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With a Touch and a Word

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Stede knew this would happen eventually.

He’s lying beneath Ed in bed, the two of them lost in a luxurious kiss. This has become a regular occurrence since they found each other and reconciled, and Stede truly can’t get enough. The taste of Ed’s mouth, the feel of his lips, the tickle of his short beard, the sound of the soft hums he makes in his throat, all of it makes something warm and golden flood through Stede’s body, like the rays of the sun breaking over the horizon at dawn. He loves finding every way there is to kiss Ed: gentle and soft, fierce and desperate, wet and with just a bit of teeth on his lip. And he loves the feel of Ed in his arms, the warmth of his skin against Stede’s, the way they fit together as if they were born to hold each other.

He tangles his fingers in Ed’s hair, running his nails lightly over Ed’s scalp, watching his eyes slide closed and a smile play at the corners of his lips. The feel of Ed’s weight pressed against him is like a warm blanket, a comforting heaviness that feels like home. Ed’s hands knead Stede’s shoulders, the calluses on his sea-roughened fingers sending shivers across his skin.

Ed’s tongue slides into Stede’s mouth, soft and sweet and tasting faintly of pipe smoke, a rich flavor completely unique to him. Ed’s lips are remarkably soft beneath his fresh whiskers, which are, themselves, remarkably soft as well. Stede could lie like this forever, Ed’s sweet lips against his, Ed’s hands caressing him, Ed’s body draped over him.

But, pressed this close, Stede can feel what is unmistakably a very… intimate part of Ed pressing hard against his hip. And Ed’s hands are roving over Stede’s body, sliding under his shirt and drifting lower. Stede loves the feel of Ed’s fingers against his skin, leaving trails of goosebumps behind them, but he stiffens as they dip under his waistband.

“Stede?” Ed stops and pulls back, his brows knit. “Hey, are you okay?”

“Y-yeah. Yes. Fine!” Stede hears how high his own voice is. He can’t even convince himself, let alone Ed.

Indeed, Ed moves off to Stede’s side, the loss of his warmth terribly chilling. But his eyes are soft as he searches Stede’s face. “Did I do something wrong?”

Stede sighs. “No, darling. No, you’ve done everything right. It’s me. I don’t… I mean, I think…” Words get caught in his throat. How can he explain this to Ed?

Ed takes his hand and kisses the knuckles. He waits, letting Stede find his way. Stede’s heart swells with gratitude.

Stede thought, for a long time, that perhaps it was just that he didn’t like being married. He never chose Mary, and he did his duty by her, but that was all it was, a duty. When he discovered that he loved Ed, he thought things might be different. But they’ve been spending quite a lot of time lying in each other’s arms, and nothing has changed. Stede has accepted this is just part of who he is. But will Ed accept it? Will he be disappointed that Stede doesn’t want what he wants? Will he be upset that his touch doesn’t excite Stede the way Stede’s excites him? Stede doesn’t want to pretend, doesn’t want to lie, but he desperately, fiercely doesn’t want to lose Ed either.

Ed loves him, he reminds himself. Ed loves him and trusts him and wants him to be happy. And he loves Ed. Ed has been totally honest with Stede, letting him see all the parts of himself he was afraid to show the world. Stede can do the same with Ed. He must. He takes a deep breath, then slowly exhales.

“I’m not like other men,” Stede says finally.

Ed grins. “No, you most definitely are not.”

Stede feels himself blush. “Yes, well, thank you Ed, but what I mean is…” He swallows thickly. “I don’t… respond… to things… like other men.”

Ed shows no indication he has any idea what Stede means. Stede realizes he’s going to have to get uncomfortably explicit. “I know that men generally… with women, at least, they… feel urges.”

Ed nods. “Most do, yeah. But it’s okay if you don’t. You may have noticed, I’m not a woman.” He winks.

“Yes, darling, but…” Stede wills himself to be strong for Ed, to trust him to treat this part of Stede as gently as he treats every other part. “I don’t feel that for anyone. At all.”

Ed’s expression shifts. “Not even me?”

“Oh, Ed.” Stede takes Ed’s hand and grasps it tightly. “It’s not that I don’t find you absolutely beautiful, or that I don’t want to be with you. I do. I love being with you. I love touching you and kissing you and feeling your body against me. I just don’t…” He bites his lip. “I don’t want to have… relations. With anyone.”

Ed blinks and leans back a bit, looking down. He cocks his head a bit, then looks back at Stede. “So being with me doesn’t make you hard? Doesn’t make you want to fuck me?”

“No, darling.” Stede strokes Ed’s cheek, desperate to reassure him. “It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I love you more than life itself. I love being with you. I love looking at you. I love talking with you. I love touching you and kissing you. I can’t imagine anyone I would rather do any of those things with.”

Ed nods, but he seems very far away. Stede grimaces. After everything they’ve gone through, after everything that has failed to keep them apart, is this really going to be the thing they can’t get past?

But Ed sees Stede’s expression and reaches up to smooth it away with his thumb. “I love you, Stede. Whatever you do or do not want to do, that’s okay with me. We’ll figure things out together, yeah?”

Stede lets out a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding. “Thank you.” Ed climbs back on top of him and presses his mouth to Stede’s once more, driving away his doubts and fears.

One evening a few weeks later finds them in the captain’s quarters once more, unwinding at the end of the day, Ed in a pair of loose linen trousers under Stede’s old pink robe, Stede in an open-collared shirt and linen breeches. Since their talk, they've continued as they were, cuddling and kissing and talking during their quiet moments alone. Stede has been enormously relieved that Edward's adoration of him doesn't see to have diminished in the slightest. This evening, Edward is reclined on the couch, his bad leg propped up, wincing as he rubs at his knee.

“Is your knee bothering you tonight, darling?” Stede asks.

“Ah, it’s fine,” Ed says. “It just gets achy sometimes. Probably a storm nearby. We’ll have to check the sky in the morning.”

Stede hands Ed a glass of brandy. “Would it help if I rub it for you?”

Ed smiles. “Can’t hurt.” He shifts to make room on the couch, and Stede comes to sit beside him.

Stede slides the linen fabric up to Ed’s thigh, baring his skin to the air, and Ed shivers. “Are you cold, darling?” Stede says.

Ed shakes his head. “No love, you just have that effect on me.”

Stede grins, blushing slightly, and sets his hands against Ed’s leg. He kneads the muscle, his fingers working in small circles, running his thumbs over Ed’s kneecap. He squeezes gently around the joint, both below on Ed’s calf and above on his thigh. Ed’s breath quickens, and his body is becoming more and more tense rather than less so. “Ed, darling, it would really help if you could relax.”

Ed takes a long swig from his glass. “I’d love to, but…” He swallows. “I know it’s not like this for you, but it’s uh, really, really hard to relax with you touching me like that.”

Stede meets Ed’s gaze, which is dark and intense. His eyes travel down Ed’s body, stopping at the very noticeable bulge in his thin trousers. “Oh. I see.” He swallows. “Just from me touching your knee?”

Ed lets out a breath. “From you touching my anything, love.” He grimaces. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have let you do this, I—”

Stede squeezes Ed’s thigh again, and Ed stops in the middle of his sentence. Stede can hear his breath coming fast, can see his chest rising and falling as though he’s running a race. All this from Stede’s hands on his knee?

Experimentally, Stede slides the fingers of one hand higher up Ed’s thigh, tucking them beneath the fabric bunched around his leg. Ed inhales sharply. “Stede, you don’t have to—”

“Hush,” Stede says. Ed falls silent immediately, and Stede feels a thrill run down his spine. Ed seems incapable of control, his body reacting for him without thought. Stede has no such liability.

Stede releases Ed’s knee and moves his hands on top of Ed’s trousers, feeling the heat from his skin penetrating the thin fabric. He slides his hands up Ed’s leg, his eyes on Ed’s face. Ed’s eyes grow wider and wider, his mouth falling open. Stede leans forward, skimming past Ed’s more intimate areas, letting his fingers settle onto the exposed skin of Ed’s belly, which flutters under his touch. “Incredible,” he breathes.

He rubs his thumbs across the skin, watching goosebumps rise beneath them. Ed’s skin is burnished golden in the lamplight, and Stede takes a moment to appreciate his form—from his hair curling over his shoulders to the planes of his chest to the black ink of the tattoos across his bronze skin. Stede slides his hands over Ed’s torso, letting the sparse hairs there catch on his fingers, feeling the shape of his ribs beneath his skin. Ed’s breath is audibly huffing now, his chest heaving with it. Such intense reactions to such small touches! Stede curls the fingers of one hand, dragging his nails across the skin, and Ed cries out. “Too much, darling?” Stede asks.

Ed shakes his head quickly. “No. No. Not at all.” He swallows hard. “Is this okay for you though? You said—”

“I said hush.” Stede didn’t mean for his voice to come out low and commanding, but Ed’s eyelids flutter half closed and he makes a low, breathy sound, and oh goodness, but that is just delightful. Stede slides his knee up between Ed’s legs as he leans up and over him. “You like when I tell you what to do, don’t you, Ed?”

Ed nods. “I do.” His eyes are roving over Stede’s face, as if looking for an answer to something.

Stede smiles. “Good. Then do as I tell you and let me enjoy this.”

Ed groans as his eyes close and his head falls back. Stede bends forward, bringing his lips to the soft skin of Ed’s neck, the spot below his ear just beyond where his beard can grow. Ed’s hands come up to grip Stede’s waist, the fingers bunching into the fabric of his trousers. Stede sucks the skin of Ed’s neck slightly, and Ed hisses a breath between his teeth.

Stede mutters softly in Ed’s ear, “You’re absolutely captivating, Ed,” then gently nips Ed’s earlobe with his teeth. Ed lets out a breathy noise between a cry and a moan, the sound of it filling Stede with a warm tingle. He moves down to Ed’s shoulder, placing a wet kiss there, and Ed’s hips buck toward him. “Now now, Ed, have patience,” Stede says, pushing Ed’s hip down with one hand, and Ed exhales shakily. Stede looks down at where his hand rests against Ed’s hip and finds the fabric over his lap has grown dark with a small, wet stain. Is that normal? “Ed, I…” Stede breathes in deeply, then lets it out, reminding himself that Ed loves him and has never laughed at him yet. “I wonder if you might tell me whether the, ah, moisture in your trousers is… a normal sort of thing.”

Ed grits his teeth. “Fuck, Stede,” he growls. “Normal for this situation, yeah, I’d say so.”

“And what situation is that, love?”

Ed looks up, his eyes locking on Stede’s. “Please, Stede, you said you don’t—”

“Tell me, Ed,” Stede says. “It’s okay, I want you to be honest.”

Ed shudders beneath Stede. “Fuck, Stede, I want you so fucking bad,” he says in a rush. “I’m fucking aching for it, love.”

Stede looks back at the damp spot, which has grown slightly in the few moments they’ve been talking. The fabric over Ed’s—Stede forces himself to think the word cock—shifts as it twitches of its own accord, as if confirming Ed’s words. Aching is such a strong word. Stede wants, no, he needs to soothe that ache. He licks his lips and looks back up at Ed’s face. “Would it be all right if I… touch you?”

“Touch me?” Ed’s eyes are enormous. “You mean…?” He looks toward his waist.

Stede nods. Ed whimpers, the sound of it shimmering through Stede’s body. “Please,” he whispers, and oh dear, the way the small desperation of it grabs Stede by the throat, he feels almost dizzy with it.

Stede settles back onto the couch, gently dragging the fingers of his hand down Ed’s torso, which shivers under his touch. Ed’s eyes follow every move of his hand, tracking it as it slides lower. Stede rubs his fingers together, watching the way Ed’s body reacts to this small gesture even before he touches him. Then he gently lays his palm over the swollen bulge in Ed’s trousers.

Ed’s hips buck up into the air as he groans loudly, and Stede has to press him down firmly with his other hand on his hip. “Marvelous,” he says, watching as Ed fights for breath. His cock is warm and solid as granite under the layer of linen. Stede rubs his palm against it, the slightest movement, and Ed moans loudly. “Is this good, Ed?” Stede asks. “Does this feel good?”

“Fuck, yes, fuck,” Ed gasps. “Everything you do feels incredible.”

Stede grins widely. Everything. Stede has been so worried about this, about whether Ed would still want him once he found out the truth about him, about whether he would still enjoy being with him. But everything Stede is doing is clearly making him only more and more excited.

Stede needs more, needs to give Ed everything he’s ever wanted. He slides his hand up, making Ed moan again, then tucks his fingers under the waistband of Ed’s trousers and tugs them down, exposing his cock. Every breath Ed takes is loud now, punctuated by a low, breathy groan. Stede takes a moment to study his lover’s body, this most intimate part of him, the shape and deep color of his cock, the beads of glistening moisture leaking out of the tip. He wraps his hand around it, fingers closing around the shaft, and Ed wails. “Oh Ed, you’re magnificent,” Stede says quietly, and Ed thrusts into his hand as his own hands grip the couch tightly, fingers turning white at the knuckles.

Stede understands that this is what Ed needs, and he can see that Ed is clearly on the edge already, fighting to keep from going over. Stede holds him there just a bit longer, stroking him slowly, watching in wonder as Ed’s hips roll with the motion of Stede’s hand. All of this, just from Stede’s touch, just from his hands on Ed’s body.

Well, no, now that’s not entirely true, is it? Ed responded delightfully to Stede’s voice as well. Stede begins to stroke him with a steady rhythm, watching Ed’s face. Ed’s mouth hangs open, the short hairs of his newly regrown mustache fluttering with each breath. His eyes, so dark they are nearly black in the light of the cabin, are locked on Stede’s face. They grow wide with each stroke, his brows drawn together.

Stede licks his lips. “You want to finish, don’t you, my love?”

Ed merely nods, his breath coming fast and short.

“Come for me then, Ed. Come now.”

Ed groans and thrusts into Stede’s fist, and his cock throbs as he sends splashes of white across his torso, some of it dribbling down over Stede’s fingers. He is beautiful beyond imagining, every muscle in his body tense and tight, his head thrown back, hair spilling over his shoulders, mouth open as he gasps for breath. Stede drinks in every bit of it, his chest fluttering with the knowledge that he has done this, he has brought Ed this pleasure that takes over his whole body and leaves him breathless and spent.

At long last, Ed relaxes. Stede releases him, pulling a kerchief from his pocket to clean up the mess. He wipes it from Ed’s body in long, slow strokes, and when the last drop is caught, Ed grabs him and pulls him up for a deep, long, ferocious kiss. Stede tosses the kerchief aside and runs his fingers through Ed’s hair, pressing his body against Ed’s.

When he finally pulls away, Stede looks into Ed’s eyes. “That was all right, then?”

“All right?” Ed blinks. “Stede, that was fucking unbelievable. That—” He swallows. “No one has ever touched me like that. No one has ever looked at me like that.” He reaches up to trace the backs of his fingers across Stede’s cheek. “I love you so much, Stede. So fucking much.”

“I love you too, Ed,” Stede says, then kisses him again, settling against him as Ed’s arms encircle him and hold him tight. This feels good, it feels right. Ed’s arms tremble slightly around Stede’s back, but he’s much more relaxed than he was before. Distantly, Stede thinks that maybe now he can actually do Ed’s knee some good, but he’s loath to tear himself away from Ed’s embrace. Instead, he nuzzles into Ed’s beard, sighing as Ed hums quietly and nuzzles him back. He rests his chin on Ed’s chest, looking up at him. “Can we do that again sometime?”

“Can we?” Ed huffs out a laugh. “Fuck, we can do that anytime you like.” He looks down, stroking Stede’s back with one hand. “You’re really okay with just doing that for me? You don’t want anything in return?”

Stede’s throat feels tight. He pushes himself up so he can look Ed in the eyes. “Ed, darling.” How can he even begin to explain how Ed makes him feel? “Seeing how good I can make you feel is something I get in return. I love the way you respond to my touch. I love the sounds you make. I love the feel of you in my hands.” He drops his voice so that it’s deep and hushed. “I love that I can command your pleasure.”

Ed shivers, then pulls Stede to him, pressing their lips together. Their tongues slide over each other, tasting each other’s mouths, their breath mingling. When Ed pulls away, his eyes are bright. “I’m so lucky to have you, Stede,” he murmurs.

“Funny,” says Stede, “I feel exactly the same way.”