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Close Quarters

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All things considered, if Stede Bonnet had been asked to make a friendly wager on how this evening would end up, trapped in a storage shed, behind what he was starting to suspect was absolutely not a community theater, wouldn’t have gotten his cash or credit.

The evening had started out well enough: they’d had a long, wretched week of no wind and hardly any entertainment (considering the disaster charades turned into), so by the time they pulled into Nassau, Stede was quite insistent on a night out, and Ed was just as insistent that if they were going to go out, in Nassau of all places, he’d be the one setting the agenda, terms Stede was more than happy to agree to.

They’d made their way to shore, skirted along a side-street that smelled oddly of vanilla, squeezed down an alley so tight you had to face the opposite wall and scoot like a bloody weasel in a hedge for half a dozen meters, and were finally spat out on a dock fairly crawling with the most authentic vagabonds Stede Bonnet had ever set eyes on. There was a vendor selling what Stede had assumed were caramel apples only to learn with a new level of horror they were in fact deep fried tarantulas, an elderly woman selling an array of pocket watches any high-street shop would be jealous of, accompanied all the while by her quite friendly hyena, and an ominous gentleman with a very impressive scar who insisted he would be able to tell Stede’s fortune by tossing a handful of shark’s teeth into a plate.

He’d just started rummaging in his pockets to find suitable compensation for the fishy prophet when Ed let out a low swear next to him; Stede barely had time to ask what was up before he was gripped firmly under the arm and walked quickly through the crowd. A yell sounded at their backs and the walk turned into a jog and then a sprint. They’d skirted around stables, the smell of paia, a cackling crowd surrounding a street performer, and wove through the labyrinth of back alleys until Stede stopped Ed short, snatched the door hidden behind a stack of crates, and hustled them both inside, shutting it with a thunk behind them. And, now, well, here they are.

“The fuck?” Ed manages, instantly getting his foot stuck in a nearby bucket.

“Sh-shh!” Stede pushes two fingers against his lips to shut him up.

Ed goes still and a bit cross-eyed, staring down at the hand on his mouth. Stede moves it away, with a mouthed “sorry! ” focusing intently on the sounds outside the shed instead.

In the alley, hurried steps and shouting voices rush past; they catch fragments of: “Where the fuck did they go then?” or “Keep looking!” and even “The short one looks like a bloody birthday cake, how do you lose that —”

Ed lets out a grumble, that might have been “sorry”, trying to shift his weight and give Stede some space, which in the tight space is really quite impossible.

“What was all that?” Stede hisses under his breath, turning to face him, and oh— he is really quite close isn’t he? “They were chasing you! What do they want?”

“I do actually have enemies, you know? Sort of the whole fucking job.”

“Yes, but most of your enemies seem more keen to cite it as a point of accreditation rather than act on the position.”

“Don’t know what to tell you, mate. Bookies aren’t really egotistical like that.”

Stede stares. “Gambling debts? Really?”

“Got a problem with that?”

“No, no, just seems, I don’t know, rather... basic?”

“Oh, sod off,” Ed mutters.

There’s something... off about him, Stede suddenly realizes. He keeps shifting his eyes in that edged nervous way he gets sometimes, like everything in a room is suddenly too slippery to look at properly. He doesn’t seem sure of what to do with his hands either, they keep opening and closing, moving about unsettled little creatures.

Ed shifts his weight again. The bucket on his foot makes a sudden clunking sound. “Stupid— fucking—!”

Outside there’s a fresh swell of sound. Stede pushes his hand to Ed’s mouth again. The fidgeting stops instantly. Several sets of footsteps rush past. It goes quiet once again.

Stede moves his hand away, landing it on Ed’s shoulder instead. “We’ll let things cool off a bit, then find a way out, yeah?” He flashes Ed a smile. “Never hid from debtors before - rather exciting!”

He nudges his shoulder into Ed’s, which, as they’re already basically glued together, just wiggles Ed’s jacket with a light jingling sound.

“What’d you think they’ll do if they catch us?” Stede whispers eagerly, “I’d bet they’ve got a downright predatory interest rate you’d have to pony up, eh?”

“Maybe. Probably just add our guts to the intestine mural and take the money off our corpses.”

“The what’s that now?”

There’s a burst of sound outside: the slamming of a door, shouts from a bar spilling out into the alley. Stede feels himself instinctively shrink closer, and oh, that’s odd…

“What’s wrong?” Stede whispers suddenly, glancing at him.

“What?” Ed asks, not looking back.

“You. Are you alright? You’re quite tense - feel like someone put a leather jacket on a rather warm brick wall.”

“’S fine.” He shifts; the bucket clunks, Ed swears. Stede feels Ed’s breath against the side of his neck; he most certainly does not shiver. “’S nothing,” Ed continues. “Doesn’t matter.”

Stede gives him A Look.

“What?” Ed snaps. The Look increases. “Christ, stop it’s— just...  don’t like confined spaces, alright?”

Stede’s eyes go wide in the shadows of the shed. “You’re claustrophobic?”

“Don’t have a problem with fucking cats.”

“No, that’s not, it’s— know what? Never mind. Look, we’ll be out of here in a jiffy, no need to worry.”

Ed swallows. Stede feels it more than he should; come to think of it he’s feeling a lot more than he should, including Ed’s heartbeat, which is thudding very hard.

“Hey,” Stede clambers gently, turning to face him, which proves tricky in the tight space. “’S alright, yeah?”

Ed’s body still feels tense enough to bounce a coin off of. He manages to look at Stede all the same. His eyes are very dark, but they still catch the light in that sparkling, ironically rather baffled way he has. 

“Sorry,” Ed manages after a moment.

“What? What for?” Stede whispers.

“You were having a nice night,” Ed answers. This close Stede can feel the way his voice vibrates in the hollow of his chest.

“Hey,” Stede nudges his hip against Ed’s with a wink. “Still am.”

Edward gives him a strained smile that’s mostly lost in his beard. His heart is still beating quite hard.

“I like a tighter space. Sometimes, personally,” Stede tries, keeping his voice quiet. “Can be rather cozy, I find.”

Edward shifts. Stede can feel the weight of his hip pressed against his. “Yeah?”

“When I was younger, if I was having a real beast of a day, sometimes I’d even wrap myself up in a blanket as tight as I could and hide away. Babies like that you know? Being wound up all tight and close. Not being hidden away, least, I don’t think they do... But I found it very comforting! I’d wind up tight as I could, tight enough that I couldn’t move my arms or legs and—”

Edward makes a strained sound of distress.

“Shit—” Stede winces, “I mean, let’s not, sorry— here, I can—” he reaches out into the darkness to see just how much space he has on the side that isn’t currently plastered to Edward. His fingers knock into the opposite wall almost instantly. “Oh dear, well, ‘fraid there’s not much, um—”

“’S alright,” Ed’s voice comes back in the dark.

One of his hands suddenly loops around Stede’s hip, grounding him, keeping where he is, or maybe just stretching out, who could say, really...

“Just... I don’t know,” Ed lets out a tight breath, “tell me a fucking story or something.”

“Oh?” Stede furrows his brow, trying to concentrate firmly on something that isn’t Ed’s hand on his hip or the smokey close smell of him that’s got a bit of clove on the edges. “Yeah alright, should be able to manage that, let’s see—”

And of course, now that he’s trying, and because he’s apparently completely, utterly, useless, the only words thudding through his head are: CLOSE and TRAPPED and TIGHT and WARM—

“How about the, uh, the one about, well...” he sighs. “Honestly Ed, I’m not all that good at stories.”

“You’re great at stories.” His beard is soft against Stede’s cheek.

“Not really,” Stede mutters, trying to pretend Ed’s beard doesn’t smell like lavender oil, trying to pretend he doesn’t feel an odd little thrill behind his stomach at the knowledge that it’s his lavender oil– “I’m alright at other people’s stories, not mine. Mine aren’t very good at all...”

“I like your stories.”

“Right, well, in that case, um,” Stede swallows, “maybe- maybe the one about the, uh... kitchen garden?” He raises a hopeful eyebrow.

Ed’s looking down at him. His heart is beating a little slower. The hand on Stede’s hip is still there. It’s heavy and comfortable, as though resting on a railing, or the arm of a chair, or anything at all really. “What’s a kitchen garden? Like a garden in the kitchen.”

“No. It’s, well, like a little garden that you keep, for the kitchen.”

“But not in the kitchen.”

“No. Outside of the kitchen.”

“Weird.”

“Right, well, we didn’t have one. But I rather liked the idea. Seemed satisfying, you know? All the tidy little beds with all the tidy little rows of herbs and all that. I thought I could even start growing our own chamomile.”

“That’s that stuff you put in the bath, yeah? Stupid little daisies that smell nice?”

“Right.”

“Mm. I like chamomile.”

“Exactly. Right, so, I got a seed catalog—”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a catalog. But for seeds.”

“Seriously? Christ...”

“And I filled out the very pleasant lines in the ordering form, and mailed it in, and they all showed up (months later, of course). All neat and tidy packages just like I’d hoped, perfect little envelopes; really quite exciting - all those folded parcels of potential.”

“So you planted them, then?”

“Oh no. The packaging was very nice, afterall. And Mary said the servants ought to do it but it felt stupid to ask so, well... No. I didn’t.”

Edward shifts under him just slightly. The bucket on his foot makes a sound. The hand on his hip tightens.

Stede smiles weakly. “Told you I’m not very good at stories.”

Outside a door suddenly slams open. Stede has to stop himself from yelping as Edward jerks under him. Several voices call out, moving closer. Stede pushes himself against Ed, trying to squeeze them into the tightest corner possible and hoping against hope that even if the shed is discovered, they might yet be able to stay hidden in the shadows.

But the voices pass, grumbling shouts fading into the white noise of the winding back alleys of Nassau.

Stede releases a sigh of relief. He pulls back, but not before noticing that Edward’s breathing has gone tight and short. If he didn’t know better he might even call it panicked.

“Hey, hey,” Stede presses, quiet and close, eyes suddenly keen with concern. “Hey, it’s alright.”

Edward tries to swallow. His heart is thudding in a way that’s frankly damned alarming.

“Here,” Stede mutters into the space between them that smells of lavender and smoke and leather, “just—”

He places one of his hands on Ed’s chest, and with the other, he lifts Ed’s hand, pressing it over his own heart. Ed’s fingers tighten into the fabric of his shirt instantly.

“Like this,” Stede says, voice soft, “breathe with me, alright? Here—” He takes a steady breath: in through the nose, out through the mouth.

Ed blinks down at him, bright eyes glittering in the dark, brow furrowed. Stede does it again, and this time, Edward, shakily, does his best to follow his lead.

“Good, good! There you go,” Stede encourages, “’s alright.”

Stede breathes in - Stede breathes out. Under his hand, Edward’s heart thuds steadily, one beat after another. Edward stares back at him; it’s rather intense if Stede’s being honest, but that’s just how Ed looks at everything, isn’t it? Hell, he stares at pieces of furniture sometimes as though they’ve murdered his family, but it hardly matters because, for some absurd reason, Stede can’t think about much else besides how his fingers have slid between Ed’s where he’s holding his hand to his chest.

“You’re alright, I’ve got you.” Stede murmurs, and if he’s half talking to himself that’s for him to know and absolutely no one to find out. 

Ed’s thumb just slides against his. Stede swallows, looks up at him, and does his best to make his smile braver than he feels. 

“Just breathe in, and breathe—”

Ed kisses him. 

It’s quite quick. Stede blinks, not entirely sure it’s even happened at all.

“– Out…” he finishes lamely. He licks his lips once. “I’m– I’m sorry, but, uh, did you just—”

Ed’s fist twists in Stede’s shirt, tugging him back up onto his mouth.

A baffled sound stumbles out of Stede, which, while making him indeed feel like complete idiot, opens his mouth enough for Ed to impossibly, rakishly, perfectly runs his tongue over Stede’s lower lip, and ah, well, that’s just— bloody fucking hell.

Stede surges forward, dropping his mouth open, clambering to get fistfuls of Ed’s jacket in his hands. Ed groans, sliding his tongue into the heat of his mouth, the hand on Stede’s shirt twisting possessively while his other finds Stede’s hip like it belongs there and tugs him tight into his own.

Stede’s brain is doing quite an interesting set of entirely novel things. Part of it is standing a few feet back, noting: Oh My Well That’s Quite Interesting, Isn’t It, Didn’t See That One Coming while another is screaming directly into his ear: Fucking Finally, Good Bloody Christ Man, and frankly the vast majority isn’t listening to either, filled instead with simply: Yes and More and Dear Lord That Feels Exceptionally Fucking Good—

Ed pulls back with a sudden soft noise, hand still tight in Stede’s shirt, breath still coming fast and close between them. He’s looking down at Stede’s mouth; he’s looking down into Stede’s eyes - and gosh his eyelashes are rather long aren’t they?

It’s about now Stede realizes that at some point he’s thrown his arms around Ed’s shoulders.

“Huh,” Ed breathes. “Is, uh—” Stede feels Ed’s hand loosen just slightly where it’s gripped at him. “Oops.”

“Did you mean to do that?” Stede asks, and ah, of course his own voice comes out utterly breathless. How very controlled and sexy of him, lord…

“Did I mean to stick my tongue in your mouth?” Ed asks. “Kinda did a bit, yeah.”

“Oh, well,” Stede gives a lost little laugh, “thank fuck.”

Ed’s hand tightens on his hip. “Can I do it again?”

“Christ- yes, please —”

Stede doesn’t even have time to catch his breath. Ed’s hands are suddenly anywhere and everywhere and he’s kissing him so eagerly Stede ends up with a mouthful of beard more often than not, which, isn’t nearly as off-putting as he might have imagined.

Ed pushes him back towards the opposite wall. The bucket clunks on his foot. Ed swears at the thing, kicking it off and Stede starts to laugh, but then his back hits the wall he goes breathless for half a second before Ed’s clambering right back into his space again.

“God, fuck,” Ed mutters against his mouth, one hand moving from Stede’s hip to slide under the silk of his jacket, palm opening wide against the curve of his waist, warm through his thin shirt. Stede can feel Ed’s eyelashes flutter against his cheek, feel his nose tracing the line of his jaw. “You smell so fucking good—”

“It’s the jasmine, I— oh, ” Edward’s hand skates around his waist, over his stomach, up the sides of his ribs, fingers curling into clutching claws. “Ah, fuck it,” Stede breathes, snatching Edward’s hips and tugging them tight and firm between his legs and Oh

Ed groans, low and deep, head falling against Stede’s shoulder as his hips grind forward.

“Good Christ —” Stede gasps, the line of Ed’s cock is hard and hot and desperate behind the fit of his pants and Stede can’t help pressing into him, his fingers digging into the bones of Ed’s hips and pulling him even closer.

Ed gasps, then growls, and before Stede knows what’s happening, Ed’s scooped him up and shoved him even harder back against the wall, rolling his hips forward in deep, delicious circles as he kisses him fucking stupid.

Keeping one’s balance jammed into a frankly pitiful shed with the imposing physique of an infamous pirate captain bucking you against a wall as though he’s trying to put you clean through it is a uniquely frantic sort of challenge. Stede shifts, getting his weight more solidly onto the leg he’s got locked around Ed’s hip, letting out a gasp as Ed grabs him round the ass and pins him into the wall more firmly.

Stede swears, sliding a hand in into shockingly soft hair and—

“Don’t touch my hair,” Ed mutters into his cheek.

“Oh, shit— I’m sorry, I—” Stede starts.

“I’m kidding,” Ed growls, moving his mouth to the line of his neck, breath hot and close and wet. “Pull the fucking shit out of it.” Ed digs his teeth in the meat of Stede’s neck.

God — fuck—!" Stede’s cock jumps. He feels Ed smile against his skin and then his hand is moving down, sliding in–

Stede’s head slams back against the shitty wood of the wall with a swear, his own hand tightening in Ed’s hair without his permission, winning a deep throaty groan.

“Oh. That’s—” Stede tries to focus despite the heavy hand that’s closed around his cock. He blinks in the dark; slivers of orange bleed through the planks of the shed’s walls, the sounds of the docks have gone distant and blurred. “God that’s good - you’re good, you’re — bugger me, Christ, Ed—”

Edward pulls back suddenly. His hair is wild and his eyes are dancing with a hungry, desperate, curious sort of look Stede’s never seen on him. He plants a boot against the wall, angling his leg so he can keep Stede’s weight on it, giving his hand room to work in the freed space between them. Ed grips him again, sliding firm and confident over his cock through the fabric of his trousers and Stede lets out half a sob, head falling heavily onto Ed’s chest.

“Hey, hey—” Ed snatches his chin, slides his hand into his hair, “look at me, yeah?”

Stede tries to, manages it, just.

“Christ you look good like this,” Ed breathes, grip tightening, working deep and solid and slow, too bloody slow— “Tell me again.”

“I—” Stede’s having a hard time making his tongue work at all, “—tell you what?”

“I don’t care, anything.” Ed darts forward, kisses him quick with more tongue and teeth than anything else. “Fucking anything—”

Stede’s head is swimming, spiraling. He knows he should think of something clever or sultry or God, even just half way coherent, but with the way Ed’s touching him, the way he’s looking at him—

“It’s good. God, Ed—” Stede’s hand knits tight on his shoulder, digging into all those absurd bits and bobs of leather and metal, “it’s—”

“What is it?” Ed breathes.

“Heaven,” Stede gasps. “It’s— it’s just heaven. You’re heaven.”

Ed groans, low and close and suddenly he’s got both hands on the side of Stede’s face, pulling him in, kissing him deep and quick and muttering as if he can’t help it. “God, you’re so fucking nice - it’s so fucked up man, I just— how’d you get so fucking nice?”

“You’re nice,” Stede gasps.

“No.” He feels Edward shake his head. His hands have slipped: one onto Stede’s shoulder, one to the side of Stede’s neck. Stede thinks they might just be shaking. “No, I’m not.”

No. No, he won’t have that. “Look,” Stede gets a hand on Ed’s chest, slides another in his hair. “Look at me—”

Edward pulls back, eyes wide and confused and Christ but he’s beautiful. Stede stares into his eyes as deeply and sincerely as he possibly can. He knows he must look a right mess: blond hair shoved around in every direction, shirt and jacket rumpled to all hell, but it doesn’t matter. He slides his hand deep into Ed’s hair, twisting his fingers until Ed’s chin is forced to tilt up proudly, the line of his neck going long and taut. Ed’s breath catches in his throat. His body feels tight as a rope about to snap.

“Listen to me—“ Stede whispers, shocked at how solid, how firm his voice suddenly sounds. He might even call it commanding. “You are nice, Edward. And you are good.” He twists the grip he’s got in his hair: sharp and sure. “You are very fucking good.”

A shocked, broken noise punches out of Ed’s chest. One of his hands slams to the wall by Stede’s head. He gasps, shivers, let’s out one muttered “ah fuck—” and—

Stede blinks. “I— did... did you just—?”

“Shut up,” Ed growls, voice coming from somewhere near Stede’s chest.

“I— wait... seriously?” Stede can feel a dazed smile stealing up his face. “You mean, I just— just like that?”

Ed pushes himself upright with a groan. He straightens his back, looks down at Stede with dark half-lidded eyes. “Open your fancy fucking pants then.”

Stede stares. Ed glares back down at him.

“Or,” Ed shrugs, popping a knife out of his belt with a smooth gesture that might have been quite impressive if it weren’t for the fact that his voice is still raw and ruined. Ed gives the knife a little wiggle. “I can.”

“Uh, no, no thank you—” Stede scrambles for the ties on his trousers, “I mean, yes please, but not, I mean— that’s— you don’t actually have to—”

He’s so distracted trying to tear his pants open that he doesn't even notice Ed has moved until he hears the other man’s knees hit the ground solidly in front of him. Stede looks up, eyes wide. Ed looks back. He looks clever, and hungry, and, perhaps, most dangerously of all, wildly fucking happy.

He pushes Stede’s hands away, not unkindly, finishing with the ties himself, and tugs Stede free. He looks up at him with a lazy smirk. “Pull my hair again and come down my throat, yeah?” And then he’s wrapping his mouth entirely around Stede’s cock.

“Sweet Christ—!”

Ed smiles around him and Stede feels a furious blush steal up his cheeks, around his ears, down his chest, but he doesn’t care. He can’t seem to do enough with his hands: sliding them into Ed’s hair, running a thumb over Ed’s cheek, moving fingers along the line of his throat. Ed groans into the attention, picking up his pace, swallowing him down greedy and eager and it is entirely too fucking much—

“Ed—” Stede barely manages. Ed's hands tighten on Stede’s hips pushing him firmly against the wall. Stede just has the presence of mind remaining to pull Ed’s hair as hard as he can before spilling into the wet heat of his mouth with a lost breathless sound.

Stede gasps in a breath, blinking up at the ramshack wooden ceiling as it comes back into focus.

Ed pulls off with a soft sound, letting his head rest for a second against the hollow of Stede’s hip. He takes a few slow, steadying breaths before tucking Stede away, patting the side of his thigh warmly, and standing up with a mild groan. Stede finds he’s unable to do much but blink back at him.

“Alright?” Ed asks.

And, in an act that he will regret for approximately the next twenty-seven years of his life, Stede Bonnet gives him an exhausted thumbs up.

Ed grins. He leans in, landing his forehead against Stede’s for just a moment. “Thanks.” He says.

Stede hears himself laugh. “For what?”

“The distraction,” Ed shrugs

Stede huffs, looking down and watching as Ed’s fingers knit fondly around his. Ed leans back against the opposite wall, breathing out, low and steady. 

He narrows his eyes at Stede after a moment. “What’s that look?”

Stede grins. “Oh nothing, just, well— not every day you make Blackbeard come in his trousers. Do you like it when I say nice things about you? I can say quite a few nice things about you–”

“You tell anyone about that, I swear, I’ll—”

“You’ll what?” Stede asks, unable to help how his smile sharpens. “Do it again?”

Ed smirks; it’s a fond thing. His thumb traces the line of Stede’s on the hand that’s still held in his. “I’ll do whatever you fucking want, mate.”

Stede chuckles. The shed is quiet for a moment.

“So, you think people heard us in here, or—?”

“Oh absolutely, we are completely fucking screwed.”