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Shirtless

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With sailing the high seas came the direct scorching heat of the sun. Zisteau loved the heat; he loved the feeling of sweat running down his body, the feeling of sunlight on his skin. He felt natural in the heat; he had a strong feeling that he would love lava, if ever he would see any. He was the only other person aside from Pause who would regularly parade around the deck topless, earning their crewmates’ occasional jeer, but he didn’t mind.

A few days after Kurt’s acceptance into the crew, Zisteau had been assigned Kurt’s babysitter, since he wasn’t fully trusted as of yet and it had been his idea to take him on board. Zisteau had protested at first, because why couldn’t the whole crew watch over him as one, but Guude had waved down his protests and assured him that Kurt wouldn’t be much trouble.

Zisteau would have believed him, had Pause and Beef not been at Guude’s either side as he talked, both smirking smugly. Zisteau immediately regretted talking to Pause earlier; although he hadn’t said anything of what he really thought of Kurt, Pause was especially receptive of his crewmates’ emotions, and he might have picked up on the right one.

As the new guy, Kurt (and consequently Zisteau) was assigned small tasks no one else wanted to do; today it was mopping up the deck. Zisteau didn’t mind this one chore as much as the others—at least it meant he was out in the sun, and right now Beef was taking care of steering while Etho was lounging around taking care of the sails, and they were both good company.

A hot, humid wind played their way, and instinctively, Zisteau moved to take off his shirt and waistcoat. He picked up his mop and was going to continue, when he saw Kurt staring off to the side with a bit of a blush and a confused look on his face.

“You alright?” Zisteau called.

“Ahh,” Kurt started, then gestured meekly downwards. “Y’took your shirt off.”

“…Yes I did,” Zisteau confirmed, trying to remember if it was the first time he’d been shirtless in front of Kurt.

Kurt himself was always dressed properly, with proper button downs and sleeves that always fell below his elbow even when it was scorching hot. This also meant that his tattoo was always mostly covered, and Zisteau was starting to miss seeing it in full.

Kurt muttered something about shirtlessness not being common on The Emerald and Beef yelled “Get a room!” from the captain’s wheel. Zisteau waved him down and said to Kurt, “Is that why you’re always so warmly dressed?”

Properly is what I like to call it,” he answered dryly, and continued mopping.

— 

Later that night, the crew was sitting around below deck for a little bit of rest and relaxation (and drinking) while the sea was calm. Although the night air was chilly, Pause still stumbled in shirtless, and Zisteau was forcibly reminded of the incident earlier with Kurt.

“How was chores day with the new boy?” Pause sang. Beef appeared out of nowhere and added, “He was totally enamored when Zisteau took off his shirt. Didn’t know you were that kind of guy, Z!” he said louder, as Zisteau started to protest. “Such a showoff, just because you have those nice—”

“I wasn’t trying to enamor anyone!” Zisteau groaned loudly. “It was fucking hot up on the deck, you understand, right Pause?”

“Damn right I do,” he immediately answered with a smirk on his face. “The deck. Right.”

Kurt walked in to Zisteau tackling Pause to the floor, already laughing even before they touched the ground. Beef rolled his eyes, totally uninterested, managing a weak, sarcastic “Now, now, children, punching’s not nice…” Kurt smiled a little at the show of boyishness.

“Get off him, Pause,” Guude called lazily from halfway across the cabin, not even looking up from the game he was playing with Baj.

Zisteau got to his feet with a smug smile on his face, straightening out his shirt, looking up to find Kurt, for once dressed in a dirty white sleeveless shirt, now seated beside Beef. He resisted running his eyes all along his arm, along the tattoo.

“You know, you two are perfect for each other,” Beef said pointedly, gesturing between Kurt and Zisteau, already with a slight tinge of inebriation in his voice, as Pause and Zisteau squeezed into their seats. “Both freakin’ showoffs. You with the tats, and you with the—”

“How are you fucking drunk already?” Pause yelled.

“Tipsy,” Beef said loudly. “Not drunk.”

“And you’re still wearing your fucking sword belt,” he added, checking below the table. “Take it off, Beef!”

Zisteau caught Kurt’s eye, and they both burst into laughter.

When they got to their hammocks later that evening, Zisteau noticed the small subtle bumps along Kurt’s back that indicated where his scars were. Jsano had patched them up for Kurt just well, but Zisteau knew they were still healing and painful to touch.

“Isn’t it a bother sleeping with those scars?” he asked quietly, so as not to wake the others.

“A bit,” Kurt muttered back.

“I thought you were supposed to let wounds dry and air themselves out.”

“Jsano talked about that a bit,” Kurt admitted. “I don’t feel right sleeping without a shirt on though.”

Zisteau shrugged and made to drop the subject, but Kurt winced as he laid down on his hammock and he couldn’t help but feel sorry. Zisteau took off his belt and waistcoat, then took the hem of his shirt and pulled it up off over his head, and laid down on his hammock, staring pointedly. Kurt looked around at him, then groaned and said, “Fine, I’ll try it.”

He gingerly peeled off his shirt, gasping in pain at the contact with his skin. He exhaled as he completely pulled it off, then breathed sharply again as a cold breeze touched his scars. “That… feels amazing.”

Zisteau tried not to stare too much as a smiling Kurt stretched anew, then laid back down with his back to him, one ray of the sun on his shoulder peeking back at him.