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Title: All Ill-Got Gain
Fandom: Assassin's Creed: Black Flag
Rating: 16. Mature.
Pairing: Adewale/Edward Kenway
Spoilers: Yes
Warnings: Contains one paragraph of consensual homosexual pornography and eighteen pages of drama. 
Summary: Edward and Adewale share more than a difference of opinion.

All Ill-got Gain

An AC4 fan fiction by xahra99

 

Greater Inagua, 1718

The rum gleamed darkly in the Caribbean sun. The liquor smelt like heaven and tasted like hell, but it was the first drink Edward Kenway had had on dry land for weeks, and he intended to enjoy it. A month marooned upon an island gave a man a powerful thirst. 

Beside him on the dock Adéwalé and Kidd argued once more over Rackham. Edward listened to their dispute with only half an ear. Rackham slumped beside him, stretching out a tattooed hand towards Edward's rum.

 "Drink for an old shipmate?" he wheedled.

Edward snatched the bottle back."You're no mate of mine."

"Come on," said Rackham. "Don't be like that."

Edward took a drink and put the bottle down well out of Rackham's reach. "You're lucky I don't knife you and be done," he said.  Despite his harsh words, he couldn't bring himself to hold a grudge against Rackham. He might have done the same himself given the opportunity and a willing crew. Rackham wasn't worth the effort.

 He glanced up as Kidd hauled Rackham from the bench. It should have been impossible for that wiry body to lift a man of Rackham's size, but Jack was one part drunk to three parts stupid, and Mary was stronger than she seemed. Rackham staggered, and Adé took his other arm.

"Time for retirement, Rackham," said Kidd.

"You won't take me aboard, Kidd?"

Mary sniffed. "I wouldn't trust you on my vessel unless you were in chains. You'd cabal with my men to toss me overboard and run away with my ship."

"Kenway?"

Edward toasted Rackham with the half-empty bottle of rum. "If I find you on this island next time I come back," he said, "I'll kill you myself."

Adé snorted. "Why bother?" he said. "Hang him now."

Edward shrugged. "Why worry, when the Navy will save us the trouble?"

Inagua was as much a prison for Rackham as Isla Providencia had been for Vane and Edward. None of the crews would touch Jack now. Rackham would have to take his chances with the buccaneers or logwood traders-poor men who would put him in no position to go a-pirating. Edward's bottle was near finished, which was more on his mind than Rackham.

Rackham wandered away along the jetty, where he cast speculative eyes over the ships moored in the harbour. Kidd swore.  "I don't want him near my ship."

"Better fetch him, then."

Kidd gestured at the bottle. "It's plain to see your concern, Kenway."

"I don't have reason. My crew," Edward jerked his head at Adéwalé, "is not best pleased with him. He won't find a berth upon the Jackdaw, that's for sure."

"I'd hang him from the bowsprit before I'd have him back aboard," Adé said bluntly. "And if your crew's half as smart as mine, they'll do the same." 

Kidd snorted in contempt. "I'll take him to the tavern myself." She glared at Edward. "Let him drown himself in rum." 

"Far from drowned." Edward saluted Kidd with the bottle. "I'm barely in up to my toes."

Mary did not dignify him with an answer. She turned in a scornful swirl of brocade and strode along the pier to fetch Rackham. Adé snatched the rum from Edward and took a swig. He handed Edward back the bottle and went to follow Kidd. They hauled Rackham, protesting loudly, from the vessels, and marched him back towards the town.

They'd got no more than three steps past the table before Adé slapped Rackham's shoulder and said "Hey Kidd. I'll take him from here."

Mary's head snapped up. Years of masquerading as a man had made her especially sensitive to any criticism of her strength or competence. "I can handle him."

"Don't doubt you can. I just said I'll take him from here."

Mary gave Adé a strange look, but either she didn't fancy a fight or else reckoned Rackham had it coming. "Oh, suit yourself," she said, and turned towards the town. "He's none of my concern."

Edward watched as Adéwalé marched Rackham along the dock and down the ramp onto the beach. He handled Rackham roughly, giving Edward an inkling of what he intended. Mary crossed the shore and set her course towards the village as Adé shoved Rackham into the shade under the jetty.

Edward drank another glass of rum and thought of going after Kidd.  

He'd not spoken properly to Mary since she'd rescued them from Isla Providencia. She was a hard bitch, and mad for the Assassins, but good company when she was of a mind, and they'd shared many a toast upon the creaking decks of ships. But Adé had a look on his face like there'd be murder done, and Edward was loath to lose another friend. Rackham lacked for judgement if not courage, and he'd been a member of their party since the old days of Nassau town.

He took the bottle of rum and followed Adé along the quay. The Jackdaw was anchored in the bay. The ship drew Edward's eyes just as she always did.  Edward could have picked her from a hundred other vessels by the creaking of her hull. He'd have flown to her defence much faster than to Rackham's.  

He noticed the sky dimming behind the Jackdaw's shrouds. The sea had darkened to the colour of Welsh slate. The wind rose and snapped the ship's black flag against her mast. They'd had a day or two of disturbed seas, and the signs all pointed to a storm.

Edward heard voices beneath his feet.

"Now, don't y' be like that. T'was business only. I've got no quarrel 'gainst you, Adé."

"What of the folk beneath-decks on the slaver, Jack?" Ade's voice was soft and ominous as the fog that smoked the air."D'ye suppose they'd have quarrel with you?"

"Why'd you care about them?" Jack sounded surprised.

"Because I was one of them."

"Nonsense." Rackham said. "You're a free black, and those were Congos. Savages. They don't even speak English. They're just cargo-"

"People aren't cargo, mate," Adé snapped, and Edward heard the smack of fists into flesh. He climbed down the palings of the jetty to the beach and fell the last few inches. He had half a mind to cut Rackham loose and half to help Adé kill him, and by the time his boots splashed in the surf he still hadn't decided which.

Rackham's eyes flicked past Adé to Edward as he arrived, but Adé paid him no heed.  The pirates walking by above them were more concerned with the white-capped waves than the brawl below.  Many quarrels in Inagua ended bloodily. No man on the island would lift a finger to save a stranger. They'd only think he had it coming- and Rackham surely had.

"Hey, mate," Rackham pleaded.

"I ain't no mate of yours," Adé snarled, and punched Rackham squarely in the face. Blood sprayed from Rackham's nose and soaked his calico shirt. Rackham doubled over, hands clutching his face, and bled into the sand. "Wasn't speaking to you-" he said thickly from between his fingers.

"Don't care who you were talking to," Adé spat, "'cause it's me you should heed. Swear to me you won't ever deal in slaves again, Rackham, or you'll answer to my blade."

"Now hang on-" stuttered Rackham. "That's a good deal of my profit-"

Edward had to admire Rackham's persistence. He had never seen Adéwalé in a rage. It was an intimidating sight. Trickles of sweat stained the quartermaster's leather jerkin. Adé's fists were stained with Rackham's blood. He hit Rackham squarely in his stomach and Rackham folded like a flag.

Edward swigged rum while Rackham rolled upon the sand. The rum still burned his throat when he said "Hey, Adé, hold on. You don't have to kill him."

"Why not?"Adéwalé's chest heaved. Rackham yelped and tried to crawl away, and Adé kicked him again.  "Why not?"

"He's an idiot. He'll kill himself eventually."

"This is quicker," said Adé.

"Maybe," Edward allowed. He took another drink as Adéwalé bent and backhanded Rackham across the face. Jack cringed away.  The rising tide sucked at the jetty like a toothless old man and drowned out Rackham's moans. Edward's boots began to leak. He shifted uncomfortably. Water squelched between his toes as he asked Adé "D'ye think you'll feel better once you're done?"

Sweat rolled down Adéwalé's cheeks from the effort of beating Rackham bloody. He paused to wipe his face. "I could kill him a thousand times," he said. "It would never be enough."

"D'you think it ever will be?"

Ade's eyes narrowed. "What're you saying?"

"That it'll take you time," Edward said, "and get you nowhere. Leave Jack for now. You can always kill him later."

Rackham groaned again. Edward tossed the empty rum bottle at his head. Rackham rolled aside and the bottle buried itself in the sand beside his temple. He picked it up and tried vainly to suck a draught from empty air.

"Drink, mate?" he whispered.

Adéwalé spat on Rackham's shirt. His hands were still clenched into fists, but the fever in his eyes had dimmed. "That scab passed on the slaves we rescued to be sold in Kingston," he said.

"The bastard marooned me too," Edward pointed out.

"He did not treat you as his cargo," snapped Adéwalé. "You don't know what it's like. The only difference 'tween the sugar mills and hell is that the sugar fields smell sweeter. They'll work you to death without thought." His dark eyes saw something on the horizon that was neither ships nor storm. "When you die, they'll bury you there to feed the cane."

"I may have sold them," Rackham whispered, "but I never saw that money. Bastard merchant duped me-"

"Shut up, Jack." Edward snapped. He aimed a kick at Rackham, who rolled aside. "You'll be lucky if all you lose is coin."

Adéwalé's attention focused on Rackham. "I swore I would never live that life again," he said. "So I tried to bargain with this bastard. Told him I would be his quartermaster, or crew, if I could just stay free. He laughed at me. Said he already had a quartermaster, and that I should know my place; and that was in chains."

"Your place is on the Jackdaw," Edward said.

"For now," said Adéwalé. He kicked Rackham again, but the anger had drained from him like water through a leaky hull. "Devil take him." 

"Aye," Edward said, "but leave him be. Our Brotherhood grows smaller by the day. Teach was the first to go. Now Hornigold pretends to Rogers he's an honest man."

Adéwalé frowned. "We're well rid of Hornigold. And we'd be well rid of Jack." He jabbed Rackham again. "I'd trade him for a bounty, but nobody would take him."

"He's a poor pirate," Edward said. "A thief of trifles. I've seen him rob canoes," He glanced up from Rackham and eyed the towering thunderclouds before he turned to Adéwalé. "Wind's rising. Unless you still have business here, let's get inside."

Adéwalé' sighed. "Leave Rackham here," he said. "Maybe he'll drown. Hell's teeth, I need a drink."

"Bottle's empty," Edward kicked the bottle into the pilings of the jetty, where it shattered.

"You always were a selfish bastard," said Adéwalé .He glared down at Jack, who cringed. "I'll leave you now, Rackham. But I'll be back, and you best be gone."

Rackham waved a bloodstained hand. "Will do, mate."

"I'm no mate of yours." Adéwalé's face twisted. "Kenway here has some mad notion of a brotherhood of pirates. Me, I think it's every man for himself. So that don't count for nothing. I wouldn't save you from the sea if you were drowning."

"Wouldn't ask to be saved." Rackham choked. He raised his head and mopped the remnants of the blood from his nose with his calico bandana. "Now you're a good fella, Adéwalé. Those Congos, they're a different breed entirely. Can't see why you're so cut up about that happens to a bunch of useless blacks."

Adéwalé made a disgusted sound. "You'll never change, Rackham."

"Try not to." Rackham mumbled.

"Beating sense into your thick head's hard work. Shame it never worked, for it's left me mighty thirsty." He turned to Edward. "Drink with me?"

"Sure." Edward said. He held out his hand to Rackham, palm upwards. "Hand over your coin, Jack."

Adéwalé shook his head. "There's some things can't be solved by coin."

"I know that," said Edward, "but money's all the apology you're going to get from him." He nodded to Rackham "Hand it over," he repeated.

Rackham reached reluctantly into his waistcoat pocket and pulled out a greasy leather bag. He tossed the bag to Edward, who reached within the pouch and withdrew a Spanish reale. He bit the gold to test its hardness, and nodded."It's good."

"Look, mate," protested Rackham. "That's all I have." He put his hand on Adéwalé's shoulder. "You'd leave a man a few coins, wouldn't you?"

Adéwalé threw off Rackham's touch with a shudder of revulsion. "Leave with nothing," he said. "It's more than you deserve. And if you trade in slaves again, then you'd best flee where there's no wind, 'cause as long as there's a breeze to fill my sails I'll come and hunt you down."

"Aye," Rackham said sulkily. He cast a lingering glance towards the money in Edward's hand until Edward closed his hand over the pouch. "What am I to do? Can't go a-pirating with no ship now, can I?"

"Don't come near me," said Adé. "Save for that I don't care."

Rackham turned to Edward who shrugged. "None of my business," he said.

Edward had no doubt that Rackham would be back aboard a boat in days. The man had burned his bridges with Vane, Kidd and every other pirate Edward knew but bastards had the best luck. He watched as Rackham slouched away along the beach, clutching a handful of torn calico to his nose to stem the bleeding. The wind was rising, and leaves ran along the beach like rats down to the ocean. "A drink before the storm?" he asked.

Adéwalé sighed."Yes."

Edward tossed Rackham's purse to Adé, who caught the bag one-handed. "Where d' you fancy?"

"Where d'you think? Let's go see Selkirk."

Edward grimaced. "I like my liquor with less lecturing," he said. "There's rum aboard the Jackdaw."

"As do I," said Adéwalé, "but we'd best stay ashore." He kicked at a coco-nut washed up by the waves. "I like the Jackdaw fine, but it's good to feel dry land beneath your feet."

"This weather'll look far better through the bottom of a glass," agreed Edward. He looked up at the salt that stained the rough planks of the jetty; evidence that they stood well within the flood mark. "You think the storm will be a bad one?"

Adéwalé gazed at the whitening sea. "Hard to tell. Doesn't look good."

"Then we'd best seek shelter," Edward said, "afore it hits."

The waves rolled and rose as they set their course towards the tavern. Somewhere in the settlement a dog began to howl.

It was said that Spanish settlements were founded around their churches, the Dutch around their forts and the English round their taverns. The pirates of Inagua were of many nationalities, but in the matter of taverns they were most definitely English.

The tavern of Inagua was the oldest building in the town, and like a ship, she had gained enough personality that the pirates referred to her as female. Her three storeys towered over the jetty and the scattering of little huts behind it. A flag flew from her turret like a mast, and she had a lean to her walls like a galleon in full sail.  The materials for the tavern had been salvaged from the wrecks. Her construction was rakish and ramshackle; a mess of sailcloth awnings, splintered planks and shipworm-studded hulls. The sea rolled beneath her walls and gave her wares a distinctive salty tang that many pirates favoured, although the more cynical sailors blamed Selkirk for using seawater to dilute his rum. 

The hatch across the bar was closed. Edward rapped upon the planks. Paint peeled beneath his knuckles.

A slurred voice drifted through the cracks. "We're closed."

Adéwalé reached past Edward and slammed his hand against the planks. "We want a drink," he called.

The hatch opened and Selkirk poked out his grimy head. "You're too late," he said. "I told you. Tavern's closed."

He was barefoot and scarred; disreputable as any pirate, but his voice was deep and cultured as the sound of fine Madeira poured into a glass. No doubt the man had a history of strange and surprising adventures. Edward, being more interested in treasure than men's tales, had never asked.

"We're in great need of a drink," he said.

Selkirk glanced behind them at the storm and then down at the gold reale that gleamed in Adéwalé's broad palm. His forehead furrowed as he wavered between prudence and profit. "A drink? In this weather? Haven't you seen the storm?"

"Aye, we've seen it," said Adéwalé, "and we still want a drink. Ain't you in the tavern business?"

Selkirk looked from Adé to Edward and back. Then he shook his head. "You're both mad," he said.

Edward shrugged. "Well," he said, "you know what they say 'bout Englishmen and bad weather."

"It's far from sunny," snapped Selkirk. "And you're no Englishman, Kenway. A mad dog, maybe."

He went to slam the hatch, but Adé pressed it open. They grappled for a moment, muscles twitching on Selkirk's skinny tattooed arms as Adéwalé levered the opening wider with no apparent effort. It was no surprise to anyone when Adé won the battle and propped the hatch open. Selkirk; catlike, pretended that there had never been a battle in the first place. 

Edward leaned forwards and propped his elbows on the sill. "That's the problem with education," he said. "I never can understand a word you're sayin'."

Selkirk grimaced. He turned away and began to fill a barrow with bottles "If you had more education, Kenway, I'd be able to understand more than one word in three that comes out of your mouth."

Adé smirked.  Edward scowled. He leant forwards and plucked a bottle of rum from the shelf as Selkirk turned away.  "You a teacher?" he asked curiously.

"Aye," Selkirk said, "but that was in another country, and besides the wench is dead."

Edward drew the cork out with his teeth and took a swallow before passing the bottle to Adé. "I should have known a wench had something to do with it," he said.

"It's a quote, Kenway," Selkirk snapped. "You uneducated lout."

"At least I can tell north from south without a compass," retorted Edward.

"Just barely," Adé muttered. 

Selkirk filled the barrow and wheeled it precariously to the door to a fine accompaniment of crashing waves and clinking glass. "Curses," he muttered. "Absit invidia-no offence, but I must fly."

"None taken," Adéwalé said. "Sell us some rum afore you go."

"All right."Selkirk set his barrow down. He pulled a bottle from the top of his stack and handed it to Adéwalé. "That'll be two reales, if you please, and then I must away."

"For one bottle?" Edward said, and shook his head. "That won't be enough. We'll need at least two. Or four." He thought of Adéwalé's anger, and shrugged. "Or eight."

Selkirk rolled his eyes and pulled another bottle from the pile. "Take this," he said. "Then I'm out of here. You'll go if you have any sense at all." He lifted his barrow, cursed at the weight, and pushed it slowly towards the door.

Adé nudged the door open with his boot to ease Selkirk's passage. "Not just two," he said as he took one bottle in each hand. "Give us the keys. We'll keep watch upon your wares." 

"You can't carry all your stock," Edward said, grinning. He swept his hand around and gestured to the bottles that still lined the walls. "We'll stay here and guard it."

"Guard it?" Selkirk snorted.  "Drink it more like."

"Then we'll pay for what we use." Edward persisted. "You know our money's good -and if it's not then you know where to find us."

"Aye-" said Selkirk. "Out at sea."

"At the manor," Edward said. He had owned the manor on Inagua for two years but had still to get around to actually doing anything with it. The Jackdaw was more his home than the manor had ever been.

"Aye, the manor," Selkirk looked at the lowering sky and back to Edward and Adéwalé. "Why aren't you there?"

"Ah-"Edward began to speak. He paused. "Why aren't we there?" he asked Adéwalé.

Adé shrugged. "There's no drink in the manor."

Edward pointed to the cliffs where du Casse's villa skulked behind thickets of broken sugarcane. "You can go there," he told Selkirk. "If you like. The place is high above the waves. Should make good shelter from the storm. Tell the others, if you like."  

Selkirk licked his lips. He reached down to run a bony hand over the curved bellies of the bottles stowed within his cart and looked up at the wealth of rum that still remained."You'll drink half my stock, he said, "and ruin the rest."

Edward grinned. "You think we can do more damage than a storm? I'm flattered. I promise to my honour as a seaman and commander of the Jackdaw that we shan't ruin your wares."

"We'll take a few bottles only, and that's no piracy, but fair trade," Adéwalé said.

Selkirk sighed. "What can I do? Nunc est bibendum, eh? Now is the time to drink."

Adé grinned and clapped Selkirk on the shoulder with force that made the frail old pirate stagger. "You won't regret it," he said.

"I rather doubt that," Selkirk said faintly. "Still, I've had many bitter and shattering experiences in war, and on the stormy seas. This new disaster only makes one more."

"That sounds like scripture," Adé said.

"Not quite." Selkirk's mouth twisted. "You'd best be true."

"We've defended the Jackdaw 'gainst half the Spanish Navy," said Edward. "We've never left a ship unplundered-"

"Nor a bottle empty," Selkirk said grimly.  He surveyed the brutal sky. "Ah, well. In manus tuas commendo spiritus meus."

"Now that is scripture," Edward said.

 "No," Selkirk said. "It's Latin.  Into your hands I commend my spirits." He lifted the handles of the barrow and heaved it forwards. "I'm off into the hills. Drink to fair winds and flowing seas. My tavern best be standing when I return."

"Don't worry," Edward said as he leaned into the wind. "It will be."

The first few drops of rain beat down upon their shoulders as they watched Selkirk leave. Outside the harbour, the wild sea raged as if every wave would make a grave of them. The inner bay was relatively calm. The pirates had chosen Inagua for a reason, and the harbour entrance was so narrow that one ship might keep out a hundred. The waves crashed against the limestone pillars at the harbour mouth and spent their force before they ever reached the ships.

"It's a good harbour," he said to Adéwalé.

"Yes," Adé agreed. "Let's hope it's good enough."

The sky opened, so full of rain there was scarce a space to breathe between the drops. Edward ducked into the tavern, and Adé followed. Selkirk had taken the most valuable bottles with him, and rings of grime marked the shelves where they had been. Plenty remained. There was straight rum in salt-stained bottles, and dusty casks of grog. The hearth was empty, but Adé lit a candle, and they toasted each other while the cloud swept black across the sky.

"Here's to us, and those like us," said Adéwalé.

"Damn few," agreed Edward, "and most of them are dead." He swallowed, and gasped. The rum was rough as hell, but the cane juice and lime in the spirit went a way to masking the cheapness of the raw liquor. He jerked his head towards the rushing sound of the breakers. "Think Rackham made it out?"

"Don't know," Adé knocked back his drink in one swallow and poured them both another draught. "And I don't much care. You've a cursed soft heart for a pirate,"

Edward blinked. "Soft? I've killed many men."

"Aye. But you don't like it."

"And you do?"

"There's no point in senseless killing," said Adéwalé. "Maybe that's why I've sailed with you so long and maybe it's not. But you let Vane live. And Rackham. Nobody would mourn those men."

"They're pirates like us." Edward said. "Our brethren."

Adéwalé shook his head. "There is no brotherhood of pirates," he said. "It's every man for himself and everybody knows it save for you."

"We do all right." Edward said defensively."We've won more prizes than we've lost."

"Granted," Adéwalé said, "but there has to be more than a short life and a merry one. We could search for something more." He slammed down his cup. "We could be something more-"

Edward snorted. "Now Adé," he said, "that's just drunken talk."

"I can hold my liquor," Adéwalé said. "Can you?"

"I can hold my liquor fine," said Edward, and drank another glass of rum to prove it.

"Really?"Adéwalé's grin was bright in the candle-light. "I've heard stories."

"Base slander," Edward said.

"I've seen you wake in haystacks with my own eyes."

"Then you were drunk."

"Me, drunk? It'll take more coin than Rackham has for that." Adéwalé raised his glass.  "To Rackham, damn his soul. Should he have one."

"To Rackham," Edward agreed. He swallowed and poured another drink. Rain fell like shot against the windows. The glass was new, evidence of the growing prosperity the pirates and their plunder had brought the isle. Inagua was no Nassau, however hard it tried to be. Edward still mourned the loss of Nassau, or, more precisely, what Nassau could have been.

"We could sail to Nassau," he said mournfully.

"They'll hang us in Nassau," Adéwalé said. "That's not what I meant."

"They have better rum in Nassau."

"They have better rum everywhere. But there's more to life than rum. Don't tell me you haven't just figured that out."

Edward sighed. The light darkened as the storm rolled in. The tavern was alive with the sound of wrenching timbers and rushing water. The wind howled like a dog overhead and drowned out the hammering of the rain.

Edward raised his glass. "To all those still at sea," he said. The liquor made the waves outside seem still and the boards beneath him soft. He was more than halfway drunk, but they all were seldom sober in those days.

He'd missed the rum. But Edward had been a long time with Vane upon the island, and there had been other things that he had missed.

He watched Adéwalé through half-lidded eyes, and desire caught him as swiftly and surely as flames licking up a burning ship's sails.

They'd lain in union before, but never on dry land. Pairings between pirate crews at sea were common enough that there was a word for it; matelotage. Attitudes changed when a ship was at anchor. Pirates were expected to make full use of wine and women wherever they were available. Liaisons between men on land were not proscribed, but neither were they encouraged. Edward and Adé had never coupled on dry land. Now Edward looked at Adé and wondered what it would be like. He thought the sound and shudder of the waves as they crashed beneath the jetty was close enough to life at sea.

The conversation ran dry. Adé reached for another glass, and his Adam's apple leaped as he knocked it back. Edward bit his lip and waited. Lust burned hot in his belly, and he fancied he saw the flames reflected in his quartermaster's eyes.

He leaned forwards and licked the liquor from Adé's mouth with long, sure strokes. Adé did not object, so Edward went to work upon his throat. Adéwalé's skin tasted of spiced rum, sea-salt and sweat. He was near drenched to the skin, and drops of salted rain rolled from his bandana and coursed down Edward's cheek.

"You're skinny as a hound," he said, voice rumbling like thunder against Edward's mouth. "There's hardly weight enough to hang you. I could run my hand across your ribs and play a tune."

"Run your hand 'cross other things," said Edward, "you might still yet."

 Adé grinned against Edward's hair. He began to hum; a low cadence, like some great purring cat. His hand moved downward as Edward leaned back, body lax save for one private part of his anatomy. "What d'ye do with a drunken sailor?" he murmured.  

"I'd have thought you'd have that part figured out." Edward said. He reached for the rum and fumbled the glass. The bottle slid off the table and smashed on the planks. The scent of the spilled liquor drifted up from the floor, a wild brew of spirits and spice.

"I can think of one thing," Adé muttered.

"Just one? I'm disappointed."

"More than one."

"'M not drunk." Edward protested. The tavern shook as something slammed into the jetty. Several bottles fell from the shelves and splintered on the floor. The smell of spirits strengthened.

Adéwalé rolled his eyes and brought his mouth close to Edward's ear so that the frayed edge of his bandana touched Edward's temple."Of course not," he said softly. As he spoke he caught Edward by the shoulder and dragged him hard up against him, so closely that Edward could feel the press of Adé's arousal against his hip. Edward's chair tipped backwards, but he was anchored against Adéwalé in any case, and did not fall.

He moved his hand back, touching lightly, and heard Adéwalé groan. "Yes."

Edward was only too happy to oblige. He knew the quartermaster's habits well; they were as familiar to each other as the Jackdaw's shrouds and lines were to the crew. Now he whispered in Welsh against Adéwalé's throat as he unfastened Adé's breeches. As his hand dove beneath Adé's waistband Adé's whole body stiffened and he groaned like a ship caught in a storm.

"What did you say?" he murmured.

Edward ignored him. His own desire grew more urgent with each passing second. Adé shifted, grinding himself in slow sure circles against Edward's hips. His hand dipped beneath Edward's sash and travelled south. Edward whined. Ade's hand on his cock was easy as the sigh and pull of the waves. He moaned, greedy and restless. Adé gave a few quick tugs and Edward spent inside his breeches as the waves broke across the jetty and sent seawater rushing beneath the tavern door.

Edward went down upon his knees in the surf and took Adé's cock in his mouth. He took a deep breath and swallowed. He would have sworn the other man was not half ready, but Adé moaned and came as soon as Edward sucked him. He tasted like the sea. 

They rested like that for a moment. Then Edward swallowed, washed the taste from his mouth with a swig of rum, anchored his hand in Adé's rumpled clothing and pulled himself to his feet. Adé rolled his shoulders and stretched, cracking his knuckles one by one as if he rediscovered his own body. When Edward handed him the bottle he accepted with a nod.

The fever in Edward's blood subsided with the storm. The floor was soaked, but no further water flooded under the door. Edward righted his chair with a boot on the seat and threw himself down next to Adé. Their rough coupling, start to finish, had taken less time than it took for a handful of waves to break across the quay.

Neither man spoke. They'd have to shout to be heard and in any case there was nothing either of them needed to say.

After a while Edward rose and opened the door. A few stars pierced the darkness, like diamond buttons in a sky of dark velvet. There was no moon. The sea had settled somewhat; but the pale shapes of boats, barrels and lumber surged murderously in the waves, outlined by rising whitecaps. The Jackdaw rose at anchor, half-heeled but holding fast. Not all the ships had been so lucky. The hulk of a small pinnace lay shattered on the beach.

Edward gave a superstitious shiver at the sight. "There but for the grace of God," he said, half out of habit and mostly to himself. He leaned forwards and peered out into the darkness. His hair whipped his face as the rain soaked his shirt and jacket to the skin. There was a sloop wrecked at the far end of the beach, but he didn't recognize the craft.

"Doesn't look good," he said. He hadn't thought anybody had heard him, but suddenly he felt the warm breathing bulk of Adéwalé behind him, and a bottle found its way into his hand.

"How's the Jackdaw?"

"She's safe," Edward swigged from the bottle. "I can think of worse harbours, in a storm."

"As can I." Adé said. "And none with such a large supply of liquor. Come back in before you drown."

Edward spent a final glance upon the storm before he surrendered to Adé's coaxing and came in. He reached out and stroked the flank of the building like he would have done the Jackdaw and felt the old inn shudder. "You think the place will hold? The worst is past us by the look of things."

"It's been here a while," Adéwalé said. "Should stand, with luck. Though I'll admit that we've had better ideas than waiting out a hurricane in a harbour-side tavern."

"It seemed like a good lark at the time," said Edward. He settled on the floor and held his tumbler high. A toast that he had thought long sunk in seas past came to his mind. "To a wiling foe and sea room."

Ade raised a glass, and his eyebrows. "I never knew you were with the Navy."

"Aye," Edward tossed back the draught. "Didn't last long,"

"I can see that." Adé took a deep drink. "But there's one more thing I never knew. You said something back then. Something foreign."

It took Edward more than a second to think back. "Beth arall yr ydych chi eisiau?  It's Welsh. Means 'what more do you want?'"

"That's no tongue I ever heard."

"And you'll never hear another like it," Edward said.

"Sounded like somebody stuck in a mangrove swamp to me." Adéwalé lifted his hands and mimed someone tramping through thick and clinging mud. Drops of rum splashed on the floor. "Say 'Che cosa vui adeso?'. Means the same, in Italy, and sounds more pleasing."

"You offering?"

Adéwalé grinned. His skin was the shade of soaked logwood. He looked like a battered figurehead in the flickering candlelight; except no figurehead ever smiled half as readily. "Hmm, Welshman. You're like a coin."

"Brilliant?" Edward asked. Adé's comment had not sounded like a compliment.

"Soon spent." 

"You may bite me if you like," Edward said, "to test my hardness."

Adé grinned. "I can do that from here."

Edward raised his eyebrows. "I'd rather think you'd have to come closer. If you do, I'll give no quarter."

Adéwalé's grin was wolfish as he settled beside Edward. "Didn't ask for none."   

Edward leaned into Adé. His hands travelled on some far-flung explorations. He unbuckled belts stiff with salt and loosened sashes, seeking skin.

Adéwalé groaned, and tensed as he felt the edge of Edward's Assassin gauntlet."Now, you be careful with that," he said.

Edward grinned. "I will be," he said, and continued. Adéwalé made a sound like he was coming apart at the seams.

They came adrift together. The screams of seagulls and the creak and slap as the tavern rocked in the waves drowned out any sound they made. As promised, no quarter was asked, and, as promised, none was given.

The storm had calmed by the time they separated, spent and sated. They sprawled together on the planks as if the tavern were the Jackdaw and swigged down draughts of rum to quench their thirst. Adé loosened his bandana, which had stayed firmly fastened despite their sport. "Hot in here," he said.

Edward rose and padded across the planks on bare feet to open the door. The rain had stopped. The wind blew in gentle gusts, carrying the smell of wet earth, flowers and the reeking scent of the sea into the cramped and stuffy confines of the tavern. A pirate moon sailed high overhead. The ocean had subsided to a rhythmic, lazy swell, like some great beast breathing.

"Selkirk will be back soon," Adé said from behind Edward. "You might want to put some clothes on."

"Mmm," Edward agreed. He slapped at a mosquito, and then at another, and then a third, and then he returned to Adéwalé, cursing, to light a tallow candle and tug on his trousers. Adéwalé lounged on the boards. He was splendidly naked, like a giant panther. His buckles and belts lay coiled beside him on the boards.

Edward rolled his eyes. "You might want to practice what you preach, man." He lit another candle from the wick of the first and scratched furiously at his bites.  The smoke helped somewhat to repel the voracious little beasts. It was not enough. He shrugged on shirt and sash and tied his hair back in a queue where it had fallen loose. The mosquitoes did not seem to bother Adéwalé half as much, although Adé never gave much away either.  

Edward fanned the flames until the air was thick with smoke. After a while Adéwalé surrendered and reached for his breeches and bandana. Eyes streaming, they hunched together in the candlelight and opened another bottle of rum. Adé withdrew a greasy pack of cards from his pocket. "Piquet?" he asked, innocently.

Edward shook his head. "I'll not play you at cards. I learn faster than Jack does, and I've lost too much."

"Chess, then? I think Selkirk has a set."

"Not for me. Never been able to get my head around the pieces."

Adé fanned his hand in front of his face. "Jesus," he said. "This smoke's wicked as the devil."I'd have thought you'd fancy chess. They say it's like a war." 

Edward shook his head. "It's nothing like," he said. War was blood and cannon-fire and the tattered rags of sails barely visible through powder-smoked black air. War was not a game.

Adéwalé began to shuffle the cards. "What will you do now?"

"Go after Roberts," said Edward. "What else?"

"You're still mad for that Observatory," Adé said, and shook his head. "That place is not worth the trouble."

"Think of it, man.  More gold than we would ever see." Edward mimed a mountain with his hands. The rum gleamed like stored sunlight in the candlelight, and put Edward in mind of hidden treasure sparkling in the light of a lantern. "Great piles of the stuff."

"Aye, gold," Adé split the deck. He did not seem impressed. "But for what purpose?"

"Purpose?" Edward paused. "Gold is a purpose."

"It's a means to an end." Adé pointed out. "Perhaps your Observatory is worth all the gold we'll ever see, but it's all on Roberts' say-so. And I don't much fancy Roberts." He cut the cards and handed the pack to Edward.  

"I said I didn't fancy cards," said Edward, but he took them anyway. "Roberts is a damned queer catch, it's true. His Observatory's an altogether different matter.""

"The man's a devil," said Adé, "and I don't trust him. He sails on strange tides, Edward, and I don't know I can follow."

"I know what I'm doing," Edward cut the pack and drew a card. "Damn. Two of clubs."

"It'll be the first time," Ade said, and held up his own card. "Nine of diamonds. I deal first."

Edward handed back his half of the pack for Adéwalé to deal him in."I'd hear your side then, mate. You're the quartermaster. The crew look towards you. What do you think we should do?"

"We could fight another war, for a far more worthwhile cause." Adé said. He spoke slowly and chose his words carefully. He fanned the cards in his broad hands and glanced up at Edward, his gaze dark and intense in the dim light."Edward, think on it. We could end slavery."

Edward shook his head as their conversation followed more familiar channels. "Slavery's bigger than you or I. Ending it's something one man can't do alone." 

"That does not mean he cannot try," Adéwalé said quietly. He laid his cards down deliberately as he spoke, one after another. "You asked for my side. It's not my fault if you don't wish to hear it. "

Edward frowned. He'd heard Adé speak in such a way before. Several times, in fact. On another vessel it would have been grounds for mutiny, but few of the Jackdaw's other crew shared her quartermaster's sentiments. There were ex-slaves aboard the Jackdaw, but they were men who were happy merely to be free. They did not share Adéwalé' lofty ambitions. They'd been given a new chance to build a new life for themselves and they grasped it with both hands. They did not question. "A man helps himself," he said, and played his hand.

"A man should speak for them that have no voices," said Adéwalé stubbornly. 

Edward sighed. "Now I'm not sayin' no," he said. holding up a hand as Ade began to protest. "You know I don't hold with slavery."

"You don't do much to stop it," Adé said without rancour.

"Does anybody else? Freed you, didn't I?"

"Because you needed to."Adéwalé said bluntly. He rubbed his wrists, tracing the scars left by old chains. "Would you have freed me if you hadn't needed my help?"

"Yes." Edward said and paused, captured by honesty. "Well- I don't know. But I'd sure have thought about it." He was painfully aware that this was not what Adéwalé expected or deserved, but carried on anyway, hoping to navigate his way into less contentious waters. "Look, I'm not sayin' no. I'm sayin' later. Once I've found the Observatory we'll have more money, more ships-"

"How long will that take?"

"Give me a year," Edward said. "Two, at most. We'll take more prizes-"

"People will die in a year," Adé said. His voice shook with suppressed emotion. Edward had not realised quite how deeply Adéwalé's sentiments ran. He chose his words more carefully. The card game lay between them, forgotten.

"This is the Indies, Adé. People always die. We could die."

"Aye," Adéwalé said bitterly. "But at least we can choose how to live our lives."

"Hey, come on, mate." Edward said. He leaned over and clasped Adéwalé's shoulder. "We'll steal those slaves away. Just give me time."

"Aye, time and treasure." Adé said angrily. Still, he did not move away. "But you'll never have enough. Stop this foolish nonsense, Edward. The Observatory is a tale."

"Aye," Edward said. "But it's a tale that's true."

Adé reached out and put his hand on Edward's arm. His palm was hard and calloused, and flaked with tar. He sighed. "You're a good man," he said, "and only a fool would fight you. I won't forget what you've done for me. But you're like a ship lost at sea. You could be so much more."

"I am what I am," Edward said. "And you sound like Kidd."

Adé smiled gently. "Then maybe we're both right," he said. "And maybe you're wrong."

Edward shook his head. "You don't understand," he said desperately. His dream sailed so close now, he could almost see it, and he did not understand why Adé could not. "What sort of pirates would we be, to have such treasure within our grasp and then watch it sail away?"

"Not all treasure is gold," Adé said. "There's some things worth far more."

"Then tell me where they're hidden," Edward said, "and we'll go find them." 

Adé grimaced gently. "If you don't know by now you never will," he said, and shrugged. "But you're the Captain. So tell me where we're heading next?"

Edward got the feeling there was more to Adé's question than he asked. He charted his options carefully. He could chase Roberts. He could join Mary, and fight for the Assassins. Or he could take the Jackdaw and sail with Adéwalé to shores where nobody had ever heard or cared for the Observatory.

But what kind of pirate would he be to turn his back on such a prize? 

"We could go to Kingston," he said, half to himself, and felt Adéwalé's sigh against his skin.

 

***

"Will ye hear of a bloody Battle, lately fought upon the Seas,

It will make your ears to Rattle; and your Admiration cease.

Have you heard of Teach the Rover; and his Knavery on the Main?

How of Gold he was a Lover; how he lov'd all ill got Gain? "

Benjamin Franklin-'The Downfall of Piracy';

***

I doubt it needs saying, but Assassin's Creed does not belong to me. Neither do the pirates.

Mensuramjr, this is the pirate slash fic I promised you. There's a lot of fic and not much slash. I hope you like it...

Author's Notes:

Rackham's opinions of slaves and free blacks are unfortunately reflective or pirates at the time. Pirates would usually conscript free black sailors into the crew, but they would sell non-English –speaking Africans as slaves.

Selkirk is the name of the man upon whose tale Daniel's Defoe's 'The Strange and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe' was based. Strangely enough, he was rescued by Woodes Rogers. Selkirk wasn't a teacher and he probably couldn't speak Latin or quote the Classics either. Probably.

'But that was in another country, and besides the wench is dead.' Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta.

Absit invidia: 'Let ill will be absent', sometimes translated as 'No offence'

Nunc est bibendum: 'Now is the time to drink'

'For in my day I have had many bitter and shattering experiences at war and on the stormy seas. So let this new disaster come. It only makes one more.' Ulysses, The Odyssey.

 In manus tuas commendo spiritum meus: 'Into your hands I commend my spirit'. The last words of Jesus on the cross, according to Luke's gospel. Gotta love pirate puns.

References:

As for my previous pirate fics, plus Black Barty: The Real Pirate of the Caribbean, by Aubrey Burl

 

 

 

 

 



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