Charles Vane had fucked and been fucked, sucked and been sucked, in taverns and bars and inns and brothels, from Nassau to Port Royal to one memorable occasion in Tortuga, the rightly named Sodom of the New World, in beds, over barrels, against walls, down alleys, on the beach, even once as a kid at the top of the mizzen mast, though strictly speaking that was a hand job and no proper fucking per se.
In short, you might say he'd learnt a thing or two in his thirty six years on this earth, even apart from rigging sails and navigating and putting the fear of God in lesser men. None of that helped explain why he found himself nursing sore balls and trying to reset his latest broken nose one handed while blood dripped down his naked chest.
He wasn't stupid, as better educated men had often discovered to their cost, and while Jack might do the bulk of the scheming, he was more than capable of solving a puzzle on his own. And Flint was a puzzle, all right. He couldn't have gone far, barefoot and clad only in breeches as he was, so he'd be back soon for his boots if nothing else, and likely in no sweeter temper than when he left. That didn't leave Charles long to figure it out.
The evening had begun well enough, both crews at liberty and enjoying the pleasures of the town, flush with coin and in the mood to celebrate their continued run of good fortune, the watches assigned, the quartermasters about their business, and the two captains stolen away to discuss the progress of their two pronged venture to carry fire and the sword to every corner of the West Indies.
Said discussion completed over a fine joint of mutton and most of a bottle of rum, they'd progressed to more pleasurable pursuits. It was always a gamble what mood would seize Flint when they were in his house, his dead wife's house more properly, propriety warring with the benefits of privacy, but it was he who had commenced matters tonight, and he'd been cheerful enough as they moved half drunk down the corridor, banging elbows and knees on the walls and door frame as they fumbled to remove each other's clothes on their way to the smaller bedroom.
Charles had never set foot in the larger one, not that he'd been forbidden, but for the simple reason that the door was always closed and he'd never been alone in the house before. He crossed the corridor now and eased the heavy door open. There was no immediate answer to his question inside, just a stripped bed and a chair and a dust covered dresser, empty now, all sign of its owner long removed. It wasn't that he'd imagined Flint in here, weeping over his lady's handkerchiefs, exactly, but it was something of a relief all the same.
Her death had hit him hard, and Charles supposed he understood it; he'd have felt the same about Eleanor once, and even now, with her far across the sea and awaiting trial in England, he sometimes thought of her as she had been as a girl, running along the beach in Nassau. Whatever else had happened between them, this wasn't the outcome he'd intended.
The first time he'd touched Flint had been an attempt to shock him out of his sadness – he'd thoroughly approved of sacking one port town after another as a means of laying one's ghosts, but what was the point if you took no pleasure in it? – and he'd frankly been expecting a fight to follow rather than a fuck. In the event he'd gotten both, the pair of them rolling around in the wreckage of the great cabin on the Ranger, bruised ribs and swollen jaws and splinters from the broken wood and glass, and both of them shouting as one for whoever knocked on the door to fuck off. He'd fetched up on top of Flint, straddling his waist to try and hold him down as he wiped blood out of his rapidly closing eye, and Flint lay still, probably likewise glad of a moment to catch his breath.
He was certainly hard now, where he hadn't been before, but that didn't mean anything. Charles was too, but that was definitely the fight. Probably the fight. Flint was easy enough on the eye ordinarily, but he was no fucking picture now, that was for sure. Still, he looked more alive than he had in weeks, chest heaving, some colour in his face, broken lips curled back in a sneer, and that was more like it: much as he hated it when directed at him, Charles had found he'd missed Flint's condescension amid all the grim focus.
He ground his arse against Flint's dick, and it was even money whether he would sit up for another swing, but instead he just sighed, exhausted, and let his fists unclench where his arms lay, unpinned, on the deck. That was as good as permission in Charles' book, so he shifted back far enough to unbutton Flint's breeches, and when there was still no response, his own trousers. It was a quick business after that, taking both their lengths in his hand and doing exactly as he liked, since Flint kept his eyes closed and his teeth clenched, and offered no commentary on the proceedings.
When it was done, Charles clambered to his feet and put himself to rights. "It'd be easier if you'd just visit a brothel once in a while like every other man," he said, and at that Flint started laughing. It sounded dangerously hysterical, so he left the cabin without looking back. When Flint emerged a full half hour later to join him on the quarterdeck, he was his usual self again, or his usual self after a nearly averted mutiny, blood stained and battered, and he simply enquired after their course and distance from land.
That was the first time, but not the last.
Of more interest was the portrait propped in a corner, an ugly thing in a heavy gilt frame, the sort rich toffs would have on their walls, far too grand for this house. The inscription read Lord and Lady Thomas Hamilton, and for a crazed moment Charles had a vision of Flint as a runaway aristocrat, a Jacobite perhaps, committed beyond reason to his true king, but while the woman in the picture was clearly Mrs Barlow, poor likeness as it was, the man was far too tall, and far too fair, to be Flint.
The second time had also followed a fight, though a far quicker and less destructive one, again started by Charles, but this time more because he had an itch of his own he wanted to scratch, rather than from any desire to provoke Flint. They wound up in much the same position, but being as he was both less bruised and more committed to the idea of fucking for the fun of it, he shoved his trousers down to his knees rather than just unbuttoning them. Flint's fingers clenched briefly on his hips, but Flint's fingers were on his hips, so he took a good hold of his rock hard dick and proceeded to lower himself onto it.
It was big, and it stretched and burned exactly the way he liked, and while Flint, the lazy fuck, still made him do all the work, raising and lowering himself until his thighs ached, he did have the basic courtesy to look him in the face while coming hot and wet inside him, and to lend a hand after, which was more than he'd expected. Charles' was clearly not the first dick other than his own he'd touched, that was obvious from his confidence and skill, the way he knew how to hold him just hard enough, to trail his fingers up the length, swipe his thumb over the tip, but Charles refrained from commenting on it, no sense in ruining a perfectly good feeling of contentment.
The third time there was no fight, and more unusual, they were in a bedroom on land rather than a cabin at sea. They'd both had plenty to drink, Flint even more than him, and he'd have been happy just to pass out in his clothes, Flint alongside him, but apparently that wasn't what Flint had in mind. He stripped off all his clothes and knelt up on the bed, chest against the rusty iron headboard, and when Charles made no move to join him he glared back over his shoulder at him, and far be it from Charles to decline such a clear offer, even if it was one he'd never expected Flint to make.
It was clear he'd done this before too, though not for a long time if the flinch as Charles shoved his way in was anything to go by. He pressed back firmly into it though, and as Charles thrust in and out of him, gave him what he wanted good and hard, he dropped one hand from the bedframe and wrapped it around his own dick, matching Charles' rhythm as he brought himself off. Charles kept fucking him after, a good long while, adamant that this time he'd hear Flint moan. He did, and hearing it made him come himself in a sudden white hot rush.
This time Charles decided to risk it; a fight after was as good as before, and Flint was well fucked and half asleep, he'd probably get the best of him easily.
"Who was he?" he asked casually, as though it was a matter of no importance, and in truth it wasn't: whoever he'd been he wasn't in Nassau, or anywhere else in the New World, that was obvious.
Flint stiffened beside him, but didn't move. There was a long silence, and Charles didn't think he was going to answer, but just as he was drifting off to sleep himself he heard him say quietly, "A better man than either of us," which was almost certainly true so Charles said nothing. Flint let himself relax as well, and they both slept soundly till morning, when they got up and dressed and went about their business as normal.
It seemed quite apparent now that the portrait was of Flint's good man, but it was as dusty as everything else in the room. It might be the last personal possession in the house, the one thing he couldn't bring himself to get rid of, but Flint didn't spend his nights ashore in here drinking and staring at it either. He was almost always with Charles these days, whether on board ship, or in town, or occasionally out here when they needed a bit of quiet. Charles left it in its corner and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
Flint was in the main room, stoking the fire when he emerged. He had to know where Charles had been, but all he said was, "Your nose is crooked."
Charles laughed. "I ought to return the favour," he said, but with no real heat.
Flint nodded, and spread his arms as though inviting him to take his best shot.
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" Charles asked. "Prefer it to any sort of gentleness." He remembered, now, what it was he'd done.
Flint nodded again.
"I'm too tired to fight you every time," Charles said. "I will sometimes, if that's what you want. But not every time."
"Don't call me James," Flint forced out, voice hoarse. "And don't touch my hair."
"All right," Charles agreed. And because he had ghosts of his own, he added, "Don't ever hold me down."
Flint breathed out noisily and crossed the room towards him. Charles moved to meet him, and touched his shoulder carefully. This was still dangerous ground, but Flint didn't pull back when he kissed him, mouth opening under his.
Their shoulders brushed as they walked back down the corridor to the bedroom, and under the circumstances that felt like enough.