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For his Soulmate to Come

Chapter Text

...one waits a lifetime for his soulmate to come...

- Criss Jami -

It is well known – saying someone's name aloud, looking them straight in the eye, may create a Bond. A golden Spiral, circling the wrist of the one, whose name was spoken. In the heart of it will be the Name – of the one, who spoke. And the latter will have the special insignia too – the Name of the one, whose name he said. This pair will be bound both in flesh and souls. And they shall be called Soulmates, for that is who they'll be, till the end of eternity.

It was a common knowledge – even in Nassau, of all the places. The port, which circled hundreds of people almost every day, different kinds and personalities, was filled to the brim with stories, legends and myths, gathered from whole New World. Flint, for himself, never really paid any attention these bitty crowds, but a sideways glance was thrown sometimes. In the humid and hot weather of Nassau it was obvious for people to wear clothes with short sleeves, opening their bare hands for everyone to see. Golden Spirals, that hugged slender or brawny wrists were, indeed, a rare sight.

And so, Soulmates were a rare trait.

Truth be told, some people even had the guts to say “bullshit” about this whole Bond thing, but Flint, as feared and terrifying as he was, couldn't deny that this “Bond thing” was as true as the sun rising in the east.
A long time ago, in a different lifeline and a different place, he witnessed by his own eyes this Bond – the beautiful, strong power, that left him breathless and weak at the knees. But for this amazing feeling he had a privilege to observe, there was one thing, which haunted him all these years.

The lack of Spiral or the Name on his wrist.

Lieutenant James McGraw and Captain Flint were, indeed, two different persons, by the will of destiny confined in one body. But for all the distinction, both of them had something in common. Or didn't have at all.

James Flint didn't have a Soulmate. Not that he wished for one – not now and not in the past ten years. A long time ago, he thought himself capable of such a Bond. He even dared to hope, dared to wish... In the end, seeing for the first time a golden Spiral on Miranda's wrist with “Thomas Hamilton” carved in there, he knew that hopes and wishes weren't meant for him. Later he saw the Name “Miranda Hamilton” on the wrist of the man he gave his heart to, but didn't let despair and sadness overcome him. Not when these two remarkable people, bonded with one another, let him in their world, shared love and devotion with him. And, eventually, committed a crime for the Bond, it seemed, because their relationship was torn to shreds, as well as Thomas himself was pried from their arms.

They came to Nassau, without him and with no hope. They never talked about a Bond since then, until one day Miranda cried out in her sleep, bolting from the bed and clutching her wrist. The Spiral burned with inner fire, flashed a bloody crimson and then, before he or she could do anything, all the color went out, leaving just a barely visible trace of itself with almost faded Name.

No words were spoken, no screams were freed. They both knew, immediately, what that meant. Since that day Miranda's soul died with him. And Flint wished for his soul to leave him too, to break free from this awful shell of a body and leave aside only an empty husk. To feel nothing, to know nothing – to die that day with Thomas.

But he couldn't. The soul remained and so he pushed it in so deep that no one shall be able to find it again. In the pitch black of the darkness, that rose inside him, this wretched ugly spirit will be locked till his final breath.

Chapter Text

Gates waved his hands at him, babbling some shit about how he should be “calm and composed” and “behave rationally” in front of their “fellow partners”. Flint wanted to strangle him right then and there but resisted the urge. For what it’s worth, Hal was a good man. Not a friend – Flint didn't have those and sure as hell never intended to make ones. But to set aside all this emotional nonsense, he respected Gates and recognized his value for him and the crew.

Then they returned and Flint gritted his teeth and looked straight ahead – precisely not on Charles-fucking-Vane, lurking in his corner, smoking whatever nocuous shit he always put in his mouth and grinning at him like a beast. So Flint deliberately avoided any eyes contact, focusing instead on Rackham and all the bullshit he was saying.

Jack Rackham with “Ann Bonny” insignia on his wrist. Now that was a sight. Flint straightened almost involuntarily and stared a while longer on the skin-carved letters. Jack Rackham, of all people, had a Soulmate. And so the Spiral was on Bonny's wrist with his Name in it. Flint suppressed a snort, thinking of her reaction on the Bond-creation, for how ruthless and tough she was on a surface. And to have this – probably in her own opinion – “soul-loving-sappy-shit” must be a great challenge for her personality. Although, Flint couldn’t care less.

But, it seemed, even Vane's men – as fucked up and crazy as their captain was – might have such deep connection that even death won’t be able to tear them apart from each other.

Meanwhile an agreement was reached and all this “meeting” came to an end. Flint felt himself satisfied – as much as a man can be, when in the beginning he was strictly against this affair at all. But Gates, when convincing him, had a valid point, much to Flint’s irritation. And so the whole thing was set and agreed upon.

Until, of course, miss Guthrie, late that night, made adjustments. Flint watched, unfazed, but with a hint of amusement at this “dramatic scene”. At least, by the end of it, he could’ve said that now he was truly satisfied, as things went straight there where he wanted them to be.

…He came to Miranda later that night. Stepped inside her house, where – he knew it – he was welcomed and loved. Not the way they both wanted and sure as hell not the way it was long before. But the love remained and, resting in their shared bed, Flint only hoped it’ll be like this forever.

The darkness lulled him into sleep, whispering “It won’t It won’t It won’t” until everything he knew was black and hollow.

 

+++++++++++++

 

The pig was fucking ruined. Not only it wasn’t edible at all – it even smelled like shit. Flint couldn’t wrap his mind about the fact how exactly someone sane enough to save his life from a whole bunch of pirates might just put himself in danger by just one sole piece of meat.

Especially when he supposed to be “a very good cook”, according to Gates. By all means he should’ve thrown him to the wolves – the crew, in this case – and then just let them deal with him. But, given the circumstances, he couldn’t do it at the moment. Not right now.

We might be friends by then, he suddenly remembered and gritted his teeth, then spat another shitty piece on the sand below his feet. The cook – John Silver – watched him with visible unease, shifting from one foot to the other. He was scared of him and Flint felt it to the core of his own bones. That he knew what to do with. That was his way of controlling those around him. With fear and terror. With blood and gold. John Silver preferred the latter and hoped he will have it. Flint knew that his and only his volition will have the last word in this.

Right now he demanded another pig and was greeted with surprise. Silver blinked at him twice and even tried to say something but, fortunately for him, went quietly.

Flint paid him no mind – even not in the process of preparing the meat. Then he had better things to do, distracting himself with his notes and the task of the future sailing course. He dulled the outside noise and fully concentrated on his duty as a captain. Until, of course, Silver interrupted him once again with whatever bullshit were rolling over his head.

He wasn’t dumb, that Flint new instantly and it irritated him to no end. He was smart, with tricky personality and this ever present emotion on his face, as though he knew exactly where to lead the whole conversation and how to convince anyone about anything he wanted them to believe.

Flint despised him from the moment their eyes met for the first time.

Silver had the guts to talk him against Billy and Flint barely suppressed the urge to slit his throat right then and there.

“Trust me”, the bastard said, keeping the most honest and open expression on his face.

Flint would rather consider a possibility of returning to England and begging for a pardon than let himself trust this rodent ever. Which, in his case, meant “never the hell”.

“Turn your pig, it’s almost done”, he barked instead, jerking his chin up, shooing away unwanted company.

Silver tried to speak again, thought better of it and retreated to the previous task. And Flint found himself unable to resume his own. Rage bubbled inside; burning hot and he squeezed a fist, trying to calm down.

When, half an hour later, the bowl with steaming piece was placed in front of him, he furrowed his brow and glanced up. Silver stood there again, looking as uneasy as he was before.

“What is it?” Flint asked in a low rumble. Damn it all, he almost calmed himself and there it was again.

Silver shifted once more.

“The pig-” he barely managed before Flint jerked his head irritably.

“Take that away, I don’t need it”.

“But-” the bastard tried to protest, without even trying to take the bowl. Damn it all, it smelled rather nice.

“I. Don’t. Fucking. Need. It.” Flint stressed every word, looking him straight in the eye. “Besides-”

“I know it’s nasty”, shrugged Silver before he had a chance to finish. “But it’s literally of yours doing, so…” he trailed off and shrugged again, feigning ignorance.

Flint frowned – he didn’t like to be interrupted, but decided not to press forward. Besides he really thought the meat was nasty enough for him to lose any appetite he might have – even if he was the one who cooked it. Silver, eventually, was in charge of it for hours after that, so he had enough time to screw up the whole pig again.

This time Flint couldn’t care less if the crew strangled him, and the last part of the schedule be damned. So he hasn’t said a word, breaking their eye contact and losing himself in his task again. Silver stood there awkwardly for a moment and then left, not taking the bowl with him. Flint felt his mouth twitch irritably, but said nothing.

The steaming piece still laid there when Miss Guthrie came for a talk. And when Randall was trapped under the sole weight of the Walrus. Flint didn’t touch a single part of it. Even when he strode to Silver and threw him the bloody hatchet. The thing that helped saving one crewmate and, eventually, lose another in the process. Silver looked at him with bright blue eyes and Miranda’s name – surname – fell from his lips with such an ease, as though he knew her personally.

Flint hasn’t felt the ever present anger then. He stared at Billy and Gates, speaking in hushed tones, leaning into each other like some mu-… But no, he won’t think about it like that. Not right now. The stakes were too high for him to lose himself in doubt about his men. This will have to wait, for a better chance.

“Captain?” he heard then and turned around.

Silver was still looking at him with unreadable expression. Flint frowned at him and Silver rummaged through some tools, presented beside him, and held a clean cloth in the outstretched hand.

“You should wash your face”, he pointed, with a tug at his lips – almost a smile, nearly a smirk. Flint felt himself scowling. “No need to be the most feared captain even now, among your people”.

Flint snatched the cloth a little too roughly and went to the water. He felt those eyes at his back and anger burned inside him like a roaring flame.

 

+++++++++++++

 

The whole affair with the Andromache was a complete, total mess and Flint felt himself exhausted and irritated at the same time. Exhausted by the night events and irritated by Miss Guthrie and her accusations. Which proved to have some actual sense in them, given Billy’s speech the night before. Flint decided to deal with Miranda later, at the moment focusing on Eleanor and her sudden concern in the fate of one particular man. The man situated in the far corner of the room, looking as unfazed and nonchalant as possible.

Flint obviously frowned at an open threat from Eleanor and only added acidly:

“What a day I missed”.

And then he was out, Silver right behind him.

“You sure have the guts to make Miss Guthrie your ally”, commented Gates, when they strode right to the beach where the crew made preparations to set sail soon. “How did you even manage that?”

Silver, judging by the tone, smiled at him with this shit-eating grin of his he was wearing even in Guthrie office.

“I wouldn’t count on her protection, if I were you”, Flint stopped in his tracks and fully turned to the bastard. “She won’t be there when we’ll get the Urca. And making alliances behind my back won’t do you any good”.

Silver actually frowned at him and looked almost defensive in an instant.

“It wasn’t my intention in the first place”, he said, as if to justify himself. “Specifically, I didn’t have a choice, she demanded something from me and I just did it”.

“How generous of you”, Flint replied sarcastically and Silver actually fucking pouted at that, looking almost offended by the double-meaning of these words.

Flint leveled him with a hard stare and, before Silver composed himself enough to spill some bullshit his brain was producing, left without another word or a sideways glance. He had a more important task waiting for him.

But the latter happened to be hard for both of them. Miranda pleaded and he looked at her, as though she talked by some foreign language. He just couldn’t understand, he didn’t even think of this way to end their life here. Boston, of all the places. Pardons, of all the things.

He’ll never bow before them. He’ll never beg. He made sure she understood it clearly, but the hurt on her face punched him in the gut. He left, slamming the door shut, pretending he didn’t hear a reference to a certain man in her parting words.

Later that night, when the rum was incapable of erasing the hollowness between his ribs, he asked Eleanor “Tell me we’re not crazy, you and I”. What she told him in return sure had a point, but, as he stood on a shaking legs, he understood that this was not something he wanted to hear at the moment. He never knew what exactly he was expecting, but not this. And so he left, placing a chaste kiss on her forehead, and leaving a trace of emptiness in his wake.

 

+++++++++++++

 

…The Walrus was quiet and vacant, save for the night watch and a few crewmates, lurking in the corners, doing whatever they wanted – Flint hasn’t paid them any attention. He stopped at the door of his cabin, unsure and confused as to why exactly he ended here in the first place. This wasn’t his primal intention to board Walrus this night, even if he lacked any will to return to Miranda too. He could’ve stayed at the tavern or in a bungalow on the beach.

Instead he was here now, feeling a strange pull, nameless longing this place tore from him. Now, secured in his own cabin, he stretched on the bed and made himself relax, tried to clear his mind of the thoughts and concerns and all these ugly feelings, crippling almost at his throat.

The rest never came, the pull grew stronger; he sat, swinging his legs to the side, and buried his face in hands, groaning in the process.

What is it What is it

His head felt heavy and filled with so much noise he barely suppressed the urge to whine like a wounded animal. Unknown feelings swirled deep inside, like a sea storm, making nausea roll his stomach.

What is it

The world felt strange, the air was stale in an instant and it was even hard to breathe. Flint stood on unsteady legs, feeling the deck sway under him, but he managed to get to the door and open it. An eerie quiet enveloped him, lulled him into some sort of drowsing state, when he couldn’t comprehend any thought, except the urge for his body to move.

And so he moved, feeling nothing, understanding nothing, hearing and seeing nothing – just the rising black, lurking in the shadows, calling for him, opening for him, guiding him to come inside right here just like that-

“Captain?” he heard then and the fog cleared.

The darkness hissed like a snake, crawling back, vanishing in the depths of his mind, leaving the faint yellow lights of the lanterns, attached to the ceiling, and a single man, stranding right there before him.

“I thought you won’t be coming till tomorrow”, the man said and Flint blinked once, twice, before the face in front of him cleared enough to see it neatly.

It was their cook – the thief – John Silver. Flint stared at him and said nothing; he had no words or thoughts right now. He was so tired and felt as though a ship killer crashed into him with full force, leaving him breathless and weary.

“Captain?” Silver took a step towards him, his brow furrowing as if he didn’t understand something, which was maybe just another of his pranks. He always feigned ignorance, turning it in his favor eventually.

Flint hated him so much his head hurt.

But why would he, anyway? They barely knew each other. He shouldn’t pay any mind to this man. He wasn’t worth it at all, so why… Why?

“What?” Silver asked and Flint must’ve said it out-loud, didn’t he?

“What’re you doing here?” he managed to croak. His voice was rough as if he didn’t use it for a long time. The sand scratched at his throat, living dull ache somewhere deep inside.

“Well, that was my question to begin with”, Silver smiled at him as if he was in charge of the whole situation.

There wasn’t any kind of situation here, for fuck’s sake.

“It’s my ship”, Flint rumbled and leveled him with a hard stare – as much as he was able now, though. “I don’t need anyone’s fucking permission to board it. Especially yours”.

“I was just curious, that’s all”, Silver shrugged, baking away a little.

“Why are you here, when the crew is still ashore?” Flint furrowed his brow and gave him a suspicious look.

Silver shifted a little, some strange emotion coloring his face for a brief moment. Something like a mix of irritation and annoyance, but it was quickly replaced with his usual cocky attitude. Flint barely knew him but he knew already something about this man’s behavior.

“Helped Randall to haul his weight in here”, replied the man in question. “Thought it would be wise to do it now, when the crew is still not present. Well, at least most of them aren’t”.

Then he cocked his head to the side, a slight gesture, but Flint didn’t like it. The question was about to come, he sensed it immediately.

“Still, you’re here right now”, Silver added thoughtfully. “I thought the Captain should board the ship along with the whole crew. Or, rather after the crew, being the last man on board, as if to draw attention. But surely you don’t need this, don’t you?” he flashed a grin. “You’re a hard man not to notice, I suppose”.

Flint felt a headache starting to rise anew. He pinched the bridge of his nose, shook his head and spoke quietly, but with such a tone in his voice that the damn cook stopped his babbling immediately.

“I don’t care what you think or what you may assume. And I don’t give a damn about whatever deal you had with Miss Guthrie. I’ll decide your fate on this journey and you’d better shut your fucking mouth and stay away from me as long as it needed, before we reach the gold. It would be wise, I can assure you, and much safer for your life, which are in a grave danger now if you won’t stop talking”.

Silver felt silent and watched him with his eyes. They were blue, Flint suddenly thought. But did it matter?

He walked away from him, not sparing him another glance. He needed rest, he wanted to lay his head on a pillow and just don’t feel anything. There were journey ahead that would require all of his strength and he needed to gain it.

The darkness returned the moment he laid on his cot but this time he welcomed it like a long lost lover.

Chapter Text

The sailing went surprisingly smoothly, at first. The whole crew was so docile; in other circumstances Flint would’ve even suggested these men weren’t pirates at all. The orders were followed, the complaints – drown out. Everything was fine. Suspiciously fine, much to Flint’s taste. But he didn’t dwell on those thoughts; after all the crew was so humble in the wake of a huge prize, waiting for them at the end of the journey. It was pointless to trade their energy now on simple things.

Such as the food, which was surprisingly bearable. Maybe thanks to Randall, who managed to stay with the crew, given the state his body was in. Mr. DeGroot mentioned that the whole “staying” thing was up to Mr. Silver and his newly responsibility for their injured crewmate. Of course, Flint didn’t believe at all in “Mr. Silver’s good intentions” as was spoken in hushed tones between men, but he also didn’t voice any complaints, letting the topic off completely.

When the time came for him to go down to the galley and eat, his stomach was growling with such a force he would’ve even had that pig from the beach, everything be damned. The meal time was short but fluent and quiet – most of the men stuffed their bellies already and the deck was almost empty. Save for the Randall, lurking in the corner, a night-shift, sleeping with their faces almost in the dishes and, of course, Silver.

The latter caught his eye and them suddenly was too close for Flint’s liking. He nodded to the empty plate and asked with a half-smirk:

“Did you like it?”

He grumbled something in his rum, not going to give an answer to that.

“Clearly you did”, the bastard answered for him though, smirking full force now. “I’m glad you enjoined it”.

So much for staying silent and not participating in any kind conversation with this man.

“I didn’t enjoy anything”, Flint frowned and put his mug with and audible “thud”. “And, besides, you clearly didn’t cook it. He did”.

He nodded to the corner Randall was occupying at the moment but Silver just shrugged, his smirk never faltered.

“I helped a lot”.

“You’d better didn’t,” Flint wished acidly. “The crew is one step behind from long-awaited prize and it won’t do you any good to stop them with the need to shit so much and so often to have the gold slip from their grasp in the end”.

Every word had a clear intention to offend but Silver seemed too cheerful and easy. Instead he waived a hand in the air and asked in a light tone:

“What if I’m a better cook than you think?”

“I hardly doubt that”, Flint deadpanned, wiping this smirk immediately from his face. But Silver cocked his head a little and seemed somewhat curious all of sudden.

“This gold will be your prize most of all,” he suddenly said, looking at him with almost searching gaze. “And yet, somehow you sound as though this is not your intention at all. The Urca, I mean. If I knew better, I’d thought you were forced on this journey and right now you’d better be somewhere else”.

Flint lifted his mug with all the composure he could muster, forcing himself to stay calm and not to break the bastards face with his fists. No one dared to spoke to him in such a way. He stifled the murder intent and stood abruptly, leveling Silver with a look from head to toes.

The silence was almost palpable and then Flint ended this ridiculous “meeting” altogether, heading to the quarterdeck. The moment he steeped on it, there was a thundering noise from within thick gray clouds overhead.

The storm was coming.

 

+++++++++++++

 

To Silver’s credit he was right on time. Flint had to admit he thought it would require an order to bring him here in the first place. During the whole sail they crossed paths only on the galley – it was natural for Silver to avoid the captain’s cabin as much as possible, given the circumstances. True to himself, Flint still hadn’t thought about the cook’s future, given he would grant him one.

The storm shook the ship with such a force, Silver even stumbled and had to clutch the door with both hands, before closing it and quickly striding to the desk Flint was currently situated at.

Gates never said a word, just threw some cloth in Silver’s face, which, really, wouldn’t help at all – Silver was completely drenched with rain and waves. Flint would’ve bet there was a growing puddle beneath his feat. But there were similar ones everywhere in the cabin, water streaming in endless drops from the ceiling and even from the window behind his back.

Anyway there was a more important task at hand right now.

Silver squinted at the paper in a dim swaying light, scribbling something that would’ve better be the last part of the schedule, smearing the sheet in the process with water drops, slipping from his curls. Flint watched him intently, focusing on his fingers, on the part of his face that was almost covered by the mop of black hair – oily in the yellow light of the candle.

As if sensing his gaze, Silver lifted his head a little and looked at him too. The moment passed and neither of them spoke a word. The waves crashed and the wind howled but all the noise suddenly went down a little – Flint couldn’t comprehend why.

“Are you done?” he managed at last, shaking off this sudden stupor.

Silver nodded and handed him a paper then straitened up and clutched the table for balance. Flint sensed his gaze but this time paid it no mind. Gates watched him too, silent and frowning, almost reverberating with need to know whether the last part was correct or not.

Flint vaguely thought that Silver should’ve be tenser at the moment too. But when he, admitting that the page content was accurate, lifted his eyes again, Silver smiled. As if he was certain from the very first moment who’ll be the winner in this game.

The anger flashed, quickly replaced by a pang of irritation – but nothing more. Flint thought to himself that he somehow became content with this man on his ship. It wasn’t very good news, but he couldn’t care less now.

But it turned out Silver was nervous indeed, when he stopped in his tracks even with a direct order in his pocket and asked one thing bothering him most of all.

“Keep wondering”, Flint jerked his chin and added nothing else, but, judging by the slight relief that crossed Silver’s face, he caught the point.

And then he was gone, leaving him with Gates. The latter squinted a little and nodded in the direction of a closed door.

“Did you make up your mind?”

“About what?” Flint mumbled reflexively, throwing another glance to his log and already calculating the complete course in his mind.

“What’re you gonna do with him?” Gates specified and Flint frowned.

“And what’s the point of question?”

“Sooner or later the men will find out his involvement in Urca’s case”, Gates was speaking in a hushed tone, with a mix of wariness and something else Flint still couldn’t decipher. Hal acted strange, he must’ve admitted. “And you know how the crew deals with thieves among them.”

“Why do you even care?” Flint raised one brow, still not quite understanding the direction this conversation was heading.

Gates just shrugged indifferently – it was clear as a day that something bothered him, and it was not the cook’s wellbeing at all.

So he took the bottle and Gates took a seat. Neither of them spoke about John Silver later that night. But the things they discussed Flint didn’t like either.

…And then morning came and suddenly there wasn’t any trace of Urca. And Gates looked at him again with this expression he didn’t know at all. And talked to him, decided for him, accused him… Anger mixed with hurt, leaving a hot dull ache somewhere between his ribs, he couldn’t even breathe, he tried to explain, to persuade, to demand in the end. It ended without avail, fell to the deaf ears, crushed by the weight of judgment and the look no one should’ve paid him once again. Not after all those years, after he lost so much and sacrificed even more.

No, not again.

And then Gates stopped talking – stopped moving altogether. No word fell from his mouth; no blink of an eye was cast. No breath was shed.

He was dead in his arms, the weight that pinned him to the floor both physically and emotionally. Suddenly he didn’t care anymore, everything be damned. The Urca, the Walrus, the crew, the gold, the England…

…which took everything from him! And now all this won’t matter, and shall be wasted, casted aside by those who knew better, who thought that they had the fucking right!

But now everything was doomed. He held the dead weight of the man who came as close to a friend as possible in his arms and everything was lost now. The crew won’t tolerate this, but he didn’t care. He felt as though all the oxygen left him, he barely breathed.

That’s why he lowered the gun. He pushed Silver’s hands aside, but that was all. His strength gave out. There wasn’t a way to escape the chaos now.

…Until it was.

“Take it from me”, he heard and all the thoughts quieted. “There’s always a way”.

He managed to turn his head and John Silver still was there, right beside him. His face was grim and stern and a little worried, but his voice never faltered. And he looked back at him with such certainty that Flint almost felt it. Somewhere deep inside he felt it.

A flicker of hope.

And gave it a chance.

 

+++++++++++++

 

Then everything progressed really fast from there: Spaniards, demanding answers of who the fuck they were, Dufresne’s accusations, crew’s deafening silence, hot searing pain in his shoulder and a loud shot from the cannon, made by Silver, who…

…was still on his side, even though Flint, somewhere deep in his mind, questioned why would it be like that.

The world became bloody and so loud, he thought it would explode around him. He felt tired once again, screams, gunshots and howls reverberated in his head, making it harder to stay awake with each passing minute.

He lifted a hand that weighted at least a hundred pounds and wiped his brow. There was blood on his fingers when he looked at them. Flint blinked drowsily and then glanced around. At his ship, at his crew, at the white smoke, which clouded his vision…

It was so hot in the beginning and suddenly all he felt was a freezing cold, seeping into every core of his being. To consume him, to take him, to drown him.

Well, now, maybe, he wouldn’t mind so much.

 

+++++++++++++

 

The world slipped away and then returned with crushing force and blinding light, shining in his eyes. Flint groaned when with the light came pain – hot and dull ache somewhere in his shoulder. He was shot, he remembered and suddenly every memory of previous events flashed through his head.

He tried to sit, to move, but the pain was too much, his body just wouldn’t listen and…

“I’d stay still, if I were you,” came a voice then and Flint squinted through the light at the speaker.

Silver was right beside him, sitting in the sand, looking at him with an unreadable expression. Vaguely Flint mentioned that he wasn’t tense or stressed, given their current circumstances.

Which, by the way…

He winced and tried to sit again. It worked better the second time, but his body screamed in protest to every move and, even more than that, there was blood, still seeping from his wound in the… cloth. A once white and now strained with crimson piece of cloth, pressed to his wound.

Flint absentmindedly picked its corner with his thumb and immediately hissed, when the motion made the jolt of pain pierce his whole arm.

“And I wouldn’t do that either,” Silver commented evenly, shifting his stance a little. His face was covered with bruises but aside from that he seemed irritatingly fine and composed.

Flint was sure that the crew now knew exactly whom to blame for this whole mess and Silver, five seconds later, confirmed his suspicions. The Walrus almost drowned, people died and much more were injured. And the solid weight of the blame was placed on both of them.

“I was sure they’d kill us both the moment we ended on a beach,” Silver said in the end, looking slightly uncomfortable from his own words.

“Then why didn’t they?” Flint croaked and dragged himself upright with renewed force. The pain ate at his body and, more importantly, at his nerves, which were far from fine already.

Silver regarded him with a strange look then, as if he tried to come up with the plan of how exactly to spill his next news. Flint watched him expectantly and when the answer never came he pressed:

“Well?”

Dufrense made an appearance right at that moment, disturbing their little “chat” and looking at them with visible frown and objection. He left unanswered Flint’s question and walked away, not sparing them another glance.

Silver offered a hand but Flint declined – he wasn’t some gravely injured piece of flesh to be hauled on his feet with someone’s help. The process of slipping on his shirt, however, was excruciating. His hand refused to move without violent shaking and hot needles of agony, spearing it from each side. Silver approached him once again and stood there, watching for a few moments.

Then he took the shirt from his hands.

“Let me help,” he said. “It’d be much faster”.

Flint, for how tired he felt, decided not to complain this time. Silver guided his hands through every sleeve with slow delicacy, which Flint hadn’t expected from him at all. He watched him doing the task and said nothing, even though his injured arm still hurt, despite Silver’s efforts to be as gentle as possible.

He sank his own ship, killed his fellow crewmate and put life of his men in a great danger and still someone on this beach bothered with showing him some kind of regard. John Silver of all the people – the thief, who was partly responsible for the whole mess in the first place.

“Captain?” the man in question called and Flint blinked, meeting his eyes.

They were blue. But he knew it already, didn’t he?

“What?”

“We should go,” Silver reminded him.

And they walked, guarded by two men. Dufrense wasn’t far from them; he waited impatiently and then lead the way. That’s when Silver mentioned the schedule again and the weather. Flint was puzzled for a few moments, until they came to a stop and he was handed a spyglass.

And all this made sense again.

 

+++++++++++++

 

Silver didn’t take the news well – the truth about Flint’s intentions regarding the Spanish warship. He started panicking, babbling nonsense (St. Augustine of all the places! Week on foot! Flint was so done), quickly backed away and decided to take his chances somewhere else, away from here and Nassau.

Flint, feeling some dark twisted satisfaction, spilled the unpleasant truth about his “future path” and watched smugly as Silver stopped in his tracks and seemed at complete loss. But this whole stupid talk was getting them nowhere, so Flint walked straight ahead in the sea. He wasn’t even listening to Silver’s words, which he threw in his back; he didn’t even care if reclaiming Man’o’War would have to be only his own task – the goal was set and he went for it.

And Silver followed him.

When they got inside things, despite Flint’s threat, went upside down, he felt a strong urge to snap the bastard’s neck right then and there, the fucking snoring Spaniards be dawned with their fucking ship (how exactly big was this thing anyway?!).

But Silver, despite how tense he was, didn’t show any trace of fear. No, instead he looked at Flint with determination and even some kind of offense, clearly holding a grudge on him in this particular case. Then he talked and Flint felt his hand, holding the knife, relax almost against his will.

They were pressed to each other so tightly; he felt every beat of Silver’s heart against his own. Felt his hand that lay on his collarbone – not on the injured shoulder. No. Silver purposely placed his hand as far as possible from his wound. He thought about it even with Flint’s knife near his throat and visible threat for his life.

He would’ve asked “Why?” but he couldn’t even say what the meaning of the question was.

They stood in silence for a few moments. The ship was rocking – either from the waves or a deafening snoring the half of Spaniards was providing, swinging in their hammocks like a dead weights.

Flint looked at the man in his arms and no thoughts crossed his mind. He couldn’t think – he tried to, but they never came. The moment felt stilled, all the background noise almost subsided. And Silver looked at him, not saying anything else, with this bright blue eyes of his and a slight confusion on his face.

The world around them felt strangely bright too – not much, but all the colors intensified a little. Or maybe it was the blinding light, which streamed from above.

Then Silver shifted a little – or maybe the ship rocked too hard, but the blade nipped at the skin beneath his chin. Silver hissed and jerked back. Flint jerked too, quickly taking the knife as far from him as possible.
“Sorry” was on the tip of his tongue but was never voiced.

Precious seconds of illusory calmness ended too quickly and Flint found himself again fighting for his life. One second he was on a quarterdeck, breathing in salty breeze; the other – both of them were again in a critical danger, this time, however, the death, it seemed, was inevitable.

Especially when Silver decided to betray him and started talking.

“I’m John Silver and he’s Captain James Flint, we came here-”

Flint felt as thought someone punched him in the gut with blade and then turned it. And again. Anger, mixed with rage and sudden hurt almost gave him enough strength to rip the bindings with his bare hands and kill everyone here, including with treachery, disgusting piece of shit and not to think anymore about…

His name. No one knew his real name. Not even Gates and Eleanor, only Miranda did. He was “Captain Flint”, so how exactly did this…

The thought flashed and quickly faded away when Silver suddenly sprang into action and Flint found himself with a “partner in theft” again. Together they managed to overpower the Spaniards in the cabin and lock the door. Then the situation became shitty again – the whole amount of Spanish crew wanted to saw them dead and they had two pistols, a blade and a pocket knife. Wonderful.

Still the miracle happened and their own crew joined the fight. And then they sailed away from Spaniards, from the Urca, the gold and the Walrus, still decking somewhere below the hills, battered and broken.

The men all seemed preoccupied with the task to get the fuck away from here as soon as possible; no one paid any attention to him and Silver. It was a rather good sigh, given the circumstances, so Flint stepped on a lower deck, as far from his (not his anymore) men as possible.

And Silver went after him, not saying another word. Flint felt his presence at the back and vaguely thought that he wanted to ask him something. But he couldn’t remember what that was exactly and decided to leave it behind.

He sat in the nearest hammock and sighed, closing his eyes for a brief moment. His body ached all over, even his head hurt like hell. It would be good to rest, to sleep and to eat something but those were not the options in the first place. His life still hang by a thread and soon the news would come – was he a dead man or not.

“Do you think they’ll take it to account?” came a voice above him.

Flint looked at Silver, noticed the bruises on his face, matted hair, and a nervous glint in his eyes. He was afraid then – well, he had every right to be.

“I don’t know,” he replied honestly and sighed again, then winced at a sharp throb in his shoulder.

Silver just looked at him for a few seconds and then said:

“I’ll go get Howell”.

“There’s no need for that,” Flint replied a little gruffly. He pressed a hand to the wound, as if to stop the bleeding that surely opened again.

“Well, I’m quite certain there is,” Silver inched closer, nodding to his shoulder. “The whole thing would be pointless if you bleed to death in some corner of this ship.”

“I don’t intend to die in a meantime,” Flint deadpanned, strangely offensive on a topic like this. “And I hardly would, from a wound like that. So don’t make a fuss over it.”

Silver visibly frowned down on him, then chewed at his bottom lip and… walked away, not saying anything else. Flint signed for the third time – he took the Spanish Warship and still felt defeated. He needed rest – just for a couple of hours. The crew forgot about him for a moment, as it seemed, and even if they did not he deserved to relax and everything else be damned.

He lay in a hammock with groan of pain and closed his eyes, willing himself to sleep.

His name. Something was about his name, but he doubted it mattered right now.

The world wasn’t so colorful anymore. Maybe it was tiredness or something else – Flint didn’t know. He didn’t care. All he wanted was to sleep.

Next time he opened eyes it was because of stinging pain in his shoulder. He sat with a sharp hiss and almost lashed at whoever disturbed him. It was Silver, of fucking course, with… bloody piece of rag in his hands. He loomed over him for a moment, then straightened again.

Flint glanced at his shoulder – there were a clean bandage and, judging by the smell, the wound was disinfected with something. He glanced at Silver with a frown and an unspoken question.

“I happen to find these in doctor Howell’s new quarters,” Silver shrugged lightly. “Thought he wouldn’t mind, if I borrow some.”

“You stole them,” Flint clarified with a grunt and sat, swinging his legs over the side of a hammock.

Silver watched him incredulously.

“That’s everything that bothers you at the moment?” he asked, looking as though he couldn’t believe in Flint’s train of thought.

He didn’t reply, checking the fresh bandage. It was placed rather awkwardly and Flint made a wry face at that.

“What?” Silver lifted his palms a little. “Don’t look like that, I’m not a doctor. I don’t have delicate fingers they operate with.”

But he did, Flint thought suddenly. He helped him with the shirt rather deli-

Fuck that all! He tried not to think of it again. What was the point anyway?

Instead he decided not to dwell on Silver’s medical “skills” too much and changed the topic.

“How long was I out?”

“The sun is still high enough,” Silver shrugged, relaxing a little. Then a shadow crossed his face. “Mister Dufresne wants us on a quarterdeck soon. There’ll be a vote.”

Flint caught the tension in his shoulders and a panicked gleam in his eyes. He needed to stand and go there, to know what his fate would be. And he shouldn’t care at all of Silver’s way of thinking or his fears.

He didn’t care.

But all of sudden he felt his mouth open and a words where out if him before he could stop himself.

“They wouldn’t do it.”

Silver started and looked at him in disbelief and doubt.

“How can you be so sure?” he whispered, though no one was here except them.

I’m not, Flint wanted to say to that but remained silent and just looked at him with a confidence he didn’t really have.

The world felt bright again. Flint didn’t try to grasp why.

Silver stared at him too and Flint saw that panic never left his eyes. It was still there and still fresh and new, but his posture relaxed a little. He wasn’t drawn taut all over and never broke eye contact.

There was stomping and loud string of voices somewhere above them – it broke the moment, time flew again. Flint jerked his head upwards.

“Shall we?”

Silver nodded downward.

“I brought you some boots. Thought you’d grow tired of making splinters in you feet,” he said with a shadow of a smirk.

Flint wanted to break his neck once again.

“Shit,” he muttered instead and grabbed the boots, lying right beside his hammock.

The world stayed bright even when the night came and a vote was placed. Man’o’War sailed towards Nassau, the crew minded their own business and Flint knew that tomorrow everything will change. He’ll be a captain again and no one was going to stop him.

“Tell me I’m wrong,” the smile Silver gave him was bright and wicked and everything a good man shouldn’t wear on his face.

But the man standing close to him wasn’t good at all.

And he was damn right.

Chapter Text

“Why would you do that?” asked Flint out of pure curiosity, fingers fumbling with a knot on a rope he currently held, just to busy himself with something.

Somehow he guessed the answer already; Silver voiced it out loud and Flint found himself observing his expression. The flickering emotions in his eyes when he told him about “Wages” and “Hunger”. Some shadow, which crossed his face too quickly to notice. But Flint did.

And then…

“From you,” Silver finished, looking at him and Flint saw a barely suppressed smirk in the corners of his mouth.

He chuckled – couldn’t help himself. Strangely so, but this short and somewhat meaningless conversation was… fine for him. He felt relaxed, which he didn’t feel in days. The world was calm and bright – the latter he was somehow already resigned with. For the time being, at most.

Then Silver reminded him that in Nassau they’ll be unceremoniously expelled from the ship and Flint felt irritation again. But not at the man, sitting in front of him, whose knees bumped his fingers with each rocking of the ship.

He could’ve move back a little, increasing the space between them. He didn’t do it. And didn’t know why.

Instead he inched closer to him and said right in his face:

“In less than two days I intend to be a captain again,” his pride, his confidence, his power – words where full of all these. “I suggest you find a way of earning you way back into this crew as well”.

And it was an important truth – even with his renewed captaincy he won’t be able to keep Silver on the ship without crew’s consent. Their word would be final in this case and Silver needed their voices to remain here and to head back to Urca he lusted for so much.

Silver seemed thoughtful and Flint supposed he didn’t understand his implication.

“I mean…” he signed, busing himself with the task of explanation already but Silver cut him short.

“I get it,” he nodded and bit on his lip. Lowered his gaze, frowned for a moment and Flint noticed a small wrinkle appearing on his forehead. His hand twitched but stayed where it was.

He never understood the intention.

“I’ll figure something out,” moreover said Silver, lifting his gaze again. He was almost smiling now, looking cheerfully composed as though he already solved all of his problems. Flint was almost envious of this carefree attitude despite the shitty situation they were currently in.

“But do tell me,” Silver lowered his voice a little “how exactly are you planning to sort this entire out? Your captaincy, I mean”.

Ah, curious, of course.

“You’ll have to wait and look for yourself,” he avoided the direct answer and saw Silver frown a little.

“…Okay,” he said after a brief pause. “I just hope this time it won’t include sinking Man’o’War like you did with Walrus”.

“You helped a lot,” Flint immediately bristled, feeling offended and irritated anew.

Silver just shrugged, not bothered by implication or his tone at all.

…Then there was the meal time and Silver, it seemed, definitely came up with a plan to remain on this crew. After a moment Flint knew – and saw – exactly what the plan was.

This was pure idiocy and after the crew “settled things” he had a very distinct intention to tell it Silver right in the face. Which was bruised now a little, no wonder. Even so, Silver seemed unbothered by how things were progressing; more so, he intended to proceed.

“You’ll get yourself killed,” Flint remarked, scratching his chin and watching how Silver pressed an open palm to his undoubtedly aching bladder. “I thought you intended to gain freedom from hunger and wages and all the shit you were telling me earlier by taking your share of gold and disappearing for good. Was I mistaken?”

“Everything’s fine,” Silver winced again, leaning on a wall to keep himself from toppling backward. He clearly was in pain.

“I honestly don’t think so,” Flint shrugged.

Silver stayed still for a moment, then looked at him and squinted a little. That was a bad sign, Flint could definitely tell it now.

“What?” he grunted, looking at him too.

“Are you… maybe, worried about me?” Silver asked out of the blue, the corner of his mouth tugging upwards.

Flint gave him a Look and Silver smirked openly then. They both knew that was not an option.

It wasn’t that at all.

…The second “goings-on” went as “smoothly” as the first one and Flint found himself growing bit by bit irritated. Much harder then he already was, to be precise. Silver acted like idiot, receiving blows and punches and still hauling himself up from the dirty deck, coughing blood and fucking proceeding. The crew acted like scumbags and idiots – if just one of them would sit still and not fucking react to the “next item” no one will know whom this item was referring to. But no, every damn time one of them would sprang from his seat and tried to beat the shit from Silver, which didn’t help at all.

Flint even considered for a moment (when this entire ridiculous thing began) accepting crew’s intentions, leave them for good, find another sane men and sail without parting glance to these idiots. But it was just a whim and he quickly abandoned it.

After the third “unsuccessful attempt” he decided to end it once and for all. Well, at least voicing his complaint to Silver more sternly than the first time. He had one single man on this ship who at least right now didn’t want him dead, and it would do him no good to have this man beaten to meaningless piece of drooling shit. The crew was capable of that, he knew it oh so good.

“I suggest you stop it before the crew decides to cut your tongue,” he threatens when they were alone at the galley. Well, except for Randall, but he shuffled in a corner and was snoring loudly now, so that didn’t count at all.

“Everything’s under control,” Silver’s smile was a little strained, maybe because we had a split lip, which filled his mouth with blood. Not to mention his beaten up kidneys did the same too.

“Bullshit,” Flint snapped rather irritatingly and Silver blinked at him, confusion clouding his face. “You clearly have a death wish. This head of yours work rather smoothly, why don’t you come with a better plan?”

“I find this plan good enough,” Silver shrugged, unbothered by the whole implication behind Flint’s words. “But rest assured… I almost got them, one last time and you’ll see the result”.

“Yeah, you – over the rail,” Flint deadpanned.

Silver just smiled at him again.

Flint was done with this shit. If he wanted himself dead, then so was it.

+++++++++++++

Silver sighed and placed a fist with a piece of paper on the wooden surface of their table. He didn’t touch his food – he never did before his “speeches”. And now there it was again.

“If you’re trying to impress me,” Flint poked his own meal with the fork, “it isn’t working.”

Silver sighed again, with barely audible chagrin and walked in the center, speaking loudly for every man to hear. They heard him fine, of course, and didn’t like what he was saying, of fucking course, too. Dooley went almost easy on him, the punch wasn’t hard enough, though Silver still fell on his back, groaning.

‘Stay still,’ Flint thought suddenly. ‘Don’t do it again.’

Silver never listened – how could he? It wasn’t as though they could read each other thoughts. It wasn’t possible and Flint sure as hell wouldn’t want John Silver of all the people to mess with his head.

John fucking Silver, who stood on shaking legs, swayed a little… and announced another item. About the dairy goat. The whole deck went quiet for a moment and then one man shifted. Flint hadn’t even remembered his name, he barely recalled his face (guns? cannons?) but he clearly saw his fists which both collided with Silver’s body.

It was hard – harder than the previous times. And suddenly Flint felt himself shifting too, rising from his seat, his own fists clenching so hard he heard the knuckles snap. All the thoughts left him, leaving in their wake just feelings. Anger, rage, wrath… At him, this nameless creature. At the one on the left and those ones on the right. At all of them.

They shouldn’t. They fucking shouldn’t…

Suddenly the beating stopped and the thing backfired somehow. The crew clearly didn’t like the news about the dairy goat. But they didn’t blame Silver this time. No, instead they started beating the shit out of the one responsible for the “act” itself.

And Silver lifted himself from the floor with obvious struggle; his face was covered in blood, his hair – a disheveled mess, his stance unsteady and barely upright. But then he lifted his eyes and suddenly Flint knew – he wasn’t looking at the men. He wasn’t paying them any attention – why should’ve he? Things went clearly as he orchestrated them to be.

Silver was looking at him. Their eyes met and locked as though with a chain. Flint watched him for a moment and then nodded. And smiled.

And Silver smiled back.

The plan worked.

+++++++++++++

Later that day he became Captain again. He knew it even before the actual vote – saw it in the faces of his men, turned towards him; in the defeated slump in Mr. Dufresne’s shoulders.

In the exited enthusiasm showing openly in Silver’s expression.

Yet the vote was placed at night and soon Flint was at captain’s cabin, listening to Dufresne and saying nothing. He felt no anger, no rage, and no pity towards that man. And then he was blissfully alone, sitting at his new desk, wearing his new coat and just closing his eyes and feeling… calmness.

Until, of course, the door opened and Silver joined him. He strode right to the table and stood there, smirking at him with a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“They love you again,” he declared almost happily. “Well, as much as they did before, to be honest. One sinking merchant’s ship – and you’ve gained your position.”

“As you did with yours,” Flint remarked, waving his hand a little.

Silver flashed a grin, bright as a day and sat on the chair, relaxing his stance a little. He didn’t ask for permission, Flint didn’t expect it, nor would he complain. It was way past that between them. Well, technically, Silver was the other one who stole the ship they were currently at.

“So, what’s now?” he asked with obvious interest.

Flint almost snorted again – it was somehow a bit… childlike, all this excitement and delight. Silver practically bounced in his chair with it.

“Now we arrive at Nassau, tomorrow, I presume, and head straight to Hornigold. I need him to prepare the fort for the gold. Hopefully, in two days we’ll be back at Urca.”

Silver considered that for a moment and then frowned a little.

“Arrive at Nassau, you said… But we’re-”

“Yes,” Flint finished for him, somehow knowing exactly at the moment which thought occupied his mind. “We’re sailing the Spanish Warship, I know. I’m not dumb, we’ll settle things differently.”

He explained his plan in a few words and watched Silver ponder on it for a moment.

“The men wouldn’t like it,” he said at last and Flint knew it already, of course. The men always complained about anything, even if they didn’t give a shit at all.

“I know,” he nodded but Silver cut him short again.

“I’ll address them tomorrow,” he smiled lightheartedly. “There’ll be another “goings-on” so I’ll just add a new piece of information to my list.”

“You still bother with that whole thing?” Flint lifted his brows incredulously.

Silver grinned again and shrugged, Flint frowned but didn’t press. At least he hoped that he won’t be on that list ever. But, it seemed, Silver wasn’t considering this option at all. Instead he asked with a curious curl to his mouth:

“What about Mr. Dufresne? I sincerely doubt he’ll leave the ship once we arrive.”

“I wouldn’t hope for that,” Flint grumbled, thinking of a man in question. He thought about his particular case for a while now and came up with an answer that he didn’t like at all, but that kind of choice was, unfortunately, necessary. “He’ll remain as a Quartermaster.”

Silver hummed in response and seemed mulling it for a bit.

“You don’t like it,” he suddenly declared.

Flint gave him a look and caught another grin in return.

“And what about you?” he asked instead. “You’re okay with this?”

“I’m okay with everything as long as it won’t interfere with my particular goal,” Silver shrugged, never wiping that shit-eating smirk from his face. “Which, of course, is the Urca’s gold, as you know. We’re lucky that the crew wants it as much as I do, so I doubt Mr. Dufrense will cause any problems. Besides, you and I know already that they won’t listen to him now as they did before, thanks to his grant fiasco with that merchant’s ship.”

He leaned forward a bit, coking his head to the side.

“Still, how did you know exactly whether he’ll listen to you or not?”

Flint wasn’t intended to explain to him the basic knowledge of manipulation; Silver, damn him, knew that already.

“Life experience,” he responded briefly, and practically felt Silver’s next flaring emotion.

Excitement.

“You are truly amazing,” he chuckled leaning back in his chair; his eyes twinkled in the warm yellow light of the cabin, his voice silky and soft.

Flint just looked at him. Silver looked back, still wearing that smile of his – a little thoughtful, a bit mischievous, a touch of mirth at the corners of his mouth.

The one Flint wanted to kiss at that moment. To close the distance between them, to lean forward and just know how the man of lies and mystery tasted like.

It was even worse than the whole affair with Urca. Worse than letting this man in his crew, on this (well, not exactly this, but this too) ship. Worse than stealing this particular ship and fighting the dozen of Spaniards side by side with the man who lied to him since they first met, thanks to whom all this mess started…

…who saved his life and was on his side no matter what. No matter the fact that at the moment they woke on that beach it was clearly wiser to use his silver tongue and worm his way back to the crew, leaving Flint alone with their wrath. It was much wiser not to join him – at that moment, of course, because Flint was the Captain again, eventually, but Silver couldn’t have known that then. Couldn’t he? He didn’t know the answer to that.

But the urge never left, even after those thoughts. Flint couldn’t give in, now was not the time, not to mention that the whole idea was fucking stupid and hilarious. He wasn’t even attracted to him. There wasn’t anything in this man presented before him for Flint to…

“Captain?” came that soft voice again and Flint started, frowning at him.

“What?” he snapped too harshly for his own liking. Silver blinked at him in confusion.

“You didn’t hear my last words?”

“You should repeat them,” he grunted, growing suddenly irritated. Mostly at himself.

But Silver didn’t. Instead he leaned closer again (and this wasn’t helping at all, given the current state Flint’s thoughts was in) and narrowed his eyes.

“What?” Flint snapped impatiently.

“You’re acting strange,” Silver observed him so attentively Flint felt a pang of dread creeping in. He didn’t like to be seen that way. Not by anyone. “Well, more than ever.”

The last part he didn’t like even more and bristled, opening his mouth to protest, but Silver hasn’t finished.

“What is it?” he asked and frowned a little. “Your arm again? It’s not infected, isn’t it? I can go get Dr. Howell-”

“Stop it!” Flint barked and slammed an open palm on the table. “Don’t act like you care.”

The silence that followed was heavy and almost palpable. Silver said nothing, he just kept looking at him and his face was completely unreadable. Than he sighed and stood, dragging his chair backwards.

“I’ll address the men about your plan tomorrow, if you don’t mind,” he said matter-of-factly, his tone clearly indicating that he’ll do it even if Flint would mind.

But he won’t.

He felt himself nod, avoiding his gaze. Silver stood still a few seconds and then walked away, softly closing the doors behind.

Flint was alone, with his mind and his misery once again. He didn’t want to snap at him, but it was a truly absurd suggestion that Silver may care about him. They barely knew each over and clearly wasn’t in good terms. One thing united them – the gold and when it will arrive at Nassau their paths would drift apart forever.

There wasn’t a point in denying the truth. They were strangers, temporarily bound by circumstances.

Even despite knowing this, he still didn’t understand why he felt so bad.

+++++++++++++

Hornigold, it clearly seemed, was beside himself with rage and cursed Eleanor almost in every damn sentence. Truth be told, Flint was close to agreeing with him.

Charles Vane in the fort. Charles fucking Vane now standing between them and the gold. Perfect beginning of the day, surely.

“I’ll go see Miss Guthrie,” he said to Silver, steeping away from the corner full of anger and Hornigold as the case of it. “You stay here. If he asks something you can say what you want but don’t spill everything. He’s not our most trusted ally.”

“I understand,” Silver shrugged casually. He seemed totally unbothered by Hornigold’s behavior, but the slight frown on his face told that he was rather bothered by the news about current situation they was in.

And Flint suddenly thought about the previous night and his words. It was strange and tedious but he felt himself… not guilty, no, but somewhere close to that feeling. The urge to say something about yesterday was strong and demanding. But before he could say something (and surely embarrass himself, fucking obvious) Hornigold grumbled again.

“Where’s Gates?” he asked and Flint felt cold. Silver quickly looked at him but said nothing. There was something in his blue eyes, something Flint almost described as…

“I’ll leave it to you,” he said instead, addressing Silver, shaking himself from unnecessary thoughts and then left.

It won’t do him any good to dwell on things like that. Besides, there was a more important problem at hand.

…But Eleanor, as it became clear, didn’t consider it a problem at all, which enraged Flint instantly. He tried to talk some sense in her, without much shouting and cursing (he tried really hard), but achieved nothing. Either she wouldn’t understand him or didn’t wish for it all. The problem remained and grew even worse.

Silver, again, didn’t take well news about the food and Flint’s order to discard it completely. After all, he worked really hard, it seemed, to provide it in the first place, with whatever amount of money they had. However Flint didn’t care – they had a chaos at hand and no food could compensate it.

That night, after he addressed the crew, he caught Silver’s eyes for a moment. Neither said a word. Flint held his gaze a moment longer but didn’t take a first step. Silver was the one to avert his eyes and Flint strode right to his cabin. It was dark and empty, as always. But now he distinctively wanted not to be alone.

+++++++++++++

Eleanor left, banging door behind her with such force, it made Flint frown. But he didn’t regret a single word he threw in her face. She was a wise woman, she should’ve understand before coming here in the first place what the fuck she was doing and, most of all, expecting.

Hornigold didn’t return and Flint sighed, trying to suppress his irritation which sparked anew after Miss Guthrie started talking.

Nevertheless the door creaked. Flint quirked his brow at Silver but the latter said nothing. Just stood there, waiting… for what? Neither of them spoke for a long minute, then Flint tapped his fingers on a table and pointed at the “letter”.

Silver approached, took the letter and quickly read it. Then he quirked a brow too.

“What do you think?” Flint asked.

“Well,” Silver chuckled, “I doubt that it's Vane’s words.”

Flint said exactly the same when he was left alone with Eleanor. Still, he was a little impressed and a little bit curious by Silver’s reaction. And the point was…

“How do you know?” he inquired. “You’ve never met him or talked to him in person.”

Silver shrugged, shifting – he didn’t take a seat, Flint noted. Was he waiting for permission? Or was this something else? Still he was not in the mood for these kinds of games so he jerked his head towards the chair. Silver regarded him for a single moment, then took a seat.

“From what I heard, I’d like it to be this way,” he smiled and leaned a little to the side, relaxing his shoulders. “But my opinion of him based on a trusted source.”

“And is it?” Flint lifted a brow.

“You,” Silver told him right in the face and Flint blinked it surprise. It was… unexpected.

“What does this mean?” he managed to grunt.

“I’ve heard you talking about him, which you do a lot more since the fort was taken, and I sized everything up based on it.”

Silver told it so plainly, so bluntly, as though it was nothing. As though he didn’t just wreck a storm in Flint’s insides. As though he didn’t just take his stomach and something else in his palm and squeezed it. Hard.

No one said those words to him. Ever. No one trusted him that much to take his words about someone for an undeniable truth.

The world was so bright; Flint thought he could go blind from all this color. Simple words, yet he reacted so hard he barely had a coherent thought in his head now.

“Why?” he whispered all of sudden.

Silver just stared, his face morphed into some kind of mask of confusion and puzzlement. But then it was gone, replaced by some kind of perplexity and uneasiness. As though Silver had this storm inside him too.

“I don’t understand you,” Flint shook his head, squeezing a fist. Something rustled with the motion and he frowned at Vane’s letter, which now was in a tight grip of his fingers.

“You don’t have to,” Silver shook his head too, and then looked at him. And Flint suddenly asked, as though some inner voice spoke for him.

“Do you want me to?”

Silver started and there was a genuine surprise in his gaze. His mouth almost fell open from it; he looked at Flint like he didn’t expect those words from him at all. Hell, maybe he really didn’t. In a few minutes they managed to shake each other to the core, without making any physical contact.

Flint thought what this contact would be like. What would Silver do if he’ll stand right now, approach him and…

It was strangely tempting and Flint almost gave up to the urge, but the there were a heavy steps and it broke the moment between them. Mr. Scott and Hornigold returned both, with Mr. Dufresne and Flint found himself in the chaos and mess again. He didn’t catch the moment Silver left and sure as hell didn’t hear his answer.

Which was everything he could think of for the next hours.

Chapter Text

With new “additions” to the fort and Vane’s men to be precise, the whole thing started to worsen ten times more than a few hours ago. Hornigold bragged something about it, but Flint wasn’t in the mood to listen to him now. They should be doing something and rather quickly, which he said out loud, finally getting rid of all the “guests” in his quarters.

Silver remained by the window – he occupied this place the moment they reached Nassau and Flint’s cabin transformed into some kind of war council. He sat there quietly, observing and Flint found himself wondering about his thoughts once again.

Strangely so, he almost could’ve guessed them.

But still the fact why the hell people came to Vane was the most important thought in his mind now. He just couldn’t understand them at all. Every damn man on the shore knew how exactly Vane took the fort and what he did to its previous occupants; not to mention everyone fucking knew who exactly Vane was himself and what he was capable of.

Why then?

He couldn’t grasp it. As much as the sudden urge to ask Silver about it.

“Sorry,” Silver frowned in open disbelief, “are you asking my opinion?”

He clearly didn’t understand this urge too.

Flint gave a Look instead, clenching his teeth and just… waiting. Silver waited too – a few seconds at least, then cocked his head and took the chair right in front of him.

Though his insight wasn’t very reassuring. Quite the opposite, to be honest.

They feared him, he said. They saw him as a more huge threat than Vane was. They saw him as a villain – some creature of the darkness, causing horror and chaos in its wake.

He shouldn’t be bothered by it – it was their dumb fears and prejudices. It didn’t concern him in any way. But one thing did…

“And you?” he chuckled and looked at Silver. “What do you think? You see me as a villain here?”

And it was strange. It was so, so strange. But this man’s opinion now intrigued him more than all the rumors about himself that may circulate Nassau in this particular moment. They feared him? So be it. They liked him? Well, so be it. They wanted him dead? Fuck them. None of it mattered.

Except…

Silver smiled, this mischievous glint in his eyes back, leaned forward and started talking again.

And Flint’s heart sank.

+++++++++++++

My truest love.

Know no shame.

When he read those words for the first time Flint – James – felt happiness to the point of exploding and… shame. He apologized to Miranda, took her hands in his and begged – begged to forgive him for that feeling he couldn’t threw away.

To share Thomas with her, even though she was his one and only Soulmate.

Miranda smiled then and just held him in her delicate but so strong and warm arms. Soothed him, whispered sweet nonsense in his ear, not breaking their embrace the entire time. That’s how Thomas found them, but neither Miranda nor James ever voiced the cause of this to him.

Now, Flint thought, after all those years, he didn’t regret not telling him this. Maybe it would’ve broken his heart; maybe he would just laugh it off and took his part in their shared embrace… They’d never know now.

All they had now was the faded Spiral on Miranda’s wrist, memories, engraved in both their heads, and the red leather book with the last part of his soul, rested in there…

…Which, right now, rested on the floor, doubling Flint’s rage for the one responsible. Vane, on the other hand, held him responsible for something too, as if his attempts to strangle him on that same floor were proof enough. Flint was more than happy to take his own part in ending Vane’s shitty life and freeing Nassau – and most of all himself – of his presence.

Although, they were roughly interrupted by Eleanor, Miranda and Richard-fucking-Guthrie, who suddenly appeared again. Flint had a few questions to him too, but as Eleanor and Miranda insisted their meeting should become more civilized, decided to set thing between them later.

And so the new plan was settled. Vane didn’t take it well and fled angrily, Eleanor stormed after him and Flint was left with Miranda and Richard Guthrie alone. And then came the obvious trouble with gold.

A while later, Flint took Miranda to the back doors and stand there with her, trying to find peace with just her presence. It came… rather awkwardly. Some tugging were still inside him, some… longing; the strong pull towards the beach and whatever awaited him there. He exactly what, though. His crew, precisely, and Flint knew they won’t take well the news about their new course of action.

Yet he never felt the pull towards them. Hell, he never felt it towards sea at all.

Miranda was his home. His place was by her side now. So why?..

“Captain!” he heard and suddenly something snapped inside him and the pull subsided a little.

He should think about it later. He definitely should, but right now there were some news he needed to tell his men and the development of the whole thing.

Surprisingly, it seemed Silver had some news too.

“I thought him dead,” Flint remarked all of sudden; when the fact of Billy’s revival settled in. “Did he say anything?”

“About what?” Silver narrowed his eyes and Flint had a vexing feeling that he knew exactly the background of Flint’s question.

So he didn’t say anything, just looked at him. The corner of Silver’s mouth tugged upward, his eyes twinkled. He lifted his hands, as if in mock defeat.

“All right, I get it. No more pranks fro today.”

“I wouldn’t hope for that,” Flint grumbled and Silver actually smiled at him, bright and all teeth.

Flint’s own mouth twitched, he snorted a little and shook his head. Unbelievable, but it made Silver’s smile even wider than it already was.

“So,” Flint pulled himself together. Straight to the point, once again. There wasn’t any time for… whatever this was between them for a second. “Billy.”

And they began their short walk to the beach to these new “developments” waiting.

+++++++++++++

“I’m seeming unconcerned,” Flint said and Silver flashed that bright smile of his once again. Flint found himself avoiding his face for a second, as though it was hard to watch it lit up with exhilaration and liveliness which bounced off of Silver like a sea waves.

He was… Flint didn’t know who exactly he was. But his smile, his open and so ridiculously vivid face were hard things not to notice. He remembered that impulse he felt in his cabin. That strange and stupid thought about…
No. It was nothing.

And even if it wasn’t he didn’t have time for this.

He distracted himself with questions about Hornigold’s voices contrary his own, and Silver listened, biting on his own lip and watching him with some strange expression. Then he walked closer and voiced his concerns, which – as Flint knew why Silver was on his side in the first place – were obvious and understandable. But still…

“The gold is a priority,” he said with such confidence he almost believed it himself. “There’s been no change in that”.

But there was.

“You have my word.”

And now this word meant nothing. Because he lied. To the only one person who was on his side in this case. To the one, who saved him once. And then again.

To the one, who believed him now, Flint saw it in his eyes.

Silver smiled and left, carefree and unaffected once again. Flint watched him go and tried not to think – no to dwell on the fact that he somehow made a mistake.

Maybe the dull ache somewhere inside his ribcage was the proof itself.

+++++++++++++

Silver was nowhere to be seen when everything started. Flint stayed at the periphery of the crowd, listening and trying not to catch Hornigold’s accusing stares, which he threw at him every now and then.

The men listened, but, judging from their expressions, they still didn’t choose a side. It was a bit of relief, well aside from…

Where the fuck was Silver anyway?

He appeared, as if sensing Flint’s rapidly increasing irritation. Walked straight to him. Flint blinked, sensing something was off; Silver’s face betrayed nothing from afar but in close proximity the uneasiness and concern were written openly on it.

Something was wrong.

They stood so close to each other, Flint felt his breath on his own face, saw his eyes – they were almost dark with occasional golden blinks from the lanterns in their depths. They were close. Too close for Flint’s comfort. Somehow his mind went almost blank when Silver entered his personal space and he found himself looking at him almost… expectantly, as if asking “What now?”

But for all things he felt at that moment, Silver clearly didn’t share them. In a few seconds Flint understood why.

The gold was gone, the men erupted into chaos, arguing, shouting at each other, but thankfully not blaming anyone. Yet. After those two explained to him how exactly the gold was stolen from them, Flint stayed silent, despite Dufresne’s summary of the situation. From the corner of his eyes, he saw Silver but couldn’t read his expression.

What were his thoughts about this?

Flint, sending Dufresne away, almost asked it out loud but Silver spoke first. And every word sent a cold shiver down Flint’s spine. He didn’t like it. He hated it. He hated the look in his eyes, the sound of his voice, the meaning of his words.

He hated all of it. But not him.

“I need your help,” he said, approaching him. Silver shifted away, as if seeing him as a menace.

But it wasn’t like that. He wasn’t a threat to him now.

Flint needed him to see the point, to believe, to stay by his side. Now. Maybe later too. But that thought was a dangerous one, he put it aside for the moment. He would deal with it later, but right now he needed his voice, he needed his help and his ability to manipulate.

So he didn’t give him a chance to say something, to retort, to argue. He knew his words were harsh and brute. He meant for them to be that way. Everything, he’d do anything just to…

Silver stood there awkwardly and clearly was at loss, Flint saw it, this raw emotion in him. He got him, strike a blow that hit the mark exactly.

“You’ll address the men?” Flint asked his back, when Silver turned away from him.

And so he did.

+++++++++++++

When everything ended, Flint let the men off the leash. The gold was gone so there was no need from them to sit in one place and wait for his next command. The loss of their big prize was still fresh, but Flint, honestly, didn’t give a shit. First, he talked to Eleanor, then hurried to Miranda’s house where introduced himself to young lady Ashe.

Later that night, when the exhausted girl was fast asleep, Miranda asked him to stay, but he refused. Promised to return tomorrow after all the preparations and left to his bungalow on the beach.

The town was wide awake, filled with drunken men as always, but the beach was silent. Lanterns flickered, swaying in a light breeze and Flint closed his eyes for a moment. He thought this day would never come to an end.

The bungalow was dark and empty. The creaking wooden stairs, which led to it, although, weren’t.

“What’re you doing here?” Flint watched, incredulous, as Silver turned to him, hearing his steps on crunching sand. “I thought you’d be there.”

He nodded in the direction of distant moving lights. Silver quirked lips a little and shook his head.

“As much as I appreciate their longing for freedom, I’m not in the mood of joining either of them. Wanted to be alone for a while.”

“Yet you’re here,” Flint pointed, indicating that it was his bungalow they were currently at. Well, not inside.

Silver was silent for a moment and then asked something Flint clearly hadn’t been waiting for.

“Do you think that way too?”

“What?”

“You said earlier,” Silver watched him now attentively; Flint shifted, a little bothered by his stare. “About the men giving a shit about what I think and what I want them to think. Do you give a shit too?”

Now that was the question Flint wasn’t expecting at all. He stood, almost paralyzed by this intense gaze, and couldn’t come up with any coherent words. Maybe because he didn’t know the answer at all.

The silence between them grew heavy and too long. Flint opened his mouth, then closed it only to open it again. Silver was sitting on the stairs and Flint loomed over him a little, yet he had a very distinct impression that Silver was the one in control now.

He didn’t like it. And the question too.

“You know,” Silver broke the silence first and stood so suddenly Flint almost stepped away. Almost. “You don’t have to answer this.”

He walked ahead, their shoulder almost bumped, but not enough to be the actual body contact.

“I think I am,” Flint managed looking at his retreating form.

Silver stopped and glanced over his shoulder. His thick curls were obscuring his face and Flint felt the urge to brush them aside. To lift his hand and delve his fingers right there. He was certain they were as soft as a silk.

As if escaping this strong pull, Flint took the steps and sat at the table near the door. Somehow he knew that sleep now wasn’t an option. The wood creaked and Silver joined him, sat across from him and simply stared. His gaze was… calm. And soft. And a bit calculating, as if Flint was a puzzle he wanted to unravel.

The lights flickered, throwing shades of yellow and brown at them, dancing in the depths of Silver’s eyes. Flint noticed that the blueness in them was as colorful as in bright day.

He liked it.

“You have the votes now,” Silver stated matter-of-factly; they both knew it already but he still voiced it and Flint vaguely thought what for.

Yet he shrugged and admitted:

“You did all the work there. It’s literally yours votes.”

“I did it for myself,” Silver shrugged and tossed his curls from his face. They still fell forward, obstructing his vision and he tucked them behind his ears. Flint watched these ministrations a little amazed and even amused.

“I know,” he nodded and the silence fell upon them again.

“What if your plan won’t work?” Silver muttered and narrowed his eyes. “What then?”

“Everything is under control,” Flint didn’t hesitate a second, even though deep down he felt a bit of doubt himself. “It will work.”

“This man, lord Ashe,” Silver frowned, remembering a name, “he’ll know we’re pirates. I don’t think he likes our kinfolk very much.”

Flint bit his tongue from spilling the truth about his familiarity with lord Ashe. It wasn’t relevant for Silver, besides he wasn’t going to share his past with him. Not by any chance.

“We’ll bring him back his daughter, I think that’ll change his opinion, even for a while,” he decided to say instead, not revealing anything.

“What if it won’t?” Silver stubbornly asked and Flint actually frowned at that.

“What about this skepticism all of sudden?” he grumbled. “If you still bitter about the gold…”

“It’s not about that,” Silver cut him short and tucked another curl behind. He gazed at Flint then. “You’re gonna take her too?”

Flint raised a brow at that. Silver rolled his eyes.

“Mrs. Barlow,” he clarified. “She’s gonna go with us?”

“Yes, she is,” Flint didn’t like her decision at all, but he couldn’t deny her it. Not after everything they’ve been through.

He started to dislike this conversation too. It almost felt like an interrogation and that he didn’t like at all.

“I talk too much now, didn’t I?” Silver chuckled and Flint thought for a moment that he somehow read his mind.

But it was ridiculous.

“It’s fine,” he shrugged, which surprised himself. Silver, apparently, was taken aback too. He blinked and raised his own brow.

“A few days ago your answer would be quite different.”

“I can change it for how it was before, if you’d like,” Flint threatened and Silver chuckled again, that deep rumble that sent a quick shiver down Flint’s side.

“Hell no, I like it that way.”

“I’m surprised that you’d like something about me at all,” Flint remarked rather unperturbedly and with no second thoughts.

Silver almost laughed at it and shook his head a little.

“I thought the same way, you know. Just about myself. Well, apparently I do like something about you, which makes me a winner here. I don’t think you’d ever like anything about me.”

It was spoken so light-heartedly, so carelessly, that Flint should’ve just snorted to that. Or even set it aside and pretend he didn’t hear it.

But he heard.

“What you said up there,” he admitted. “How you managed to get their voices… I liked that.”

Silver didn’t laugh at that. He made no comment, just looked at him with big blue eyes. He really didn’t expect that, it seemed.

The silence was so long this time Flint decided that the talking was done for today. He shifted and stood, shrugging his shoulders, which became a little tense.

“Well, that’s…” he started but Silver suddenly straightened too.

“I need…” he blurted and then cut himself short. Frowned, bit his lip. “I want to tell you…”

There was a real storm of emotions on his face and Flint frowned at it, not understanding where these came from. Something was off and he couldn’t comprehend what exactly. Silver looked almost… desperate? Flint never has seen him like this.

And deep down he… feared to listen to him. Something told him he didn’t want to hear his next words at all. Was it tiredness after all these chaotic days? Was it something else? He just couldn’t name it.

“I think that’s all for today,” he sighed and turned to the door. “You should rest too.”

Silver stopped trying to find the right words to tell him something else. Flint felt his gaze on his own back but didn’t turn. He knew it would be a mistake to do it. And the other thing he’d do after that would be a mistake too.

He squeezed the door’s handle and stood still. The blood rushed in veins, howled in his ears. The world was loud and bright.

Maybe it was an eternity before he managed to turn. No one was there. He was alone again.

+++++++++++++

On the next day all the preparations began. The crew was in open turmoil, still complaining about the gold, but quietly and with no malice. Flint, on the other hand, came to Miranda’s house earlier in the morning.

“We’ll depart in a few days,” he explained to her, glancing at Abigail, who occupied the rocking chair in the garden and read a book. She still looked pale, but Miranda assured him that she’ll be alright here, with no unwanted guests and in the quiet of this house.

She smiled at him and took his hands in hers.

“Stay,” she whispered like the previous evening and he really wanted nothing more than that.

Yes, he wanted it, didn’t he?

“When this will be over, I’ll stay,” he promised and she smiled again. He kissed her forehead and left to the beach.

The waves rocketed quietly, whispering to him You’ve lied every damn time.

+++++++++++++

Flint watched the preparations for a while, noticing Billy’s eagerness and their new Quartermaster’s attentiveness. Mr. Scott chose not to follow Hornigold and stayed with them to see Flint’s plan become real. Well, he had all rights to witness it.

From the corner of his eyes Flint caught some movement to the left and turned. Silver was there, packing something with unusual concentration. He hadn’t even noticed Flint’s approach, which Flint, to be honest, hadn’t noticed at first too – it was as though his legs worked without his mind.

When the shadow fell upon him Silver lifted his head. He tied part of his hair back, Flint registered and his blue eyes weren’t covered in falling curls now. It made them stand out more, bright and sparkling in the morning light.
It was… good on him too.

“The rations,” Silver said and Flint blinked at him.

“What?”

“I’m packing the rations,” Silver’s mouth tugged upwards in a half-smirk.

“I didn’t ask anything,” Flint frowned.

“I… just guessed?” Silver shrugged and stood, tossing his hair back, the way of habit it seemed.

Flint looked at him more closely and a deepened frown. Silver seemed… distracted, almost disturbed by something. It was in his eyes and in the lines of his face, but the cause of it was still unknown. Flint doubted he’ll know the truth by simply asking.

“I thought it would be wise to double them,” Silver continued moreover. “Well, as much as the money would allow. We’ll have two ladies now on the ship with us after all.”

Yes, that’s right, ladies.

“I need you to address the men about this too,” Flint nodded, remembering this important matter. “You do realize that…”

“I’ve done it,” Silver cut in and Flint blinked at him again. Silver actually smiled at him. “I’ve already done it. I thought you’d ask me about it and decided to take care of it beforehand.”

“That’s…” Flint coughed; his gut felt… warm all of sudden. “Okay. Good.”

He turned to head back, then stopped.

“Did you…” shook his head, but no right words came.

Did you read my mind again?

But it was stupid and of-fucking-course Silver – and thankfully no one else – wasn’t capable of these kinds of things. And it surely was better that way.

“Keep going then,” he managed at last and retreated without further ado. Despite something inside him demanded to stay.

+++++++++++++

The sailing was… rather smooth at first. The crew acted strangely decent, no second glances towards their “passengers”, no shouting or swearing when the ladies were on the deck too. Quiet whispers while eating, muffled laugher and nothing more. Flint even thought for a while he somehow mixed up the ships and ended not on a pirate vessel surely.

It was all Silver’s doing, that he understood quite well. And, of course, the men started acting like their old selves the instant Miranda and Abigail left for Flint’s cabin. They would laugh, spill their drinks, make some fights, then laugh it off again.

And, of course, the “goings-on” were still present. The crew even waited for them with sheer delight, which puzzled Flint a little, but he didn’t voice it. Silver was more than happy to proceed with his “entertainment” for the crew, which lifted their still sour mood with ease.

Flint listened too on occasion and just shook his head at an open dumbness of this whole thing. His mouth quirked a few times, but nothing more.

On the third day, when their destination was as close as possible and they prepared to drop anchor in the morning already Flint couldn’t sleep. Miranda and Abigail slept peacefully in his cabin, but he… felt restless. Maybe the cause was the oncoming meeting with the man he doubted would recognize him not to mention speak with him at all.

Or maybe it was something else. Something that tugged at his insides, forced him on an almost quiet quarterdeck and calmed the moment he saw Silver there too.

He stood right on the same place he and Flint occupied some time ago (it felt like months, honestly), when the crew decided their fate after they took the Spanish Warship. Flint hesitated a few seconds but then joined him. Silver hadn’t flinched, just threw him a sideways glance and then looked at the dark waves below again.

“I…” Flint said after a long silence.

“Me too,” Silver muttered and Flint nodded.

The mind-reading thing again. So be it.

“We’ll be there tomorrow,” Flint nodded towards the still hidden shore far away from them.

“And what will happen then?” Silver whispered barely audible.

Flint cocked and eyebrow, did he forget already what he himself told the men not so long ago?

“If it works, and I know it will,” he leaned to the side a little. “the Nassau…”

“I didn’t ask about it,” Silver cut him and Flint sighed almost irritatingly, but then Silver straightened and fully turned to him. His eyes were… hard. “I wasn’t asking about Nassau.”

Flint just simply watched him for a few moments, mulling the answer he wanted to give.

“They,” he came with a proper response at last and jerked his chin downwards, meaning the crew, “will decide for themselves. No one would make them do something against their will. I don’t know what’s inside their heads and I honestly don’t care.”

Silver nodded, as if agreeing with last statement, but still asked his next question.

“And what about you?”

Flint sighed and looked at the waves himself. It was a long silence before he started talking again.

“A while ago I told something to Miss Guthrie. That once Urca will be ours I’ll want nothing more than walk away from the sea. It’s not ours and it never will be now, but I think the urge is still here.”

“So you’ll,” Silver paused, as if checking his next words, “walk away now?”

“Maybe I will,” Flint agreed.

“You’ll be with her then?” he turned and looked right into the sky blue of Silver’s eyes. The color was so vivid, despite the night surrounding them. “With Mrs. Barlow?”

Flint didn’t answer that. It was too personal, too raw and… something else; maybe he simply didn’t want Silver to know. Even if he knew already.

“You too?” he asked instead. “I heard you then. About your own desire to walk away from them and never look back.”

And he did listen then. He absorbed every word, engraved them inside his mind, just to simply know something about this man. Why, was the next question.

“You’ll walk away?” he pressed a little.

Silver looked at the waves too.

“I wanted to,” he replied.

“Do you want it now?” Flint whispered and Silver looked at him again.

The world… felt strange. And it was bright as a day.

The waves was suddenly too strong, the ship shook with their force, echoing in Flint’s head with a loud thump thump thump. It was mere seconds before he knew that this was his heart.

“I don’t know,” Silver mumbled quietly and gripped the rail till his fingers turned white.

It was not the answer Flint expected. It was the same answer he would now give too. It made him restless with no meaning behind it. It made him feel something he hasn’t felt for far too long.

So long that he couldn’t name it now.

Chapter Text

Rage.

It rose inside him, filling every physical part of his being, every corner, every inner place he couldn’t even name. It grew, heavy and hot and huge and all consuming, spilling from every tiny pore on his face, his hands – his whole body. It bubbled, oozing like a pus from a wound, ugly, awful, poisonous…

He was rage and fire and anger. He was no man; he was only these things, that consumed him, drowned him in a hollow void with no light, no sounds… nothing.

It was born the moment Miranda’s lifeless body hit the fancy carpet beneath their feet and he saw a trickle of blood, streaming from the single hole on her forehead.

He couldn’t form any thought then anymore.

The rage was there when they chained him and put a collar on him. When their children gathered around in a small frightened circle and stared with almost unblinking eyes at him, it was there. When the voices hushed and all those noble men accused him, spoke about him and everything he did (they didn’t know even a half of his doings), it was there.

When Charles Vane sat beside him, impassive and so out of place, it was there still. But by the time Vane stood and lifted his hands in the air, he knew already that from now on this feeling will be the only one inside him.

Everything else was gone. Captain Flint was gone. Instead there was a monster they feared and summoned to bring its wrath on them.

This rage drove him forward, gave him strength, helped him stay on his feet and fight his way out. He wrecked chaos around himself, brought it upon this place that would burn like she wished. The rage was his only companion now and he wouldn’t mind it to be forever like thi-

And only then he was proved wrong when the crushing unbearable pain exploded inside him, throwing him to the ground with such force he almost blacked out. He lay there, breathing shallowly, barely conscious, barely alive. So that was it. His heart gave out, he was dimly aware of it. Finally it couldn’t handle this life anymore.

But it kept beating, hard and demanding and strong. He was alive, he wasn’t injured, that he somehow knew, but this pain… it made the rage inside him shrank, it made every fiber of his being scream in agony, in chorus with the voices of those around him, echoing in his ears.

Vane shouted something, grabbed him, dragging upwards and shoved forward. Keep moving, that was it. They needed to get away; they needed to survive for what awaited them in the future. The rage returned, Flint clenched his teeth and ran, forcing himself to move, to dull the never ending agony, roaring inside him.

It was Miranda’s death, he convinced himself, while moving on a sole impulse, fighting his way out, running for his life, reaching for a goal straight ahead.

It awaited him. Awaited him right there.

He shouldn’t have brought her here. He should’ve left her in Nassau, in a safe calmness of her house, to wait for him, to open her arms for him, to smile at him, to be there for him. Now she was gone and so was his heart.

Which ached so severely it was a miracle it didn’t break already. Yes. It was because of her. It was because he lost her. He was truly alone now, no one was left.

No one.

Someone screamed suddenly and it shook Flint to the core. He stumbled, almost fell but Vane cursed and hauled him up again. They almost made it to the docks and now was not the time to stop and see who was the source of that anguish and pain Flint heard.

They grabbed the paddles frantically and solely focused on staying alive, but somewhere deep inside Flint thought his mind played tricks with him. Because in close proximity there were no one except them.

+++++++++++++

The cannons fired and ship literally shook with every shot. The smoke clouded everything, but Flint hasn’t moved from his spot, stock still and clenching his jaw so hard it hurt.

Everything hurt, though. His body, his mind, every damn digit on his hands and legs. Everything. He embraced it, like he deserved, he welcomed it and tried not to think, not to remember, not to spill it out loud for everyone to hear.

The town fell too quickly, the ships sank, the smoke clouded the sky in ugly gray and only then Flint moved. His eyes locked with Vane’s and his sudden savior looked at him and nodded again. There was no need to ask, if Vane liked or not everything that happened mere seconds ago.

“Make ready the launches and prepare the men to get into the town,” Flint ordered sideways, not looking at anyone in particular. Someone quickly stepped forward and helped with the chains still attached to him. Vane was freed too, rather awkwardly though, but Flint didn’t care.

“Captain?” Scott approached.

“Tell men to take everything they find valuable,” Flint turned to him. “Prepare the shore party as quick as possible.”

Not sparing Scott another glance or word he strode right to his cabin. Billy quickly followed, but Flint hadn’t paid him any attention. His mind wasn’t here right now anymore.

The pain pierced his skull and he flinched, faltering in his steps. Only then he noticed blood. His quarters were a literal mess. There was blood and dead fucking bodies everywhere.

“Captain!” Billy managed to catch up with him and Flint watched him cringe at the look he saw on his face.

“What the fuck happened here?” he asked in a barely hushed tone. Lack of emotions in his own voice wasn’t a surprise to him. Nothing could shake him now.

“We had a situation,” Billy acknowledged rather grimly and looked at the mess. Flint caught a glimpse of movement and saw a few men from his crew dragging the corpses away.

“I don’t care,” Flint waved any explanation aside. “Just deal with it.”

“I think you will,” Billy intervened and lowered his eyes for a moment.

“It isn’t the first time we lost our men,” Flint sighed; he felt exhaustion kicking in suddenly. A crushing weight pressed on him and he wanted nothing more than to close his eyes now and just forget.

He’ll mourn later. He would never be able to stop.

“It is,” Billy clenched his jaw, “but we could’ve lost everyone today. If not for…” he cut himself short and quickly glanced sideways, as if expecting someone to appear.

Something clenched inside Flint, twisting his gut so hard he almost doubled over. A part of him refused to name this feeling but he knew already what it was.

Dread.

“I think you need to see it,” Billy settled at last and they went below deck.

There was a small crowd there and for a brief moment Flint remembered the “goings-on” and how men stomped their feet, mimicking the one in the center, who had all their attention. Now they noticed him and started to move aside, like a waves before the ship.

Flint saw a corner of a table and blood – a literal puddle of blood on the floor right below his feet. He watched it for a moment, stunned and confused. Then he moved closer and lifted his head.

It wasn’t a “goings-on”. And it seemed they weren’t an option in the future anymore. The men would still like them and listen and laugh and stomp their feet with such force the ship will fucking rock with it.

Except now there won’t be any stomping anymore. Precisely not from a man, lying on this damned table in a fucking bigger puddle of blood than the one on the floor. The man with an open wound right where his left leg used to be. Everything below the knee was gone. Except it didn’t if the bloody piece of flesh Howell was currently laying aside on the floor was any indication.

And then it crashed on him full force.

Silver was here. Any they took of his leg.

Flint didn’t say anything, but Billy must’ve sensed it in the air and started talking.

“Captain’s Vane men did it. I don’t know all the details but it seemed they wanted to take the ship and escape, leaving their own captain here to die. They took Silver to your cabin; he managed to steal the keys from our shackles and we barged into your quarters as soon as possible…”

He paused and looked at Silver grimly.

“But not soon enough.”

“Take them off,” Flint hissed suddenly and everyone looked at him.

Howell, clearly noticing him only now, opened his mouth and quickly closed it. The men moved aside again, widening the circle around him.

Flint was beside Silver in a flash of a movement. He gripped the chains on him, as though trying to rip them apart with his bare hands.

His mind was empty. His stomach churned. He wanted to throw up.

He wanted to kill everyone. To claw their eyes, to rip their throats, to tear them apart as much as the sight of this man was tearing him now.

Not this. Everything but not this.

The shackles fell with a loud “bang” but Silver didn’t even twitch. Flint saw his lashes tremble but he remained unconscious. There was no relief in this. Flint knew he was awake when everything happened. He was awake from the start of this nightmare.

“Clean the mess in my quarters,” Flint gritted between clenched teeth and squeezed the side of a table so hard his knuckles hurt. “And bring him there.”

No one said a word and Billy hastily took the rest of the men with him. Flint stayed frozen to the spot, not able to move an inch and just watched Howell wrapping a bloody stump in a clean bandage. It was red in mere seconds.

“He’s gonna make it, right?” someone whispered and Flint dimly noticed a bald short man beside Silver. He was squeezing his shoulder with both hands. His name was… Muldoon? Flint hadn’t actually remembered at the moment. It made no sense to him.

“Let’s hope so,” Howell muttered, fixing the cloth. His hands were covered in blood, his clothes too, as well as Muldoon’s and two others. One of them was Dooley, the other… Flint didn’t give a shit.

Silver was as pale as the cloth on his stump. Covered in sweat, hair a mess, eyes swollen with dark circles under. He shivered. He was in pain even in his sleep.

Flint watched and couldn’t tear his eyes away. He couldn’t even think. He did something before, but what? He went somewhere and something happened. Someone left. But it was so far away now, so dull and distant.
Nothing mattered anymore except the fact that he may never see-

“Captain,” Howell approached him cautiously, as if cornering a feral animal. Flint turned sharply and doctor flinched. “I need to examine you.”

“I’m fine,” he squeezed this word out of his mouth with such force it hurt.

“Still-”

“I’m fine,” Flint pressed harder and there must’ve been something in his voice, because Howell froze immediately. Others too.

Silver suddenly shifted and moaned, his face scrunching with raw pain. Flint almost felt it too. It was as hard as the one he felt in Charlestown. He placed a tentative hand on Silver’s shoulder in a fake attempt to somehow calm him, but he shifted again and whined through clenched teeth. His back arched, he gripped the table with both hands and started to shake.

Flint’s hand accidentally brushed his neck and he nearly flinched. Silver was burning hot with fever, shaking all over, sweat running down his forehead and neck.

“The laudanum, now,” Flint barked but Howell just swallowed and hastily rummaged through his things.

“We don’t have one,” he said and the pain in his own voice was almost physically palpable.

Flint looked at him sharply, squeezing Silver’s shoulder a little too roughly than needed, earning a whimper. He quickly took his hand away. Muldoon and Dooley both grabbed Silver way too gently and tried to hold him still. It barely worked; he was close to trashing already.

“You used all of it?” he rumbled and Howell looked at him then. Flint felt cold washing over him. “You didn’t have it at all.”

“We couldn’t…” Howell muttered, quickly looking for something to ease the pain eventually, but nothing was there, Flint saw it clearly. Besides only laudanum would’ve helped here. “It was only rum.”

Rum. They gave him just rum before the amputation. A heavy drink, which amount would have to be a fucking barrel to numb a grown man.

Silver felt it all.

Flint felt sick.

Howell wetted the cloth and started to wipe Silver’s skin, cleaning away blood and sweat. Silver whimpered at the contact, tried to turn away, to curl in on himself, then moaned again, clearly from pain of moving. Muldoon and Dooley gripped him tighter, fearing he’d hurt himself.

Flint stood and watched. His hand twitched and he curled his fingers in a tight fist.

It was his fault. Everything was only his fault.

Eternity passed before Billy appeared again and they gently carried Silver to Captain’s cabin. Flint followed them on unsteady legs, feeling dizzy. He never took his eyes from Silver the entire walk. Blissfully, it was a short trip.

Vane waited there, sitting on the corner of the table and fumbling with his knife. Flint caught a glimpse of glare Billy threw towards the other captain; Vane just smirked, but Flint paid them no attention, looking closely as men placed Silver on the cot by the window. They clearly prepared it for him beforehand, turning it into a rather small but as comfortable as possible bed. Then they left but Billy and Vane stayed.

The latter glanced over at Silver’s trembling form and narrowed his eyes.

“Caught him myself below deck,” he rumbled in that deep rasp of his. “He seemed pretty brave then. And stupid too.”

“Is there some point in it?” Billy roughly interrupted. Flint hasn’t been watching but from the tone of his voice he definitely was glaring daggers at Vane.

Flint honestly didn’t give a shit to both of them. He never tore his eyes away from Silver. Something deep inside whispered he shouldn’t do it ever again. Otherwise something bad will happen. Bullshit. What more could’ve happened that didn’t already?

“This,” Billy’s angry voice shook him from his thought again, “was yours men doing. Your Quartermaster-”

“Would’ve been gutted by me specifically, if I fucking knew where he is now,” Vane hissed at him in return.

“I’ve already dealt with him,” Billy snarled and Flint turned just in time to see as Vane smirked again.

“Well done then. Won’t stand disobedience as well as traitors.”

Billy just opened his mouth again but then the door burst open and DeGroot along with Scott entered hastily.

“The shore party is ready,” the latter confirmed and glanced sideways at Vane. “Your men are secured below deck.”

Flint jerked his chin at Billy.

“Go.”

The bosun stared at him for a moment and then left with DeGroot.

“As soon as we finish here, we’ll head to Tortuga,” Flint told Scott, throwing him a sideways glance. “Is that clear?”

The Quartermaster just nodded and left as quickly as possible. Flint turned to Silver again and felt his heart clench. His eyebrows were drawn tightly together, mouth in a thin line and he was shaking badly again. He was suffering and Flint suffered with him too.

“It’s him, isn’t it?” Vane asked suddenly and Flint jerked, turning to him. He completely forgot someone else was here.

“What?”

“The one who stole the schedule from you,” Vane cocked his head, jumped from the table and strode forward, looking at Silver more closely. Flint felt a rather displeasing and awkward urge to get Vane the hell out of here, just to make him turn away and not lay his damned eyes on-

“The thief,” Vane clarified again, even though both of them new damn well the topic he was breaching. “Supposed to give the schedule to me, but decided to team up with you. Lost a hell ton of a pearls because of that shit. The moment he opened his mouth when I found him here, I knew it was him.”

He looked Flint over, almost from head to toe and as annoying as it was Flint stifled the urge to sock him right in the jaw. He was in a damned dept to this man now and it would’ve irritated him like crazy, if he had the strength. But he hadn’t.

“I see why you are looking at him like that,” Vane shrugged and started walking towards the doors. “Even though I don’t fucking understand it. You already know where the Urca is, why still bother with him then?”

And with that he was gone. Right on time, because Flint felt some strange need to throw a total nonsense in his back.

About the Urca’s gold and the fact that somehow deep inside he knew it didn’t matter to him anymore. And the reason was something he wouldn’t ever admit to anyone. Not even to himself.

So he left, ordering Howell to stay beside Silver the whole time, and went to the burning town along with his men. They unleashed their swords, even though it wasn’t strictly necessary anymore, for those who could really fight them where torn apart by the cannonballs or buried alive by crushed buildings. They went through the streets, spilling blood, showing no mercy, taking what they claimed theirs and following him, like a leader he truly was.

He killed, he took, he watched and his heart was dead silent inside.

And if every time this dead weight clenched after hearing another scream, throwing his mind back to the ship, in his cabin, where the man whose screams he hasn’t heard but knew them already lay, that was nothing.

In the end they burned the city and returned to the ship. Flint watched the town turning into one giant bonfire and vaguely thought that it was nothing compared to the one burning inside him.

+++++++++++++

The pain was… severe. Like absolutely nothing he felt before. It burned in veins, it licked at skin, it twisted bones and chewed them, trashing, munching, shattering them to an ash.

It was nothing.

There were hands on him, hard surface under him… Someone talked, someone whispered and all of it merged, faded to an excruciating ringing noise.

None of it mattered.

Only pain. The one somewhere deep inside, in the dark and hollow cave on the left. The one he felt.

The voices talked, they wanted him to behave, to stay still, to stay calm, but none of it mattered. He couldn’t. No. How could he? When this pain was so…

They wanted to help him. But no, they shouldn’t do it. No numbness, no medicine, nothing.

“No, no…” he tried to say, but this awful noise inside his head just wouldn’t let him. He felt as though the world crashed on him. “Not me...”

He tried to beg, to plead – everything possible just for them to understand!

Help him! Please, he’s in pain. Please, help him!

They shouted something, the ringing tore his mind apart but that didn’t matter, because he suffered so hard and no one heard it. No one but him and they won’t just damn listen!

“…talking about…”

“…delirious with…”

“…hold him…”

“…”

He saw the darkness, it swirled in ocean waves above him, smiled at him, that deep familiar smirk he knew so well now. It reached for him and he wanted to cry, to weep, to scream…

The world exploded with his mind. He screamed but the darkness never left. It opened it’s embrace and swallowed him whole, gushing down his throat, clawing at his eyes, spearing through his heart with thousands needles.

He choked on his voice. It wasn’t his anymore.

He tasted blood. It wasn’t his anymore.

He felt his pain. He wasn’t hi-

+++++++++++++

Flint opened his eyes with a start, frantically gulping for air. His mind was a screaming mess of red and black flashing in bits and pieces before his eyes.

He saw a dream, but more like lived through it. He shook all over, sweat flowed down his body and when he touched his face to wipe it away there were salt on his palm.

He closed his eyes, not bothering to wipe his tears.

The dream was anguish itself. Even if he couldn’t remember it now.

+++++++++++++

Silver bit his knuckles again, thick curls hiding his face, but Flint noticed and clenched his own teeth in irritation. Was it so hard just fucking ask for Howell and laudanum? He didn’t get it at all, but stayed silent.

Silver woke up two days ago, when they left Tortuga already. Flint told him the news and received one particular in return. It shook him so hard he couldn’t even imagine it would. He spent the whole day on the deck, barking orders and receiving alarming and frightened glances from his own crew.

Silver couldn’t even sit for too long and almost had a fever again after so much as trying. Howell scolded him, but Flint saw the stubborn clench of Silver’s jaw, the hard look in his eyes which never was there before.

The man who opened his eyes on that cot beside window was almost a stranger to Flint.

He remained in Captain’s quarters, specifically under Flint’s direct order. Silver indented to move below deck where the others were, but Flint strictly prohibited that. Silver didn’t have any strength to argue, that was clear as a day, so the topic was settled once and for all.

The point is, he suffered. Deeply and heavily. He was mostly silent during the day and deliberately quiet at night. Flint haven’t noticed at first but then it became apparent to him that Silver forced himself not to show any kind of pain neither in front of him nor the crew.

He bit the inside of his cheek, when someone was present. His lips and knuckles bore angry red marks, when he sunk teeth in them at night, turning his back to Flint and tucking himself in a corner as deep as possible.

Flint heard no moan, no whine, nothing ever since Silver woke up. Just a heavy breathing, when sleep eventually would overtake him or a barely audible scrape of teeth when the pain forced Silver to stay awake and he would clench them so hard his jaw hurt (Flint could’ve guessed it did).

They still haven’t reached Nassau, though headed there. Vane and his men parted with them at Tortuga; his unwanted “savior” decided to find a ship for himself. Both crews breathed easily after that.

Flint, on the other hand, delayed their arrival at Nassau as long as possible. He needed time to think and to weigh the pros and cons. Although there wasn’t really other option except to head straight to Jack Rackham and start a fucking war with him, if needed. He won’t tolerate the gold’s new “owner” that he was certain of.

The day before they reached Nassau, Silver asked about Randall. There were Billy and Muldoon with him at the Captain’s quarters. Flint sat at his table, not sparing them another glance, rummaging though his log and trying to distract himself with something meaningful.

It hadn’t worked, because he still heard every word exchanged, even though they tried to talk in hushed tones.

Silver barely talked now and every time it was so quiet and soft Flint had a hard time to understand him.

It irritated him.

It gnawed at him.

“He’s… uh…” Muldoon spoke first after the question and judging by the tone of his voice it a little… alarmed him.

“Do you not…” Billy sounded much like Muldoon too.

“I know he’s dead,” Silver calmed them with that soft voice of his. “I want his peg leg. You didn’t throw it at the sea with him, right?”

Flint heard a sharp noise – a scrunch of paper and looked at his own hand. The map’s corner was a mess between his fingers. He slowly unclenched them and hasn’t turned a slightest bit but still felt the stares on his back.

“Yeah,” Billy coughed after an uncomfortable silence. “But Howell…”

“I’ll deal with him,” Silver told him firmly. “Please, get the leg.”

An unspoken You’re dismissed floated in air like a hanging rock on a thin thread. Flint almost saw it in a physical shape. He didn’t like it.

But the crew voted a few days ago and now Silver was their Quartermaster. They chose him to give them orders as much as Flint did. They knew he would be above them now, falling into line only with Captain and no one else. And so they did it anyway, stomping their feet when the vote was placed and cheering delightfully.

Silver took it well. But with no happiness or delight.

He was bound to that now. To these men. And Flint saw the crushing realization in his eyes – the understanding that now they do want him here. And he wants to be with them too. He gave his leg for their safety, endured the pain so severe Flint doubted anyone would stand.

It broke him in the most horrendous way. Flint, shuttered himself by the loss of Miranda, smiled at him when Silver woke up. He sat next to his bed and talked, trying to display some source of comfort even though he hadn’t felt it himself.

Silver lifted his eyes at him then and said nothing.

They were as blue as the morning sky above their ship. Thick curls framed his pale face, slowly stirring in the soft sea breeze.

Flint wanted to touch them. To delve a finger inside and circle one curl. To feel how truly soft they was.

Then Silver told him about the gold and everything shattered. Every other thought faded, every feeling in him vanished, leaving only wrath and fury.

It was only these feelings since then. They drove him forward, set his new goal, erased everything else from his being. Every time he closed his eyes now he saw only blood and death which he brought upon his enemies now.

…Silver sighed in his sleep and Flint looked at him. His knuckles bled, his other hand fisted in a rug he was currently shivering under. Then he fell silent again, forcing himself even in his sleep.

Flint lay down on his own bed and willed himself to sleep. It never came. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw blood, oozing from the crystal blue of Silver’s eyes. He saw it flowing from his mouth, opened in a silent scream. He saw him drowning in blood, falling to pieces right in front his eyes.

And then blood turned to sea and Silver vanished.

It was the first night Flint saw Miranda again.

Chapter Text

The ship was quiet and frozen. No lights, no movements, nothing. Even the wind was silent, as if sensing this eerie atmosphere. By some strange desire it could’ve been called… peace. And calm.

Everything that wasn’t present at the distant shore, illuminated in red and yellow lights, flickering through the night. As if though they were ignited due to some feast or something like that.

But the ship knew. A few men on it knew too. It was a feast indeed. A pirate feast.

Saint Kitts burned that night.

Muldoon wasn’t there – and all those previous times earlier too. They always left him on the ship and he doubted it would change in near future. The shore party had no place for him and maybe other time in other place he would’ve complained, punched some faces even – he would’ve did everything just to prove his value on this crew.

Not now though. Every time the shore party went to their new target he felt happy he stayed. Every time he was allowed to wait for them… beside one man who always did it too.

Mister Silver never joined the raids – he just physically couldn’t and it was damn obvious to all of them. Cruel irony was that Quartermaster should be the one leading these raids and guide his men through this whole mess. Mister Silver wasn’t capable of this kind of thing and the crew knew it well. They never complained, they never watched him differently because of that. Their opinion of him wasn’t faltered by this knowledge.

But this couldn’t be said about his own.

Every damn time it was almost like a punch in the gut for him and even though he never showed it, never allowed it to be seen on his face, Muldoon guessed it was like that. Because he was the one who stayed beside him when the raid departed. He caught some glimpses, some minor pieces in crystal blue eyes and just fucking guessed.

“They’d better return with a hella lot of booty,” he’d say every time, as carefree as possible and then wait.

Because Mister Silver would look at him only after the boats would disappear completely in the darkness ahead. Then and only then he would turn and offer him a smile – a pale shadow of his previous ones.

“I’m sure they will,” he’d say and then turn to the rest of the men, giving orders to douse all the lights on the ship and stay quiet for the sake of hiding their location.

Muldoon would follow him without fear of becoming an annoying nuisance. Mister Silver not once was annoyed with him or, to be honest, others. He was calm and composed and strong and beautiful and sad and…

…everything he wasn’t before. Except his looks, maybe. He was beautiful since the moment Muldoon saw him for the first time. It annoyed him… a few days. Then unnerved. Then he understood.

Now he was afraid, maybe. A little bit.

A large flame flickered in the distance and Muldoon snapped from his thoughts and blinked a few times. He stood by the rails and watched the town burn too long, it seemed. And no one was around – well, not in close proximity.

He looked around, but there were only few men and no trace of their Quartermaster.

“What’s up?” someone shoved his shoulder and he saw Dooley smirking at him. He had some shitty arm injury the last time and Doc Howell demanded him to stay aboard this time. He wasn’t happy about it and there was a loud complaining but the Quartermaster solved it well, as always.

“Where’s Mister Silver?” he blurted right in his face and Dooley blinked at him for a moment. Then he shrugged.

“Saw him going below deck, thought he’d let himself rest at last,” he surmised, frowning in the process.

They both knew that “rest” wasn’t their Quartermaster’s favorite word.

“Thanks,” Muldoon uttered and stalked forward but Dooley, it seemed, wasn’t finished.

“You’d better get it done already,” he voiced and Muldoon turned to him again.

“What?”

Dooley rolled his eyes.

“Just talk to him, damn it,” he nagged, crossing his hands.

“The fuck are you-”

“Mate, don’t fuck with me, ‘kay?” Dooley stepped closer and pointed a finger to him. “It’s fucking obvious you’re in deep and no way in hell I’ll say it out loud.”

Muldoon felt his mouth open slightly but no words came out. If it was that obvious for everyone… then Mister Silver… He…

“Oh, for fucks sake,” Dooley sighed, throwing his hands in the air. “Tell him already-”

“I won’t,” Muldoon protested and there was a hell lot more of exasperation in Dooley’s next sigh.

“Why the fuck not?”

“You know exactly why,” Muldoon hissed and Dooley frowned at that. But didn’t protest.

He knew too.

They just stood there awkwardly for a few moments, not knowing what to add. Dooley spoke first and this time there was nothing in his voice except slight worry.

“You’d never know, unless you try, mate,” he shrugged carefully and crossed his arms again, grimacing a little from the pain in his wound.

Muldoon shook his head silently.

“Thanks,” he mumbled at last and went below deck. Dooley added nothing, just stood there and Muldoon felt his gaze on his back.

The Quartermaster was indeed below deck, but not in the hammock as the crew silently hoped. He had one for himself, of course, larger than the rest – he never complained, just thanked the men but he never liked it too. It, along with a lot of other things, reminded him of his mutilation every fucking day.

Muldoon stepped on the galley and watched Mister Silver peeling the corn. There were a hell lot of them beside him already.

“You don’t have to do this,” Muldoon blurted without thinking, hurrying closer and almost reaching for the corn. He never grabbed it, though.

The Quartermaster just blinked at him.

“You’re not sleeping?” he asked instead and Muldoon had a strong urge to stomp his feet like some stupid brat and declare that of-fucking-course he’s not sleeping, why should he, anyway?

“You’re not in the watch today,” Silver shrugged, as if sensing his thoughts, and took the next corn. “It’d be wise to have some rest before the shore party returns.”

“You’re not doing it,” Muldoon announced.

“I’m not tired,” Silver assured him.

Like hell you’re not, Muldoon thought, but never voiced it. This man was his Quartermaster, the second on this ship after the Captain and the crew respected him. A lot.

“Still,” Muldoon pressed, “you’re not supposed to be here.”

Silver looked at him rather incredulously and he felt his cheeks burn. Coughed and tried again.

“I mean, you’re a Quartermaster! Not a cook!”

Silver watched him silently a few moments, then picked another corn and began to peel it too. Muldoon felt small. Something stabbed him right in the chest and a fucking lump formed in his throat.

“Randall’s not here anymore,” Silver reminded him suddenly. “We still don’t have a new cook and…” he paused then shrugged slightly. “I had to be useful somehow.”

It wasn’t a lump – it was a fucking rock, clawing at his throat and tearing it apart. It was as though someone shoved a barrel of salt in his mouth and he tried to swallow it all at the same time.

“You are,” he croaked and fucking hell, the salt burned his eyes too. “You’re the most…” he swallowed, but the rock never went down. “I mean…”

Silver watched him, not interrupting, just listening and an open confusion was so plain on his face that Muldoon wanted to weep, to scream, to fall on his knees, to take his hands and plead, beg…

“You don’t have to do this,” he mumbled at last, his knees weak, his voice small, his hands shaking.

Silver looked at the half-piled corn in his hands.

“They’ll be hungry,” he whispered without any reason and Muldoon felt his heart stop for a moment.

Loud voices and stomping ahead started them both. Silver jerked his head up and listened for a moment. The corn fell on the floor but he paid it no mind. He stood as quickly as it was actually possible in his state and almost lunged forward, past Muldoon, as though he wasn’t there at all.

Muldoon rushed after him and when he reached the deck again, Mister Silver was already there. As well as the shore party. The men hauled their booty on the ship, stomped, talked, shouted, and it was a familiar chaos once again.

Except it seemed Mister Silver paid no attention to it at all.

Muldoon took a few quiet steps and stopped. Not by any chance would he approach him now. But even if he would he knew Mister Silver just wouldn’t notice him. He wouldn’t even notice the ship going ablaze right now.

Everything he saw was right in front of him.

They knew how he looked at their Quartermaster. They knew the name of this feeling. And not because they experienced it before or felt it by themselves.

It was because there wasn’t another word except “love” for the thing that was in Mister Silver’s eyes when he looked at the Captain.

Chapter Text

The night events went wrong from the very beginning. Another raid, the same as those ones before – everything they did already. It should’ve been going as smoothly as previous ones, but it didn’t.

The town was too quiet, too dark, yet they still lunged forward. There was no turning back, not after all those burned places they left behind them by that moment. So they stalked straight ahead, torches ablaze, swords gripped tight in hands, faces covered.

The colonial’s regulars waited for them and unfortunately their counterattack was sudden and unexpected. They lost a few men in mere seconds and the shit progressed tenfold. Flint barked orders, but it became quickly apparent that they were drastically outnumbered.

In either event they’d be doomed, if not for a sudden whistling noise in the air, followed by a loud blast. It took Flint mere seconds to understand that it was the Walrus cannons. Under the cover of its cannonballs the raid quickly returned to the boats and headed straight back. The ship, meanwhile, continued its fire, destroying their new target completely.

They did the same once, at first, with Charlestown. Flint remembered every second of its demise. And now, looking at another city, falling by his wrath, he felt nothing of the sort of those feelings that burned in him that day.
Except now… he was angry, like that time. But for entirely another reason.

“I gave a clear order,” he stated in a deceptively tranquil voice. “The ship’s location shouldn’t have been uncovered by no means.”

Silver clenched his jaw and said nothing in return. Maybe because he knew already that Flint didn’t give a shit about everything he’d say in this matter.

He disobeyed the order, brought the Walrus at a dangerous distance, uncovered their location and now looked at him like he clearly wanted to argue on that topic.

They were in Captain’s quarters, Flint at his desk and Silver before him, straightened in his seat, even though it took him great effort to do that. Flint knew it – he saw it. In the hard lines of his face, in the dark circles under his eyes, in these eyes, that were still so blue, despite everything that happened to their owner.

He clearly was lacking sleep. So was Flint.

He was in constant never-ending pain. And so was Flint.

“I made myself clear, from the beginning, that my orders are to be followed, no matter the circumstances,” he still continued, as unfazed as possible. Nothing mattered to him anymore – neither Silver’s pain nor, eventually, his own.

Nothing could be done to it, after all. Nothing could be said or thought. The only struggle he allowed himself was to turn these battles in a total war, consuming all high seas, if needed. And there was no place for feelings, emotions or even rest in this circle of things.

“The circumstances?” Silver suddenly repeated and leaned forward a little. “We faced colonial’s regulars tonight and that never happened before. They waited for us and they almost had us. I gave an order to open fire and yes, disobeyed your order, which I didn’t give a shit about in this case, because by doing it I saved your lives down there.”

For the first time in weeks Flint heard real emotions in his voice. Saw them in his eyes, which pierced right through him with something close to an anger blooming in their depths. He even raised his voice a little – that he hadn’t done in a while too. He always spoke now in a quiet, soft tone, which he almost never did before.

Flint thought he wouldn’t remember his voice from before by now. But he did.

Their eyes met for a brief moment and there it was again: all the fight dissipated, washed away in a flash, replaced by that same deep sadness that almost turned the blue of Silver’s eyes in a grayness of stormy waves.

He seemed frozen to Flint now, congealed in some sort of apathy, like the one Flint felt himself.

Maybe they shared it. This fatigue of men burdened with something they couldn’t bear to handle anymore. This weariness of a soul too tired to exist, slowly sinking to the bottom of being, where were no light and nothing at all.

This pain that was now the totality of Silver’s being, tearing Flint’s own apart, with no chance of easing it, because they were too tired to do something about it.

Yes, maybe, they were doomed.

“You won’t do it ever again,” Flint said, tearing his eyes away and standing, turning his back to him.

The silence stretched for so long Flint thought Silver wouldn’t say anything in return. That’s why a quiet “You know I will” almost startled him. The waves splashed his window from the outside with dark water, the ship swayed and rocket with their strong but for now peaceful force, yet he still heard Silver’s whisper, which dulled every other noise for him.

He stopped trying to understand how it was possible.

“Even if I order you not to?” he challenged, half-turning to him.

Silver wasn’t looking at him, his eyes went glassy, as though he was in some deep thought, but Flint knew it wasn’t like that. He clearly heard him.

“It’s my duty to challenge your orders,” he countered at last.

Flint clenched his own jaw at that and glared at him. Still Silver made no eye contact, stubbornly looking in his lap. It made Flint’s insides boil suddenly, creating a hot cannonball between his ribs, which grew catastrophically fast, threatening to explode.

I’m right here, he wanted to hiss. You’re talking to me. You should be looking at me!

A barely visible shudder ran through Silver and then he looked at him, his eyes suddenly so open and vulnerable that Flint almost took a step back.

“But I don’t…” he trailed off and locked his jaw so hard his teeth scraped. Flint watched his eyes going down again, saw him clenching and unclenching fists and said nothing in return.

When the silence became unbearable Silver cut through it with a question, clearly closing the previous topic, without them coming to an agreement.

“We’re heading back to Nassau tomorrow?”

“No,” Flint stated, turning to his desk again. “There are still plenty things to do.”

Silver, judging by his tone, frowned at that.

“I don’t think it’s a wise decision,” he objected and Flint gave a snort at that. Silver, it seemed, pretended not to notice it. “The men are tired, they need to rest. It would be much better to make a stop at Nassau, to resupply and let the crew go ashore at last.”

“They went ashore every time we dropped anchor these months,” Flint retorted harshly and Silver looked at him in return with visible exasperation.

“They went ashore because you’ve led them to battle,” he clarified almost as harshly as Flint did. “What I mean, is for them to actually rest, somewhere safe, where they won’t die just from landing their feet on a solid ground.”

“That’s all this is about?” Flint grunted, glaring daggers at him and Silver had the audacity to glare in return.

“Of course it is, and you know it. We’re loosing our men every damn time you go ashore and don’t you dare saying otherwise.”

“We’ve lost them before,” Flint leaned forward and all but snarled it in his face, “but at that time you didn’t give a shit about their lives. Now you think you do.”

“This is not-” Silver rested palms against the desk and pushed himself upright. He seemed openly offended by the implication, but Flint wasn’t going to let him off the hook so easily. Not now, when he started this fucking conversation in the first place.

“If you so concerned about them losing their lives the moment they place their feet on a solid ground, then maybe your own should be there too,” he all but spit in his face, rising too and the instant those words fell from his lips he wanted to sew them shut.

If he just lifted his hand and slapped Silver hard across his face the damage wouldn’t have been as catastrophic as from his words. But he wouldn’t raise a hand on him. He never intended to.

Though his words did all the damage already.

Silver flinched so hard he almost swayed and gripped the table for balance. He looked at Flint with an open raw emotion written on his face, as though he couldn’t believe in what he saw before him.

But before Flint could just think of trying somehow to ease the damage of his words, he straightened and stepped back, his peg leg making an audible “thud”.

“Maybe I should,” he ventured, schooling his expression quickly.

Flint gripped his end of the table so hard his knuckles turned white. Silver turned and headed to the door, trying not to press on his peg leg too much. Flint looked at his own arms, where they locked around the hard wood and saw nothing, only darkness.

“What is it?” he heard suddenly and jerked head up.

Silver stood by the door, with his back to him, stiff and unmoving.

“What am I doing wrong?” he mumbled barely audible. “What mistake am I making? Tell me and I’ll fix it.”

Everything went quiet so suddenly Flint almost hadn’t noticed it at first. The ship, the waves, other noises – all it was silenced in an instant and he still paid no mind to it.

You chose Parrish’s ship. You chose mine. You took the page. You gave it to me. You stayed. You stayed. You stayed.

That is your mistake.

Those words, so many of them, they rushed in his mouth at the same time, blocking the way out entirely, making it even hard to swallow. That’s why Flint never said them out loud.

That’s why Silver, after a long silence, opened the door and walked away.

Maybe that’s why later that night Flint hadn’t seen Miranda. Those words tore at his throat till morning and sleep never came.

+++++++++++++

The word spread easily. The men whispered in taverns, spoke in hushed tones, circulating truth and mixing it with made-up tales. They talked, prattled, gossiped, babbled – but the result was still the same.

All high seas knew his name now. Everyone feared him, everyone saw the war he created coming. Yet the pirates were hanged. Maybe those responsible for it thought he wasn’t a real threat to them. Maybe they feared their crown more. He didn’t give a shit.

The result would be the same for all of them.

Martinique’s Fort-de-France was no exception. Its magistrate hanged ten men, accusing them of piracy, leaving their bodies hanging on ropes, swaying and rotting for others to mock and throw insults at their lifeless bodies.

They almost done it to him too, eternity ago, in that damned town whose name was engraved in his mind with roasted iron.

He made sure Fort-de-France would never do it again. This town wasn’t special – it burned the same as others. Its people died the same death, sharing their home’s last minutes.

Flint was literally soaked in blood when they returned on a ship, but he paid it no mind, watching silently as the men dragged sacs of sugar and cocoa aboard. Then they brought full ten barrels of rum and the whole crew, crowded by this moment on a deck, whistled and cheered and howled in glee. They anticipated a feast that night.

A few hours later, long past they set sail, Flint heard distant roar, laugher and stomping, which indicated that they were at least two or three barrels of rum short.

It didn’t bother him as it should’ve been. As it would’ve been a long time ago.

Yet he stood and walked away from his desk, away from his bed, away from nightmares awaiting for him and when the cool night breeze touched his face he finally stopped.

The deck was almost empty, save from night watch, cockswain and... the Quartermaster, standing by the rails, gripping them with one hand. The other one was currently grasping the hanging rope for better balance.

Flint was the one to order to loosen these ropes. The men did it so quickly he almost wondered whether they’d wait for his permission at all.

Flint watched him absentmindedly, not for the first time noticing how different he looked now. Longer hair, new clothes... ne even grew a beard, which Flint doubted he’d do in the past. He seemed like entirely another person now if not for his eyes. Their color was the same.

He couldn’t think of it now. He didn’t want to. Yet he did. And it evoked something that should be long dead inside him.

Silver, as if sensing his gaze, turned and Flint, despite the darkness surrounding them, saw his face so vividly as though it was lit by a torch. And the sight wasn’t pleasant at all.

Silver was pale and clearly exhausted, judging by his haggard look. As though he was the one who led the shore party and now faced the consequences of this raid. Except he stayed on a ship, just simply waiting for his men to return…

His men.

Fuck.

Before Silver could’ve said something Flint jerked his own head.

“Come with me,” and just headed straight back to his cabin, not bothering to look back. Judging by the stomping behind his back, this order wasn’t ignored.

When the door was shut he turned to Silver and gave him an open once-over. In the cabin’s light he looked even worse, with dark circles under his eyes and obviously painful clench of jaw.

“You should’ve asked,” Flint stated firmly and gave him a hard look.

Silver, it seemed, was too tired to answer with his own.

“Honestly, I don’t understand…” he began with this soft voice of his, but Flint cut him short.

“If you can’t sleep there you should tell them to shut up. You’re a Quartermaster, they have to respect your need to rest.”

With all these stomping, shouting and rum-soaking it was clear as a day that Silver couldn’t sleep below deck in his own hammock, being actually in close proximity to the very drunk and exited bunch of pirates.

Flint shouldn’t have been bothered by it. But he was.

Silver visibly stiffened and clenched his jaw even harder.

“They needed it,” he said at last, and Flint found himself slowly shaking his head.

“I don’t care,” he stated again.

“I know,” Silver answered in a strained voice and fell silent again.

Flint released a harsh sigh and looked at the cot by the window. It wasn’t nearly as wide as the similar one on a Man’o’War, but still wide enough for a grown man to lie down.

They shared the cabin only on a Warship, but the instant the Walrus was theirs again Silver moved below deck, to his hammock and every night stayed there. Flint never argued about it, he never even commented it.

He should’ve done it. Then why was it so hard to do it now?

They stood, facing one another, though not making eye contact. Silver swayed a little – Flint noticed obvious slump in his shoulders and wondered would he eventually collapse, if the ship suddenly rocked? He doubted he’ll manage to stand again after that.

“I’ll kill him,” he stated all of sudden and Silver jerked in surprise, confusion crossing his face.

“Whom?”

“The next magistrate,” Flint walked to his bed and sat on it. “His name’s Hazzard, I saw it written on a letter at Fort-de-France’s magistrate home. That man hanged pirates, though he knew about me. I killed him, placed a bullet between his eyes.”

He paused, vaguely wondering what was written on his face now. Was it rage? No, he didn’t feel any at the moment. Was it composure? But he didn’t feel this one either.

Was there something at all? Something except an open void he knew existed within him.

“Though the previous magistrate warned Hazzard about me. And still he hanged pirates too. I haven’t seen it yet, but I know it. They won’t listen; they won’t fear… unless I come to their doors and show it to them.”

“You’ve done it before,” Silver said at last, moving a little closer; he gripped the table’s edge for support. “All those towns… You’ve killed there everyone who ever claimed their loyalty to the crown.”

Flint closed his eyes for a moment, when a sudden wave of exhaustion attacked him like a wave – crashed and backed off so quickly he barely understood what it was.

“Yet why are you telling me this now?” Silver finished at last, his voice dropped to a whisper again.

Flint didn’t answer right away. He looked at him and felt that same exhaustion again. Somewhere inside his a tiny little voice asked if Silver felt it too. If they felt each other?.. Even though that wasn’t possible.

“Hazzard will die and his town will burn,” he said after a heavy silence. “And then we’ll set sail and return to Nassau.”

The silence stretched even longer after that, only the distant sound of waves pierced it like a pocket knife through the loan of bread. Flint almost remembered how its smell on a kitchen table, while Miranda smiled at him from an opposite chair.

She’ll never smile anymore.

“Thank you,” the silence blew out with sound again, barely audible, but so vivid, so alive and Flint found himself not looking in the eyes of the source, avoiding their gaze. “The men will be happy to hear that.”

“I’m not doing it for them,” he grumbled still and lay down on his bed. It swayed a little, but he almost hasn’t noticed.

Silver added nothing, just walked to the offered cot and lay down too. He sighed deeply and Flint practically felt the pang of pain this simple movement caused him. Yet he only exhaled, made no other noise and after a small rustling there was silence again.

“I know you’re not doing it for them,” Silver whispered and Flint tensed, though he knew something would be said eventually. “But still… thank you. And goodnight.”

And everything became still again. Flint felt his mouth opening, but no sound came, just because there wasn’t any thought in his mind now. There was only this soundless calm he rarely felt these days. And silence. And vividness of every color in the whole surroundings.

The world was bright and Flint couldn’t sleep because of that. Or maybe because of some other shit his mind was screaming at him to come up with, even though the silence whispered, purred, demanded to admit the one real truth.

I’m doing it for you.

Chapter Text

This raid became the toughest and the hardest one, even compared to those previous ones. Not only the colonial’s regulars were better trained and managed to resist rather successfully at first, but the whole town, it seemed, was awake that night. Every window flickered with light, every door bolted shut, though it wasn’t a barrier they couldn’t breach.

However they came tonight not just for a good haul – they came for revenge, for justice. It was those words he said to them before they dropped the anchor in the town’s bay. The crew believed him, they practically bounced with impatience to break into the town and took what they thought was theirs.

He came not for revenge – certainly not the one everyone else came for. His own – maybe. But still it wasn’t a first thing inside his mind, when he entered a dimly lit room and looked straight into Hazzard’s eyes.

He came to drop another one of countless sacrifices into that bottomless abyss that existed inside him. To feed it again, even though he knew he’d never fill it enough.

Then he saw her again – lying on that floor, with bullet wound in her head, looking at him with glassy dead eyes. She was in the same dress she wore that day. Pale and lifeless, she lay there as if mocking him with her mere presence.

It’s your fault.

He walked away, gripping his pistol with numb fingers and called the shore party to head back. He did what he intended to do and now he would return and do one more thing.

The one he promised to do.

+++++++++++++

Silver was right beside the rails when they boarded the Walrus, leaving scathing fire behind them. Flint saw him glancing quickly to the men - no doubt even counting them - worrying if everyone made it back. He never would have done this before, though he wasn’t his old self at all too.

Then Silver looked at him and a smile graced his lips. A rare one these months and surely not an exited grin he’d show him before, but a smile indeed. Sometimes Flint would allow himself to quietly wonder was he the only one now to receive that smile? Or was it absent because of him?

He gave order about Dobbs and quickly left to his quarters, though he undoubtedly felt that sleep wasn’t an option this night. Miranda’s face was haunting him in every dark corner of the cabin, on every surface, on the cover of every book. The darkness crept from every crack on the wall, from every cleft on the deck beneath his feet.

Flint closed his eyes for a brief moment, clamping them shut so tightly he saw yellow and red spots behind the eyelids. He gripped the table for balance, every muscle in his arms corded tight, every piece of his flesh burning with the need to will all of it to go fucking away

“…tain?” he heard a distant voice, as if someone was talking to him from a far away place.

He shuddered and clenched his teeth instead, not willing to open his eyes and see her again. See her face, drenched in blood and water, with those eyes, where, he knew, he'd see only endless sorrow, regret and no trace of hatred or disgust she should have been feeling.

Because that was all he deserved from her.

“Captain?” someone called and this time the sound was so clear and vivid he gasped involuntarily, jerking his eyes open towards the source of it, towards the swirling darkness he knew awaited for him to see it again.

Yet it wasn’t there. The room was barely lit, but the corners lacked those thick muddy spots of all-consuming black. The moon shone from the windows and the room bathed in yellow and bluish light. The latter created such unique effect - it was like myriad crystals were scattered on the floor, sending sparks of color all over the place.

Flint slightly turned and – oh – there he was, standing right beside him, illuminated by those light too. It felt as though this light was shining that moment exactly beca-

“Are you alright?” Silver asked, moving a bit closer and Flint saw a hint of worry on his face.

Only then he took in his surroundings and fully returned to his senses again. He was alone, when he came here, and he intended to be alone. Why Silver came then? To check for the word Flint gave to him last time to be kept?

Surely this was the only way why Silver would be here now. Not by any chance he would’ve came to the man who killed dozens of people, risked dozens of lives of his own crew and tried to wage a war against the civilization just because he could’ve been worried about said man.

He didn’t want this.

He didn’t deserve this.

“What do you want?” he asked, releasing his desk and stepping away.

“Howell’s tending to men’s injuries now,” Silver replied without missing a beat. “I came to ask if you need him come check on you too.”

“I’m fine,” he declined the covert offer, not looking at him.

Silver was a silent a moment or so, then Flint heard his peg leg stomp followed by an indifferent:

“I see.”

Still he made no move to leave. Flint felt something prickling deep inside his gut; some strange tingling in the pads of his fingers.

He wanted to turn around.

He wanted for him to go.

He needed to say something.

His head fucking hurt.

The world was bright and the darkness disappeared. He never knew why he wanted to scream, knowing this.

Silver shifted at last and Flint heard his mismatched footsteps nearing the door. Then he stopped again, but said nothing.

Go away, Flint wanted to tell him. Maybe he would even beg for it if needed.

“You should rest,” Silver suddenly said and then the door creaked and he was out. Flint was alone again, blissfully, for this was what he wanted.

Even if he had to grip the desk again, gritting his teeth till they hurt and just will himself to stay still and not bursting open that door and escape his own cabin like a weeping coward.

Because even though the darkness never returned that night, the light left too. And he would’ve trade his own ship just to know why.

+++++++++++++

By the time Silver came to him in the morning his headache was only getting worse. He slept for like a very short amount of time, but simply tried just to rest, laying there on his bed, which was gently rocking back and forth with the waves.

To his credit Silver remained silent, approaching him rather tentatively - as much as it was actually possible with an iron leg. It stomped audibly, but with every new step the sound was less and less loud, as if Silver deliberately put it down as quietly as possible.

It was strange… and a little amusing.

After a moment Flint decided to spare him this prolonged discomfort and revealed he wasn’t asleep in the first place. The quiet chuckle could be heard in Silver’s reply, when he told him about Dobbs and Flint sighed a “Thank you” in return.

Is that all? he should’ve added and Silver would have replied Yes and then left, but…

Flint suddenly wanted him to stay and say something else.

That he certainly did and it made Flint open his eyes and sit up. The bed swayed a little, but he paid it no mind, sighing a few times. Then he looked at Silver, noticing him leaning on a desk for a balance. His peg leg was outstretched and Flint somehow knew it was a deliberate move to ease a pressure from it.

He almost hadn’t noticed gripping his own knee with his fingers and squeezing it. When it became painful he blinked, removing his hand away, not clearly understanding why he even did it in the first place.

Silver, moreover, offered in a rather demanding voice to replace him and Flint felt a pang of irritation at that. He just openly told him why that wasn’t an option and here he went for it again, as a stubborn child.

“Thank you for your concern,” he grunted, his voice a little hoarse by no meaning. He should’ve added a hint of an open sarcasm into his tone, but he couldn’t. Maybe he was too tired for it.

But it needed to be there, because by no way in hell would this man have even some resemblance of concern towards him.

Even if some part of him whished for it to be so.

“But I'll decide when it’s time to start altering our tactics.”

He turned away, heading to his desk but Silver’s next words stopped him.

“No, I’ll decide.”

And that was entirely something new. Something in that voice of his, in that posture of his, which Flint saw from the corner of his eye, half-turning back to him and listening another one of his countless speeches, combined by one topic – “the crew and their well-being”.

The crew.

Always the fucking crew.

He pinched the bridge of his nose as headache worsened and fully turned to Silver this time, meeting his strangely compassionate face.

“I understand this is all incredibly personal to you after the loss of Mrs. Barlow,” he admitted in that soft voice of his and Flint felt a shudder ran through him.

This words, this whole topic – it felt as if Silver was inside his head again, reading it like an open book. It was the worst case scenario. It was unaccepted, unwanted, it was…

“Now, wait a minute,” he huffed, shaking his head, but Silver hadn’t stopped. He still looked at him with those eyes of his, with those fucking expression inside them Flint hated to see now, loathed, feared.

Don’t look at me. Not like that.

“And I understand,” he proceeded, his voice still soft and calm, but also somewhat strong, “the burden of playing the role you currently play…”

No, Silver shouldn't have been able to understand him, but he did and that was even worse than hearing Miranda’s name falling from his lips; than seeing her every night, trying to reach him in a new futile attempt; worse than knowing that despite every difference between them, he and Silver still understood each other so well Flint was almost afraid to acknowledge it.

“…must be taking a toll even you cannot fully comprehend.”

And he didn’t want to acknowledge it. By doing this he would also admit something else – entirely different and identical at the same time.

He shouldn’t let him talk. Shouldn’t let him proceed this fucking mind-reading he was so skillful at already. He didn’t want this.

He was afraid of things he’d see inside him that should be buried at the very bottom of his being.

“Stop,” his voice cut the air like a knife and before he could think better of it they suddenly were too close.

And everything stopped for a moment or for eternity, he couldn’t tell for sure. Silver fell silent and now looked at him with an open raw confusion on his face and something else too. Something that Flint could only describe as awe though this expression wasn’t the first thing he noticed.

It was his mouth, his lips, which almost glued Flint’s eyes to them and it was a few seconds before he managed to tear his gaze away from them, look him in the eyes and see what he saw.

What he saw from the very beginning, in Eleanor Guthrie’s office, all those months ago, when the morning light was streaming through open windows, illuminating the whole room and one particular man, writing something on a piece of paper.

Flint saw everything then: his fingers, holding the feather; his exposed neck with tiny beads of sweat in the dip of his collarbones; this fucking collarbones Flint couldn’t tore his eyes from for a long minute; a mop of dark curls, framing his face.

His eyes, so very very blue, almost crystalline in the bright light.

John Silver was a beautiful man and Flint knew it from the moment they met.

And now this man was so close to him Flint literally could feel his breath on his own face. There was no personal space for both of them now and Flint knew it would require just one simple move – just one lean forward and-

Everything will end then. This move will shatter, destroy, break something that neither of them would be able to piece together again after that.

He couldn’t do this even if he wanted to. Even if some distant whisper inside his head kept telling him that Silver wanted it too. Flint couldn’t listen to that voice; he just had no fucking right to.

So when the words “In my head you’re not welcomed” fell from his mouth he was telling them not just in Silver’s face. He was trying to quiet that whisper, that far-away voice he just couldn’t allow himself to have deep inside his mind.

He couldn’t look at Silver again after that so he stepped away, widening that abyss between them with each step. His head hurt so damn much, as if on purpose. Silver stood stock still in the same place, remaining silent and even barely breathing – Flint couldn’t hear very clearly now with all this ringing in his ears.

Flint tried not to look at him again, willed himself not to turn around, not to glance in those eyes the second time, because in this case he won’t be able to hold himself back.

Just go, he couldn’t say it out loud, but he needed to. You have to go away.

When the peg leg stomped on a deck he winced, but still hadn’t turned his head, deliberately looking the other way and listening to Silver’s steps towards his door. There was something in the sound of them, something he should be paying attention too, but he couldn’t think of that now, couldn’t make himself bother.

This time he missed the moment Silver left but felt it nonetheless. This voice inside him fell silent immediately and the headache worsened. Flint sat on his bed again, holding his head in open palms and just tried not to think, not to remember those previous minutes.

+++++++++++++

Of all the ships they could’ve stumbled upon in the middle of their sailing back to Nassau it was exactly Hallendale. This man was neither the good captain nor the proper pirate at all. But now the new order were set in Nassau, letting every fool to sew a black flag, claim himself a “fearsome pirate”, take such fools as he is with him and sail on a ship, robbing merchants and other ships for a meager share of gold.

The war Flint was waging would consume those ones first.

The crew voiced their concern and Silver listened to their needs as he always did these days, ordered to change their course and couldn’t understand, it seemed, what was wrong with it. So Flint, rather incredulous in this matter, explained it to him without exaggeration. Only the truth – the bold and unpleasant one – but the man was a Quartermaster and he wasn’t intending to go easy on him.

Still the course was changed and now they had no other option than to go in closer and check the quiet ship.

When he finished speaking Silver was looking at him with the eyes of a kicked dog but said nothing in return. Flint handed him a spyglass and walked away, trying not to feel as if someone kicked him too.

Soon the ships were aligned. Hallendale’s was quiet and seemed empty. Almost dead. Flint felt some uneasiness growing inside him. Something clearly was odd and now they had no chance but to find out.

Silver gave the order to sweep the hold before he’d go across and Flint felt that tingling feeling inside him again. It wasn’t a concern from Silver’s part. It wasn’t.

Yet it seemed very much that way.

Silver was gripping the rails and even leaning on them a little bit, as if he wanted nothing more than to be the one to step on that ship along with his men. Along with him.

Flint went first, stopping Silver mid-sentence and almost felt his displeasure, but paid it no mind. Not now. Yet when he stepped on a deck of Hallendale’s ship he threw a quick glance back – a pure involuntary gesture, so quick he hadn’t had time to tell himself not to do it.

Their eyes met and Silver shifted forwards again, only for the rail to stop him. Flint saw the way his fingers dig into a hard wood. It seemed painful but Silver hadn’t noticed it at all.

He was looking at him. And Flint stood there, frozen to the spot and couldn’t find any strength to turn away.

Then Silver opened his mouth, but no sound came. His lips formed something, but no one heard it yet Flint did. One quiet word – “Captain” – echoed in his head and he jerked away as if burned.

Looking around the ship he coaxed himself that it was another one of numerous hallucinations which were tormenting him even when he was awake. Or it was something he’d made up himself. Something he wanted to hear. Something that hadn’t existed in the first place.

Every dark corner of an empty ship hissed at him liar liar liar making his mind burn.

+++++++++++++

Hornigold. Always a fucking Hornigold.

Flint felt a massive intention to fire all they had at his damn ship and breathe a little easily after that. Unfortunately they were boarding the Walrus now and not a Warship with hers guns and cannons. And the Walrus was no match for a Hornigold’s ship.

It made Flint’s rage intensify at least tenfold compared to all other unpleasant emotions he felt already.

The crew panicked, but still followed the orders; yet everyone knew all too well that they were in a huge trouble. Not to say they could be a dead men really soon.

And then Hornigold’s voice reached them and things he was saying set Flint’s insides ablaze. He stood there listening as this fucking rodent offered his men – offered him – to accept those pardons Thomas fought so hard to achieve.

It felt as though someone grabbed the memory of Thomas and Miranda from his head like a cheap piece of paper and twisted it, crumpled in dirty fists and then tore it to shreds, throwing them in his face.

It was England’s fist. It was her and her king smiling faces.

The void inside him roared, screamed in thousands voices of those ones he dropped there by his own hands and then exploded with surges of pitch black, swirling around him, circling around his ship, swallowing her, tasting her, pleading him to give her to us we’ll take it we’ll embrace it with every single one here just for you to be satisfied.

We’ll change the world for your will. We’ll take everything from them as they did with you and we’ll see your wish be finally granted.

Just give it to us. Give them to us.

Give hi-

Something cracked in his ears and he looked down, seeing a tiny splinter in the rail he currently gripped with his hand. Then he looked to the side and there…

There were those eyes looking at him again. Looking at him with such intensity, such brightness.

Such faith.

He missed the exact moment these voices quieted but it was his own voice that held the attention of everyone on the ship. He told them what he’d do and he knew they’d follow him. He had them there, every single one of them, including the one who under any other circumstances wouldn’t agree with him in that matter. But he watched him silently and Flint only felt his heavy gaze.

He allowed himself a tiny smirk when he told looking Silver straight in the eyes where would they go now. He saw as the men visibly paled, he heard De Groot’s open concern, but he paid it no mind. Handing a spyglass to Billy he sent the men to prepare for their maneuver.

Silver was silent beside him but stayed close. Flint felt his eyes but never looked back. He just couldn’t.

Not when he listened. He fucking listened and now he’d sacrifice if needed all their lives just for the world to bend before him again.

The same world that shined bright in this moment as if mocking him.

Then the Hornigold’s cannons fired and there was no turning back. The ship shook, the men screamed, then another powerful hit made Flint’s back collide with the rail and he hissed through clenched teeth. His hand fell on something beside him and he flinched when this something gripped him in return.

Silver was there, looking at him through the mess and Flint felt helpless against his eyes. The world was frozen and shined impossibly bright, yet Flint couldn’t tear his eyes away from the center of this world.

“Captain,” Silver mouthed but no sound came.

Cannons flew above them, the storm roared in the distance, yet they looked at each other as though nothing else mattered right now.

Flint’s fingers felt numb when they gripped his wrist. He felt numb when his lips moved.

“Trust me,” he barely mouthed but he knew Silver heard him.

The simple nod in response was everything he needed to stand on his two feet again and surge into battle he was intended to win.

Chapter Text

The hammer went down partially on his hand and Muldoon hissed, jerking it quickly away. Fortunately it wasn’t heard behind an angry roar of the waves, which pushed the walls so hard as though trying to break them and gush inside.

It was hard to concentrate and focus on his task when all he could focus on was beside him. In any other circumstances Muldoon would be glad of this turn of events, but not this time.

The ship swayed again and Mister Silver with him. Muldoon jerked to his side, but the Quartermaster quickly regained his balance and stubbornly resumed the previous task.

You’re not supposed to be here, those words were just on the tip of his tongue, but Muldoon knew better than to voice them.

Mister Silver did almost everything now he wasn’t supposed to do, though no one told him that. They shed a mutual concern for him, exchanged worried glances behind his back from time to time – and with all that they hadn’t thought less of him by no means.

Hell, they knew he was the bravest man among them. And right at this moment as well as those numerous previous ones he was deliberately overstraining himself! Just, as he said to him mere seconds ago, “to be helpful somehow.”

After that Muldoon couldn’t stay silent and voiced his opinion of this matter and it seemed to lighten the mood in this hell of a cage, partially flooded with salty water seeping from every damn crack.

“You are again offering moral support,” Mister Silver said and Muldoon grinned at that, because he’d offer it a thousand times more, as long as his heart is beating, just for this man to breathe easily.

“Does that mean we’re married?” he smiled, risking a glance on him and – fucking hell – what would he trade, what would he do for it to be possible.

He didn’t have the guts to just simply hope for a matelotage, but to believe that somehow he’d look at him in a different way, he’d truly see him at least one simple time – that he allowed himself to do. Despite how painful it was, how truly impossible.

Because no amount of wishing, no amount of staying by his side every damn possible time would change one simple fact.

Nothing would erase one particular man from Mister Silver’s thoughts. Nothing would tear his eyes away from this man whether he was near. Nothing would wrest that man from his heart.

Not by any chance would just a tiny, a smallest part of Mister Silver belong to him, when he already belonged to the Captain.

And it made Muldoon’s insides burn in flaming agony because this fucking Captain was still neglecting what was right before him. He totally disregarded his own Quartermaster, seeing him neither as an equal nor as a decent man at all. They saw it in his actions, heard it in his voice whenever the Captain talked to Mister Silver on a deck. Which happened quite rarely these months, and that was annoying as hell too.

Sometimes Muldoon would have to clench his teeth so hard they scraped when everything he wanted was to openly shout in that damn closed up face.

What more do you want? You have everything right in your hands, just take it! Why can’t you see it?

Because either the Captain really couldn’t see it or he just didn’t want to open his eyes. And it was so not damn fair! Sometimes Muldoon felt a frustration eating at him and deliberately stayed below deck otherwise he knew he’d made something stupid.

Something Mister Silver wouldn’t approve of.

Because no one tried to challenge the Captain or his orders these days. They knew what the outcome would be. They knew that Mister Silver was the only one allowed and capable of doing it in the first place. And they fucking knew how it tore him apart every time he was forced to do it by Captain’s own actions.

He loved the Captain and it was so damn obvious to everyone but not to him and the Captain himself. Muldoon knew it since the very beginning – he was the first one maybe to notice how Mister Silver looked at the Captain. Dooley was the next and, it seemed, in a short amount of time the whole crew was speculating what exactly the two of them did in Captain’s cabin alone.

Billy frowned every time he caught even the hints of these whispers and, it seemed, truly believed it to be total bullshit. Billy was a dimwit in this case, unfortunately.

Mister Silver didn’t catch anything at all, because the crew kept their mouths shut about this when he was near. They rarely talked about this matter at all, to be honest, and not once Muldoon caught their stares on his own head.

They knew he was in fucking deep and no one commented. No one mocked him, no one said a fucking word to him.

Was it a relief or a curse? He didn’t know.

Mister Silver loved the man who didn’t deserve him and there wasn’t a fucking chance Muldoon could change that.

But-

The hit was so powerful it opened almost every damn hole in this damn hold, flowing right on both of them. The ship was swaying from side to side so hard Muldoon couldn’t even tell where the up and down were. But before he could regain his balance and look for Mister Silver something crashed right in his gut with such force it tore a shout from his throat.

His back collided with hard wood and the unbearable pressure on his lower half only intensified with each passing second.

The cannon – he was stuck under a fucking cannon.

Then everything was a blur of water and frantic movements. Mister Silver tried to free him, to pull him out, to move the fucking cannon at least a tiny bit, but it became apparent that no amount of struggling would made a damn thing even creak.

Muldoon heard him calling for someone to help, saw him trying to do any thing possible, but as the cold water gushed inside through numerous holes the cold seeped inside him and suddenly he knew that despite Mister Silver’s struggling everything was already over.

He wouldn’t make it and the freezing calm from this knowledge scared him more than an inevitable death.

He’d die and never see the light again, never taste the food, hear the crew’s bragging on some shitty topic, never look at Mister Silver and have courage to just step forward and spill it right as it was.

He’d never see this man and suddenly it crashed full force on him. It wasn’t fair, he didn’t deserve it, he didn’t want to sail in that damn storm at all! It wasn’t his own choice, it was Captain’s fault, it was-

He trashed his hands frantically and then felt strong fingers gripping his own in a vise like hold and he stopped and just looked. He saw those blue eyes he admired so much, those dark unruly curls he wanted to touch someday, that body he felt hot by even looking at every time.

He clenched Mister Silver’s wrist with cold hands and looked, and looked, and looked. Then told him something, babbled with cold lips and clattering teeth, but after every word spilled he couldn’t think, couldn’t remember what it exactly was.

His mind felt cold, his heart hammered one second and then slowed down almost completely. He shivered, he was drowning, but he couldn’t look away from one man who was beside him, who was not his and now would never be-

And all he could think of was impossibility, a fucking miracle, a thing he never did and didn’t even believe of having courage to do, but-

But he heard a whisper the other day. He heard a way to know, if the one you fell for is the only one. A way to connect, a way to be with that person, a way that wasn’t fucking possible for him, it wasn’t, it wasn’t, but still!

He couldn’t think of something else when his lips moved. He couldn’t hear, couldn’t even think when he whispered “John Silver”, not tearing his gaze away, not breathing, not blinking, just waiting and hoping by some small still alive part of him that the miracle would really happen!

Except it didn’t and the water touched his ears, circled his head, crawled closer and closer and still nothing fucking happened!

“John Silver,” he sobbed, his voice breaking, his hand shaking, his body feeling again, but nothing came, nothing changed and only Mister Silver gripped his arm harder, pressed it to his chest and Muldoon felt his heart beating wildly, saw his lips moving, but the sound was lost to the crashing realization that the miracle didn’t happen!

Except it shouldn’t have happened at all.

Because the man he loved belonged to-

Oh, Muldoon thought before the cold engulfed his body and everything he saw was pitch-black. Maybe that’s why.

Chapter Text

This was madness. A nightmare. Those words Billy shouted in his face, but Flint paid him no mind. The bosun just didn’t know what the true madness was. And this? This was just a fucking storm.

And yet it was a living, breathing thing – a wrath of nature, a call of sea to devour every insolent little human who dared to challenge its power.

He dared to because nothing mattered to him; he feared nothing. If the storm was madness to his men then he was mad along with it. He was mad to fight it, to outrun it, to not fearing it.

The waves billowed on both sides, crashing down and then rising again; the Walrus screamed, moaned with each hit, with each shake, the wood creaking, the masts leaning down, threatening to break completely.

Flint gripped the slippery handles of the wheel as though his life depended on it. The rope around his body squeezed his ribs, the water flooded in his face, his eyes stung from the salt and cutting gusts of wind, but his hands never shook.

Then everything suddenly calmed, just like minutes ago and Flint knew what that meant too well. He braced himself against the enormous attack, clenched his teeth and then the ship killer shoved the Walrus hard.

Flint nearly lost his footing, desperately gaining balance on a swaying deck and the rope was the only thing that helped him remain his position and not disappear in the waves below.

But maybe… it was a solution. An offering to the relentless nature, a small sacrifice for the sea, which would swallow it and just wouldn’t notice, as it did countless times before.

Though perhaps he would be enough for it to stop this madness, to calm its waves, to let the sky clear.

To let him rest.

His mind was blank, his grip loosened, his skin burned and the world was-

Bright.

Something touched him, tugged him, shook him a little. Something that shouldn’t have been here. Something that he-

Someone.

Flint turned, blinking away the salt and suddenly Silver was there, right beside him, one hand clutching at his coat and the other gripping the wheel’s handle. He was there – here, in the center of this fucking madness and Flint found himself speechless, unable to form neither thoughts nor words to describe what he felt now.

Except one. Why?

Silver’s lips moved and Flint tried to focus, to calm the desperate ringing in his head to listen. It mattered – what this man was telling him.

It mattered every time.

Silver let go the handle and gripped his coat with both hands this time, tugging a little – Flint felt it, lowered his eyes to look and the awful noise in his head started to came down.

“Come with me,” he heard finally and met the shining blue of Silver’s eyes again.

He was… so pale. Yet so bright.

“Captain, come on, we need to go,” his voice was desperate and so was his face; Flint noticed every tiny detail now and he hadn’t even wondered how and why.

Silver’s hands shook, he felt it, he saw it – his whole body shook so hard he wondered how he still regained his balance. Yes, it wasn’t even possible, because no way the man could stand on the swaying deck with just one leg.

Yet it didn’t matter anyway. Nothing did, except-

“You’re freezing,” he told him, feeling eerie calm. As though the outside world ceased to exist from this moment and there were only two of them in the left out void.

“Captain,” Silver tried again, but Flint shook his head and turned fully towards him. He gripped the rope around his body and threw it aside, then shrugged his coat off and put it on Silver’s shoulders.

“You’re cold. You shouldn’t be,” he told him as if this was the only thing that mattered right now.

And it surely was.

The look on Silver’s face was strange, Flint couldn’t understand it, his consciousness became hazy, he leaned forward a bit, feeling his hands slipping from the wheel and wondered vaguely would he collapse on a deck or sink right into the waves.

Neither happened, someone steadied him, called for him and it wasn’t Miranda, it wasn’t her voice, she was down there – in the pitch black of a sea, waiting for him, offering him comfort, opening her arms towards him, allowing him to rest finally.

But with each step he made he withdrew further from her and maybe he should’ve fight it, the merciless force taking him away from her, but he couldn’t. And not because there wasn’t any strength in him to do it anymore.

Somehow he knew that with each new step away from her he was drawing near the only place he belonged from the beginning.

+++++++++++++

When he woke up the ship was still and unmoving. No waves, no wind – nothing touched her and this, Flint knew, was even worse than a fucking storm. The absolute motionless, where all they could do was praying for even one tiny gush of wind.

They were in the doldrums now and even the man who dared to challenge the wrath of nature was helpless here, in this place. Though they’d be fools to give up so easily. Flint gave orders to the men – a rather pointless ones in a situation like this but he knew he should distract them somehow, even for a little bit.

He retreated to his cabin to compute something barely resembling a way out or a good prognosis. Things were real bad and they worsened rather rapidly.

Silver was the first one to came and Flint immediately noticed his worsened limping. Then he saw his hair in a tight ponytail and the absence of a coat. Any.

He gave him his own coat when they both were on a deck and the storm roared around them. He gave it to him and it was pointless, really, because the sea soaked them both to the bones. Yet he did.

When he woke up this morning and saw Billy sitting near the coat was neatly folded beside him on a nearby chair. He never asked who left it there.

He never asked who brought him here from the storm, laid him down on his bed, let him close his eyes and sleep without a trace of nightmare.

He fucking knew the answer already.

“We’re extremely lacking the rations,” moreover Silver said bluntly, looking at him with a blank face. Flint didn’t like it at all, this look on him.

It bothered him. Hard.

“How long will they last?” he clenched his jaw, anticipating the answer already.

He almost heard You wouldn’t like it hanging unspoken between them.

“If we divide… a week, maybe a bit longer,” Silver looked down for a moment and Flint saw his face morphing in a look of dismay.

But there was something else. Somewhere deep inside him. Maybe Flint could reach down there and expose it. Maybe he should’ve done it, but-

“What-” he began and Silver looked at him almost desperately.

Ask me Ask me Ask me – this is what Flint saw in his eyes at that moment.

The knock on the door and Howell entering after a second startled them both. Flint frowned at the doctor, expecting something unpleasant. He was proved right.

“I came to ask what to do with the bodies,” Howell seemed uncomfortable, nervous even, clasping some piece of cloth in his hands and constantly squeezing it.

“What bodies?” Flint asked bluntly and saw a movement from the corner of his eye.

Silver fidgeted a little, gripping the nearby chair for balance. He was looking at Howell and Flint was looking right at his profile.

Anguish. It was right there, in the corners of his mouth, in his eyes. Only half of his face was presented before Flint now but even that was enough.

“We’ve lost a few men in a storm,” Howell answered grimly. “But we’re in the doldrums, there’re no waves and the corpses-”

“Stop,” Flint interrupted and he sure as hell didn’t raise his voice but it echoed in his own head like a scream.

Howell immediately fell silent. Flint clenched his fist and his teeth.

“Find something heavy and tie it to them,” he muttered at last. “It’ll make them sink. Go.”

The doctor left without another glance or word and the silence felt like a heavy weight on Flint’s shoulders.

Howell talked about the dead ones and Flint looked at him since he started. He didn’t have to stare at Silver to see his face again. He fucking felt everything already. The gut-wrenching pain clawed at his throat, making him shut Howell up.

Their doctor was either wise or lucky. Flint was certain that moment that if he wouldn’t stop talking then there would be another one dead body on this ship.

Silver shifted at last, turned to the door.

“I’ll address the men to help him,” he said in a strained voice.

“Billy will do it,” Flint cut in. “Stay here.”

Silver turned back and Flint saw a barely contained remorse inside his eyes. They seemed almost gray now, with everything their owner felt.

“Stay here,” he repeated, hard and Silver dug his fingers in the chair’s back. He wasn’t arguing, he wasn’t saying anything at all. He just looked and every passing second felt like a knife in Flint’s stomach.

Don’t go there, he thought without a reason. As if Silver could actually hear him. You won’t be able to-

The gray replacing startling blue suddenly disappeared for a moment – Silver closed his eyes, turned away and… sat on a chair heavily. He still hasn’t spoken a word, opened his eyes then and just… looked somewhere down, as if seeing something below Flint couldn’t see.

Flint’s knuckles cracked, he pressed his mouth in a thin line and returned to his calculations. Then set them away, because he saw nothing at the moment.

The world shined brightly from the mocking rays of sun, streaming through the windows. Flint wanted to drown in it, to never see something else again except this blinding light. Yet he didn’t see this light at all, as well as his hands or his table or his surroundings.

All he saw was the hollow gray of pain, crawling over the crystalline blue, trying to erase it completely and knew that this terrified him now more than the storm, the doldrums or the death itself.

He parted lips then closed them again. He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what to do. Though he somehow knew that Silver didn’t either.

They stayed like that for a long time, barely even breathing. The darkness fell suddenly, though Flint paid it no mind; he shifted only when the cabin almost drowned in a pitch black. Moonlight was barely streaming inside and he lit a single candle.

Silver sighed quietly when the yellow light bloomed in the thick blackness. Flint placed a candle on his table, then came to his own bed and sat, barely feeling his own body.

He missed the moment when he decided to lay down and to close his eyes. He missed the moment when Silver left eventually.

He missed-

He didn’t fear death and so Miranda appeared that night and she came with her.

+++++++++++++

The next day they started to cut the rations. On a fifth day they did it again.

+++++++++++++

On a twelfth day they cut everything that barely could’ve been cut, but they had no choice. Billy agreed with him – ever since they ended up in a doldrums he was like a grim and silent shadow of his past frowning self. Even his ever-present look of utter perplexity was gone. No he seemed tired, like all of them.

Except Silver. The Quartermaster wasn’t looking tired. He looked like he’d fucking collapse by just one light push. He was loosing weight rapidly, quickly than all of them, despite the fact that he was one of the two men on this ship who had a full ration every day.

However, he didn’t. Every time – every damn time – he’d split his own ration between men and ended up almost starving. Flint knew it, he hadn’t seen it, but he knew Silver did it every time and by any other circumstances he’d be furious over that fact, but now-

Now he was too tired to care.

Yet he did anyway. He did when he told in an almost gentle tone to cut the crew’s rations again. He did when he stayed silent in the beginning of Silver’s outburst, when he saw a desperate disagreement in his eyes, the horror over the fact that his men would suffer more. That now half of them would starve to death.

Flint saw what this knowledge did to him. He almost felt it.

I’m sorry, he wanted to say but stayed silent.

It was your fault since the Hallendale’s ship, he said instead and Silver’s face fucking shattered, an open raw hurt flashed in his eyes, quickly replaced by his newfound stubbornness and determination to do what need’s to be done to make sure this crew – his crew – stays alive and well.

Flint cared when he told Billy to keep and eyes on Silver because the dehydration, lack of sleep and obvious starvation would be taking its toll all too soon.

In this case Billy agreed with him completely. Silver’s well being was important to him – Flint never tried to guess why, given the fact that Billy wasn’t very fond of Silver in the beginning. Since the latter lost his leg something changed but Flint paid it no attention.

He didn’t want to try to understand that now. There was no strength in him to do it.

He saw Miranda not only at night now. Even on a daily basis she appeared before him, showing him what have been in the past, but never what would have been if things went in other direction. And every time there were she, a pitch black faceless figure, standing beside his shoulder.

He knew why she was there. Now he couldn’t say she was unwelcomed.

+++++++++++++

On the twenty-first day he barely could tell the difference between reality and the tricks his mind played with him. But then he saw her again and this time she was in a deep-green dress, the one that suited her so well and suddenly he couldn’t call at a trick. It was a reality, vivid, bright, beautiful reality where she was with him again.

She looked at him, talked to him and he knew he’d do anything just to stay like that, with her, till the end.

Then there was a boat, the colorless sky, the colorless world around them and her deathly pale face cracked in a tiny smile when she told him she’ll leave him soon. He’d scream at her not to. He’d weep and beg but there were no strength left in him to do it.

+++++++++++++

The voice brought him to reality, where the sun burned his already too dry skin, parched his chappy lips, blinded his almost sightless eyes.

There were no strength in him by that moment but his legs moved, his body shook from its stupor and followed this voice, as though an anchor. And then this voice kept talking, bringing reality upon Flint’s shoulders with every new word.

This voice demanded to make ready the launch. This voice demanded from him to go there with its owner.

This voice said “I stole it” and Flint’s own lips parted almost against his will.

“What?”

“The Urca gold,” the voice told him and the reality crashed upon him full force.

He froze, gripping the oars with both hands, sitting in the boat in the middle of nowhere and feeling the piercing gaze on his back from the only one man who lied to him, then told him the truth only to lie again.

Maybe he should have known, should have guessed, suspect... But he didn’t.

“Why are you telling me all this?” he managed to ask when Silver paused, either to think or to regain his breath. His voice was too weak, strained, even wavered a little.

He was exhausted.

Flint didn’t want to, but he cared.

But why?

“So you can decide…” Silver’s voice wavered again and then voiced the options with such rectitude, as if he allowed Flint to pick one choice and do it, despite what would that be.

Fight me. Or kill me. Or be my partner.

Flint knew the answer to it since the moment they took the Warship together.

“You conceived all of this?” he still said after a moment, and it wasn’t even a question despite sounding like one. Because, yes, the answer was yes, and still-

And still he wanted to see him. To see his eyes in this particular moment, to read a look on his face. He wanted to do it every-

“What,” he asked next, trying so hard to focus, to stay still, not to turn around. He was afraid of the things he’d saw on the face of the man behind him. “What did you do with your share?”

“I gave up my claim to it,” Silver confessed without missing a beat and Flint was waiting for something but surely not expected this.

“Why did you do that?” he couldn’t help but ask and he wanted – he really wanted – to know the answer to that, because since the moment they met all Silver wanted was that damn gold. So why would he-

There wasn’t a tiny bit of waver in Silver’s voice when he told him his reason. There wasn’t anything there except the knowledge that now he knew he wasn’t a full man anymore. And no gold could replace the fact that his leg was missing and no one in this fucking world would need him now.

As no one needed him before.

Silver knew it and Flint heard that in his voice.

He said nothing in return, just gripped the paddles again. The boat jerked a little and started to move again. Flint worked, straining his already aching hands, feeling every muscle in them scream in protest.

The man behind him was silent again.

As well as horribly wrong.

It’s not like that, he couldn’t say those words to him, they stuck in his throat and refused to be voiced. You’re wrong. It’s not like that at all.

+++++++++++++

The whale was dead but she sharks, attacking him at the moment weren’t. It was a relief until one particular shark that was doomed to become their salvation decided to attack them too. And not only in the sea but in the boat too.

When the wild creature at last ceased its struggling, Flint leaned heavily to the side, trying to regain his breath. Something rose inside him, swirling his insides in a tiny little storm. It was mere seconds before he recognized it as a… delight.

He was fucking happy, almost hysterical, but the maddening laugher never surfaced. Instead he lifted his head and saw the startlingly blue eyes looking at him with the same emotions he was feeling now himself.

The chuckle came, the smile cracked his dry lips open but he didn’t give a shit about it, asking “Again?” and barely containing an open smirk when Silver smiled at him in return.

+++++++++++++

When the boat reached the Walrus and the crew threw them the ropes ends to tie them around their feast Flint saw Silver’s hands shaking so badly he gripped the rope from the second attempt. He looked at his own bloodstained palms and so them shaking too. Not so hard, though.

“Let me,” he offered and Silver didn’t argue, just silently watched him tying the knots.

The shark was hauled in mere seconds; judging by the crew’s loud cheerfulness and exclaims they already began their work on it. Flint glanced at Silver sideways:

“I hope they’ll remember about us.”

The Quartermaster offered him another smile – a tired one, but truly sincere. Then they were handed a rope-ladder and it clearly became obvious Silver wouldn’t be able to climb it by himself. Flint saw his swaying a little, when he stood, and had to bite his tongue from voicing it out loud.

Silver gripped the ladder, clenched his trembling fist and started to climb. Flint looked at him the entire time, trying to keep up and soon the crew helped him on a deck again. Silver almost lost his footing and Billy quickly grabbed his shoulder but the Quartermaster regained the balance with one of the hanging ropes.

“I’m fine,” he shrugged Billy off. The latter said nothing, just frowned and headed to the shark.

Time passed in a blur. He ended up in a hammock, almost not feeling his own body, just awful tiredness seeping through him like a tide. Someone brought him water and he drained the whole mug in one gulp. Then there was a piece of meat – raw bloody meat – in his hand but from the first bite he knew it was the most delicious thing he ever ate in his life.

The men lay around him, someone ate, someone already did, someone slept and the whole deck was almost quiet except barely audible murmurs here and there.

Something warm was caressing him, as if he was covered in a fine blanket. There wasn’t one, though, and Flint lifted his bloodshot eyes to understand what that was.

He saw the sky then, in the eyes of a man who was looking at him too. Silver sat on a deck, gripping in his bloodstained fingers the mug with fresh water and looked at him, almost unblinking. There was a smile on his face, a tiny tug in the corners of his mouth, yet it was-

Something touched Flint’s face then and he looked up, though he really didn’t want to. No, he didn’t. Everything he wanted was-

But the wind returned and the crew rose to their feet, touched the ropes, the sails, exclaimed, hugged each other, laughed. Flint rose from his hammock on unsteady legs and made a few steps forward, not tearing his eyes from Silver again. He mirrored his movements and stood too, but he was shaking visibly, as though each tiny movement was hard for him.

Maybe it was but Flint couldn’t care less.

They did one new step each and met midway. Silver was looking at him and smiling and Flint knew that nothing in the world would make him tear his own gaze away from that smile.

“Finally,” Silver breathed with a smile and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he locked them on Flint and the sky there was bright and cloudless. The gray was gone.

Ah, Flint thought and the world shined around him with warm and beautiful light. I love him.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t a punch in the gut or sudden lack of air in his lungs. It wasn’t a thunder roaring above him or a lightning flashing brightly till he couldn’t see anymore. It was just that, simple truth, a well-known fact he was too stubborn to acknowledge earlier.

This feeling – this love – it grew inside him every day, yet he hadn’t allowed himself to admit it so openly. Maybe he didn’t want this again. Maybe he feared the forthcoming sense of shame he knew would gnaw at him the moment he’d let himself acknowledge what exactly he felt.

Yet this shame… didn’t come. Not the guilt or even rage. And it was so simple, so plain, because all of it couldn’t torment him just because he knew that he’d never let himself do something other than just simply accepting this feeling inside him.

He’d never say it aloud. He’d never let his mouth form those three words that meant so much. And by not doing it he wasn’t betraying anyone.

He’d never let himself feel it again. Or even hope for something.

They were partners, committed to each other, close to each other and despite this love he felt he wasn’t intended to change anything. And not just because he was afraid to open up for something that destroyed him and his loved ones in the past.

His love ruined the Bond Thomas and Miranda shared. Twisted it and damaged beyond repair. They were Soulmates and despite their will to share all they felt with him he still committed a crime. He was just too selfish, too stubborn to understand it then and now these wonderful people were gone forever.

Because of him.

He couldn’t let a simple crack appear in this wall he built so long inside himself. He knew that this love would spill through a tiny fracture and he couldn’t let it happen. Because even though they called him “fearless” they couldn’t know that right now he feared one thing even more than loosing a war he started.

His love would destroy the only man he intended to protect and it terrified him to unbearable extent.

He loved John Silver and couldn’t let himself do it.

 

+++++++++++++

 

“We’ll drop the anchor here,” he pointed to the map and heard Billy’s relieved exhale. He didn’t look at him, though, staring right at Silver. He hadn’t washed after they cut the shark, though pulled his shirt on and now Flint saw glimpses of red on his neck.

He wanted to touch them, smear with his fingers, scrub them away to reveal the sun-kissed skin underneath. Though it wasn’t disgust he felt. It was a too-long suppressed desire to touch his skin, to let his fingers trail it and to see Silver’s reaction.

He wouldn’t do it of course.

“It’s a small island,” Silver admitted, looking closely at the map. He hunched a little and one loose curl fell on his face. He barely noticed it. Flint did but looked away. “It’ll provide us with fresh water and maybe even some food. I guess we’re lucky.”

“We are,” Flint agreed and Silver gave him a soft smile at that.

When they dropped the anchor, the boats brought them on a deserted beach, surrounded by far away hills, blooming with green in the distance. Flint squinted, slightly amazed by the fact that the color of the forest on these hills was so vivid to him. Yet he shrugged this thought away in spite of more important things to do.

The men already started to build a camp and Flint ordered Billy and others fetch fresh water. They needed it even more than food and sleep now.

Dooley was the one to return with two full buckets of water and Flint made a few long gulps before handing one bucket over to Silver. The Quartermaster still was near the boat, leaning on it and splashing his face with sea water to get rid of the shark’s blood on his skin.

He thanked Flint with a tired smile and drank the water; his hands trembled so hard Flint helped him to lift the bucket.

Silver let a relieved sigh and tried to tug off his shirt to properly wash but swayed suddenly and bumped his leg against the hard wood. He clenched his teeth before any sound escaped but Flint saw a flash of pain crossing his face.

“Hold still,” he reached him even before his mind demanded not to and gently helped him to remove a shirt.

Silver blinked at him but moved without word, freeing his hands and head and then reaching for the water again. Flint saw the caked blood on his chest and neck and turned away, vaguely noticing that he still held his shirt in his hands.

The wind caressed his face and suddenly he saw her again, standing in the distance, looking at him. Her skirts were ruffling soundlessly in the sea breeze, her hair still tucked in that tight bun and not a loose strand broke free from it.

“Captain?” the wind softly whispered and he barely suppressed a flinch, glancing back.

Silver looked at him and confusion on his face mixed with something akin to worry and uncertainty. He cocked his head to the side and then nodded on the shirt still held tightly by Flint.

“Can I have that back?”

Flint returned it without another word feeling himself kind of… strange. And maybe a little flustered. Silver never said a word too, tugging his shirt back on.

They moved further into the beach, Silver swaying dangerously on too yielding sand when Howell approached them with a new bucket of fresh water. He placed it before Silver and pointed to his stump.

“We need to clean the wound to prevent irritation. Fresh water will help.”

Silver gave a sigh at that, frowning for a fleeting moment but didn’t argue. Just lifted the bucket and limped to the nearest sand-dune to sit.

“You need my help?” Howell called after him and Silver’s spine visibly tensed.

“I’ll be fine,” he grumbled back and sat heavily, stubbornly trying to remove his peg leg by himself.

Howell silently rolled his eyes at Flint and walked away. Flint watched Silver for a moment and went for a new bucket of water, which were left by the men already near the growing camp.

He brought Silver two more buckets before decided to sat beside him and have some talk. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw an angry irritation on a damaged skin of his Quartermaster’s stump but didn’t comment it. It was a sensitive topic to breach now, after they finally gained their shaken balance again.

Silver, though, was the one to start a conversation and, to Flint’s surprise, it included Hornigold and pardons he accepted them not too long ago. Surprise quickly faded when he felt suddenly impressed by Silver’s train of thought of this matter. Some small part of him felt a childish offence, because Silver definitely had all of this in his mind for quite some time yet didn’t say a word to him.

And what would you say – how exactly would you push him away if he did? his mind whispered and Flint scooped up a pile of sand to will these thoughts away.

He was hard on Silver for a long time and this realization hadn’t dawned on him in a sudden flash; he knew it since the beginning, maybe. This man irritated the hell out of him since their first meeting, yet now, thinking of it twice, Flint understood that deep in the core of his soul he felt attraction. He felt a strong pull towards a young thief, with his bright smiles, cocky attitude, silver tongue and everything else that pissed Flint so much.

They gravitated towards each other despite Flint’s attempts to deny it. And now this man was completely different, his attitude changed drastically, yet the pull… never subsided. It never did before. Even in the damned boat, when the truth about Urca was all but thrown in his face, this pull somehow grew stronger with each passing second.

Now, talking about pardons, Silver reached deeper inside Flint, almost revealing the truth about his past and these fucking pardons and that fucking England and Flint was ready to let him in, tear that bloody lump from his gut from everyone to see.

He’d let this man touch the void inside his soul because maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t have to bear it alone. Yet the horror he felt about it was raw and bone-shattering, because he knew that the moment Silver reach that void and see what’s inside, it’ll drive him away forever.

And that’s why Flint sat there, unsaid words just on the tip of his tongue, being unable to say something else.

Just read it in my mind, he thought suddenly, even though it was fucking impossible. Because I can’t say it and can’t lie to you at the same time.

Silver looked at him silently, a clear puzzlement on his face; Flint saw that he tried to understand sudden pause in their conversation. Flint saw that he was close to the truth – closer than anyone – and it terrified him, amazed him, alarmed him, astonished…

Flint’s mouth opened despite his will, despite the screams in his head, and nothing came out, because that was the exact moment his crew was surrounded by the maroons.

 

+++++++++++++

 

The trek was hell. Flint almost hadn’t noticed the path under his feet or the men before him. He kept glancing back, almost walking sideways, because Silver was limping too hard, his face pale and covered in thin layer of sweat.

He fell and couldn’t even lift himself on his elbows; Billy and Howell reached for him, but it was Flint who helped him stand. It was Flint who made sure he regained some sort of balance. He hadn’t even noticed an angry maroon and his weapon, his harsh words and everything else. He barely noticed on of their men escaping – it didn’t matter anyway. There was no point in running now.

Though all he could think of was Silver and the painful clench of his jaw, the grayness of his eyes, the obvious pain on his face.

“Lean on me,” he heard his own voice and Silver looked at him in surprise.

He hadn’t argued though and placed a hand on his shoulder but it became clear after a few steps that he barely leaned his weight on it. Maybe he didn’t want to show his weakness, when his men followed. Maybe he didn’t want to be a burden.

But he wasn’t.

Flint hadn’t said a word to it. He grabbed his hand and pressed it on his own shoulder as tightly as possible, feeling a sudden tension in Silver, feeling his step halt for a second. His grip strengthened and a moment after Silver leaned harder, placing some of his weight on Flint’s shoulder.

It was only when they were placed in the boats Flint realized his fingers still circled Silver’s wrist. He took his hand away and looked at it the whole journey to the maroon camp. His fingers burned as if he touched something hot.

 

+++++++++++++

 

The Queen demanded to know who was their Quartermaster and Flint looked her straight in the eyes. The moment passed unspoken between them but he knew she understood the implication.

She was ready to kill every threat to her small kingdom. Well, he wasn’t a king nor he had a kingdom to rule. He had only his crew, battered and broken beside him.

He wouldn’t kill for them.

It was only him that mattered now among all those people.

 

+++++++++++++

 

Four men were dead, their bodies left near the cages by the Queen’s order. To mock them, to haunt them, to tear their minds apart, as well as the sight of his own dead crew tore at Ben Gunn’s brain the whole time he stayed in that cage. He told them it, hunched in a corner, voice trembling, trying not to look at the “new addition” to his confinement.

Flint paid him no mind, leaving Billy the talking. The bosun clearly felt some sort of interest to Gunn’s words and was talking to him since then in a hushed tone.

Others preferred to lie down and have some sort of mocked rest, even in their current circumstances. There was nothing they could do though.

People kept flowing past their cages, smiling, chatting, busy with their day-work. Children run in the distance, playing and laughing, completely oblivious to the fact that there were a bunch of doomed men no far from them.

The princess was the only one who glanced at them longer than anyone and her gaze was locked on the only one of them. Flint sat, leaning heavily on the bars, and looked at her from the corner of his eye. She was currently talking with someone, polite smile grazing her lips.

Silver looked at her too and Flint couldn’t understand what was in his gaze. Was he interested? In what way? How was it Flint’s business? Why was he even noticing that?

He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, feeling a pang of headache. When he opened them again Silver was looking at him. He was still gripping the bars and standing near, but his gaze fell from the princess and landed on him.

Flint blames the headache and his weakened state for the spark of satisfaction he felt after that.

“We could be staying here for a long time before we find the solution to our problem,” Silver told him in a quiet tone. “You should rest as the situation allows it.”

“I’m not tired,” Flint retorted dully and Silver quirked a brow at that.

“Even I am tired,” he stressed out and Flint felt a tug at his own lips. It was rare for Silver to admit his weakness and he did it… because of him.

Flint just shook his head, but closed his eyes and heard a quiet sigh above him. If it was a relief he heard in it he preferred not to say it aloud.

 

+++++++++++++

 

She stood near a boat waiting for him to accompany her. He lifted a hand to help her sit and her fingers traced his wrist. She was cold but Flint didn’t shudder.

“It burns every time,” she said, looking at his hand and Flint saw a deep longing on her face. “Though it is the sweetest pain a person can feel.”

She looked at him then with a sad smile and climbed in a boat and he followed her immediately. There were no shovels, but the boat sailed itself, calmly, inevitably.

He glanced back at her and she smiled at him again. She gripped her own wrist and stayed like that, but he didn’t ask and she was silent too.

 

+++++++++++++

 

He opened his eyes and there was night surrounding them. The men slept or just lay awake, waiting for their fate. Billy sat closer and voiced his plan. Flint listened and pretended to encourage it, just to distract the bosun.

Silver saw right through him and Flint knew it. He wanted to say something about it, wanted to talk to him, but his head hurt and he was tired.

He closed his eyes again…

… and the boat was moving further. He knew what awaited them at the end. He knew she would left him alone and he asked if he would stay here with her.

She smiled again, pale and kind and sad. And said nothing.

He never asked again.

Next time his eyes opened Silver was gone.

 

+++++++++++++

 

Something burned inside his gut, turning his bowels into ash, liking his bones, trailing down and up at the same time. It circled his throat like a rope, choking him. It speared his head from each side with candent blades.

It was rage, so dark and ugly, he wanted to thrown up. Though he didn’t because there was something he wanted even more than that. Something he’d do to that woman when he’d break free from this cage. Something he never did to any woman before.

He stood and there was no wobble in his knees. He made a step and it was hard and stable, as if all his strength was back.

But it wasn’t, because she took it from him.

He gripped the bars and his fingers screamed in protest. He felt tiny chips of wood breaking his skin, plunging under, freeing drops of blood. It was nothing compared to the sea of this substance he’d spill in these fucking place, because she did it to him.

She laid a hand on something she didn’t even deserve to look at.

She did it and he hated her, and them – all of them around him and down there, in this mockery of a kingdom, in their beds where they were safe. But they weren’t, because he was here.

But he wasn’t.

She took him away.

But it’s my fault.

He closed him eyes, his grip shaking and loosening a little. Someone’s voice tried to reach him, through the screams in his head, but he barely heard it.

Because he wasn’t the-

“Where are you?” the question suddenly broke his trance and Flint blinked, then glanced back.

Yet he was. Right there, on his left, untouched and alive. His face was showing and open concern and Flint didn’t understand it. What happened? Why was he so worried? Everything was fine again, because he returned.

But she could take him back again. She could and she would, he knew it. He couldn’t let that happen, but his strength faded again. As well as the rage, leaving emptiness behind.

I’m here, he wanted to say and opened his mouth but the truth he said after that was entirely different.

 

+++++++++++++

 

“You are not alone,” was her last words to him and then she was gone.

He closed his eyes and when opened him again Silver was looking at him, gently touching his shoulder. Flint stared back and felt something inside his head. Something that pleaded him to say it, say it, say it.

“Captain,” Silver called and Flint saw a hint of worry in his eyes again. “You need to see it.”

 

+++++++++++++

 

When Scott’s eyes closed and he fell asleep the Queen returned. Her guards stood not far from her, their weapon raised and pointed at him. Flint hadn’t intended to pick a fight, he took the knife before she was back and now it was safely hidden in his boot.

He rose from his seat and turned to her. She glanced back, her face a stony mask of distrust.

“I’ll let you talk, today. When the moon will rise you’ll be brought to me,” she said, stepping closer. She small, much smaller than him and it would be easy to take a step forward and end it right now. He wouldn’t.

“You should remember it,” he answered and heard the hard edge to his own voice. “I’m the one you should talk to, not my men.”

“I have no interest in what your men say,” she retorted and her eyes narrowed. “You should mind your words, though.”

He took a small step forward and the guards jerked too. She waved a hand at them, not disturbed at all and looked at him without fear, her chin high and her eyes icy-cold.

“You took my Quartermaster last night,” his voice was quiet and he wondered if she felt the darkness that circled them. “Don’t do it again.”

She was silent for a moment and he saw her frown. Though the answer she gave was something he didn’t expect.

“It wasn’t me,” she turned to guards and nodded. “Take him away.”

He walked, feeling her gaze on his back and hearing her answer. They both quickly guessed who was the one responsible for Silver’s sudden disappearance the previous night.

 

+++++++++++++

 

Silver was the only one who commented his plan and his eyes were filled with such worry Flint clearly didn’t expect. Others remained silent and just threw him quick glances from time to time. No one approached him.

It was better that way. Either he’d save them that night or die for their freedom and, honestly, he couldn’t care less about each possibility. After all only one man’s life mattered to him in this case.

The man in question was currently talking to Billy about something, but Flint was too far away physically and mentally to pay attention. He caught a glance Silver threw in his direction and held it for a moment, then looked at the small knife in his hand again.

Silver didn’t and he felt his gaze on him, but refused to stare back. It was pointless now.

Even if he wanted to.

He blinked once and suddenly he was at that shore again. The boat was empty near his feet, almost unseen in the thick fog, surrounding the entire place. It waited for him to sit and sail him back, away from the place she went to.

He made a step and there wasn’t a hard wood of the boat under his foot. It was water, eerie calm and silent, calling him in, showing him the rest he hoped for. He made another step and the world blurred a little. He back in the cage, but the water was still there, it flowed under him, rising higher with each passing moment.

Suddenly Silver approached him, sat heavily with an audible sigh, completely unaware of the flowing death he was placing himself into. Flint wanted to ask him to stand and walk away from it, he couldn’t drown, he couldn’t, not him.

The water reached his knees when Silver started talking. Flint tore his gaze from it and looked at him when he finished. The sky in his eyes was so blue he wanted to touch it. His hand twitched but hadn’t lifted, though the sky was still there, so vivid and so beautiful.

He loved it.

The guards came and took him away. There was no knife with him when he faced the Queen.

He talked and she listened and her men, her women, her daughter and her husband listened too. No one said a word since he started talking, as though he cast a spell on them, taking away their voices like in a tale Miranda read to him long ago.

When the morning came he let her talk again; she stood before him with a new emotion in her eyes. He didn’t try to understand it – he knew already what it was. The same he saw in Eleanor Guthrie’s eyes, and Gate’s eyes and everyone’s too when he talked and wanted them to listen.

They took the chair off his wrists, handed him a new coat and freed his crew. He saw them escaping their cages as well as a bewilderment on their faces, quickly replaced by relief. They were alive again.

Yet he spared them no second glance. Only one man stood before him now and he was the one that mattered. There was a relief and wonder on Silver face and when he talked he sounded hopeful.

“Thank you for opening that door,” Flint answered, letting a smile break free and Silver smiled back at him.

The ground under Flint’s feet was dry wherever he went. The water never came back.

Chapter Text

The ceremony has just begun and everyone’s eyes were centered on a flamen. Every soul seemed spellbound by the chaotic movements, the sound of the drums and the smoke filling the place.

Madi stared at her father, almost ignoring the flamen. Mr. Scott – she didn’t even remember his name – was laying in the center of the hut, his skin damp, his eyes closed, his breathing shallow and weak. She could’ve guessed he barely noticed the ceremony taking place around him.

Her mother talked to her about his condition, tried to tell her he was gonna make it but the recovery would be a long and hard process. Madi nodded in response and hugged her tightly. She never said her thoughts about the matter, which were far from what her mother hoped.

Mr. Scott – her father – was dying and no flamen, no doctor, no herbs, no plea to every possible deity would change that. She knew it as she could physically see a Grim Reaper standing beside his bed.

She would cry later, she would mourn, despite barely remembering her father. Yet he was the other half of her mother’s soul, he was the man whose hands held her when she was born. He was the one to protect her and her mother from the harsh world by hiding them here, creating this place just for them to be safe.

She loved him deeply and, despite there being no hope left, she would stand here and pray with the others, wish with her mother, forcing herself to believe that something could be done.

Madi tore her gaze away from Mr. Scott’s face for a moment, looking around the wide circle. Some of their men were whispering in tune with flamen’s song, some women clasped their hands and closed their eyes. Everyone waited and hoped.

Yet someone wasn’t there.

Madi frowned and asked where the pirate was. No one knew, except her attendant – he jerked his head towards the way where the hut they provided the pirate with was. Madi thanked him and told him to stay here. She wanted to handle this alone.

And of course the pirate was there when she appeared, sat on a coach, hunched over something unseen to her. She saw only his back, framed by his long hair. When he and his crew appeared here his hair was tied. She didn’t understand why she kept this in memory.

She talked to him, almost accusingly and it felt somehow wrong that he didn’t look at her the moment she came. Yet he listened, she noticed him lifting his head and the movement seemed strange, Madi couldn’t understand at first, stepped closer, approaching him from the side and then-

He turned and she saw his face at last – ashen, covered in sweat as much as her father’s. His eyes barely focused on her and she stopped talking, because it was wrong, the way his eyes was glassy and almost black, the way his body trembled and his-

His leg. She has never seen something like that before. The skin was red and purple at the same time, almost dark in some places. And the smell was awful, like the flesh was on the verge of rotting.

Her tongue felt numb, her breathing almost stopped. She watched in horror at the terrifying wound and couldn’t think of her father, dying in a hut nearby. She barely thought about her mother, waiting for the miracle that wouldn’t happen.

All she could think of was Why didn’t you ask for help?

“I’m fine,” he mumbled quietly, clearly seeing her shock. She noticed him covering the infected wound with the trouser leg, as though shielding her away from an ugly sight.

“Don’t!” she blurted stepping closer. “It’ll make it worse.”

“It’s alright,” he shook his head and curls framed it, sticking to his sweat-slicked skin. He barely noticed, closing his eyes for a moment.

He had a fever, she suddenly understood. A high fever to be precise and this was a very bad sign. His crew was gone along with their Captain and this man – the Quartermaster – was the only one left.

Her mother asked the Captain to left someone with them to guarantee their newfound alliance and the Quartermaster offered to be the one to stay. Everyone agreed, though Madi caught a strange glance the Captain threw at his man. She couldn’t understand what it was and hadn’t tried to.

Now she knew why that man decided to stay. What she didn’t know was why he hadn’t asked for his crew doctor’s help before his condition worsened. It was disturbing.

She noticed Kofi standing outside the hut, waiting for her. He must’ve followed her here silently and now she was thankful for that even more than always. She called for him.

“I’ll bring a doctor and you stay here, watch him,” she asked. She hasn’t seen a threat in the pirate; she asked to guard him in case his condition would get worse before she returns.

The Quartermaster leaned heavily on a wooden railing beside him and shook his head stubbornly. She tried to reason him but he refused to listen, repeating that he didn’t need help and this will pass. By the look in his eyes Madi knew that everything would be getting worse soon.

She looked at Kofi again and he understood the unspoken words. He quickly left and she knew that he’d return soon with the doctor. Judging by the pirate’s exasperating sigh he understood her decision too and hadn’t liked it.

He talked to her, his voice shaking a little, he made a few pauses clenching his jaw so hard she almost heard his teeth scraping. He did it to stifle the sounds of pain threatening to break free from his chest.

Madi looked at him as though for the first time. The things he said, the concerns he felt about his men and not at all about his own well-being – she knew it very well. She hadn’t felt it yet and maybe never would, but she knew who already did.

She never saw a King in her life, because here, in this safe place of their home, they didn’t need one. Her mother was the Queen and she ruled with a steady hand, but this man… He was something else entirely.

She told him about her mother’s burden and in the end – about his own crown he clearly has been wearing for a long time now. He was the King to his men and he thought and talked like one. She wondered if someone noticed it too.

The silence between them was heavy; Madi just looked at him but he didn’t look back. He stared at his leg, his face a mask of suffering and pain.

“I don’t need a doctor,” he whispered again and there was an unspoken amount of hurt in his voice.

“What do you need then?” she asked, stepping closer, as if cornering a frightened animal. He was shaking so badly she wanted to drape him in a warm blanket, just to ease his pain somehow.

The Quartermaster closed his eyes and his face twisted in something close to grief.

“He’s not here,” his voice broke; his fingers trembled, clenching his horrendous wound through the course fabric of pants. “I need him. I need-”

He fell silent, only panting heavily instead of speaking. Madi didn’t say anything about his sudden answer. She tried not to think about it now, though she felt the understanding dawning on her.

The doctor came and she shook all unnecessary thoughts away. The Quartermaster opened his eyes again and looked at the doctor but remained silent. He clearly accepted everything that awaited him and refused to argue anymore. Maybe he was too sick to do it.

He revealed the stump again and the doctor frowned at the wound, shook her head at Madi and quickly started to prepare some salve from the herbs she brought with her. Madi looked closely, but the King didn’t – he was too tired to do it, judging by the fact that he barely could sit upright. She noticed him gripping the wooden column for balance, his eyes were closed again.

When everything was ready he sat straighter as much as his remaining strength allowed him to. And refused the laudanum.

“Why? This-” Madi tried to reason him but he looked at her and there was something strange in his eyes. She couldn’t comprehend what it was.

“I hadn’t it the first time too,” this strange emotion was still in his eyes when he refused the stick to bite too and asked the doctor to just do what needed to be done.

It hurt awfully – Madi could’ve guessed it did. Though he made no sound, save for the harsher breaths and scrape of his teeth, but the creaking wood he gripped with his fingers did it for him. She looked at his hand and covered it with hers.

His skin was wet and his wrist… burned with fire. It bit her fingers and she placed them higher, not touching that scorching hot spot anymore. She didn’t understand why this thought crossed her mind but it felt wrong to touch this man’s wrist.

As though this place was for someone else’s fingers.

+++++++++++++

Later that day he talked a little about him. Though she felt that wasn’t the whole truth about the man he was remembering at that moment.

When she offered him to be his anchor – to hold the rope – he said “Maybe” and added nothing. Madi turned the page of her book absentmindedly and when looked at him again he was asleep.

His fever subsided a little after that and returned full force when the night came. Madi helped the doctor to remove the bandage and spread a salve other the wound again. He was blissfully unconscious the whole time, but trembled and tried to turn away a few times.

Madi wiped his face with cool rag and covered him with blanket. He opened his eyes and looked at her. The blue sky in them was glassy and she instantly knew he couldn’t see her.

His lips moved but no sound came and after a moment his eyes closed. Though Madi saw an unspoken “Captain” in the movement of his mouth.

+++++++++++++

Next time the doctor came his fever wasn’t so severe, though the procedure still was too painful to bear. And still he made no sound, just closed his eyes, pressing his teeth tightly together. Madi couldn’t tear her eyes from the entire process.

When the doctor finished and stood to walk away he suddenly said “Thank you” and she blinked at him in surprise, then glanced at Madi and at last nodded.

Next day she came again and by the time she finished there was a smallest smile in the corners of her mouth. He mirrored it as much as he could with all the pain he felt. Madi looked at him the whole time again and couldn’t understand the sudden hot lump in her gut.

By the fourth day he suddenly decided to ask doctor something.

“Can I walk?”

She cocked her head and he turned to Madi, puzzlement open on his face.

“I’m sorry, she can’t-”

“She can understand you,” Madi smiled, encouraging doctor with the nod.

“It’s not healthy,” the latter said at last, nodding at his stump. “But you can. Not too long.”

When she was gone Madi asked him where he wanted to go. His eyes went somewhere far away from her.

“To the beach,” he acknowledged at last. “I want to go there.”

They both knew why he wanted to go to the beach. They both knew why he would stare at the waves there, barely noticing the outside world. They both knew he would wait and they both knew whom.

+++++++++++++

She was reading a book, waiting for the King to wake up. Today the procedure was harder than usual, even she could tell just by one look at him. His fever started anew, as the doctor said, but, blissfully, not as strong as at the beginning. Madi watched the doctor’s work, then – John Silver’s face. He told her his name a few days ago, when she escorted him to the beach. The breeze was caressing his face, he closed his eyes and let a smile soft his features.

Madi loved him since that day.

She always came with the doctor and always stayed an hour or so after. Picked a book since the procedures started and barely read twelve pages ever since than. She watched him most of the time.

Today his sleep seemed calm, his face relaxed – a rare sight – and suddenly young. She vaguely wondered how he looked without his beard, when he was at his very youth. How often he smiled, what made him happy. She doubted he felt happiness now, though maybe only with his Captain.

It was a sensitive topic she still never dared to breach. She hadn’t even mentioned his Captain to him, though they barely talked anyway.

Madi looked at her book again; the words seemed foreign to her, her mind elsewhere. She wondered when other pirates would return. What would they bring with them? How would he react when he’d see him again?

“It’s Don Quixote, right?” she jumped in her seat, looking at him with wide eyes. He blinked at her and smiled somehow sadly. “Sorry, didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“I thought you’d be asleep for a while,” she coughed, regaining her composure as quickly as possible. “Does it hurt?”

He made no move to sit, just looked down at himself for a second.

“It’ll pass.”

The same answer he gave her and the doctor these days. It frustrated both of them.

The silence stretched between them and Madi looked down at her book again. Then she remembered.

“Yes, it is,” she nodded at her lap. “How can you tell?” she hadn’t read it aloud, not even a few words. She didn’t think to.

“The covers,” he looked at the book too. “They’re the same.”

“Did you like it?” she ruffled the pages absentmindedly, staring at him, catching a shake of his head.

“I haven’t read it. Only saw the book.”

His eyes were focused on the book the whole time. There were that deep sadness on his face, mingled with longing she often saw in her mother’s features. She wondered if he even saw her at this moment.

“It’s not mine to touch,” he finished softly and closed his eyes.

Madi felt a lump in her throat and swallowed. She opened the book again, barely noticing she closed it before, and started to read. When after a few pages she did it aloud he hadn’t stopped her. Nor did he say anything. His eyes were still closed, but she guessed sleep wasn’t an option for him anymore.

+++++++++++++

The next day her mother asked her to come. They were together in the Queen’s hut and Madi saw softness in her mother’s eyes when she took both her hands and gently rubbed them with just pads of her fingers.

“I hope it’s that,” the Queen said, touching Madi’s wrist; the implication was clear as a day, though Madi still tried not to raise her hope high.

She thought about it, it would be foolish not to admit those little sparks of joy she felt while being with John Silver. But the Spiral and the Name – it was too early to think about it, when they barely knew each other and rarely even talked, simply sharing the mutual silence in these rare hours she sat near his bed or accompanied him to the beach.

Still the future was promising, she hoped for it.

Kofi interrupted them suddenly with an urgent news and the moment Madi heard “The Captain Flint has returned” her heart started to beat a little faster. Though, no doubt, that John Silver’s heart would leap from his chest the moment he’d-

“Bring the Quartermaster here,” the Queen ordered Kofi meanwhile. She couldn’t have known that her own daughter wanted to be the one to bring this news to the man in question, but Madi never said a word. She just smiled at her mother again and decided to wait.

It didn’t take long for them to appear. John Silver came with the Kofi, his peg leg in place. Still pale and with an noticeable limp in his step, but his features composed and his stance steady. He nodded politely, seeing a Queen and she nodded in return. He glanced at Madi quickly; she steeped forward and offered him to sit. He said no word of protest, lowering himself onto a nearby cot.

That was the moment three men entered. Madi recognized the tall one – Billy, if she recalled his crew calling him – and the Captain, of course. The third one was unknown and she looked at him closely for a moment. He met her gaze, but said nothing, just somehow stayed behind Flint, leaning on a wooden column and crossing his hand over his chest.

There was something dangerous, even predatory in his features, in his whole stance, and Madi felt uneasiness, creeping inside. Still Captain Flint seemed perfectly fine with this man standing at his back and she decided not to dwell on these thoughts for the time being.

Then her mother’s men and women came too and the council began. The Captain was speaking, and when he wasn’t that man spoke after him. His voice was raspy and harsh, but he hadn’t shown an open threat neither in his speech nor by his actions.

When the Queen asked for everyone to leave they did. John Silver stood and limped forward, his shoulder brushing his Captain’s coat for a moment. Madi saw them glancing at each other for a brief second and even though she couldn’t see John Silver’s face, the look in Captain Flint’s eyes was enough for her.

It was quick and she couldn’t catch any coherent emotion there, but the corner of his mouth tugged upright even when John Silver left. It seemed as if Captain Flint was almost happy to return, but it confused her even more than those strange relationships between the two of them.

She tried not to think of their connection to each other. It was not her business, it wasn’t relevant for her. She knew she shouldn’t have been bothered by it, but when she stepped outside where others were waiting and saw John Silver’s face something inside her twisted and hurt.

She wondered would it have been possible for him to look at her the same way he was looking at the hut where his Captain stood. As if he found a casket full of treasure and couldn’t have waited to open it.

Maybe Captain Flint found his own treasure too? she thought while the man in question stepped outside with her mother. Madi looked at him and then followed his gaze.

He did.