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There was a young sailor who sat on the dock

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“Excuse me?”

Ed, his mind a million miles off, turns from gazing out at the sea to look at the man addressing him, and tosses his hair back out of his face. “Yeah?”

The man’s a gent. Well dressed, blond. Barely twenty, he looks like he’s still shaving for novelty rather than necessity. His shoes look about Ed’s size but, nah, they wouldn’t stay on for five minutes on the boat. Coat’s nice, dark blue, looks like it costs more than an honest man earns in a year. But then, what’s honesty got to do with being rich? “Are you a sailor?”

Ed glances down at himself, around at the shabby dock, at the ships moored and creaking in harbour. “Yeah?”

“Oh, good.” He smiles suddenly at Ed, but his hands stay restless, opening and closing under their lacy cuffs. “Are you, ah, for hire?”

“I’ve a post on a ship at the minute, mate.” It isn’t what he means and Ed knows it. Still, it’s fun to mess with a rich bugger.

The gent blushes pinkly. “I’m not hiring for ship work.”

“What are you hiring for?” Ed gives him a flick of the eyes and sizes him up. Is the man stupid enough to have a lot of money on him, or just a little? He’s had a good look at Ed, so an anonymous lift is out of the question– so is he the type to cause a fuss over getting dipped, or would the shame keep him quiet?

“Uh. Ah,” the gent stammers, “For an hourly rate.”

Or Ed could take him somewhere, give him services rendered, and shake him down for everything he’s got.

“Are you asking if I’m a sex worker?”

If Ed thought the man was pink before he’s now a solid puce. “Well!” He squeaks, “Yes!” and swallows, and then manages in a more normal register: “But I was hoping to do it nicely. Are you? That is– are you a prostitute?”

Ed scratches his neck. “I’m a sailor.”

“Yes. Oh bother,” the gent ducks his head. “Do pardon me. I had it on good authority that sailors sold sex down on the docks. Sailors do do that, don’t they?”

“Some lads do, yeah.”

“Thank goodness, at least it wasn’t a straight-up lie this time. Well, you’re very–” the man gestures at Ed, “– and I saw you there with your leg thrown up on that crate, showcasing your, your self–” he gestures again, “ – and I rather assumed – I do apologise if there’s been a misunderstanding.”

“Nah, it’s fine,” says Ed. Mad bugger, he thinks, but oddly likeable. Not that says much, everyone Ed’s ever liked has been mad. “Can I give you a tip?”

“Please do! I’m always willing to learn something new.”

“Maybe just ask a guy if you can buy him a drink in the pub.”

The gent nods, frowning like he’s turning this thought over in his mind. “But what if he thinks I just want to have a drink with him?”

“Yeah, well, you do take him for the drink, but during the drink you slip your hand on his leg and ask him if he’d like to earn two bob.”

“Right, but what if he says no? I don’t want to have to have three or four pints before finding a sex worker. Quite apart from all the bathroom breaks, I might not be able to do much after that.”

“Mm, I see your point,” Ed strokes his moustache and only mildly surprises himself by adding: “Tell you what, ask me if I’ll have a drink with you.”

“But I thought you weren’t–”

“I didn’t say I wasn’t,” Ed corrects him. “I am a sailor.”

“And I’m confused. I thought you were saying not all sailors are sex workers and vice versa but now you’re sort of saying they are, or are you saying–”

Ed stops this little diatribe with a hand wave. “No mate – what I’m saying is: you gotta ask.”

“Right,” the gent says.

Ed makes a little ‘go ahead’ gesture.

“Right, right.” He clears his throat and says in the kind of loud carrying voice the market hawkers spend years working on: “Jolly sailor bold–”

Ed faintly reels from it. “Hell! No, no–”

“No?” He tries again: “My good man–”

Nope. No one’s good man.”

The gent deflates a little. “Hi mate?”

“Yeah, that’s good.” Ed gives him an encouraging smile.

“Okay. ‘Hi mate, do you fancy a drink with me in yonder tavern?’” The gent winks with exaggeration and throws in a little jolly fist pump.

“Lose the wink.”

“Oh really? I thought it conveyed a second meaning.”

“It looks like you’ve got something in your eye.”

“So just the ‘hi mate, do you fancy a drink with me in yonder tavern.’” The gent starts feeling in his pockets and mutters: “Better write this down before I forget.”

“Yep, that’s good. And then he’ll say something like,“Okay then, boss, but you’re buying.’”

“And then we go to the tavern.”

“Yep.”

Having found his pocket book, the gent starts scribbling his notes. And rather more of them than Ed expects. “Which tavern is best?”

“Jason at the Lamp and Whistle lets rooms out by the hour.” Ed points up the hill.

“Just an hour?”

“Yeah. I mean, you’re not going to stay the night. Cuddling’s extra,” Ed adds as a joke, but the gent’s pencil keeps moving so it’s probably added to his notes too.

“Of course. But only an hour...”

“How long did you want?”

“I don’t know, really.” The gent says, still writing, and speaking as much to himself as to Ed, “I didn’t set a watch last time but it took ages. Don’t want to be called in before we’ve finished.”

Ed doesn’t say the Mate, what? that he’s feeling but instead: “Why don’t we grab that drink, yeah?”

The smoke in the Lamp and Whistle is thick and greasy and rolls out the door like a lazy dog welcoming its master. It’s warm and dark inside, as close smelling as an armpit and nearly as welcoming.

Ed sends the gent to the bar to get drinks and finds a small bench in a dark corner, worn smooth through use. The gent comes back with two possibly-pints of probably-beer.

He squashes himself onto the bench. “And this is the negotiating sex drink?”

“Probably don’t call it that.”

The man reaches for his notebook again, but Ed stops him.

“Think of this one as practice, and then next time you pick up a sailor you can do it for real, ‘kay?”

“You’re very kind.” The gent takes a tentative sip of his drink, and Ed watches his throat as he swallows. He’s not unhandsome, and this close Ed can smell the soap under his cologne.

So, time to make your mind up, Edward Teach, are you going to pick his pocket and slip outside for a piss and not return? Or. Are you going to fuck this clean, friendly idiot, who’ll probably at least get you off out of manners, and get paid for it?

He meets keenly cheerful eyes and makes a decision. “I’m very not. You’re still paying me, after all.” There’s not much room on the bench so when Ed stretches his leg out their thighs are pressed together, hip to knee, a line of animal contact that bleeds warmth through their clothes.

He looks pointedly at the man, who returns his gaze politely. Ed presses their legs closer together a little more firmly.

“This is a good time to put your hand on my knee,” Ed says, after half a minute of nothing happening.

“Is it?”

Ed hums, and the gent skims his hand over Ed’s knee, feather light fingertips, gentle-soft even through Ed’s rough breeches. “Too light, you’re not trying to tickle me here.”

“Sorry.”

“Do it casual, but give it some purpose.”

Ed slips his own hand down, running over the back of the man’s leg and squeezes just behind the knee, letting his fingers curl against the soft fabric and the yielding thigh underneath. He ignores the tiny teakettle squeak the man makes, and slowly, deliberately, leans closer, eyes lowered but intent on the man’s lips. Ed grips the warm muscle under his hand, draws a circle there. He flicks his gaze up to meet wide honey-brown eyes, and then back to the parted lips. Ed pitches his voice low and asks: “You want to earn a shilling, pretty boy?”

“I thought you said two!” the man protests, high pitched.

“You gotta barter!” Ed insists, back in his normal voice.

“Okay, I demand two!”

Ed tries not to laugh and manages to only grin. “No, you’re buying, so you go low, he goes high, you say something sleazy like, two bob for a good time, three if it’s a very good time.”

The gent nods enthusiastically, almost headbutting Ed. “And when should we introduce ourselves?”

“I’m sorry?” Ed leans back so he can get a good look at the gent. He means it, doesn’t he?

“When do I ask him his name?” Yep, he does.

“He’s a lad you’re hiring to bugger!”

“It’s polite!”

“Mate, his name is whatever you’d like it to be.”

“Oh,” he says, sounding rather sadder than he has any right to. Ed feels a bit sorry for some reason. “So I can’t ask you your name?”

“You can ask, but don’t expect the truth. And don’t give him your real name either. Just, pick a name.”

“Roger?”

Ed laughs, he can’t help it. “Fine. I’m Roger.”

“That was going to be me.”

“I thought we were doing this the other way around, but sure.”

“No I–”

“Relax. I’m pulling your leg.” He slaps said leg cheerfully. “But, seriously, pick a name for yourself.”

“Thomas? I quite like Thomas. Sorry,” the newly christened Thomas adds, “I’m very new to all of this.”

Ed gives his best understanding nod. “It’s gotta be awkward, first time you pay someone to have sex with you.”

Thomas shakes his head. “No, I’ve done that before.”

“You what?” What the hell does he want lessons for then? Is this a weird rich-person game?

“The last one was bought for me, as a birthday present,” Thomas says, like that’s normal, like that’s an explanation.

It really isn’t. “What?”

“While I was at school there was a tradition where, for your last birthday before finishing, the whole year clubbed together to hire you a- a lady of the night. To help you become a man.”

“Really? Rich people are crazy.”

Thomas gives a little head-bob to agree. “It took forever. We had to keep stopping so I could, um, get my interest back.”

Ed pats his arm. “Stage fright happens. I won’t judge.”

“I just– I think I preferred the fagging? Not the getting, the being. It felt more– natural.” Thomas looks worried, his forehead creased and his eyes big. “I’m sure that makes me sound awful,” he says, quietly.

“Nah mate,” says Ed, who doesn’t know what fagging is and wants to see the smile back. The guy smiles like sunshine and it makes Ed feel warm. “I think that’s normal. Probably. So, uh, now you’ve got a guy to say yes–” he nudges Thomas with his hip “– me, I’m the guy – best if you ask Jason for that room, yeah?”

Ed drinks his drink and listens as Thomas awkwardly asks to rent a room in the kind of stage whisper that carries to the back of the pub.

The guy’s unreal but Ed’s still smiling as he downs the last of his beer and follows Thomas up the stairs to a tiny room that seems even smaller in the gathering dusk and a bed that’s barely big enough for one, let alone two.

And when the door closes, here’s the perfect moment for Ed to change his mind, slit the guy’s throat, crack him across the head, whatever – get his money and bail.

But he doesn’t. Thomas looks around and then back at him, genial worry creeping in, and asks, "Can I touch you?" like he isn’t paying Ed for just that. Then waits with his hands half up until Ed nods, and reaches to undo Ed’s shirt, looking between what he’s doing and Ed’s eyes. The backs of his fingers brush against Ed’s chest and something warm bleeds out from the little touches, runs underneath Ed’s skin like spilling water. His stomach feels weird, jumpy in a way it doesn’t usually when he’s about to get fucked.

Ed’s shirt and waistcoat slip off and Thomas eyes’s darken from honey to brown. “Roger,” he says, “can I kiss you?”

Who the fuck is Roger, Ed thinks, before he remembers that’s supposed to be him. “Sure man. We’re here to do anything you want.”

“Yes, but–”

Ed kisses him. Kisses him before he says something else too nice. Kisses him because Ed wants to get rid of this building feeling in his belly and maybe if he steers it’ll settle back down. Takes hold of Thomas’ cheek and brings their mouths together. Thomas’ lips are slack, soft in surprise and Ed kisses him harder. Thomas follows, clumsy, warm, keen, as Ed pulls him closer, closer until their chests are brushing, and walks him backwards across the room, plucking the buttons of his breeches open and then tripping him onto the bed.

Thomas makes a sound in his chest as Ed drops to his knees, rucks Thomas’ shirt up, grins like a shark, and curves a hand around his fattening dick. Soft pale belly, wide eyes, hands curled into the thin blankets. Vulnerable. Ed locks eyes with Thomas and sucks his dick down, one hand on his hip so he doesn’t thrust and the other at the base of his cock.

Ed is good at this. Hot salt in his mouth, he slides down, pulls back, thumb stoking the blood-hot skin, curls his tongue around the head and listens to the soft curse Thomas gives before choking himself back down.

There are a lot of fools in the world who think there’s more power in getting than giving, Ed knows. People who seem to forget how weak they are to pleasure, that they can be held down with one lazy hand when they’re drugged on sensation, their dick in jaws that could snap shut at any moment. Ed is in control.

Thomas brushes a tender hand against his hollowed cheek and murmurs: “Gosh. You’re beautiful.”

Ed feels suddenly dizzy. Breathes through his nose, closes his eyes, a steadying moment and he’s got himself back. He flexes his tongue, swallows sloppy around the shaft, moans low so the vibrations rattle through his throat.

“Stop.”

The man’s close. Ed redoubles his efforts; he’s never minded a mouthful of come.

“No, please stop –”

Ed’s not a complete monster, pulls off and looks up. Thomas’ hair is a mad halo, his lips puffy and red like he’s been biting them.

“I don’t want to finish just yet.”

“You want to bugger me, yeah?” Ed says, knowingly.

“What’s it feel like?”

“Getting buggered? Or doing the buggering?”

“Yes– Both– What feels best? If I were the lad and you were hiring, what would you ask me to do?”

Ed lazily jacks Thomas’ dick. “Lie on the bed, I’ll ride you,” he commands.

“That’s– oh you’re good – that’s not an answer.”

“It’ll be fun.”

“Would you pay for a man to fuck you?”

“Yeah,” Ed flips his hair back over his shoulder. “It’s your money.”

“I think I want you to fuck me.”

“Alright.”

Ed shucks his trousers and boots while Thomas throws his waistcoat and shirt aside, shimmies his tight breeches down – he has lovely thighs – and starts on the laces of his stockings.

He’s peaches and cream and Ed feels fucking hungry. “You could keep those on.”

Thomas looks surprised.

Ed shrugs an indifferent shoulder. “If you wanted.”

Thomas keeps the stockings on. Crawls onto the bed on all fours, and looks back over his shoulder, watchful as a deer. The failing light makes his skin seem whiter, makes his eyes larger, darker, it makes the stockings seem to glow and draws shade in the sloping valley down his back, throws black shadow over the soft gap of his arse.

Ed goes to him, puts a hand on his back, pauses. Sticks two fingers in his mouth and drools over them, eyes locked on Thomas’s own, long licks until his hand is sopping with it and slowly slips them down, sticky wet and tacky on Thomas’s soft peach skin, to open him up. Ed pushes gently, circles around, pulls back, coaxes a finger in.

“Relax, relax.”

Thomas drops his head to his folded arms and pushes soft gasps into the counterpane. The muscles in his back are dotted with sweat and freckles and Ed watches them as he twists and pulls, carving out a space for himself, curling his fingers to make Thomas’s thighs tremble. Precum dribbles down Ed’s dick and he wants wants wants but, fuck, the spit’s half gone and Thomas isn’t loose as most men Ed’s fucked.

Ed sits up and Thomas makes a noise that’s mostly vowels, turning to watch Ed as he reaches for the unlit oil lamp. Ed throws him a wink and pours the oil over his hand.

“This’ll do the trick.”

Ed pushes two slippery fingers smoothly in, and mouths at Thomas’ spine, feeling out each bump of vertebrae with his lips, down, down, until he’s lapping at tender skin alongside where his fingers disappear into the other man’s body.

Thomas moans, a chewed up cry to god, and pushes himself back onto Ed’s face and his questing, rubbing fingers, swearing, shivering.

“Please. I’m going to finish– am I ready? Please. Say I’m ready.”

Ed wipes his face and pushes himself to his knees, strokes his dick with his slick hand, lines himself up and sinks into – warm, gripping, good – Thomas, who shivers, breathing hard. Ed runs scarred hands up and down his sides, like he’s seen people do to worried horses.

“You like that.”

“Y-eah.”

Ed rolls his hips, deep, deeper.

“It’s–” Thomas’s head drops, and Ed pushes between his shoulder blades, shifting him down, changing the angle.

A caught breath, and Thomas meets his next thrust, and the next and Ed starts to fuck him in earnest.

Thomas bites at the bedding, trying to muffle the noise Ed is shaking out of him.

“You want to let me hear that?”

“I’m– It’s– I can’t last–”

Ed chases his own release then, driving hard and fast, curving tighter, tighter, over Thomas’ back as he runs his hand under, cupping soft belly and then Thomas’ dick. Ed fists his cock barely twice, and Thomas comes. Ed rides Thomas’s quaking release and lets his vision narrow down as he finds his own precipice, and falls.

Dizzy, he pulls out slowly, a sticky slide of come slipping down Thomas’ thigh. Distantly, Ed knows he’s probably supposed to fetch a rag but instead just flops onto the tiny sliver of bed that Thomas isn’t on, and lets his rabbiting heart beat return to normal. Thomas lies still next to him, and there is an almost perfect moment of afterglow and silence.

The weird feeling in his stomach is quieter but not gone. Ed tries to remember how long ago dinner was.

Thomas sighs. His chin tips up as he wriggles around and stretches out, arms relaxing back over his head. “Is cuddling still extra?” The contentedness in his voice makes him sound younger.

Cold prickles over Ed’s naked back. He wants to say no. He wants to cuddle. It’s a stupid thing to want. “Yep. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.”

“Just a small one?”

Ed pushes himself up and starts to dress, not bothering to light the lamp, fishing up his trousers from the floor, his shirt, his waistcoat.

“Who makes the rules?” Thomas says, trying for light hearted and failing. Ed can feel the touch of his watching eyes as sure as if they were fingers. His neck itches.

“They’re just rules, man.”

As Ed sits on the edge of the bed to pull his boots on there’s a shine of silver in the near-dark room and Thomas holds out a crown. Twice as much as they’d agreed, and it somehow feels less.

“Is it rude to tip?”

Slowly, Ed takes it. “Me? I don’t mind a bit of rudeness,” his voice sounds wrong and he coughs to clear his throat. He stands to leave.

He’s two steps to the door when Thomas says, brightly, “You gave me a lot of good advice.”

“You don’t know if it’s any good until you use it.”

“I’ll let you know how I get on the next time I see you.” Then adds, hurriedly, “Are you on the docks often?”

“My ship goes in three days.” It sails with the morning tide. Ed doesn’t know why he’s lying, only that he has a nagging feeling that if he meets Thomas again he’ll do something really stupid.

“See you soon, maybe?”

One hand on the door knob, Ed says, “Yeah. Until next time.”