Jared found it profoundly disappointing that being a fearsome pirate didn't automatically exempt one from such unfortunate things as falling in love.
"It doesn't make sense!" he complained to Chad, on a sunny afternoon when Jared should have been climbing all over the rigging with his crew instead of sitting inside his cabin having a sulk. "I'm a pirate! A pirate captain, even! Scourge of the seas! I steal things! I kill people! I can't fall in love!"
Chad gave him a narrow-eyed look that seemed to say, this isn't worth my time, you skirt-wearing swab.
"And it's not like I can just go up to him and be all, 'I'm in love with you'," Jared continued sadly. "I mean, I'm his boss, kind of. And he's well, Jensen. He'd probably throw me overboard or something." Jared paused and looked at Chad. "Are you even listening?"
Chad continued to glare at him.
"Some help you are," Jared muttered.
Someone rapped on the door. "Captain?" Jensen's voice asked.
"Come on in!" Jared called back and turned to watch the door swing open.
"Are you talking to the parrot again?" Jensen asked, wearing the faint little smile that said he was refusing to be amused. Jared's stomach, traitor that it was, twisted at the sight of it.
"Parrots need love too," Jared said, throwing a dramatic arm around Chad.
Chad squawked indignantly and flew off with a rustle of feathers to find somewhere else to sit. Stupid parrot.
"I'm not sure Chad agrees," Jensen said dryly.
Jared sniffed. "He'll be back."
"Well, while you're waiting for your feathered soul mate to forgive you, you might like to know that there's been a ship sighted off the port bow."
Jared straightened. "What colours is it flying?"
"Spanish," Jensen said, and rolled his eyes when Jared gave an exultant whoop. "Do I need to ask what your orders are?"
"Follow in pursuit!" Jared declared immediately. "Run up the flag! Prepare the cannons! Tell the men to get ready to kill stuff!"
"Right away, Captain."
"Jared," Jared corrected, just like always.
"Whatever you say, Captain," Jensen said, also just like always. He turned to go, but glanced back with a raised eyebrow when Jared half tripped over himself in his scramble to chase after him. "You know, running won't get us to them any sooner."
"But it will inspire the crew! And you know how much I love the chasing part!"
"I'm pretty sure the whole world knows that," Jensen said, almost fondly.
Which made Jared despair, just a little bit, because that was damn true.
The thing was, Jared was seriously not subtle. Subtle was for people who didn't command crews by the combined efforts of charisma, mutual respect and more than passing skill with a cutlass. Subtle was probably also for people who didn't want their fearsome pirate reputations tarnished by them mooning all over their first mate, but Jared had never much cared for common sense.
It was actually part of his reputation, now: Captain Jared was fearless, deadly and hopelessly in love with his first mate. Who hadn't noticed at all.
Once, some members of Jared's crew who'd had money riding on it had tried to let Jensen in on the not-secret. Jared had put a stop to that by stringing them all from the rigging by their ankles (he'd felt kind of bad about afterwards but, really, they should have seen it coming. There was no excusing that sort of behaviour).
And Jared liked to think that, in a different situation, he would have done something about long before it got to this point. He wasn’t really in the practice of being in love but hadn't got where he was by being timid and it wasn't as though men sharing quarters at sea was quite as scandalous as they made it out to be back in England. But with Jensen, he just couldn't press the issue.
Part of the problem, Jared figured, was the fact that Jensen was just so good at being a first mate. He could fight and plunder with the best of them and, to Jared's considerable advantage, was also sober, methodical and virtually unflappable no matter what idiocy Jared got them into. Jared knew down to his bones that, if Jensen ever left, he'd be captaining his own ship inside a month and terrorizing the Spanish Main like a veteran. Jared actually had very little idea why Jensen hadn't already jumped ship, but he was determined not to give him any reason to want to if he hadn't found one on his own yet.
Which made it kind of hard to justify carrying him off and ravishing him for a bit. Which was a damn shame.
Perhaps the best indicator of just how notorious Jared's infatuation with Jensen had become came in the form of a bar fight in Tortuga a couple years after Jared had taken over command of The Sadie.
Jared and crew had just finished busting the place up after a satisfying drunken brawl and Jared was slumped back against an overturned table, laughing at nothing at all. Jensen appeared out of the slowing settling chaos and leaned against the table at his side.
"Hi!" Jared greeted brightly, because Jensen, like most things, only improved with the additional of alcohol.
"So," Jensen said, as calm as ever despite the rum dripping from the ends of his hair, the slowly deepening bruise on his cheek and the drying blood across his knuckles. Jared admired the view, figuring it was his prerogative as a pirate to find a roughed up Jensen undeniably attractive. "What was all that about?"
Jared thought about it. It was a difficult undertaking. "That guy over there was trying to cheat me," he decided, waving a hand in the direction of a portly man sprawled out flat on the bar top.
Jensen looked over. "That's the barkeep, Captain."
"Exactly!" Jared blinked muzzily at Jensen. "You okay?"
"I'm less bruised and less drunk than you, if that's what you mean."
"Good," Jared said. "You have fun?"
That earned him the wolfish sort of smile that only ever appeared when Jensen was covered in somebody's blood. Not infrequently his own. "Yes, Captain."
Jared beamed at him. "Good."
The table creaked as Jensen straightened, ruffling a hand through his still-dripping hair and sending a scatter of glass pattering to the floor. Jared couldn't help but think that hitting someone over the head with a bottle seemed like a tragic waste of rum, no matter how nicely Jensen's hair spiked when it was wet.
"I'm for bed. Enjoy the rest of your night, Captain," Jensen said, then headed off. Jared watched his backside as he went, because a) he was very drunk and b) he'd given up on discretion years ago.
Someone plopped down on the ground at Jared's side and Jared turned regretfully away from Jensen's posterior to take a look.
"So," said a pirate in a tattered coat that might have been green once. He gestured after Jensen. "How are things with you and that first mate of yours?"
Jared blinked. "Um," he said, "Do I know you?"
"Nope," the pirate said easily. "Heard of you though."
"Oh. Okay then." Jared glanced back around the room, looking for Jensen, but he'd already gone. Jared's shoulders slumped. "Not good," he admitted. "Really not good."
"Sorry to hear it," the pirate said. He clapped Jared on the shoulder. "Come on, I'll buy you a drink."
"I think I might have killed the barkeep," Jared admitted, pointing.
The pirate shrugged. "S'never stopped me before."
Jared's first meeting with Jensen happened at sword point. Not an unusual way for a pirate to make friends, all things considered.
Jared was first mate on The Sadie at the time, and looking to step into the captain's shoes before the year was out. Jensen was one of the men who'd signed on to the crew when they made port at Fort Caroline, and had already been building a reputation for being a calm, dangerously collected sort of man.
A sword fight was the traditional way to welcome new recruits and, since Jared was generally acknowledged as the best swordsman on board, he was the one who got to do the honours of showing them all up.
Jared had laid out three men by the time Jensen's turn came around, garnering a collection of cuts and scrapes in the process that were hardly worth the effort it took to wipe the blood away. Jensen stepped calmly into the loose circle the crew had made and Jared offered him a smile that wasn't returned, then graciously allowed Jensen the opportunity for the first strike.
It was clear right from the start that Jensen was a force to be reckoned with: not quite as good as Jared, perhaps, but adaptable, quick and ruthlessly efficient. Jared found himself grinning as they traded back and forth across the deck, already thinking about the kind of havoc they were going to bring upon the next ship they pillaged.
Inevitably, Jensen overextended on one of his parries and Jared took advantage of the opening with a single, neat twist of his blade. Jensen wound up splayed across the deck with Jared's sword digging into his neck just below the Adam's Apple. He stared up at Jared, wild-eyed and breathing hard.
"Do you yield?" Jared asked, pressing the blade just a little harder against fragile skin.
When Jensen nodded it was enough to draw blood, a drop of red that gleamed along the edge of Jared's cutlass. Satisfied, Jared dropped his guard, letting the aggression melt out of his spine.
He'd no sooner eased the tension in his arm than Jensen was blurring into motion, one leg sweeping out to knock Jared off balance while the rest of him surged up and forced Jared bodily to the ground.
Jared's back hit the deck with a teeth-rattling thud and he just barely registered the collective mutterings of the crew before Jensen pressed in close, his weight holding Jared's body hostage and a deadly little dagger laying flat against Jared's cheek.
"You show mercy too easily," Jensen said, somehow managing to be calm and feral all at once. His wrist twitched and a line of pain snaked down Jared's face.
Jared looked back at him evenly, no more afraid of the blade he was under than he was of a stormy sky before the rain. "Well," he said, and grinned. "It looks like that's what I've got you for."
Jensen's face blanked with shock for a long moment before a reluctant grin curved the corners of his mouth. "Apparently so," he said finally, and shifted back to give Jared room to stand.
And right there and then, that was when Jared knew they were going to be fantastic together.
As a general rule, Jared tried to avoid getting stabbed.
Not only did it have the potential to hurt rather a lot but it was also damn embarrassing to get caught bleeding all over the deck in front of his men.
Also, him getting stabbed tended to make Jensen even more terrifying than usual.
"Ow," Jared said, as a lucky swing from a sailor's cutlass scored a wide gash in his left arm. The sailor jerked the blade free and Jared resisted the urge to hiss at the scraping drag-catch of torn skin against the edge.
The sailor looked somewhere between smug and desperate as he reset his guard, Jared's blood gleaming wetly on his sword.
Jared offered him a sharp smile. "You're going to regret that."
He shook his wounded arm to rid himself of the lingering numbness but he'd hardly raised his own sword before a solid half-foot of tempered steel erupted through the middle of the man's chest. The sailor's eyes went wide as blood frothed up between his lips and he went limp, sword hilt falling from his suddenly nerveless fingers.
Jared made a face.
"I wanted to do that," he protested as Jensen shoved the twitching body off his sword without care for the blood that spattered across his leather jerkin.
The glare that Jensen gave him had sent lesser men diving overboard on more than one occasion. "Should have thought of that before you let him cut you."
"It's nothing," Jared tried, but Jensen was having none of it.
A flash of Jensen's sword tore a gash in Jared's sleeve wide enough for Jensen to fit both hands in and yank; he tore the entire sleeve off and Jared winced as the blood-heavy fabric pulled away from the wound. The skin around Jensen's eyes tightened. Definitely not happy, then.
"Sword fight," Jared reminded him, as Jensen cut off a ragged strip from the relatively un-bloodied end of the sleeve. "Not the best time for this."
"Deal with it," Jensen said shortly. He started winding the fabric around Jared's bicep, tight enough to make Jared's hand tingle. Jared stood patiently, watching the trade of the fight back and forth across the deck and trying to ignore the warmth of Jensen's knuckles against his skin.
A wild-eyed sailor lunged towards Jensen's unprotected back and Jared pivoted them both neatly out of the way with a roll of his hip and a hand on Jensen's shoulder. The sailor stumbled, momentum working against him, and a single swing of Jared's sword sent the man sprawling to the ground with a severed hamstring, positively howling in agony.
"Hold still," Jensen said through gritted teeth.
"Sorry," Jared said. "I'll let him stab you next time."
"No, you won't." Jensen pulled the knot tight and straightened. "You're going back to the ship."
"What? No, I'm not."
"Jensen. It's fine. The fight's nearly over anyway." Jared gestured around them at the greatly diminished melee.
Jensen continued to look murderous.
Jared sighed. "Look, we'll go find the captain and make him surrender, okay?"
"Only if you go straight back to the ship after so Jim can sew you back together."
"I can work with that." Jared bent and hauled the bleeding sailor up off the deck. "What's your captain look like?"
"I-" the man managed, hiccupping around the pain. "R-red beard. Long coat. Blue."
"Thanks." Jared let him thud back down and glanced at Jensen. "You coming?"
"Of course." Jensen stepped right up next to him, his eyes keener and far more deadly than the blood-slicked sword in his hand. "You get hurt again and I swear to Heaven I'll kill you myself, Captain."
Jared nodded. "That's fair. Let's go."
Three days later, they sailed into Port Royal to offload some of their spoils and spend a few days celebrating in traditional rowdy, drunken fashion.
Jared was particularly looking forward to the second part, but business came first. Luckily, in Port Royal that meant haggling with Jeff Morgan, which was always entertaining.
Jeff was by far Jared's favourite tradesman to deal with when it came to illegally acquired goods. He had a gruff, easy manner and knew well enough not to try cheating Jared too outrageously. He also got on well with Jensen, even though Jensen had tried to kill him the first time they'd met.
Personally, Jared thought that that was actually part of the reason Jeff liked him.
"Surprised to see you here on your own," Jeff said, after they'd finished the tedious part of the meeting. "Where's your first mate got to?"
"The cobbler's," Jared answered. He made a face. "Apparently I need new boots."
Jeff looked amused. "You're lucky to have that boy. The Lord knows you can't look after yourself." He gestured to where Jared's arm was strapped to his chest with a sturdy leather thong. "He kill the guy who did that for you too?"
"Go keelhaul yourself," Jared muttered, which made Jeff chuckle.
"I'll take that as a yes. Speaking of Jensen," he said then, in a voice that was nowhere even close to casual. "How are things between you two?"
Jared gave him a woebegone look.
"That bad huh?"
"Worse," Jared said miserably. "I don't know how much longer I can handle this."
"You could tell him," Jeff suggested.
"Yes, I could," Jared agreed.
Jeff gave him a narrow look. "That wasn't a question."
Jared shrugged. "And I didn't give you an answer."
That made Jeff sigh. "You know, Jared, you really can't carry on like this. You're ruining yourself. And it's not fair to Jensen, either."
"What? How exactly is me being in love with him not fair to Jensen?"
Jeff huffed out a frustrated breath. "You ever wonder why Jensen's still part of your crew when he could have found his own way a hundred times over by now?"
"Well, yeah," Jared said. "Of course. What does that have to do with anything?"
"I suggest you wonder about it a little harder." Jeff's expression was deadly serious. "You might just learn something."
So Jared wondered about it. A lot. It wasn't a particularly productive endeavour.
Two weeks after they'd left Port Royal, Jared was no closer to an answer than he'd ever been and it was driving him mad. He'd given up on sleep in the small hours of the night and escaped to the deck in nothing but his shirt and slops, trying to find somewhere he could just breathe without thoughts of Jensen swirling all around him.
He was leaning against the railing near the forecastle, staring out at the wine-dark water, when he heard the unmistakable tread of Jensen's steps behind him and had to suppress a sigh. Sometimes an attentive first mate was more curse than blessing.
"Captain?" Jensen asked, his voice drifting softly on the sea air cutting across Jared's face. "Is something the matter?"
Jared considered and discarded several possible responses to that. "Not really," he said finally. "Go back to bed, Jensen. I'm fine here."
"Somehow, I doubt that." The deck groaned under Jensen's feet as he drew closer and Jared bit the inside of his cheek, resisting the urge to turn. Jensen leaned on the railing beside him. "You've been out of sorts since we left port."
"Only since then?" Jared asked, mouth ahead of his brain as usual.
He felt rather than saw Jensen's frown. "What are you talking about?"
"Nothing important," Jared said. He sighed. "Why are you still here, Jensen?"
"Because you're thinking loud enough to interrupt my sleep and the Almighty knows you need someone looking after your wellbeing."
"No, I mean-" Jared made a gesture with his uninjured arm meant to encompass the ship, the sea and everything beyond. "Here. On this ship. Being my first mate."
"My answer still stands, Captain," Jensen said, with a sort of stiffness to his voice that Jared hadn't heard before.
"You could do well for yourself, you know," Jared said. He was impressed with how close to conversational he sounded. "Captaining your own ship. Terror of the seas and all that."
"I'm not interested," Jensen said shortly. "Or is this your way of saying you want me gone?"
"Not at all," Jared said. "I just figure it can't be easy for you, working under a captain who's in love with you."
Jensen went completely still.
"Everyone in the Spanish Main knows," Jared said, unable to stop the words now that they'd started and unsure he wanted to, besides. "You're probably getting sick of trying to pretend it doesn't bother you. And it's not fair of me to expect you to keep doing it. So I wanted-" Jared sighed. "I wanted to let you know that I won't blame you if you want to go. I'll even help you find a ship, if you like. Though I'd rather you didn't steal too many members of the crew; I'm kind of fond of them. And I'm keeping Chad."
Jensen said nothing for a long moment and Jared kept his eyes firmly fixed on the inky blackness that would be the horizon when the sun awoke in a few hours time.
When Jensen finally did speak, it was with the same quiet, implacable dignity that made him such an indispensable first mate. "With all due respect, Captain, you're an idiot."
Jared waved an aimless hand at him. "I'm aware of that, thank you, Jensen."
Jensen huffed. "Jared," he said, for the first time ever, and Jared jerked his head around fast enough to give himself whiplash.
"Jensen?" His voice came out small and uncertain like Jared never was.
It earned him a smile he'd never seen before: soft and openly fond, with a hint of exasperation tucked around the edges.
"You're an idiot," Jensen said again, stepping in close enough that the buckle on Jared's baldric clinked dully against the heavy pendant hung around Jensen's neck. "Because you should have said something earlier."
Then Jensen's hand brushed the side of Jared's face and Jared's breath caught as Jensen kissed him, his chapped lips shockingly warm in the chill night air. Jared 's shock passed quickly and he mustered enough of himself to kiss back, enjoying the sensation of stubble tickling his wind-burned cheeks.
Then sense pushed its way to the front of his mind and he pulled himself away with an effort. "Jensen, what are you doing?"
Jensen rolled his eyes in a wonderfully familiar way. "Well I was kissing you, before you interrupted."
"No, I mean... why?"
The look Jensen gave him was entirely Chad-worthy in its you have no brain at all, do you? quality. "Because I've wanted to ever since I had a knife to your throat and you smiled at me."
"Are you serious?" Jared demanded. "Why didn't you say something, then?"
"You're my captain," Jensen said patiently. "That's not my place."
Jared stared at him. "You're a pirate! Since when do we care about what's appropriate?"
Jensen hummed thoughtfully. "A good point. In that case, I suggest we make up for lost time." He leaned in again with a wicked smile that made Jared's blood flame. "Care to show me to your quarters, Captain?"
"In a minute," Jared managed, and bent down for another kiss. One minute turned into several and then a few more and if there was something inappropriate in sucking Jensen off on deck in the middle of the night, well then Jared was even more grateful to be a pirate than ever.
Even if it meant giving Chris a free show from up in the crow's nest.
Timestamp: Mug Shots