tagGay MaleThe Pirate King Ch. 18

The Pirate King Ch. 18

bynakamook©

First off, if you find yourself here without reading the first 17 chapters, I really recommend going back and checking those out. Don't worry, we're not going anywhere - we'll still be here when you get back. :)

Sorry for the long wait. Been trying to exist in this capitalistic society we live in and that takes time, and I joined a choir and that takes time, and winter has arrived where I live and that takes time while I try and make up for the happiness and energy the darkness takes. But at the end of the day we make time for what's important for us, and Ghost kept showing up in my dreams and staring me down for not resolving the conflict I had put him in. So.

Here we are, together again. And winter will end and the sun will come back and until it does, there are warm cups of tea and blankets to share with friends (or not to share with friends, blankets to steal and keep and hoard like precious things, like currency, like love). May your hot water kettle never run empty, may you have enough mugs for everyone and may the changing leaves fill you with the wonder of renewal, of resiliency, rather than the dread of the upcoming white. May you always remember that the trees are no less trees and are no less alive simply for the fact of their bare branches. They are concentrating on surviving; it's okay for us to do the same.

Peace and love and someone to keep you warm at night. A heartbeat for a pillow and breath as a lullaby. I love you all, I missed you. Take these words forward as you find your own song to sing you to sleep.


*****

I couldn't move for a long time, my stomach tied in knots so bad I found it impossible to pull my body from its tightly bound position. The Captain, the Captain, always binding me as he wished and I hated it, hated to feel this way for him, hated it because I knew he would be feeling so much worse and I had no way of making it better.

Eventually I managed to pull myself upright. How had this all gone so wrong? My body was falling to pieces; I was dead, I was dying once more, I was so close to being alive again and that was the one thing I could no longer be. I found myself in need of distraction, of company. Of return. And so I turned to the one place where there was always work, hard, repetitive work. I knew I would find no quarter there. I knew I might be able to recover some sense of myself.

What I did not expect to find as I turned the corner to enter the mess was the Captain.

He sat with his head in his hands across from the slight frame of Natch. His body set mine on fire, turned me to ice. He looked so tired, so.

I won't explain it. I can't describe him in such a state, could barely look and see him there, watched him not move at all as Natch reached out and placed his hand on his arm. Ached to be that touch, that comfort. Had I done that to him? Was this what truth looked like, lashed across the back of the man I loved?

I hated myself. I hated the things I had been and I hated the things I had become even more.

The Captain had his back to the door and so he did not immediately know that I had entered the room. Natch, however, saw me nearly at once. He drew back from the Captain as if afraid to be seen touching him, his mouth snapping shut and his body language shutting down. The Captain stiffened before him.

I froze, understanding that they must have been speaking of me. "I can go," I told them quietly.

The Captain rose, his eyes nowhere near my form. Without saying a word, without looking at me once, he turned and left the room. His body never came within six inches of mine.

I leaned against the door, unable to watch him go. Shaking.

"Gods, Ghost." Natch sat where the Captain had left him, eyes wide. "What the hell were you thinking?"

I couldn't do this, not now. I moved into the room and entered the kitchen, wanting to find onions, potatoes, anything I could destroy, to lose myself in tasks that had no real meaning. No beginning and no end. Cookie crossed his arms and frowned at my form as I hunted for knives.

"It's one thing to keep your past from him. You're entitled to that. But you know the way we talk about the King, you know the stories. Christ, Ghost. You've got to know what we say. What he's said, probably to you. And he doesn't know how much of it is true, doesn't know what you've done and what you haven't." He paused at the doorway. "Gods. I don't know what you might have done."

I ignored him. "Where are your knives?"

Cookie shook his head and leaned back against the counter.

"You do know what they say about you, right? The stories they tell, the men you've killed, the women." There was a brief pause. "The children."

I wanted him to shut up, never wanted to hear his voice again. Of course I knew what they said of me; I had heard the stories, had lived most of them myself. Had starred in many of them, in one way or another. Had been one of those very children of which he spoke. Of course I knew what they said; I had often been the first to have to hear it. "Give me the fucking knives," I snarled at Cookie.

"Think not," he replied calmly. I slammed a cabinet door and Natch flinched.

I pressed my head to the polished wood, hoping perhaps to press my frustration into the grain. "The stories are for shit," I told the cabinet. "The stories are stories. I am who I am and he should know that."

I wanted him to know that. But the stories weren't just stories and he should know that too - he had probably seen some of those stories born under Dreyfus, had perhaps taken his own starring role in some. I thought of him in my brother's hands and nearly ripped a cabinet's door from it's hinges.

"Ghost, you fucked up," Natch told me. My stomach roared, my chest, my lungs. "You should have told him this to begin with. God, it looks like you're using him just to get to the fucking - "

I turned my eyes to him and watched as he drew back. Good. He should be afraid of me. All of these land boys should be afraid of me. Why had I tempered the things that I was, why had I kept myself contained for their sakes? Hidden my past, my nature, the shadow of my names. Let them quake before me; let them die in my wake if they couldn't keep up. "Do you truly believe," I told Natch now, letting my voice be seawater, feeling the way it left my body like mist, "that I need help to find my revenge? That I, I, need something so paltry, so insignificant, as a ship to travel through this world?"

Better, he had wanted me to be. Better, I had wanted me to be. This was better. This was safer. Let my body turn to nothing but storms and white-capped waves if the Captain would not have me. I could not feel pain as a thousand crashing atoms of salt and a million churning molecules of water. I could not be turned away as the everlasting sea. Before me, Natch shrunk back, fear in his eyes and his body shaking.

"Lad." I turned and crashed up against the rock that was Alan. I barely noticed as Natch scrambled from the room, released from my attention, fear making his exist clumsy and fast. "My vegetables."

I felt a bump at my feet and looked down to see onions, displaced from their homes as the ship listed under the sudden wind that had come to be at my side. I watched impassively as they tapped at my legs in silent entreaty. Tap, tap. Tap.

"Lad," Alan said again.

I sighed and concentrated on the wind. Soon I felt it lessen, knew the ship to be righting. Knew my world was not so easily fixed.

"The Captain is everything," I told the onions. My voice was shaking. Everything was shaking. "The Captain is the only thing I care about."

"My boy." Cookie laid a hand on my shoulder. I looked up to see his hand holding out a knife. "I know."

I bent down to pick up the onion, took the knife, and went to work.

***

I served the food that night for dinner as I had so many other times. The ship was tense; they might not know exactly what was happening, but they could tell something was wrong.

They were nobodies. I stood in the kitchen and waited for my Captain.

I could not eat, my stomach hurt so bad. Instead I sat in the kitchen, my eyes tight against the counter top.

It was a long meal.

I wiled the time away with daydreams, fervent wishes that I had been born a different being, that I had never been the King, never taken onto my father's ship and made the things that I was but as soon as I thought it I took it back because then I would not have met my Captain, and then I wished that I had never been born at all, that I had died like so many other children in the hold of that dark ship, that I had drowned at sea in my birth but that had the same result and so I could not wish it, not truly, for perhaps the Captain would be better without me but I, I could not imagine a world where I had never been given the chance to be with him.

Chance, opportunity. Fate. I had never been given an option of who to be. I moved past wishes and turned sour; I cursed the turnings that I called fate, I cursed prophecies and fathers and family and the sea, I cursed my wretched inclination towards the taciturn and every part of me that I could think to pick apart from the rest.

In the end, none of it mattered, because the Captain did not come to dinner.

Dinner ended in it's own time, my body vibrating with unresolved tension. As the men filtered from the room I moved about, cleaning up and clearing spaces with the energy I carried. Most men left quickly, unwilling to tempt the things that I might be. It was a decision that did not register to me in that moment; of course they would leave. Of course they would fear me. Had I not wanted this, cultivated this so many times in so many places? I carried pain so close to my chest it puffed from my nostrils and soured the air.

As I stacked the last of the bowls, I noticed Natch and Sneg standing in conference. I paid them only the briefest moment of attention, and only then because they had not run like the others, before turning my back and returning the to comforting closed space the kitchen provided.

I was surprised when Natch walked up to the counter. No, not surprised, for I did not have the capacity for surprise at that time, so filled was I with other things. But I would have been lying if I said I had expected it. Natch might not be afraid of ghosts, but he had certainly learned to fear the sea. I ignored him and continued with the dishes.

"Ghost."

The dishes stacked neatly, satisfactorily. Behind me, I could hear Natch shift. "Ghost."

"That isn't my name." My voice came out sharper than I intended, cut through the space like Val's cold winds. Brothers, I thought sourly. Family.

"I know. I mean, of course it isn't, but -"

"I have no names." I stared down at the bowl in my hand.

"Would you rather he call you Your Majesty?"

I whipped around to find Sneg flanking the small blonde boy; so they had decided that reinforcements were necessary. Didn't trust Natch alone with me, with the things I carried, with the past I held in two hands like a bowl, like something that someone else had crafted but still fit so well in my grasp and what if the things they saw within me were true, what if I was the product of my past and the stories and at that thought I considered throwing the bowl I held at their head. I thought about sending my oceans to clean out the things living within their soul that seemed to be able to see me better than I had ever been able to see myself.

Sneg must have seen what I held in my eyes, on my skin. They always could, always would be able to. But rather than turning away, they moved into the room. "Just saying."

It was pointless to be so angry at anyone but myself. Sneg had done nothing. I sighed and put down the bowl. "I'm dead," I told them. How many times had I told them this? How was it possible that they had never understood, that I was dead, that the King was gone, that that life was over?

"I know." Sneg hoisted themself up so that they sat on the counter, booted feet dangling. "But your death doesn't negate the life that you lead."

"Ghost." I leaned forward at the sound of Natch's voice, my weight on my hands, my back to the coming words; why would these two not leave me be? "You need to go and talk to him."

"He does not want to see me." This was true. It was apparent in the way he had left the room when I had entered, in the way he had not come to dinner. The look in his eyes...

"He's confused. I told you before, he doesn't know what to think."

I stared down at the counter. How had this come to mean so much? Was it possible it was I who did not understand my death?

"Ghost," Natch prompted.

"I don't know what to tell him," I admitted. "I don't understand."

Natch opened his mouth, but it was Sneg who answered. "Then go and ask him."

And there it was. So simple, so easy, and the hardest option in the world because it would take me back to him and I would have to see him, be in the same room as him, look him in the eyes and watch as he looked back...

"I do not know if I can," I told Sneg quietly.

Sneg shrugged as they hopped down from the counter. "That's up to you." They collected Natch on the way out the door, looking calm and casual but I saw the way they never fully turned their back to me, I watched how their eyes never left my form and I hated it, hated the things I had become to them and the way they felt they had to live, "but if you want to be with him you're gonna have to have these conversations at some point. Talk to him and maybe it doesn't get better, or don't and it never will. It's your choice."

I stood in the kitchen for a long time after they left, surrounded by onions and silence.

***

I had never before felt such anxiety from something so insignificant as a door.

I stared at it, willing it to give me some hint of what might lay behind. Was the Captain distressed? Frozen with sorrow, or anger, or some other emotion I could not even imagine? Was he even in the room? Could I do this?

I shook my head. It was just a door; it held no answers for me. I put my hand on the knob and prepared to enter.

Before I could, my body froze. What was I doing? Walking in like this was foolish, was more than rude. Might startle him. My mind brought up the way his fingers had once searched for a knife even as I tried to turn away from the thought.

I never wanted to see him take that form in front of me again.

So should I knock? To enter my own room? To enter his room, I reminded myself, but it was still mine and I did not know what to do, did not know what was right only knew that what I was doing was wrong, again, and I couldn't afford to be wrong again, and so I stood there trying to decide what to do until the door yawned open beneath my hand throwing my rapidly spinning brain to a crashing, beautiful, Captain filled halt.

Because the doorway was filled with the Captain. And I, I was filled with him, his scent, the sight of his dark eyes wide with surprise, the way his shirt fell open and revealed to me his chest, his skin, his beauty...

He took a step back, a small one it was true but still a space was created and I.

I looked away.

"Oh." His voice was so sterile. "It's you."

I waited for him to say something else.

He did not.

"Can we talk?" I asked quietly.

"I was on my way somewhere." That sterile voice, this distant man...

"Please." I couldn't look at him, not like this. Not when so many other versions of him pressed up against the back of my eyes. "I need to speak with you."

The Captain snorted, an ugly sound that made me wince, but he stepped back and gestured for me to enter the room. I moved through the space he made for me carefully, acutely conscious at every moment where his body was, how close he was to me, how far, the way he held his muscles like he was about to fight...

"So, what was it you wanted to talk about?" he asked as soon as the door was closed. His voice was calm but sharp, and it made me instantly nervous. Before I could answer he was speaking again. His back was to me, his hand still on the door handle. "You, of all people. Come here to talk. As if that's something you do now, as if this were your idea. Come on, Sailor. You, wanting to talk." He turned to me then, and I shrunk back under the ferocity of his gaze. "Don't make me laugh."

He swung across the room then, a ship in full sail, a beautiful and powerful and dangerous thing, my Captain, my love, the whole of the night sky and I watched him and ached and wished, and all if it was useless because I had never before seen him so angry and I had never before felt so lost.

"Well." He grabbed a bottle from his bedside table as he passed it, his movements loose and yet so punctuated I flinched. "Take a seat. Let's talk." With that, he threw himself down on the chest Val had packed for us, bottle in hand, his back against the wall.

I stared at the bottle. Where had he gotten it? Who had brought rum aboard? I watched as he brought the bottle to his lips and felt my heart begin to race, my stomach turn. A hand reached out on its own, reaching for - but it closed on air, I had wanted it to close on the Captain, or on the bottle, but I couldn't do anything I was useless, I was nothing, I was the sea eternal I was the ever-present ocean I was the grey foam that flecked the decks of every ship and the storms that chose which men lived and died, I was all of that and more, I was everything and the world knew my names even in my death for fear of losing them and here, here I was helpless. In the face of this, in this room. I was helpless.

I drew in a breath before my body could betray me with noise, pulling back my hand as steadily as I knew how. I found that it refused to stay calm, that traitorous hand, that it knew it's place in the Captain's where that bottle now sat and so refused to listen as I told it to remain here with me. I wrapped my other hand around it hard and hoped it would soon forget.

"What do you want to talk about," the Captain was saying. His words felt like the edge of barnacles against my skin, his voice like water leaving my lungs, like life given when I had not asked for such a thing back. "Do you want to talk about how you didn't tell me that you used to be the fucking King? Cuz that's just, I mean. The King, Sailor. Want to talk about how we spoke of the King, how you deliberately talked around the truth like you were hiding this from me? The stories I told you. The stories you told me. I mean. The fucking King." He held up his bottle like he was giving a toast, the twist in his mouth mirrored by my stomach.

"Or, okay, want to talk about the brother you've got on the islands, how he seems to know everything that's going on? Knows more about my fucking past than I ever told you, which is just fucking rich, just fucking fantastic seeing as I don't know shit about you. I'm wondering, I gotta wonder, did you tell him to spy on me or is that just something he does? Keeps tabs on all your lovers for you. Or am I special?"

My hands were tight. My stomach tighter. The room felt like it was shrinking, as if soon it would be nothing but sharp words and the Captain and anger in such a small space I would suffocate.

"Or would you rather talk about the brother you apparently have at sea? Gotta say, great fucking family you've got there. Or oh, how about the fact that every time I look at you, every fucking time I see your fucking face I can't not think about the man who fucked me up so bad I ran, I fucking ran because he was going to kill me, Sailor, he already made me dead. Wanna talk about that? The one you call brother. The one you made me believe I would be able to kill. You wanna talk about that?"

My knuckles were so white. I could not look anywhere but at them, did not dare look up at the Captain.

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