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Similar Deviations
    The ship rocks gently beneath us as I study Mary's face in the moonlight. Her hair is down, falling gently around her shoulders, and her breasts are no longer bound. She's taken the leap, revealed herself to the world, her life will never be the same... and she did it all for me. Well, perhaps not all for me. I'm sure some part of her will be glad to no longer be living a lie, but the reasons she gave for keeping her disguise are still valid. It's not like us pirates have suddenly done away with our superstitions. 

    If she were to leave the Jackdaw now she'd have a hard time finding another ship to crew, which must mean she has no plans to leave. The thought splits my face into a grin. That means she trusts me and, whether she'll admit it or not, she loves me too. I brush a tendril of hair off her cheek and she swats at me in her sleep. I chuckle. It seems Mary is Mary, even when unconscious.

    No one left the Jackdaw the morning James Kidd turned into Mary Read, though that's not to say it was a seamless transition. By the time we got to the dock any timidness Mary might have been feeling was long gone. She retrieved her hand from mine and strode aboard the Jackdaw with no visible weakness, only strength. If I hadn't seem her ten minutes earlier you couldn't have convinced me she'd ever been nervous.

    "All right ye tars, get this deck squared away! I expect to be casting off within the half hour." The few that weren't looking at her, that had only heard her voice, went scurrying off to do what they were told, but the ones that saw the person the voice came from... let's just say they weren't as responsive. Shocked and confused would be a more apt description.

    "Kidd?" asked John cautiously. "That you?"
    
    "Of course it's me, ye bilge rat. Who else would be yelling orders at yer sorry arse?" she demanded. John looked around him in wide eyed surprise, no doubt wondering if he was the only one seeing the woman standing where James Kidd should be. He seemed to find the rest of the crew's mirrored expressions comforting.

    "But... yer a woman," said Mal, trying to get his head around it. Mary raised an eyebrow in sardonic amusement. 

    "What gave it away?" she drawled. "Was it the breasts?"

    "Those are a dead giveaway," I said, moving to stand beside her. I know she wants me to let her fight her own battles, but I figured a show of support in this wouldn't be out of place. John's frozen look of surprise transferred to me.

    "Ye knew, Cap'n?" Mary snorted in derision.

    "No, he's been playing beneath my knickers for months now and never noticed." When the crew just continued to stare she let out a long-suffering sigh. "All right, I'll make this real simple for the lot of ya. As Mal so astutely pointed out, aye, I am a woman. Me name's not James Kidd, it's Mary Read, though if ye'd like to keep calling me Kidd it's fine by me. As of right now ye have two options: ye can go find a new ship to crew or rig the bloody sails." 

    The sails got rigged. Besides a few lewd congratulatory comments to me behind her back nothing else has been said about Kidd changing from a he to a she. Of course, Mary has spent the last week pushing them doubly hard just to prove her being a woman doesn't change a damn thing. 

    I've never been happier in my entire life, not even right after I met Caroline. Of course, it's thoughts of Caroline that are keeping me awake tonight long after Mary has fallen asleep. It seems so obvious to me now that I wonder why my younger self was unable to see it; Caro and I were a bad match, simply not meant to be. The woman I'm meant to be with is currently hogging the bed beside me. I press a kiss to her forehead, dodging her swatting hand, and slip out of bed.

    I head for the desk currently covered in maps and information about my fleet and pull out a quill and parchment. I've made up my mind- I want to marry Mary Read. The problem with that, besides convincing her to agree, is that I'm still married to Caroline. It's time for me to do what I should have done long ago and set us both free.

    I wouldn't be surprised if she's already moved on, filed for divorce in my absence or had me declared dead. My life here has no ties to what my life was there. I could take Mary to a church tomorrow to marry and no one would ever know that in some far away land called England there was another Mrs. Kenway. I won't though. Not only would Mary throw me overboard for the sharks if I tried, but I can't do that to Caroline. I loved her once, though it seems like a lifetime ago, and she deserves to know the truth, perhaps get some closure from me after all. 

    I sigh and brush my hair back from my face. How to start this letter? My former salutation of "My Dearest Caro" certainly doesn't seem appropriate, but "To Mrs. Caroline Kenway" seems far too formal. I finally settle on "Dear Caroline" and am immediately stuck with how to continue. Do I confess all? Admit I was never faithful to her from the time I left England, that the only reason I'm writing now is because I've fallen in love with another and want to marry her? True though it may be, it seems cruel to say.

    Act the noble soul, then? Setting her free for her own good? I smile wryly. I doubt even Ade would believe me of such unselfish goodness, even with all the progress I've made. Mary stirs in her sleep, reminding me that unless I want to explain what I'm writing and why it needs to be done before she wakes. I focus on the letter and the sun is beginning to peak over the horizon by the time I'm finished. I read through the letter once more.

            Dear Caroline-

        I'd wager you never expected to hear from me again, and perhaps you were glad for it. If so, fear not, this will be the last letter you'll receive from me. I'm writing to tell you something you've probably figured out for yourself by now- I'm not returning to England. I've built a new life here, Caroline, one I don't intend to leave. I suppose we were doomed from the start, you and I, but I want you to know that I did love you, once. I've enclosed a purse of gold with this letter to pay for the divorce, anything left over is yours to keep with my blessing. I hope you find someone to make you happy, Caro. I have.

            Yours, Edward

   
A small hand pulls the quill out of my hand and scribbles something near the bottom of the page. Mary sets down the quill and nods at me.

    "Now you may send it," she says before turning to get dressed. The sounds of the ship coming alive for the day filter into the cabin and I glance at the letter to see what she's changed. I grin. It now reads "Formerly Yours, Edward." Yep. She definitely loves me. 
Kiddway! I know it's been a while since I did one of these, but I hope it lives up to the previous ones. All faves and comments(including constructive criticism) are appreciated!
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   "Oh Lord!" I say, rolling away from Mary. "If that's what I get for a heart felt speech I think I'm going to have to start composing sonnets." Mary gives a breathless laugh.

    "You start writing sonnets and I'll need a more active imagination."

    "So, tell me Kidd," I say, slowing regaining my wits, "have you a ship to captain at the moment?"

    "Not at the moment, no. Though I am due to meet Anne Bonny and Calico Jack. Jack's got a new ship, the Revenge, that I'm eager to put through her paces."

    "Calico Jack?" I say, sitting up and giving her an incredulous look. "The same Calico Jack Rackham that stole my ship and left me marooned with Vane?"

    "Come now, Edward, he didn't kill you. That's as good as knowing you'd be fine," she responds.

    "I still don't trust him," I say. 

    "Of course you don't. He marooned you," she says with a husky laugh. I look out the window at the sun coming up over the open sea, spotting the Jackdaw in the harbor.

    "What would you say to putting the Jackdaw through her paces instead?" I ask.

    "I'd say you sound crazier than old Thatch. Everyone knows no one but you and your quartermaster touch that ship's helm," she says, lazily drawing circles on my back.

    "Exactly," I say, turning to look at her. The lazy sensuality she exudes begins to fade as she props herself up on her elbows, allowing the sheet to slip below one beautiful breast.

    "And what of Adewale?" she asks, causing my gaze to snap to her face. She gives me an amused look. "See anything you like, Kenway?"


    "I see plenty I like," I say, moving in to kiss her. She puts a hand to my chest and pushes. 

    "Quartermaster. Adewale."

    "Right," I say, sitting back. "It seems Ade has grown tired of following a man whose only care is gold. He's left to join your family of assassins, actually."

    "Has he really?" she says with a smile. "He'll make a fine brother-in-arms."

    "Aye, that he will, and I give him my blessing. However, that leaves me without a quartermaster." She raises an eyebrow at me. 

    "And am I to have his private quarters below deck as well?"

    "Of course not!" I say, leaning over her, framing her torso with my arms. "You'll be staying in the captain's cabin, with me." I lean down to kiss her again, but she ducks beneath my arm and sits up on the other side of the bed. I bury my head in the pillow and groan in frustration before sitting back up to face her.

    "And you don't mind your crew thinking you're bedding down each night with a teenage boy?" she asks, with that same damned eyebrow raised. 

    "Why would they think that? I already know you're a woman, and I've never believed in that foolish superstition, so there's no reason for you to keep up your disguise. And any member of my crew that don't like it can be easily replaced." The eyebrow doesn't budge.

    "You want me to expose myself as a woman to every pirate in the West Indies in exchange for a short run as your quartermaster?" she asks, as if I truly am as mad as Thatch. 

    "Hold on, who said it's to be a short run?" I ask.

    "And who's to say it won't?" she counters. "Edward, I won't be following a man who's heart is set on gold alone any more than Ade."

    "But I'm-"

    "Trying to change," she interrupts. "And that's admirable, but I'm not going to gamble my entire identity on it. If I stay James Kidd I can continue my life as a pirate if we go our separate ways. If I'm Mary Read I'll need to be sleeping with a captain, like Anne, or end up a tavern wench. Neither of those are acceptable to me. So you can take James Kidd on as your quartermaster, or you can keep looking." The look on her face says she won't budge an inch and I grin. I've always liked a stubborn woman.

    "All right, Kidd. Welcome aboard the Jackdaw." She grins.

    "As for my terms," she says.

    "Your terms?" I ask, confused.

    "Honestly Kenway, this can't be the first time you've hired on a quartermaster." Right, hiring a quartermaster here, not luring Mary onto my ship because of that thing she does with her tongue.

    "To business then," I reply. "What are your terms?"

    "I sign on for an initial run of three months as a trial period. As quartermaster, I'll outrank everyone on that ship but you, and I don't need you jumping in to defend me. It undermines my authority. I want an additional five percent cut of the booty above the standard crew rate, and the rule still stands that if you tell anyone I'm not James but Mary I'll unman you. Which would be a shame," she says, turning her gaze to my lap, "because you certainly do know how to use it."

    "You'll have to try harder than that to make me blush, Mary." She gives me a seductive smile.

    "I'm not trying to make ye blush Kenway. I'm trying to wake your little pirate so I can give him another tour below deck." I lunge across the bed for her, trapping her underneath me. When I go to kiss her this time she lets me.

    "I accept all your terms with one condition," I say against her lips. She laughs.

    "Edward, you're going to need to stop kissing me long enough to talk." I pull away slightly, but still close enough that our noses touch.

    "I said I accept your terms with one condition."

    "And what would that be?"

    "That you still share the captain's cabin with me." I can feel her hesitation.

    "Are you sure about that, Edward? It will do quite a bit of damage to your 'ladies man' reputation."

    "Well, I couldn't very well sleep with you only one deck below me, could I? Not now, knowing what you can do with that tongue of yours."

    "Oh Kenway, you don't know the half of it." I kiss her long and hard and deep. One day soon she'll realize she's meant to be on the deck of the Jackdaw, sailing beside me for the rest of our days. Until I can convince her of that my reputation will just have to take the hit. It's a small price to pay for laying claim to Mary Read. 
If you've read part one then there are no spoilers in part 2! I totally ship Kiddway. Send me any art you have of them, they're amazing. 
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   "Ah, Kenway, you really aren't any good at this, are you?" asks Mary, laughing at me from beside the haystack. I want to groan in frustration. It is impossible to sneak up on this woman! Instead, I hook her around the waist and pull her into the haystack with me, kissing her as soon as she lands beside me. Mary Read has become my obsession. 

    "Of course I'm good at this," I say after releasing her lips. "I have been doing this for years, assassin training or no, and I've not been caught once."

    "And yet I've managed to catch you every time. Why is that?" she asks, her eyes now sparkling with amusement. 

    "Two reasons," I say, pressing a kiss to her neck. "One, because you are better than they were." 

    "Flattery won't get you out of training, Kenway," she tells me, accompanied by a look that tells me I'm an idiot if I think otherwise.

    "And two," I continue as if she hasn't spoken, "you're expecting me. You can't sneak up on anyone if they know when you're coming." Her eyes light up and narrow at the same time, the way they do when she's been issued a challenge. Pair that with the wicked grin on her face and I have a feeling I'm going to regret my last statement.

    "Is that right, Kenway? So if I gave you an area to patrol and told you I'd be coming for ye, I couldn't sneak up on ya?" I pluck up my confidence.

    "No, you couldn't." There's laughter in her eyes.

    "I'll make you a deal, Edward. If you can catch me even once out of five tries I'll agree you don't need more training. We can be back on the Jackdaw today. But if you can't, you quit your bitching and finish your training to my standards. Deal?" My grin matches her. I've studied Mary. I know how she moves, how she fights, how she likes to be touched in the middle of the night. I'll be able to catch her on the first try.

    "Deal," I say, shaking her hand.

    "Good." She pushes me out of the haystack. "Then get going." The area she gives me is smaller than the one I had to hunt her in. This will be a piece of cake. At least, I think so until I feel the tap on my shoulder. I spin to find Mary standing there with her arms crossed, looking unimpressed.

    "That's one," she says.

    "I was getting the lay of the land," I protest. "I don't know this island the way you do." She raises an eyebrow and stalks away without another word. I resume my patrol. Ten minutes later I feel her pressed against my back.

    "That's two," she whispers in my ear. She melts away and I try again. I'm walking by a building when I hear something land in the nearby haystack. I grin. Got her. I head over to the haystack and start to look through it when there's another tap on my shoulder from the clearing behind me.

    "Three," says Mary, trying not to laugh. I glare at her over my shoulder. "Ready to admit defeat, Kenway?"

    "Never." She shrugs and retreats, ready to start again. Number four comes quickly after that and I'm beginning to curse the day I met Mary Read.

    On our fifth go round I hear another sound in the haystack and smile to myself. She can't really think I'd fall for it again, can she? I've got you now, Mary. I approach the haystack, but at the last moment spin around to face the clearing, finding... nothing. Before I realize what's happening I'm falling backwards into the haystack beside a laughing Mary.

    "Well Edward, it seems we're right back to where we began," she says smugly. I try to be mad, but end up laughing along with her. 

    "Ah Mary, I do love you," I say before I realize what I'm saying. I freeze, expecting Mary to stiffen or perhaps even run. She does neither, simply rolling her eyes before giving me a look.

    "Kenway, don't use that word until you know what it means." I'm taken aback. She thinks I don't know what love means? I'm saved having to mount some sort of a defense by the sounds of Adewale looking for her.

    "Mary! Mary Read! Where are you?" She rolls out of our hiding spot, getting to her feet and brushing off the hay. 

    "I'm here, Ade. What's wrong?" He pauses.

    "Where's Kenway?"

    "Right here," I say, making my own appearance. He rolls his eyes.

    "Do the two of you have to play 'hide the pirate' everywhere? Never mind, I don't want to know and this is important. The Revenge has been captured. Anne Bonny is up on charges of pirating." I still haven't gotten used to the speed at which Mary's easy going demeanor can disappear. Her laughing eyes are hard as stone now and there's no smile dancing on the edges of those lips.

    "Where is she?"

    "Kingston. We have four days until she goes before the judge." Mary turns to me without hesitation.

    "It seems your training is done after all, Kenway. The Jackdaw can get us there in time if we leave immediately." I nod.

    "Ade, are you coming with us?" I ask. He shakes his head.

    "No, Breddah. I'll follow with Ah Tabai. We don't have anything as fast as the Jackdaw, but we'll be right behind ye," he says, gesturing towards Mary, who's already halfway down the path leading to the Jackdaw.

    We manage to catch the right winds and dock in Kingston the morning of Anne's trial. The courtyard it's held in is full of people and we blend in on a bench near the back. They bring her out clapped in irons while she looks on in defiance, a look that doesn't change as the charges are read and she's sentenced to death. I feel Mary's muscles tense next to me and I know she's trying to form a plan to kill the entire courtyard and free Anne. Luckily she doesn't have to.

    "I'm pregnant!" yells Anne. The crowd breaks out in whispers. "That's right, you can't hang a woman quick with child, can ye?" As I examine her
more closely I find her stomach is slightly rounded. Seems Anne had an ace up her sleeve.

    "Quiet!" yells the judge. "If what you claim is true, then your execution will be stayed. But only until your term is up!" Anne is led away with a smile on her ever defiant face while Mary and I slink back to the ship. 

    "What now?" I ask once we've reached the cabin.

    "Anne's bought us a bit of time," she says. "We wait for Ade and Ah Tabai. Between the lot of us we'll be able to come up with a plan to spring her." I sit down on the bed, stunned by the day's events, while Mary begins to pace. Death? They sentenced sweet Anne Bonny to death for a bit of
pirating? I study Mary as she walks. Is that what would happen to her if we were caught?

    "Mary, if we ever get caught I want you to plead your belly," I say earnestly. She glances over at me and scoffs. 

    "For that to work there'd need to be a babe in it, wouldn't there?" I grab her hand as she passes me and pull her to stand between my knees.

    "I'm serious, Kidd. It would take them a few weeks to figure out that you're not with child, long enough for me to mount a rescue." She tilts her head to the side.

    "Edward, if I was captured chances are you'd be captured too. A few weeks probably wouldn't be long enough."

    "Then sleep with one of the guards until you actually are!" I say desperately.

    "Are you mad?" she asks, trying to pull her hand away from me. I don't let it go.

    "Mary, do anything to keep yourself alive long enough for me to get to you. Promise me." She pauses to think before replying.

    "And after you rescue me, what then? Am I to rid myself of the babe? Or cast it away once it's born? Or am I truly to believe that you'd raise the child as your own?"

    "I would," I swear passionately.

    "Would ye now?" she says in a tone that proclaims she doesn't believe me.

    "Mary, that babe would be the only reason you still lived, the only reason that I'd have you back here beside me. I would be forever grateful and love that child for it." She studies me for a moment before wrapping her arms around my neck.

    "Okay, Kenway. Perhaps you know what love is after all."
Kiddway!
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***Anyone who has not played through Sequence 5, memory 3, will be exposed to minor spoilers***

    "What are you playing with, Kenway?" says Mary, causing me to look up. I'm sitting around the bonfire at Pirate's Cove, toying with a trinket. Mary's back in her James Kidd disguise, but now that I know her secret I can't help but let my eyes trace the curves she's trying to hide. I'd like to say she's failing, but she's spent years wearing it and those curves are barely visible. Damn it. She takes a seat next to me at the now deserted fire. I wonder how long I've been here, staring into nothing. I toss her the locket I've been playing with. She catches and opens it, looking at the picture of me inside.

    "It belonged to my wife," I say. She clears her throat.

    "Aye, I recall you saying you had one."

    "Then you'll also be remembering I told you she left me long ago."

    "I seem to recall that as well," she says, handing back the locket. 

    "The last time I saw her she threw this back at me, told me she never wanted to see me again. I had gone to her parent's house, trying to win her back. When she finally come to the door she said there was nothing left in her that wanted me. All these years I've been trying to make my fortune, trying to make myself good enough for her. Do you think she'd want me now, Kidd? Do you think she'd take a pirate king?" Mary scoffs.

    "I think the woman doesn't sound like much fun," she says, taking a swig of her rum and passing the bottle to me. I hold it, but don't drink.

    "She wasn't. We fought a lot, too. She was from a wealthy merchant's family, didn't understand why I always wanted more, always needed more than a peasant's wage. But you know what I've decided?" Mary shakes her head no.

    "I've no idea, but I bet you're going to tell me."

    "And in that you are correct. I've decided I don't want to be good enough for her. I'm not going back to England. I think I'll stay here and continue being a pirate king."

    "Cheers to that," she says, swiping the bottle back and taking a drink. I study her features in profile as she watches the fire. She really is quite beautiful. I guess no one noticed because no one wanted to be found studying the face of a teenage boy. Speaking of which...

    "And what of you, Mary?" She has a dagger at my throat before I can blink.

    "Don't call me that, Kenway. Anyone could overhear."

    "Relax, Kidd, we're the only ones left on the beach." She turns her head to look around and I use that moment of distraction to roll her underneath my body and pin her to the sand.

    "What do you think you're doing, Edward? Anyone could walk by and think you've spent too many months at sea. There's a whorehouse not a mile from here, go get one of them to wet your whistle," she says, but her dagger stays in its sheathe. 

    "Aye, but I don't want another whore. What I want is you." I cut off her laugh by covering her mouth with mine. She doesn't respond for a few seconds, but then slowly, almost lazily, rolls her tongue against mine. She tastes of spice and rum and fire. A heady combination. "Mary, I find you utterly bewitching," I say, breaking from her lips.

    "Ah Kenway, you'll regret this in the morning," she says on a sigh. I grin at her.

    "Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" I say, moving to unfasten her leather vest. She stops me.

    "Think this through Edward. Someone, somewhere, will hear or see something and think you're screwing a boy barely out of his teens, if that." I shrug my shoulders.

    "You know as well as I that half the pirates in Nassau use each other for companionship on the sea."

    "That's different, we're on the land." I roll my eyes.

    "Okay, it's been thought through. Moving on," I say, moving for her vest again. Once again, she stops me.

    "And what of your wife, hmm? What of Caroline?" she asks.

    "Were you listening to me not five minutes past? I just told you I'm done with her."

    "A decision made on a beach in the middle of the night, when you've had too much rum." 

    "Mary, look at me," I say, catching her eyes with mine. "I haven't had a drink all night." She narrows her eyes.

    "Why not?" I sigh and roll to the side.

    "Because I had some thinking to do and I thought, for once, I'd do it sober." I lay on my back with my arms behind my head, staring up at the stars. "You're always telling me that I need to do better, that I need to be better, but that's not the same thing as not being me at all. The truth is, Mary, ever since our paths crossed in Kingston I haven't been able to stop thinking about you. How you fight, how you kill... how you look when you're not pretending to be a boy..." She scoffs and I grin. "And how you're here, living your life as a pirate, doing what you wish, but with a purpose, with something guiding your actions beyond the next ship full of gold. 

    "I'm done with Caroline because I'm done being something I'm not, but I'm not done with trying to be a better man. And thus far in my 27 years of life, you're the first person to make me feel like that. Like I want to be better not just for you, but for myself." Mary is silent for a moment before getting to her feet and pulling me up next to her. She keeps hold of my hand and starts to walk, dragging me along. "Where are we going?"

    "To your manor to find a proper bed. After the speech you just gave, one is required for all the things I plan to do to you," she says without turning around. I grin. Somehow, I think this is just the start of something beautiful. 
My first alternate universe story! It's from Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, and contains minor spoilers. 
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     "You can't leave me Mary," I say, unpacking the few belongings from her bag. "It's only been two months, you promised me three." She makes a noise of frustration.

    "For the last time Kenway, I ain't leaving you! One of my targets has surfaced and I need to take him out before he goes to ground. Quit being a baby. I'll only be gone a week, and Adewale has volunteered to fill my place until I get back."

    "Tell Ade not to bother," I sulk. "We'll spend the week in Kingston. Perhaps visit some of the new whorehouses." I'm poking her for a reaction. I'm hoping maybe she'll fly into a rage, or perhaps beg me not to. Or, even better, decide not to go after all. I get none of these.

    "You can do as you like, Edward," she says, rolling her words together in a way that is uniquely Mary, "but if you spend the week trolling for whores the only person you'll get back on this ship is James Kidd. Mary Read will stay ashore." Leave it to Mary to outsmart me yet again. She's proven time and again her cleverness over the past two months.

    She'd been yelling orders at the crew for less than a week the first time she had to put someone in their place. She was walking across the deck, headed for the galley, when John knocked into her with his shoulder. Hard. I think he expected the teen boy to go sprawling across the deck, but though she stumbled she stayed on her feet.

    "Something to say, John?" she asked. She appeared relaxed at first glace, but I could read the tension in her every muscle. John scoffed.

    "I have nothing to say to the captain's pet cabin boy," he spat. My first instinct was to leap over the helm and lay him flat, but I was pretty sure that counted as undermining her authority, so I resisted. Barely. Mary just laughed.

    "Is that jealousy I hear? How long have you been waiting for your invitation to his cabin?" she taunted. John turned red.

    "I would never-"

    "Oh please," she cut him off. "The whole crew knows you find your pleasure with Simon on a regular basis." This was met by chuckles from the rest of the crew, who were watching with rapt attention.

    "All I know is that after the black one left-" John started.

    "Careful what you say here, Johnny boy," she warned, hand resting near her sword. "His name is Adewale." I tried not to grin. It's just like Mary to defend a friend's honor, whether he be present or not.

    "Fine, after Adewale left it should have been me or Malcolm as quartermaster, not some kid who's only talent lies in warming the captain's bed," he said. Mary gave him a crooked grin.

    "Malcolm," she called up to where he was sitting aloft, "do you agree with this lazy excuse for a pirate?"

    "John, if you can't keep your big mouth shut at least leave me out of it!" Malcolm yelled down. John scowled while Mary laughed her low, husky laugh, sending shivers up my spine.

    "It seems Mal has no objections, which just leaves you. Ever think you weren't made quartermaster because you can barely tell port from starboard?" John turned even redder and lunged for her. Before I could order him thrown overboard, Mary had him pinned face first to the deck with his arm wrenched up behind his back.

    "Listen closely John. I'm quartermaster here, and no amount of your bitching is going to change that. The way I see it, you have three options. You can keep running your mouth and get marooned on one of the lovely nearby deserted islands, you can hold your tongue until we get to port and find a new ship to crew, or you can learn your place, shut your mouth, and stay aboard the Jackdaw. Frankly, I don't give a damn which one you choose, but if you come at me again looking for a fight I'll slit your throat and throw you overboard for the sharks. Savvy?"

    "Savvy," John managed to choke out. Mary released his arm and took a step back. 

    "Good," was all she said before continuing below deck. John shaped up and stayed on board, now one of James Kidd's biggest fans.

    "Will you at least tell me who the target is?" I ask Mary as she repacks her bag.

    "Do you remember Laurens Prins?" she asks.

    "Of course, the slaver the Sage was working for."

    "Well, his second in command has taken over his slave trade. He's surfaced in Nassau, looking to take on new crew without scruples. I'll be cutting his plans short," she explains, finishing with her bag.

    "If you're going to Nassau then why are we docked at Pirate's Cove?" I ask, slightly confused. She gives me a look that tells me she thinks me an idiot.

    "Edward, the last time you were in Nassau you blew up the blockade set by the king. Arriving on the Jackdaw would draw a lot of attention I'm trying to avoid." She slings her bag over one shoulder. "Now then, this is your last change for a kiss before I-" She doesn't get to finish her sentence because I already have her in my arms, kissing her passionately. She wraps her arms around my neck and returns it with interest.

    "Please be careful," I whisper against her lips. She takes a step out my embrace and shoots me a grin.
    "Ah, Kenway. I'm not the one you need worry about. I've got to go, there's a schooner waiting for me one dock over. Ade will be waiting for you in the tavern." With that she turns on her heel and leaves the cabin. I was lying about the whorehouse. I doubt I could even feign interest in someone who isn't Mary at this point. I head toward the tavern to find my old quartermaster and closest friend already settled at a table with a drink in hand. He smiles and waves when he sees me, then gestures at the seat across from him. 

    "Kenway! it's good to see your ugly face again Breddah," he says, clasping my arm across the table.

    "And yours as well, Ade," I reply, signaling the tavern wench for a drink. "Though I'm surprised you volunteered to fill Kidd's spot for the week. You were very clear about how you felt when you were leaving."

    "That's true, but, uh, James has sent word that your attempts to care for more than gold are coming along nicely." I smile at that.

    "I have been trying, though gold is still near the top of my list," I say.

    "I won't begrudge you that," replies Ade. "So, what are we doing this week? Taking down a convoy? Diving for shipwrecks? Hunting the white whale that's been spotted not far from here?"

    "Actually, Ade, I thought I'd just take the week off. We'll be staying here at the Cove. I'll be fixing up the manor house if you'd like to stay and join me." Ade looks at me for a moment before he bursts out laughing. 

    "I never thought I'd see the day, Kenway. I believe I know what you now value more than gold." I take a swig of the rum the barmaid's just put down in front of me. His laughter dies out.

    "I see. You wish to be accompanying him on this."

    "What if something happens to he-him," I say, catching myself before saying her, "and I'm not there to help? What if something happens, and Kidd's gone for good?" Ade takes another drink.

    "There is a way for you to be able to accompany Kidd to all his targets," he says. 

    "There is?" I ask, my interest piqued.

    "Of course," responds Ade. "All you have to do is join the Assassins."
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Elle ripped her arm free of the large sailor's grip as he hauled her up from the ladder and onto the deck. She nearly fell to the floor, feeling so detached and disoriented from the horror she had just witnessed that her whole body was numb.

Mias is dead.

She felt a sharp twisting in her chest at the very thought, and she wanted nothing more than to crumple to the floor and cry. She looked towards the island, only able to see the outline of the cliffs and the glimmer of waves as they drifted onto the shore. Elle wanted to hurl herself over the side of the ship, to swim back to Mias and hold him in her arms one last time. But she knew there would be no point in it, that all the wishing and crying, all the promises and kisses in the world would never bring him back. All she could do now was hope that Mias knew what she felt for him. That his love for her was matched by her love for him.

She watched as Elias climbed up the last few steps of the ladder with a wide grin on his face, his shoulders pulled back confidently. He showed not even an ounce of remorse, not a flicker of shame after what he had done. Elle's numbness melted away when she saw him, rage bubbling up inside her as his eyes met hers.

He had barely stepped onto the deck when she launched herself at him, not caring about the consequences of what she was about to do. She wanted to see him bleed, wanted to cause him pain, she wanted to kill him.

"You bastard!" She screamed, bringing her tiny fist up with as much strength as she could muster, slamming it into the side of his face. His head jerked to the right from the force, and he staggered to the side only slightly before he turned to look at her. She brought her hand to her chest, cradling it in her other hand as a sharp ache spread across her knuckles. Ignoring the pain, she threw her fist at him again, only to have the large sailor from the beach grab her arms and tug them behind her back.

"Let go of me you pig!" She shouted, struggling against his hold. "How could you let him do it? How could you just stand there and let it happen?"

"You'd be wise to shut your mouth before you meet with a similar fate," the man behind her warned. She glared up at him and knew from the look on his face that he wasn't threatening her. He was watching his captain with wary eyes, clearly concerned about what he would do.

Elias wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth, glancing at his fingers. His lip twitched when his eyes met hers, and he took a step closer. Though her heart pounded, Elle wasn't afraid. She was blinded by fury, blinded by a hate so consuming that it made her head spin. She braced herself for whatever he planned to do. If he wanted to hit her, so be it. She would be ready for it, and she would fight back with every ounce of strength she had. There was nothing to lose, nothing to fear, because Elias had already done his worst.

"Doesn't it feel wonderful," Elias murmured, gazing at her as though they shared some special secret.

Elle held her breath, eyeing him warily. He looked haunted, like a man who had seen and done too much in his life to ever come away clean.

"It's soothing, is it not?" Elias went on. "The hatred. The rage. Do you feel how it slithers inside you, how it fills you? Can you sense how it swallows up any glimmer of peace that builds within your soul?"

Elias stepped forward, licking at the blood which trickled from the corner of his mouth and down his chin. "You are like me now, dearest. Driven by your lust for revenge. Let it consume you, my darling Elle. Let it sustain you."

Elle shook her head violently, bile rising up in her throat. "I'm nothing like you, Elias. You're a deluded, sick coward who just murdered his own brother!"

And the man I loved! Elle's heart screamed.

Elle's breath hitched and she glanced around at the sailors on deck, going about their tasks as though nothing was wrong. She wanted to scream at them, wanted to demand that they look upon their captain with her eyes and see him for the monster that he was.

"Mias never would have left us alone," Elias said, matter-of-factly. "He never would have let you go. We would have gone through life always looking over our shoulders, wondering when he would steal our happiness away. Don't you see, dearest? I did it for us."

Elle laughed humorlessly, a cold cackle that sent a chill through her. "You're pathetic."

Elias glared at her, shaking his head. "It is fortunate for you that I am in a forgiving mood this night, dearest. Otherwise we would both have a split lip."

Elias took a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his mouth and chin. The man who had been restraining Elle let go and inched back, remaining close enough that he could grab her if he needed to. He cast her a warning look, concern clear in his eyes. He knew how volatile his captain was, and in spite of everything that had happened Elle couldn't help but wonder what Elias had done before this to make the man fear him so.

"We will reach Tearny within two days time," Elias said, stuffing the handkerchief back into his pocket, his eyes hard. "And once I settle my business affairs, we will be married."

"There isn't going to be a wedding," Elle hissed, hands clenched at her sides. The sailor took a step forward, but Elias lifted his hand to stop him.

"Really," Elias said, the corner of his mouth tilting up. "And why is that?"

"Because I'm going to kill you," Elle spat. "I'm going to slaughter you the way that you slaughtered Mias. Or I'll die trying."

Elias shook his head, laughing. "No you won't, dearest. You wouldn't risk attempting something so foolish."

Elle's lips trembled, but she kept her gaze cold and unwavering. "Why wouldn't I? I have nothing to lose."

Elias shook his head again. "On the contrary, dearest, you have something very precious to lose."

Elle's heartbeat quickened, but she tried to keep her emotion from showing. She already knew what Elias had meant, she only prayed that she was wrong.

"Bring him over!" He bellowed.

Elle's heart sank as she watched Mr. Jones come down the stairs from the quarterdeck, pulling Thomas along beside him. Thomas' foot caught on a pile of rope and he tumbled forward on hands and knees with a yelp.

Mr. Jones leaned down to help him up, but Elias grabbed Thomas by the collar of his shirt and lifted him roughly to his feet. Thomas glanced up at Elias, giving Elle a perfect view of the large purple bruise forming on the boys' cheek.

"You son of a bitch!" Elle screamed, throwing herself at Elias, clawing at the arm which held Thomas, slamming her fist against his chest. "He's just a child, you monster!"

The sailor grabbed Elle around the waist and pulled her off of Elias, grunting when she turned on him and slapped him in the face. He grabbed her arms and turned her to face Elias, who still held Thomas by the collar.

Thomas looked at her wide eyed, tears streaming down his cheeks. He was terrified, his eyes darting from her to Elias as he watched the scene unfold.

"Don't you dare hurt him!" Elle cried.

"Whether or not I hurt him will be up to you, dearest." Elias said calmly.

"W-what do you mean?" Elle breathed, not taking her eyes from Thomas' face.

"What it means, dearest, is that if I even suspect that you are plotting against me," Elias grated, twisting his hand more tightly in Thomas shirt, "I will do to him what I did to my brother."

Elle ceased her struggling, icy terror slipping down her spine. Her eyes widened as she watched Thomas, his face ghostly pale as his eyes pleaded with hers.

"You wouldn't," Elle rasped, shaking her head. "He's just a little boy."

"A very clever little boy," Elias sneered, looking down at Thomas. "Helped you escape, did he not? The two of you have already conspired against me once. It will not happen again."

Elias placed his hand lightly on the hilt of his dagger, the very dagger that he had used to kill Mias. Elle watched in horror as he pulled the blade slowly from his belt with a menacing grin.

"It won't happen again! I swear it won't!" Elle shrieked, swallowing her tears. She had to be strong. Even though every fiber of her being was screaming from her loss, even though every part of her wanted rip out Elias' black heart, she had to be patient. For Thomas' sake, she had to stay strong and do everything that she was told. For now.

Elias slid the blade back into place and released his hold on Thomas, crossing his arms.

Thomas ran the small distance and wrapped his arms around Elle's waist, burying his face against her shirt so that his sobs were muffled. The sailor that held Elle released her arms, and she immediately wrapped them around Thomas' trembling shoulders.

"See how easy that was?" Elias smirked, turning towards the stairs. "Get us under way, Mr. Jones!"

The deck came alive around them, men rushing across the deck and along the ratlines above, blurring by as Elle held Thomas in her arms and let him cry to his heart's content.

"I'm so sorry, miss!" He wailed, his face still pressed against her stomach. "Please forgive me!"

Elle pulled him away and knelt down in front of him. "You have nothing to apologize for, sweetheart," she said firmly, giving his shoulders a gentle shake.

He wiped his eyes, wincing as his palm grazed across the purple bruise on his cheek. "I didn't tell him, miss. I swear! I don't know how he knew!"

Elle pulled him close, wrapping her arms around him and shushing him as he cried against her shoulder. "I am so proud of you, Thomas. You were a brave boy tonight."

"Thank you miss," he sniffled, his shaky sobs subsiding.

Elle looked up towards the quarterdeck to see Elias, his arms behind his back, staring down at the deck as his men pulled up the anchor, while others tugged ropes with shouts of encouragement, the sails rising high on their masts.

"What happened on that island, miss?" Thomas hiccupped. "I heard you screaming about murder. Did the captain kill someone?"

Elle's heart ached as she recalled what had happened, her heart aching as she pictured Mias' face as he looked up at her and professed his love.

Elle knew Thomas wanted to know what had happened because Elias had promised that Thomas would meet the same fate. But Elle would never do anything that would put Thomas in harms way.

"Don't you worry about any of that, Thomas." Elle murmured, patting his back gently. "I won't let anything happen to you."

Thomas nodded against her, letting out a shaky sigh. The bulkheads creaked beneath them, the sails flapping wildly above their heads before the wind caught them and the ship moved forward.

Elle looked up to find Elias' icy gaze on her, his hair whipping around his face as the ship lurched to the side.

Elle met his gaze, refusing to show any hint of fear or apprehension. She was determined not let him frighten her ever again, knowing with certainty that she couldn't afford such a weakness. She would bide her time, let him think that he had won, and once they made port and she had spirited Thomas safely away, Elias would pay for what he had done.

~~~

I love you, Elle.

"Mias?"

I didn't get to tell him!

"Mias, wake up!"

I have to tell him, I have to!

"Mias, open your eyes!"

Mias gasped, the pressure in his abdomen making it difficult to breathe. He coughed several times, groaning as pain lanced through his side. He cracked open his eyes to find Abernos sitting in a chair beside the bed, holding his hand.

"You have to stay awake," Abernos said, squeezing Mias' hand. "At least until the doctor finishes up and gets some healing salve on your wound."

Mias let out a shaky breath as he glanced at the doctor leaning over him, his hands working quickly as he stitched the wound closed.

"Only a few moments longer," the tiny white haired man squeaked, his white beard seeming too large for his face. "Try and hold still, young man."

Mias looked down at his wound just as the man slipped a needle through his skin and tugged a strand of glimmering thread through the mangled flesh.

Mias pressed his head back against the pillow, baring his teeth against the pain. It subsided for a moment, returning threefold when the needle was plunged into his flesh once more.

"Can't you give him something for the pain?" Abernos asked weakly, his skin pale as he watched the needle dip in and out of Mias' wound.

"I'm afraid I don't have any numbing ointment," the little doctor said, glancing at Mias over his horn rimmed glasses. "Used the last of it on that old sailor O'Grady. Tore up his leg something awful after the storm last month. Nearly drowned, poor man."

Mias closed his eyes, images of Elle's ashen face flashing through his mind. Had he managed to tell her how he felt? All he could recall was the searing pain as the knife tore into his body, and being carried along the beach moments later. And screaming, he could remember screams cutting through the haze, demanding a chance to tell him something. But what?

Mias glanced at Abernos."How long was I out?" Mias croaked, licking his lips.

"Nearly four hours," Abernos said. "You lost a lot of blood, Mias. We didn't think you were going to make it."

Mias shuddered as the needle dove into his skin, his thoughts drifting to Elle once more. He knew she was probably terrified, especially after what she had witnessed. She probably thought he was dead, and his heart ached at the thought of what such a belief might do to her. Her love for him became clear the moment she threw herself at Elias, promising to do anything he said if he would only spare Mias' life. As he recalled the love in her eyes as she gazed at him, so desperate to save his life, he wished that he would have told her then that he loved her too.

Thinking back over the events that unfolded that night, Mias realized that what bothered him more than Elle seeing him get stabbed was the fact that Elias had struck her. His blood boiled as he recalled her trembling lips and wide eyes as she looked at him helplessly, too shocked to do anything but stare. Mias determined then and there that he would not kill Elias for stabbing him like a sniveling coward, because he had expected nothing less from him. No, he would kill him for raising his hand in anger towards Elle. Mias felt numb as he considered what else his brother might do.

"He has Elle," Mias breathed, the pain in his heart more agonizing than the wound in his abdomen. "I had her, Abernos. I promised her I would protect her, and I failed miserably."

"There, there," Abernos said, patting Mias on the shoulder. "We'll get her back, I'm sure of it."

Mias was furious with himself for being so careless. He should have known that Elias would come after Elle the second he realized that she was gone. But he had been so relieved to find her, so eager to seek comfort in her arms that he had been blind to the threat. It was his fault that Elle was in danger, just as it had been his fault the time before.

"I should have known that this would happen," Mias growled, Digging his fingers into Abernos hand.

"Uh, Mias," Abernos whispered.

"But like a fool I took my time, too arrogant to even consider that Elias—"

"Mias!" Abernos shrieked, cutting through his thoughts. Mias glanced at the little fawn to see that he was clawing at Mias' hand, trying to pull his furry little fingers free of the vice-like grip.

Mias released his hold, and Abernos let out his breath in a whoosh, shaking his hand and stretching his fingers.

"My apologies," Mias muttered, and Abernos nodded weakly.

"We will get Elle back," Abernos promised, looking at Mias with concern. "I'm certain of it."

Mias turned his head to look at him, noticing how exhausted the little fawn looked, his hair a tangle around his antlers, his eyelids heavy over his eyes.

Mias frowned as he recalled the encouragement shouted to him as he lay bleeding, Abernos' voice calling to him from the depths, demanding that he hold onto life, for Elle's sake.

Mias looked away, clearing his throat. He knew there was no getting around it, so he should just get it over with so that the two of them could continue on their paths of mutual disregard.  

"Thank you." Mias growled, before he lost his nerve. "You saved my life."

Abernos smiled wide and leaned forward in his chair, taking Mias' hand in his. "Of course, Mias. After all, what are friends for?"

Mias lips thinned. "I'm not your—"

"All done," the doctor said, cutting the thread and Mias' statement short, after which he reached into his bag and produced a small jar filled with a dark green substance.

"What is that?" Mias asked, as the doctor unscrewed the lid and scooped a heap of the stuff onto his fingers, smearing it across the wound. Mias gritted his teeth against the painful sensation, taking the sheets in his fists. It smelled awful, like a mingle of rotten eggs and fish.

"A healing salve of my own invention," the doctor said simply. "Now sit up."

Abernos took Mias by the arm and helped him sit up in the bed, and the doctor placed a thick piece of gauze over the wound and then wrapped a long strip of linen tightly around Mias' torso several times, before securing it in place.

"I need to get above," Mias said, trying to swing his feet over the side of the bed. His head was spinning, the pain in his abdomen excruciating, but he had to move. Elle was in danger.

"You must stay in bed young man," the doctor said, pushing Mias' shoulder to force him back down onto the pillow. "At least until the healing salve can do its work."

"That bastard has Elle," Mias growled, struggling against Abernos and the doctor who were trying to hold him down. Mias knew they only wanted to help him, but he saw them as yet another obstacle standing between him and Elle. "You expect me to lie in this bed and do nothing while at this very moment Elias has his hands on my Elle?"

"I have everything under control," Abernos said confidently. "We are at full sail, headed for Tearny as was our original plan. We can still make out the sails of the Revenge on the horizon. Everything is under control Mias, I assure you."

Mias hesitated, meeting Abernos' gaze. "I can't just sit here and do nothing."

Abernos nodded, but still forced Mias back down onto the bed. "You must rest so that you can regain your strength. If you spring into action now, you will most surely pop out your stitches and start bleeding again, and then you will be of no use to anyone, especially Elle."

Mias laid back against the pillow, defeated. He hated to admit it, but Abernos was right. Just from his small struggle against them pain seared across his stomach, making him nauseous. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead and upper lip as he struggled to keep his breathing steady as an uncomfortable sting crawled over his wound as the healing salve went to work.

"Very well," Mias grated, glaring up at Abernos. "Enjoy your small victory, fawn. But rest assured that once I am well, you will not enjoy such a privilege again."

Instead of Abernos cowering away or averting his green eyes shyly as he usually did, Abernos' lips quirked up into a warm smile that made Mias uncomfortable.

"That's the spirit!" Abernos said, slapping his hands together. "Brood and get angry! It lets me know that you are feeling almost like your old self again."

"How long must I stay in this damn bed?" Mias barked, Abernos' lack of fear grating his nerves.

"I would recommend a week of bedrest before the salve will have completely healed the wound," the doctor said hesitantly. "But since I know your situation requires haste, I think you should be well enough to be up and about when we make port in Tearny, as long as you do nothing to aggravate the wound."

Not likely, Mias thought.  

Two days confined to a bed while he knew Elle was trapped with Elias? Time seemed to slow in its tracks as that thought settled in. Mias ran a shaky hand through his hair, comforted only by the image of driving his blade through Elias' heart, and the sweet reward of having Elle wrapped in his arms.

~~~

"That ship's following us, Captain," Mr. Jones said, touching a match to his pipe and letting out a puff of white smoke from the corner of his mouth. "I'm certain of it."

With the morning sun hot against his skin, Elias watched the small schooner through his spyglass as it cut a path through the waves. It was a merchant vessel, of that he was certain. Normally he would have slowed his ship and run up the flags to indicate they needed aid. And once the schooner got close, he would have attacked, stealing whatever goods he found onboard and killing any who resisted.

But he had no time for such things now, he had a schedule to keep. After all, nothing was more important than his wedding day. And he certainly didn't want to have any angry bride on his hands if their ceremony was even the slightest bit delayed.

"I saw that ship docked in Port Town before we set sail, Captain," Mr. Jones went on. "And I spotted it last night, stopped just as we were near that blasted island."

Elias froze, lowering the spyglass to gaze at Mr. Jones. "And you're just sharing this bit of information with me now?" He growled.

"I knew you had other…pressing issues on your mind, Captain," the old man said, scratching his cheek. "Didn't want to bother you with it, is all."

Elias raised the spyglass and watched the tiny vessel once more. It was clear to Elias that Mias had commissioned the merchant ship to track them down, but now that he was dead Elias doubted that he had anything to fear from the small vessel. After all, it was a trade route frequented by many merchants from across the world. The tiny ship he stared at now had probably been headed for Tearny to begin with, which was why they had agreed to take Mias along. But it was better to be safe.

Elias snapped the spyglass closed and handed it to Mr. Jones. "Let me know of any changes immediately. If that ship alters its course even the slightest degree, I want to know about it."

Elias turned before Mr. Jones could say anything, and headed down the stairs. He wouldn't waste anymore time worrying about the mysterious vessel that trailed too far behind to be deemed as a real threat.

After all, Mias was dead, Elle was his, and the wind was in their favor.

What could he possibly have to worry about?

~~~

Elle rested her head against the window, letting out a small sigh of exhaustion. She hadn't slept at all, unable to get the images of the night before out of her mind.

I do not wish you to remember me this way, Elle thought, remembering how Mias' eyes had pleaded with her.

She sighed, trying to push those last moments of his life out of her mind, and instead focused on how it had felt to be in his arms the night they danced together. She recalled the way he had held her that first time in the living room, trying to kiss away her fear. She felt a smile creep across her lips when she remembered how he had laughed at her when she tried to launch herself through the front door in the hope of breaking through his protection spell.

He loved me even then, she realized. That's what he was going to tell me, before—

Elle opened her eyes and stared out at the sea, just as two dolphins leapt up out of the water and disappeared below the crystal blue waves.

"Did you see that, miss?" Thomas asked, his nose pressed to the glass, a wide grin spread across his face.

"I did," Elle said, managing a smile for his benefit.

"Mr. Jones says seeing a dolphin jump up out of the water like that is a sign of good fortune to come! And we've just seen two!" Thomas said, grinning up at her.

Hopefully they don't cancel each other out, Elle thought dryly.

She pushed the negative thought aside, not liking the cynical turn her thoughts had taken. She had never been that way, had always tried to see the glass as half full. She supposed that watching the man you loved die had a way of changing one's view of the world.

"A ship!" Thomas cried, breaking through Elle's thoughts.

"Where?" Elle asked, pressing her nose against the glass just as Thomas did.

"There!" He said, tapping his finger against the glass.

She blinked several times and stared out at the horizon. She was about to tell Thomas that she didn't see anything, but then she noticed something moving among the waves.

It was nothing but a smudge that bobbed in front of the horizon, but it was there. Elle felt a tiny flutter in her chest when hope swallowed up the dark clouds forming in her heart.

"Abernos," She breathed, a small circle forming on the glass from her warm breath. "Please be Abernos."

She wiped the smudge away with her hand and squinted out the window, unable to tear her eyes away from the ship.

"Who's Abernos?" Thomas asked, his little eyebrow raised when he looked up at her.

"He's my friend," Elle said.

"Is he coming to rescue us?" Thomas asked, clearly excited.

Elle couldn't bear to crush his hope with any of her own doubts. She didn't even know if it was Abernos, but she wouldn't tell Thomas that. She would keep his hope alive as long as she could, even if her own had already begun to dwindle.

"I think he is," Elle said, mussing Thomas' hair. "And once he does we will get far away from the Captain and this horrible ship, and start a new life someplace wonderful."

"What are you up to now, dearest?" Elias said from the doorway. "Plotting against me already?"

Elle turned to find him leaning against the wall, his arms crossed as he watched her. Thomas sidestepped so that he was pressed against her side, and she placed her hand protectively around his shoulders.

"No," she said, keeping her voice steady. "We were just talking. Spotted a few dolphins in the water, and Thomas was explaining to me how they meant good fortune was on the way. Isn't that right, Thomas?"

Thomas nodded emphatically, his little hands shoved in the pockets of his breeches.

"Good fortune to come?" Elias said, raising his eyebrows. "Ah, yes. Our coming wedding. That should please you, knowing that the fates smile upon our plans."

Elle bit the inside of her cheek to keep her harsh retort from escaping. She wouldn't do anything that would put Thomas in jeopardy, no matter how much it twisted her insides to keep her hatred at bay.

Elias studied her, clearly pleased by her silence. He glared down at Thomas. "Leave us."

Thomas glanced up at Elle apologetically, then rushed past Elias and disappeared into the hall. Elias closed the door behind him and turned back towards Elle.

"I was very disappointed when I did not find you waiting for me in our bed," Elias said casually, his arms behind his back. "Where did you disappear to last night?"

Elle's heart sank, her cheeks heating in anger. Did he actually imagine that she would ever—? Her skin crawled at the thought of him touching her, his rough hands on her skin, pawing at her body in the dark.

"I slept in one of the other cabins," Elle said flatly. She wouldn't say which cabin, unwilling to give him anything more to go on. But she knew deep down that if he wanted to find her, he would.

"I can understand your apprehension," Elias said calmly, taking another step towards her.

"Can you really," Elle said through clenched teeth. Her heart was pounding in her ears, her hands trembling. It was taking everything she had in her to keep from throwing herself at him and clawing his eyes out. She glanced at the desk, already determined that if he tried anything she would smash him over the head with the large marble paperweight. To hell with the consequences.

"Indeed I can, dearest." He breathed, rubbing his chin as he stared her up and down. "But I assure you, I would be a most gentle and attentive lover."

Elle cringed when he grabbed a strand of her hair and brushed it under his nose and along his lips.

"Mmm, you smell like sunshine," he murmured, looking at her dreamily.

Elle was going to be sick, she was certain of it. She glanced towards the paperweight on the desk but it was too far out of reach. And even if she somehow managed to get her hands on it, what if she failed to kill him? Then it would be little Thomas who would suffer the consequences.

"Since I did not have the pleasure of your company last night," Elias murmured, twirling her hair around his finger. "Perhaps you would like to make it up to me this morning?"

Elle shuddered, wanting desperately to drive her knee so hard into his groin that he sang soprano for the rest of his days, which were already numbered in Elle's eyes.

Don't do it! You must be strong, Elle! Her mind commanded. Be smart! For Thomas!

But before she could come up with a response, Elias laughed and let go of her hair.

"Come now, dearest." Elias said. "You must learn not to be so susceptible to my teasing nature."

Elle shook her head in disgust, and he laughed harder.

The bastard is toying with me!

"It's alright dearest, don't look so distraught," Elias said, taking a seat at his desk, his eyes still on her face. "You can have your own cabin, and your little secrets with the whelp."

He glanced down at the charts on his desk, sorting through the papers before him.
Heart pounding, Elle inched around the desk, eager to escape the confined space and her nearness to Elias.

"But when we make port and we are wed," Elias said darkly, "I will expect you to behave like a devoted wife, eagerly warming my bed every night."

Elle froze, her hand trembling on the door handle. She looked over her shoulder at him, hunched over his desk, his gaze crawling over her body.

She threw open the door and slammed it behind her, running down the hallway and down a short ladder to the small cabin that she had slept in the night before.

Elle closed the door behind her, and let the strangled sob rip free from her chest. Angry tears spilled down her cheeks, and she dug her fingers into her hair, tugging at the strands with frustration.

She didn't know how much more she could handle before she snapped. Every time she saw Elias' face, every time she heard his voice, she wanted to kill him.

Just a while longer, she thought. Once Thomas is safe, Elias is as good as dead.
Omg, I feel like I just ran a marathon getting this part done!:D Let me know what you think, and as always point out any screw ups that you spot:D

As always, thank you so much for all the support! The amount of comments, faves, and watches I have been getting is unreal! And although I haven't been able to respond to you all, I read everything and I appreciate it so much!:heart:

Thank you :iconstressedjenny: for letting me write about your awesome characters:hug:
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    "Old Billy Riley was a dancing master," I sing, heading up the trail from the docks on Great Inagua. I shoot a friendly grin at the girls plying their trade in front of the whorehouse as I turn the corner towards the manor. "Old Billy Riley, oh, old Billy Riley." I hear a deep, rich laugh from behind me and turn to see Ade approaching me. 
    
    "Ah, Edward, ye never could sing," he says, falling into step beside me. 
    
    "I've no idea what you mean, man. I've the finest voice aboard the Jackdaw." Ade rolls his eyes.

    "Speaking of which, I thought the lot of you were casting off this morning."

    "That was the plan," I agree. "But I boarded my ship only to find my quartermaster missing."

    "I see," he says with a nod. "Perhaps Kidd is saying one last goodbye to Anne." I bite back my smile.
    
    "And I suppose that's where you're headed as well?" Ade's eyes quickly fly to my face, but it's a mask of innocence. Of course, he'd not be headed there to say goodbye. Sometime between when we left Kingston and arrive in Great Inagua a week ago, Ade decided Anne, being five months pregnant, needed protecting until her baby is born. And, as it happens, that he's the perfect man to do so. I pity any bounty hunters that come ashore looking for the infamous pirate Anne Bonny. 

    Ade's eyes narrow at me, as if he's not buying my innocent act. I'd be insulted, if he wasn't right. I shrug and Ade turns his focus back to the path in front of us with a shake of his head. I study his profile at a glance, and wonder how long it will take for Anne to discover he's smitten. Or if she knows it already. 

   I suppose it's none of my business, but a bastard like me doesn't make many friends, and I'd like to think I can count Ade among the few. I hope Anne realizes what a good man she has waiting for her. And if she can't find it in that heart of hers to love him back, well, then I hope she lets him down easy.

    "And what does Ah Tabai think of you leaving his assassin's stronghold in favor of my pirate republic?" Ade laughs.
    
    "Breddah, I think you're forgetting that you belong to the same brotherhood as I." I acknowledge his point with a nod of my head. "Besides, I'll be back to Tulum in a few months. By the time the babe is born I'm sure the king's men will have stopped searching so fervently for their escapee." 
    
    "Are you sure you'll be able to leave her then, mate?" I ask. Ade sighs.
    
    "I'm under no illusions, Kenway. I'm here because she needs protection, and I'll leave again when she don't." I don't mention that any guard that set foot on Pirate's Cove would be dead long before he reached Anne at the manor. Ade can tell himself anything he wants, I know the look of a man craving a woman. It's a look I see in the mirror quite often. Speaking of which, I hasten my step as the manor comes into view, eager to find my woman and feel the sea shift beneath our feet once again. 

    "Kidd!" I call, stepping into the house. "Kidd! Let's go, it's time to cast off."

    "Keep yer knickers on, Edward. I'm on my way," comes Mary's smoky voice from our room. I can't help but smile at the sound.

    "We're already running late, Quartermaster," I mock. "Forgot how to lace up your boots?"

    "Hardly," she scoffs, stepping into the dining room with her pack. My eyes widen as I take her in. This isn't James Kidd standing in front of me, this is Mary Read herself. 

    Her hair is pulled forward from its typical knot at the back of her head, left to frame her face and highlight her delicate cheekbones. The bindings constricting her chest have been removed and her leather vest is open, revealing her tattoo and a small glimpse of her curves. Her lips are rouged and paired with bright, defiant eyes. 

    "See something you like, Kenway?" she challenges, though I can tell she's slightly nervous. I step towards her and wrap an arm around her waist. 

    "I always see something I like, Mary," I tell her before claiming her lips with mine. She smiles against my mouth briefly before putting a hand between us and pushing me away. 
 
    "Aye, well, your appreciation will just have to wait. We're late enough as it is," she says, slinging her pack over her shoulder and heading out the door. I follow quickly behind. 

    "So is Mary Read to join the crew of the Jackdaw today?" She glances over her shoulder at me before continuing down the path. 

    "It seems that way, aye." She's trying her best to seem indifferent, but I can see it in the set of her shoulders, the tenseness of her body- she's nervous. I have two options here; I can comfort, or I can taunt. She'd reject comfort out of hand, but if I taunt her I'll prick her pride, offer her a challenge. Make her mad. Better mad than scared. I catch her up and start to laugh. 

    "Ah, Mary, I don't think I've ever seen you afraid of something before," I say, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. She shrugs it off and glares at me. 

    "Bugger off, Kenway," she says with a sneer. "I ain't scared."

    "Now, now, Kidd," I continue, my tone patronizing, "it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's a different world out there for a woman, a scary one."

    "For the last time, you old scratch, I ain't scared," she says through gritted teeth. I continue on as if she hasn't spoken. 

    "It's to be expected, after all. What with women being the weaker sex. Don't worry, Mary, I'll be there to protect you." I move to wrap my arm around her shoulder again, but find myself flat on my back before I can complete the action. Mary's standing above me, fists clenched and breathing heavy. 

    "I ain't the one that needs protecting, Kenway," she says fiercely. I fight back a grin. 

    "But what of the men, hmm? What if they refuse to sail under a female quartermaster?" I ask. 

    "Then the bilge rats can find a different ship to crew." I don't try to hide my smile this time.

    "You're damn right they can," I say. Mary rolls her eyes and gives me a hand up, but I don't release it when she goes to pull it away. "I take it this means you plan to stay aboard the Jackdaw on a permanent basis then?" To stay with me, I want to say, but don't. She studies my face for a moment before answering. 

    "Well, she's a good ship, with a good crew, and a captain who's proven his worth. And his heart." I take a step towards her and slide my hand through her hair, cupping the back of her head and holding her in place while I devour her mouth. She tilts her head to give me a better angle, caressing my face with one hand while using the other to hold onto my arm, forcing me to keep hold of her head. As if I planned to let her go. Sooner or later we come up for air and I lay my forehead against hers. 

    "I'm glad you've decided to stay with me, Mary." She gives me a small kiss before stepping back and retrieving her pack that's fallen to the side. She turns towards the docks and when I wrap my arm around her shoulders this time she lets it stay. I can feel the smug grin on my face and she scoffs at me. 

    "Lay off, Edward. I know the real reason for your excitement. Now the crew will know you're not actually into teenage boys." My eyes light up as that thought takes hold. I drop my arm down so I'm holding her hand instead and start to pull her down the path with me as I increase my speed. 

    "Faster, woman! We have a reputation to restore."
Kiddway! I hope you like it
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The scent of the ocean mingled with the odor of gunpowder, the acidic smell of alcohol, and the giggles and mumblings of those on its beach, and for Edward Kenway, that unified scent was that of home, the sounds a mere white noise that calmed him as he sipped at cheap rum. When the sun set, it was like a stupor overcame him, a sense of rightness, though others would say he was just tipsy and exhausted.

A smaller figure sat beside him on the beach, the blonde not needing to raise his head to assign an identity, "Kidd."

"Kenway," James replied, pulling Edward's rum straight from his hands, and tossing it back, then holding onto it, "It seems yer taste in women...doesn't match yer taste in rum. Tell me you're certain Thatch didn't piss in it..."

"I accept cheap things to afford bigger prizes," he paused, turning to James, "If it were Thatch's piss...it'd get me drunk faster."

"Aye. Ah'd take it you've tried."

Edward rolled his eyes, reaching for the bottle, though James pulled it out of his reach, the smaller man leaning back and chuckling a bit, "Sure Kidd...we all have our secrets."

"That's a mighty shameful one Kenway."

"Are you just...here to tease me Jim? I'm not complaining exactly, but...I'd like to know what I'm in for tonight. I'm not drunk enough for one of your lectures," Edward sat back, giving up the alcohol and turning his gaze to the purple sky.

James tilted the bottle, pouring its contents into the nearby sand, "No Kenway...not 'ere to lecture you. 'Ere to make sure Ah don't 'ave to make good on mah threat...but seein' as you're drinkin' dirty water 'stead of rum, it seems like yer lips ahre sealed for now."

"My lips don't become looser when I drink. Not that you know, since I've never given away anyone else's secrets...you've no idea how much I know."

"Perhaps a lot, but nothin' quite so damnin'," Kidd replied sharply, looking Edward over with careful eyes.

Edward shrugged, leaning forward and resting his chin on his fist, still keeping his steel blue eyes on the sea, "Perhaps. Just don't think me naïve. I know I'm a more accepting man than most, but I'm also aware of how other men can be. Ade is a person in my books. A good one at that. I do however, see how men treat him. I'd never keep a slave, and I'd never keep a woman as one." Kidd quirked a brow, his glare strong enough that Edward could feel it on his skin. "You know Kidd...your temper may betray you before I even consider it."

James lowered his eyes, deep browns focused on the sand around his boots, "Ah... Ah just 'ave to think all the time Edward. It isn't you. Ah don't believe you're this big, bad man you like outsiders to see you as. You've already given it away; you're just a big pup."

"I am a small, defenseless hound, aren't I?" Edward asked with sarcasm, his steel blues sneaking to the corners of his eyes to look James up and down.

James looked up quickly, having felt his eyes, a light smirk on his lips as Edward looked away with a fluster, "It's...'ard to talk out 'ere Kenway. Maybe Ah do 'ave some lecturin' for you, but Ah also 'ave some strong stuff in mah quarters."

"Thatch always says I'm a cheap whore..." Edward said softly, rubbing his chin as he falsely pondered the offer, "But you think I should have more self-worth than that...I just...cannot decide!" Wide blue eyes curved at their corners as Edward grinned, pushing on a knee to stand up, and then offering his hand to the pirate beside him.

James shook his head, standing up on his own and rolling his eyes before looking up at him with eyes that made him feel as though he were looking down on Edward somehow, "Unlike you lads, Ah've enough charm that Ah don't need to pay for mah whores."
Chapter 1 of my Kiddway (Edward Kenway x James Kidd/Mary Read) story. I have plans for it, but for now they need to start nearish to the beginning. 

They can't talk much around others now that so many secrets have been shared. 
Keep reading and following my posts to see what else they learn about each other. ;)
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The scent of disinfectant hung in the air in a cloying, unpleasant way. Fabien’s skin still stung with it and now and again his eyes watered, not from emotion, but from the chemicals that had been applied to his sensitive flesh. He had been scrubbed and sanitized until his skin was pink and smarting but he was now undeniably clean. He hugged the soft material of his favourite hoodie closer to his body, and leant against the window frame. He tried not to wince when his skin pressed against the cool glass and concentrated on undoing the newly-acquired metal clasps.

Since his forbidden excursion to nearby infected waters his father had forbidden him from leaving the house. He had even ensured that one of his colleagues stayed in the house with him when he was out, during the day. The same man who babysat him had run through the standard ‘disinfection process’ and carefully run a small cotton swab around his mouth to provide the pivotal sample for their labs. Fabien has been too affected by shock for the first day or so to be anything other than compliant, even appreciating the attention and company provided. Once this numbness had begun to fade however he was dominated by the impulse to return to the sea and seek out the creatures he had found there.

His compulsion was not based on mere interest, or desire, but a crippling sense of guilt and unease. He felt sick at the memory of Luka’s hair being pulled and the sound of his terrified screams. He couldn’t bear the thought that this hysterical parting would be the last memory the mer-creatures had of him. He just wanted, he whispered to himself over and over again, to see the boys one more time. He was desperate to talk to them, to explain what had happened, to reassure them that all was well.

No other alternative was acceptable. So it was that with this mentality he broke the hinges on his window and slipped out into the night, dropping hard onto the rocky ground and stumbling in his attempts.

He moved away from the house cautiously at first, and then ran, breathlessly, all the way to the beach. A new tangle of bright yellow ‘Health Warning’ tape had been bound about the boundaries, pinned to every post of the fence and tangled around the gates. He picked his way through carefully, navigating the fragile obstacles.

The smooth stretch of sand looked different under the moonlight, far more foreboding, dangerous. The black waters looked as if they really could be infected, although nothing in the research suggested anything seriously dangerous. It was, Fabien told himself, nothing more than a mild anomaly that had been found in the PH Levels. Still, he had to slip his hand into the cold water to re-assure himself that it was pure, salty seawater and not a tainting black sludge.

He shivered and for a moment considered turning back, making his way back to his bedroom. He imagined curling up under his warm blankets, burying his head in the pillow and nursing his sore skin. He could pretend that he had never left and no one would ever know.

‘That’s not an option,’ he told himself though, ‘I can’t do that, I just can’t, I can’t…’

Hastily, his raw skin bitterly affected by the cold, he stripped off his clothes entirely. He put them to one side, folded beneath a heavy rock, before turning to face the sea. The sea breeze swept against his bare flesh making him shudder. He hesitated for just a moment, wrapping his arms about himself and digging his nails into the skin, and plunged in.

The cold made him gasp and stutter but he forced himself to swim, propelling himself forward, out further and further. He moved his limbs mechanically, with a purpose, and ignored the way his flesh prickled and ached.

He couldn’t go out too far, he knew, because of the currents, and he felt tired and uncomfortable at even a short distance. He aimed to travel to a high point of rock that stuck out of the water and leant against it, panting. His eyes darted about as he did so, searching the sea. He found that it was all dark and quiet though, unassuming. He took a few moments to catch his breath, his fingers scraping the shallow rock face, and then leant out a little to call out,

‘Luka?’ His voice echoed eerily but still seemed little more than a whisper, he raised his voice to call again, ‘Aden?’ There was no reply but the gentle murmur of the distant waves. They rolled and hit with a soft roar.

He wrapped his arms about himself, his teeth chattering, then called out again, louder. He cried out their names over and over, with a desperate hope.

‘Hello?’ He hissed, pathetically, his teeth chattering, ‘are you there? Are you there?’

He felt frightened and foolish. It had always been a pitiful little plan but he knew that there was nothing else to do. He told himself that he could call out across the sea for hours if he needed to and wait all night, and if he didn’t get an answer tonight he could come the next night and the next. If no one came then he would still, at least, be able to say that he had tried.

After around forty minutes his voice was growing strained and his skin felt as though someone had run the sharp blade of a knife across it – skinning him. He was feeling desperate and miserable, an ache consuming his vulnerable young heart. He was becoming more certain that it would not work, that he would never see the boys with the bright eyes and the fish-tails again.

Then, just as he was struggling to gather breath to cry out again, he saw the sudden glitter of movement on the water and his heart thudded with excitement.

‘Aden?’ He called, ‘Luka?’ He focussed his eyes upon the movement, the flick of what must be a tail. It dipped and swerved through the sea in the distinct way that he had observed. It could not be mistaken. As he watched he saw the sea-boy swimming quite clearly, closer and closer in every second.

He could not tell who it was from the distance, especially since both of the boys had been so similar in appearance. Even when the lithe body rose up before him, and the fair skin and hair was illuminated, startlingly white in the moonlight, he struggled to identify the features. When the boy spoke though, in high, childish tones Fabien knew it was Luka. He felt tears come into his eyes.

‘I waited for you,’ Luka told him, earnestly, his voice echoing slightly in the silent night, ‘I came here and waited after that night. Aden did too, but he said you would not come back.’ He seemed deeply affected, his cheeks pale and his eyes wide and red-rimmed.

‘I thought you would not come back,’ Fabien whispered, his teeth chattering as he spoke, ‘that you would be scared.’

Luka reached out to touch Fabien’s skin, letting his cold fingers caress the smooth curve of his cheek and then running along the contours of his neck. Fabien reached out both his arms, longingly, extending his fingers to invite Luka into a tender embrace.

‘You are cold,’ Fabien stuttered, with surprise, as the creature settled his wet weight against him. The sensation of Luka’s clammy hands alone had shot shivers through his body but the feel of the boy’s entire naked body struck him with a terrible mixture of pleasure and pain.

‘Does it hurt you?’ Luka asked, in alarm, ‘I’m so sorry.’ He made a movement as if to recoil but Fabien reached out and grabbed his wrist, pulling him close again.

‘It’s not so bad,’ he told him, ‘don’t go.’ Luka was unsettled but he pressed himself close to Fabien again, rubbing his hand over his back and arms as if to warm them. Fabien’s closed his eyes and tightened his own hold upon the other boy, feeling his heart thumping in his chest at a frantic pace.

‘I don’t have warm blood,’ Luka lamented, ‘and the sea has made you cold, you cannot stay here long.’ His eyes shimmered, as if he were on the verge of regretful tears.

‘Please, though - ‘Fabien said quickly, ‘let’s stay here, together just a little while. Tell me, is Aden okay?’

‘He was very frightened,’ Luka told Fabien sadly, biting his lip as he remembered his cousin’s reaction, ‘that’s why he wouldn’t come looking for you again.’ Fabien’s insides twisted painfully.

‘Does he hate me?’ He asked, anxiously.

‘No, no,’ Luka replied, ‘he was just frightened, because of what happened. He didn’t even want me to swim out. He held me tight and begged me not to go but I wouldn’t let him persuade me.’ Luka looked very forlorn for a moment. Fabien could see how much defying his cousin upset him.

‘Aden and I rarely ever disagree,’ he explained, guilt flickering across his beautiful features. ‘But I had to come back – I knew you would come back too!’

He suddenly grabbed at Fabien’s hand purposely and tried pulling him out to sea with him. The water surged up to meet Fabien’s struggling feet at an alarming rate and the boy had to kick hard in order to pull back, towards the harsh rock. He grabbed at the uneven surface desperately.

‘Please, Luka,’ he protested, ‘I can’t swim far out now let’s just stay here.’ His body felt numb and weak, he pressed his back hard against the rock and let his legs slack.

‘But you must!’ Luka protested, with a sudden energy. He held Fabien’s hand tightly and looked appealingly into his eyes.

‘Why?’ Fabien asked, blinking bewilderedly, ‘are you going to take me to see Aden?’

‘Not tonight,’ Luka said, breathing deeply, ‘I can’t, but we’ve got to get you away from here!’

‘What?’ Fabien stuttered. He had wrapped his own fingers around Luka’s wrist so that their hands were now clasped as if they were greeting one another, or making some terrible pact. ‘What do you mean? ’ He felt a little frightened.

‘You know I can’t go out to deep ocean,’ he protested more fervently, his eyes swerved out across the black sea, ’ I can’t keep swimming or breathe – I’ll die!’

‘I know!’ Luka cried out passionately, and shook his hair out of his face to look Fabien in the eyes. ‘We’ve found a place for you, a little cave in the rocks with a tiny bit of sand. You could stay there, I know you could. It’s quite far but I think you should be able to swim it.’ He bit his lip anxiously.

‘If you’re too tired I can carry you, I won’t let you get hurt,’ he said softly and sweetly, ‘I can take care of you.’

‘But,’ Fabien whispered, completely disconcerted by this sudden proposition, ‘how would I get back?’ Luka stared at him with his own, pale face, distorted by confusion and uncertainty.

‘But you mustn’t go back,’ he whispered gently. He moved forward to wrap his arms about Fabien, this time supporting him as if he was afraid that he might sink from exhaustion, and looked closely at his face. ‘We must get you away from that horrible man.’

Fabien blinked and then gave a little, stuttering laugh.

‘Luka, you don’t understand,’ he kicked his feet in the water to make sure they didn’t fall asleep, and pressed an arm to Luka’s shoulder. ‘That man… he was my father, and I must go back to him.’

‘But he was evil!’ Luka cried in a passionate spasm of horror, ‘how can you live with him – he might hurt you!’ He looked completely revolted, his bright blue eyes wide and white in the moonlight.

‘He’s not evil,’ Fabien explained, slowly and carefully, ‘he was just frightened when he saw me on the beach with you – he thought you were hurting me, he just wanted to protect me. He loves me and I have to go back with him and we have to go away again.’ He felt sudden, fresh tears prickle his eyes and mumbled, ‘I’m sorry.’

Luka looked devastated. He bent his head close, pressing his own cool cheek against Fabien’s and then, after a moment nuzzling at him.

‘We…we could have taken care of you though,’ he whispered, longingly, ‘we would have caught fish for you to eat – human’s eat fish don’t they?’ Dumbly, Fabien nodded. He imagined trying to cook the fish that the sea-boys caught him, perhaps they would be fascinated by the fire and smoke. They might crawl close and try and warm themselves beside it, talking and singing to Fabien while he cooked. It was a terribly romantic image.

‘And we could have come to see you and then swam with you during the day and played games together,’ Luka continued, stroking at Fabien’s face, ‘and we would always be friends and family to each other, even if you couldn’t come beneath the sea…’

Fabien let himself linger upon the scene once more. It held all the attractions of a childish daydream but also all the improbability, all the foolishness. He swallowed, and then answered Luka, slowly and carefully.

‘I couldn’t live like that Luka, I’m so sorry.’ He hesitated, seeing the boy’s mouth opening, already eager to argue, perhaps to beg. He knew he had to explain, as best he could. ‘I have to go away and grow-up with humans and do human things. It’s important, just as important as living in the sea and being with your family is for you. It’s just something I have to do.’

Luka’s body slackened in the water as he listened to Fabien’s words and he clung to him, feebly. He understood now that human had come only to say goodbye, not to run away with him, and the realization was terribly painful. He pressed his head to the boy’s shoulder and let his lips brush against the cold skin.

‘I wish Aden could have come,’ Fabien murmured weakly, ‘I wanted to see him again, and say goodbye too.’ Luka was silent for a moment then he began to trail kisses across Fabien’s cheek and neck. They were tender and delivered with a deep affection.

‘Kiss me for him,’ he murmured against Fabien’s skin, ‘kiss me for him now.’

It was a thrilling request. It send a shiver through Fabien’s body that had nothing to do with cold and he didn’t hesitate to lean forward and tilt his mouth up to Luka’s. He kissed much like his cousin, gently but passionately, and Fabien wished he could have kissed him over and over and that they could lie on the beach together again, exploring each other with tender fascination.

He knew that he would think about this kiss and the one he had shared with Aden, many times in the future. He could not imagine a time when he might not be looking back upon these few snatched instances of passion and reflecting upon them. He felt a tremendous sense of loss when he broke apart from the beautiful creature.

‘Listen,’ he whispered, delicately tracing Luka’s face with his fingers, ‘one day I’ll come back, when I am grown. I will get a little house by the sea and I will come out here to find you. Then, perhaps, we can see each other often, and swim together again.’ Luka looked up at him and his were eyes shining with hope. He looked exquisite under the moonlight, more beautiful than any person Fabien had ever seen.

‘Would you have your young here?’ he asked wonderingly, ‘could our children grow up together too, and play with each other amongst the rocks?” He seemed transported by the notion.

‘That would be wonderful,’ Fabien whispered, staring at the ethereal being adoringly. Luka hesitated for a moment before speaking again, in a hushed tone.

‘You will always be so special to me,’ he told him ‘you will always be my special human friend. Aden feels that way too, I am sure.’ His bright blue eyes shone strangely.

‘Yes,’ Fabien whispered back, longing to kiss the boy again and feeling ashamed of the compulsion, ‘yes, you will always be special to me too. Always.’ He caressed the side of the mer-creature’s face with his fingers, aware that his desire must show quite plainly upon his face.

‘I will wait for you,’ Luka told him, with a renewed fervour, ’ we will both wait for you. We will come to this place regularly, every year, so you must promise that you will come back.’

‘I promise,’ Fabien told him firmly, making the pledge with every tingling bit of his blood, with the powerful thudding of his heart, ‘I promise.’

Luka nodded, the tears that had been threatening to spill from his eyes suddenly beginning to overflow. They were thicker than Fabien had expected, a smooth translucent milk that trickled down the boy’s face slowly. He wiped the trails away and Luka closed his eyes so that Fabien might brush away all traces of the tears.

Fabien moved forward in the water, pressing his head close to Luka’s, and kissed him once more, a long kiss this time. He kissed him until his jaws began to ache and even then, after he tried to pull away and stop, Luka continued to kiss him, working his tongue inside the hollow of Fabien’s mouth with an obscene hunger.

‘I wish I could kiss you forever,’ he whispered, throatily, when at last they parted. ‘I wish I could kiss you every day as I would Aden. You are so nice, so very nice. I love you as if you were my blood, I really do.’

‘Such a strange thing to say,’ Fabien murmured, flushed and embarrassed, ‘I suppose you mean that you love me as you love Aden?’

‘Yes,’ Luka insisted, ‘I do.’ He kissed Fabien again but only briefly, aware that their time was growing short.

‘I promise I will come back,’ Fabien told him, beginning to tremble again from the cold, ‘I promise you, but I must go now.’ Luka did not argue, but insisted on wrapping himself about Fabien and carrying him back the shore. Fabien let himself go limp in his arms until his feet scraped against the rough sand and he found himself upon the beach again.

‘Promise,’ Luka murmured, tickling Fabien’s face with his fingers, and then he turned away again, as if he couldn’t bear to look at the human boy any longer and began to swim out to sea. Fabien watched him until he was just a small speck upon the horizon and, with a swift flick of a tail, he dived deep beneath the waves.
Main story: [link]

Summary: Fabien couldn't be certain what he saw at first, under the sea-foam, but there was no mistaking the gentle ripple of scale and skin - their bright eyes as blue as the sea. A young boy befreinds two mercreatures as he swims in 'unsafe' waters.

Since several people wanted a bit more of a conclusion to the story I wrote this epilogue. I'm not completely satisfied with it though so you'll have to let me know what you think. If you don't like it then you can always disregard it! :)

Art commissioned from Siiju: [link]
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There was nothing much more between them that night. David, in all his late nights driven by obsession, had never experienced such a complete and thorough exhaustion. He carefully dried Julio's skin, running thick fluffy towels over his body and stroking and murmured until the boy ceased to tremble and his muscles relaxed. It was like comforting an infant, David reflected, as he lay Julio down beside him and continued to coax and soothe with his hands, but there was a certain sensuality to his actions that could not be denied. It was what he had intended, dreamt of and worked towards, after all. Each caress carried the whisper of desire and Julio leaned into him and sighed deliciously, satisfied and just slightly aroused by his touch.

He soon fell asleep and David followed him gratefully, burying his face in Julio's hair and breathing him in. He had fantasized about this, he had so longed for this, but the reality was more than his imagination could have conjured, complete with the harshness and complexity that fantasy did not allow for. It was only once the boy was unconscious that David allowed himself to whisper, almost silently,

"I love you," against Julio's skin, "I love you, my Julio…" He was almost beside himself with wonder and pleasure but this was threaded, also, with an acute sense of guilt. He knew, as he tangled his fingers in the fair hair, his body aching with exhaustion, that Julio was not his property or, in any true sense, his lover.

He slept like a corpse, a heavy dreamless sleep, only stirring now and again, along with his companion. They leant towards one another, seeking the reassurance of each other's presence, and then drifted away again, into oblivion. They might have slept longer than ten hours, day and night had less significance in the bitter constancy of winter. When David awoke though it was bright enough that the room was illuminated without the light of the candle.

He found Julio sat up on the bed with his hands pressed up flat against the windowpane. His face was close to the glass, his breath making a opaque mist, his eyes wide and bright. Every now and again he wiped at the condensation and tilted his head closer to look out at the world.

David lay still for a while and watched him. His body was heavy, his eyelids opened only just a little to watch the boy beside him. The room was practically silent apart from the occasional sound of Julio's skin slipping across the glass with a squeak.

Eventually he lifted his torso up, with a strain, and the sound of the bedsprings alerted the attention of his companion. Julio turned about to look at David and asked, in a whisper,

"What is it?"

"Nothing," David replied thinking that he meant to ask why his master had stirred but when Julio's eyebrows compressed he considered that the question might have been literal.

"What do you mean?" he asked, gently, "what's what?" Julio pressed one slender finger to the glass and pointed. David got up onto his knees, the bed creaking a little more, and moved over to the window, with Julio. He regarded the view uncertainly; most of it was obscured by a thick blanket of snow.

"Do you mean the whiteness?" He asked Julio. Julio nodded.

"It keeps falling and gathering," Julio told him, "in patterns. It's beautiful." David smiled at him warmly. He hesitated for a moment and then, although he had promised himself to be more conscious of Julio's space, reached out to take Julio's hand, wrapping his fingers tightly around the other boy's. Julio's flesh was wonderfully warm and he seemed to long for the contact just as much as David did. David had to remind himself that what Julio might want now was not necessarily what was natural and right for him. The thought brought a lump to his throat.

"It's snow," David told him, "it's just frozen water, just like the water from your bath but so cold that its gone hard." Julio's eyes glittered just like the minute snowflakes that still, sparsely, peppered the winter's air.

"There are some things I know instinctively," Julio told David, unexpectedly, his body quivering again with a supernatural energy, "as if you have already told them to me – as if I have drawn them from you and this place without effort – but there are many things I don't know and have never seen or experienced. When I awoke, at very first, I was not sure if I could speak but then I found my words straight away and there were things I knew and understood." He looked at David then, an intense, passionate look across his face. It was so passionate that David felt a little startled to look upon it, his own face flushing and his hands trembling.

"I knew you," Julio told him, his fingers slipped between David's, "I remembered you sculpting my body, your hands were the only ones I knew, your face was the only one I knew. I knew – I knew you were my master." He closed his eyes for a moment and tilted his head forward, pressed himself close to David so they were temple to temple. It was as though he was praying. He seemed consumed by devotion. David let out a little breath and it hitched over his teeth with an awkward trip, he felt as though he might cry; too overcome with emotion. He wiped his face with his free hand and then whispered, kindly.

"Would you like to go outside? You can touch and play with the snow, if you like?" Julio's eyes opened again, immediately, his whole expression overcome with that childlike wonder.

"Please," he said, "oh please."

David had bought many comfortable clothes with his newly-acquired fortune. He had many thick overcoats, beautiful furs, the most delicate leather gloves and the softest, most exquisite scarves. He had not experienced much joy from them himself though, rarely needing to dress up. He spent most days in his workroom in simple cotton shirts and trousers, unseen by any other human eyes. Dressing Julio gave him a great pleasure though. He encouraged Julio to dress himself as much as possible, twisting his hands through the sleeves and shifting his shoulders, but he carefully did up the buttons for him and tied the cravat and scarf.

The exercise had all the delights of dressing a doll but the way in which Julio responded to the sensation of soft wools and furs stirred a deeper delight in the pit of David's stomach.

"You must be warm enough," he told Julio and he showed him how to pull on thick gloves, pulling at each finger, "I don't want you to become ill…"

"I feel too hot," Julio murmured, pushing up his head, "I'm sweating."

"That's because we're inside," David told him, "it's very cold outside."

Julio found the cold alarming at first, pausing at the doorway and needing coaxing outside, staring at the strip of snow that stood just outside the door as if it were an impassable barrier. Once he had taken his first few steps outside though his countenance changed; wonder and delight overtaking him and he walked through and through the heavy snow. He stared at his footsteps a long time, his breath lingering in the air mistily, and then reached down to cup his hand about a thick ball of snow.

"It hurts!" He gasped as he tightened his fist about the icy ball. Even through his thick gloves he could feel the cold and as he gripped a trickle or two of icy water slid down his wrist and he jumped. He was surprised but not afraid, he continued to pick at the snow and David had to stop him from taking off his gloves entirely and picking at the ice with his bare hands.

"Your hands will go numb," he told Julio, grasping his palms, "your finger will ache and you won't be able to move them properly for a while." A spasm of fear passed over Julio's face at this.

"I don't ever want to stop moving again," he whispered, pulling back on his gloves, "I hate the idea of not being able to move…"

"That won't happen," David told him firmly, "I'm – I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. I meant it will be difficult to flex your finger and, well, it's just uncomfortable more than anything." He put an arm about Julio and leant close to him.

"Don't be afraid," he whispered and he longed to kiss Julio, to feel the contrasting surface cold of his skin and the warmth underneath, he only leant close however, allowing his cheek to press against the other boy's.

He taught him how to gather snow together and build snow sculptures. David's talented fingers were hampered, like any human being, by the insubstantial, watery nature of the snow but despite the constraints of this medium he was still exceptional. He was able to sculpt the form of a deer quite adeptly, becoming absorbed in the spindly legs and the large eyes. Julio watched him for a while, transfixed, and then tried his hands at his own creation – but it was the crude snowman that any child would form, rolling the snow into large balls and then patting them down.

Julio was pleased when he was done though and took his time gathering and shaping the snow. David helped him finish it, showing him how to gather stones and sticks for the eyes and the arms and then their creations stood together – one perfect and glittering – one duller and rougher. David reflected that the opposite was true of their creators because Julio was beautiful with such a keen perfection – but then Julio was his creation, a fact which at that moment astounded and humbled him.

"We should go in now," he announced, seeing that Julio was trembling. "Warm ourselves up."

He lit the fire in the living room, a rarely-used grate it took a while for the flames to spring into life. Once ignited though the great fireplace was filled with roaring flames. Julio moved forwards towards the warmth gratefully, apparently having forgotten the delights of such comfort. David helped him take off his coat and gloves again and brought blankets so that they could huddle up together on the rug, wrapped up tightly together and enjoying the sound of the crackling flames and the distant winds.

He toasted bread on the fire and gave it to Julio with cheese and nuts to form his very first meal. He worked his jaw awkwardly at first, tearing at the toast like an animal but started to swallow more easily and slowly began to take small, purposeful bites. He was soon eating delicately, sucking at each mouthful for a long time before gulping. It was a bitter winter and so, as was customary in David's culture, he gave Julio alcohol to drink; a tall mug of cider and, for when that was drunk, wine.

Julio found the taste a little bitter at first, David watched him cough after his first sip, but drank slowly and steadily without complaint and certainly appreciated it after he became accustomed to it. He lay back with the blanket wrapped around him and leant against the back of a stool, his face content and his eyelids drooping.

"I feel so sleepy already," he murmured, "even though I've been asleep for so long already. Is that normal?"

"Sometimes," David said, he too was already become lethargic, having comfortably drunk a considerable amount of wine. He traced the patterns on the hearth, lazily, reminiscing about the Christmases he had spent with his parents, tenderly held in his mother's arms and listening to his father's stories. Like all good toymakers Gideon had learned many tales that excited and enthralled young minds. Without deliberating too much on the idea David began to tell Julio a story, appreciating the way that the boy fell silent as he spoke and his body became still and thoughtful.

He told him the story of the Ginger Cat that lived in the kitchens of a great palace. He was supposed to catch mice but spent much of his time listening to the gossip of the kitchen staff and amusing himself with the follies of humans. One day it transpired that the youngest daughter of the king had gone missing and there was a tremendous reward for anyone who could return her. The cat, who had grown tired of catching mice at all and felt ill-used by the cook and the maids who no longer fussed over him, wondered why he couldn't claim such a reward and eat well for the rest of his life. He had heard enough talk through the castle, whispered in corridors and empty halls by people who did not care to mind the ears of animals, and he knew that the princess had not been kidnapped at all. She had run away with a circus performer, her young lover, who indulged her desire for excitement. He had promised her that she would see the world, the cat had other ideas. He would find a way to strike a bargain with the young trapeze artist and have him return the princess and split the reward with him, ensuring that he ate fat fish every day and slept on a soft feather bed of his own…

"But cats…cat's don't think do they?" Julio asked, uncertainly, absorbed in the folk tale.

"No," David replied, "not really. It's just how people imagine a cat might think, so the story is interesting." Julio nodded, apparently appeased by the information.

"I don't know much about animals but I know they aren't like people, are they? Only in stories. It's one of those things I know instinctively although I've never seen a cat." David considered this.

"We could get a cat, you know," he told Julio, "if you like?"

"Could we?" Julio whispered, "I think I would like that very much."

"It could be my Christmas present to you," David told him, "although I don't think we could get one until after Christmas, of course, everything is covered in snow and no one is working by now. Would you like a kitten? A baby cat?"

"I think I would like a fat ginger cat," Julio suggested, "like the cat in your story. I could rub his fat tummy and it would be happy and comfortable and smug." David laughed lightly.

"The cat of the story is selfish and lazy," he commented, "aren't those undesirable traits?"

"Not in a cat," Julio argued, "why shouldn't a cat get whatever it likes? I like the cat from the story – go on tell me – does he get his riches?" David smiled and then, slowly, continued his tale.

He explained how the ginger cat contrived to communicate with the young trapeze artist, bringing him the proclamation in his teeth and glowering at him with his yellow eyes. The young man had been raised with a troupe of outcasts ; he knew that things were not always as they seemed. He understood that the cat was wise and crafty and he saw, by the way the cat slipped between cracks in the palace brickwork and was gone in a flash that he knew his way about the palace with an ease and intimacy that not even the most experienced criminal could hope to achieve. He convinced the princess that she must return to the palace telling her that once he claimed the reward that they could run away once more. The ginger cat would be sure to show her a passage out of the palace, even if her father locked her up securely.

It was in this way that the circus performer claimed the reward, telling a story about a daring rescue from some gypsies within his troupe who had now, alas, escaped. The princess backed up this story, affecting tears when she spoke about the brutes who had deceived everyone around them and kidnapped the princess when she visited the circus with her sisters. Once she was back in the castle and her lover had been rewarded she followed the ginger cat out through a hidden tunnel and they were reunited.

The ginger cat now expected to be taken with the couple and be treated well by his friends but the trapeze artist, who knew how hard a life of travel can be, no longer cared for the idea of supporting a cat and gave him only scraps for a while, before giving him the slip entirely. The ginger cat, disgruntled by the whole experience returned to the palace and vowed to himself to never try and make a bargain with a human again. He honed his skills of trickery and stole food from the kitchens by himself. He slept in the youngest princess' room which was kept for her while the king searched for her kidnappers, once more. The cat would sleep comfortably in the princess' room for many years while the king continued to looking furiously, and fruitlessly, for the cunning gypsies she had once described.

After David concluded his story they sat in silence for a while. Julio seemed to be thinking the tale over, his eyes glittered in the light of the fire.

"I liked that story," he told his master, "although it's sad that the cat never got his reward. It's a sad ending."

"I always thought that it was quite a nice ending," David commented, "I mean the princess and the trapeze artist get their happy ending and the cat still manages to get some good food and a place to sleep." He smiled to himself.

"My father told me lots of stories when I was a little boy," he told Julio, fondly, "I can tell you more and, in time, I could maybe teach you to read and to help me make things, if you wanted."

"I would like that," Julio replied and he moved forward on the rug, sliding awkwardly to sit closer to the other boy. He reached out to press his hands to David's, his fingers curling lovingly over his. David looked down at their hands in the firelight, his heart thudding rapidly and his flesh tingling. He lowered his eyelashes and swallowed.

"I need you to understand, Julio," he began slowly, " that – if the time came - you could leave me if you wanted. If you need money to go and live somewhere else I can help you with that." He felt Julio's grip upon him tighten convulsively. His face became stricken, distress tightening every smooth nerve.

"What do you mean?" he asked, his voice high and unhappy, "I'm going to be with you forever. I'm meant to be with you…"

"You need to understand," David said slowly, his voice hoarse, "you're not my property. You can choose whatever life you want."

"No, no I can't!" Julio cried out, he leant forward and clung to David desperately, "I couldn't go and live somewhere without you! I don't know how to – I couldn't do anything – I couldn't bear it!" David put his hands to Julio's face and gently stroked his cheeks, he could feel the hotness of them and there was the first signs of tears in the corners of Julio's eyes.

"Hush," he whispered tenderly, "calm down, it's okay." Julio breathed heavily and rubbed fervently at his face.

"Don't you want me anymore?" he asked, miserably, the tears spilled out and trickled over his cheeks, "am I – am I not what you wanted?"

"No, no," David said quickly, "you're perfect, you're absolutely perfect and I don't want you to leave."

"Then why are you saying this?" Julio declared desperately, his large eyes sad and deploring, it tore at David's throbbing heart.

"I never want you to leave me," David whispered, "I will have a place for you as long as you want but – but - one day you might want to leave me. You can't do things by yourself now but you will learn. You have to understand that if you ever want to leave me that you can, even if I don't want you to."

"I could never hurt you," Julio protested, "I would never leave you."

"You should, if you want to," David told him firmly, he gripped the boys hands tightly and held them, the trembling digits tight in his fists, "I will understand. If you want to leave you should leave." Julio stared into his eyes, his fair eyebrows furrowed in an intense expression.

"I never want to leave you," he whispered, his voice shuddering in a hiss. Silence descended upon them once more and Julio hung his head, suddenly weak and limp like the doll he had once been. David leant close to him, creeping up like a curious child, and gently stroked his hair and face. He tilted his head to softly kiss his cheek, feeling the hot skin beneath his lips, the shuddering of the boy's body – taste the salt of his tears. Julio sighed hungrily and reached out to wrap his arms about him. David held him close for a long time kissing his cheeks, his neck, the smooth curve of throat. He could feel Julio's heart beating against his own, a hard regular rhythm beating out with a true passion.

He paused only to recover himself as the scent of the boy's hair overwhelmed him, feeling that deep and secret desire that he had kept buried for so long tingling in his body, swimming in his bloodstream. He closed his eyes at the sensation of Julio's hair over his face and tried to calm the beating in his heart, the uncomfortable and unusual throbbing in his loins.

Julio was unaffected by hesitation or uncertainty, although he sat as still as his companion, paralyzed by his kisses and unable to respond without David's lead.

"Why did you stop?" he whispered, "what is it?" Then he fell still and quiet once more as the sound of high voices reached their ears, distant, human and musical. Julio gasped, wondering what it could be while David too picked up his ears, leaning away from Julio and listening.

"It's carol singers," David said, with certainty as the singing became closer. Julio's face became transported with a mixture of excitement and a queer anxiety.

"Will they come here?" he asked, his eyes flickering to the windows.

"Yes," said David, wondering how Julio would react to seeing people, he had no other human contact than David himself. "They'll come sing for us, they usually do each year." Julio scrambled up off of the rug, throwing off the many blankets that had been pressed about his shoulders, he played with the buttons on his rumbled shirt, absently, as he listened to the approaching voices and footsteps in the snow.

"They're here," David told him, "they're just-" but he had not time to finish before, with a firmness of purpose, Julio started running towards the door. He knew from his senses and limited experience that this was where their visitors would congregate. David shifted off his own blankets and hastily followed after Julio arriving just in time to see Julio pulling off the chains and throwing open the door.

The small collection of local people, most older couples, parents and their small children faltered a little as they sung. Many of the young girls halted completely for a few moments taken aback by the sight of the strange young man that stood in front of them. There was a ripple of gasps and awkward sounds. The song continued, despite the mild disarray , but many voices dropped out completely and small eyes ran over Julio with amazement and interest.

Julio was delighted, smiling at them with the purest pleasure and his appearance was made all the more astounding by his delight; all the more beautiful. A couple of girls laughed and whispered, in hisses, behind their hands. It was not usual for any newcomer to happen upon their small town without notice, let alone such an exceptional young man.

Julio laughed and clapped while they finished, unaware that he was their spectacle almost as much as they were his and he turned to David, to show him his delight. Meanwhile David was fumbling through his purse, looking for some change.
Summary: The story of a compulsive young man with an unearthly gift. Although his craft brings him fortune and success he continues to live an isolated existence, separate from the rich patrons who commission his creations. Alone, an obsession consumes him...

I originally meant to finish this in one go but I may be aiming to upload it in two or three chapters now. It's a story meant to fit into a fairytale theme and in time I will write more fairytale stories to form a collection.

Please let me know what you think!

Part 1: [link]
Part 2: [link]
Part 3: [link]
Part 4: [link]
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