*** BEFORE YOU READ ***
This is a Pirate AU that is the direct creation from novel Kidnapped By The Pirates by Keira Andrews.
Everything in this belongs to the original author and I have been given permission to use her novel as long as it isn't for sale (which it obviously isn't). For those of you that need the proof of that permission: click here.
I love the novel SO much and wanted to add Stucky elements into it so I hope you guys like it too.
Monster of the Sea
If pirates were to be the bloody, savage end of James Buchanan Barnes, he wished they’d get on with it because this endless waiting on pins and needles wasn't doing his health much favors.
Stress hadn't left him once since stepping foot on this ship and every yell of the crew, every sharp flap of the sails, every loud stomp on the wooden deck had him bolting up and craning his neck to peer along the sea line, feeling his stomach sink and heart race at the possibility of seeing black sails. On the lookout for those cursed pirates. The savage, villanous monsters who lurked the tides of the ocean.
In England, back at home, he’d heard the countless tales of the dastardly pirates and their horrendous, sinful deeds. His cousins had retold horror stories of prisoners tortured, body parts hacked off and sent to families for ransoms, even public beheadings that would be put on for show on various shores of innocent beach cities, turning the waves red. People spoke as if the ocean was littered with them, but the voyage had been mile after mile of…nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Bucky shook his head at his foolishness. It's not that he actually wanted the pirates to attack their ship and massacre them, but this endless waiting was certainly going to be the death of him. He was going to die from sheer boredom before any pirates caught sight of them and gutted them like fish. He'd been trapped on this vessel for what felt like weeks, standing on the decks and watching the sun rise up, then fall, only to rise back up hours later on endless repeat. Over and over. There was only so much wave watching that he could do, and apart from the pod of dolphins they had spotted not that far off the coast from their departure harbor, sea life was quiet. Uneventful. But according to the working crew, this was perfect conditions.
The windswept deck was damp beneath his shoes and it only prompted thoughts of the soft, luscious green grass of home that he would feel between his toes, tickling the bottoms of his feet when he ran. What he wouldn’t give for the freedom to run across the fields of Shelbington Estate once more and feel the wind rushing in his ears, the world and everyone in it nonexsistant in his chosen peace. But no, he was confined by an endless, restless sea taunting him with a wildness he's never known.
It seemed almost unforbidden, like the waters were telling him that he didn't belong there. Given the way the crew members skirted around him, not even glancing for a second time in his direction, he knew he probably seemed ridiculous standing there. In his awful loafers and stocking, the too-thick trousers that were fastened at his knees, the stiff dress shirt tucked into them and the waist coat above that. He felt silly, really, and he wanted nothing more than to strip down and feel the breeze just like the rest of the crew were allowed to do. What he wouldn't give for the chance to rip his waistcoat off and throw it into the waves, then his shoes, and these awful, awful stockings. But then what would that make him seem like? An ungrateful brat, is what. Some of these men didn't even own a pair of shoes and here he was ready to toss them into the abyss beneath them.
Bucky exhaled and gripped the railing, longing for solid, unmoving ground beneath his feet. He didn't want to be here. He longed for dirt beneath his nails, scratches on his palms from the coarse tree bark as he climbed and explored. He wanted his muscles aching from hours of exercise, not from being hauled up on this ship. He had half the mind to run laps around the ship but he wouldn't dare get in the way of the crew, not while his life depended on their navigation. Plus, he'd asked the captain that first week if he could at least explore the ship-- maybe climb the mast or riggings-- but the man had flatly refused and gone on a tangent about how he was being paid to ensure the safety of the Barnes children first and foremost. Bucky hadn't asked again.
He wiped sea spray from his eyes as a large wave pooled against the ship's side. He knows he's being foolish yet again. He's being childish, as his father always said. Running and swimming and climbing trees was worth nothing in his world, being nothing more than adolescent behavior he was supposed to have outgrown years ago. Men did not climb trees or swim for hours, and they certainly didn’t run for the sheer pleasure of it the way he had at Shelbington. Men, like his father, and uncle, and cousins, were to be strong, smart, and business-like in a world ruled by wealth and the power of a name.
Of course, Shelbington was no longer the place he belonged. A place he couldn't call his home. The estate wasn't theirs anymore. Instead, it was sold off by his father to pay off their debts, so even if he did somehow make his way back home one day, he would never see that yard, that freedom, again. It all would be home to another family.
No, for the foreseeable future, home would be Brookstein Isle, a new colony his father desperately wanted to see flourish and had spent months doing so. George Barnes had found his fortunes in England, lost them too, and as an appointed governor in the New World, Bucky's father had the one thing he loved most dearly: power. Without the Crown breathing down his back, power was something his father had lots of now. He had a colony of his own, the power to do whatever he pleased with it, including appointing Bucky his future bride that lived there.
Sharon Carter stood to inherit quite a fortune, and for the colony— and George — to thrive, alliances had to be made. So Bucky would do the only useful thing he could and marry. It's what men did. It's what his father demanded.
That didn't mean the panic hadn't been clawing at his insides ever since he found out about the arrangement. From the moment he woke up, to the moment he closed his eyes, it was all he thought about. No more being a 'child'. And marriage was the way to banish any of these pointless desires of freedom.
In the dark, there was no one to see how his face crumbled. Curse his father. Curse this boat. Curse this unending feeling of emptiness that plagued at his mind.
Bucky dragged his fingers through his hair, feeling how it curled at the ends in the dampness of the air. He tucked a lock behind his ear and could already picture his father's face when he would catch sight of it. It had been his little act of rebellion to let it grow much longer than most gentlemen would dare. He certainly wouldn’t be wearing those dreaded wigs, either, if he could help it. In his eighteen years, he'd managed to so far even though he'd gotten punished more times that he'd like to admit because of it.
His eyes took to the sky, mesmerized, not for the first time, the vastness of what being out on the ocean presented him with. There were clouds in the sky that hid the stars and the small crescent of the moon but the blanket of night stretched on as far as the eye could see, endless and free, everything he wished he could experience for himself. As a particular strong gust of wind slithered along the deck, Bucky shivered in the late September night chill, cursing himself for not wearing his jacket too. But that was just excessive. And much to pompous to be brought out among this crowd. He already stood out like a sore thumb, and wearing that would only make them sneer and think he was trying to belittle him with his family's fake facade of wealth that outsiders knew nothing about.
At least the wind was no longer the bitter cold of the mid-Atlantic as they neared the West Indies. His jacket had stayed on then, but after that first day of sunny, almost blistering hot rays of sunlight, it had him taking it off and shoving it into his chest in his cabin. So now he stood, careful to stay out of the crew's way, and watched on silently as they bustled about. Just an hour back, the captain had announced they had a fortnite left of their voyage as long as the weather stayed good and nothing went array. The possibility of anything going wrong had seemed strong at first and it still does, if he were being honest, but he couldn't possibly understand how the men survived this lifestyle being trapped on this ship day after day. Then again, he wasn't doing anything. Not like the crew. These were hardworking men who worked hard as the shifts rotated, getting only hours to sleep before it was time for them to complete their duty once more. Perhaps if he was given the chance to move like them, he wouldn't have the urge to jump ship.
Staring out at the nothingness, Bucky stopped his restless shifting and squinted. The weak light of the moon had peeked through the clouds and for a moment, Bucky thought he spotted a strange kind of movement. Something that broke the reflection in the water in the distance. But as he continued looking, the night once again swallowed everything in its pass and it was pitch black darkness once again.
Perhaps it had been a giant oceanic creature breaching the surface— a whale or giant squid, or some kind of mysterious monster.
Bucky chuckled. Just days ago, Becca had read from her book of fables and clearly his imagination was running wild. Just like the waters around him. The book, not suprisingly, was a gift from her husband-- something that their father wouldn't be too happy to see. Becca has always had a thrill for adventurous tales rather than the books young, proper ladies were supposed to read. He was so thankful that it was her he was traveling with and not Elizabeth because while he loved both of his sisters, Elizabeth was prim through and through. She would have been mortified to see the cabin they were sleeping in, let alone the conditions of this ship that had certainly seen better days. The cabin that Bucky and Becca shared was large but it was nothing compared to their life back home. None of this was. At least they had privacy, though, because he had seen the crew's sleeping quarters and that had been simply abysmal, even to his standards. He should be back in their cabin, sleeping, but he hadn't been able to shake the feeling of needing to move, feeling suffocated.
Just like the thought of Brookstein Isle. Knowing he'd be there soon made him restless. He knows what fate awaits him. He'd be forced to work for his father or at some other respectable job appointed to him, like Rebecca’s husband, John Proctor. Unlike Bucky, Becca had been given a choice. John was thirty and not as wealthy as their father would have liked but the two of them had fallen in love and waited until both of their fathers gave their blessings and agreed upon the marriage. Bucky didn't even know what Sharon looked like, let alone her age.
The only hope that he had was that John seemed happy enough to do Father’s bidding. It meant he had left for Brookstein Isle many months ago, not knowing Becca had been with child at the time, but when George Barnes made a demand, it was followed. So while John left to the New World months before they did, Bucky and Becca stayed back and sold off the estate and the valuable items that they could part with. Bucky wasn't naive enough to know that the only reason Becca had stayed with him was because their father had no trust in Bucky to know where to begin with the estate. It was a subtle dig, but for once, Bucky hadn't cared. The thought of traveling solo was worse than anything else.
Even the thought of having nothing when he had considered refusing to board this ship, didn't seem as bad. If he didn't follow up on his duty, he'd be disowned and it would leave him worse off than these crew members. So of coarse he did was he was ordered to do. That, and he wouldn't dare leave Becca all on her own. Although... with how easy their journey had been, he knows he could have stayed behind. Either way, he was on this ship and it was done. Not only was he going to the New World, but to his new life as well. He’d accepted years ago that he was less-minded, and although he knew he should be grateful for the wealthy life that awaited him at Brookstein Isle, he dreaded knowing he would truly be under his father’s thumb once more.
It had been heaven having his father overseas for years. He supposed he should feel remorse for such negative thoughts, but there was… so much else to consume his guilt.
So, so much.
Suddenly a loud cry from the lookout's nest rang into the air. "Sails!"
The shout had Bucky's heart stopping and he was lost for a second, not understanding what that meant, but then the entire crew ran out from the belowdecks, pulling on various pieces of clothes and shoes, some with so much fear in their eyes that Bucky's blood went cold at the sight. Desperately, he narrowed his eyes at the watery horizon, turning his head from side to side, looking but finding nothing. Then, one of the men pointed into the distance and Bucky squinted and then he saw it-- the hulk of a ship appearing before his very eyes. With a sickening twist of his stomach, he realized he had truly spotted a monster, and it was upon them.
Bucky sprinted down to the cabin, throwing the door open and shoving himself inside. The loud bang of the door closing behind him had Rebecca jumping up from the bed. The terror in her eyes was instant and she pressed a hand to her round belly as she threw on her night coat. “What is it? What's happened?”
Frantically, Bucky shook his head. “I-I think it’s pirates.” He could hardly believe the words as he said them. Certainly this was a dream-- a nightmare gone horribly wrong. There he was complaining of his boredom only for pirates to appear moments later. This was his fault. He was a fool. A stupid, stupid fool. And now they were to be gutted. Killed because heaven wanted to answer his wishes.
The blood drained from Rebecca’s face. “Pirates?”
"What else could it be? They shouted sails! The ship was heading straight for us!" He dropped down to his knees and began rummaging in his trunk. He pulled his dagger from the sheath, grimacing at how foreign it was to him. What was he to do with it if it truly was pirates? He couldn't protect himself with this, let along Becca and her unborn child.
"It could be another ship," she said instead, but even to Bucky's ears it didn't sound confident. "Maybe they're in distress. They may need help. Did you see a flag? It has to be--"
The loud thunder of the crew’s footsteps shook the ceiling and had her mouth snapping shut. Slowly, he rose back to his feet and shuffled backward until he met her, both of them meeting the door head on. "I couldn't see a flag," he whispered. "The crew wouldn't have thrown themselves into action if there wasn't something to be afraid about."
"Pirates would be bold enough to board a Crown's ship?" Her hands clutched at his arm and surely she felt him shaking. The dagger that he held out in front of them was vibrating in his grasp.
"Pirates do as they please," he said, keeping his voice low and trying to peer up through the floorboards as if he could catch a glimpse of what was sure to greet them soon enough.
Footsteps pounded and thumps reverberated, tense voices shouting commands that were too distant to make out clearly. Apart from that, however, it was quiet. Almost deathly so. Not even yells of pain from the crew or screeches of life being snuffed out.
“There are no gunshots," Becca whispered. "There must be too many. They aren't fighting.”
He didn't know what was worse-- the fact that there was no fighting to attempt for their freedom or that they were outnumbered so severely that no one dared to move a muscle. The realization made Bucky swallow heavily before he spun around, hoping to find something to bar the door with. He reached down to test the weight of his trunk but Becca was stopping him, shaking her head. “They aren’t heavy enough. Besides, it will only anger them. It’s no use. If they are coming, we must face them head on. Maybe we can buy them off.”
"With what money?" he hissed. He felt his frustration rise but closed his eyes in regret, whispering an apology seconds later. None of this was Rebecca's fault. She was trying to help, he knew, but still. They both knew that neither of them carried anything valuable with them. It had all been shipped away months ago to their father.
Suddenly there were pounding footsteps and shouts that made the hair on Bucky's arms stand on end, making his throat go dry. “Get behind me.” He stepped in front of her and raised the dagger up, pointing it at the door. Perhaps the pirates would pass them by. Perhaps they’d steal the cargo and be done with it. Perhaps—
The door exploded open, almost flying off its hinges, and Bucky barely held in his yelp. His heart pounded so loudly that he was certain the two invaders before him could hear. They were both big, scary looking, and their beady gaze raked them up and down with a leer that made Bucky's breath turn shallow.
“You ever fuck a bitch with a babe?”
Bucky’s stomach dropped. How did they know? Becca was hidden behind him and she was also covered in her night coat. The longer the men stared at them, the stronger something so fearful clawed at his heart and insides, making his knuckles go bone-white as he gripped the handle of the dagger. “You will not lay a finger on my sister.”
Ignoring him, the other man smiled, showing crooked teeth. "Has to be good and juicy, I'd say."
Behind him, Becca dug her fingers into Bucky’s shoulder. Heart in his throat, he raised the dagger even higher, pointing it directly at the men.
The two blinked at Bucky, then each other, before bursting into laughter. Then, the two put on mock faces of fright before the one with the crooked teeth raised a hand to his waist, brandishing the dull metal of a pistol. “Oh no, we’re done for, Fisk!”
But then, the air changed. Like it all got swooped out in one heavy tug. Loud footfalls echoed in the corridor, bold and commanding, and they were getting closer. The two men snapped straight up into position and stepped aside as another man entered into the cabin. This man was tall enough to have to duck as he entered and as he stepped through, his shoulders almost brushed the frame. Then, he looked up and sharp, piercing eyes swept the cabin.
This man wore black from head to gold-tipped toes. An open-collared shirt covered his large chest, with trousers tucked into knee-high boots, and a long leather coat that flared out behind him. A pistol was tucked into his belt, and a long sword glinted at his hip. Gold gleamed on the belt buckle, matching the small square earring in his left ear, rings on his fingers, and the tips of those black boots. The ends of a blue sash dangled over his hip, the only splash of color aside from the gold. He had to be twice Bucky’s age, his face tanned with a scar cutting across his left temple. His hair seemed to be a dark golden shade that was loose and free around his ears, a surprise since Bucky had expected all pirates to have long, unruly hair like the uncivilized animals that they were. His trimmed beard shadowed his strong jaw. In the low light, the color of his narrowed eyes was impossible to see, but Bucky imagined they must be as black as the pirate’s soul.
He might have been the very devil himself. Yet, Bucky knew exactly what he was looking at. This man, was the Captain. The Pirate King who had come to slay.
Bucky’s palm sweated around the handle of the dagger, and he hated the tremors in his outstretched arm. How he wishes he was big and strong like this man. Because this man could do damage. He wasn't weak like Bucky. When Bucky opened his mouth, his throat was painfully dry. “We— we don’t have anything of value. We're just passangers.”
Another man stepped into the cabin. This time, it was one that Bucky recognized-- Rumlow, one of the Proud Victoria’s young crew. The Pirate King glanced to him for confirmation. Rumlow nodded. “It’s true. Only clothes and trinkets in their trunks.” He sniffed dismissively, black eyes glancing in Bucky's direction. “There’s nothing hidden anywhere in here we could find since we left London.”
Bucky had thought better of the crew, but now saw how naive he’d been. It must have been Rumlow who had informed the pirates that Rebecca was with child. “You're a coward, Rumlow. A disgrace to the country.”
Rumlow snorted. “As soon as I got a good look at the flag, I knew we were done for. Everyone knows the Captain of Flying Eagle will gut you once you’re in his talons. I ain’t dying for cargo I don’t give a fuck about or for a captain who treats us like shit.”
“Your destination is Brookstein Isle?” The Captain demanded, his tone low and calm. Now, those sharp eyes were on Bucky, waiting and watching. Like a predator watching its prey.
“Yes,” Bucky answered. “It’s a new colony. We'll be joining our family there.”
Rumlow nodded again even though the Captain didn't address him. “We were hired to drop them off with their father. The old man’s the governor or some shit.”
Suddenly, Captain seemed to jolt, but a moment later the ripple had vanished and he was still again, fearsome and dispassionate. Bucky thought he must have imagined the hiccup. Yet there was no denying the gleam that entered the captain’s devilish eyes, and dread sliced through Bucky's gut. The Captain loomed closer. "Your name, boy," he demanded, in the same commanding manner.
Heart hammering, all Bucky could manage was, “Uh…”
“These one’s are called Barnes,” Rumlow said for him instead.
“Barnes,” the Captain repeated, barely a whisper now. “As in George Barnes?”
Fingers going numb around the dagger, Bucky nodded. There was no sense denying it. “He's our father.”
“You’re the son George Barnes killed his wife to have?” The captain’s focus sent chills down Bucky’s spine.
How the captain knew that, Bucky couldn't begin to ponder. But hearing the words made him wince, and Becca's nails dug deeper into his shoulder. He nodded. His mother had never even held him before the rest of her life drained away. Rebecca had been but six when he was born but she'd understood what had happened and eventually told Bucky once he could too.
The captain’s eyes glinted once more and it was seeing that danger that made Bucky take in what he stood up against. The man was enormous. Bucky was tall enough, five feet and eight inches or so, but this man towered well over six feet. It was all Bucky could do to hold his ground and not stagger back against Rebecca, or even hide behind her like he had done for the majority of his life.
When the Captain gazed down at them, there was a fierceness in his eyes that left Bucky frozen solid. “Your father is a liar. A man who has done vile, unforgivable things. A coward who deserves nothing but the guillotine." Bucky swallowed hard, hand shaking. He didn't have much love for his father, but who was a pirate to talk of vileness? Rumlow himself said this man was feared, a man who gutted poor, innocent souls just because he could. “Your father cheated me. He was tasked with justice and fairness. Instead he conspired to steal from me. He branded me a pirate when I was a privateer for the Queen.”
“Aren’t they the same thing?” Bucky blurted out, not being able to help himself any longer. If he was to die, he'd die standing strong. As the Captain’s nostrils flared, Rebecca dug her nails into Bucky’s shoulder again, harder as if silently demanding for him to shut up. He could feel the bruises forming. Possibly even the blood drawing.
“No, they fucking aren't,” the pirate gritted out. “Privateers are licensed. Legal. Privateers follow rules. Laws. Just as your father was supposed to as a judge in the Court of Admiralty in Jamaica. Your father tried to strip me and my men of everything we’d worked and suffered for. We escaped him, but in the years that have followed, he has never paid the price.”
Dread consumed Bucky fully now. His father’s greed would once again bring suffering. If not for George’s mounting debts, Bucky and Rebecca would still be safe at home, waiting until she had her baby before making this journey. Shelbington wouldn’t have had to be sold at all, and now they faced God knew what at the mercy of pirates. Bile rose in his throat at the thought of any harm coming to his sister, of her screams echoing in the air, of his too. In that moment, he hated his father more than ever. “I…” He racked his brain for something—anything—to say, something that would get them out of this mess. His dagger shook, and he licked his dry lips. “I’m sorry," he said, honest because he understood the sting of betrayal by his father more than anyone. If he was going to fix this, it would be with honestly.
But a slow, intimidating smile curled on the Captain's lips. "Yes. You will be."
Re-edited as of 1/29/2020
Chapter 2: Precious Cargo On Board
Phew. Okay. To the reader(s) that was confused as to where all the chapters went, let me break it down:
1. I had 16 chapters of this story posted, all of which were originally credited toward Keira Andrews's novel 'Kidnapped by the Pirate'.
2. Someone (or maybe a bunch of people, idk or care) reported the story as plagiarism so AO3 Administration got involved and told me I had no rights to post this story because I didn't have original permission from the author so therefore had to have the story deleted by Feb. 22 otherwise my account would be deleted. (YIKES)
3. I got permission from Ms. Andrew's!! You can see that I posted it on my Tumblr page and also provided the link on the first Chapter of this story for PROOF that some people may need.
4. AO3 Administration then reached out back to me and said that because I had gotten permission, I was all good to go!
5. The story is being re-uploaded!
All of this mess literally backtracked me a month of updates for this story -_-
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Steve ignored the boy’s trembling dagger, nodding to his men. “Relay these orders to Sam: Confiscate any cargo worth taking. Leave the ship and crew unharmed and with enough food and water to survive. The lady will continue to Brookstein Isle. Untouched.”
As the men scurried out, followed by the brown headed sailor who had happily given up all of the Proud Victoria's secrets, Steve gazed down at George Barnes' precious son. “Your journey will be delayed.”
“De—delayed?” Barnes asked. He was smooth-faced and slim, long-legged with remarkable blue-grey eyes. His brown hair fell just right at his jaw, wavy and damp with sweat. He’d missed a button on his dark waistcoat, and it hung crookedly above his white shirt and tan trousers. His black Oxford loafers were surprisingly scuffed, white stockings bunched at one ankle.
Pink splotches flushed his pale cheeks, which were smooth and not the faintest freckle in sight. This boy had surely been untroubled by hard work a day in his life. He was utterly unremarkable aside from his parentage.
Steve decided to nail the lid onto the coffin. “You’re coming with us.”
The effect was instant.
The woman cried out. Steve almost laughed as Barnes screwed up his courage and lunged. With a simple twist and squeeze, Steve liberated him of the dagger, which was constructed of fine steel in an elegant hand-carved wooden handle. “Don’t hurt yourself, boy. Your father won’t pay for a carcass.”
He spotted the dagger’s sheath on the floor and held out his hand for it. Barnes bent and reluctantly handed it to him. Steve tucked the weapon into his belt.
“Pay?” the Barnes daughter sputtered. “But our father hardly has any money!”
Steve assessed her. Modestly expensive gown, equally expensive jewels on her neck and ears. Surely no poor man could afford those. If they wanted to lie, Steve could play along. Momentarily, of course.
He took a step forward, and they jerked back as one. He asked, “And how did that come to pass?”
The truth was, was that the rumors of the Barnes declination had hit Steve's ears long ago. But like every family of nobility and higher status, there were high points just as there were low points. The Barnes family could be just the same, in one of their temporary pits and Steve knows that it’s only a matter of time until the family gets back on their damn high horse again. He likely knew most of the story, but perhaps Barnes' children could grace him with new information.
The woman inched around to stand by her brother’s side, clutching his hand. “The family fortune went to his elder brother. Our father used everything else on his dream for Brookstein Isle. He managed to win the governorship, but if wasn’t for the Crown’s money to establish the new colony, he barely has a thing.”
Hm. So the bastard couldn’t even spend Steve’s prize wisely after he stole it. A fucking pity and damn near waste. The Spanish galleons he had acquired those many years ago would have made Steve and his men rich beyond belief. If he had cashed the prize in, he would have never had to step foot on another boat again, let alone work another day in his goddamn life.
Steve still cringed when he remembered how proud he’d been to appear at the Court of Admiralty with his hard-won treasure all those years ago. Ready to give England her share in accordance with regulations, doing his part in the war. What a fool he’d been.
Still, he pretended to mull the woman’s words over. “In that case, I’ll offer your father the fairness he denied me.”
The siblings exhaled, shoulders slumping in relief. Then the girl said, “Thank you, sir. Whatever it was our father did, I swear—”
“I’ll give him a month to gather the funds before our arrival. A hundred thousand pounds.”
As one, their jaws dropped. The boy sputtered. “It’s too much!” Possibly, but an arrogant man who valued his heir would find a way. George Barnes’ pride would demand it. Besides, Steve hadn’t waited years for revenge to go easy on the swine now.
Ignoring their dismay, he announced, “Around about the night of the next dark moon, we will arrive at Brookstein Isle and announce ourselves. Your father will personally row out a skiff into the harbor. Alone. He will meet my ship. I will exchange his son for the ransom. Simple.”
Barnes’ children locked gazes, hopelessness passing between them, tears slipping down the girl’s cheeks. Steve understood their dread. Their terror. Remembering his own after being unfairly sentenced by their father, he reveled in their misery.
“Sir, have pity!” the young woman sobbed. “My poor brother has committed no sin.”
“Pity? Your father deserves no such thing, not from me. Not from anyone.” Steve added, “And your brother will only be the first to suffer if Barnes doesn’t comply. Tell your father that his precious Brookstein Isle will bleed and burn unless he meets my demands.”
She opened her mouth to speak again, but Steve was tired of her and cut her off with, “No tricks, and your brother lives. But if Barnes plots against me…” He kept his voice low. A calm demeanor was sometimes more menacing than a shout. Steve peered intently at the son, who had wrapped an arm around his sister’s shaking shoulders. “If your father defies me, this boy dies. Painfully. Slowly. I will gut him like a fish, slice him into pieces, and deliver them to your father one by one.”
He had been so very patient in his revenge, and this was his moment. This was his time and Steve grasped hold of it with both hands, not letting his grip slacken.
The sister gasped, slapping a hand over her mouth. The younger Barnes’ chest rose and fell rapidly, but he kept his chin up. His sister’s eyes overflowed with more tears. “Please, I beg you. Let my brother come with me. He’s to be married! We’re starting a new life! He’s never harmed anyone or anything. He’s kind and good.”
Steve sighed to himself. Enough of this. He curled his tongue into his cheek and gave her a leering appraisal. “If you prefer to take your brother’s place—”
“No!” the boy shouted. The boy’s eyes burned with a fierceness he had lacked before now. “I’ll do whatever you ask. Just don’t harm my sister.” Steve’s lips curled up. If he were a tender-hearted type, he’d almost be touched. As it was, well…
Breathing hard, the boy yanked his sister into a hug. “I’ll be alright. I love you, Becca.”
She clung to him. “Don’t go! Don’t let him take you.”
Wishing he could roll his eyes, Steve hauled Barnes from the cabin, dragging him out by the scruff of his neck. The boy didn’t fight, apparently surrendering to his fate for his sister’s sake, or perhaps having used up his shred of bravery. The girl would have been no use—if Steve remembered correctly, George Barnes had two daughters. But, rumor was, it had been a son to carry on his name that he’d obsessed over and valued above the health of his own wife. And now here was that very son, in Steve’s grasp. Why the Fates had blessed this night so roundly, he’d never know, but he wouldn’t question it. Good luck didn’t always come his way so this opportunity for revenge at last wasn’t something he would take lightly.
But… if the girl was right and they truly had no riches, would the snake be able to raise the money? Perhaps. Most likely, given the Barnes’ connections. But at the very least, Steve held Barnes’ precious legacy in his grip. Oh, what Steve would give to see the old man’s face when he heard the news.
Steve laughed out loud, his delight echoing off the water all around them. He shoved the boy toward Sam at the rail. “Behold our prize! George Barnes’ precious son.”
Sam was a few inches shorter than Steve, with dark skin and a gap between his front teeth. Like Steve, Sam was built and hardened by a life at sea, large, with solid muscle and a keen eye for the horizon, always ready as Steve’s right hand man.
Sam’s fingers gripped Barnes’ arm ruthlessly. His dark eyes meet Steve’s and he laughed, his silver earrings glinting in the torchlight. Sam’s black shirt gaped at the neck, revealing a fierce falcon tattoo just below his throat. His right hand man had five or six tattoos hammered into his flesh while Steve was content with one.
After confirming his orders with Sam, Steve passed on the ransom demand to the merchant captain of the Proud Victoria , a salty old seaman who merely shrugged and nodded, the boy’s life clearly of no concern.
The boy watched the exchange with obvious dismay. For his part, Sam eyed young Barnes with nothing more than a raised brow. “Come on, then. Over you go,” Sam demanded.
The boy blinked at the long wooden plank connecting the ship to The Fallen Eagle . He glanced over his shoulder toward the stairs belowdecks, where his sister’s sobs echoed. His body flexed, as though to run, or take flight.
“Now, now, none of that,” Steve said, smirking. “Where would you even escape to?” A darkness in him fed on the boy’s terror. “Unless you plan to be shark food, there’s only one place for you to go now.” He turned his gaze to the shadowy hulk of his ship, its sleek sails temporarily furled, the crew following his orders to the letter. It had been his home for years, yet he grew restless. This was it. This was damn well it. Revenge would finally be his. Up until tonight, Steve’s luck had been running out. He’d felt it. Either he’d meet his fate at the bottom of the sea, get sliced by a blade, or at the end of a hangman’s noose.
Now, here the Barnes boy stood, like a living, breathing chance at regaining at least some of what he’d lost. Perhaps even a chance at a new life. It was foolishness, but… Maybe.
“Up you get.” Sam pushed the prisoner to the plank. “The Captain isn’t a patient man, I warn you. Neither am I.”
Breathing hard, Barnes climbed up, his legs visibly trembling. He looked over at the Eagle, then back at Steve. Then down at the waves. “Don’t even think about some noble sacrifice,” Steve snarled, vaulting up behind him. “Or we’ll take your sister after all. She won’t be so pretty when my men are done with her.” He grabbed the boy by the nape again. “ Move .”
After his boots hit the familiar deck, he marched the prisoner to the stern and stood surveying the crew, still holding the boy close. When the plank was raised and hooks released from the Proud Victoria, Steve shouted orders to set sail.
In the grey hint of dawn, they caught the wind. Even weighted with the pilfered cargo, The Fallen Eagle was the faster ship. Steve remained sharp regardless, watching to be sure the vessel didn’t make any attempt at following.
Barnes shivered beside him, fists clenched and lips pressed tight, watching the Proud Victoria grow smaller in their wake. Some pirates favored warships, but Steve preferred the agility of a brig, with his crew of forty-six men being smaller compared to some ships. Fewer men to share prizes with. Fewer men to cause trouble.
Steve’s mind whirled. For most of his years, he’d dreamed of a life on the waves, but he’d never wanted piracy. George Barnes had given him no choice. There was no possibility of restoring his tarnished honor, but with his share of the ransom, perhaps he could escape the brutality.
Maybe he could find…somewhere. A quiet stretch of island, beyond England’s reach. A place to fish and raise a few animals, enough to live comfortably. To know peace on his own terms. He’d be alone, but he was long accustomed to that.
A distant pang twinged, dull after all this time. Years ago, he’d imagined finding a mate, a man to share his life with. Even to love. Such nonsense now. Unbidden, a memory of sandy blond hair and brown eyes flared before returning to the dark abyss of Steve’s past. He’d had love for a brief moment before it was ripped away.
Ah, the naivety of youth. Yet here Steve was dreaming of a peaceful life. Naivety indeed.
Steve centered his mind on the task at hand, peering into the distance. They were well away, so he hauled the boy belowdecks to his cabin, ignoring his yelp. There was just enough murky light through the windows to see without bothering with the candles.
Steve’s desk sat at the rear, bed built into the wall opposite it, on the other side of the cabin’s open space. In that space, Steve crossed his arms and eyed his captive up and down. “Boy—”
“I’m eighteen.” Barnes puffed up his narrow chest. “I’m a man.”
Steve had to laugh. “Are you now?” At thirty-eight, Steve could barely remember being so damn young. “Listen, boy . Here’s how it will be.”
“My name is—”
“Unimportant,” Steve barked. He’d surely heard the name when he’d looked into George’s history, but it didn’t matter now. In fact, it was easier this way. “You are merely cargo. My treasure, my prize and nothing more. That is all you are until your father pays what I’m owed. I would put you in the hold, but the men would be too tempted to have at you, and your father wouldn’t want what was left. Do you understand… Buachaill?” It was all the name the prisoner needed aside from his accursed surname. It was rare that Steve went back on his Irish roots, but now seemed appropriate, given that the chance of the boy understanding the language was slim to none. The name would have to do.
Not waiting for an answer, Steve opened a trunk by the hull and dug out a scratchy wool blanket he rarely used, tossing it. It hit Barnes in the chest and pooled at his feet.
Steve nodded to the corner by the windows. “Sleep there.” Barnes snatched the blanket from the floor and straightened unsteadily. “For the next month while your father gathers funds, you will not be leaving this cabin, so food and water will be brought to you. Don’t speak to any of the crew. Don’t speak to me , unless spoken to. Nod if you understand.”
“Not leaving this cabin?” Barnes blurted, horror written plain on his boyish face.
“Clearly you do not understand.” Steve took a stride forward, gratified when the boy jerked back.
“It’s… It’s just—please. I won’t be any trouble.” His breath came quickly, chest heaving. “Can’t I go up to the deck at times? To stretch my legs?”
“Be grateful I’m not chaining you to the bed.” Steve raked his gaze down and back up his prisoner, instilling fear with a leering snarl. “ Naked .” Buachaill’s eyes widened, darting to the mattress.
Steve turned on his heel and fetched the key from his desk. Now that they’d settled that, he’d— “I could work! Up on deck. Help the crew with…whatever it is they do.”
Disbelieving, Steve straightened to his full height and whirled, making sure his coat flared behind him. He hadn’t secured the Sea Eagle’s fearsome reputation in only four years without some dramatics. Yet incredibly, Barnes kept talking.
“I’d be happy to work.” His eyes implored, fingers twisting in the blanket. “I’d do anything you say.” Clearly fucking not, as the command to shut his damn mouth had already been tossed aside.
Steve sneered. “Work? You? Tell me, have you worked a single day in your delicate little life?”
Cheeks red, the boy stared at his scuffed shoes in answer. “You will stay in this cabin, and you will only speak when spoken to. But I’m not entirely cruel.” He waved his arm at the bookshelf. “Feel free to read all you like.”
Barnes looked at the volumes with a strange sort of despair bordering on disdain, his shoulders slumping even lower. Fury sparked, and iron dug into his palm as Steve gripped the key. “Is my library not to your liking, my lord ?”
“No, no. I’m sure it’s excellent,” Buachill answered meekly, backing up a step. “Most men on this ship can’t even sign their names. It took me years to learn. Years of bettering myself word by word. You’re a privileged little piece of shit, and you will sit down, shut up, and pray your snake of a father pays the money he owes. Or you’ll be the one who pays. You and your sister. Even her child.”
In truth, Steve would never harm an innocent woman or child— or allow his crew to do so —but the young Barnes didn’t have to know that. “Am I understood? Buachaill?”
Head down, Buachaill whispered, “Yes.”
Steve crossed to the door in two long strides. He slammed it behind him, put the key in the lock, and—
Nothing. Iron grated as the stubborn lock refused to turn.
Steve jiggled it for a few moments. Of all the times for the lock to seize up, it had to be when he was terrifying a prisoner. For fuck’s sake.
Jaw clenched, he threw open the door again. Buachaill still stood where he’d left him, clutching the blanket. Tugging his arm roughly, Steve dragged him out of the cabin, hollering, “Lang! Fix the lock. You have ten minutes.” He turned and smiled humorlessly at Barnes. “It seems you've been spared a moment of reprieve. I'd enjoy it, because it will certainly be the last.”
Just FYI, the nickname that Steve decides for Bucky is Buachaill which is Irish for young boy.
Chapter 3: Prison Belowdeck
None too gently, the Captain tugged him along to bottom deck. Bucky glimpsed the crew’s quarters at the bow of the ship, a cramped space, dark and stinking of sweat and mildew and heaven only knew what else. A cook was leaning over a stove, while men loitered around constructed tables playing cards, others snoozing peacefully in their hammocks.
Then Bucky was roughly pushed up the steps. On the main deck, he inhaled the cool, fresh air gratefully, the sun blinding where it peaked just over the horizon. He soaked in all the sights and smells around him, the threat of a month alone in the pirate captain’s cabin filling him with dread that threatened to undo him. The imprisonment on a ship was awful enough. But to be trapped in that one room? His stomach curdled at the thought.
He gazed about, heart lurching as he spotted sails in the distance. Was it the Proud Victoria ? Must have been, since no one paid it any mind. Bucky watched glumly as it shrank to a speck.
But Becca was safe, and that was what mattered. He hated that she would be alone for the rest of her journey, especially in her delicate state. Guilt pricked at his heart, even though he knew there was not a thing he could do.
He glared at the Captain, who at least had released Bucky from his vile grasp. The rising sun showed the pirate’s eyes to be a surprisingly vibrant blue that shone almost as vividly as the ocean surrounding them. The color was as far away from black that Bucky could imagine, not that it mattered really. In the captain’s right ear, there was a small golden square earring that gleamed in the upcoming sun rays. George Barnes’ voice instantly filled Bucky’s mind, reminding him how unmanly an earring would be, ‘how uncivilized, James’. He had been young when he asked but after that first time, he had never dared to repeat it.
The quartermaster-- Sam according to the captain’s greeting, approached. “Captain, the men want to eat some of the fish we took. Shall it be given to Cook?”
The Captain nodded his head. Bucky’s stomach grumbled at the thought of food, but he’d starve before asking the Captain. As Sam and the Cap walked some feet away, conferring in tones so low he couldn’t overhear, Bucky examined his prison.
The Fallen Eagle was a single-masted sloop that had likely once been a merchant vessel. Thick coils of rope crowded the ship. It seemed that there used to be an extended deck at some point, but it was removed to add more guns and cannons-- something that a pirate would certainly find more important. He counted fourteen around the top deck.
From a distance, the sloop would appear lower in the water. It would also make for good running, and Bucky’s feet itched to race from back to front, around the ship’s massive wheel, and back again. He wasn’t sure how many pirates toiled aboard, but he guessed forty-five or fifty men. They seemed to run from a variety of backgrounds; men of all colors, ages, and sizes, some with long hair, some short; some with cleaner faces and others with beards. Many wore loose pants, but some were form-fitting. Tattoos and piercings decorated bare skin. One man in a leather vest had dark ink so thick on his arms that Bucky at first thought he was wearing a shirt.
High above, a lookout was perched above the sails, holding onto the mast. The pirate flag still fluttered against the sky, it’s fabric emblazoned with a white bird of prey, wings spread wide, and it’s beak cruel. An eagle, Bucky presumed. As he watched, men yanked on the ropes to lower the flag, keeping it out of sight to lure in the ship’s next victims.
Bucky lowered his gaze from the sails and rigging. Sam and the Cap now seemed to be talking about him, eyeing him in such a way that made the hair on Bucky’s arms stand on end.
Unable to bear their scrutiny, he turned to look out at the waves. Wind rushed in his ears, and he wasn’t sure whether or not to be grateful he couldn’t make out their words. The truth was, he had a terrible suspicion Cap was quite overestimating Bucky’s worth to his father. It was true that George had wanted a son with a fervor bordering on obsession, or so Bucky had always been told. Bucky’s uncle— his father’s elder brother— had not only inherited the family fortune, estate, and title of baronet, but had sired three strapping, intelligent sons. George had resented them all bitterly, and had been determined to achieve a son of his own, an emblem of his manhood.
Winnie, Bucky’s mother, had first provided George with the Shelbington estate. Then a daughter, Elizabeth, who lived in Kent with her husband, a naval officer often at sea, and their four children. Next came Rebecca —another disappointment for George. So again and again he got Winnie with child, despite the physician’s warnings that the first two had almost killed her. Bucky wasn’t sure how many babies had been lost before she’d managed to birth him. George had finally acquired his prize, and though he’d sincerely mourned his wife by all accounts, Bucky suspected George’s greater sorrow was Bucky’s utter failure to be the son he’d desired so badly. To say he had been a disappointment quite understated the matter. For a moment he allowed himself the childish yearning for the mother he’d never known. She’d given her life for his, and he was certain the trade had not been worthy. How he would have let her down too. A half-wit and a sinner.
“Time’s up,” Cap announced, tearing him from his wayward thoughts. Then those blue eyes narrowed. “What do you look so guilty about?”
With one powerful stride, Cap closed the distance between them, and the rail jammed painfully into Bucky’s back as he tried to step away. Cap leaned in, towering over him. “Whatever heroic ideas you have in your head, get rid of them. If you attempt any kind of attack on me or my men, or you wish to fling yourself over the side in some misguided notion of noble sacrifice, we will hunt down that ship and see your sister and her child suffer. Oh , how they will suffer. Do I make myself clear, or do you require specifics?”
Bucky shook his head, desperate to back away farther from Cap’s mocking sneer. He was caught painfully with no retreat at hand, the man’s body an unmovable wall, his will impenetrable. Cap was right— to go overboard would be suicide, and Bucky didn’t have a prayer of overpowering a single man on the ship, let alone fifty of them. He was trapped.
“Any other questions?” Cap snapped again.
“Who did you steal this ship from?” The words flitted through his mind and somehow rasped right out of his mouth. Bucky snapped his jaw shut, blood rushing in his ears.
Cap straightened up as if offended. He growled, “This is my ship. I earned it fair and square in a wager. It was your father who tried to steal it from me.”
“I don’t understand,” he gritted out. “Why?”
“Not that it fucking matters what you understand, but after years of building myself up from the pits your father left me, I finally had my own ship. I considered carrying merchant cargo, but I wanted to do more for my country despite—”
Bucky waited a few moments, watching the way Steve’s jaw clenched. “Despite what?”
“Nothing,” he spat. “I was bestowed my letter of marque, permitting me to raid enemy ships. I was a proud partner of the Crown, battling the Spanish grip on the West Indies. I followed the rules and shared my winnings. I was respected .”
“Then how did you fall so far as to become this?”
The Cap’s large hand clamped around Bucky’s throat, metal rings digging in painfully, cutting off his air. He leaned low again. “Keep a civil tongue in your head, boy, or I will cut it out and feed it to you. Yes?”
Bucky nodded desperately, horror clawing at him, lungs already burning. He stamped his feet, wanting to kick and free himself somehow. Cap’s grip loosened, but didn’t release. At least it was enough that Bucky could breathe again. Barely.
Face hard, Cap still leaned in close. “That day seven years ago at the Court of Admiralty, when I presented my Spanish galleon loaded with treasure, your father announced that the Spanish captain had claimed cruel treatment, in direct violation to the regulations. That man had stayed in my cabin, and not a single hair on his head had been touched. I saw to it that no prisoner was ever harmed on my ship.”
“Perhaps the Spanish captain was the liar?” Bucky scraped the words out. Truthfully, it sounded exactly like something his father would do. Anything to further his own selfish desires.
“Of course the captain could not say, as he had suddenly died the night before in the court’s custody. But my letter of marque was invalidated, and in a heartbeat, I was declared a pirate. My ship and men would be seized as well.” He tightened his fingers on Bucky’s neck. “Your father and his cronies damned me and my crew to the gallows without a second thought. They took that loot for themselves, sending little of the treasure to England from what I heard later. Your father is a greedy liar. You’re probably just like him.”
Bucky struggled for air, his hands coming up to grip the Captain’s wrist, skittering fear clawing. Surely he wouldn’t kill him yet, Bucky’s mind scrambled.
Blessedly, Cap loosened his fingers. The rail dug into Bucky’s back, and he cursed his father. Damn him and his insatiable greed. Bucky had heard stories of the New World’s rampant corruption, and a Spanish treasure ship would certainly have been a tempting prize. Once again, George Barnes loomed large over Bucky’s life even in his absence.
Bucky gazed up at Cap’s grim expression and the bitter twist of his full lips. George could wait— Bucky had to deal with the villain who currently clutched him in his talons, the scent of sweat and seawater filling his nose.
The Captain continued, “Your father and his conspirators underestimated my men— Sam and many of this crew. They overpowered the force sent to arrest them and rescued me from my cell. We reclaimed The Eagle, but that was a name for a lawful ship. Since we’d been branded pirates, I thought a change was in order. It’s The Fallen Eagle now.” He tightened his hold on Bucky’s throat. “And I give no assurances on the well-being of prisoners.”
With that, he pushed Bucky back below decks and toward his cabin, where a jittery crew member stood with a metal tool in hand. “Lock’s fixed, Cap’n.” He handed over the iron key.
Bucky found himself sprawled on his face as Cap shoved him inside, narrowly missing the edge of the desk. He pushed up to be in a sitting position, hating how he cowered, yet tempted to crawl under the desk as Cap towered over him. The thought of being choked again was unbearable.
The pirate sneered, then turned and stripped off his long coat, hanging it on a hook. His dark, opennecked shirt billowed slightly at the sleeves. As well as his sword and pistol, Bucky glimpsed the handles of two daggers tucked into the Cap’s belt, one of them Bucky’s own.
His head spun with the rush of shame. What a failure he was. He hadn’t even managed to scratch the fiend with his blade before it was snatched away as if from a naughty child. What would Mr. Pierce think? That he’s a failure in everything, not only his studies.
Bucky blinked as the door slammed shut, the key scraped in the lock, and Cap was gone without another word. Thank the Lord for small mercies. The less he had to suffer the brute’s presence, the better.
Still on the floor, Bucky surveyed his cell. Sunlight warmed the air through the square windowpanes across the stern. On the port side, bookcases were built into the hull, thick books and rolled nautical charts tucked away neatly. He didn’t bother going closer to see any of the titles. There were built-in drawers and a large chest on the floor from which Cap had plucked the blanket. Bucky could hardly bear to touch it and kicked it into the corner. He sat there and pulled his knees to his chest, thoughts tumbling through his mind. Could he have done more with the dagger?
Mr. Pierce’s face filled his mind, and a pang of longing chimed through him. His tutor had always seemed so capable, so strong and intelligent. Bucky closed his eyes and conjured Mr. Pierce’s square jaw, his blue eyes, and neat, short blond hair. The width of his shoulders and the way his coat had hugged his broad chest. Mr. Pierce winked. “It’s a dangerous world over in the colonies. On land and at sea.”
Bucky gingerly examined the gleaming metal in his hand, turning the smooth wood handle between his fingers.
“You’re giving me this?” His heart thumped almost painfully.
“I know most tutors would gift a book or some such thing, but I fear it would be rather wasted on you. Don’t you agree?”
He did indeed. Bucky longed to throw his arms around him and press his lips to the strip of bare skin above Mr. Pierce’s pristine collar. Since he was a boy he’d dreamt of it, knowing his tutor was a good, decent man, not a sinner like Bucky. Admiring him for it whilst despairing of it. After he shook Mr. Pierce’s hand like a gentleman, he watched him, heart in throat, as Mr. Pierce rode to the end of the drive, around the bend, and was gone forever.
Fighting a rush of tears, Bucky opened his eyes. He was still sitting on the floor of the pirate king’s cabin. It was truly happening. He’d been kidnapped. It wasn’t some nightmare that would soak his
nightshirt with sweat but leave him unscathed. His tutor had tried to shield him from the world as best he could, but there was no preparation for this. Bucky missed him desperately, aching for his reassuring presence, his kind, thoughtful answers and advice.
They hadn’t had the money to buy Bucky’s way into Cambridge or Oxford, and Mr. Pierce had warned George that Bucky simply “did not possess the aptitude” for academics or law, his generous way of saying Bucky was too stupid for either. Even the church wasn’t an option, since reading was too important a requirement. Not that Bucky had a whit of desire to be a man of such degree.
He’d considered the navy at one point, but George had insisted Bucky would marry Sharon first. His studies had been a struggle for as long as he could remember. While Becca was well pleased to get lost hour upon hour of reading, Bucky had always longed to be outside—to run and climb and swim. To move .
Words on a page didn’t unfold and flow for him the way they seemed to for others. When Becca read aloud to him, she didn’t stumble or become confused. The words streamed out like water, with meaning and inflection. Bucky understood everything he heard, but when ink was put to paper, words confounded him. When they were children, she’d helped him memorize words, explaining what they meant and teaching him better than any tutor, even dear Mr. Pierce. She’d be a wonderful mother, patient and kind, with a mischievous streak he hoped would remain all her days.
Once, as a lad, Bucky had confessed to his tutor that he envied the servants and their physical tasks. Mr. Pierce had given him an uncharacteristically stern look and said, “Spoken like a boy of privilege who will never serve.” He was right, and shame still pricked at Bucky’s skin that he was so discontent with his lot in life when many others had it very much the worse. He just wished he didn’t feel so…wrong. In so many ways.
Mr. Pierce had then softened and ruefully said the stork had delivered him to the wrong house before drilling him on his pathetic Latin conjugation again, a useless endeavor if there ever was one.
He laughed humorlessly to himself now. The stork, ha. By the time Mr. Pierce had determined Bucky old enough to be informed of the true manner of how babies were born, Becca had already told him in great detail. He still wasn’t sure how she’d learned, since prim Elizabeth had never been one to gossip.
Becca. Was she all right? He was powerless to comfort her, and despair welled up again, along with a wave of loneliness that would have laid him low if he hadn’t already been huddled on the floor. He closed his eyes again, memories filling his mind.
When he’d questioned the stork theory, Becca had whispered that they could watch when the stud horse came to impregnate their new mare, and that would explain everything. On that rainy, gray day, they’d squirreled themselves away around the corner of the barn, flat on their tummies, coats soaked through, taking turns with Father’s spyglass. In the pasture, the mare had whinnied and run this way and that, before finally being cornered and mounted.
“That’s what Father did to Mother?” Bucky had whispered in horror.
Becca had huffed. “No, that’s only how animals do it. Women lie on their backs. But otherwise it’s the same.”
Watching the stallion have its way, Bucky’s blood had stirred in ways he couldn’t comprehend.
When he’d eventually begun waking with wet sheets, and his cock stiffened seemingly with a life of its own, he’d often take himself in hand, the image of that stallion filling his mind time and time again. Coat black as the night, hind legs thick and powerful as it mastered the quivering mare. Its cock when it cornered her had hung impossibly huge and thick, and Bucky had imagined how that hot, iron flesh must feel inside.
When he’d heard from one of his older cousins what sodomy meant, it had stirred something deep and unsettling in him. While his friends from neighboring estates fantasized about lifting a lady’s skirt or touching her creamy, delicate breasts, Bucky had remained unmoved by women’s charms. Not only was he feeble-minded, he was a deviant to boot. He wanted cock—hard and thick and unrelenting.
At times just rain or mud and a brisk wind could conjure vivid memories of that stallion on that spring day. Living in England, it had rather been a hazard. He cringed at the thought of dooming an unfortunate girl to a life with not only a dunce who could barely read two words before stumbling, but a sinner with unnatural defects. He knew he should strive to overcome his nature, but any attempts had left him despairing of the hopelessness.
Perhaps it would be better for poor Sharon Carter if the pirates were his doom. His sinful desires to have sex with men, to be consumed by them, had only grown stronger the more he tried to banish them away. There had been several times when he’d desperately wanted to confide in Becca, but he had feared her rejection too much.
Bucky blinked at the cabin. He’d opened his eyes at some point, and he was still there. If only he could wake on the Proud Victoria with Becca’s soft snores. His throat tightened painfully. Would he ever see her again? He couldn’t just sit there. He had to try and do something. Anything!
With one eye on the door, Bucky tiptoed, the floor creaking. He wagered the pirate wouldn’t be back for some time. He stopped to unbuckle his shoes and roll off his woolen stockings, which he tossed into the corner where he’d been told to stay. He spread his toes on the worn planks in relief. Peeking in drawers, he found dark clothing—trousers and shirts. Some pale linen underthings. No stockings or waistcoats, but then again, what use would a pirate have for those? Bucky couldn’t deny a moment of jealousy at the freedom.
He unbuttoned his own hated waistcoat and tossed it in the corner as well. He wasn’t even sure what he was looking for. Did he imagine he would stumble upon a weapon and then…what? Get the advantage over not one pirate, but the entire crew?
It would never happen so still, he searched. The chest only held more linens and odds and ends. The dark desk dominated much of the cabin, facing the door, which was tucked off to the side near the port hull. The bed was built into the wall adjacent to the door. Blue velvet drapes were tied back with red tassels on either side of the bed, looking almost royal in appearance. Judging by the dust clinging to the velvet, the drapes hadn’t been closed or shaken out in some time. The bed linens were wrinkled, though surprisingly white. Bucky glared at the scratchy, musty blanket he had been given.
Listening for footsteps in the corridor, he examined the wide, dark-wood desk. It had a tinge of red in the grain and was well constructed, wood extending on the front and sides all the way to the floor, making it a singularly solid piece of furniture. The carved chair was of an almost-black wood. The high back was carved in the form of a winged bird— an eagle, naturally—looming over serpents. The neck of one was captured in the eagle’s beak, talons tearing into the thing, its fangs useless as it struggled. The chair certainly made a statement. The seat cushion was that same navy velvet.
The top of the desk was neat. A nautical chart had rolled in on itself, and the thick captain’s log sat closed, ink and quill nearby. A curling silver candelabra with melted-down candles sat off to the side, a few drops of wax having dripped onto the desk and dried there. There was no guest chair on the other side of the desk, perhaps indicating that the pirate didn’t entertain much consultation. The desk of course contained drawers. Bottles of rum and port were stashed in a lower one. As Bucky edged out the top drawer, he heard a thud and voices outside the door.
Heart in his throat, fresh panic popping in his veins, he dove for the corner, curling against the wall atop the horrible blanket, eyes locked on the door, waiting for the key to scrape in the lock. Yet it didn’t, and as minutes passed, no one entered. The Fallen Eagle sailed on, hull creaking, rocking gently as it cut through the waves. Would the merchant ship reach Brookstein Isle when its captain had predicted? And would his father care enough to attempt to save Bucky? Would the last days of his life be spent locked away in this room, either alone or with a monster for company?
He wasn’t sure which was worse as he lifted his fingers to his tender throat, which throbbed after the Captain’s rough treatment. He imagined Becca’s slender hand tucked into the crook of his arm as they strolled the decks of the Proud Victoria in the afternoon. Could hear the lilt of her sunny voice reading him story after story. Useless tears pricking his eyes, he bowed his head and prayed she and her unborn child were unharmed on their journey to their new home.
If only their father hadn’t set them all on this course to the New World.
Bucky pushed away his fear in favor of resentment. His father had spent a ridiculous sum importing fruits and other flowers from England to the island. According to Becca’s husband, Father had been furious when they hadn’t taken root, the tropical plants running over them without mercy, choking them with flowering vines and bright bursts of blooms. The island had previously been uninhabited, and Bucky secretly hoped it would remain untamed for years to come. Yet, he knew no matter how unyielding the vegetation, if England was determined to overrun it, she would, without concern as to how many suffered and were enslaved in the process.
Some years ago, during one of George’s visits home from Jamaica, Bucky had argued with him at breakfast about paying fair wages for labor in the colonies. If the law said a person could not be a slave in England, how was it right in the New World? He could still envision his father’s red-faced fury at these “ radical ” ideas, spittle flying from his lips as he’d demanded to know if Bucky had learned them from his tutor. Protecting Mr. Pierce, Bucky said he’d seen a liberating pamphlet on a trip to London.
Perhaps Bucky could argue for fairness on Brookstein Isle. Not that he would be much good at it with his dim wits but still, he would try— if he survived. He curled in the corner of his prison, where he’d remain for the next, what? Four weeks, the devil had said. And if George refused to pay… No , Bucky couldn’t dwell on it. All he could do was hope this wouldn’t be his bloody end.
He touched his tender throat again, remembering the crush of Cap’s powerful hand. He had to withstand his captivity, and he’d drive himself utterly mad if he didn’t push aside his fear. Bucky was powerless over everything but his own mind, and if he could just keep himself occupied, he’d survive this.
He glanced around his prison, heart sinking. Of course, keeping occupied was easier said than done when he couldn’t move. Even after being kidnapped by pirates, restless boredom would apparently be his companion once more. The captain’s cabin was surely the largest on the ship, but trapped inside it, Bucky would go mad in a matter of days.
The boatswain’s whistle for all hands on deck cut through the air, and the men gathered. Standing at the deck, with Sam at his side, Steve surveyed them silently, waiting for the shuffling and jostling to stop. Waiting until he had their undivided attention. He still carried all his weapons, including the dagger confiscated from the prisoner. His lower back protested at the extra weight on his belt, and he cursed himself for not locking it all away safely before returning up top.
He made sure his voice carried across the deck. “By now, you are all aware of the unexpected treasure we’ve captured. My brothers, this windfall will bring us a reward greater than we could have dreamed when we spotted that merchant ship. Our new mission is to ransom George Barnes’ son.”
“For how much?” a voice called.
“One hundred…” he paused for dramatic effect. “ Thousand pounds.”
The men looked at each other, murmuring and smiling, visions of their share of the bounty dancing in their heads. Yet one, Coulson, asked, “Shouldn’t we have taken a vote?” Steve sighed internally. Yes, they should have, and he hadn’t even paused to consider it, his vision narrowed on the prize of revenge against Barnes and the possibility of a peaceful retirement from the sea. But he also wanted to leave the crew in a good state, with enough money that they could live well unless they squandered it, which some surely would. That was out of his hands.
He nodded. “Yes. Forgive me, my brothers. I was swept up in my excitement over our future riches. By all means, of course we will vote. Your choices are these: Continue to sail without a plan, hoping we stumble upon a prize. Perhaps some tobacco or sugar we can trade in Nassau for enough coin to spend a few days drinking and whoring before we set out to do it all again. And again. And again.” He waited, letting that option sink in. “Or, we ransom lying, cheating George Barnes’ only son for a hundred thousand pounds.”
Or however much Barnes could raise, but the men didn’t need to know that. Steve had set the bar high for the men’s sake as well, and hopefully the ransom would come close so they could share a generous bounty. More than they could ever expect to win unless they miraculously stumbled upon a ship with treasure in its hold.
““For the next month, we relax. We don’t fight over scraps with other ships flying the black. We don’t risk death battling said ships. We stay out of the trading channels. Then we simply deliver this one piece of cargo and become richer than we thought possible with one haul.” He let that sink in as well. Then, “Sam, the vote, if you please?”
Doing an admirable job of not smirking, Sam cleared his throat. “We all know the captain is a man of his word. While most captains take up to fourteen shares of a prize, our Captain only ever claimed two, the same he does now. A fair share for the work he does guiding us. Protecting us. Scott, you made how much doing backbreaking work at a rich man’s estate in Boston?”
Scott answered, “Twelve stinking pounds a year.”
Sam gazed over the men. “Twelve pounds. A year . There are forty-six of us on this ship. Captain
will get two shares; one and a half for me. Part will go into the fund for the injured, and so on. But when all is said and done, it will be two thousand pounds for each of you. I know we all dream of striking Spanish gold in the next ship on the horizon. While this may not be millions, it is not a prize to be underestimated. All in favor?”
Hands went up with a raucous cheer. Steve grinned. “That’s the spirit of The Fallen Eagle!” He waited a few moments before raising his hands and quieting the men. “The boy will remain in my cabin. Untouched. Unharmed. Some of you will tend to him when needed but otherwise, do not speak to him or allow him to ensnare you. Some of you will remember his father or have heard the tales of his treachery. George Barnes is a snake in the grass, and his son is surely just as slippery and deceitful.” The men nodded, murmuring in agreement. “Don’t be taken in by his innocent countenance. He’s a spoiled, lazy brat who’s had everything handed to him without a minute’s work, without a moment’s hardship.” More agreement.
Then, “What happens if the old man doesn’t pay?” Steve identified the man speaking. It was the sailor who had just joined them from the Proud Victoria. Already speaking so boldly could signal trouble, but Steve would give him the benefit of the doubt.
Steve knew how miserable those merchant ships could be, just like the navy— working oneself to the bone for next to nothing. “Ah, our new brother. Your name?” Steve asked.
“Brock Rumlow.” He glanced around as if daring anyone to contradict him.
“A valid question,” Steve gave him. “I’m confident Barnes will pay the ransom.”
Another man spoke up. “I thought Brookstein Isle was failing. Ain’t supposed to be any money there, not enough food, more and more people pulling up stakes and going to the Carolinas or Jamaica. Thought that was why we’ve never bothered with the place.”
“Absolutely true. But Barnes is a greedy man. We’ve heard as well that he lives in a grand house on the colony; that he thrives while his people struggle. He grasps for power, and what message would it send to the rest of the New World if he allowed pirates to murder his only son? If he displayed such weakness, such vulnerability?” The men murmured, nodding to each other. Steve continued. “He cannot permit it. His pride will not. If he doesn’t possess the funds, he will acquire them one way or another, or his reputation would suffer a devastating blow. No matter the truth, he cannot appear weak. Of that I am certain. I am also certain we will have a battle on our hands once we make the exchange.” Steve grinned wolfishly. “But The Fallen Eagle never runs from a fight when our prize is so valuable. Who’s with me?”
The men cheered, raising their fists. One shouted, “Revenge’ll be fucking sweet!”
Steve couldn’t agree more. “Now we sail for Nassau to trade the rest of the cargo.” More cheers, and Steve didn’t tell them the stop in Nassau would be far, far briefer than they’d like. It was too great a risk to anchor there for long. If word got out of their ransom, they’d be fighting off other pirates. No, better to keep moving, staying out of the shipping channels, sailing close enough to Brookstein Isle, but not too close.
The men went back to work, excitement fueling their steps, and Steve turned to survey the sea behind them, the ship’s wake fanning out. Sam rejoined him after a time, asking, “Spot anything we don’t?”
Steve laughed softly. “Afraid my eyesight’s not what it once was.”
“My everything’s not what it once was.” Sam chuckled back. They stood in companionable silence,
and Steve scanned the horizon. It was true his vision wasn’t quite as sharp as it had been decades before when he’d earned his nickname of the Eagle, but he still kept a keen watch. As a lad, he’d quickly become known as the best lookout on the ship he’d served. “Eyes like a eagle up there!”
He credited his boyhood on Cornwall cliffs, watching the sea, pining for its embrace. Careful what you wish for. Sometimes Steve missed the peace of the lookout, high above the men and chatter. It was a good crew, a hardworking crew, but if they’d just shut up sometimes…
He shook his head. “I’m getting too old for this.”
Sam snorted. “If you’re too old, then some of these men are fucking ancient.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to say it in quite those words, but…”
“All right, all right.” Sam’s smile faded. “George fucking Barnes. That piece of shit. I suppose it was inevitable that our path would cross his again.” He was silent for some time, but Steve knew Sam had more to say, so he waited. Finally Sam continued, gaze on the horizon. “I’ve wondered why we’ve avoided Barnes after what he did. Because of him, we almost swung. Many men would have paid him a visit to settle accounts long before now. But not you.”
“At first, it wasn’t worth the risk. We had to make a living. Establish ourselves under the black.”
“Of course. Create the Eagle’s reputation, make them all fear us.”
“Mmm. When Barnes became governor of that new colony, I thought about paying him a visit. Fantasized.” He gripped the rail, conjuring the vision of his hands around George Barnes’ throat, the son of a bitch’s skin violently red, eyes bulging, tongue lolling as Steve choked the life from him. Or perhaps he’d run him through on his sword, or tie him up and—
“Yet we’ve stayed away. Why?”
Taking a long breath, Steve banished the images of Barnes’ demise. “I expected you to ask long before this.”
Sam glanced at him and smirked. “You think I haven’t learned that you’ll do a thing when you’re good and ready, and not a moment before?”
Steve had to smile. “Fair point. The last thing I wanted was to make a martyr of the man. That’s what would have happened if we’d stormed into the new colony and strung him up. It would be another mark against the evil pirates, and he our innocent victim. They’d probably erect a fucking statue in his image. No. I couldn’t abide it. I knew the time would come for revenge, and that I’d recognize it. Sure enough. Here we are.”
“And in the meantime, we hear Barnes has lost the confidence of the Crown in his mishandling of affairs on Brookstein Isle. That we took his son at all will be another blow.”
“Yes. Rumor has it his time in power will end soon. I imagine the future of the colony itself is in question. England doesn’t want to send good money after bad.”
“Why the fuck would they? Not with such prosperity elsewhere in the New World.”
Steve’s blood stirred at the promise of finally having his revenge. “Barnes will be desperate to preserve what he can of his reputation and not appear weakened. The money is the least he owes us after destroying our livelihood with a stroke of his quill. And when I kill him now, few will mourn and no one will canonize him.”
“That son of a bitch underestimated us before. Not likely to do it again. Not sure if that’s a good thing or bad.”
“Neither am I. We must take care.”
“Will the son be any trouble?”
Steve shook his head dismissively. “He’s nothing. Sniveling coward like his father.” To be fair, Buachaill seemed willing to do anything to protect his sister, but that was a low bar in assessing a man’s worth. “He won’t be a problem.”
Sam whistled softly. “Just think if we can pull this off...”
Steve spread his hands wide over the railing, watching sunlight gleam on the waves, unfamiliar hopefulness flowing through him. “Perhaps it will be the Eagle’s final operation.”
“Pardon?” Half-laughing, Sam stared at him with brow furrowed. “What are you talking about?”
Resisting the urge to shift from foot to foot under the scrutiny, Steve kept his gaze on the sea. “With this ransom, I would leave you and the men in good stead. You could be captain when I’m gone.”
Sam snorted. “I’m a damn good quartermaster because I know how to keep the men happy enough to stay in line. Captains must plan battles and be mysterious and forbidding. Not my area of expertise. Besides, you won’t be going anywhere.”
His stomach twisted. “I won’t?”
“I’ve seen this before. This restlessness. It’ll pass. You’d never be able to leave when it comes down to it. I mean, what the fuck would you do with yourself?”
He shrugged, cheeks hot. “Fish. Farm a little. No more fighting.”
Sam laughed heartily. “You’d be bored in a day! The grass may seem greener and all that, but can you really envision such a life like that?” He clapped Steve’s shoulder, smile fading. “Besides, the sea doesn’t give up her servants so easily. You know there’s only one way out for us. So we should enjoy ourselves in the meantime.”
A sickening sensation washed through Steve, his limbs weighted with it, a cannonball in his gut. He croaked, “True.”
Sam sighed. “After these lugheads get their act together.” He shouted behind him, “Barton, are you fucking deaf? What did I just tell you this morning?”
Steve smiled obligingly as Sam gave him another clap on the shoulder and went about his business. Gazing out into the vast nothing, Steve still couldn’t help but imagine what could lie beyond. A little house, a hearth and warm tea in the mornings, an honest day’s work ahead of him. A full night’s sleep in a proper bed, ground that wasn’t forever shifting beneath him. Perhaps even a man to warm that bed, to live by his side in comfort. He laughed harshly to himself. Nonsense indeed.
Men who lived by the sword didn’t enjoy peaceful retirements. He didn’t deserve it, and regardless, Sam was surely right— it wouldn’t suit him in the least. A life at sea was what he’d craved as long as he could remember, so why would he want to give it up? Especially now that he was a pirate captain with more power than he’d ever imagined.
Yet Steve couldn’t quite banish the fantasy completely, tucking it away in the corner of his mind since he was apparently intent on tormenting himself despite his better judgment. He took the wheel for a time. The day passed slowly, and several times he had to stop himself from returning to his cabin to see how his prisoner fared. The longer he left little Buachaill alone, the sooner the boy would be submit completely.
Steve ate his evening meal with the men of the second shift, watching as the sun went down. The young man stationed outside Steve’s cabin snapped to attention as he approached. Steve asked, “Did he try to bargain with you?”
“No, sir. Barely looked up from the floor.”
Steve held out his hand for the key. “Very good, Osborne. Be sure to keep your guard up around him in the days to come. Dismissed.” Following his own advice, Steve turned the key swiftly and entered his cabin braced for attack.
Arms around his knees, Buachaill huddled in his corner. Steve could just glimpse his head over the desk. Steve swaggered around as if he didn’t have a care in the world, remaining alert, hand resting casually on his sword hilt.
Buachaill kept his gaze on his feet, which were now bare. At least he had the good sense to do away with shoes and stockings. After a day of full sunshine, Steve longed to tug off his stifling boots. But not yet.
He surveyed the bowl of food on the floor, which appeared untouched. So fucking much for good sense. “Eat.”
Steve growled, “Have you gone deaf?” Buachaill mumbled something, and Steve demanded, “Look at me.”
The boy’s head snapped up. “I said I’m not hungry!”
“Is that so? And what makes you think I give a fuck whether or not you’re hungry? You will eat when I tell you to. Do I have to hold your nose and shove that stew down your throat?” The boy was full of shit— of course he was hungry. He’d drained most of his cup of water, at least. But this brainless rebellion had to be crushed before it manifested into something greater.
Steve stepped closer, spreading his legs slightly, looming over his prisoner. “Do I have to chain you naked to the bed after all?”
The muscles in the boy’s throat shifted as he swallowed, Buachaill’s gaze darting to the bulge of Steve’s cock in his trousers, his breath catching.
Was it simply fear, or something else as well? A spark in the air tightened Steve’s groin. Could it be that Barnes just might enjoy being ravished?
But no, Buachaill’s lip curled with disgust. “You’re repellent. A filthy animal.”
“Keep fighting me,” Steve sneered, “and you’ll find out just how filthy I am.”
Buachaill shuddered. “You know Father won’t pay if you hurt me, you monster.”
Steve took his time, looking him over as if he were a piece of meat. He lifted his lips in a leering smile. “There are plenty of things I can do to you that won’t leave a mark.”
“You blame my father for making you become a pirate, but clearly your soul was already predestined for this fate. It’s disgusting .”
Steve lowered his voice another octave. “I’ll make you like it. Just imagine how much you’ll hate yourself after that.”
Barnes had no response but to reach for his bowl and shove a spoonful of stew into his mouth. He chewed angrily, but Steve let him have his impotent rage.
Buachaill was one of English society’s puppets, so of course he was horrified by the thought of men fucking. He lived a buttoned-up, pathetic little life of obedience to his father and the rest of that god-awful society. This excursion on a pirate ship would probably be the one burst of excitement in his entire existence. Might as well give him a show, then.
Slowly, carelessly, Steve strode around the cabin, taking his clothes off bit by bit. He took off his belt and tucked away his weapons, including the boy’s dagger, in a chest and locked it. He considered commanding Buachaill to pull off his boots. Steve would sit on the side of the bed with his trousers unlaced and shirt off, legs spread as far as he could, making his captive kneel.
The thought coiled desire deep in his belly, a low, hot pulse that was almost begging to be touched. Must have been the lingering thrill of the hunt and capture that stirred him. Tormenting Barnes’ son was one thing, but Steve had to keep his lust in check.
It wasn’t typically a problem. He could go months with only his own hand, and happily. Yet there was something intoxicating about Buachaill and his little acts of defiance. Many men would have pissed themselves and wept. Steve had certainly seen it enough over the years. Still, he’d already given the boy too much time. Although it was fun to toy with him…
Steve stripped off his shirt and unlaced his trousers, peeling them and his drawers down his legs although he still wore his boots. He was quite sure he had Buachaill’s attention as he bent over bare-arsed and pulled his feet free, resisting the urge to sigh in relief as he stretched his toes and kicked his trousers away. Naked, he walked slowly around his desk, passing within a few feet of the prisoner, Buachaill’s gaze surely following, searing hot against Steve’s skin.
Steve opened the top drawer and pulled off his rings one by one. He liked the gold earring— he forgot about it most of the time and was occasionally surprised by it in the hand mirror when he shaved and groomed his short beard. But the rings he found agitating, and they only came out when his Captain persona was in his full regalia.
After dousing the lamp, Steve stretched out on his mattress naked, wincing at the stiffness in his back. He commanded, “Behave. Or remember how your sister will suffer. Yes?”
“Yes,” came the reply, brimming with resentment. Despite his resolution to ignore his prisoner, Steve smiled to himself.
I used an inflation calculator from the 'Pirate' Ages that said 100,000 English pounds is equivalent to $5 million dollars in today's time. Interesting, I say.
Chapter 5: Trapped No Matter Where He Goes
“I’ll make you like it. Just imagine how much you’ll hate yourself after that.”
Even with the break of day, the words still echoed in Bucky’s head as if hissed by the devil himself. There was no need to imagine a thing— he despised his weakness in not being able to rid himself of such unholy desires.
He’d pretended to be asleep when Cap roused in the darkness. There had been a few moments of silence when Bucky had been sure he was being watched, and now he could understand deer freezing in place under a predator’s scrutiny.
Even after the key had scraped in the lock and he was sure he was alone, Bucky had stayed curled under the horrible blanket, sleeping fitfully again. Now the sun was in the sky, and he wasn’t sure what time it was. There had been no delivery of food and water, but perhaps that would only be once a day. He would have to ration his water or risk sipping from Cap’s bottles of alcohol, which would no doubt be a dangerous position to be in if he was discovered. Bucky had never been much of a drinker, but the temptation to dull his senses was strong.
Good Lord, it had only been a day. He’d never survive a month without going mad. And perhaps he wouldn’t survive at all. If his father didn’t pay…
Bucky wanted to scream. There was no way of predicting the future, so he must focus on the present and force away the worry otherwise he’ll lose his goddamn mind.
He kicked off the blanket, sweating, his trousers straining with a morning erection. A vulnerable state that only grew more pronounced as images of the pirate captain stripping off his clothes ran freely, chaotically, through Bucky’s head.
He’d tried not to look. He truly had. Yet he’d glimpsed the tanned, muscular flesh, the dark ink of a tattoo painting the pirate’s sternum depicting an eagle with wings spread wide. The Captain had dropped his drawers and trousers to his ankles, then bent to remove his boots, the pale, firm globes of his ass facing Bucky. Then Bucky had dropped his eyes lower and stared at what he found. The pirate’s cock, thick and long, hung heavy with his balls nestled beneath.
“I’ll make you like it.”
The memory of Cap’s growl sent flames of desire licking through Bucky. He spoke with the profanity of the sea, yet also like a learned, educated man. Bucky wondered how he had come to be not only a pirate when branded it, but the formidable Captain of the Fallen Eagle, a man who eluded power and a reputation that made men crumble. Tall and broad, skin calloused and weatherworn, dark blond hair scattered over thick muscles. Fearsome and bold, a man that vibrated with sheer masculinity that Bucky would never behold.
Bucky groaned, giving in and unfastening his trousers, breath hitching as he wrapped his palm around his shaft. He admitted the truth that the devil wouldn’t have to put in much effort at all to make him like it. Spitting in his palm, he jerked himself, attempting without success to focus solely on the physical sensation. Does Cap really fuck other men? Would he make Bucky suck his massive prick? Make Bucky bend over and take it?
Moaning, Bucky spread his knees, feet flat on the wooden planks. He’d used his own fingers in the past, but what would it be like to have another man’s cock inside him? Not just any man’s— the Captain’s. It would be huge as it split him open…
When Mr. Pierce had taught him to wrestle so he could turn the tables on his bullish older cousins, it had somehow still been a proper pursuit, nothing more than a teacher and student. Bucky had loved the press of their bodies and feverishly dreamed of more while pleasuring himself in the privacy of his chambers, doors locked, of course. But when he tried to conjure Mr. Pierce now— his blond hair, hazel eyes starting to wrinkle in the corners as he passed forty— there was only darkness: the pirate king in his black raiding costume shining with gold, as bold and proud as the stallion that day in the pasture. Bucky shouldn’t want that. He should want a good, kind man who would be gentle. Not a monster.
Yet, as he touched himself, he reached up with his left hand, fingers skimming the sore bruises Cap had left on his throat. He remembered the big, powerful hand choking him, as if it could have snapped his neck like a twig, and he moaned again. He skimmed his fingers over his face, which stubbornly refused to grow much hair, unlike the glorious full beard the Captain sported. Other hand flying on his cock, he thought of the beard around Cap’s mouth and how rough it would feel against his skin, in complete opposition to ladies’ creamy, tender cheeks. Images ran rampant of Cap bending him over the rail of the ship, mounting him, mastering him— Bucky cupped his hand over the end of his prick as he came, thudding his head back on the floor as he shuddered with each pulse, the hot pleasure scorching him, leaving him raw. Leaving him empty and bitterly ashamed.
Gut churning, he searched for something on which to wipe his hand with. Then he was caught in a nightmare as heavy footsteps approached and the key turned in the door. Desperately wiping his hand on the cursed blanket, Bucky barely got his trousers fastened and his shirt tugged down, springing to his feet as the door opened. And of course it wasn’t some crew member, but the devil himself.
Cap froze in the entryway, eyes narrowing. He kicked the door shut. “What the fuck are you up to?”
Bucky backed into the corner. “N-nothing.”
Cap’s fierce gaze swept around the cabin, then returned to Bucky. “You’re lying.” He stormed over. “What have you got there?” Too late, Bucky realized he’d instinctively thrust his sticky hand behind his back when Cap entered the cabin. Now Cap wrenched his arm out, Bucky wincing through the bolt of pain. He hadn’t been able to wipe all the evidence away, and he cringed.
With a derisive laugh, Cap peered down at Bucky’s sticky fingers, his grasp cruel. “Thought you’d spend your time wisely, hmm?”
“There isn’t anything else to do!” Bucky straightened his shoulders and lifted his head, snatching back his hand, surprised when Cap released it. “I… Well, why shouldn’t I?”
“Why indeed. Dreaming of fucking your pretty little betrothed?”
Bucky sputtered. “What? Who?”
A dark blond eyebrow arched. “Your sister said you were to be married.”
“Oh. Yes.” He cleared his throat and lifted his chin. “Don’t you dare speak of her.”
Cap crowded him against the wall, all heat and muscle, and a mounted candle holder dug into
Bucky’s neck. “You dare tell me what to do? In my cabin? On my ship? No. Not ever. Understood?”
Bucky managed a nod, cursing how his flushed body tightened again at the Captain’s proximity. Then Cap turned and took a seat at the desk. He unrolled a nautical chart and opened his log, picking up the quill and dipping it in ink. For minutes, the quill scratched over paper, and Bucky stood against the wall, unsure what to do.
Finally he sank back to the floor, and Cap didn’t blink, ignoring him completely. When a man came with water and rations for Bucky, Cap never so much as glanced up. Bucky determined he would wait until Cap left again before eating. He hugged his knees to his chest and kept his eyes on the floorboards. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
He broke down eventually and had a sip of the water, watching Cap from the corner of his eye. Nothing. It was as if he wasn’t even there, and somehow that made Bucky feel lower and more despairing than he had with Cap’s hand around his neck. Why should he want the attention of the pirate who might kill him? No, of course he didn’t.
After a time, the quartermaster arrived. The man with dark skin stopped short when he spotted Bucky, as if he’d forgotten they’d taken a prisoner. Cap asked him a question and continued to ignore Bucky’s presence. Sam eventually did too as he spoke of navigation concerns and dark clouds in the distance. Yet every so often, his eyes darted back to Bucky and he shifted from foot to foot where he leaned on the front of the desk, Cap still sitting behind it.
When Sam left and Cap went back to writing in his log as if he were alone, Bucky’s mind wandered, settling on the issue of his future wife. He knew the duties of a husband and would do what he must. Perhaps he and Sharon could be good friends, and having children to dote on wouldn’t be unpleasant, not at all. He’d always liked little ones well enough.
“Dreaming of fucking your pretty little betrothed?”
He didn’t even know what Sharon looked like. She was nothing more than a vague idea of full skirts and flowery perfume, of a lady. Not that it mattered— no matter how fair her face, it wouldn’t change his unnatural inclinations.
Squeezing his sticky hand, Bucky shuddered, shame pooling in his belly. So many times he’d wanted to ask Mr. Pierce what made some men abominations, but had never dared. Instinct had told him he’d never be able to ask without giving himself away. Although Mr. Pierce had never shown any indication, sometimes Bucky had wondered if he suspected the truth. But suspecting and knowing were two quite different things.
Why had he been born like this? Was he being punished for killing his mother so he could live? He had killed her, as much as the pirate accused Bucky’s father. It had been Bucky who’d torn her open and stolen her last breath. He’d grown into half a man, his brain faulty. Unable to read, his desires unnatural. Wrong.
Bucky realized Cap’s quill had gone quiet. In the silence he dared a peek, watching as Cap blew on his freshly inked log so it wouldn’t smear. Did the pirate have a wife somewhere? A mistress? Or perhaps he simply visited the whorehouses Bucky was told sprouted like weeds in the West Indies.
“I’ll make you like it.”
Bucky couldn’t banish the words from his head, and he mulled over the implications again. Could
it really be that the pirate king shared Bucky’s inclinations? Of course men at sea found release where they must, at least according to Bucky’s cousins, who allegedly had it on good authority. They’d all shuddered at the thought of it, while Bucky had bit his tongue so hard he drew blood in an effort not to demand more details. Cap would probably only take pleasure in tormenting Bucky; controlling him— punishing him.
Bucky had never to his knowledge met another man who truly shared his sin, who would choose a man over a woman rather than simply indulging in unnatural couplings due to circumstance. Another who craved not only a man’s touch, but kisses and smiles as well, companionship such as a wife would bring. Not that it was the kind of thing spoken about at dinners and garden parties.
Apparently reading over his words, Cap absently rolled up the flowing sleeves on his black shirt, cuffing them at the elbow. His tanned skin was scattered with hair, forearms thick with ropy muscles. A scar slashed across the back of Cap’s left hand, which rested by the logbook, his right dipping the delicate quill into the pot of ink with precision.
“Eat.” Cap didn’t look at him, eyes still on the page.
“I’m—” Bucky stopped the lie. He was hungry. There was no sense in denying it or weakening himself by refusing his rations. He ate a spoonful of sloppy fish stew as bells tolled, choking down too-soft potatoes and then biting painfully into a thin, rock-hard biscuit as Cap left the cabin, turning the key in his wake.
Bucky thought of Brookstein Isle, his father and a proper young lady named Sharon, a new life waiting on a new colony. A new life that would ensnare him even more thoroughly than he already was. Then he laughed out loud as he thought that being a monster’s captive on a pirate ship and ending his life here was perhaps preferable.
It was madness indeed.
Chapter 6: It's A Bet
“Will I be allowed to clean myself at any point in the next month?”
Steve didn’t look up from the chart he was examining. “Yes, let me ring for the servants. We’ll have the tub filled with perfectly heated water in no time. Scented with lavender—or would you prefer jasmine?”
Barnes huffed from the corner. “It’s been a week down here.” His voice shifted then, turning into a hopeful lilt. “Perhaps I could take a swim if we’re dropping anchor close to shore? For a few minutes? That’s all I ask. It isn’t much.”
Steve tutted with false sympathy. “‘Truly I was born to be an example of misfortune, and a target at which the arrows of adversary are aimed.’” He glanced at Buachaill, who regarded him blankly. “Surely you’ve read Don Quixote.”
“Of course!” Buachaill insisted, too quickly, looking away, cheeks flushing. Odd
“While I know you believe you have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” Steve drawled, “I assure you it could be worse. Much worse.”
“I have been kidnapped by pirates. If that is not outrageous fortune, I don’t know what is.”
He had a point, and Steve controlled a huff that threatened to become laughter. “Your lot could be far worse than the desire for a bath and apparent boredom even though I’ve offered you dozens of books to pass your time. Of course you could always amuse yourself in other, more physical ways.” Steve didn’t have to look over to know Buachaill was blushing furiously.
The taunt had the intended effect, and there was silence as the minutes went by. The un-intended consequence was that images of Buachaill pleasuring himself intruded into Steve’s mind— plump pink lips parted with soft cries, cock straining, losing himself to a few minutes of abandon, of freedom.
The boy had a restless spirit Steve hadn’t expected in the least from George Barnes’ son. Although he was whining for a bath, Steve had a feeling it was more about getting back up on deck with freedom to move. The boy was a coiled spring, despising his containment, fidgeting endlessly. Steve had expected a much more indolent creature.
Sure enough, Buachaill said, “If I could only go on deck the next time it rains. I miss the rain. I used to go out exploring in it for hours. But even just for a few minutes—”
“Whatever ploy you have concocted, abandon it.”
“It’s no ploy! It’s been cloudy for days, and it has to rain soon. I only want to breathe some fresh air and be cleaned.” The stern windows in Steve’s cabin were closed to the chilled wind, and if the brat couldn’t be bothered to open them from time to time, to hell with him. Clearly he was lazy after all.
“If I’m so useless, why don’t you let me up there? What could I possibly do to a ship full of pirates?” the boy continued, proving to be a pain in Steve’s ass. A persistent little bastard.
“Aside from get in the fucking way?” Steve retorted.
“I said I’d help. I’m sure I could learn.”
Steve laughed sharply. “You probably don’t even know how to tie a simple hitch in the line.”
“I could learn,” he repeated. “I bet I can.”
Steve’s simmering annoyance flared. “A bet? All right, we can do that. Let’s put you to the test. You’ll have one demonstration, and one chance to tie it yourself.”
Buachaill nodded, leaping to his feet eagerly. “If I win, I get to spend the days up on deck. I won’t try to escape or harm anyone.”
“As if you could,” Steve was quick to point out. “And no. If you win… If you win, you’ll be given a bucket of water and soap.”
Lips pressed together, the boy nodded. “Deal.” He bounced on his toes. “Let’s go.”
Steve went back to the chart, picking up his divider, the cool brass warming in his hand as he measured the shoreline of an island west of Nassau. “We’ll go when I say we do.” As he continued working, Buachaill shifted back and forth, then paced across the cabin. Minutes ticked by, and Steve could have stopped, but he walked to the bookcase and pulled out another chart before settling back behind his desk, enjoying the increasingly agitated nature of the boy’s steps. Finally, Steve noted, “I’m sure you’re used to having everything you want with the snap of your fingers. Sadly, you’ll find only disappointment aboard this ship.”
Buachaill laughed bitterly. “I’ve never had anything I’ve truly wanted. And I never will.”
Steve wanted to laugh. Surely this boy knew nothing of the real world. He was naive, insolent, and it irked Steve more than anything because he knew otherwise. He lived it. “Oh, and what poor, thwarted desires have you suffered? Please tell me.” Buachaill snapped his mouth shut, and Steve added, “If you’d like to learn of true hardship, we liberated a slaver ship last spring. Some of the men chose to stay with us. I’m sure they’d have much to say on the subject.”
Face flushing, the boy’s shoulders slumped. “Yes. I’m sure they would. You’re right.”
Taken aback by the agreement, Steve blinked at Buachaill for a few moments. Then he tossed down the divider and rounded his desk. “All right, let’s put you to the test.”
He grabbed Buachaill’s arm and shoved him out of the cabin and up the stairs to the main deck. The crew looked on with suspicion, and Sam approached, asking, “What’s this about?”
Steve pushed Barnes to his knees. “I’ve made a little bet with our prisoner. He thinks he can bend the line as well as any man aboard.” The crew laughed uproariously, and Buachaill’s shoulder was tight with tension where Steve held him. Steve could imagine how red his cheeks were. “What do you say? Shall we let these delicate hands prove their worth in return for a bucket of water?”
Amid the cheers and laughter, a voice called, “Thought wagering wasn’t allowed on ship.” It was Rumlow. He’d been of service when they’d boarded England’s ship, and he wasn’t wrong now, but as some of the men grumbled in agreement, Steve wished Rumlow would shut his big mouth before Steve was forced to shut it for him.
Sam answered, “That’s true. But seeing as we’re killing time waiting for our prize, perhaps we can make an exception this once.” He glanced at Steve. “Provided the men can make their own side wagers.”
“Of course,” Steve nodded his head at his men. “Just this once.” Sam always knew how to keep the peace amongst the men, which made him an excellent quartermaster, hence why Steve appointed him as such. The brat would fail in no time, so the wagers wouldn’t spin out of control. “All right,” Steve called. “Let’s start with a simple half hitch. Barton, will you demonstrate? Then the boy gets one chance.”
While the men murmured amongst themselves, placing bets, Buachaill looked up over his shoulder. “And how many knots do I have to master before I win?”
Steve gave him a wolfish grin. “As many as I say.” He knocked Buachaill in the back with a sharp tap of his knee. “All right then, prove us wrong. Bend the line.”
And then…he did.
Each knot and hitch Barton demonstrated, Buachaill mastered in one go. Figure eight, reef, even sheepshank. Steve came around and watched the concentration on the boy’s face, pink tongue sometimes darting out between his lips, gaze focused in on Barton’s hands, ignoring the growing murmur of the crew, who called out suggestions to Barton to stump the prisoner. Somehow none did.
The coarseness of the rope reddened Buachaill’s fingers and palms, but he didn’t hesitate as he mimicked Barton’s movements, watching keenly, sweat gathering on his brow even in the day’s chill. Despite himself, admiration began to grow in Steve. The boy was unbowed, unintimidated. Some of the crew even started cheering for him, and wagers flew fast and furious. Finally, his attempt at a back splice unraveled, and Steve called an end to it. “Do we think he’s earned his prize?”
The various shouts of ‘yes’ were almost unanimous.
Then Buachaill grinned up at him. And for an insane moment, Steve wanted to smile back. For fuck’s sake, clearly his brain was addled from too many days of peaceful routine aboard ship instead of stalking the seas for prey. Fortunately, he schooled himself in time and hauled Buachaill to his feet, hurrying him back down to the cabin.
One of the men brought the bucket of water, and Steve sliced off a sliver of soap. Back behind his desk, he couldn’t force his gaze away as Buachaill stripped off his shirt, revealing surprisingly lean muscles. Where Steve’s skin was hard and tanned, the boy’s was pale and soft to the eye. The boy called himself a man but the body certainly didn’t belong to one. He was young, his body innocent and untainted.
Realizing he was being watched, Buachaill’s hands stuttered on the waist of his trousers. Steve almost turned his head, feeling strangely guilty, before reminding himself he was a God-damned pirate and this was his prisoner, to whom he owed no courtesy or shred of privacy. He turned his chair to face Buachaill’s corner and leaned back.
Still in his trousers, Buachaill blinked at him. He glanced down at himself, then back at Steve. Clearly he was unnerved, but there was something else— a hum vibrating through the room, a low tug between them. Steve recognized something in this boy that flared his nostrils and stirred his blood.
Legs spread in his chair, boots planted on the floor, Steve took him in. “Where did the spoiled son of George Barnes learn to bend a ship’s line?”
“I never have until today. I’m just good at using my hands.”
Better than good, and quicker than many men Steve had sailed with. Perhaps there was more to the younger Barnes than met the eye. Not that it matters, since he is nothing more than a means to an end. Yet Steve found himself asking, “Is that so? Hmm. More muscles than I expected. You’re small, but strong. Would’ve thought you would be much…softer.”
“I… I always…”
Steve raised an eyebrow. “Go on.”
“I always loved the outdoors. Climbing trees, running, swimming. And there’s wrestling. My tutor taught me.” He flushed scarlet all the way down to his chest, shifting guiltily.
“Did he now?” Steve smiled slowly, wickedly. He lowered his voice, “Did your tutor also fuck you senseless?” The thought that another man might have unlocked that treasure was strangely disappointing.
Buachaill’s eyes popped wide, and a gasp escaped his pink lips. “No! He was a good man. Not like —” He swallowed hard, apparently thinking better of what he was going to say. “No. I’ve never… I would never! My tutor wasn’t like that. He was a proper man.”
“Ah,” Steve sighed, “Proper men are rare to find. How fortunate for you. A shame your luck has run out.”
Buachaill licked his lips, his gaze dropping from Steve’s face down to the bulge between his spread legs, and he shuddered, unmistakable hunger in his eyes. Ah yes. There it is. Steve’s instincts were correct— he knew it in his bones. The question was why he should care in the slightest. What did it matter that they shared common desires? Plenty of men did.
Over the years since that initial bloom of excitement and tenderness, Steve hadn’t given it much thought beyond finding the odd random man for release. It had been so different with him. Artie. Irrepressible smile, sandy blond hair falling over his brown eyes, rebellious and hard. They’d been so innocent, so fucking naive, believing they could have anything good and pure in the hell of this world. That they could have happiness despite their low circumstances, their chainless imprisonment.
Perhaps it was Buachaill’s clear innocence that tugged at him. Sodomy was strictly forbidden in the Royal Navy, and Steve’s fumblings with Artie had happened only in the shadows. But as a privateer and now a pirate, it was hardly unusual. Men fucked as they pleased, rough and far from the innocence of youthful discovery. He hadn’t thought on Artie for years, and it was weak and foolish to do so now. But even as he banished Artie’s image, he couldn’t take his eyes off his captive.
As the boy’s nipples went hard, his cock now unmistakably swelling in his trousers, Steve fought his own excitement, his groin tightening. He wanted to taint that innocence. Steal it. Bask in it. He fought the urge to draw Buachaill between his thighs so he could suck the boy’s nipples, one and then the other, so he could hear his gasps of unleashed pleasure. Instead he asked, “Have you truly never fornicated with a man?”
“Of course I haven’t!” Buachaill whirled away, dropping to his knees and splashing water over
himself from the bucket, his voice ragged. “That would be unnatural. A sin.” He shook his head violently. “It’s disgusting. Shameful. No decent man would entertain such a thing.”
And there that is. It was foolish to be disappointed, but it settled heavily into Steve’s limbs. Ridiculousness, especially since he might be killing the boy in a few weeks.
He shifted his chair back to face his desk, distinctly uncomfortable, stomach unsettled. He pulled his log close to him, running his fingers along the sturdy spine and over the worn leather cover. It had always given him a measure of comfort to record the ship’s activities in his logbook. Report the weather and make notes on anything of interest. As if the writing of it somehow gave weight to his meaningless life.
He dipped his quill and inked a fresh page with: Prisoner is typical gentleman; hypocrite who denies himself pleasure for England’s false sense of morality. Then he barked, “You have a minute to wash. Starting now. I wouldn’t waste it if I were you.”
From the corner of his eye, he caught the pale swathes of flesh as Buachaill stripped off his breeches, splashed water over his skin, and lathered on the soap. Steve shouldn’t have wanted to turn his head and look, just as he shouldn’t have been surprised George Barnes’ son insisted on nonsense about shame and sin. Why had he thought even for a moment that there might be more to him? That there was any common ground between them? Of course Barnes was just as false as his father.
“Time’s up. Bucket by the door.” Steve fixed his gaze on the logbook and dipped his quill. He’d had to hide his inclination to favor his right hand for years after his father had caned him for it, spewing words similar to Buachaill’s in the process. He supposed it was one of the benefits of being a pirate—everyone already thought you possessed by the devil so you couldn’t fall much lower.
Although Steve bent his head to the log, he found his eyes following Buachaill’s progress. Water dripped down naked flesh, his tight, round ass cheeks flexing as he bent. When Buachaill turned, Steve jerked his gaze back down at the page to find dots of ink all over it. Swearing, he ripped it out and started new.
Chapter 7: Boom
Indistinct and urgent, they echoed overhead, rousing Bucky from an unpleasant, fitful sleep in his corner. The sun was high in the sky, beating through the cabin. The stern windows acted as a magnifying glass so that sweat slicked Bucky’s skin and dampened his hair into a mess of curls that stuck to his neck. There were no drapes, and all he could do was huddle in his corner as the temperature rose. They must be sailing in the West Indies now, because so far, this day was hotter than any other on the journey.
Bolting up as thuds echoed, he rubbed his eyes and listened, his breath lodged in his throat. Yes, more shouts, growing in urgency now, and the ship seemed to be changing course. He hurried to the stern windows, peering through the squares of glass framed by wood, seeing nothing but the unbroken horizon. Blue as far as his eyes could see.
He waited there as minutes ticked by, footsteps pounding above and orders being shouted, none clear enough for him to make out in his prison cell. Despite the flurry of activity, time passed without anything else actually happening. Then there was a strange calm that stretched out, where the thud of Bucky’s heart was too loud in his ears.
More time passed. Perhaps it had been nothing at all. A change of course, and now back to the regular routine, water slapping the hull, the ship creaking. Yet there was something in the air—a thick sense of expectation. He waited. Perhaps they’d spotted another merchant ship in the distance to steal from. Or perhaps— There ! In the corner of his vision through the windows, there was indeed another ship. Three masts, bigger than the sloop of the Fallen Eagle.
Bucky’s heart raced. Was it a Royal Navy ship? Or a Spanish war vessel? He squinted, forehead to the hot window, wondering if Cap had another spyglass tucked away in his desk. Whatever it was, it seemed to be following, full sails arching in the wind.
He knelt on the narrow window seat and lifted his hands around his eyes to cut the glare, trying to make out the vessel’s flag, praying to see the Union Jack fluttering in the sky. It was no use, the ship was still too far away.
More time passed and not once did Bucky tear his eyes away from the ship. The boat that was steadily gaining on them.
Bucky’s damp skin squeaked on the glass. The mystery vessel turned another few degrees, and there was its flag, snapping in the wind. His stomach dropped. Black . It was solid, no white or red embellishments. It’s insidious declaration of intent was being shown loud and clear.
But... why would pirates attack each other? He supposed for the same reasons they attacked any ship, and it was foolish to expect any kind of loyalty amongst thieves. Of course pirates made
rivals of one another. They killed and slashed and burned anything and anyone they wanted to. They had no compass of morality.
The ship disappeared from view, and Bucky held his breath as he waited. The Fallen Eagle didn’t seem to be attempting to outrun it now. Perhaps the captains knew each other and were friends, and now that they were close enough to make a certain identification—
Bucky flew off the window seat as the blast rocked the ship, air slamming from his lungs as he crashed flat on his back. Then another blast, and another. Another, another, making the floorboards beneath Bucky’s feet vibrate and shake. Wood splintered, the boom of each cannon rattling his teeth, his ears ringing, heart close to bursting from his chest.
He scrambled into the foot space under the desk, tucking the chair back in after him as if that would help, and curled into a tight ball, grateful the wood on three sides reached the floor, giving him a good hiding place. The humid air in the cabin made it even harder to breathe, and terror seized his lungs. If these other pirates won… what would become of him? Would they want him as a ransom, too, or simply slit his throat or toss him over the side? Or--or worse?
Bucky gripped his knees tighter, making himself smaller, hoping to be as forgotten as the cobwebs that strung across the underside of the desk. What if they kept him? Passed him around, or tortured him, or God knew what pirates were capable of. As much as he hated being Cap’s prisoner, and as much as he hated the idea of living on Brookstein Isle with a stranger for a wife, doing his father’s bidding, either future seemed like paradise to this horrifying unknown that had exploded upon him.
He huddled tighter into a ball, whispering a prayer, the continued blasts wreaking havoc on his nerves. Screams tore the air, ragged and despairing. It was the sound of dying men. The ship shuddered and groaned, its own cannons returning fire and shaking the entire vessel. On and on it went, jolting and rolling, the air made of loud, cackling thunder. He plugged his ears and only knew he was screaming by the hoarseness of his throat. At any moment, Bucky was certain The Fallen Eagle would disintegrate in the roar of gunfire, sending him plummeting to the bottom of the sea. This desk he hid beneath would be his coffin.
Abruptly, the guns went silent. More shouting up top, and the other ship’s cannons fired again but seemed to miss their target as loud splashes could be heard from beyond the windows. Were they moving again? He wasn’t certain.
Then there were no more cannon blasts at all. Had they surrendered? Were they to be boarded? Bucky strained, biting down hard into his lips as he listened, but he couldn’t make sense of it.
Sweat drenched him now, and he swiped it from his eyes, his shirt and breeches clinging to his skin as he waited, barely breathing. Bucky wasn’t sure how long he stayed huddled under the oven of the desk before the key turned in the lock of the cabin door. He pressed his lips together, frozen. Oh Lord. Please. Please, please, please.
The door opened. Whoever it was didn’t say a word. Bucky would be invisible to them beneath the solid desk. His heart was booming in his ears.
“Where the fuck are you?” Cap growled.
Bucky silently deflated in a rush of relief. He hadn’t intended to anger Cap, and now he stayed motionless, terrified any movement or response would be his last. The door slammed shut, and Cap’s boots thudded against the wood. Yet it didn’t sound like his usual confident stride, and then there was a burst of noise— a curse and a mighty bang. It startled Bucky from his hidey-hole, and he shoved the chair aside, crawling out and coming almost face-to-face with Cap, who had tripped onto his hands and knees.
Blood was splattered across his face, and Cap grimaced, teeth bared. He wore his coat, which must have been terribly warm although it was unbuttoned. Bucky could only open and close his mouth like a helpless fish out of water, waiting for Cap to explode to his feet and perhaps run his blade through Bucky, which still hung from his belt. Then realization dawned: Cap couldn’t.
He was injured. The mighty pirate king had been brought low, not because he was about to haul Bucky out from under the desk, but because he’d fallen. And he didn’t appear able to get back up.
“I… Are you…?” Bucky crawled closer, dangerously within reach. Cap only seethed in response, a savage, guttural groan. Bucky looked to the closed door. “Should I call for help?”
“No!” The notion seemed to infuriate Cap so much that rage fueled him back to his feet, where he leaned heavily against the desk. Bucky couldn’t spot exactly where Cap was hurt until he went around to stand in front of him.
The coat fell open, and Bucky could see the hunk of wood lodged in his right thigh. Sucking in a breath, Bucky inched closer. “You need the surgeon.”
Tendons in his neck bulging, Cap shook his head. “The men need him more.”
“Are we safe now?”
“Took out their main mast. They’ll be licking their wounds for a while. Serves them right for trying to take us on. Fucking One-Eyed Fury. He attacks anyone and everyone without reason, no matter the risk. He’s a goddamn madman.”
Bucky felt like he could breathe easier now. “It looked like quite a big ship.”
Grimacing, Cap nodded, “Yes, but bigger isn’t always better. Those hulking ships are not as…” He waved his hand in the air as if searching for a word.
“Yes, you fancy little fuck. Not as agile .” He pushed off the desk. “Stay out of my way while—” He stumbled and would have crashed to the floor if Bucky hadn’t darted forward to catch him, almost toppling with the weight as he jammed his left shoulder under Cap’s right one. “I don’t need hel—”
“Oh for goodness sake, you clearly do,” Bucky snapped back, bravely meeting the Cap’s irritated gaze. He took a step, bearing as much of Cap’s weight as he could, their sides pressed together as they crossed to the bed. Cap’s harsh breathing was loud in Bucky’s ears, and gunpowder, blood, and sweat filled his nose. At least the cabin was compact, and it was only several feet before he helped Cap down on the side of the mattress.
“I’m fine.” Cap winced, shuddering as he tried to shake off his coat. “Go back to your corner.”
Perhaps he should have left the man to his own devices since he didn’t deserve any assistance, and certainly not sympathy. Yet, here he was, the mighty pirate king, grimacing and bleeding, crippled by injury like any number of sailors before him. The Captain wasn’t some fearless, untouchable god, rising unscathed above danger. No, he was merely a man. It should have satisfied Bucky to see him humbled. Should have made him ecstatic. But... it unsettled him in a way he couldn’t understand.. If the captain of The Fallen Eagle was vulnerable, what hope did Bucky have to survive in the brutality of the New World? Here Cap was, bleeding, hurting, and Bucky wanted to make it stop.
He climbed onto the bed behind Cap and peeled the coat off, easing Cap’s arms free of the sleeves, the leather hot to the touch. Then he knelt at Cap’s feet and took hold of one of those large boots. Bucky looked up with an eyebrow raised.
Cap watched him, his usual bland or mocking expression replaced by one of genuine confusion. His tanned forehead creased as he watched on but he still lifted his foot, and Bucky gently tugged the boot free. Then the other, which he did slowly since that was the injured leg. He leaned in close. The wood was two inches thick, jagged and looked like it hurt like something Bucky coudn’t even imagine. It was lodged into Cap’s thigh, his tight black trousers torn where it impaled the muscle, a few inches sticking into the flesh.
Bucky shook his head. “You need the surgeon.”
“I told you, my men need him more. Just pull it out.”
“Do you have bandages, at least? Anything to clean the wound?”
Cap nodded to the desk, and Bucky rifled around, finding a bottle of rum, clean bandages, and a tin of medical instruments. When he turned back, Cap was removing his weapons, keeping them close at hand behind him on the mattress. He must have seen Bucky looking because he narrowed his gaze. “If you even consider some scheme to arm yourself, I promise you it will be the worst mistake of your life.”
Bucky shook his head. “How often must I remind you that I won’t endanger my sister?” He should let the wound fester so that it could perhaps eventually kill Cap, but Bucky couldn’t bring himself not to help, imagining how awful the pain must be if it could bring a man like Cap down onto his knees.
Cap tried to remove his trousers, fingers clumsy on the fastening, belt unbuckled. It seemed the tables had turned and that for once, Cap was at Bucky’s mercy, at least for the moment.
Pulse skittering with a fresh pulse of odd excitement, Bucky knelt and batted the pirate’s hands away, finishing the job. “Up .”
Cap obeyed, raising his hips so Bucky could ease down his trousers and drawers, taking special care over the chunk of wood tearing into the material. Cap clutched the side of the bed, fingers white. Now the pirate was naked from the waist down, and Bucky found himself faced with a thick, meaty cock and balls just inches away.
Throat dry, Bucky ripped his gaze away, focusing on the bloody wound instead. He handed Cap the rum. “Drink.” Again, Cap obeyed, and Bucky’s skin prickled, his breath catching. This man might kill him, yet Bucky thrilled at being close to him, at helping him. It was lunacy.
He held Cap’s leg fast, hand over his knee. There was really nothing to do but get the wood out as gently as he could. Bucky grasped the overgrown splinter. “Relax your leg as best you can,” he ordered. Cap did as he was told.
Fortunately, the wood came free without much effort. Quite unfortunately, it left several slivers of varying sizes embedded in Cap’s flesh. Bucky glanced up to find blood smeared on Cap’s lower lip and realized he’d bitten through the skin. “You can shout. I doubt the men will hear, given the racket up there.” Footsteps clomped, and voices called out, a general commotion in the wake of battle.
“No need,” Cap gritted out.
Bucky rolled his eyes. “Yes, clearly you’re in perfect health.” He fished out a pair of tweezers from the tin. The thought occurred again that he should leave the shards behind because surely that would cause an infection. But if Cap died, Bucky didn’t know what the rest of the crew would do with him—or to him. At least Cap was somewhat familiar.
With his left palm flat on Cap’s upper thigh, only inches from his groin, Bucky leaned over and went to work. Blood oozed from the wound, and he had to stop to soak it up. Cap’s gaze weighed on him as Bucky teased out a thin piece of wood and the parallels to the fable of the lion with a thorn in its paw weren’t lost on him. It was almost humorous enough to make him laugh, but that wasn’t a smart thing to do when he was fishing away in someone’s thigh, was it?
When Cap spoke, it was to hoarsely bark, “Why the fuck is it so hot in here?”
“Because you somehow never thought to install drapes to keep out the sun?”
Cap gave him a withering look. “The windows open to let in the breeze.”
“Oh.” Bucky blinked over at them, still not seeing how to shove them up.
“The ones on either side can be hooked open,” Cap muttered. “Just push them and make sure they latch.”
Bucky crossed the cabin and did as instructed, sighing and breathing the fresh, cool air deeply. “That’s so much better,” he said, relishing in the feel. It was damn glorious.
“Indeed. Are you almost done?”
Bucky got out a tinderbox and lit a lantern, then handed it to Cap. “Hold it close.” He poked around in the wound as gently as he could. Cap’s labored breathing grew harsh.
“Are those from the lines?” Cap asked. At Bucky’s frown, he added, “Your hands. Not as smooth as I would have expected.”
“Much to my father’s disappointment, I climb trees,” Bucky answered. Cap stared down at him, and Bucky shifted uneasily, that gaze prickling his skin much like slivers of wood. “I enjoy…using my body.”
Cap’s lips twitched. Blue eyes looked at Bucky, teasing. “Do you?”
Without warning, Bucky splashed rum into the wound, enjoying Cap’s indignant yelp. Then he quickly bandaged it, keeping his eyes off the pirate’s devilish face and private area. “There. I think you’ll live, but the surgeon would have a better idea.”
Cap thrust the lantern at him, any hints of teasing gone. “This is good enough.” He pushed to his feet and promptly almost fell flat on his face, the bandage red and soaked.
Bucky leaned down to put the lantern on the floor and pushed Cap back onto the bed, pulling up his feet and swinging his legs around. “For the love of God, just rest here a few minutes at least.” Perching on the side of the mattress, he pressed another bandage over the seeping wound. The sheets and floor were splattered red, and Bucky’s shirt and trousers were stained with blood as well.
Keeping his eyes away from Cap’s nudity, Bucky asked, “Were many men hurt?”
“Two, last I knew.”
“Oh.” Bucky remembered how quickly the other ship had come upon them, everything going from normal to high alert in a heartbeat. And just as quickly, a life could be snuffed out. “Did they have families?”
“What would have happened if the other ship had gotten close enough to board?”
“We’d have a lot more dead men on our hands. On both sides.”
He wondered how many men Cap had killed over the years but didn’t think it was appropriate to ask. At least Cap finally surrendered, relaxing back against his pillow, gaze on the ceiling as Bucky kept pressure on the wound. Cap actually shut his eyes after a time, and Bucky’s pulse fluttered at the intimacy of it. The pirate king made human, his stubborn blood seeping out between Bucky’s fingers, though slower now. Despite his best efforts, Bucky’s gaze zeroed in on Cap’s soft prick, curving flat against his belly.
Filled with blood, Cap’s cock would be… impressive. Bucky wondered what it would feel like in his hand, if it would be hot to the touch. Would it be bitter, or salty like sweat on his tongue? Would his cum taste different from Bucky’s when he’d shamefully licked his own seed from his hand in the past?
He swallowed thickly. What would that cock feel like shoved inside him? He wouldn’t run from it the way the mare had tried to escape the stallion. No, before he died, Bucky wanted to experience a man’s prick inside him, even just once. He was going to hell for his sinful desires either way, so the journey might as well be worth it.
But… what if he were to die on this ship? A bolt of panic caught his breath, and he had to steady his hand on Cap’s wound, fighting the urge to scramble away. He stared down at the pirate. What if Cap kills him? Would this man truly gut him if his father didn’t pay? Perhaps if Bucky continued to help him— if he could prove himself— Cap would be unable to end him or follow through on his threats against Rebecca. Perhaps Bucky could save himself.
His gaze was drawn back to Cap’s prick, a low beat of want resounding through him. Perhaps he could save himself and fulfill his cravings. He’d always imagined he had plenty of time to explore his fantasies, to meet a man he could trust with his secret. But even if he survived the trip to Brookstein Isle and the ransom exchange, how soon would he have to marry Sharon Carter? Growing up, he’d known he’d have to wed eventually, but perhaps not until he was thirty. At least. Yet now... time was tumbling by fast. He’d told himself he’d only need it once—to be fucked the way he’d envisioned, to satisfy his curiosity and desire. And the itch, once scratched, would be manageable, and he could marry as required and be a faithful husband.
But the risks of finding a man to trust on the unknown Brookstein Isle were great. He should have done it before he’d left England, but how would he have ever gone about finding those men? He never had the opportunity. He’d have greatly loved for Mr. Pierce to share his desires, but the man was good and kind and devoted to his wife and young children. Bucky had known he’d be rejected.
He hadn’t been able to bear the sight of disappointment—and worse, disgust —in his tutor’s eyes.
His own breathing was harsh in his ears. It was beyond improper to be stirred by Cap’s privates, the man’s blood all over, and the open wound under Bucky’s hand. Yet ...
It had been, what, not even an hour since Bucky had cowered under the desk, certain he’d be swallowed by the sea at any moment? The fear had left a strange desire thrumming through him. Not mere desire for the male form but a yearning to reach out and take hold of life while he still could. He could feel Cap’s pulse through the wound, the steady drum of his defiant heart, and Bucky wanted to touch it, taste it, revel in being alive. At that very moment, another war of cannonballs might be hurtling through the air, about to obliterate them. Nothing was assured, each breath its own little miracle that kept them pushing forward.
He eyed Cap, wondering what the reaction would be if he leaned over and took the pirate’s cock between his lips. Surely most men wouldn’t protest a wet, warm mouth around them, no matter whose it was. One of the boys from a neighboring estate had been sucked by an admiral’s daughter once, and he’d described it in such detail Bucky had stiffened in his breeches and not known of who he should be more jealous of— his friend for being serviced, or the girl for being able to take a hot prick into her mouth.
“See anything you like?”
Bucky jerked his head up, ripping his gaze from Cap’s groin to find the pirate watching him. His mouth had gone dry, and he hoarsely replied, “What? No.” He busied himself changing the bandage again. “This needs to be stitched. There’s no way around it.”
“Mmm. Time will tell.”
He huffed. Why was the bull of a pirate so stubborn? “I bet you it does.”
Cap met his gaze then, his lips twitching again “What will the prize be this time?” Was it possible? Not only was the pirate king a real human—bleeding and as vulnerable to injury as the rest of them — but he was joking?
Heart picking up, Bucky thought of his answer. “The next time you go ashore, I get to join you. I get to run down the beach as fast as I can.”
Cap laughed sardonically. “Yes, I’m sure you’d love to run away.”
“Not running to escape, simply for exercise. For the sake of it.”
“That’s it?” Cap’s forehead creased. “You want to…run?”
“It’s been far too long since I had the opportunity.”
Cap shrugged carelessly. “It’s a bet then.”
There was no way Cap could think he’d win given the amount of blood already soaking the fresh bandage. Bucky simply nodded and accepted the unsaid thanks, his own blood rushing far too fast in the quiet of the cabin.
Chapter 8: Imperfect
Sitting on the side of the bed, Steve hid a grimace as Falsworth poked at his thigh. His peppered black hair flopped over his forehead as the surgeon nodded, “Stitches are healing up nicely already.” He glanced at the corner of the cabin. “Thanks to young Mr. Barnes’ ministrations.”
Steve grunted, and Falsworth went about applying a fresh bandage. It was true Buachaill had been helpful, and Steve was still puzzled as to why. Surely the boy had an ulterior motive because no one was that selfless. What he needed to do was remain vigilant and not be moved by any acts of kindness. Because kindness always carried a price. The prisoner only wished to worm into Steve’s good graces to save his own skin. Steve had already made the silly bet, but that had to be the end of it. Of course Buachaill had been right, and as soon as Sam had taken one look at the bloody mess in Steve’s cabin, he’d shouted for the surgeon and then the needle and thread had come out.
But Steve had to remember the boy was his prisoner. He was nothing more than a representative of money and revenge. Of the sea’s justice. There was nothing to be grateful for.
Still, it was impressive that Buachaill hadn’t been at all squeamish about the blood. For having lived a life of luxury, he truly was surprisingly practical and adept at physical tasks. The weight of his hand against the wound had been reassuring, as was the touch of his knuckles to Steve’s forehead a few times through the night as Buachaill followed Falsworth’s orders to check for fever. The last time, just before dawn, Steve had pretended to remain asleep. The windows were still open, the cool breeze lovely on his skin, his sheet kicked aside. He’d heard the whisper of feet against the wooden floorboards, the press of the boy’s fingers against his forehead, assessing for a few moments before lifting. Steve had waited for the footsteps to retreat, but Buachaill had remained standing by the bed.
He’d witnessed the hunger when Buachaill had eyed his prick after he’d tended to the wound, and if not for the burning ache in his thigh, Steve might have gotten hard under that eager gaze. In the early morning, that gaze had returned, hot on his skin, and Steve had allowed him to look. His balls had tingled, and he’d had to shift and stretch to send footsteps scurrying back to the corner. Because if not...
Falsworth finished the bandage and groaned as he straightened, arching his back. Steve frowned. “You weren’t injured yesterday, were you?” The surgeon’s hair grayed more with each week, it seemed. He’d been forced into service on a pirate ship years back thanks to a bad wager and had discovered he liked it.
Falsworth laughed. “No, it’s simply old age. More aches and pains by the day, it seems.”
Steve knew the feeling, but kept that to himself as he pulled up a clean-but-rumpled pair of trousers, aware of Buachaill’s gaze on him. Steve had determinedly dressed— boots and all, ready for battle even if he was being treated as an invalid. He eyed his feet. The leather could do with a polish, and the gold tips had dulled. He should shine them now while he lazed around useless. He stood, the bed frame creaking
Falsworth was already upon him. “No, no, no. You will stay in bed and rest all day. You insisted on leading the funerals last night, walking up there as if you were uninjured. You can fool the men, but I know better. You lost more than your fair share of blood, and infection could kill you. So you will remain here and rest until at least tomorrow, and preferably the following days as well. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and we’re nearing Nassau without a sole sail on the horizon. If that changes, you’ll be informed. In the meantime, get some rest for fuck’s sake. Or I’ll hold you down and dose you.”
Standing had sent a fresh burning throb through his thigh, and although out loud he grumbled, Steve secretly was grateful to sit again. As captain, he should want to be surveying his kingdom, ensuring smooth operations, but truthfully, his muscles were sore, a low headache that had seemingly been present for years pulsated, and of course the gash on his leg was impossible to ignore. The thought of being up top with all the men and their incessant noise was off-putting, to say the least.
He still made a show of his displeasure, and Falsworth resolutely ignored him before taking his leave. He’d barely gone for ten seconds when there was a knock, and a young voice called out, “Rations.”
“Wait,” Steve answered, shoving himself off the bed with a wince.
Buachaill piped up from the corner. “But the surgeon just said—”
“Shut up.” Hobbling slightly, Steve stood behind his desk. Sitting would probably be worse, so he opened his log and leaned heavily over it, hands on the scarred wood. He called, “Enter.”
Their newest crew member, Rumlow from the merchant ship, came in with fresh water and a bowl of salted meat and carrots. He glanced around as if looking for something. All the blood had of course been cleaned. His black eyes narrowed at Buachaill, who wore one of Steve’s old shirts, entirely too big on him with the sleeves rolled up and the collar loose almost to mid-chest. The boy’s shirt had been ruined by the blood, but his trousers only had a few stains that were invisible under the hem of the shirt.
Rumlow nodded toward Buachaill. “Have his food. Not sure why we’re wastin’ it.”
Steve gazed unseeingly at the log, fingers tightening on the desk. “I don’t recall asking for your opinion.”
“Well, here you go, Barnes.” Rumlow carelessly shoved the cup and bowl into Buachaill’s hands. The leer that he raked over the boy’s body gave even Steve a start. “I was real nice to you, and you never gave me the time of the day. Your bitch of a sister too. Stuck-up cunts, the both of you. I hope your father doesn’t pay. Then I’ll get the chance to really stick it up you. Your sister too.”
Buachaill was instantly on his feet, his fists clenched. “Don’t you dare speak about my sister. No one’s going to lay a finger on her while I’m still breathing.”
“I’m sure it can be arranged that you don’t no more,” Rumlow growled. “Cap’ll see to that.”
Steve banged the log shut and stood straight, ignoring the fiery throb in his leg. “Rumlow.” He eyed him. Dirty brown hair, feral black eyes, medium built and hard looking. He had an aura around him that made Steve on edge. “I’m not sure what you hope to gain with this display, but if it’s to impress me, you’ve missed the mark. Leave, and tell Sam that you are no longer permitted in my cabin.”
After opening his mouth as if to argue, Rumlow apparently thought better of it and scuttled out.
When Steve looked toward Buachaill, surprisingly the boy’s eyes were already on him. His arms were crossed over his chest and perhaps it was because Steve’s shirt drowned him but the boy seemed incredibly small, vulnerable.
“I can protect myself against him,” Buachaill said.
Steve snorted. “Good. That wasn’t about you. Rumlow needs to learn to obey my orders.” He managed to make it back to the bed with even steps, swallowing a groan as he stretched out again, his boots undoubtedly sullying the linens. It was a luxury to have a true bed and not a hammock. The soft sheets had been a prize too, when they took over a Spanish ship just a few months back. He should enjoy his rest, since it didn’t come often, yet he found himself thinking too much of his prisoner. “Now eat, and if you say you’re not hungry I’ll shove that food down your throat myself.”
After a minute of silence, Buachaill said, “You should eat too. Or at least drink.” He scratched at his face. There was little more than peach fuzz there, but he clearly wasn’t used to it. How juvenile of him. Steve couldn’t remember the last time he had been fresh faced. Years and years back.
Steve had a jug of water by the bed, and he sipped from a cup, making the noise loud in the cabin just because he could. “There. See how compliant I can be?”
It was Buachaill’s turn to snort, and Steve had to stop himself from smiling. Why on earth was he smiling at George fucking Barnes’ son? The blood loss must have been severe indeed. He stretched back on his bed.
“How old were you when you first killed a man?”
Steve blinked at the unexpected question.
Buachaill poked at his food and added, “I’m just wondering who was the first?”
Artie. The answer came instantly. Steve hadn’t fired the cannon, true, but he could still feel the grip of Artie’s hands as they shoved him to safety. He could still taste the spray of Artie’s blood.
Shaking his head to banish the past, Steve said, “Fifteen.”
“Oh.” The boy’s word was said soft, and a long pause carried in between until he continued on. “Was it awful?”
Steve simply answered, “Yes,” before he could craft a more appropriate response. As a pirate captain, he should have laughed cruelly and proclaimed that he loved every moment of bloodshed. Truthfully, he’d done what he must over the years, but he never enjoyed it. Constantly striving and hunting, his power over the crew fragile, watching over his shoulder with one hand on his sword. The control he had over the sea was nothing more than an illusion.
It’s why he craved a life where he could just be. But enough of this. If they were to be trapped in the cabin together for the time being, he had to stop the damn questions.
Steve cleared his throat and ordered, “Read me something. Shakespeare.”
There was only silence from the corner, and when Steve looked over, Buachaill sat frozen, a piece of dried meat between his fingers, his hand halfway to his mouth. “R—read?”
Was it Steve’s imagination, or had the color drained from the boy’s face?
“I’m bored,” Steve said. “Surely you are too. Here is the solution.” He narrowed his gaze. It would be an easy way to pass the day, yet Barnes was acting as if he’d been ordered to walk the damn plank.
Buachaill seemed to recover himself and shook his head. “I’m sorry, I can’t. I wasn’t able to bring my glasses when you kidnapped me.” He shoved the meat in his mouth and chewed.
“There’s a magnifying glass in the top drawer of the desk.”
The boy’s throat worked as he swallowed. “Oh. I’m… I’m not sure it will really work the same.”
Annoyance flared inside Steve. His patience was starting to wear thin. “Try it.,” he snapped.
Face pinched, Buachaill made his way to the desk, his bare feet slow and hesitant. He opened the drawer, then closed it. “I don’t see it.”
“Look. Harder. If I have to get out of bed and it’s in there, I swear....”
Sighing, Buachaill opened the drawer and promptly removed the glass. Why the fuck was he so opposed to the idea? The longer he dragged his feet going to the bookshelves, the more Steve’s bafflement gave way to irritation. He declared, “I want The Tempest.”
Tilting his head to read the spines, Buachaill ran his fingers over them, the glass hanging unused in his right hand. If he could read the spines then clearly he didn’t need the damn thing.
Seconds ticked by, and he still hadn’t picked out the book. Was he being stubborn for the sake of it? For fuck’s sake, now that Steve had decided he wanted to relax, his prisoner was apparently determined to be difficult. Because naturally, that was his life.
“It’s the blue one at the end.”
Buachaill took the book back to his corner. Very, very slowly. Steve inhaled deeply, fists clenching. Clearly he’d been too lenient, or seeing him brought low by the injury had put ideas into Barnes’ head as to just who the fuck was in charge here. The boy was Steve’s prisoner and needed to be reminded of it.
Steve commanded, “Start reading. Now.”
Feet tucked under him, Buachaill opened the book, the old leather creaking. He held the glass, but didn’t use it. “Uh…”
“I believe we begin on a ship at sea, rightt?” Then Steve sneered. “You are lettered, aren’t you?” He’d worked damn hard to learn to read and speak more or less like a gentleman, a struggle George Barnes’ son could never understand. Steve had wanted to pass the time pleasantly for the both of them, and this strange rebellion was his thanks?
Buachaill’s cheeks went even redder, and something flared in his eyes— embarrassment, fear, shame. He gripped the book so tightly his fingers were white. As Buachaill’s jaw clenched, Steve watched him, baffled, the rush of anger and frustration giving way to utter confusion. Did Barnes raise a son so lazy that he hadn’t learned to read? No. Impossible. The sheer misery etched on Buachaill’s face tugged at Steve, and for a moment of madness, he wished he could ease the mysterious pain.
He crushed the impulse, his voice hard as stone. “Are you stupid?”
Instead of denial, Barnes slammed the book shut and shouted, “Yes!”
Steve blinked. He could only ask, “What?”
Buachaill clutched the book to his chest, eyes on the floor. “I’m-- I’m a dullard. I can’t read.”
Ridiculous. Steve laughed. “What game do you think you’re playing?” He tried to imagine what
the boy would gain from this ruse and came up empty. “Do you think I’m stupid? Your heritage, the way you speak— of course you can read.”
Face scarlet, Buachaill’s chest rose and fell. “I’m telling you I can’t. I’m-- I’m dense.”
Fury swept Steve to his feet despite the howl of protest from his wound. “And I call you a liar. It’s a strange lie, I’ll grant you that. A simpleton wouldn’t know the words you do. Wouldn’t be able to use them properly, as you do. You’ve shown intelligence in how quickly you learned to bend the line, in tending to my leg. Why are you lying about this?”
Buachaill slumped against the wall, and when he spoke, his voice was hoarse. “Why would I lie about it? I barely read half as well as most children. It’s the truth. Rebecca has read to me since I was small—read for me, covering up my insufficiency. Tutor after tutor failed to educate me. Then Mr. Pierce came, and…” Looking down, he swallowed hard. Yes, there was definitely something there, a vulnerability regarding the tutor.
Steve filed away the information, ignoring a spark of something that could not be jealousy, before prompting, “And what?”
“He was able to teach me more than anyone else had, but there was nothing to be done for the fact that I’m simply lacking in some areas. I don’t have the capacity to read and learn the way other people do. My sisters are far more intellectual than I will ever be, but they had to marry and have children. Rebecca would have been perfect at Cambridge or Oxford. And I--.” Still gripping the book, he cleared his throat. “Mr. Pierce tried everything to teach me, but it was hopeless. He made sure to drill me in vocabulary. Made sure no one in society would ever know from a simple conversation. It was all he could do.”
Steve stood there in the face of Buachaill’s defeat and found he hated it. “How can this be, when your mind is still intact?”
Buachaill laughed, a harsh bite of sound. His fingers roughly raked through his hair. “I wish I knew.”
Steve sat back heavily on the side of the bed, his stitches straining, fire in his thigh. He ignored it. He couldn’t get his mind wrapped around the oddity that this was. A boy as spoken as Barnes should have the ability to read easily. His words were unlike the men on the ship, and truly anyone else Steve had been in contact with in a long while. The boy was civilized, and it showed. Reading was a necessity in the world he came from. Steve could imagine the uproar it would cause especially from someone of his calibre.
“And what does your father make of it?” He had a feeling he already knew the answer. Not that he should care. It was merely curiosity.
Buachaill raised his head, his face grim. “As much as my father wanted me when I was an idea, the reality of having a son… of having me… ,” his words died off and he bit into his lips, his eyes darting to the floor. Rebecca and my tutor did their best to protect me, but of course my father found out the truth. He always does. It’s an understatement to say that he was furious.” The boy shuddered. “He insisted I wasn’t applying myself. He…”
After a few moments, Steve pressed, tension stringing tighter through him because he knew. “What did he do?”
Buachaill stared at his feet. “When I was ten, he beat my knuckles with a ruler until I was able to read a full verse from the Bible without stumbling, until I could say every single word properly. I sat there for an hour. Trying over and over but-- but I couldn’t.” Steve felt something hurt inside his chest at the look on Buachaill’s face. Misery, Sheer, undeniable distress. “He’d broken my hand. It swelled up badly. Elizabeth and Rebecca were horrified. I think he was too, because he left me alone after that. He still calls me an invalid at every chance he gets. The truth is, he probably won’t pay a penny to get me back.”
As soon as the words escaped, the boy jolted, eyes going wide. For a moment, Steve couldn’t quite catch his breath. George Barnes would pay. He must. Before Steve could respond, Buachaill added, “I didn’t mean—no, you see, of course he’ll pay the ransom. Everyone will know about it, and he’d never allow himself to seem weak.” Acid rolled through Steve’s stomach. If Barnes didn’t pay and the men were denied their prize, it would be a bloody mess. “And he always speaks highly of me outside the family, boasting of my fake accomplishments. He won’t let me be killed by pirates. He does value me. In— in his own way.”
“He’d better.” Steve’s desire for the ransom remained strong, while the urge to strangle George Barnes with his bare hands had intensified greatly. It was nonsense to be affronted for Buachaill’s sake that George should treat him so poorly because of his difficulties reading. After how determined he’d been to father a son, George still wasn’t satisfied, even though Buachaill was smart and capable and— Enough. Steve stopped the absurd urge to offer some reassurance. The boy was his prisoner! He was satisfactory. Nothing more, and nothing mattered but getting the money. Exacting revenge.
Steve remained confident that George Barnes’ pride would rule the day. “He will raise the ransom or face far too much ridicule and scrutiny from his peers in the New World.”
Buachaill nodded eagerly. “Yes. He hates to be seen as lesser in any way. Even if I have to work myself to the bone to repay him, he’ll find a way to raise the money. Rebecca and her husband will make sure it happens. She has always had a way with our father.”
Steve grumbled, “Your father better pay.” They sat in awkward silence as he cursed himself for engaging with his captive in the first place. Then he said, “I suppose I’ll just have to read myself to pass the time.”
Holding out his hand, Steve waited for the book. Buachaill passed it over, then retreated to his corner. Steve stretched back on the bed slowly, feeling his wound aching. He opened the book, its pages slightly yellowed and delicate, the binding beginning to come loose. Buachaill sat with his legs pulled in, his forehead resting on his knees.
“On a ship at sea: a tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard,” Steve read out loud. Buachaill raised his head, and Steve was struck at how his features seemed to glow in the sunlight pooling through the windows. As Steve read on, Buachaill listened closely, a small smile curving his pretty lips.
Chapter 9: Never Again
Gazing over the group of assembled men, Steve stood tall, his wound only a dull throb now. The pain was hardly anything at all, really. After three days in his cabin reading Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Marlowe aloud while Buachaill listened, it was time to resume his duties. He’d made the odd appearance up on deck so the men didn’t suspect, and now his leg was fit enough that he barely limped.
“We’re docking at Nassau.” As a roar of cheer rang up, he raised his hand. “Only for the day to trade our cargo and build up our supply. We are all strictly on duty. No drinking. No whoring.” Now a grumble vibrated across the deck. “I assure you, I will provide you with all the rum you can drink tonight when we are back on board and safely tucked away in a cove down the coast.”
A voice whined, “Can’t we get the women to come down to the docks, at least? We won’t say nothin’, we swear.”
Steve bit back a sigh. “You know damn well that those ladies are unable to keep their mouths shut if they can get something out of it. They’d sell our information to another crew faster than some of you would get off.”
More grumbling, and Dum Dum, an Enlishman who’d proven himself sensible and brave, spoke over the others, “Our captain’s right. No sense in risking our ransom for a few minutes of a warm hole.”
Another man piped up, “Speak for yourself! I haven’t had a piece of legs for almost a month! A damn gust o’ wind could get me off.” There was laughter then, the current of resentment dissipating.
Steve gazed at them intently. “We need to stay sharp. No one is to breathe a word about our hostage to anyone. No exceptions. Not a drop of alcohol, and if you dare knock on Mrs. Vostokoff’s door to visit her girls, you will lose your share of the ransom. Understood?”
Sam called out, “Aye, Aye, Captain,” and the others joined in, some more reluctantly than others.
Steve smiled. “It will be worth the short-term sacrifice in the end, I promise you. Let’s keep our heads on and eyes on the prize!” This roused a cheer, and he dismissed the men, turning to the bow.
Sam joined him, grinning his gap-toothed smile, “That rum had better be the good shit, or they’ll take a vote on a new captain.”
Steve chuckled at the joke, ignoring the slither of unease that rippled through his chest. He’d kept control by being firm yet fair, but many pirate captains had been outpowered by mutiny. In another two weeks, they’d have their prize and see that the sacrifices had been worth it. “It will be Nassau’s finest.”
“They’ll guzzle it nonetheless.” Sam squinted up at the sky. “Clouds coming in from the north. Better find a safe harbor tonight close to Nassau. Pearl Cove, perhaps?”
Steve nodded. That’s what he had been thinking all along.
“Who will watch the prisoner while we go to shore?”
A strange pang of guilt squirmed in his gut. It would be torture for Buachaill to be so close and unable to get solid land under his feet. “I’ll keep him locked in. Put… Barton on guard duty. He’s trustworthy. Yes?”
Yes. And you should relax. I can handle the trade. Perhaps you should find someone to give a good fucking, get off the edge for a moment.”
“Maybe I will.” It had been ages and would do him good. Some of the men on board had each other, and in Nassau, no one gave a damn who fucked who. In the pirate world, men could be as good as married if they chose. Some even wore each other’s rings and contracted together in matelotage.
“That’s the spirit.” Sam clapped him on the shoulder and left him in peace.
Steve knew it likely mystified Sam and the others that he didn’t fuck anyone on board. But he’d decided years ago that he’d rather his prick didn’t fall off from some rotting disease and that his own hand was sufficient. He’d been tempted at times to take up bold young men on offers of willing mouths or asses but Steve had enforced a rule on himself against ever screwing a crew member. It would only create competition and hostility. Better to hold himself apart from all that. Untouchable.
It hadn’t even been that difficult. The last time he’d experienced the urge of true desire, he’d been little more than a boy, spending nights in a hammock with Artie in the stinking lower decks of the HMS Leaside. Steve allowed himself a moment to remember Artie’s impish grin and cowlick of fair hair falling over his forehead, the breathless intensity with which they’d kissed and touched, each exploration new and thrilling, young enough that no one paid any mind to them sharing a hammock. The memory gave way, as it always did, to flashes of cannon fire, Spaniards upon them in the dawn. It had been a bloody, hard-won battle to escape the vessel that brought with it death and war. Steve could still hear the quartermaster’s relief as he said, “Could have been worse. Most of us are still here.”
Most . Artie’s head had nearly been taken clean off, his rosy-cheeked, dear face gone before Steve could even understand what had happened—that Artie had propelled him out of harm’s way. His blood had still stained Steve’s face—his hands, his lips, his very heart—when they’d put Artie into the sea along with a dozen other men, each wrapped in cloth. The quartermaster had spoken Artie’s name out loud before the splash, as if he were an offering to the sea gods. Perhaps he was. Perhaps they all were, in the end.
Steve had stood solemn with the others along the rail, the flag fluttering at half-mast. He’d watched the canvas covering Artie bob for a few moments before sinking beneath the waves and forever into the deep. When the last body was out of sight, the men had turned back to their tasks, bustling about and getting on with it, readying the ship and themselves to do it all again when called upon. Steve had no choice but to follow, unless he wanted to dive after Artie.
He’d been sorely tempted.
In the months following, Steve had found the pain crippling and of absolutely no benefit to him. Nights had been the hardest, alone in his hammock without the sweet nuzzle of Artie’s kisses, and he’d told himself, never again . Over the years, he’d fucked some men. But his lips never touched theirs, his hands never lingered over bare skin. He never held them close and slept as one. It had been so very long now, Artie only a distant speck on the horizon in Steve’s wake.
Why he crowded into Steve’s mind now was a mystery. He probably didn’t even remember Artie’s face correctly. Over the years, it had surely morphed and reshaped in his memory. Yet he could
still see the red crosses on the Spanish sails. With the metallic tang of Artie’s blood in his mouth, Steve had climbed the mast for his lookout duty and scanned the seas, eager for another battle, wishing the Spaniards would pursue them once more so he could blow them to fucking smithereens.
Perhaps it was that day his course was set to become a privateer, and now this, a lawless pirate.
Shaking his head, Steve ducked down the stairs. It was seconds later that he was entering into his cabin and met by the boy. Buachaill was a ball of energy, limbs jittery with excitement as he asked, “Do you know how long the beach is? How far it goes? If I run—”
“You won’t be running.”
Buachaill smiled, a puff of laughter escaping with a flash of white teeth. “I told you, I’m not trying to escape. I am already accustomed to my fate as your prisoner. You threatened my sister, and I’d never endanger Rebecca or her child. Never. I’ll will return, I swear. Or you could run beside me? No, not with your leg. Another crew member could?”
Steve could not allow himself to be swayed. “No. You’ll stay on board.” He strode to his desk and sat in his chair, taking up his quill.
The boy certainly wasn’t laughing now. “But... we made a bet. I won. I know you remember. Those stitches in your leg should remind you.”
Steve’s grip tightened. He clamped down on his back teeth, not looking up. “I remember. Nassau is not suitable. There’s far too many people. It’s not possible.”
“But you promised!”
Unbelievably, an apology formed on Steve’s tongue, and he barely bit it back. Why should he be sorry to break an oath to his hostage? He was a pirate, after all. George Barnes had seen to that. Still, he found himself saying, “Too many people. We’ll find an island soon enough. We need to make repairs thanks to that lunatic Fury. Somewhere uninhabited. Big enough for you to have a run.” There, he was being reasonable.
Buachaill shook his head, pacing, rolling his sleeves past his elbows, displaying a hint of the firm, trim muscles hidden beneath the linen. “Can I at least go ashore? Get off this ship and stretch my legs?”
“You’ll stay here.”
There was a long moment of silence. One that was so palpable that Steve couldn’t bring himself to look up.
“You’re a liar,” Buachaill spat.
Steve’s head picked up at that. The boy’s creamy cheeks were flushed as he paced. While Steve had initially thought the boy was good enough looking at first glance, now he found himself drawn to the overwhelming beauty of Buachaill’s face. A few times while reading aloud, he’d lost his place in the text because he’d found himself watching Buachaill and the way he listened with his eyes closed, a dreamy smile tugging at his mouth.
The pale skin on his nose caught Steve’s eye, and then Buachaill’s tongue darted out to lick his lips. The water in his eyes wasn’t lost on Steve either. “Why did I believe you even for a moment?” he demanded. “Why did I think better of you because you read to me and were kind and--”
Steve tore his gaze away. “I don’t know, since apparently I must remind you I’m a fucking pirate!”
Buachaill’s anger and hurt shouldn’t have moved him. He shouldn’t have wanted to live up to any expectations. Why the devil should he care? He had nothing to prove. Yet, how did that explain this hurt inside?
“Can I at least go up on deck?”
“No.” He wanted to explain that there were too many risks; that if Buachaill were captured by another crew, he might be tortured or worse. And the ransom , he reminded himself. That’s what’s really important. He sneered. “You’ll survive.”
He turned his attention to his tasks, going over the list of cargo to trade, and soon enough they were in Nassau. Voices rang out over the water, and Buachaill went to kneel by the open window, craning his neck. Steve stood behind him, failing to keep his eyes off the boy’s ass as he bent over. There was only a glimpse of palm trees and huts, people milling around where the beach curved.
“If you shout…”
Grumbling, Buachaill sighed. “I won’t. Just go.”
So Steve did. Steve grabbed his coat and left before he was compelled to make any more promises. And to get those watery eyes out of his sight.
Head buzzing pleasantly, Steve left the men to their merriment in the tavern, closing a hatch behind him in the passageway. The music and boisterous shouts faded by the stern, and the lashing wind and rain reached his ears.
With a sigh, he made his way towards the dock where his ship was stationed. He went straight to the main deck, soaked to the bones in moments, his coat forgotten by the barrel of rum. He made his rounds, checking on the poor sods who’d drawn the night watch, promising them extra whiskey tomorrow. They were safely at anchor, but it was still miserable on deck.
Carrying a small sack, he returned below, finally approaching his cabin. He nodded to Barton. “Any trouble?”
“Not a peep, Captain.”
“Dismissed. Go eat and have as much rum as you’d like.” Grinning, Barton passed him the key and hurried away.
Steve hesitated. It was foolish to still feel guilty—or to feel guilty whatsoever—but he hated not living up to a wager, no matter with whom it was made. He’d stayed on deck while they left Nassau and made their way to the cove, then eaten and drank too much rum with the men, Sam watching him with a raised eyebrow. He couldn’t avoid it anymore and twisted the key.
Buachaill was in his corner, curled on the blanket, either asleep or pretending to be. He’d lit one of the lanterns at some point, and it still flickered. Steve was about to tiptoe inside when he caught himself and marched boldly on in, boots striking the floor. It’s his cabin, for fuck’s sake.
He dropped the sack on the floor by the corner. “There’s fruit. Mango, orange, and…a plum.”
Dropping any pretense, the boy sat up and opened the canvas. “Thank you,” he whispered. He
pulled out the mango and held it in his hands, peering at it curiously, then poking at the skin.
“Here.” Steve took his dagger from his belt and handed it to him. Only once the brass handle was in Buachaill's grasp did he stop to question just what the fuck he was doing. This is why he should only permit himself to one cup of rum.
But Buachaill only peeled the fruit before passing the weapon back. He took a tentative bite of the mango, then moaned. Juice dripped down his fingers, and his tongue darted out, licking them clean, as if he didn’t want to waste a drop.
Steve spun around and started tugging at his soaked clothes, commanding himself to ignore the coiling heat in his belly. He stripped them off and stretched out naked on the bed, determined to go to sleep. It had been a long day, and he’d had to be on guard in Nassau—weighing every word, performing, wearing his cursedly hot coat, satisfied with the whispers that followed in his wake. “There goes the Captain of the Fallen Eagle.” Now he could exhale and relax. Well, he would if Buachaill stopped making such obscene noises. Each slurp and sigh of pleasure went straight to Steve's cock.
To hell with it. He took himself in hand, because why the fuck shouldn’t he? It was his cabin, and he didn’t give a fuck what his prisoner thought. Even if a glance told him his prisoner was now transfixed, the rest of the fruit abandoned in his lap, eyes locked on Steve's stiffening cock.
With his left hand tucked behind his head, Steve spread his legs. He licked his palm with a long, slow stroke, then spit in it a few times. Lazily, he worked himself to full hardness, Buachaill's feverish gaze boring into his skin, setting him on a blaze.
He could only glimpse Buachaill's shadow from the corner of his eye in the low, guttering light of the lantern, but he was certain the boy watched every pass of Steve's hand over his shaft.
Get it done and go to sleep, he told himself. Yet he couldn’t ignore Buachaill's curious hunger. Couldn’t deny himself the thrill of it, even though he knew it was madness. He’d kept himself in check for so long It was forever ago since Steve had been desired with such pure, raw honesty. Why shouldn’t he have a taste of forbidden fruit? Just this once, if Buachaill wanted it.
Is it honesty, though? Or is the boy playing him like Wade's fiddle? Trying to ensure his survival? The merry tune Wade currently played in the mess hall as the men daddled echoed faintly through the ship beyond the din of the storm. Steve should close his eyes, jerk himself quickly to completion, and let the distant music be his lullaby. Yet his craving would not be denied.
Steve would leave it up to the boy. Teasing his fingers against the head of his cock, he asked, “Does it make your prick hard, to watch me?”
For the space of too many heartbeats, each faster and faster, he was afraid there would be no reply. Then, from the darkness, a breathy answer. “Yes.”
Relief shouldn’t have sweetened his veins, but it did. It was unwise to play these games with his prisoner— his bounty . But really, what better revenge than deflowering Barnes' son? What a blow to the bastard's pride that would be. And if it gave Steve the opportunity to touch those lean muscles, to taste and explore… All the better.
A slow smile lifted his lips. “Do you want a closer look?”
On tentative feet, Buachaill neared, wide eyes darting between Steve's face and his cock. Bending up his left leg with his foot flat on the mattress, Steve ignored the twinging from his stitches and rocked his hips, his body on fire, in danger of being consumed by the boy's gaze alone— by the longing in it. If it was fake, Buachaill belonged on the theater stage.
His chest rose and fell rapidly, and he licked his lips before blurting, “I want… If I should die, first I want…” He seemed to be searching for the right words before croaking, “I don’t want to die like this.”
“Like what?” Steve raked his gaze down Buachaill's body and up again. The shirt was hanging loosely, obscuring the tenting of his trousers, but Steve was certain he was hard. Oh how he ached to see that swelling cock, to witness the evidence of the boy's desire.
Buachaill opened and closed his mouth with a snap, and Steve put him out of his scarlet-cheeked misery. “A virgin?”
Sighing, Buachaill nodded. “I’ve been too afraid.”
Steve's blood sang , a primal, possessive urge galloping through him. “Truly, no man has ever bent you over? No lady slipped her hand into your trousers and touched you? You've never visited a whore?”
The boy shook his head. His brown hair was like a wave behind him, ghosting against his face and jaw. “Never. I don’t want a lady. Or a-a whore. Only a man. I don’t know why, but it’s always been like that for me.”
His innocence was as intoxicating as the damn rum, and Steve reached out his hand and crooked his finger. The muscles in the boy's throat worked as he swallowed, taking another step forward but still out of reach.
“Is it… Would you rather have a woman? Or…” he whispered, eyes shining with unmistakable hope, “Are you like me? Unnatural?”
It was absurd to betray any truth, yet thinking of Artie earlier had stirred up the memories of how it had felt to know such fear and loneliness for the crime of one’s own nature. He found himself nodding. But his desire wasn’t selfless— far from it. The urge to be the first to take that sweet, tight ass beat in Steve like a war drum, and it was all he could do to keep himself in check.
Leaving his hard cock alone for the moment, before he downright embarrassed himself, he reached up and caressed his nipples instead, satisfied when Buachaill's gaze followed his fingers.
“I tried a woman once," Steve explained. "Motions took its course but it wasn’t like this.” He took hold of his shaft again, thumbing over the head. “Do you want me to show you? How it can be between two men?”
Jerking his head in a nod, Buachaill yanked off his clothing and tossed it aside bravely. His long, slim prick laid flat against his abdomen. Tension rippled through his lean muscles, and in the fading lamplight his flesh was golden, faint brown hair scattered over his arms and legs. His chest was smooth though, something that Steve found himself fascinated with, how different this body was from his own. His nipples were a dusky rose, peaked without being touched. And oh, how Steve wanted to touch.
Buachaill licked his lips. “What should I do?”
“Get the bottle of oil from the middle drawer of my desk. Then come here.” Instead of creeping hesitantly, the boy rushed to the desk and then the bed, eyes raking Steve up and down. Steve put both hands behind his head and raised an eyebrow. “Well?”
With a sharp inhalation, Buachaill climbed up over him. They both shuddered as their naked flesh met, and Steve took hold of the boy's slim hips, tempted to plunge right up into him but keeping himself in check.
“Like…like this?” Buachaill asked, straddling him, strung tight. Surely frightened, but pressing on. His muscles quivered, excitement lighting his bright eyes, and Steve wondered if he looked similar when he ran. “Is this right?” The boy gazed at Steve with such openness, asking for guidance, trusting despite every reason he shouldn’t. A little furrow appeared between Buachaill's brows. “Does it work like this? Or should I be on my hands and knees? Like…like an animal?”
And despite every fucking reason he shouldn’t, Steve found himself opening too, enticed by the boy's innocence. He smiled up at Buachaill, running soothing hands over his tense thighs. “It works in all sorts of ways.”
Not since Artie had he had anyone so sweet. And as much as he would love to pummel Buachaill on his hands and knees, right then Steve would rather ease him and sate his innocent craving. Reward that trust. They both wanted it, so why shouldn’t they steal pleasure where they could?
He took Buachaill's delicate hand and poured oil over his fingers, the scent of coconut sweet and cloying.
“Open yourself for me.”
Eagerly, Buachaill reached behind, then tensed, a gasp on his lips. “You won’t fit,” he blurted.
Cock painfully hard, Steve drew small circles on Buachaill's firm thighs with his fingertips, avidly watching the flex of Buachaill's muscles. “Slowly. Have you fucked yourself like this before?”
"Yes. But it will take too long to go slowly.” Buachaill whimpered, eyes fluttering and mouth parting. “Just fuck me now. Do it.”
“Patience.” Aside from not wanting to tear him open, Steve's blood roared watching him work, even though his hole and fingers were hidden from view. It made it more exciting that he couldn’t see, the anticipation growing, every moan and sigh sending tinder sparks to his groin.
“Please, it’s enough.” Buachaill withdrew his slick hand and leaned onto Steve's chest. His face creased as if he were pained. “ Please .”
Steve oiled his own cock, then took hold of Buachaill's hips and guided him onto it, the head nudging that tight opening. “Is this what you want?”
In answer, the boy closed his eyes and bravely sank down, taking in the whole head of Steve's prick, his eyes watering as he gasped. “ Oh !”
A flush spread down his chest, and Steve traced it with his fingertips, circling Buachaill's nipples, eliciting a shameless moan.
Inch by inch, Buachaill lowered himself, Steve holding his hips steady again, easing some of his weight and biting back a groan. That tight, perfect heat enclosed him—embraced him, the pressure almost too good. He couldn’t remember the last time fucking had been like this. Normally he barely looked at the other man, but with Buachaill, he was riveted. He watched as emotions played over Buachaill's face—pain, wonder, exhilaration . Such a dauntless young man, boldly taking what he desired. The heat of him gripping Steve was exquisite, and sweat beaded on Steve's forehead as he struggled to keep control.
Had he been so fearless his first time? It had been rushed and awkward and painful, though Artie had taken as much care as possible. Steve was struck by the thought that he didn’t want to hurt the boy, which was idiocy. He might have to kill him.
His breath caught and muscles seized, and Buachaill opened his eyes, almost all the way impaled on Steve's cock, trembling, and a tear hovering on his lashes. Steve should roll him over onto his hands and knees and fuck him the way he would a random man on the beach in Nassau in the dead of night. Instead, he nearly reached up to wipe the tear away before it could run down Buachaill's cheek.
Thankfully, the boy swiped at it first, gritting his teeth as he fully seated himself, not backing off. He looked down, then up at Steve, an incredulous, giddy smile blooming over his face. “It fits,” he breathed. “I have a cock inside me.” He ran his palm over Steve's chest, leaving sparks in his wake. “I’ve dreamed of this for so long.” His smile flickered, brow creasing as he breathed harder, and Steve could practically see the whispers of shame giving chase in Buachaill's mind.
The boy murmured, “I know I shouldn’t. And with you, of all men. Yet…” He rolled his hips experimentally. “Lord, it feels so good.” Taking a deep breath, he nodded. “I want this. Heavens, I need this.”
Steve found himself smiling, warm satisfaction flowing through him to be not only the first man to breach that untouched hole, but the one to give Buachaill the very thing he’d craved and denied himself. It filled a need in Steve so deep he hadn’t known it existed.
He’d been patient, but he needed to touch. The boy's prick had flagged somewhat. Steve poured a glug of oil into his palm and smoothed it over the shaft, gratified by the clench of Buachaill's ass, his long moan, and the way his cock responded almost immediately, swelling back up. Steve stroked him and ran his right hand up and down Buachaill's side, then over his nipples, tweaking them, teasing. “You’ve imagined this before? Being fucked by a man’s cock?”
“Oh yes.” His eyes were dark with lust, feverish and bold. "So many times."
Steve took Buachaill's hips and thrust up sharply. Buachaill threw his head back, arching like a bow, crying out, little sounds falling from his open lips, a desperate, heady song. It reverberated deeply through Steve, and he dedicated himself to seeing Buachaill break into pieces on his prick.
Trying to find just the right spot, Steve experimented until he brushed the swollen nub perfectly, and Buachaill nearly snapped in half, whipping forward to lean over him. “Oh God, that’s… You’re so deep.”
Thighs flexing, Buachaill fucked himself, his tight ass and heat like heaven. His hands laid flat on Steve's chest, fingers digging in for purchase as he moved in a jerky rhythm, struggling to find that spot inside him on every stroke. He panted so prettily, chestnut hair damp and curling around his forehead, ocean eyes bright with discovery and lust, little whines escaping his pink mouth, “Oh, oh, yes.”
The ten points of pressure from Buachaill's fingers might actually bruise, new dark spots amid the lines of his tattoo, but the hint of pain sent fire to Steve's balls. Buachaill was wild and free on top of him, eyes shut as he fucked himself fiercely.
Steve reached up to cup his cheek, needing to see his eyes again, swallowing his own gasp when Buachaill looked down at him with pure pleasure and reckless abandon, fearless as he took what he wanted. The boy was supposed to be the prisoner, yet Steve was ensnared, powerless to deny him anything.
“Oh, oh, I need…” Buachaill slammed down, wincing.
Steve burned to give him that release. He took hold of Buachaill's length and swiped a thumb over the head, then gave it a swift, commanding stroke from root to tip. On the third pass, Buachaill cried out, splashing on Steve's chest, his ass gripping so sweetly, eyes squeezed shut in ecstasy. As Buachaill trembled, Steve fucked up into his clinging heat with powerful thrusts, unable to contain himself a moment longer.
Buachaill's eyes shot open, a cry on his lips as another spurt of cream splatted on Steve's chest. He clamped down, and that was all it took to unleash Steve's own release. As he emptied himself, their eyes stayed locked together.
Steve barely managed to clench his jaw and choke down his shout.
“God in heaven,” Buachaill muttered, head dropping forward, his arms going slack where he still braced himself. His fingers that had dug into Steve's flesh relaxed.
“I’d say this is more the devil’s arena,” Steve drawled, his attempt at a joke sounding hollow. Indeed, the boy ignored it.
Steve had to pry himself free and regain his senses, but he still held Buachaill's slim hips, tanned hands stark against that pale skin. Steve's prick had begun to soften, resting inside Buachaill's slick, well-used hole, where he’d been the first. Unlike his typical rushed encounters, he wasn’t yet ready to withdraw, instead reaching out to trace the edges of the boy's swollen rim around him.
Chest rising and falling, Buachaill lifted his head. His glazed eyes met Steve's, then lowered. He swallowed thickly, blinking as if he was coming back to himself after a fevered dream, and Steve dreaded seeing guilt furrow that brow once more. Why should their desires be deemed unworthy? Because England said so? To hell with England. The Queen could burn for all Steve cared. He wouldn't even bat an eye.
Steve lifted his thumb to press over the tiny divot in Buachaill's chin, wondering if he’d been born with it or acquired it on some adventure, perhaps running or climbing trees. Their skin was slick with sweat where they pressed together, and Steve was struck by the urge to roll Buachaill under him and cover him from head to toe.
Buachaill swiped at his seed, only succeeding in making the mess worse, matting together the hair on Steve's chest, tracing the edges of his tattoo. “I’m sorry.” His fingers shook as he tried to clean it up.
“There’s no shame in it.” Steve captured Buachaill's wrist and drew up his hand, sucking his fingers and the musky, tangy cum laced with the lingering mango juice as Buachaill watched with wide eyes.
“James.” His gaze snapped up to Steve's as Steve froze. Hoarsely, he added, “My name is James, but everyone calls me Bucky. It’s—”
Steve roughly lifted him off not only his cock, but then shoved him from the bed entirely, plopping him on his feet. Buachaill swayed, and Steve held on a few moments longer before letting go. After all, it wouldn’t do to have his prize tumble over and crack his skull.
Forcing a wide yawn, he leaned over and plucked Buachaill's linen drawers from where they’d been abandoned on the floor. With swift movements, he cleaned his cock and what he could of his chest, then tossed the sticky drawers at Buachaill, who was too dazed to catch them. The white cloth landed at his feet.
Although his heart thumped too quickly, Steve kept his tone even. Disinterested. “There. Now you won’t die a virgin.” He folded his hands behind his head and closed his eyes, willing his breathing back to normal. The ship’s sway usually lulled him to sleep almost instantly on the nights he wasn’t worrying over the men, or other ships, or weather, or cargo. Or being captured by the English. Or French. Or Spanish. His limbs were loose, and he should have been able to drop off right away. There was no reason to wonder how Buachaill was feeling. Sure as hell no reason to worry. No reason to soothe him.
Steve had given him what he wanted. The boy had taken what he wanted too. It had been too long since Steve had lost himself in a fuck, and now he had. He’d sullied George Barnes' only son, adding another layer to his revenge. That was the end of it. Yet sleep was elusive as he listened to Buachaill eventually retreat to the corner, his footsteps soft and slow.
Steve cracked his eyes to watch him clean himself, the low light of the lamp casting jerky shadows. Taking the bucket Steve had once again allowed him, Buachaill splashed a bit of water on his soiled drawers, then reached behind himself, wincing. Steve had to close his eyes fully when he realized the boy was biting into the meat of his hand to mute his noises, and that the hand was shaking. It was just too much.
Forcefully, Steve made his thoughts imagine how skilled Buachaill would grow, his nature passionate and curious. Oh, the things Steve could teach him…
Enough . This had been a one-time indulgence. He’d marked Barnes' heir, and even if the bastard never knew, Steve would. Bucky would— No . His name is only Buachaill. Steve's bounty. Steve's revenge. Nothing more.
Soon the lamp extinguished, and all was darkness. Two words echoed in his mind. Never again.
Chapter 10: Only You
He’s been fucked.
Well, to be accurate, Bucky had largely fucked himself. He’d ridden the pirate king’s massive cock the way he imagined a whore would— wanton and desperate. Shameless . The memory tightened his gut, his nipples tingling, and all he could do was remember everything, in excruciating detail.
Curled on the floor, with that awful blanket kicked aside, Bucky couldn’t help but admit the truth. He wanted to do it again. And again. And again . He’d thought he’d known his body’s hunger but he’d only scratched the surface. Now that he’d had a cock inside him, the itch had burrowed deeper than he’d imagined possible. It burned in every inch of him and it left him aching like an addict.
The Captain had left to go on deck, and in the morning light, Bucky poked around in nooks and crannies, opening drawers. Yet he found no mirror. The one Cap used while shaving and trimming his beard was apparently locked up with the weapons.
Bucky laughed at himself for wondering if he’d somehow appear different. Then again, it’s not like he would know any better. For all he knew, his skin could be glowing, or his eyes darker, or-- or something . Any little sign that would scream that he’d given up his virginity. Something his father may see, or Becca, or the pirate crew, or Sharon. God, what would they think?
Standing by the bed, he reached out and ran a hand over the rumpled sheets. His stomach swooped, skin flushing, even though he knew he shouldn’t take any satisfaction in what had happened. Especially considering the kind of man Cap was.
Bucky’s hand faltered, his smile fading and shame creeping in. It was… wrong to feel any kind of hurt at the way he’d been dismissed. Used, then thrown to the side. Like he was-- Trash .
After Cap had all but thrown him from the bed, Bucky had returned to his place in the corner sticky with oil and cum. He’d cleaned himself as best as he could, feeling sick to his stomach the entire time. Yet when he’d woken up, he’d wished the seed were still inside him, that he could feel the evidence between his fingertips, even though the swollen rawness of his hole reassured him that not a moment of it had been imagined.
Now guilt and silly hope shifted inside him like the rocking of the ship on the tide. What had he thought? That fucking would change anything about his circumstances— that Cap would hold him close like a lover? Kiss him? This was the man who’d promised to gut him if Bucky’s father didn’t pay his ransom. A man who could do that, wouldn’t want anything more from Bucky than what he had already taken.
As much as Bucky tried not to dwell on that possible outcome, he couldn’t expect the fact that Cap had fucked him to change his fortunes. And yet… Cap had been inside him. He’d been gentle and encouraging. He’d watched Bucky with something new in his blue eyes, an attentiveness like he’d really seen Bucky for the first time. He’d confessed to sharing the same nature, and it still sent a thrill through Bucky to know he wasn’t alone. He’d felt the throb of Cap’s cock in his very core, had been filled with his seed. He’d given Cap not only his trust, but his very self.
Would Cap still be able to kill him if the time came?
Turning away from the bed, Bucky huffed in frustration. He knew he shouldn’t make more of their fucking than it was. They weren’t lovers. The Captain had taken his pleasure as most men would when given it. That he wasn’t brutal about it meant nothing.
Desire pulsed through him at the idea of being mastered, and Bucky cursed his lust. Yet the thought remained: he wanted to do it again.
If only he could speak to someone about it. He’d finally found a man like him, yet he was still alone. He’d fucked, and it was glorious, and the idea of marrying Sharon Carter was more unthinkable than ever. Should he even survive. Should his father pay the ransom.
Would the Captain really kill him? He thought of the hours and hours Cap had read aloud for his sake. The way he’d denied that Bucky was stupid. The fresh fruit he’d brought. Why would the captain give these kindnesses if he truly was nothing more than a cold-blooded killer?
Hands shaking, Bucky paced around the cabin—back and front, side to side— his chest tight and breath coming in short pants. He needed to run, to feel the ground under his feet and wind in his ears. Surely that would get his mind clear. But, this is where he was.
Trapped in the cursed cabin, Bucky rushed to the windows and shoved one out, opening his mouth and breathing in deep. The salty spray wet his face as the ship bobbed a wave then rolled down it. The water in the West Indies was a clear blue unlike any he’d ever seen, and he longed to go up on deck and look in all directions. In Nassau, he’d been able to glimpse how the sand was almost white, and he ached to sink his feet into it and run for miles. He’d been promised that but... but the Captain had gone back on his word.
Bucky shouldn’t believe a thing he said, no matter how many books he read out loud. No matter how tender his fingers had felt tracing the spot where their bodies were still joined after they fucked.
The cabin door opened, and Bucky’s foolish, foolish heart leapt. But when he turned, the Captain didn’t meet his gaze. In fact, he didn’t look at Bucky at all. He simply circled his desk, boots thudding against the wood, pulled out his chair and opened his log. Cap pushed up the flowing sleeves of his dark shirt, and soon the quill scratched the page.
Bucky moved back to stand near his corner. Then he crossed the cabin to the bookshelf and stood there. Then back again. Then over by the bed, and finally right in front of the desk. There was no response from Cap. Not even a flicker of his eyes, or hesitation as he dipped his quill in the ink pot. Simply…nothing. As if Bucky weren’t even there. As if he didn’t matter at all.
It shouldn’t have bothered him. He shouldn’t have allowed the stab of pain to open and widen, but he was made invisible again after his desires were finally known and shared, given to Cap all but on a silver fucking platter. It was unbearable.
The words escaped before he could creep back to his corner. “Am I really that low to you?”
That damned quill finally stilled, and Cap peered up, not lifting his head. “If you think so.”
“What am I supposed to think? How can I feel anything but this when you won’t even look at me?”
Cap sat back in the chair, brows drawn tight, a sneer on his lips. The carved serpents and bird rose above his head, framing it like a dark, sinister crown. “Why the fuck should I care about how you feel?” He pushed the chair back to stand and walked toward the door. “You are a prisoner on a
God-damned pirate ship. If you insist on being ashamed of taking pleasure where it can be found, that’s your choice. Your fucking problem.”
Bucky stepped to the center of the cabin, legs trembling but fists clenched tight. It’s the boldest he’s ever felt. He couldn’t help but shake the thought that he was gambling with his life. “You make me feel ashamed by-- You dismissed me. Now, pretending you don’t even see me. You’re a hypocrite .”
The captain scoffed. As if speaking to a small child, condescension dripping, Cap turned and said, “You’re my prisoner, Buachaill. You’re nothing . I fucked your virgin ass so I could take my pleasure and give you to your father defiled. There was no other meaning in it.”
“There, you see! ‘Defiled.’ Is that word not intended to shame me? Your messages are mixed, sir .” Bucky’s heart was pounding but he refused to back down. He couldn't, not for this.
Jaw clenched, Cap barked, “I’m not a gentleman. I do not owe you a thing. I am also not your fucking nanny, here to soothe your little hurts and rock you to sleep. I am not your beloved tutor. I am not a good man.” He took a long-legged stride toward him. Then another. As Bucky jerked away from him, the edge of the desk jammed into Bucky’s tailbone.
Bucky braced his hands behind him, fingers sliding over loose paper as Cap loomed. “You said your kind and proper tutor taught you to wrestle. Tell me, did you want him to fuck you?”
The breath whooshed from Bucky’s lungs. He opened and closed his mouth but nothing came out, and then Cap had his wrist, whipping him around and bending him over the desk, right arm twisted up behind him. The heat of Cap’s big body hovered over him, his breath breezing over Bucky’s ear.
“When he pinned you, did you want him to pull down your trousers?” Cap’s hand snaked its way beneath Bucky, tugging at the buttons. Cool air caressed his skin as his trousers and linen drawers were yanked down to his knees. Bucky’s heart galloped in his chest, drumming in his ears. With his other hand, Cap pressed Bucky’s head down, the polished wood smooth against his left cheek. “Did you want him to fuck you?”
Bucky gasped. The word escaped in a ragged whisper. “Yes.”
Cap’s fingers splayed over the side of Bucky’s face. He shoved his mouth into Bucky’s mouth. The skin was rough and calloused, and Bucky sucked desperately, his cock rock-hard. He whimpered when Cap withdrew his hand.
“Did you even know what it was you wanted?” Cap slid his wet thumb between Bucky’s cheeks, pushing the tip into his hole. Cap’s right hand was an iron band around Bucky’s wrist. As Cap stretched him with his thumb, Bucky’s knees almost gave out.
“Yes. I knew how… I saw a stallion mount a mare once, and I knew I wanted that.” Cap groaned and mumbled something that Bucky couldn’t make out, and Bucky went on. “I wasn’t quite sure if it worked the same with men, but I…”
“Wanted?” Cap shoved his thick thumb inside.
Swallowing a cry, Bucky answered, “Yes.” His shoulder burned. The arm twisted in Cap’s grasp was tingling.
“And now you know exactly what it is you want.”
“Yes,” he groaned. When Cap pulled his thumb free and released his wrist, Bucky’s face went hot. He was bent and displayed, trousers and drawers around his knees. He should push himself up and run-- not that he could go far. But he could tell Cap to go straight to the devil for manipulating him this way. Yet Bucky remained motionless, his arm still behind his back, legs spread, flushed cheek against the cool desk. Bucky blinked at the bookcase, the titles on the spines too far away to read even if they didn’t confuse him.
He wanted this. To hell with his pride. To hell with worrying about his fate or the Captain’s role in it. No man truly knew what tomorrow would bring. Today Bucky was alive, and he would get fucked as many times as he could. God, he wanted to be mounted and pounded with the power of cannon fire until his teeth rattled, until he was bruised and spent. He whimpered. “ Please ?”
For an awful, soul-crushing moment, he thought Cap would leave him hard and aching. Humiliated. Then the exotic scent of the oil they’d used the night before filled the air and fabric rustled. Bucky exhaled in relief, the thrilling edge of fear returning as Cap’s thick, slicked by the oil cock pressed against Bucky’s entrance.
Fingers dug into his ass cheeks, spreading him. Bucky held his breath as Cap pushed inside, cock like steel and too big to comprehend. But the knowledge that Cap was hard for him set Bucky’s head spinning with exhilaration. Cap clearly wanted him, despite his obvious attempts at maintaining distance. Could Bucky make himself valuable enough to be spared if the time came? Could the slight, flickering connection between them be grown into a raging fire with embers that never grew cold? If he could peel away the Captain of the Fallen Eagle’s defenses and reach the man beneath, could there be something real?
Bucky’s hole already burned, sore and raw from the night before but it didn’t matter— he wanted Cap inside him again more than anything.
Cap took hold of his right hand where it was still folded against his lower back. “Good boy.”
As pride swelled in Bucky, Cap straightened his cramped, almost-numb arm, pinning it to the desk by his head, then doing the same with his left arm. Then Cap’s heat returned as he leaned over to speak in Bucky’s ear. “Tell me. What is it you want, Buachaill?”
“Your cock. All of it.”
“Hmm.” Cap was barely inside him. He pushed inward another inch. “What do you want me to do with my cock?”
Bucky gritted his teeth. “F-Fuck me with it. Please .”
With a loud groan, Cap thrust in to the hilt, driving the air right out of Bucky’s lungs. Pain flared, but as Cap fucked him, heavy balls slapping against Bucky’s ass, the discomfort became heavenly. Bucky was well and truly pinned, by his wrists and with Cap’s thick cock filling him. It still didn’t seem possible something so big could fit, and he was undone by it, limbs jelly, everything in the world narrowed to the cock stretching him, the iron grips around his wrists, the warm blasts of Cap’s grunts.
Bucky moaned, “Oh, yes. I’ve wanted this for so long.” He realized some of the guttural noises he heard came from his own throat, his lips parted as he was fucked. He couldn’t move even if he wanted to, and the thought only made his gut tighten. His throbbing, leaking cock was pinned against the desk, rutting against the wood as Cap slammed into him. “ Please ,” he begged.
“Would your good and proper tutor ever have given you what you needed?” Cap punctuated his
question with an extra-vicious thrust. “Would he fill you with his seed?”
“No!” Bucky panted. “Only you.”
Cap leaned closer, his hulking size dwarfing Bucky. He pulled out almost all the way, then pushed in again with shallow strokes, angling until he brushed the spot that made Bucky’s knees buckle. Sparks exploded behind his eyes. White dots appeared as he cried out. With another few strokes Bucky came, spurting and shaking, crying out loudly.
Cap began fucking him with power again, their skin slapping in the creaking, swaying cabin. Bucky groaned along with him when Cap spilled inside. The Captain’s panting gusted over Bucky’s neck and Cap rested his head, lips at the top of Bucky's spine. Almost a kiss.
“Thank you,” Bucky murmured and the iron grips around his wrists went slack. He could feel Cap’s thumbs stroking the reddened skin. For all his insistence that Bucky meant nothing, Cap had fulfilled Bucky’s wildest desires twice now.
He knew it was unwise to underestimate his captor and allow himself any sense of security, yet with Cap still inside him, lips soft on the nape of his neck, Bucky wondered again where the facade truly ended and the man began— the man he’d glimpsed, who was capable of kindness. The man who wouldn’t be able to harm Bucky or his innocent sister. Perhaps Bucky was hopelessly naive, but his instincts told him Cap wasn’t the villain he pretended to be.
Bucky squeezed his ass around Cap’s cock still deep inside him, and Cap moaned, his hand smoothing over Bucky’s hair. Was fucking always like this? Bucky had no other experiences for comparison, and surely Cap had many, but did he always stay close afterward? Cap’s other hand was still over Bucky’s on the desk, his thumb stroking back and forth against the back of Bucky’s hand.
Bucky gasped when Cap pulled out, the sudden emptiness shocking, his thighs quivering. But Cap didn’t abandon him this time, and Bucky’s heart sang with possibility.
Thick, calloused fingers gently pushed the seed back inside where it dripped from Bucky’s tender ass. “Only me,” Cap muttered, still leaning over him, lips by Bucky’s ear.
A shiver skipped down Bucky’s spine. Only you.
Chapter 11: Dripping Wet
“Oh! It’s raining.”
Steve glanced up from his chart, which he had been studying uselessly for almost an hour, trying, and fucking failing, not to be distracted by Bucky — Buachaill —in the corner to his right. Rain showered the glass, and Steve grunted.
Naked from the waist up in only his trousers, Buachaill rose and climbed onto the window seat. He pushed out the glass and curled his feet under him on the cushion before leaning out to peer past the hole of the ship, raindrops splattering against his face. Steve had awoken that morning with his cock achingly hard, eager for Buachaill's tight ass and his delectable moans and soft cries. It was concerning, really, that the first thing on his mind had been to give the boy pleasure. Which was the very reason Steve had forced himself up before the change of watch, while Buachaill slept on.
He’d only returned to his cabin mid-afternoon when Sam had grumbled he was wearing holes in the deck with his agitation. Buachaill had been exercising his arms when Steve walked in, getting an eyesite full of his slim, sweaty torso. Steve had almost retreated at the first twitch of his cock.
But why shouldn’t he spend the rest of the day comfortably in his cabin? Why should he be chased away by his prisoner? Or, more specifically, the hunger for him. It was a mistake to have indulged it, and now he would control it.
Steve had sworn to himself he would not fuck Buachaill again. Would not allow himself to be baited into it as he had the previous day. He’d been doing so well ignoring him, but then the boy had challenged him. That spirit ignited Steve's blood, how Buachaill hadn’t cowered and denied his own cravings but had submitted eagerly. Steve had lost all control and couldn’t seem to regret it.
But not today. He would prove he was the master not only of his prisoner but his own urges. He would not have him. And so far he hadn’t, though his prick stirred at the mere thought.
For fuck’s sake. He’d gone months with nothing but his own hand, yet now he seethed with lust to the point that it was almost blind siding. Fucking Buck-- Buachaill , deflowering him, should have satisfied the itch. Banished it. Yet here it remained, insistent and strong as it whispered in his ear and gripped at his senses.
The rain came harder now, and he rose to place a bucket on the floor where it tended to leak. The ship swayed in the waves; nothing alarming, the rain mostly coming straight down, with manageable winds that didn't scream for Steve to rally the men. Back at his desk, he picked up his divider and calculated the distance between Brookstein Isle and Nassau, eyes on the chart. Still, for some unfathomable reason, he asked, “Why did the Queen choose Brookstein Isle for a new colony? It’s quite isolated.”
“I don’t know,” Buachaill replied. “The desire to add every bit of land to her empire, no matter where it sits?” He sat back and rubbed the rain from his face.
Steve huffed out a laugh despite himself. “Sounds accurate.” Because, after all, who was greedier than the Crown of England?
“If it wasn't for the grief it would cause my sister, I’d ask for you to declare me dead once you have the ransom, then drop me off on some other island.”
Steve knew he should nip this conversation in the bud, yet he asked, “What about your father?” He
fiddled with the divider. Eyes not really looking at the map even though it was in front of him.
Buachaill was silent before sighing. “It’s been a year since I’ve seen him. And honestly, I haven’t missed him at all. Brookstein Isle would be a much more attractive idea if he wasn’t on it. I could run and swim and climb, and no one would call me a fool. Or if they did, I wouldn’t care. I would have been able to create a new identity and learn to make an honest living. Carpentry, perhaps. Working the land, picking fruit. Anything in the open air.”
Why was Steve asking these questions? Why did he want to hear more and more and more?
“I can see the desire for such a life,” he admitted, the words sneaking out and bringing an unwelcomed tingle down his spine. The confession only made Steve angrier at himself. Why should he care about the young Barnes' unhappiness with his privileged life? It was ridiculous.
Enough, Steve growled to himself internally.
“What's your real name?”
“None of your fucking business.” Yet his tone didn’t possess the bite it should, and Buck— Buachaill , damn it, only chuckled.
When Steve glanced over a minute later, Buachaill was leaning so far out— his shapely backside in the air, knees coming up off the narrow window seat— that Steve's heart skipped, and he found himself in the corner holding down Buachaill's feet. Face drenched, the boy looked back over his shoulder and grinned, a delighted laugh on his lips as he reveled in the downpour. There was no lies there, his happiness in such a small thing as being rained on radiating from him and capturing Steve in its wake. He tried to understand the unfamiliar warmth that flowed through him. It wasn't lust. It was…
Good fucking God, he was charmed . He jolted at the forbidden sensation, letting go of Buachaill and stepping back until he hit the corner of his desk.
The boy made him feel young again.
Christ, it really was time for him to retire. His brain had evidently become faulty. Yet, in this dangerous situation, Steve found himself unable to retreat. He wanted to see the world through Buachaill's eyes. He wanted to be so…new.
As Buachaill leaned back inside, twisting around on the window seat, his smile stuttered. “What?”
“Such a simple pleasure, but you obviously enjoy it.”
The boy flushed, skin going red down his neck and chest, which Steve had to stop ogling immediately.
Buck — Buachaill ran his fingers through his curling hair, that enjoyment disappearing. “Well, I’m a half-wit. This just goes to show.”
Steve frowned. “I’ve known my share of slow individuals over the years. You're not one of them. Taking joy in the mundane is nothing if not wise. Afteral, what is life if it wasn't largely fucking mundane?”
“Says the pirate king.” A small, tentative smile played on Buachaill's lips.
Steve turned away to lean over his desk so he wouldn’t smile back. “I’m sure you’ve seen for
yourself that the ordinary is well at home here.”
“Yes, despite your nonsense," the boy snorts, laughing. "To me, it seems piracy is an act of dressing up as much as it is doing dastardly deeds.”
“It is,” Steve admitted, needlessly moving the ink pot and quill on his desk from one side to the other, then back again. “We spread rumors of the Fallen Eagle 's tyranny in Nassau, Port Royal, Tortuga. It’s far easier being a pirate when most ships simply surrender upon spotting our flag.”
The bucket was filling with an alarming rapidity, and he went to inspect the ceiling, which would have to be fixed. It was a good time for it, while they waited for their ransom.
His gaze was drawn back to Buachaill, and a knot tightened in his gut. The boy bit his lip, looking hopeful, and Steve narrowed his gaze before realizing what he wanted. Of course Steve knew he should deny him, yet he found himself sliding the bucket toward Buachaill with his boot and replacing it with a bowl. There were a few cups of water in the bucket, enough to wash with, and from the corner of his eye, he could see Buachaill strip naked and splash himself before fetching a cloth that had been left in his corner.
The boy hummed softly as he stood by the window, pulling the material over his body. There was absolutely no reason Steve should cut him a sliver of soap, yet he did, keeping his eyes averted as he tossed it over, grunting in response to Buachaill's delighted thanks.
After a few minutes had passed and Steve had thoroughly examined the port side of the cabin for any other leaks and found two, he turned back to find Buachaill still dragging the damn cloth across his wet skin, his mesmerizing gaze peering over his shoulder at Steve. Watching.
Heat burned through him like the rain beating against the window. That warmth threatened to consume Steve as Buachaill dipped the cloth between his ass cheeks, lips parting with a delicate sigh. The little shit knew exactly what he was doing. Steve could imagine the boy's hole was quite tender after how hard it had been fucked. Surely too tender to be breached once again so soon— not that Steve was thinking about doing that since he’d vowed not to stick his cock in that sweet ass again. Well, certainly not today, at any rate.
But… what about his tongue? Visions ran wild through his mind: Buachaill on his knees, head out the window, his ass up in the air. Steve's face buried between his cheeks, licking into him while Buachaill moaned and shuddered; Steve bringing him off without even touching his cock, then jerking himself and coming all over Buachaill's back and ass, marking his pale skin, claiming— Enough ! Fucking hell.
“Get your clothes back on,” he ordered.
Buachaill blinked. “You don’t want to…?” In the silence that followed, he dropped his head and lunged for his shirt— Steve's old white linen— holding it to his chest. His face crumpled and it was clear to Steve that he believed he'd been chastened.
“There’s work to be done.” Steve slammed around in his desk drawers, gritting his teeth and willing his cock to deflate and the fire in his veins to be doused.
Buachaill quickly tugged the shirt and his trousers over his wet skin, crossing his arms over his chest and returning to the corner.
Steve found himself adding, “Besides, you don’t want to go up on deck naked.” Why he’d said it, he didn’t know. He shouldn’t want to ease the sting of rejection and offer a gift. But he had, and
Bucky— Buachaill's head shot up, anticipation brightening his face.
Steve had to look away. Instead of touching the boy like he ached to do, he glided to the door. “Come on, then. No talking to the men. No tricks.”
Up top, the crew paused in their work to stare at Buachaill, then at each other, then Sam. As Steve glowered, they all bent their heads and focused on their tasks once again.
Buachaill tipped his head back, baring his throat as he opened his mouth and swallowed the fresh rainwater. It did nothing to ease Steve's half-hard cock, but at least if they were on deck, he would not break his vow.
Buachaill's white shirt clung to him, translucent in the rain, and Steve made himself no promises about tomorrow.
Chapter 12: Don't Fall Down
The deck was almost dry beneath his feet once the sun reappeared in all its glory to banish the rain and clouds, and yet he hadn’t been banished to the cabin again. Bucky stayed by the railing, out of the way, not breathing a word. It seemed that Cap had maybe forgotten about him, which made Bucky both grateful and resentful.
He’d felt so bold, taking off all his clothes and washing in front of Cap. Lingering over it, waiting for Cap to come to him, to fuck him again. But he hadn’t, and Bucky's skin prickled as he shifted uncomfortably, wishing for the hundredth time he could run or swim to clear his head.
Perhaps Cap had had his fill now, and Bucky no longer aroused him. He should be glad of it, but of course he wasn't, for Christ's sake. How would he go without it now? Sin or not, he didn’t care. He wanted Cap inside him again. He didn’t care if it hurt— he’d take every bruise and ache to experience the release again, the sensation of rightness, that he had finally become himself— real —in a way he couldn’t explain.
Lord, how he wanted a kiss, to taste Cap's mouth and share his breath, feel the scratch of his beard, be consumed… The idea that Cap was no longer interested left him hollow with want. Which was foolish, since, as a logical little voice reminded him, Cap was a pirate. A pirate who had kidnapped him and threatened his sister, then her unborn baby. A thief and killer who brought terror to the seas. Twice Bucky's age, if not more. The list of reasons Bucky should cringe from his touch was long. Yet…
It had become intolerable to believe Cap would deliver on his promise to murder Bucky or Rebecca if the ransom wasn't paid. Bucky recognized that he might be deceiving himself in hoping Cap was a good man beneath his hard shell, but surely Bucky's odds of survival only increased the closer they grew. So what was the harm in believing there was more to the Captain? If he was so coldblooded that he could still follow through on those threats, Bucky tormenting himself with worry would only make his last weeks unbearable and change absolutely nothing. Taking pleasure with Cap could only help his chances— and bring himself satisfaction deeper than he’d known possible.
No, Bucky would not allow Cap to keep him at arm’s length. He refused.
He spied on Cap from time to time where the man stood at the helm or at the bow, occasionally talking with Sam. The crew went about their tasks, and they really were just… men. Men with hopes and fears, who could be brutal, yes, but the work day routine on the ship was much the same as it would be on a vessel under any flag.
The crew clearly respected Cap —and feared him, judging by the nervous glances shot his way after some sort of equipment was dropped and had to be repaired. He glowered, and Sam went over to give the men a stem talking-to. Cap stood apart from his crew, and Bucky supposed it was what men in power typically did. It seemed rather lonely. Pirates boasted of a brotherhood, but Cap didn’t appear part of it.
A shriek split the air above, and Bucky jerked his head back to see the man on look dangling from the mainsail rigging with arms flailing. One tangled foot was all that stood between him and crashing to the deck.
Heart racing, Bucky leapt onto the rope ladder, flying up it the way he’d once scaled the towering oak at the edge of the estates farthest meadow. Shouts below blended into an indistinguishable din and faded as Bucky focused on the terrified lookout, his screams like shattering glass against the ocean's air.
Squinting into the sun, Bucky climbed, praying for the man to hold on just a few moments more… He hooked his arm through a rung and stretched out as far as he could. "Grab my hand!”
The lookout reached for him wildly. His slick fingers slid past the tips of Bucky's, and the poor man’s ankle— holding up his entire weight where the line was twisted around it— was surely about to give out. Bucky leaned farther, muscles straining, left foot off the ladder now. His belly swooped and spun and his instincts screamed at him to retreat to safety. Another few inches and he’d lose his grip, dooming them both.
But as he met the man’s terrified eyes, he couldn’t abandon him. “On three, you swing this way, and I’ll lean out. One, two, three!” Clutching the edge of the ladder with one hand and foot, Bucky lunged as the lookout did, and their hands met firmly in the middle.
Hauling the upside-down man closer, Bucky got both his feet back on the ladder. “Now untwist the rope from your ankle. Kick it free. I’ve got you.”
Please let me have him, Bucky internally howled.
Panting, the man did as he was told. For a sickening thump of Bucky's heart, the man fell with their hands still clasped but Bucky held fast, ignoring an agonizing grind in his body. The man’s entire weight jolted his shoulder—which screamed, although Bucky did not, tasting blood where he bit his tongue. It was likely only seconds before the lookout got his feet on the ladder below Bucky and let go of his hand to cling to the ropes, but a lifetime rushed by in a tangle of images— Rebecca's sunny smile; Mr. Pierce grasping his shoulder fondly; running across fields and swimming through clear summer lakes; Cap's blue eyes boring into him, his tattoo covered in Bucky's seed.
With a wretched sob, the lookout clambered down, clearly desperate to have solid wood beneath him. Bucky followed, eager himself to be off the wavering rope. On the deck, the lookout had crumpled to his knees, one man patting his shoulder and another handing him a measure of rum. The crew had of course all gathered, and one said, “Are you part fucking monkey, or what?”
Blinking, Bucky realized the man was talking to him. He glanced around, finding all eyes looking his way, including Cap's.
Cap stared at him with such intensity, his nostrils flaring and eyes needle sharp, that Bucky found he couldn’t speak. He shrugged, wincing as his left shoulder flared hot.
“Falsworth!” Cap shouted. “He’s injured.”
Bucky's throat was dry as a desert, but he croaked, “No, I’m fine.”
Cap still watched him with a thunderous expression, his hands fisting and unclenching at his sides. “What the hell were you thinking? You have no business up there.”
“Saved Barton's life. I say he gets a round of rum tonight!” a voice called out, others joining in with their agreement.
Barton pushed to his feet, swaying, his face still alarmingly red, and sandy blond hair sweatsoaked. He stuck out his hand. “Thank you. Bless you!” Bucky grasped his rough, sweaty palm, and a cry of “Huzzah!” went up among the men.
Bucky smiled, but it quickly vanished when he caught Cap's narrowed gaze again. Through a clenched jaw, Cap bit out, “Falsworth, take him to my cabin and examine him fully.”
More cries of “Huzzah!” echoed after Bucky as he climbed down the steps to the lower deck, the pain in his left shoulder intensifying with each step.
The surgeon urged him to sit on the side of the bed. Bucky's cheeks were hot as he remembered the filthy, wonderful things he’d done on that surface.
Cap marched in, demanding to Falsworth, “ Well?”
Ignoring him, the surgeon slipped on round glasses, then poked and prodded. When he rotated Bucky's shoulder just so, Bucky couldn’t bite back a gasp as the joint suddenly went on fire. Cap was suddenly right there, grasping the surgeon’s arm as if he meant to toss him across the cabin.
“Don’t hurt him more!” Cap shouted.
“I was merely assessing the severity of the injury.” Falsworth glanced down at his arm, where Cap's fingers dug in. “If you please, Captain?”
Cap released him. “It’s only that if he doesn’t make it back to his father alive, all of this will have been for nothing.”
Falsworth turned back to Bucky, his expression neutral aside from a tiny quirk to his eyebrow. “Yes, well. It likely came very close to dislocating, but it’s only a sprain. Hardly life-threatening, I assure you. I’ll prepare an ointment to help with inflammation. Other than that, just rest it.” He gave Bucky a kind smile. “No more heroic rescues for a few days, hmm? Back in a sec.”
Uncomfortable silence stretched as they waited. Cap stood at the stern window, facing out, his thick arms clasped against his broad chest. His long, muscular legs were parted slightly, boots planted firmly on the ground.
“I’m sorry if I worried you.” Bucky's breath caught. Had he said the words aloud? Indeed he had, because Cap's spine stiffened.
He growled, “I worry about you getting yourself killed before I can exchange you for the money I’m owed. Nothing more.”
Bucky had heard it before, and there was no reason it should hurt now. Yet his chest tightened, throat too thick to reply even if he’d had a retort. Still… Cap fidgeted with his hands, and soon started pacing, occasionally glancing at Bucky and then jerking his head away and muttering to himself. It seemed an awful lot like worry from where Bucky sat, and he bit back a smile.
Falsworth bustled in carrying a small jar. He placed it at his feet and reached for the hem of Bucky's shirt. “Here, let’s get this off.”
“That will be all,” Cap barked. “Return to your duties.”
“These are my duties, Captain. But as you wish.” He nodded to the jar. “Spread it on several times a day. It’ll stain the skin a bit brown, but it’ll fade soon enough.” With that, he left, closing the cabin door behind him.
Bucky winced as he tugged at his hem, and a moment later Cap batted his hands away. He lifted his arms, shoulder protesting, and Cap peeled off the worn linen. With one knee on the bed, Cap scooped up a handful of the ointment, which was a greenish gray and smelled vaguely of dried bread.
Slowly, Cap tended to Bucky's shoulder, massaging the remedy over the sore joint with a light touch. Though it was soothing, Bucky's heart skipped, and he realized he wasn’t breathing. He took shallow sips of air, not wanting to betray his… What? Agitation? Excitement? No, that wasn’t quite it, as his cock remained unmoved.
“There.” Cap stepped away, and Bucky had to bite his lip to refrain from calling him back, eager for more of that calming touch. He jerked his gaze to the floor as Cap returned with a towel he spread on the mattress. “Rest,” he ordered.
Bucky stared up at him. “You mean… here?”
“Or the floor.” Cap huffed. “I don’t damn well care.” He stormed from the cabin, and Bucky gingerly stretched out on the mattress. Compared to the floor, the mattress was a soft, feather embrace. The motion of the ship lulled him to sleep soon enough, a voice in his mind whispering that perhaps the Captain did, in fact, care.
“Huzzah!” The men lifted their cups and drank to Bucky yet again, and he gamely attempted another sip. The rum burned less now than it had when the evening started, and he was having trouble feeling his lips. The ship rolled on another great wave, the wind having blown up suddenly as night closed in, rain clouds returning with a vengeance.
Saliva flooded Bucky's mouth, his stomach churning. LeBeau poured another round, the men laughing and boisterous, blissfully unconcerned with the rough sea. Nearby, someone played a fiddle, and sometimes the men burst into sea shanties, their voices surprisingly tuneful.
Leaning a shoulder against the wall, Cap stood steady as a rock as they pitched back and forth. He’d had one drink, and one drink only, unless Bucky had missed the others. He was certain he hadn’t, since he’d kept an eye on the captain throughout the evening.
Cap watched from the shadows with an unreadable expression. Light from the swinging lanterns hanging from the ceiling caught the gold on Cap's belt and the earring in his ear. Then his eyes locked on Bucky's, the blue appearing almost black in the dim light of the underbelly of the ship.
Bucky swallowed, his head light, queasy excitement unfurling through him, making him feel like he was floating. The metal cup was thrust into his hand again, one of the men shouting, “Down the hatch!”
Bucky gamely choked it down, enjoying the camaraderie with the crew while he could. He wanted to prove he was man enough to keep pace with them—and that he was someone they liked too much to kill. When he coughed, his stomach gurgling dangerously, they laughed and cheered him. But when his cup was refilled again, he could only take a sip, his head swimming beyond belief now.
He pushed to his feet and barely managed to step over the bench without tripping on his face. The ship rocked, and he held out his arms for balance, saliva rushing in his mouth. He swallowed a few times then licked his lips. “I think I’ve had enough.”
This garnered a roar of laughter from the men, and a smirk from Cap. Bucky's stomach lurched and so did he, making for the entryway. This time, he would have stumbled flat out, but Cap was suddenly there, holding him by the arms, thankfully well below his sore shoulder. Then Bucky simply erupted—remnants of stew and what seemed to be an endless stream of liquid that was likely pure rum. Worse than that, it spewed all over Cap's shirt, trousers, and boots, splattering the polished leather and gold as Bucky retched.
Coughing on the last bits of acid bile, he realized there was utter silence aside from the low howl of the wind. The men’s joy vanished into thin air. Bucky's knees would have given out if not for the steel grip of Cap holding him up.
Blinking at a chunk of potato clinging to black cloth, Bucky's face burned. He couldn’t bring himself to raise his head to witness Cap's fury at the repulsive mess Bucky had made all over him. Light and dark blurred in a swirl of movement as he was spun around and marched out.
Bucky's feet barely skimmed the floor as Cap propelled him down the corridor. For a gutwrenching moment, he feared he might be tossed overboard into the sea’s black, endless depths, but then they were inside the cabin, door slamming behind them.
Blinking, Bucky focused on the bookcases and swinging lantern. He could barely enjoy the relief of being safe before his guts lurched once more and he gagged, trying to keep it down. Cap released him, and Bucky crumpled to his hands and knees. Then a bucket was in front of him, and he heaved into it. He coughed and spat, his eyes watering, and thought perhaps being thrown overboard to meet his end might be preferable.
“That’s it. Get it all out.” Bucky tried to obey Cap's command, although it hadn’t been spoken sharply, but in fact gently. After another minute of bringing up nothing more than drops, his empty stomach twisting fruitlessly, Bucky sat back on his feet, pushing the bucket away feebly.
Eyes closed, he breathed as deeply as he could, his brain seeming to seesaw along with the ship’s rocking. He’d conquered any seasickness after several days on the Proud Victoria, but he hadn’t been filled with the demon rum the pirates had just guzzled down his throat.
He jerked as something pressed to his mouth, then swallowed gratefully when cool water passed his lips. Cap's voice was a low murmur. “Slowly.”
Taking little sips now, Bucky's heart seized when something passed over his head. Opening his eyes was too monumental a task, but he realized it was Cap's big, callused hand brushing back his sweat-damp hair. Not angrily or cruelly, but with infinite tenderness.
Then the hand and cup were taken away, and Bucky choked back a whimper at the loss. Bucky managed to pry his eyes open and crawl to his corner. His clothes had been splashed with vomit too, and he tugged at them hopelessly before giving up. He had to sleep, and had only just curled into a ball when Cap tugged on his legs for some unknown reason.
Bucky tried to kick, but it was no use. Then he was lifted to his bare feet. The world spun mercilessly, and he glimpsed Cap's face—still not angry, but soft and patient—before closing his eyes once more. He shivered as cool air flowed over his flesh, his soiled clothing stripped away until he was naked.
Thick bands of warm skin slid under his back and knees before lifting him up. Even in his befuddled state, he registered that the Captain was carrying him like a bride. He should protest, but instead, he buried his face in Cap's bare neck, realizing Cap must have stripped off his own ruined clothing as well. The bed was luxury once more, and he sank onto it gratefully. He mumbled about being lucky twice in a day as he settled, sighing as strong, gentle fingers smoothed more of the ointment onto his shoulder. Though the ship still pitched and rolled, his head along with it, Bucky curled on his good side, eager to escape into dreams. His instincts told him he was safe and he believed it.
Cap's warm, powerful body soon pressed close behind, enveloping Bucky into strong arms that anchored him in the night.
Chapter 13: The Bells
The clouds had made way for the moon and stars, which were soon enough going to give way for the morning. The blackness of the cabin was now broken by pale silver light that revealed the shape of the desk and carved chair, the bookcase and rolled charts, even the melted hunks of wax in the candelabra.
Steve’s bed was still in shadow, and he knew he needed to leave soon. He liked to be present for the changes of watch, to be with the men and guide them if necessary, but usually to stand apart and observe their actions. He needed to get dressed and walk up to the main deck and issue whatever orders were necessary, the same old day on endless repeat. His duties as the captain of The Fallen Eagle couldn’t be ignored, yet for the moment, he found himself utterly content to be a mere man. A man more than satisfied to be cocooned in the darkness with… who, exactly?
The traitorous words rang through Steve like the clang of the ship’s bell, solid and true: His lover. Bucky. Steve found that he could no longer think of him any other way. Not “Buachaill,” not “the boy,” not mere cargo to be ransomed. Oh, he was a prize, but of a very different sort-- a sort that made him a dangerous person to be.
A soft noise escaped Bucky’s lips and he shifted onto his back, his hand coming to rest over Steve’s arm that was draped across his belly. Even in his sleep, Bucky enchanted him. Steve could just make out his parted lips in the dim light, and wondered what it would be like to taste them, to swallow Bucky’s sweet moans and sighs, to lick into his mouth; fuck him with his tongue just as he did with his cock.
Said cock swelled at the image, pressing into Bucky’s hip. It had been years since Steve had kissed. There had been a few other men after Artie, but only rough, quick tumbles, a means to a satisfied-enough end. He’d found that if he didn’t know the man or care an ounce about him, it was easier to fuck and leave without another word. Usually his hand was sufficient, although the first privateer ship he’d served on had had a little closet with a cock-sized hole and eager, nameless, faceless mouths on the other side of the wall. Perfect to find easy release. Now he thought of Bucky on his knees for him, those pink lips stretched over his shaft, swallowing him eagerly.
This did nothing to kill his erection. He’d sworn to himself that he wouldn’t fuck Bucky again, but that had been yesterday. He hadn’t sworn it today, which had barely just begun, and there were hours of possibilities ahead of them.
Closing his eyes, he turned his attention to the slap of waves against the hull and the swaying of the ship, much gentler now than it had been last night during the storm. Would he miss being rocked to sleep if he did find a way to retire? The sea had been his home now for many more years than the land, and he didn’t think he could ever leave it entirely.
An island would be perfect. A house within sight of the water, a fishing boat resting in the sun where the sand and grass met, out of the tide’s reach during the day and night. Steve hadn’t fished since he was a boy, and he’d like to learn again. Maybe he’d even climb a tree or two.
Images of Bucky hanging from the rigging flooded into his mind. He could feel his heart kicking up, shoving his hardness away. Fuck, the terror that had gripped him when Bucky had clambered up with no thought to the danger had been…soul-shaking. He’d climbed amazingly fast, stunning the crew, and even Steve for crucial moments. When Steve had scrambled to follow, Sam had hauled him back down, shouting that the extra motion would only be more of a danger to Bucky and Barton. Bucky had seemed to be only a speck in the sky, far beyond Steve’s reach, and the moment when Barton had been freed from the frayed footrope and swung onto the ladder was seared in Steve’s memory. His mind played a different outcome where Barton’s weight tore Bucky loose and they both plummeted to the deck, fragile skulls cracking, blood and brains staining the wood while Steve could only watch uselessly. To have that light pulled out, those beautiful blue eyes go distant and cold, to not have the opportunity to tell Bucky… What?
Steve wasn’t sure. How could he feel anything but contempt for George Barnes’ son? How could he want to hold Bucky near and keep him safe? He should only care about the ransom, about revenge, yet…
Groaning, Bucky stretched his arms over his head. When he winced, it drove all other thoughts from Steve’s mind. Bucky’s eyes popped open, shining blearily in the hint of moonlight.
“Careful,” Steve murmured. “How does your shoulder feel this morning?”
Bucky licked his dry lips, voice froggy. “All right. Still sore, but not too bad. The surgeon knows what he’s talking about.”
Steve choked down the irrational stab of resentment directed toward good ol’ Falsworth. It was insane to have been jealous of him trying to remove Bucky’s shirt but the thought of any other man touching Bucky sparked fire in Steve’s blood that drew his itchy fingers to his cutlass handle. It was madness.
Exhaling out the tension and managing an easy tone, Steve tapped Bucky’s head lightly. “And how’s this?”
Steve chuckled. “Have you ever had rum before?”
“No. Wine with late dinners, some scotch or port, but only to sip. Father never let me do anything more.”
“I thought as much. You handled it well. The men were impressed.”
Bucky grimaced. “Until I spewed all over you. I’m so sorry.”
He should pretend to be angry, like Bucky probably expected, but he only shrugged. “I’ve suffered worse.”
“And now I’ve gotten that gunk all over you and your bed, haven’t I?” He patted Steve’s chest, apparently trying to find traces of the ointment for his shoulder. “You should have just left me in the corner.”
Steve ignored that. “No more heroics, and no more rum, or at least less of the alcohol.” Bucky’s hand still rested on his chest, caressing him soothingly. Steve should roll away, find fresh clothes, clean his boots, and get on deck. Eight bells had already rung for the change of watch at five, then one bell half an hour later, then two after another thirty minutes, marking the progression of the watch. Yet he found himself staring down at Bucky, his own hand absentmindedly smoothing down Bucky’s side and over his hip. Soon three more bells would chime.
“Do you like the men?” Bucky murmured.
Steve wasn’t sure he’d heard the question correctly. “Do I…like them?”
“Mhmm. You don’t seem to speak to them unless giving orders.”
“I… Well, they’re a necessity to operate a ship. I care for their futures, and that they stay in good health. As long as they are loyal to me, I shall be to them.”
“But not friends. Or brothers.”
The echo of Artie’s impish smile flitted through his mind and was gone just as fast. “Once, perhaps. But as captain, I must remove myself,” Steve answered truthfully. Sam was a friend— of a sort. Steve trusted him. Depended on him to keep the peace. “As long as our goals are aligned, the men and I are in accord with one another. That’s all that matters.”
“Sounds lonely.” Bucky’s fingertips teased the hair on Steve’s chest before tracing up the vulnerable skin of his throat. When Steve swallowed, Bucky’s fingers charted the movement of the dip between his collarbones. His heart drummed so hard he was certain Bucky could hear it. Those soft fingers ghosted over Steve’s face— circling his mouth, following the slope of his nose, then seeking something by his temple, exploring until they found the raised skin of the jagged scar, following the old wound back and forth, back and forth.
Bucky’s bow lips were parted just a fraction, and it would be so easy to lean down and claim them. So easy to lose himself and discover what sweet noises he could coax using only his mouth… Enough!
Lungs seizing, he caught Bucky’s wrist and roughly pressed it back to the mattress as Bucky watched. Steve wouldn’t kiss him— he’d already gone too far, and time was running out. He had to reel himself back in by the time they reached Brookstein Isle; by the time he would return Bucky to the life he’d interrupted and collect his ransom. Bucky couldn’t be anything more to him than a means to an end.
But what if George Barnes doesn’t pay up? Steve had promised the men bloodshed if not. Sworn to murder Bucky.
Steve shoved the worry aside, schooling his wayward mind and taking a long breath to calm the sudden drop of his heart. Barnes would pay, Bucky would return to his family unharmed, and that would be the end of it. In the meantime… No, Steve wouldn’t kiss him, but he’d put his lips to work. What was the harm in that? Had Bucky ever experienced the hot slick of a mouth around his cock? Steve presumed not, since he’d said his cock was untouched by anything but his own hand.
Steve shifted on top of him, urging his legs apart to rest between them. Pressing his face to Bucky’s chest, he wasted no time and latched onto a nipple, pride surging through him at the shocked gasp. No, Steve wouldn’t kiss him, but he would lay claim to this.
Bucky squirmed. “Oh, God-- Feels good.”
Steve flicked his tongue against the nub of sensitive flesh. “Only devils here.” Bucky bucked, his swelling cock seeking friction. “Patience,” Steve chided, draping his arm over Bucky’s hips, just out of reach of his member. “Not too much. You’re recuperating, remember?”
“This is good medicine for a headache.”
Huffing out a laugh, Steve felt strangely light as he licked and sucked, teasing Bucky’s nipples until any more might be painful. He smiled against Bucky’s smooth belly, rubbing his beard over the soft skin with lean muscle beneath, even dipping his tongue into the sunken navel. That drew a ticklish giggle from Bucky, and Steve couldn’t remember the last time he’d had fun when fucking, let alone heard such an innocent, tantalizing sound. He explored Bucky’s belly button, hoping to replicate the sound. Their coupling had been intense and sometimes rough, and Steve found he relished this chance for feather touches and discovery, finding sensitive, secret places he wanted to caress instead of pummel.
When Steve swallowed the head of Bucky’s cock without warning, Bucky’s cry seemingly rattled the window panes. The whole ship would hear in the quiet of night, and the thought made Steve queasy. This was between them. Private. His arm was long enough that he could cup his hand over Bucky’s mouth, whispering, “Let the bells wake the men.”
As Steve sucked tightly from base to tip and back again, Bucky panted against his palm in fast gusts. It had been years since Steve had tasted a cock, and he groaned around it before pulling off for a breath. He nudged Bucky’s thighs with his head, and Bucky spread them farther, bending his knees up to expose his bottom.
“Such a good boy,” Steve told him, and Bucky whimpered against his hand, their eyes locking. Steve teased the slit of his cock with his tongue, and Bucky gasped against his hand, eyes closing, dark eyelashes fanning over his pale cheeks. From this vantage, the tiny divot in his chin was visible, and Steve shifted his hand to trace it with his thumb.
Steve’s tongue found the tight furl of muscle that he previously felt stretch around his own cock, and he lapped at it greedily, letting his spit and tongue make explicit noises within the cabin. He had been the first there, stretching that sweet hole to accompany his cock, reaching places inside Bucky that no one had ever explored before. The thought of someone else getting the chance to do it made Steve lick more desperately, wanting to show Bucky just how good he could be at this.
Bucky’s moans and quivers made Steve’s own cock throb against the mattress. He only had the chance to suck Bucky’s shaft one more time, swirling his tongue around the leaking head, before Bucky spent. He flooded Steve’s mouth, and it was salty with a hint of sweet, an earthy musk Steve swallowed like the finest wine, head spinning as if it were. It’s been a long, long time since he’d experienced it, but he never remembered it tasting this good before.
When he’d lapped Bucky clean, he reached down to jerk his own cock roughly, knowing it wouldn’t take long. But Bucky stilled his arm. “May I? I want to taste you.”
Steve couldn’t deny him that— or himself the pleasure, not when it was requested so politely, which made him smile against Bucky’s skin. But when Bucky gritted his teeth, sucking in a breath as he tried to shift down into a suitable position, Steve stilled him. Taking care not to jostle Bucky’s shoulder, Steve straddled his chest and fed him his cock, groaning as he sucked eagerly. His mouth was wet and warm, and Bucky sucked his cheeks in tight, sending shivers over Steve’s skin, raising the hair on his arms.
Bracing himself with one hand on the wall, Steve rocked gently, and matched Bucky’s rhythm, a quick learner at this, like all physical things Bucky tried. It was bright enough now through the stern windows that Steve could see his cock disappearing between Bucky’s pink lips.
Bucky licked and sucked vapidly; sweat dampened his hair, curling it. Steve reached down with his free hand, brushing back the long, wavy strands, smoothing them through his fingers. Bucky looked up at him, his mouth full of Steve’s prick, eyes shining with a tender light, pure and deep. It painted an image Steve never knew he needed.
Steve’s climax tore through him, and he grunted as he spilled, snapping his jaw shut to prevent a shout of pure bliss that wanted to be screamed into the wind, not caring who heard. He emptied in
long, powerful pulses, and Bucky tried to swallow it all until he made a desperate sound in his throat, eyes wide. Steve pulled out, the last spurts splashing on Bucky’s chin and flushed cheeks. Milky white seed leaked from the corners of his mouth, and he swiped with his tongue as if determined to reclaim every drop. Steve’s throat went dry and the urge to bend and taste himself on Bucky’s tongue pounded through him.
Before he could do anything else foolish, Steve rolled onto his back, and Bucky burrowed close after wiping his face. On its own accord, Steve’s arm snaked around Bucky, careful of his shoulder. As light pierced the horizon and threw a beam across the ceiling, Steve thought of his mythical dream island and fishing boat, his simple house and fruit trees to climb. And he thought of Bucky racing up the branches with sunshine in his hair and laughter on the breeze, birds soaring overhead.
Heart clenching so powerfully he shuddered and Steve struggled for air. Bucky nuzzled his chest, warm and wonderfully limp. “All right?”
Steve managed a grunt in the affirmative. He had to push Bucky away. Had to regain control in the dangerous current in which he’d allowed himself to be caught in. He wanted to shove Bucky aside and destroy whatever this was between them and return the world of The Fallen Eagle to its proper order.
Instead, he held Bucky close for just another minute or two, waiting for the set of bells. Or perhaps even the next set after that.
Chapter 14: Trigger Happy
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing with that?”
Bucky looked up from the dagger he turned over in his hands. He sat cross-legged on Cap’s bed, where he was trying to catch the cross breeze through the open stern windows. “Thinking that I don’t know how to use it. And that I should learn.”
Cap stood in the threshold, the cabin’s key still in hand, dark sleeves rolled up to his elbows and sweat glistening in the hollow of his exposed throat. The gold-tipped boots were on his feet, even though the day was sticky and hot. He closed the door with his foot, then looked to the open chest on the floor. His eyes drifted back up at Bucky and his expression hardened.
“I didn’t leave that unlocked.”
“No,” Bucky agreed. “But I worked out how to pick it.” He nodded to the desk as he scratched at his bare chest. He hadn’t bothered putting his shirt back on after applying the ointment to his shoulder, which hardly ached anymore. “Found a pin in there.”
“A pin? From what?”
“No idea. But eventually I poked it in the lock just the right way, and it opened.”
Cap’s eyebrows almost disappeared into his hairline. “And you’re just… telling me all of this?” He glanced at the door. “Do I have to set up a barricade?”
Bucky snorted. “And where, pray tell, would I go? Aside from up on deck for air. Really, I’m freer in this room than I’ve ever been.”
“Is that so?” Cap set his hands on his hips.
“It is.” Bucky shrugged. “You see me as I am. A sodomite. A simpleton.”
“You’re not—” Cap pressed his lips into a thin line and strode to the chest to slam the lid, boots thudding loud against the wooden floor. He didn’t bother to lock it. “I should punish you for this. Cut off your rations for a day or two.”
But he wouldn’t, Bucky knew.
Bucky simply said, “Hmm,” still weighing the dagger. For the past day and a half, since he’d gotten so spectacularly drunk and sick, Cap had pestered him to take enough water and eat. At least the ship had taken on fresh food in Nassau, although the stronger spices hadn’t done his recovering stomach any favors. Eventually he’d had some lovely warm, clear broth that he suspected Cap had
requested for him specially.
Bucky had also slept in Cap’s bed again, instead of being banished to his corner and that awful blanket. More than that, he’d slept nestled in Cap’s arms even though they hadn’t sought pleasure. Part of Bucky wanted to confront Cap and assert his strong belief that Cap wouldn’t harm him, no matter what became of the ransom. That Cap wasn’t a monster without feeling, and that he felt for Bucky in particular. But he was wary of tearing and unraveling the intimacy that grew between them. Bucky couldn’t help but feel that what they had… or didn’t have… was delicate, ready to burn away at the first chance it got. If he was going to address it with Cap, he was going to do so when it was too strong to deny.
“What are you smiling about?”
Bucky shook his head, “Nothing.” But he didn’t try to wipe away his grin. “Will you teach me? How to use this?” He lifted up the dagger in front of him, his gaze training on the pointed tip, before finding the Cap’s blue eyes.
Cap snorted and opened his log with a sneer. “So you can gut me with it? I don’t think so.”
“Surely you don’t think I’ll get that good that fast,” Bucky pointed out. “Then again, I did win our bet about the knots.... Speaking of wagers, I still haven’t received my reward for correctly predicting you’d need stitches to close that wound.”
“You’ll get your run soon enough,” Cap grumbled, dipping his quill in ink and bending his head to the pages. There was something hypnotic about the motion and Bucky found himself following it’s movements, the soft scritch-scratch of the quill tickling his ears.
Cap’s attention was on the log and the longer it stayed there, Bucky felt the anticipation bubbling up inside of him. He wanted those eyes on him. “If I don’t, will you suck my cock again in recompense?”
Cap jerked his head up, and then— there. Along with an incredulous laugh, that strong gaze was on him and Bucky saw a true smile, twin creases in Cap’s cheeks, the wrinkles around his blue eyes crinkling, teeth gleaming white, but not with that feral edge from the beginning. No, it was all gentle and genuine, and Bucky imagined that he was the only one gifted of that sight. Cap wouldn’t go smiling like that above decks, not anywhere beside the comfort of his cabin.
Cap’s smile turned sly, one side of his mouth tugging up, his voice dropping. “Did you like it?”
“You know I did.” His cock stirred at the memory of the wet, warm, perfect pressure of Cap’s mouth, lips and tongue teasing him relentlessly. A feeling that Bucky never wanted to end. More than that, the sight of his cock disappearing between Cap’s lips, being touched in such a way— with tenderness and intensity, Cap’s only goal seeming to be Bucky’s release. It had been something he’d never dared dreaming of.
“Mmm.” Cap watched him, quill still in hand, black ink dripping down carelessly.
Bucky contemplated the question, then frowned. “But honestly, who wouldn’t?” There. Another true smile graced Cap’s face, his eyes twinkling. Bucky doesn’t think that image will ever fade from his memory.
Bucky wanted to hold on to the smiles and collect each one like precious jewels, pieces of a rare treasure. Although these gifts were no mere trinkets. “Can I suck you, then? Practice makes perfect,
as my tutor always said.”
But now Cap’s expression darkened. “Useless prick should have taught you how to use that dagger,” he bit out. Cap fiddled with something in his desk, his head down, and Bucky found himself perking up in interest. “That’s enough talk anyway. I have work to do.”
Was that jealousy? Surely it was. What else could it possibly be? And of Mr. Pierce? Bucky hid his smile. “So… You don’t want me on my knees for you? I really would like to taste cock again. If you’re not interested, should I find a volunteer? I’m sure one of the crew wouldn’t mind?”
Bucky fought a victorious grin as Cap’s head snapped up, glaring. “I don’t fucking think so.”
Oh how he ached not only to taste Cap, but to undo him as well. Cap had been in control, as always, when he’d fucked Bucky’s mouth, and Bucky wanted to have him moaning and at his mercy. Bucky tried to be bold and dropped his tone into something he hoped sounded brazen. “It would only be for the sake of practice, of course. If you’re otherwise engaged.”
“I don’t think your cock-sucking skills will be much use with your betrothed,” Cap grumbled. “Therefore, you don’t need practice and you will not be asking any of my men.”
Bucky sat up straighter and all mirth vanished. “What?” He opened and closed his mouth. “But… No. I won’t be marrying her now. It would be impossible.” He hadn’t formulated the thought until that moment, but he recognized its truth. Stark and clear.
“No?” Cap’s head was still down as he rummaged around. “Why not?”
“You know why.” The thought of marrying Sharon Carter, of retreating once more and hiding not only his reading deficiencies but his very essence, sent a cold dread down his spine despite the humidity. Men were said to possess souls, and he had only just discovered his and given it life. There was no way he would be giving it up. Not for a stranger, let alone the expectations of his father.
Steve frowned. “Surely you understand that there are countless men like us who marry women and hide their sexuality. Countless women too, for that matter.”
Holding the dagger, Bucky imagined how it would feel slicing into his flesh. Possibly just like the idea of living the rest of his life kept hidden, his true self secreted away like it was something to be ashamed of. He knew better, now.
His voice cracked as he said, “Yes, I know. But I will not be one of them. I can’t.” He pressed the point of the blade into his finger and drew a drop of blood from the tip of his first finger. It sat there on his skin, a perfect circle. Then he drew the blade down the pad, watching the crimson line blossom.
“What the hell are you doing?” Cap was across the cabin in what seemed like one large bound, snatching the dagger away and taking Bucky’s wrist in an iron grip. He pulled Bucky’s finger into his mouth and sucked with a hard pressure, looming above him where Bucky still sat on the bed.
Bucky’s lashes fluttered, breath coming in short. “You see?” he said. “I need lessons.”
Pulling out the finger with a soft pop, Cap closed his fist around it. He huffed. “Not cutting yourself shouldn’t have to be taught.”
Bucky shrugged, feigning innocence. “I’ve always been a slow learner.”
Cap watched him, his blue eyes flashing and not buying it. “There are no words involved with this, so that excuse won’t work.”
“I was just… making sure I’m still real.” Not stone. And that Cap sees him. He sees Bucky as he truly is. There was no hiding with him.
Cap’s brow furrowed, and he squeezed Bucky’s finger tighter. “I assure you, this is flesh in my hand.”
Bucky looked up, watching the man in front of him. This man eluded power, strength, and yet, he had been sweeter with Bucky than anyone ever had before. The way he caressed Bucky’s skin, breathed into him as they pressed together during the nights, arms secure yet gentle around him. Bucky couldn’t get enough. On their own accord, his eyes dipped down to Cap’s lips. What would it be like to taste those lips, to steal a kiss and press close, to drink him in? Would he be able to taste his blood on Cap’s tongue?
Cap was staring, so Bucky pondered about for something to say. Until, “Do you think that pirate will attack again? The man with one eye?”
Cap’s expression grew more perplexed. “Perhaps. It’s impossible to know.”
“Or the British or Spanish. What would happen to me if you and the crew were overrun?”
“We won’t be.”
“Still,” Bucky argued. “I should know how to defend myself. If not on this ship, then in the New World.”
“Your father will have men, surely. You’ll be quite safe.”
Bucky shook his head. “I won’t be staying on Brookstein Isle. I’ve decided. I’ll have to create a new life.” He thought of Becca with a sharp pang. He’d miss her desperately, but she had John, and would soon have a child as well. If Bucky were to stay, he’d have nothing, not even his true identity. He’d never be happy.
He cleared his throat, continuing, “I won’t follow blindly and obediently just because the world tells me I must. If being kidnapped by pirates has taught me anything, it’s that there is a world beyond that.”
Sitting beside him with a soft grunt and still holding Bucky’s finger, Cap asked, “Then what will you do?”
And wasn’t that the question worth asking? He hadn’t thought about any of this, just knew that he was going to leave. Now, the gaps are demanding to be seen. He shrugged, “I don’t know.” The knot in his stomach tightened. “Run away, I suppose. Somewhere else in the colonies. Boston, perhaps? Or Carolina. I hope it will be easier for someone like me in the New World.” It had to be. There was so much territory that it was impossible not to live how he wanted. And if not, he’d keep moving until he found his place. The place where he belonged, happy and content, his true self out for the world to see.
His gaze shifted to the side, staring down at their clasped hands, well, semi-clasped hands. “What will you do?” he couldn’t help but ask, wondering aloud. “Once you’ve exchanged me for your ransom?” Will you let me go? Do I mean anything to you, or is it all inside my head? The questions didn’t leave his mouth but they sat at the front of his tongue, begging to be said. Knowing that he and Cap would part clawed deeper at Bucky than he would have thought possible. This man had kidnapped him, threatened him, and yet here he sat stopping the flow of Bucky’s blood even though the cut was nothing to be concerned about.
Having this, even if it wasn’t real or wanted on both ends, was enough that Bucky knew he couldn’t go back but what about Cap? Was he satisfied with a pirate’s uncertain, brutish life? Bucky didn’t think so. He suspected the Captain of The Fallen Eagle wasn’t at all the man he pretended to be. Or at least not for the rest of his life.
Rubbing his bearded chin with his free hand, Cap stared into the distance through the stern windows. Bucky watched him. The longing in Cap’s eyes wasn’t Bucky’s imagination.
“Will you continue to haunt the shipping lanes?” he asked, his voice softer now. “Keep relieving merchant ships of their cargo? Evading the navy? The noose?”
Cap exhaled, loosening his tight grip on Bucky’s finger but still holding on, although the blood had surely stopped. “Perhaps it will be the end of me being Captain once I have my bounty. I could find a quiet island. Build a home strong enough to withstand the summer storms. Fish and farm. Stay close to a safe harbor.” His words seemed to bare truth, and Bucky held his breath, afraid to move an inch and shatter the spell.
Blinking after a few moments of silence, Cap sat up ramrod straight, looking to Bucky as if he’d forgotten he was there. Then Cap stood, his hand letting go of Bucky’s and going to his lower back as he stretched it. “That’s nonsense, of course. Pirates find their fate on the gallows, or in the deep.” He handed over the dagger. “Come. On your feet.”
Heart leaping, Bucky hopped up. Cap came behind him and said, “First thing to learn is the proper grip.” He covered Bucky’s hand with his own, molding his fingers just so around the dagger’s handle before releasing him. “Now, what would you do, if your attacker approached from behind?” Elbow pinned to his side, Bucky tried to bend his arm around, but of course it was useless. With one hand on Bucky’s hip to still him, Cap covered his hand on the dagger again. “So here you must change your grip.” Bucky watched as Cap rearranged his fingers, turning the dagger toward Bucky’s wrist. He leaned back into the wall of Cap’s chest, warmth spreading in his own.
Cap nodded, “There. Now, as we go, remember what you know from your wrestling lessons.”
“That I’m a sodomite who yearns to be fucked by men?” Bucky blurted, his eyes crinkling at his own words. The huff of Cap’s laughter shifted through Bucky’s hair, sending a shiver down his spine. Cap swatted at his hip, and Bucky found himself grinning. “Oh, you mean the machinations of the sport. All right then.” He ducked and spun, using the element of surprise to try to send Cap off balance. Cap stumbled, a feral light in his eyes as he righted himself.
“Let’s begin,” Cap instructed.
The large man took Bucky through grips and slicing techniques, and they circled each other, Bucky parrying and thrusting, dodging and weaving. Sweat glistened on their skin as time passed, bells chiming on deck, the ship rocking in rougher winds. Their eyes were only for each other, and Bucky listened avidly as Cap corrected his form. His shoulder throbbed as they progressed, but he ignored it. At least an hour had passed when Bucky darted in with the blade, using the momentum of Cap’s jerk away from it to hook his ankle and send the pirate king crashing to the floor. On top, his left leg strewn over Cap’s thighs, Bucky had the dagger in his right hand at Cap’s throat. Although he knew Cap had the strength to lift him off and turn the tables in a heartbeat, he couldn’t resist a victorious, “A-ha!”
Cap let him have the win. He stayed put, chest rising and falling, both of them breathing heavily
and hair damp from their exertion. Bucky’s gaze swept over the man beneath him and without thought, he cupped his left hand over Cap’s crotch and squeezed, the blade still at his throat.
Cap laughed. “Have you always been so fucking bold?"
“Heavens, no. Not until I met you.” He squeezed again, feeling Cap’s cock swell, his own still half-hard from the lesson. A low groan escaped Cap as Bucky worked him through the rough material of his trousers. “May I suck you now?”
“Is that the prize you desire for your victory?”
Bucky squeezed again and rolled his hand over the growing bulge. He licked his lips, and Cap’s hooded gaze followed the movement, cock jumping against Bucky’s palm and tenting his trousers. Bucky nodded, breathless as he answered, “Yes. I want to taste your cock. Get it good and wet, swallow it until it’s as deep as it will go, until I can hardly breathe.” He rocked his erection against Cap’s hip. “Want to make you come and drink it all down.”
His hand trembled and the dagger’s tip wobbled against Cap’s skin, yet Cap didn’t flinch. Bucky could slit his throat, if he wanted, dig the blade into that vulnerable flesh, but Cap only watched him, arching his hips into Bucky’s touch. The trust stole Bucky’s breath. That this was the fierce, fearsome pirate who had swept aboard the Proud Victoria and abducted him was difficult to believe. What a performance Cap had given, with that black coat, the rings, the weapons, and those ridiculous boots. Now that the shield was lowered, the layers of Cap’s disguise peeling away, Bucky wanted to burrow deeper.
“Or maybe I won’t let you come yet,” Bucky added, squeezing Cap’s shaft. “Maybe once your cock is good and wet, I’ll ride it. Take every inch inside me so deeply that I’ll fear I might break, that it might rip me in half.”
Cap bucked his hips. “Like the first time?”
“Yes,” he breathed, massaging Cap’s prick, rutting against him. At this rate they were going to spend in their trousers. He leaned down and caught Cap’s gold earring between his teeth, then his lips, sucking the whole earlobe into his mouth and tracing the gold square with his tongue. Lips wet at Cap’s ear, he whispered, “Maybe I’ll go down on my hands and knees for you or bend over your desk. Or spread my hands on the hull, brace myself and take your cock like I was born for it.”
Cap groaned, and Bucky sat up just enough to see his face. Cap’s lips parted, his blue eyes dark with desire. Bucky leaned closer, aching with the need to kiss him— to seal this mysterious power between them that was like the ocean’s current, dragging them both under…
The knock rang out less than a second before the door opened, and Bucky jerked his head up, staring uncomprehendingly at Sam, his brain still struck by the idea of kissing Cap until neither of them had breath, of rubbing his face against Cap’s beard until his skin burned, their tongues entwined, consuming.
But Sam was drawing his pistol. “You little fuck! Get off him!”
Bucky’s stomach dropped and clutching the warm handle of the forgotten dagger, Bucky bolted up and scrambled backward as Sam pointed it at him. A dagger was useless when the barrel of a gun was aimed at his skull. The click of the pistol’s jaw being pulled backward made Bucky clench his eyes shut before Cap shouted, “NO!”, and rolled to his knees in front of him.
Pistol outstretched, Sam stared at them, huffing and shaking his head when realization set in. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Cap!” He shoved the pistol back in his belt, lips a thin, grim line, his words clipped. “If you can tear yourself away from our prisoner— George Barnes’ brat, the rich, spoiled little shit whose only worth to us is a hundred thousand pounds— for a few moments, you’re needed on deck. Captain .”
Their arousal was obvious, and Bucky shifted, panting. Cap stood and said evenly to Sam, “Lead the way, Mr. Quartermaster.”
Bucky watched them go, his breath freezing painfully, the need to see Cap’s face again— to be acknowledged— was greater than his body’s demand for air. Cap apparently didn’t feel that tug, and the current between them seemed to vanish easily for him.
But then Cap looked over his shoulder and grinned, his blue eyes crinkling, the creases in his flushed cheeks practically dimples. When the door closed, their footsteps fading away, Bucky could almost believe he’d imagined it. But no, it had been real, and it had been for his eyes only. It was foolish to chart Cap’s smiles, trying to collect them for his own, and foolish of him to crave Cap’s caresses as much as the pounding of his cock, his soft chuckles as much as his fierce smirks, yet, Bucky couldn’t resist. Because in these glimpses, Cap wasn’t hard muscle and bone. He was warm, soft flesh needing to be molded between Bucky’s fingers.
Under the dark sky, Bucky stood on the top deck, looking up the array of stars that were stretched above him. From Steve’s perspective at the wheel, it was as if Bucky was flying right through them, letting the stardust caress his pale cheeks and allowing the heavens to get a taste of his sweetness for itself to behold. There was a look of peace that radiated from Bucky, too, and even from his position, Steve could feel his looseness sinking into his own bones even though he stood stoic and firm. Bucky’s feet were bare on the wet wood of the deck, and Steve’s large shirt billowed around him, brushing against Bucky’s knees.
When the rain came, Steve had brought Bucky up, feeling it was only right to get Bucky out of the humid cabin and let him get a breath of fresh air. Plus, there was nothing more pleasing than seeing the happiness on Bucky’s face, the eagerness in his motions as he jumped up and practically bolted for the door. Of course, that uncharted glee lasted only moments until Bucky gained his composure, just barely, and positioned himself behind Steve to lead the way up to the top deck.
From the sidelong glances of the crew, they appeared to be surprised that Bucky wasn’t beaten black and blue after vomiting on Steve the last they had seen. Steve ignored the looks and Bucky did too, turning his brunet head from left to right and up and down, soaking in his environment. Bucky shuffled from the railing of the deck, looking down at the waves, to inching his way toward the wheel and looking at the mechanisms of it, then peering down to the bustling movement of the crew, then all over again. Bucky’s blue eyes stayed wide, and the curiosity in them had Steve marveling in his own wonder at how this life could possibly seem appealing.
As the hours passed, Steve listened to every sound of Bucky’s feet against the wet wood of the
deck, concentrating hard on the soft pitter-patter and making sure his eyes found Bucky’s body every few seconds. The fear of Bucky falling overboard was a constant nag at Steve’s mind and he couldn’t give his orders without checking his well being first.
Eventually the wind and rain had given up, and the clouds cleared. Steve had also ignored Sam’s pointed glares and attempts to pull him off to the side and more than likely give him the conversation from the fiery pits of hell.
Now, however, it was late and the deck was quiet in the pitch black of night. Steve had missed dinner trying to avoid Sam but he made sure Bucky ate, and while he knows he should have dragged Bucky back into the cabin long ago, Bucky remains with him, off to the side and looking down into the black water.
It was time to sleep, but Steve did another round of the ship, ensuring everything was in order. There was no reason it shouldn’t be— no sails were spotted and the seas and wind were calm now. Although he should have been sleeping himself, Sam approached, trapping Steve on the Captain’s deck.
“Captain,” he said, his voice giving nothing away. “There’s been a vote.”
Steve’s heart skipped, and he tensed from head to toe. His eyes found Bucky before settling on Sam. He kept his tone casual, his body relaxed. “I wasn’t aware there was an issue.”
If they voted him out of being Captain… he didn’t know what the fuck he would do. More importantly, he didn’t know what they would do with Bucky. Men-- although Steve had a better bunch than the usual-- were still dangerous when they wanted to be and a boy like Bucky was something they would love to tear apart if given the chance. Steve had seen the look on some of his crew’s faces when they landed their eyes on Bucky, how their hunger raked over Bucky’s body before they made lewd comments to one another on what a piece Bucky would be.
No. This was Steve’s ship. He couldn’t let it happen. He wouldn’t.
“The issue is the prisoner.” Sam cut a glance toward Bucky, far out of hearing range at the rope ladders of the watcher’s nest. “Barton made his case, and the men think he should be allowed up on deck during the day. It’s too hot now, being shut down there. He saved one of us, so they all believe he should get a taste of freedom.” There was a pause and Sam’s face shifted. He grimaced. “Little do they know he’s already had a taste of quite a few things in that cabin.”
“It’s nothing,” Steve insisted.
Sam scoffed, shaking his head incredulously. “Nothing? What do you call that scene I walked in on?”
Steve squared his shoulders. “I call it none of your damn business. Since when do you barge into my cabin like that?”
“Since you didn’t come up for the change of watch like you always do. The men get antsy when there’s an alteration in routine. Routine is what keeps us all alive.” Sam lowered his voice, hissing, “And I had good reason to be concerned, given the fact that our prisoner had a fucking knife to your throat!”
Steve gritted his teeth. “It was a lesson.”
“In what, exactly?”
“Knife skills. He should know how to defend himself.”
Sam blinked for a few moments, his eyebrows high on his forehead. “You think our prisoner should know how to defend himself? Captain, I respect you more than anyone, but please tell me you haven’t lost it.”
“Not against us,” Steve said, sighing. “For the future.”
The future. What an unknown concept that was. A terrifying one too, especially with the knowledge that Bucky planned to leave his father’s rule. It was different knowing Bucky would be safe on Brookstein Isle versus being out in the unknown, with no one to protect him against the world’s cruelty.
“Since when do you care about that little fuck’s future beyond the ransom we’ll get for him?”
Clenching his fists against the urge to grab his friend by the collar and demand respect for Bucky, Steve turned to the rail and gazed out at the horizon where the stars and sea became an endless stretch of eternity.
Sam rubbed a weary hand over his face and leaned on the rail beside him. “It’s one thing to have a bit of fun and fuck the boy senseless but I know you and you’ve never cared for that before.”
It was true, and for a short moment of madness, Steve wanted to confess that he felt as though he was under some spell-- that he couldn’t get enough of Bucky’s touch, of his breathy moans and sheer delight in fucking. How Bucky’s innocent passion made Steve feel young again, his body’s aches and pains somehow erased as if with a simple snap of his fingers. The way Bucky listened so closely when Steve read to him. The warmth of him curling against Steve’s side as they slept-- the first time Steve shared a bed since Artie.
Why shouldn’t he have something good for once? Even if it was for a brief flicker of time.
After long minutes of silence, Sam added, “And I’m sure you realize he’s only bending over for you to save his skin.”
A furious denial whipped through him, and Steve barely resisted the urge to slam his fist into Sam’s face. He clenched his jaw, feeling his teeth rake together, and exhaled heavily through his nostrils. “Maybe. It doesn’t really matter, does it?. Why should I be allowed to have my pleasure?”
“Fucking the brat is one thing. It’s another thing entirely to throw yourself in front of a bullet for him, let alone trust him. You know that.”
Intellectually, yes, he knew. Yet his soul protested. Steve couldn’t explain it and he didn’t begin to try.
Finally Sam sighed. “Well, as I said— the crew already voted. They believe it’s only fair that Barnes is allowed the fresh air. I think it would be for the best if he joined us below the decks. We have the spare hammocks.”
Steve’s heart began to pound, the blood rushing to his ears. Was Sam really suggesting-
“I’ll keep a close watch on him,” Sam continued on, as if Steve wasn’t seconds from storming away. As if he wasn’t debating grabbing Bucky and locking him safely away in the cabin so no one could take him away. “I’ll give the orders to the men not to touch him. It’s not safe to have him in your cabin anymore, Cap.”
Steve gripped the rail, his indignation rising. “I haven’t forced him, if that’s what—”
“Not safe for you, for fuck’s sake! The dagger was at your throat, and while you may not see the danger, it is glaringly obvious to me.”
Steve shook his head. “He’s staying in my cabin until the ransom exchange.” As Sam opened his mouth to argue, Steve cut him off entirely. “End of discussion. Do your job and make sure the men don’t get too attached or it will be harder when the time comes to hand him over.”
The disappointment was hard to miss on Sam’s face. Brown eyes glared into Steve’s soul. “Yes, it will. It will be even harder when the time comes to kill him if his bastard of a father doesn’t pay. You promised the men blood, Captain.”
A cold shudder wracked through Steve’s body and the only thing that hid it was his coat. His stomach knotted painfully, and the sharp acidity of bile bubbled in his throat. Steve jerked his head in a nod, knowing without any doubt that Bucky’s death wasn’t something he would allow. He’d kill any of his men that tried, if they took so much as a step in Bucky’s direction.
He dared to go as far to pretend they could have a future together but that was too much of a fantastical notion to dwell on. This madness was temporary, and Steve comforted himself with that.
Sam sighed again, nodding his head to himself as he pushed off the rail. “I’ll remind the men. It would do you damn well to remember yourself, too.”
“The money is what matters,” he insisted. In the end, it had to be. That was the way of their world.
“Yes, it is,” Sam agreed. “We could be chasing other prizes, and instead we’re twiddling our thumbs. They all want their share of what you promised.” Sam looked to Bucky, who had turned and watched them now. He was on the opposite side of the ship but it was possible the wind had carried parts of their conversation. Sam frowned before looking back at Steve, continuing grimly, “If the men don’t get their prize, sentiment will only go so far.”
Steve knew that. God, he knew. These men were animals and Bucky was meat dangling before their eyes.
He turned his back against Bucky’s watchful gaze and nodded at Sam, silently agreeing once more. Leave it to Sam to always point out the truth, sometimes so stark and painful.
Sam reached out and patted Steve’s shoulder before he left for the belowdecks. Steve listened to his retreat, feeling his chest ache with emotions he didn’t want to admit. Sam was right. Steve knew he should distance himself from Bucky immediately, sever whatever this strange tie between them was. Regain his fucking senses and take hold of his mind again.
So he wouldn’t kill Bucky but that didn’t mean he had to allow himself to sink any deeper into the pit that they were.
Sighing heavily, Steve lifted his hand and massaged at his temples. It truly was time to go to his cabin. He needed sleep.
Striding to the other side of the ship, he took Bucky’s arm and pulled him to the steps without explanation. Because Bucky was his prisoner, and Steve was a pirate. No explanation was needed.
A lamp still burned low in the cabin, and after Steve bolted the door and turned, the yellow light flickered over Bucky’s bare skin as he stripped off his clothes. Steve should tell him to stop, tell
him to go to the corner and never touch him again. Yet... he said no such thing as Bucky sank to his knees, tugging on the laces of Steve’s trousers and freeing his cock, pressing eager, open mouthed kisses to it.
“Finally,” he muttered against Steve’s cock, breathing him in with a smile.
The blood rushed from his head and Steve thumped back against the door, his knees threatening to give out as Bucky swallowed him. This. This is what he’s afraid of. It shouldn’t have troubled him. Having a hostage submissive and naked at his feet should have been normal for a pirate, but for these emotions to be flooding inside of him? This was more than enjoyment. This was him threading his fingers through Bucky’s hair, holding him close. This was him not fucking into Bucky’s mouth, but caressing Bucky’s face as the brunet sucked him, pretty pink lips stretched and the vibration of his moans shuddering through Steve. This was him loving the way he could see his cock pressing against the inside of Bucky’s cheek, and how he reached down to trace the bump of it, feeling unbearably tender at the intimacy of it. This was the power in his chest that demanded he keep Bucky safe and happy, away from his cursed father and anyone who dared to make him feel like a lesser individual because of his pure desires, and all the little things that made him undeniably human.
Bucky sucked at the wet head of Steve’s cock and his delicate hands sneaked into Steve’s open trousers to caress bare flesh. “You denied yourself this,” Steve murmured. Bucky met his gaze, ocean eyes wide and dark in the flickering light. His hands stroked Bucky’s hair. “You love it so much. Having my cock in your mouth.”
Nodding, Bucky sucked harder, one hand circling the base where his lips couldn’t reach. Steve petted his hair, then pulled down his own trousers so they pooled around his knees, the wooden door cool against his bare arse. “Take your finger in your mouth,” he said, quietly, watching as Bucky did just as he was told without a second of hesitation. This boy was going to be the death of him, surely, and Steve’s breath caught as Bucky’s cheeks hollowed as he sucked, the wet slurp of his spit around his finger making Steve’s eyelids flutter shut.
Bucky looked up at him with his finger between his lips, waiting, his chest rising and falling and mouth shiny in the low light of the cabin. The look of trust was clear in Bucky’s eyes and Steve knew that he clung onto everything that came from Steve’s mouth with complete, utter trust that Steve wasn’t going to bring him pain. The look was intoxicating, the feeling of having that trust was unbelievable, and Steve had to touch him. He traced the shell of Bucky’s ear, then spread his legs, pulling Bucky back in.
“Now suck me again, and push your finger inside me,” he whispered. Eyes wide, Bucky latched back onto Steve’s cock, reaching his hand between Steve’s legs to find his hole. He didn’t hesitate to push his finger inside and Steve couldn’t hold in his moan, his ass tightening as he clamped down on Bucky’s finger. It had been years since he’d been breached by a cock, and although he’d never much enjoyed it, he’d shoved his own finger in his ass from time to time.
The wet suction of that beautiful mouth combined with the pressure of Bucky’s finger, had Steve coming without even being able to give warning, losing control as if he were a boy again who was experiencing his first touch. He held Bucky’s head as he emptied into him and as Bucky swallowed convulsively, Steve stared at the muscles in his throat as they shifted, an artwork being constructed right before his eyes.
When Bucky eased out his finger and sat back on his heels, a long, ropey strand of milky-white seed stretched between his swollen lips and Steve’s cock. Steve’s knees almost gave out, and he was unable to look away, sure it might be the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. Although the lamp was almost out, the colors of Bucky’s body and face seemed vivid, as if the sun had suddenly beamed through the stern windows and highlighted what a treasure this creature was between Steve’s knees.
Trying to catch his breath, Steve caught the strand on his finger and fed it to Bucky, who licked it clean. Eagerly so. It was that energy that fed into Steve, making his blood hum in ecstasy. His pleasure was unchartable and he wanted Bucky to have just as much.
“Bring yourself off,” he whispered, eyes hooded as he watched the brunet at his feet. Almost as if he’d forgotten about it, Bucky looked down at himself and took hold of his cock, moaning and shifting forward to rest his head against Steve’s hip as he jerked himself off. Steve’s fingers locked in Bucky’s hair and he held on tight, watching Bucky’s frantic movements. It was no time at all until Bucky spilled, soft cries escaping his red, raw lips.
It took a handful of minutes until Bucky was able to calm down. His breath was harsh and warm against the skin on Steve’s hip. Bucky’s forehead shifted and pressed into Steve’s upper thigh, before he sat back on his heels again, and peered up.
Steve brushed Bucky’s damp hair out of his eyes, and the urge to protect him from those who would shame the young man thrummed with every heartbeat. He pulled up his trousers, leaving them loose around his hips. “Time for sleep,” he whispered, not finding the strength to make his voice any harder. He reached down and eased Bucky to his feet, still careful of his shoulder, and when Bucky turned as if to go to the corner, Steve tugged him to the bed and urged him onto it, trying to ignore how Bucky’s grateful smile wrapped around his heart and squeezed.
Steve turned away before he could lose himself any further. “Sleep,” he ordered, his tone still gentle, and he forced himself to his desk, before plopping down in his chair.
He knows he should shove Bucky back into the corner. He knows he needed to force the young man away from him and forbid anymore of these occurrences from muddling up his brain. He knows that the only thing that should be important was collecting the ransom but…
By the time Steve picked himself back up, the lamp is nothing more than a burnt ember. He stripped off his clothing and lowered himself on the bed, lying on his belly and not bothering with the sheet that Bucky hadn’t pulled up either in the humid night. Keeping his head facing away from Bucky, Steve gazed at the night sky through the stern windows, which were open for the night air. He listened to the slap of water against the hull as the ship rocked gently, Bucky’s soft, even breathing seemingly in rhythm with the sea. A shiver snaked down his spine, but it wasn’t because of the breeze. The mattress had shifted, and Bucky’s fingers grazed against Steve’s backside, the touch feather light. Back and forth, back and forth.
Bucky pressed closer, his left leg sliding between Steve’s. There seemed no sense of purpose to it other than closeness because Bucky’s cock was soft against Steve’s thigh. Steve should shift away and put space between them, but his limbs were heavy and warm, and the caress of Bucky’s breath across his shoulder soothed him as much as the ship’s easy rocking.
“When did you turn to the ocean?” Bucky asked and Steve could feel the brush of every word against his skin.
Steve should ignore him. Pretend to be asleep. But he found himself wanting to answer, wanting to talk. “I was a few years younger than you. Got recruited to a Royal Navy ship.”
Bucky’s hand stilled for a moment before he continued his grazing. “I can’t imagine you my age. Or taking orders from anyone.”
Steve had to smile, keeping his head turned toward the stern. Somehow if he didn’t look at Bucky, then talking seemed more… unforbidden.
“I didn’t emerge from my mother’s womb a pirate, you know.”
Bucky’s chuckle ghosted over Steve’s skin. “No, I suppose you didn’t.” His hand moved to the small of Steve’s back and he began to trace the notches of Steve’s spine. “What was her name? Your mother.”
It had been years since he’d spoken of her, or really since he’d even thought of her. All that remained were glimpses of images of blonde hair and flour-dusted hands, a short temper, but soothing caresses when Steve had been trampled by a panicked sheep in the pasture. Bucky seemed to be waiting, and Steve found himself adding, “She was struck by fever. I barely knew her.”
“I’m sorry,” Bucky whispered and it was then that Steve remembered that Bucky lacked a mother as well, although he’d never known her. “And your father? Was he a sailor?”
“A farmer. Sheep, chickens, an ox. He hated the sea, and there were so many days that I wished I’d been born to a fisherman instead.”
“And what did you think of farming?”
Steve grimaced. “Fuck, I hated it.” Memories of mud and shit and stinking animals flitted through his mind. Endless days spent trapped on land while the rest of the world spread out beyond the cliffs, out of his reach, in an infinite blanket of blue. “The sea was so close I could smell it from my window.”
“Mmm. Did you live in the Burren region?”
Steve blinked in surprise before nodding. “Near Country Clare. In Moher, the cliffside at the southwestern edge.”
Even though Steve wasn’t looking, he could hear the smile in Bucky’s voice. “I thought I heard a hint of it in your voice. We once had some minor nobility from Dublin for dinner. Did you have many brothers and sisters?”
“No,” he shook his head. “It was just me. When my father was too busy to notice, sometimes I’d go to sit on the cliffs. I’d watch the water, fishing boats, and sometimes ships in the distance. I became quite good at spotting sails on the horizon. Any flicker of movement, of… promise, I saw it all.”
Bucky’s fingers were trailing down his spine now, slow and gentle as the pads glided over the notches. “And what is your birth name?”
It was a name he hadn’t spoken out loud in many years, hadn’t even heard it being called by others. The crew didn’t know it, and neither did Sam. Steve’s heart jumped at the possibility of Bucky knowing because it was intimate, something Steve held secret from everyone. Yet, the night when they had first fucked, Bucky had spewed his name without hesitation, almost as if he were eager for Steve to say it. He wondered what it would mean for his name to be on Bucky’s own lips. Something came undone in him, a knot that had been drawn tight. He wanted to hear it, but he couldn’t allow it.
Bucky apparently let the question go, not for the first time, and asked instead, “What did your father say when you decided to become a sailor?"
Steve closed his eyes to the sky, a shiver rippling through him. Perhaps he should close the window after all. But he didn’t move and the warm weight of Bucky’s leg hooked over his was grounding him like an anchor. “He had no chance to say a thing. I slipped down to the docks to go fishing. There was an old man who was happy to teach me in return for labor. Some nights, I’d climb out the window and sneak away.”
“Fifteen. Depending on the tides, sometimes the fisherman went out well after dark. It was past midnight when we returned to the harbor. I was wet and absolutely reeked of fish, the only downside of the whole thing.” Steve bit on the inside of his cheek, knowing the next part. He hadn’t thought about it in years but the lump in his throat still made him choke down the emotions of what had happened to him. “I should have been more careful. But I was still coming down from the thrill of the adventure at sea, still tasting the salt on my tongue and the rock of the boat beneath my feet. When they came… it had been fast.”
Bucky’s hand stilled again, now resting on the swell of Steve’s ass. “They?”
“The press gang.”
Bucky sucked in a breath. “I’ve… I’ve heard the stories.”
“There were five of them with clubs.” Steve remembered the rough hands dragging him back to the docks, his feet barely touching the ground as they tore him away from home and all that he knew. Young. Powerless. “I tried to tell them I was a farmer, but all evidence that night pointed to me being a fisher. And I had no money to pay them off.”
“They just… took you?” Bucky whispered. There was no denying the fear in his voice.
“The navy always needs men. The ocean is so large that the navy can’t operate properly without the impressments. They said it was my duty to serve the Crown and my country. Hauled me on the Avon , and soon we were away. I was finally at sea.” Steve huffed. “I learned to be careful of what you wish for because they’ll come true eventually.”
“It’s awful,” Bucky shook his head against Steve, his tone thick with emotions. “You didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye?”
No, he hadn’t. The hurt of missing his father had long ago faded to a dull echo of another life that he couldn’t envision anymore. “I would have left one way or another,” he said, speaking the truth. “That life wasn’t for me. My father couldn’t understand. He was a good man. Fair. Hardworking. But he thought me I was a fool for wanting anything beyond our pastures. I would have liked to give my goodbye to him that night but… but fate had said otherwise.”
“I’m so sorry.” Bucky pressed his lips to Steve’s shoulder.
Holding his breath, Steve watched the stars as the ship rocked, his mind too far away and on things that it shouldn’t be focused on. That was his old life. The life he had tried to erase only for Bucky to bring it all back.
“Don’t pity me too much,” Steve said. “I kidnapped you, remember?”
Bucky’s warm presence didn’t waver, his hand still resting on Steve’s backside. “I suppose you did. I learned to be careful of what one wishes for as well.” Before Steve could wonder too much at what he meant, Bucky asked, “I thought they couldn’t take you if you were under eighteen.”
“That’s a fairly new amendment to the law. Then, there was no limit. And the rules on paper don’t matter a damn in the real world. If they found you, they’d take you.”
“What was it like?”
Horrible. Crowded. Days where it was so hot they blistered in the sun and nights where they shivered in the cold. Artie had always been beautiful in his rage at the unfair conditions of what they had been forced into but he’d smiled so sweetly when Steve had offered to share his hammock one night, then every night after that until…
Bucky’s hand stroked up and down his spine, and Steve realized he’d tensed from head to toe. Part of him wanted to shove Bucky away and jump from the bed, escape up to the main deck and breathe the night air until he regained his senses and stop his confessions. Yet he couldn’t seem to move, and he exhaled under Bucky’s caress, still keeping his head turned away as if that was some kind of protection.
Bucky seemed to quietly understand and switched topics, “So how did a boy from Moher become the feared Captain of the Fallen Eagle?”
“One of the officers took an interest in me. A fatherly sort. Said I had potential. Eventually taught me to read as well.” He hadn’t allowed himself to think of Lieutenant Wiltshire in years. Now, Steve closed his eyes to the memory of the man’s neck impaled with wood, the deck having exploded with a direct hit, his eyes bugged out and blood squirting everywhere the eye could see. Steve had to clamp down on his jaw and jumped to the next, “Then we got a new captain. He was a bastard of a man. Cruel without reason, and there were no votes on navy ships so we had to endure everything he threw on us. A bunch of us had left, but we’d been marked as deserters afterward.”
“So then you became a privateer?”
“Yes. I assumed a new identity and made my way to the New World. Found work aboard a privateer ship and worked my way up. At least I had learned much in the navy. Eventually I won my own ship and hired a crew.”
“And what name did you use as a privateer?"
Steve’s heart clenched. It seemed that tonight he was reopening old wounds that had been sewn shut. He had to turn around to see Bucky, to know this beautiful, innocent treasure was safe and well. That his clear blue eyes still had light. Life. Steve turned his head and shifted onto his left hip to face Bucky, reaching for him. He cupped Bucky’s face, his thumb brushing against Bucky’s jaw.
Instantly, Bucky’s hand found its way to Steve’s chest and he curled his fingers in the hair scattered over Steve’s tattoo. While looking at Bucky, the name caught in Steve’s throat. “Artie.” This was the first time he’d said it since that day. And Bucky seemed to know somehow.
“Who was he?”
And somehow, Steve answered. “A friend. More than that. He was on the Avon as well. We were both young. He… He died in battle.”
“I’m so sorry. Did you and he…”
“Yes,” Steve nodded. “It’s strictly forbidden in the navy, but of course it happened. I think for most of us it was a matter of circumstance. Trapped at sea with other men for months on end, it came down to practicality. Most men needed the release before they went crazy.”
“But for you, it was more?”
Swallowing hard, he thought of Artie’s breathy whimpers in his ear, their limbs tangled together and lips pressed as one in the shadows. He thought of naked skin and freckles dusting over Artie’s shoulders. “Yes.”
His time with Artie was so brief, hardly more than a blink in the total hours of Steve’s life. So he couldn’t help but think, what amount of time would Bucky amount to? Somehow, this time with Bucky seemed longer, and almost more precious, than the months with Artie.
“And you never felt shame for it?” he asked. “For being a sinner?”
Steve smirked. “I’m a sinner in many ways. It’s never bothered me. My father once told me that to fight against nature was a losing battle every time. He was talking about weather but still, his words rang true. My nature is this.”
Bucky frowned. “You don’t think it’s unnatural? What we do together?”
“How can it be? When it feels so good, so right. You know, it occurs in animals as well. There were always a number of rams on the farm who wouldn’t have anything to do with the females. They’d only mount each other.”
“Really?” A grin brightened Bucky’s sweet face. “That’s amazing. Perhaps it all makes sense after all.”
Steve curled a lock of Bucky’s hair around his finger, nodding. “Perhaps so.”
Bucky shifted and leaned more onto Steve, putting his head right on Steve’s pectoral. “So you became a captain of his own ship after a wager? And later you became not only a pirate, but a king amongst them. How exactly?”
He scoffed. “I’m no king. I’ve managed to create a reputation, but like I told you before, it had to do with planting the right stories in the right ports. People get scared and tell the same stories, but make them more powerful than they were originally. After so long, it’s like wildfire. Uncontrollable.”
Bucky shrugged. “Answer the questions anyway,” he murmured.
Although he was supposed to be the one giving orders, Steve obeyed. “I got lucky one night playing at cards in Port Royal. A fool bet this ship. He lost and I became a captain.”
There was a heavy moment of silence that passed and for a good few minutes, Steve thought Bucky had fallen asleep. Until, “It’s so unfair what my father did to you. None of it makes sense.”
Unfairness was a concept that Steve had learned long, long ago. Nothing of this world was fair. Ever.
“That’s government for you,” Steve said, sighing. “In your father’s case, I think he was desperate to get a name for himself in the New World. Rumor says he seized my prize to keep it for himself and that he and his crew only gave a portion to the Crown and lied about the cargo.”
Bucky nodded slowly. “I can believe it. He has always had a thirst for power and that power can only be achieved with riches. He’s always felt that he was owed everything. He married my mother for her estate and wealth, then wasted it. Doomed her for me so he could have a son for the sake of his pride and name.”
He was sorry for Bucky’s mother, but he would never regret the life she had given for her son’s existence. Steve’s mouth burned to say the words but he swallowed them away. Instead, he said, “Thankfully, your father underestimated me and my crew. They freed me, and escaped.”
“And now revenge is close at hand.” Bucky burrowed closer, pressing his lips to Steve’s throat. Steve wished he could see Bucky’s face and ask what he was thinking but he was scared. For all the times that he pretended to be in charge, to be brave, this had his resolve crumbling. Only days remained until the ransom was scheduled to be exchanged.
Steve’s stomach clenched. He wrapped Bucky in his arms, and it seemed neither of them wanted to vocalize the hard questions that they knew they should
Prior to reading the novel, I never knew anything about press gangs. They were groups of men employed by the crown that would force men of all ages to enlist into the army or navy services. It's so cruel and so heartbreaking to think about.
Chapter 16: Stars at Night
They were finally, finally going on shore. And, according to the announcement that Cap made, it was for an entire two nights. Otherwise, heaven, in Bucky’s mind.
He wasn’t the only one. The crew cheered, and Bucky grinned from where he stood. He’d been allowed on deck now, something that had apparently been voted on by the men. Although Bucky wouldn’t question the move of democracy, it was strange for the men to override Cap’s command. But it wasn’t like Cap seemed that upset either.
In fact, when he told Bucky of the vote, he seemed relieved.
However, even though the men voted for Bucky to be there with them, none of the crew, apart from Sam, got anywhere near him. It was a stark reminder that despite everything, he was still their prisoner after all. Their ransom. And as the date of the exchange got closer and closer, Bucky’s stomach churned at the possibilities. All he could do was focus on every hour, every minute and second that passed.
He had to look on the positive, otherwise he was going to lose his mind. The thought of getting his feet on flat, solid land was the perfect distraction, one that made him want to bounce on the tips of his toes. He wanted to run. If Cap so much as tried to retract his word once again, Bucky swore he would raise hell. Nothing, not even Cap, was going to hold him back this time.
“-- Brookstein Isle--”
Bucky suddenly snapped his attention toward Sam, who was in front of the crew and giving the agenda. He’d zoned out this entire time and now he found himself frowning at what he’d missed.
“We’ll be heading there immediately after this stop,” Sam continued.
Oh. Bucky hadn’t realized they were that close. Realistically, he knew that they had to have closed the distance from where Bucky was taken from the Proud Victoria, but… but that didn’t stop his stomach from dropping or the sudden thickness in his throat that felt too much like a sob.
Just as Bucky hoped Cap would take over and distract him from the heavy onslaught of emotions that wracked through him, Sam’s eyes cut to him, adding, “It’s almost time to exchange our prisoner for the ransom we all desire.”
Naturally all eyes cut directly to Bucky. All but Cap’s. Instead, Cap kept his gaze firmly ahead, his jaw tight and hands clasped behind his back as if Bucky wasn’t even there. The few men that had been the closest to where Bucky stood all shifted then, stepping away from him like he was the plague.
Bucky couldn’t take it and kept his eyes firmly on his bare feet, ignoring the stares as they burned into his flesh.
It was then that Cap took charge once more. He stepped forward and it felt like a breath of fresh air when all those stares finally shifted to their captain.
“We’ll be on land any minute now,” Cap spoke, his voice strong over the quiet alertness of the crew. “The island is far from the trade channels and will be uninhabited so we’ll restock on what it can give-- crab, fish, fruits. But most importantly… we’ll be repairing the ship.”
A loud, collective groan filled the air and Sam held up his hand. “It’s no one’s favorite thing to do but as we all know, it has to be done. Any longer and those barnacles will slow us down and we’ll need every pace of speed to get away with our ransom from that bastard George Barnes. Our ransom is in reach, men. You want to keep it, right?”
But they didn’t want to keep Bucky. Why would they? When instead, they could be rich and free of his existence. These men weren’t his friends. Sam didn’t harbor any hidden joy towards him. They saw a brat-- a rich little lord who desired to be tucked away in an estate with servants and retched stockings and coins spilling from his fingertips. They didn’t know him. Not like-
While the men turned back to their work and Cap conversed with Sam on the captain’s deck, Bucky stared at the small speck of green land getting closer by the second. Two days were left. Two more sunrises and sunsets and this would be over.
His own life may be over. Cut short by the sharp end of a knife. Or maybe a bullet. Or maybe they’d throw him overboard with bricks at his ankles and he’d drown on the very water that gave him his internal freedom. Perhaps it would be Sam but the odds of it being anyone but Cap were slim even in Bucky’s mind. Cap ruled this ship just as he ruled Bucky’s fate.
But Bucky refused to dwell on the possibility that his father wouldn’t pay. No, his father would pay and somehow, Bucky would have to find a way to leave the colony and build a new life. He knew he could but it all seemed so daunting, so unknown for someone who had lived a privledged, closeted life.
Cap’s confession of retirement echoed strong in Bucky’s mind. Although he had taken the words back, Bucky was no fool. He may not know how to read mere words on paper but he knew how to read the looks on people. When Cap had muttered those words, he had been telling the truth.
Bucky’s eyes found Cap, peering through his eyelashes at the man watching his crew. Large hands were still clasped behind his back, his dark sleeves rolled up to his elbows and black trousers covering thick, muscular thighs. Those were hands that touched Bucky in the most intimate ways possible; those were thighs that Bucky pressed against and nestled between.
Cap’s gaze was focused on the horizon. He was calm, stoic and alert for whatever may cross their way and bring them harm. Nothing, it seemed, could scare this man. This powerful, large man who made Bucky’s world seem so fickle in the grand scheme of things.
Watching him, Bucky couldn’t help but wonder if such a man would truly be happy living a simple life instead of being trapped on this pirate ship. A little house by the sea, on firm ground to take root upon. A place that he could perhaps wish to share with Bucky and live a simple, happy life with them together and-- No. No, he couldn’t think of these things.
Cap was fucking him behind closed doors. Cap showed him kindness, compassion, and care, and had whispered secrets to Bucky that Bucky knew he had never told another soul. Even though Bucky couldn’t believe that Cap would harm him, he didn’t dare to expect that their moments in the cabin could be brought out into the real world. When Bucky was to be returned-- the moment he walked off this deck after Cap got the bags of ransom-- this would be over. Cut in half like scissors to a string.
In the meantime, he would enjoy every touch he could get from Cap, every confession, every smile. Hour by hour. Minute by minute. Leaving that horrid grey space of the unknown future out of their bubble of comfort.
When Bucky’s feet hit the sand, he has to shoot out his arms for balance because it feels as if the soil shifts beneath his heels like he’s still on the boat.
Behind him, the men disperse. Some set up camp, others pitch a fire and a few hauling newly filled barrels of goods they find and carrying them to the ship. None of that mattered in his eyes, however, only the stretch of empty beach in front of him.
Eagerly, he turned toward Cap, who was already watching him with soft eyes and the smallest of smiles on his face. With a nod, he gave his permission, “Your prize. A bet’s a bet.”
Bucky didn’t need to be told twice and without a second of hesitation, he was running along the water’s edge. Pumping his arms and legs, breathing in large lungfuls of salty, fresh air. Everytime the tide swept up and tickled his ankles, he giggled, feeling wonderfully alive perhaps for the first time in forever. Here he was free, truly free. No family expectations. No being locked away in the cabin.
There was nothing but him and the beach. He ran as if he were back at Shelbington, racing up the hills and sprinting toward the lake, ready to escape the congestion of the estate and his father. But now, he couldn’t run much further. His breath came shorter than usual after weeks of being locked inside the cabin, then weeks of being on the Proud Victoria. The muscles in his legs and thighs burned but he refused to dwell on it, choosing to enjoy every moment of this new found freedom instead.
He ran until the beach ended with a wall of rocky cliffs. Bucky could climb them if he wanted, but they seemed precarious and his legs were already trembling at the sudden exertion. The only way to go, was back to the crew. Back to Cap.
But for a moment, Bucky stood still. For once, in a very, very long time, he was alone. Not a single soul around to see him. It was too dark for the crew to see him, but he could make out the small pinpoint of light from the fire in the distance, where shadows wandered in front of it every few minutes. He breathed in deep. The fresh air was sweet with the tropics aroma, and heavy with the promise of rain soon. Bucky could practically taste it on his tongue.
Another wave swept over his feet and he looked down, smiling at the sensation. The water was cool against his sweat-ridden skin and he quickly tugged his shirt over his head and tossed it behind him. He took the first step into the surf and eased forward until the water reached his thighs. Just as he was about to dive under, a voice calling out to him made him freeze.
Bucky turned to look over his shoulder in confusion and saw Cap splashing in after him. Soon enough, a strong hand was wrapped around his elbow and pulling him back onto the shore.
Bucky could only laugh. “Surely you don’t think I’m going to swim my way all the way back to Nassau? A shark would get me by then. Or maybe even a squid. Could you imagine?”
A breath of air huffed down the back of Bucky’s neck. “I think you’re going to drown. You may not have gone deep, but there are still fucking currents!” The concern in his voice was obvious enough that Bucky didn’t need to see his face. Cap’s hand was still wrapped around Bucky’s, but it loosened slightly once they hit the sand.
Like this, it wasn’t hard at all to imagine this as their future. Lovers on a beach, just outside their home. Swimming together in the moonlight, wrapped up in each other’s arms, lips molded together. Maybe Cap would take him in the sea, fuck into him with the water to guide the way. Then once they entered their home they could go for round two in their bed, a nice mattress with pillows for the both of them. The wonderful scents of oil strong in their space.
Before his head and heart could explode with the possibilities, the sky grumbled and suddenly the heavens were crying. Rain was falling and drenching them both.
Bucky laughed, pulling free of Cap’s hold and spinning in a circle with his arms wide open, his head tipped back and embracing the warm droplets as they landed on his face. It was pouring now.
“This is amazing!” he said, before stumbling to a stop now that his head was buzzing with dizziness. “I could die happy in a place like this.”
He faced Cap now. It was hard to see him through the darkness and the rain, but there was no mistaking the weight of Cap’s gaze on him. Searing through him and lighting his blood on fire. Bucky met that gaze head on.
For a moment, they simply stared at each other. Their clothes were soaked and plastered against their bodies and the rain kept falling, falling, falling. The noise was almost roaring in his ears; the splattering of the droplets against the waves, against his own face and body.
On the same beat, they both soared forward and crashed into one another. Bucky’s hands went to the sides of Cap’s face, an instant away from pressing their lips together, but Cap latched onto his neck instead and licked against him. With Cap bent, Bucky’s height was perfect to cradle Cap’s head to him, pulling the golden earring between his lips. He let his lips linger at the shell, whispering, “Please fuck me. I want you, so much,” he cried against Cap, his hands clutching at anything he could grab. “I need you inside me. Now. Please.”
Cap groaned and Bucky felt it vibrate through his soul. The ministrations of Cap’s tongue lowered, sucking against Bucky’s nipple and causing a loud moan to spill from his lips. His knees buckled beneath him and just as he was ready to collapse to the sandy earth, Cap’s hands were spinning him around and shoving him down.
“You want my cock?” he asked and Bucky could hear the grin in his voice. Amid the rain, Bucky could hear the rustle of fabric being pulled and as he turned to look over his shoulder, Cap was yanking his belt and laces before tugging them down his knees. His large hands soon found Bucky’s hips and with one sharp pull, Bucky’s ass was bare to the world.
Cap’s hands pressed against the small of Bucky’s back, making him arch, and with another groan, Cap pressed up fully behind him. The heavy, warm press of that glorious cock slid against the cleft of his ass and Bucky’s eyelids fluttered at the feel.
Then, Cap was spitting and pushing into Bucky’s hole.
Bucky cried out at the entry. It felt like he was being split in half but lord did it feel good. So good. He moaned and pressed back into Cap, feeling that thickness inside of him go deeper. “Don’t stop. H-harder.”
Grunting, Cap clung to Bucky’s hips, fucking him with powerful strokes. The pain was there but so was the overwhelming sensation of something magical inside of him. He wanted more. Needed so much more.
Bucky looked back over his shoulder at Cap, looking at how his jaw clenched shut as he fucked into him. This man was glorious-- the only man that Bucky would ever need. Or want. How he could ever have this with another soul was beyond him. He just knew that Cap was it for him. Could feel it in his bones, in his very own heart.
With one hand squeezing into the wet sand, he reached back with his other and grabbed onto Cap’s left hand that was still gripping against his hip. Cap’s glazed eyes snapped up to his. The angle was uncomfortable but nothing was going to tear his eyes away from Cap, not while he was like that, focused and plowing into him.
Bucky’s eyes darted downward and managed to see the shaft of Cap’s cock sinking into him. It was a vision. And it absolutely stole the breath right from his lungs. He was left gasping, clutching at Cap’s hand even harder.
When Cap slammed into him, seated in fully, they both cried out. Bucky had to drop his head at the sudden onslaught of feelings; pain, but laced with the undeniable throes of pleasure. Cap’s right hand drifted upward and pulled Bucky even closer. His healing shoulder protested at the rough treatment, but Bucky didn’t flinch away. He wouldn’t dare; not while everything seemed to no longer exist apart from the cock inside of him, stretching him wide and reaching areas so deep in Bucky that he felt it in his goddamn throat.
Cap’s hips shifted and he hit some area inside Bucky that made his vision go white, little stars dancing before his view. The noises that came from his throat were nowhere near the English language but they seemed to spur Cap on, making him move faster, hips snapping more desperately.
He could feel it building inside of him. The need to release. Oh, heavens it was so strong. It was consuming him, wholly, and his breath stuttered between his lips. “M-make me c-come on your cock,” he gasped.
Cap’s hands tightened and as he pounded into him, he kept hitting that miraculous spot buried deep in Bucky. He couldn’t breath any longer, his face and body tightening up further and further with each snap of Cap’s hips against his ass.
Then finally, he exploded. His eyes rolled into the back of his head as he cried out, shivering and convulsing in Cap’s grasp. “Fill me,” he whispered, his voice hoarse with absolute ruin. “Only you. Only you…”
With a shout of his own, Cap did. His fingers pressed hard into Bucky’s skin, so hard that he could feel the bruises forming. But none of that mattered. Only Cap’s seed spilling so deep inside of him that Bucky imagined it reached his very soul, drowning him in that milky manna.
Now, his arms shook, every part of him burning in uncontrolled pleasure, and he dropped to his elbows. The change in the angle had Cap falling after him, his broad chest pressing into Bucky’s back and leaning over him. He knew it would hurt when Cap pulled out but as the seconds ticked by, Cap seemed to be taking his time easing out inch by inch.
The absence made Bucky feel unbearably empty, like something more than a thick cock was missing. He was being foolish, but he couldn’t help himself. Drained, he slid down onto his belly, and to avoid getting sand all over his face, he tucked his hands beneath his cheek and closed his eyes, trying to get control of himself. Every part of him felt loose, relaxed, and he was waiting for Cap to tug him up to his feet and walk him back to camp for the night.
But time went on. The rain eased, a slight drizzled mist now, and it seemed that neither of them were going to move from their spot in the sand. Instead of pulling him up, one of Cap’s large hands stroked soothingly against Bucky’s spine, up and down, before his palm drifted over Bucky’s ass. Fingertips-- now gentle moments after the fierceness of their coitus-- opened him up to the rain and cleaned him with the softest of touch.
Bucky’s eyes remained closed as he enjoyed the feeling, a smile on his lips as his cheek smudged against the back of his hand.
Suddenly, his eyes bolted open as he felt a new pressure there. Cap’s tongue, wet and warm, licked against Bucky’s hole, making him jolt in place. The coarse hair of Cap’s beard scratched against the tenderness of his cheeks and made him squirm with the sensation. Surely, Cap tasted his own seed that leaked from Bucky. The image of that played in his mind and made Bucky’s spent cock twitch to life, a gasp escaping his throat.
“I can’t possibly go again,” he panted. “You can’t make me release a second time.”
As fast as a breeze slicing through sails, Bucky found himself on his back, his trousers and drawers pulled smooth off of him in one go. The rain coming down washed any sand on his body away and soon enough, Cap was lowering himself down between Bucky’s legs. Dark eyes stared down at him and a smile so primal was sent Bucky’s way.
Cap closed a fist around Bucky’s cock, his other reaching down to push his thumb against the sensitive skin that was tender and sensitive. Bucky’s breath was stolen once more away from him.
Cap was looming over him but with the stars and small sliver of moon behind him, everything about this moment felt magical. Like a slice of their own heaven laid at their feet for them to enjoy. Bucky let his eyes scour over Cap, taking in the whole of him.
Slowly, the look on Cap’s face transformed. His features softened as he looked down, his own eyes raking over Bucky’s. He wondered what it was that the Cap saw. Did Cap look at him and feel speechless like Bucky did when he laid his eyes on the man above him? Did Cap’s heart speed up? Did he, too, let himself imagine that they could have this?
The longer the seconds drifted by, Bucky let himself hope that maybe Cap did. Maybe he wanted this as much as Bucky did. Maybe his body craved Bucky’s touch as much as his very soul craved everything about Cap.
Reaching down, Cap brushed his knuckles against Bucky’s cheek, then brushed them over his lips. Bucky’s heart started racing as Cap leaned down, everything on his face so tender, his eyes searching for something on Bucky’s face that Bucky couldn’t begin to know. No matter how desperately he prayed he did.
For a heart-stopping moment, Bucky was so sure that Cap would lean down further and slot their lips together. They would finally have their kiss, press their lips together and let their breaths become one in an intimacy that Bucky could only imagine would be more profound than any fucking they had ever participated in.
But… just as fast as the look appeared, it was gone. Cap’s face shifted again and before Bucky could mourn, his waist was being pulled onto Cap’s thighs.
“I believe you just made a bet,” Cap grinned.
Bucky opened his mouth to say that no, he didn’t, but instead of words leaving his mouth, a loud gasp filled their place. He was spread under the night sky, writhing and completely losing himself to the feeling of Cap’s mouth around him.
In the end, Bucky supposed the wager was one that he was content with losing. Although losing was far from what he actually felt.
Chapter 17: A Fantasy No More
As much as Steve loved and cherished everything about the ocean, sand was the thing that cursed his soul. There was too much of it. Between creases it had no business being in, rubbing him the wrong way. Scratching at his skin. Even though he hadn’t taken off his clothes, it was everywhere.
It was different being under the large tent and as Steve shifted, he felt his back protest at the fact he’d fallen asleep on a light collection of pillows and blankets instead of the mattress of his bed. He’d chosen to leave that behind on the ship, not wanting his men to tire themselves out, in addition to not wanting to haul it back up.
No, instead, he’d chosen to pull the tables from the mess area as well as his desk chair, which were both off to the side. His goal had been to get as little off as they needed, but now with the muscles in his back aching, he thought that perhaps the mattress would have been wise to get. Then again, seeing the amused look on Bucky's face last night when they had entered the tent had certainly made it worthwhile, especially once Bucky lunged into the makeshift nest and curled into it, painting a picture too strong to refuse the invitation.
Thinking of Bucky had Steve's eyes immediately darting down to his side, finding the warmth bleeding into him. In only one of Steve’s too-big shirts, Bucky slept curled on his side with his back against Steve’s chest, Steve’s arm draped around his waist and holding him tightly. In his grasp, Bucky seems so incredibly small, vulnerable. As if all it would take was one strong squeeze and he’d break in half.
All the more reason for Steve to keep holding on.
The sides of the tent hung loose and flapped in the morning breeze, making Bucky’s long hair and the thin sheet covering them flutter in the gentle wind. The thin rays of sunlight trickled in through the gaps and there was a strip that highlighted the side of Bucky’s face, making his creamy skin glow. It was like sorcery had taken him by his heart, making the world go fuzzy apart from the young man in his arms.
It felt like a spell had been cast. Tying the two of them together. Just like the night before, when he had taken Bucky in the rain, an action so free and passionate that Steve knew he'd never lived a moment as happy as he'd been then. He’d do anything for Bucky; anything and everything to keep the joy in his life.
And that… that was a problem. Given the fact that Bucky was to be returned in two days, letting go was what Steve had to do. He'd known how they would part from the very beginning but now, the realization had his blood turning cold. What the fuck was the matter with him? How had he allowed himself to be ensnared by this young man? This-- This beautiful, kind, caring, free-spirited young man that was so innocent in the world they lived in.
The loud echo of the workday of the men hit his ears then. Things bustling about, yells of “Heave!” as the crew hauled the ship onto the shore line. They had left it on anchor the night before, choosing to row ashore and catch hours of sleep instead. But today there was a list of jobs that needed to be done, including the cursed barnacles that no one wanted to deal with.
Steve glanced at them as the tent flapped open, and he could see the lines of ropes attached to his ship. The men took turns pulling until eventually the ship rested against the sand. He should be out there with him, at least supervising, even lending a hand because it was hard work indeed. He had a job to do and it wasn’t to stay hidden away with their prisoner and ransom in his arms.
But did he care? No. Not one bit. Part of him wished the men would take the ship and leave him and Bucky here. He’d called the sea home for years but he knows it’s beaten him dry. It’s time for him to move on, find a new place to call home. Sam could take the ship over. He may not like it in the beginning, but it could surely grow on Sam, just like the years of isolation had grown on Steve. In return, wherever Steve would wind up, he’d grow to like that too.
Yet… as he listened to the steady rhythm of Bucky’s breath, his future seemed so full of possibility. Bucky could be his home. He could open his eyes to those stunning blue-grey orbs every morning, could go to sleep holding Bucky’s warm flesh, keeping him safe from everything and everyone. His days could be spent with Bucky, no longer worried about having to part ways because they would be each other’s homes, the place where they each belonged.
It was madness.
He shouldn’t care about anything but collecting the ransom in two days.
Tension ripped through his body, sending a shiver of fear down his spine. The men were growing restless. He had to stay on top of this otherwise they were going to overthrow him. Just last night he had overheard some of the crew, talking too loud thanks to the rum they guzzled on.
It had been that Rumlow character again, stirring up trouble with some of the lower men that Steve didn’t care too much for. They’d called him a fool. Even dared to believe that Steve was going to get them killed for nothing once Rumlow hinted at the idea that George Barnes might not even have the money to give. That possibility had automatically sent the men on edge and naturally, Bucky was brought up quickly after that.
“We all know the captain’s fucking the little lord,” one of the men had said, as Steve pressed himself behind a tree, straining to hear.
“Don’t blame him. The boy’s a sweet piece of ass that most of us would kill for. Say… you think we can convince the Captain to keep the boy alive instead? We could pass him around… put those lovely lips to work, sink ourselves into that tight hole. Bet he’s a slice of heaven, with how he’s gotten the Captain so worked up.”
“The boy did save Barton’s life. Maybe we could take him for work instead. I don’t think he’s so bad.”
Rumlow scoffed at that. “And lose our share of the ransom? If we don’t sell him back, then we make a slave outta him. He’s prime pickings. We could even sell him off at the harbors, let men have a go at a son of a rich governor of the Crown. They'd line up just for a taste. He’d make us richer than any ransom.”
“Nah. We’ve all seen how Captain looks at him. He’d have your balls chopped off if you even looked at the boy. Let alone lay a finger on him."
“I know… Captain’s not right about this. We all saw how he let the boy run down the beach. If our prisoner would’a ran off, then what?”
“He’s compromised,” Rumlow growled out. “You’ve all been listen’ to him for too long. I can see everything the rest of you can’t.”
“So what? You wan’a mutiny?”
“Cap’s treated us right all along. He ain’t deserve no mutiny. We could vote instead, like everything else.”
Rumlow laughed. “Or we tie him up and make him watch as we fuck the boy. Send him back to his papa all used up. Bruise that untouched flesh. Make him scream. That’d teach the little shit.”
There was a heavy silence at that, the men having gone quiet. Steve had stood behind the tree, feeling his gut clench painfully, the thought of what these men would do… The longer the silence stretched, the more vivid the images played out in his eyes-- Bucky shackled, Bucky bleeding and crying while Rumlow moved behind him, Bucky looking straight at Steve and begging for help when Steve couldn’t do a thing but watch.
Steve had at one point trusted his men’s loyalty but if some of them were willing to do that…
“You’re all mad fools,” a voice had cut in then, one Steve didn’t recognize. “Underestimate our Captain on your own time. I’m not risking my neck for this.”
When other men grunted in agreement, Steve had found that while the tightness of his throat didn’t go away, it certainly lessened and made the air flow into his lungs easier than before. He'd practically ran to his tent after that.
He’d never pretended that a pirate’s life was committed by angels. But he hadn’t deemed them cruel enough to have blackened souls. They could pretend all they wanted, but humanity had to be somewhere inside of them, even if only just a slither.
Steve tightened his arm around Bucky, the words of his crew echoing in his skull. He must have held on too tight because Bucky murmured and shifted in his sleep. What Steve wanted to do was storm onto the beach, draw out his sword and slice the rebellious men to pieces and feed them to the gulls. Leave their bodies out in the sun to rot and cause the insects to swarm and infest their insides. Especially Rumlow. Steve’s fingers twitched to grab Bucky’s dagger and put it to the wretched man’s tongue, cutting it straight from his mouth before feeding it to him.
But the truth of it… was that they were right. Steve’s thinking had become compromised by Bucky’s very soul. He’d remembered what it felt like to be human-- to have the soft, tender places of his heart and body be touched and fueled-- a feeling that he hadn’t had in so long, not since Artie so many years ago. He’d allowed Bucky to burrow beneath his hardened skin, and now he was latched on like an infection, coursing through Steve entirely.
Steve closed his eyes and let his lips brush the divots of Bucky’s spine, his heart fluttering as a content, gentle sigh left Bucky’s mouth. The front of the tent flapped wildly with a sudden gust of wind and as Steve looked out onto the beach, he spotted a group of men talking. Rumlow was with them. They glanced toward the tent and Steve couldn’t tell if they were able to see inside. If they did, their faces would certainly show it-- the disdain of seeing their captain hold their prisoner in his arms. But their expressions remained blank, revealing nothing.
It was all the reminder that Steve needed. He needed to put a stop to this. Bucky was the son of his worst enemy-- a man who had stolen everything from Steve. Bucky was the key to his revenge. Through Bucky, he would see that bastard of a man again, see the look of defeat on his old face, then rob them blind of their riches. George Barnes may have been rich at one point, but from what Bucky has said, they’ve lost more than Steve has ever seen. Paying up another ransom would devastate the Barnes family, making them just as dirt poor as Steve had once been.
That was what Bucky was to him. Nothing more. Nothing less.
With another flash of discomfort, Steve rolled away and grabbed his boots, tugging one on.
“Tell me you aren’t really going to wear those boots,” a tired voice croaked, stilling Steve's hands. “We’ll be on the beach all day. The men will still respect you, you know.”
Bucky still remained facing away from Steve, curled on his side and not able to witness what it was that Steve was actually doing. Lord. How did Bucky already know him so well? How had Steve allowed it to happen? He never, never should have dragged Bucky from his corner.
Steve bit hard into his cheek as he pulled on his other boot. In the scorching sun, the leather boots would be like ovens. He couldn’t not wear them now, otherwise Bucky would think he was listening to him.
He couldn’t allow anymore mishaps. Soon their exchange for the ransom would take place and Steve would never see him again. That was how it would be. Except… Bucky had talked about making a new life for himself. Maybe-
Bucky laughed softly, and from the corner of his eye, Steve watched as he pushed himself up and as Bucky opened his mouth to talk, suddenly he inhaled sharply.
Steve moved in an instant. He took hold of Bucky’s shoulders before he could think otherwise. “What? What is it?”
Bucky tried to shift away but the movement made him gasp and he leaned back onto his hands, squirming.
Steve understood immediately then. Without thinking, he reached forward and tugged the collar of Bucky’s shirt to the side, eyes widening in outrage as he took in the finger-shaped bruises. The guilt that washed over him then was staggering. It stabbed at his gut, made him feel like he was a monster. And even worse, if Bucky’s shoulders and neck were that bad, Steve could only imagine how sore Bucky’s ass was after what they had done.
Steve had been so rough. They hadn’t used oil and the sand had been everywhere. He had thought the rain had been enough but fuck , what had he done?
Before he could say a thing, Bucky was shaking his head. “No. It’s not your fault. I asked you to, remember? I wanted it.”
Steve could only stare. His mouth was open, useless with the words that wouldn’t form, and his eyes dipped from Bucky’s face, down to his neck, then the rest of his body that was hidden by the sheet. There was no telling where else Steve had marked Bucky’s flesh.
Steve cleared his throat. “Do you need the surgeon?”
Bucky grinned and once again, Steve was struck by how beautiful he was. So young, and full of life. “It’s just a few bruises. I’m pretty sure I’ll survive,” he said with a laugh.
With a goddamn laugh. As if he wasn’t littered in purple and yellow marks, as if those marks on his body didn’t identically match Steve’s hands. Steve, who had promised himself that he’d never hurt him.
“Are you sure it’s only bruising?” Steve asked. He hadn’t thought he’d been that rough last night, so if his own hands had done that amount of damage, what had his other body parts done? He may have ripped Bucky open and he’d have never known. The rain last night would have washed away any blood before his eyes could see it in the darkness.
Bucky shifted once more and the smile on his face grew. “I believe so, yes. I’ll tell you otherwise.”
Steve didn’t know if he believed him entirely. He didn’t doubt that Bucky would hide his pain, just to sate Steve’s worry. Little did Bucky know that worry was all Steve did around him. So of course he frowned, and crossed his arms over his chest. He had half the mind to call for Falsworth anyway even though that would mean the good doctor would look at Bucky naked and examine him fully.
But before Steve could do anything, Bucky was reaching out and placed his hand on Steve’s forearm. Bucky’s thumb stroked against the skin there. “Don’t worry,” Bucky said.
It was just too much to take. There was too much familiarity in this, like it was just another morning that they had spent hundreds of together. As if they were in another life altogether, where pirates didn’t exist and a ransom didn’t hang over their heads.
Steve shook him off and jumped to his feet in the stupid fucking boots, almost losing his balance on the sand. “I’m not worried. But I can’t return you to your father with too many bruises.”
Infuriatingly, Bucky gave him another smile. “Then perhaps you don’t have to return me at all. We could—”
“Captain!” Sam stood just outside the tent. “If you’re ready to start the day, there are a few matters at hand.”
Without glancing back at Bucky, Steve strode out and walked toward Sam’s awaiting figure, well out of earshot of the tent. As he met Sam, he squared his shoulders, standing straight up. “Yes?”
Sam let out a long breath, his lips pressed into a thin line. “Well, Captain, I just want to make sure you’re ready for this. Make sure you’re heads on straight. Because the crew is starting to wonder.”
It was then that he was truly aware of the rest of the crew’s eyes on them all across the beach. He could practically see Rumlow sneering, having planted the seeds of doubts in the other men.
“If the men want to elect a new captain, let them,” he said, keeping his tone strong and even.
Sam rolled his eyes. “What on earth are you talking about?”
He met Sam head on. He didn’t look toward any of the crew. “Maybe it’s for the best. I’ve told you before. I could just… move on.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake, Captain. I know you’ve wanted something more in life but I know you and I know there’s no possible way you’d be happy anywhere else. Where are you gonna go? One of the English colonies and suffer that shitstorm tyranny? Would you really go back to that? After everything they’ve done to you? You’re a wanted man in the New World and the old one.”
Steve swallowed. His tongue felt incredibly thick in his mouth. “I’m sure there’s a way to make a life out of England’s reach. A Spanish island? The French? Or somewhere new entirely, I don’t much care where. It won’t be easy but…” Steve fumbled for a second, not knowing quite what else to say. But then he felt a wave of disbelief flow through him. “Why the fuck shouldn’t I try? Why can’t I live in a house of my own on flat land? With a lover at my side? Why must I have to live like this constantly? Having a constant struggle just to survive for the next day.”
Sam’s eyes narrowed. “Please don’t tell me that you’re dreaming about that boy.”
Seeing that look on Sam’s face unleashed a fury inside of Steve. How dare he. It was Steve’s business and if it revolved around Bucky, then so be it, but Sam had no right to put his own opinion into the mix. If Steve wanted to grab Bucky and take them far, far away from anyone, then he could-- he didn’t need Sam’s permission of all people. They were going to get their fucking ransom and then what? Steve would be living days wasting away once again, commanding a ship with a lonely bed and an empty heart. The ache of loneliness would consume him again and he’d hurt but he’d be expected to suck it up and be a man, be the hard, notorious captain of The Fallen Eagle.
His emotions must have shown on his face because Sam lifted his hands in surrender, shaking his head in sad disappointment. Something shifted in his black eyes, something that was much too soft for an expression for Sam to have. “Do you really think he’d want this life with you? Once he’s back in his civilized life, a castle for a house, with pretty girls and hot baths ready at the snap of his fingers, a five-course meal every day of his life? Do you really, honestly think that Barnes’ son would give up a life of luxury and wealth just for you?”
Steve wanted to scream. He wanted to shout ‘Yes!’ at the top of his lungs because Bucky wasn’t the young, spoiled brat that Sam portrayed. Bucky didn’t care about wealth and he most definitely didn’t care about the girls. Steve had never heard him complain once about the lack-luster food on the ship nor the tight-space of the cabin. Bucky wanted to run, not be coped up in some stupid house. He was more than that. And he wanted Steve. Just as Steve wanted him. He just had to tell Sam as much.
“He doesn’t want that,” he said, his voice firm. “He said--”
“He said whatever it was that you wanted to hear and it worked,” Sam whispered. The sympathy in his black eyes was the worst thing Steve had ever seen, making his insides go cold as the doubt started to trickle in. “He’s a clever boy, Captain. He’s kept himself not only alive but in the comfiest spot imaginable. Untouched. Looked over as if a lover. Granted far more freedom than any prison anyone has ever heard of.”
On that beach, under the harsh rays of the sun, Steve was starting to fall apart at the edges. The logic in Sam’s words was too strong to ignore. He was being laid bare and slowly, he was coming undone, the desire too strong to go back to the tent and grab Bucky and ignore all of this.
But his boots stayed rooted in the sand. Stuck. Just like his thoughts and his very own heart.
“You remember what you told us the night we captured him?” Sam asked. “Don’t be taken by him, is what you said. Not to be ensnared.” Sam shook his head, sighing. “I see the way you look at him. I know that whatever you feel is strong and it may be too late but… but you need to think back to your own words, Captain. I’m begging you. And if you actually do care for him, let him have his privileged life.”
Something jarred inside of him. He wanted to argue against Sam but when his mouth opened, it snapped shut again.
Sam jumped at the opportunity to continue, paying no mind to the sorrow that plagued Steve's soul. “He’s young. Still a boy. He was caught up in the adventure of it all. It was nothing but a fantasy for you both. Don’t do this to yourself Captain. He has his whole life in front of him. Can you truly offer anything better? Think about it. We’re thieves. Killers.”
Fury took over him once again. “Because Barnes cheated us! He made us into this!”
“Yes, he did!” Sam agreed, raising his voice to meet Steve’s. It was a bold move, and if Sam hadn’t thought he was right, he wouldn’t have dared. “And we embraced it. We stole and we killed. We became the pirates they wanted us to be. Yes there are those worse than us but don’t fool yourself into thinking you are anything other than what you are.”
It felt as if he had been stabbed and Sam was holding the dagger. Steve tried to jerk away as Sam gently clasped his arm, holding him back, keeping him anchored to the shore and away from the life he’d tried to live in the tent.
“You’ll forget about him soon enough and these thoughts will pass,” Sam nodded his head. As if he was trying to convince himself as much as he was to Steve. “Barnes will do the same.”
With another pat to Steve’s shoulder, Sam turned around and rejoined the crew. Steve watched every step he took, too frozen to move. Because Sam was right. Steve didn’t deserve Bucky or the promise of a peaceful lifestyle that having a lover like him could bring. Bucky was too pure and beautiful, and he deserved better than a pirate with too much blood on his hands.
Steve had known from the beginning but he had let himself believe in the fantasy that they had constructed, refusing to see their relationship for what it actually was. Choosing to be ignorant was one thing, but having to turn Bucky away forever was another. His heart pounded in his ears, unforgiving on his body.
He had lived in the fantasies for too long, gotten himself in too deep, and now it was time to return to normalcy of his life. A life without Bucky.
Steve steeled himself. He cast one last glance toward the awaiting horizon, knowing the next time he took to the sea, it was to return Bucky to his family, received his ransom, and never see the pure soul again. The image of the sea had always brought peace to him before, but now, it burned to look at.
Not being able to bare the sight any longer, Steve turned away and made his way back to the tent. He pushed the flaps of the entrance to the side and went straight to his belongings. With his back to their makeshift bed, Steve tucked his shirt into his trousers and snatched up his belt. He had to clamp down on his jaw as he heard Bucky roll to his knees. Moving at a pace that was tremendously slower than Bucky usually moved. It only reminded Steve just how cruel he had been to Bucky the night before, no matter if he had asked for it or not.
“Can I help with the barnacles?”
Keeping his eyes anywhere but on Bucky, Steve shook his head. “No. You’ll be staying here.”
“Inside the tent? But—”
Steve rounded on him then, feeling so much anger rise inside of him. He still couldn’t find the will to meet Bucky’s eyes. “But nothing,” he snapped. “You are the prisoner, and you will fucking stay where I tell you to. I’m the one in charge.” His words had to be strong, fury-laced, otherwise Bucky wouldn’t listen. “I’ve let you have your way but now, it’s at an end. You’ll be returned to your bastard of a father soon enough, and then, I’ll be rich.”
The silence that settled was staggering. Steve swore Bucky would be able to hear his heart pounding, the sound of his blood rushing in his ears, but he didn’t say anything. It seemed like he too was frozen in shock. Disbelief.
But then Bucky cleared his throat and when he spoke, there was a tremor in his voice. “What did
Sam say to you? What’s changed so suddenly?”
“Nothing has changed.” Steve answered, reaching for his rings and forcing them down over his knuckles. Anything but having to look at Bucky. “This has always been the reality of the situation and it will be over soon. You’ll live your days on Brookstein Isle and I’ll stay with my men, wrecking anything that comes in our path.”
“I know…” Bucky’s voice was so soft that Steve almost hadn’t heard him. When he spoke again, his tone was stronger but more hoarse. More desperate. “But until then, we can still have this between us. It doesn’t need to end yet.”
“There is nothing between us.”
Without even looking, he could feel how Bucky pulled away from him. He seemed to draw in on himself, taking his warmth and serenity with him. “But… last night, we…”
With jerky motions, Steve attached his sword to his belt, violently pushing away the memories of the night before-- of Bucky’s cries of pleasure, the heat of his body as Steve sank into him, the cool rain against their skin. A slice of heaven that they would never have again.
“We fucked,” he spat. “I stuck my cock inside of you and that was it. I’m a pirate captain and you are our prize. I’ve enjoyed fucking your virgin ass but it was only because I knew how it would horrify your father. But now I’ve grown tired of it. You’re used up now. I look at you, and I feel nothing but the thrill of seeing the look of your father’s face when he hands me the ransom.”
“You… you don’t mean that.”
“Do not tell me what I mean!” he roared. He knew the men could hear and for some reason, that only fueled the fire brewing inside of him. As he shoved his pistol into it’s holster, he ignored how his hand was trembling. This conversation had to end otherwise his resolve would crumble not far after. He may be many things, but a man crying and shaking was not something he could afford to be.
He had already stabbed the knife into Bucky’s heart, but he needed to twist it even further. Worsening the damage until it was irreparable.
“I must say that I anticipate telling your father of all the filthy things you’ve said and done. How you begged for my cock. What a whore you are. Maybe then he won’t force you to marry your betrothed. Can’t have a nice lady belonging to a sodomite, remember?”
Bucky sucked in a breath and the gutted sound of it had Steve’s eyes seeking him out. His bluegrey eyes were watery now and he was shaking, his hands being wrung together in front of him. This wasn’t the Bucky he knew. But it was the Bucky that he created. That pain on his face was from Steve. No one else.
“You wouldn’t,” he whispered.
He laughed. It was an ugly, hard sound that he couldn’t recognize. “Wouldn’t I? This is about revenge, Buck-- Buachaill. Nothing more. If you thought anything more between us, then you have no one to blame but yourself. I’m a pirate, or do you not remember that?” Without a second of hesitation, he reached out and shoved Bucky backward, making him fall into the nest they had built. Bucky went easily enough but he didn’t tear his eyes away from Steve’s. No, those watery orbs kept staring into Steve’s soul, so confused and hurt that Steve couldn’t bear to look at him anymore.
On the floor now, Bucky looked up at him. “Please, just tell me what I’ve done. Let me explain or- or apologize-- or something. I don’t understand what changed so suddenly.”
Steve stepped forward but didn’t dare touch the bed, where the last remnants of what they had still showed. Instead, he looked down from his full height, sneer firmly in place as he locked eyes with Bucky. “Then perhaps you are an imbecile after all.”
With that, he spun around and stomped from the tent. His boots sank into the sand and as he got farther and farther from the tent, from Bucky, he stared hard into the horizon before him. He stared until his eyes hurt but even then, he couldn’t forget the sight of Bucky’s mouth opening in shock, or the undeniable hurt that tainted his beautiful face. And why? Because Steve had caused that.
He’d twisted the knife and pulled Bucky’s heart straight from his chest.
Chapter 18: Seeking Heaven
Apologies for the long wait!
I am going to try my best to update this story every Monday.
*** Trigger Warnings:
Bucky has thoughts regarding suicide and makes some hasty decisions. ***
Hurt couldn’t begin to describe the pain that churned in Bucky’s gut. It felt like poison, like it was the cruelest concoction that had been pumped into his system and now it was bubbling into his blood, making everything ache. He’d been cut so deeply. Once, he’d welcomed the bruises that Cap gave him, evidence of the passion and truth they shared, but now… Cap’s sudden reversal left his very soul battered and something hollow was all that remained.
Bucky brought his hand up and clamped it over his mouth to stop the sounds he knew were coming. He did it just in time before an awful sob could spill from his lips, his tears falling suddenly and with the strength of the very waves of the ocean.
It felt like his heart was breaking. To try and hold himself together, Bucky brought his knees up and shoved them into his chest. The shift in his movement caused him to wince when the tenderness of his ass demanded to be felt again. He was mortified when he remembered the night prior… when it had been so different… when their fucking hadn’t felt like fucking at all.
But no. That’s what it had been-- that’s all it had ever been and now, it was no more. He’d been used then tossed to the side and-- and that was that.
His hand didn’t move from his mouth when he lowered his forehead to rest against his knees. His other arm wrapped itself around his shins and he held on tight, fearing that if he let go, he’d fall apart.
In truth, he wanted nothing more than to fall onto his side and sleep. He felt exhausted, mentally and physically, but he couldn’t bear the thought of Cap coming back in and seeing him as he was. Broken. Defeated.
But it didn’t really matter, did it? Cap didn’t care. He never had. In the beginning, Bucky knew the relationship with Cap was nothing more than the two of them chasing pleasure with one another but he had been blindly ignorant. While emotions had formed inside of himself, Cap had stayed poised and unaffected. The true pirate king had stood right before Bucky’s very eyes and he had been oblivious to it all.
Bucky had hated him at the start, hadn’t he? He had cowered. He had felt the punishing grip of Cap’s hand on his throat. Yet, he had forgotten.
He’d also forgotten how easily it could be to pretend, too.
Cap was stellar at it. He’d made Bucky feel as if they were the only souls left on the planet. They’d talked. Confessed truths that Bucky wouldn’t dare whisper to another. Cap had cradled him in his arms when he could have just let him be. Cap had shown him those beautiful smiles. Thinking about them now only caused Bucky’s eyes to burn.
Because the truth had been laid out. Bucky had been putty in his very hands, molded in ways that no one had ever had the chance to do. He’d given all of the power to Cap and had been glad to do so. Just for a touch… just for the fleeting belief that nothing was wrong with him and that he could have happiness just as anyone else.
If only he had continued baring that hate…
He didn’t know how much time had passed but he kept listening to the flaps of the tent flutter in the winds and the strong chorus of the men working throughout the day. When he would catch the thunder of Cap’s commands echoed across the sand, he’d turn his head and peek through the flaps and he’d see the crew share looks before frantically scurrying to obey. He’d trail Cap’s movements as he marched around in those boots while everyone else trotted around in bare feet.
And all the meanwhile, Bucky stayed there in his spot, wrapped up only in himself. He’s stopped crying but only because he had no more tears left to give; the ache was still there and he couldn’t stop trembling, no matter how hard he tried.
Around the peak of noon, Barton brought him water, fresh-cooked fish, and fruit that should have made Bucky perk up in delight. At least he’d been done crying even though his head felt awfully stuffy and the skin beneath his eyes felt raw.
He thanked Barton, nonetheless, and when he pulled the plate onto his lap, he made no move to do anything. It was when the seconds drifted by and Barton showed no sign of moving, that Bucky lifted his head up.
There was a frown on Barton’s face and he was fiddling with the hem of his unbuttoned shirt. He wasn’t as young as Bucky but he also wasn’t as old as some of the crew. Maybe somewhere around Cap’s age.
“Something happen with you and the captain? Must’a been something big if it’s got him so mad and he stuck you in here.”
Bucky shrugged despite his shoulder's protest. He was unable to keep the bitterness from his tone. “He saw it fit to remind me that I am just a prisoner. I suppose I’d gotten a bit... carried away,” he answered, biting into his cheek. That was the truth, wasn't it?
“Well,” Barton sighed. “I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Soon this’ll all be over and you’ll be home safe and sound.” He gave Bucky a smile and Bucky tried to return it but two words kept echoing inside his skull.
It was a joke to hear. He had no home, and the only safety he had ever felt was in Cap’s arms. All of the hate that should have been directed at Cap was directed in only one direction now-- at himself .
He’d been so stupid . Then again, he’d always been stupid but it just happened that now was the only time it’d been so stark. What had he expected, to go riding off with Cap into the sunset together? He didn’t even know Cap’s real name. Because Cap didn’t want him to know. He’d never wanted to share with Bucky when all Bucky did was spill his secrets. The evidence had always been there, clear as day for Bucky to see.
Bucky jolted when Barton clasped his arm and moved to sit down beside him. “I know you don’t really have any reason to trust me, but truly, I’ll do everything I can to get you to your home safely.”
He supposed that if there really was anyone here that he could spare a slither of trust to, it would be Barton. Pirate or not, this man owed a debt to Bucky.
This time, when Bucky smiled at him it felt real.
“And where is your home, Mr. Barton? Off of the ship.”
“Call me Clint.” Then, he shrugged and the look on his face turned distant. “I’m from Brighton. It’s been about ten years since I went back. Had a wife… two kids. They died when a fever swept through. I only had two options after that.”
While an apology was something that Bucky wanted to offer, Clint didn’t seem like the type of man who wanted pity, no matter how deserving his situation was. So Bucky steered clear and asked instead, “What were the two options?”
“Leaving and never lookin' back or suicide.” Bucky’s eyes must have widened or something on his face gave him away. Clint regarded him before he took a deep breath in and out. “I know they always say offing yourself is never the answer but… I was in a dark place for a long time, y’know? Sometimes I couldn’t even get outta bed. The way I saw it was that if I killed myself, I’d get to be with ‘em again. Heaven and happiness and all that. Besides, what’s the point of livin’ life if you don’t get to be happy?”
Suddenly, Bucky’s throat felt tight. He had to look away from the vulnerability on Clint’s face and stabbed his fork into the fruit, watching the juice bleed out.
“For a while I thought I was gonna do it,” Clint continued on. “Planned to walk right into the beach and never get back up for air. Even thought about taking a slice to the wrists, let me just bleed out until I passed out. Something easy… something peaceful. When I eventually tried, I couldn’t do it. Had a blade in my hand and everything. Just kinda… snapped out of it, I guess?”
Bucky pushed the food around on his plate, deep in thought with his brows furrowed. “You think it would be easy?”
“Anything is easier than livin’ life miserable,” Clint said, like it was that simple. Alive and well one moment, dead at your own hands in the next. “Joining the crew made it better. Sometimes I still have my days but for the moment… I’m okay.”
Bucky had to look at Clint then. Clint wasn’t smiling but he wasn’t frowning either, more like some expression in between.
“Sometimes I think you gotta be facing the sudden end of your life to realize what you have even if it doesn’t seem that grand. It just…”
“Has an effect,” Bucky finished for him.
Clint took another deep breath. “Yeah, it does.”
Bucky wished there was something he could say but he didn’t think words could do any of this justice. Instead, he reached out and took a hold of Clint’s shoulder gently.
But suddenly the flaps of the tent were shoved open. “What the fuck is this?” Cap roared, storming inside and reaching for his pistol.
Before Bucky could so much as blink, Clint was leaping to his feet so quickly that he almost toppled over. He backed away with hands raised. “Nothing, Captain. I swear. Just brought him some food.”
The muscles in Cap’s jaw were working in overtime. Between gritted teeth, Cap ordered, “Get. Out.”
In an instant, Clint was leaving Bucky behind and once again, the tent flaps snapped shut. And then, it was just them.
Cap was standing in front of him with his thick arms folded against his chest. His eyes were burning brighter than ever. With fury , Bucky supplied.
“Just because I’m done with you, you try to turn my own men against me? Is that what you’re trying to do?”
“Why would you ask me that?” Bucky asked without looking up. “Is that not what whores do?”
For a long moment, neither of them spoke. The silence was almost as thick as the humidity of the sea mist and it sat heavy between them, daunting. Bucky didn’t look toward Cap and he had the feeling that Cap wasn’t looking at him either. Afterall, why would he?
“You were just a hole to fuck.”
That’s all it had ever been. Nothing more, nothing less. The truth was, that he had been a whore, the way he had offered himself up to Cap. It had only been natural that Cap took him up on the offer.
His thoughts get broken when Cap moves back toward the entrance of the tent. He was leaving and for once, Bucky was immensely glad because of it. “It would be wise for you to not waste that food,” Cap said, breaking the silence. It wasn’t the harshness he’d spoken with earlier but Bucky wouldn’t dare to think of it in any other way.
He only dipped his chin and watched through the strands of hair covering his eyes as Cap left. The tears came again and this time they wracked through his body unforgivingly. He had to place his plate off to the side as his arms wrapped themselves around him once again.
The image of those burning eyes seared itself into Bucky’s memory. So much hate. Tethering fury. The look was unmistakable and the implication was there. Cap had thought-- what ? That Bucky would pounce on the next man in sight? How had he ever given Cap the impression that he would throw himself that quickly to someone else? How had it all spiraled out of control so quickly, so harshly?
Bucky let himself fall into the nest of blankets. He inhaled deeply despite himself once his face was buried in the collection. He’d become familiar to Cap’s smell-- a woody scent with salt that clung to his skin from the ocean. Bucky even knew the sounds he made-- low grunts and groans, but also small sighs when he thought Bucky was sleeping. But above all, Bucky’d become dependent on the touch of Cap’s callused hands on his body. The wonderful fullness and power of Cap’s cock entering him and reaching places no one had ever before. How the roughness of Cap’s fingertips sometimes feathered over Bucky’s skin with such an impossibly soft touch.
Thinking about it now… Bucky supposed it could have all been a set up. Perhaps Cap had planned this from the moment he stole Bucky from the Proud Victoria. Ever since he’d learned of Bucky’s parentage, he’d been fueled by nothing but revenge.
He’d never gotten familiar with Bucky the way Bucky had become with him. He didn’t experience a pulse of desire simply from scent alone. He didn’t crave to pull back the layers of Bucky’s exterior just to get to his soul and wiggle into the spot where soft smiles and laughter lived. Bucky wanted to hold and be held, to share warmth in cold winters, to keep listening to the deep comfort of Cap’s voice as he read aloud. Cap didn’t want to create a home together… not like Bucky had.
Cap didn’t realize that he’d seen a part of Bucky that never existed until the two were in each other's presence. He didn’t realize he was the only one to know Bucky’s secrets… or… or maybe he did realize and that’s why Cap now threatened to reveal them. What Cap wanted, was to see the horror on George’s face.
When the truth would be revealed, there was no doubt in Bucky’s mind that his life would be over. The beating that he would get… The shame he would bring to his family.
Brookstein Isle would never be home. If he had the chance, he would leave but if his life felt restricted now, he couldn’t imagine what would be done if his father knew how broken and-- and disgusting he was. He’d probably never see the light of day again, and he certainly wouldn’t be given the small slice of freedom he once had.
“...what’s the point of livin’ life if you don’t get to be happy?”
Clint’s words echoed through his ears and once again, the truth in them was so clear. Too clear. He’s never been truly happy, not until he found his way into Cap’s arms. But now that it’s gone, this hollowness inside of him is too bitter to keep. If he would miss anyone, it would be Rebecca but that could all change if she knew the truth in the things he’d done. The sins, the dishonor.
Cap once told him that there was no dishonor in their passion but now that he threatened to shame him for it, Bucky couldn’t help but believe that perhaps it was another one of his acts. It was humiliating to think that Cap had a laugh but it would be even more humiliating when his family would learn of his foolery.
Another sob got caught in Bucky’s throat. He couldn’t hide the pleasure he found when Cap had opened him up and no one-- not his father, not Cap-- would strip him of the fulfillment he’d found. He’d found his harmony and he wouldn’t give it up, wouldn’t deny himself. He wouldn't dare.
Maybe… maybe he just wasn’t meant for this world. Maybe his happiness could only be captured somewhere where sins didn’t exist. Maybe what Clint said, is the only way Bucky will ever be freed of the loathing he feels.
He may not be the most heavenly man, but he doesn’t believe God would disown him just because of a slight blimp in his making. God would feel his shame and sorrow and God would let him live in that somewhere away from here. Heaven is the only place where no one could judge him or shame him for what he’s done.
Bucky just had to get there. He had to get himself there.
Blindly, Bucky reached for his dagger that Cap had allowed for him to bring to shore. He kept it clasped in his hand, staring at the pointed tip while he could hear the bustling work of the men repair the hull.
If anyone would mourn for him, it would be his sisters. Elizabeth would probably cry for a few days, but Becca would take it harder. Years would pass and perhaps they would think about him every few months. Maybe. Possibly.
His father would be angry that Bucky wasted all of his own lifelong dreams. The Barnes legacy would die off with him and to his father, that would be the biggest, most damning tragedy of all.
Then, maybe, in heaven, he’d finally get to meet his mother. He’d stared at her painting for hours on end back at Shelbington Estate. He’d sit criss-crossed on the floor, staring above the mantel at the kind eyes, wondering what it would be like to hear her voice, to feel her arms around him. She had always seemed so sweet, motherly in every form of affection. He doesn’t think she would care about his sins. When he’d walk through the pearly gates, he hoped she would be the first face he saw.
The only other significant role in his life had been Cap. A lifelong worth of memories piled up meant almost nothing in the short time he spent with the man. It was amazing how one person could have transformed him as powerfully as Cap had, but no matter how hard Bucky tried to shove them aside, he couldn’t destroy the hope that perhaps in his final moments, Cap would at least have devastation on his face. If it truly had been an act, Bucky would have his proof right then and there, and he could leave this world knowing the truth.
The thought of dying was terrifying but the knowledge of what his father would do was even worse. Dying would be a blessing in comparison.
His grip on the dagger tightened. He would find his peace. He would find his happiness.
It was dark when Bucky finally picked himself up. By then, the handle of the dagger had been molded into his palm and the energy that powered his body felt like a mere ember of a burnt out flame.
He couldn’t take it anymore and with night, would come morning and that was his deadline. He didn’t want to reach that deadline.
The moon was high in the sky now, and while many of the men were asleep, others were drinking their rum around the fire. Clutching onto his dagger, Bucky took a deep breath before creeping from the tent. He didn’t dare to even breath as he tiptoed across the beach. He’d made all but three steps when Cap’s voice boomed out. “Where the hell do you think you’re going? Get back in the tent. Now .”
Bucky froze on the spot. He’d been so quiet… There was no way Cap would have heard him leave unless Cap had been watching. But Bucky couldn’t dwell.
Heart thumping, Bucky watched as Cap marched toward him, lips in a thin line. The eyes of the crew were stuck on them.
“I just needed some air,” Bucky spoke, trying to ignore the shake in his voice. In the firelight, Cap’s face was hard as granite, his fists clenched at his sides.
“I told you to stay in that tent. I will not allow this.”
He could go back. He should go back.
But he didn’t want to.
Bucy waited until Cap was almost in reach and then he spun on his heel and did the best thing he knew how: he ran.
Cap’s curses exploded in the night as Bucky sprinted away, barely catching Cap's command for the men to stay put. For the first time that day, Bucky felt a laugh bubble up, wild and manic as he let the wind breeze through his hair, knowing Cap could never outrun him-- especially in those boots.
It felt like no time at all when Bucky reached the end of the island. His lungs were burning, heart pumping, dagger in his grip, and he felt powerful. Alive. Unbroken . At the end, the sand broke away and a pile of sharp rocks and boulders towered over Bucky’s head, stretching high into the night sky.
He didn’t wait for Cap and he certainly didn’t want to do it on the shoreline just so Cap could come ruining everything, so he shoved the handle of the dagger between his teeth and climbed up. He went up quickly, yet carefully, and when he reached the top he had to dig his fingers into the cliffside to haul himself over the ledge.
He rolled onto his back, released the dagger from his mouth, and stilled for a second, staring up at the twinkling night sky as he calmed himself. His heart was racing, pounding, and it was for too many reasons to list.
Bucky sat up and looked around. He was in a clearing of some sort, where the cliffside gave a clear view of the ocean that reflected the moon amongst its surface. The glint over the waves was just as strong and bleak as the blade of the dagger in his hand.
Away from it all, it was easy to forget that he wasn’t living a perfect life. Out here, alone, it seemed like nothing could possibly matter when faced with the massiveness of the world. He felt small but it was all the reminder that he needed that just because he wanted to leave, the world would keep going, keep turning, and he would be happy. He didn’t know what it would feel like to slip away but out here, under the stars, with nothing but the sound of the rushing waves, it seemed like the perfect spot if there ever was one.
Bucky thickly swallowed. He raised the dagger up and brought it to the delicate skin of his wrist. Instead of pressing it in, however, he let it sit there and he stared. He stared hard. One minute passed, then two, then three.
Until. “What’s a pretty thing like you doing all by yourself at this hour?” a slurred, rough voice came from over Bucky’s shoulder. Instantly he knew it wasn’t Cap, and when he jolted, peering behind himself, he balked when he watched Rumlow emerge from the shadows. In the faint light of the stars, they stared at each other and he watched as Rumlow’s gaze dropped to the dagger. Dark brows raised up. “Careful there. Y’know what you’re playing with?”
Words couldn’t form in his mouth. He was frozen and even more importantly, he was trapped against the cliffside with nowhere to go. If he wanted to get away, he’d have to get past Rumlow unless he wanted to take a dive dozens and dozens of meters into the rough water below.
Rumlow must have seen Bucky’s gaze calculate his escape routes because suddenly, he was stalking forward. “I know you’ve been with the captain… I could be better, give you the things you really want.”
Even with the scant space between them, Bucky was nearly blown over with the smell of alcohol lingering on the man. The eyes of an animal we're locked on him, black and cruel, and Bucky knew he needed to get away. And fast, too.
“He’s waiting for me,” Bucky whispered and he tried to rush to the side but harsh hands instantly locked around his arm, stopping him and shoving him back to the ground. The dagger cluttered to the floor and before he could do anything more, a hard, hot body was dropping on top of him.
Hands that were too rough pinned him down and once again, the stink of alcohol fanned over him, choking his air. “Cap don’t want you anymore, pretty,” Rumlow gruffed and then he started rubbing against Bucky, groaning right in his ear. “Heard ‘em this morning. Everyon’ did.”
Bucky tried to scramble free but Rumlow managed to shove his legs between Bucky’s and forced them open. Rumlow was nothing in size compared to Cap but he still overpowered Bucky easily, having at least fifty pounds on him.
“P-please--” Bucky attempted to shove at Rumlow’s shoulders but the man only forced Bucky’s neck to the side and licked against his flesh. It was hot, sticky, and oh so wrong. Rumlow's hips were tilted forward and he ground down hard, and it was then that the panic gripped Bucky by his throat as one of Rumlow’s hands snaked between their bodies and his fingers curled against the inside of Bucky’s thigh.
“No. No , stop!”
Rumlow’s other hand clamped down hard over Bucky’s mouth and instantly, he tasted blood, feeling his lip split. “Bet you’re as sweet as you taste… gonna fuck you until you finally say my name. You better give me the fucking--”
Bucky clamped down on Rumlow’s palm. With a jerk, Rumlow pulled back and he howled in pain but the split second of Rumlow’s distraction was all that Bucky needed. Frantically, he grasped the dagger once more and just as he let himself feel just slightly relieved at having a weapon, he was falling.
It happened too fast for him to process. One moment he’d been clutching the dagger in his hand and the other, in his drunken state, Rumlow had clasped onto Bucky’s shoulder and they went toppling to the side. They fell from the ledge that Bucky had come from and while the boulders and rocks were abundantly present, so was the small patch of clearing that they crashed onto.
Bucky’s lungs seized with the impact. His mouth opened as he tried to gulp air that wouldn’t come. He and Rumlow were a tangle of limbs but on his back, Bucky felt as if he was still at the disadvantage. Especially once Rumlow managed to catch his breath.
Rumlow erupted. With a furious growl, the man sent a blow straight into Bucky’s face. Bucky’s head knocked back with the hit and blood streamed from his nose, warm against the night chill. They grappled but with Rumlow on top of him, it was a losing battle.
When the man’s blunt fingers closed around Bucky’s neck, that’s when the turn of events finally registered, sending his body fully into survival mode.
Because he didn’t want to die. He didn’t!
Bucky kicked madly, striking stone with his bare feet and trying everything to shift off Rumlow’s weight. He dug his fingernails into the flesh of Rumlow’s wrists when white stars started bursting in the darkness. The man was just too strong, his hands impossible to pry free from Bucky’s throat, not enough space to get a knee up or to twist or anything.
Unlike Barton, Bucky was given only one choice.
In a flash, Bucky changed his grip on the dagger and stabbed upward, just like Cap taught him. Rumlow howled as his flesh was impaled. Then his shriek trailed into a gurgle as Bucky jammed the blade into the man’s neck. Just as he tried to pull it out, the blood pouring from the wound made the knife slip and it’s tip further slashed across Rumlow’s throat.
The blood spurted over Bucky’s face and he clamped his mouth shut and turned his head to the side, feeling the mist spray over his neck and cheek instead. Rumlow’s hands went straight to the slash, trying to stop the stream of unrelenting tides that spewed between his fingertips.
But it was no use. Full blown terror shone in Rumlow's eyes as he locked onto Bucky and didn't relent. It was horrifying watching life and agony slip through the man’s gaze.
Seconds passed until finally, Rumlow dropped forward and the gurgled sounds ceased. Bucky was too in shock to do anything but lie there. His wide-eyes stared into the sky, so different than he had been only moments before. It had all happened so fast-- too fast-- and just as quickly as the assault started, it ended, too. He stayed on his back, heaving beneath Rumlow’s weight, and all the meanwhile, the dagger stayed clutched tightly in his hand.
The world could have been swallowed up and laying there, he would have never known. His thoughts were too far-- too in shock-- and he refused to look anywhere but the sky. He was shaking, petrified, but he couldn’t find the nerve to move the man on top of him.
A voice breaking the silence had him jumping back into action.
“Where the hell did you go?” Cap shouted from somewhere below.
Bucky clenched his eyes shut before he shoved at the man he’d just killed, desperate to escape. He managed to haul himself up on shaking legs before making his way down, finding all the hand and footholds on the boulders that he’d used on his way up. The taste of blood was strong in his mouth and just as he reached the last level of rocks, he could finally see Cap’s outline in the dark.
Cap’s chest was heaving, steel in his voice as he said, “I don’t know what the fuck you think you’re doing but--” He stopped and stared, inhaling so sharply that he jolted with it. Confusion washed across Cap’s face.
In that moment, Bucky didn’t care-- not about any of it. He scrambled down from the rocks and ran straight toward Cap, who met him halfway, bafflement replaced with urgency. Strong hands grabbed for Bucky, eyes wild as they took him in.
Cap shook his head, his mouth parted in shock. “How?” he asked as he passed his hands over Bucky’s head, arms, and chest, then took hold of Bucky’s stained cheeks. “Where-- where are you hurt?”
Bucky reached up to wipe at the blood on his face, shaking his head. “I-I killed him. Rumlow. He-- he--” Bucky couldn’t hold it in any longer. His cries came and instead of hiding them, he let them run free.
One swift pull and Bucky was tugged into Cap's chest. His hands were still patting over every place he could reach, still checking for injuries. Bucky’s ear was pressed directly over Cap’s heart and he could hear it pounding too, both of their organs in sync.
“He was going to kill me, but I didn’t let him. He tried-- I had to,” Bucky said between his shuddering breaths, his ribs aching now that the adrenalin had started to wear off. His fingers were curled tight into Cap’s shirt.
“Where is he?”
Wordlessly, Bucky pointed toward the small lip in the rocks where he knew Rumlow would be. It wasn’t a moment later that Cap slowly eased him down onto a log nearby.
“I’ll be right back,” Cap whispered against his ear, his hands brushing down Bucky’s hair made wild by the breeze.
All Bucky could do was nod his head and with one last lingering look, Cap took toward the stones. Bucky didn’t watch him. Instead, his gaze stayed glued on the waves rushing up the shore, only to recede seconds later. In, then out, in, then out; Bucky breathed with the pattern.
Before he saw Cap, he could hear him returning as the boots dug into the sand, marking his footsteps. When he finally stood in front of Bucky, instantly, he dropped down to his knees. Their eyes locked and Bucky could see something so devastated in them. Taking Bucky’s hands, Cap held on tight, whispering, “Bucky… you need to tell me. Did he… his pants were undone.”
Had they been? Bucky tried to remember when Rumlow could have done that, but his mind drew blank.
Cap’s hands moved to frame Bucky’s face. Something more urgent was there now. “Bucky,” he whispered. “Please, talk to me.”
“No,” he shook his head and licked at the dryness of his lips. “He didn’t. He tried but--”
Cap shushed him by pressing his thumb against Bucky’s lips. Strong shoulders slumped down in relief. “You're okay now," Cap said, once again pulling Bucky into the crook of his neck, thick arms shielding him completely. “You’re okay, you’re okay,” the low chant was right in Bucky’s ear.
They could have been there for hours, for all Bucky knew. His nose stayed buried in the hollow of Cap’s throat, fingers tight in fabric, and he let himself be held. Slowly, his trembling subsided. Slowly, the tears evaporated. And through it all, Cap never let him go. Not even when he pulled back the fraction of an inch and his lips brushed against Bucky’s forehead. “C’mon… let’s get you cleaned up,” he said and Bucky couldn’t agree more.
The small stream that Cap led him too felt like a small piece of heaven all on its own, and for the briefest moment, Bucky thought that perhaps he did die up there on that cliff. Maybe it had been Rumlow, or maybe it had been that dagger, but death had found and claimed him. Because if he were to get to heaven, this is what he would have created.
It's the strength and warmth of Cap's touch that persuaded him otherwise.
After Cap sat him down on the edge of the embankment, Cap cupped the cool water with his palms before gently using it to scrub the dried blood from Bucky's skin. He started with Bucky's face, using the pads of his fingers to rub against Bucky's cheeks and jaw, then working his way downward. The cool sensation of the water was sheer bliss and even though Bucky watched in relief as the stains were stripped off his skin, he couldn't make out the red from the liquid that sat in Cap's hand, or dripped into the rest of the water.
Cap's hands worked for minutes at his neck, then separated the fabric of Bucky's shirt to clean against his chest. Throughout it all, Bucky sat there useless but he never once looked away from Cap. Perhaps he feared that if he were, then all of this would come crashing down and he'd be back on that cliff. Or worse.
The silence wasn't daunting but Bucky couldn't resist shattering it.
"Did you mean what you said this morning?" he whispered. His voice was so low, so hushed that if it wasn't for the way Cap froze, Bucky would have never thought he heard.
But Cap did hear and suddenly, hands that were washing at Bucky's torso slowly move to frame his face.
“No,” Cap said, a breath of a word right against Bucky’s face. “Not one word.”
And that was all it took.
Cap inhaled to speak, but Bucky dragged down his head and silenced him, kissing him the way he’d dreamed of for weeks— yet not how he’d imagined it at all. Crushing their lips together, rubbing against the wet burn of Cap’s beard, Bucky drank him in fiercely, exploring with his tongue when Cap gasped for breath.
He should have felt disgusted with himself. How he’d almost ended himself, how Rumlow had touched him, how he’d murdered Rumlow, how he once again found his happiness in the arms of a man who had tried to force the delusion onto them. But none of those emotions came. Instead, Bucky had never felt so powerful, so free-- so alive .
He knew the truth and it fueled his veins like never before.
Groaning, they clutched at each other, all lips and bruising hands. Cap lifted Bucky clear off his bottom and wrapped him in his arms, their mouths desperate, tongues devouring as they pressed together chest to chest. Bucky felt something hard against his back and realized that Cap had pressed them up against a wall of stone, caging Bucky in.
Bucky had to break their kiss as Cap stepped between his legs and hefted Bucky’s legs up to wrap around his waist. Bucky bit at his lips, kissing him feverishly with nothing but teeth, spit, and tongue.
“This is real,” he muttered. Bucky tore open Cap’s wet shirt and spread his hands over Cap’s chest, digging his fingers into the tattoo he knew was there. Hair tickled the bottom of his palms. “ We’re real.”
Inhaling sharply, Cap hoisted Bucky up higher in his arms as if he weighed nothing at all. He was higher than Cap now, but the angle let him look straight into those beautiful eyes. Bucky leaned forward and pressed their foreheads together, moving his arms around Cap’s neck.
“ Please ,” he whined. “Please-- I want you--” His cries were cut off as Cap kissed him, moaning into Bucky’s mouth and rutting against him, all muscle and bone and desperation that seeped straight into Bucky himself.
With a solid grip, Cap pressed their hips together. Between their messy, wet, glorious kisses, little cries escaped Bucky as their groins brushed through their trousers. He sucked on Cap’s tongue as they drove against each other. Nothing else existed but their gasping and their shameless hunt for release. Their mouths were fused, teeth clashing and nipping, slick lips swollen.
What Bucky wanted, was to plead for Cap to fuck him, longing to be stretched by his clock again, but he still couldn’t bear to break away from their newfound kisses, a treasure all on it’s own. He clung to Cap’s shoulders but dragged one hand down to his chest, raking his nails over the tattoo, making his own mark.
The intensity of their rutting grew stronger, faster, until with a shout, Cap tore his mouth away and jerked against him. His massive body shuddered beneath Bucky’s palms and he was quick to recapture Bucky’s lips. Bucky tightened his legs around him.
“That’s it,” Cap panted, breath hot on Bucky’s mouth. “Come for me.”
Cap fucked against him with renewed vigor even though he’d already released, fingers tightening in Bucky’s long hair. It didn’t take long until Bucky’s ecstasy gripped and shook him. He could only whimper into Cap’s mouth as he pulsed. The burn of pleasure sank into his blood and left him limp against the wall. If it wasn’t for Cap’s arms locked around him, he’d have fallen.
With their foreheads still pressed together, Cap traced the outline of Bucky’s lips with his fingertips. Bucky’s fingers twisted into the ends of Cap’s hair. “Only you,” Bucky whispered.
Cap dipped his chin. “Only you,” he echoed. When they kissed again, Bucky tasted only love.
The coarse line dug into Steve’s palms as the crew inched the ship upright and every few seconds, together the men would cry, “Heave!”, before giving one mighty yank fueled by a dozen men.
It was still dark but the sun would appear at an hour's time, brightening the sky with it’s golden morning hue. And with it, would come their departure. They would be leaving the small slice of paradise that had made everything seem so simple.
Beside him, Bucky winced and Steve knew he’d continue to pull until his hands dripped red. Bucky had refused to stand and let them do the hard work and while initially Steve hadn’t been too pleased, now, pride flowed through him everytime he landed his eyes on the brunet. He ached to hold him, to lose himself for a few blissful minutes before they would return to the ship.
It sent a shiver down his spine thinking about kissing Bucky again, even though their mouths were both swollen and bruised. The way Bucky had flung himself into his arms, yanked down his head, and pressed their lips together. The kiss had been an invasion. Bucky had demanded entrance, his fingers digging into Steve’s scalp, and he claimed his victory before Steve could think about putting up his defense. In that moment, he’d been utterly conquered but it was a glorious surrender.
Steve had been happy to wave his white flag, finally tasting his lover. After, their kisses had flowed with a gentle fervor that he could only call adoration. Neither of them had been able to get enough, their bodies bruised and battered and tangled as one.
But now, time barreled toward them mercilessly. They would set sail for the final miles to Brookstein Isle and they couldn’t delay. This would be the day that he must give up Bucky, no matter how desperately Steve wished the night would never end.
There had been so much blood. In the pale starlight that the night had offered, the stains had been dark and deadly masking Bucky’s face. In that instant as his heart seized and shattered, Steve had been certain that Bucky was doomed-- that he’d witnessed the final moments, hear Bucky’s final gasp of breath and see those eyes go glassy, feel his body grow cold.
His grief of finding Bucky on those rocks still haunted Steve, and he marveled at how he could ever have casually-- thoughtlessly-- threatened to end Bucky’s life. Now he would protect it with every inch of his power, no matter the cost.
Together they all splashed into the water as they pulled the ship deep enough to catch a float. There was a fiery fuel that burned in his muscles and when Bucky groaned, Steve wanted to order him to retreat back to solid ground and rest his battered body. But he was a selfish, selfish man and kept Bucky at his side, knowing Bucky would protest anyway. Knowing that his selfishness with Bucky would soon be at an end.
Bucky still being alive was a miracle, and it was one that Steve would not take for granted. He’d glimpsed Rumlow’s body down on that small patch of clearing that was partially hidden behind the tower of boulders. In his mind, however, it was Bucky crumpled there, his throat torn open and his pale skin blue and purple with red everywhere the eye could see. Hidden unless one knew where to look. Steve might have searched the island in vain for days, only discovering him thanks to the overhead seagulls circling. He imagined Bucky rotting and half-eaten, his soft mouth parted, silently screaming at Steve that he hadn’t saved him. That it was Steve’s fault.
Breath shuddering inside of him like an iron band squeezing, Steve staggered and might have crashed into the waves if it wasn’t for Bucky holding his arm.
“All right?” Bucky asked, breathing hard.
Steve could only nod, and God, there in the distance the first rays of the sun were starting to rise over the horizon.
He gently took hold of Bucky’s hand and peeled it away, giving him a little smile that seemed to put Bucky’s mind at ease as they hauled into deeper water, almost there, almost there...
By the end of this day, Steve would deliver Bucky to the colony-- to his family and the place where he rightfully belonged. He would watch Bucky leave The Fallen Eagle for the last time and he would go sleep in a proper bed, eat proper food. Reunite with his sister and make plans for his new life. George Barnes would have his heir and Steve would once again be robbed by the man. Except, Bucky was never Steve’s to begin with, not like how he was the very blood that ran through George Barnes’ veins.
He would be away from Steve but Bucky would be safe. Bucky deserved a life in a place where he had no need for a dagger, where he wouldn’t be forced to kill and be corrupted any further.
Once the ship was finally properly up and ready to set sail, the men cheered and Bucky grinned along with them. It was a devastating sight and Steve’s heart clenched when Bucky sent a smile in his direction.
Their journey was ahead, even if it was at its final stretch. They had to get on with it and above all, Steve had to keep his wits in check even as he met Bucky’s eye.
“Can you gather the blankets and everything else we left behind from our-- the tent?” As soon as the question was out, he sensed the side glances from the nearby crew members and corrected himself, barking out, “Now!”
Bucky’s lips twitched but he held back the smile and headed back across the sand, dutifully doing as he was told. Fuck . Steve had somehow allowed himself to get lost in their… heavens, it was a courtship, wasn’t it? He couldn’t deny it. Not anymore.
Forcing himself to clear his mind, he talked with Sam and gave more orders for the crew to finalize the loading. Minutes passed and every few, he would look toward the shore and see Bucky inside the tent gathering the few items left behind. Sam eventually caught on and followed his gaze once the men were almost all aboard.
“You go to the ship. I’ll bring Barnes aboard,” Sam said.
Steve wanted to argue but couldn’t find the words, feeling too trapped as he was. Perhaps it would give him time to figure out what he wanted to say to Bucky. Or what he could say.
When the sun finally rose in the sky, cruel as ever, Steve stood on the deck of his ship, hands clasped behind his back and Bucky close at his side. Bucky stared toward the island shrinking in the distance, quiet as he’d been when they’d leaned against each other and gathered their strength between kisses.
“I killed a man,” Bucky murmured after a long silence, breath warm on Steve’s neck. “I’m… I…”
“It’s normal. The guilt. Of course you’re sorry you took a life.”
Bucky raised his head, eyes clear and beautiful as they gazed into Steve’s. “But that’s what’s wrong…” Bucky whispered. “I’m not. He would have taken mine. He almost did. And I’m not sorry I stopped him.”
Steve traced the blossoming bruises on Bucky’s throat with his fingertips, trying to dismantle the simmering rage and terror and fucking helplessness that roared inside of him. He swallowed thickly. “Nor am I. It’s the way of this world. You had no choice.”
Steve had been powerless to do anything but kiss him. The livid bruises on Bucky’s throat were purple now, and Steve remembered how he’d left his own marks on that pale flesh when Bucky had first come aboard. He was shameful of it, just as he was of the insults that he’d spat at Bucky. All lies, lies, lies.
Bucky deserved so much better. He deserved the quiet existence Steve knew he coil never have for himself, his pathetic dreams of leaving the sea and battle life of a pirate was laughable in the face of all the death he’d brought to others-- fire and blood and wringing life from men with his bare hands.
He’d blamed George Barnes, but the truth was laid bare. He was a monster, and he’d chosen it. It was he who was clutched in The Fallen Eagle’s talons. He’d allowed bitterness and anger to reshape him, and now he must accept the consequences.
Steve’s sharp eyes scanned ahead and with a voice that was held together by a string-thin level of strength, he called out, “Set course for Brookstein Isle.”
“Aye, aye, Captain!”
Before Bucky could say a thing, Steve took hold of his arm and propelled him down the stairs and into the cabin. The little room was his home, and it was foolish to think he could find another. Sam was right. Men like them didn’t get to leave the bloodshed and chaos behind. Steve wouldn’t allow Bucky to follow the same path. No matter how badly he wanted to keep him close, the image of Bucky bathed in blood would not escape. Even as Bucky reached out for him as Steve backed out the door.
“You know my feelings are genuine. We’re real , remember? You can’t listen to what Sam said. You have to know--”
“Our time is at its end. I must secure the ransom for my crew. I must, Bucky. And you must stay safe.” He kept Bucky at arm’s length with a firm hand and gripped the door handle with the other. “I’m sorry for the things I said. You are none of it-- the farthest thing from it. But we cannot continue, Bucky. I’m sorry.”
With an ache in his chest, Steve closed the door and turned the key. He clenched his eyes shut as he ignored Bucky’s pounding and pleaded that they speak. Steve hadn’t earned his peace, but if it was the last thing he did, he would see Bucky have his chance at it.
Steve stood inside the cabin door, Bucky already hurtling toward him from where he’d been pacing by the dark windows. He was a force of nature as he barreled straight into Steve’s arms, reaching around to shove the door closed.
“ No . No, not like this. You’ve left me in here all day and we-- we need to talk. I don’t want to go! I can’t live on Brookstein Isle and marry that woman! I can’t do the things my father wants! I won’t!” Bucky shook his head, desperation shining in his wild eyes. “But it’s more than that.” He leaned in closer and dug his fingers into Steve’s shirt, holding on. “I want to be with you. I need to be with you.”
Steve’s chest constricted painfully. For a moment, he could see it. A future bright with Bucky’s smile, the idea of peace and joy flickering through him before he killed it.
“No,” Steve shook his head. “This isn’t…”
“What? Is this the part where you hurl more insults you don’t mean? I don’t care how crazy it is, I want to be with you. And I know you want to be with me.”
With effort, he pried Bucky’s fingers loose and stepped back, keeping him at a distance with hands firm on his shoulders. “And you’ll what? Join me in a life of piracy? You don’t want that.”
“No, I don’t.”
But before Steve could say that settled it, Bucky surged forward, wrapping his arms around Steve’s waist and peered up so earnestly that Steve couldn’t push him away.
“You don’t want to be a pirate either. You never did,” Bucky said and Steve sucked in a sharp breath. “But I would do it if it meant being at your side. I want to be in your arms, day and night. I want the freedom to spend our days as we wish, without judgment. In as much peace as we can find, wherever that may be.”
Steve’s heart thumped. It was too good to be possible. “You don’t mean that.”
“You truly think I’m lying? Wrapping you around my finger, like Sam said? After all this?” He squeezed his arms around Steve’s waist, gaze feverishly scanning Steve’s face. “I-- I’ll admit that when we were together that first time, it crossed my mind. How could it not? You’d threatened to kill me. My sister. I thought it might be more difficult for you if we grew closer. But I always wanted you. That was always true. It always will be.”
“Captain!" Sam suddenly shouted through the door. "We’re ready for the exchange! Bring the prisoner to the deck!” He burst in and stumbled to a stop, blinking at them. Then, Sam huffed, exasperation clear. “Enough of this!”
But Bucky held fast, gaze steady-- challenging. “Will you still gut me like a fish if he doesn’t pay?”
Part of Steve wanted to retreat and roar a threat like a pirate captain should, to not give a fuck about this young man from another world, whom he never should have touched. Whom he never should have allowed to touch him.
“I know you won’t,” Bucky whispered. “I’ve known it for weeks. This is real between us. You can get the ransom from my father, and we can meet somewhere in a few weeks. We can be together. You can leave this life--”
“ Captain !” Sam shouted as he took hold of Bucky and jerked him out of Steve’s arms as a red flare of rage boiled through Steve. Sam’s eyes widened, and he stumbled back, letting go of Bucky and lifting his palms. “I’m trying to stop you from being swept up in this nonsense. As sincere as young Barnes might be in this moment, it is a fantasy . Rich little lords don’t run away with pirates.”
Bucky sputtered. “You don’t know a thing about me! You don’t know—”
“What I know is that we need the ransom!” Sam glared at Bucky, then took a step toward Steve, brown eyes pleading. “I have supported you in this as far as I can. But your first duty is to the crew, the men. They have been promised for a month. They are owed and it’s time.”
When Steve looked to Bucky, a vision of him covered in blood took hold, flooding his gut with acid. Steve would only drag him into the abyss. He had to do everything he could to keep Bucky safe.
Bucky shook his head. “Don’t listen to him!”
Gathering his strength with a deep inhale, Steve turned and took his coat off the hook on the wall, shrugging the hot leather over his shoulders. He strapped on his belt and weapons all the while feeling the heat of Bucky's angry gaze searing into skin. He opened the desk drawer and plucked out his rings, pushing them over his knuckles.
Up on the main deck, a voice called, “Vessel approaching!”
Steve faced Bucky, who watched him with his jaw clenched. “Don’t you want to dress properly?" Steve asked him. "Your waistcoat? Shoes?”
For a heavy moment, Bucky only stared. Steve desperately wished he could hear the thoughts inside the brunet's mind, but he feared them as well. But then, something flashed-- crumpled-- across Bucky's face and he tore his eyes away, looking to the side.
"No," Bucky whispered. "Let's just finish it then." He took a step toward the door, passing Steve, before he whirled back around. "You know… you're many things but I never imagined being a coward was one of them."
"That's enough from you!" Sam said before latching a hand around Bucky's upper arm and hauling him out of the cabin.
Steve followed behind them and chose to listen to his boots thundering against the deck rather than the sound of the blood rushing in his ears. He needed to withstand this. When Bucky was safe at his new home he would thank Steve for doing this. It may not be today or any day soon, but one day he would.
Up on the topdeck, Steve narrowed his gaze on Brookstein Isle beyond the harbor. There were ships of decent size, along with regular fishing boats, but none were big enough to carry guns and cannons that would wreck The Fallen Eagle. And far in the distance, right on top of a mountain, Steve could see a large white outline of a castle-like structure that was grand and almost overbearing against the rest of the island. It was a governor's house, Steve knew. Meaning it was also Bucky's soon to be home. A house of that size was worth more than Steve could ever give.
From the approaching vessel, a man called up to Steve. “We must see James Barnes alive and unharmed.”
Steve reached back for Bucky's arm, but Bucky jerked free and stode forward by himself. Steve noticed Bucky was careful not to let their bodies touch. “I’m here," Bucky called back. "Unharmed.”
Squinting into the wooden boat, which was rowed by two other men, Steve quickly noticed a very important absence.
“Where the fuck is the governor?" Steve said. "My demand was that he meet us. Alone.”
“Governor Barnes has fallen ill with worry. He has been unwell for days.” The messenger’s voice cracked. “I am here as his representative.”
Steve rolled his eyes. A man that had been so distraught by his only son's capture certainly would have tried to be here. It was bullshit. “Yes, I’m sure he’s quite ill. Come aboard.”
While he’d looked forward to seeing the bastard again, all that truly mattered was the leather sack the sweating, quivering emissary held, and whether it contained the ransom. That was all that could matter.
Our time is up, Steve reminded himself. This was always where we would end. He deserves far better than me. He’ll thank me for this before long.
Yet Bucky's plea echoed in this mind. Was it possible to have the money and Bucky? Right that minute, could he have both? It would be a battle, but it would likely be a battle regardless, even though they could spy no soldiers in wait and they were out of range of any cannons on land.
Excited apprehension vibrated through him. They could try. The messenger wore a ridiculously wig and was dressed in fine silks that were too big for his frame. He climbed up the rope ladder they unfurled, trembling as he threw a leg over the rail and boarded on the port side. He held out the sack, and Sam took it, opening it.
Steve couldn’t breathe. He reached for Bucky, taking his shoulder. Steve could keep him safe, couldn’t he? In a life away from the sea’s turmoil, he could. He would! They had the money—if he kept Bucky too, or if they ran, or arranged to meet—
A pistol exploded in the night, and Steve whipped his head around, reaching for his sword, then gritting his teeth at the followed curse and one of the men shouting, “It only a misfire!”
As Steve opened his mouth to order calm, the emissary lunged toward him with wild, spooked eyes, and Bucky was suddenly in front of him, knocking Steve back.
Steve stumbled and tried to make sense of it all but Bucky's weight sagged in his arms just as Sam's sword ran through the emissary.
“Captain! Sails!” Another voice shouted, “Fleet from the west! Must have been hiding around the other side.” A pause, then, “Looks like eighteen guns!”
Sam had the sack open and he tugged on Steve's shoulder. “Money’s here. Captain! We gotta go! Now, Cap.”
But another voice-- a softer voice-- had Steve looking down.
"Cap…" Bucky inhaled shakily, looking down too. When Steve trailed the direction of Bucky's gaze, his lips parted as Bucky pulled his hand away from his abdomen and blood dripped from his fingers and palm.
Frantically, Steve's eyes snapped to the dying emissary's outstretched hand. Clutched in his hand was a dagger. Its blade was stained with red.
Steve's cry was distant and hoarse as if it came from another throat. “ No !” He lowered Bucky to the deck and tore at his shirt, eyes widening in horror as he spotted red staining the linen. The crimson circle was widening at an alarming rate.
He pressed down at the stab wound in Bucky's abdomen and screamed for Falsworth. Steve couldn't look away from Bucky's face, already frighteningly pale. “Stay with me. Bucky!”
Bucky gazed up at him but his eyes were hazy, unfocused, and a noise was choked in the back of his throat.
In a second flat, Falsworth dropped to his knees beside them, leaning over to inspect the wound. There was too much blood flowing from Bucky's wound, making Steve's heart sink.
Falsworth confirmed it, shaking his head. “He’ll die if he stays aboard.”
Steve took Bucky's hand, threading their fingers together, keeping his eyes locked on him for fear he would be gone the next time he looked down. “There must be something you can do!”
“He needs better surgeons and a safe, clean place, not to bleed to death on a stinking pirate ship—especially one about to do battle!” Falsworth grabbed Steve's coat and leaned close, lifting Steve's chin roughly. “If you care for him, let him go. Or he’ll be dead before morning.”
“No… I…stay,” Bucky gasped, twitching.
With one last, lingering look into those beautiful grey eyes, Steve ripped his fingers from Bucky's desperate grasp. He somehow pushed to his feet without his knees giving way. Down toward the awaiting vessel, he shouted, “Barnes is coming!” To the crew, he ordered, “Lower him carefully, Sam, Clint. Everyone else, get ready to make sail!”
The approaching fleet would be the death of them all otherwise.
"N-no--," Bucky coughed and gasped and somehow he found the strength to reach out and grasp at Steve's foot, bloodied fingers sliding against leather. Steve needed to tear himself free, but he stood rooted, even once Sam and Clint scooped up Bucky in one go. "Cap-p-- no--"
Steve couldn't move to watch Bucky get lowered down to the vessel. He stood frozen until Sam shouted, “They’ve got him! Now get us the fuck out of here, men!”
Bucky's screams echoed across the water even as the sails caught the wind. Steve finally turned away from Brookstein Isle but there was a ragged hole in his chest as if the dagger had found its true target.
At the wheel, he shouted orders and kept his gaze forward on the horizon, fingernails gouging the wheel so deep that the wood stabbed his flesh.
Bucky had to live, and The Fallen Eagle had to outrun the fleet. No other options existed.
As the first round of cannon fire exploded and ruined the peace of the sea, he prayed to a Godless universe that at least Bucky would survive.
Oh, my heart :(
If Bucky was dead, he must have passed judgement through the golden gates of heaven since Becca was there by his side. He couldn’t manage to open his eyes for more than a second at a time, but he had spotted his sister and her dark curls, felt her hands on his face, and heard her soft voice.
Perhaps it was a cruel part of his imagination. Maybe they were all dead, and Bucky had only just now joined them. But if that were true, he wouldn’t feel the searing pain in his stomach everytime he breathed in and out. The dagger that had cut through him felt as though it was still there, digging in mercilessly as the steel burned viciously cold yet scorching at the same.
Surely, if he were in heaven, God would have healed him. He wouldn’t feel the heat build, wouldn’t be in agony, and as the fire grew into an uncontrollable inferno, his eyes wouldn’t blur and feel so heavy that he could barely make out Becca’s face, let alone register her voice. He could faintly focus on another voice too, one of a young woman who he didn’t recognize yet still spoke his name as if she was a dearest friend.
But the voice he heard the loudest was one he knew could only exist in his mind. It was Cap crying his name so desperately, a raw plea. “ Bucky !”
He had tried. God knew how hard he did. Even delirious, soaked with sweat and shivering, Bucky had reached for Cap’s boots over and over, no matter how the leather slipping beneath his blood soaked fingers each and every time. He was still there on that deck, trapped and alone, and even though his hand was stretched out toward Cap, Cap was cruelly out of reach.
"Bucky? Please. Come back to me, please.”
With a groan, Bucky tried to open his eyes. It was Becca who called for him now and even though his body ached and cried, he refused to be left in the depths any longer. He blinked long and hard until her face became clear.
“Bucky? Oh, Bucky! Yes, please, open your eyes.”
Everything was muddled. He couldn’t place where he was but… the ransom. Brookstein Isle. The messenger lunging for Cap, the dagger. The world was a blur. A white ceiling with a pattern etched into it was above him and somehow, gazing at it, he knew exactly where he was. Home .
But his real home was far, far, far from where he laid.
Turning his head felt like a bomb was going off in his head, but it was worth it to finally see Becca’s tearful smile. He had always hated seeing her cry and he tried to reach over and wipe her tears, but his hand wouldn’t cooperate.
“Becca?” His throat was as dry as a desert.
“I’m here, Bucky. Shh, it’s okay. You’re safe now. Here, drink. You need to drink, Bucky.” She held a glass to his lips and lifted his head for him. The water burned going down.
Behind Becca, sunlight streamed through an open window, pale curtains fluttering with the faint breeze.
“We’re on Brookstein Isle. You’re safe at home with us.” Her smile faltered, but she lifted her chin.
“What? Did something happen?”
“No,” she shook her head. “It’s nothing. It-- it can wait. Oh, Bucky. We thought we’d lose you again. I’m not sure how much you remember… but that pirate returned you with a nasty wound. Don’t worry, he’ll soon be dealt with justice.”
Bucky’s heart seized. “What do you mean? Where is he?” He tried to sit up but his body began to tremble, his limbs too weak to even pick himself up.
“Don’t try to move! Please, Bucky. The wound was bad enough but just when we thought you were getting stronger, an infection set in. It’s been two weeks. The surgeon told us to prepare for the worst but I held strong. So did Sharon.”
Becca laughed. It was delightful to hear, and like magic, it eased the tension from his sister’s face. “Your betrothed, Bucky. It’s okay, it’ll all come back to you once you’ve healed up a bit. The fever muddled you up.”
It took too much effort to speak, so he didn’t bother addressing the issue of Sharon Carter. Darkness had begun to close in at the edges of his vision, but he still managed to ask the most important question, “The Captain? Where is he?”
Becca only shook her head and pressed a wet cloth to his forehead. “You don’t need to worry about that vile man. He can’t hurt you anymore.”
A scream tore at Bucky’s sore throat but he was being drowned by dark waves that swept him back to sleep.
When Bucky awoke the second time, it was dark-- dark enough that if it wasn’t for the candles flickering on top of the dresser, he wouldn’t be able to see a thing.
But he could see and as soon as he blinked the sleep from his eyes, he focused on the bundle cradled in Becca’s arms. He vaguely recalled hearing a baby’s cries at some point and realized that Becca’s stomach had been flat when he’d woken before.
He was able to lift his hand this time and Becca’s head jerked up. Her sudden movements jolted the baby and the newborn began to wail. Before he could register the sharp noise pang throughout his skull, a young blonde woman hurried in and took the child while Becca helped Bucky drink more water.
After his sister gently pushed him back against the array of pillows behind him, Bucky’s heart began to pound, the words already forming on his tongue. “Where is he?”
“Who? Father? He was in earlier with the surgeon. He’s been worried sick. We all have.”
His gaze returned to the young blonde woman, who lingered, jiggling the baby and cooing to it. “Sharon?” he asked.
The woman only smiled, shaking her head. “No, my lord. The baby’s name is Susanna.”
Becca laughed softly. “We’ve taken to calling her Susie. However, this is her wet nurse, Margret. Sharon was here earlier but you’ve been asleep for hours. She’ll be back in the morning, don’t worry.”
She stood up and began to speak to the wet nurse in a low tone that Bucky couldn’t pick up, and instead, his mind turned to Cap’s fate. Bucky could remember hearing that first cannon fire as he was rowed away but the possibilities were endless. Had Cap fired it? Had The Fallen Eagle been hit? Had he been captured? Killed? Bucky’s vision swam.
Margret left with the baby and Becca soon retook her seat. He eyed her. She was in a sleeping robe but there were shadows under her eyes, no doubt from the stress he and the newborn have caused for her.
“You’re both doing well?” he asked. “She’s beautiful. Little Susie.”
Becca smiled. “She is, isn’t she? And yes, we’re wonderful. John and I couldn’t be happier.” But then her smile dimmed. “Father would have preferred a grandson, of course, but maybe next time…”
Bucky didn’t refrain from rolling his eyes. “Father can go fuck himself.”
Becca’s pretty eyes widened and she glanced toward the open doorway before she leaned forward, looking amused. “You certainly have been on a pirate ship. Did they make you talk like that?” she snickered.
Mentioning the home Bucky had come to call his own in just a few short weeks instantly had worry gnawing at him as he got a glimpse of Cap and him tucked away in their cabin, naked and breathless in bed.
“Where is he? The Captain. I have to know.”
Becca shook her head. She reached out and brushed his long hair out of his face. “I told you already. That monster will never bother you again. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. We were all so relieved to have you home finally. For a while, we thought we’d never see you again.”
“I’m fine, Becca.” He rubbed at his face and almost cringed at the thin layer of lotion someone had applied. Going weeks with a clean, free face hadn’t been something he realized he’d grown to like until now. He wanted to say more, wanted to correct his sister, but a dark-skinned woman knocked at the door and walked in with a bowl of soup.
Embarrassingly, he was too weak to feed himself. He had no choice but to allow Becca to lift the spoon to his lips. He did what she wanted dutifully, not wanting her to worry any more than he already had. He managed to swallow down half of the broth before he couldn’t take any more. With a full stomach, his eyes began to grow heavy again but his heart raced and the dull ache in his gut reminded him, once again, of where and who he had been with.
“Becca… please tell me what happened to the pirate,” he asked in a voice that was as weak as he felt. It didn’t matter though, as long as Becca heard him.
“Father had hired a fleet to battle the pirates. It was his only option since we don’t have any of the Royal Navy nearby. Father had hoped to sink them right in the harbor but they managed to escape and the fleet had to chase them. They were captured eventually but I don’t know the details like Father does. All I know is that the Captain will face the gallows soon right on this very beach.”
Bucky was positive that somehow, the dagger had been shoved back into his skin, twisting into him and stealing his breath. Becca sat up straighter and her blue eyes widened. “Bucky? No, don’t move. Just lie back or you’ll reopen the wound.” She turned her head and looked toward the door before calling out for help. The dark-skinned woman from earlier came rushing in and suddenly, two pairs of arms were holding him down. A foul, bitter liquid was spooned past his lips and he gagged.
Becca’s arms cradled his head and the cold cloth from before was placed across his forehead. “It’s okay, Bucky. Just go to sleep and get your rest. You need it, baby brother.”
No , Bucky’s mind supplied. What he needed was to find Cap, to see him safe and happy and whole, but his mind turned fuzzy and the world went black once again.
There was a war outside.
Violent, loud, rumbling pangs of thunder and lightning jolted Bucky from his sleep. Even tucked away in bed, Bucky jumped at the sudden vibrations that shook through the room, reminded all too well of that day on the ship, when the one-eyed pirate and his crew tried to blast The Fallen Eagle to smithereens.
But as he sat up and took in his surroundings, it was like a bucket of cold water had been doused over his body. He wasn’t on the ship. He wasn’t with Cap. He was alo-- not alone.
Bucky blinked at the young woman sitting beside his bed. It wasn’t the nurse from earlier, or the other woman. Instead, it was a blonde with a ruffled silk dress that was watching him with blue eyes that seemed to glow in the candlelight. She smiled at him once she must have realized he was okay.
“James, how do you feel? It’s nice to finally meet you, at last. I’m Sharon,” her smile stretched even further and it was just wrong . She seemed like a wonderful lady but that look aimed at him made him feel like he was betraying another-- someone with blue eyes that put hers to shame, and a grin that hit straight through his heart. “Let me go and get your sister so we can call for the doctor to make sure you’re well. A storm is about to hit so the faster he gets here, the better. Are you thirsty?”
He nodded his head because his throat felt dryer than ever before, so dry that even swallowing felt excruciating. She helped him drink and it was as if the life was being pushed back into his veins. His body ached as if he’d been asleep for weeks, which for all he knew, he could have been. At least now his head was clearer and when he moved his arms and legs, they cooperated.
The stab wound, however, still throbbed as if it was open and bleeding.
Before Sharon could leave he swallowed, then asked, “When is the trial? For the Captain? I must know, please.”
Sharon opened her mouth but with a quick glance to the open door, she closed it shut again. “I believe your father didn’t want you to trouble yourself with it. Not until you prepared your testimony.”
Bucky’s lips parted. “Testimony?” he repeated.
Sharon only nodded. “Yes. You are to speak against the pirate being transported back here. The storm put a halt on schedule but he’s to be here in the next day or two.”
Even despite his freshly hydrated throat, the moisture was sucked right back out. His heart hammered in his chest, aching just as bad as his wound. “From where?”
“I’m not sure. Your father said the ship managed to reach Hispaniola before the ship was damaged enough to cease the sailing. Some of the pirate crew escaped but only because the captain created a diversion of some sort, letting his men flee safely. I suppose there is some honor among the cruel afterall.
He couldn’t look at her, not when the faces of the crew started to run through his head. Had everyone survived? Sam? Clint? Oh, heavens.
A strong gust of wind rattled against the windows and for the first time, he noticed they were all boarded up. The storm that was coming was going to be brutal and all he could think about was Cap. Was Cap safe? Would the waters be deadly enough to make the fleet capsize? Were they already stuck inside the storm?
“Was he injured?”
Sharon glanced between him and the windows as another breeze slammed into the house. “Who? The pirate?” She shrugged. “I don’t think it matters much. He’ll be dead soon anyways.”
Bucky had never hated another human, but hearing and seeing Sharon’s nonchalance made his blood boil something fierce. Her words were like a direct punch to his wounded stomach. He wanted to lash out, to make everyone else like he was, but with sand-thin strength, he restrained himself. Sharon just didn’t know better. None of them did.
“Just don’t trouble yourself with any of it, sweetheart.” The term of endearment threw him momentarily, but before he could do or say anything, Sharon tentatively took his hand and linked their fingers together.
It was so strange. As if he’d died on The Fallen Eagle and had been transported to another world where he’d woken up to his betrothed whom he didn’t know, or want. Bucky itched to tell her then and there that they would never get married but she was speaking before he could.
“Words can’t describe how happy I am that you are alive. Our life will be good once we can build it together, once you’re well enough to travel. We could join my father in Jamaica, or we could go to England even. I know your father is being stubborn with keeping you here with him but we can be set up somewhere else, somewhere nicer.” Bucky stared at her. His palm suddenly felt too sweaty and he tried to pull out of her grasp but she wouldn’t give. If possible, her grip tightened and her smile was almost blinding with how the candle flame glinted off her teeth. “Rebecca has told me so much about you. I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. I’ve been waiting for you for months now, it seems.”
He knew this was where he should say something kind in return, but he could only blink at her, his mind blank. He thanked God that Becca appeared a second later and like the dutiful big sister that she was, she took charge immediately, fluttering to his side.
Before the door could close behind her, it was bursting back open and another figure was gliding through. George Barnes strode in and practically elbowed both of the women to the side. “My son. I see you are finally well,” he said, strong and sure, as if he was making a demand.
Bucky let himself take in his father for the first time in months. The grey in his hair was peppered more thoroughly in the dark brown of his hair, and there were more defined creases along his face, but he was still the image of aristocratic perfection, even if he wasn’t wearing his usual white wig and powder. His shirt, waistcoat, jacket, and trousers weren’t creased despite the humid warmth in the room that was stifling Bucky. The most telling sign of all was how his father’s spine was straight, like a knife’s edge that demanded the utmost respect.
“Yes, Father, I am.”
George nodded sharply. “Good. Since you were almost killed by that pirate, we’ve been eager for you to recover.”
“I… Thank you, Father. But Ca-- the pirate didn’t stab me. It was your messenger.”
The laugh that suddenly echoed throughout the room was like the crack of a whip. Bucky could count on one hand the total number of times that he’d heard his father laugh, and this wasn’t one of the genuine ones. It was harsh, mocking. “It seems your mind is still lost after all, son.”
Bucky shook his head and tried to sit up. “No. I know what happened, I remember. It wasn’t the captain, father, it was your--”
But George was pushing him back down. “Don’t agitate yourself, son. We need you strong and well. No more nonsense or else we’ll have to medicate you again.”
He cringed at the thought of the bitter medicine and the powerless long sleep that it forced upon him. Yes he needed his rest but he wouldn’t dare sleep when Cap’s life and safety were on the line.
“I just want the truth to be known, Father.”
His father stared at him. The look was hard and sharp, and while Bucky would have backed down months-- weeks-- ago, he was surprised to find that the expression no longer frightened him. Then again, he wasn’t the same Bucky as the one who had departed from Shelbington.
“The truth,” George said slowly, eyes nonblinking, “is that one of the most deadliest pirates of all time kidnapped you and almost killed you once he acquired his ransom. That is the truth, son. Just as true as the fact that the Captain of that bloody ship will hang. That is all that matters.”
“And that Bucky is safe,” Becca added, darting a look at their father who nodded sharp once again.
“Of course, of course. Anything for my son.” Sighing, George seemed to soften, before he pressed up against the bed and rested his hand upon Bucky’s head. “You certainly gave me a fright, my boy.”
Despite everything, Bucky still wanted to believe that past the money, past the reputation, and past all of the superficial matters, his father still cared. Even more startling, it was hard for Bucky to come to terms with the longing that welled up inside of him, preening at the attention his father was giving him.
The tender moment was over just as quickly as it had begun once a man appeared in the doorway. He was dressed similar to George but his clothes were damp and water was trickling down his neck from his hair. “I’m sorry to interrupt. Governor, we have a problem.”
“What is it?” George snapped. “Can’t you see I am tending to my son?”
The man nodded, wringing his hands in front of him. “Yes, but sir, the storm is approaching faster than we thought. People are in need of more materials to fortify their houses.”
George rolled his eyes. “Then get them materials. Why should I be concerned?”
There his father was.
“Make sure all of the windows and doors of this house are boarded up first before you disperse materials out to the common folk, is that understood?”
Again, the man nodded but this time his face was ashen, lips tight.
With a sharp turn away from the man, George looked right at Bucky again. He could read his father’s agitation even through the faint light in the room. “Rest up, son. When this bloody storm has passed then we will begin the pirate’s trial. He’ll soon be at an end and you will be finally free from his tainted existence.”
George strode out before Bucky could argue. Becca and Sharon stayed behind and while his sister followed their father’s movements with her eyes, Sharon glanced at the boarded up windows, frowning. “Rest up, dear, and by the time the sun comes back, you’ll be fresh out of bed,” Sharon said, grinning at him.
Bucky stared at the wall in front of him, his mind too far lost on things beyond this room. He managed to nod absentmindedly to her. “Yes. I will certainly be on my feet by then.” His fingernails dug into his palm but he knew that the pain was nothing compared to what Cap was headed straight for.
When morning came, John had nearly carried Bucky down to the ground floor but in his defense, Bucky had managed to take a few steps on his own, at least. Granted, the pain threatened to bring up the soup and small amount of bread he’d eaten but he’d at least kept his food down-- making it a small victory in his mind.
But now, it was just him and Becca sitting in one of the study rooms. Glass shattering and shingles rattering screamed in the distance and he could only wince at the thought of people stuck in it out there. Surely this house had plenty of spare room that they could have brought people in but his father had refused when Bucky had brought the idea up hours earlier. The storm had hit full force just as the sun rose, bringing howling wind and raw power that caused trees to topple and boards to bend.
For the hundredth time in the hour, Bucky wondered where Cap was and if he was suffering. Surely the fleet that captured him would treat him fairly, or at least follow through with their contract of bringing him back to Brookstein Isle safe and unharmed. They were privateers, his father had told him, so since Cap had been one of them at one time, maybe it was a code that they carried with one another. Or perhaps Cap could appeal to them and they could release him. Bucky didn’t hold out much hope but it was all he could cling to.
At least sitting with Becca could keep his mind from fixating on Cap. Did they hurt him? Was Cap angry with him? Does Cap love him as much as he loves Cap? Because Bucky does love him, more than anything. Was Cap scared? The last Bucky had seen of him was when he was dressed in his costume-- his armor-- that painted him as the fearsome, powerful pirate king of the seas.
Yet, Bucky would remember Cap not as the legend, but the man-- scarred and tired, passionate and tender. The raw terror on his face when he had said Bucky’s name after he realized Bucky had been stabbed… how he held Bucky so tightly before tearing himself away. That was his Cap, his lover.
“Where does your mind go?” Becca’s voice addressed him softly, pulling him back. “You disappear sometimes, start looking off into space. What are you thinking about?”
Where to even begin? He could tell her the truth and spill it all, spend hours telling her everything that begged to be said. Or, he could zip his lips and lie that everything was perfectly find, that he wasn’t on the brink of falling apart at the seems because the other part of his heart had been torn away from him. He could lie-- he should lie-- but he was tired of the fibs. He was tired of it all.
Licking his lips, Bucky made his decision.
“I won’t be marrying Sharon,” he said. It was just the tip of the iceberg, but it was the chip he needed before he could go any deeper.
Becca frowned. “Is this because her father and ours are on shaky ground? I know father insists on keeping you here but--”
“It’s not about Father. Or Sharon.”
“Then what is it?” Her eyes scanned over him and she frowned even deeper. “Brother? Are you feeling unwell?”
He shook his head. “No, I’m fine.”
She pressed her hand to his forehead. “Are you sure? You’re shaking, Bucky. What’s wrong? Tell me.”
Could he really tell her? He trusted her more than he did anyone else, but this was dangerous. People were killed for lying with the same sex. Men like him were hung like the worst type of criminals, as if they were killers and thieves. If he told Becca, would she hate him? Find him disgusting?
His heart may be pounding but he had to tell her. He couldn’t hide anymore. He refused to.
“Becca, I can’t marry her because I don’t love her.”
She shook her head with affectionate exasperation, her body bobbing as she chuckled. “Well, you may not love her yet but it’s only because you haven’t spent any time with her. Just wait, it’ll come, I’m sure of it.”
Bucky’s throat tightened as if someone was choking him, making his chest ache. “It’s impossible.”
“No it isn’t. It may seem--”
“No, Becca.” He glanced to the door and made sure it was closed firmly before swallowing past the lump in his throat. “I know our arrangement has been planned for months. I understand we are promised to each other and our fathers have agreed but…”
Realization seemed to dawn on his sister. Her eyes turned kinder, softer. “Is there someone else?”
Was there? Cap had left him, yet he couldn’t stop hearing his name tremble for Cap’s lips. The way Cap had clung to his fingers, the wild fear in his eyes, the man stipped down to his soul before he allowed Bucky to be torn away.
“Yes,” he whispered. He could barely hold the agony at bay, the tears wielding up in his eyes. His breath stuttered in his lungs and he had to stand up to start pacing in front of the fireplace. He couldn’t contain the nervousness that made his body shake.
Becca stayed sitting but she followed his every move, watching and waiting. Seconds passed, then minutes.
“It’s okay, Bucky,” she said finally. “Whatever it is, you can tell me. I’ll love you no matter what.”
Outside, the downpour of rain continued to be pelted down, and in the study room they were as alone as they could be-- perhaps as alone as they ever would be again. Before he could talk himself out of it, Bucky stripped away the last of his shield that he’d held in front of him since they were children.
“Even if I was a sodomite?” he asked, barring his secret. “Because I am. A sodomite.”
The silence that followed was staggering and for a terrible moment, Becca stared at him with wide eyes. He knew it. He knew it would be too much but he had to say it-- he had to. If she abandoned him, then so be it. His world would shatter at her loss but he couldn’t keep hiding.
Just when he thought she would pretend as if he’d never spoken at all, Becca nodded. “I should have known. I should have seen this. Perhaps I did,” she spoke softly, as if to herself.
He couldn’t move. Bucky stayed far from her and wrapped his arms tight around himself, keeping mind of his wound but feeling the need to hold himself together. She held so much power over him in that moment and she continued to stare off into space, lost in thought it appeared.
Maybe she didn’t know what else to say. Maybe she wished he wouldn’t do or say another thing and they could go back to being what they were moments prior. He should have never said anything. God, how could he continue to be so stupid ?
“I’m sorry,” he rushed out, not finding the strength to look at his sister. “I know it’s unnatural. A sin. I know you must hate me but--” his voice died out as her gaze snapped to his and she bolted up straight.
“What?” she stared at him. “Oh, heavens. No, Bucky. Never.” Becca stood up and crossed the room in the blink of an eye. Her soft hands gripped his. “ Never ,” she repeated. “You are my baby brother. I could never hate you.”
There were tears in her eyes and seeing her cry, released Bucky’s own flood gates and the tears began to slide down his cheeks. She released his hands only to wrap her arms around him, pulling him flush against her in a fierce hug. He gripped at her just as tightly and when they pulled back, she swiped at his eyes, brushing his tears away.
“My sweet brother. It’s alright, okay?” She nodded at him and he joined, showing her that he was okay. “If that’s part of who you are, never be ashamed of it. Never. It doesn’t matter what people say or believe. Unless--” her face creased. “Do you think it’s a sin? Does it feel like one?”
Bucky shook his head. “No. I used to… in the beginning, but not anymore. I’ve accepted it. I wanted to tell you so many times but… I didn’t know how you would react.”
“Oh, Bucky,” she pecked his cheek before affectionately patting his hair. “I could never turn my back on you. Yes, this may be a shock but you are no evildoer.”
Bucky shrugged uselessly. “Still. I won’t ever be a normal man. I can never carry on the family name like father wants. I can’t marry Sharon when I need to be with him instead.”
Slowly, Becca nodded before she released him. Without releasing his hand, she led him back to the couches and sat them both down. “Who is he?” she asked once they settled. “Someone from Shelbington? You usually spent time outside the estate but was it a neighbor? Was it that young Harley?”
“No, it’s no one from home. It’s… On the ship…”
Her brows shot up. “The ship that took us from the harbor? I don’t remember you spending any time with…” Her eyes widened in realization. “My God, you mean the pirate ship?”
He nodded. “The Captain.”
“The… The captain? The man who took you?” she asked, her mouth open in surprise.
Bucky licked at his lips again. “Yes. I know what you must be thinking—”
“I don’t understand. What are you saying? That you… That you and he… With a pirate? With that cruel man?” She gasped. “When you arrived, you were bruised. Don’t lie to me Bucky. Did he… did he force you?”
“No, no, I swear. I wanted it. I was with him willingly.”
For a long moment, Becca said nothing. Her hand was pressed to her chest and she was looking at him so openly, as if she was looking at another person. “My baby brother with a pirate. It’s… it’s terribly thrilling,” she finished with a huff of breath, smiling at him.
His heart skipped and finally sunshine burned through the dark cloud of misery that had been hanging over his head since the first time he’d seen a boy and felt desire pool in his belly.
“I was his prisoner but I chose to be with him on my own free will. He was… I began to know him, the real him. I…” Raw emotion got stuck in his throat and it was heavy, nearly choking him. “I began to love him.”
Now, Becca’s eyes were like saucers. “Love?” she murmured. “I didn’t think… So it is more than just…” she finished by waving her hand in the air.
“Yes,” Bucky answered with a firm nod. “Much more. More than I ever thought possible. I don’t think I can even describe it.”
“But he stabbed you! You almost died.”
“No. It wasn’t him or any of the crew. It was the messenger that Father had sent. He tried to kill Cap but I jumped between them. I saw it coming and I did what I could to stop it, to save him the pain. One of the crew killed him in return.”
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “Father told us the messenger fled after the transfer because of the storm coming, not because he was killed. But this certainly changes everything.” Exhaling a long breath, she nodded. “All right. You love this man. Does he love you?”
Bucky’s stomach dropped. That was the question worth asking, wasn’t it? Did Cap love him back? Or was he just continuing to fool himself? He bit hard into his cheek and his eyes turned to the floor, tracing the lines in the hardwood floor.
“I think he does,” Bucky whispered. “I want to know for certain. I need to. I want to be with him. I want to wake up to him and live my days by his side like… well, like you and John, and everyone else who has a partner they love. I want that.”
Softly, Becca smiled. She didn’t say anything but she didn’t have to.
“So that’s why I cannot marry Sharon. She deserves a proper husband and I wouldn’t be fair to her. I don’t want to stay here with Father. I have to find a way to have a life where I am not hiding in misery for the rest of my days.”
The tears sprang to his sister’s eyes once again. “Oh, Bucky. No, I would never wish that for you. You deserve love and comfort and happiness just as anyone else, more than some even, with how sweet you are.” Her gaze turned distant again and he could easily tell that she was trying to picture it, him and Cap, the mighty, fearful pirate king brought down to vulnerability with a lover’s touch. She was quiet for so long that Bucky grew sleepy. He had been so easily drained and he closed his eyes, listening to the steady rhythm of her breathing, anchoring himself after revealing his core. After a time, she spoke again.
“I’d like to meet him properly then,” she said, grinning at him. Then, she sobered and sat up straighter. “But you do realize what this means, right? We must stop the trial. Father wants him hanged.”
“I know,” Bucky whispered, feeling his heart ache harder than ever. He remembered the roughness of Cap’s beard against his face, the softness of his lips, the wet slide of his tongue, and how desperately Bucky had wished that they could kiss forever under the night sky. “Ever since I woke up, I’ve been thinking about how I can stop it. I have to get him free.”
The two of them looked at one another, so many thoughts and emotions passing through in their silence. Until, Becca’s face twitched and she was suddenly alive more than ever. “I think I may have an idea.”
Bucky bolted up straight, leaned forward, and focused sharply as Becca began to talk.
He's coming for you Steve!
Chapter 21: Shackled In Chains
He was a fool.
He remembered telling himself that he would never again allow himself to fall powerless to another, but he had. He had fallen, plummeted, and crashed so hard that he was left in pieces that couldn’t be put back together. It hurt. The hole in his chest that had once been alive and beating, ached something fierce now. Losing Artie was the only pain that resembled it but this was more, so much more.
Those two words echoed and taunted Steve endlessly in the darkness of the belowdecks of the fleet. The air was dank in the small space and sweat clung in droplets against his skin. His leather coat was sweltering and musty, and the chains that dug into his wrist were so tight that everytime he tried to pry himself loose, he had to hiss through his teeth as the metal bit into his skin. He was certain a storm was on the horizon because the waves were choppy and every few minutes he was tossed with the force of the water that slammed into the ship.
If he were to be grateful for any consolation, it was that at least he wasn’t shackled inside of a Royal Navy ship. At least this fleet wasn’t tied to the crown and he would be shipped back to the motherland to meet his fate. From what he’d overhead before being thrown down into the dark, George Barnes had hired this fleet to capture him. The Royal Navy couldn’t be negotiated with, but privateers? If the price was right, they could. Perhaps.
Steve had no way of telling how much time had passed. It was all a blur of bells and scraps of rations that were just enough to keep him well to be delivered. All of it was drowned out by the echoes of Bucky’s screams. They were hoarse, sharp, and they rattled in Steve’s skull like an omen, making him clench his eyes with the severity of them. Bucky…
Why had he wasted so much time keeping Bucky away? He should have kissed him every moment he could. Now he never would again, and the realization tore at him with razor sharp teeth.
It had been weeks since he last saw him, bloodied and pale, when even on death’s door, Bucky had tried to keep them together. The dried blood on Steve’s boots was still there having stained the leather. And ever since he first spotted the red stains flowing from Bucky, Steve prayed uselessly to any god listening that he had survived. That his young, sweet, innocent Bucky hadn’t died saving Steve’s sorry life. It played out again and again in his memory: Bucky hurling himself in front of that cursed blade, taking the wound without a second thought.
He had thought he could never love again, but in that moment, having Bucky’s life in his hands, Steve had been forced to realize how wrong he’d been. His soul had been ripped open and he was crippled by how powerful and deeply love ran through him. He offered the universe and promised up anything-- everything-- in return for Bucky’s safety.
It was agony not knowing. From the moment he woke up from a fitful bit of sleep, his heart seized, lungs froze, and he would remember holding Bucky in his arms, when it was just them and they were lost in one another. Every chance that Steve got he asked the crew but, of course, he was denied. He hadn’t even been told where he was being taken for trial.
There was also the issue of his men. He’d managed to draw the attention to himself so that Sam and the others could escape. He had stayed with his ship as long as he could, and would have remained to the bitter end if he hadn’t been beaten into submission by too many men to fight. The Fallen Eagle had indeed fallen. If it were to ever sail again, it would be without him.
Steve laughed harshly. He was already dead, at least in spirit, and it wouldn’t be long now until his body would follow. His ending had been inevitable. All his life he’d been playing a dangerous game and with it, came the consequences. He’d been prepared for a long time but then Bucky had come into his world and changed it all. Steve only wished that it hadn’t come at Bucky’s expense.
All of it was his fault. The ransom meant nothing now. He should have left Bucky aboard that ship with his sister, should have left him to his safe and comfortable future instead of ruining it. Because that’s what Steve had done. He’d grabbed onto something pure and light and broke it apart, piece by piece.
With a jolt, Steve awoke with tears on his face.
In his dream, Bucky had reached out for him, beckoning him to come to bed. Yet Steve had been unable to move. He stayed rooted in the doorway and Bucky kept calling, more desperately as the moments went by. At the end of it, Bucky had been crying and looked at Steve so heartbroken, so betrayed, and he’d turned his back to Steve.
Now he ached. He yearned to hold him as they slept, breathe him in, keep him close and safe and warm. He wanted to hear Bucky’s gasps of pleasure, to bring him bliss, and god-- to kiss him. The loss of Bucky was a feeling that refused to be left behind. It filled Steve to the brim with pressure against his skin that choked him.
Loving someone was an act of sheer madness. The fact that Bucky had thrown himself into harm’s way for Steve’s sake clawed at him. He would give anything to change it, to take away the pain and keep Bucky unharmed.
Steve clenched his empty hands. It was ridiculous to yearn for a keepsake he could touch, some scrap of clothing, Bucky’s dagger, even. Steve had tucked it in his boot but it had been confiscated and was lost to him now. There was nothing tangible left of Bucky. Even the scratches on his chest-- the marks that Bucky had made when he’d insisted their relationship was real-- were gone. Steve’s flesh had mended and all proof of Bucky was gone.
As the days passed in darkness, Steve wondered if it had all been a dream. He knew that his captivity could have been worse. He wasn’t being tortured, and they were giving him enough water and food to keep him alive, but maybe he’d been injured along the way and now he was trapped inside a feverish facade.
Torment wasn’t being held prisoner, knowing he would die soon. That he could accept. That was fate that he’d expected for years. No, torment was the idea of living the rest of his miserable life without Bucky.
True hell was to love.
When the storm hit he wasn’t surprised. He hated not being at the wheel and could only hope that the men in charge were capable. He had no reason to think that they weren’t, but as he was tossed from side to side like a child’s plaything, he wasn’t so sure.
The shackles around his wrists were attached to the wall and his shoulders burned as he was thrown around. He feared they might be pulled from their sockets, which of course brought up the memory of Bucky racing up the ropes to rescue Barton. Fearless and brave and beautiful.
The ache would have brought Bucky to his knees if he hadn’t already been there, powerless in the shifting ship. Even though he was in darkness, Steve squeezed his eyes shut and allowed himself to pretend that he was back in the cabin that had been his only home for so long. In his head, he returned to his bed where Bucky was sweet and sighing into his arms, their lips meeting endlessly.
With a miracle, they somehow survived.
And judging by the ship’s speed and noises echoing above him, they were nearing a harbor and soon to be dropping anchor. Sure enough, men came in and soon dragged him from his cell. They weren’t daft enough to unshackle his wrists but he was large enough that they undid the ones around his ankles to allow him to walk.
The captain was a tall, sturdy man named Castle who had short brown hair that was shaved close to his skull. His dark brows were furrowed and nearly hid his black eyes in the shadows they produced. There was a skull tattoo peaking out of the crisp collar of his shirt.
“This is your final stop,” Castle scowled at him. “You were a man of respect once. I can’t decide which is the worse offense-- the piracy or desertion. Suppose it doesn’t matter, given you’ll hang regardless.” To the crew nearby, he announced, “I’m taking him ashore. As soon as we have our money, we’re leaving this godforsaken place.”
Steve was dragged onto the top deck and blinked in the harsh glare, refusing to bow his head. In the light of day, his gaze scoured the horizon and stared at Brookstein Isle. Weeks back, it was the sight of a small colony on the rise. Now, apart from the large structure of the governor’s house, the houses and shelters were hardly noticeable. Palm trees were chopped in half. Ships were wrecked on the shore. Steve’s lips parted in shock.
Castle cursed beneath his breath. “Where the fuck is the rest of it?”
Hell had been unleashed upon them.
The storm had raged on for days and brought its raw wrath with it. He hadn’t been allowed outside or up on the second floor but he had heard the crashes and the awful howls of wind that rattled the boards covering the windows and the downpour of rain that sprayed against the house, sounding like rocks being thrown.
But atlas, the sun was out and him and Becca were able to actually enjoy breakfast in the dining room while the servants took the boards down from the windows. He itched to help them but when he first got up, the fire in his gut reminded him that he wasn’t in the best of conditions to go around offering his assistance. So now he sat poking at his food, biting the inside of his cheeks as he watched the sun rise higher and higher into the sky.
A crash suddenly rang out.
Bucky and Becca both pushed back their chairs and followed the noise of their father’s indistinct shouting. The two shared a look when a particularly loud roar echoed from down the hall, before they pushed their way into the main study room. As they entered, John came storming out. His face was flushed red, and his trousers and coat was splattered with mud.
John stopped just enough to meet their eyes. “He is being unreasonable! I swear he’s gone mad. He’s acting as if there is still a colony left to govern. He won’t go down to see that there’s nothing left!”
Unlike Bucky, John had been back and forth offering any assistance he could. It was he that had actually informed them before the sun rose that most of the servants and townspeople had fled once the storm abated just enough. What followed was a discussion between the three of them that surrounded their departure as well.
While Becca and him were eating, John had been speaking to their father about Sharon wanting Bucky and her to join Mr. Carter in relocating to Jamaica. From what they had just heard, it hadn’t gone well at all. Not that either of them thought it would.
With a peck to Becca’s cheek and a nod to Bucky, John continued on his way. They watched him go, and Bucky huffed as he squared his shoulders. “I’m going to talk with Father.”
Becca gave his arm a squeeze and nodded, like she hadn’t expected anything else. “I’ll go finish packing, then.”
When Bucky stepped further into the study, he found his father fully dressed but still missing that ridiculous wig of his. A bookshelf had been pushed over in his rage and it gouged the polished floor. The boards had been torn from the windows already, likely by John, since his father’s shoes still shined and there wasn’t a single drop of mud anywhere in sight.
“What?” Father barked.
There were many things to say and Bucky didn’t know how to begin, so he decided to jump directly into the hellfire.
“The Captain of The Fallen Eagle wasn’t the first privateer that you cheated, was he?” Bucky asked. “How many honest men did you and your corrupt partners doom to the gallows just so you could have their ships and cargos for your own gain?”
George stared at him for a long moment, stunned. But then the blue of his father’s eyes hardened and they glinted terribly in the light. “After all that I have done for you… to get you home safe, you have the audacity to interrogate me? In my own home?” His father scoffed. “I shouldn’t be surprised. You’re just as ungrateful as ever.”
“Answer the question,” Bucky insisted. “How many have you cheated?”
George waved a dismissive hand. The little amused smile on his face made Bucky see red. “Privateers, pirates. There’s no difference.”
Bucky cringed as he remembered saying that very statement to Cap what felt like a lifetime ago. It made him ashamed that even when his Father was nowhere near, he had still controlled Bucky’s thoughts, his very own words, too. “There are differences. You know there are differences.”
“They’re all savages. You should know firsthand. Just look at you now. You can’t even have the decency to dress properly in my presence.”
Bucky ignored that. “Some are, yes, but many have been left with no other options to make a living. It’s their way of survival when people like you ruin their lives!”
George scoffed and walked to his desk. “Worthless men that deserve to live worthless lives as far as I am concerned. Besides, your argument, if it should even be called that, has a fatal flaw. The captain is a deserter from the Royal Navy.” Behind his desk, George snatched up a piece of paper and thrusted it at Bucky but then his face twisted cruelly. “But you can’t even read it, can you? Leave this business to the men who understand it. Men with all of their wits.”
Despite Bucky’s best efforts to steel himself, the blows still landed. He opened his mouth, then shut it again, and George quickly took advantage of his pause. “Would you like for me to read it to you? I’ll use small words.” His father cleared his throat. “Steven Grant Rogers incited a mutiny aboard the Queen’s Royal vessel, then deserted on the fourth day of…”
Bucky stopped listening. Instead, he rolled the name around his mind carefully, as if the words were so fragile they would break. Steven Rogers. Steve . He wanted to say them aloud, wanted to shout them from the top of his lungs, but his father was still talking.
The pang of longing rocked through Bucky and he had to reach out for the edge of his father’s desk. Lord, what he wouldn’t give to hear Cap’s voice again and feel the rough warmth of his touch. To talk to him, to be with him, to do anything as long as they were together. Bucky would rescue him, no matter the cost.
“And as such, Steve Rogers--” George sneered, “-- now known as the notorious pirate captain of The Fallen Eagle-- should be sentenced to death.”
Ignoring the dull throb of his wound, Bucky stood up straight again and clenched his fists. “He’s only a deserter of a navy that enslaved him. You talk of savages-- how is our government any better? They stole him! And yet he still wanted to do good for the country until you destroyed that. He wasn’t the first, was he? You lied and stole. You cheated for your own gain.”
“Oh, for God’s sake.” George’s face reddened. “Enough of this! What does it matter? This pirate almost killed you and yet you try to defend him? I know you lack in schooling but you have never been this stupid before.”
“You have forgotten that I was there. I know it was your messenger who attacked and if it wasn’t for me, you would have killed the captain! That messenger had to have known he would be killed. I can only wonder what threats you told him to do your bidding.”
“Well if that incompetent fool Castle had been on time--” George broke off, his jaw clenching hard. “I had to have a second plan in place. No matter what, the pirate had to die. I could not be bested by that nothing of a man.” He slammed his fist onto the desk and the inkpot toppled over, spilling across the surface. “I am to be respected!”
“And what of me?” Bucky whispered. “If the messenger had hit your target, do you think the pirates would still have released me? Or if they had realized the ransom was mostly counterfeit?”
George’s cheek twitched and he averted his eyes. “It would have been… regrettable, but in war, losses are unpreventable.”
Bucky stared at his father, this stranger before him who had always controlled his life even from across the ocean. He had never hated anyone before but looking at his father, seeing that infuriating look on his face… Bucky felt hate like never before and it was all directed straight at George Barnes.
“You’re the criminal,” Bucky said, voice hoarse.
George narrowed his eyes. “We both know that you don’t understand how the world works. Even now, you have been my greatest disappointment. And to think I sacrificed my sweet Winnie for you--” He broke off, swallowing thickly.
The heavy feeling of guilt slashed through him, worse than his wound. The anger followed quickly after. “I didn’t ask to be born so you could prove yourself to be a man with a proper heir. Not that there’s anything to inherit. You are bankrupt!”
George merely shrugged. “Temporarily. There is a fortune up for grabs and you will marry the Carter girl to acquire it. She’s an only child and she’s to inherit everything. Even if the fool returns to Jamaica, as long as you marry the girl, we’ll eventually have enough to rebuild here. Brookstein Isle is long from being dead, I’ll guarantee you that. Carter’s an old man. God willing, it won’t be long until he’s dead and you get everything.”
Bucky shook his head. “No, I won’t marry her. I don’t love her, Father.”
Shockingly, or perhaps not really, George erupted into harsh laughter. The noise made Bucky blanch. “ Love ?” he chuckled. “What does that have to do with anything? I know you are an imbecile, so I will explain the situation slowly. Marriage--”
“Fuck you,” Bucky gritted out.
He expected a strong reaction but it was still a surprise when his Father lashed out. The slap was hard across Bucky’s cheek, hard enough that it whipped his head to the side. It stung and immediately he could feel the swelling, the bruising. His hand flew up to his cheek and he stared back at his father.
George reached down to straighten his cuffs. “My boy, you are treading on very thin ground.”
But he was done . Bucky shook his head again, raising his voice and repeating, “Fuck. You. I won’t give up my life for you. You’ve destroyed this place with your greed. Almost everyone has left. Becca and John are joining the Carters in Jamaica. Even the Crown has pulled out the military! There’s nothing left. It’s over, Father.”
His father was already walking around his desk, face angered like never before. Bucky prepared himself for another hit, refusing to run away, but a knock at the open door had George stopping. The messenger was a young boy about twelve with a mess of blond curls and mud caking his shoes and trousers almost to his knees.
“What do you want?” George barked.
“The pirate has been delivered, sir.”
As Bucky tried not to sag in relief, George clapped his hands together. “Finally, some good news! Excellent.”
The messenger lingered. “Pardon me, my lord, but Captain Castle is demanding the fee. He’s taken the pirate back aboard until you deliver it.”
Bucky eyed his father’s pinched face. Realization dawned on him. My God, he doesn’t have it. All at once, his heart plummeted into his gut. If the boy relayed it to Castle, there was no telling what would become of Cap.
“Please tell Captain Castle that he will be paid in full tomorrow morning. In the wake of the storm’s devastation, the governor is assisting his citizens.”
With a hesitant glance at George, the boy nodded and scurried away. They were left alone once again but his father was distracted, his mind far from Bucky at the moment. “Yes, let Castle keep him tonight and tomorrow the Captain will swing. It will be a victorious day for Brookstein Isle. We have withstood the hurricane and will see the world’s most fearsome pirate be brought to justice. All thanks to me,” George said, almost to himself.
Bucky’s feet begged to run to the harbor but he had to be patient. The plan was already set. The only thing he had to do was wait for darkness.
So Bucky tucked his head down, bit his tongue, and let his father entertain his delusions for the moment.
They were pretending.
The garden was in ruins and several of the stone archways were crumbled in chunks along the pathway. Palm trees were snapped in half and their fronds littered everywhere his eyes could see. The house that his father constructed was high on a hillside and it gave them a clear view of the destruction that had become of the island. It looked like one massive wave had swept across the low land and all that was left was the bases of plots, walls and roofs stripped like mere paper. The streets had puddles the size of rivers. All of it was gone and looking at the scene, Bucky was glad the people had fled.
It didn’t matter that the outdoor table set was broken. Him, Becca, and Sharon had dragged a crate to a somewhat cleared area under the shade and pulled chairs forward to sit down and eat. From a distance, they could hear the raised voices of their father and Mr. Carter but the words were too faint to make out. Sharon gave them a sympathetic smile before stirring in a spoonful of sugar into her cup. Instead of acknowledging the chaos around them or the bruise on his cheek, they sipped at their teas and ate sandwiches and fruit. Blissfully ignorant even though they were far from it.
But what was he supposed to do? It was easier to pretend that he would still marry Sharon, and that he would live here forever on Brookstein Isle to please his father instead of telling the truth. Even if he wanted to say the truth, would it be that simple? Could he really open his mouth and tell her, ‘ I’m sorry Sharon, but I’m a sodomite and the pirate captain fucked me every way you can imagine-- and some you can’t possibly fathom. Oh, and I will be rescuing him and staying by his side if he’ll allow me. Instead of being with you and the hell that my father has created, I want to live out my days with him at my side because it will be a life worth living.’
Talk like that wasn’t something you did over tea time in the aftermath of total island destruction.
“Is it ever this hot in England?” Sharon asked, her voice trembling as another echo of their fathers’ fury reached them.
Bucky and Becca looked to each other. “Not at all,” Becca answered. “I don’t think I’ve prespired so much in my life before setting sail for this place. Summers are always very pleasant there.”
Becca, bless her soul, was trying her best to amend the awkwardness of the conversation but the silence still rang out as none of them knew what to say. It was exactly what happened when you threw people together with too many expectations and not nearly enough of a connection. Not that their fathers’ cared one bit.
“If no one will build a gallows then we’ll hang him from a God damned tree!” George’s voice rang out.
Becca’s sympathetic gaze was too much to bear as it landed on him and he had to look down into his teacup. He’d heard of the witchcraft of reading tea leaves but staring down into the amber liquid revealed nothing to him; not his future, past, or even now despite how desperately he wished for answers.
For the hundredth time, Bucky imagined Cap aboard the ship, so close and yet still so far out of reach. Was he injured? Fed? Had he been treated fairly? Something acidic burned up his throat at the thought of Cap suffering and he gripped his teacup so tightly that it would have shattered if Becca hadn’t covered his shaking hand with her own, guiding the cup back to its saucer.
Sharon leaned toward him. “Are you well?” she asked, but then shook her head. “Oh, of course you aren’t dear. It must make you so stressed knowing that monster is so close.”
“It does,” he agreed, struggling to keep his tone even.
Sharon sighed and placed her arm delicately on his shoulder. He understood that she probably believed touching him would give him some comfort, but it only made him even more queasy. “I just can’t wait to leave this place.” she said.
“Neither can I,” he added. Bucky glanced at his sister and took a deep breath when they locked eyes. They both knew it was going to be a long night and soon, preparations were to be made.
He ended up wearing his funeral suit. Strangely, it seemed fitting.
He was hidden in all black; black coat over his black shirt and he regarded himself in the mirror in his room. Behind him, Becca watched. His hair was longer than when he’d left home and it barely brushed his shoulders. There were faint freckles that danced across the bridge of his nose. On Cap’s ship he had acquired a nice tan but it had faded during his recovery. He felt older but he didn’t look a day older compared to when this all began. It didn’t help that facial hair was just something that didn’t want to grow on his face. He was still too thin and the muscles he once had were soft, begging for activity. Soon , he promised his body.
It felt silly that he had to wear his riding boots but it was the only pair of boots that he had. The most important thing he did have was his father’s pistol. He’d managed to snag it from his father’s study when George had been busy shouting at John to get a gallows built. The pistol was carefully tucked into the back of his trousers and when he was done, Becca draped his long dark cloak around his shoulders.
It made him think of Cap’s coat. God, the thought of seeing Cap again made Bucky’s head spin, to smell and taste and hold him. He was almost ready.
Bucky stared at himself critically, trying to see if he was capable of appearing intimidating or not. The weight of Becca’s gaze scouring him from head to toe almost made him fidget but he waited for her approval.
Then, she nodded. “It will do. For now, anyways. I can practically smell the civilization on you but it’ll do,” she teased but there was no mocking in her voice, more like she was trying to ease the seriousness of the situation. There was a large satchel in her hands and she eased it over his shoulder. It was filled with all of the gold and silver they could find throughout the house, a nice collection that was certainly a hefty sum. They weren’t sure how much George had promised Castle, but it was better than nothing.
Becca picked up the second bag from off his bed and walked to him. It was filled with real money and all of the jewels that had been part of their father’s stockpile. Lord only knew where he got them from, but Becca insisted that Bucky should take them to pay for any troubles on his soon to be taken journey.
They had their plan. Bucky would leave tonight, rescue Cap, and together they would sail off and find a quiet place for a few weeks until Becca sent word that it was safe for them to join and regroup, when their father was absolutely done with them both. The plan after that was up in the wind because neither of them knew for certain if they would stay there near Jamaica but far from the Carters, or if they would find another inhabited island and make a home there instead. But those worries were for later and far from Bucky’s current thoughts.
Becca leaned her head onto his shoulder, staring at their reflections in the mirror. “Promise me you won’t get yourself killed, brother.”
“It’s not part of the plan, no,” he tried to joke but it fell flat. There was no hiding the fear that he felt, knowing he would soon be walking into fire.
Becca hugged him tightly into her side. “Meet us in Jamaica when this is done with,” she reminds him sternly. He’s lost track of how many times they’ve discussed the plan but he’s taken it seriously each and every time. “Three weeks at max, got it?”
She turned his body so they were standing face to face. The embrace was strong and he inhaled her sweet scent, resting his cheek against her curls. She pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Now go get your pirate,” she whispered.
He pulled back but not before kissing her forehead. Bucky didn’t want to act as if this was the last time they would ever see each other again because he refused to. He was going to see his sister and John and little Susie again. And when he did… Steve would be right there with him. Bucky didn’t let himself think of any other possibility.
“I’ll see you soon,” he promised and then, he was leaving.
Bucky glided into the hallway with the satchels. The first step had him wincing with the added weight as pain shot through his stomach but by the second, third, fourth step, the agony was gone. He crept down the stairs and when he saw the flickering light from the door of George’s study, he held his breath and tiptoed past. When he heard his father’s drunk muttering, he rolled his eyes.
Part of him wanted to stride in there and savor the look on his father’s face when George discovered his one and only son was running away to be with another man, let alone a pirate who was his father’s enemy.
But he knew his father wasn’t worth it-- not even a little bit-- and Bucky slipped into the night without a word. Steve was waiting and he was all that mattered to Bucky.
Bucky had barely rounded the ruins of the garden when a figure suddenly appeared. “Barnes?” a voice hissed. “Barnes! It’s me, Sam.”
Bucky couldn’t believe his eyes. He stared in shock as he took in the pistol and blade in Sam’s hands, gleaming in the moonlight. “Sam?”
Sam grinned. “I’m real, I promise.” A hand grasped at Bucky’s shoulder, gostling him a bit. “I'm glad to see you alive. Let alone up and about.” The hand at Bucky’s shoulder vanished and instead, Sam held it out for Bucky to take.
The relationship between the two of them had been nonexistent. Sam had never allowed Bucky to be anything more than a ransom and Bucky had understood. But now, none of it mattered and he quickly clasped his own hand against Sam’s. His wound protested but he ignored it.
“I’m glad to see you too,” he said, finding it much easier to breathe now. “You’ve come to rescue him, right?”
“Of course. Some of the crew are waiting in the hills near the harbor while a few of us got familiar with the land. We managed to steal a ship in Hispaniola. It’s hidden on the east side. There’s two dozen of us, barely enough to sail, but we had to be here. We have to get him out.” Sam’s gaze drifted from his head to toe, taking him in. “And I take it we’ll be getting help?”
Bucky nodded. He knew that to Sam it was probably laughable, Bucky playing dress up as pirate, but he’d been prepared to do it all by himself. Sam had to have realized that.
“All right, you leave it to us then,” Sam said, looking at him seriously. “The captain would never forgive us if you were hurt again. We’ll be at the ship before they know what’s happening.”
The plan didn’t sound as easy as Sam was trying to make it seem. There were too many unknown factors and Bucky’s heart clenched at the idea of Steve being so close only to be killed in some unnecessary brawl.
“I think I have another idea,” Bucky suggested. “A better one, maybe. Less violent.”
The look on Sam’s face couldn’t be described as anything but proud. “Alright, then. Let me hear it.”
The next chapter will be posted tomorrow! The last chapter will be an epilogue so about 1-2 weeks for that because I will be completing Brooklyn Syndrome in the meantime.
It was fitting that Steve would wear his costume to the end. He was still holed up in the dark underbelly of the fleet and he supposed that it was a good foretaste of the grave that he would soon be in.
The ship creaked back and forth gently on the anchor, nothing but a peaceful night. But on the inside, peace was far from what Steve felt, not when the thoughts of Bucky’s wellbeing was on his mind.
The delay was telling. It was obvious that George Barnes didn’t have the privateer’s fee, otherwise he’d have been dead already. So he was left with nothing but time. When he did manage to sleep, it was broken hours at a time, creating a blend of minutes where he couldn’t tell when he was awake or when he was trapped in a dream.
When there were shouts and thundering footsteps above his head, he wasn’t sure if he’d fallen asleep again or if it was morning now and it was time to face his execution-- that is, if George Barnes had satisfied Castle.
But when Steve was hauled up to the main deck once again, the moon was high in the night sky, with stars blinking down at him. He was confused and when he peered around, he found two groups at odds. Some of Castle’s crew were scattered around the deck, all with their weapons out. Castle stood in the center and eyed a small group of men that were standing on the center of the deck.
In the moonlight, Steve could instantly recognize the shape of Sam’s shoulders. Hope, although small, began to bubble in his stomach. Around Sam there were other members of the crew and--
Steve’s knees almost gave out. Joy, more powerful than anything he’d ever experienced before, soared inside of him. His heart was a war drum and it was only the possibility of putting Bucky in danger that he didn’t shake off the hands gripping at him. He was ready to gnaw through their fingers with his teeth if it meant getting to Bucky.
And heavens did he look wonderful, like an angel straight from the skies above. Bucky stood dressed in black and a heavy coat concealed his body. His hair was tousled and free, longer than the last time he’d seen it. The most concerning was that Bucky’s face seemed pale. Steve wasn’t sure if it was the night sky or if it was the lingering effects of the stabbing. Steve ached to hold him and feel for himself that Bucky was whole.
“Alright,” Castle said. “I’m listening.” His hand rested on the handle of his sword and even in chains, Steve got ready to lurch forward to protect Bucky in case Castle made a move. He’d failed once, he wouldn’t do it a second time.
Instead of Sam speaking like Steve assumed he would, Bucky did, and Steve could only gape at him. “I’m James Barnes. I believe my father owes you a considerable sum.”
Castle nodded. “He does. Twenty-five thousand pounds, a quarter of your ransom. Told him I wouldn’t take any less to go after the captain of The Fallen Eagle.” Then, Castle’s dark eyes narrowed as he looked at Bucky, asking in disbelief, “Are you associated with these pirates now, Barnes?”
“I am,” Bucky answered, strong and sure, making Steve barely conceal the urge to swell in pride. “I’ve had enough of my father and his lies. We have your twenty-five thousand pounds as well as gold and silver from my father’s house as a bonus. All that we ask is for our Captain’s return and safe passage from this wretched place.”
If this was a dream, Steve would be glad to sleep forever. He held his breath as Castle thought it over.
“My father is broke. If you turn the captain in, you’ll end up with nothing,” Bucky went on, squaring his shoulders and keeping his head up high. He motioned toward the island. “You can see for yourself that the colony has collapsed. Governor Barnes doesn’t have the means to help his own people, let alone privateers. He will cheat you, just like he did our captain who was once a privateer like yourself until my father lied and fabricated his offenses. Don’t think my father won’t do the same to you and your men. He wouldn’t hesitate to avoid his debt.”
Castle shifted from foot to foot, his face hard.
“My father has done enough damage. Don’t let him do any more,” Bucky added.
Then, Sam finally stepped forward, grinning wildly. “And surely you don’t think our numbers are this small?”
Castle’s crew shuffled uneasily and turned to peer out at the water and squinted toward the land. Castle’s lips thinned before he nodded his head hastily. “Let me see the money. And the silver and gold.”
The transaction was quick. A large satchel was handed over and Castle inspected it closely. All it took was one nod of his head and his men were unshackling Steve and pushing him toward the crew onboard. Towards his lover.
Steve cupped Bucky’s face all too briefly, feeling the air fully enter his lungs at the feel of him warm and whole and alive. He ached to kiss and hold him and say a hundred other things he didn’t have words for, but they weren’t safe yet.
“Thank you,” he whispered. It was all he could do before he turned his attention back to Castle, who waved them off dismissively. “All right. Off my ship!”
None of them needed to be told twice. Soon they were off the ship and down in a small rowboat, pushing back to shore. There were too many men squeezed between them for Steve to reach out for Bucky, but as soon as they hit the beach, they fell into step and Steve took hold of his hand, squeezing his fingers. The motion anchored himself, proving that Bucky was real and not some ghost or cruel mirage of his mind.
Bucky pressed into Steve’s side as much as he could and Steve grabbed at him even though he was fully alert on their surroundings. The harbor was eerily quiet where only a handful of small ships remained. The majority of the colony’s buildings had been flattened and all that was left looked like it had been through a war. There weren’t any people out but Steve kept a careful watch, ready to tear out the throat of anyone who would dare stand in their way.
But their good fortune didn’t last long. George didn’t come up to them by surprise, instead he announced his presence with a thunder of curses and practically foaming at the mouth as he shouted at them. “ James Buchanan Barnes ! You will stop and come here this instant!”
He felt Bucky freeze at his side and instead of running to his father, Bucky took a step back. When Steve looked at him, there was no denying the fright on his face and with a nearby torch, Steve could make out the bruise that covered Bucky’s cheek. Rage flowed through him as if it was his very blood.
Steve gripped at Bucky’s hand and with his other, he reached to Sam, who passed over his sword wordlessly. He regarded George Barnes, meeting him face to face for the first time since that fateful day. He wanted to lunge and strangle the man with his bare hands but miraculously, Steve nodded toward him. “Good evening, Governor.”
George’s eyes were wild, as was his dark hair that stood up at all angles. He was fully dressed but he was splattered with mud. Even if he wasn’t at his best, Steve had never seen another man as furious as George was in that moment.
“I thought the messenger had gone mad when he said my son was down at the harbor. My son, who has barely been out of bed, my son--” George broke off, mouth dropping open as his gaze fell to where Steve and Bucky held hands, their fingers entwined.
Bucky broke the silence. “Your son, who is in love with this man and who is leaving to make a life with him.”
All the wounds in Steve’s soul that had festered when he and Bucky had parted now healed in an instant. He squeezed Bucky’s trembling hand.
George stared in outrage. Then, he snapped his jaw shut. “You little imbecile. You have always been weak and useless! Now you’re an abomination as well? I should have known.”
The words were still in the air as Steve let go of Bucky and surged forward. He ran right into George, toppling him to the ground. Steve put his boot on George’s chest and pointed the sword at his throat. It would be so easy to skewer Barnes with his blade, to slice open his throat, or even cut off his head and display it on a spike for all to see, to remind them all that he was a captain that should never be crossed.
Yet, as he watched the man whimper and curse in the mud, his fury faded. This was the man who had changed the course of Steve’s life, who he hated so much. But this was also the man who had given him Bucky.
“You’re not worth another moment of my time,” he said, so softly yet so viciously that George’s eyes widened as he spluttered. Steve wanted to spit and cuss and hurt this man but he only stepped back and reached blindly for Bucky’s hand, breathing deeply when Bucky’s cold fingers grasped back.
At Steve’s side, Bucky looked down at George. “Goodbye, Father,” he said. And that was the end of it; nothing more, nothing less.
When Steve led them on, George screamed curses and kept calling Bucky’s birth name but all of it was ignored. If any further alarm had been sounded, it didn’t echo across the water as they headed on. Eventually, Brookstein Isle faded from view.
“Is it really over?” Bucky whispered. He was standing on the top deck with Steve, still grasping at his hand. Bucky’s thumb rubbed back and forth soothingly. He’d already stripped off his coats and boots and his pretty brown hair flowed easily in the breeze.
“I think we are due for some good fortune, wouldn’t you say?”
Bucky’s eyes met his and slowly, a smile spread on his lips. “I would say yes.”
With Sam issuing orders, Steve was able to stand free with Bucky. They were able to be alone even if they weren’t out of eye’s view. He didn’t care even if they stared. This was about having Bucky at his side once again. The emotions were so strong that Steve struggled to find the right words.
“I… I feared that you had died. Because of me. It was…” Steve’s chest tightened and if they were hidden away, he would have cried. “Never do anything like that again. Promise me.”
For a long moment, Bucky didn’t say anything. His eyes scoured Steve’s face and he bit at his lips, making them turn red and raw. Then, he shrugged. “I can’t promise that because it would be a lie. I would risk anything for you.”
Steve cursed beneath his breath, but couldn’t deny the warmth flowing through him. “Clearly, since you did it again tonight.”
“I knew that there was a chance that you would turn me away… that you might still do it, but I had to try. I didn’t want to live with the regret. At least now I can be certain.”
Steve frowned. “Turn you away? From rescuing me? Surely you don’t think I’m old enough to have lost my mind.”
Bucky’s gaze skittered away. “No. I mean from… this. Us. You said--”
Steve gripped Bucky’s fingers. “I said lots of things.” With his free hand, he lifted Bucky’s chin, brushing his thumb over the little divot that drove him mad with want. “It was lies. Lies that I thought would benefit you. When I saw you soaked in blood… I only wanted to protect you. How you could possibly forgive me is something I won’t ever understand.”
“I meant what I said,” Bucky met his gaze once again. Stronger than ever. “I love you. Maybe it is foolish, but I’ve never been that bright, remember?”
Steve let go of his hand to cup Bucky’s other cheek, framing his face. “You are the brightest soul that I have ever met. And the love that I have for you compares to no other.” He was filthy and had to smell horrid, but Bucky kissed him deeply. Bucky sighed into his mouth and Steve tugged him closer, feeling so perfect and precious. Steve’s arms shifted to loop behind Bucky’s waist but suddenly Bucky stiffened, gasping.
Before Steve could ask, Bucky was shaking his head. “It’s nothing,” Bucky assured him. “The wound is just a bit sore.” Steve frowned but Bucky was quick to run his hands over Steve’s cheek. “Just keep kissing me. Please.”
Being one to not be strong enough to deny his lover, Steve’s will shattered and he brought their lips together once more, their tongues softly colliding.
It’s minutes later once they pull apart, when Brookstein Isle is far behind them, that Sam approaches, looking at them in a mixture of fondness and exasperation. “So, where are we headed to drop you two off?”
Steve raised an eyebrow. “You aren’t going to try to make me stay?”
Sam only snorted. “I know a lost cause when I see it. Besides, who am I to stand in your way? Lord knows you need someone to knock some sense into you from time to time but I think someone else can look after you now.”
They all laughed, and Steve reached out his hand. Sam quickly clasped his palm. “Thank you, Sam. For everything.” The two of them yanked together in a rough embrace and not for the first time that night, Steve’s throat was tight with emotion.
Clearing his own throat, Sam stepped back and grinned toward Bucky. “I suppose the young lord has proven himself more than worthy.” Sam offered his hand and Bucky took it gratefully.
Steve would miss him. Sam had been his right hand man for so long, being a brother he’d never had. And while the loss would hit Steve hard, he was looking forward to his future away from the ship, a future with Bucky at his side. A future that he’d always wanted.
Steve would never harm Bucky again, but in that moment, he missed the days when Bucky would tremble in his presence. It was useful in getting his way especially when Bucky liked to be particularly hardheaded.
“When did it start bleeding?” Steve barked, massaging his temple as a headache began to form. The stress this boy put him through…
From where he was stretched out on a cushion, Bucky shrugged. “Sometime during our escape.”
“Sometime,” Steve echoed in disbelief. A cold, clammy sweat trickled down his spine. Once they had been far enough from Brookstein Isle and were sure they weren’t being chased by Castle, Steve had tugged Bucky down beneath the deck with a smile, eager to get cleaned up and lock themselves away. He had planned to fuck Bucky until they reached the harbor of their destination but all of his thoughts had vanished when he’d felt the wetness on Bucky’s dark shirt, and his hand came away a bonechilling red.
“Why didn’t you tell me the wound reopened?” he demanded.
God help him, Bucky shrugged again. “I don’t know. I didn’t want to trouble you with it.”
“Didn’t want-- Falsworth ! Get the fuck down here!” Steve marched to the door to drag the doctor down himself and he turned to regard Bucky one last time. “You will stay in here. In bed. Do you understand?”
Bucky made a show of contemplating it. “Mmm… maybe?”
Steve pressed his lips together and did his most fearsome loom over Bucky. “I will throttle you if you so much as sit up.”
An amused little laugh spilled past Bucky’s lips. “Well, then I really will need the surgeon.” Bucky had the nerve to smile. “Really, it’s nothing.”
“Nothing apparently doesn’t mean the same thing for you as it does to me.” He narrowed his eyes at the blood that had soaked through the bandage on Bucky’s stomach. “That is not nothing. It’s because of me you were injured in the first place.”
Bucky lifted his hand, and Steve took it, sinking to his knees by the bed.
“Because of my father,” Bucky corrected him. “Not you.” He squeezed Steve’s fingers and nodded. “I’ll rest now. I promise. Go get Falsworth and I’m sure he’ll say that everything is fine, too.”
Steve kissed him quickly and stood, or else he’d be stuck to those lips for too long. His gaze lingered over his shoulder as he reached the door and it wasn’t until Bucky blew him a kiss, trying his best to reassure him, that Steve left. It took no time locating Falsworth and when he arrived to examine Bucky, his hands prodded.
Falsworth shot Steve a nervous glance. “He should recover nicely,” he said eventually. “I’ll have to re-stitch the wound but as long as you rest and eat, you’ll be good as new.”
“Oh, he’ll rest,” Steve scowled. “Trust me.”
Bucky rolled his eyes. “Yes. Thank you, Falsworth.”
“Now we need to get you nice and numb. Have any rum on hand?” Falsworth asked. “This will hurt.”
After Steve found a bottle in the cabin, they waited until Bucky drank through a good third of it. His nose scrunched up with every gulp he took and with each, his blinks got longer and heavier. Steve took the bottle away at Bucky’s nod. “Okay, I’m ready. If I drink anymore, I’m going to puke it all up.”
Steve sank down to Bucky’s side and took his hand. He regarded Falsworth and told him to be fucking careful, his nerves getting the better of him. As Falsworth worked, Bucky squeezed Steve’s hands tightly. His pretty lips were pressed tightly together, nostrils flaring, but he withstood it and Steve bent to kiss his forehead, not caring what Falsworth might think.
The process felt longer than reality and it was mere minutes later that Falsworth was finished and leaving out the door after reminding Bucky once again to get rest. Steve sat on the bed with Bucky’s head pillowed on his lap and he carded his fingers gently through Bucky’s hair. It wasn’t a surprise to find Bucky had fallen asleep not long after.
He was careful to remove himself as Bucky slept. Steve went to the desk in the cabin and explored the belongings. There were books on a shelf and he squinted at the titles. Perhaps in the morning they could begin one.
Soon, however, he found a journal of blank parchment and pulled out an inkpot and quill. On the next fresh page, he began a list of all the things him and Bucky would need for the next part of their adventure.
The rumor was that Governor Barnes had burnt his own house down in a fit of madness. When the Navy had been sent to get the remainder of the broken colony, the word was that George Barnes had tried to attack the officers who had arrived to fetch him. As a result of refusing to leave, George had went into a frenzy and had been shot, ultimately putting him down.
Or, at least that’s what the talk was when they reached a port.
Steve was clean-shaven and his hair was hanging by his ears now, but thankfully, no one had recognized him. They were able to blend into the crowds and shops without problems. It was in a nearby tavern where the talk was most abundant.
“There was word of a ransom,” a big, bearded man said aloud to his party. “Hundred thousand pounds for the governor’s son. The boy was injured at the exchange but word is he helped the pirate escape before the governor could execute the captain. That’s what led to the fire. Apparently the daughter and her family were able to flee before any harm was brought to them.”
Steve watched Bucky over the brim of his beer, eyeing how Bucky’s knuckles were white where he gripped at his fork and knife. Bucky was watching the men converse with one another.
“An’ where’s the cap’n now? Think the boy’s still with him?” someone else added in.
“Well, I heard…” More men stumbled over to the table where the chatter was loudest and it was soon drowned out to him and Bucky.
Steve took a big gulp of his drink, still watching Bucky. “I’m sorry,” he said, meaning it surprisingly. He may have hated George Barnes, but the man was Bucky’s father, one half of the reason Bucky was even here to begin with. For that, he would give George Barnes the barest minimum of sympathy.
Bucky looked down. His teeth bit into his bottom lip. They hadn’t talked about it, but the bruise on Bucky’s cheek was all Steve could focus on. He knew it was of George’s making. The man had striked out at his son and while Steve wanted to know how, or why, he didn’t want to drudge up the past anymore than they had to, especially all things considered.
“I guess I should be, but as long as Becca and Susie are safe with John, that’s all that matters. I can only assume Sharon and her father escaped, too. I hope so, but…” Bucky shrugged.
“Your betrothed,” Steve nodded. Ridiculously, jealousy seeped through him. “You haven’t spoken of her. What was she like?”
A smile tugged at Bucky’s lips as if he could see right through Steve. “She was nice. Pleasant. Would have made an excellent wife and mother… but for someone that wasn’t me. I’m sure she has a bright future ahead of her, even if I hadn’t taken the time to call off the engagement.”
Steve considered him. His eyes lingered on the bruise and even though Bucky’s bandaged torso was hidden from sight, Steve could still remember it. “She could give you a life better than the one you’ve had,” he said quietly. “A safe life. A happy--”
“No,” Bucky cut him off, shaking his head and meeting Steve’s eyes, steady and clear and honest. “Not happy. And the life I have had is plenty. I don’t want that anymore and I will tell you time and time again until you get it through your thick skull that I want you. Only you,” he smiled and Steve could do nothing but return it, their gazes locked and heated.
Beneath the table, Bucky hooked his boot behind Steve’s calf. “And now,” Bucky continued, “I want to go to our room.” The inn that they had selected was on the outskirts of town. It was a pirate haven where privacy was the golden rule. Their room was hardly bigger than Steve’s cabin in The Fallen Eagle but the door door locked and they would be left alone until Bucky’s sister sent for them. It was heaven.
Their walk back to their room was quiet. They didn’t grab each other until they were well away from the public’s eye and shy from any lanterns. But once they were hidden in the shadows, they practically formed into one and latched onto each other, attacking with open mouths and greedy hands.
Out of breath, Bucky wrapped his arms around Steve’s neck. “Fuck me,” he insisted. “I want you to.”
“Of course I want to. But--”
“No buts,” Bucky insisted. Then, he took Steve’s hand, rucked up his shirt, and pressed it over his stomach. “See? It doesn’t hurt at all, I promise. Come on.”
Steve still hesitated and Bucky spared no time picking himself up on his tiptoes and bringing his mouth right to Steve’s ear. “It’s been so long since I had your cock,” Bucky whispered.
Steve traced the two-inch scar with his fingertips. In the sunlight it was pink and it would continue to fade until all that was left was a silvery-white band. Now, it was hard to believe that such a small mark could be all that was left of so much damage.
He took a deep breath, releasing the ball of fear in his chest. “Are you tired of my hands? My mouth?” he teased.
“Never.” Bucky reached down and took Steve’s cock in his hand and stroked it, making the blood in Steve’s body rush south. “But I miss this. Don’t you want to bury it inside me? So, so deep inside of me where no one has ever been before?”
Grunting, Steve cupped Bucky’s ass with his other hand. “Where no one will ever be.”
Bucky hummed and even in the low light of the setting sun, Steve could see the mischievous glint in his blue eyes. “But if you don’t fuck me, maybe I’ll have to get someone who will.” Bucky bit into his lip. “Do you think I’ll find a volunteer?”
With a growl, Steve crushed their mouths together. They bit and sucked and licked into each other, mouths hot. When Bucky pulled back, his breath was warm against Steve’s skin as he whispered, “Take me to bed.”
Steve listened. He gathered Bucky in his arms and fifteen minutes later, they were in their room. He laid Bucky down on their bed gently and immediately set to stripping him bare. He spread Bucky’s legs wide open and pulled the pot of oil from the bedside table.
After turning the lock, Steve stripped himself naked and crawled between Bucky’s legs. He leaned over to kiss his scar, then the hard tip of Bucky’s cock as he worked himself. Bucky was a trembling mess as he begged, “ Please .”
Steve bent Bucky’s legs and pushed up his knees, exposing his pretty little ass. Steve spread him and buried his face between Bucky’s cheeks, licking into him. Bucky wiggled as Steve poked into him with his tongue, licking and sucking at Bucky’s rim. His spit got Bucky nice and wet.
“Oh, please. I can’t… It’s too much. Love, please, I want to come with you inside me.”
And how could Steve possibly resist such a plea?
Steve oiled his cock and spread some around Bucky’s entrance before he eased in. The both of them groaned at the feel. Bucky’s head tipped back and his ass clenched around Steve, so tight and beautiful.
“Oh, fuck,” Steve muttered as Bucky wrapped his legs fully around his waist.
“I c-can take it,” Bucky said, his voice quivering. “Give it a-all to me.”
Powerless to deny Bucky anything, Steve shifted his weight to his arms planted on both sides of Bucky’s neck. He pushed in the rest of the way home.
Steve brought up his right hand and cupped it against Bucky’s cheek, the bruise peeking from in between Steve’s spread out fingers. “I never want to stop fucking you,” he admitted.
A glorious little laugh filled their room and Bucky lifted his head and pulled Steve down for a filthy kiss. “Good,” he mused. “Because I won’t allow it. You’ll have to fuck me until the end of the line.”
Kissing him between their smiles, Steve fucked Bucky slowly, pleasure building with each stroke until words were lost and only grunts and gasps and whines remained. Sweat beaded on their skin and the slap of flesh on flesh was all that could be heard as it escalated into a building crescendo.
Bucky clutched at Steve’s shoulders, his neck, then cupped his jaw with both nimble hands. Their eyes locked as Bucky whispered, “Steve.”
The sensation that swept through him was something beyond pleasure. Steve could only cry out as he spilled. It was soul shattering, leaving him stripped utterly bare as he filled Bucky with his seed. Steve was scraped raw and a distant part of him demanded that he retreat and fortify the walls he had once built up but Bucky kept hold of his face.
“Stay with me,” Bucky commanded.
Steve kissed him, shaking with another pulse deep inside of him. He was enclosed by Bucky’s warmth and light and as he reached down and took hold of Bucky’s cock, three strokes was all that was needed before Bucky himself spilled with a pretty cry escaping his lips. He grasped at Steve and quivered through his release.
Minutes passed where Steve pressed kisses to Bucky’s hot skin. He stayed buried inside of Bucky, hating the idea of breaking their connection even though he must be heavy. Bucky must have felt the same since his legs were wrapped tightly around him and appearing not to release him any time soon.
It was once their sweat cooled and their heartbeats turned to normal that Steve withdrew so that they could lay on their sides facing each other. He was still getting used to the strange sensation that the bed didn’t rock, or that there was no constant creaking of wood and splashes of water against the wall.
“How did you know?” Steve asked him eventually, his voice hushed.
“Sorcery, of course,” Bucky teased with a smile. “But no, my father read out the execution order.” Gently, Bucky traced his finger over the tip of Steve’s nose. “I like it. Steve. Your name is for a true pirate king, one with a crown.”
Steve chuckled and brought their faces closer so that he could kiss him, tongue sliding in deep and slow. “I don’t deserve you,” he confessed when their lips parted. “These past years I have done horrible things…”
“I forgive you.”
He smiled ruefully. “I don’t think England would be so quick to do the same.”
“Does it truly matter what England thinks? She imprisoned you in her navy. And then my father… if he’s dead, I’m glad.” It was Bucky that took control and clutched at his face, pulling him in to kiss him fiercely. Bucky quickly wrapped himself back around Steve and Steve’s arms did the same, snaking around Bucky’s back. Bucky’s fingers dug into the strands of Steve’s hair and Steve knew that no matter what he deserved, he would keep hold of Bucky and never let him go.
Eventually, Bucky shoved Steve onto his back and moved to straddle Steve’s hips. Steve’s brows rose. “Again?” he grinned. “You aren’t tired?”
“Yes, but sleep can wait until after we fuck again. There’s so much lost time to catch up on,” Bucky smiled.
Smoothing his thumb over the soft divot in Bucky’s chin, Steve laughed. “I’ve created a monster.”
“Indeed you have, Steven.” Then, Bucky leaned forward and pressed open mouthed kisses to Steve’s chest, his tongue teasing Steve’s nipples and making Steve’s cock stir back to life as soft hands roamed.
Steve’s heart soared and he slowly shook his head back and forth in disbelief. “Still can’t figure out what the fuck you’d want with an old pirate like me.”
Bucky raised his head. “I want…” He seemed to think about it, a cute little furrow between his brows. Then he locked eyes with Steve. “Everything.”
“Oh, that’s all?” Steve asked. He drew Bucky’s face up for a slow, languid kiss. And by God, Steve would give it to him.
The Epilogue is all that remains. I would give a two week estimate, three at max. Until then, I want to say thank you to all that have read and left kudos/comments because they are so wonderful to read. I am glad that so many of you have enjoyed this story but I would like to say once more that this was a direct representation of the novel Kidnapped By The Pirate by Keira Andrews.