The Page of Cups
Starting a Love Affair-Sympathy-Understanding
Will heard the sound of something hitting the wall behind him, but he didn't
look back. He didn't trust himself to continue the conversation; he would
say something hurtful and unforgivable if he didn't get away immediately.
Intent upon all the clever and spiteful things he could have said, he paid
no attention to where he was going until he tripped over the damned cat and
found himself at the entrance to the cabin he and Elizabeth had shared. A
perverse desire to flout his wife's demands prompted him to rap upon the
"It's me, Will. May I come in?"
James was in bed, shirtless against the stifling heat, his book poised in
his hand. He looked up expectantly.
Panic flared in Will's chest. What was he doing here? "I. . .I wondered if
you needed anything. . .And. . .Elizabeth wanted her. . ." He looked around
despairingly, his eyes lighting on a bright length of peacock blue silk. ".
. .her shawl!"
James' eyebrow quirked. "Oh, really?"
Will twisted the shawl in his hands, brazening it out. "Yes. She, um, had a
"Ah. It feels rather warm tonight to me, but perhaps I'm still feverish."
With a sigh, Will plopped down in the chair glumly. "What I really need is.
". . .a drink!" Elizabeth grabbed the bottle from Jack's hands and took a
healthy swig of rum.
Jack gave her an appraising look but didn't speak. He held out his hand and
she passed him the bottle; he too took a long pull, and then passed it back
to her. In this fashion, they silently worked their way through the first
quarter of the bottle.
The liquor completely failed to quench Elizabeth's rage. If anything, it
made her fury burn brighter as she mentally rehearsed her grievances against
Will. Each drink made her more confident of his perfidy, more certain that
she was ill-used.
"You want to tell me what's got you so riled up?" Jack paused expectantly,
and when she merely took another drink, he continued, "Or should I guess?"
"Will!" she spat out.
Jack nodded sympathetically. "What now?"
"He's insufferable!" She searched for another, more damning description.
"And. . .and infuriating!"
"Don't forget exasperating."
"The way he hangs on Norrington's every word!"
"Like a lovesick maid," Jack agreed emphatically, his disinterested pose
"It's always 'James' this and 'James' that! If I have to hear him sing the
man's praises one more time, I think I'll be sick."
"Aye, he's got it bad. There's no. . ."
". . .reasoning with them." Will said darkly. He shook the fringe on the
shawl to punctuate this remark. "Once a woman's got an idea in her head, she
won't let go of it. They're completely irrational!"
"I'm sure all husbands think their wives so, at some point or another,"
James said noncommittally.
Will passed the bottle back to James, urging him to drink. Already feeling
the effects of the liquor, James demurred. Will seemed happy to reclaim the
bottle; in his eagerness, he sloshed rum across both their hands. "Women are
as capricious as summer storms and twice as unruly," he declared, licking
the rum from his hand.
James averted his eyes from the sight of Will's pink, darting tongue. "I
have it on good authority that men often find women mysterious and
"Not that men are any better! Always telling you what to do, treating you
like a green fool with no sense. . .I'm a man -- quartermaster of
this ship -- and I'm due a little respect!"
James blinked at this onslaught, unsure what to say. He could easily see how
Will could feel himself oppressed by two such strong personalities, but it
seemed unwise to say so. When Will's anger passed and he'd sobered up, he
might well resent James for butting in.
But Will appeared to need neither encouragement nor agreement from James. He
ranted on in this oblique way for some time, until he abruptly moved from
the belligerent to the affectionate stage of drunkenness, clasping James'
arm fondly and praising his friendship (frequently veering back to touch on
how he was mistreated by those who called themselves his friends).
He'd scooted his chair to the very edge of the cot, and James was
uncomfortably conscious of how close they were to one another. A flushed
glow suffused Will's skin, and his eyes glittered in the lantern light.
Where their bodies touched, James' skin tingled with awareness and longing.
James reminded himself that Will was committed twice over and that he was
drunk besides, but the rum sang in James' veins, daring him to throw caution
to the wind.
Will was reminiscing about some kindness James had done for him when he was
a boy. It was a rambling story, and James couldn't follow it, for all that
he was supposed to have been there.
Will broke off suddenly and wiped the sweat from his brow. "Damn, it is warm
He stripped off his coat, and James couldn't help but notice the way Will's
damp shirt clung to his body, revealing hard muscles and the faint outline
of the tattoo on his arm.
There was a disconcerting pause, and then Will resumed his story, speaking
with slightly less conviction. "I was only a child, but I've remembered it
ever since. Do you think anyone else would help me like that? Not likely!
It's. . .
". . .maddening!" Elizabeth kicked the rail viciously.
"That it is, but there's no need to take it out on the Pearl."
There was no response to this, but Elizabeth left off kicking his ship, so
Jack forbore to make a point of it. Still, he stroked the warm, smooth wood
in silent apology. And, then, because he understood the impulse that had
driven Elizabeth to lash out, he gathered her in tight against him, and
inhaled her clean, flowery scent.
Elizabeth tossed the empty bottle over the rail and it landed in the water
with a distant splash. "I wish we could find Anamaria and be done with this
mess," she said bitterly. "The sooner Norrington's back in Port Royal and
we're on our merry way, the better."
"You don't think--"
Jack didn't share Elizabeth's optimism. He'd been deceived and cheated
enough to know that disloyalty was all too common and even those you thought
could be trusted were always looking out for themselves. He'd never have
credited Will with it, but then, he'd never imagined Bill would betray him
Elizabeth turned on him fiercely. "No. Will would never. . ." She dug her
fingers into his arms. "Never, do you hear me? I'd believe many things of
him, but not that." Unshed tears glittered in her eyes.
The last thing Jack needed was a mopey female on his hands; this called for
a diversionary tactic. Pushing her hair out of her face, he kissed her
lightly, murmuring, "Perhaps you're right. . .He's probably off sulking now.
He'll be properly. . .
". . .contrite in the morning, no doubt," James said in a pained tone.
Belatedly, Will realized that perhaps he'd revealed more than he'd intended
to. James shifted uneasily, and the silence grew longer.
Then a curious thing happened. Will noticed that he was leaning forward, his
face growing ever closer to James'. But instead of moving back, James was
slowly tilting his head towards Will. His lips were parted and Will could
hear his breath growing ragged and uneven. He swiped his tongue across his
lips and met Will's gaze. There was no mistaking the frank invitation in his
Will swallowed hard, a thrill of desire warring with the many objections
that occurred in spite of all the rum he’d had. However, in the end it was
the memory of Elizabeth’s accusations that carried the day. Might as well be
hanged for a sheep as a lamb! But this bitter thought was much eased as he
closed the distance between them.
James' kiss was eager and confident, and his hands tangled in Will's hair.
Will had expected James to be more diffident, and his impatience enflamed
Will's desire. Will kissed him harder, using teeth and tongue with
devastating effect, until James moaned desperately against his lips. . .
". . .Oh. . ." Elizabeth clutched the lapels of Jack's coat, her head
swimming. There was a calculated intensity to Jack's kiss, as if it were
designed to drive all other thoughts from her mind.
Jack grinned smugly, and said, "That's one in the eye for him! Doesn't know
what he's missing, does he, love?"
"Shut up!" she muttered, choosing the most efficient method of
stopping his tongue. He tasted familiar, of rum and salt and sweat; like
Will, her traitorous memory supplied, but she stifled that thought,
pushing Jack's coat off, finding the taut muscles in his back and the
pattern of shot that could be felt through the skin on his shoulder.
"Enough of that," he agreed amiably, kissing his way down her neck. He
pushed up her shirt, teasing and licking her nipples until she gasped, then
made to unbutton her breeches.
Some rational part of her recalled that they were on the quarterdeck where
anyone could stumble across them. "Not. . ."
". . .here." James ground out. Not in their marriage bed.
Will looked up, his eyes wide and glassy with lust. "What?"
"Not here. . .not in your bed."
With a ruthless little shrug, Will yanked James down onto the boards with
him, pinning him with his body. There was a sharp pain from James' injured
arm, but it was more than compensated for by the delicious pressure of
Will's cock pressing against his.
"Is this far enough?" A thrust of Will's hips made James groan. "The men
often tryst in the gun deck, but it lacks. . .privacy."
James thought of Will taking him against one of the cannons, where anyone
could walk in and see them. Cool metal and hot skin and Will's bruising
grip. He groaned again, futilely twisting his hips for more contact. Giving
up, he rolled them, so that he was on top. Will's shirt was worn; it took
only the slightest pressure to rip it down the center and pull it away,
revealing the writhing sea serpent on his arm. When James put his mouth to
it, Will squirmed away, but James gave him a stern look and said, "Hold
still," and Will acquiesced.
Rum and salt and sweat. The texture of the tattoo was slightly different
from the rest of Will's skin, and James could feel the edges of it beneath
his tongue as he traced the winding shape. Will trembled, and James felt a
heady glee at provoking this response.
"I want. . ."
". . .to taste you." Jack pulled her breeches off and knelt between her
knees. They'd made it to the great cabin, but hadn't managed the bunk. His
back would probably regret this in the morning, but at the moment, he was
too excited to care.
Sweet musk, salty as the sea and slick and juicy as a ripe peach.
Unrestrained cries, urging him on, and when one finger slipped back and into
her arse, she laughed, dark and thrilling, and pleaded for more.
"God, fuck. . ."
". . .me." Will was begging now, at the mercy of James' clever mouth and his
long, slim fingers.
"In the drawer. . .Just hurry, God. . ."
. . .the oil poured out cool and silky on her backside and Jack slid his
fingers back in. It was tight, with just the edge of pain, giving over to a
confusing need as he worked his fingers in and out. His other hand reached
around, touching her there and she was coming apart, burning and
stretched and. . .
. . .James slid out and back in slowly, taking his time. Will's body was hot
around his prick and James had to fight not to spend himself immediately. It
had been so long. . .But he wanted to savor this, and make it last. It was a
point of pride, not to succumb first. He grasped Will's cock in his slick
hand and whispered, "Come. . ."
". . .for me, darlin'. . ." Jack didn't think he could hold out much longer,
she was so tight and sweet and the way she arched her back against him. He
bit down on the nape of her neck and. . .
. . .sharp teeth on his neck and Will was falling. . .
. . .a feeling like a wave crashing on the shore. . .
. . .James struggled in vain to hold himself back. . .
". . .sweet Bess. . ."
". . .Oh, God. . ."
". . .Oh. . ."
". . .Will."