The docks were nearly empty that night.
Arthur Kirkland, captain of the Faerie Queen, noted this fact absently as he hauled on a line. There were only a few other ships about, and most of them seemed quiet and empty that late in the evening. The sun was starting to set out to sea, and Arthur imagined that the crews were mostly already in town. ("Getting drunk and finding a fuck," Kit likes to snort and roll her eyes. "Men.") There weren't many people passing by either; just the dock workers helping to haul in the ship and tie her fast.
"Brooke!" Arthur roared, noticing the boy slacking off. "Pay attention to what you're doing or I'll have you over the side!"
He twitched to attention, shooting a glare over at the captain but obediently starting to pull his weight. Arthur eyed him and made a mental note to tighten up discipline. Just because they'd been in and out of this port a dozen times in the past couple years was no reason to be lazy. Brooke was bad enough; Alfred was a complete hellion.
Arthur glanced up, watching as Alfred (thirteen years old and nimble as a monkey) swung across the rigging high above, tying up the last of the sails. Arthur had set sail from one of the more respectable ports about two years ago and hadn't discovered the boy stowing away until it was too late to turn back. And dread pirate or not, even he couldn't bring himself to throw Alfred overboard (though now some days he dearly wished he had), especially once he began showing such a proficiency for the rigging and crow's nest.
Satisfied that Alfred was at least doing his job, Arthur turned his attention to the rest of the ship. Something caught the corner of his eye, and he froze, a shiver of premonition going up his spine.
Someone was watching them from the docks.
Not working to help tie the ship or preparing to put up the gangplank. Just standing there. Watching.
And pirate port or not, Arthur didn't like being watched that way.
He took two steps toward the railing, mouth open to shout, and then he realized who it was watching, and the words got stuck in his throat unsaid.
He was standing off to one side, out of the way of the people actually working on the docks but still clearly waiting for the Queen. Arthur hadn't recognized him at first because he wasn't wearing any fancy brocade coats or plumed hats, no lace cravat or even any gold except for the crucifix that peeked out between the folds of his plain white shirt. There was a cutlass at his hip and probably a pistol tucked at the small of his back, and his boots were the same sturdy ones he'd worn for years.
But otherwise he was unadorned, unless one counted the sailcloth bag laying at his feet. It was so strange, Arthur noted absently. He looked like just a man, not the fierce pirate Arthur knew him to be.
But all of that Arthur noticed dimly, in passing, because he was already moving. Damn the gangplank, he grabbed one of the lines and swung easily to the dock, garnering a shout of startled protest from Kit and a laugh from the watching man.
He put callused hands on slim hips, head tilting and dark eyes sparkling with laughter as he watched Arthur approach, and damn that grin, Arthur didn't know whether to kiss it or smack it, some days.
That night, he argued with himself both ways as he stomped his way over, the dock workers quickly scurrying out of his way. Kiss him, because Arthur hadn't actually even seen him in over eight months. Smack him, because really, a little warning would have been nice if Arthur was going to end up making a fool of himself in front of his crew. Kiss him, because if he's here, on the dock waiting for the Queen, something drastic has happened.
Arthur stopped three steps away and neither kissed him nor smacked him, brows drawing down in a frown. He stayed balanced on the balls of his feet; for a moment it felt like he was still on a rolling deck. There was something in the air around them, in the setting sun and the almost muted sounds of the people going about their business, in the lap of the waves on the pilings. Something was about to change, Arthur could feel it. Change in a big way.
"Gabi," he said hesitantly, because saying his name meant he was really here. "What are you doing here?"
The setting sun made Gabi's Mediterranean skin gleam golden, and brought out all the auburn highlights in his dark hair. His eyes glittered like polished gems, some unnameable shade of citrine-amber-obsidian as he grinned at Arthur. God, that grin, it made Arthur flush in one tingling, hot rush; ears to cheeks to fluttering low in his stomach to pounding his heart nearly out of his chest.
Gabriel Fernandez Carriedo, perhaps fourth-most well known pirate in these waters, reached up and laughingly tapped two fingers against Arthur's jaw to get him to close his mouth. "I decided," he said, looking away from Arthur and up, at where the Queen was docked and where the crew was now lining the rails, watching the proceedings in interest.
It took a moment of staring before Arthur realized what he meant. "You-"
Another setting sun, a year ago now.
Gabi, laying bedridden from a knife wound gained pulling his brother out of a fight (again).
And Arthur, sitting livid and silent beside him, both of them listening to the screaming match being conducted in the next room, half in Spanish and half in Italian.
"Arthur, just give me a little more time. Antonio still needs me right now, and Lovi's not strong enough to handle him alone. Not yet, not quite. Please, amado-"
"Gabi, you've been saying that for years. You know you're welcome on the Queen. You always have been."
"I know." A smile, a brush of warm fingers against Arthur's cheek. "I know. But just awhile longer."
Gabi waved at the crew, while Arthur was still busy trying to figure out how to answer, and most of them waved back. There was even an enthusiastic but badly mispronounced "Buenas noches, Gabi!" from Alfred.
"Gabi," Arthur grabbed his arm, calling the other man's attention back to him and pinning him under a hard stare. "Does this mean Antonio is...?"
Gabi smiled. "Lovi's problem now. And the way they throw crockery at each other, I'm just as glad to be away. Lovi will make a fine first mate for him, they don't need me to babysit any longer."
Arthur stared at him another moment longer, then grabbed him by the collar and yanked him down the couple inches needed to kiss him. Gabi gasped, parting his lips, and Arthur was happy to take full advantage. It only took a moment before Gabi was groaning low in his throat and kissing back, and Arthur was mentally cataloging the wolf whistles coming from the deck to know who got extra chores later (Alfred and Brooke, and the entirely unnecessary 'celebratory' firecrackers had to be Leon).
They didn't part until they were both flushed and gasping for breath, and even then Arthur didn't let Gabi go far, keeping the grip on his shirt firm. Gabi laughed softly, leaning his forehead against Arthur's. "Permission to come aboard, captain?"
Arthur rolled his eyes and nipped at his lower lip. "Granted long ago, you git."
Behind them, the sun sank below the horizon.