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Sealing the Deal

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He looked at the other man in a new light Slavery was a fact of life for many, but for a child, a citizen of England, Flint didn’t want to believe such a thing was possible. Yet Vane, his shirt yanked down off of his shoulder to expose the mark of it, was living proof. It was little wonder he had turned out the way he had, ruthless, cruel, brutal…to those who did not give him the respect he believed he deserved. Things that, if not given freely as an Englishman deserved, could be seized at the end of a blade.

Vane was very good at demanding respect. Even Flint had to admit that.

The dregs in the opium pipe smoldered on the table between them, two bottles of gin equally empty and discarded. It was a wonder either of them was coherent. When Vane staggered to his feet, hand extended, muttering, “Do we have a deal, Captain?” Flint surged up to greet him, and caught the other man as he began to fall forward. Vane instinctively flung his arms up to Flint’s shoulders as Flint too struggled to remain upright, too much drink making them both unsteady on their feet.

They stood like that, arms about one another for support, Vane’s head lolled to one side so that bleary eyes could attempt to focus on Flint’s face, and Flint’s head bobbing side to side unsteadily in response to the spinning room. He found the room spun less if he focused on one spot, so he brought his gaze to bear on Vane’s glazed gray eyes.

Flint licked his dry lips with the tip of his tongue and murmured, “We have a deal…” in a voice that sounded foreign and husky to his ears.

It was support. Only for support. Why then, when Vane flashed him a rare, crooked smile, did Flint’s stomach perform an uncharacteristic flip-flop? Why was he aware of the ripple of muscle beneath his hands when Vane moved? And why, when Vane managed to steady himself, snag the opium pipe from the table, and pull away with a wider, knowing grin to stumble out of the tavern on unsteady legs, did Flint feel such an overwhelming rush of loss?