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Silver crawled over the side of the ship just as Hornigold, Mr. Scott, and the others were leaving the Captain’s quarters.They formed a grim line as they filed out onto the deck, spines bent under the weight of their own seriousness.

Fantastic.

The Captain should be in a great mood, now. There was no way Flint would be feeling anything but cheerful after a visit from that crew. Although Silver wasn’t sure if he’d ever seen Flint in a truly good mood, but Jesus. One would think the heavens would open and God would strike them dead if any of that lot so much as cracked a smile.

So what if things were going to shit? Silver knew the worth of a good smile all too well. Nothing made an opponent pause longer than a wide, open smile.

Silver lived his whole life by that pause.

However, he didn’t think there was any smile big enough to accompany the news that Billy fucking Bones had risen from the dead. Or been raised from the sea, or whatever. Not that he was about to tell Flint that now, anyway.

Silver knew a majority of their crew suspected Flint pushed Billy overboard, that this was the source of his main conflict with Gates that led to their final struggle. Silver, honestly, tried not to think about it too much. What was clear to him, and what hadn’t been clear to Mr. Gates or Billy, was that Flint was an open book, just written in a foreign language. The words were clear as day, but those who tried to translate them often wound up blind. Or with their eyes gouged out.

But it just so happened to be Silver’s native tongue.

He ducked his head as the older men passed, so he didn’t see Dufresne until the man had knocked into his shoulder, pushing him back into the side of the ship. Silver hissed as pain shot through the bruises on his stomach, and watched Dufresne continue to walk away without acknowledging him, dogging closely after Hornigold and Degroot.

Silver felt a peculiar tremble in his blood -- the faintest rumble of rage. He never found much use in anger before and was puzzled by its presence now. Sure, this man had been readying the noose to tie around his neck not three days ago, but some of the best drinking partners he’s ever had, had been his former hangmen.

Perhaps it was the way he’d spotted Dufresne chastising the men for listening to his daily Goings On the morning previous. His hands clenched into fists without thinking. Perhaps.

He took a deep breath. He was only here now because Flint wanted one last report of the crowds’ opinion before making his final decision to bombard his home.

Silver needed to be composed. He needed to be calmer than Jesus fucking Christ at Confession.

He was about to deliver to Captain James Flint some very simple, not unexpected news -- news which in no way conveyed that a man he may or may not have murdered had washed up, still living, on the very shores he meant to attack tomorrow. Or that said man was currently being guarded by a lunatic whose leg Flint just happened to chop off relatively recently.

He stood straight. He smiled to himself. And then he walked to Flint’s cabin door and knocked.

When told, he went inside and shut the door behind him. Flint was standing by the wall, sniffing a bottle of Spanish rum. When he saw Silver he immediately scowled.

“Where the fuck have you been?” he said, gripping the bottle tighter.

Suddenly, Silver remembered the conversation they’d had in this room, hours before. The shock of finding Billy had totally overshadowed the equal shock (and pleasure) of Flint wanting his opinion.

And he’d given it. It must be awful being you. What the fuck. Silver took it as a point of pride to understand the motivations behind the actions of the people around him, but sometimes he just didn’t fucking understand some of the things he did himself.

“You’ve got the devil inside you,” the nuns at St. Sebastian’s used to joke. Or at least he thought they were joking at the time. It wasn’t until later, when he was older, had he understood their tone of voice or the way they’d back away from him making the sign of the cross.

Whatever. Nuns. Silver could get an accurate read on every other person. But he never could get the hang of nuns.

“I’ve been spreading the good word, of course.” Silver approached the desk, but did not sit down. He meant to be in and out quickly. Billy had been pretty out of it when he’d left Randall to watch over him, but then Billy had been pretty dead not two hours ago.

Flint frowned harder, setting the bottle down. His body was stiff as he stood tall and at attention, even at this late an hour in his own quarters. Most people would mistake it for feeling uncomfortable, or angry.

But Silver recognized the posture of a military man easily. It was one of those things he didn’t need translated. It was easy to guess Navy had been his background. Silver had been a foot soldier himself (he really didn’t care for the sea), but officers were the same everywhere. Silver didn’t begrudge Flint his past, nor did he know yet how he wound up here, but could think of a million reasons why one would swap out that life for this one.

He hadn’t been in the service long enough to feel even slightly conflicted about getting out of it. One of the great things about joining a military was they often have an unwritten rule about teaching new soldiers the fastest and most efficient ways to kill someone, before bogging them down with trifles like the rules of engagement and so on. This was so, should war be declared the next day, there would be a wide array of conscripted men able to hopefully take out a few enemies before becoming cannon fodder themselves.

Silver didn’t want to be cannon fodder. He didn’t want to be the hand to light the match nor be the man to give the order. He wanted to be as far from gunfire so that the sound was indistinguishable from thunder. He just wanted to be left alone.

But the thing about being left alone was there were constantly people trying to interrupt that goal, so the knowledge of how best to kill men was highly useful. The military had taught him that -- twice. And the third lesson had occurred when he’d witness Flint bash a man’s brains in, and then stand fully upright at attention.

Flint stood by the table filled with liquor bottles. This ship’s previous captain had a lot of demons, and Silver wondered if he knew any of them looked like Flint.

“Were you having trouble convincing any men?” Flint asked.

Silver scoffed at the idea. “Hardly. It just took some time to round up some other men to deliver the message.”

“Some other men?”

“Yes,” said Silver. “Given the short time frame of your ultimatum, I thought it sensible to try and spread the word for your cause as quickly as possible.” He smiled.

“You were supposed to deliver the word yourself,” Flint said immediately.

It occurred to Silver, Flint’s problem was he thought Silver was the only one capable of giving a speech strong enough to sway the men of Nassau. He couldn’t stop the warmth that flooded him suddenly but he refused to acknowledge it.

“This was smarter,” Silver said evenly. “The fastest way to combat one fear is to introduce an even greater fear, and Vane’s reputation for being ruthless and dangerous far outweighs  yours, no offense. But to present a narrative such as that wouldn’t have been as effective if it was being given by one of your own men.”

Flint’s face did a sort of twitch at that. Before Silver could fully decipher it Flint had turned away. He grabbed a bottle of rum and two glasses and brought them back to his desk.

“You know, Hornigold just described you that way to me moments ago,” he said, sitting down. “‘Your man, Mr. Silver.’ Sit down.”

Silver was deeply, deeply uncomfortable by the idea of any of these men acknowledging him when he wasn’t in the room. His sole desire, up until he got his gold, was to be nothing but a whisper to these people, a promise uttered in church: important and vital when present before God, forgotten the moment they step back outside. “Actually, I really have to get going--”

Sit .”

Silver sat. Watching Flint pour out two glasses of rum, the words it must be awful being you drifted across his mind. He wondered if that slight was bigger or smaller than whatever it was Gates said to get his neck snapped.

“Are you, then?” Flint said, handing him a drink. “One of my men?”

There was half a decent chance this was a ruse to get Silver drunk so he could easily push him overboard. Although given the new light shed on Flint’s possible (probable) history with that particular murder strategy, he liked his chances of surviving. Maybe.

“Of course,” Silver said. He lifted his glass as though to toast, but Flint had already finished his drink and was pouring himself another. He gave Silver a hard look until he too drank his back.

Silver set his glass on the table and was about to rise and leave, when Flint filled his glass again. He stared at it for a moment before sighing heavily and picked it up.

There was a definite chance this would end with Silver’s body sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic.

“Should we really be drinking this much?” said Silver, taking a smaller sip of his rum. “Tomorrow’s a big day for you.”

“I’m going to tell you a secret, Silver, and if you learn nothing else from your time on my crew, let it be this.”

Flint leaned forward, and Silver found himself leaning forward, too.

Flint raised his drink so it was at eye level. “If you’re always a bit of a bastard,” he said, “no one can tell when you do things hungover.” Then he downed his drink in one go.

Silver blinked. He sat back in his chair. He couldn’t help it. He laughed. “That one, I will drink to.” And he did just that.

They sat there for over an hour, making their way through the bottle in an almost companionable silence. Silver would suspect Flint just didn’t want to drink alone, but that would mean altering almost everything he knew about the man. Flint seemed lost in his own thoughts, staring out the dark window as though willing the sun not to rise. Silver was still trying to figure out how to politely leave with his life intact.

He bent forward, elbows crumpling the maps on the desk, when a sudden wave crashed into the side of the ship, except he was on the only one who noticed. The room swayed violently, or maybe that was him. Flint glanced at him, frowned when he noticed his cup runneth empty, and dutifully filled it for him.

There was no way he was making it back to land, he realized as he nursed his -- fourth? Fifth? -- drink. Not tonight, not unless he convinced someone else to row him back, and right now he couldn't even convince himself to stand up.

He fell backwards in his seat, feeling too flushed. He pressed the rum to his forehead even though it wasn't remotely cool, taking a deep breath and then letting it out slowly through his cheeks. He did it again, and the room seemed to only sway a little bit now, rippling like a sail.

"Was there something," he managed to say finally, pulling at the front of his shirt to feel some kind of breeze, "you wished to discuss with me, Captain?"

Flint turned away from the window and seemed to do a double-take when he saw him. Perhaps he was noticing how easily killable Silver was at this present moment. Then he frowned. "I've already made that mistake once today," he said. “I’d just as soon not make it again.” He finished off the rest of the bottle.

Silver pouted. “Everyone always gives me shit about not telling the truth,” he muttered into his glass, “and the moment I do, the world fucking ends.” He finished his rum, set it on the desk, and heaved himself into a standing position. It took a couple tries before it stuck. He didn't normally get this drunk this fast, precisely because of how vulnerable it made him feel. He stumbled over to the liquor table, and after examining a few closely, he brought back to the desk two bottles.

"Finally!" Flint said loudly, scaring the shit out of Silver. He was grinning, which scared Silver even more. "Finally, you do something I for once completely understand." He downed the rest of his drink, head thrown back.

Silver was momentarily distracted by the sight of Flint's neck, watching the bump on his throat bob as he swallowed. Had it always been so long? So freckled? Silver couldn't remember.

"Let me explain, then," Silver said, uncorking a bottle. He sniffed it before pouring some into Flint's cup. "You like to think three moves ahead of everyone else, so I just have to think two moves ahead of you."

Flint ignored him in favor of taking another drink. The retching look of horror which bloomed across his face was one of the best things Silver had ever seen. " Ugh! Jesus!" he coughed, staring in his glass with disgust. "What the fuck is that?"

"...Water?"

Flint looked betrayed. "Why."

Silver poured himself some and swallowed it down. He already felt a little better. "I thought it best if you weren't throwing up your insides over the side of the ship at the same time you're expected to be blowing people up. You'll thank me in the morning."

"I bloody well will not."

Silver rolled his eyes. "Well I guess it would have been a first."

Flint made a face at that. But he finished his water anyway. Then he held out his cup again. Silver grabbed the bottle filled with water. Flint snatched the glass back to his chest with a snarl. Silver sighed and instead grabbed the bottle filled with more rum. Flint smiled and held his glass out again. Silver decided they would take turns with it then.

As he filled Flint's hand, he noticed an old purple scar on Flint's palm through the murky glass. It was a peculiar scar, in the dead center of his hand. Before he realized, he found himself asking, "How'd you get that?"

Flint blinked at him, then looked down at his rum. "You just gave it to me."

Silver helped himself to more drink and settling back into his chair. He set himself down to close to the edge of the seat though, and ended up leaning back low, slouched against the high back. "I meant the scar. On your palm." He held up his free hand in case Flint had forgotten what a palm was.

Flint slowly ripped his eyes away from where he'd been staring off into space, somewhere around Silver's stomach, and then looked down at the circular scar between the lines of his right hand.

“Oh.” He rubbed it with his other thumb and said, "I've had this since I was a child. My -- I worked for a carpenter many years ago. Fell and landed on an upright nail. Went all the way through." Flint showed him the back of his hand, where Silver could see a smaller, similar scar on the exact opposite side.

Silver nodded. "And I was expecting to hear you got it coming down off the cross."

Flint scowled again but said nothing. He was still rubbing the old scar absently, lost in thought again.

“My -- the carpenter,” he said finally, looking back at his hand, “he didn’t think I’d be able to use the hand properly anymore. I was only twelve. He told me all these stories of infection as he pulled it free, telling me it’d be right to lose the hand completely for my carelessness. They said I might not be able to ever make a fist with it again.”

Flint slowly made a fist with ease. Then he looked up at Silver and smiled, openly pleased with himself. It was a smile that caused all the words to dry up on Silver’s tongue.

So he sat up and rolled up his shirtsleeves to the elbow. He held up his right arm and let the burn scar in the center of his forearm shine in the candlelight.

Flint blinked languidly at it for a second. After a moment he said, “Fine, I’ll bite. How did you get your scar, Silver?”

Silver looked at his arm. The thing with burn scars was once they’d healed, it wasn’t always easy to differentiate between old and new. He’d watched this scar stretch and age with him over the years, and the line spanning the width of his arm still looked as red and shiny as the day he’d woken up and realized he no longer felt any pain there.

“Would you like to hear the story I tell my lovers,” said Silver, “or the truth?”

Silver blinked at himself. Flirting? Telling the truth? What the fuck. Sure, liquor loosened his lips the way it did any man, but he didn’t think he was that drunk.

Flint laughed, in disbelief. “How about,” he said between chuckles, “you decide, and I’ll guess which one it is?”

Silver grinned. He could do games.

“I was sailing on a merchant vessel, about a year before I joined up with your crew,” he said, picking up his glass again. “Dutch East India Company, sailing back out of Chittagong. One night I awoke in my hammock to smoke clouding every sense. One of my fellow sailors had unfortunately kicked over a still lit lantern in his slumber, right into a barrel of spices. Within minutes a large section of the cargo hold was engulfed. I raced down to help put it out, of course. The smell, Captain. Those spices, you wouldn’t believe. It was overwhelming. It could have knocked you out faster than the smoke or the flames. I didn’t even smell my own flesh burning as I pulled a man out from beneath a flaming net, because of that smell. But eventually we got the fire out, and only lost two-thirds of the cargo and no men, although the Captain didn’t go easy on the man responsible. But there was no helping with that. And I still can't eat anything cooked with saffron.”

Flint had stopped laughing, but he was still grinning, his cheeks almost as red as the cuts that still peppered his face. “And the truth?” he asked.

Silver smiled, looking away for a moment. He raised his glass towards Flint and said, “Okay.” Then he finished his drink and said, “A man I was apprenticed under as a boy, a blacksmith. He wanted to teach me a lesson, to ensure I knew that the path my behavior would surely lead me on led straight to the pits of Hell. So he held my arm still over a lit candle for almost a minute.”

Flint didn’t look at him with pity. Most people, he knew, wouldn’t. But he thought most people would look at him like they thought he deserved it, and Flint wasn’t looking at him like that either. “And did you?” he said. “Learn the lesson?”

Silver reached for another bottle, not sure if it was water or rum, and without breaking eye contact with Flint he filled both their glasses again.

“I learned I could survive Hell,” Silver said, knocking his glass into Flint’s.

Flint let out a short, sharp laugh that caused Silver to crack up. He fell backwards into his chair, spilling half his drink all over himself. Flint grinned again, that shark-like one that threatened to swallow him whole. He leaned over the desk, on his feet, and brought his hand up to his forehead.

“Feel that,” he said, rubbing a spot right to the side of his widow’s peak. “Right there. Go on.”

As though moving through water, Silver also rose to his feet, but needed to rest one hand on the desk in order to stay upright. Gingerly, he pressed his fingers right beside where Flint said, felt a small lump right below the skin. He rubbed back and forth, his hand sliding just a little too high into Flint’s hair.

“What’s that?” he asked, distracted by how red his hair looked this close, in this light.

“That,” said Flint, not moving away, “is from when that fucking Spaniard bashed me in the head with his fucking cutlass after you sold me out to them not a week ago.”

That set Silver off again, laughing so hard he almost missed his chair. “Well, what the fuck were you planning to do, tied up like that? Bite me?”

Yes,” said Flint, and Silver roared with laughter, stomping the floor. He was so lost in the memory of Flint hopping towards him in that chair like an angry ginger rabbit that it took him a moment to realize Flint had joined in with him.

When they finally calmed down, Flint rubbed the bump again and then ran his fingers all the way through the back of his hair. It tugged loose the string tying his hair back and he dropped it onto the table. His hair fell forward, a thick strand curling over one side of his face.

Silver felt an itch in his hands, a kind he only ever felt when standing before a pile of money he wanted to grab.

“Look at this,” said Silver, resting his left elbow on the table again. He held his hand up and tilted his arm slightly to the side. “Look. That’s as far as this arm can extended without force.”

Flint immediately pushed it further to the table.

“Ow!” cried Silver, jerking away. “You prick!”

Flint threw his head back laughing, actually slapping his thigh. “How the fuck did you manage to do that?”

Silver wiggled his arm on the table again to make sure Flint hadn’t fucked it up further. “I made the mistake of gambling with a Hessian shipbuilder living in the New England territory a few winters back. Three winters? No, that’s when I had that fever. Must have been four years ago. Maybe. Well, he didn’t take kindly to me taking all his money, naturally, and wanted a chance to win some of it back. With a -- what’s it? An arm wrestling...thing. Competition.”

“The fuck?” said Flint. Tears were in his eyes. “Why the fuck would you agree to that?

“Listen. In my defense, okay? In my defense, I was pretty loaded,” said Silver, snickering. “Or maybe that was my dice. ‘S probably both. Motherfucker’s built like a bloody oak tree, too.”

“You shit,” Flint said, pouring out more rum for the both of them. But the good humor in his voice masked any insult the words normally carried. He sounded drunk and fond, and it was sobering to Silver.

“Oh!” said Flint. “I’ve got that beat.” And began pulling off one of his boots. He bent down when he realized he had to undo the buckle first, still muttering, “I can fuckin’ beat that.”

Silver took this opportunity to move what was left of the rum to the floor beside his chair where Flint couldn’t see it. He then filled up both their glasses with water. Flint still had a little rum left in his glass, and Silver was excited to see his reaction to how that tasted.

But then Flint finally got his boot off and swung his leg up onto the desk, and Silver just. Forgot. What he was doing entirely.

Flint’s bare foot sat in front of him, his toes wiggling in the air, his heel just narrowly missing the sharp edge of a compass. His foot was pale, long and veined, dusted with freckles and a few ginger hairs. The subtle curve of the arch was shadowed, tender, and Silver had the strong urge to run a finger along it.

It was the most obscene fucking thing he’d ever seen.

But then his gaze trailed up, to the strong, hairy muscle of his calf flexing where the bottom of his trousers stopped. To those ridiculous thighs, his pants pulled so tight in that position Silver wouldn’t be at all surprised if the seams ripped. He looked between his legs which Flint had spread wide, one arm dangling between them and brushing his own crotch as his other hand rested on his knee.

Silver reached down, blindly grabbed the bottle of rum by his chair, and took a long pull from it. He didn’t take his eyes off Flint.

“Fuck,” said Flint, who hadn’t noticed Silver slowly dying in front of him. He’d started turning his leg back and forth, his knee blocking his crotch one second and then his legs opening wider the next. “You may have to come ‘round to see it.”

Dreamlike, Silver rounded to the other side of the desk. He rested on the corner of it, his body not quite getting the message yet that he needed to sober up as fast as fucking possible before he did something he couldn’t take back. Something catastrophic, like touching Flint’s foot.

“There, see?” Flint had folded his knee towards his body. His voice had gone quieter now that Silver was closer, and he was looking up at Silver with hooded eyes. His fingers were tracing a large, jagged scar that cut across the lower back of his calf, just above the tendon. It was a painful-looking wound, slightly raised and slightly pink.

“I got this about a year into my captaincy,” he said, slurring slightly. “We had just -- taken a ship, outside….where the fuck was it? Basseterre? No. Barbados. Sugar cargo. Fuckton of sugar. They must have been delivering it to the King himself, the way they fought over that fucking sugar. One soldier. No. Sailor, I thought he was dead. I mean, pissant was face-down in a puddle of blood? Dead. But when I walked by, this asshole rears up with the last of his strength and stabbed me across the leg with his blade. Cut right through the boot. And these were nice boots.

Silver hissed in sympathy. It didn’t look like a fun spot for an injury at all. “I’m assuming the man wasn’t much long for the world.”

Flint snorted. “Except I had been standing right near the stairs leading down to the bottom deck. Fell halfway down before I catch myself. By the time I made it back up there, the asshole had up and died on me already. Fortunately, only Gates saw me fall, although it took him another three years for him to quit bringing it up.” The smile dropped from Flint’s face suddenly, replaced by the saddest eyes Silver had ever seen.

It was absurd. It made Silver want to do a thousand different things at once, ranging from the out of character (punching someone) to the completely insane (removing Flint’s fingers from his scar and replacing them with his lips). He needed to leave.

There was a very good reason for leaving, although it took him a moment before he remembered what it was. Randall had probably fucked off somewhere, or had passed out useless. Billy was probably on the beach, staging a mutiny against the two of them as the Walrus’s own fucking Messiah. This was Silver’s responsibility -- to handle this for Flint. This was important. He was important.

But this felt like his responsibility too, to remove that look from Flint’s face. So he silently shifted his hair from one side of his neck and tilted his head, exposing the thin scar below his ear that was normally obscured.

When Flint looked at him the sad eyes dropped immediately, as did his jaw. His eyelids fluttered as he took in the line of Silver’s neck, inhaling softly but purposefully, which was very interesting.

“Someone tried to cut your throat?” Flint gasped. He removed his foot from his desk and sat up higher to get a better look.

“Several people have tried to cut my throat,” Silver clarified with a shrug. “She got the closest.”

Flint rolled his eyes dramatically. “Of course.” He scooted his chair back a little, but instead of putting his boot back on he removed the other one as well. Then he said, “You should take off your shoes.”

Silver blinked. “Why should I do that?”

“Because I am your Captain,” he said with all the authority of a drunken mule. “And you must listen to me at all times. And it is also against maritime rule for a subordinate to remain shoed while his commanding officer is present and in his bare feet.”

“Well, you know I hate to break the rules,” said Silver, kicking his own boots off. The wood felt warm and soft beneath his feet.

“So what did you do to deserve getting your throat slit?”

Silver had intended to tell only the half-truth, but the heat in Flint’s eyes was warmer than the wood, and whenever he shared space with Flint he felt both in grave danger and dangerous himself, and it thrilled him in a way nothing before ever had.

“I spent the last few days of my halcyon youth in a small village along the Western coast of Italy,” he said lowly, causing Flint to lean forward unconsciously to hear. “The town was essentially run by the family of a severe magistrate named Guerriero. A beautiful but serious family, very devout, very lacking in humor.”

“And let me guess,” said Flint, his eyes fixed again on the scar on Silver’s neck. “You were caught with their eldest daughter.”

“No,” said Silver. “Salome was a very sensible young woman. She’d never allow such a thing to happen.”

Flint started laughing again, still close. “You went with a girl named Salome,” he said, “and you weren’t expecting to get your neck severed?”

“We actually got along very well,” Silver protested. “Until. Well. Like I said, she was sensible. Discreet. A trait that apparently did not run in all of her family.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Flint said, still grinning. “Who was it? A cousin? A sister? Her mother?

In danger, Silver felt. And also dangerous.

“Actually,” said Silver, “it was her twin brother. Salvatore.”

The grin on Flint’s face slipped to form a perfect circle to match the wideness of his eyes. He said nothing.

“He was very handsome, and rebellious,” Silver continued, looking off to the side so Flint could still see the scar. “And he famously didn’t get along well with his sister. These were all things I knew beforehand, but they were things that hardly seemed to matter, until Salome stormed into his bedroom one afternoon wielding a dagger.”

He felt a light touch run along the length of his scar, but when he whipped his head back around, Flint’s hands were in fists, resting on the sides of his chair.  

There was a wolf living inside of Silver’s heart, and had ever since he was a boy. He often felt it panting between the cracks of his chest, enraged, scratching at the very center of him. He heard it howl at night, no matter what moon hung in the sky. He would do whatever he could to keep it at bay, until he couldn’t any longer. It became a game of sorts, over the years. He would see how long he could go with it chained up in his blood and sinew, letting it snarl, strengthen, chewing on his soul -- and then, he’d let it go free. And the results, whatever the carnage, were always marvelous.

Looking at Flint as he sat up straight in his chair, Silver felt it’s claws digging in him again. He used to be able to keep it down for -- ages . Since joining this crew, since meeting Flint, the number was down to days. Sometimes hours .

Then Flint pulled his shirt up over his head, pulling his left arm out the sleeve. It half hung on his right side, and he twisted in his seat so the other could be illuminated by the dwindling candles on the table.

“Dog bite,” he said.

Silver, struck dumb by the sudden expanse of pale torso and Jesus, more freckles than he thought possible, took a moment to respond. “What?”

“Dog bite,” Flint said again, bringing a hand up to his ribs. “Right here. See? Raided a tobacco ship heading out of the Carolinas. The ship had surrendered, but the dog hadn’t. Who the fuck brings a dog on a ship?”

Flint’s fingers traced two faint lines of holes under his armpit. Silver’s eyes drifted up to stare at the dark brown patch under his arm, the animal urge to bury his face there and huff so strong it was dizzying. Or maybe that was still the rum. He was swaying.

He pushed down on the skin beside Flint’s fingers, under the guise of getting a better look. But he could see them fine, two shallow lines forming a disconnected oval among the constellation of freckles. Flint’s breath hitched, and Silver could see him watching his face out of the corner of his eyes.

“They’re not very deep,” Silver said quietly, one finger caressing the dip of what must have been a very large canine.

“I still had my jacket on,” Flint explained, also quietly. He was still staring at Silver. “I didn’t want to hurt the dog, so I hurt the captain instead.”

Silver nodded. He could picture the scene, could hear the heavy paws padding almost-silently on dusty wooden floors, creeping up on a Flint too focused on conquering something to notice it coming. Silver knew that sound.

“You call that a dog bite?” Silver stood up. The wolf was loose. “I’ll show you a dog bite.”

He faced away from Flint, bunching his shirt around his waist, and then lowered the side of his trousers down, exposing the similar circular scar on his left ass cheek. The skin there was untouched by the sun, but the scar was one of his oldest, still a dusky pink near his hip.

He didn’t turn around to look at Flint. He let him stare. “Hopping a fence when I was a boy. Attempting to escape a merchant and his dogs from the marketplace. He hadn’t taken kindly to me stealing some of his br--” Silver choked off into a gasp.

A hand had slid down to firmly grip Silver’s ass. Flint was flushed against his back, the other hand circling around to rest on the base of Silver’s throat, pulling him closer. His mouth dragged along the scar on the side of his neck for a second before whispering wetly, “Well that fucking explains it.” Then he squeezed Silver’s ass hard and sucked on the spot behind Silver’s ear.

Silver groaned loudly, rubbing against Flint’s cock that pressed hard into his lower back without hesitation. “Explains what?”

The hand on his ass slipped easily between his cheeks. “Why you’re such a goddamn pain in the ass,” Flint said, and pressed down on his hole. Not entering his body yet, just putting pressure on the tight ring of muscles.

Fuck.” Silver reached back to tug on Flint’s hair. “You better be working on another fucking reason, you son of a bitch.”

“That’s Captain Son of a Bitch to you.” He started shuffling Silver over to the other side of the cabin where a bed hung from the wall, his shirt dropping to the floor.

Silver didn’t even realize they’d moved until his knees knocked into the wooden edge of the bed. Flint had sucked on his neck the whole way there and that was far more interesting than watching where he was going.

Then Flint took a step back. “Grab that hook on the wall and don’t move,” he said, gesturing to the piece of metal sticking out the wood paneling. “No. Fuck. Take your shirt off, then grab the hook, then don’t move .

“Yes, Captain Son of a Bitch,” said Silver, complying. He also took one leg out of his pants, now bundled around his ankles, and propped it up on the bed because it was always good to show initiative around a superior officer.

Except Flint hadn’t come back.

Silver looked back over his shoulder, his hands still holding onto the wall. Flint was standing back by his desk holding a jar of oil, his expression one of uncertainty and anger. A very specific James Flint expression.

Silver sighed. “Look. If we both think this is a bad idea, then it’s okay.”

“How do you manage that?”

“Because we’re both in agreement that this is a mistake and can never happen again. So you might as well fuck me now, so we know it won’t ever happen in the future.”

It truly was a bad idea. Silver didn’t need to convince Flint he was necessary to his future plans. Flint, whether he would admit it, needed Silver and not just for a good fuck. The other men, however, were not completely convinced of this yet, though, and if they even suspected he and Flint had this kind of relationship, however fleeting, he would never be fully trusted by a crew so ready to mutiny at the drop of a hat. He could wind up with a knife in his gut instead of a few fists. This was too damn risky.

But then Flint approached, and his hand ran down Silver’s chest over his many bruises hard, making him gasp, and he figured he’d been in Flint’s cabin for too long as it is, and probably people might be guessing this was happening anyway, so he might as well enjoy the mistake he was already making.

Suddenly, the pressure on his back disappeared, and before he could turn around to see where Flint had fucked off to now, he felt teeth digging into his ass, right over the old bite mark. Silver yelped, jerking forward but didn’t get far as Flint’s hands held him in place. He felt Flint’s mouth at his ass cheek, his beard bristling over the sensitive flesh, and then his felt his ass spread and --

“Oh fuck! ” Silver howled, his hands slipping from the hook and clawing pointlessly at the wood. “Oh! What the -- fuck!”

He felt Flint laughing behind him for a moment before he started fucking him in earnest with his tongue. His fingers dipped hard into Silver’s hips, too close and not close enough to his cock, which hung heavy over the bed. Silver had heard about this kind of thing, dirty jokes sailors shared about wild fishermen’s wives or poor disrespected whores. He’d never heard it being done to a man. It certainly didn’t feel like a goddamn joke.

There had been an idea, the merest inkling in the back of his mind as soon as he bared his ass to Flint, that he could maybe use this kind of thing against Flint one day, if things went south and he needed leverage. But that wasn’t likely to happen now, what with the way Silver was grinding down on Flint’s face, trying to fuck himself deeper with that tongue, getting beard burn all over his ass, and begging for more. No, they were still on equal footing here.

From the way Flint chuckled against his skin as he pulled back, opening the jar of oil, Silver suspected that might have been the point. Or at least part of it, anyway. But then Flint slid two slick fingers right into his asshole, dripping and loose already from where he’d worked him over, and for a moment he allowed himself to forget about scheming for fucking once.

Flint stood behind him again, fucking him hard with those two fingers, and Silver wanted nothing more than to take his hands off the wall and grab his cock, but something held him back.

“Can you take me now?” Flint murmured into his ear. “I still want you tight.”

Fuck.” Silver’s head fell back onto Flint’s shoulder. “Please -- Captain, yes -- fuck.”

All at once he was empty, and he felt himself being pulled open, and there was Flint -- all bluntness and hot pressure as always -- pushing slowly into him. Silver cried out, one long, continuous curse, nails leaving long scratches in the wood. There was no way anyone on this ship hadn’t heard, no way this wouldn’t be all over Nassau by tomorrow. Hopefully, Flint would get to blow part of it up in the morning and distract everyone.

When Flint was finally all the way in he held still, letting Silver adjust to the sudden fullness, his hands almost too tightly gripped on his hips. He could feel Flint’s head bowed against his, the warm, boozy breaths on the back of his neck, could smell their combined scent of rum and sweat and seawater.

Silver felt it coming up and tried to stop it, he truly did. But he just couldn’t help it.

“Are you fucking giggling?” Flint said incredulously

“I’m sorry!” Silver giggled. “I was just reminded of something the nuns used to say to me.”

There was a long, lethal pause, followed by a pointed snap of hips jutting forward. And then another, rough and hard, Flint pulling almost all the way out before pushing back in swiftly.

“You are the worst fucking person I’ve ever met,” he growled, tangling an oily hand into Silver’s hair. He tugged Silver’s head all the way until his back was completely bowed, his hands almost coming off the wall, and kissed him.

This -- was unexpected. Silver had kissed boys when he was a boy, when he still put meaning into things like kisses, but the few times he’d engaged in sodomy with other sailors, it was a means to an end. A natural solution out at sea, but no real intimacy. Certainly no romance, and a small, horrible part of Silver he was mostly able to ignore still thought himself a romantic.

But Flint’s kiss was all teeth and tongue, and Silver allowed himself the delusion of thinking he was still drunk and that’s why he groaned eagerly into it, sucking Flint’s bottom lip into his mouth.

Flint’s other hand pulled away from his hips and roamed his chest, his stomach, inching down the brush the base of Silver’s cock before moving upwards again. He could feel Flint’s grin as Silver whined desperately into his mouth.

“Please,” Silver breathed into him. “Please, Captain. I need -- fuck, please.”

Flint, his hips never slowing down as they fucked up into him, looked at Silver’s hands still grasping the wood, and this close Silver could see it in his eyes. The rush of power, what it was capable of, seemed to pass through him the way Silver had seen it the day he’d taken back his captaincy from Dufresne, when the men had rushed to follow his order, and he thrust into Silver harder than before. Silver moaned loudly, his cock leaking untouched all over the bed.

“Jesus, you never know when to shut up.” Flint -- finally -- reached down and tugged Silver’s cock, his other hand still caught in his hair. It was too dry and rough but Silver cried out again, writhing into it, and then cursed louder when Flint took his hand away.

“You never fucking stop,” Flint hissed into his ear as he brought his hand to Silver’s lips. Silver didn’t need any instruction before he opened his mouth and took Flint in, sucking his large fingers. Flint’s hips stuttered momentarily, groaning, his fingers moving into and out of Silver’s mouth. “You need this, don’t you? Always need to do something with that goddamn mouth of yours. When I finish fucking you I should make you do this to my cock. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Silver? To clean the cum off my cock?”

Truthfully, who the hell knows. Silver sure fucking didn’t, but he whimpered anyway, lapping at Flint’s palm until it was soaking. Flint wrenched his hand away and started thrusting his hips again, but he also reached down and started working Silver’s cock again, fast and slick.

“Oh, Christ,” Silver panted, his head falling back onto Flint’s shoulder again. He kind of wanted to kiss Flint again, but he barely felt he was getting enough air into his brain as it is. “That’s so good, Captain. God. So good.”

It only took a few more pulls on either end before they were both coming, Silver spilling all over Flint’s bedsheets. Flint’s teeth buried deep into the side of his neck, Flint’s cock buried all the way inside him.

Silver’s legs shook with strain, Flint’s trousers where he’d pushed them down irritating the stubble burn on the bottom of his ass, but Silver wished to hold the position a moment longer. This was a mistake they’d never make again, but in that case he had to remember every detail, so as not to slip up again.

Then Flint was slowly pulling out of him, and Silver fell onto the bed in a heap, eyes closed. He winced at the pressure on his stomach so he slowly shifted onto his back.

He rested, his mind black and unconcerned. No thoughts of former dead men on one beach, no thoughts of piles of gold on another. He’d felt this way before, after doing something some authority figure in his past would frown upon. That’s how he knew the feeling was truly good .

Something brushed against his lips, and his eyes fluttered open. Flint stood beside the bed, his soft, shining cock in hand. He brushed Silver’s bottom lip with it again, his eyes dark and curious.

Without really understanding why, Silver opened his mouth just a little bit. He let his tongue brush once, twice against the wet head, and when Flint shuddered uncontrollably, his breath hitching harshly, his eyes wide, maybe Silver understood why.

But this was a one-time mistake. So he watched Flint step back, watched him pull up his trousers, and then, with some surprise, he watched Flint crawl over him onto the bed. He didn’t lay down beside him but instead sat with his back along the wall, his legs thrown over Silver’s.

They stared at each other, still catching their breath, and from one moment to the next they were laughing again. Silver ached, from laughing and fucking and getting punched and wooden splinters under his fingernails.

“This was a terrible idea,” Flint said when he finally calmed down.

“Worse than storming an armed Spanish warship with only a lousy ship cook?”

Yes.”

“Worse than delivering an ultimatum to the only pirate more of a stubborn asshole than you, thus forcing your hand into shelling your own home’s sole protection against enemy forces?”

“....Okay,” Flint said. “That is a worse idea.”

His hand dropped onto Silver’s stomach lightly. He trailed along the impressive collection of discolored bruises. Silver found himself looking at his lips, saw his tongue dart out for a second to wet them, so fast he would have thought he’d imagined it if it wasn’t for the shine.

They looked at each other.

“I really have to get go--”

“You should probably lea--”

They stopped. Silver smiled. He put his hand softly over Flint’s, which still rested on his stomach, and gently moved it away.

With a slightly pained groan, Silver rolled off the bed and stood. Flint silently let him go, and if Silver took his sweet time collecting his clothes and putting them on, that was his business. His wolf was no longer out, but it wasn’t gone entirely.

Before he left, Flint asked if he was going back to land tonight. His words were still slurring, just slightly, and the way he sat slumped, shirtless with those damn bare feet, it could easily be mistaken for drunkenness or exhaustion.

Silver had drank just as much as he, and he’d never felt more sober.

Flint didn’t tell him to be careful rowing back, but he did say, “Tomorrow morning. Make sure you’re not too close to the fort. Just in case.”

Silver nodded. He didn’t have any advice to offer, other than: “Get some sleep.”

As he made his way back to shore, he catalogued all his pains -- the strain in his arms as he rowed, the ache in his ass, the soreness of his bruises . But he thought the sharpest might be in his neck. He stopped rowing, let himself drift alone quietly in the darkness, closed his eyes despite the night, and touched the ginger spot, over the old dagger mark.

He felt the teeth marks. He felt them curve over his pulse, the soft flaking of dried blood under his fingertips, the cool ghost of saliva and tongue. Two marks, a full circular bite. Silver wondered if it would scar.