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Bad at love

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For the first time in what felt like years, but was likely actually closer to weeks, Silver joined the rest of the crew ashore.

They'd successfully completed both a hunt and the first of what Silver believed would become many raids. The captain's bloodlust was sated, the men's pockets were a little heavier then they'd been (albeit not with Urca gold), and Silver's recurrent fever had finally relinquished its hold over him. With Howell's grudging consent, and several hours' practice on the iron leg in the captain's cabin while Flint was on deck, Silver made it into the first launch heading towards Nassau.

Ashore, the men made their raucous way towards the brothel as Silver labored behind. Billy, caught up by a ring of men who slapped him on the back (or, if they were taller, on the shoulder) and who swore that they were finally going to get him laid, spared him a backwards glance. Silver shook his head, his lengthening curls flicking this and that way across his face. He was the quartermaster now: even though each step forward on the sandy terrain was a struggle, he needed to make each on his own.

Muldoon fell in beside him as Silver lagged behind the rest of the crowd; he didn't try to help Silver or make any comment about his condition, so for that, Silver didn't snap at him.

"It's good to be home, ain't it?" was all Muldoon said.

Muldoon's hand had gripped his even after Silver had passed out on Howell's operating table. He knew that, because when he stirred for a moment after they'd cauterized the wound, Muldoon had still been standing there, holding his hand.

Home. Nassau. These men. The Walrus. As much a home as he'd ever have, now.

"Yes," Silver answered, tasting bile, "it certainly is."

By the time they caught up to the rest of the crew, the men were already ranged around a table in the brothel, passing a bottle back and forth amongst themselves and joking about how pissed or laid they would be by the end of the night (or both). The conversation roared to life around him as he sat down at the table in between Billy and Muldoon. More of the crew straggled in. Silver found he had little energy to converse with any of them, but accepted a drink when it was offered.

The truth was that drink didn't numb the pain in his leg as much as he'd hoped it would. He spent a few moments staring into the bottom of his empty tankard before his reverie was interrupted.

"What's eatin' you, Silver?" Dobbs asked. He leaned in close, reeking of alcohol; despite having being drinking himself, Silver nearly recoiled. "You want us to get you a girl? We could all chip in. Least we can do for our new quartermaster."

A chorus of cheers went up from The Walrus's crew. Silver offered a tight smile.

"As pleasant an experience as I'm sure that would be" - another round of cheers went up, and God, but there were times he felt his skills as an elocutionist were absolutely wasted on these men - "I'll politely decline. I'm here to see all of you sad fucks off."

"You sure? 'Cause if you're in the mood to get your dick wet - "

"Stuff it, Dobbs," Billy said. "You heard Mr. Silver."

Sometimes, Billy wasn't too bad.

The men slowly departed the table, leaving Silver to sulk over how much extra he'd have to pay here if a fuck was really what he was after. He hadn't quite made up his mind in that regard, but he found himself massaging his left leg, just below the knee. The leg presented all kinds of problems, besides making him unattractive, and he didn’t want the embarrassment of being turned down in front of the crew.

Soon, it was only Silver, Muldoon, and Billy left at the table.

"I'm turning in," Billy said, standing and stretching. "You coming, Silver?"

"I think I'll stay." Silver slouched down his chair as the other two turned to look at him. He shrugged. "Have another drink or two."

Billy's mouth opened.

"I'm stayin'," Muldoon cut in. Some invisible understanding was traded between Muldoon and Billy, because they looked at one another and after a moment, Billy nodded.

"Well, g'night," the bosun said before making his way out of the brothel.

Silver gripped the handle of his tankard with whitening knuckles. It wasn't Muldoon's fault, but fuck if he was going to be the cripple that constantly needed looking after.

"I don't need a nursemaid," Silver said. "If you want to have a quick fuck, you should. I can make it back to the ship on my own."

"Maybe I ain't looking for a quick fuck," Muldoon said. He held Silver's eyes as he spoke.

Silver's face heated. After a moment, he had to look away. He resisted the urge to pull his hair out of the horse-tail to conceal his ears, which burned.

Their table shook. Silver turned back: Muldoon had set the bottle of rum down in front of him. Silver looked at the bottle and then back at Muldoon.

After a moment, Muldoon scowled. "You want it, or not?"

A hard lump formed in Silver's gullet. He looked at the bottle again, his rounded reflection painted in shadows and torchlight on the side of it. Even in this green glass mirror, he didn't recognize much of the man he'd become: long dank curls, the scraggly beginnings of a beard and mustache sprouted over his chin and around his lips.

Tentatively, he reached forward, his fingers skimming the neck of the bottle. He closed his hand around it and drew it back to himself, tilting his head back to take a drink, letting his tongue linger over the rim.

When he was finished, he passed the bottle back across the table to Muldoon, who repeated the same action: throwing his head back and taking a long swig. His Adam's apple bobbed in his throat as he drank.

They passed the bottle back and forth a few times, just so. Until it was empty, and the bottom of it gaped up at him.

"Well," Silver said. He knew his words were slightly slurred; the thought made him smile. He was giddy. His turn, since Muldoon had made the first overture. "Maybe we can both not look for a quick fuck together."

"Back on the ship, or…?" Muldoon glanced around.

"Hold on," Silver said, pushing his chair back from the table. "The madam owes me a favor."

Upstairs, in a room that came free of charge but not free of recriminations, Silver turned his back to Muldoon and stripped his shirt off before sobriety or sense took hold, and he abandoned this whole campaign entirely.

He ambled around to the other side of the bed, sat on the edge, and began to unbuckle the iron leg. Behind him, the other side of the bed creaked as Muldoon sat down.

"So," Silver said, ever the conversationalist, and because talking seemed the only way to relieve his racing mind, "how do you want this…to go."

Muldoon's boots and belt hit the floor. The other man chuckled. "You ain't done this before, have you?"

"Fucked with only one leg? No, I can't say I have," Silver replied. He made the mistake of glancing over his shoulder.

Muldoon scowled. "Fuck you, Silver. You know what I meant."

"It doesn't - fucking - matter," Silver panted, wincing as he pried the iron leg from his stump in a series of quick jerks. It hit the floor with a clank. His hands fumbled with the ties at his trousers. "So if you'd like to get on with the business of actually fucking me, then I suggest you stop asking questions."

Muldoon slid in behind him, so that his chest was pressed to Silver's back. He swatted Silver's hand away, unlacing Silver's trousers.

"Told you," he said, stroking his calloused hand down Silver's half-hard length, "ain't interested in a quick fuck."

Silver's whole body convulsed for a splendid second, his head falling back to loll against Muldoon's shoulder.

"Christ," Silver said.

Muldoon's chest heaved as he chuckled again. His hand continued to stroke Silver, slowly, teasingly. "I ain't even done nothing to you yet."

He could feel the press of Muldoon's hard cock between their bodies, the slickness as it started to weep. His body shuddered again, on a deep inhale, as Muldoon stroked him from root to head, fingers tugging at the dark curls around the base of Silver's cock. Arousal eddied through him, strong but not overwhelming. Muldoon continued his ministrations for a few more minutes.

Silver's cock refused to harden further.

He looked down and saw: Muldoon's two legs framing his, the good and the ruined, his listless cock grasped loosely in Muldoon's fist. His cock was apparently equally as useless as his left leg, now.

"Silver?"

Muldoon's hand stroked him again. Silver bit down on his lip, head bent forward, hair darkly curtaining his face.

"If you don't want it - " Muldoon's grip loosened and he started to pull away, the warmth vanishing from Silver's back.

Without thinking, without looking, he reached around and grabbed Muldoon's wrist.

"I told you I did, alright? I fucking do." Silver had to stop speaking, because a sob was making its way from his chest into his throat - and that, that would be unacceptable. "I fucking do, but I can't - "

He stopped again. This time, he wrested out of Muldoon's grasp and laid down on the bed. Silver curled up onto his side, his back to Muldoon. His face felt hot and his body shivery; a few unshed tears gathered on his lashes, but Silver refused to let them fall, one hand fisted in the sheets.

"I hate it," he whispered. "I hate it."

A hand gripped his shoulder and squeezed.

"Silver, mate," Muldoon said, "you're drunk."

"You're right," Silver said, face still turned against the sheets. "I'm a drunken, useless goddamned invalid."

"Yeah," Muldoon drawled. "You're so fuckin' unlovable that I'm gonna stay here and listen to you bitch because I enjoy hearing you suffer."

Muldoon's words hit him like a cold bucket of water to the face.

"I don't think any less of you, y'know," Muldoon said. The mattress protested. Glancing over his shoulder, Silver saw that Muldoon had laid down on his back, a foot of space between them, and was staring at the ceiling. "So whatever it is you've gotta get out, you might as well get it out."

Silver turned onto his back, preserving the space between them. He closed his eyes and said nothing.


As far as Silver's blurry recollection allowed, he'd passed out and then, an hour or so later, been lightly shaken awake by Muldoon, when Max or one of Max's enforcers (Silver couldn't remember which) had come round to cast them out. So, piecing it back together, Muldoon had helped him with the boot, helped him back to the ship, helped him into his hammock, because that was where Silver awoke in the morning. Muldoon's hammock, next to his, was already empty. They were still in port - perhaps Muldoon had gone back ashore, and found himself a more amenable and amiable bed-partner.

Shame festered in Silver's gut for the rest of the morning. Shame for needing help; shame over his non-performance the evening before. But most of all, shame for being an absolutely rotten fucking friend.

Fortunately, he didn't have to summon up the considerable willpower to make an apology, because come midday, Muldoon came to him.

Silver leaned on the rail of the ship, watching the launches come and go to Nassau. Muldoon sidled up next to him. He stood close enough that their arms touched, forming one long line.

"Listen, Silver," Muldoon said. The words alone were enough to draw Silver's shoulders up, losing the contact between their arms.

"Must we do this?" he asked.

Muldoon frowned. "All's I came here to say is that I don't bear no ill will towards you. You were drunker than you'd been in a long while and you made a mistake. Happens to all of us."

"A mistake," Silver repeated.

"Don't make a fool o'me. That's what I fucking said."

"If it was a mistake, truly a mistake, then why won't you look me in the eye?" Silver angled his body towards him.

Muldoon wouldn't. He kept his eyes fixed on the waves, scratching the back of his neck. "It…oh, fuck you, Silver. It wasn't a mistake for me. And if you think any less of me for it, you can right to hell."

Well. There it was.

Silver exhaled.

"Then it wasn't a mistake for me, either," he said, and circled Muldoon's left wrist with his right hand. Muldoon's pulse thrummed through Silver's own fingers, a steady thump-thump that kept Silver grounded even as his whole body trembled.

Muldoon's eyes widened. He looked down at Silver's hand around his wrist, took a long breath in, and made a fist of his left hand. Then he grabbed Silver's arm.

"Y'know, we had the perfect opportunity last night," Muldoon said, "but then one of us had to go and get right pissed. Now we're back on the fuckin' ship surrounded by the rest of the fuckin' crew, and with no bed to be had. Do you have a plan for that, Silver?"

"A bed?" Silver grinned.  The idea had come to him the moment Muldoon had said that. "I can't do that, but I can give us something nearly as good."

He let his arm slip out of Muldoon's and started for Flint's cabin. Muldoon caught up with right as Silver opened the door, without knocking.

"He'll kill us, are you fucking - "

"He said he'd be gone until after nightfall," Silver said, pushing inside. "We have hours 'til then."

Muldoon paused on the threshold, for long enough that Silver had to grab him by the shirtfront and pull him into the cabin, shutting the door behind Muldoon and pressing him right up against it. He slid an arm around Muldoon's waist, pulling their bodies flush against one another, bringing their hips into contact.

They both groaned, foreheads falling together. Silver's eyes closed as he felt Muldoon get a hand down between them, fingers already stroking at the bulge in Silver's trousers.

"This is a fuckin' terrible idea," Muldoon said, as they stumbled over to the seat beneath the windows, which Silver was acutely acquainted with from his recuperation. "You're lucky you're so fucking pretty, Silver, since you're aiming to get me shot with my trousers down round my ankles."

"Don't call me pretty," Silver said, leaning back as Muldoon tugged down his trousers.

Muldoon smirked. "Why the fuck not?" He tugged at Silver's beard. "Tryin' to look more like the salt of the earth, yeah?"

"I'm not pretty," Silver said. Not anymore, he wasn't.

The other man's smirk only grew, wider and warm. "Yeah," Muldoon said, fingers gliding over the tip of Silver's leaking cock, "you are."

Silver's latest protestation died on his lips, because Muldoon was swallowing all of Silver down.

"Fuck!" he shouted, body curling inward for a moment. Muldoon looked up at him, and winked, and kept sucking at Silver's cock with gusto. "Fuck, that feels so good, what the fuck are you doing, Christ!"

Muldoon's mouth pulled off him with a little pop that had Silver's cock jerking and leaking all the more. Propped up on his elbows, Silver panted as Muldoon continued to smirk up at him from between Silver's spread thighs.

"Why don't you just lay back and fuckin' accept it," Muldoon said. "You're pretty and I like hearin' that pretty mouth of yours tell me how much you enjoy it."

"Shit," Silver said. "Shit, Muldoon, you don't have to - "

"You think I don't fuckin' know that?" Muldoon flicked his tongue out, catching Silver's cock right at the tip, so that Silver keened again. "I want to, for Christ's sake. You can let it go for just this once, alright?"

Before he could give Muldoon an answer, the other man was taking him back down again, bobbing his head as Silver's hard cock pushed at the back of his throat. Just this once. Silver moaned and gasped, trying to keep his hips still as Muldoon worked him to the edge. It was too fucking good, pleasure that he hadn't felt in so long, that it could never be just this once. But he couldn't bring himself to care about the dangers in this moment, and maybe they were worth it for the lightning that zipped up his spine, made him feel light and whole again. Invulnerable.

He didn't know if it was allowed, to wrap his hands around Muldoon's head while he sucked Silver's cock; Muldoon didn't have much hair, anyway, so Silver thread his fingers into his own curls, yanking at them every time he cried out, because the sensation was so much, too much, just enough.

"I think," Silver panted, "I think I'm close."

Muldoon pulled off, again, his mouth opened in a question that Silver never heard, because the door to the cabin opened and then slammed closed.

"What the fuck is going on here?"

In a moment, all the blissful arousal humming through Silver's body was replaced by fear and by frustration.

He dragged himself up on his elbows, turning towards Flint, who was so red in the face that he looked as though he'd popped a blood vessel.

"Trying to fucking get off," Silver snarled, "which has become a hell of a lot more difficult since they cut off my fucking leg."

Muldoon stared at him in wide-eyed horror. Flint also stared at him, wide-eyed and gaping, rage dissolving to shock on his face. Silver took advantage of this moment of stunned silence to reach down and grab his iron leg, sliding forward on the bench so he could buckle it around his stump.

His hands shook as he tried to maneuver the leg into place. "If you're going to kill us," Silver said, eyes to the floor, "at least have the decency to wait until we're dressed and I'm not flailing around on the floor like a goddamn invalid."

Silence. Silver dared a glance upwards. Flint was still staring at him, features slack. Then his mouth closed, and he straightened, a twitch in his jaw.

"Just," Flint said, "get the fuck out of my cabin."

"Fine," Silver said. He nodded sharply to Muldoon, who finally fucking moved, taking the gesture like a shot over the bow:  he struggled into his shirt, both arms at once, fastened his trousers, and jumped off the window-seat like a hare darting away from a hound.

It was Silver who slowed their progress, as always, muttering, "Shit, shit," to himself as his trembling hands dropped the buckles of the iron leg time and time again.

Flint still stood halfway between the door and the desk, keeping his distance like Silver and Muldoon were their own colony of lepers. Silver was just fine remaining out of his captain's arm or sword range for the moment, and would feel altogether happier once they were out of pistol range as well.

"Would you fucking help him?" Flint shouted to Muldoon.

Muldoon dropped to his knees in a moment, prying the buckles from Silver's hands.

"I don't need - "

"Shut the fuck up, Silver," Muldoon hissed. He finished with the buckles and rose, handing Silver's shirt to him. Silver pulled it over his head and down over the tops of his trousers, not bothering to lace them up. All he wanted was to be as far away from Flint as fast as possible.

He pushed Muldoon in front of him and they made for the door. Silver was just about to follow Muldoon out of it when he heard Flint said, "And not a word of this to anyone, do you understand me?"

"Perfectly, Captain," Silver said, not turning round, slamming the door shut behind him.

Outside the cabin, Muldoon was nowhere to be seen.


The rest of the afternoon and evening passed without sign of Muldoon. When Silver saw him eating with some of the other men, as he was doing the washing-up, he tried to catch Muldoon's eye without success. The other man kept his back resolutely to the galley.

Silver wasn't sure why Muldoon might be avoiding him: despite the near-fatality of their previous encounter, they'd gotten further then they had in their first attempt, although it did not escape Silver's notice that Muldoon had also failed to get off two times in a row now. The third time, though, Silver was certain, would be the charm.

Emboldened, Silver threw down the pot he was scraping clean and strode out into the mess as Muldoon and his tablemates were rising.

"I need some help cleaning up," he said. The assembled men groaned, but there were no volunteers. So much for the crew looking out for him, he thought with no certain amount of pride. "Muldoon, lend me a hand, will you?"

Muldoon followed silently with the table's dishes, his eyes downcast.

"Just - throw the dishes in the basin," Silver said, a bit unnerved. Muldoon wasn't a talker but he wasn't usually this quiet, either. Muldoon looked everywhere but at him as he dropped the metal plates into the basin, water slopping over the sides and onto the deck. "If it's about Flint, I can promise you that there will be no retribution. It's entirely plausible that he's already forgotten about it, given his current...state."

"It ain't Flint," Muldoon said.

"Then what the hell is it?"

"I've said it before," Muldoon said, "but if you were just lookin' for someone…anyone to get off with..."

Shit.

"I'm not," Silver said. "I mean, I am. God, I fucking am. But - only with you. I was just - frustrated, when I said that to Flint. Alright?"

"Alright," Muldoon said, scratching the back of his neck.

"You, um, want to…?"

"Now?" Muldoon said, raising his eyebrows.

"It's not exactly the captain's cabin," Silver said, smirking back, "but I think we can make do."

"Shut the fuck up," Muldoon said, already pushing forward, his hands on Silver's hips, his mouth at the junction of Silver's neck and shoulder. "We were fuckin' dead men."

He fumbled with the laces of Muldoon's trousers. "If we're dead, we don't have to worry, then, do we?"

"Fuck you, Silver," Muldoon breathed into him, resting one cheek on Silver's shoulder so that his nose and beard scraped gently against the side of Silver's neck. Silver spat into his hand and curled his fingers around Muldoon's red cock.

"Gladly," Silver said, jerking Muldoon's cock in one hand. His free hand wrapped itself around Muldoon's waist, dragging him closer. There was no protest, just a harsh rasping as Silver worked Muldoon to full arousal, leaking over his hands.

"Let me," Muldoon began, cut off by his own groan as Silver gave an experimental squeeze. Muldoon's fingers, though, continued to wander down Silver's waist and over his hip.

"I don't think - "

It was Silver's turn to have his words stolen by a ragged moan, as Muldoon palmed his erection through the fabric of his trousers.

Muldoon lifted his head and grinned, fingers stroking over Silver's small bulge. "Yeah," he said, softly, "you are."

Any other sentiments that either of them took to voice were lost in the cacophony of their groaning, shuddering, and gasping towards completion: Muldoon deftly unlaced Silver's trousers and wrapped his hand around Silver's, so that both of their hands were working over both of their cocks at the same time. Silver let his head fall forward so that it rested on Muldoon's shoulder; he felt warm - for once, not because of the throes of fever or the flush of shame - in a comfortable way, pleasure eddying through his body. They didn't need to rush. They stood, wrapped together, their hands working as one as the ship rocked beneath and around them.

The precipice snuck up on Silver. Muldoon fell over it first, spilling over both of their hands. His sharp cry was the hair-trigger that drew Silver down after him. Muldoon worked him through it until he was sticky and too-sensitive, squeezing the curve of Muldoon's shoulder as he pulled away.

Muldoon sucked two of his own fingers into his mouth.

"What?" he said, drawing them out of his mouth. "Tastes better than your cooking."

Silver laughed. He couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed. "I think that's the nicest way anyone's ever told me my cooking is terrible."

"Goddawful, y'mean." Muldoon's shoulder bumped up against his as he searched the galley for a rag to clean themselves up with.

"Yeah," Silver said, leaning forward so he could rub his beard against the side of Muldoon's neck, "goddawful."