The Pirate King Ch. 23

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May your love upend the universe.

I love you, I missed you, it is good to be back. Long live the King; Hail, for the King will never die.

*****

The sunlight broke like glass across the Captain’s skin.

It had traveled so far and done such work to arrive here. It had passed through the eternities of space, through eons of darkness. Through clouds and rain and overtook the night sky. And so when it found its path blocked by the body of a man that should been nothing but a memory, but a ghost, that should have been nothing at all, it did not bother to change its directory but instead looked to strike through his form.

It should have known better. Is sunrise also not that most impossible of things? But I suppose it had struck through the sky so many times before and thought this would be no different.

It broke like glass. Like dreams. Like sun on water, refracting and falling under our feet as the Captain stepped forward and I do not think he even noticed as tiny, bright shards sprinkled past his skin and caused the earth around us to become sharp.

We were sharp. We were the sea, and the sun, and the wind that skipped between the two and caught up in our mouths tasting of salt. We were intricately connected and vastly, wonderfully known.

It took us an eternity to move across the beach, my soul crying out for the touch of the sea. I was parched, burning under the volcanic sky and my sister’s gaze. I wanted us gone from this place. I wanted us home. But the Captain was fresh in his body, his power, the world bending around him in ways it could not name but that we all now fully understood and he stepped through it’s weave. Look, I wanted to cry. I’ve been saying this for months now. I’ve ached for this for years. Look at this man and ache with me, ache for all the ways in which he is wondrous.

Wondrous, and in my arms. I held my love and felt him breathe.

When we reached the part of the beach where the sand was dual, where it was firm beneath your feet but let you sink with the slightest crest of water, he paused. I paused with him.

“I’m sorry.” His dark eyes roved over the world. My arm held his body upright. “I’m not ready.”

I knew. I could feel it in the way his soul tugged at mine, at the sky, how the sky tugged back. How the edges of his body became blurred with the concentration of form. There was no need for him to be sorry; he had been reborn. He was here, and he was with me. How could he possibly have anything to apologize for?

I pulled his body before me, wrapping my arms around his chest, then sank our entwined form to the sand. We were so close to the sea that it hardly made a difference, except, of course, that it did. My arms held him close. Our feet were kissed by the ocean, again and again. I felt him breath against me.

We waited there, in that transition place. The sand sinking us lower and and lower with each wave. The stars above us winking us closer and closer to infinity.

“Did I do that?” I kissed the skin behind his ear rather than look up to the repairing sky. He knew the answer. He had felt the greeting leap from his body the same as I had. We had laughed and laughed and laughed.

My fingers explored the the skin of his stomach, feeling it rise and fall with his breath. His body was warm, his skin so alive. Wondrous. My lips touched lightly against the warmth of his neck, tangling in his hair.

“Should I fix it?”

I laughed into his neck. To be back with my Captain, ever responsible, ever in charge. “The sky can take care of itself.”

He pulled away from my laughter, turning to look at me. “I’m being serious, Sailor. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing right now.”

I had nothing to say. His face had struck me dumb. His furrowed brow wondrous his eternal eyes wondrous those curved, perfect lips…

“I don’t even know what I am,” he said, and the fear in his voice pulled me back. He was looking down at his hands. If you looked close enough, if you paid very close attention, you could see the lightest ghost of a tattoo twined around his right wrist. It looked like shadows dancing on the bottom of a crystal clear sea, if only those shadows had intention. My hand traveled down his arm until it was my skin that covered his vision, our twining that took up his attention. He sighed and leaned his head back against my neck. “I’m different,” he said, and his voice was quiet, and his eyes were cast down.

Had I not known this man forever? I think I’m in love with the sky, I’d told my brother. When I had seen him across the deck of his ship that first time, his hair had caught the sunlight, held it, tossed it back as something brighter. The gravity of everything he held had drug me across the rocking boards to his feet. “You’re as you’ve always been,” I said, and I was certain in my words.

But he was not convinced. “I died, Sailor. I died, I came back, and now I’m…what?”

His hesitation smelled like darkness. Like stale ocean floor. denizli escort “You’re here,” came my reply, fast and with more force that perhaps I intended.

His eyes were soft as they met mine. He wrapped an arm around my shoulder until I cradled him, until we formed a small world of our own, a space to gather words that no one else might find. “I know, my love. I am. And I’m not going to leave you again.”

I felt his words land between us, felt them melt into my skin. Knew them to be true. The last of the tightness I had been carrying with me these last three days began to unknot.

“But I did die,” the Captain continued. “And now I can…” his eyes tracked up to where night sky broke through the afternoon sun. “I couldn’t do that before.”

The loosening in my stomach was leaving me untied, exhausted. The terror I had felt, the rage, it had been the only thing carrying me forward. Now that he had laid it to rest I could feel myself come adrift. In his arms my undoing became a lazy feeling, one of warmth and comfort. “You always could do this.”

“Maybe. But I didn’t know I could.”

“That doesn’t make you a different person. That only means you’ve learned something.”

It didn’t mullify him completely, but he at least accepted it as an answer. “Alright,” he said, the smile I loved so much tugging at his lips. My soul was melting against his, the ocean lapping, kissing, tugging at our feet. “If you’re so smart, why don’t you tell me what I am?”

Wondrous, I thought. You are wondrous. My head came down to rest on his, our eyes locked. “You are the sky,” I told him. He shivered as my words washed over him, wet and expansive. “And you are you. And they sky is the sky, and it is also you.” How hard could it be? How complex could anything be, when he was here, his limbs his lungs his skin held within my trembling arms. I felt his heart beat against my skin. “And I missed you,” I said, unnecessarily.

“Fuck,” he breathed. I closed my eyes at the sound of his voice. “I fucking missed you too, Sailor.”

I don’t think he meant for those words to hurt. It was the tone of them, perhaps, or the need for them at all, that caused them to affect me so. Perhaps it was simply that I had missed him so much and he was here, finally here, his breath his skin his soul and the hurt in his voice stuck in my soul like fishhooks as I picked him up and carried him into the water, and there, on my knees in the sea, we wrapped our limbs around each other and cried.

***

When we had kissed the tears from each others faces, when our bodies were convinced of each others’ solidity, when our souls comforted the rest of our beings with the truths they held of stars, of oceans, of things that had always been and would always be, then and only then did we begin the long swim back to the ship.

I could not have made the swim by myself, my body as unraveled as it was. But the Captain had only just returned from the bottom of the ocean; his lungs burned through oxygen as though it was nonessential. When I asked if he would be able to swim us both back to the ship his first response was to laugh and his second to begin.

I had thought I would carry him from the underworld. He pulled me onto his back and swam me, exhausted, empty, back to our home.

The sea was a balm to my parched soul. I was complete for the first time in days; the Captain, here, the sea, here. I was what I was meant to be. I sang lullabies I’d learned from selkies soft in the Captain’s ear the whole journey back to the ship.

They dropped a shuttle boat for us, a hoist to return our exhausted forms back to the deck. It was good that they did; no matter how energized the Captain was, no matter how much sky he held compressed in his beautiful chest, I do not think he would have been able to carry my waterlogged form all the way up the vertical side of the ship.

Natch was waiting in the shuttle for us. His small hands scrabbled over our backs, pulling us over the side and onto the rocking floor of the small vessel. I did not try to get up from where I was laid. I felt the boat solid beneath me; I looked up to the patchwork sky.

Natch was openly crying, tears streaming down his face. The Captain reached out for him, his arm moving faster than either party was expecting. Natch flinched and the Captain froze, his arm half extended. A look something like pain on his face.

“Natch,” the Captain said carefully. He spoke around the space his movement had created. “You look exhausted.”

“I’m sorry.” Natch was speaking to me. It was hard to focus on his words; salt was crusting at my eyes and making it hard to keep them open. “I couldn’t do what you asked.”

“Natch,” the Captain repeated. He dropped his arm, slowly. “It’s alright. You did well.”

There was a moment, then Natch launched himself at my love. “I’m so glad you’re back,” I heard him say. His words slipped down the Captain’s chest to gather with the antalya escort salt water at my back. “I’m so glad you’re back.”

I closed my eyes and let it all turn to salt.

***

They thought I was dead when we reached the deck.

They saw the Captain, alive, and my body, prone, and drew the conclusion that a deal had been met. My life for the Captain. A one-for-one trade.

I’m told that some of the men mourned. I’m told some of them rejoiced. They all should have had better sense. You cannot trade away the life of a man who is already dead.

It took the better part of an hour to get everyone calmed down. Then it took the Russian, Ichor, and Thron to carry me to the Captain’s room, where I was put to bed. And there I slept.

And I dreamt.

I dreamt of red sails, of white flags and black skulls. I dreamt of standing at a table, facing a sea monster that wore a crown and called himself King. He handed me a knife. When the strongest remains the seamonster tells me. There is a place set for me at the table; the napkin is black with blood. There can only be one. The sea monster is pointing to a shadow next to me, but I don’t want to turn. If I looked then I would know who it was. If I saw their face, it would be harder to kill them.

Don’t you want to make your father proud the monster asks me, and I didn’t, I don’t, but his hands hold death and I don’t want it to be mine. The knife in my hands is covered in blood.

Take your seat at my table, my father commands. I shake my head. Do what you are meant to do he thunders. I am so small, so small; he fills the room, leaves no space for me. I have no choice. I turn to do what I am told.

My own body lays beside me, eyes blank. Throat slit. I reach up to my neck and feel the sticky warmth of blood.

My father is laughing. I am choking, drowning. I can taste sea water and blood. My brother has put my arms in metal and I cannot get out, the barnacles are biting at my back and the sea is inside of me, blood is filling my hands, I am unable to scream as my father laughs and laughs and laughs…

***

I awoke with a start. It took me a moment to find my bearings; my hands, free, my throat, intact. My father dead. A nightmare, then. It had all been a nightmare. Within the back of my mind I found the foggiest of memories of spells, and shadows, and the cold corpse of my love – but I dismissed such thoughts. They were too painful to be true. More nightmares, I thought. How could they be anything but? I had promised none would hurt him. My form had stood at his side.

All the same, my stomach held an emptiness where there should be contentment. Without looking I spidered my fingers over to my Captain’s side of the bed, seeking the comfort of his warmth.

The Captain’s side of the bed was cold.

Fear made me fast, the sheets tangling in my legs as I whipped my body in search of him and as I did I felt it in my muscles, my bones, my soul, the exhaustion of three days no food no sleep no Captain and it hadn’t been a dream at all, he had truly died I had lost him and the pain of it all crashed over me again with such weight that I cried out.

“I’m here, I’m here.” The Captain was there in a flash; he must have been sitting somewhere else in the room keeping watch. I pulled his body as close to mine as I could, dragging him towards me. He half fell, half climbed into the bed as I wrapped my arms around him. My face was buried in his hair; my fingers were tight on his back. I breathed him in, again and again.

“My love.” His voice was muffled, my ears covered, his mouth behind me. “I’m right here. It’s alright.”

I could feel my body shaking against him, my soul threatening to fall apart. I let it, piece by piece, allowed my form to slip until the Captain held only the churning waves, a quaking ocean. He would be able to hold all of me, he would keep me from spilling out and becoming lost. He would keep me safe.

His breath was my tides. I settled into it’s rhythm; in, out, in, out. The Captain passed his hand over my waters and I shuddered, waves reaching for every shore.

“Love,” he murmured. I built a sea floor from his word, used it to contain the things I had become. Watched as life grew from and around it. His arms held everything; his breathing was the only time I knew.

I don’t know how long I laid there, encompassed by the universe of my love. He let me be, collapsed and expanded and untethered. I was not ready to carry the things I felt compressed in the body of a man, and I think he understood that. He held the ocean and rocked it gently to peace.

But the ocean cannot feel the skin of the man he loves pressed up against his. It cannot kiss his lips, or twine his hair around his fingers until it is knotted and he is angry. The ocean cannot say I love you. I slowly pulled my waters back into my soul, felt them protest at the boundaries and groan against barriers. Felt the anxiety of izmir escort loss sit heavy and thick in my chest. And I felt my Captain’s arms tighten around my shoulders, his lips pressing against my forehead.

I sighed against him, feeling how my breath gathered there between our forms. His hand ran over my back again and again, until he had pressed the last of the ocean from my skin and I was again solid.

“I love you,” he whispered. I returned his words to him in clutching fingers and an embrace so tight it made him squeak. He endured it for longer than I thought, then gently pushed at my shoulders, asking for space. I reluctantly acquiesced.

“You’re shaking,” he told my forehead. I ignored him in favor of listening to his heartbeat. But he was insistent, gently pulling at my hair until I tilted my head back to meet his gaze.

His eyes, oh, his eyes. I could lose myself in the eternity of his eyes. He frowned down at me, beautifully framing his dark gaze with worried eyebrows. “You need to eat something.”

I looked up at him. My words were still lost somewhere in the sea, in my love, in his eye. He searched my face for a long time before reaching down and gently tracing his finger over my cheek. I leaned into his touch, my eyes half closed.

“Come here,” he all but whispered. I let him pull his body however he wanted, and he moved me until I lay cradled in his arms like a babe. He took a bowl from the nightstand and gave it to me, his hands covering mine.

“Eat,” he urged.

I ate slowly. Three days of hunger sat painful in my stomach, making it difficult to have more than a few bites at a time. The Captain was patient with me, sitting behind me and letting me take my pace.

During one of my longer breaks, he shifted behind me. “Cookie told me that you didn’t eat for three days.”

I nodded, eyes on the bowl. His fingers snuck around my wrist and traced along the inner skin, both raising my hairs and making me feel completely at peace.

“Is that how long it took us to get up here? Three days?” I nodded again. He sighed against my back. “That’s what the crew said, but I wasn’t sure if I should believe them. The crew had a lot of crazy shit to say about the time I was gone.” The sudden memory of that time caught my limbs like a seizure, causing me to freeze with a new spoonful halfway to my mouth. “They said you locked yourself away and only let Cookie in. That you got the ship to the North in three days on spells and witchcraft, hiding out in the bowels of the ship. That even Natch was afraid of you.” I stared down at the food before me. The familiar, awful sound of my stories falling from others’ lips was turning into something living in my stomach. I twisted my body slightly to contain it. “I asked about the missing men. They said it was you that killed them, threw them from the ship. As offerings to a dark god.”

The thing in my stomach was trying to claw it’s way out of my mouth. I forced other words around it. “I would have lost you.” They came out muffled, misshapen. “They tried to throw your – I needed you. They would not listen.”

“How hard did you try?”

“Love.” The Captain pulled back at the expression on my face. At the fear bursting from my lips, unwilling to be contained. “I could not lose you.”

We both sat in silence for a moment. I had accidentally spoken my soul to him; it dripped from his face, landing on my lips. I watched him, frightened, resolute, as the taste of the three days I had spent without him returned to my tongue.

And then he leaned down and kissed me.

His kiss tasted like loss, like sorrow, like the kind of pain you don’t have words to describe. It tasted like rage and despair and a single path forward. It tasted like fate. It tasted like resolution in the face of such a thing. I see you, the kiss said. I understand you pain because it is my own. You are not alone in this, and you will never have to feel that way again.

Most of all, the kiss tasted like home.

When the kiss ended, I turned and set the bowl on the side table. He frowned and made to grab it again; I pushed it back. My body was turning around, my need to face him, be with him stronger than anything else this world could hold. I wrapped my arms around his neck, my legs straddling his. I saw the mix of concern and lust sitting on his face and leaned down to kiss him.

He pushed me away. “What are you doing?”

His worried brows frowned up at me. I fell into his eyes, again and again. “Fuck me.”

More lust than concern now. Still, he held back. “You’re too weak. You’ve barely eaten in -“

“Please.” The edge in my voice cut through the last of his concerns. I needed him, needed him closer than just laying here would allow. I began to slowly move my hips against his and felt his hands travel up the outside of my thighs to land on my hipbones. He watched me, silent, lips slightly parsed. His eyes endless. “Fuck me,” I begged.

A small noise passed through his lips and then I was falling, my body pushed back by strong hands that grabbed at my wrists and pinned me against the bed as

“And Sailor.” He caught my chin in his hand, roughly made me look him in the eye. Notes of concern still lingered in the back of the stars there. “If you pass out on me, I’m going to be very displeased.”

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