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Stealing Romance

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Ed is woken rather fucking abruptly from a delightful nap on Stede’s sofa. Stede looks harried, a little manic, maybe a bit on the frenzied side. Ed jumps up from the sofa and is alert near enough immediately; he figures from Stede’s expression that they must be about 30 seconds from getting blown out of the ocean. 

“Ed! I need help with something, very sorry to trouble you, sorry to wake you, it’s just - uh, I’ve got a bit of a situation brewing.” 

Ed picks up his knife and his gun, slips them home in his holster. He makes for the door. “We under attack? British, Spanish, what?”  

“No, no, it’s not - you can come back, it’s not urgent. I mean, there is a certain time pressure, but it’s not a threat to life and limb kind of time pressure, just a this is really fucking awful kind of time pressure.” 

Ed pauses and turns back to Stede. He’s twisting the rings on his left hand nervously and there’s sweat beading on his brow. He looks kinda wrecked, and sort of pale and flushed at the same time, which is apparently a thing Stede’s face can do. He only swears when he’s particularly upset. 

“Alright, mate, alright. Take a breath, yeah? What’s up?” 

“Buttons spotted a merchant ship, and we went in for a closer pass, just to see if they might be worth raiding, and, well, the ship belongs to someone I know. Knew. From my old life. And he spotted us, and spotted me, and now he’s rowing over here.” 

Shit, he looks fucking tortured. This is fascinating. 

“You want me to stab him for you?” Ed asks.

Stede pauses for really quite a long time before answering, like he’s giving it some serious fucking thought. Curiouser and Curiouser. “No, no, not that, I don’t think.” 

“‘Kay. Well, what then?”

“I don’t know!” Stede cries, and fuck, he really does look like he might actually cry. 

Ed takes pity. “Okaaaay. Maybe start with telling me what the problem is with this bloke, and we can figure something out?” 

“His name is Nicholas Kennon. He’s from Bridgetown. Bit of an arsehole. He was - we - damn it. We were paramours.” 

Ed’s pretty fucking sure he knows what that word means but that doesn’t seem - nah, must be some different way posh folks use it, surely, one of their weird upper-class codes. Ed cocks an eyebrow, lets his confusion sit on his face like a question mark. 

“My inamorato? My…beau?” Stede is full on wincing like he’s in actual, physical pain.

“Still not sure I’m following, mate.” No. Fucking. Way, Ed thinks. Pretty sure he is following, not going to believe it til Stede uses plain English. 

“Oh for god’s sake, Ed, he’s my ex! We had an affair!”

Well shit, how about that. Right the first time. Ed feels like he’s been hit with a fucktonne of info right there, answering a couple of questions that he’s been pondering for a few weeks now. 

  1. Stede likes men. He’d suspected, but nice to have it confirmed. Excellent fucking news. 
  2. Stede has had relationships with men. Also, technically, good news, but sort of news that opens a grim little dark and gnawing hole of jealousy in Ed’s belly, and isn’t that interesting and fucking terrible all at once? He’d never considered himself the jealous type, and to have this sick twinge of something at the idea of Stede shagging some guy before he even met Ed? Well, that’s new and not altogether welcome. 
  3. Stede’s ears can blush. Possibly his favourite bit of new info. The most lickable bit of new info. 

Oh, yeah, Ed’s in fucking deep. 

“Ed, are you listening to me?” 

Ah, fuck, no. “Um, sorry, my mind wandered. Go over that last bit again.”

“Nicholas doesn’t take rejection well, Ed. He’s a very influential man in Bridgetown, he could cause a lot of difficulties if he feels hurt. Disentangling from him was hard enough the first time, and if he’s expecting any kind of rekindling - well, I can’t see it going well when I say I’m not interested.” 

“Feels like more points for the stabbing idea to me,” Ed says. Stede looks genuinely upset and Ed is - well, he’s a lot of things, sort of nauseous and jealous and his heart feels like it’s gonna fall out of his arse - but mainly he’s deadly serious about stabbing this prick. If this Nicholas not taking no for an answer is gonna be some kind of issue, Ed’s gonna make sure it’s Nicholas’ fucking issue, not Stede’s. What kind of fucking name is Nicholas anyway, he sounds like such a twat. 

“No, Ed, I just need a way to let him down gently! To signal that my bed is closed and that he should bugger off, but in a nice way. He’s going to be here soon!”

“Shit, I dunno. I feel like you’ve come to the wrong guy, shouldn’t you ask Lucius or Oluwande? They’re better at advice, I’m more your guy for maiming and threats.” Ed pauses to think and Stede honest to fucking god whines. “Fine, fuck. Why don’t you just tell him you’re seeing someone else?” 

Stede’s expression spins on a fucking dime. “Yes! Yes, Edward, you genius! Then I’m not rejecting him, it’s just, oops, bad timing, these things happen, off you pop back on your little boat, lovely to see you. Yes. He can’t get too bent out of shape about that.”

“Happy to be of service, mate. Want me to come up with you, be moral support or whatever?” 

“That would be wonderful. Yes. Would you perhaps have a drink with us? Then it won’t look too much like I’m just trying to get rid of him as soon as possible.” 

Get a look at Stede’s ex, get in the way of the twat trying to make some kind of move, and be on stand-by to stab the shitbag if necessary? Try and fucking stop him. 

 


 

Ed supposes he’s handsome, if you like boring white dudes. He’s tall, slim-built, short dark wavy hair and an at-best medium quality jaw line. Dressed like a prick, he’s wearing all the fancy sort of stuff Stede wears but he’s not pulling it off, in Ed’s opinion. Not enough bright colours, wearing all that silky lacey posh shit but in beige and browns like a coward. Yeah, he’s a coward; Ed’s decided. He guesses maybe his shoulders are okay, if you like skinny guys. Can kinda see why Stede fancied him. If there weren’t a lot of other options around. And if he squints. 

Fucker goes in to hug Stede the second he’s climbed over the railings and Ed catches sight of a bit of a squeeze at Stede’s hip, which seems presumptuous. Is he whispering something in his fucking ear? Stede looks uncomfortable - his shoulders tense up - and Ed’s fingers itch for his blade. 

“Nicholas! How unexpected it is to run into each other like this!” 

“Stede, darling. It’s been far too long! I would just love a chance to catch up. It is an absolute joy to see you again.” 

Smarmy fuckhead. 

Stede ushers Nicholas further in on the deck and Ed steps forward with a decisive nod of his head. “Alright, mate?” 

“Nicholas, I’d like you to meet Edward. He is my co-captain on this ship.” 

Ed thrusts his hand forward and Nicholas fucking looks at it like it’s gonna bite him for a second before he reluctantly clasps it in an unnecessarily firm grip. 

Stede clears his throat. “And also my lover.” 

Ed chokes on fucking air. Thinks for a second he might die. 

Nicholas curls his lip in a pale imitation of a smile. “Charmed to meet you, Edward.” 

“Yeah, same, Nicky. Delighted.”

Ed can hear Lucius mutter some shit behind him because of course they’ve got a fucking audience, and the word “lover” in Stede’s voice is echoing like thunder in his ears. 

“I’m just gonna see to the crew. Back in a min,” Ed stammers out, with a quick glare to make sure Nicky knows he’s got to watch his step. Stede is flashing wide eyes at him like he’s trying to blink a message in code. 

Ed grabs Lucius by his collar and drags him half-way down the length of the ship. 

“Are you two finally together? Oh my god, that’s so cute, I could kill you,” Lucius says with a beaming smile. 

“No,” Ed snaps. “I will kill my fuckin’ self. That twat is Stede’s ex-boyfriend. Stede wanted to let him down gently in case he was still sniffing around and I suggested tell him you’re taken, and apparently Stede took that to fucking mean pretend he’s taken by me, which he very much isn’t .” Ed is essentially hissing out the words by the time he gets to the end of his sentence. 

Lucius presses his fingers to his lips so hard they turn white. 

“If you fucking laugh I will pull your heart out through your fuckin’ throat right here.” 

Lucius shakes his head and his shoulders tremble. Thin fucking ice. The thinnest. 

Ed grinds his teeth. “Just tell everyone to play along til we get rid of him, okay? Don’t fuck this up for Stede.” 

Lucius takes a deep, steadying breath, flapping his hands like it’s the hardest thing in the fuckin’ world. “Sorry, okay, yes. Fine. He’s quite good-looking, isn’t he? Bit of a snack. Well done, Stede, I wonder why he doesn’t want another go?” 

“He’s not that good looking,” Ed snaps. “And he’s a dickhead.” 

Lucius raises his eyebrows so high they might as well fuckin’ fly off his head. “Okaaaay,” he says in this stupid, drawn out, sing-song. 

“Fuck off.”

Lucius does that stupid pursed lip thing like he knows everything in the fucking world, which sometimes it really feels like the little shit does, knows far too fucking much anyway, that’s for sure. Then he waves over Ed’s shoulder; Ed spins. It’s Stede. 

“I am so, so, sorry, Ed! Please forgive me, he just, was rather grabby when he hugged me and said something - well, it doesn’t matter, but his intentions were clear and you were right there and I panicked. I know you didn’t sign up for this but could you please, just for an hour, pretend for me?”

“You mean he’s not gone?” 

“No, Oluwande is being an absolute dear and keeping him occupied so I could have a quick word with you. In fact - Lucius?” 

“Yes, Captain?” 

“Can you go and escort him down to the library? Pour him a drink and tell him I’ll be along in a minute.” 

“Absolutely, Captain, anything for you,” Lucius says, and Ed can see the fucking chaos glittering in his eyes. Lucius practically skips across the fuckin’ deck. 

“Stede-”

“I know, I know, I’m so sorry.” Stede hangs his head and grabs onto Ed’s forearm. “Please, Ed.” 

Fuck, he’s looking up at Ed with those big sad fuckin’ eyes and he just seems so wretched. And, cute. This could be an opportunity, Ed thinks; maybe a bit of an awful one, but he could use this nightmare to learn a bit more about what Stede likes in a man, maybe amp up the touching and flirting a bit, just to see if Stede catches a bit of a spark. It’s a stupid fucking fancy, really - Stede clearly liked this dumbfuck society bloke, even if he did turn out to be a cunt, and he’s all sharply presented and delicate and well-mannered and all the shit that Ed isn’t. But, hey, an excuse to turn up the heat a bit doesn’t sound like a bad thing, especially when it’s in the name of a favour. 

And, really, it’s not like he’s ever going to say no to Stede.

“Alright,” Ed says. “But we need to get our stories straight. If I’m doing this, it’s gotta be done right.” 

Stede’s whole body sags with relief and he smiles, and Ed feels fucking wonderful to have caused that. 

“Thank you so much!” He squeezes Ed’s arm where his hand still lays. “I was thinking we just - use our real story and adapt it a little, stick to the truth and add in some romance here and there?” 

Ed swallows hard. “When did we. Where do we add in the romance?” 

“Let’s say - oh, the party! With the French? All dressed up, in the moonlight, that sounds about right, doesn’t it, for a first kiss?” 

Ed could just toss himself overboard. Sees it in his mind’s eye for a second; he could just turn on his heel, walk to the edge of the ship, hurl himself into the waves, wait patiently to get eaten by a fucking shark. Seems reasonable.

Instead he says, “Sure.” 

“I really owe you one for this.” 

“Yeah, you fucking do. Let’s go.” 

 


 

Nicholas is lounging around in Stede’s library like he owns the fucking place. He’s in one of the armchairs with his stupid skinny legs propped up on an ottoman, in his stockings - Jesus the cunt has taken his shoes off. Make yourself at fucking home, why don’t you? Prick.

As they walk in, Stede says very amicably, “Sorry for the delay, always work to be done on a ship, you know how it is.”

Nicholas starts chatting some shit back about his own ship, the ‘Ardent’ - crap name - and Stede busies himself getting a glass of brandy for him and Ed to match the one Nicholas is already swigging from. Ed with nothing to do sits himself on the couch and tries not to fidget. 

Stede hands him his drink and sits so very, very close on the couch, pressing their thighs together. Ed feels a little jolt in his blood before he remembers that this is all part of a show, and slings his arm around Stede’s waist, pulling him in a little tighter still. 

“So, Nicky, Stede tells me you’re from Bridgetown? What brings you out to sea?” 

“I own Kennon Dyes - I’m not sure if you’ll have heard of it?” 

“I’ve not had the pleasure, mate.” 

“Well, we’re one of the premier dye merchants in the Caribbean - in the Americas, in my humble opinion. I’m mostly kept busy running the business but now and then I like to go with some of my scouts on their travels to find the very best dyes we can bring to the market. And, your line of business? Stede, I’d heard the most dreadful rumour that you’d turned to piracy of all things!” 

Ed opens his mouth to answer but Stede squeezes a hand on his knee and short-circuits his brain, jumps in to answer himself. 

“A bit of this and that - sailors for hire, delivery, transport, you know. We mostly just like being at sea, don’t we, darling?” 

Cool cool cool, so this isn’t only an afternoon of Ed pretending he’s shagging someone he isn’t, but he needs to pretend to be someone he isn’t as well. He supposes that’s probably necessary to make the shagging plausible, not like Nicholas would believe they were together otherwise. And maybe sensible not to advertise that they make a practice of breaking the law. Still stings, in a petty way. 

“I like being anywhere with you,” Ed says. Yeah, he’s not loving this, but he’s a fucking professional, he agreed to this and he’s gonna play his part. The only thing he can think of right now which would be harder than pretending to be with Stede would be watching Nicholas charm his way back into his bed. And the man is fucking staring at Stede, making eyes like he wants to eat him, looking him up and down. 

Pretty bloody rude considering as far as he knows, Stede’s lover is sitting right here. 

Ed’s fingers are resting right at the top of the curve of Stede’s hip. He’s not touched him here before. He’d remember if he had, he’s sure. His frock coat is silky under the pads of Ed’s fingers but its annoyingly thick material, keeping Stede’s body hidden from him. Which is probably a good thing, since this is all a bit of play-acting, and it would be grim for Ed to get anything out of it like that. But still, he can feel the warmth of his body where his arm curls around Stede’s lower back. 

Stede and Nicholas natter about this and that back in Bridgetown, news from people Ed has never heard of, gossip about fancy assholes who don’t do anything interesting even when they’re apparently fucking up. Ed stops trying to follow the chat and focuses on looking as possessive as possible, keeping his arm firmly around Stede’s waist, keeping his expression towards Nicholas cold as fuck.

It’s dangerous to let his mind wander like this, because Stede is warm and soft beside him and Ed’s sitting a few feet away from a man who used to fuck him. It’s hard not to see it in his mind’s eye: Stede needy and moaning on hands and knees; Nicholas’ short dark hair bobbing between Stede’s legs, held in place by a ringed hand; Stede’s broad back and shoulders sweaty as he fucks into - well. Horny and jealous aren't a great mix. 

When the glasses are empty, Stede slaps his palms lightly to his knees and says, “Well, Nicholas, it has been ever so lovely to run into you like this, but there is unfortunately rather a lot of work to do in running the ship…” 

Nicholas waves his hand in the air like a twat. “Absolutely, don’t let me keep you, darling. I can entertain myself until dinner. Thank you ever so for the invitation.” 

Darling. Dinner. Dickhead

“Invitation?” Stede says, all casual like, but Ed can feel him stiffen and tense up next to him. 

“Oh!” Nicholas laughs a little. He’s got quite a deep laugh, throaty. Like a frog or something. “Where are my manners? Your boy passed on the invite and I didn’t formally accept to my host! Thank you, Stede, it’s really delightful to see you again and I’m thrilled at the chance to see more of you. I would love to stay for dinner, and overnight. It’s very kind of you.” 

“Overnight?” Ed snaps. Fucking Lucius. He will die for this. 

“Oh, dear, Edward, I am sorry, I assumed Stede would’ve discussed with you as, what was it, co-captain?” 

Ugh, passive aggression, fucking charming. Is Stede the only posh cunt in the world who isn’t an absolute fucking asshole to spend time with? Ed can see what he’s doing, poking at little cracks in the relationship-armour. He’s not going to get at him that easily.

“S’fine, you’re of course welcome to stay, Nicky,” Ed says. Stede looks at him wide-eyed like he’s grown an extra head. “I’m just surprised you can take so much time out from your business trip, what with how important those dyes are.” 

Stede’s been teaching him how to be a bitch and now there’s some proper application, Ed finds he quite likes it. 

“Ah, well, the Ardent is on rather dull business, a collection from a regular supplier, before we get on with our proper journey later tomorrow. They’ll handle it and then pop back to collect me. The boy said he’d send a couple of your lads over to pass on the message and pick up my bag.” 

“Lucius is very thoughtful like that,” Stede says flatly. “How fortuitous that you’re able to stay. You, uh, make yourself comfortable here Nicholas, and I will find Lucius and your bag and he can assist you to the guest quarters while Ed and I deal with some…sailing.” 

A little artless, but okay. Stede stands up abruptly and practically drags Ed out of the room with him, hand in hand. Stede careens into his private bathroom down the short hall and slams the door. He sits on the edge of the tub and sinks his head into his hands. 

“What is happening?” Stede whines. He’s breathing a bit fast, like he’s just run the length of the ship rather than two doors down, huffing in shallow breaths with heaving shoulders. “This has to be a nightmare. I’m asleep. This isn’t real.” 

Ed clasps Stede’s wrists and pulls his hands down from his face. “Hey, hey, hey, it’s alright. It’s just Lucius fucking with us, he probably thought it’d be funny, and I will murder him, but you’re fine.” 

Jesus, Stede looks fucked up. He’s pale as shit, and his eyes are glistening like he’s holding back tears. Ed rubs his thumb on the pulse point of Stede’s wrist to try to calm him down. What is it about this dude that has Stede so fucking worked up? He’s seen Stede stand in the middle of a raid, blood and guts flying every-fucking-where, taking notes . It’s fucking weird to see him losing his shit over the politics of a bad break up with some dude who’s probably never even stabbed anyone. 

But then, Ed remembers those fancy french fucks; would rather get stabbed than deal with that shit again. If this cunt is anything like them, and it kinda seems he might be, Ed thinks he sort of gets it. 

“God, Ed, this is so much to ask of you, but can you keep up the charade a little longer? You did brilliantly. Very - tactile.” 

“Yeah, sure.” No, it’s gonna fuck me right up, Ed thinks, to spend the day pretending to have something he desperately wants, but yeah, sure. “But we don’t have to though - I can just toss him off the ship, play the jealous lover.” 

The word feels thick like treacle in the back of his throat. 

“His own ship will have already gone on by now…”

Ed smiles. “So? I can toss him into the sea.” 

Stede crooks a half-smile back at him and makes a sound that’s very nearly a laugh. “Don’t tempt me, Edward.” 

No promises, Ed thinks. 

 


 

Stede deals with Lucius in the end, apparently not wanting Ed to maim or murder him, which is fair but kinda annoying, because for fucking real? Lucius either thinks he’s doing some match-maker BS or is just enjoying causing both of his captains to have a terrible day, and in Ed’s book that’d be worth losing another finger. Still, he puts a pin in it, tells himself if this goes south Black Pete can get on with whittling a new thumb for the little shit, but he’ll hold off for now. 

Stede is right that maiming the crew as punishment for pranks - however badly thought out the pranks are - does tend to do a number on morale. Look at that, Ed’s growing as a fuckin’ person and shit. Lovely. Better keep an eye on that before it gets out of hand. 

Nicholas gets set up in the guest quarters and Ed and Stede get on with their business of the day, though it’s not long before that twat is up on deck again, fucking hovering around Stede like a bad smell. The rigging needs repairs - it honestly does - so Ed spends much of his time up among the ratlines, looking down. 

Looking down at Nicholas laying a hand on Stede’s lower back. 

Whispering in his ear. 

Brushing a curl of hair back from his forehead. 

Making him laugh .

Ed loves the way Stede laughs, really laughs, when he’s having a good time. He’s always so put together and proper but he absolutely sparkles when he laughs, forgets himself entirely and just glows. He always looks like happiness has caught him by surprise and gets breathless with it. And it makes Ed feel like he’s glowing too, when he’s the one who makes Stede laugh. 

But apparently Nicholas said something real fuckin’ funny just then. 

Stede is very much starting to look like he’s having a nice time and Ed feels that coiling sickness in his belly again. Fuck, he doesn’t own him, they’re nothing, just mates, and Ed has no right to feel this way. Maybe he should give Stede an out, an opportunity to change his mind on that whole let-him-down-easy plan. Maybe part of the reason Stede was so fucked up about this guy showing up is because he’s still got feelings for him. 

Stede is at the helm, laying his hand on the wheel, and Nicholas lays his own hand over the top. 

Oh, fuck that. 

Ed climbs down the rigging and swings onto the quarterdeck as soon as he’s low enough, landing with a less than graceful thump that jars through his knees, but certainly announcing his presence. Nicholas fucking flinches and snatches his hand away from Stede’s, which is great ‘cause he’s right to be guilty and nervous, but also makes Ed fucking furious, because yeah, this isn’t real, but Nicholas doesn’t fucking know that, and he’s trying to flirt and make fuckin’ moves on Ed’s man right under his nose? 

Ed goes to stand beside Stede, drops his hand on his shoulder possessively and pecks a kiss to Stede’s cheek. His skin is soft on Ed’s lips with the slightest, most delicate scrape from stubble freshly shaved this morning. “Alright, love?” 

Stede blushes and looks a bit unsettled. Shit. Maybe Ed really was interrupting something. Isn’t that why he came down here though, to interrupt? This is a headfuck, he’d decided to come down here and get in the way before he even really knew why, since Stede is enjoying himself so goddamn much with this rich asshole bastard. 

“All good, sweetheart. How are the repairs going?” 

Sweetheart. Ed likes that one and how nice it makes him feel hurts for a second. “Fine, fine. Can I borrow you for a moment?” 

Stede beams at him and threads a hand into Ed’s, “Perfect, I need a word as well. Lead the way! Do excuse us, Nicholas, back in two shakes.”

His hand is warm and soft, fingers interlocked with Ed’s. Stede lets go once they’re out of sight of Nicholas. Ed takes him down to the beakhead; figures a private chat is in order, where the rush of the waves will stop any potential eavesdropping dickhead dye merchants from listening in. 

Ed closes the little door behind them and they both start to speak at once. 

“Mate, if you-”

“Ed, I -” 

Stede shakes his head graciously and tells Ed to go first.

Ed fidgets and hooks his thumbs into the waistband of his pants. This is awkward. “Just wanted to give you a chance to call it off, if you’ve, ah, changed your mind.” 

He absolutely does not want to give Stede that chance, but fuck, he deserves to be happy and have fun. It’s pretty fuckin’ unreasonable for Ed to let his petty jealousy get in the way of Stede hooking up if that’s what he wants - ugh, it makes his heart flip in his chest to even think it. But at least one of them should be getting laid. 

“What?” 

“You seem to be having a nice time now. If you wanna-  y’know. I can stay out of the way, give you two some private time.” 

“What?!” Stede asks again. “No, no, Ed, god, no, where on earth did you get that idea?” 

Stede looks genuinely surprised and that does calm Ed’s blood a little. He shrugs. “I was keeping an eye, looked like you were having fun.” 

Stede grimaces, makes a yuck face like he’s just bitten into a lemon, and in the context Ed finds it incredibly pretty, because it means he has blessedly fucking misread this from his anxious, possessive perch in the rigging. “Ed, it’s been dreadful.” 

Ed can’t help but smile. 

Stede walks to the railing and leans his crossed arms heavily on the wooden bar, looking out over the water. The faintest bit of sea spray is catching in his hair like glitter in the sunlight. “He keeps flirting . It doesn’t seem to matter how often I mention you or try to politely brush him off. I suppose I should’ve seen it coming - it’s not like he was bothered I had a wife, but I thought, that’s different, you know, when it’s an arranged thing and you don’t like women? I thought if he knew I had chosen you that would be different.” 

Chosen. Lover. Sweetheart . There are a lot of words he’s hearing in Stede’s voice today which are going to fuckin’ haunt him, Ed thinks. 

“So you don’t want him then?” Ed asks. 

“No! I want him to go away.” 

Ed joins Stede at the railing and leans into his shoulder. “I don’t want to pry, mate, but seriously, why not just tell him that?” 

“Oh, it’s complicated. He’s not going to do anything to me, but he could make life very difficult for Mary and the children back home if he’s mad at me. He’s powerful and manipulative and a complete arsehole when he doesn’t get his own way. He’ll spread some sort of rumour of financial impropriety or cast aspersions on the children’s parentage and right to inherit. I’ve known him to do it to other people. It’s just easier if I can keep things friendly.” 

“Jesus, the fuck were you doing with a guy like that?” 

“He didn’t exactly advertise what a bastard he was before I started sleeping with him! He was very charming, to begin with, and much better looking than anyone I thought would ever be interested in me.” 

“Pfft. You’re way more handsome than him.”

“Do you think so?” Stede asks, and he seems a bit shy about it, in a way which makes Ed’s heart flutter with a tiny butterfly of hope. 

“Fucking definitely. Don’t be stupid.” 

“Huh. Well. Thank you.” 

They lapse into silence for a little, and Ed can feel the warmth of Stede’s shoulder against his own, watching him drag a fingernail back and forth over the wooden railing where he’s picking anxiously at splinters. 

“What were you gonna say?” Ed asks. 

“Hmm? Oh. Right. Well, he’s being rather flirtatious and I’m worried - I don’t think he sees it as very realistic, us being a serious couple? I should’ve picked someone else rather than make you suffer through this, Ed, I am sorry. It is a bit of a reach to believe. But I was wondering if you’d mind, if at dinner, we, um, made a bit more of a performance of it? Try to make it a bit more convincing.” 

“Yeah, mate. Unrealistic. A reach. I get it.” Fuck, that fucking stings. Kills off that little butterfly in Ed’s heart pretty brutally, like Stede’s just stepped on it with an iron-capped boot. 

It’s true; Ed knows it’s true, it’s the whole reason he’s never made a fuckin’ move himself - Stede is out of his league in about a million different ways and the idea that Stede would ever want him is a fuckin’ nonsense. Stede’s all sunshine and silks and kindness and fun. He’s fucking gentry , even if he ran away from it. Ed is. Well, he’s Blackbeard. Maiming. Rum. Dirt. He’d prefer to have gotten through this without actually hearing Stede say as much though. 

“Ed? Are you okay?” 

Shit shit shit. 

“Peachy. I’ve got stuff to do. See you at dinner then. I’ll be convincing.” 

Ed beats a hasty retreat back to the main deck, then up into the rigging, hauling himself up like one of those monkeys he saw in South America one time, probably climbing faster than he’s managed in the last 15 years at sea. The ropes are a bit fuckin’ blurry, so it’ll take a while to get ‘em fixed now. 

 


 

Right then. Dinner. 

Roach has cooked, of course, and they’re set up in the galley down the hall from Stede’s room. Stede’s gone and got the fancy china and shit out, little shiny spoons and cut crystal glasses for their wine. When Ed arrives, it’s just Stede there, sitting primly, napkin already unfolded on his lap.

He looks annoyingly good, in sky blue breeches, waistcoat and jacket, pure white shirt. He looks like the fucking perfect summer’s day. Making an effort for their guest, it seems. Ed’s once again unsure of his protestations earlier; getting himself all dressed up like this, like he wants to impress. 

“Sit next to me, Ed, remember we’ve got to sell this,” Stede says, as Ed goes to take the seat nearest the door on instinct. 

“Where’s Nicholas then?” Ed says, trying not to be salty, trying to get over himself, not succeeding very well. 

“Changing his jacket for dinner. Listen, Ed, about what I said -” 

Ed waves his hand and reaches for the bottle of wine on the table. Definitely time to start drinking. “Don’t worry about it mate, makes sense. I’ll do my best to make it seem plausible that you’d be interested in me. I’ll try to act posh. Do I need to change my clothes?” 

Stede grabs Ed’s wrist before he can start opening the bottle. “Now that’s exactly what I was afraid of, I didn’t mean to offend and you’ve misunderstood terribly -” 

Stede is cut off by fucking Nicholas coming into the room, of course, wearing a jacket which to Ed’s eye appears to be exactly the fucking same as the one he had on all day, only a slightly different shade of boring old curtains. Ed really needed to hear the end of that bloody sentence because it sounded like it might be going somewhere good. Or, at least, less devastatingly shite. 

The small talk is excruciating. Nicholas is taking Ed to new heights of being bored out of his skull. Hearing about the trials and tribulations of the dye industry from some wanker who owns clothes in multiple shades of beige is bordering on physically painful; it’s making Ed’s brain twitch. 

What’s more, Stede is making much more of a show between them than he was during drinks. Every sentence to Ed ends with ‘sweetheart’, and he keeps touching him. Squeezing his arm, brushing their fingers together when they both reach for the wine bottle to top up, and on one occasion fucking curling into him, bumping his forehead on his shoulder as he laughed at a mediocre joke Ed made, so close that Ed could feel his breath on his neck. 

When Black Pete comes in to swap their salad plates for the mains, Ed takes an opportunity. “Hey, Pete, tell our guest about the time you saw a mermaid, that’s a good story.” 

Pete lights up and starts regaling Nicholas with a story which Ed is almost certain is actually about a manatee trying to shag a dolphin, and Ed leans in to whisper to Stede.

“What did you mean then? Earlier?” 

“Later,” Stede whispers back, and he squeezes Ed’s thigh under the table. 

“Now,” Ed says, making a wide-eyed, insistent face at Stede.

Stede huffs, but looks across the table and sees Nicholas is still trapped by Pete’s rapid-fire story-telling. He shuffles close and speaks into Ed’s ear. “I meant it the other way around than what you seem to think.”

“What?”

“And then, she split into two and both parts of her swam off in different directions!” Pete finishes his story. 

Nicholas doesn’t look entertained, which is bullshit, because obviously Pete didn’t see a mermaid but he really does tell it well, and it would be polite at least to look a little bit interested. 

“Love that one, thanks Pete,” Ed says. 

Pete is positively glowing when he leaves. 

Stede’s whispered half-clarification has soothed Ed’s hurt ego a bit, so he enjoys the main course more. It’s not exactly cleared things up but he’s pretty sure it at least means Stede doesn’t see Ed as entirely beneath him.

Roach has made them some lovely coconut and chilli rice with a vegetable stew. After a couple of glasses of wine and some unwinding with plausible optimism of the thoughts Ed had been stewing over all afternoon, he kind of starts to have fun. It helps that he’s practised at tuning Izzy out and can turn the same skill on Nicholas’ boring bullshit. 

Stede gets a tiny bit of stew caught at the corner of his lips, and Ed brushes it off with his thumb. Ed notices that Stede is topping up his own glass of wine quite a bit faster than he usually does, and he’s getting a bit merry. Probably trying to kill off his nerves, and it seems to make him bold in his play-acting. He spends a good few minutes tangling and untangling his hand through the length of Ed’s hair and it feels lovely, but is perhaps laying it on a bit thick for a dinner. 

Laying it on thick or not, Ed leans into his touch and near enough purrs. As Stede withdraws, Ed does his best to catch his eye, holding his gaze as long as possible. Stede doesn’t back down from the loaded look and Ed’s heart is in his throat. 

Stede’s a good actor though, Ed reminds himself. 

Eventually Nicholas seems to run out of things to say about himself, and Ed can see him looking at the place on the table where Ed’s hand rests and Stede is methodically rubbing the back of it, in a - no doubt carefully crafted - show of affection, his thumb tracing the outlines of Ed’s tattooed star over and over. Stede wasn’t kidding when he said he was going to step it up, that’s for fucking sure. And if Ed’s had enough wine now that the fantasy can feel kinda nice, instead of just achingly sad? Eh, he can feel bad about this later. 

Ed catches something of a dark look flutter across Nicholas’ face as he watches their hands. It’s only there for a split second before he carefully reinstates the mask of that dead-eyed smile. Ed almost feels a little sorry for the guy for a moment, thinking how fuckin’ horrible it felt early today watching Nicholas touch Stede, how much having someone as wonderful as Stede and not being able to keep him around would cut, but then he remembers Stede’s panic in the bathroom and nah, fuck this guy. 

This guy had someone as wonderful as Stede and instead of treasuring him, sounds like he blew it by being a massive dickhead. He deserves to have to suffer through whatever uncomfortable affection Ed can rub his face in. Ed feels smug as fuck for a second, ‘cause real or not, it’s Ed’s hand that Stede keeps touching, it’s Ed that Stede keeps smiling at, and it’s Ed sat at his side. 

It’s Ed who’s still gonna be here this time tomorrow, and the next day. 

Ed turns his hand to entwine his fingers with Stede’s and watches Nicholas’ eyes flick down again. I might not really have this, he thinks, but you’re the stupid fucker who lost it.

“You make a handsome couple,” Nicholas comments, like he very much doesn’t mean it. It’s the first time all evening he’s openly acknowledged their ‘relationship’. 

“Thank you, Nicky,” Ed says primly. Ed wonders if Nicholas is stuck in the same kind of mental trap as Ed was during drinks - if he’s picturing Ed and Stede wrapped together, panting and sweaty, picturing their hands entwined like this while they fuck. 

“So, tell me, Stede, how did you and Edward get together?”

“Oh, it’s one of my favourite stories.” Stede gives Ed’s hand a little squeeze and bumps his knee under the table. “We were working together for a couple of weeks, trading sailing tips and things like that, and we went to this dreadful party. Awful French aristocrats with terrible manners, quite the awful evening. When we got back to our ship, I just - I felt so happy to just be with Ed again, away from all of those other people, to have even a few moments alone with him in the moonlight - well, Ed looked incredibly dashing and I just felt like I would never need to see any other person in the world again but him.” 

“How romantic,” Nicholas says dryly. 

“It was.” Stede’s eyes are shining and looking at nothing, like he’s really remembering it. “You know, I never in a million years would’ve thought Ed would be interested in me.” 

He squeezes Ed’s hand again, like he’s asking him to pay attention and Ed gets the message. That’s what Stede had been trying to say earlier, the stupid bastard, and Ed got it all backwards and hurt his own feelings with it. It’s a stupid as fuck thing to think; Stede’s all golden and glowing and soft, and funny and nice with just the right amount of being a bitch.

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, mate. Uh, love,” Ed says, and he squeezes Stede’s hand back. Yeah, you pay fuckin’ attention too, with that nonsense. 

Stede smiles at him in this wistful way and Jesus, the rest of the ship just blinks out of existence for a second. Then the weirdest fucking thing happens. Stede pulls his hand away, suddenly, like he's been caught at something, like this isn’t exactly what they were meant to be doing. There’s a little bit of a pink flush creeping up his neck. 

Nicholas clears his throat in the awkward moment. “I take it this is why you left Barbados then?” 

“Ah, not exactly. I had already been sailing a month or two before I met Ed. No, I left because…well, I was bored, I suppose. Life was monotonous and I wanted something more. More fun, more intrigue, and you know I’ve always loved stories of life on the high seas.”

“Oh, Stede, bless you, you just ran away to live out some boyhood fantasy? You always were so prone to flights of fancy,” Nicholas says. 

It sounds fond in tone, but Ed can see it cuts. Stede swallows audibly as he searches for an answer. Ed can see the smug little crinkle in Nicholas’ eye, that cutting is just what he intended to do. 

“I don’t think so,” Ed says. “You say flights of fancy, it makes you think of someone dicking around with dumbass ideas. Stede dropped fucking everything to build the life he wants, and he’s fuckin’ succeeded. Just fucking carved the shit out of his world until he made a place he belongs, where he’s happy. Which is here. With me. That’s pretty fucking impressive if you ask me.” 

“Ed,” Stede says, with a quiet look in his eyes. 

“Ah, shit, didn’t mean to swear so much in company. Sorry.” 

“No, that was really quite lovely, thank you,” Stede says. 

Ed shrugs. “Dunno about lovely. It’s true.” 

“Very sweet.” Nicholas does not sound as though he found it sweet. “Oh, Stede, speaking of parties, do you remember the Ashbys’ business party? So dreadfully boring we spent half the night hiding in the stables. That was a good night,” he says, with a fucking wink, as though Ed would be too fucking dumb to pick up on what happened in the stables without it. 

Such an arsehole. He shouldn’t let it get to him but it fucking does, because Stede is sat right fucking there, hand on his arm, and Nicholas has gone and put the image in Ed’s head of him sneaking away from a party in his best outfit to get his dick sucked in some grubby stable, which apparently is a thought that turns Ed on at the same time as making him kinda want to fucking cry. 

It’s fucking disrespectful is what it is, but this is Stede’s world, Stede’s whole thing. If it were up to Ed, that’s a clear fucking request to lose a testicle and his hand does clench around the butter knife before he’s even really thought of what he’s doing. But Stede knocks their knees together under the table again, stills him. 

“I don’t think I recall that evening,” Stede says lightly. “Are the Ashbys the ones who sell timber?” 

Oh, Ed bloody loves him. Not loves. But, shit, he’s great. Stede Bonnet came to fucking play if shit’s gonna get nasty it seems. That was way more fucking brutal than cutting the man’s balls off. 

Nicholas looks pissed in a way his smarmy fake ass face isn’t quite hiding, so it’s a pretty good tension relief that Pete chooses that moment to come back in, take their plates, and set down some grilled fruit for dessert. 

“Ooh, yummy,” Ed says, matching Stede’s light tone. Maybe he can passive-aggression his way through the rest of this, following Stede’s example.

Stede just keeps talking about timber like that’s the most interesting thought that Nicholas’ comment sparked. Devilishly cruel; Ed’s impressed. 

Ed eats a few pieces of the fruit, which is delicious - already sweet and sharp, and dripping with warm honey. Stede and Nicholas are both very politely using forks but Ed uses his hands, sucking and licking the drops of honey off his fingers and making sure Stede is looking at him as he does. He worries it might be too subtle for dear old Nicky, but Stede blushes and stutters over his words a few times, and suddenly Ed worries it’s not subtle enough, maybe a step slightly too far. 

Ah, well,  Nicholas has been fuckin’ staring at Stede all night, so Ed would bet he notices that at least that Stede’s reacting to it, and if Stede’s embarrassed Nicholas will surely misread that blush as something else. 

Which, maybe it is. Maybe not. He doesn’t look away until Ed pulls his index finger out of his mouth with a pop. 

They finally get to the end of the interminable goddamn dinner, nightcap and all, and Ed is exhausted. He’s felt pretty highly-fucking-strung throughout, much as he’s liked the excuse to touch. He’s not fully been able to block out the part of him which knows it’s not real, so it’s been a bit too much like walking a tightrope. 

He doubts he will forget the feeling of Stede’s hand on his thigh under the table, though. Where no one else could see it. 

Nicholas asks Stede to ‘remind him’ of the way to his guest quarters, and Ed obviously is not fucking having that, goes with them to make sure Nicholas is nice and snugly tucked away and keeps his hands to himself. The goodnight wishes are pretty fucking tense. Ed’s seen friendlier shootings.

They reach the intersection of the halls, and Ed pauses before taking himself off to his room. 

“D’you think that went okay?” he asks Stede. “Sorry if anything was a bit much. Or whatev.” 

“No, no, you did brilliantly. I can’t thank you enough, Ed, you were marvellous. It was fun being your boyfriend for an evening.” 

“Yeah?” 

Stede bites his lip and nods. 

“Well, I’ll be your boyfriend again in the morning, won’t I? ‘Til he clears off at least.”

“Would you like to stay in my rooms tonight? Just to sell it a bit better. You can have the bed if you want.”

“I’m not kicking you out of your own bed -” 

There’s a creak and Ed spins. Fucking son of a fucking bitch, the bloody fucking asshole is out and wandering around and what is he doing out of his room, shit shit shit, how much did he hear? Have they just fucking blown this whole goddamn charade because Ed couldn’t miss an opportunity to flirt just a tiny bit more?

“Uh, just going to hit the head,” Nicholas says, but he’s looking between Ed and Stede like he’s trying to figure something out. 

“It’s that way, mate,” Ed says and points vaguely to the way above deck. 

Darling fuckin’ Nicky narrows his eyes.

Stede looks panicked as fuck. 

Ed makes an executive decision. 

He cups Stede’s jaw with both hands and kisses him. Stede makes a little noise of surprise but doesn’t push him away, he steps into the kiss and Ed catches Stede’s bottom lip between his own. For a fraction of a second, when Ed’s already pulling back, he could swear Stede’s lips open to him.  Ed’s heart is hammering in his chest.

“Bedtime, love,” Ed says. He guides Stede down the hall with a hand at his lower back, and leaves Nicholas to find a place to piss on his own. 

 


 

“Stede, I am so fucking sorry -”

“God, do you think he heard what we were saying?”

“I shouldn’t have, without asking -”

“This is terrible.” 

Stede had slammed the lock home in the door the second they got inside the cabin and Ed feels quite strongly that everything has gone to shit. Stede looks miserable, for like the fourth time today. 

“Maybe we should just go to sleep, Ed,” Stede says. “I don’t know how much more of this day I can take.” 

Son of a bitch. Stede’s pinching the bridge of his nose like he does when he’s upset and trying not to be. He sounds weary. Ed’s fucked this right up, god, what was he thinking? It just seemed like, if Nicholas had heard enough of their conversation to get suspicious, kissing might be enough to throw him off, make him think he misheard or misunderstood or whatever. But shit, it was obviously fucking overstepping. 

The man couldn’t just piss in a chamber pot like everyone else does at night? Just had to be out wandering around not five goddamn minutes after they thought they’d gotten rid of him for the night?

“If that’s what you want. I can still go back to my room -” 

“No. Stay,” Stede instructs him. 

Despite saying he wants to go to bed, Stede’s making no moves to do so. He’s just leaning against the locked door looking pained, alternately looking at Ed and then squeezing his eyes shut like he’s dealing with the world’s worst migraine. 

Ed feels drawn to him like a fuckin’ magnet; hates seeing Stede upset, makes him feel tangled up and guilty and wrong. Ed goes to lean on the wall next to Stede, so he doesn’t have to look him in the eye.

“Listen, mate, I really am sorry for kissing you like that, it was a spur of the moment thing, to throw him off, y’know, if he’d heard us talking. I won’t do it again.” 

“Yes, I understand. I’m not upset with you for kissing me.” 

“Okay.” 

“I am a bit upset -” Stede pauses and wrings a handful of his hair in twisted fingers, practically growls at himself with frustration. “I’m upset about the reasons for it.” 

“Oh. What. What reasons would have made you not be upset about me kissing you?” Is this happening? Ed’s heart pounds. Be careful, be fucking careful, Ed tells himself. 

“If you had wanted to do it,” Stede says, shaking his head at himself like it’s a ridiculous idea. 

Yes .

“Sorry, Ed, ignore me, I’m just feeling a bit raw with everything -”

“I think I could make you feel better about that,” Ed says, and he pushes off the wall, crowds in on Stede instead, holding him in place against the door in one smooth movement with hands to his shoulders. He leans in, and watches Stede’s pupils expand, feels Stede clutch at him in return. “If you want me to.” 

“Yes,” Stede whispers, and they’re close enough that the word ghosts over Ed’s lips. 

Thank fuck.

Ed closes the inch remaining between them and crushes Stede’s mouth in a kiss, and it’s like Stede’s caught fire. He opens his mouth instantly, pushing his tongue into Ed’s mouth, moaning into the kiss and grabbing Ed’s waist, pulling him close, then his hands are everywhere, grabbing handfuls of clothes, of Ed’s hair, Ed’s arse, greedy and wanting. 

Ed lets himself be pulled and meets Stede’s ferocity in return, leaning his body into him, pinning him to the door with his weight, slipping his thigh between Stede’s legs, rolling his hips forward hard, grinding his cock into Stede’s body as it grows hard and heavy.

“Fuck, Ed, you really want this?” Stede chokes out between wet, messy, biting kisses. 

“Yes, Stede, Christ, so fucking much, you idiot,” Ed tells him, and Stede moans at his fucking words . Ed feels as powerful as a god. He moves to kiss along Stede’s jaw, to suck at the tender, delicate points where it meets his neck. 

“It’s been torture today, touching you and pretending and it not being real , Ed, you have no idea.” 

“I think I probably do mate,” Ed says into Stede’s neck, before sucking a bruise into his fine skin, and it makes Stede buck under his hands, fuck, his cock is hard and insistent rubbing against Ed’s thigh as he moans, a beautiful, gasping fucking sound. 

“Did you know I was hard most of the way through that stupid fucking dinner?” Stede asks. “Just from touching you. From pretending you’d be coming back to my bed tonight.” 

“Shit, fuck, Stede.” Ed gasps, digs his fingers into Stede’s soft hip and firm thigh, as though it would be possible to pull him any closer than they already are. “This is gonna be over before it fuckin’ starts if you keep talking like that.” 

Kissing has turned to a mess already, Ed’s losing his fucking mind. He’s pinning Stede into the door and grinding his dick into him like it’s more important than breathing, and he can feel Stede’s body under his hands and pressed against him and Stede’s fucking writhing, clawing, grinding back with the same desperation Ed feels. Their mouths are crushed together but they’re talking and breathing into each other more than kissing. 

“And when you were licking that honey off your fingers, Christ, all I could think was, if this was real, I’d have that mouth,” Stede breathes into him.

“Fucking hell. Yes .” 

Ed drops to his knees and starts pulling haphazardly at the buttons on Stede’s breeches. One pops off and skitters across the wooden floor but Jesus, Stede can’t expect to be able to say things like that and not having his fuckin’ clothes torn off. Ed’s mouthing at his cock through the fabric while his fingers try to work the remaining buttons, and he’s so throbbing fucking hard in his own leathers that it hurts, his cock rubbing at the seam with every movement. 

Stede doesn’t help him, just gathers Ed’s hair in his hand, twisting it into his fist, firm but not pulling, and says, “So I can see your face,” by way of explanation, looking down at Ed on his knees with bruised lips and darkened eyes. Ed whines, he can’t fuckin’ remember the last time he whined for someone, but the sound punches out of him before he can stop it, a needy whimper as he presses his tongue to Stede’s cock through the soft blue satin. 

He loses another button in the process but finally, finally, pulls the placket of Stede’s breeches down and can put his mouth on him the way he wants to. He wastes no time; teasing Stede now would be akin to torture for Ed, he needs that saltiness on his tongue and the gentle ache in his jaw from taking too much too fast. 

Like the rest of the day, the blowjob is a fucking mess. It’s been a bit since Ed last did this, and he wants badly to feel Stede’s cock bruising the back of his throat. He takes him in as far as he can go and then further, gagging but holding down the reflex as best he can, tears starting to run from his eyes. He feels so fucking firm in his mouth, a heavy weight on his tongue, and Ed wants that, wants to choke on him.

He does need to fuckin’ breathe though, and god, he wants to be able to see. Wants to be able to look up and see Stede looking down at him, see the shapes his mouth is making with those noises, as he moans and curses and repeats Ed’s name. 

Ed pulls back and spits into his hand, then spits again onto Stede’s cock, already glistening dusky pink and delicious before him. He wraps his hand around the base and sits back on his heels a bit, so he can look up. With his lips and tongue playing with the head of Stede’s cock, his hand strokes him, jerking him off into the heat of his mouth. He swipes his tongue in circles around the firm, smooth head and sucks, messily, letting more spit and pre-come get caught by his hand and rubbed down the shaft. 

“My god, you’re good at that, fuck,” Stede says, fuckin’ looking down at him with his lips around his cock, making eye contact as Ed sucks him. 

Stede is panting now, his hand in Ed’s hair grasping tighter, just enough to make his scalp tingle. Ed can see he’s getting close and Christ he wants it, like water in a fuckin’ desert. Stede starts talking again, and yes , Ed had so hoped he’d be a fucking talker, that he’d get to hear more filth out of that pretty, refined mouth. 

“God, Ed, that feels incredible, amazing, I’m so close, you’re going to make me come, Ed, fuck, please, god, I want to come in your mouth, can I come in your mouth?” 

Ed just keeps going, which is the best answer he can give without taking his lips off of Stede’s cock, which right now he wouldn’t be willing to do even if a cannon barrelled through the fuckin’ room. Stede’s hips start to stutter and Ed removes his hand, dives down for one final, hard, choking suck at the length of him, letting Stede thrust into his mouth, hollowing his cheeks and imagining he’s sucking him dry as Stede’s come hits the back of his throat. Stede moans his name with both hands tangled through his hair, makes a sound almost like a sob. 

Ed keeps going until Stede gently eases his head back, oversensitive. Stede is languid against the door, catching his breath, and his right thigh is trembling. 

Ed feels pretty fucking pleased with himself at the sight. “That the sort of thing you were imagining over dinner?” 

“Better.” 

Ed surprises himself by placing a soft, chaste kiss to a freckle on Stede’s thigh.

“Could I return the favour?” Stede asks. 

Ed has a beautiful flash in his mind of soft blond curls between his legs, but looking at Stede dishevelled and barely propped up on the door, all in fancy clothes but for his breeches being rucked down around his thighs, there’s something else he wants more.

“Can I rub off on you?” 

Stede practically squeaks, a little ‘mm’ noise high in his throat, and nods frantically. “Yes, I’d love that, yes.” 

“Turn around,” Ed tells him as he gets off his knees, and fuck he’s gonna feel that tomorrow, in his knee and in his shin where the brace has bitten into him, but so worth it. Didn’t feel a goddamn lick of pain while Stede was in his mouth though. 

Stede turns and leans with his arms folded against the door, makes no moves to rearrange his clothing, just standing there to let Ed do what he wants with the canvass of a man before him, and that’s fucking marvellous. Ed finally, finally, frees his cock from his leather confines, and shoves the tails of Stede’s frock coat out of the way. 

Stede’s arse is pert and smooth and fucking lovely, like the rest of him. Ed kneads his fingers into the muscles, and takes a minute to take in the sight - Stede pushed up against a door, breathing heavily, beautiful clothes pulled and shoved and ripped so that Ed could suck his cock, so that Ed can come on him, a feast of a  fuckin’ mess all for Ed. 

Ed takes himself in hand and rubs his cock through the crevice of Stede’s arse, using himself to spread pre-come across the delicate skin. Stede shivers under his touch and the sweet drag and hitch of his cock brushing Stede’s hole nearly sets Ed off all on its own. 

“This okay?”

“God, Ed, it’s a lot more than okay, Christ almighty.” He still sounds breathless, and, god, he pushes back, just a bit, to feel Ed’s cock against him more, a little huffing whine at the friction he gets. 

“Fucking look at you, Stede. I’m not gonna last long,” Ed tells him. Ed spits into his hand, strokes it onto his cock, and positions himself between the globes of Stede’s arse. 

He leans forward, holding Stede steady with a hand on his waist, and splays himself across Stede’s back, pressing him into the door, his other hand by Stede’s head to give himself leverage. 

Ed fucks into the slick, smooth, warm crevice of Stede’s ass, and it looks fuckin’ obscene; Ed loves it. On the upstroke the head of his cock brushes the fabric of Stede’s coat where it’s bunched and rucked out of the way, and that tantalising touch of silk to him only accentuates the warm, grinding rub of Stede’s arse. 

“Feel fucking incredible too, and I’m not even fucking you properly.” Stede groans and pushes back against him again, hard, and god that’s - fucking dirty, Stede wanting him like that when he’s already come, coils flames in the base of his spine, hot, sweat wet, velvet around him.

“Would you want that? Want me to fuck you some day?” 

“God, Ed, yes, I want you to fuck me. I want to make you come. Would kill to feel you come in me.” 

Fuck .” Ed grabs Stede’s hips with both hands and ruts against him, thrusting faster between his arse cheeks, watching his cock slide against Stede’s skin, and his orgasm’s building, building, god, Stede is fucking beautiful and filthy and it’s such a heady rush to hear those words from him, to be grinding into his arse to get off, feels like heaven, and Ed comes with a gasping cry, spend spattering across Stede’s back, his posh coat, the slickened crevice of his arse. 

“Fuck,” he says again. He stays leaning into Stede for a minute, breathing harshly, looking at his come on that soft skin. 

“I need to sit down, I’m too fuckin’ old.” 

Ed drops to the floor and Stede joins him. Stede catches his eye as he sinks down, both of them sweaty messes with their cocks out, and before Ed knows it, they’re giggling, leaning on each other in a tangled pile of limbs on the floor.

“The fuck was that, man?” Ed asks, laughing. “Where’d you learn to talk like that?” 

“Landed gentry have sex too, you know, Ed. It’s not just for pirates.” 

“Fucking hell. Full of surprises today, you are.” 

“I don’t know what you mean!” Stede says, primly, but he’s only just managing to keep his giggles down and his eyes are sparkling. 

“Mate, before this afternoon I didn’t know you’d ever even slept with a man, then you’re begging me to fuck you!” 

“Hm, I would debate ’begging’. I’d say I was offering agreement that it would be a good idea.” 

“Sure, sure. Bet I could make you beg if I really tried though,” Ed says, with a silly, lascivious wiggle of his eyebrows. 

“Oh, glad to hear that you weren't giving your best effort today then, thanks!”

“Fuck off,” Ed laughs again, and he lets his head settle on Stede’s shoulder, arranges his cock back into his pants. 

Stede tries to do the same and realises the devastation Ed has wrought to his buttons, collapses in giggles again as he flips the placket pointlessly over himself. 

“You feeling better?” Ed asks gently. 

“Yeah.” Stede takes one of Ed’s hands in his own, begins tracing the star tattoo with his thumb again. “You’ll stay here with me tonight?” 

“‘Course I will. Look, try not to worry about whether Nicholas heard us talking. He’s a wanker and if he tries any shit with your family we can just go to Barbados and sort him out. Also,” Ed thumbs the junction between Stede’s jaw and his neck, “I’ve left a lovely mark on you which should be fairly convincing.” 

Stede shivers at his touch and leads Ed to bed. 

 


 

Ed wakes with a whisper of a hangover, and Stede’s limbs flung over him in the narrow bed. It’s a good way to wake up. 

Shame they have company for breakfast. 

Nicholas is wearing yet another shade of beige, and conversation is stilted and awful. Ed wants to take Stede back to bed, not entertain his fuckin’ asshole ex.  He had kinda thought the jealousy might abate a little since the change in circumstances between him and Stede, but he finds he wants to drive a fork into Nicholas’ eyeball every time he catches him looking at Stede in the wrong way.

It’s very basic. Bit archaic and weird. Nicholas makes Stede feel bad, therefore Edward would like to make him feel very, very bad. Still, maiming your new boyfriend’s ex over breakfast is probs a tad possessive and unhinged. Also deciding someone’s your new boyfriend when you haven’t exactly talked terms might be jumping the gun a bit, but Stede keeps looking at him all soft eyed and Ed can’t think about anything else. 

Ed settles for holding Stede’s hand the entire way through breakfast, both of them having to eat one-handed, and Ed thinks he probably wouldn’t have the balls to be so openly intimate if it wasn’t to wind this twat up, so there’s a silver-lining. He can be as clingy and touchy as he fuckin’ wants this morning. 

He’s also slipped his boots off under the table and is making good practice of rubbing his foot up and down Stede’s calves, but that’s just for them. The silk of his stockings is the nicest thing Ed’s foot has ever touched. 

Nicholas is due to be collected mid-morning apparently, and thank fuck, they’d woken up fairly late so that’s getting close. Maybe only one more hour to get through. 

“Wanna go back to bed after this?” Ed whispers in Stede’s ear, and the rapid spread of a blush over his face is all the answer Ed needs for now. 

When breakfast is finished, Nicholas just straight up says, “Stede, would it be possible to have a few moments alone before I leave?” 

Ed fucking hates that idea, but Stede squeezes his hand as he says yes. There’s some back and forth eye-contact, trying to communicate with eyebrows, which it turns out doesn’t fucking work. Nicholas fucking notices and smirks. 

Then Stede says, “It’s a lovely day. Let’s go up to the bow, I don’t believe I’ve shown you our figurehead.” And a little knock of Stede’s knee into Ed’s under the table. Okay so they haven’t got to the point of eyebrow communication yet but knees seem to be working for them. 

There’s a spot on the quarterdeck, a few little wooden steps to nowhere, where you can sit and watch the ship breaking through waves on her journey. Where you can, conveniently, and if you’re in the know, hear anything that’s happening on the bow, but not be seen in return. 

Stede really was a sneaky fucker building this ship. Brilliant man.

Ed lets Stede and Nicholas leave first, not failing to note Nicholas once again placing his hand at Stede’s back. He grabs his knife from Stede’s cabin, just in case, before heading up to the hiding spot. 

Ed situates himself on the hidden steps and listens in. Stede starts pointing out features of the unicorn adorning the front of the ship, speaking about its construction and design, and for a minute it seems like Stede might just be able to run out the clock on this interaction through ignoring that there was clearly a reason Nicholas wanted to speak with him.

Unfortunately, the fucker interrupts him. “Stede, it’s lovely craftsmanship, but there really was something I wanted to discuss with you.” 

“Go ahead,” Stede says. His voice sounds careful and apprehensive. Ed wishes this had been designed in such a way that he could fuckin’ see what was happening down there as well, but listening in is the best he’s going to get.

“I can see you’re having a lot of…fun, here, with Edward,” and oh, the word ‘fun’ is loaded in a way that Ed is pretty sure he does not fucking like, “but this isn’t a real life for you.” 

“I don’t know what you mean.” A haughty sniff. 

“Stede, I know things were difficult with your family, with having to keep secrets, but you can’t live like this. Surrounded by these kinds of people. I could help, you know. I could assist you in figuring things out if you were to come back to your real life. We could have something again.” 

Wow, what a cunt. 

Ed hears Stede sigh, and his next words are clipped, the way he speaks when he’s angry and trying to be polite about it. “Nicholas, I feel I’ve been quite clear that I am happy here. I chose this life, and these people, and I chose Ed.” 

Nicholas fucking laughs and Ed’s blood boils. “Come off it, Stede. Really? I’m sure Ed is a very enjoyable toy of an evening -” 

The next thing Ed hears, past roaring thunder in his ears, is a yelp, nearly a scream, and he’s on his feet and jumping down to the bow before he can even think of it, knife in hand. If he has fucking laid a hand on him, he’ll be gutted, thrown overboard, Ed’s had e-fucking-nough of this guy and his stupid bullshit. Never should have entertained trying to do shit the nice way with such a fucking arsehole of a man - 

The scene that greets Ed stops him in his tracks. Nicholas is lying on the deck clutching his hand to his chest and gasping, and Stede stands over him staring wide-eyed. 

“Uh, hi,” Ed says, to announce his presence. 

“I may have fucked up on keeping the vibe pleasant, Ed,” Stede says. 

“You broke my fucking fingers ,” Nicholas says through pained, gritted teeth where he lies. His face is red, hair out of place, and it sounds like he’s putting a lot of concentration into breathing. 

“Well you were being very rude!” Stede snaps back. “A terrible guest. Honestly, Nicholas, your manners leave a lot to be desired!” 

“You broke my goddamn hand, you piece of shit!” He sounds fucking furious, venomous even, spitting flame as he holds back the sharp pain of broken bones. 

“Yes, he broke your hand, and it was extremely sexy of him, god, shut up,” Ed says to Nicholas. He turns to Stede, “You broke his fucking hand, mate?”

Stede shrugs at him with a fucking beautiful innocent look on his face. “Just two fingers, I think. He was being rude.” 

Jesus, Stede’s the hottest fucking man on the planet. Just the right amount of unhinged, makes Ed’s blood rush. 

“That he was. Alright, how d’you want to play this now?” Ed asks, ignoring Nicholas whinging on the deck, cursing and spouting some shit about ruining people like he still thinks he has some semblance of power here.  

“Well, doing things gently is rather out the window now, isn’t it? I should’ve listened to you from the start.”

“S’cool, I got this.” Ed sits down cross-legged before Nicholas, where he’s lying curled up around his injured hand. 

“Right,” Ed says, and he starts twirling his knife between his fingers, a couple of inches from Nicholas’ face. Does his best calm but menacing voice, the one that tends to make people piss themselves. “This can be really simple, I reckon. Nicky - the rumours were right, we’re pirates, I’m Blackbeard, you’ve probs heard of me. Stede is mine , and if you do anything that fucks with him or his family back home, we’ll come find you and I’ll break all the bones he didn’t, ‘kay?” 

The blood appears to have drained from Nicholas’ face. He looks even more fucking pasty that he did before, as he watches Ed spinning the blade. 

“Blackbeard?” 

“Yup.” Ed jabs the knife into the deck by Nicholas’ neck, enjoys the epic fucking flinch and cringe that draws from the man, before pulling it out of the wood and resuming spinning. 

Nicholas sorta whimpers, and it’s music to Ed’s ears. Ed looks up to Stede, who’s watching quietly, just checking in that this approach is ok. Stede is smiling. 

“Man, need to hear you say you understand, or else I’ll, I dunno, start cutting bits off. Which ear do you reckon you like most?” 

“I understand,” Nicholas mumbles.

“Mm. Bit more, please. What will happen if you start talking shit about Stede or his family?” 

“You’ll break my bones.”

“That’s right, good lad. And cut your tongue out. I know I didn’t say that before, but I’m adding it to the list.” 

He whimpers again and looks fucking terrified. Ideal. 

Ed pats Nicholas on his stupid hair. “Sweet. Sorted. We’ll get Roach to splint that finger for you, and then you can fuck off of our ship the second your ride gets here. Make any more trouble and you’ll be getting the fuck off our ship a bit sooner.” 

As Ed is getting to his feet, Stede tells him, “That was brilliant.”

“C’mon, love,” Ed says. “We’re done here.”  

Ed takes Stede back to his room, with a quick stop off to update Roach that their guest requires some shit bandages but that there’s no rush, figures letting Nicholas stew a bit, in pain and alone, to have a good hard think about his manners, is reasonable. The crew can deal with getting rid of him and seeing him off when his dinghy turns up.

As soon as he closes the cabin door behind them, Ed launches himself at Stede and crushes his mouth in a kiss. “That was hot as fuck. You broke a guy’s fingers for talking shit about me.”

“He deserved it,” Stede says, simply, and Ed is reminded of the gleam in his eye when he passive-aggressioned a ship full of people into setting themselves on fire. Stede Bonnet is a fucking hurricane.

“D’you think we scared him enough? You still worried what he might do when he gets back to town?” 

“A bit, but, he’d be a fool to test you, wouldn’t he? Above all else for him is self-interest, and I don’t think it would serve his self-interest well to damage my or my family’s reputation at the price of his tongue. You were very convincing.”

“Easiest way to be convincing is to tell the truth, mate,” Ed says.

“Well, you threatening and menacing that man for me was also, um, to use your words, hot as fuck.” 

Ed grins and pulls Stede in to him; Stede’s arms hook around his neck and Ed slips his fingers into Stede’s hair. It’s soft and silken. The way that man fuckin’ smiles at him. Like there’s no one else in the world. 

Ed kisses him, first on the lips then peppering his jaw, down to his neck. 

“Ah, god, that feels good,” Stede sighs, soft and relaxed in Ed’s arms, and he tilts his head to give Ed better access. Takes a half-step forward, pushing their bodies together so Ed can feel just how much he’s enjoying his attentions. Makes Ed feel like he’s vibrating in his skin; thrumming with it. 

Ed mouths at his neck, to bite and kiss over the mark he left on him last night; to add more. “Can’t believe he could see this on you and still not understand that you were taken,” Ed says.

“Is that what I am then? Taken?” 

Oh, the question is vulnerable and sweet and quiet in a way that makes Ed’s heart sing, butterflies and hummingbirds, fuck, an entire aviary beating wings in his chest. Ed pulls back to look Stede in the eye. 

“Yes, you are.”