiet and stares at Stede's flushed face a little longer, and they both stay like this for a while, in silence, savoring the moment, cherishing it. Their breathings have finally calmed down, their arms are around each other in an embrace and their legs are once again intertwined. They are so close together that it is almost impossible to tell their bodies apart. They are so close together that, with each inhale, Stede can smell his favourite soap on Ed's skin, and the memory of the bath they took together the day before comes to his mind, making him smile and filling him with a desire to repeat that soon, even though Ed had jokingly complained about the bathtub being too small for the two of them.

They are so close together that, in the quietness of the room, Ed can hear Stede's stomach growling and demanding food. He finds even these little, human things about Stede endearing and charming, and Ed realises how stupidly in love he is, if hearing Stede's stomach growling makes him feel this way.

“Maybe we should have breakfast before you faint in my arms,” Ed says amused, nudging Stede's nose with his own, and chuckles when Stede groans lazily, clearly not loving the idea of having to move, let alone getting up from bed. “Aren't you hungry?”

“A little bit,” Stede replies with a pout. “But I would like to stay in bed with you a little longer, if that's okay.” He suddenly feels a bit shy, and he has no reason to be, but the way Ed is looking at him makes the blood rush to his face. Ed would always look at him as if he was the most beautiful thing he had ever encountered at sea –a statement Ed would often say, but Stede never allowed himself to take him seriously, because how could he compete with an entire ocean full of wonders? But Ed always looks at him that way, and Stede feels like he's falling in love with Ed all over again. There was a time when Stede didn't know what true love was, when he wasn't sure if he would ever experience it, but then Ed came into his life, and love took a new meaning for him, and it had Edward Teach written all over it.

Ed smiles, his eyes fixated on Stede's blushed expression, completely mesmerised by the sweetness of it. Stede's hazel eyes are now staring at him with such tenderness that Ed forgets how to breathe for a second, and his heart begins to beat faster and louder, and he feels like his whole body is about to combust, or turn into foam, like that mermaid in that stupid children's book that Stede read to him and that made him cry. And Ed feels like crying again, because he's holding his whole world, the love of his life, in his arms. Everything that matters to him is right here in front of him, and the love he has for Stede and the love Stede has for him is almost overwhelming, and he carries that love with him wherever he goes, and he waves it proudly like a flag, and it's in this very moment, in this common morning –that has nothing of common, because every morning with Stede is remarkable–, in this remarkable morning aboard their ship, in their shared bed, Ed is most certain that he is the luckiest man in the world.

“That's fine with me, love. We can stay in bed a little longer,” Ed says as he kisses Stede's forehead and closes his eyes once again. Bliss fills both their hearts, as the morning light grows brighter, illuminating their bodies and filling the room with sunshine and the promise of a new day and new memories to make. There is no way of knowing what would await them each day, what adventures they would live or dangers they would face, but that uncertainty doesn't scare them anymore, because they have each other, they belong with each other, and as long as they are together, everything is and will be fine.

Every morning Ed and Stede wake up in each other's arms and feel safe and happy. Long ago none of them could have ever imagined this would be their life. Long ago none of them could have ever imagined that they deserved this life, but it is in mornings like this one that they accept and embrace the truth: that they do deserve this, and that they are capable of loving and being loved.