by Kuruki (来木)
Lugh sighed and then forced his eyes open. The night was clear and the moonlight bounced off the water and onto the ceiling of his cabin. He had to get more sleep. He used to sleep well, back before Jamie. Lugh gently slid from beneath his lover. Jamie grumbled, but didn’t wake up. He snuggled into the warm spot Lugh left on the mattress. Asleep Jamie was pretty, as lovely as a woman, as an angel. His dark curls were tousled and his cheeks cherub round. He looked young, even younger than he was, like some innocent child who had just happened to wander into Lugh’s bed.
Lugh searched the floor for his clothes. Looking at Sweet Jamie made Lugh feel like a dirty old man despite being barely twenty-five. He held a shirt to his chest. It must be Jamie’s. He found his further down their pile of clothes. All his clothes should be at the bottom, if he remembered correctly. Jamie had been very eager last night to see him in the flesh.
By day Jamie was active and inquisitive and brave, and his chatter could put a dozen housewives to shame. Boy, could he talk.
But at night he showed a different side of his liveliness, curiosity, and courage. Especially nights after he spent the day with Finn’s princess. That tiny Chinaman knew more about what two people could do in a bedroom than all the whores in Europe, maybe than all the whores in the world. And Jamie was just the sort of youth to put that knowledge to immediate use. Lugh could hardly believe that two weeks ago Jamie hadn’t yet known the pleasures of the flesh. Now Jamie was introducing Lugh to experiences he had never dreamed existed.
Jamie wanted Lugh to wake him up so they could stand a watch together. Jamie hadn’t yet witnessed a golden sunrise at this low latitude. On his old ship he had been busy, and on Finn’s ship he’d slept through every dawn, because even when Lugh towed him off to bed as soon as evening watch was over, Jamie still found ways to keep the two of them up. It seemed a shame to wake him. And if Lugh did, would Jamie be too tired to entertain him tonight?
Lugh adjusted himself. Too bad he had the morning watch every day. He could think of several interesting ways to wake Jamie up, but dawn was in two hours and Lugh’s watch was about to begin.
Jamie woke up, missing the warm body that should have been under him. Lugh hadn’t woken him. Again. How was Jamie supposed to be a member of the ship, an Able Seaman with all that signified, if Lugh didn’t have him stand morning watch? He’d stood evening with Lugh, but never more than half of a morning one. Did Lugh not see him as a man? Sure he wasn’t fully grown, but that didn’t mean he didn’t know things. Hadn’t he proved that last night? Hadn’t he shown Lugh that he was as good as any person with their full height? And it wasn’t as if Jamie was going to be some little thing either. Height like his father and uncles had took a while to achieve. Was Jamie going to be punished simply because he was taking forever to grow?
He got out of bed with a growl. Lugh had carefully laid Jamie’s clothes aside as he dressed. If he’d had time to do that, how come he hadn’t spent it waking Jamie?
The sun was already well up. Jamie gnawed on the inside of his lower lip. He wanted to race out and demand Lugh make an account of his actions, but wasn’t that the response of a boy? Jamie would prove himself a man.
He washed in the bit of water he was allotted for such things and carefully shaved. The dark wisps gave away his youth. He would keep his chin clean until he could grow a real mustache and beard or maybe longer; on this ship more men were shaven than sported facial hair. Jamie hadn’t seen this many clean chins since last time he was home at Easter and his mother had dragged him to church. But these pirates weren’t anything like men of God.
Jamie laughed. What an idea! Only… Lugh had looked almost holy as he’d cut the officers down.
Somehow seeing Lugh kill men that Jamie had known and worked with wasn’t as off putting as one might suppose. Jamie could hardly wait for Captain Finn to attack another ship so he could watch Lugh in action again. But for right now Jamie was going to make a man of himself. He dressed with care and then picked up Lugh’s hand mirror. It had probably belonged to a lady once. It was gold with gems in the back and a handle of intricately carved ivory.
The image is the mirror was that of a boy. Jamie pulled his curls back from his face. Yes, that made him look older. He dug through a small box of ribbons, twine, and bits of leather Lugh used to tie back his own hair. Which kind should Jamie pick? Which one would make him look most like a man? Would Kouji know? Kouji knew a lot of what men liked in bed, but what about out of bed? Jamie was beginning to think that Kouji didn’t make any distinction. But if Jamie walked out on deck looking like he wanted Lugh to take him right there, Jamie would lose respect in the crew’s eyes. Kouji didn’t have to worry about that. He wasn’t a part of the crew. He could get away with wearing bright colors of silk and that dressing gown that he insisted was daywear where he was from. Wherever that was.
Jamie picked red because it was a very masculine color and headed for the deck. Lugh was yelling to the man in the crow’s nest, but cast Jamie a grin. The lookout had spotted a ship, but it was too far away to identify. Lugh set the Baile to follow.
Jamie waited for Lugh to look back at him. “When do I get to stand morning watch? You know I can do it.”
“I’m sure you can,” said Lugh as if that thought had never crossed his mind. “But you’re still growing. You need your sleep.”
Jamie took a deep breath. “I grow whether I sleep or not. As a matter of fact, my grandfather grew while going to school. He’d go to parties that lasted until the small hours and then get up to study before school.” Lugh didn’t look impressed, so Jamie followed that with the stories about his father and uncles and how tall they were.
Lugh cocked his head like he wanted to say something. Jamie stopped mid-sentence to hear it.
“What was a youth with so many scholars in his family doing as cabin boy in the middle of the Atlantic?”
“Oh, I don’t get on with my pa.” The story was much more than that, so Jamie proceeded to tell a condensed version starting from his first memory of his pa saying that Jamie wasn’t half the boy his older brother was to when his aunt’s new husband got him a job on the ship of a business partner. All the while Jamie was talking, Lugh was supervising the men as they rearranged the sails.
“So your uncle knew the captain?”
Jamie shook his head. “The owner. I didn’t like him. I think my pa paid him not to let me into the rigging. Your rigging is different from on my last ship.”
Lugh grinned. “How?”
Jamie did his best to explain. Lugh stepped up behind him, wrapped one arm around Jamie’s waist, and let Jamie sight down his other arm as he explained this rigging and why it would allow the Baile to run parallel to the ship they were pursuing and then pounce when the time was right. Jamie liked the feel of Lugh against his back. He didn’t interrupt even when Lugh said things that Jamie knew all about because the sound of Lugh’s deep voice mixed with his rich accent did wonderful things to Jamie’s insides. He could listen forever.
The prey was headed straight for Barbados, so it likely was full of luxuries from England. They would bring a good price at market. The plantation owners were always so happy to get the food, cloth, and manufactured goods that they didn’t care where it came from. The Baile also captured ships headed for Europe full of tobacco, sugar, and chocolate, sometimes taking the goods right back to the port they’d been sold from to sell them again.
“Now, Jamie,” Lugh said when Jamie paused in the story of his first day aboard a ship. Lugh had the feeling Jamie was trying to say he took to things easily. Lugh knew he did. Lugh pulled his mind from his bed. “You are to stay aboard ship this time. And I need you to be quiet.”
Lugh held up a hand against Jamie’s protests. “I’m not asking you to stop talking right now. I don’t want those words simmering inside you to pop out at an inconvenient time. If you feel you need to talk, go below deck.”
Jamie looked at his feet, took a deep breath, and said, “Aye, sir.”
Lugh really didn’t like Jamie calling him ‘sir’. It felt all wrong somehow, but he would have to get used to it if Jamie stayed with them. He reached down to ruffle Jamie’s hair, but Jamie tilted his head back and Lugh’s hand wound up on Jaime’s cheek, then his neck, then his chest. Oh, Lugh wanted to take him. He wanted him right now, against the railing or the mast or on the deck. Lugh could see it vividly; Jamie, his bare skin gleaming in the sunlight, begging Lugh to go deeper, to fill him more, to take him in every way possible.
Maybe if most of the crew were off somewhere, getting water or something, but not when anyone was around to watch. Lugh was fiercely jealous when it came to other men seeing his Sweet pea’s skin. He’d even forbidden Jamie from taking off his shirt, which Jamie thought was unreasonable as he was one of the few white crew members who didn’t burn red. Lugh would like to see him with an allover tan, but not at the expense of letting anyone else see Jamie’s sweet little nipples, strong back, or smooth skin.
Lugh shook himself. He had work to do. He looked back at Jamie, planning to explain what everyone’s job would be, but when he saw Jamie’s dark eyes and full, pink lips his mind froze. He closed his eyes. He didn’t have time to drag Jamie to their cabin and sate his needy beast. “Jamie, why don’t you go find Finn’s princess.”
“But…” Jamie’s pout was so adorable that Lugh couldn’t help tasting it. Jamie molded to him, kissing back vigorously as they fought for dominance. Lugh let him win this time. He lifted Jamie’s hips until they were rubbing against his own. Another minute was all Jamie needed. Jamie tightened his arms around Lugh and gasped as he came.
Lugh was harder than ever, but he smirked down at Jamie. “Think you can wait a few hours for more?”
Jamie licked his lips. “If I have to.”
Lugh hauled Jamie into their cabin. Hopefully, Jamie would go talk to Finn’s princess once he had cleaned up. God knew Lugh didn’t need the distraction.
Jamie stood by the mast, watching the men check their gear one last time. The ship they were after had decided not to stop for the night within sight of her destination. If she had, the Baile would have waited until after dark to attack. Now they would be hitting her as the sun was setting. Captain Finn said the other captain was either careless or stupid, dropping his guard before getting all the way into port. The ship had only just noticed that the Baile wasn’t simply headed to the same port, but had lined up to intercept them. Men ran frantically across the decks. Had Jamie’s old ship looked like that?
The men of the Baile, by contrast, were waiting, like the calm before a storm. Everyone knew their role.
When the ships were merely yards apart, men threw grappling hooks and pulled them closer together. Some on the other ship tried to cut the ropes, but men with arquebus and blunderbuss in the Baile‘s rigging cleared the deck. They also kept Captain Finn safe as he stood by the railing so the doomed crew could see their fate. These flintlocks were more accurate that any Jamie had seen before, but most of the crew were former child soldiers, so maybe they’d had lots of practice. The other half were men from Africa, like the Quartermaster, Omolara. Jaime hadn’t heard his story yet. Maybe he’d been a soldier at home, too. He sure looked like one as he led the men onto the deck of the other ship.
After an unsatisfyingly brief struggle, the other crew gave in. Finn stalked across the deck of cowering men and took a place where he could be seen by all. Lugh stood to the side. The rays of the setting sun bounced off his copper hair, giving him a halo. Lugh was an angel of death. Only he’d not gotten a chance to use his sword. Jamie couldn’t help being disappointed.
One of the officers jumped to his feet and rushed at Finn. Lugh casually stepped forward and swung his sword. The officer’s head went flying. Lugh and the deck were splattered in blood. Jamie felt a rush through his veins. Lugh was beautiful. Lugh was his, yesterday, today, and forever.
Lugh shrugged his shoulders, pulling his soiled shirt from his sunburned skin. Finn had ordered the ship stripped. They took everything, down to a much-mended sail and a broken pulley, which meant that Lugh had to find places to put all of it without unbalancing the Baile. He just wanted to clean up and get some rest, but his work was not yet done.
Jamie was waiting for him, but Lugh wasn’t ready to face him. Lugh had been killing to protect himself and those he loved since Cromwell had invaded his country. The English slaughtered every person in Drogheda, including hundreds of women and children taking shelter in the church. Finn followed the lead of his enemy and laid waste to all that raised a hand against him. But leaving a ship full of men without food or water was better than slaughtering them because, this close to a major port, they would probably live to tell the tale of Finn’s brutality. And Finn’s infamy would spread and fewer ships would fight back. Lugh hated the smell of blood. He hated the feel on his skin, the taste in his mouth. He hated the memories. Of searching for his father’s body among the slain, of watching helplessly as men forced themselves on his mother and sisters, of killing his first man, of the countless number who followed.
The English weren’t men, they were devils. They had given up their souls for money and power: the soldiers who he fought and killed, the ones who finally captured his group of rebels and sold them into slavery, the plantation owner and his men, who whipped tender, sunburned flesh just to feel the power. Every ship the Baile raided, every pound they stole, every man they killed was whittling away England’s pride and confidence.
“Lugh?” Jamie’s sweet voice broke him out of his gloom. Lugh turned. Jamie reached out to him, and he took comfort in those small, strong arms. What good deed had he done in his godforsaken life that he would deserve a lover like this?
Jamie pulled him down for a kiss. Lugh only broke it long enough to make sure they were alone in the hold. Then he pulled at Jamie’s shirt, in search of skin. Jamie did not have patience for such finesse. He lunged at Lugh’s trousers and had Lugh’s prick in his mouth before more than a few inches of his hips were exposed.
Lugh leaned back on a crate. The bedding that had belonged to other ship’s captain was in here somewhere, but Lugh couldn’t remember where. Jamie was far too distracting. He was doing that kneading thing to Lugh’s balls. He somehow knew just the right amount of pressure to apply. The scent of olive oil joined the cacophony of other scents from goods the ship held or had once held. So that was where the oil went. Lugh should have known Jamie and Finn’s princess would put it to better use than food.
Jamie’s fingers rubbed hard behind Lugh’s balls. Lugh let out a moan. Jamie always knew just where to touch him. He looked down at his young lover. Jamie’s dark curls glittered in the flickering lamp light. Jamie met his eyes and grinned. Then his fingers moved further up Lugh’s backside. So that’s was what he was after.
That was one pleasure Lugh had not yet received from Jamie. Lugh tugged Jamie up and away from his backend. Not that Lugh would mind, it was more that he didn’t want to give in too easily. Jamie pouted, but only for a second. He pressed his chest against Lugh’s and ran his slick fingers through Lugh’s hair, controlling their kiss. Lugh fought for dominance. Jamie growled low, much lower than his normal voice. Is this what Jamie would sound like when he had finished growing? Big and strong, brave and true, comforting and safe.
Jamie ground his hips into Lugh’s. Lugh ground back. Jamie ran one hand down Lugh’s side, hip, and thigh, and then curled it under Lugh’s leg, lifting Lugh’s foot off the ground. Lugh nearly fell over as his balance shifted. His hands on Jamie’s shoulders kept him upright, but unsteady. Lugh could feel Jamie’s lips curl up even as his mouth was ravaged.
Lugh was helpless, but a good helpless, a pleasurable helpless. Jamie had never led him down a bad path yet. He would see where this one ended.
He wrapped his leg behind Jamie’s legs loosely to see if this was allowed. It was. Jamie leaned back and used his now free hand to undo his trousers, so when he pressed back against Lugh, they were flesh to flesh. Jamie ran his hand down both their pricks together. Somehow his hand was slick again. Had he and the princess invented something that squirted oil into the hand at will? Lugh wouldn’t put it past them.
Lugh brushed Jamie’s dark curls out of the way so he could get a better look at that skillful hand. The single lamp was only enough to cast sparkles against their oiled skin. He would love to see Jamie take him like this under the light of the sun or, better yet, the moon. The moon should be up soon, filling their cabin with soft light. Maybe he could get Jamie to move there.
He took a breath to speak, but Jamie growled again, retaking Lugh’s lips. Lugh shivered under the assault. Jamie was more dominant than normal, more needy than normal. But did Lugh really know what was normal? He’d only known Jamie for two weeks.
Jamie’s hand moved under Lugh’s balls, forcing his thighs further apart. Lugh tightened his grip on Jamie’s shoulders. He could get his balance back if he slid down until his ass rested on the crate, but he was sure Jamie wouldn’t approve. He moved his leg up Jamie’s body, so the other could stay flat on the floor. He would relax and trust in Jamie, who was strong for his size.
Lugh flinched as a finger invaded him. Jamie growled and delved his tongue into Lugh’s mouth in the same thrust and wiggle rhythm as his finger. That felt good, really good. Lugh arched his back as far as his precarious position allowed. A second finger joined the first. Lugh wanted to writhe. He wanted to thrust himself onto Jamie’s hand. He wanted to lay back and be taken completely, but Jamie still had him unsteady. Jamie must want him that way.
That thought was erotic, to be held, taken care of, wanted the way Jamie wanted him. He was so hot he could barely breathe.
Jamie stepped away, but before Lugh could protest he found himself face down on a different crate which was covered in a pile of bedding. Jamie tugged a pillow between Lugh’s hips and the edge of the crate then stepped between Lugh’s legs. His hands roamed up Lugh’s back as his prick ground between Lugh’s nether cheeks. Lugh felt good, not quite so close to coming, but taken care of.
“Let me,” Jamie reached around Lugh and pinched his nipples.
“Don’t I always?”
“Sure you do.” Jamie dragged his fingers down Lugh’s chest and grasped his prick. Lugh tried to thrust into those slick fingers. He could barely move. Jamie leaned down and took a deep breath like he was smelling Lugh. Whatever he smelled turned him on for his prick hardened even more.
Lugh moaned. “Hurry.”
“Patience,” Jamie said. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“No. Now!” Lugh urged.
The noise Jamie made was somewhere between a laugh and a growl and then he kissed Lugh’s back. “But today I’m going to be kind of rough.”
Lugh was lightheaded. The anticipation was killing him. He pressed his ass as best he could against Jamie’s prick. “Anything.”
“Then I will take you at your word.”
Jamie’s hands moved to Lugh’s ass and Lugh writhed against the pressure. He struggled for purchase so he could push himself onto Jamie’s prick, but something slick was beneath his feet. “Jamie, please.”
And the Jamie was inside him, deep inside him. Jamie waited three harsh breaths and then withdrew, but only for a second. He took only three thrusts to build a rhythm. If making love to Jamie was wonderful, this was beyond heavenly. Lugh couldn’t hold still. He became the sun, burning bright and hot for an endless eternity. Only Jamie’s increasingly urgent words of love made one minute different from the next. Jamie pushed Lugh past his limit, past his breaking point, past the highest and hottest he’d ever been.
The world exploded. Everything disappeared but the white light and his blood pounding in his ears and Jamie’s body in his. He didn’t even feel Jamie come, but he must have. Seed dripped down Lugh’s thigh. He was too tired to care. He was dizzy and groggy and opened his eyes to find himself in Jamie’s lap.
Jamie grinned at him. “Just don’t expect me to give this much effort every time.”
Lugh didn’t, but his mouth was too dry for him to speak. He blinked a few times. They definitely should have done this in their cabin. Then he wouldn’t have to get up and go to bed.
Jamie was happy. No happy wasn’t the right word. Ecstatic? Gratified wouldn’t do, not quite anyway. Delighted, yes. Elated, yes. Buoyant, yes. Upbeat, as well. Jocund, too. In high spirits, surely, but why could he not think of the perfect word?
Lugh was trying to pretend he wasn’t dead on his feet as Jamie led him back to their cabin. Liam and Omalara promised to finish balancing the plunder. Jamie thought those two were lovers. No one had ever said, but he had seen the way they looked at each other after they spotted Lugh and then they’d patted Jamie on the back and said he’d done a good job. That would have been enough to add a bounce to Jamie’s step, but then as they passed the rest of the crew, eating their late supper, cheers had been raised to both Lugh and Jamie: Lugh for keeping the crew safe and Jamie for being the newest crew member.
So the men thought of him as one of them. He’d never imagined they would so soon. He’s just topped for the first time—which Kouji said was an important day in every man’s life—and he’d been accepted by his peers. What more could he ask for?
The tub of water waiting in their cabin was warmer than Jamie had expected. Maybe Kouji had added more boiling water after Jamie left. They wouldn’t usually have enough extra water to bathe, but this was Lugh’s special treat because Finn said that Lugh didn’t like smelling like blood. The Baile had already set sail towards an island were they would sell what they had stolen and replenish their water supply.
Jamie helped Lugh take off his dirty clothes and get into the tub. This was the biggest ship’s tub Jamie had ever seen, but the Baile had the biggest captain Jamie had ever seen, too. Captain Finn wouldn’t have fit into a tub any smaller.
Jamie carefully cleaned Lugh’s red skin. Kouji had put bicarbonate of soda in the tub as they filled it, so the water felt slicker than normal. Lugh seemed to like it. Maybe it was good for sunburns like Kouji said. Lugh was sunburned all over. Jamie had met a few red headed people before, but he’d never realized how sensitive their skin was. Lugh even sunburned through his shirt. Too bad the crew of the Baile couldn’t throw all their color into a pot and mix it up. Then everyone would look tanned.
But maybe Lugh wouldn’t look as handsome tan. He wouldn’t have his copper hair and his pale eyelashes and the white parts of his skin that the sun never saw.
Jamie leaned forward and kissed Lugh’s red shoulder. Lugh sighed. His eyes were closed. He must be exhausted. Jamie bit his lip to keep from grinning. Lugh opened his eyes and smirked back. “You sure are quiet.”
“I was admiring the view.”
“I’m amazed that you can be dumbfounded by anything.”
Jamie snorted and proceeded to tell Lugh just how beautiful and wonderful and strong and brave he was as Jamie toweled him off and rubbed ointment onto his sunburn to keep it from peeling. He had Lugh tucked under the sheets by the time he finished saying how much he’d enjoyed today. At some point Lugh must have fallen asleep.
Jamie put the bloody clothes in a bucket with some of the water from the tub and took it out on deck. He didn’t want Lugh to have to smell them as he slept. Then he bathed. The water was cool, but it had been quite a while since he’d had the use of a tub this big, so he took his time in the water. Maybe Captain Finn would let them borrow it again the next time they attacked a ship.
Lugh woke up feeling like something was wrong. He was warm and safe in his cabin. Jamie was snuggled against him. The moonlight reflected off the waves and onto Lugh’s ceiling, so they had weighed anchor for the night. What could be wrong?
He carefully slid out of bed. His muscles protested. He ached, but then he often did after a night with Sweet Jamie. The wrongness had something to do with Jamie, or maybe something Jamie had said. Lugh bashed his calf against the tub. Jamie hadn’t removed it last night. Well, of course, he hadn’t. Emptying the tub took over a dozen trip with a bucket in each hand and Jamie must have been exhausted after all he’d done.
Lugh grinned as he slipped on a fresh shirt. He’d liked Jamie’s masterful, aggressive side. It made Lugh feel protected, taken care of, after all those years when he’d had to do the protecting and boosting the others’ spirits while they waited for Finn to rescue them from slavery. And Lugh had to continue to be strong as Finn’s right hand man. Finn couldn’t be expected to bear all the burden alone. But with Jamie, Lugh didn’t have to be strong. Jamie was perfectly capable of holding Lugh up. He was someone who Lugh could, finally, break in front of.
He could, couldn’t he?
Only… Only last night Jamie had said something as he’d tucked Lugh in. He’d spoken in awe of Lugh as an angel of death. He had said he looked forward to the next ship Finn attacked. He really made the perfect pirate lover. He wasn’t scared or repulsed by Lugh, no matter what Lugh did, but he didn’t seem eager to join in the fray, so he’d stay safely out of harm’s way.
Only Jamie wasn’t just a pirate’s lover. He was also a young man, and not just a river rat or gutter trash. No, Jamie was a man of learning. He could read and write and was picking up Irish quickly. He was destined to be a politician or businessman, to own a ship, not to be hanged as a pirate. That was the only future Lugh could give him.
Jamie deserved so much more.
Lugh leaned down and shook Jamie’s shoulder. “Get up.”
Jaime turned over and brushed the curls from his face with the back of his hand. He was simply breathtaking. He opened his eyes and offered a lazy smile. “You aren’t forgetting me today?”
“I never forget you.” Lugh shouldn’t have said that, truth though it was. He had to sever ties with Jamie, much as he didn’t want to.
“Then what do you call it?” Jamie sat up. The sheet slid down and pooled on his lap.
Lugh forced his eyes away. Jamie was much too tempting. Arms wrapped around Lugh. “If I’d known that all it took to get you to wake me up for morning watch was taking you completely the night before, I’d’ve done it from the start.”
Lugh glanced down at the naked youth holding him. Right now Jamie didn’t look like a boy. He looked like a mischievous angel, something both young and old, ageless and eternal. Jamie licked his lips. Lugh had to taste that perfect pink tongue. Jamie responded with enthusiasm. Lugh would have lost himself in the kiss if not for a discrete knock, reminding him he should have been on deck by now. He stepped back. “Get dressed and meet me topside.”
“Aye aye, sir,” Jamie said, somehow in a way that sounded like a tease and didn’t make Lugh feel too old for his shoes.
Jamie plopped down on Finn’s huge bed. “This started out as the best day ever, Kouji. Lugh woke me up and everything. We were a little late on deck, but then everyone has to know he’s been making time with me. I can’t see how they couldn’t anyway because it’s not like either of us try to be quiet. I made him yowl yesterday, which is a first for me. I mean he’s made noises like that before, but not quite the same and I wasn’t sure if I was causing it or if he just sounded like that whenever he touched anyone. But last night I knew it was me, really me, and not just because he liked what he was doing, but because he liked what I was doing. I think I’m going to top him more often. I wonder how he’ll like that. He seemed to enjoy it last night well enough. He got all liquidly like I do, sort of floppy, boneless, you know? All limp and droopy. Not flaccid, of course because it’s not like he’s all worn out or anything. I mean not worn out forever, because I did wear him out, but this morning he was hale and hardy again. Healthy, you know.
“But then at breakfast I began to suspect something was the matter because he wouldn’t look me in the eye. You know something is wrong when a man won’t look you in the eye. But I don’t think it’s about last night—him having to lean on me to get back to our cabin and all—because I asked him, and I think he said no. Only I guess I didn’t ask him ask him; I kind of talked around it, you know? Because a man can be too blunt my grandfather always says and if the man has any smarts he’ll understand without you pointing it out. Only I know Lugh is smart, but I’m not sure he got it, and if he did, I’m not sure I got the answer right, so I need to go ask him again, only I’m not sure I want to. But I do need to know what’s wrong. I can’t just not know. Something’s going through his head and I need to know what it is. He’s got me all messed up inside. I was the pinnacle of happiness last night, now I’m the nadir. There aren’t words to describe how I feel right now.”
Although Kouji hadn’t given a sign so far that he was listening, he looked up from his embroidery and asked, “There aren’t words?”
“Oh, no. Of course there are words. There are words for everything, only I don’t know which to use because there are so many.” Jamie tried to explain what he was feeling and why each of the words he knew was not quite right because English simply wasn’t capable of showing that he was happy and sad at the same time or confident and insecure or proud and humble or anxious and excited, all of which Jamie was because although his heart beat in Lugh’s chest, he felt like he was dangling at the end of a long string that Lugh might decide to let go of. Lugh still loved him, didn’t he? He had to. He did. He must just have something on his mind because Jamie had followed every tip Kouji had given him about making a man fall in love with him, though Jamie didn’t want to see if they worked on anyone else because he loved Lugh and that was just it. Lugh was going to have to get over whatever was wrong because Jamie wasn’t about to let him go.
Did Lugh think Jamie was just a boy that he could be put off so easily? Jamie had won Lugh’s heart fair and square. He had it in his hand. Even Captain Finn said so. He’d know, wouldn’t he? He and Lugh were cousins and they lived together after their fathers died and again on the ship. No one on earth could know Lugh as well as Finn, only now Jamie was going to because he loved Lugh and Lugh loved him and Jamie would make those years Lugh and Captain Finn shared a room seem like mere minutes. Lugh was young and so was Jamie. They would spend the rest of their lives together. Starting right now.
Jamie got to his feet, but Kouji pushed him back down without looking up from threading a needle or dislodging the emerald silk laying across his lap. “He’s got a bug in his ear.”
Jamie thought about that for a while. “Something is bugging him?”
Kouji nodded. “And I know just how to make it go away.”
That was the best thing about having Kouji for a best friend. He had answers for everything.
Lugh didn’t want to go to bed. He didn’t want to sleep in the arms of temptation, for that’s what Jamie was. But Jamie had stood evening watch with him and after that they’d eaten supper and now they were on the way to their room as if nothing had happened. Only Jamie had to be up to something. He had spoken only once word in the last hour and that was just to answer a question. Even food didn’t normally keep him this quiet.
Jamie hadn’t volunteered any information at all since he’d come back from visiting Finn’s princess. Lugh missed his chatter. Something was wrong with the world if Jamie wasn’t talking. Lugh would miss that sweet voice when he sent him away. Because he had to send Jamie away. He had to because he loved him. And he did love him. That’s why Jamie could draw his eye simply by walking near. That’s why Lugh noticed every caught breath and every sigh. That why it tore his heart to even think that he might never know how tall Jamie would be, how deep his voice would get, to know he would never have Jamie to lean on when he felt he could not stand on his own.
If Lugh didn’t care so much, he would simply hold Jamie close and ignore what he could someday be. But Lugh couldn’t. The next time the Baile took a ship, they would take captives and when they allowed those captives to escape, Jamie would be among them. No one would question him. No one ever questioned men leaving the ship that way.
Lugh wanted to make a clean break, to turn away from Jamie and ignore him, but Lugh couldn’t, not while Jamie was on the ship, not while he was so close that every breeze brought his scent. They should have taken the last ship’s crew captive, but at that time Lugh hadn’t considered ever letting Jamie go. Jamie was his, should be his, needed to be his, but couldn’t be. Not and also live a long life in safety and prosperity.
Jamie closed their cabin door behind them. He took a deep breath, like he always did before a speech. “I think I know what’s wrong.”
Lugh waited but Jamie didn’t continue. Lugh sat down on the bed with a sigh. Jamie pulled off his shirt and tossed it onto the floor. The moon wasn’t up yet, but it wasn’t completely dark. If there was enough light, Lugh would see Jamie’s small, hard nipples standing dark on his smooth, tan skin. He would see Jamie’s dark curls brush his shoulders and give tantalizing glimpses of his neck whenever Jamie turned his head. Jamie’s trousers were probably riding low, showing off his hips. And if Lugh watched carefully, he would see Jamie’s muscles ripple across his belly. Jamie hadn’t worn shoes since he turned pirate, which was fine by Lugh, except that meant that, unlike their first evening together, Lugh couldn’t peel Jamie’s stockings off his otherwise naked body as he panted and writhed.
He had thought Jamie would be scared of him and what he was about to do, but when Lugh had leaned down to taste that virgin flesh, Jamie had met him halfway with his eager mouth and hands and body. After that Lugh had been lost. And he still was. Why did this smart young man want him anyway? What was so great and special about a man who couldn’t read his mother tongue? Jamie could be a sea of knowledge, while Lugh was simply a puddle.
Jamie dropped his trousers and stood before Lugh. “What do you see?”
“Nothing. It’s dark.”
Jamie laughed. “No. What do you see when you look at me?”
“I see… I see a man nearly grown with a cupid’s face and a satyr’s hair. With innocence and knowledge combined. Who is scared of nothing and faces the world with both eyes forward.”
Jamie touched Lugh’s cheek. “But I am scared, my love, of losing you. Promise you will be by my side forever.”
Lugh took Jamie’s hand. He wanted to say yes. He wanted to shout it from the mountain tops. “That I cannot do.”
“But why?” Jamie sat down on Lugh’s lap. Lugh’s arms moved around him of their own accord and Lugh’s calloused hands brushed soft, smooth skin. Jamie leaned against his shoulder. “Am I not your stalwart companion?”
Lugh wasn’t even sure what that meant and, unlike most times, Jamie didn’t keep talking long enough for Lugh to get the just of it. “My what?”
“Someone who will be by your side though thick and thin, unshakably dependable, stable and strong and true. Am I not this?”
“Then why,” Jamie asks, rubbing against Lugh’s chest, “should I be anywhere else?”
“You are young.”
“Time will cure that. I am closer to your age than Captain Finn is to Kouji’s and I don’t see anyone complaining that the captain is too young.”
“That might be because Finn’s princess looked even younger than you do.”
Jamie took in a deep breath and explained that many people were married by the time they were Jamie’s age. For example, his older brother had been born by the time his mother was his age and his father had been older than Lugh, so Lugh really couldn’t say anything about their age difference. Then he proceeded to tell of a dozen more couples, from very poor to royalty, who married young or were years apart.
Lugh felt particularly stupid that he couldn’t think of a better retort. He’d lost that round, but that wasn’t the only reason he was sending Jamie away. “You could be anything.”
“I could. I could have been a magistrate. My father wanted me to be one. My mother wanted me to be a surgeon. With my uncle’s help I could have been a merchant and seen the world as the owner of a ship. But I didn’t want those. I want the freedom that comes from owning nothing, from living day to day to the best of my power, to have companions, not masters and servants, to be friends with the world and have it smile back at me.”
“But the world will not always smile. Pirates hang.”
“But they have not caught us and they will not catch us. Don’t you understand? We only hit English ships, so other countries will not apply pressure to get us stopped and we are only one ship, although unless we were a fleet we would not be more than a fly, annoying, but not worth the effort to swat.”
“We are more than that!” Lugh’s grip tightened around Jamie.
“Don’t be angry.” Jamie wiggled around until his arms were around Lugh’s neck and his lips were mere inches from Lugh’s mouth. “Maybe we are a plague, unseen and unnoticed until it is too late to do anything about it.”
That sounded much better.
“Maybe we are a deadly breeze, killing everything in our path. Maybe we are a tic, filling with English blood, sucking their life away. I heard there are bats in Spanish America that drink blood and you don’t even know you’ve been bitten. Maybe we are one of those. Or a leech, because England is swollen and bloated with corruption and power, we will cure them by sucking their prosperity away. Now promise to be with me forever.”
Lugh turned his head. He could feel Jamie’s breath on his cheek, on his ear, his neck. He wanted to turn his face back and accept all Jamie had to offer. But he couldn’t. Not yet. “So you do not see us hanging?”
“I do not plan to hang. Nor do I think any of us will as long as Captain Finn chooses his targets well. Now tell me, what is really bothering you?”
Jamie’s hand caressed Lugh’s chest. Lugh breathed in about to tell him to stop, but Jamie’s scent filled his lungs. Sweet pea was entirely too distracting. Lugh tried to stand up, but Jamie wouldn’t let go and managed to trip Lugh so that they fell onto the bed. That had to have been on purpose.
Jamie straddled Lugh. With Jamie’s hands on his shoulder and ass rubbing his prick, Lugh couldn’t get up. Maybe he could get up, but he didn’t want to. “Tell me,” Jamie said, leaning down to kiss Lugh’s neck, “what’s wrong?”
Lugh took in a deep breath. He had no hope of outsmarting Jamie. Maybe he should give up and give in and let Jamie have his own way. That was what Lugh wanted to do more than anything. But he couldn’t give in yet, not if he really loved Jamie. “You… You like it when I smell of blood.”
“Of course I don’t mind the smell of blood on your skin. That was the way you smelled when you hauled me into your cabin and told me I would share your bed. That was the way you tasted the first time you touched me, the first time anyone touched me, the first time I felt the pleasure of another’s hand. The first hands that touched me, the first arms that held me, the first tongue that tasted me, the first body that took me. The only man who ever will.”
Lugh wanted so much just to give in. He could feel himself on the brink. With one small push he’d be so lost in Jamie that he’d never survive without him. “I twisted you.”
Jamie laughed. “Not twisted. I was born this way. I was born to love you, to be yours, to make you mine. No matter what you do or say, you are mine and will always be. Stay by my side forever.”
Lugh let go of all his misgiving and grasp the body above him. “Yes, for as long as I live.”
“Longer,” Jamie said before taking Lugh’s mouth.
Lugh lost himself in the world of Jamie’s tongue and hands and skin and smell and taste, in his breaths and gasps and moans, in how he dominated Lugh’s body so thoroughly and at the same time gave him more pleasure than one body could possibly hold.