Silver has never given the subject of hell much thought. There’s enough hell in life with the cruelties and violence that men perpetuate upon those weaker than themselves. There’s no need to imagine a worse place with further torments after you’ve passed from this life into death. There is nothing after this.
But if there *were* a hell, it would probably resemble something like this.
The shackles weigh heavily upon his raw wrists. The sun is relentless in its heat and there’s no relief where he’s chained. His body stinks of sweat and piss and dried blood. The sand crusted on his face makes his skin itch.
He watches Hands with half-lidded eyes, just sitting in the shade of his shanty. The man simply ignores him, as though there was little purpose to why he had hauled Silver here and it was done merely out of boredom.
The corpse of the dead soldier has long since started to fester in the sun. The flies crawling across the lifeless face make Silver’s stomach churn, so he does his best not to look at it. It doesn’t really help.
Silver closes his eyes. Eventually Hands will kill him. That’s how it will end. He simply wonders why it’s taking so long. Why drag it out? The governor will still pay for his body no doubt.
The heavy tread of boots coming closer in the sand tempts him to open his eyes, but Silver resists.
The heavy slap across his face stings him into opening them then, with a sharp, pained breath.
Silver stares up at Hands, feeling the heat radiate across his cheek. The force of it cracked the dried skin on his lips; he can taste the metallic trickle of blood in the corner of his mouth.
“Stay awake.” Hands points a grubby finger at him. “Or I’ll give you something to keep you awake.”
Silver struggles not to flinch as his hand comes closer still. “Why’re you doing this?” His voice is a rasp. He can’t remember the last time he tasted water. When he licks his lips all he tastes is salt and blood.
Hands sits back on his haunches, just looking at him sourly. “It’s not just a matter of whether the governor will pay for you.” He muses, almost to himself and not to Silver at all, “But if he’ll pay more than your friend.”
At the word, Silver’s blood runs cold. “What do you mean?”
“Surely the other pirates want their king back?” Hands mocks him. “Surely they’re willing to pay a pretty penny for you to be returned safely?”
He coils Silver’s hair tight in his fist, jerking his head back, making Silver yelp.
“They call you a king, but you act like a whimpering brat.” He tugs harder until tears sting Silver’s eyes, the roots at his scalp twisting painfully.
“Please, don’t. I’ll do anything.” He means write a ransom note. He means convince the pirates to take him back. He doesn’t mean what Hands says next, whatever the man thinks. He doesn’t mean ~that~.
“Is that how your legend grew so tall then?” Hands tugs on his hair again and Silver bites back a gasp of pain. “Whoring yourself out to your captain?”
Silver chokes dryly on the notion. As though Flint would want anything to do with him. “He’s not like that.” As though Flint would ever want him like that. As though it were possible.
“What’s the matter?” Hands sneers. “Not pretty enough for him? A hole’s a hole.” He lets go of Silver’s hair, letting his head fall dully against the post.
Silver blinks, trying to focus and then wishes he hadn’t as Hands pulls his shirt open, baring Silver’s chest to the harsh sun. He just looks at Silver for a moment and then his fist barrels right into Silver’s stomach, making him groan.
Silver’s chest heaves as he struggles to regain breath.
“Will he still want you when you’re not so pretty then?” Hands hits him again.
Silver retches, falling sideways in his shackles and Hands hauls him upward again. “Make up your mind.” He gasps. “Either he thinks I’m pretty enough to fuck or I’m not pretty enough, which is it?”
“Clever tongue,” Hands punches him a third time, this time letting Silver sag limply in his chains. “Would they still need you without that busy tongue?” His fingers wrench Silver’s mouth open, grabbing at his tongue, gripping it hard enough that Silver fears the man will simply tear it from his throat.
He’s babbling, a helpless stream of pleas, none of which are coherent around Hands’ fingers but it doesn’t matter. The man’s not listening to him in the slightest. He pinches hard and Silver gurgles, trying not to choke.
Hands lets Silver go as quickly as he reached for him.
Silver gags, spitting saliva and blood into the sand, trying to rid himself of the foul taste of the man.
“No, not your tongue then.” Hands says and reaches for his breeches.
“What’re you doing?” Silver chokes out and Hands simply sticks his hand into his breeches, draws out his cock and looks at it, before reaching for his knife.
“Will he still want you by his side without this?” He lays his knife alongside Silver’s bared cock, and Silver can’t breathe.
No, yes, he doesn’t fucking know. He doesn’t know what to say to make Hands put down the knife, but he also doesn’t fucking know the answer to that question. Would Flint think less of him?
And in the next moment, he knows the answer.
It’s as simple as that. The loss of his cock would not lessen him in Flint’s eyes. That’s not what makes a man.
But he can’t imagine explaining that to Hands. Nor can he imagine explaining that even if Flint wanted him, which he doesn’t, he’d still want him without his cock. He knows that too, in some curious way.
“Well?” Hands presses his knife closer and Silver exhales shakily.
“I think he’d pay the same amount whether I still possess my cock or not. I believe he’d want me the same.”
“Oh?” Hands tilts his head, looking at him curiously, waiting. “Which is?”
“Nothing.” Silver starts to laugh. Perhaps he’s going mad. Perhaps this is hell. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. “And not at all.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Hands demands, pressing the knife against Silver’s balls now, making him twitch.
“It means, he thinks I’m dead. Your sudden offer to restore me to life is hardly going to inspire any confidence in him. Your best chance at any sort of reward here is to simply let me go. Let me go and convince them to make restitution to you once I am back among them.”
It’s a long shot, Silver knows that. Mostly he’s just trying to escape this ordeal unscathed. A little while ago he was convinced he was going to die, and now he just wants to live. Live long enough to see Flint one more time, to see that familiar face gazing back at him.
Hands scowls at him. He presses the knife point just enough to make Silver cry out.
Silver closes his eyes. It occurs to him as he waits for Hands to make his move, that he regrets Flint and he are not like that. That he’s never dared kiss Flint, nor touched him intimately. Save for that moment when he pulled Flint from the water, clasping his body close to his own as he struggled to reach the shore, they’ve never embraced.
If he were to die, Silver thinks wearily, it would be almost bearable if he were in Flint’s arms.
There’s a sudden sigh of disgust and disappointment and then his head is wrenched upward again. Silver opens his eyes in surprise to see Hands sawing off a handful of curls.
“This’ll prove more recognizable.” He mutters, waving the shorn curls at Silver.
Hands leaves the camp shortly after, the curls tied up in a rag and tucked in a pocket.
Once he’s out of sight Silver finally lets himself breathe. He’s not in hell; he’s still alive and that promises to be painful in the very near future if Hands continues with these sadistic urges. Silver has no illusions about hoping for a rescue. Even if Hands did convince Flint or Madi that he was telling the truth about Silver being alive, they don’t have the coin to pay a ransom.
He tells himself that at first, but after a while he lets the other thought slip out in the restless heat of the darkening day. Even if they had the coin, he’s not sure Flint would pay to get him back.
Yes, he’s been useful, and yes ever since Flint learned the truth about the gold, after Silver told him the truth, there had been more of a partnership between them. A revival of that first new tentative affinity, that been growing steadily once more, the connection between them that Silver can’t deny and doesn’t really want to. But that’s not enough, not in the end.
He pulls futilely at his shackles until his wrists are rubbed raw anew, but there’s still no give.
Hands is going to return and then what? Silver looks helplessly around the camp for anything to aid him.
The corpse mocks him, bugs crawling across its rotting flesh.
He glances down and starts to laugh helplessly. His cock’s still out; Hands hadn’t bothered to tuck it back in. Silver hadn’t even noticed until just then.
Silver chokes on his laughter, tears gathering in his eyes. He shakes his head, trying to clear them. At least that’ll make it easier to piss.
He leans his head against the post and waits.
* * *
When Hands finally returns it’s late evening. The chill is spreading over the beach.
He leaves Silver where he is, and lights a lantern hanging in the shanty. Silver follows the light greedily, shivering faintly. He wants to know what was said, but can’t bring himself to ask.
Hands lights his pipe and turns to look in his direction. “You’ll be wondering what they said.”
Silver doesn’t answer. All he has to do is wait and Hands will tell him. But will it be the truth?
Hands smirks, blowing smoke into the night air. “Aye, you’ll be wondering but you’ll have to wait, won’t you?” He bends down to peer at Silver. “You’ll have to wait and see.”
It’s a very small sigh, but audible in the dark and the look it elicits in Hands’ eyes, tells Silver it was a bad idea to let it be heard at all.
Hands taps his pipe against his thigh in a thoughtful manner, and then suddenly brings his fist up to bash against Silver’s jaw.
Silver jerks in his chains, falling backwards. Hands drags him back up to hit him again and again until his eye right eye is swelling, the pain spreading across his cheek. He spits blood into the sand, struggling to draw breath through the blood streaming from his nose.
Hands reaches down to wrap his hand around his exposed cock. “I’ve half a mind to just rid you of this right here and now. As you said, your captain doesn't want you.”
Silver cringes, trying to squirm away until Hands tightens his grip, forcing him to stay still.
Hands gives him a crude tug and gets to his feet. “Think I’ll wait and see how things fare in the morning. I can always relieve you of it later.”
He makes his way back to the shanty and the lone lantern, leaving Silver there alone in the dark.
* * *
It’s nearly dawn when Silver stirs. His face aches abominably. He’d eventually fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion, but the pain wakes him all too soon.
The pain and something else.
The faintest noise there in the rocks. He gazes dully at the grays and blues of the morning, and there, there again, he’s sure he saw something move.
He has to be dreaming.
He knows for certain he’s dreaming when Flint comes out of the shadows, moving stealthily towards the shanty. To his credit, he barely looks at Silver, chained to the post.
Hands chooses that moment to emerge from the shanty. He stops dead at the sight of Flint and then goes for his sword.
The clang of steel on steel wakes Silver fully to his senses. He might imagine Flint appearing out of the morning mists. He wouldn’t dream of this savage fight across the sand. Hands and Flint are more equally matched than he would have guessed, but slowly Flint forces Hands back across the beach, driving his elbow into the man’s face.
Hands stumbles backwards and his eyes dart to Silver.
Flint catches it, and it unleashes something within him. With a roar, he moves forward like a tiger, driving Hands further and further back until Flint pins him against a rock and buries his sword deep in his stomach.
Silver stares in disbelief as Hands gurgles, dropping his sword as his hands flail helplessly. Flint pulls his sword free and watches the man fall lifelessly to the sand.
Only then does he turn to Silver.
Silver truly doesn’t know whether it’s shock, or sunstroke, or an act of heaven, but his remaining strength fails him then, and he feels himself go limp in his chains, his vision darkening as Flint makes his way towards him.
Flint breaks into a run, boots heavy on the sand.
Silver’s not sure whether he’s dreaming then or not, but he’s almost certain he hears Flint saying his name before everything goes black.
* * *
When he wakes, Silver’s lying somewhere warm. It’s late afternoon and his face still aches.
Flint’s standing by the window. He turns immediately at the sound of Silver stirring.
“You’re awake then.”
“You’re real.” Silver rasps, and immediately closes his eyes again. The time spent as Hands’ prisoner have taken its toll. The barriers between Flint and his own heart are splintered. He needs time to reinforce it and it’s not something he can do with Flint looking at him with that piercing gaze.
“Here, drink this.”
Silver allows himself to be helped to drink water. It relieves the dry ache in his throat. He manages nearly all the cup before he sags back weakly against the pillows.
“Did he…” Silver starts. “Did he say anything to you?” He has to know.
“Like what?” Flint squints at him.
“Nothing.” Silver can’t bring himself to ask, not with Flint looking at him. But the thought of Hands talking to him, telling him anything, causes bile to rise in his throat. He leans sideways to retch over the side of the bed.
Flint catches him, holding him as he does. Silver’s conscious of Flint holding him, and the feel of Flint’s hands, almost gentle (no they are gentle, it just takes him a moment to recognize it) makes him want to laugh idiotically. He dry heaves and then signals that he’s done.
Flint helps him lie back again and reaches for the water. Silver takes a little more and then succumbs to the darkness again.
* * *
The next time Silver wakes, he feels more alive. He can tell, because everything hurts more. Silver moves, and winces. The light’s too bright. He wants to go back to sleep.
“There’s a bath ready for when you want it.”
Silver stills. He hadn’t realized Flint was in the room this time.
“Are you trying to tell me, I need a wash?” His voice sounds stronger, which he’s thankful for.
“Frankly yes.” Flint chuckles faintly.
Silver pushes himself to a sitting position. He’s aware of his own stink and he knows Flint’s right. A bath will do him good. “Very well.”
“The way I found you.” Flint begins quietly and Silver wishes he wouldn’t.
“There’s no need.” He says quickly. ”He didn’t…do anything.”
“Your face says otherwise.” Flint says dryly.
Silver chuckles then and quickly winces. “The bruises will fade.”
Flint nods. There’s a strange look on his face.
It’s a look Silver’s never seen, and he can’t resist asking, “What is it?”
“The bruises will fade.” Flint repeats. “It’s a far cry from ‘I have an extremely low tolerance for pain.”
There’s a curious heat in Silver’s stomach as he hears himself quoted upon Flint’s tongue. “Things have changed since then.”
“Have they?” Flint studies him closely. “So tell me then. What was it Hands was trying to get out of you?”
“He didn’t like the fact that I thought his ransom scheme a futile one.” Silver says easily. This is more familiar territory. As long as he can keep it here, he can remain in control. If only Flint would go and leave him to his bath. He slowly maneuvers into a sitting position, aware of Flint watching him across the room.
“Futile?” Flint frowns. “How so?”
The bath is only a few feet away. Silver imagines the soothing heat of the water. Damn Flint for making him wait.
“Well, the governor would have paid for me most certainly, but would it be worth it? All the trouble he’d have to go to, to arrange a trial and a hanging.” He shrugs his shoulders wearily as he rises.
Flint steps forward as he does. “What about the other demand?”
“What about it?”
“What did you think that response would be?”
Silver shrugs again, tired of this. “Does it matter? He’s dead. I’m here….”
“Yes, so you are.” Flint pauses. “You didn’t think we would pay for you.”
“Does it matter?” Silver’s voice is a tad lower as he turns away and Flint catches his arm.
He looks at Silver for a long hard moment, during which Silver’s guts churn with uneasy longing, and then finally Flint lowers his hand and simply goes out.
Silver slowly undresses, pretending the heat isn’t still there, none of this matters, except that they can continue as before. He leaves his filthy clothes on the floor and slowly lets himself descend into the heated water. It’s bliss as he thought and this time, his eyes close with sheer pleasure.
He stays in the bath longer than he intended, savoring the heat. Only when the water turns cool does he finally get out. He lights a lantern, shivering as he pulls on fresh underclothes and a shirt, left on the table for him.
Barefoot, Silver goes over to the window. All around the camp he can see the lights of campfires, small lights in the darkness. He wonders where Flint is tonight. He wishes…It’s pointless to wish, and yet he does so regardless.
* * *
As though summoned out of the darkness by thinking of the longing Silver can hardly even name within himself, the door is pushed open and Flint enters once more. Slowly he closes the door behind him and leans against it. He holds out his hand and in the center of his palm are the shorn curls Hands cut from Silver’s head.
Silver swallows. There is nothing he can think of to say here.
“You’re right.” Flint says quiet quietly.
“We don’t have the coin for ransom. You knew that.”
“That was what I said.” Silver begins.
“What you don’t understand,” Flint continues, not even looking at him, but instead at the curls in his hand, “is that regardless of that, we will still come for you. I will come for you. Do you understand that?”
Dry-mouthed, frozen in place, Silver can make no response. Flint’s voice is a whisper from the sea, a resonant haunting in the dark that pulls him closer even as he yearns to break free of it.
“Do you think if I had realized you were alive, you’d have been left in that camp any longer than the time it took to get there?”
“Yes, it matters.” Flint hisses. There’s anger rising there suddenly, sharpening the lines of Flint’s face, carving it in the dark like a weapon and Silver knows the lethal darkness within this man, the seductive dangers inside him and he’s never seen the night look so beautiful as when he looks at Flint.
Abruptly Flint shoves the curls back in his pocket. He turns and goes out the door again. He’s across the porch and halfway off into the dark before Silver snaps out of his frozen state. He grabs his crutch and goes to the door after him.
“Are you seriously leaving after all that?” Silver calls after him. “You can’t.” Flint can’t just say all that and then leave him here.
“It’s best if I do.” Flint’s words drift off into the darkness. “I know you don’t...”
There’s an immense wealth behind the words he’s not saying here, the words he’s pointedly leaving there in the dark.
The glow of the lantern light burns lower. Silver braces a hand in the doorway, gazing at Flint, willing him to turn round and look at him.
“Who says I don’t.” Silver swallows over the uncomfortable lump in his throat as Flint slowly turns back to look at him. If he lets down his barriers this time, there will be no turning back. If he puts forth a hand and Flint rejects him, there’s no place left to go.
“Don’t say that.” Flint’s eyes narrow. “Don’t.”
Silver licks his lips. They still feel too dry after his hours in the sun, and he has a brief stranger flicker of wondering what it would be like for Flint to kiss them. He wants that, the knowledge of what that would feel like, just once.
Flint’s just standing there at the bottom of the porch, gazing up at him, and Silver finds himself spurred into speech, to keep Flint from speaking whatever's waiting behind those eyes.
“Hands accused me of whoring myself out to make this legend grow, and as absurd as his words were, there was a certain truth to them as well. The things that might have been if the need had been there. Certainly Billy used my name as currency where he needed it, for his own purposes, but had I seen the need for it, there’s a possibility I would have done the same. And yet-”
“Stop.” Flint cuts through his words.
“If I had made eyes at you, if I had touched you, if I had ever dared any of that.” Silver stops then, and forces himself to continue, no matter how his knees want to tremble. “You never would have wanted me.”
Flint looks up at him. And then slowly he comes back up the wooden steps, until he’s standing in front of Silver. Just as slowly, he lifts a hand and touches the deep bruise on Silver’s cheek. His fingers are light upon Silver’s skin, setting his skin aflame.
Silver sucks in a breath, hardly daring to breathe.
“I’m not sure a world exists where I don’t want you.” Flint murmurs.
Silver blinks and then Flint’s hand drifts down to his shirt, pressing him back against the doorway as his mouth hovers above Silver’s, his lips still hesitating.
“What the fuck are you waiting for?” Silver drops his crutch, reaching up with both hands, grabbing at Flint’s shirt, and pulling him in.
Lovers come and lovers go, desire tends to pass and fade like the ebb and flow of the tide, and at times kisses linger long after they should have faded. But there are also kisses that haunt you, remaining in your memory long after the heat of desire has gone. Flint’s kiss will haunt Silver for the remainder of his days. He knows this from the moment Flint’s lips finally surrender and touch his. The enormity of what they’re undertaking, the pirate war, the deaths, the loss, the rebirth, all of this recede into the darkness outside the hut. Flint’s beard rasps against Silver’s cheek and he wants to laugh helpless, and happy, at the thought of his own doing the same in return. He closes his eyes and lets the flood of emotion carry them both along with it.
Flint’s murmuring into his mouth, his lips entreating Silver, his tongue fulfilling promises long since made by his eyes. Flint’s hand cradles the back of his head, holding him as their mouths press against each other, tasting each other, savoring each other’s tongues and making promises anew, before they draw apart and meet again.
They fall against the wall and Flint just lifts him, Silver wrapping his thighs around him. There’s a perfectly good bed behind them. The bed will get its turn, he reasons as Flint sets his teeth to his neck and sucks deeply.
He can feel Flint’s length swelling against him and tightens his hold on Flint’s hips.
Flint smothers a moan into his hair. “If you have any hesitation here, tell me now.” His breath is hot and ragged on Silver’s neck, “And I will stop.”
Silver presses his hips as hard as he can against Flint’s. “Does it feel like I have any hesitation?”
Flint buries his face in his hair, kissing him and then he carries Silver over to the bed and lies him down.
He gazes down at Silver, his eyes darkened to sheer desire, and then he reaches for Silver’s smallclothes, jerking them down to let his cock spring free. He gazes at Silver, and he sinks downward with a grace Silver finds almost unbearably beautiful. At the first touch of his lips to Silver’s cock, Silver thinks he might spend then and there. Flint devours him as though he had been starving for an eternity.
His hands curl around Flint’s scalp, holding on for dear life as Flint sucks at him.
Flint draws off with a soft breath and rests his palms on the mattress, gazing down at him. “You really want this?”
Silver lies back, gazing at the roof. There are various things he could say in response to that. There are denials he could still make in spite of everything that’s just happened.
Instead he looks directly up at Flint and reaches his hand up to catch the collar of his shirt. Flint allows him to draw him closer, pulling him down and down until his mouth is only inches from Silver’s own.
“Yes,” Silver whispers. “I want this. I want you.”
Flint kisses him harshly before the words are even gone from his lips. He hand strokes the side of Silver’s cheek and then he draws back again.
Silver lies there, half in a daze as Flint searches the cabin for oil and finds some at last.
He spreads his legs automatically, and Flint grins at him, a hungry, yearning grin that makes Silver nearly choke on his own desire. Seeing that wanting reflected back at him, in Flint’s eyes, makes him terrified.
He bites back a gasp as Flint presses a slicked finger inside him, struggles not to make any noise as he stretches him.
“Are you sure?” Flint asks again, and Silver reaches for him, curling a hand around his neck.
“Yes, I’m fucking sure.”
He has no more words now. Not when Flint pushes inside him, not when Flint fills him, not when they move together and he loses himself, moaning aloud, clutching at Flint in desperation, and Flint moves in him, holding him, kissing him and Silver finds himself reborn in Flint’s embrace, strengthened by his kisses and finds there is new life as they spend together, their bodies shaking and holding and still not letting go.
* * *
Silver stretches his leg and yawns faintly. Tonight, later, whenever they sleep, he will sleep well. He relishes that thought.
Flint lies there on his back beside him and then, undeniably, he starts chuckling deep in his chest.
“What is it?” Silver asks sleepily.
“If you had made eyes at me?” Flint raises an eyebrow. “If?”
Silver rolls his eyes. “You know what I mean.”
Flint just keeps chuckling as he leans over to kiss him again.