Actions

Work Header

if you're offering me diamonds and rust

Work Text:

John manages to convince Flint that the crew needs a few days of rest the next time they land in Nassau to resupply after a raid. He knows Nevis is at the forefront of Flint’s mind, that he’s already planning the destruction of another island for their punitive campaign against the pirates.

More than anything, he needs rest. John doesn’t have a home like the rest of his men do, but he spends his nights at the inn with Max’s blessing when he wants, and that’s enough. It isn’t freedom, but it’s something. The crew haven’t looked at him one too many times and realized the terrible decision they’ve made. Yet.

Flint sits in the corner of the tavern, which is seemingly floating through true ownership status after the Guthrie woman’s capture. John watches him talk with Billy for a moment before turning back to his Madeira, comforted by the notion that Billy might dissuade him from attempting to sail alone with the intention of killing every last colonist himself. If left alone, John isn’t confident that Flint would be able to resist leaving more than half the crew behind.

He’s startled out of his musings by a presence at his right side. He looks up, watching the man beside him fidget as if waiting for his acknowledgment. “Ah, Dobbs. How may I be of assistance?” John thought that he would be satisfied just in sailing home once more, but it appears that something else plagues him.

“It’s not of importance, Mr. Silver. I only- well…” he trails off, and John raises a brow, studying his tense posture in the dim candlelight. Dobbs digs for something in his vest pocket.

“Well, spit it out.”

His hand emerges victoriously with a dark strap of leather, which he offers to John. It’s only then that he realizes he’s not the only one scrutinizing. Dobbs’ eyes are fixed on his face, even with the nervous shifting. John takes the trinket from him with as delicate a touch as he is capable of, and the other man rips his hand away to clasp both of them behind his back.

John looks at it more carefully in the light. It’s a braided necklace, obviously handmade, with a heavy square pendant at the center, carved like a diamond. “This is a fine piece,” he says, as if he has any knowledge on the matter. It is beautiful to him, even if nobody else thinks so. “What do you want me to do with it?”

“You like it? Keep it.” John blinked up at him. “You wore that cross necklace, always complain about losing it somewhere on the ship.”

He did like that silver cross, bummed it off of a dead Spaniard on the warship before they all got thrown overboard. Everyone else was doing it, but he felt silly stealing and wearing a crucifix from a dead man. He kept it anyhow until he finally felt confident enough to wear it in front of the crew- before promptly losing track of it after his leg was taken. 

The corner of John’s lip quirks up. “This isn’t a cross.”

Dobbs shrugs. “Ain’t like we’re very good Christians. I reckoned you just liked having decoration of some sort,” he defends.

John laughs genuinely at that, leaning over the bar counter on his elbows. The pendant dangles from his fingers. “You reckoned quite right. Thank you, Mr. Dobbs.”

“Mr. Quartermaster.” The man bows to him mockingly before heading back to his own seat, but John can feel eyes on him for a long while after that. He thumbs over the leather braid of his new necklace, just looking at it, and finishes his drink before clasping it around his neck. He finds that it hangs nicely over the divet in his collarbone, and that while he suspects Dobbs only offered it up because he couldn’t sell it for a good sum- he doesn’t care where it came from or why it has come into his possession.

He relishes in owning something, anything that’s just for him.

 

-

 

They take an easy prize after the next raid, and John suspects that it’s only for the purpose of reminding other captains that the sea still isn’t safe for them to travel along leisurely. He doesn’t necessarily oppose it. The men seem in much higher spirits as they climb back over the railing with their loot. Flint heads straight to his cabin with heavy footfalls, his mood obviously dark as it has often been lately. John looks back down at the gun he’s cleaning to hide that he was watching them return with a smile (instead of cleaning guns like he told himself he’d do.) He’s sitting on a crate amidship, so he’s generally left to his devices besides the occasional affectionate holler from above in his direction. 

Until a crew member, Joshua, descends one of the ladders and ambles up to him, sitting beside him on the crate. John has to hurry in moving the ammunition and grease to prevent him from sitting on them in his apparent excitement. The two of them don’t have much contact- Joshua doesn’t come to him with many complaints, which is just as well for him- but it’s clear that this approach is not related to his duties as quartermaster. He can’t help his smile widening, which Joshua notices before he can tamp it down. He meets John’s eyes and gives him a toothy grin before popping those ridiculous dentures out of his mouth. “What can I do for you?” John asks, not even trying to keep a straight face. 

“You can accept this gift without protest,” he replies cheerfully. Joshua slides his hand over to lift John’s, supporting his little finger with one thumb. He slides onto it a luminous silver ring with hard edges and an intricate design that John can’t quite follow. “From a crewman to his lovely quartermaster.” His face burns, even knowing that not one person is looking at them.

“Flatterer,” he says in a low, accusatory tone.

“Maybe.”

Joshua is still holding his hand daintily, almost like he might hold a woman’s, and that perception is only furthered when he raises his brows and brings John’s knuckles to his lips. He laughs nervously, unused to being on the receiving end of such blatant flirtation. John has always said those things to get his way, and he wonders briefly if everyone he’s charmed felt so heated and unsettled as he does now. “You… How romantic. A dead tobacco trader’s finery.”

The man isn’t deterred. “It was on the captain’s desk. Very clever, I thought. Silver and all.”

John might be sweating. Even so, the connection is amusing; he has to laugh at the consideration behind it. “Yes. Clever, indeed. Thank you, Joshua.” His hand is let go to fall back into his lap, and he starts twisting the ring absentmindedly, somewhat off balance. He worries at his chapped bottom lip, looking down at the ring’s smooth glint in the midday sun.

“I could take it back, if you’d like,” Joshua says gently, shocking him out of his reverie. His smile fading must be misunderstood as unhappiness rather than the pensive expression it is. “I mean no harm.”

“No!” He answers too quickly, then winces before trying again. He keeps the hand with the ring close to his chest, inexplicably frightened by the idea of it being taken. “I like it.” The other man seems unconvinced. “I’m just unaccustomed to… being spoken to that way. And having things of my own.” It’s too honest, but it does the trick. Joshua is wearing a playful look like moments before, although there’s something else behind it.

“What? Should we not look up to our quartermaster?” John huffs in amusement at the clear sidestepping. Looking up to him is not exactly flirting with him. The notion still disturbs him: being looked toward for help and advice and support. Joshua tips his chin up with finger, just a quick motion that warms him in its affection, and then claps him on the shoulder. “I understand,” he says, low. “About ownership. You will grow used to it, but I say it never tires.” Joshua grins once more, and he preens, trying his hardest not to be overtly pleased. He suspects it isn’t working. John gives him a coy smile anyhow and gets back to cleaning the firelock, content to sit with Joshua until he was done with the pile of them. 

“Hand me one. You’re so slow,” the man says then. John makes a noise in mock-offense, even as he reaches for another pistol and gives it over freely.

They chatter and gossip the rest of the afternoon, work long-finished and the captain’s demands forgotten.

 

-

 

Most of the crew disembarks in Nassau once more, eager to scramble to the brothel and tavern for a night. John surprises the men by declining to follow them into town for the first time ever.

“No, it doesn’t hurt,” he assures a concerned Billy, and around five other crewmen. “I just don’t have the energy to converse and regurgitate my supper all night.” His leg does smart, but that’s never stopped him from going with them before. He simply desires a quiet night in, which none of them would take for an answer. With this, at least, they assume correctly that he’s lying about being in pain and ruffle his hair in understanding. Their lack of propriety, he feels, just proves his theory that he must be the most pathetic quartermaster in the history of maritime travel. Billy assures him it’s only because Mr. Gates was too fatherly to harass, and that he himself was simply too tall for it. He should be flattered, Billy says.

John interprets this to mean that he is too young, too short, and not taken seriously by anyone.

Another shocking omission from the usual tavern crawlers is Muldoon, who claims he’s staying behind in sacrifice. He needs to clean the crew’s quarters since nobody else bothers. John agrees that the cots and floorboards could use a wash, but he knows that isn’t why Muldoon refrains from leaving the ship. 

At twilight, John is reading one of the chapter books Flint keeps around- without his permission, of course- as Muldoon mops wooden floorboards around him. They pretend to ignore each other for a while until the number of crew members dwindle. Not for want of alone time, but rather so Muldoon won’t be accused of slacking off instead of going out with his brothers.

When only a few men are left, Muldoon approaches him, his shoulders high and tense. John puts his book down. He sits up in his cot, giving a welcoming smile. It has the intended effect: Muldoon relaxing marginally and sitting next to him in the hammock. “Looks like something’s on your mind.”

The sober look he gets is startling. “You didn’t look too chipper when the men were giving you goodbye pats.”

“Ah, no concerns there. I was simply deep in thought,” John reassures.

“That’s a load of shit. You didn’t like it. Why haven’t you told nobody?” Muldoon shakes his head and rests both hands flat on the tops of his thighs. John watches, equally frustrated and intrigued. “They’d stop if you said so.”

He bites back something that’s much too candid for his liking. “It isn’t an issue, and I wouldn’t make it one. I much prefer being patted like a dog over being punched in the stomach.” They both wince. Apparently, his efforts to keep his honesty to a minimum aren’t doing shit. He figures that out of everybody on the crew, the man isn’t a bad choice to confess his secrets- if John were ever to consider it.

“It ain’t like that,” Muldoon says gently, staring at his hands.

“What is it like then? Because it isn’t clear to me why my position on this ship is being undermined.”

Muldoon sighs heavily, as though John is the one in need of education. Maybe he is, in some way. “They love you. You sleep in this shithole with us instead of taking your own cabin, you solve things without treating us like the stupid fucks we most likely are. You’re familiar in ways…” He swallows after trailing off, meeting John’s eyes with a fierceness that almost scares him. “It don’t matter how long you’ve been here, you make it feel like I- like we’ve known you for ages.” John blinks, and wonders distantly if he makes himself upset just for an opportunity to seek validation. Reassurances that Muldoon is surely willing to give.

This isn’t manipulating anyone, John reminds himself anxiously. Muldoon stayed in the ship and came to John by his own free will.

“They respect you, they do. I swear it. Hell, I admire you more than you know.”

“Why?” He regrets asking, knowing the answer already and feeling bile rise in his throat.

“Because- well, because-“ Your sacrifice, your leg, your pain and loss- “I like how you can make people listen. That maybe you wanted to save your own skin at first, but now you don’t even pat yourself on the back for everything you give. It’s selfless. You coulda’ sat in the captain's cabin and hid, but you showed us, you know. How much you cared.” He stutters on a few words, but in an otherwise even tone he scares away some of John’s demons if only for a moment.

“I…” For some horrid reason, he feels tears pricking at his eyes, thankfully not enough for Muldoon to notice, but the vice of emotion tightens around his throat and chest regardless. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one before,” he says, voice rough, in an attempt at humor, but the other man is clearly unimpressed.

“Well, someone’s gotta tell you.” John sits prone and silent until he speaks again. “Shit, I need to stop stalling.” When John looks up, Muldoon is twisting a ring off his finger and presenting it to him. He takes it and turns away sharply, hiding further tears by pretending to examine the thing. When the mist clears, he sees that it’s a beautiful antique piece with a murky green stone embedded in it. “I want you to have it. I keep seeing you switching out rings, and I thought-“

“Thank you,” he interrupts to say, only because he can’t stand to hear any more of an explanation. “I- I don’t know if I can accept this. Isn’t it an heirloom?”

Muldoon’s expression goes through several stages of feeling before he smiles and shakes his head. “Not exactly. Had it a long time, but it ain’t my great-grandmother’s prized jewel. You don’t worry about that.”

He’s wrong about one thing. John is selfish and can’t help sliding it onto the middle finger of his unadorned right hand. “Why?” he asks again, stroking over the ring’s form. He only now realizes how close they are, and how they’re all alone.

“Don’t act like you don’t know I’m sweet on you,” Muldoon tells him, and fuck. He does know, but it isn’t any easier to hear aloud. “But trust that I’ll stay in line. The captain-”

John’s eyes are glued to Muldoon’s hand on his lap, and he rests his own over it before he can talk himself out of such intimacy. “You don’t need to stay in line.” It feels as though something is lodged in his throat as he says it. His lips twitch up into a shadow of a smirk. “If you don’t want to.”

He studies John carefully, and upon finding him sincere, rearranges their hands to squeeze his fingers hard, pressing the warm metal against his skin like a brand. “I’ll keep that in mind.” Muldoon’s smile is far more gentle than he deserves.

 

-

 

It’s been a whole week spent in the doldrums, a week since Muldoon died, cold hand limp in his, when John remembers something peculiar he’d said down in the hold. Sitting out on the deck like a beached whale, his breathing is labored as he takes Muldoon’s ring off and replaces it onto his left ring finger. The sight settles him, somehow.

 

-

 

Madi is hesitant to agree, but he’s insistent that he can’t do it himself.

“Are you certain?”

John huffs, laid back on her bed. She stands over him in an embroidered sleepshirt, needle in hand, with her brows raised to her hairline. Crickets chirp in the humid night outside. “You question this so much, I have half a mind to wonder if you just don’t want me to do it.”

“Quite the opposite, really,” she tells him, amused, and climbs onto the mattress next to him. “I think earrings would suit you fine, and you would surely look the part.” 

He sits up and wraps his arms around her waist. Madi’s hands trail down to his bare back, and he sighs in contentment against her shoulder. “What part?”

“King of pirates. The wild hair, the jewelry, the clothes- a piercing wouldn’t be out of place at all. I just don’t want it to be something you regret.” He considers arguing, but he doesn’t want to fight her on something she has reasonable cause to be worried about. He’s not sure what the cause is, but he can imagine she has one.

“I don’t want to make this more than it is,” he says carefully instead. “I think it would be a nice touch. That’s all.” It isn’t a lie; he wants his ears pierced for his own reasons, because he’s long looked in admiration at other crew members with piercings and adornments. But it was when he watched Madi sit in front of her mirror and do the same to her own ears that he knew she would be able to help him with his desire. He has quite a few pieces of jewelry now, some from the Maroons as tokens of goodwill, some from other crew members who wanted to thank their quartermaster. “I decided when I saw you doing it.”

“Really?” Her lip quirks up. “I thought Flint’s piercing would be more of an influence.” John tenses slightly, blinking as he tries to parse her tone. Madi strokes his jaw with the backs of her knuckles. “That’s not what I meant. I simply know he’s been a presence in your life for a longer time.”

He doesn’t know what to say to that and looks up at her beseechingly to illustrate this.

Madi only smiles in her patient way and untangles herself from him to kneel by the fire in her room, lighting a tallow candle with its flame. “You must know that I don’t say these things to startle you,” she soothes as she returns to him.

“I know. I do know. But I don’t know why you keep saying them.”

She raises a brow. “Because you still do not understand that the world in which you and I exist is not separate from the one which contains you and Flint.” He turns over on his side, away from her scrutiny, and she sighs.

John pinches the bridge of his nose. “I understand it; I just don’t like it. And I’d appreciate it if you’d puncture my earlobe now.” She chuckles at that, grabbing his shoulder to sit him up. She straddles him with the needle and a thick cloth in hand.

“I cannot speak to how he’s treated you as of late, and I wouldn’t claim to know how you should handle him. But whatever you feel for him is not unrequited.” He starts to protest but knows not to when she presses the cloth to the back of his left ear first. “Still, you have no responsibility to make him see this.” The needle piercing through makes him twitch- more a jump if it weren’t for Madi holding him still. He’s sullen then, and his watery eyes drop to where their thighs touch. 

“I know- I know we should talk about this, but could… Tonight, can we just-“

“Yes. Of course.” Madi kisses his forehead in apology and pulls the needle through, dabbing at his ear before reaching for a pair of her own small bronze hoop earrings. John picked them out himself from a pile that Madi said she wasn’t particularly fond of. It happens that her status requires her to occasionally receive unwanted gifts, which suits John just fine if he’s entitled to them by proxy. None of the Maroons seem upset by his thieving; Madi wouldn’t let him do it otherwise. She once told him with great amusement that some of them felt their gifts being bestowed unto her lover was a strong gesture of appreciation. John was confounded. He still is, if he’s being honest.

Madi fits one earring through the new piercing and appraises it with both hands cupping John’s face. “These will look much better on you than me.” He rolls his eyes, sniffing a bit. From the pain, of course, and nothing else. “Turn your head a little for the other.” He does so, and she repeats the process. He jumps less visibly this time, but has to force back a hiss.

He squeezes his eyes shut as the needle passes through cleanly. “Madi, I don’t know what he wants from me,” he blurts out. She pauses in wiping the blood from his ear. “Does he see what I’ve done to stay by his side?” His voice wavers.

“I couldn’t say.” She pets his hair and plays with the loose earring between her fingers. “He needs you, and if he can’t see that, he’s a fool.”

John nods and thumbs a tear off his cheek. “Right.” The other hoop is inserted, and Madi inspects him carefully.

“I was wrong,” she murmurs.

“About?”

“You looking the part.” She strokes his cheek and rests her other palm flat on his chest. “You only look even more like yourself.”

He kisses her fingers, then her lips, and he forgets about the warm throb in his ears and the aches everywhere else.

 

-

 

He spends much of his time in the captain’s cabin now, if only to ease Flint’s mind, his crewmates’ minds too. Now he does feel selfless, caught in this room that he is no longer welcome to, but without the choice of leaving. The very man who both forbids and keeps him here is seated across from him, deep in thought. “Is there anything else you need from me?” John asks, hoping for a negative answer.

The sentence is hardly out of his mouth when Flint speaks, as if he hadn’t heard the question at all. “You forgot something here yesterday.” He opens up one of the desk’s side drawers and pulls out John’s ring. He doesn’t drop it on the desk for the other man to pick up, studying it instead. John’s skin prickles. Flint stands, and he stands too. A look of shock passes over the captain’s face before he schools his features to careful neutrality. “Last time I saw this, it belonged to Muldoon.”

Does he still believe John to be a thief? That he might steal from his friend’s corpse? “What are you saying?”

“Nothing. I’m not saying anything.”

He watches Flint, eyes trailing to his hand where the ring is cupped in a loose fist. “Give it to me then.”

Now, it could be that Flint is about to do exactly what he’s asked, but he hesitates, staring at it in the palm of his hand. He turns away, just slightly, toward the open window. John cannot afford to wait until he decides to hand it over, cannot play such a game. Not with this. He inhales sharply, leaning against the wall for support. “Please give it to me. Please,” he says, defeated, and his voice breaks. Flint looks up at him then, John’s own horror reflected clearly on his face. He shoves the ring outward like it’s become molten hot in his hand. 

His jaw clenches tight as John wipes his wet eyes and takes it from him. “John, I did not mean- I wouldn’t-” Flint stares determinedly at the floor. “You know I wouldn’t keep it from you.”

John remains silent, still hurt, and he can see Flint’s chest start to heave just slightly.

He tries again. “Forgive me. This is not how I wanted…” He cuts himself off and makes a wounded noise as John steps away from him, limping to the door. He turns away also. John hears drinking glasses clink behind him as he leaves the cabin, startled when he sees Billy waiting there right outside. 

He takes in John’s appearance, the ring in his hand, and groans. “Jesus Christ. He obviously did not listen to what I said.” Billy breezes past him and closes the door after himself, entering just as disjointedly as John left.

He puts his ring back where it belongs and spends the entire day in a haze, looking down every so often to make sure it’s still there.

 

-

 

They speak as severely as they normally would the next time he comes to the cabin, but Flint’s lip twitches after they’ve decided on a course. He walks around the desk to lean against it beside where John is sitting.

“I wish to assure you of something.” John blinks, and Flint keeps staring at his door, shoulders raised as though he’s deeply uncomfortable with his own words. “That I would not have taken that ring from you. I know- I know you care-“

“You don’t have to say anything,” he rushes to say, not sure that he can reconcile this conversation with their previous one just moments before.

Flint insists. “I do. I was never going to do anything with it; I simply noticed which finger you kept it on, and-”

“Don’t.”

“And I needed to know if I might be overstepping, had I offered my own souvenir.” A wry smile plays at his lips, and he drags his knuckles through his beard, steadily growing longer at sea. “I was sorry to have frightened you.”

John is stunned to silence.

“If he… if you still… Or if you don’t want it anyhow-“ If you don’t want me, is the clear implication. “That’s alright.” From his coat pocket, Flint produces a large ring, and he places it on the desk between John’s hands where they’re rooted to the wood. 

“It wasn’t like that,” John says dumbly. “He said something to me before- I wanted to honor him somehow. That’s all.” Flint watches in silence as he picks the ring up and twists it in his fingers. Its design resembles a silver crown of thorns. He decides that it would fit best on his middle finger, next to Muldoon’s. 

When John meets Flint’s eye, he shifts nervously. “It doesn’t have to mean anything.”

“When you had the ring in your palm, I feared you felt some kind of jealousy,” he says suddenly, truthfully. It isn’t a truth that scares him to say aloud.

Flint twitches again, casting his gaze toward the floorboards. “I did.” The admission is short and lilted, as though he’s surprised by it himself. “I still didn’t intend to keep it from you. But I realized how foolish it was, when I’ve been so aloof to you, and when the object of my envy is dead.” He pauses with a sigh, as though carefully holding something back. “When you told me to give it back,” Flint says then, his voice faltering, and John sits up in his chair. 

“There was such… loss in your eyes, such grief I hadn’t- I selfishly hadn’t noticed before.” While struggling with my own . “I’m sorry. For shutting you out. For leaving you to question my intentions. And for placing blame on you after we boarded Hallindale’s ship. You couldn’t have known what would spawn from it and, well- there were some good things, despite all of the suffering I partially conjured.” John can’t tell if he’s referring to his own benefit or John’s, the alliance or Madi. “I don’t expect to… mend this so easily, but I hope you know, at least, that I wouldn’t have taken this away from you.”

He blinks. “I do know that.” He can’t manage anything else, as stunned as he is.

Flint looks to one of his bookshelves. “I spoke with Madi, and she told me not to let us linger in this state, or I might not have your full confidence again.” He laughs then, quietly. “You can imagine I was properly frightened.”

John’s lips twitch up into a smile before dropping. “You might have still had it. I would still tell you the truth.”

“No,” Flint insists, stepping back around the desk and away from him. “I wouldn’t have it. Not in the way I desire.”

“Which is?”

“Trust. I want you to trust me with the truth, to know that I would not use it against you.” His brow furrows then as he stares down at his feet. “I’d like to make that much clear. If we’re going to have a working relationship-“

John almost laughs, but he manages something only slightly less incredulous. “Is that what you want?”

Flint purses his lips. “No, but I’m resigned to it if needs must.”

“Are you ever going to become less of a pessimist?”

“No.”

John stares at him for a brief time before shaking his head and huffing gently. “Fair enough.” He averts his gaze to the ground and taps his fingers on the wooden back of the chair. Flint remains standing, not soothed in the slightest. “You needn’t resign yourself to anything. I think we’re past that by now. Or I thought we were.” He twists the speckled thorny ring on his finger. “You know more of me than anyone else alive; I thought you saw how I… regarded you,” John murmurs in measured beats, face somewhat flushed.

Flint’s chest starts to rise and fall rapidly again, but not with upset, as he rounds the table to return to John’s seat, grabbing his hand and clasping it between his own. His light eyes are shadowy and searing as they study John’s face. “It doesn’t matter what I saw. I want you at my side. And to be at your side as well. Is that enough?”

He nods and stands unsteadily- owing to having only one free hand to push himself up with. “I can’t ask any more of you.”

Then Flint leans in to rest his forehead against John’s own, holding him in silent gratitude. He sighs and wonders at the repentant quality in Flint’s voice when he confessed, as if John could make any demands. He can’t help feeling like a divine mistake has been made; how else has he been allowed to have such things? 

The captain thumbs at his necklace, trailing off to stroke his collar bone. Then he meets John’s eye and furrows his brow. Flint traces the edge of his ear, now concentrated on the earrings. “Where did these come from anyhow?” he asks lightly.

“Hm?” He belatedly looks down and realizes what Flint is commenting on. “Mr. Dobbs offered it to me at the tavern some time back. And Madi pierced my ears a fortnight ago. I’ve been gifted a few other pieces,” he says, gesturing to his rings. 

“I’m sure then, you’re tired of receiving jewelry?”

John shakes his head. “I cherish these things more than you could know.”

Flint’s eyes soften, like he does know, and his hand slides down to cup John’s jaw. He remains silent, studying the other man closely, and they both lean in before either of them know what they’re doing. It’s only a dry press of lips at first, but the kiss deepens once the fear of second thoughts is assuaged. Flint moves to hold John by the waist as they sway with the ship’s creaking movements.

When they pry apart, Flint is laughing. John’s lip twitches up too despite his best efforts.

“What’s funny?”

He calms, then sobers, only a hint of a smile remaining as evidence of his amusement. “You taste like salt,” he says slowly, as if he’s only just processing it. John opens his mouth to respond but stops himself as Flint takes his hand, toying with the newest addition to his rings. “Jesus.” It’s hushed and reverent. “It feels too much like I could have you. Like you have me.”

“You could. I do.”

Flint huffs, good-natured, then kisses him again, this instance more brief but sweeter than the first. John wets his lips after they separate, eyes still closed. If he never gets this again, then by God, he will remember it. “You’re quite persuasive,” Flint tells him with raised brows. It’s a concession.

John averts his gaze once he’s present enough to do so. “I think that’s been expounded upon before, multiple times.”

He must sense the discomfort in his quartermaster then, because he takes hold of John’s shoulders with a gentle smile. “You don’t have to convince me. Of this. I’ve waited long enough. Alright?”

He wants to say that the waiting has probably set Flint up for something John is not, but he knows better; it wouldn’t be well-received. And it isn’t true. Flint knows enough of him already, which makes this all the more confounding. “Alright.”

Flint slides a hand up the side of his neck, fingers curling in his hair and stroking individual ringlets. Then he traces down the outer edge of John’s ear. “I need to thank Madi for this.”

“For telling you to get your head out of your ass?”

Flint gives him a flat, warning look. “I should have known you’d find a way to crucify me,” he says with a sigh that’s more amused than anything. “No, for piercing your ears. It suits you.”

John leans back against the desk, smirking. “I’m glad you think so.”

“Now I’ll have another option for gifts.”

“I have such generous lovers.”

Flint audibly swallows at that, eyes searching. “I should hope so,” he mutters, and he cups John’s face with an unsteady hand. “If you’re to be a king.” John can’t look away from him, taking deep breaths as their lips meet again.

If he is to be a king. When he pulls away, he covers Flint’s hand with his own and nods shakily. 

Perhaps if he can look the part, he might one day be able to feel it.