The Pirate and his Thief
FrUk Drabble (pirate AU)
Word Count: 2791
Renowned Captain Kirkland stepped into the slave trade.
At his entrance, the man at the counter lent out his attention. A giddy, shit-eating smile carved itself into his face when he saw who had entered his shop.
“Ah Cap’n Kirkland. I was told you were interested in coming here, but I wasn’t sure if the word was true. I’m glad it was. Welcome.” He spread his arms in welcome. The two men, highly regarded in their own fields, knew of each other but didn’t know each other personally. The merchant stepped out from behind his place at the counter, held out his hand and offered his name. Kirkland could have cared less what it was. Nevertheless he shook the man’s filthy hand.
“Let me see your finest merchandise,” he demanded, nodding his chin at the man.
“Sure ting.” His voice was gruff and sounded as if he’d been eating trash for the past thirty years. His grey, singed beard looked just as unsightly, swaying slightly as he walked over, changed the sign on the outside of the door from ‘open’ to ‘closed’ and then closed it. The wooden latch came down hard and a lock clicked into place. He waddled into the back of his store and Captain Kirkland got a chance to look around the establishment.
Dressed up as a normal store, the place was rather cramped, selling only two displays of a rather meek amount of ammunition, which was what the sign on the outside of the store advertised the store as. A poor excuse of a shop if he were to live on this type of income alone. But anyone who was anyone except for the kings men knew that this place was among one of the better slave trades around.
Chains rattled as three young boys were herded out of the back room.
Boys. And only boys.
Bound in a line by their wrists and ankles, they were sat on the floor against the wall. A gag was peeled out of each of their mouths. “”Ere we are. Finest ‘o da bunch.” Then he stood back with his arms crossed, looking proud of his stock.
Arthur narrowed his eyes, taking each of them in one at a time. The first was blond, with a tiny frame and terrified eyes. It wouldn’t take much for Arthur to make him do whatever he wanted. Judging by the way he kept his eyes locked to the floorboards Arthur doubted it would take even the beginnings of a beating to get a point across to the lad. He’d do anything Arthur wanted in a heartbeat.
The next had short, cropped brown hair with equally brown eyes. He had a little more meat on him. It was easy to tell that he was a boy left on the streets, parents probably slaughtered long ago. He probably had fast hands from experience, though was most likely easily distracted and less than likely to co-operate without a few littered bruises and spare lashes.
The last was also blond, with tanner skin that either of the boys. Scars along his face, he’d probably been traded through slave post to slave post. There was a resistance about him that Arthur didn’t much like. Not like the other boy though. This one, strangely, looked as if he had a sense of pride. His straight back and blue eyes suggested a child taken straight from the lower ranks of nobility: a knight’s son, but nobility nonetheless.
It was clear none of these boys had been here for very long as none of them looked too particularly battered, dirty or too poorly fed. And of the three the final seemed to be the obvious choice in terms of a slave. Arthur deemed that all he needed was a bit of conditioning.
Disinterest in his voice like a full pint of beer, he said, “You told me this was your finest. You lied.”
“No lie ‘ere sir. This is my best. And might I say there some ‘o the best out there. Paid a good chuck for each of ‘em.”
A good slave was not one with youth still shining in his eyes and clearly this man did not understand this.
“I’m not looking for a boy,” he said simply.
“Sorry. But I don’t keep girls, nor do I sell ‘em to grubby hands let alone a sea scoundrel like yerself.”
Keeping his slaves clean and refusing girls and women? This man was noble to say the least. Strange, as the profession he had taken up warranted anything but.
His good will and decency was denying him money. With a couple of girls this man could be making tenfold what he already does.
“It’s not a boy that I’m looking for,” he repeated.
“Sir, if you want a woman for your troubles. You’re going to have to look elsewhere. I don’t got none ‘ere,” the man insisted.
Arthur was beginning to lose his patience with this man’s incompetence. “I’m looking for a man,” he spat. “Show me everything in your back room.”
“Very well then.” The boys were left out in the shop while Arthur was taken into a room behind a firmly closed door. There were eight men, alongside two other boys, all chained to the wall.
Piercing green eyes scanned over them all and eliminated half of them; the weak and useless. He stood in front of four men all looking right back at him.
The first had black hair and empty eyes. A gangly man that could do no more than cleaning. The second had long blond hair and a playful smirk. The third was the strongest of the group with a glare that could shatter glass. Finally, the one on the end with the black hair and nimble fingers looked the smartest of them all.
The Captain bent down so he was only a few inches from the third slave’s face and prodded the man’s calf. The muscle was like a cow’s tough meat. Firm. Reliable.
“I think this one tickles my fancy the most. How much d’you supposes he weighs?”
Next to him, the blond’s eyebrow twitched and his lopsided smirk melted into a firm glare.
“‘Bout one-fifty Cap’n. Got meat on ‘is bones, useful for heavy liftin’.” By comparison to the others, yes, this man was the most physically fit, but that body weight paled in comparison to that of a free man, one who wasn’t fed the better part of scraps in the back room of a tiny shop.
Still, Arthur hummed in agreement, lifting the man’s chin. “Not too bad on the eyes either. Don’t want a bunch of ugly blokes on my ship to scare away the women.”
The slave looked at him in disgust and pulled his lip up in a snarl. Had his hands been free he would have strangled Arthur to death. But he wasn’t free, and that was the point.
“Are you done playing games now, Captain?” The second one suddenly said beside him, his eyes narrowed.
“Silence, you,” the shopkeeper snapped. Then to Captain Kirkland he said, “Very good sir. Eighty gold coins and he’s yours.”
Captain Kirkland sighed and stood. “Much too steep for me I‘m afraid.” But everyone in the room knew he had more than enough gold to buy everyone in the shop including its keeper.
He gestured to the final one. “How about this lad with the smooth looking skin?”
“Fifty-six gold coins,” answered the elderly man.
Arthur tipped his gaze at the last slave. “Where did this chap come from?”
“A contact of mine says he came in from the east. That’s all I can tell you.”
“Can you tell me how he’s behaved in your care?”
“That’s enough, Captain,” barked the blond again, eyes sharp under his curtaining hair.
The man let down a lash across the slave’s thighs. He cried out. “No more outta you!” He shouted. Then to the Captain he asked, “Why ever would’ya wanna know that?”
Kirkland chuckled, a hearty sound that came from deep within his stomach. “To see of what nature he is. His demeanour right now is reserved, however it could be a ruse and I might end up buying a seedy git instead of a hardy slave.”
“He’s been nothin’ but quiet in my care, Cap’n Kirkland,” the shopkeeper reassured him. “Hasn’t spoken a word since I chained him here.”
“Is that perhaps because he is a mute?”
The merchant hefted the whip again and let down with a thunderous lash at the fourth man’s stomach. He cried out, clearly not mute.
“Right then.” He stood. “I’ll have him.”
The keeper bent down, reaching for his key ring to unlock the last slave from the others, but Arthur raised his hand. “No. Not that one. This one.” He pointed at the blond.
“Wha?” The keeper shouted, aghast. The others slaves eyed him pointedly as well. The fourth one seemed to be relieved.
“But Cap’n this one’s been nothin’ but whiny since ‘e got ‘ere. Besides, can’t ya hear ‘is accent. The bloke’s a frog through and through. Why would ya’ ever want a salve like ‘im?”
“Why indeed?” He said, looking directly at the slave and shaking his head. He seemed to be asking himself the question.
After a moment of staring up at the renowned sea dog, the merchant placed a hand on his knee and hefted himself up. “Very well then,” he said, and moved towards the blond, unlocking him from the chain of four.
The man stood, taller than Kirkland, hair long, fair and resting on his shoulders. The three moved to the font of the shop, the slave’s movement restricted to small steps due to the minimal leeway that the iron chains on his ankles provided.
The old merchant had hustled the three boys into the back room again. They stared at Arthur and his new slave as they were ushered into the back. They looked rather relived as well.
When the shopkeeper returned he told Arthur that the man was worth sixty gold coins. The slave scoffed, insulted at how little he cost compared to the first man, and the Captain handed over the money. It was traded for the key to the man’s restraints: his freedom.
“Was nice doing business with you Cap’n.” He held out a broad, grimy hand.
Arthur gave him his own. “Same to you. I’ll be sure to give word about you and your humble post, chap.” He wouldn’t, but the man lapped up the lie earnestly.
“Really? Thanks a bunch Cap’n. Be seein’ ya.”
And with that, Captain Arthur Kirkland left, his new slave in tow.
The slave trader flipped the sign on his door back to open and went on with the rest of his day.
Arthur dragged his new piece of property into the heart of the trading capital. They made their way into an alley way and suddenly he slapped the man upside the back of his head, the force of it making the blond haired man lose his balance slightly. “Ow!”
“Bugger-headed twat!” He shouted. “I’m tried of having to buy your freedom all the time. What is a master thief if he constantly gets caught?”
The man laughed. “Only the best,” he said as Arthur unlocked the chains, letting the one on his ankles fall lose. He stepped out of them like ill fitting clothes.
Arthur scoffed. “That cost me sixty gold shillings, Francis!”
“Not enough. My silky smooth skin alone is worth at least one hundred,” he said, indignant.
“You owe me all of it – with interest,” the pirate warned.
“Oh no, I hardly owe you any interest.”
“Oh? And why’s that then?” Arthur bit.
“Because you left me there for three days!” He shouted, outraged.
“Yes and I did that purposefully. That’s what you get for wasting my time, frog.”
“What if somebody bought me before you got the chance?”
“Pipe down. I had one of the deck-hands check on the shop each morn.”
“And if I’d been bought after he checked?”
“Then I’d be rid of a nuisance like you, simple as that.”
He chuckled mockingly. “Don’t make me laugh. You’d be useless without me.”
In seconds Francis was pinned against the wall, looking up at the tip of the pirate’s sword. “Come again?” He asked.
Suddenly, the Captain felt the cold touch of a knife at his throat. Francis had a tiny blade of his own, used for discrete handshake-jabs and path-crossing stabs to the stomach where somehow – somehow – a wallet would fall to the floor in the process and never be seen again.
Blades at each other’s throats, neither flinched nor flicked their wrist to draw the other man’s blood. Instead, they simply stared at each other: baited and baiting. Not even they knew which one was which.
His patience utterly depleted, Arthur growled, and lowered his weapon. Francis followed suit. “Look, did you get it or not?”
“But of course. Who do you think I am?” And he led Arthur to the place he had hidden the loot.
This is the beginning of a tale of the pirate and his thief. In each other’s back pockets. At each other’s disposal, in each other’s faces, at each other’s throats. Always grappling, trying to get the upper hand on the other.
But behind closed doors they counted on only each other.
Francis offers a hand and Arthur knows that no one else in this world will accept scum like him. He’s glad that Francis - though scum himself - is the only one. He is held close and he holds closer. Smudged souls. All they have is each other.
They disrobe and find a comfortable position curled around each other in the sheets. They like it this way, locked in Arthur’s private quarters on his ship, warm breath and traveling hands the only thing they know.
They could each have whomever they wanted. Francis had seductive eyes and a snake’s tongue. There was a certain romantic smoothness about him. All it would take was a look and a few words; possibly even a wink and he could have anyone. And as for Arthur, his renowned name and the symbol of riches and power behind it could call anyone to his side. Though his prickly personality wouldn’t be able to keep many people close for long, the promise of money could bribe the weak hearted. He would have no trouble renting any lover he wanted. And if not rent, he’d take by force, he was Captain for a reason. His sword spoke for itself.
Despite this, there had never been any interest in someone else.
It started with wild passion behind a seamless partnership. Matching shit eating grins as Arthur pulled the thief into the private room on his ship, in secret. Once the door was closed he was slammed against it, both mouths fighting for domination. That was how both of them thought it would stay and neither of them minded it that way. But when one night Arthur called out for Francis craving something other than his body, Francis had come offering comfort.
The Captain, as he had learned, was two faced. On one side a steadfast brick wall, lined with the brutality of barbed wire, but as good as glass when the doors closed and the lights went out. That night was careful strokes and solemn words by candlelight. Arthur fell asleep in his arms for the first time, instead of on the other side of the bed.
However, Arthur’s beckoning wasn’t a one-time thing. Being renowned didn’t mean he was renowned for being good. He was a pirate. Scum. He was on a rift; respected but feared. Francis understood that this was something more deep-rooted than wanting pleasure or release.
When Arthur had held unbreakable Francis they knew they were in too deep. Francis was a pillar; social, and though he tended to other people, no one tended to him. No one thought to. The beautiful man was perfect in daylight. But he cried alone if ever at all, seethed with anger behind locked doors and only allowed himself to be exhausted in private.
Though, it was that one night where he padded out of his own room on Arthur’s ship and went undoubtedly, without hesitation, to Arthur. His shoulders quaked with sobs he let fall onto Arthur’s shoulder. This was new territory for both of them. The Captain drew up such soft words he didn’t even know he could utter, whispered them tenderly into the other man’s ear. While the thief, malleable in Arthur’s hands, simply let the world fall away from him.
All they truly had was each other in what twisted love that they could muster.