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ourselves we find in the sea (Or, Dude, Where's My Ship)

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On the third morning that Arthur finds himself stuck on a deserted island, a dead body washes up on shore. It's dressed in a priest's cassock with a full collar shirt, and atop that, a capelet that seems to be doing it no favours, wrapped as it is about the neck. It looks heavy, drenched worsted wool.

Arthur doesn't react. The tide washed in the corpse, perhaps the tide will wash it out again later today past mid-day. Until then, there's no point in doing anything about it, and perhaps it will even attract some kind of bird that Arthur can shoot. Arthur is sick and tired of eating fieldmouse, isn't hungry enough to try catching a monkey, and has yet to find a boar of some sort.

Still, he's curious. What kind of person would wash up around these parts? Arthur is only here because his crew mutinied - with poor reason, in his opinion, but they'll learn soon enough that the fellow they've chosen to replace Arthur is far worse than Arthur ever was. Perhaps some of them will come back for him, but even if they don't, Arthur doesn't intend to be around for much longer.

Arthur approaches. He toes the body at the shoulder and flips it over. The grey-white hair belies the fellow's relative youth.

"Well, don't know what kind of mission you were on, but it was the wrong one, mate," he says to the body.

The body erupts in a spurt of coughing, spitting up water nearly two metres up into Arthur's face.

By the time Arthur's done wiping himself, having backed up a pace, the body - the fellow - is on his side, retching up what looks like a good few gallons of water.

Well, no roast seagull for dinner, then. Arthur approaches his new islander friend hesitantly. "You alright there," he calls.

The figure coughs more. Clearly not.

At last, the coughing subsides and the jumble of black wool with a head up top is racked with deep heaving breaths. His shoulders are broad beneath the wet uniform.

"Alright?" calls Arthur again.

"Bin ich hier in der Hölle?" grunts the man. He peers up under a jagged fringe of grey. "Und wer zum Teufel bist du?"

"You don't speak any English, do you," says Arthur.

"Na, kennst du kein Deutsch?" the man replies.

"Français?" Arthur tries. "Español?"

"Rozumiem język polski," the man coughs out, "nie mówię dobrze po polsku. Ähm.... Gôdósz Gôdajã pò kaszëbsczi? Hah, das ist wohl ein Scheißakzent..."

"Christ," says Arthur. "What the hell is that?"

"Aš manau," the man adds wryly, "tikriausiai kad nekalbate lietuviškai."

"What even is that language," mutters Arthur. He tries louder. "Do! You! Speak! English! English!! Land of England! Do you speak this tongue?!"

"Jetzt schrei halt nicht, ich hab' dich schon gehört," the man replies. "Hah. Also verstehen wir uns gar nicht. Das macht ja Spaß." He gets to his knees and starts to undress himself, peeling his wet cassock off his body starting with the capelet and tossing it aside in the wet sand.

Arthur scoots a bit back. "What the devil are you doing!?" he asks. "Surely you can't have misunderstood me that badly!"

"Kuck mal, das Wasser wäscht den Sand raus, einen Moment. Hah - vielleicht lass' ich sie da, dieser Kragen erstickt mich immer."

"What's your name, even?" calls Arthur. The man looks at him blankly. "Your name!" Arthur says. He points to himself and says, "Arthur. I am Arthur. You?"

"Ich bin Pfarrer, ist das nicht klar anhand meiner tropfnassen Kleidung?" He rips off the necktie and fiddles with the buttons on the robe beneath. "Ach, diese verdammten Knöpfe, ich kann sie nicht ausstehen." At last he succeeds in undoing enough of them and peels the clinging material from his chest. He wears a shirt beneath, an old white button-down, with yellowed sweat stains at the axilla and the collar, which is soaked through, glued to his chest, and hiding nothing. What's a father doing with a body like that, thinks Arthur. "Arrgh, mehr Knöpfe an den Handgelenke, wie Handschellen! Na gut, dann bist du Artur, und ich bin ein Pfarrer. Ganz klasse. Das ist aber ein sehr komisches Wort für Pirat, dieses 'Artur'."

Arthur watches quietly as more and more of him is revealed. Only when the man calms down enough does he succeed in peeling himself free without ripping any buttons off; up until then, he is just twitchy and flailing in his sodden clothing. At last, the full garment lies in the muddy wet sand and the man pulls himself to his feet, panting, standing in nothing but a skimpy pair of white pants, also clinging to him, also revealing everything. They are transparent and from the looks of it - because Arthur is looking - he's grey there, too. What, Arthur wonders again, is a priest doing with a body like that, thighs like that, an arse like that.

"Was ist," says the man. "Siehste etwas, das du magst? Was malst du dir aus?"

Arthur watches as the man steps into the water knee-deep and drenches his clothes again, soaking them to shake out the sand and bits of seaweed and other detritus. Arthur supposes he can help with something like this. He finds two straplings of trees and ties the twiggy tips together, forming an arch. He does this a few more times with a length of the cordage he's made himself from long dried grass blades - he has lots of this, it was practically all he did the first day, was make himself some supplies. And knotting and rope is something he learnt from a bright young age, so the arch will hold enough under the weight of the wool.

He wades out to the man and collects the white shirt, wringing it as dry as he can. "Was soll das?!" the man cries. "Das ist meins!"

"I know," says Arthur. "I'm not gonna steal it! I'm setting it to dry for you. You bring the rest when you're done." He gestures to the at the end of the beach, where it becomes forest, where the arch is.

The man watches him go with narrowed eyes. Only when Arthur sets it down, laying it atop the arch, does he really understand. He wrings out the capelet and the cassock robe and the white necktie and brings these back too. "Danke," he says sheepishly.

Arthur lifts a shoulder. "I can't be too mad," he says. "I wouldn't trust a pirate either." Especially not one that openly ogles him in nothing but his pants.

The man sets the rest of his garments on the arch and peers underneath. "Gutes Knotenwerk," he judges. "Überrascht mich nicht. Du musst viele Jahre zur See gefahren sein. Mhm... so siehste zumindest aus."

It must be a compliment because his voice is impressed and his gaze appreciative. "Farrah, was it?" Arthur asks.

"Pfarrer. Pfarrer Beilschmidt."

"That's a bloody strange name," Arthur says.

"Und du? Wie heißt du denn?" The man gestures to him. Arthur squints, not understanding. "Dein Name!" the man says. "Wie heißt du! Ich heiße Gilbert, und du heißt ...?"

"Hey, you said your name was Farrah!"

"Nee, ich bin ein Pfarrer, aber ich heiße Gilbert. Du bist ein Pirat, aber wie heißt du denn?"

Oh - pirat - that sounds like - it was his profession. And of course he's guessed, because Arthur's shirt is a torn and stained once-white linen under a velvet frock coat with a frayed hem. The boots he took off days ago, and his hat only serves (and not well) to protect him from the beating sun. But it's the earring the priest - Gilbert - judges first, through narrowed eyes. "Arthur," he says, and then to drive the point home, "Farrah - Gilbert; pirate - Arthur."

"Ja," says Gilbert flatly, "das hab' ich mir schon gedacht."

"Hey- really, you know, it's privateer," says Arthur testily, "I've a letter of marque, I'm allowed to do what I do, I act within His Majesty's Royal Navy oversight!" Arthur huffs. "I really don't think you understand."

"Hab' ich schon verstanden," mutters Gilbert. "Und? Was machst du hier? Ich vermute hier gibt's nix zu rauben. Machst du Urlaub? Ein kleines Päuschen zwischen den Plünderungen?"

"I don't understand a single thing that you're saying," Arthur grinds out between his teeth, but on Gilbert continues.

"Muss was Schlimmes sein, was du angestellt hast, du siehst ziemlich mürrisch drein. Lass mich mal raten. Etwa Spannungen zwischen Kameraden, und ein Maat hat' dich hier abgesetzt, für immer gestrandet? Oje, was für ein Glück du hast. Du bist bestimmt ziemlich angepisst deswegen."

Ordinarily what Arthur would do is bring out the rum. Everybody understands each other when they're soused. In fact this is how he learnt what little Spanish he knows. But there's no rum on this accursed island, because Fraser wouldn't even leave him a single barrel, not one small flimsy flask, and Arthur knows he might've done a few things to deserve a good stranding but without rum, now, have they no heart?

So Arthur ignores him and Gilbert prattles merrily on, hardly pausing for breath. "They must've made you be quiet in the seminary," says Arthur, "for you're really taking the opportunity to hear your voice now, aren't you."

Nevertheless Arthur has to admit it: he's happy that there's someone else around. Three days he's been here and he doesn't know when someone on his crew will feel badly enough to come back this way and rescue him, or whether someone else will swing by. If this fellow is here, maybe his lot will come back for him and Arthur can hope they take him too. If they're religious, they have to do that, don't they? Good Samaritans and all?

So he brings Gilbert back to the tiny shelter that he's built himself - a lean-to made of pegs and bundles of long grass, bound-together, tied as a roof.

"Das sieht ziemlich stabil aus," says Gilbert, impressed. "Hast du sowas schon mal gemacht? Warst du schon mal ganz allein gestrandet?" He grips a peg of the lean-to supports and tries to shake it, to little end. His biceps bulge with the effort.

"Stop that," says Arthur, flushing, "you'll bring it down," and he knocks Gilbert's hands away.

"Oh, sei nicht so reizbar," says Gilbert, clutching his hand to his naked, pale chest.

"Rest here if you like," says Arthur. "I've got work to do." He tugs his dull knife free from the cloth belt about his skinny waist, holding up his trousers, and marches off in another direction. He feels eyes on him, though, and the sound of rustling footsteps is quickly at his back.

He whirls around to see Gilbert dogging his steps, keeping pace. "What? What is it you want? To follow me around?"

"Kuck mal, nur weil wir hier eine Sprachbarriere haben, will ich ja nicht alleine rumhängen. Ob du mich verstehst oder nicht ist mir egal." Gilbert grins. "Eigentlich ist es sogar nett. Ich sag' was ich will - was auch immer! - und du wirst nie wissen, was ich wirklich meine." He pauses for thought. "Nicht, dass mich das jemals gestoppt hätte."

"Don't see why you can't blather on to yourself in the shade, away from me," says Arthur. He finds the longer, stiffer stalks of grass that he's looking for and sets to hacking them at the stem. "You've got nothing to do, just sit there and be quiet, or at least don't bother me."

Gilbert watches him for approximately a minute before he says, "Naja, du könntest es dir einfacher machen," and then trots off.

"Good riddance to bad rubbish," grumbles Arthur.

But Gilbert is back in a moment with a stone, large and heavy, mostly flat but concave. He sets this down on the ground. It has a scant bit of water in it, and he's brought his necktie, newly-soaked. This he wrings out over the stone to pool the water on top, and then he takes another stone by his side, the size of his hand and edged, and begins to grind it, laterally pushing it across the wet stone. It makes his shoulders bulge and his forearms stand out. Gilbert realises he's being watched after a moment. "Was denn?" he asks, "Erzähl mir nicht, dass du so einen Unterschlupf bauen kannst, aber noch nie gesehen hast wie man ein Beil macht."

"What the hell are you doing?" asks Arthur.

"Gib mir einfach 'ne Stunde oder zwei, dann wird es scharf genug sein, um es als Keil zu nutzen. Für was Schärferes würde ich eine Woche brauchen und ein besseres Stück Stein." Gilbert pauses for a moment’s thought. "Wenn du nicht weißt, was ich hier gerade anstelle, heißt das, dass du das ganze Ding mit diesem scheiß Messer gebaut hast? Was hast du benutzt, um Fleisch zu schneiden? Oder Fisch? Was isst du überhaupt?"

"I'm really getting sick of that tone of voice," replies Arthur. "Might not know what you're saying but it sounds like you're judging me. Do you do that on purpose, or does it just come naturally?" He rather liked it more when Gilbert had sounded impressed. "Keep that up, and you can find your own shelter, I'll not be sharing mine." He goes back to harvesting his grasses.

After a few moments of silence Gilbert returns to his own task. "Naja, ich nehm mir das von dir, wenn ich hiermit fertig bin. Man kann mit diesem stumpfen Messer doch keinen verdammten Fisch filetieren. Die Hälfte vom Fleisch bleibt da doch an den Schuppen kleben. Du isst doch Fisch, oder?" A question Arthur doesn't answer. Gilbert is an unstoppable chatterbox force. "Na klar, musst du ja. Was macht ein richtiger Seemann ohne Fisch..."

Gilbert continues talking, and Arthur continues harvesting. Once he has enough to satisfy himself, he sits down and begins to tie the longest ones together, into a star-shaped pattern, like spokes on a wagon wheel, and then he takes some of the weaker, spindlier ones and begins weaving, above, below, above, below the spokes, around and around in a circle, until he's formed the base.

About halfway through the basket Gilbert asks a question, but Arthur has tuned him out entirely in terms of his words, letting only the sound of his voice, mellifluous and sing-song, wash over him, the comfort of another human being, even one who is this annoying. So he misses the rising intonation of query, and it takes Gilbert's gentle touch on Arthur's shoulder to spook him out of his trance.

"Bleib ruhig!" jokes Gilbert. "Sag mir nicht, dass niemand dich je so angefasst hat, das bezweifle ich sehr. Ein Pirat, he? Wahrscheinlich auch ein Lustmolch, ne?"

Arthur glares and turns anew to his weaving. "What d'you want, then?"

"Gib mir deine Schneide," says Gilbert. He holds open his hand.

"I'm fine sitting, thanks," says Arthur, who doesn't need a hand to get to his feet.

"Nein, du Idiot," Gilbert adds, shaking his hand. He snaps and points to the knife, lying in the grasses a few paces away from them, but within arm's reach for Arthur. "Dein Messer."

"I don't think so," says Arthur sharply.

"Glaubst du ich stech' dich ab? Nicht mit dem Teil!" laughs Gilbert. He puts a hand on his hip, expectant and proud. "Das kann ja noch nichtmal Butter schneiden. Der einzige Grund, warum du soviel mit dem Ding hinbekommen hast ist, dass du nicht aufgegeben hast. Das zeigt übrigens eine bemerkenswerte Ausdauer, ich mag das," he drawls. "Aber im Ernst, gib mir dein verdammtes Messer."

When Arthur shakes his head. Gilbert rolls his eyes and sighs, and returns to his own workstation to fetch the stone he was sharpening. The edge is a little smoother now, but more importantly much sharper, and he's managed to wedge it into the inside of a thicker branch, the joint tied together and reinforced with a length of twisted grasses. It makes a nice hatchet.

"Hier, nimm das, gib mir das andere. Hab' was dran zu arbeiten." When Arthur doesn't move, Gilbert starts to lose his patience. "Na komm schon!" he says, throwing up his hands in a gesture of exasperation. "Der einzige Grund, warum ich es mir noch nicht geschnappt habe ist, dass ich nicht will, dass du dich auf mich stürzt und mich abstichst, klar? Es ist ja trotz allem ein verdammtes Messer! Willst du das hier anstatt benutzen?" and he picks up one of Arthur's grasses and slices it easily with little force on the hatchet, none of Arthur's earlier hacking required.

"Hey! I was working with those!" Arthur cries.

"Na und wessen Schuld ist das, hm? Wer kann hier nicht teilen?" Gilbert snatches up the knife before Arthur can say anything more, leaves the hatchet, and returns to his seat by his whetstone. "Störrischer, fieser Pirat," he adds in a snarl. "Wahrscheinlich voller Läuse. Hoff' sie beißen dich in die Eier."

"Oh, sod off," snaps Arthur.

The worst part is that the hatchet is incredibly well-constructed and very sharp, and it makes Arthur's work much quicker. Gilbert watches him use it and, from time to time, makes a smug and self-satisfied grunt which in any language signifies 'I told you so'.

They work for an hour during which Gilbert mostly mutters to himself and occasionally throws what sounds like a barbed remark that Arthur cannot understand over his way, along with a nasty look. Arthur ignores the first three of these and then starts snarking back. It is no use, neither of them can understand anything.

But at last Gilbert decides he's done with the knife. He plucks up another of Arthur's grasses. Arthur is nearly finished with his weaving but complains anyway. "Stop doing that! Get your own."

"So, mal kucken," Gilbert says. He draws the sharp edge of the blade along the grass stalk and it falls neatly in two. He extends the knife, handle first, to Arthur. "Bitte sehr. Gern geschehen."

Arthur is startled by the display. "Thanks," he says, uncomfortable, "though you've done nothing but waste time, it's not like there is anything to eat around here." He waves the blade. "You seen any boar? Nothing. I'm not gonna stick this onto a rope and throw it at a bird."

"Fisch, du Blödmann," says Gilbert.

"We can't eat fish, we've no hooks or line," says Arthur. Gilbert squints, not understanding, so Arthur mimes casting a fishing line, reeling it in, and checking the empty end of it with a sad face.

Gilbert rolls his eyes, folding his arms over his chest. He looks twice as muscular like this, large forearms, broad hands. Worker's hands, with the evidence of his grinding clear from the pinkness of the knuckles. There must be something more to him. He cranes his neck up at the sky, thinking, and a bead of sweat drips from his neck to slide between his pectorals. Arthur feels suddenly very thirsty and remembers that the dew he drank off leaves was hours ago.

"Ich hab 'ne Idee," Gilbert says. "Ich komme gleich zurück." And then he trots off out of the safety of the high tree canopy to the beach.

Arthur watches him leave, thinking about his fit arse and his nice thighs, and then returns to his basket.

He finishes quickly, the silence encouraging him to work faster. It was, after all, nicer with a companion. Arthur would have thought that German was an unnecessarily guttural language, having only heard a variant of it shouted at him by an angry sect of puritans, loud and monotone. He supposes anything shouted at one must make it sound harsh. Perhaps Gilbert's speech is dialectal and more sibilant. He trills his r's, Arthur didn't think Germans did that. And he sings a lot of his words with carefree pitch. Perhaps Arthur was simply wrong about German. In any case it's nice to listen to, and nicer still to have another person around to talk to.

Three days with very little food and water can make one feel so blasted alone. And maybe that's why Arthur has been hot and cold with Gilbert, but he knows the true answer is because that's simply who he is. Still. He hadn't had to be such a prat.

At the end, he has a prawn-trap, a basket within another basket, with a wide enough neck to let them crawl in, and a raised open end for them to fall into the second, larger basket, where they won't be able to crawl out.

Arthur stands, shakes the lassitude out of his legs, and wanders over to the beach to place it in. There he finds Gilbert, lifting rocks, some the size of a foot, some larger still. He has rolled them into a u-shape by the lapping of the water, just a few feet beyond. His pants are wet again.

"So!" he says as he pitches the last one in place, "Bei der nächsten Ebbe bleiben die Fische hier gefangen. Die können dann nicht mehr wegschwimmen!"

"I see what you've done," says Arthur. "It's not a bad idea if we were on a lake. What kind of fish are you going to find here this close to shore? You want to fiddle with little bones everywhere, it's your intestines." He wades to Gilbert and plunks his prawn-trap in beside Gilbert's rocks, then sets his hands on his hips. "Now! Let's see who catches more, eh?" He thrusts his hand out to shake on it. He hopes his merry tone of voice says 'it's an apology without the actual words', and not only because Gilbert cannot understand them.

"Ich weiß gar nicht, um was wir wetten," says Gilbert cheerfully, as he takes Arthur's hand and shakes it.

This is when Arthur notices that Gilbert's skin has pinkened deeply on the shoulders. "Oh, that's not good," he murmurs.

"Was?" says Gilbert.

"That," Arthur says. With his free hand he brushes Gilbert's skin - it's burning warm.

"Hey! Hände weg - das ist empfindlich," Gilbert says, shrugging himself free of Arthur's grip. Now his face is pink too. "Ich glaube ich hab' mich verbrannt, das ist alles," he says primly. "Unfassbar. In nur eine Stunde."

"You should really put something on," says Arthur, with no small regret.

"Ist schon in Ordnung," says Gilbert, "nicht das erste Mal, dass ich einen Sonnenbrand habe. Warum soll ich auch so viel Kleidung tragen, hm?" He cackles. "Ist nicht gerade besonders modisch."

"Let me get you something for it, at least," Arthur says. "I'll be right back." He walks off back to the forest, leaving Gilbert and the traps behind, though he soon hears a rustling that tells him he's being followed. There was something he'd seen just a few paces past the lean-to. At last he comes upon it - a thatch of aloe plants, clustered by the foot of a larger palm tree. Arthur kneels down and slices the leaf of one with his knife. The blade is much sharper now, he notices. The gel oozes out of the plant.

Gilbert has not understood the 'I'll be right back' portion and is hovering over Arthur.

"Here," says Arthur. He thrusts the aloe leaf forward to Gilbert. Gilbert frowns.

"No, you -" Arthur breaks off and sighs. "Just let me." He slathers some on his fingers and leans in to smear the gel on them into Gilbert's shoulder but doesn't get very far before Gilbert backs up, alarmed, hands extended and palms up. "Fine then," says Arthur, handing him the aloe branch, "if you don't want me to, then do it yourself!"

Gilbert makes no such motion. Arthur points to the aloe, then mimes smearing it on his back, then gives a happy, beatific smile, trying to convey its use. "Now you," Arthur says, stuffing the branch in his hand.

Suspiciously, Gilbert tries it out, but readily finds it works. "Ah - das ist viel besser," he sighs, and his appreciative and impressed tone pleases Arthur greatly.

"You're hardly getting any of it on the places that are really burnt," notes Arthur. "Your back's a lot worse."

"Ich vermute... nach so vielen Jahren auf See," Gilbert murmurs. "Ich sollte wohl dankbar sein für dein Wissen... du hast bestimmt viel gesehen. Viel erlebt. Nicht wahr?"

He looks Arthur up and down brazenly. And Arthur may not speak his tongue but he speaks body language.

"Vielleicht kannst du es auf die Stellen tun, an die ich nicht rankomme," says Gilbert.

It's clearly a question by the intonation. "I don't understand," Arthur replies, wanting to be clear.

Gilbert points to the aloe, then the middle of his back, then extends the dripping aloe branch to him.

"If you're certain," Arthur says.

He kneels behind Gilbert, who hunches forward, and now cracks the branch like an egg. Arthur lets the gel drips out, slowly, until the drop disconnects from the branch and lands on the red skin on Gilbert's backbone. "Ah!" Gil gasps, stiffening, "Kalt!"

Arthur ignores him, having a few ideas from the context what was said. Then Arthur places his fingers in the gel, smearing it down his spine. Gil arches and moans softly.

Arthur bends lower over Gilbert, and murmurs in his ear, "You like this."

"Scheiße," Gilbert hisses, "du bist echt gut mit deinen Händen. Hab' ich mir schon gedacht. Aber du könntest schon ein bisschen mehr Kraft benutzen. Ich bin nicht aus Porzellan." He lifts his head, to watch Arthur out of the corner of his eye. "Ich hab' - ich habe keine Angst davor. Vor dir."

Arthur massages the gel in gently, his touch hardly more than teasing, as he traces them around Gilbert's back, smiling as Gilbert squirms.

"Verflucht noch mal, fasst mich einfach an," growls Gilbert. "Ich weiß doch wie du mich ansiehst, ich brauch mich mit dir nicht zu unterhalten, um zu wissen, was du mir mit deinen Blicken sagen willst." He narrows his eyes, considering. "Ist es das Gewand? Ich war niemals gläubig, nicht einen einzigen Tag in meinem Leben!"

He turns around suddenly to face Arthur and grabs his hand, smearing the gel between their joined fingers.

"You talk a lot," says Arthur.

"Dann bring mich halt zum Schweigen, wenn du es nicht magst," says Gilbert, looking at Arthur's mouth.

There's really no invitation Arthur has received quite so brazen as this.

He leans in and presses himself to Gilbert's mouth, assaulting it with his own. Soon to follow are his teeth and tongue. Gilbert practically melts in his grasp. He slings a hand around Arthur's shoulder and pulls them together and grinds up with his pelvis, which is how Arthur can tell that through his plain white pants, he's hard.

That he wants this so bad is so telling, is so ironic. Gilbert doesn't seem to have afforded him all that much respect earlier through his interactions despite the odd moment of being impressed that Arthur knows what he's doing on occasion but the attraction, that has been instant, electric, simmering beneath his skin since the moment Gilbert woke and began stripping off his clothes. Honestly, it's a wonder Arthur's lasted this long.

But he won't last at all now that Gilbert has shoved a hand down his trousers. "Ja? Das gefällt dir?" he gasps, as he strokes Arthur's cock. "Ich wette, du geilst dich daran auf einen Sankt wie mich zu verderben - hah! - du hast keine Ahnung, was ich schon getan habe. Glaubst du im Ernst ein Pfarrer fickt so?"

Arthur groans and jerks, fucking Gilbert's hand, rough with callouses, as Gilbert hisses his filthy German undecipherable whatever-it-is in his ears. He leans back into Gilbert's supporting arm. Gilbert twists with his wrist around Arthur's cock, fisting it tight to the root, keeping his thumb on the tip knocking the head gently with each thrust.

"Fuck," he pants, "fuck, that's - just like that, please just like that -"

"Genau so," says Gilbert. Arthur comes, messing his only pair of trousers, as Gilbert carelessly shifts his hand to cup his balls, to better feel all of Arthur shake in his hands.

He regains his breath. Gilbert is chuckling to himself; he brings his hand out and smears it on the bark of the tree nearby. "Also," says Gilbert, smug and more satisfied than Arthur feels, "ist es das, was du wolltest? Bist du jetzt zufrieden?"

In one move, Arthur sinks to his knees, unbuttons the waistband of Gilbert's pants and yanks them down until his cock springs free.

"Wa-" but Gilbert cannot finish his thought in any language because Arthur swallows him to the root. He tastes like seasalt and sweat, but mostly seasalt. Arthur tugs the shorts down to mid-thigh where they can go no further without unduly stretching the material and ripping it, and he's certain Gilbert has no extra clothes, as tempting as it would be to watch him walk around in a priest's cassock knowing he has nothing under it. Tempting to think of Gilbert in the priest's cassock, a man in a high place, holy and untouched, a position of power, with Arthur controlling every part of him like this, bringing him low, sinking him to Arthur's level.

"Oh Gott," says Gilbert, and a hand - Arthur doesn't know if it's the one that has his come on it - makes it to Arthur's hair and tangles into it, encouraging him by direction. Arthur complies happily - he's always been good with his mouth, and hasn't given like this since he was a first mate aboard some wreck of a vessel, years ago before he got his own ship and had to put up a constant show of dominance. Gilbert's thighs shake about him and he moans, hardly verbal. Arthur takes what he can, enjoying the reprieve from the usual egoism captaincy brings. His prick, mostly flaccid, gives a half-hearted throb, as Arthur contemplates it and at last decides upon it, to trail his wet, gel-slick fingers behind Gilbert's balls. He smoothes behind them with his fingers until he reaches what he is looking for, the tight rim of Gilbert's arsehole. This he teases with the tips of his cold, wet fingers, dragging them across the hole and back again, as his mouth wrecks Gilbert by the prick.

Gilbert is a litany of, "Hör nicht auf, Gott, nicht," as he fucks Arthur's face. Arthur inserts the fingers to the first knuckle and Gilbert groans, falling forward to lean his head against the treetrunk. "Tiefer," he moans, "mehr - ahn, bitte!" This much, Arthur understands, and he presses in and curls his fingers, stroking softly over Gilbert's prostate. Gilbert can take very little of this treatment and his fingers wriggle helplessly in Arthur's hair as he whines and thrusts until he spills down Arthur's tongue.

Arthur spits out the come among the aloe plants; Gilbert hardly notices, both hands pressed against the tree trunk and barely keeping himself upright as he shivers, clenched around Arthur's fingers. "Das... hab ich noch nie getan," he croaks.

"You alright there?" asks Arthur.

Gilbert is still catching his breath, leaning forward on his hands, which clutch the tree. He exhales with a needy groan as Arthur removes his fingers. Arthur stands to put himself in between his arms, his back against the tree trunk, resting the nape of his neck on the backs of Gilbert's hands.

"Ich mag dich irgendwie," murmurs Gilbert breathlessly, "hah, und nicht nur weil du mir gerade einen geblasen hast. Wenn du mich lässt, könnte ich mit dir zusammenarbeiten. Falls du mir auf halbem Wege entgegenkommen könntest."

"I'll pretend that's something romantic," teases Arthur. "Come on, let's go make ourselves a fire. I'm growing hungry."

--

Arthur takes the time to wash out his trousers and sets them to dry, beside Gilbert's still-damp worsted robe. He returns, with his scant excuse for a tunic of a linen shirt barely reaching mid-thigh and hardly covering his arse, knotted about the waist with his cloth belt, to Gilbert's efforts over a fire. Surprise of surprises, Gilbert manages quite well with blowing a spark into life out of a twig, some dry leaves, and friction. As Arthur sits cross-legged - well aware it exposes him - a tuft of smoke climbs up from the dry leaves.

"Schade, dass ich kein Schießpulver hab," says Gilbert between soft coaxing exhales on the spark, "aber ich habe den Indianern mein Letztes gegeben. Die Missionare waren davon wenig begeistert und haben mir für unsere restlich Reise durch die Karibik nichts mehr gegeben."

Arthur is mostly silent as Gilbert continues working and chattering, but is newly appreciative of his voice (orgasm will do that to one). From time to time Gilbert asks a question, which Arthur understands only from the tone. "You don't have to engage me in talk," says Arthur. "I plumb don't mind your chatter." Which, he really doesn't. "And I can't make myself understood with you, anyway. And I don't think it makes much sense." He thinks about earlier, the way Gilbert shook around him. "I suppose we understand each other where we have to," he decides.

"Das ist eine längere Antwort als ich erwartet habe," Gilbert says, smirking. "Ich wollte nur eine Zahl! Es sei denn du hast in deiner Antwort bereits erwähnt, wie lange du schon ein Pirat bist und wie du hier gelandet bist. Das wäre nur gerecht. Du fragst dich wahrscheinlich, was für eine Art Religiöser sich so verhält wie ich. Aber wenn du mich fragst: Ja, ich habe tatsächlich mein Gelöbnis abgelegt. Muss man, um auf Aussendungen geschickt zu werden. Das war das beste was mir passieren konnte, in Ostpreußen hatte ich nichts zu tun. Sag mal, gibt es irgendjemanden, der zu Hause auf dich wartet?"

Arthur shrugs and shakes his head, trying to convey that he doesn't have a reply to whatever Gilbert has just asked.

Gilbert beams. "Bei mir gibt’s auch niemanden," he says.

"Well, glad you got the answer you were looking for," replies Arthur.

"Naja, ich denke meine Mutter lebt vielleicht noch, aber meine Eltern wussten, dass sie nicht für alle Kinder würde sorgen können die sie bekommen. Es war so schon hart für sie. Als sie versuchten mich zu bekommen ging irgendwas schief... ich weiß nicht genau was. Irgendwie klappte es nicht. Mutter verlor viele Kinder, und sie wurde nicht jünger." Gilbert sits back, the kindling catching. Soon he has a flame the size of his hand, which he feeds to the pyramid of twigs.

"Sie ist zwar auch nicht gläubig, aber sie fing zu beten an." He begins to tick items off his fingers. "Sie betete zu Jesus, das bewirkte nichts. Betete zu Perun, das brachte auch nichts. Als sie zu Percunis bettete, donnerte es." This appears important; Gilbert wags his finger. "Dann hörte sie auf, denn sie war endlich schwanger mit mir. Du glaubst doch nicht etwas, ich sehe so aus wie ich aussehe, weil Gott mich geschickt hat?" He grins again, toying with the fire. "Neee, ein Dämon ließ mich entstehen! Sie hat mich zu den Lutheranern geschickt, da die das meiste Geld hatten. Ich kann schließlich lesen und schreiben und sie mögen es zu reisen, also war es ein gutes Angebot." He shrugs and adds a larger log. Together they watch the bark catch.

"Aber ich kann nicht sagen, dass ich gläubig bin. Trotzdem halte ich dich immer noch für einen Schurken," Gilbert says, with a cautious stare at Arthur. "Es ist offensichtlich, dass du einer bist. Gerade ich sollte das wissen."

"You've said something nasty about me again," says Arthur with a slow smile. "Hardly seems fair when as far as I can tell, all you have against you is one little corruption." And possibly an itch for more, should Arthur play his cards right.

Gilbert is about to reply when he is interrupted by a loud growl of his stomach. "Na, hast du Hunger?" he asks instead.

There is a handsome catch of ten prawn. Enough for Arthur, barely enough for them both, but he plucks them out of the basket and sets them in a hollowed out piece of driftwood he quickly covers with a large flat stone to prevent them crawling out and away. He brings the basket back to the water to catch more.

They skewer and roast the prawn over the coals, and while it isn't very good, and extremely salty, it's nonetheless food and Arthur is famished. Alas the aloe - they have brought extra branches - adds little flavour, and doesn't grill well.

After dinner, Gilbert keeps up his one-sided conversation. "Als wir bei den Indianern waren, habe ich viel gelernt. Ich sollte ihre Sprache lernen, um ihnen von Gott zu erzählen, aber das war nicht so wirklich meins." Gilbert flops back in the sand, his arms supporting his head, the picture of carefree. "Stattdessen habe ich einen Typen getroffen, der mir einiges beigebracht hat." Again he ticks things off: "Fallen zu stellen, Tiere zu enthäuten, Felle zu gerben. Und nicht nur das! Auch noch andere Sachen," he grins, lascivious, "aber nicht sowas, was du vorhin mit mir getan hast."

"You liked that, did you?" asks Arthur, more rhetorically. He is certain he knows what Gilbert's talking about.

"Hm. Ich hätte nicht gedacht, dass es sich so unglaublich anfühlt," Gilbert adds. "Hat sich zumindest nicht so angehört. Wenn ich es je mit Nee-sa-ua-dschi-ueb versucht hätte..." For a moment, he is lost in a memory. “Aber das ist vorbei," he says at last, a little wistfully. "Wir sind getrennte Wege gegangen. Die Missionare haben herausgefunden, dass wir ständig zusammen rumgehangen haben, und dass er nicht wirklich von mir konvertiert wurde... Also gingen sie davon aus, dass er mir was beibrachte und hah! Sie hatten nicht Unrecht..."

"There's more where that came from, Arthur offers.

Gilbert twists, propping himself up on an elbow to face Arthur and grins, looking at Arthur's groin. "Nicht gerade überraschend, dass so jemand wie du mich komplett verdirbt," he says. "Für mich gibt es sicherlich keinen Eintritt in's Himmelreich, nicht dass ich das je wirklich gewollt hätte... aber so ist es irgendwie offizieller, verführt zu werden, genommen zu werden. Ihr Piraten macht sowas doch die ganze Zeit, oder? Nehmt euch einfach, was ihr wollt."

His tone of voice begins jocular but ends aroused, and his cheeks are flushed. It could just be the sunburn, could just be the fading, dying light of the sunset, his skin warmed by the firelight, but the heavy, deep way he's breathing tells Arthur a different story.

"Sit here by me," offers Arthur. "We'll help you work up another appetite."

But Gilbert doesn't move until the invitation that he can't understand is demonstrated by Arthur patting the sand next to him, where he sits by the coals. Then he at last gets to his feet and saunters over, saying in a low voice, "Ihr seid alle Diebe." He reaches Arthur and, standing above him, puts his thumbs inside the waistband of his pants, then undoes the top button on them and lets them fall gracefully off his legs, trailing down his muscles. Then he kicks them away. He stands naked. "Ich frage mich, ob du jemals Gott gekannt hast, oder ob du als Dämon geboren bist, mit so einem Schwanz."

He puts a foot on Arthur's shoulder and pushes playfully until Arthur has reclined enough, then he kicks Arthur's crossed legs apart, and sits upon them, straddling his thighs. The shine from before, behind his balls, is still there, Arthur notices, glimmering in the firelight. Arthur begins to crave.

"Hat nicht viel braucht, um mich zu verhexen, hm?" asks Gilbert. He leans forward, pressing their chests together, pressing his hardening nude cock into Arthur's groin, and kisses him soundly on the mouth. "Ich wär so leicht zu haben," he gasps between kisses, "fühlst du das? Wie leicht ich für dich zu haben wär?"

Arthur hasn't been kissed so sweetly since the last time he spent in a brothel, when he realised the girl he was with had developed something of a problem. Too worked up to think of renouncing their arrangement, he'd asked her to use her mouth, the only clean part of her. Gilbert's tongue is yet more confident and teasing, very like much of him. He can't have learnt this in the seminary. "I wonder," he says, as Gilbert breaks off to kiss and suck his way down Arthur's neck, "wonder whether you were waiting for something like this. Ha-ah, an excuse - you can't possibly be planning to go back with your brothers in whatever religious order failed to satisfy you."

On second thought, which is very difficult to do with Gilbert writhing in his lap, "Or perhaps that's exactly what you intend," he guesses. "Maybe being stranded on an island comes with its own laws, mmph - and you're happy to play a role you'll forget about the moment you get back to a coast, hm? A-ah? Is that it?" Gilbert trails his fingers down his chest, through the open front of his shirt, and traces around Arthur’s nipple. Arthur tilts his head back and exhales happily, his body aflame wherever Gilbert touches. "How does it feel to rip off that confining cassock and everything it entails?"

"Der Geschmack deiner Haut wird mich noch ruinieren," murmurs Gilbert.

Arthur leans past him to grab one of the aloe branches, leaking sadly inedible gel. He gathers enough on his fingers that it smears Gilbert's thigh as he trails it past to finger him again, work him open. "Bet you're aching for these things you've never tried and you think that if you get it all out of your system here," he growls into Gilbert’s ear, as Gilbert nuzzles his neck, "I suppose you imagine that you'll never have to worry about it ever again, hmm?"

Gilbert flicks the smeared gel off his thighs and grabs Arthur's other hand, then places it to curl around his own cock. He watches for a moment, spellbound and for once speechless, as Arthur strokes him slowly, lewdly, then decides, "Ich brauch' - oh - etwas anderes." He backs up. Arthur removes the fingers from within him and lets him up. Gilbert moves only to reposition himself, straddling Arthur again backwards. "Mach es wie vorhin," Gilbert instructs, "ich glaube so geht es einfacher."

Like this, Gilbert misses how Arthur takes his gel-slick hand and lifts the hem of his linen shirt to expose his aching prick, and wraps a hand around that, the gel cool around his fever-hot skin. Gilbert misses it completely because he's busy leaning forward on the sand as he fucks himself on Arthur's fingers, his arse in Arthur's lap, begging for touch, arching in anticipation.

"You make such a very pretty picture," Arthur whispers. "I wonder whether you'll think of this when you return to whatever pulpit you preach from." As he removes his fingers once again, Gilbert whines. "If you'll remember how I take you like this." He lines himself up with Gilbert's arsehole and presses in. Gilbert moans broken in his lap. "If you'll remember how it feels to be stretched by my cock."

"Diebe und Räuber - ohne Verpflichtungen, ohne irgendwas außer den weiten Ozeanen und Abenteuern," pants Gil. "Aah - mach' mich zu einem von euch, nimm mich, fick mich!"

"You'll want to forget it, maybe," says Arthur, pressing deeper and withholding his groans only by speaking over them, "but you never will, it'll linger in your psalms, hngh, haunt you in your sermons." He drags a hand down Gilbert’s side, caressing his smooth skin. "This want of yours - this damning desire!" He retreats and thrusts in again. Finding himself already too close to orgasm, he pulls Gilbert backwards by the hips and raises him upright, close enough to his body to fuck him in short deep thrusts, that Arthur can reach him at the same time and jack him off. He tries to control his breathing and rests his forehead on Gilbert’s sunburnt back, the catalyst for this whole dalliance.

"Ah! Deine Mannschaft vielleicht? Du bist ihnen treu, falls sie dir treu sind," Gilbert murmurs. "Du weißt, dass ich niemals meutern dich würde, nicht wenn du sowas mit mir anstellen würdest - aah -" he pushes back, meeting Arthur’s movements, and his voice begins to quaver as Arthur shifts deep inside him, "jede Nacht vielleicht - du könntest mich behalten, wie einen gefundenen Schatz, festgebunden an deine Bettpfosten -" he stifles his moan but it escapes nevertheless as a soft cry - "dein Schiffsjunge, immer bereit für dich, wenn du ihn hernehmen willst, du versauter Pirat - ah!"

"Watch you squirm for it," Arthur continues. "Begging me with your body, and likely your words too if I could decipher them." His other hand leaves the grip of Gilbert's hips to smooth its way up to his nipple, which he cruelly pinches. Gilbert twists, clenching hard on Arthur’s cock, and they are pressed flush together. Arthur rewards him with a soft kiss to his back, then a lewd lick in an upwards stripe, between his red shoulder blades. "You've craved this some time, I'll wager," he whispers into Gilbert's skin. "Do I satisfy your longing?" But Gilbert isn't listening, too busy climaxing in his arms. He collapses to his elbows, his hands gripping the sand, and Arthur thrusts once last and lets go, spilling inside him with a groan.

He catches his breath, leaning over Gilbert as he slips out, and then collapses onto his back on the sand.

Gilbert rests another moment on his elbows and knees. "You alright?" whispers Arthur.

"Ganz gut," murmurs Gilbert, "danke dir." He reaches over to lace his fingers in Arthur's. A single moment of intimacy passes, and Arthur is struck by how lovely Gilbert's eyes look, dancing in the firelight. Then Gilbert grins, gets to his feet, and heads for the water. Arthur watches him swimming, washing himself off, starkers and free and loving it.

Can't imagine how he'll go back to the cassock now. He'll ache when he remembers freedom, thinks Arthur, possessive. When he remembers me.

Gilbert returns dripping wet, with four herring caught from his trap, to dry off by the fire. "Ein paar Kleinigkeiten," he says. They are surprisingly large. Gilbert may have won that wager, but Arthur will never tell. They skewer the herring on twigs and props them up at an angle to hang by the fire. Gilbert collapses there next to it, a little too close when Arthur puts another log on and a spark jumps out and lands on his belly. "Wieder keine Warnung," he says. "Du warnst mich nie vor!" Arthur laughs.

They nap uncomfortably until midnight or so, when the parched taste in Arthur's mouth wakes him. He struggles with sleep for a few moments and then remains awake. Gilbert is sound asleep, on his side. Two herring are gone, two remain. A gift, Arthur thinks fondly. He nibbles at them; they’re too salty still, but some part of them does contain water. This will sustain him the night.

Suppose they should move to the lean-to, but there's no clouds in the sky, just a great waxing moon. Arthur casts a glance to the horizon over the water. If there's a ship there, he doesn't see it nor hear it over the lapping waves. If they want any hope of surviving their next move needs to be to make a more sustainable vessel for water, or a better method than simply drinking the dew off plants. Arthur got too lucky that first day with the rain, but unless it rains again there won't be enough water to share.

An hour of unrest finds him at last asleep, hoping that the last log he puts on the fire will sustain it in coals, to be revived tomorrow.

--

He wakes up far later than he should, and a sharp wind, carrying with it the pungency of smoke, makes his eyes sting and his throat tight. Gilbert, meanwhile, is already awake and, judging from how alert he is, may have been for hours. Vespers, probably. He wears his cassock robe, unbuttoned and tied around the waist to leave his sunburned chest and shoulders free. They look shiny; Gilbert's evidently been at the aloe. He whirls around to and fro, grabbing greenwood and throwing it on the fire, which is blazing high. He looks like a dervish.

"Schiff!!" he cries, and points. "Da ist ein Schiff an dem Horizont! Siehst du es? Oder träume ich?"

The smoke from the greenwood goes up grey and thick. Arthur squints into the sunlight and makes out the sails. His surprise and elation registers on his face. "Morning brings me all good things, it seems," he says, looking at Gilbert. Gilbert, watching his smile, answers with one of his own.

As the ship grows closer, Arthur is able to see the flags. Dutch, by the flag; merchants by the ship. It's small, which means they might stand a chance of taking it over. They'll stop once they see Gilbert.

But the Dutch won't if they spot Arthur.

"Quick, can I borrow your capelet?" Arthur doesn't wait for an answer. Gilbert doesn't understand anyway, so he grabs it off the trees where it has spent the night drying, beside his trousers, which he hastily dons. Someone wearing such a garment would have more propriety than wandering about in only a shirt barely to mid-thigh.

"Was willst du damit?" asks Gilbert. "Hilf mir lieber beim Feuer!"

"Don't be mad, I'm not stealing it," says Arthur. He shrugs out of his frock coat and shoves his head through the neck of Gilbert's capelet. He'll make it up to Gilbert later. He's sure he can find a way to do that.

He has no doubt he looks ridiculous in a capelet and his own ripped trousers, but this covers his blade nicely and there's no whinging about fashion when he could get rescued. Two holy men? They'll stop for certain. Because the Dutch aren't terribly happy with pirates, particularly English ones, and they will hand him over to the authorities who will hang him.

Three hours later the ship is close enough that they could wade out and get there, but they are kind enough to send a small rowboat and two crewmen. "Spreek je Nederlands?" one asks.

Gilbert grimaces. "Plattdüütsch is fast Nedderlandsch, ja?" he tries.

They don't speak any English either. Perfect.

But once on the ship, they find a merchant who blessedly speaks English, Dutch, and German. Gilbert immediately latches onto this fellow, an attractive tall blond with green eyes and a forbidding temperament, and babbles on as he pleases. Arthur quickly interjects, introducing himself as Father Kirkland, a noble Anglican reverend who was tragically beset upon by thieves and robbers who stole his clothes. The German Priest, he adds, has been kind enough to share coverings to preserve his Saintly Modesty. He pulls out all the stops to convince them that he is in fact holy, terrified that Gilbert has already told him the truth, so eager to denounce a lover in the light of day, and forget all he did in the shame of yesterday’s evening, to return at once to his anointed life.

But in the end the merchant - a Mr van Dijk from Rotterdam - seems if not happy, then content to have them both aboard, for they are extra crewmen that don't need paying, and they won't be trouble. If Gilbert says anything untoward, nobody repeats it in English to Arthur. They say they could use someone in the kitchen, so Arthur volunteers on the pretence of making himself useful. A good place to plan his next move. Arthur's idea involves getting the crewmen drunk, for which he has to reduce how much food they get or provide the ale first. The kitchen is an ideal location.

It's in the kitchen where Arthur finds his old bosun working peeling potatoes. His bosun who followed Fraser. "Davies?" he asks.

"Kirkland!" says Davies. "How did -"

"You only left me three days ago," Arthur growls. "What're you doing here? That rotten Alistair's not about too, is he?"

"No," says Davies, "Cap'n Fraser got himself caught after he ran into a shallow sandbar with the Navy in hot pursuit."

Arthur laughs derisively. "Good. Glad to hear it."

"I'm not," says Davies, "it was awful nice of him to let us go first so we didn't run afoul of the Navy ourselves."

"Given that I was let go under slightly different circumstances you'll forgive me if I'm not too kind." Arthur gestures to Davies. "Well, what're we making then?"

They swap stories as they peel and prepare. Arthur tells Davies about his new holy friend and his cover, Davies tells him how he found his way to the Miskito coast and there met an understaffed Dutch trading expedition. Davies always was the one that cooked best out of them all on Arthur's ship, so he volunteered for kitchen duty in exchange for his passage. And there's no Dutch needed to deliver food to hungry crewmen, which is good, because besides English, Davies only speaks Welsh. He seems to like the crew decently, and he likes the merchants too, though he admits the tall one with the green eyes is awfully stingy. There are four merchants aboard, the rest are crewmen, and of those there are only eighteen, and that's counting the captain and his first mate. It's a small ship, but they're nevertheless understaffed.

Seamen do love their drink, thinks Arthur. He keeps the heat low that the food takes longer to cook, so that the men drink all their ale or rum rations first, on an empty stomach, and then remain nice and disorganised so Arthur can pick them off.

Besides, Davies is a lucky find, because Arthur knows he's always kept a pistol in his jacket pocket and a knife in his boot, both of which Arthur nicks when Davies' attention is properly diverted. Two knives and a pistol. That ought to even the odds a little.

--

Arthur takes supper together with the tall merchant - van Dijk - the captain, and Gilbert. The rest of the men eat in the mess and from the shrieks they can hear ship-wide they're having an awful lot of drunken fun. The other three merchants are ill with something, van Dijk says, he's not sure what. He is constantly translating back and forth English and German for Arthur and Gilbert, but if he minds, he doesn't let on; his face remains impenetrable and serious.

Finally they finish their food, and the captain drains his ale. He says something to van Dijk. "He expects we'll land in Port-au-Prince in two days," says van Dijk. Gilbert's ears prick up.

"Actually, if you wouldn't mind taking us to Nassau instead," says Arthur, interrupting van Dijk's German translation.

"Nassau?" asks van Dijk. "Why? That's in the wrong direction. And it's a lousy place for two holy men. Though I admire your ambition to convert such a lot -"

"Well, you see," says Arthur, and here he pulls out his gun and a knife - his own, it's the sharper one - "I could simply have the ship, steer it myself where I like, but I don't like to be so complicated." He levels the point of the blade at the captain, holding it with a gentle enough grip that he can throw it with a flick of the wrist, and points the pistol at van Dijk.

"Könntest mich nicht auf dem Laufenden halten, hm?" mutters Gilbert, giving Arthur a sour look.

"Oh, don't look at me like that," says Arthur pityingly. "You knew exactly what I was."

The captain has frozen, staring at the blade. He looks like at the least slack given in tension in the scene, the moment Arthur's attention wavers, he'll shout or run for his men, or for the weapon he should keep concealed upon his person, if he's a clever sailor. "Tell him not to bother," says Arthur to van Dijk. "His men are -" judging from the shrieks and groans and - come to think of it more than one person retching off the side of the ship - "incapacitated. I've seen to that."

"No holy man, I take it," growls van Dijk. He turns to Gilbert. "Und Sie? Auch Scharlatan?"

"Ich bin doch Pfarrer," says Gilbert, good-naturedly, and van Dijk settles back in his chair. Then Gilbert grins and brings out the hatchet, hefting it by the handle. "Aber kein Mensch Gottes." Van Dijk's eyes narrow at the sight of the blade and the captain starts. "Nicht bewegen," warns Gilbert, wagging a finger. "Keiner hier bewegt sich, oder er bekommt ein Beil in's Gesicht. Jetzt - du -" he points with the hatchet to van Dijk - "frag ihn -" he points with the hatchet now to Arthur - all gestures are done with the hatchet and Gilbert has never looked less saintly, which is saying something because Arthur has seen him begging and pleading in sexual congress - "warum er das macht."

Van Dijk huffs angrily. "He wants to know why you're doing this."

"Because I'm a pirate, and it's what I do, and he knows that well enough," says Arthur. "I need to get to the Bahamas to retrieve my ship. I'll need to stop for supplies at Nassau. I'm not asking much, you know, just to drop me off there." Arthur gestures with the butt end of the pistol to Gilbert. "Tell him he can keep on with you if he likes, I just want to get to my ship, nice-like, and I'm quite certain you'll all be much happier to see the back of me."

Van Dijk relays the answer in its entirety. "Wozu?" asks Gilbert, his tone wry. "Sag ihm, ich komme mit. Besser mit ihm als hier mit vier Handelsherrn, die keine Verwendung haben, für den schlechtesten Missionar der Welt. Du reist überall hin - du wirst mich mitnehmen." Gilbert pouts. "Komm schon, es ist nicht so als würde ich dir im Gegenzug nichts anbieten. Du weißt schon was."

Van Dijk looks apoplectic at this last, so whatever Gilbert's said it must be juicy. "Sie haben mit ihm geschlafen?"

"Nicht so viel geschlafen," says Gilbert, "wir waren anderweitig beschäftigt." He leans back in his chair, strokes the handle of the hatchet suggestively, and judging by the movement under the cassock, spreads his legs wide. Put simply, Gilbert doesn’t seem nearly as ashamed about the carnality of their encounter as Arthur would have thought. Not only is he not hiding it, he’s publicising it. Flaunting it in van Dijk’s face.

Van Dijk looks revolted. "Das ist widerlich," he grumbles.

"Das ist menschliche Natur," says Gilbert. "Und vergiss nicht, ich hab' hier 'ne Waffe." He waves the hatchet around for emphasis.

"So neither of you are holy men," says van Dijk.

What? Really? Arthur looks to Gilbert in surprise. Gilbert winks and smirks, then puckers his lips and blows him a kiss. Arthur is certain he is gaping but cannot get over his surprise. Has this been a long con? What and who is this man? Arthur has to know.

The captain says something in Dutch, but van Dijk isn't having any of it and retorts something. They have a quick conversation before Gilbert starts tapping his fingers on the hatchet head. "Ihr solltet auch wissen," he announces, pointing the hatchet at Arthur, "dass er euer Essen vergiftet hat."

At this the captain and van Dijk both pale. "What?" asks Arthur fruitlessly, "what have you told them now? What has he told you?"

"Es sei denn fahren wir nach Nassau. Wenn wir morgen in Nassau sind, dann bekommt ihr das Gegengift." Gilbert shrugs. "Einfach, Leute."

The captain throws up his hands and says something. Van Dijk sours as he listens. "He says fine, we'll take you to Nassau, even though it's completely out of the way and will cost us plenty -" the captain retorts something further that makes van Dijk even angrier. "He thinks it's not worth it to fight," van Dijk grunts. "He doesn't want to risk his men."

"He's right not to," says Arthur. "Then we're going?"

"As long as you provide the antidote!" shouts van Dijk.

"The what," says Arthur.

"Er hat nicht bemerkt, dass ich es genommen hab. Sag ihm - die dicken Gelzweige. Einen davon in die Suppe, das reicht um alles zu heilen." Gilbert smiles.

Arthur waits as van Dijk translates, and then he realises that Gilbert has made up a poison whose antidote is the aloe gel. Well, it won't kill anybody, but it won't taste good. "Certainly," says Arthur, playing along. "All the antidote you need, provided we get to Nassau in the morning."

Once the detour to Nassau is secured, Arthur tucks his knife back into his belt, under Gilbert's capelet, though he keeps one hand on the pistol. The captain heads to bed, claiming his belly is upset, but van Dijk remains at Gilbert's request, of all things.

"He wants to talk to you," says van Dijk. "I can't believe you two managed to plan something like this without a common language."

Neither can Arthur. Gilbert's more devious than he had anticipated. He suddenly wants to know more about Gilbert, especially since he's not apparently a priest? He has a thousand burning questions. "Ask him how he knew what I'd do," he tells van Dijk.

The answer is longer in German than in English; Arthur suspects van Dijk's patience is beginning to wear thin. "You're a pirate, he says," relays van Dijk. "He says you were undercover in his capelet, lest you be found out, which suggests we wouldn't be lenient with someone like you - which he's right about, of course, you blackguard! - and while he was schmoozing around with us he found we were heading to Port-au-Prince, which is away from the English territories, so he guessed the moment you knew where we were heading, you would want to turn around and would do anything to achieve such an end."

"But that doesn't explain the poison," Arthur points out. Van Dijk frowns, agreeing, and confers with Gilbert. Gilbert's laughing as he replies, and van Dijk looks annoyed.

"He said you put yourself in the kitchen, and he's never met a Brit who could cook," says van Dijk. Gilbert has the smile of the cat who's got the cream. "I hate you both, by the way," says van Dijk. "I'm going to bed."

"Who's going to translate, then?" asks Arthur.

"You can figure that out yourself!" snaps van Dijk as he leaves.

So he and Gilbert are left alone, the remnants of dinner on the table, plus a hatchet and a pistol. Gilbert eyes him warily.

"I didn't mean to lie to you," says Arthur. "I don't think I did, nearly as much as you've lied to me. But we need to get to Nassau."

"Nach Nassau," repeats Gilbert. "Das wäre gut. Aber ich komme mit. Ist das klar? Ist das in Ordnung? Stimmst du zu?"

Arthur understands only the first portion of this. At his perplexed expression, Gilbert points his left hand to his chest, his right to Arthur, then acts it out with his fingers on the table, two little men walking together. He wants to come with.

Absolutely, thinks Arthur.

"Let's agree," he says, "to run a two-man con." Gilbert doesn't understand this, so Arthur points to himself and Gilbert in succession, then clasps his hands together in what he hopes conveys cooperation. Or perhaps romance. Perhaps both. "We'll meet each other halfway?"

"Ja, ich glaube ich verstehe," says Gilbert. "Aber wie können wir uns verstehen?"

Maybe they'll find a translator in Nassau who wants some adventure. "We'll sleep on it, says Arthur, with a rakish grin, planning on doing very little actual sleeping. Gilbert mirrors his grin. "It'll all be clearer in the morning."