There was a chill as Flint walked alone to the beach, a fog hanging heavy in the morning air. The sand was stained still with blood, and the smell of rot still lingered, though the bodies had been long taken care of.
He gazed out into the ocean. Soon, they would no longer be alone on the island of reluctant allies, and he was powerless to do anything about it. There were only two outcomes: they live or they die.
Flint had every intention of living.
Do you truly believe that?
Through the fog, a figure formed in the shallows. Miranda stood clear as day, and pale as the moon, the bottom half of her grey dress soaked through. The only darkness was in her eyes and the bead of blood running down her forehead.
Do you want to live?
Her voice rang over the water and through the trees. He could feel her in the sand and the air. She was the breath on the back of his neck and the chill in his bones. He took a step toward her, his boots sinking into the sand as he approached the water.
"I know I do not want to die," Flint said to the specter of Miranda.
She held her hand out to him, and he walked closer to her, now wading into the cold ocean, but he stayed out of her reach. "Come with me," she said, moving her lips this time.
Flint shook his head. "You did not want this for me."
"I did not want war for you, though I knew I could not stop it." Miranda's mouth grew long, her face somehow distorted, shrinking away to the skull beneath the skin. "I want peace for you. We want you to be at peace."
From behind her, another figure formed. Thomas was pale like Miranda, wearing a thin white shirt, opened around the neck, and tight-fitting trousers. He looked just the way Flint remembered him. In a word, he was beautiful.
"No," Flint whispered. "I do not believe it."
"James, you can end your suffering now. Come with us. It's only a moment beneath the water." Thomas took a step forward, but that only made Flint step back onto the beach.
"You are not the spirits of the Hamiltons," Flint said. The chill was fading into hot anger. How dare these wretched ghosts taunt him with the faces of his greatest love? "You may have sought to live in peace, but not for me to die in it."
"James," Thomas said again. "Touch me. I am real."
Everything inside of Flint told him to walk away, and yet his feet took him forward into the surf. He stretched out his hand and grasped Thomas by the wrist. He was as solid as Flint remembered him, and he drew Thomas closer. His anger dissipated just as quickly as it had come upon him.
"I've missed you every day," Flint whispered as he wrapped an arm around Thomas' waist and pressed their bodies together. Behind them, Miranda's ghostly face seemed to smile.
"I've been with you," Thomas replied, and without another word, he pushed his pale mouth against Flint's. He was cold, but he was real. He was everything Flint remembered and more.
Flint rested his forehead to Thomas' and breathed deeply. There was no scent but the ocean, and Thomas did not breathe with him.
"Follow me," Thomas said. "Be with us again."
"I have always followed where you led," Flint said. He lifted his head and looked back at Miranda. Her face was has disappeared into only a skull with hollow, black eyes, but she nodded and it was a comfort. "I should not go, but..."
"It's only a moment beneath the water," Thomas said.
"And would you die for nothing?" asked a new voice, as a knife slid into Flint's back. There was no pain, but he could feel the warmth of his blood soaking through his shirt.
Flint turned around and there stood Charles Vane. His hand was bloodied, and the bruises around his neck were dark against his pale skin.
"I died for this cause and you've spat on my grave. You've failed every pirate who made port at Nassau, and you failed them." Vane thrust a dismissive hand toward the Hamiltons. "You died for nothing."
Falling back into the water, Flint grew cold. He opened his mouth, but he had no words. He had no defense. Miranda and Thomas stood over him, both of their faces now turned to bone.
"It's only a moment beneath the water," they said in slow unison. Thomas leaned down to lay his bony hand over Flint's mouth and pushed him beneath the surface.
He started awake, stretched out on the beach. Above him was Silver, crouched down uncomfortably and he appeared somewhat concerned.
"For a moment I thought you were dead," Silver said, his tone offhand, or perhaps relieved.
"For a moment, so did I," Flint replied, the dream still fresh in his mind.
Silver held out his hand. "You're late for the meeting. We don't have much time left."
Flint took his hand and allowed Silver to help him to his feet. He took one last look back into the ocean. The morning sun had burned off the haze, and if he'd been asked, he could have sworn he saw three faint figures in the shallows.