James Flint is engaged in an interesting and in-depth debate with Eleanor Guthrie that involves no death threats and very little shouting, and therefore is the most comfortable he has felt in the last three weeks, when a bottle breaks loudly against the wood of the closed door, causing them both to jump.
“Fucking Christ.” says Eleanor, a font of eloquence, as always.
“Should we -” starts James, already halfway out of his seat.
“I’m sure my man will stop it.” says Eleanor, waving her hand in dismissal. James folds back into his chair and hears the wicker of the seat creak under him. He shifts his weight a few times to try and find a place in which he won’t make noise every time he so much as breathes, and he fails. Eleanor watches him with a raised eyebrow that is her equivalent of laughter so boisterous she would have trouble breathing.
“Fuck off.” he says, under his breath, and runs his hands down the front of his coat so that the leather sits smooth and even. Eleanor huffs out a laugh, a sound that almost seems punched out of her, and then schools her face back into something more demure. Not that Eleanor was ever really capable of reaching demure. Miranda struggled with demure too - maybe that was a trend James ought to examine more closely the next time he had longer than ten minutes to himself.
There’s a louder thump against the door, followed by the recognizable sound of wood splintering, and James is on his feet instantly, covering the ground to the door in two strides and wrenching it open. The main room of the tavern is utter pandemonium, and he just stands for a moment, taking it in. Eleanor steps up so that they are even with each other on the small step that separates her office from the tavern floor, and she joins him in gawking for just a breath, before raising her hands to her mouth and whistling, loud and long and high-pitched.
The room freezes.
“What the fuck is going on here?” demands Eleanor, hands shooting up to plant themselves on her hips with enough enthusiasm her keys jangle on their ring.
John Silver, currently suspended against the wall by virtue of Charles Vane’s two-handed grip on the front of his shirt, wets his lips.
“There better be a good explanation for this, Mister Silver.” says James, voice even but threateningly low. Silver’s eyes visibly darken, and his feet strive a little harder to be reunited with the floor.
“Well, you see,” starts Silver, already beginning to spout his typical bullshit.
“You’re trying to poach my crew.” says Vane, directly to James.
“I am doing nothing of the sort.” says James, deliberately widening his eyes in faux-innocence, the way he used to in order to startle a laugh out of Thomas. It doesn’t get a laugh here, just Eleanor rolling her eyes and something that might be a flush creeping up Vane’s cheeks. Good to know that works on him - James has no real aspirations to sleep with him again, but any point of advantage is a good point of advantage.
“Your crew is, then.” says Vane, and that’s definitely a flush. Well, at least James is startlingly memorable and still attractive. That’s good to know.
“And what, precisely, brought this on, Mister Silver?”
“What makes you think I was behind it?” demands Silver, grumpily. He folds his arms over his chest, under Vane’s grip but above the point at which he actually started fastening the buttons on his shirt. His feet are still a good inch and a half off the floor.
“Are you telling me there was a fight motivated by talk and you were not the person doing the talking?” says Flint, letting one eyebrow drift up towards his hairline.
Silver squints up at the rafters for a second, plainly contemplating the idea.
“I suppose.” he says, at length.
Joji scoffs, from where he’s got two of Vane’s men pinned against a table with the broken end of a bottle and his sword.
“And what did you say?” James presses.
“Logan’s Charlotte, up a the brothel, told him that Anne Bonny is fucking Max now.” says Silver.
“It’s true!” calls Logan, from where one of Vane’s men has him held face down against the wood of the bar. There’s a line of bottles along the wood that James is sure Logan is a wrong word away from having his nose introduced to.
“And if it is true, then we have a certain offer to extend to her.” Silver finishes, and manages to shrug while still being held between a wall and the hard lines of Vane’s chest.
“And did you?” says James, already feeling the special kind of headache only John Silver could induce throbbing against his temples.
“No.” says Silver. “We were merely debating how we might go about doing it.”
“Bull-fucking-shit you were.” says Vane, and hoists Silver a little further up the wall. Silver makes a noise that is somewhere between frustrated and hopelessly turned on, and James catalogues his response away for the next time he gets Silver alone in his cabin, and then mentally slaps himself for thinking that such a course of action was a good idea.
He’s not going to fuck Silver again.
He’s not. Really.
Shut up, internal monologue that sounds an awful lot like Thomas when he was persuading James to do all kinds of filthy things in the bedroom.
“We were! The debate just got somewhat heated.”
“And that’s why one of your men was yelling, then?” says Vane, plainly not believing a word he’s hearing.
“We had some disagreements about how to best approach Miss Bonny.” says Silver. “As a result, Mister Dooley yelled a possible approach, right as there was a lull in conversation, and as Miss Bonny happened to enter the tavern.”
“So it was all a coincidence?” asks Eleanor. She sounds skeptical. James elbows her in the side and takes the opportunity to hiss a reminder that she vouched for Silver, once, and therefore this is all her fault.
“Yes.” says Silver, pleased. James gets the impression from his tone that if he were to start stroking Silver’s hair while he was in this sort of mood, the man might purr.
“It was a coincidence that your man yelled ‘hey, we hear you fuck women now, want to join our crew’ right as Anne walked in?” says Charles.
Silver nods, a bright and overly charming grin on his face.
James pinches the bridge of his nose and squeezes his eyes tight closed, and hopes that when he opens them, John Silver will have evaporated into a cloud of infuriating and infuriatingly attractive smoke, and all James’ problems will have disappeared.
There’s a thump, and James opens his eyes. Silver is gone, in fact, vanished from James’ eyeline. James inhales in preparation for a sigh of relief, ready to pray for the first time in years.
“Fuck you.” says Silver, from the floor at Vane’s feet, where, upon closer examination, it appears he has been unceremoniously dropped.
James’ exhale is one of disbelieving annoyance.
“Only if you ask nice.” says Vane.
“That’s not what I remember.” says James, and then fixes his surprised gaze on a spot about three inches in front of his own nose. What on earth had possessed him to say something like that?
Muldoon gasps, and Logan lets out a long and distorted ‘o’ vowel sound. Dooley throws his head back and cackles. Joji preens.
“What?” says Silver, breathless for reasons James doesn’t want to examine too closely.
“What?” hisses Eleanor, suddenly very loud in James’ ear, and pressed far further into James’ personal space than she used to be.
“Oh, fuck.” says James.
“That’s what got us into this mess in the first place.” says Vane.
“You did what?” Eleanor says again. There’s a look in her eyes that is almost manic, and James is painfully aware of the fact that she has just discovered that the man she considers to be like a father to her has, in some indistinct past, fucked the man she herself is currently fucking.
James looks at Vane. Vane looks at James. Someone on the step is breathing hard, and it’s not actually James.
“Perhaps, Captain,” says Silver, now coiled in a crouch with one hand braced against the straw-dusted planks of the floor, “we ought to take our leave now?”
James doesn’t dignify that with a response, mostly because Charles Vane has grabbed him by the wrist and is towing him out of Eleanor Guthrie’s establishment at something approaching a jog.
“GET BACK HERE AND EXPLAIN YOURSELVES!” Eleanor roars from behind them, and Nassau’s two most feared Captains break into a flat-out sprint for the beach, with their crews following at the same kind of pace.
There is a ten minute recess after they have safely arrived at the beach before the subject of Anne’s recruitment to the crew of the Walrus emerges from the collective labored breathing of the two crews as the main point of conversation.
“Why the fuck would that be a reasoning?” Vane says.
James looks up at him from where he’s still braced against his own knees, eyebrows up and jaw slack.
“You don’t know?” he says.
“Don’t know what?” huffs Vane. He sounds the same after the short sprint as he did after a good fuck, and James is now the one fighting to keep a flush from his face.
“We’ve got a rather specific recruitment plan.” says James. “We only take crew who fuck people of their own gender.”
“Huh.” says Vane.
There are several moments of silence, punctuated only by heaving breathing, during which James heaves in enough air to stand back up.
“So you thought you’d ask Anne, in case she was interested?” says Vane.
“We’d have asked you too, if you weren’t a captain in your own right.” says Dooley, who hasn’t even bothered with staying on his feet and is flat on his back in the sand. “After the Captain came back wearing your shirt and your marks on his collarbone.”
James smiles a little at the flustered look on Vane’s face, and stretches his arms above his head.
“Well, Miss Bonny?” James says. “Have you had enough time to give the offer a cursory thought?”
Vane actually flinches at the mention of Anne, as though he had forgotten that she was there and would have her own opinion. Anne, the only one of them not out of breath, is leaning casually against the trunk of one of the beach’s few trees, coat and hair fluttering in the salt breeze.
The men of the Walrus all breathe in together.
“Nah.” says Anne. “I gotta stay with Jack.”
The crew of the Walrus breathe out again.
“Maybe later, for a raid?” she asks, peering up at James from under the brim of her hat. James grins back.
“I would greatly enjoy that, Miss Bonny.” he says.
“Anne.” she says, firmly.
“Anne.” says James, inclining his head in acceptance.
She smiles again, all teeth and hardness.
“Oh, fuck.” says Vane, quietly.
“This seems like it was, in retrospect, a terrible idea.” says Silver.
“We’re all going to die.” says Dooley.
There’s the sound of someone trudging through sand, but James doesn’t want to look away from Anne to see who it is.
“What did I miss?” asks Billy.
“We’re all going to die.” Dooley says, again. He sounds more hysterical on this repetition than he did on the first, which is impressive. James had thought he’d started out far to strong and had left no room for crescendo, and yet here they were.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” says Billy.
“No, we are.” says Logan.
“The Captain and Anne Bonny like each other.” hisses Muldoon.
The waves break on the shore. The wind rushes through the branches and the canvas of the tents. In the distance, a bottle breaks on stone and the muffled shouts of Eleanor Guthrie are still audible.
“Fuck.” says Billy Bones, and James and Anne both grin in a way that shows all their teeth and less happiness than the usual definition of the expression would suggest.