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The Gentleman Pirate, At Your Service

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Blackbeard never killed anyone. 

He had always outsourced the big job.

Not one to get his hands stained outside of a good maiming, he left the killing to his first mate. Izzy was always more than happy to oblige and even before him, Jack was the one to cover for him with Hornigold. The first and only time he had actually killed, he was Edward or maybe he wasn’t even that. Maybe he was the Kraken. Maybe that’s what he needed this time.

The persona fails him for the first time, when they become trapped by a rogue British naval ship. Worse than pirates in his opinion, as their tie to The Crown keeps them safe and kills justified. He figured he would be able to handle this, as he had evaded them so many times without Stede. But to handle them boarding? He still wasn’t ready.

He hadn’t realized how hopeless he was until this moment. He watched as his crew abandoned him to the naval forces, their hands in surrender as they fell to their knees, bloody and bitter. There were just too many of them.  He had lashed out enough to make a dent, but like the Hydra itself, more kept coming. They force him to the ground and for a moment it is so painfully familiar. But there is no blue silk shirt in the corner of his eye. There’s no flash of blonde hair or a leg for him to bump gently as they are raided. He is alone. Like he always was meant to be.

Maybe this was the time to give in. Let death finally catch up to him. His shoulders sag and he can feel his blood seeping into the deck from where the sword has him pinned to the floorboards. He feels Edward flicker to life in the back of his head, despairing at the thought of not seeing Stede one last time before he dies. Blackbeard stamps him down, determined to die with that life left behind. Edward should have died the moment Stede never came back. He doesn’t want to feel this ache in his chest and he tries his damnedest to pretend that it’s merely the ache in his shoulder. He doesn’t have to pretend long though before another slams down into his side with a triumphant laugh.

“Motherfucker!” He grits out, unable to thrash outside of his legs kicking out. Every movement feels like he’s being burned from the inside out.

“Edward Teach, you will have no trial.” Snarls the officer who laid the blow.

Spitting blood out onto the ground and banging his forehead a little against the wood, he growls back, “He’s dead. It’s The Kraken now.”

“Huh. Alright Kraken, Blackbeard, whatever the fuck your name is, we are going to tear you limb from limb in front of your crew. They’ll make me a Vice Admiral for this.”

“Go ahead. I’m sure they’ll enjoy it. Probably been fantasizing about it themselves.” He’s seen their looks after he’s given orders. He’s seen how Jim has eyed him when sharpening their knife. “HAVEN’T YOU?” He shouts into the wood, hearing his voice crack like cannon fire.


The crew look to each other, murmuring in horror as they watch their captain be accosted, and Frenchie looks away, his hands wrenched behind his back and rope binding his wrists. His eyes are starting to sting. Frenchie leans his head back against the steps, his eyes closed and straining against the rough texture of his bindings. He’s not sure if he can stand the brutality of the coming moments and wonders if it would be best to just jump ship and hope the sea is kinder to him. He can hear Jim struggling somewhere to his right and then fall still with a gasp. He flinches as if struck, not wanting to open his eyes for fear of seeing their soulless body. They had grown rather close in the months that they’d stayed aboard the commandeered Revenge. Despite Izzy trying to keep them apart (Fearing that they would hold some animosity towards their new crew for the abandonment of their old one),  they had found a way to make sure they found each other if even for a few hours in the evening to eat together. He’s been learning Spanish, while Jim has picked up one of the French lullabies he had been singing their first few nights without their bedtime story.

A hand grabs his shoulder and he jerks, eyes open wide to face his death as another hand clamps over his mouth. “Shhh.”
Lucius swims into view, eyes determined and steely. He looks like shit and paler than he’s ever been. Frenchie blinks and takes note that the British are too occupied with their Black goose. He looks to Lucius who nods as if everything is going to be okay. Frenchie’s eyes dart to his right and sees Oluwande, Wee John, and Black Pete have joined Jim, sitting beside them as if they had been their the whole time. He can see each one holding some sort of container spewing smoke. Buttons settles down beside him, arms behind his back. Lucius releases him and points to where someone is climbing silently over the bow of the ship. His face is obscured by smoke emanating from the hat on his head, and for a moment Frenchie isn’t sure what he’s seeing.

The Captain looks different. Bigger? Brighter. Maybe it’s the change in the air. Maybe it’s the way he’s dressed. He’s not wearing any of the fancy bullshit he’s used to. Stede’s wearing only the bare minimum linen shirt and high waisted trousers, and he’s even wearing actual boots. None of that buckle shoe bullshit that would clack any time he would wander the deck. He takes off the hat and sets it on the ground, letting the smoke flow out of it. And his face…. His face- Blonde stubble has aged him, groomed to create a harsher jawline. He’s tanned and skin almost cracking from what must have been ages out in the sun. His eyes look to the officers again and the yells of pain from whatever the fuck Blackbeard had become…. And they darken. Frenchie watches as horror contorts to pure, unadulterated, rage. The kind that led Stede to burning down an upper class ship. The kind that would dare banish Calico Jack from his ship. The kind that could and would kill. He can see that the plan has changed from Fuckery to something else. Something bloodier. Stede’s already unsheathing his knife.

 Frenchie’s gotta buy him time. 

“H-” His breath catches. He’s really going to do this. “HEY! DICKHEADS!” His voice carries across the deck sharply and unexpectedly. So much so it causes a silence to fall and what feels like a whole armada turning towards him. He smirks, almost carefree from the high he’s developing. “He’s not our, Captain.”

“What was that?” The man snaps, and Frenchie sees Blackbeard go still before raising his head just a touch to see Frenchie. For a moment, he can almost see the captain he once knew. The one that invited him to raid a fancy party. The one that gave him chances on the ship whenever needed. The one that felt like an old mate. And in those eyes he sees acceptance of what he had already known.

“I said, He. Is. Not. Our. Cap-tain.” Frenchie annunciates, a friendly grin firmly on his face.

“Oh ho ho, so who is among you, hm? Were you planning on mutiny? Bit late for that now.” The man steps away from Blackbeard and his men follow suit, all of them ready for violence. That is until slowly each officer starts disappearing into the fog one by one. The Admiral, still high on whatever stabbing Blackbeard must feel like, doesn’t even notice.

“No, I’m just sayin’ that man there ain’t our Captain.” Frenchie nods to Blackbeard, who has gone so still he worries he’s dead. He can already feel that this is gonna be a lot later.

“Alright, I’ll bite. Who’s your Captain then, hm? Hands over there?” He points to the unconscious First Mate, just now coming to. “Is it you?”

“Nah mate,” And Frenchie leans forward, spitting at the man, before nodding at the figure in the fog, “He is.” 

The visceral shnk of the dagger burying itself under the ribs for the Admiral is enough to cause an audible gasp to leave him, “The Gentleman Pirate, at your service, Admiral. Thank you for keeping an eye on my-” He digs the dagger deeper, blood already staining his hands as the man chokes on blood, “-ship. But I will be taking it back now.”

“Holy shit.” Lucius chokes out, hand flying to his mouth to keep what little breakfast he had down. Frenchie can hear equal sounds of shock from the crew through the sound of blood rushing through his ears. 

“The right side is where all the important stuff is, right Ed?” Stede grunts, as the officer’s knees give out. His eyes are wildly wide and he has a feral grin on his face, as he lets the body drop, the man choking to death on his own blood.

“Oh mierda… Fuckin’ finally!” Jim cries out, surging forward with the rest of the crew. Frenchie rubs his wrists as Lucius slices through his bindings and launches into the fray, ready to relieve all the pent up rage that has been building these past few months.


“Oh you have got to be shitting me.” Izzy groans as Stede’s stupid blonde head comes into view. His vision wavers with a splitting headache and he collapses, with a sigh of, “Fucking Stede?”

“Hey, stay awake.” Ivan’s hushed mutter meets his ears, and he feels his bindings loosen. “We gotta get outta here while we can. Bonnet’ll kill you if he catches ya.”

“Fuckin’ let him. I don’t care anymore.”

“Oh well that’s the fuckin’ spirit. Come on. Up ya get.” Ivan hoists him up, “That fucker’s not a dog right now. He’s a goddamn wolf.” Izzy catches sight of Stede dropping another officer without mercy, his voice deeper than Izzy has ever heard it.

“Don’t care, he’s still a little shit.” Izzy groans as Ivan tosses him into the dinghy down below. 

“Sure, but he’s a little shit with a gun and knife he somehow figured out to use. Either way, would rather take my chances with the sea.” Ivan gathers the oars and pushes off from the ship, making a getaway as best he can.


There’s someone above him. 

He can feel it with every heavy thump of another body hitting the deck, just short of reaching him. Edward can barely see with the amount of smoke in his eyes. As the pain really starts to take its toll he can’t help but wonder if his head really is made with the stuff. He would try getting up if it weren’t for the firm (yet gentle) weight pressing into his back.

A ghost quietly commands him to, “Stay down, Ed.”

If it weren’t for the pungent smell of this odd smoke, Edward would smell lavender. 

“Let me up.” He growls weakly, “Fucker, I’ll kill you.”

“Rightfully so-” A grunt of exertion comes from above him and it dissolves into a sharp ringing in his ears as a gun is discharged far too close to him and another body falls in front of him. Squinting, Edward makes out the bloodied lifeless face of another one of the naval officers. He’s missing an eye.

“Fuck!” He grits out, shutting his eyes tight against the scene. Feeling the weight pivot and lift, he can faintly make out a muffled shout and he feels the vibration of the body in front of him being dragged away.

And then everything stops.

There’s no more running. No more gunfire or the clashing of swords. The smoke smell begins to fade and be replaced with the scent of iron. Ed feels sick. The ringing starts to fade and he can hear, 

“Edward. Hey hey hey shhh… I’m here. You’re alive. I’m going to get you out of this. You’re safe. You’re safe.”

Stede.

He tries to reach for his knife. He should kill him. He should-

“Stop. STOP.” The voice is firm and reinforced by a hand gripping his wrist. “You’re making it worse. Look, you can stab me when you’re not a pin cushion. God knows I deserve it. That sound alright?”

The patience with this man is infuriating…. And comforting. He’s too tired to be embarrassed by the whimper that leaves him.

“I know.” Stede, his Stede, whispers, “I know.”

——————

“John! Olu! Your assistance please!” Stede calls into the smoke, wiping his sleeve across his eyes to wipe the blood out of them. His leg can’t bear his weight past kneeling and the cut on his forehead keeps trying to blind him.

“Yes Captain!” Comes the collective call through the smoke and he can make out their vague shapes dodging bodies to reach them.

“Buttons, you at the wheel?”  

“Aye!” Comes the distant cry.

“Everyone alive?”

“Aye Captain!”
“Aye!”
“Aye!”

The crew’s confirmation in the dissipating fog eases his shoulders and he lets out a relieved groan, falling to a seated position, only to find himself in a puddle of blood. “Fuck me.” He wheezes, already feeling the tears tightening his throat.

“Capt’?” Oluwande inquires worriedly.

“Help. Please. Help me get him up. I can’t lose him again.” He whispers.

“Don’t worry, we’ve got you.” Olu murmurs back and Wee John confirms with a clap to Bonnet’s shoulder. Stede flinches.

“Tha’ was fuckin’ insane of you out there, Captain.” Wee John compliments and Stede can feel the new sense of admiration he’s earned from the crew member. Not just him, he slowly realizes, as the rest of the crew files their way toward him.

“Orders, sir?” Roach asks, his tone somber as they all take in the passed out Blackbeard and their own wounded Bonnet.

“Anyone injured?”

“Him of course,” Black Pete nods to Edward, of which Olu and Wee John are trying to break the swords as carefully as they can. Frenchie is on standby, already holding torn fabric ready to put staunch the wounds. “The rest of us are fine. Nothing we can’t handle.”

“Get rid of the smoke bombs first. Then the bodies.” Bonnet orders, an edge to his voice as a blood covered hand pinches the bridge of his nose. His head is throbbing. “No trace of this, understand? Have fun with it. Get creative. I’ll tend to Ed. When you folks are done, I want you to eat and then Jim, Olu, John, and Fang go commandeer those fuckers ship. Should be empty but prepare for if it’s not. Take what you can. Bring it back. Have Buttons guide us closer for ease of body and mind.”

There’s a hum of excitement from the crew at the victory and this newly proven competency from their Captain which is interjected by a triumphant shout. 

“Got it!” Olu cries victoriously as Ed let’s out a low groan of pain. Olu flinches at the sharp glare Stede gives him but holds up the pieces of the two swords as offering. Stede forces his expression to relax to something more supportive, relieved even, 
“Good work, man. Alright, gotta ease him up slowly, all three of us, got it? Frenchie prepare yourself.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Aye, Captain.”

Stede grunts as he forces himself to get up and be this crew’s guiding light. His leg shakes and he knows he won’t be able to hold himself up for long.

“On my count. One. Two. Three!”

Edwards’ cry of pain echoes across the ship like a foghorn.

__________

When he wakes, the first thing he takes note of is how clean he is. Normally, when he wakes up post battle, he feels sticky and hot and smells like iron and rum. But this time, this time he smells of lavender and his hair has been gently wrapped in a cashmere scarf. His entire torso is swathed in clean bandages. When did they pick up new supplies? They aren’t even dyed pink with the blood from previous fights.
The second thing he notices, is that a chaise lounge has been shoved over so that it’s facing the bed, and that someone who looks like Stede is asleep in it. His breath hitches in his throat, but it does not wake the man. Stede looks different. Tired. Dirty.
He can make out the attempt at washing his hands, and can’t help but frown at how raw they’ve been scrubbed. Despite Stede’s efforts, blood still stained his hands up to the wrists.He watches Stede flex his hands in his sleep and watches with an odd fascination as the man’s skin becomes bloody cracks. Edward inhales and he can smell blood. Eyes scanning the man, he notes the bandage tied around Stede’s leg is seeping. The sight of it is quickly fading as the sun has already started setting.
The third thing he notices, is that the anger that had made such a home in his chest, is gone. He wonders if it was stabbed out of him.
Groaning softly, he forces himself to sit up.

Stede.” He hisses.

Nothing. Not even a stir.
Worry holds his heart in its icy grip.

Stede!” He calls out sharply, reaching a hand out. 

The blonde jerks awake, eyes snapping open and pulling a knife out from underneath the pillow. He looks around wildly, raising it at the ready as he twists around with a wince, “What? What? Are we under attack?”

Seeing no threat, he breathes a sigh of relief. Eyes falling shut again as the knife lowers. 

Ed waits, watching the time catch up to the man as Stede’s eyes fly open again. “Ed! You’re awake!”

“You came back.” His tone is wary, close to flat as his eyes narrow.

“’Course I did. Sorry it took me so long.” 

“Your leg is bleeding.” Edward notes aloud, eyes now properly locking on the wound if only to not meet Stede’s gaze. The man keeps looking at him like he’s the goddamn sea and not like some… some…-

“Oh!” Stede looks down almost embarrassed before grumbling, “Dammit not on the new chaise.” He admonishes himself as if he just spilled some wine. Edward can’t stand it. As Stede shifts, Ed watches as Stede holds his breath to keep from crying out. Ed can’t help but properly reach out, “Don’t-”
“Stop mov-”
“Fuck!”
Fuck!
“Captain, Buttons wanted me to as-” Lucius freezes, noting the two men on the floor between the bed and the lounging couch, both grimacing in pain, “Alright down there?”

“Fine. Fine, Lucius.” Stede mutters through gritted teeth, clutching his leg.
“Oh good, you’re alive.” Ed says in the same instance.

“Yup, kinda hard to kill me. I have it listed under my special skills. Is this a bad time?” Lucius drawls, tilting head with pity. 

Yes.”
No. What is it?” Stede overrides Ed without moving. 

“Buttons wanted to know if we should be towing the other ship with us.”
“No ‘course not. Just take their dinghys to replace the ones we lost and then burn the fucker.” Stede squints up at Lucius. He’s relieved to find that the boy looks far better than a few days ago. Lucius smiles.

“Sure thing, sir. Shall I get some help for the two of yous?”

“No, No. I can manage.” Stede dismisses, but Edward gives the boy a look.

“Right.”

Five minutes later, Frenchie is sewing up Stede’s leg, and Wee John is pushing the couch closer to the bed so there’s not as much of a gap. He bids them farewell afterwards, citing needing to help the crew finish ‘unpacking’. At the word, Ed takes note that the room has been refurbished. Not as nicely as before, but definitely less empty. Any furniture that could have been in the captain’s quarters of a British Naval ship, has found its way into this room. The lack of knick knacks is still palpable, but at least there are some books again.

“Thank you, Frenchie. Really.” Stede hisses out once the man announces he’s finished. 
“Not a problem, sir. Anything else I can do for ya?”
“See if anyone else needs tending to. If not, you can retire for tonight.”
“Sure thing. Olu is nearby if you need anything. Him and Jim are on watch.”
“Alright. Thank you.”

Frenchie hustles out, excited to just have some semblance of normalcy.

Edward has been quiet for a very long time, and he knows Stede has taken notice. Once their privacy is returned to them, and now that they are both properly awake, the tension is palpable.

“I really was going to go down to the dock. Genuinely. I wanted that life for us.”

“But you didn’t.”

“Chauncy found me first.”

Edward feels a heat in his chest; the Kraken stirring. “He kidnap you?”

“Partially.”
“The fuck does that mean?”

So Stede explains. It stumbles out of him like the ladder off the side of the ship. He tells him of the forest. Of his lingering guilt that had been eating at him the whole journey. Of his honest belief that he didn’t deserve to keep living his dream after what he had done to everyone. How he went home and realized that Stede Bonnet really was dead. There was no place for him there, now that he had lived the life of piracy. But he had reconciled with that old life. Reconciled with the scary thought of starting over and being free. And the survivor’s guilt. That was a hard one. By the end of it, that overwhelming feeling of panic that had been building in stomach is finally rising to the surface. He’s finally taking notice of the dirt and the blood still coating him, feeling it rather than seeing it. It’s dark enough that lighting a candle would be helpful, but he can’t seem to be bothered. It almost felt fitting to be hiding in the shadows.

I killed them. I killed them all and I didn’t even blink this time. Isn’t that mad?” He whispers, not looking Edward in the eye. “Stede Bonnet, the lily livered rich boy, afraid of geese, and now a proper murderer. Didn’t even get that hurt, really, for the amount of people aboard. Maybe I am the monster after all. Chauncy was right. Perceptive, even. He got under my skin a bit there… Hmmm…” He hums, eyes falling shut and his vision being stained red. When a hand rests itself against his cheek, he relaxes into it and opens his eyes.

“Stede.” Edward murmurs, watching him with eyes that are so… soft.

He has to glance away so as not to melt on the spot.

“I should have stopped by to tell you. But I… I was worried I was going to muck it all up before I finished what I started. And you wer-Are Blackbeard, scourge of the seas. The greatest pirate to ever live! How could I ruin that? I… I was selfish not to not say goodbye. And I also know that you wanted a different life for yourself without the piracy and maybe things could have been different but-” He takes a deep, breath, “I think…. I think I just really didn’t give it any thought.”

Stede.”

“And you can stab me if you want. I don’t mind, honest. I’m surprised you’ve been awake this long and still let me live.” Stede smiles warmly, eyes glistening with unshed tears. “The crew might mutiny against you though if you toss me overboard. Seems I uh… proved myself to them somehow. But they might warm up to be co-captains aga-”

Stede shut up.” 

And he is tugging Stede forward, practically out of the couch and onto the bed, both hands coming to knot themselves in the man’s shirt. Their lips crash together without elegance and with winces from the both of them. Stede has to balance with his good leg so that he doesn’t fall out of the couch again. Heaven forbid he has to get hoisted up by another member of the crew. It is gentle and it is kind how normal this motion is. Edward can’t help but be intrigued by the roughness of Stede’s beard and how it compliments his own stubble.

Up above there’s the loud sound of a cannon being fired, it rattling the whole ship. And then another, and another. A loud FWOOOSH and a flash of light illuminates the room. For a moment, Stede worries that they are under attack again, but hearing the cheers from the crew up above, he assumes they figured out how to dispose of the enemy ship properly. He doesn’t particularly care.

Pulling back, Edward rests his forehead against Stede’s, not minding the dried blood.

“I don’t think you’re lily-livered.” He murmurs. “And I’m sorry too. For abandoning your…our, crew. For assuming how you felt.”
Edward sniffles, eyes shining in the golden glow of the oceanic bonfire outside.

“I love you, you know? I found that out when I had gone to make things right with Mary. I found out that you’re my home.”

Edward chokes on a lump in his throat and he doesn’t even bother to wipe away the tears that escape him. Oh to be loved and be loved in return. He tries to say something, anything, but the words don’t come. 

So he kisses him instead.