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A Vulgar, Holy Thing

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Despite his constant insistence that he hated the sea, hated the ships, hated the men who sailed them, and had at one point in his life wanted nothing more than to be rid of it all, Silver would admit, to the near silence of the evening, that he had grown to love the peace of a ship in the setting sun. He had grown to find the sound of creaking wood and the gentle rise and fall of the hull beneath his feet, a comfort. He had begun to listen for the faint breeze dancing amongst the bound sails, as one might for the call of a friend. The low rumble of the water as currents shifted beneath the ship, amongst the relative silence of the deck, had become something akin to spiritual. Something about it, when it all came together, offered him a moment of peace, not true peace, but something to hold onto all the same. 

 

Tonight was different, however, as most nights in harbor were. The gentle lullaby of the ship was accompanied by the ambient sounds of merriment and human chaos, echoing out from the docks and winding streets of the port. Tortuga had always been a rowdy, wild place, a place Silver had often let himself get lost in, once his purse was well and truly secured. Down amongst the cobbled sandy streets the noise was a constant hum of voices and jigs, of shouting and singing, of metal hissing against metal as insults were aired in taverns and alleys.

 

Now though, as a spectator, and not one of the fools caught in the town’s chaos, it reminded Silver of the few times he’d watched a hanging, or when the nameless towns he had wandered through had held festivals, and he would sit up the hill, or in the window of his room at the inn, and watch the world go by, on the other side of some unseen glass. 

 

Silver hummed low as his leg ached, the ship rising beneath him on a passing current and reminding him of his physical form. As if he ever truly needed reminding. 

 

Now the glass, he reasoned, as he stood at the rail of the ship watching the lantern lights flicker in the twilight, was between the ship and the shore. The ship was his domain, his point of safety for however short a time he retained his position. The shore, in turn, was wilderness, unwelcoming to people like him, a place that, with each passing day, he understood less and less. He had never truly fit, amongst the port towns and the militias, amongst the taverns and the drunkards and the fishwives, but it was a strange thing to not only know it himself, but for the inhabitants of the shore to know it to. A crippled thief was not welcome, just as an able bodied thief was not, and now he could see it in their faces. It would almost be comical-

 

Silver’s thoughts were halted by new sounds, disrupting the quiet ambiance of the ship- the heavy thunk of wood against wood, the hissing of disturbed water. He was alone on deck, save for the few members of the skeleton crew with no real desire to go ashore. Most of the men had been grateful for a few days leave on the island, taking the time it took to replenish their stores and sell what goods they had acquired along the way from maroon island to blow off some steam. Silver knew most had found their way to the brothels and ale houses as soon as their feet hit the sand, not that he could fault them. Ships were lonely, especially if you didn’t prefer the company of a fellow sailor. But a few, Joji amongst them, had taken their positions around the ship to keep watch, leaving Silver to his thoughts. 

 

He leaned over the rail to see one of the longboats below, newly returned from the docks with a pair of rucksacks being readied to haul aboard. No doubt the two crewmen tying the sacks to the line were only following orders given by Flint, and were anxious to rejoin their brothers in their merrymaking. Silver moved to where the line was draped over the rail and waved down.

 

“Anything good?” he called, taking the rope in hand and hauling it up. One of the crewmen, Dooley he thought in the dim light, shrugged, while the other lifted the sacks to make them easier to haul up. 

 

Something for Flint then, Silver had been right. The captain had locked himself away the moment the ship had emptied and Silver had left him to it. No doubt the man was catching up on much needed rest now that he was more or less alone. Really, Silver should have tried to do the same, but sleep did not come easily anymore.

 

Silver gritted his teeth and braced his feet, pulling at the ropes as best he could with his weight unbalanced. He could only put so much pressure on the peg after all. He could see Joji making his way over, out of the corner of his eye, the faint clink of his swords the only sound the man ever made. But before Joji reached him, Silver felt a large, warm hand at the small of his back, accompanied by a soft sound of amusement. 

 

“If you go overboard I’m leaving you to the fishes,” Flint said, reaching around him to grab the line, the hand on Silver’s back keeping him steady. 

 

Silver felt a laugh bubble out of him like sea foam, leaning into Flint for a bit of support as they heaved together, and the sacks cleared the railing. “Like to see how long you’d last then, wouldn’t even clear the harbor before you joined me I reckon.”

 

“Oh, that’s cutting Mister Quartermaster.” 

 

Flint kept his hand on Silver’s back for a moment, until he seemed confident that Silver had his footing. Then he crouched down to gather up the sacks, before waving down to the longboat to send it back to shore. Once his hand was gone, Silver felt a tremor crawl up his spine at the lingering warmth that seeped through his shirt. 

 

It wasn’t the touch itself that left him off-kilter. No Flint’s touch was fast becoming familiar, even if the first of them had not been particularly friendly. It had gone from threatening and violent to gentle in a way Silver had never known before, soft in a way he hadn’t thought a man like Flint capable of. When Silver let himself think on it, which wasn’t often for fear of letting the thoughts run away with him, Flint touched him far more than a man really should, in his experience. But then his experience was not a good one, nor one that should be used as a reference by any means. 

 

A hand at his elbow, fingers along his shoulder. A warm palm at the small of his back, between his shoulder blades, Flint’s thigh pressed against his as they sat around the fire at camp, fingers brushing his along the guide ropes that stretched across the deck- little, harmless things really. But singular all the same. 

 

Silver started when Flint touched his arm, shaken once more from his thoughts. 

 

“Help me with these then, if you’re going to just stand there,” Flint said, tossing one of the bags at him. Silver managed to catch it in time, keeping his balance on his peg. It was heavier than expected and he knew the sound of glass bottles when he heard it.

 

“Gone shopping captain? Whatever could a man like you be in need of?’ Silver teased, following Flint towards the stairs. He cast one last look at the hazy port, their longboat a black scar on the dark waters, and willed away the thoughts in his head. Which was easier said than done, with the faint warmth of Flint’s hand still lingering along his bicep.

 

“Curiosity killed the cat, did it not?” Flint asked over his shoulder, and Silver felt a thrill at the tell tale crinkling at the corner of his eye that meant he’d earned a smile from his captain. 

 

“Your witticisms have gotten weaker with age I think.” 

 

That earned him a soft, sharp, wry laugh as Flint slipped below, and Silver felt warm from the tips of his ears down to all five toes. 

 

No it wasn’t the touch itself that always left Silver buzzing with energy he didn’t understand, it was the change in his body that came with each one. See, once he’d finally come to terms with the fact he’d lost his leg, he had begun the slow and rather miserable process of relearning his body with it’s missing pieces and gnarled scars. Silver had come to terms with the fact that Pain was now a constant and almost a comfort, it meant he was alive. He had learned that his body still didn’t respond to the touch of others, and to his own touch less than before. He learned and accepted that his leg would be numb at times and burning at others, feeling nothing or everything in equal measure. His body no longer moved as confidently, he was no longer as quick and certainly not silent. His shoulders always hurt when he used the crutch and his hips when he used the peg. There was no comfortable position for him to sleep in, if the nightmares allowed him to sleep. He’d become familiar with how his body felt, now that it had endured so much. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, but he understood it now, in the months after Charlestown. 

 

But when Flint touched him, even in so simple and innocent a way as he often did, it left Silver reeling, and desperate to try and understand why his body felt so different in those moments. 

 

Silver ducked his head as he descended into the hull, Flint a few strides ahead and already at his cabin door, lighting the lamps as he went. It bathed the corridor in warm hazy light, casting mischievous shadows across the wood. 

 

When Flint touched him it felt like a spark, the heat of a candle or a small fire, just close enough to warm deep but with the risk of burning all the same. It was a sharp contrast to the unshakeable chill in his bones. His muscles would feel different under Flint’s hand, looser at times, wound even tighter at others. His skin prickled and flushed ever so slightly and Silver always feared Flint might notice. 

 

He’d be damned if he knew what it all meant. It was just yet another way Flint was upending his already volatile world. 

 

“I half expected you’d go ashore with the men,” Flint said, as Silver closed the cabin door behind him. “Or did Billy take up the mantle of nanny?”

 

“Tortuga has never done a man good, a cripple even less so.” Silver passed him the sack he was carrying and made his way over to the windows. The curved glass gave the town a far away quality, the glittering lights of the shops and homes like stars. 

 

“There’s pockets to pick, wagers to win, drunkards to argue with. Prostitutes to charm,” Flint said mildly, unpacking the first of the two sacks. “Enjoying the company of your devoted men.”

 

“Now you’re mocking me.”

 

The low hum Silver got in reply warmed him as the laughter had. “Never, Mister Silver. I’ve never been fond of Tortuga myself, so I find your choice to stay aboard rather sensible. Though we will both have to go ashore in the morning to oversee our cargo I’m afraid.”

 

“We can handle a hungover Tortuga I think, between the two of us,” Silver said with a shrug, listening as Flint finished emptying the bags onto his desk, the thunk of full glass bottles against the wood a familiar sound. “What are you up to Captain?”

 

“Wanting a few comforts does not make a man up to something,” Flint replied. Silver turned with a roll of his eyes. Flint had shed his coat and was hanging it in its proper place by the door. Silver took the moment, with Flint’s back to him and attention elsewhere, to simply look his fill. 

 

It had been a few comfortable weeks since they had begun their alliance with the Maroons, since Silver’s infection had finally healed properly, and Flint no longer looked like a man becalmed. He’d filled out again, more so than before even if Silver was to wonder. The strength of his body was visible now, in the soft swell of his chest, and the breadth of his shoulders. He’d always been bigger than Silver, a fact Silver had become intimately aware of each time Flint had him pressed up against a wall, threatening him about something or another, their bodies flush. But now it was impossible to miss. 

 

And much like those moments when Flint touched him, the quiet, fleeting moments in which Silver could simply admire him in turn, left his skin prickling with a foreign feeling. 

 

He had admired men, and some women, before, but it had nearly always been for merely aesthetic reasons. The curve of their spine, the high arch of their cheek bones, the bright color of their eyes, the softness of their hair. He had admired Billy’s arms as they worked, Muldoon’s clever and quick hands on a pistol, Max’s dark curls as they draped over her thin shoulders. He had admired them all, in his own quiet way, but there had been no rise in him, noting that made him concerned. 

 

Not till Flint, of course. 

 

Always Flint, he thought to himself. Damn the man and his ability to confound everything he came into contact with. 

 

As Flint turned, rolling his shoulders with a sigh, Silver dropped his gaze, pretending to be fascinated with the collection of goods that covered the normally immaculate desk. In a  moment he was mildly fascinated- 

 

Four bottles of fine, expensive wine if Silver had to guess, a shorter stout bottle with French on the label, two loaves of freshly baked bread, cheese from the market, salted meats from the butcher, olives and fruit that had somehow survived their voyage from abroad. Two bottles of salve, a few bars of soap that Silver could smell without even unwrapping them- Lavender he thought distantly. It was an expensive haul, a collection of comforts he hadn’t known in years, and never properly. A collection of comforts he never quite imagined is Captain wanting either. 

 

“Surprised?” Flint asked, and Silver tracked his steps across the cabin, glancing up as Flint rounded the desk, standing opposite him with a small, shy, mischievous smile. He’d never seen quite a smile on him before. It was charming. 

 

“Mildly. I half expected books.” Silver looked up with a teasing smile of his own. “Not the comforts of a rich man.”

 

Flint’s smile grew for a moment, before settling into the passive amused expression he often wore when they were alone. “I don’t particularly entrust my library to men who can barely read. Nor do I expect much from Tortuga, but there is one merchant I plan to visit tomorrow, in hopes of finding a volume or two. As for this-”

 

“What is all this even-”

 

“A taste of a life long forgotten perhaps, a whim,” Flint shrugged, but there was a look in his eye that had questions ripe on Silver’s tongue. He knew better than to ask, and the haunted look was gone in seconds. “Have you eaten?”

 

“No, haven’t been hungry, too much to do.”

 

Flint tisked in disappointment. “Silver-”

 

The disappointment cut more than Silver liked and he felt himself bristle. “Don’t be a hypocrite, you’ve not eaten since breakfast.”

 

“At least I ate breakfast. Think Billy doesn’t tell me when you forgo a meal?” Flint produced two glasses from a drawer in his desk, Silver watching his hands. 

 

“Well I suppose a good bosun is always a bit of a rat.”

 

Flint chuckled. “Come then, and join me. Lend me your company a while.”  

 

They were hardly ever apart, really. Where one went the other inevitably followed, if one was summoned both answered as if it had always been that way. But it was still a somewhat rare thing for Flint to outright ask for his company, if ships business wasn’t at hand. 

 

 Silver had given up thinking it strange, it was a far better situation than being at odds. And they’d found a way to a friendship of sorts, in the process, or so he liked to think. He didn’t really know how Flint felt on the matter, but they had sat opposite each other, besides a lantern in the dark forest with a cache of blood soaked gold freshly buried, and Flint had bared his throat to him. And from that night, something had shifted deep, deep down in the fissures of the earth, Silver thought. Something that now meant Flint wanted his company.

 

The mild surprise and vague skepticism must have shown on his face. Flint’s smile grew crooked, teasing, and he braced himself on his hands, leaning over the desk. 

 

“Don’t tell me our king is afraid of a bit of finery? A bit of polite conversation?” he asked in a low, intimate voice. The empty title, paired with the warm timbre of his voice, left a funny feeling in Silver’s chest. 

 

There was still space between them, half the desk and the chair that Silver stood behind, but it was close enough that he could see Flint’s eyelashes, see the freckles that dusted his nose, the flecks of grey in his green eyes. It would have been easy, to decline and leave Flint to his ghosts, to retreat back to the quiet of the ship and converse with his own demons until sleep came. 

 

But he was lonely. He was tired. And it was so much easier to meet his captain halfway.

 

“Nothing about you is polite,” Silver replied, pulling out the chair and settling into it. 

 

Flint huffed in amusement and reached for one of the wine bottles, studying the label before pouring them each a drink. Silver let out a sigh and stretched his legs out in front of him in a careless sprawl, grateful to be off his feet. He looked up at Flint with a tired smile when he was offered a glass. 

 

“And to what are we drinking, Captain?” he asked. 

 

Flint seemed to mull it over a moment, staring down at his wine before looking up at Silver and raising his glass.

 

“To us.”

 

Silver raised an eyebrow. “To us?”

 

“And whatever sheer dumb luck and utter madness got us this far.”

 

It was said so frankly, and with enough bewilderment, that Silver was laughing before he could stop himself. Flint was watching him, eyes soft and crinkled at the corners, quiet laughter on his own lips, with something akin to fondness in his features, partnered with genuine amusement. It was a lovely sight to see on a man so war torn. 

 

Silver nodded, sitting forward so he could knock his glass against Flint’s.

 

“To us and our rare breed of madness.”

 

The clink of glass echoed in the cabin as they drank, emptying their glasses and sharing another laugh as Flint refilled them before settling in his chair.

 

“To think,” Silver said, watching as Flint busied himself with the food, tearing the first loaf of bread into pieces for them to share, filling a tin plate with olives and fruit before reaching to do the same with the meat and cheese. “To think this is only the second time you and I have shared a drink.”

 

“Bullshit, we’ve shared plenty of drinks,” Flint scoffed. 

 

“A glass of rum with the men doesn’t count, nor do meals in the galley or in camp,” Silver added before Flint could interrupt. “You’ve only once sat me down to share a drink, aside from this. Most would say that's a bad sign. Bad luck even.”

 

“I think the entirety of our relationship would be considered bad luck in the eyes of sensible men, Silver.” 

 

“Even so you really ought to give our relationship a bit more consideration,” Silver continued, not missing the way Flint’s lips twitched as he teased him. “I mean consider the ramifications of it, this being the only time you’ve invited me to your cabin for, what was it you said, polite conversation, despite all our time together, if the men were to find out-”

 

“The same men who are already convinced we share a soul like some sort of ancient god?” Flint asked, placing the plates of food between them and sitting back. “We are talking about those same men yes?”

 

“I’m sorry are you captaining another crew on the side in your ample free time?” 

 

Flint rolled his eyes, popping an olive into his mouth and reaching for his wine. “Now I remember why I’ve never asked you to dine with me, you are incapable of shutting that mouth of yours.” 

 

There was the hint of a smile around the rim of his wine glass, a glint in his eyes, and the ghost of color in his freckled cheeks, and Silver, not for the first time, felt himself grieving- grieving for the fact that they were who they were, not merely strangers meeting in a tavern, or old friends sitting in the kitchen without a war waiting on the horizon. 

 

Oh what things they could have been to each other, he wondered, what ways he could have coaxed that smile from Flint, if things had been different. 

 

“Secretly I think you like my mouth,” Silver replied flippantly, instead of letting all his wistful thoughts slip free. He didn’t miss the way Flint’s smile seemed to sharpen as he sipped his wine, or how his eyes flicked down, then quickly back to hold Silver’s gaze again. 

 

“Let us add it to the ever growing list of secrets we share, then,” Flint said. “Now, eat for fucks sake. Can’t have you wasting away on me all over again.”

 

Silver laughed weakly and did as he was told. He couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed so much around someone, even such little bursts of tired laughter. It was part of the shift in their dynamic, of course, but one he hadn’t expected. He had expected the soft sense of humor from Flint about as much as he’d expected him capable of a soft touch. 

 

“I thought we were meant to make polite conversation, Captain,” Silver said examining a piece of cheese with a quizzical eye.

 

“Well we could always talk ships business-”

 

“God no you can’t ruin a fine spread such as this with something as common as ships business,” Silver said with an air of disgust, and Flint outright laughed. 

 

“Right then what shall we talk about, Mister Silver? What will suit your appetite?”

 

“Will you tell me,” Silver asked after a moment, in between sips of wine and bits of food, “about the first time you had fineries such as these?”

 

Flint blinked, “I can’t imagine that actually interests you.”

 

“Maybe not, but it’ll be entertainment all the same. I must admit it’s something of a delight to see the most feared pirate of the new world being critical of his wine selection.”

 

Oh Silver was enjoying this new facet of their relationship, being able to tease in private, to make Flint smile his little smiles. He watched as Flint’s ears turned red at the tips, a little detail he’d never noticed before, and he was fascinated. 

 

“Well to be honest, it wasn’t until… It wasn’t until I was grown that I ever had them,” Flint said eventually, shrugging. “I was poor as a child, orphaned young like most, and once in the Navy, it was a barren, simplistic life. The High Officers, the Captains, the Sea Lords- they all lived fine lives on land, but the rest of us? Not so different than this.” Flint sat forward and refilled his glass of wine, topping off Silver’s before settling back in his chair, a distant look in his eye, a look Silver knew well. 

 

“Tell me?” Silver asked again, gently.

 

And after a moment, Flint did. 

 

As they ate, not sparing a thought for the crew ashore or the passing minutes, Flint told him about the early years in the Navy- about his low station in life, how it set him up for an unfavorable career. How his shipmates had been against him from the start, taking whatever chances they were given to remind him of his place. About the miserable rations and the long hours, about the cat o’nine and the canings that awaited delinquents. And yes, he added when he saw the question in Silver’s eyes, a time or two he had been the delinquent.

 

They finished the first bottle and after a glass or two of water, Flint opened the second. This was heavier, a dry bloody red spanish wine, the kind Silver had grown up with. He hummed at the first familiar taste and listened attentively as Flint told him about his examinations, about the thrill that had come with being called a Lieutenant for the first time, and how hollow it all had felt. It didn’t matter what title he held, no one cared. All they saw was a redheaded celtic son of a ships carpenter from Padstow who had no right to their world. Silver listened enraptured, and maybe that was simply because of the sound of Flint’s voice, like some kind of lethal siren beneath the waves, as he was told about the first voyages to Nassau, to the shores of the colonies, to the continent. 

 

It was like listening to the old sailors in taverns when he had been a boy, Silver thought, as Flint spoke with his hands, telling him about the first time he had taken command of the ship, after the captain had been wounded, how terrified he had been. If anyone could make a man fall in love with the sea, and with infinitely more, it was Flint, Silver reasoned. He spoke of the waves like a sailor spoke of the home left waiting on the shore, wistful and wanting.  

 

The first time he had fine wine? Dinner with Thomas Hamilton, of course. Sure he’d had nice enough wine when he dined with his Admiral, and at whatever functions the Sea Lords had invited the lowly officers to. But Thomas, being Thomas, had served wines Flint had never in his life heard of, alongside dishes and puddings from the continent. What had been intended as a simple meeting at the Hamilton House to review their work schedule and expectations had dissolved rather quickly into a full dinner service before he could protest. 

 

“And you had no idea, even then, the kind of man you were dealing with?” Silver asked. 

 

The plates sat mostly empty between them, the second bottle of wine half gone, the rest of the food set aside for later. Flint was reclined in his chair, loose limbed and starry eyed, half lost in stories with Silver as his only tether. His glass of wine was forgotten in his hand where it lay draped over the arm of the chair. 

 

He had expected the mention of Thomas to sour the wine on his tongue, to twist his stomach into knots with envy. Envy at the thought that Thomas had known Flint in a time of peace, and must have known a truer version of the man surely? Envy that Thomas had held Flint’s trust in a way no one else ever had, and ever would. 

 

He expected the Envy, and it never came. How could it? With the soft far away look in Flints eyes, the ghost of a smile on his lips, and with the knowledge that he, Silver, was the only other human alive who knew what the man had meant to Flint, who knew the kind of man Flint was? 

 

No, envy wasn’t the word for how Silver felt, hearing the name of Flint’s lost lover. He wasn’t sure if the feeling even had a name, but Pride, pride was part of it of that he was sure. 

 

“Did I know- did I know Thomas was the greatest pain in the arse I’d ever have the fortune of meeting, seconded only by yourself?” Flint asked, and the far away look in his eyes faded, the sharp green meeting Silvers gaze. “No but I learned damn quickly I’ll tell you.” 

 

“Oh I am in esteemed company in your books, captain, I’m flattered,” Silver said, trying not to think too hard on why being considered in the same class as Thomas, as far as Flint was concerned made him feel a bit lightheaded. So maybe it was merely in their ability to annoy and pester, but he was equal to the man in something. 

 

“You knew that already you shit,” Flint replied, sipping his wine, his voice boarding on what Sliver might call fond. “Now, the maddest thing he ever made me do, and I don’t think I ever thoroughly forgave him for this, was- he and his wife, Miranda, threw a ball.” 

 

“A ball?”

 

“A ball, yes, you know the shit with the elaborate gowns and fine suits where you waltz and barely eat anything. Anyway, I’d only attended balls held by the Sea Lords and at those I was meant to be a uniformed wall flower of sorts, not to dance or involve myself in the frivolities but-”

 

“But the Hamiltons made you didn’t they?”

 

Flint made a face, as if he were reliving the night in his memories. 

 

“Did they dress you up?” Silver pressed.

 

“Yes.”

 

“You didn’t try to wear your uniform?”

 

“Oh I tried, adamantly.”

 

“I bet you looked perfectly proper and utterly ridiculous,” Silver said and Flint snorted. 

 

“The one blessing was I was young enough and low class enough not to wear a wig.”

 

Silver couldn’t help but laugh at that mental image. It was easier to picture now, what with Flint’s meticulously shaved head. But while he had never seen Flint’s hair fall past his chin, he could only begin to imagine what the chalky white, delicately curled wigs with their ribbons might have looked like on his captain. 

 

“Yes, yes, alright, you’ve had your giggle.” 

 

“You’d have looked absurd-” Silver wheezed, wiping his eyes. “So no wig but still some hideous suit?”

 

“Nah the suit was alright. Tightest fucking thing I’ve ever worn in my life, Thomas insisted on me visiting with his tailor and all. It was simple. Miranda had wanted us all to- to match in a way, so we all had various shades of green. Her gown, christ her gown was something else. Emerald green and soft to the touch, silk or something I reckon. Thomas wore softer shades, light patterned waistcoat, silk coat, dark trousers. They were a pair destined for each other, you’d think, seeing them like that.”

 

“And you? Were you… involved then?”

 

“No, no, not yet, but looking back it was a near enough thing,” Flint smiled wryly. “Nah they had me in a simple dark colored suit, but my waistcoat was a shade of green that fell somewhere between there's. And of course, I was their guest, so I stuck close to one or the other for most of the evening. It… got us a few looks to be sure.”

 

Silver could scarcely imagine. He knew enough of the nobles, of the monyed ladies and gentlemen who wasted away their days in garden parties and elegant estates. He knew the venom in their smiles, how gossip came more naturally than air. God, he thought, the madness it must have been, to know all this, to know the risks, and to fall in love anyway.

 

Though, as he watched Flint, taking in the rich dark green of his loose shirt, the flush that painted his cheeks and the hollow of his throat, the way his fingers were delicate on his wine glass- Silver was beginning to think that maybe he understood it after all. 

 

He emptied his glass, sitting back in his seat with a sigh. “Was it as miserable a night as it sounds?”

 

“Not as bad as expected. Thomas always made for good conversation, and I was only expected to dance with Miranda at her request. Even then we maybe danced once, twice at most, since I still believed in propriety,” Flint made a face at that, as if to ridicule his  past self. He looked up when Silver was silent. “What?”

 

“Nothing I just- I’m just trying to picture you of all people dancing.” 

 

“Oh come off it-”

 

“No seriously, the dread captain Flint, terror of the new world, dancing? Not to say you aren’t a gentleman, Captain, by heavens I am having trouble conjuring up that particular image.” Silver chewed his lip, keeping his gaze intently on Flint, watching as the color rose in his cheeks. God he loved that sight. “Mm, nope, I don’t believe it.”

 

“You don’t believe it,” Flint echoed sardonically.

 

“That you knew how to dance.” In truth Silver could, what with Flint’s military poise and near perfect control over his body, of course he could picture him moving in tight, careful circles across the floor, or easily in a line of dancers with an unreadable expression. But he would have kept lying through his teeth if it meant getting to tease Flint a bit longer. 

 

Flint looked torn between mild annoyance and laughter, lips twitching as he fought a smile. He knocked back the rest of his wine and Silver watched him wipe his mouth on the back of his hand. Then he stood, cleaning his hands on the sash that hung around his waist, and rounded the desk.

 

“Right then, up with you.”

 

“What?”

 

“I won’t have you doubting me in my own cabin, mister quartermaster. And clearly you won’t listen to mere words-”

 

“Oh come now Flint I was only teasing, you know I didn’t mean to offend,” Silver felt a sickening twist of guilt, had he gone too far? Had pressing and teasing about something tied to the Hamiltons been a mistake?

 

But Flint’s face was soft, his eyes keen as he reached for Silver’s hand. “No offense taken. But I find with these things, a demonstration is often the best proof. And I cannot demonstrate without a partner.” 

 

He stood like a soldier, a proper Navy man with his shoulders set, spine straight, one arm tucked neatly behind his back, the other held out, palm up, next to Silver. The quiet power in his figure made Silver’s mouth go dry. 

 

“If you aren’t too tired, of course,” Flint added. “I wouldn’t want to cause you any discomfort.”

 

“No-” Silver scrambled out of his chair as best he could, using Flint’s outstretched hand to pull himself up, to distracted by it all to feel embarrassed at needing help. “No I’m- I’m not too tired I just-”

 

“Just what?” Flint asked, moving the chair out of the way so they had enough space in the center of the cabin. 

 

“I, admittedly, do not know how to, uhm… Dance. At all. Didn’t before and certainly don’t now with the uhm-” Silver made a face. He didn’t really think he’d be able to manage it now, with a heavy peg in place of his foot. He could taste the curdled anger on the back of his tongue, irrational anger at what a comical, miserable creature he was now, as if it was his fault.

But Flint seemed unbothered. “I’ve watched men with far, far less grace than you manage it. All you have to do is trust me, can you do that?”

 

Flint had yet to let go of his hand. Slowly, as if he were trapping a skittish cat, he pulled Silver closer, until there was mere inches between them.

 

“Trust me?” Flint asked again. 

 

Silver could only nod. Fear, and that unnamed feeling that arose whenever Flint touched him- smiled at him, reached for him, confided in him, trusted him- had numbed his tongue and left his chest tight. He watched as Flint guided his arms into position, committing each touch to memory. Silver’s right hand was placed on Flint’s shoulder, the fabric of his shirt soft to the touch. His left stayed in Flint’s right hand. He inhaled sharply when Flint’s left hand settled, warm and sure, at the small of his back, pulling him just a bit closer. He could feel the heat of Flint’s body, and the urge to curl into it like a stray cat was unbearable. Flint’s hand tightened around his and Silver forced himself to look up and meet his gaze. 

 

Flint’s eyes were dark, the thin lines at the corners softened. This close, Silver could nearly count the endless constellations of freckles across his high cheekbones and strong nose. 

 

“I suppose,” Silver said, trying to find his wit. “I suppose we don’t have the space, or the people for the kinds of dances one does at a ball?”

 

“Never much liked those anyway. Thomas taught me this one, he learned it from a Prussia friend of his. Said it was the kind of dance they did at smaller, more intimate parties,” Flint explained, the corner of his mouth curling into a smile. “Can’t remember what it’s called but it’s easy enough.”

 

“We haven’t any music.”

 

“We don’t need any. Now,” Flint pressed his palm firmly against Silver’s lower back, “keep your back straight, and give me a little of your weight, there that's it- shoulders straight for me, good.”

 

Silver almost held his breath. The heat from Flint’s touch was overwhelming, chasing the chill and the ache in his bones, the steady rise and fall of Flint’s chest against his own a new, grounding sensation. 

 

“Best as you can, put your feet shoulder width apart, like so,” Flint stepped back to show him and Silver nodded, doing his best to mimic. “Very good. Don’t lock your arm,” he added, squeezing Silver’s hand. “Keep it loose enough that I can move it, but not limp.”

 

“So many details.”

 

Flint chuckled warmly. “Once we start moving you hardly notice them.” He waited as Silver adjusted his grip. “That’s it, very good.”

 

Silver couldn’t remember the last time anyone, let alone Flint, had praised him so much so quickly, especially for something as inconsequential as this. But oh, it twisted his chest up so nicely, and warmed him like the finest aged rum, leaving him aching for more. It was almost embarrassing. 

 

 “Now, there’s one thing I want you to remember-”

 

“Don’t step on your foot?” Silver asked, pleased at the wry chuckle it got him.

 

“Preferably, but no. Remember what I told you, during practice? About watching my eyes?” he asked, and Silver nodded, puzzled. “That does not apply here. If you look down you’ll overthink it, if you look at your feet or mine it’ll become complicated all over again. Just look at me, Silver, can you do that?”

 

Silver nodded. 

 

“Watch my face, take a breath, and trust me.”

 

He waited until he was sure he had all of Silver’s attention. And really, Silver thought, what a funny thing for Flint to think that his attention ever truly strayed away. 

 

“There you are,” Flint said softly, holding his gaze.

 

Silver felt seen, in that moment. 

 

He felt seen and impossibly small. 

 

And what’s more, part of him feared what it was that Flint saw that made his eyes warm as they did, that made his grip tighten ever so slightly. 

 

“We move in a circle,” Flint began and Silver did his best to focus on his words and not merely his voice. “I lead, you follow-”

 

“The natural order of things,” Silver mumbled.

 

“Hush, you,” Flint squeezed his lower back and Silver couldn’t suppress the tremor it caused. “Now, I step back like so, and your foot comes forward. Right foot first-” 

 

Flint stepped back with his right foot and Silver stepped forward, his peg following a bit more slowly.

 

“Now to the side- very good, small steps we don’t need to be crossing the room. Lean into me a bit more, let me take a bit more of your weight- there, perfect. Take a step back, right foot, let the peg follow it’s alright-”

 

Silver tried not to hold on tighter as he stepped blindly backwards, his eyes looking down on instinct, but Flint held him tight and moved with him.

 

“I’ve got you, Silver, I’ve got you.”

 

It knocked the breath out of Silver. He hadn’t even realized he’d been holding it. Flint’s voice was low, just loud enough for Silver to hear, his breath tickling his cheek. 

 

“Look at me Silver, remember, eyes on me.”

 

Silver felt himself press closer, the fingers of his right hand clinging tight to Flint’s shirt. He nodded, looking back up at Flint’s face. 

 

“There, one turn done-” Flint said with a hum, and Silver expected them to stop, for more instructions to follow. 

 

But Flint kept moving, the same slow pace as before, guiding Silver in tight circles across the floor of the cabin. He began to count after the second turn, the faint “one, two, three, two, two, three” paired with a delighted “Excellent Silver, very good” when Silver began to take the cues himself without Flint pushing him one way or another, each step echoed by the dull thunk of iron against wood. The feel of Flint’s hands, the steady cadence of his voice kept Silver grounded and slowly he felt the fear begin to slip away. 

 

He turned as Flint guided them, keeping his feet under him, his balance steady as he glanced to the right to see that they had circled the whole of the cabin, and Silver couldn’t help but look up with a bright smile and a bewildered laugh.

 

“Well now Captain, you’ve managed a miracle,” he said, his head tilted up to Flint. 

 

“No miracle, Silver,” Flint replied, gently pulling Silver into him, their chests flush and his voice in Silver’s ear. “I had faith.” 

 

The full body shiver was inevitable, Silver’s eyes slipping shut despite himself. 

 

“Were I a wiser man, I’d think you were up to something,” he murmured, and he felt the laughter rumble through Flint’s chest. 

 

“Good thing neither of us are all that wise, hm? Now, don’t lose count- one, two, three-”

 

After the third turn, or maybe it was the fourth, Silver was beginning to lose count, Flint stopped counting and the rhythm of his voice became a soft low hum. Their movements became lighter, more confident, taking them in across the cabin floor in broader steps. Silver could feel the reverberations of Flint’s humming in his own chest, feel the way his hand slid up his back to keep him close-

 

And for a moment, Silver closed his eyes, and let Flint carry him.

 

His skin was warm, prickling with the same energy that Flint always instilled in him. He could remember the first time he’d become aware of Flint’s touch and it’s effect, of his soft fingers and a gentle hand and the way it made Silver’s pulse skip. In the early days of his illness, a week or so after Charleston perhaps when the good doctor was still skeptical that Silver would survive at all, Silver’s nightmares had begun. The concept of nightmares hadn’t been new to him, he’d lived his whole life with them as his midnight companions. 

 

Silver remembered waking to moonlight, his vision hazy with sleep and what might have been tears. He didn’t know where he was, why he was there, or why everything hurt as it did. He’d tried lashing out, tried to fend off whatever followed him into the waking world, but his body was sluggish and exhausted and wouldn’t move as he wanted. Even his voice seemed to have abandoned him.

 

A firm hand, impossibly gentle, had come to rest on his sternum, not holding him down but giving him something real to focus on. Sliver had clung to it like a child, gasping for air as another hand came to rest on the back of his neck, lifting him just enough for his chest to fill and his breathing clear. 

 

“Hush, Silver, hush. I’ve got you,” a voice had said, familiar and foreign all at once. Silver had looked above him, his vision still swimming, to find Flint crouching on the window seat, his short hair copper in the dim light, leaning over Silver with a fearful, vulnerable look on his face. “You’re alright, deep breaths for me, pup. That’s it.”

 

Flint had gotten him some water and held him as he drank. Silver had tasted the faint bite of laudanum in it, but he had been too tired to argue over it. He’d fallen asleep again with Flint’s hand on his chest, the other gently brushing the wild curls out of his face. 

 

When he awoke the next morning, Silver had been convinced it was as much a dream as everything else, a desperate feverish dream his mind had conjured to try and comfort him. It had happened before, dreams of Flint, of the night they had met, of their escapades on the warship and the days that followed. 

 

But Flint’s hair had been gone that night, and in all of Silver’s dreams, his Captain had never given up his hair in grief. 

 

It had left him shaken, realizing that Flint had played nurse that night, and likely so many others. But Flint said nothing, made no move to voice his displeasure, to change the new role they had undertaken together, and so Silver kept his confusion to himself and said nothing about how shaken the touch of Flint’s hand left him. 

 

The brush of Flint’s moustache against his cheek roused Silver from his thoughts. He opened his eyes, the two of them still lazily moving about the room as Flint hummed. Flint still held him close, resting his cheek against Silver’s temple, so close that no light could slip between them. 

 

What must they have looked like, Silver wondered, how strange a sight they must have been. He couldn’t hear the men on deck, the only ambient sounds the creaking of their ship as she kept them safe and warm, of the water below as it offered them berth for the night. But what a picture they would have made, if one of their men were to find them, Silver thought with a faint smile. 

 

The greatest villains in the new world, wrapped around each other like lovers. 

 

There was no one to discover them, and had there been, what could they have done? He knew some of the men gossiped, some had their theories. Billy would watch the two of them together some days, with a look that asked when a mateolage might be on the ships books. He knew what the whispers back on Nassau had been, especially after the loss of Miranda. If anything, all it might do is lead to questions from his men, as to whether John was well enough, whether he was strong enough, if he had to let his Captain half carry him through a dance. 

 

No, no that wasn’t true, that was his own unhappiness talking there. The men would say nothing, they respected him too much, and they feared Flint just enough. They knew he was strong enough, Flint knew he was strong enough. 

 

Silver smiled to himself, they were untouchable, the two of them. 

 

And gods, he was tired of holding up the sky by himself. 

 

Flint had slowed their pace some, still carefully guiding them about the room, humming a slower, sweeter tune. His nose brushed along Silver’s temple, the hand on Silver’s back tracing gentle, absent minded patterns into his shirt. Silver could feel each like a brand on his skin, goosebumps left in their wake. He looked to his left, at their joined hands, and in the beat between steps, he threaded their fingers together, calloused palms and work worn fingers interlocked. Silver could feel Flint lifting his head to turn and look, felt the low rumble of content in his chest. 

 

As he did, Silver let out a breath and closed his eyes, tilting his head so that he could rest it against Flint’s chest, the way he had seen young ladies do. He felt Flint stiffen, their rhythm begin to falter, and for a moment Siver wondered if he’d read it all wrong. Maybe the lesson was simply a lesson. But Flint let out a heaving breath and pressed his face into Silver’s curls, the arm around his waist holding him tight, and Silver let himself settle, let himself pretend that for one night he wasn’t the Pirate King, and that Flint wasn’t his captain. 

 

They were simply together, and he’d let Flint carry him a little while longer.

 

How long had it been since they started dancing? Silver couldn’t see the little clock Flint kept on his desk, didn’t open his eyes to check and see. Had it been an hour? Twenty minutes? Ten? Silver hadn’t realized how easy it was to get lost in another person, it had never really happened before. 

 

He made a soft questioning sound as Flint brought them to a stop, still holding Silver close. 

 

“Silver?” Flint’s voice sounded strange, hesitant and searching in a way Silver hadn’t heard before.

 

It took a moment for Silver to look up- they fit so well together and moving meant ending the fantasy. But he looked up with another questioning sound and leaned back so he could see Flint’s face. 

 

His captain’s eyes were dark and searching, his brow starting to furrow as he looked down at Silver. He could see the familiar twitch in Flint’s jaw that meant he was thinking, thinking quickly, weighing the risks of whatever lay before him. The last time Silver had been the subject of such a look, it had been threatening, Flint trying to decide just how valuable Silver’s life really was to him. But now-

 

Now Flint was leaning in, watching Silver through his lashes. He paused, their noses brushing, and Silver held his breath, shifting his feet to try and steady himself. Flint’s grip tightened and Silver lifted his head to meet him, his peg slipping on the wood as he pressed closer. 

 

Pain seared up Silver’s left leg as his knee gave out, the peg catching on a knot in the wood and slipping out from under him. Silver, cursing a blue streak, braced himself for impact as he fell backwards, as he had taught himself early on when the peg was still new, but Flint held him tight.

 

“Easy, easy-”

 

“Fucking cocksucking sonnova-” Silver growled through clenched teeth, his hands grabbing at Flint’s shoulders. He heard Flint chuckle dryly and looked up to curse him just the same, but Flint was hauling him up before he could get the words out. 

 

“Easy now, save the bite for another time, pup,” Flint told him gently, getting his arm around Slivers back so he could act as he crutch and get him to the cot, the closest place to sit. 

 

Well, Silver thought, that was one way to ruin a moment.

 

“Sorry, got caught on the fucking- it slips sometimes I-” he tried to explain, hands gripping his knee tight as if it might dull the pain. It never did but there was a comfort in the pressure. 

 

“Silver, shut up.”

 

Flint had grabbed the wash basin and cloth from his dressing stand, and one of the bottles of salve from the desk, and crouched down in front of Silver, rolling up his sleeves. His brow was furrowed with the same lines Silver saw when they were on deck. Damn it, Flint couldn’t even have one quiet night without Silver making a mess of it all.

 

“Its fine, I’m sorry I’ll just- I just need a minute-”

 

“How long have you been wearing it today?” Flint asked

 

Silver didn’t answer. He refused to look up when Flint sighed. 

 

“Stubborn pup,” Flint muttered, reaching for Silver’s trouser leg. When Silver flinched, he stopped and looked up at him. “May I tend to it?”

 

“I can do it-”

 

“I know you can. I’m asking if you’ll allow me.”

 

Flint’s hands rested on Silver’s knees, warm and gentle through the fabric of his trousers. The pain in his stump had faded to a low deep pulse. He wouldn’t be dancing again that night, if nothing else. Silver searched Flint’s face, for what he wasn’t really sure, pity maybe, revulsion, mockery- something that made this seem like a mistake. But Flint was watching him quietly, his eyes soft save for the worried furrow in his brow and the weary crows feet. 

 

Silver nodded and sat back on the cot. The last person to do this for him had been the medicine woman in Madi’s village, and she had been firm and methodical in her work. He’d been too feverish to watch her work and part of him half wished he was feverish now, so he didn’t have to watch the way Flint’s hands rolled up both of his trouser legs to his knees. 

 

Flint tsked at the sight of Silver’s knee, red and swollen from a long day on deck, something the impromptu dance lesson hadn’t helped. 

 

“I’m sorry, I should have- pressed the matter, made sure you were up for it before hauling you back to your feet,” Flint muttered, his fingers working quickly on the leather straps that held the boot in place. 

 

“No I- I liked it,” Silver said. “I’d have said yes regardless I think.” Flint glanced up. “You’re not an entirely shit teacher as it happens.”

 

The smile he got for that was small and shy, but genuine. Silver gritted his teeth as Flint carefully pulled the boot off, the night air cool compared to his burning skin. The stump was swollen and angry, the scars stark white against his skin. Silver snarled and looked away, not wanting to see the pity that had to be on Flint’s face. 

 

But Flint said nothing. 

 

He looked over the stump for a moment, checking for any cuts from the leather or unusual bruising. When he was satisfied he took up the water and cloth, holding Silver’s thigh as he gently washed his knee and the scarred skin below it. His touch was so delicate that Silver almost didn’t feel it through the ache, the drag of the cotton cloth adding to the redness and the sting. Flint shushed him as he worked, murmuring soft apologies as he rolled up Silver’s trouser leg a bit higher and washed the bit of his thigh that he could reach. 

 

While Silver’s left leg dried, Flint turned to his good leg and proceeded to give it the same attention. Silver had trouble breathing, the careful press of confident fingers against his tight muscles, followed by the cool water made him shiver. He watched the muscles flex in Flint’s forearms, the back of his damp hands and didn’t know what was more maddening, that, or the calloused fingers that cradled his calf. 

 

“I know we’ve had this conversation before, and I know what you’re going to say,” Flint began, reaching for the towel he’d brought over with him and drying Silver’s legs. “But you don’t have to wear the boot day in and day out, Silver-”

 

“I have to-”

 

“Keep up appearances and make sure they don’t begin to doubt your strength, yes I know. But there are no men here.” Flint sat back on his heels and reached for the bottle of salve. “Only me.”

 

“Flint-”

 

“And I’m starting to think, by now, there’s very little you could do to make me doubt you, or your strength.” 

 

Silver stuttered, trying to find something to say as Flint coated his hands in salve, the smell of herbs heavy in the air between them. There was always something, there had to be something, there was always a catch in Silver’s experience and Flint-

 

Flint of all people couldn’t be different, could he?

 

Before he could find his argument, Flint took his stump in hand again, and it was all Silver could do to try and breathe as stinging cold shot through his nerves. He grabbed for Flint’s shoulder, trying to ground himself. 

 

“Easy, easy, it gets better in a moment.” Flint worked the salve into Silver’s skin, gently tracing the scars and massaging the knots that seemed to be permanently above his knee. It made Silver squirm and curse, both hands holding tight to Flin’s broad shoulders, but soon the sting faded and a blissful warmth lingered in its place, the bruises numbed by the herbs and Flint’s careful attention. 

 

“There we are,” Flint hummed, getting more salve and working his way up past Silver’s knee, to whatever parts of his thigh he could reach. Silver could feel himself trembling, the impossibly soft touch so foreign a thing it almost scared him. He watched as Flint coated his hands again and reached for his right foot, working his fingers against the ball of his foot, the tendons in his ankle. The whimpering sounds Silver made seemed to echo in the cabin and god Silver wanted to curl in on himself and hide, he sounded so pitiful. But Flint just encouraged him softly, answering each broken sound Silver made with a gentle hum, pressing his fingers harder until the knots gave way. 

 

“You- you make no sense-” Silver gasped out, his chest heaving as Flint worked his way up his calf.

 

“How so?”

 

“Men- men’s hands aren’t made for this-”

 

Flint paused, looking up with a frown. “What do you mean?”

 

“I’ve seen what your hands can do, I- I have been subjected to them as much as anyone. Men’s hands, they are not made for softness, for- for- ah!-” Flint began working again, Silver trying to hold onto his thoughts. “They aren’t made for kindness, in my experience, they aren’t made for gentleness. Only violence, only cruelties. I’ve seen the thing your hands can do, and here you- fuck- here you are-”

 

Flint dug his thumb into a rather persistent knot on the inside of Silver’s knee, pulling a ragged moan from Silver as the knot finally gave way.

 

“Shit-”

 

“Here I am,” Flint echoed, asking Silver to try and continue.

 

“Here you are touching me like this- you’re always touching me like this, like something delicate- and I don’t fucking understand it, Flint-” Silver forced out, his knuckles white with how tightly he held to his captain’s shoulders. 

 

Flint was quiet for a moment, finishing his work on Silver’s right thigh and rubbing his hands back down his calf. He washed his hands in the basin and dried them, Silver watching through his lashes. His body felt heavy, half numb from the salve and exhausted from so many long days. His nerves were humming with the warmth of Flint’s touch, his hands trembling as he tried to pull them away. He made to settle them in his lap but Flint reached for them before he could, taking Silver’s hands in his own.

 

“Never had a man touch you like this before? With care?” Flint asked, his thumbs rubbing gentle circles into the back of Silver’s hands. 

 

The bitterness in the laugh Silver let slip could have curdled milk.

 

“No, Captain- no one has,” Silver admitted softly, looking down at where their hands were joined. “Nor have I ever learned how. I am at a loss here, truly. Men have touched me sure, women too, but none of it was like this. It was harsh, as most men and women are-” Silver shook his head. “And here you are getting me all confused.”  

 

Flint’s silence made Silver’s stomach coil tight. He ducked his head with a bitter smile. “Pitiful I know. I wasn’t going to say anything but you’ve gone and robbed me of my wit-”

 

“Do you enjoy it?” Flint asked finally.

 

Silver blinked and looked up with a small frown. “ENjoy what?”

 

“When I touch you, like this,” Flint lifted one of his hands, reaching up to tuck Silver’s hair behind his ear, fingers brushing along his cheekbone. “Softly.”

 

Despite himself, Silver leaned into the touch, chasing the shock of warmth it offered. Had he always been so starved for it? Or was this the result of a lifetime alone? To be so desperate for the touch he’d sacrifice all sense for it?

 

“Answer me, pup,” Flint trailed his fingers along Silver’s jaw, the pet name bewildering and right all at once. “Do you like it?”

 

“Would I be bearing my throat to you if I didn’t?” Silver asked, his breath stuttering as Flint’s fingers curled under his chin for a moment.

 

“You’ve done it before for other reasons,” Flint reminded him, watching his fingers as they found Silver’s pulse. “So tell me, do you enjoy it, when I touch you like this?”

 

There was the faintest pressure against his throat, Flint’s fingers tightening as if out of habit, but the fear Silver used to feel was absent. He let out a ragged breath and closed his eyes, pressing into the hand on his throat.

 

“Yes, captain.”

 

“You trust me to keep touching you like this?” Flint’s fingers continued their path down Silver’s throat, tracing the dip of his collarbone with gentle curiosity.

 

“Yes.” Later, Silver might look back and think he’d lost his damn mind, trusting Flint in such a way, but no, no it was the truth. There was no one he trusted the way he did Flint. 

 

“Do you want me to keep touching you, pup?” 

 

“Please-” 

 

Silver felt Flint move, felt him rise up and press closer, felt his hand slip away only to settle on his hip, the other slipping around to hold the back of his neck. Silver had just enough time to open his eyes and see the soft, wanting look in Flint’s eyes before Flint was kissing him- so softly, so carefully, that Silver thought his heart might break from it. 

 

Flint smiled, pulling back just far enough to look over Silver’s face, his thumb pressing gently against the hinge of Silver’s jaw. “ Good boy.”

 

More praise, god Silver couldn’t stomach any more unwarranted praise. He grabbed Flint’s collar and pulled him into another kiss, sloppy and needy until Flint got his hand into Silver’s hair and calmed him. He turned the kiss slow and sweet, coaxing Silver’s mouth open and tilting his head to deepen it. The hand Flint had on Silver’s hip moved, pressing against his lower back and pulling him to the edge of the cot, so that Flint was well and truly tucked between his thighs. 

 

Silver’s hands trembled on Flint’s collar, desperate to touch but unsure. He’d never been here before. Any kisses had been for coin or cleverness, a trick or a ruse, never something like this. What did he do with his hands? What would Flint allow?

 

He must have made a small sound of distress, because Flint hushed him, fingers scratching at his scalp. “You’re alright, pup. What do you need?”

 

“I- I want to touch-”

 

Flint leaned back and lifted his chin, inviting Silver’s hands to touch his throat. It was such a stark show of trust that Silver stared at him, shaken.

 

“It’s alright, go on,” Flint told him, smiling softly. Oh, but that smile would be Silver’s undoing, he was sure of it. 

 

Slowly, Silver traced the shape of Flint’s throat, the strong edge of his jaw. He combed his fingers through Flint’s beard and revelled in the sigh it earned him. How long had he waited for this, to touch the man before him, to know him in such a way? Had he even known that was what he wanted? Or had he simply wanted endlessly, wanted whatever he might be spared?

 

He cradled the back of Flint’s head as he was pulled back into a kiss, fingers petting the short copper hair, clinging to him for a lifeline. His body ached and hummed with a strange sort of want, exhaustion twisting into something he didn’t have a name for. It wasn’t lust, Flint deserved something far more than mere lust. 

 

He let out a shaky breath when he felt Flint’s hands work their way under his shirt. They didn’t pull or push or force anything, simply rested, open palmed against his back, warming him to his core. Silver’s nerves were alight in a way he hadn’t known before, from something so simple as a kiss, a touch, the press of Flint’s body against his. 

 

“Alright, pup?” Flin asked against his jaw, leaving lazy kisses in the wake of his words. Silver nodded, leaning into Flint like a moth pulled to a lantern. 

 

“Did you plan this?” Silver asked, tilting his chin up, giving Flint room to mouth at his throat.

 

“Plan what?’ the mischievous innocence in his tone made Silver huff. 

 

“This seduction? You planned it didn’t you?” 

 

Flint hummed against his pulse, biting gently at it until a little mark appeared, Silver squirming under his hands. “A seduction makes it sound like I’ve tricked you into something, pup.” 

 

“Oh does it?”

 

“Mm, and I did no such thing. All I did was ask you to dine with me and keep a bit of faith.”

 

“Ha, never- mm- never thought you a faithful man, in that respect,” Silver moaned softly as Flint left another mark on the hollow of his throat. 

 

“I haven’t been for a long, long time. You must have brought it out in me.” 

 

“The way you spoke- I thought- with everything that had happened…”

 

Flint lifted his head, not without nuzzling Silver’s jaw first. “I won’t say I expected any of this. But I am here because it is what I want. Because it feels right, Silver. I spent a long time in isolation, thinking it was all I deserved. I’m learning maybe that wasn’t true at all.” 

 

“Because of me?” 

 

“As I said, unexpected. Like the way you came barrelling into my life to rob me,” Flint teased, kissing the corner of Silver’s mouth as he laughed. 

 

“Didn’t know I was robbing you at the time, to be fair.”

 

“Mm I suppose. But the point of it is, pup,” Flint said. “That if I’m not meant to be alone, then neither are you.”

 

“No one’s wanted me before, Flint, can’t fault me for thinking-”

 

“Hush, no one else matters, just you and me and what we want from this moment.” Flint rubbed his back gently, Silver leaning into him as the weight of the day and the warmth of Flint’s touch bled together. Gods he was tired. 

 

“And what do you want from it, captain?” Silver asked softly.

 

“I want you to stay with me. Tonight, tomorrow. However long you can-” Flint cradled Silvers face in his hand, reverently, as if Silver was something precious. How strange to think that he might be. 

 

“I don’t know how to-”

 

“I expect nothing from you Silver. Nothing. Tonight, you are going to sleep. You’ve been hard enough on your body today, and I’ve not helped matters. But I want you to stay all the same, and in the morning, you and I will sit down, like sensible men”- Silver huffed at that, “hush, like sensible men, and decide what we want. Alright?”

 

Silver looked at him, searching his face for something, anything that told him to run. He’d always run, there was always a good reason to. And sure, maybe if he’d had some sense in him, maybe if it hadn’t been Flint, he’d have found some reason to flee. 

 

But all he saw was openness, trust, and an emotion he was too terrified to give a name to.

 

“You- you just want to sleep?” Silver asked after a moment. 

 

“Well, I’d like to hold you a bit, but only if you’ll allow me.” Flint tilted his head, watching Silver with that same heartbreaking smile. 

 

“I think I could allow it. On one condition.”

 

“Anything pup.”

 

“Kiss me again?”

 

Flint chuckled, and pulled Silver into a soft, lingering kiss, one that seemed, if nothing else, to make a promise.

 

They dimmed the lights and stripped each other down to their breeches, wandering hands mapping scarred skin in the dim light, trading lazy kisses as they went. Flint finding an extra pillow and blankets from his cabinet for the cot. Silver watched him as he went about the room, checking the door and the windows, washing his face and hands and bringing Silver some water. He was fascinated by Flint, always had been, but now the fascination had shifted. There was a whole new side to the man, soft and shy and sweet, and Silver was the one person in the whole world who was allowed to see that version of Flint. 

 

That knowledge felt like a benediction. 

 

The ship creaked and whispered around them, the water speaking softly against the hul. The docks still echoed in the distance with their revery, but they were cradled in the safety of their ship. Silver crawled under the covers once Flint had settled, shy and unsure, and let himself be pulled under Flint’s arm. 

 

“I’ve got you,” Flint murmured in the dark. Silver felt his fingers toyed idly with his curls, petting and soothing until Silver was tucked comfortably into his side, his exhaustion finally winning out. Flint’s body was warm and solid beneath him and Silver couldn’t help but smile as he found Flint’s hands and their fingers threaded together. 

 

What a ridiculous sight they must make, in the eyes of the gods, he thought as he drifted. How strange a pair they were. How perfect despite it all. 

 

For the first time in his memory, Silver slept the whole night through, curled into Flint like a ship that had finally found its way home.