Chapter 2: Cabin Boy

Sebastian had arrived with nothing save the clothes on his back, which had been dull and plain enough. Luke loved dressing up fine, showing himself off to best effect, but Sebastian seemed to have no notion of how to do the same. From the start, Luke had shared his clothes freely with the boy, yet he frowned at the combinations Sebastian put together: a waistcoat that did not match a shirt, a belt slung too high or too low, and the wrong colour neckerchiefs for his skin.

“God’s beard, Sebastian, for a beautiful boy you have no sense of how to dress yourself to best effect!” Luke announced one day, upon seeing Sebastian in a motley array of garments that Luke would never have put together.

“You are the strangest pirate in the world, to care so much about your apparel!” Sebastian retorted.

“I like to make the best of myself. You could learn from me,” Luke chided. It was true – Luke spent a fair amount of coin on new items of clothing whenever he was back in port. He loved the swish of a fresh cloak, or the fit of a new red waistcoat, loose shirt, or tight britches. He had two pairs of long, leather boots that fitted him true as he’d had them made to his feet.

He took hold of Sebastian’s shoulder and stood him in front of the mirror in his cabin.

“Look at how clothes can be put together. Not just pulled on anyhow, but made to work pleasingly in unison,” he said, dressing his boy in a white shirt with a blue waistcoat that matched the colour of his eyes. “See how good this looks on you?”

Sebastian laughed at his reflection. “I see it when you do it. I cannot see it for myself,” he said. Luke sighed. This would clearly be the work of more than one lesson, and maybe it was a skill the boy would never learn.

As the weeks passed, Luke noticed his cabin boy was better at some of his duties than others. Sebastian was never less than enthusiastic and inventive in bed, and he was sweet and willing to help on deck, but he was hardly attentive to his captain’s cabin. He preferred climbing the rigging to tidying. Luke had always been a neat man, yet now he was sharing his cabin with Sebastian it was the messiest it had ever been. Sebastian would drop his shirts on the floor, leave his boots where he’d removed them, and scatter pots of medicine all over the table. One evening, Luke tripped over a pile of old plates Sebastian had failed to clear away. He fell against the table, scraping his thigh, and exploded in rage.

“Boy!” he yelled. “You are failing in your duties!”

Sebastian scrambled off the bed where he’d been reading one of Luke’s old books, and rushed over to him. “You’re right, captain.” He scrabbled around on the floor, picking up the plates. “I’m sorry!” He took the plates and left them outside the door, then returned, his eyes downcast. “You should punish me, sir,” he said, standing, ashamed, in front of Luke.

“Hmm. I should. No rum for a week!” Luke snapped.

“I think I deserve worse.” Sebastian placed his hands on Luke’s waist and fingered his leather belt. “A few slaps from this might set me to rights?”

Luke stared at him, a familiar heat rising in the pit of his belly. He’d noticed Sebastian’s fascination with his belt before. Now he sensed there was something here that might please them both.

“A few slaps?” he growled, placing his hand on the buckle. “If I take my belt to you, I’ll decide how many licks you take, not you.”

Sebastian’s eyes glowed, spurring Luke on; he undid the buttons on his shirt sleeves slowly, one by one, then carefully folded them to the elbow. Then he undid the buckle of his belt and removed it from around his waist with one long, slow swoosh.

Sebastian’s eyes were wide, his gaze fixed on the belt. “Please, go easy on me, sir,” he said, in a throaty kind of voice.

“I don’t think I will.” Luke reached out his free hand and grabbed Sebastian by the arm, then in one smooth move he placed his foot on a nearby chair and pulled Sebastian over his knee. Sebastian gave a gasp of shock, but before he had time to recover Luke pulled his britches down to his knees, exposing his fine white arse. He could feel Sebastian’s cock, half hard against his thigh, and that made him smile. Sebastian played a dangerous game, but the devil take him if he thought he could outsmart Luke. He’d get what he wanted… and then some.

Luke doubled over the belt and rested it against Sebastian’s buttocks.

“Count,” he instructed, drawing back his hand. He brought the belt down with a sharp whack on Sebastian’s backside. He paused, a thrill coursing through him to see Sebastian flip like a fish caught on the line. A red stripe appeared on his white bottom. His mark. Luke had placed his mark on his boy. It filled him with a sense of pride and possession such as he’d never felt before. “I said count!” he bellowed.

“One!” Sebastian choked out. Luke slapped him again, harder this time, making Sebastian squawk. “Please! Sir, it hurts so much!”

“As it should.” Luke put his arm around the boy and pulled him in close to keep him in position. “Count!” he commanded. “Don’t make me ask you again, or I’ll give you double!”

“Two,” Sebastian whimpered, but his cock was now as hard as rock against Luke’s thigh.

Luke spanked him hard for the next few minutes, turning his pale bottom bright red and hot. Sebastian gasped and panted his way through the count, occasionally begging for a mercy that Luke suspected he did not wish to be granted.

Luke was sure he’d know when the boy had endured enough, for he felt so keenly attuned to him. There was a warm glow that flowed from Sebastian to him and back again. When that glow was white hot, Luke threw the belt to one side, pushed Sebastian over the table, and seized his buttocks. Sebastian let out a strangled cry, which Luke ignored. He grabbed the oil and slicked his fingers into Sebastian’s dark heat, then pushed himself inside, longing for the blessed tightness of his boy’s hole. There was something even more blissful about entering his boy this time, feeling his flaming arse cheeks against his belly as he fucked him hard. When at last he finished and allowed Sebastian to stand, he saw the cheeks on his face were as rosy as those on his rear.

“You thought to play me,” Luke said, wiping away the boy’s tears. “I hope you learned your lesson.”

Sebastian gazed at him from heavy-lidded eyes, an expression of worship on his face. Then he sank to his knees and kissed each of Luke’s boots. “I did. Thank you, sir,” he whispered.

Luke petted his hair gently. “Keep the cabin tidy,” he ordered. “If you want a dose of my belt, then I’ll give it to you, with pleasure, but I like a tidy cabin.”

Sebastian looked up at him with a wry grin. “I think you have the measure of me, sir,” he said.

Thereafter, their cabin was always spotless… save for those occasions where Luke returned to find a single dirty plate left on the floor. Then his hands went to his belt, and his naughty cabin boy would smile and squeal as he was slung over his captain’s knee and whipped until he begged for mercy.

They fell into an easy routine. Some nights they would eat on the deck with the crew, but most times they ate alone in their cabin. Sebastian liked to talk – about the crew, the ship, the books he’d read, the lands he’d visited, the stars in the sky – about anything and everything. Luke had never known such a talkative boy, and he loved it. He liked making Sebastian laugh with a joke, and to see him nod, thoughtfully, with an insight. He liked the easy way they talked, back and forth, sometimes for hours on end without stopping. Sebastian was a fascinating boy, and Luke yearned to know more about him.

“How do you know so much?” he asked, one night. “You are young to have read so many books and travelled to so many places.”

Sebastian’s blue eyes were as deep and unfathomable as the sea. “I started young,” he murmured. “My family…” he paused, and his eyes were suddenly wet. “They left me when I was a child. I don’t know why. One day they were there, loving me as if I was the most precious thing in the world, and the next they were gone – and I was alone.” Luke’s breath caught in his throat. He placed a hand over Sebastian’s, and squeezed. “I went where the mood took me after that,” Sebastian said. “I learned to read and write. I travelled the world, making friends along the way.”

“You ran away to sea?” Luke asked, keenly.

“You could say that,” Sebastian replied, glancing away.

“And what of your uncle?” Luke asked.

“Who?” Sebastian frowned.

“Your uncle in England – the apothecary who paid for your passage there?”

“Ah yes. My uncle. I did not know about him for a long time… but he made… enquiries about me, found me, and sent me my fare.” Sebastian waved a hand around, airily.

“Can you settle to life on the land after so many adventures around the world?” Luke wondered.

“I don’t know. I suppose I’ll find out,” Sebastian said.

“Or…” Luke hesitated. “You could stay?”

“Hmm.” Sebastian pulled his hand away.

Luke felt an old bitterness roil inside him. “Or go. It’s all the same to me,” he said brusquely.

Sebastian rested his hand in Luke’s once more. “It’s a tempting offer. Oh, my captain, it would be so easy to stay here and let you love me. I can see all too clearly how that would turn out. A man as fine as you… “

“But your uncle waits for you. I understand. You have kin who need you,” Luke said shortly. He found that a more agreeable reason than the fear he might not be man enough to make Sebastian change his plans.

Sebastian put his head on one side, gazing at him thoughtfully. “If any man could make me stay, it would be you, captain,” he said.

“Yet you’ll go? When we next drop anchor at Port Royal?” Luke asked, his voice sounding a little hoarse to his own ears.

“I must. Or…”

“Or?” Luke pressed.

Sebastian leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Or you will cause me great heartache, I fear,” he said softly.

“I never would! You are the best boy I’ve ever had, or likely ever will,” Luke admitted. “You’d find me true. I’d never throw you over for another.”

“No. I do not believe you would.” Sebastian gave a slow, sad smile. “And neither would I you. But still, there would be an ending, one day, and the longer we are together, the harder it would be.”

“Oh lad! That’s called living!” Luke exclaimed. “If that’s your only fear, then cast it from your mind. Think of the adventures we could have together! Let us make the most of our time in the sun, for it ends soon enough for everyone.”

Sebastian shook his head. “Losing you would break me too much, I fear,” he whispered. “Let us not talk of such sad things. Let’s do what pleases us both the most!” He stood up, took Luke’s hand, and led him to the bed.

“What of you?” Sebastian asked, as they lay happily in each other’s arms a few hours later.

“What of me?” Luke asked.

“I’ve told you my story – what is yours?”

“There’s little to tell. I ran away to sea as a lad, and here I am now,” Luke said stiffly.

Sebastian laughed. “So much living reduced to so little. What of your accent, captain? I love the way you speak. The way your voice lilts is pleasing to the ear. Where are you from?”

Luke grinned. “I hail from God’s own country!” he announced proudly. “A little place called Cwm Drysor in the valleys of Wales.”

“Ah! Wales! I was there once, a long time ago,” Sebastian mused. “It was beautiful.”

“Then you should know the accent,” Luke chided.

“As I said, it was long ago.” Sebastian rested his chin on Luke’s shoulder. “And what of your parents? Did they mind you running away to sea?”

Luke turned and pressed a finger over Sebastian’s fine lips. “Hush – it’s time to sleep,” he said firmly.

“There are murmurings, captain,” Marc said one evening, during his usual evening rum with Luke in his cabin. Sebastian sat on the bed, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, reading a book.

“Discontent?” Luke raised an eyebrow. Sebastian glanced up.

“Aye. It’s been awhile since we stripped the Santa Ana. The men are restless. They want to know why we’re hiding. They think we should either find another Spanish ship to take, or dock in Port Royal so they can spend their spoils from our last victory.”

“They want to whore away their money,” Luke growled. Marc shrugged, making a little face. “What is it?” Luke demanded, getting to his feet.

“Tis true they want women,” Marc admitted. “They say tis not the same for you, as you have yon lad to satisfy your needs. They say tis no wonder you are in no hurry to make port, for you have a fine boy to ride every night.”

“Damn them!” Luke flung his glass at the wall. It shattered, leaving a long stain of rum on the wood. He did not like his affairs being talked about in such crude terms. Sebastian was more to him than just a boy to warm his bed. Much more.

“We have been creeping and hiding for some time, captain. Is there a plan?” Marc asked.

“There is indeed,” Luke snapped.

“Then perhaps you should share it with the men,” Marc suggested. “To quell the ugliness of their mood?”

“Very well.” Luke took a few deep breaths to calm himself. The plan had been secret long enough, and there was no purpose keeping it so any longer. “Gather them round at noon tomorrow, and I’ll remind them why I am their captain.”

Marc nodded and left. Sebastian slid off the bed, came over to Luke, and wrapped his arms around his shoulders.

“Will all be well?” he asked.

Luke felt calmer just for having his boy close. “Aye. Pirates are like this. I kept my plan quiet because I don’t trust one of my men, but it seems I must speak plain now.”

“One-eyed Jim?” Sebastian asked quietly.

“Aye. Most of my men are loyal, but not him. I’d throw him overboard, but he’s never yet crossed me to my face.”

“If you cannot quiet them?” Sebastian asked. “Would they…?”

“Kill me? Probably not, but I hold this ship by common consent. They stick with me because I treat them well, and we make good booty. If that fails, they’ll vote me out soon enough.”

“A pirate captain leads a precarious life,” Sebastian murmured.

“Aye.” Luke turned and kissed the lad. “But I’d not have it any other way.”

The next day, Luke strode onto the deck with a decisive step. The men gathered around him, as ordered, and he spoke out, loud and sure.

“A fishing vessel will travel through these waters in the next few days. She’ll be carrying Castilian treasure in her hold. No pirate will think to raid her, for she’ll look ever so humble, yet I’ve heard tell she be full of booty,” he said.

A low murmur went up amongst his men. “How did you hear of this, captain?” Jake asked. “We’d look mighty fine fools when next we dock at Port Royal if we raided a ship full of fish!”

“You can imagine the jokes,” Tom Thorne said. “We’d never live it down!”

“I speak true,” Luke told them firmly. “When last I was in Port Royal, I installed my old cabin boy, Jamie Bellwether, to be my eyes and ears there. He reported it to me.”

“I thought he stayed there to be near some tavern wench,” Tom said.

“That too.” Luke grinned. “But I decided I should get some good out of losing a fine cabin boy, so I charged him with this new purpose.”

“And supposing he’s wrong? Or telling you a yarn?” One-eyed Jim spat. “Sounds like a made-up tale to me. I’ll tell you what, lads…” He got to his feet and addressed the men direct. “I’ll tell you how we can make a small fortune, with far less trouble than chasing fishing boats.”

The men leaned in close, calling to hear more. Luke sensed he was losing them.

“You know as well as I that the captain here has a tidy bounty on his head.” Jim jerked his thumb at Luke. “Killing the Admiral of the Fleet’s brother will do that for ye!” He grinned at Luke. “I’m sure it felt good to sink your blade into that lily-livered fat belly, captain, but we all know you’re a liability to the Christabel. Ye can hardly move in the whorehouses and taverns of Port Royal for notices proclaiming the bounty on your head. I say we turn him in and claim it for ourselves!” Jim cried, turning back to his audience.

Luke saw Sebastian take a sharp intake of breath, but he knew his men better than his cabin boy did. There was an uneasy muttering; the thought of handing a fellow pirate to the Royal Navy didn’t sit well with his men. Luke would be hanged for sure, and his men liked him. Luke stepped forward, his hands outstretched, a grin on his face.

“We are pirates, for sure, but not without honour. I trust every man among you with my life, save perhaps bloodthirsty Jim here, who, I think, would make a fine footstool for some Navy captain to rest his boots on!”

The men roared at that, and Luke knew he had them back. It was far better to treat Jim as a joke than a serious threat – and that gambit had worked. “If I’m wrong about the fishing vessel, then vote me out and do with me as you will, but I believe I’m right. What do you lose by trusting me? I’ve led you true many a time before.”

He had, too, and his men knew it. Luke was a leader to his bones, and his men had followed him through thick and thin so far. He didn’t doubt them now. Sure enough, their grumbles of discontent soon turned to cheers, and he knew he was safe – for now.

“Are you sure about this fishing boat carrying treasure?” Sebastian asked, when they were alone in his cabin that night.

“Not sure, no.” Luke saw the worried look in his boy’s eyes and pulled him close. “Who can be sure? I take gambles and risks every single day, lad. Tis who I am – what I am. This is no different.”

“But your men…”

“Chose me over Jim today.”

“And if tomorrow they change their minds?”

“Then they do,” Luke said firmly “I can’t fret about tomorrow. I won today, and that’s enough.”

“Is it true there’s a price on your head?” Sebastian asked, gazing at him intently. “Did you really kill the admiral’s brother?”

“I did.” Luke shrugged. “He cried like a stuck pig when I pushed my blade into his soft belly. I twisted it hard, making him cry out some more, and took great pleasure in it, too.”

“I never took you for bloodthirsty,” Sebastian said quietly, drawing back a little.

“I am not!” Luke retorted, feeling stung. “I’ve been in many a fight and never felt more than the satisfaction of a job well done. This was different.”

“Why?” Sebastian asked.

Luke felt the darkness that always lurked within threaten to do its sorry work again and rise like a tide around him. “It’s not for you to ask or know!” he snapped. “Now get on your knees and hush your mouth – it has other work to do.”

Sebastian did not move. He remained there, his eyes dark, studying Luke as if weighing his soul. Luke stood his ground, holding steady and looking his boy direct in the eye. If Sebastian refused him now for being a murdering monster, then so be it. He had no regrets. He’d answer to no man for that particular crime, if crime it had been. Maybe one day he’d stand before God and explain it, but that was the only judgement he’d accept. Sebastian’s expression changed, as if he had his answer. He gave a crooked little smile and sank to his knees.

The Christabel caught up with the fishing boat a few days later. She was a lowly vessel, not worth any pirate’s time – but wasn’t that the point? Nobody would guess she held any treasure in her hold.

“She doesn’t look like much of a prize,” Marc murmured, gazing at her through the spyglass.

“Look again.” Luke pointed at the men on the ship’s deck. “Those men are Castilians for sure – and armed, too. Why arm a fishing boat?”

He gave the order to go alongside and board her. This was the best time of any pirate’s life – a raiding party!

“May I come?” Sebastian asked.

Luke considered it. It was dangerous work, but if they failed Sebastian might not be any safer on the Christabel than on the deck of yon fishing boat. He nodded his agreement and handed his boy a cutlass.

“Do you know how to use it?” he asked. Sebastian waved it around – he had some moves, but Luke wondered if he had the stomach for battle. “Stick close to me,” Luke ordered curtly.

A raiding party was Luke’s favourite kind of game. He and his men roared onto the fishing boat with ease – to find a well-armed party of men awaiting them. They fought hard and true for an hour or more, neither side gaining ground. Luke kept his boy by his side throughout, keeping an eye on him. Sebastian was a clumsy fighter, but he made plenty of noise, and the Spaniards were not to know he lacked a true fighter’s steel. Whenever he looked up, Luke saw Sebastian beside him, his eyes bright with excitement as he laughed, shouted, and roared his way through the fight.

Luke’s men prevailed in the end, as Luke had known they would. He had the vanquished Castilians tied up and guarded while he routed the ship with Sebastian at his side, looking for its treasure. They found nothing. Only fish. Crates of ’em, piled high in the hold. Luke took apart every single crate looking for the treasure, but it was not to be found.

“Damn it.” He knew his men would take the Christabel from him for this, and rightly so. “I was sure she held treasure.” He straightened up, squaring his shoulders. “You should not stand by me now, Sebastian,” he said. “I’ll not be captain for much longer. You might choose to stay with this Spanish ship – find shore with her after we’ve left, and passage to your uncle.”

“No.” Sebastian spoke keenly. He took hold of Luke’s face. “I’ll stand by your side, whatever they do to you.”

“You’re a good lad. Better than I deserve, no doubt,” Luke said wryly.

Sebastian leaned in and kissed him, then drew back. “Let’s search for the treasure one last time,” he said, closing his eyes.

“Tis not searching if you can’t see,” Luke said, puzzled.

“Sometimes, I see better this way,” Sebastian murmured. A glimmer of sunlight penetrated the hull and settled around Sebastian’s shoulders, making him glow gold and silver in the dark hull. He looked more beautiful than ever, bathed in that pretty light, like some ethereal creature from a different dimension – the kind Luke had read about in books.

Sebastian’s eyes opened and seemed to catch that same glow from the light. “This way,” he said. He led Luke down a flight of stairs to the bowels of the boat.

“We already checked here,” Luke reminded him.

“I know. Just… I remember something felt… different… in this one place… Here,” Sebastian said, stopping beside a crate. He pushed the crate aside and began pulling at the ship’s boards. Luke joined him. They tore up the boards to find a large wooden chest beneath. Luke looked up at Sebastian, and they both broke into wild grins at the same time. They hauled out the chest between them for it was heavy, made of sturdy oak. It was locked, but Luke soon beat the chest open with the handle of his cutlass. Then, he took a deep, shaky breath and lifted the lid.

Both he and Sebastian gasped at the same time. Inside, glowing bright, they found gold and gems of all kinds. The chest was full to the brim with treasure – there was gold of such quantity it would take a man years to spend it all. Sebastian gave a roar of triumph, his eyes awash with wild joy. Luke felt as Sebastian looked. He guffawed, allowing a measure of gold coin to slide through his fingers.

“You are a lucky charm for sure, boy,” he said. “What made you think to look here again?”

“I remembered she sounded hollow when we stood on her,” Sebastian said, standing up.

“So, t’was not witchcraft?” Luke asked, laughing.

“Do I look like a witch?” Sebastian grinned.

Luke remembered his mother taking him once to a cottage in a dell, a little way beyond the edge of their village. He could not have been more than five years old. There, an old lady sat by her fire. What was her name…? Tangwlyst! That was it! It had been many years since he’d thought of her. She’d made him drink a bitter tea, then stared into the cup and back at him. His mother had held her breath and clasped his hand tight, although he’d railed against that, feeling himself too old to be coddled, little lad though he was. Tangwlyst sighed and shook her head. His mother frowned in worry. Tangwlyst bade him throw a handful of tiny bones on the table and then stared just as intently at them. This time, she smiled.

“He will travel through the stars!” Tangwlyst exclaimed.

“See, Luke bach!” said his mother. “You will go to sea! Mind you come back now.”

Tangwlyst quickly pocketed his mother’s coin as they made their way out. Luke turned to look at her, and her eyes twinkled at him. She’d been old and wrinkled, with eyes like the little black currants in a bara brith. She had looked every inch a witch. This boy? Definitely not!

Luke pulled Sebastian close and kissed his laughing lad. They were both giddy with excitement. It was all Luke could do not to tear his boy’s clothes from his body and take him hard over the chest. Sebastian, pressed against him, was clearly of the same mind.

“Later,” Luke said regretfully, putting his boy down.

They left the fishing boat behind them, with her men tied to each other. They’d escape soon enough, but the Christabel would be long gone by then. That night, they drank rum enough to drown in, while Luke went through the treasure chest, logging every coin and jewel within meticulously, as his men watched.

“Is she there, captain?” Nicky Kneebone asked eagerly. “The Eternal Emerald – is she there?”

“No.” Luke shook his head sadly. “She’s not here, lad, but we’ll find her one day – I promise!”

“The Eternal Emerald? What’s that?” Sebastian asked.

Luke looked up, smiling, his face lit by the many lights from his men’s lanterns. “She’s a legend, boy, only talked of, never seen. A huge emerald, the size of Nicky’s fist. She is said to give eternal life to any who can win and keep her – but if you lose her, you die, in the instant she is lost.”

“Right.” Sebastian grinned.

Luke glared at him. “She is out there somewhere, boy, and I’ve pledged to find her.”

“Eternal life?” Sebastian’s eyes glowed gold in the lanternlight. “Who would want such a thing?”

“Are you mad, boy? Most men would kill to live forever!” Luke exclaimed.

“To what end? When all you love will surely die before you, and you can only stand by and watch? Not once, not a hundred times – but a thousand or more – until your heart can bear the sorrow no longer. All family, all friends, all lovers… all lost to you, and yet you go on living. Alone.” Sebastian’s voice was low, his face cast in shadows as he spoke. His words were oddly moving – maybe it was the rum, but they all felt it. Luke felt suddenly cold and a shiver ran through him.

“You’ve been reading too many books, Sebastian lad,” he said.

Sebastian smiled, sadly. “Maybe it is so,” he murmured, taking a tankard of rum and downing it in one go.

“I will find the Eternal Emerald one day!” Luke announced to his crew. “I will not stop looking until I’ve made her mine!” His crew cheered and raised their tankards in approval.

Luke laughed and stood up. His men crowded around expectantly as Luke opened his mouth and began to sing.

“It’s ho! For a brave and a gallant ship
And a fair and a favouring breeze
With a bully crew and a fine captain too
To carry me over the seas
To carry me over the seas, me lads
To my true love far away
For I’m taking a trip on a pirate ship
Ten thousand miles away.”

Luke had a true Welshman’s voice – deep, strong, and pure of pitch, with a rolling timbre. He had no false modesty – his voice was pleasing to the ear, and he knew it. His men laughed as he changed some of the words to suit himself. Luke laughed too, raising his tankard and taking a big swig of rum before starting the chorus.

So blow, ye winds and blow and a-roving I will go
I’ll stay no more on England’s shore
To hear sweet music play
For I’m off on the bounding maine and I won’t be back again
For I’m taking a trip on a pirate ship
Ten thousand miles away.”

Luke looked at Sebastian as he began the next verse. He sang it just for him, never once taking his eyes off his cabin boy.

My true love he was beautiful
And my true love he was young
His eyes were like the diamond sprite
And silver was his tongue
And silver was his tongue me lads
as the big ship left the bay
As he said “Will you remember me
Ten thousand miles away?”

Luke felt a wave of melancholy, for he knew that soon enough Sebastian would leave him. Luke would sail away, leaving Sebastian far behind. How was it possible to get over such a boy? He’d known him but a few months, yet it seemed impossible to imagine life without him.  Sebastian held his gaze, his eyes bright with tears. Luke hoped his voice and the truth of his song might affect him so much that Sebastian would change his mind and stay.

Luke’s men laughed and groaned as he changed the song’s lyrics. Pirates were generally accepting of men who loved men. Many pirates on long voyages away from their women or the whores of the docks would take up with another man to ease the long, lonely nights, and some, like Luke, preferred men to women at any time. Pirates were different to those whoresons in the Royal Navy – as long as Luke found them treasure and treated them fair, they had no interest in his choice of bedfellows.

It was nearly dawn before Luke and Sebastian returned to their cabin. Sebastian was still giddy and high with the day’s success. He pulled Luke to him the second they were alone and began to sing, his eyes bright as he gazed into Luke’s eyes.

My true love he was beautiful
And my true love he was young
His eyes were like the diamond sprite
And silver was his tongue…”

The song seemed to mean something else in Sebastian’s voice – it made a different kind of sense that Luke couldn’t fathom.

“And silver was his tongue me lads
as the big ship left the bay
As he said “Will you remember me
Ten thousand miles away?”

“Hush.” Luke placed a finger over Sebastian’s lips. “You must never sing, my love. You make a terrible sound.”

Sebastian giggled, his body shaking in Luke’s arms. “It’s true!” he agreed. “I cannot carry a tune. Not like you – your voice is made of pure, dark honey, my captain. So, let us dance instead!”

He pulled Luke close and danced with him around the room. He might not be able to sing a note, but how Sebastian could dance! His feet were fleet, his body lithe, and he made such moves as took Luke’s breath away. As they twirled and spun around the room, it was as if their bodies were one. There were no clumsy steps, or missed beats – they moved in perfect time, step for step, each knowing when the other would spin, move in, or turn this way or that. Luke had never felt so completely at one with any man. It was as if they shared the same body, the same mind, and were merged completely. There was a song playing in his head as they danced, and it seemed Sebastian could hear it too, and was dancing to the very same tune. That could not be, as neither of them spoke; they just gazed into each other’s eyes as they danced around the room. Then, finally, they came to a stop, both at the same time, and looked at each other in stunned silence.

“Today was the very best day of my life,” Sebastian whispered.

“And mine,” Luke replied.

Luke was filled with a sudden need – and saw it reflected in Sebastian’s eyes. He lifted the boy in his arms and pushed him against the cabin wall. Sebastian threw back his head, and Luke kissed his beautiful white neck. Luke held Sebastian against the wall while he stripped the boy of his britches, then took a moment to release his own aching cock. It stood up, strong and proud, longing to be buried deep inside the boy. There was no oil to hand. Luke looked around for it and saw it by the bed. He didn’t want to go there, for it would change the mood. Sebastian seemed to agree. He took Luke’s hand and spat on it, and that made the act all the more exciting. Luke prepared him slowly and went in gently, but Sebastian was ready for him and cried out not in pain but in pleasure. He wrapped his long legs around Luke’s waist, pulling him in deep. Luke took Sebastian’s cock in his hand and stroked it in time to his thrusts. Sebastian rested his hands on Luke’s shoulders, crying out with each long stroke. Then they moved as one, as easy, smooth, and perfectly in tune as their dancing had been.

Before long, Luke had no notion of where he ended and Sebastian began. It seemed to go on that way for many hours, but that was surely an illusion. Yet the sun was high in the sky by the time they finished and collapsed against each other. Luke rested his head on his boy’s white breast and stayed there, panting, while Sebastian stroked his hair. Then Luke picked him up and took him gently to the bed. He slid in beside him and they lay there, facing, staring into each other’s eyes.

“I’m too proud a man to beg,” Luke murmured, stroking a lock of hair from Sebastian’s forehead. “You know my wishes. I don’t believe your destiny awaits you on some cold English shore. Stay.”

“You could keep me here, by force,” Sebastian said. “I’ve heard of many a pirate ship taking Royal Navy surgeons against their will and keeping them.”

“We keep no such surgeon here,” Luke said roughly. “Men kept by force aren’t loyal. I’d have none here that did not wish to be. You know my rule, lad, for I told you the first night you arrived. I will never take an unwilling boy to my bed.”

“I know. Hush now – I was jesting.” Sebastian stroked his thumb gently over Luke’s cheek. “Why do you have such a rule, captain, when you could do as you please out here on the high seas, with nobody to tell you any different?”

“Why do I have honour when I’m a pirate, you mean?” Luke growled. “There’s more honour in most pirates than you’ll find in the belly of the finest officer of the Royal Navy – let me tell you!”

“Yet surely, a pirate takes what he wants – another man’s treasure, or his wife, or even the man himself – what’s the difference?” Sebastian pressed.

“You took that gold today as sure as I did,” Luke retorted.

“I did. It was exciting. I’ve never stolen treasure before. It was new.” Sebastian gave a dreamy smile.

“Each man must make his own rules as best fits his conscience. I will never take a boy against his will – that you can be sure of,” Luke said firmly.

“I believe you,” Sebastian said softly. “And I love you all the more for it, my captain.”

Love? It should have melted his heart to hear such words on this boy’s tongue, but it was hollow when Sebastian would not stay.

“You speak of love, and yet you are set on leaving! Don’t tell me any other man could love you more, satisfy you more, or show you more adventure than me,” Luke said forcefully. “You love adventure, Sebastian – I saw it in your eyes today. I don’t pretend it’s a safe or easy life, but with nights like these as the prize – what does that matter?”

“You are right,” Sebastian whispered. “No other man has ever made me feel this way. That is all the more reason I should leave.”

“You make no sense,” Luke said, hurt.

“I’m sorry, my love.” Sebastian pulled him close and kissed the hurt from his heart. Luke felt his anger and wounded pride slowly ease, and yet a shadow of sorrow remained, lingering on behind.

Luke made a great show, as he always did, of sharing out the spoils of their raid. He called all the men about him on deck, shouted their names, one by one, and handed them their share. He kept the lion’s share for himself, but that was the captain’s right; he had provisions to buy and a ship to run, to say nothing of the timber and tools required to keep her seaworthy.

“Nicky Kneebone!” he called, and the slender lad with hair like straw came proudly to the front. He barely reached Luke’s waist, but he took the same share as any full-grown man for Luke treated all his crew the same. Luke had a soft spot for little Nicky, who was always eager to do his bidding. He’d taught the boy to read, and Nicky loved to sit by him on lazy afternoons and show how well he’d taken to his lessons. Another man had once done the same for Luke, many years ago. He had fond memories of his first captain; that man was the only officer in the Royal Navy he’d salute, if he were still alive.

Luke went down his list of men, calling out each name. When he reached the end, he grinned. “Sebastian Smith!” he called.

Sebastian looked up, with a surprised smile. “Me?”

“For sure! You boarded that ship by my side, fought by my side, and it was your hunch that led us to the treasure. You’ll get your share like the rest of my crew.”

Sebastian was popular, and the men laughed and chanted his name as he went up to Luke for his share of the spoils. Sebastian flushed red, and grinned shyly as he took the little sack of gold. Luke roared with laughter and tousled his hair proudly.

“You’re one of us now!” he proclaimed, and a great cheer went up from his men.

They drank the afternoon away, but the great mood did not last beyond morning the next day, when a sore commotion went up among the men. Luke strode over to find Jake and Jim exchanging blows, while the other men crowded around, urging them on.

“What’s this?” Luke charged into the fight, grasping each man by the neck and holding him fast. “I’ll suffer no fighting amongst my men. What’s the cause?” He looked to Jake who glared daggers at Jim. Luke shook him soundly. “Jake – what is this about?”

“The spoils are to be shared equal among us, but they were not!” Jake spat. “I saw Jim take coin from the purse of one of the Castilians, but it was not in the pot you shared out yesterday. He didn’t hand it over!”

Luke felt a wave of fury as he turned to the one-eyed man. “Jim? Is this true?” he demanded, shaking him in turn.

Jim spat onto the ground. “Tis not. He lies.”

Luke let Jake go and turned full to Jim. He was a big man, about Luke’s age, with a squat shaved head and a black patch over his missing eye. He glared at Luke balefully from his good eye.

“You won’t mind if I check then?” Luke didn’t wait for an answer – he moved forward and routed Jim’s pockets – to find nothing save the bag of spoils he’d given him the day before.

“See!” Jim crowed. “Jake is a lying whoreson!”

Luke turned to Nicky. “Go to Jim’s hammock and search it,” he ordered quietly.

“Why do ye all take orders from this matelot?” Jim spat. “Ye all know what he does to yon boy at night.” He nodded towards Sebastian, who was standing by.

“He does nothing to me that I do not care for!” Sebastian said heatedly. “What business is it of yours?”

“Easy,” Luke warned. An argument like this could easily get out of hand, and he had no wish to fight half the crew to restore order.

At that moment Nicky returned, carrying a small leather pouch. He handed it to Luke, who opened it to find several Spanish coins within.

“These were not among the spoils we took yesterday,” he said, studying them. “It seems Jake was right.”

“Why should I share?” Jim demanded. “I took those spoils fair and square.”

Luke replaced the coins in the pouch and threw it to Marc, who caught it in one hand. “See these are shared out evenly,” he instructed.

A silence fell over the crew as Luke drew himself up to his full height and turned back to Jim.

“I have but one rule,” he said quietly, “and you all know what it is. Even little Nicky knows. Nicky?” He turned to the lad.

“We must obey your orders, sir,” Nicky said, in his high, piping voice.

“That is right.” Luke turned back to Jim. “This speaks to the trust you have in me – if, as a crew, you vote me out, then so be it, but while I am your captain, you’ll obey my orders or face the consequences. And my orders are that all our spoils be pooled – you knew this, everyone knows it – and yet you concealed this coin from me.”

The men had grown restive, angry with Jim for trying to cheat them out of their share of the prize. A low grumbling went around. Luke knew that none here would stop him if he threw Jim overboard. He did not like the man, yet he would not take his life for this. It was a fine line to walk being a pirate captain; if he went too hard on his crew, they’d resent him for it, but go too easy and grudges would fester. He instinctively knew the right path to take.

“You’ll take a dozen lashes from the cat,” he said, holding out his hand. Marc had the cat ready, anticipating his command, and slapped the cat into his hand. “After that, as you sinned against the crew as much as me, you can run the gauntlet.”

A great roar of approval went up among the men. “But listen to me true,” Luke said, holding up his hand. “If you disobey me again, I’ll throw you to the sharks and not look back.”

Jim gave a grunt and spat on the deck. His one dark eye spoke of a deep, angry hatred; Luke knew he’d always be trouble.

Jake and Marc strung Jim up to the foremast, while Luke unfastened his shirt sleeves and rolled them up his arms. He turned to see Sebastian staring at him intently. Luke turned away again. He took no pleasure in this, but Jim knew what he’d face if found out; he deserved his punishment. Luke could have asked Marc to wield the cat, but Luke was a leader to his bones; if he was going to sentence a man to the lash, it was his responsibility and his alone to carry out the deed. Anything less was shirking.

Luke strode the deck, shaking out the nine knotted thongs of cord in the cat’s tails as he walked. He rarely had call to use her, but by God he knew how. Luke delivered the lashes firm but fair on Jim’s back, all the while aware of Sebastian’s gaze fixed on him, as if the boy had no other interest in the proceedings save for the role his captain played in it.

When he was done, Luke ordered Jim be cut down and to run the length of the deck, while the men showered him with blows and lashes from their belts. Running the gauntlet was no small punishment in itself, but Luke judged that the men needed their vengeance, too.

Finally, it was done. Jim retired below decks to lick his wounds, while Luke ordered a tot of rum for every man. The men shouted and laughed, enjoying their extra riches from Jim’s haul, each of them feeling justice had been served. Then it was over, and good riddance to it. Luke knew he’d kept his men happy and dealt with the matter fair.

When he retired to his cabin that night, he found Sebastian sitting on the bed, holding the cat in his hands, stroking her tails thoughtfully. He looked up, his face flushed, when Luke entered the room.

“No,” Luke said firmly, knowing what was in Sebastian’s mind. He sat down on the edge of the bed. “This is not my belt, my love. You saw Jim’s back when I was done with him. The cat tears the skin. It’s brutal.”

“I know,” Sebastian said softly. “I’ve seen the scars on your back, remember. I can guess how you came by them. How many lashes did you take, captain?”

“Two hundred,” Luke replied. He’d never forget the Navy captain who’d had him flogged like a dog, nor forgive him, but that whoreson had gone to Davy Jones’s locker long ago, and the devil could take him for all Luke cared.

“Two hundred…”  Sebastian stared at him in shock. He reached out and took Luke’s face between his hands. “Oh, my love. No wonder your back pains you so.”

“It’s been much better since you rubbed your unguent in.” Luke shrugged.

“How old were you when you were flogged?” Sebastian asked.

“Fourteen,” Luke replied. “I had thought to make the Royal Navy my life for I loved it so, but after that I jumped ship and found my way to the Christabel and the company of pirates instead. The Royal Navy be damned.” He spat on the floor. “The pirate’s life is more honest and more honourable.”

Sebastian sat back, gazing at him intently. “Will you tell me why you were flogged?” he asked quietly.

“I’ll tell you it was not deserved,” Luke replied. Sebastian reached out to stroke his hair, but Luke caught his hand and kissed the palm, stopping him. “I do not want or invite your pity, boy,” he said. “I have my pride.”

“Oh yes, I know all about your pride,” Sebastian sighed. He rose up and wrapped his arms around Luke’s shoulders, ignoring Luke’s attempts to push him away. “I wish I’d been there to stop it,” he whispered into Luke’s hair.

“You’d have been four years old,” Luke growled. “Much use you’d have been!” Sebastian kissed his hair gently, petting him as if he were a child. “I need no comfort. T’was years ago,” Luke chided, trying to push him away again.

“The scars remain,” Sebastian replied, holding him fast.

Luke surrendered, for his boy seemed set on giving him succour, though he needed none. In truth, it felt nice to be held and rocked against his boy’s hard chest. Luke felt something he had not felt since he was fourteen years old. He felt… loved.

“I loved a lad called Adam, and he loved me,” he said at last, surprising himself, for he’d never spoken of this to anyone before. “When they found us together, they tore us apart and the whoreson captain sentenced us both to the lash. That’s why I bear these scars on my back – for doing with Adam what I do with you every night. That’s all.”

Sebastian’s breath caught in the back of his throat. He held Luke tighter, and the pain of the memory seemed to ease a little.

“What happened to Adam?” Sebastian asked.

“His wounds turned foul. He died of a fever a few days after the flogging.”

Beautiful Adam. His first love. His only true love until Sebastian had landed in his life a few short months ago. Luke could see Adam still when he closed his eyes. He’d had thick dark hair and golden brown skin. His eyes had been so dark, his teeth so white, and his laugh so bright and merry. Three years older than Luke, and far more worldly-wise, he’d shown him all the ways to please a man in bed. Luke hadn’t been touched before save by the whoreson captain when he was in his cups, and that had been nothing but shame and pain. Adam had taught him it didn’t have to be that way. He’d loved it when Luke had ridden him hard across a barrel in the ship’s hold; Luke could still remember the soft cries of joy he’d made.

“I was a cabin boy once, too, just like you,” Luke murmured, resting his chin on Sebastian’s shoulder. “My first captain was the best in the whole world. As kind, and true, and good of heart as you can imagine. The second was the devil himself. He flogged me for doing to Adam what he did to me most nights against my will. At least Adam took joy from it. I did not.”

“So, you took a sword to his belly and twisted it hard,” Sebastian said, stroking his hair gently.

“I did, and I regret it not at all. Nobody liked that bastard, but he was the admiral’s brother, and I knew I’d be hanged for sure. The men liked me and knew what I’d endured at the captain’s hands, night after night. They helped me jump ship, and I fled. There’s been a price on my head ever since, but they haven’t caught Luke Jenkins yet, and I’ll be damned if I’ll hang for killing that beast any more than the butcher hangs for slaughtering a pig.” Luke drew back and looked at his boy. “So, now you know me true – do you like me any less?” he asked defiantly. “I’ve told nobody my story before, but you have a way of teasing the truth from me.”

“I like you more, for I understand you better,” Sebastian said softly. “You were but a lad, and badly used.”

“Good.” Luke exhaled a deep breath. He had a horror of being seen as weak and mewling in front of his boy. “For I am strong and proud and would not have you see me any other way.”

“Always, my captain,” Sebastian said, dropping a kiss on his head.

“That’s well then. Now… what are we to do here?” Luke picked up the cat. “You want to taste her still, I think, despite everything I’ve told you.”

“I do.” Sebastian nodded, his eyes bright. “For you have no idea how strong and proud you looked to me today, as you walked the deck with the cat in your hand.”

“You are the strangest boy.” Luke kissed his cheek. “But the cat is not for you, my love. She gives no kisses – only bites.”

Sebastian sighed. “I could not take my eyes off you this afternoon. You looked magnificent!”

Luke felt a thrill of pride. Sebastian’s words restored some sense of himself after the dark memories he’d dredged up this evening.

“Have you heard the phrase ‘kissing the gunner’s daughter’?” he asked.

Sebastian’s eyes danced. “I have not.”

“Take off your clothes and lie on your front,” Luke instructed. “I’ll tell you a tale.”

Sebastian scrambled eagerly to obey. When he was done, he stretched out his long, pale limbs, his white flesh so perfectly laid out that Luke felt his cock press hard against his britches.

Luke stood up and slowly undid his shirt sleeves, then rolled them up to his elbow; he knew by now how much Sebastian loved it when he did this. Then he took the rope handle of the cat in his hand and shook out her tails, striding around the room as he did so. Sebastian followed his every step, his eyes dark with arousal. Every so often, his pink tongue darted out to wet his perfect lips.

“Young lads in the Royal Navy do not earn the cat when they misbehave. Do you know why?” Luke asked, as he strode about the room.

“No sir,” Sebastian said breathlessly.

“Because they are but boys and the cat is too harsh, but also because they want to take her, as a mark of bravado, to impress their friends. That would not be punishment but a badge of honour.” Luke returned to the bed and flicked the cat’s tails onto Sebastian’s bare back. Sebastian shivered. Luke trailed the tails down over Sebastian’s skin, very slowly.

“So, instead, they make those cocky young bucks take a different punishment. They are stripped of their britches to bare their fine young arses, and bent over the gun barrel, hence the name, kissing the gunner’s daughter.” Luke stroked the cat’s tails over Sebastian’s arse, lingering there. Sebastian held his breath, and Luke knew he was waiting for him to bring the cat down hard upon his skin. He did not.

“A lesser cat is used, with only five tails of smooth whip cord, or a cane, or perhaps they will taste the sting of the birch.” Luke flicked the cat with a light snap onto Sebastian’s skin, making him jump – then laugh at himself for his over-reaction to the cat’s gentle caress.

“The punishment comes as much in the baring of the arse as the sting of the lash. There’s no pride in facing your friends when you’ve been up-ended over a gun barrel, arse on display, and taken a boy’s punishment, not that of a man. Men are flogged on their backs – boys on their lily-white bums. May you never find yourself kissing the gunner’s daughter, Sebastian.”

Sebastian sighed as if he was imagining it… and that was the moment Luke struck. He flicked his wrist and brought the cat down hard on Sebastian’s arse. Sebastian squealed and jumped up from the bed, clutching his backside, an accusatory look in his eye.

“Damnation, captain! That was infernal!” he yelled, rubbing at his buttocks to ease the ferocious sting.

“I know.” Luke tossed the cat to one side with a smirk. “And that was barely half the force I used on Jim. You see now why I will not beat you with her, no matter how much you beg?”

“I do.” Sebastian nodded slowly, still rubbing his bum.

“Now turn around – let me see the mark I placed upon you.” Luke twirled his finger, and Sebastian bared his arse instantly. There was a long red flame imprinted in Sebastian’s flesh; the sight of it made Luke’s cock harden more.

“I do love to see my marks on your skin,” he murmured, running his finger over the mark. Sebastian whimpered. Luke bent his head and licked the red flame, gently.

Sebastian sighed. “I love to take your marks on my skin, sir,” he whispered.

“Good.” Luke took hold of Sebastian’s thighs. “Then take this.” He bit down on Sebastian’s juicy arse, away from the mark he’d made with the cat, to create a new mark. He started slow and gentle, holding Sebastian firm, so he could not get away. Then he deepened the bite. Sebastian yelled and hollered but could not break free. He wriggled though – how he wriggled! He squirmed and twisted until Luke slapped his arse hard and drew back.

“You’ll take my marks without trying to escape, boy. If I choose to bite your fine arse and leave my print upon your skin, I will.”

Sebastian gazed up at him, his eyes heavy-lidded with excitement, his breath catching in his throat. “Yes, sir,” he whimpered, obediently.

Luke pushed him down on the bed and held him there as he trailed a line of kisses over the boy’s fair skin. Sebastian trembled in anticipation, but Luke enjoyed the game far too much to put him out his of misery. He kept him on edge for several minutes, just kissing and licking his beautiful skin… before pouncing again and biting him hard. Sebastian cried out, but he did not try to get away this time. Luke could feel every muscle in his body bunch and strain with the effort of staying in place, yet he didn’t move. Sweat was running in little rivulets down his back, but still he stayed there, accepting Luke’s deep bite on his bottom.

Finally, Luke thought he’d tormented the boy enough. He drew back and admired the fine red marks he’d placed on him.

“Look.” He brought the mirror over, and held it up. Sebastian’s eyes sparkled when he saw the bite marks on his skin. He reached back a finger to trace them, his tongue wetting his lips.

“They are beautiful, captain. For they mark me as yours – and yours alone,” Sebastian said softly.

It was too much. Luke gave a roar and set upon the boy. He placed Sebastian on his front so he could gaze at the marks he’d imprinted upon him as he ravished him mercilessly.

Luke woke at dawn to piss and could not resist drawing back the sheet to see those marks on Sebastian’s skin again. He was disappointed to find them much faded. The boy had the bloom of youth upon him and healed far faster than Luke would have liked. Luke sighed.

“Is there a problem, captain?” Sebastian asked drowsily.

“There is. The marks I placed upon you are all but gone,” Luke replied, climbing back into the bed beside him.

“Well, there’s an easy remedy for that.” Sebastian turned and smiled at him saucily.

“And what’s that?” Luke asked, with a raised eyebrow.

“You must make them again!” Sebastian retorted, and then he dissolved in a fit of giggles as Luke grabbed hold of him and began to do just that.



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