Take What You Can

written and illustrated by juou no zan (女王のザン)

Jim was already sitting on the beach when Amelia waded to the shore, cursing her petticoats and their astonishing absorbency. His tall boots were on their sides, draining water into the sand. His hair was limp, and he looked undressed without his hat. He said morosely, “I hate that man.”

Amelia hiked up her skirts to wring them out. No sense worrying about modesty when she had just been thrown into the ocean in her underthings. She said, “You’ll get no argument from me. How are we escaping?”

He laughed. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said. He held out his arms expansively. “Feel free to use your initiative.”

Amelia frowned. There was a puddle at her feet from wringing out her skirts, yet they felt as sodden as ever. She gave up and started wringing out her hair instead. She said, “You escaped from this very island before, didn’t you? How did you do it?”

He laughed again, once, a mirthless huff of breath. He squinted up at her and said, “Dumb luck.”

She waited for the punchline, for him to reveal his secrets, and it didn’t come. “What?” she asked finally, perhaps a little shrill.

“This island used to be a cache for a smuggling ring,” he said. He lurched to his feet and brushed the wet sand from his breeches. “Suppose I can see if it’s still in use, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.” He left his boots where they were and set off up the beach.

“You were rescued by smugglers?” Amelia asked, trailing behind him as they made their way off the beach and into the stand of trees inland.

“Captured might be the better word,” Jim said. “I drank rather a lot of their stock. And emergency provisions.”

“So you don’t even have any survival skills,” Amelia said. She had been calm in the face of marooning because she had been confident they would escape and rescue Tom. Her father wasn’t about to rescue Tom, she knew. But now it appeared she needed someone to rescue her again, after all.

She should have known better than to rely on a man, let alone a pirate.

Meanwhile, Jim was knocking on trees. If she was lucky, she supposed, he hadn’t entirely lost his mind, though she wasn’t confident she would be able to tell the difference. He muttered something to himself and started pacing, then stomping. Suddenly, she heard wood beneath his feet, and he stopped.

“Give me a hand with this, love, it’s rather overgrown,” he said, beckoning her over.

Amelia went to him and crouched down across from him. She couldn’t see or feel a difference, but she had heard it. Jim pulled two knives out of his belt and handed her the smaller one. The wrappings on the handle were still sodden, but not slippery. “We may have to cut some roots away,” he said. “It’s not looking good for rescue-by-smuggler, I’m afraid.”

Amelia privately agreed, although she hated to. She hacked into the grass above the trap door, and dug her fingers into the sod. With some effort, they pried up the trap door, and Amelia recoiled from the stench, tripping on her wet petticoats and falling on her rear. Jim seemed unbothered by the smell and dropped into the little space. He rummaged through the shelves in the dark, once more muttering to himself.

“Yeah,” he called up, “this is all gone off. Abandoned at least two years, I’d say.” He clambered out of the hole and sat on the edge of it, legs dangling into the pit. “The alcohol should still be good, so at least we’ll be drunk when we starve to death.”

“Starve!” Amelia said. “We’re surrounded by an ocean of fish.” She looked up at the trees shading this grove. “Some of that fruit is probably edible,” she said. “And there’s no island in the tropics without bugs.”

He snorted. “You think a lady like yourself could eat a bug,” he said.

Amelia wanted to wring his neck. She said, “I’d rather eat every bug on this island than just give up.” She got to her feet, and didn’t bother to try to brush the mud off her skirts. “I thought the kind of man who evaded capture for ten years would be made of sterner stuff.” She turned and stalked back to the shore. The sand was a bit easier on her feet than the roots and grass, and it had the advantage of being a dramatic exit.

She walked the perimeter of the island. It took her perhaps an hour, for it wasn’t a very large island. It was pretty enough: bounded by a nice sandbar, a decent shallows during high tide, and plenty of trees inland, holding down the dark, rich soil. There were numerous bird nests, along with unfamiliar fruits and nuts that might be edible. There were crabs scuttling on the far side of the island, and seabirds enough above the water that she knew there were more than enough fish around, if they could catch them. They needn’t starve at all, since they only had to survive as long as it took the searchers out looking for her to find them–

She stopped in her tracks. There had to be men looking for her by now. Tom and Jim would have been the advance line, while her father and the Navy moved slower and more considerately, but certainly ships all over the Caribbean would be keeping a weather eye out, at least. All she had to do was attract attention to their position, and the wheels of bureaucracy that her father and his position had set in motion would turn in her favor.

She looked across the glade where the smuggler’s cache lay rotting, to the beach they’d landed on, where Jim was lying in the sun next to his boots, arm across his eyes to block out the sun. She considered if she should tell him her plan, and then decided it was safer not to. He might try to interfere, whereas he could hardly complain if she presented him a fait accompli, especially not when he had told her to use her initiative.

*

Jim could hold his liquor, Amelia admitted. Luckily, she wasn’t actually trying to keep up with him, but she was beginning to think she’d have to follow through on her flirting before he passed out. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, she supposed; he wasn’t bad-looking, though there was probably a good chance he had some sort of venereal disease, which was less exciting. Perhaps he’d be satisfied with the kind of sex that left her theoretical maidenhead intact, though she doubted her future husband would believe her, if he knew she’d been trapped on an island with a pirate. God, she wished she knew what an intact hymen looked like, so she knew if hers had survived her idiotic horseplay or not. She suspected, based on the pain and blood she remembered, that it had not, but it would be nice to know for certain. Jim probably knew, but she didn’t think inviting him to look up her skirts would help keep him satisfied with her hands or mouth, if it came to that.

She must have been drunker than she realized, however, because she said, “Do you think a man would believe me if I told him I broke my maidenhead sliding down a banister?”

“If he’s not a complete arsehole,” Jim said. Then he winced and drew his own legs together. “Ouch,” he said. “Can’t imagine that was pleasant.”

“I’ve had worse,” Amelia said. She looked at the bottle in her hand, much fuller than the one next to Jim, but still noticeably drained. “Not often,” she admitted.

Jim patted her leg. “I’m sure your Thomas wouldn’t mind,” he said.

Amelia flushed, because she’d been thinking the same thing. Tom would believe her. She said, “Well, I’m not going to get to marry Tom.”

“Not to shock your delicate sensibilities,” Jim murmured, “but people have been known to fuck without being married to one another.”

Amelia snorted. “Yes,” she said, “I’m sure my gentleman husband, approved by my father the governor, would be happy to let me pop down to the carpenter’s to see my extramarital lover.”

Jim grinned. “I was thinking more before the wedding, but you’d be surprised what some couples get up to behind closed doors. You could always get lucky, find a man who fancies Tom as much as you do. No one ever suspects both married parties are sharing a lover.”

Amelia laughed. “As much as I’m sure you’d know more about it than I,” she said, “I doubt I could get that lucky.”

“I don’t know,” Jim said thoughtfully, “I’ve seen Tom. A good-looking man, that one. He’d be popular enough in the Navy.”

Amelia shrieked with laughter, startled into honest and unladylike behavior. She stifled herself, but not before Jim began to laugh as well.

“What,” he said, “you never thought about it?”

“I can’t say I have,” Amelia said. It wasn’t entirely the drink that made her add, “At least, not about Tom specifically.”

“Thatta girl,” Jim said, and swung his bottle across his lap to clink against hers. He took a long draught, as Amelia considered what Tom would look like in a naval uniform, and then what he’d look like half out of it. That hadn’t been Jim’s point, but it was an intriguing thought.

“Myself,” Jim said, wiping his mouth with the back of his free hand, “I once had a very satisfactory arrangement with my main investor and his wife.”

She didn’t bother to pretend to be surprised. “What happened?” Amelia asked.

He tugged up his sleeve to display the P branded on his forearm. “Nice merchant couple didn’t need a pirate visitor,” he said. He glanced at her, then shook his sleeve back down his arm. He seemed solemn, almost as grave as he had when he talked about starving to death.

Amelia picked at her lower lip. “Did you love them?” she asked.

He waved a hand. “Miss Crowe,” he said, “I was practically a child then.” He raised his bottle to his lips again, and murmured, “Of course I loved them.”

Amelia didn’t know how to respond to that. She took a swig of her own rum. It was unbearably sweet, almost enough to cover up the harsh alcoholic burn. Well, he’d drunk enough to be melancholy, but still showed no sign of passing out, and she couldn’t imagine he’d be amenable to seduction now.

Still, she leaned over and rested her head on his shoulder. “And since then?” she murmured.

“It’s the same for a pirate as it is for any sailor,” he said, “only more so. A lover in port resents you for being gone so often, or forgets about you and moves on.”

“And what about a lover aboard the ship?” Amelia asked. The crew of the Fleetfoot, unlike the naval ships she’d traveled on before, had included women enough, and he’d admitted to having men for lovers before. It wasn’t out of the question, the way it would have been if she’d asked the same thing of a naval officer attempting to court her.

Jim snorted. “Yes, that sounds ideal, doesn’t it? There whenever you want to see each other, understands why you’re at sea all the time…. Comes with its own set of problems, though.” He waved a hand in the air above his head to indicate the island around them. “Such as being marooned right fucking here.”

“You had a lover on the Fleetfoot?” Amelia asked. She thought back to her knowledge of the crew, though her memories were blurred by drowsiness and fear. The only ones she could have picked out of a crowd were the two who had captured her, and the captain. One of them had betrayed their lover and marooned him twice?

“I had a bedmate on her,” he said. “Don’t know if I could stomach calling him a ‘lover’, after what he’s done.” He sighed, then leaned his head against hers where it rested on his shoulder. “Still,” he murmured, “at least this time the company’s better.”

Amelia snorted at that. It wasn’t in the least ladylike, but neither was this conversation. It was a little late to pretend to have manners now. “Yes,” she said, “I’m sure me dredging up old heartbreaks is a vast improvement on solitude.”

“I like the sound of your voice better,” Jim said, jostling her leg with one of his.

“I’d never have known,” Amelia said, and Jim laughed.

“I do go on,” he admitted. He sat up, stretched his legs out in front of him, and wiggled his toes. “But I can’t very well turn the conversation around on a lady,” he said. Amelia snorted again, and rolled her eyes. “Well,” he said, looking over at her and grinning, “at least not on one who’s already let slip she’s a virgin. Rather a slim volume to read from.”

“Well, and you seem to have witnessed or intuited a great deal of my first love,” she said. “What else could I tell you?”

“First love!” Jim exclaimed, raising a hand to his heart. “You’re not as young as that, are you? Oh, but you’ve known each other since childhood.” He shook his head. “For a moment, I was worried I’d have to sleep alone tonight.”

“Mister Piper!” Amelia said, mock-offended. “Is that a hint of morality I detect behind your presumptuous lechery?”

“God forbid,” Jim said, in much the same tone. “I misspoke, please, forget you ever thought of my morals.” He leaned in and put an arm around her shoulders. “Think only of my lechery.” He smiled.

It wouldn’t be so bad, to follow through on her flirting a bit. He’d been obliging enough so far, except for his stubborn refusal to fall unconscious from drink so she could begin putting her rescue plan into motion. And his smile was charming, even if his sincerity was likely fleeting. “I assure you,” she said, “I’ve been thinking of little else since we were left on this island together.”

“Well,” he said. “Focus on that, then.”

Amelia’s eyes dropped to his mouth then. His beard did frame his lips and draw attention to how full and soft they looked. His thumb was brushing the neckline of her chemise, touching her bare skin just the tiniest bit. She looked back up to his eyes and found he was looking right back at her. She asked, “Is there a reason you’re not kissing me right now?”

“Not anymore,” he murmured, and leaned in to kiss her.

His lips were sweet with rum, but while it was painfully sweet from the bottle, Amelia found it pleasant enough second-hand from Jim’s mouth. He pulled her closer, and put his other arm around her front, on her waist. She began to find her stays a little over-warm, and constricting. She opened her mouth to his, and he moaned, surprised. She had never supposed she might kiss another man and enjoy it, but Jim’s lips moving against hers and his mouth sweet with rum were very compelling. She stopped fooling herself it would be at all bad, having sex with Jim Piper, and admitted that she really wanted to fuck him. It was difficult to pretend she didn’t, when her thighs were slick and every time his tongue slid against hers, it sent tingles through her entire body.

She drew the hand that had found its way to Jim’s leg up, to the join of his legs, and frowned. She pulled away, and looked down, in case she was somehow missing his cockstand, and her eyes found the front of his breeches as flat as her hand had found them.

Her frown deepened. She asked, “Am I that bad at this, then?”

“Ah,” Jim said. He didn’t look uninterested, his face was flushed and he had not pulled away from her. Indeed, he’d chased her a bit when she pulled away to check what her senses were telling her, and he was still breathing heavily. “Yes,” he said. “About that.”

“What is it?” she asked. It was not altogether unfamiliar to her, the feeling that she’d failed to live up to expectations, but it was no more comfortable now than it had been the first few times.

“Don’t look so worried, love, it’s not you,” Jim said, and Amelia flushed at that. It was unfamiliar to be seen through so readily. “I happen to be a bit lacking in the prick department.”

“What?” Amelia said, and her father would surely be disappointed that all her elocution lessons were such a miserable failure. Not that he’d be wanting for disappointment, if he ever knew what happened on this island. “Are you saying you’re a eunuch or some such?”

Jim barked a laugh, sudden and loud and quite disorienting. “Not exactly,” he said. “I’ve just got the same equipment I presume you have.” He looked thoughtful, and said, “Though it would be terribly convenient if I was wrong.”

“Oh,” Amelia said. It was possible she would have been more confused or concerned if she’d had less to drink, but this certainly seemed more desirable than her not being attractive to him. She considered asking further questions, but decided quickly that she would rather have sex than explanations. “Well, at least I’ll have had some experience to draw from,” she said. She slid her hand further down, and yes, now that she knew what she was looking for, there was the familiar mons, and the less familiar way breeches laid over it. Jim sighed and spread his legs a bit, perhaps unconsciously. He was warm under her fingers, even through the thick cotton of his breeches.

Amelia leaned in to kiss him again, and he met her hungrily. He pulled her close, almost into his lap. She lifted her hand up to the fall of his breeches, popped the closest button open with her thumb, and slipped her hand inside. It was odd, to run her fingers through a nest of curls to a slick cleft and not feel it between her own legs, but Jim moaned into her mouth and tightened his grip on her waist. His clitoris felt larger than hers, but he twitched under her fingers the same way she did.

She slid her fingers a little further, into the wetness at the center of him, and he broke the kiss to throw his head back. “God,” he groaned, “Amelia.”

She grinned, although he wasn’t looking at her. She’d rarely considered doing this to someone else, since she was expected to marry and there were few girls of her age and station to befriend after they left England, but it was fun. She hadn’t quite realized she’d be able to feel the differences between the lips of their cunts, but she could. She slid along them, mapping out the ways Jim differed from her, and he panted and cursed under her touch.

“Darling,” he said eventually, sounding somewhat pained, “I’m not worried about my maidenhead.”

Amelia laughed, then said, “Oh!” She bit her lip, then slid her fingers lower, until they slipped easily into him. He gasped, and moaned something incoherent. He was so hot around her. Most of her palm was slick with him now. She drew her fingers out, savoring the smooth glide of his outer parts, then pushed her fingers back into him, deeper. She’d never touched the equivalent part of herself, and the change in texture was shocking, almost overwhelming. She found she rather preferred the way his lips and bud felt, smooth and slick, but his reaction to her fingers inside him was certainly enticing.

She pulled away from him, to adjust her angle, and he fumbled with the other button of his fall. His breeches fell open, granting her unfettered access to his cunt, and she was fascinated by the way her fingers disappeared inside him. At this angle, not only could she get her fingers deeper into him, which he seemed to enjoy, but she could also bring her thumb up to rub between his lips and across his clitoris, and he actually cried out and collapsed backwards onto his elbows at that.

“Oh, love,” he panted, “you’re a bleeding natural.” She laughed, and kept going.

Eventually, he groaned a long groan, and his insides clenched and fluttered around her fingers. Amelia pulled her slick, wrinkled hand out and away from him. He raised his head enough to look at her, with evident effort, and grinned.

Amelia crawled up the length of his body and took his face in her hands. “Oh, sorry,” she said, pulling her wet hand back to wipe it on her skirts. He reached for it before she could and pulled it back to his face. He kissed her fingertips, then took them into his mouth. She was shocked at how good that felt; it went right to her own cunt, which throbbed in appreciation. He licked her fingers clean, then pulled them out of his mouth in a manner Amelia could only describe as obscene. He sat up to kiss her, and it took very little before she was desperate to have his touch on more than just her face.

He nibbled a little at her bottom lip, then said, “Lie back for me, love.”

That instruction puzzled her a bit, since he did not, after all, have a prick with which to swive her, but he certainly knew more about this than she did, so she laid back on the sand.

“The sand’s something of a hindrance, I’ll admit,” he said, from near her knees. She looked up enough to see him, straining her neck, to see he was fastening the fall-front of his breeches. “No one wants sand all up in their business,” he said. He tugged on her skirts, until they bared not only her ankles but the entire lower portion of her legs. He’d probably be able to tell her now whether or not she still had a hymen, she thought, and laughed at herself.

Then his hands were on her knees, nudging her legs further apart, and she glanced up again in time to see his head disappear beneath her petticoat. “Oh,” she said, and she felt him press a kiss to the inside of her thigh. “Oh,” she said again.

Amelia had never once in her life thought about what it would feel like to have someone’s mouth on her cunt, other than “nice”. She did not spend much time analyzing the feeling now. It was not much like having her own fingers down there, although it wasn’t entirely unlike it. It was not very much like pressing her legs together or rubbing against something, either. Certainly all those things felt nice as well, but it was a different quality of sensation.

It was unquestionably more intimate than anyone had ever been with any part of her body. Not for the first time that night, she cursed her skirts for being in the way, this time preventing her from seeing how Jim was reacting. Not that she doubted he was enjoying himself; it had been his idea, after all, and he felt enthusiastic enough. He was taking his time, going over every fold with his lips and tongue, nuzzling his nose into her so it brushed against her clitoris, but it felt less like he was dragging his feet and more like he was savoring the moment. When he finally shifted his attention up to her desperately sensitive clitoris, it didn’t take long at all before she found her release in one of the most intense orgasms of her life.

He kissed her inner thighs again, one then the other, and wriggled out from inside her skirts. He crawled up the the sand until he was even with her head, and flopped onto his stomach. She groped for his hand, found his hip, and settled for patting his butt. “Thank you,” she said, still a bit breathless.

“Always glad to be of service,” he murmured, his words somewhat muddled by his face being pressed into one of his arms. “After all, one good turn deserves another,” he said, and Amelia laughed. By the time she caught her breath, he was snoring quietly. It was as unexpectedly cute as the rest of him, and she watched his back rise and fall in time with his little snorts for a few minutes. When she was sure he was definitely asleep, she got to her feet and got to work.

*

Jim did not wake until the sun was quite high in the sky. Amelia was glad she had thought to start a second fire for the signal fire, because he would have been much too close to the flames if she’d simply built up their supper fire.

Amelia was sitting some distance away from him, facing halfway toward the signal fire, but still able to see him stir out of the corner of her eye. He threw an arm across his eyes, then grunted and smacked his lips. He sat up, and she looked over at him.

He wrinkled his nose and squinted in her direction. He pointed past her and said, “What is that?”

“A signal fire,” Amelia said.

He frowned. He turned to look at the ocean, then glanced around for something. He grabbed his boots, gave them a good shake, and put them on. He got to his feet, spat in the sand, and staggered over to where Amelia sat.

“I suppose there are people actually looking for you,” he said. “That’s a good idea.” He looked over at the fire, shading his eyes with one hand. “I do wonder why you did it while I was asleep,” he said.

Amelia grimaced. “When I thought of it, I wasn’t sure how you’d take it. Doing it without your knowing seemed simpler than fighting about it.”

He nodded. “Fair enough, I suppose. Though I don’t know why I’d argue.”

“The alcohol was a fairly important part of getting the fire working,” she said.

He clicked his tongue against his teeth and grimaced. “Right,” he said, “I can see me being a tit about that.” He looked down at Amelia. “But we should only have to wait a day or two for rescue, so I suppose it’s not too bad.”

Amelia smiled. “Mister Piper, I doubt very much we will still be on this island by nightfall. You will certainly survive a single day without rum.”

He sighed noisily, and dropped to the sand next to her. “If I must,” he said. “But I shan’t enjoy it.” He scratched at his beard. “It hadn’t occurred to me that people were actually looking for you.”

“It’s one of the benefits of being a governor’s daughter,” Amelia said. “Granted, I usually think it a disadvantage.”

Jim laughed. His breath was stale, but Amelia didn’t mind it as much as she ought. He said, “I suppose ‘literally kidnapped’ is one of the reasons you’re kept under close watch.”

“Well, I don’t think it will make me feel any better playing hostess for my father’s political connections,” Amelia said, “but it is convenient in this one instance.” She sighed. “Now I only have to think of a way to rescue Tom.”

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help,” Jim said. “Especially if it’s ‘get drunk and fuck someone’ again.”

Amelia laughed. “That was not part of the plan,” she said. “But I shall take it under advisement for any future plans.”

“Good,” Jim said. “See that you do.”

They sat in silence a while, watching the fire and its smoke plume. The smoke was dozens of feet high, visible, hopefully, for leagues around. Still, it would take time to get the message to the searching ships, and time for one to set course for them. If it was unlikely they’d spend another night on this island, it was also unlikely rescue would come before a few more hours yet.

“You know,” Amelia said, “it may be hours before we can see any sails.”

“Likely true,” Jim said. He looked over at her, grinning. “Whatever shall we do to pass the time?”

Amelia smiled. “Well,” she said, “I would love to learn how to return the favor you performed for me last night.”

Jim put an arm around her shoulders and leaned in. “I think that can be arranged.”

*

The ship that arrived that afternoon had Amelia’s father on it, which seemed astoundingly unlikely and rather unsafe. The Commodore, newly of that rank and younger than Amelia’s father, looked even more constipated than usual, so Amelia inferred that her father had insisted, against the Commodore’s judgement.

“Oh, my girl,” her father said, wrapping her in his arms. “I’m so glad you’re safe.”

“Yes, thank you for the prompt rescue,” Amelia said. “But father, the pirates who took me–they have Tom!”

He held her at arm’s length, hands still on her shoulders. He frowned and said, “Well, that’s unfortunate, but that is why the Commodore advised him not to chase after you in such haste.”

Even as he held his hands out for one of the sailors to close shackles around his wrists, Jim snorted. “Isn’t that a fine repayment for saving your daughter,” he said. “I thought one benefit to being an honest citizen was folks like you caring for their well-being.”

Amelia’s father frowned, and looked troubled. He did like to think of himself as a caretaker. “Unfortunately, Mister Blackwell is but one man,” he said. “I can hardly ask the Commodore to go haring on a blind chase after one man.”

Amelia turned and looked at Jim sharply. “Mister Piper,” she said slowly, “you used to sail with that crew. Do you know where they berth?”

At first, he only cocked his head. Then he said, “Oh, aye! I doubt they were clever enough to make a change in the last decade, seeing as they thought I was dead.”

She turned to the Commodore. “There, Mister Piper can give us a heading,” she said. “And the reason they even took Tom in the first place is because the ship’s practically falling apart, we could surely catch them up.”

Had it been just the Commodore making the decision, Amelia could see he would not be persuaded. But in the absence of an immediate threat, the Commodore looked at Amelia’s father for his opinion, as he always did.

Her father said, “It would behoove us to rid the seas of any pirates we knew we could. And Mister Blackwell did save Amelia.”

“It would behoove us,” the Commodore said slowly. “But how can we be certain Mister Piper’s information is trustworthy?”

“I call that rude,” Jim muttered.

“Hmm,” Amelia’s father said, and Amelia could feel Tom slipping away from her.

She drew herself up with all the dignity she could muster in salt-crusted undergarments, and said, “I have the highest confidence in Mister Piper’s integrity and information. Not only did he save me from the pirate captain, it was his idea to build a signal fire.” As soon as everyone turned to look at Amelia, Jim made a face at her. She willed him to accept the credit, and went on, “Since we met, Mister Piper has been nothing but helpful and resourceful.”

“Indeed?” her father asked, looking surprised but not unwilling to take her word. He looked at her, and then at Jim. “Commodore, perhaps we ought to continue this conversation in a more private venue, after a break for my daughter to find some proper clothes.”

“Very well, Governor,” the Commodore said. “Lieutenant, take the prisoner to my quarters.”

The clothes her father had brought for her were clean and not crusty with salt and sand, and thankfully whatever maid he had pack them had included a full set of undergarments, including stays. She stripped gratefully out of the soiled clothes she had been wearing for days, and got dressed. Without a maid, she had to lace her stays quite loosely, and her dress was snug as a result. It was still better than wearing the same crusty chemise and petticoat that smelled, possibly indelibly, of the sea.

She and her father met the Commodore in his quarters. Jim was still shackled at the wrists, but he had a mug of water on the table in front of him. The Commodore, of course, stood as she entered; Jim was evidently not going to bother until the Commodore hauled him up by the shoulder. Amelia suppressed a smile as Jim rolled his eyes.

“Now,” Amelia’s father said, “where is the Fleetfoot headed?”

“And why should we trust your information to be more than supposition?” the Commodore added.

“Well, the reason they even agreed to exchange Miss Crowe for young Thomas is his trade,” Jim said. “It seems they’ve had some trouble finding shipwrights as will work with them, and thought a pet carpenter might be a boon.”

“Mister Blackwell has never worked on any ships, to my knowledge,” Amelia’s father said. “I’m sure if they wished for a chest of drawers, he could accommodate them.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” said Jim with a shrug. “He didn’t mention his speciality. The point is, with the ship in such a state and them just acquiring someone they think can help that, they’d head for home.”

“Are you certain of that?” the Commodore asked.

“I find it very difficult to imagine ‘Captain’ Alcantara doing anything else,” Jim said. “And before you ask, yes I know Alcantara well. As Miss Crowe mentioned, that used to be my ship, and Alcantara used to be my first mate. The only thing he’s ever done what surprised me was marooning me the first time, and with the benefit of hindsight, I have to admit it probably shouldn’t have.”

Amelia’s father asked, “And you’re certain he wouldn’t have changed where they berth?”

Jim shrugged. “Like I said, no need to. Only person not on that ship ever knew where they holed up was me, and they had good reason to believe I died. He might be thinking about it now, but they can’t do anything until they’ve at least gone back the once, to get things.”

“Hmm,” the Commodore said. He looked over at Amelia, frowning. “Miss Crowe, you truly believe we can trust this man’s word?”

“I do,” Amelia said. At least on this subject. The way he spoke about Captain Alcantara left her with a suspicion she knew who on the Fleetfoot had shared his bed.

“Look,” Jim said, leaning forward on the table, “as sweet as young love is and all that, what I’m interested in here is you arresting the man that lied to my face, stole my ship, and then left me for dead two bloody times.”

“There is a lady present!” Amelia’s father said, and Amelia had to hold back a laugh.

“Oh, I beg your pardon,” Jim said, more politely than she would have expected. “It’s only I’m sick of being marooned, you see.” He looked back at the Commodore. “If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but I’m not about to lie about this. And I really don’t think I’m wrong. Not to mention it was my fault Thomas got tangled up with that crew in the first place,” he added. “It’s only right I should help save him.”

The Commodore stared at Jim for a moment, then nodded. “Fine,” he said. “What’s the heading?”

*

Jim told the Commodore everything he knew about navigating to the uncharted island the Fleetfoot used, and then everything he knew about the route he thought Alcantara would take. He was proven right in surprisingly short order, when they sighted the Fleetfoot right along the route he said it would be on. The Fleetfoot and its crew had been formidable enough taking a town by surprise, at night, but it was not able to put up much of a fight against the flagship of the Royal Navy. Still, they might have kept fighting, had it not been for the other Navy ships Commodore Robinson had sent word to appearing on the horizon. Enough of the crew threw down their weapons that Captain Alcantara was forced to surrender.

Amelia cared very little about any of it except the rescue of Tom. As soon as a young officer came to tell them the fighting was over, she was up on deck, staring over at the Fleetfoot. She waited anxiously for the sailors to transfer him aboard. Her father frowned worriedly at her when he thought she wasn’t looking. Probably her conduct was unbecoming of a lady of her station, but she found it more difficult to care about that than ever.

As soon as Tom was safely aboard, he looked around, for her, Amelia thought. When he saw her, he almost collapsed with relief. “Miss Crowe,” he said, and ran toward her. He still stopped a proper enough distance away. “Thank God you’re safe,” he said. “I never thought they would maroon you or I would have–“

She held up a hand to stop him. “It’s quite all right, Mister Blackwell,” she said. “You could hardly be held responsible for the actions of pirates.”

“It was foolish to believe in the honor of someone like Captain Alcantara,” he said. Then he turned to Amelia’s father. “Governor Crowe, I must speak with you.”

“Of course, young man,” said Amelia’s father. “What is it you want to discuss?”

“I want to marry your daughter,” Tom said, and if Amelia was a less emotionally stable woman, she might have fainted.

“I beg your pardon?” her father said, faintly.

“I understand her station is well above mine and she would ordinarily never marry a man such as myself,” Tom said. “But I love her, have always loved her, and now I am certain I will always love her.” He turned to her. “I couldn’t live with myself if anything else happened to me and you didn’t know,” he said. He turned back to her father. “Please, Governor Crowe, at least consider it. I know I can’t offer the kind of life she’s used to, or the kind of life she deserves, but I can promise I will always love her and protect her as well as I can.”

“Oh, please, Father,” Amelia said. Her father was startled. She took a step towards Tom and took one of his hands in hers. “He is such a good man and he willingly traded his life for mine. Life is too short and too precious to disregard that.”

Governor Crowe blinked and looked around the deck for support. Some of the sailors were working, though more were only pretending to be occupied, but none of them seemed the least inclined to get in the way of this family business. Jim, still in irons, was watching, as was the Commodore next to him. Jim piped up, “He wouldn’t shut up the whole time we were chasing the Fleetfoot about how wonderful your daughter is, Your Governorship, sir. Touching when it weren’t annoying.”

The Governor looked back at Amelia and Tom and frowned. “While I certainly believe your intentions are good,” he said, “not only are you a tradesman, but you’re still an apprentice. Only a fool would let his daughter marry a man without his own household.”

Tom looked pained at that. “Sir,” he said. “To be frank, my master has not been well since the death of his wife. His only other family is back in England. My staying on with him has been more for his benefit than mine for some time.”

Governor Crowe looked shocked. “Is this true?” he asked.

“I suppose you could ask him about it,” Tom said, uncomfortably. “I am willing to wait, if it means you aren’t dismissing my proposal out of hand. Sir.”

Governor Crowe sighed. “No, I suppose it isn’t necessary. If you both wish it,” he said, “I would be a fool to stand in your way.”

Jim and some of the sailors watching cheered. Amelia disregarded proper behavior for a lady of her station entirely and threw her arms around Tom’s neck, although she didn’t go so far as to kiss him.

“Amelia,” he murmured in her ear, and she buried her face in his shoulder to hide the burgeoning tears.

“Yes, yes,” said the Commodore, “it’s all very moving. Get back to work, you lollygaggers.” 

*

It was easier, now they were engaged, to contrive to be left alone together. People were less concerned about impropriety, or else thought it less improper. Amelia had known this, had seen it in action following other engagements, but it was different to be the one alone in a parlor with Tom, with the door shut and everything.

She took full advantage, though, pulled him to a couch and took his face in her hands. He wasted little time leaning closer to her, and closing the distance between their lips. They had kissed before, briefly, almost always chastely, already pushing the boundaries of propriety just by doing so openly while only engaged. More often, Tom kissed her hand; sometimes Amelia kissed him on the cheek. Those weren’t things they could have done before, but they were perfectly acceptable now.

This was the first time she tried to kiss Tom properly, lasciviously, and the poor man had no idea what he was doing. She wouldn’t have noticed, if she hadn’t recently kissed the well-practiced Jim. But Tom was a fast learner, and with a little encouragement, she was sure it wouldn’t be a problem.

Though to be honest, he could have been the worst kisser in the world and it wouldn’t have phased her; she’d been in love with him for so long, a little thing like that wouldn’t put a dent in her affection. And even while comparing his kisses to Jim’s, they were working perfectly well for making her wish they had privacy more often, or that the wedding was sooner; her cunt ached for his touch.

He pulled her onto his lap, rucking up her skirts, and she threw her arms around his neck. Oh, what she would give to be a less scrutinized woman, who could forego her stays and blame the heat. She hardly needed the support, and it would be so nice to be able to put his hand on her breast.

He put one hand on her knee, which was exposed from her skirts’ disarray. She gasped, and he pulled back, concerned. “Is this all right?” he asked.

“Tom,” she said, smiling, “if I thought we could get away with it, I’d strip us both naked myself.”

He looked embarrassed and amazed. And aroused, of course, but she was fairly certain she could feel that poking into her leg, even through her several skirts. “God, Amelia,” he murmured, and kissed her again. He was already better, or else it was harder for her to think clearly, or possibly both. He slid his hand up her thigh, under her skirts, and she moaned and arched her back, pressing her chest firmly into his.

She pulled away to murmur, “God, I hate stays,” and Tom laughed. Only briefly, however, because he pressed a kiss to her jaw, and then buried his face in her neck. His hand slid higher up her leg, and she bit her lip to keep from moaning too loudly.

He bent his face down and kissed the tops of each of her breasts, and she dug her fingers into his coat. His every breath hot against her skin, he said, “But you look so good in them.”

She leaned down and kissed him again, disrupting the kiss herself by smiling. He pressed on, despite the awkwardness of kissing her smiling mouth, and she soon forgot her amusement in her eagerness to kiss him back. Beneath her skirts, his fingertips brushed against her curls, and her breath hitched.

Amelia pulled back, and Tom’s hand immediately stopped its slow slide upwards. “Before we go any further, I should tell you something,” she said.

“I don’t care about that,” Tom said.

“What?” Amelia asked. She pulled further back, though she was now regretting having said anything. She asked, “How on earth could you know that when I haven’t told you what it is yet?”

Tom frowned. “Oh,” he said. “I thought…never mind.”

It was Amelia’s turn to frown. “Thought what?” she asked.

Endearingly, he blushed. “Well, I thought you were going to tell me you weren’t a virgin. Which I don’t care about,” he hastened to add. “I didn’t want you to worry.”

Amelia smiled, and relaxed her stiff shoulders. “I was not especially concerned you would,” she said. “And–well, I suppose that is part of what I was going to tell you. Erm.” She slid her hand up his coat to rest on his shoulder, and looked at it instead of his face. “I had sex with Jim Piper.”

“What? When?” he asked. Then, a moment later, he said, “Oh, you said you were–“

She nodded. “When we were marooned, yes,” she said.

“Well,” Tom said. He turned his head and bent down to kiss her hand. “Given that we were not yet engaged, I’m sure it’s none of my business.”

Warmth spread through her whole chest at that. God, he was such a good man. She’d spent her whole life dreading marriage, certain she’d be bound to some man who was, at best, boring, who thought of her as nothing more than a status symbol, and at worst, the kind of entitled boor the nobility had in spades who would think of her as his possession. Instead, she had the good fortune to be engaged to this kind and devoted man, who didn’t want her to worry that he might care she wasn’t a virgin.

She looked up from where her hand rested on his shoulder to meet his eyes. “I love you,” she said. He smiled at that, and she leaned down to kiss him once again. She pulled back enough to murmur, “It could be your business, if you were so inclined.”

Tom’s eyes lifted from looking at her mouth to her eyes. “What do you mean?” he asked, but she would bet the slight blush again gracing his cheeks indicated he had an idea of her meaning.

“I’m certain he wouldn’t mind if I shared a few details,” she said, grinning. Certain details more than others, probably, but that wasn’t something she needed to tell Tom. “Given that he mentioned how very handsome you are.”

His blush deepened, and the hand on her thigh, inside her skirt, twitched a bit. “He didn’t,” he said, but he didn’t sound very convinced of that.

“Well, not during,” she said. She slid her arm back around his neck, so their chests were pressed against one another once more. “But it did come up, over the course of conversation.”

“Oh?” he said. Under her skirts, his hand caressed her thigh, though it did not resume its journey upward. “I suppose that answers one question.”

“What is that?” she said, although the path his thumb was tracing on her thigh was threatening her focus on the conversation.

“If I was imagining those looks he was giving me while we were chasing the Fleetfoot,” he murmured.

“Definitely not,” Amelia said. She brushed her lips against his. “I can hardly blame him,” she said. “As you are so very handsome.”

She could not have said which one of them initiated the kiss that followed, but it hardly mattered. She licked into his mouth even as his fingers once again brushed against the damp curls between her legs. Her breath hitched and he kept moving his hand higher, until finally his fingers were nestled between her lips. She had to concentrate very hard to not squirm in his lap, to try to get his fingers where she wanted them. Part of the fun of fucking Jim had been exploring his body, not only getting him off.

Tom had some idea what he was doing, evidently, for he slid his fingers up her cleft to that most sensitive part of her body. She couldn’t help but twitch in his arms at that. She moaned into their kiss and felt him grin. He rubbed it, gently, and she wasn’t sure whether to press into his touch or lean away and give him room to move. She spread her legs as far as she could without beginning to teeter off his lap, and her thigh pressed against his hard cock. This time, it was he who moaned into their kiss, and Amelia who smiled.

She removed her hand from around his neck and reached down to the waistband of his breeches. She was not as dexterous unbuttoning his fall as she might have been, for the slide of his finger against her pearl and between the folds of her cunt was wonderfully distracting. Still, slipping her hand inside his breeches to take hold of his cock was worth the effort. He jerked against her, and made a desperate little noise, and Amelia felt as powerful as she ever had manipulating her father the governor. Her wonderful, brave, generous Tom was rendered desperate by her soft fingers.

They stroked each other as they kissed, though the kiss was growing sloppier. Amelia knew if her mouth was unoccupied she would have a much greater chance of making a noise that might give them away. The door was closed, but not locked, and tolerance of their engagement would stretch only as far as their discretion permitted. If it was too obvious what they were doing, someone would be obliged to interrupt.

Eventually, however, she had to pull away enough to tell Tom, “Put your fingers in me.”

To his credit, despite bucking up into her touch on his cock, he didn’t hesitate, and let his fingers slip lower until he found her opening. They both groaned when his first finger slid inside her, and Amelia quickly re-engaged their kiss. It was mostly wet panting as he worked his fingers in and out of her and she stroked his cock faster and faster to match him.

He did the same thing Amelia had done with Jim, and brought his thumb to bear on her clitoris as his fingers moved in and out of her cunt, and Amelia had never felt both of those things at once, let alone while the strange smoothness of his cock throbbed in her hand. She spent, furiously working her hand on his cock as though it was what made her feel good. It was only a few moments later, while Amelia was still feeling the waves of pleasure wash out to her extremities, that Tom spent. Amelia caught most of it with her hand, though some of it splashed onto the flap of his breeches.

When she pulled away from his kiss and opened her eyes, Tom was staring at her as though she’d put the stars in the sky. He was also flushed and his forehead was shining with sweat, but the look of wonder and devotion on his face felt far more important to Amelia. “I love you,” he said.

“And I you,” Amelia responded. She kissed him quickly, a chaste peck instead of the open-mouthed gasping they had recently been doing. Then she tugged up her skirt to reveal her plainest petticoat and wiped her dirtied hand on it. Tom laughed, and did the same.

There was a knock on the study door, and they both jumped. Amelia leapt off Tom’s lap and fluffed her skirts so they would hang straight. Her hair was probably a mess, but there was no helping that at this point. Tom did up his breeches as quickly as she’d ever seen a man do up that many buttons, then went and stood in front of an armchair across the room. Amelia went to open the door, heart pounding once more but for a less delightful reason, and found Commodore Robinson standing there.

“Commodore,” she said, and then couldn’t think of what else to say. Ordinarily, he was announced by a servant, and also ordinarily, he had only pleasantries for her, and business with her father. She couldn’t remember ever receiving him socially in a more appropriate context, so she had no previous experience to draw on, and she was too flustered to think of anything.

“I hope I’m not interrupting,” he said dryly, and Amelia struggled not to blush. Obviously, he suspected he was interrupting; anyone, when they realized she and Tom were off alone together, would assume, correctly, what they were doing.

“Of course not,” she said. “Please, sit.”

He entered the room and closed the door behind him, but did not sit. He looked almost nervous for a second, then put his hands behind his back. “I just received word from the Admiralty,” he said. “Regarding James Piper.”

She was sure she managed not to blush at that, but was less certain Tom managed it. She daren’t look at him to check.

“My commanding officers do not feel his actions rescuing you, Miss Crowe, and aiding in the capture of a known pirate crew, are enough to excuse his prior crimes,” he said. “I have orders to execute him immediately.”

Amelia wanted to argue, to tell him Jim didn’t deserve to hang, but he had already been as lenient as he could. He had orders, he said. Amelia had spent enough time listening to her father and his military acquaintances to know if Commodore Robinson didn’t carry out those orders, he would be discharged, imprisoned for treason, and possibly executed himself; and someone else would still carry out the orders to execute Jim.

He went on, after a moment of silence, “I thought, as the two of you each worked with him during the Fleetfoot ordeal, you would wish to know.”

“Yes,” Amelia said. “Thank you, Commodore.”

He inclined his head to her, a bit. Then he nodded at Tom. “Miss Crowe,” he said. “Mister Blackwell. Good evening.” He let himself out of the room.

They stood in silence for a few moments. “They’re going to execute him?” Tom said, frowning. “He’s barely even a criminal, the last crime he committed was–well, two weeks ago, but that was me, really. And I was pardoned!”

“The Admiralty wants to crack down on pirates,” Amelia said. “Practically all of Father’s letters are about it. And Jim is branded.”

“But he saved you!” Tom said. “He turned King’s evidence on his old crew! The Navy hadn’t found their hideout in ten years, and wouldn’t have at all without him.”

“I know,” Amelia said. “But they want to see pirates hanged, Tom.”

He clenched his fists and looked as though he wanted to kick something. “This isn’t right.”

Amelia thought for a moment. She crossed the room to sit once more on the sofa. She said, “Tom.” He looked at her, flushed and righteously angry. God, she loved him. She asked, “How did you break him out last time?”

He frowned, but answered her question. “The guard left when he heard the fighting,” Tom said. “I nicked his keys and unlocked the door.”

Now Amelia frowned. “Well we can hardly count on the guard being that distracted again.”

“Amelia,” Tom said, and she would never get tired of hearing him say that instead of “Miss Crowe”, even if it was in a tone of voice that implied he didn’t like what she was saying. “What are you suggesting?”

“You know what I’m suggesting,” she said. “We break him out. Admittedly, we will need an escape plan as well, because they’ll just recapture him if he stays here.”

“Robinson said immediately,” Tom said, looking worried. “That doesn’t give us much time to figure a way to look innocent.”

“So we don’t bother,” she said. “All we have to do is escape with him.”

“We–! Not that I’m unwilling, God knows you’re the best part of this city,” Tom said, “but what about your father? What about”–he waved a hand, gesturing to the ornate furniture surrounding them–“all this?”

“Sod it,” she said. “All I need is you, anyway.”

“Amelia,” he began, but she interrupted him.

“Please,” she said. “I spent a week prisoner on a pirate ship, and two days on a deserted island with no food. I don’t need a parlor and a maid and all the things that come with being a governor’s daughter. I only need you.”

He flushed at that, and looked down at his feet. “I suppose you wouldn’t have agreed to marry a blacksmith if you wanted a fancy house,” he said, and she laughed. He walked over to the sofa and sat beside her. “Are we mad?” he asked. “To do this for a man we hardly know?”

“He saved both our lives,” Amelia said. “I don’t think it’s mad to want to return the favor.”

Tom bit his lip. “You know,” he said, “I replaced all the cell doors after that big storm. Even without keys, I could get one open. But it might take a while.”

“I think I could keep the guard distracted,” she said. “Especially if it’s Davies.”

Tom made a face, which Amelia took to mean he knew about Davies’ feelings for her. Although “feelings” might be putting it strongly; Davies found her attractive and had been reprimanded more than once for being overly familiar with her. “Well,” he said, “I guess if it’s so we can break a notorious pirate out of jail and run away with him,” he said.

She laughed, and kissed him. She made sure to pull away before she got too distracted, for they had planning to do.

*

That very evening, they took a walk together. When they reached the alley behind the jail house, Tom kissed her on the cheek and set off, looking very much as though he happened to have business elsewhere. Amelia turned the corner on her own, strolling along at a leisurely pace, and saw it was indeed Davies on guard duty.

“Good evening, Davies,” she said as she approached.

“Good evening, Miss Crowe!” he said eagerly, and took a step away from his post. “What are you doing out so late without an escort?”

“I was walking with Mister Blackwell,” she said, with an air that suggested she was confiding in him, “but he remembered some urgent business and had to leave me.”

“What a shame,” Davies said. Amelia reached him and began to walk past him, and he fell into step with her. “A lady as fine as yourself should hardly be wandering the city alone.”

“Oh, I daresay I’m safe enough,” she said. “We shall hardly be attacked by pirates so soon after the capture of the Fleetfoot.” She sighed, and Davies was not nearly discreet enough watching the rise and fall of her bosom. “But I do wonder how women who marry tradesmen can stand it, their husbands having so many engagements at which a wife is unwelcome.”

“I suppose they grow used to it,” Davies said. “Speaking of which, I should congratulate you on your engagement. Mister Blackwell is a fine blacksmith.”

That was decidedly not the kind of praise Tom deserved, but it wasn’t as though the point of this conversation was for her to enjoy herself. She smiled at him. “Thank you,” she said. “I confess, I am still surprised my father agreed.”

“I’m sure his lordship finds it as difficult to refuse you as any man would,” said Davies.

Amelia giggled. “Excuse me,” she said, turning her head away. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes while he couldn’t see her. After all, someone else might, and they couldn’t afford to be questioned or suspected until they were well away. She turned back and asked, “And how is your mother? I hope she was not injured in the pirate attack.”

The years of training to be her father’s hostess served her well when it came to engaging in conversations she was not interested in while seeming sincerely invested. She asked Davies more questions and drew out of him answers that went on longer the more he talked. She stopped walking at the corner of the jail building, where they were technically in sight of the door, but Davies was not paying any attention to anything but her. Technically, he remained at his post, but practically, Tom was able to walk in without the guard noticing.

Amelia carefully kept her gaze on Davies as Tom walked quietly into the jail. Davies, in the middle of a story about his younger sister, did not notice anything. “And did she?” she prompted him, which kept him going for another few minutes.

“My word,” she said, when that story came to an end. “That must have been quite difficult.”

“Oh, I don’t like to complain,” he said, which Amelia had heard from a number of other naval officers was not at all true. Davies was well known as a grumbler.

“Well, it is certainly good to know able men like you were guarding the town while I was away,” she said. “Really, Mr. Davies, I’m sure I don’t know what the streets would be like without you on them.”

Davies puffed up like a courting bird. “You’re too kind, Miss Crowe. It’s only my duty. Though that does remind me–“

It was hardly any work at all to keep him distracted for another fifteen minutes. He was all willing to believe she wanted to talk to him extensively.

Eventually, she saw out of the corner of her eye Tom and Jim leaving the jail. She waited until they were around the other corner, then told Davies she should let him get back to his post.

“It was a pleasure, Miss Crowe,” he said.

Amelia turned the corner and met Tom and Jim at the mouth of the alley. She and Tom had planned a route to the docks that should have them passing the least number of people. They’d also put Jim’s hair up under an old hat swiped from Tom’s master.

“You’re walking too fast,” Jim murmured. “We wanna be casual-like.”

“Of course,” Tom said at an ordinary volume, as they slowed their pace.

On their way to the docks, now at a slower and more casual pace, Amelia relayed to them how Davies’s mother and younger sister were doing. Neither of them had the slightest interest in the subject any more than she did, but it was an ordinary thing to talk about that would attract little attention from the people they passed. They both made polite noises at the required intervals as Amelia repeated the story Davies had just told her.

At the docks, Amelia took the lead, as Tom didn’t know which boat Amelia had asked a family friend to borrow. As that family friend had been under the impression this boat was being borrowed in order to grant Amelia and Tom some definite privacy, hopefully he would not mention the boat being missing until it was quite clear they weren’t coming back.

Once aboard, they all but shoved Jim belowdecks. Tom did most of the work getting them ready to set sail, telling Amelia what to do to assist him. Again, the idea was to have anyone who saw them assume they were seeking some privacy for some illicit-but-tacitly-approved-of premarital sex. Even if they might have moved faster with Jim’s help, they were less suspicious this way.

Oh, Davies wasn’t a complete idiot; eventually he would mention to someone that he had in fact talked to Amelia that evening, and reveal he hadn’t exactly been at the door the whole time. It wouldn’t take too long for Commodore Robinson to figure out what had happened after that. But any time they bought themselves was good, and hopefully it would be some time before anyone noticed Jim was missing and started to do things like ask Davies what the hell he had been doing while on duty.

Sailing out of the harbor was the most nerve-wracking part for Amelia. They were so close to being done that the possibility they could still be caught was excruciating. But Tom maneuvered them out of port and, slowly, the city grew smaller and smaller behind them.

Finally, they were on the open ocean. Amelia called down to Jim that it was safe for him to come up.

He bounded up the steps and scooped her up. “That was magnificent!” he said, spinning her around. He dropped her and turned to Tom. He didn’t attempt to pick Tom up, just threw his arms around Tom’s neck. “Honestly, you’re both brilliant. It wasn’t very dramatic, I’ll grant you, but it was so smooth and painless I’ll forgive you.”

“We couldn’t let you be executed,” Tom said.

“Certainly not after everything you did for us,” said Amelia.

Jim sighed and laid a hand over his heart. “Ah,” he said, “to have a crew so loyal.”

“You do,” Tom said. “Or you could. If you want us.”

Jim’s eyebrows crept up as he looked from one of them to the other. “Beg pardon?” he said.

“Well, we are criminals now,” Amelia said. “Which we know nothing about. I’m sure we could use some guidance.”

“Not to mention this would be a difficult ship to manage all on your own,” Tom said.

Jim grinned at them. “My dears,” he said, “you don’t have to make excuses. If you want to stay with me, I shan’t object. Though I admit it’s a bit of an odd way to elope.”

Amelia glanced at Tom. He was wide-eyed and blushing. They had made their escape plan in such a rush, they hadn’t time to talk about what came after in any detail. She knew what outcome she was hoping for. She thought Tom’s look might be a sign he had a similar outcome in mind. She swallowed and turned back to Jim. “Perhaps,” she said. “But it would be very convenient for a married couple who wished to share a lover.”

Jim grinned again, his eyes crinkling up. “It would at that,” he said. He looked at Tom. “Tell me, Thomas, are you in agreement with your wife’s delightful thought?”

“Always,” Tom said. “I’ve been thinking about it since–since I noticed the way you looked at me while we were chasing the Fleetfoot.”

“I cannot believe the level of scheming that the two of you have carried out since last we met,” Jim said, putting both hands over his heart this time. “I’m both proud and touched.”

“Not yet, you’re not,” Amelia said, and Jim threw his head back and cackled. Amelia took the opportunity to nudge Tom, as he was the one who had not had the chance to actually do anything about his attraction to Jim.

“Mister Piper, I believe my wife is a voyeur,” Tom said, and reached for Jim’s hand.

“If you aren’t, then you’re the odd one out on this ship,” Jim said, before leaning in to kiss him.

It was nearly as satisfying to watch her two men kiss each other as to kiss one of them herself. Still, she stepped in and wrapped one arm around each waist, for as nice as the watching was, she didn’t plan on being left out.

Jim pulled away from Tom and grinned at her. She met his lips halfway, and Tom’s soft, “Oh,” let her know he enjoyed watching the two of them as much as she had enjoyed it.

When Jim pulled away, he said, “Shall we move this to the bedroom?”

“Please,” Tom said.

“God, yes,” Amelia agreed.

Once in the bedroom, Tom seized Jim for another kiss. When he pulled away, he breathed, “I’ve been thinking how much I’d like to suck your cock.”

Jim looked over at Amelia. “You didn’t tell him?” he asked.

“I didn’t think it was mine to tell,” she said.

Jim rolled his eyes. “That’s nice, love,” he said, “but don’t you think you could have told him when the two of you were plotting to run away with me?”

“It won’t matter to him,” she said.

He pulled a face and said, “He’s been fantasizing about the cock I don’t have.”

“Hang on, what?” Tom asked, looking from one of them to the other.

Jim sighed. “I don’t have a cock,” he said.

Confused, Tom asked, “Are you a eunuch or something?”

“What is it with you two and eunuchs,” Jim said, “do they castrate many people in–” He cut himself off, shaking his head. “No,” he said, “I am not a eunuch. I never had a cock to begin with. I’ve got a cunt.”

“Oh,” Tom said.

“You’re certainly welcome to put your mouth on that,” Jim said gravely, and Amelia laughed.

“How is it you’re a man if you’ve got a cunt?” Tom asked.

“Ugh, you sound like my mother,” Jim said, rolling his eyes. “Mate, I dunno. I was born with a cunt, me mother said, ‘Must be a girl then,’ and when I was old enough to talk I informed her she was wrong. We fought about it until I reached puberty and got a moustache instead of monthlies, at which point she gave up fighting me. You know, your lovely wife didn’t ask nearly as many questions about this.”

“In fairness,” Amelia said, “I was drunk and didn’t want to risk putting you off sex.”

“A pragmatic attitude we can all admire,” Jim said. “One point for the manners of the nobility.”

“Sorry,” Tom said, “I’ve just never known anyone like you.”

“Oh, I’d bet good money you have,” Jim said, and the confident way he said that made Amelia think he in fact knew that for certain. “There’s more of us than you’d think. I’ll forgive you for getting distracted if you take off your clothes.”

Tom blushed, but began to unbutton his vest.

“I’d like to get out of these blasted stays this time,” Amelia said, and Jim turned her around to start helping her out of her dress. He certainly had practice undressing women, and she was down to her shift by the time Tom was naked.

Jim wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder. He said, “Our boy does make a pretty picture, doesn’t he?”

Amelia had to agree. She had never seen Tom naked before. She’d had her hands in his trousers and seen him with his sleeves rolled up, but this was something else. She knew, of course, that he was strong, for blacksmiths swung heavy iron about and did hard work in the forge, but she hadn’t quite realized how visible that would be. He was muscular, especially his shoulders and biceps. The hair on his forearms was interrupted here and there by little scars, mostly small burn marks. His chest was only lightly hairy, but a line of hair led the eye from his navel down to his pubic hair, out from which jutted his cock.

He put his fists on his hips. “Well?” he demanded, although he was still blushing.

“I love you,” Amelia said.

“Absurd,” Jim said in her ear. He kissed her on the cheek, took a step away from her, and pulled her shift over her head.

“It’s hardly fair for you to still be clothed,” she said.

“Too right,” Jim said. He was already unbuttoning his breeches. Amelia sat down on the bed to take off her boots and untie her garters. Tom sat next to her and distracted her by trying to help.

Jim threw himself onto the bed when he was naked, bouncing a bit from the force. He was much hairier than Tom, though the muscles he must surely have as a lifelong sailor were concealed by the softer curves of his body. He didn’t quite have breasts, but his chest was rounder than Amelia thought most men’s were. His hips weren’t nearly as broad as hers, but they weren’t as narrow as Tom’s, either. Amelia thought it would have been difficult to look at his body, even without a cock between his legs, and think him anything other than a man. For all that she hadn’t been fantasizing about what his legs would look like out of his breeches since she was a child, like she had with Tom, she certainly liked looking at him.

“Get down here,” he said, grinning. Amelia pushed Tom over, startling him. He rolled onto his side and kissed Jim again. Jim pulled him closer and set one hand on Tom’s arse. Amelia crawled over to his other side and ran her hands up his ribs. He shuddered under her touch and moaned into his kiss with Tom.

Tom pulled away and asked, “What did you just do?”

“Only touched his ribs,” Amelia said, mock-innocently, and pulled her hand back down his side. He moaned again. “Sensitive, isn’t he?”

“Two beautiful people just saved my life and asked to fuck me,” Jim said. “I’d be a fool not to enjoy myself.” Tom ran his hand down the other side of Jim’s torso. “Christ,” Jim said, arching his back.

Amelia let her hand drift down to the riotous tangle of hair between his legs. Jim’s legs spread as if automatically, though Amelia didn’t take her touch any further than the hair beneath his belly. “Kiss him again,” she said, and it didn’t matter who she was talking to. Jim pulled Tom down even as Tom lowered his head again, and as they kissed, Amelia ran her fingers down to Jim’s cunt proper. Again, he groaned into Tom’s mouth, and spread his legs even further. Amelia wasn’t surprised to find he was already slick; Tom had been hard when he got undressed and she’d been wet just thinking about this possibility. She wondered if he’d been thinking about it too.

“Did you think about this, Jim?” she asked. “When we bundled you onto this boat, did you think about having us both at the same time? I did.”

Tom pulled away enough to murmur, “Me too,” against Jim’s lips. Jim groaned again.

“Bloody of course I did,” Jim said. “Didn’t think it’d happen, but a man can dream. Thought I’d count myself lucky if you let me watch the two of you go at it.” Amelia let her fingers slip lower, down around his entrance. He gasped. “I said you were a bloody natural,” he said.

Tom looked down at what her hand was doing. “Oh,” he said. He watched for a few moments, as Amelia played with Jim’s folds and toyed with him, never quite either touching his clit or venturing inside him. He ran his hand up Jim’s ribs, and he lurched under their hands. Amelia giggled.

Jim reached under Tom and Tom twitched. From the angle she was at, Amelia could not see exactly what Jim was doing, but she had a pretty good guess.

“You’re young, Thomas,” Jim said. “How many times d’you think you can get it up in one go?”

“As many times as you want,” Tom gasped, and Jim laughed.

“So eager to please,” Jim said. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew, darling.”

“What, you don’t think the two of us can keep him going?” Amelia asked, tracing what was probably a very annoying route around Jim’s clit.

“Love, we could wring him dry, but then who would fuck us tomorrow?” Tom groaned, and dropped his head to the mattress. Amelia made another teasing dip around Jim’s opening and he moaned. “Me, on the other hand,” he said, “I’m not about to pass out and leave you in the lurch after I spend, so could you stop being such a bloody tease?”

Amelia laughed. “But I like those frustrated little moans,” she said.

“Thomas, it’s possible you’ve married a cruel woman,” Jim said. Then he gasped, as Amelia rubbed her fingers firmly over his clit.

“Clever hands, though,” Tom said as he lifted his head, and Amelia laughed once more. She finally slipped her fingers inside Jim’s cunt, and he threw his head back and groaned. Tom bent down to kiss his throat, and Amelia could feel how much Jim liked that by the way he clenched around her. Jim’s arm moved underneath Tom, and he made a noise against Jim’s throat. “I daresay your hands are fairly clever too,” he said, and Jim grinned.

Amelia nudged Jim’s legs apart and knelt between them, moving her fingers inside him the whole time. She skimmed her free hand up his side, from his hip to his ribs, and he once again shivered under her touch. His nipples drew up, and she wondered if they were as sensitive as hers were. She reached up and tweaked one, and he moaned again.

Apparently he was adept enough at multitasking, because it didn’t take long before Tom was gasping. “Jim,” he said, and then, “Oh God, Jim.” Amelia was not, as of yet, entirely familiar with all of Tom’s sexual behavior, but she thought it a safe bet he was coming. She supposed she had been right when he slumped down against Jim’s side immediately afterward.

While it was certainly fun to tease and get Jim to make those frustrated little moans–and she could imagine clearly enough now that it would be similarly enjoyable to see what frustrated sounds Tom made if she did something similar with him–Amelia did not actually wish to leave anyone in the lurch. However, her own cunt was clamoring for the sort of attention she was lavishing on Jim, and she thought it was quite possible she would go mad if she didn’t relieve a bit of the pressure.

She could, however, think of a solution that Jim would find pleasurable and free up at least one hand. She bent down and kissed Jim’s stomach below his navel, where it grew hairy once more. She lowered herself to her stomach, then drew her fingers out of him so she could hold him open so she could get her mouth past his wet curls of hair.

Jim’s hips jerked up to meet her when she pressed her face against him. “Oh bloody hellfire,” he said, “yes please.” God, but he was a ridiculous man. He certainly had idiosyncratic ideas about which niceties were worth paying attention to. Not that she objected; his choices at least seemed consistent and organized, if unorthodox.

With one hand successfully freed up, Amelia wedged it beneath herself. She was not surprised to discover she was intensely wet, and she did let out a satisfied noise against Jim’s clitoris as she finally achieved a suitable measure of stimulation.

“Christ,” Jim said somewhere above her. “Thomas, if you’ve still any interest in tonguing me, your wife would be a very capable teacher.”

“I see,” Tom said.

“C’mere,” Jim murmured. A quick glance up at them confirmed they were once again kissing, and Amelia lamented that she couldn’t continue her present occupation and watch them at the same time. However, just knowing what they were doing when she was so worked up already had enough of an effect that it wasn’t long before she had to pull away from Jim and rest her forehead on the bedspread to concentrate on her own pleasure. Knowing the only people who might overhear her would certainly be an appreciative audience, she let herself make the noises she had almost always heretofore suppressed. She found it rather elevated the experience, though it wasn’t as enjoyable as the noises Jim had made for her and Tom.

Her own satisfaction seen to, Amelia intended to go back to Jim’s cunt, but she instead found herself being tugged up to lie in between Tom and Jim. Tom took her face in his hands and kissed her, while Jim nipped at her neck and swung one of his legs over hers, so he could rub against her thigh. Pressed into the mattress like this, Amelia could feel it wasn’t quite as nice as she was used to. Still, she could hardly have had two naked men in her old bed. Tom’s mouth on hers and Jim straddling her leg certainly made the experience more fun, inferior mattress or no.

“Christ, but you’re gorgeous,” Jim said, leaning back. The shift in position put the slickness of his cunt fully on her thigh, and he rocked his hips a bit. Amelia would not have expected that to be particularly arousing.

“Truly,” Tom murmured, and looked down to Amelia’s chest. He was almost tentative, sliding his hand onto her breast to cup it in his palm. He was, she thought fondly, absolutely ridiculous, to still be shy at this point.

“I love you,” she told him.

“I should bloody hope so,” Jim said, making them all laugh. He leaned down enough to cup her other breast, hunching his back so he could continue to rock against her thigh.

“Would you like a hand?” Amelia asked him.

“I wouldn’t turn it down,” he said, panting a little. Being slightly more familiar with Jim’s behavior during sex, Amelia thought it likely he was close. She slid her hand underneath him, resting the back of her hand on her own sticky leg. He shuddered and closed his eyes. “Inside, if you would,” he said. She obliged, and he made a frankly obscene noise.

He did not take long to finish, and afterward, he collapsed onto her to press his face into her breast. Tom reached out and brushed a sweat-matted braid out of Jim’s face, which also made Amelia’s heart swell for some reason, because it was so tender.

“You do know how to show a man a good time,” Jim murmured, and pressed a kiss to Amelia’s breast.

“Two, even,” Tom said.

“Well, my tutors often said I was precocious,” Amelia said.

Jim rolled off of Amelia, onto his back on the bed, and stretched. “I know I talked a big game,” he said, “but possibly we shouldn’t let this ship just drift without supervision.”

“Possibly,” Amelia said.

Jim sat up and turned to face them, crossing his legs. “So,” he said, and bowed, with a large arm flourish to make up for the fact he was sitting down, “Captain Jim Piper, at your service. Where to?”

Tom barely glanced at Amelia before he grinned and said, “Wherever you want.”

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6 thoughts on “Take What You Can

  1. Wow, I have watched a certain movie enough times that I almost instantly un-filed your serial numbers, but I can’t be sad because this is such fun. Plus, let’s face it, a vast improvement in many ways — this is the pairing that taught me what an OT3 is and I very much enjoy your take on it! The sexy bits are great (and hot DAMN that is a good-looking pirate gent!), and I appreciate a sensible, non-flashy escape plan that is infinitely more practical than theatrical heroics.

  2. This was such a treat!! I love so much about it but especially the casualness that’s kind of everywhere- from the way they handle talking about sex, and then how they handle polyamorous inclination, to how Jim and Amelia treated Jim being trans/intersex and the way they all banter so comfortably, it’s absolutely wonderful. I especially loved how Jim talks about his own body, the kind of hand-wavy look, I’m here for the sex, can we get one with it feel is too good. It was also hot as fuck, which doesn’t hurt!!

  3. Sometimes the solution really is to just make a triad and sail off into the sunset. It’s that easy! Jim being so casual about being intersex, paired with Amelia and Tom’s respective reactions and how confident he looks in the illustration, gives this piece a light, breezy feel that could’ve gone very badly (the Admiralty DID want him dead, after all); instead it has the vibe of a quintessential summer popcorn movie, albeit with more sex than those usually get in the theatrical cut. No curses required, either! May they all live long and happy lives that hopefully don’t involve any amount of scurvy.

  4. I don’t want to think too seriously about what their next step will be, but all the more fun because of it.

  5. i enjoyed the chemistry between Jim and Amelia and I liked that Tom was on board too. the flow of this story was easy as well, and it was fun to follow along what would happen to everyone. thank you!

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